On Sunday I watched my first Ironman since 2005.
Being a spect-athlete is no easy job. Just like with my racing and training, I don’t do anything half-heartedly. I wanted to make sure if I was going to be chasing the race, that I did it up right! Thanks to my wonderful Coeur D’Alene family, the Hutter’s, I once again had an incredible experience on race day. Even if it was from the other side of the lines. I have to give props to Sue, Mike, Pete and Chloe - they did a great job at keeping me in high spirits by fueling me with chocolate chip cookies, tasty dinners, and then there was the grueling badminton tourney!
Before the race I was even given the obligatory pre-race pep talk. Remember, I wasn’t even racing. My job for race day was to watch the race from a different lens: see how it all unfolded and learn something new. Oh yeah, I also had to make sure I took on enough fuel and stayed hydrated. Fair enough.
I thought it would be of value to share with you five things I observed on race day.
The Mass Start. The mass swim start was perhaps one of the most inspiring things I have watched in a long time. As professionals, we generally get a head start of the age-group athletes and never see much of what goes on behind us. To see the culmination of thousands of athletes on one tiny beach is pretty awesome. Ironmen (and women) come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, fitness levels, demographics, ages, you name it. I was overwhelmed by the comraderie of the 2,000 athletes standing together as one, moments before the 7 a.m. cannon. It was the one time of the day that all the athletes would be together - about to start on a 9, 12, or for some nearly 17 hour journey.
It wasn’t that hard. I had quite a few people ask me if it was hard to watch from the sidelines. Believe it or not, I didn’t get sad once. To not be able to defend my title was not easy. But by race day, I had already made up my mind, it was all about the other athletes. I’m a big fan of our sport in general. I follow racing religiously and love to be inspired by great performances. Encouraging friends, training partners, even my own competition to find there best performance was a really gratifying experience. Being able to give back and make a few people smile or push a little further than they thought took my mind off not being able to compete.
The two loop bike. The cheering squad I was with made quite the effort to make the competitors laugh, crack a smile, or at least get there attention. From running up the hills along-side the bikes to waving a hot-pink tee in the air to yelling “Cookie Monster” at Julie Dibens. Many people acknowledged us on lap #1 of the bike. It’s all about controlling your effort. I found that the people that were spent by lap #2 of the bike, riding past us and not giving a head nod or a wave really didn’t run all that remarkably well. At mile 90, the eventual mens winner Craig Alexander rode by, gave a smile and a head nod. I knew he was in a good place. It’s a long day out there, you want to conserve your efforts the first half of the bike and still be smiling at mile 80.
The two loop run. I was amazed at how people’s run form changed (or didn’t change) throughout the race. There were a few people in my mind that stuck out in particular: Cait Snow, Craig Alexander, Tim Snow, Caroline Gregory, age grouper Willow Harrington - they all held true to form. Cadence remained high, feet were beneath there hips, upper body was relaxed. It didn’t matter if they were running a 3 hour marathon or a 4 hour marathon. The key to me was who could maintain the best form even when the fatigue settled in during lap #2. I believe a strong core and low back, proper posture - all the little things you can do throughout the year such as TRX and functional strength training - help aid in maintaing that true run form as fatigue settles in.
We are all a bit too hard on ourselves. I witnessed some incredibly inspiring performances on Sunday. Some were done by close training partners and friends. Others set PR’s, were AG winners, and Kona qualifiers. To me, this is Wow! Impressive! Congratulations! The Ironman is no cake-walk. I talked to quite a few people after the race, offering up congratulations. They all said thank you at first and then followed it up with harsh criticism on themselves. Bummed about this, or wishing they had done that. I think we could all be a bit nicer to ourselves. Ironman is all about the journey. Race day is the icing on the cake for all of your hard work. Did you try your hardest? Give it your best considering the circumstances? Was it fun? To everyone that competed on Sunday - please stop for a moment, take a step back and pat yourselves on the back. You’ve accomplished something others dream of. Enjoy your moment and I look forward to watching you all race at the next one.
Thanks to all the great competitors for putting up a great show! It was an honor to watch from the sidelines. See you from the other side sometime soon.