Thursday, November 02, 2006

I really want to say thankyou to everyone for following my race in Hawaii. It's so lovely how much support I have had . As I ran across those lava fields I thought "I just have to keep the numbers coming, so they pop up on the screens and everyone knows I'm ok." It really was a little scarey out there seeing so many super fit people looking very unhealthy and traumatised. I never took it for granted that I was going to finish that race.

It was an unusual build up to a race. I flew to Hawaii the Sunday before and just after landing, our upbeat, American pilot mentioned something about the airport power being out. We were stuck in our plane for two more hours and gradually the story became more dramatic. There was a major earthquake off the coast of Kona and all power to the main island was down.

Twelve hours later, I finally got out of the airport on a plane to Kona. By that time the airport was well into refugee camp mode, we'd been surviving on Red Cross handouts and "tropical punch" with 5% fruit juice in airport sized containers. It put me in an appreciative mindset for the rest of the week.

The words "we're lucky" popped up in my head again and again that week as I enjoyed the beautiful surroundings and saw friends doing the same. The training was all behind, and it was just the experience to be enjoyed. Everyone I met was in the same position, and it was so good to look around and see so many people who had worked so hard, enjoying themselves and enjoying each other.

Triathlons are such lovely events. Even the Ironman, which is an extreme version, has a kind of balance to it provided by the integration of three sports into one. In the days before the race, we swam, we rode and I'll just say we trotted along adjusting to the heat. We drank coffee, we swapped stories, we got to hang out with other people just like us. Just like any other triathlon, we got to enjoy the giant festivity that was unfolding. Kona was buzzing with colourful clad enthusiastic people. As well as the 1,700 competitors, there were over 4,000 volunteers involved in the event. These people were equally enthusiastic about it all and many would come back year after year.

I felt lucky in the event. Lucky, that everything was hanging together. Lucky to have retained my health into the run that was tearing people apart all around me. Lucky not to be walking. Again and again, lucky not to be walking. It was hot, the hardest part of the course was the long, never ending highway that in fact lead to the hardest part of the course. It's hard to stay positive when you know you are still running towards the "energy lab,". The energy lab is located right in the black, lava, fields and all sorts of experiments are done there with the extreme temperatures.

Not many memories from the actual run, my mind shuts down a bit, but in the last 15kms my mind went into temptress mode. It wasn't telling me I had to walk, it was telling me how nice it would be to walk. I agreed but said to myself, "no, you'll enjoy that later."

The last mile of the race I owe to my friend Amanda, who must have been leaping a metre in the air at the top of the last hill where I had one mile to go. She said "Prue, she's 4 minutes in front and she's walking, you have to try and catch her." There was no way that I could, but there was no way I could ignore Amanda. I got to take off and sprint down the last hill and it felt amazing. Lucky me.

I know hard work plays a part in this luck, but I think the hard work gets you to the start line and gives you the opportunity to have a good day, it doesn't guarantee you'll have a good day. Ironman is such a long event that the opportunity for things to go wrong is quite large. Everyone worked hard to get to that event but only some of us got to be lucky on the day.

One impression that has remained from that run, is the strength of the people around me. Whilst many walked, none of them were giving up, they were all getting there in one way or another and if they were walking it was because they had to walk not because they chose to.

When I passed some of the professional women and men who started 15 minutes ahead of us, it was obvious these people were having their "bad day." It made me realise how much they push themselves in these events. Whilst some of us have the luxury of racing cautiously to guarantee a smile at the finish, many of the professionals have to risk it all and aim for that fine line of using everything by the finish. They in fact have a greater chance of having a very miserable day.

But the human spirit prevails. My dilemma at one stage was knowing what to say to those close to me who had a bad day. I spoke to my coach about it after and he said, "badluck," but followed it up by pointing out that Triathletes are fairly hardy, resilitent people and they do bounce back. After the awards ceremony I had the courage to ask one of the professionals I'd been through the airport saga with, if he was very disappointed. He said, "yeah, I trained really hard for this one." I felt very sad for him but he's had a few bad races at Hawaii, and I asked if he'd try it again, with a little grin, he nodded, and already he was enjoying the celebrations.

So yes, by the night after, most people I knew had worked through their "bad day" into a learning experience, and those fortunate enough to have a good day, were still having problems not smiling. It is a great testimony to the sport and the people. The number's really only describe a fraction of the different achievements of that day. We all did well.
So, I'm a little bit wiser, a little bit sillier, a little bit stronger and a little bit weaker now. I'm a bit rested and I'm a bit eager.