It’s now almost 2 weeks since I raced at Kona World Champs and to be honest, I’m still a little shell shocked or is that deep fried…?
I have read quite a few blogs and race reports over the last 10 days and the one thing that has struck me is that most of us had similar fears, doubts and insecurities; both before and during the race. You imagine that you’re the only person at the start thinking “What the hell am I doing here, why am I doing this to myself?” I will never forget that feeling when I was standing on the beach ready to enter the water. As it turns out, most of us are thinking the same thing. The other similarity is that during the race, we all think we are having the worst race and that everyone else is cruising.
I went there with a specific aim, to finish in the top ten and to do a sub 11 hour Ironman. I am not one of those people that can race simply to enjoy the experience (sometimes I wish I was like that), I want to RACE and finish with the best possible result. I believe my preparation was close to exactly as it should have been; I stayed healthy and injury free. Well Desi…welcome to Kona!! It was an extremely humbling experience, especially in those times where I could only focus on finishing the race let alone chasing a specific time or position. I don’t think there is anything that can prepare you for the brutal conditions in Kona, and I don’t think I need to go on about the heat, humidity and wind; but what I have learnt is that you have to believe that everyone else is also flesh and blood and going through exactly the same physical and mental battle that you are. The important thing is to stay focused and believe in your game plan.
I made some silly mistakes that literally made the difference between 12th place and 10th place, and to be honest, I am disappointed with that. But like my friend Kim Dovey says, “Cry like a winner on the inside and not like a loser on the outside!” Believe me, I had a little chin quiver in the last 40km of the bike! After the race when I saw my team mates Craig, Corinne and Desmond, I think we all agreed that if we never saw lycra, chamois cream or an energy gel again, or if our bikes fell to the bottom of the ocean, we wouldn’t bat an eyelid; but it took about 2 days for me to start contemplating what I could’ve done better and to want to chat to Lucie about what’s next. To some extent I have been spoilt in that qualification came quite easy to me where some people dream of this opportunity. I definitely appreciate it more now…
They say Ironman is the great teacher, and these are some of the insights I would like to share about this journey and this race:
1. People care. And not just my amazing family and friends…colleagues, friends of friends, friends of family. Acquaintances that have somehow been inspired and motivated by this thing. People gave money, time, support and love to something from which they literally were getting nothing in return.
2. Just when you think you’re special, an 83 year old or a double amputee finishes the race! Wow!
3. Just when you think you’re not special, you read all the messages on Facebook, Whatsapp etc.
4. Kona is a mystical place; I would go back just to experience the vibe of the pre-race week and to be among all those amazing athletes.
5. The human body and mind is capable of so much more than we give it credit for.
6. This is not about a race, it’s about a lifestyle.
7. There is nothing wrong with chasing a dream, no matter how unrealistic it may seem, it is worth every second of sacrifice.
8. The difference between the younger and older age groupers is the amount of loose skin, lol!
9. Sun cream, Desi, sun cream!
10. If you told me five years ago, when I was 42, that I would win Ironman SA, then compete at the World Champs in Kona and come 12th in my age grouop, I would’ve taken another sip of my beer and laughed hysterically. That is the amazing thing about triathlon; not only do you get to participate, you get to COMPETE, and I love it! It’s never too late…
There is nothing particularly unique or special about my story, or something that necessarily differentiates me from the other 2000 “odd” (pun intended) athletes who competed in Kona, but I am a woman in my late forties who has been given a surprise gift; and I am so grateful…
Lastly a special mention to my peeps that literally did the race with me on the day. Kim had to rally 10 people to make sure that they saw me as much as possible. They made it “all about me” in the week leading up to the race. They had flags, they had posters, they had T-shirts, they had the loudest voices, they endured the heat and the very long day like true champions. You will never know what a difference it made.