Migs (our Kona hero) and me. We train in the same MTD squad. We completed the same IM distance and we both trained hard. The difference? Over and above the fact that Migs received a Kona coin, we were the star athletes of the day. He did the fastest most amazing star time and I was the star sweeper.. I was out there, the longest from the MTD crew. Whilst running, or rather shuffling, I had visions of the traffic vehicles following me with Christmas lights to the end line. That is what they do for the slowest athlete after all.
It was a rough day out. It was long and it was lonely. I said beforehand, that I am not going to do this one for time, but even I didn’t plan number 1 to take that long.
In retrospect, I could have / should have done a few things differently. I also realised that had I done anything differently, I would not have the incredible goose-bumpy what-movies-are-made-of memories imprinted in my heart. So many times throughout the day, I was sure that it was the end of my race. Every time a referee came past me, I was sure they were going to pull me off. They didn’t.
‘When you panic in the water, turn on your back, breath and think Pina Coladas’. That saved me Clare! Turned out, Ironman SA 2019 was a lengthy Pina Colada swim… for me. When you just stand and wait for the waves to finally push you out, you know that the scorecard is not going to be in your favour today. It was at this point that self-talk number 1 commenced. I rehearsed my reaction to the dark moments, beforehand – that’s just one of the many benefits of training with the MTD squad, you get first hand advice from the experienced triathletes – I knew that the dark moments will come. I didn’t quite expect it to arrive then, but hey, I recognised the moment and smiled.. ah there you are.. or at least I tried. (The article that Gareth sent me explained this technique. It’s called ‘Embrace the suck’ and written by a Kona athlete. Another life saver). Giving up wasn’t an option in any way.
I enjoyed transition 1 the most. I found my bike easily ;). The cycling leg started. I was still severely oxygen deprived and knew that my first cycle lap will be spent trying to re-balance.. something. It was when I eventually dropped onto my tri-bars that I saw the two ‘googly eyes’ (those plastic white and black ones) stuck to them, that I decided that I will give it a serious go. Lindsay knew how much that would mean to me and left them there for me overnight. It meant that much! Normally I’ll play catch-up on the bike and feel motivated by passing cyclist from the back. This year’s Ironman athletes didn’t provide me with that luxury. Self-talk number 3, 4, 5.. happened. I cycled perfectly in time for the predicted potent afternoon wind. Even the referees didn’t come check if I draft.. they didn’t need to. Whilst pushing my pedals, I promised myself that I was going to take up tennis and even worked out how many racquets I could buy for my bike-price. It was the MTD crew that lifted me out of these thoughts. Every time that one passed me (we were well presented), they’d shout ‘Maria, you’re looking good’. I knew they lied but it helped!
Back at T2 (surprise!) I kept asking myself how I am going to run a marathon. How?! This is when the real magic started. I entered the race with a calf-hamstring injury. I knew it was going to be slow. It turned out to be a spectacular shuffle. I pulled my cap down and counted lamp poles.. run 4, walk one.
The magic? The people. My MTD team mates. The spectators. My daughter. My friends. My family. My coach. I kept wondering if Claire was nervous, tracking me online. One foot in front of the other. Gareth shouted that they’ll wait for me and that the others will meet me along the way. Man did I end up looking forward to seeing their faces! I ran from support group to support group. The athletes around me disappeared one after the other.. finishing their laps. Never have I experienced pushing my limits to that extent. Even more so, never have I experienced camaraderie from team mates, like that. Along the run laps Sam, Gareth, Migs, Annemarie, Michelle, Fred, Hein and Lindsay were waiting to motivate me and keep me strong. Tanya and Kent even ran short distances next to me (not realising the knot in my throat that they caused). Petro returning from her hubby and walked next to me.. encouraging me. Tom turning back on his run to keep me company for a km or so. Jason too. Cath stepping in front of me to tell me how amazing I am (tho I knew I was super slow ) So did Craig, Clare and Tania! The supporters stood through wind and cold to encourage everyone to the end, for me too. I was told beforehand that the supporters will make your day. This was another level of support!
Then… the infamous red IM carpet appeared in front of me! One cannot explain the emotional high to anyone! Paul Kaye announced 'Maria, you are an Ironman!' My heart! I honestly doubted that throughout the day. Yet it happened! My proudest best best moment! I have the medal. I am an Ironman! I pushed through.
It was worth the journey – from start to every training session to the end - every second thereof. Honestly, I can do anything now. Once back at the guesthouse my phone went wild... friends and family that tracked me or seen me on Supersport (I had proper airtime). Coach Claire sent me the most beautiful message. My daughter, sisters and my mom. Guess what.. I think I will be back – with the MTD crowd! In any way, whatever I do next year, it is almost guaranteed to be a PB!