Never Again

In this two-part series Alexander Weber writes about competing in his first Ironman triathlon. In

Part One he told us about his race preparation and his feelings before the competition. We left him three days before race day…

Race day:

My alarm goes off at 4 a.m. I eat a single slice of toast with butter and a banana. I’m all jitters, but I’m focused. 

I drive myself and my sleepy girlfriend to Whistler. Once there, I board a shuttle to the starting line. The morning is cold, but promises a clear and sunny day. 

For once, on the west coast, I pray for clouds. At 6:50 a.m. people begin to make their way into the water. People are “self-seated,” in the sense that people who expect to swim slow will start later. I opt for this strategy. 

The water is a pleasant temperature, compared to the brisk ocean I have been training in. Within the first 300m I have not been able to find a pace and start panicking. 

“There are too many people in the water,” I’m thinking. I can’t catch my breath; I’m breathing all wrong. I start to wonder if I should call for help. 

Focus. Close your eyes. You can do this. 

I make my way a little farther from the crowd, and begin to swim at ease. Keep this pace. My breathing is normal. I feel buoyant. I find my stride and mildly-suffer my way through the 3.8k swim.

Once on land I look at my watch: 1hr 17mins. Whoa! I’m doing alright. 

Volunteers – at least I assumed they were volunteers – strip me of my wet suit. I literally had two middle-aged women tell me to lie on my back, and then proceed to pull my wetsuit off in one fell swoop. 

Off I run into the change tent – which is dark and kind of weird/full of naked men. I don my biking gear and exit the tent, to be mauled by more volunteers who apply sunscreen to every visible inch of my skin. 

From here I make my way to my rickety steel-frame, and clippity-clop run to the bike-loading zone. Weeeee, off I go on my mechanical steed. 

The bike ride is a blur to me. There are at least two sections of long uphill, and one very long section of flats. I remember being yelled at twice – both times I thought were unfounded – for drafting. Whoever this lady official was who rode around on the back of a motorcycle, she took her job very seriously, and was not one to shy from screaming rule violations in her crusade against cheating. 

After 6 hours and 15 minutes of cycling, 10 revolting energy goos, and 180 km of hilly terrain, I was done the bike portion of the race. I never want to sit on a bike again. 

I immediately find myself in running shoes and starting the final portion of the race: a full marathon. I push these daunting words – full marathon – out of my mind and concentrate at the task at hand. 

I feel good. I feel liberated to be off the bike. Maybe this won’t be so bad. 

I’m running up some of the hills. Holy crow! I’m doing awesome! Nothing can stop me! WOOOOO! I feel this manic jubilance for about 10 solid kilometers, and then I hit a wall. Not a literal one (although I did run into a port-o-potty door as someone was exiting at one point), but an “oh-my-God I am not made for this heat” one. 

I don’t know what the actual temperature was for the day, but on a scale of This-Is-Nice to Too-F$%#ing-Hot, it was up there. I was pouring equal measures of water into my mouth and onto my head at every aid station. 

And I was walking. Oh how I loath walking. But there I was. 

My brain was screaming obscenities to my legs, but my legs weren’t listening. They were on strike. Every now and then I would give myself a Braveheart-type speech, and begin to run. Only to find myself leisurely walking not two minutes later. 

This went on for too long. Eventually the clouds came out and I found strength again. I managed to run a large portion of the ending and found myself close to tears while approaching the finish line. 

And what a glorious finish line it was! Not that I actually remember anything about the ending, other than it ended! Hallelujah! Never again! 

And I mean it. As funny and inspiring as it would be for me to tell you I signed right up for another one for next year, I’m not going to do that; not to you, and not to me. Good riddance.

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