Wednesday, September 02, 2009
Reflections from the crowd: Ironman Canada
This past weekend one of our team physiotherapists, Andrew completed Ironman Canada in a staggering time of 10 hours, 44 minutes. While he was unavailable for comment, 2 of our training coaches, Kaitlyn and Anna - were. Here are their thoughts from watching one of the most challenging races out there (they both signed up for next year by the way).
5 years ago if you had asked me about an Ironman I would have stared at you blankly, not knowing where to begin, let alone knowing that it involved a 3.8km swim, 180km bike and 42km run that can take anywhere from 8 to 17 hours to complete. Fast forward to this past weekend, where firsthand I took in Ironman Canada in Penticton after making the 10 hour journey by car, with good friend and fellow trainer, Anna Prokiw. What provoked me to drive 20 hours, watch more than 9 hours of racing in plus 30 degrees and wait in line more than 5 hours to register? Well there are many factors, but first and foremost my clients and fellow trainers sparked my interest in triathlons and then there was my first sprint triathlon that I completed three months ago, this after Stan literally taught me how to get on a bicycle after a 15 years hiatus, the day before the race. Since then I have completed 5 triathlons, Sprint to Olympic in distance, and two Half Ironmans. So, I suppose after three months of training and fun Anna and I both decided we were ready to experience the ultimate challenge when it comes to triathlons.
Ironman was unlike anything I have ever witnessed. It was an incredibly moving and inspirational experience that I can say will be with me for the rest of my life. We celebrated alongside hundreds of athletes, friends and family members, each as they came in for the final metres of the race. We watched as a world record was achieved with the oldest female competitor in the world finishing Ironman Canada at 79 years of age and crossing the finish line at 16:56 minutes. We were on course to cheer on a colleague, who happened to have one of his most difficult Ironman experiences resulting in a hospitalization and an astounding finish of 10:44, despite being short of his sub 10 hour goal. We were also present for many bitter sweat moments on the course, as athletes could not physically continue and the breakdowns and heartache that resulted from not being able to finish after months of training. Or in the case of the last finisher who crossed the finish line clutching her quads, 8 minutes short of the cut-off time. The stands had cleared out, the lights were turned off, the music had faded and all but a handful of people were left to cheer her on as she crossed the finish line. Perhaps the most touching moment came as a father crossed the finish line hand in hand with his son of about 7, both of whom were crying tears of joy.
In a year I will be coming off one of the most physically and mentally challenging experiences of my life. I know on the way to Ironman Canada, in training and in balancing my personal life, there are bound to be challenges. It will truly be an experience of a lifetime, but more than anything to see it this past weekend has put in perspective the reason we push ourselves to the limit, to challenge growth and learn just how far we can go in this life.
As soon as Kaitlyn and I drove into Penticton we got goose bumps, the streets were closed off and all you could see in front of your car was some of the 2600 people speeding past you on bikes. The atmosphere was unmatched by anything I have ever experienced.
It was great to see a familiar face running by with Andrew- even though I don't know him that well you could see his intensity & determination as he passed us by.
Watching the finish line was probably my favourite part. Andrew told me it would change my life and I didn't believe him, but he was right. It's hard to put into words the emotions you feel when you watch people who have been pushing themselves physically and more so mentally to the brink for hours and hours finally finish. We were both crying with joy on the sidelines, its weird being so proud and happy for people you don't even know, but they were all so amazing and strong.
Signing up for it was a breeze. I barely slept the night before because I was so excited to sign up and to get started with training...yes it was that inspiring. Now I just want to do it- I want to be one of those impressive people. There is no way you can watch the Ironman and not sign up!
Thanks for contributing Anna & Kaitlyn and good luck on your life changing journey the next 361 days. August 29th, 2010 I look forward to seeing you both cross the finish line!