At the beginning of my first year of university, I had a totally different concept of “fun” than many of my peers. That October, at the age of 17, I signed up for an Ironman 70.3. This meant that I had signed up and paid A LOT of money to swim 2 kilometres, bike 90 kilometres, and run 21 kilometres. This of course also meant I’d be spending a lot of my time training.
Because why not.
What would even spark this crazy of an idea in the first place?
The drive to prove that anything is possible.
Prior to signing up for this crazy event, I’d never completed a triathlon. While I did have some experience with swimming, biking, and running under my belt, I wasn’t exactly ready for a triathlon. Nonetheless, I was still determined to do this; I didn’t care what it took.
After 10 months of sweat, tears, and dedication, the race week had finally arrived. Seeing as I had signed up for Ironman 70.3 Maine I needed to leave home about 4 days before the race in order to prepare for the big day.
Two days before the race, my boyfriend and I decided to do a trial swim in the ocean. With our wetsuits on, we hit the course! We quickly figured out that swimming in the ocean is a lot harder than you’d think. Swimming 500m from shore seriously makes you feel like you are in the MIDDLE of the ocean! What a way to send my nerves sky high!
Ironman 70.3 events are unlike any other triathlon you can compete in. You arrive at the athlete’s village on a Friday night, where they take your ID and shuffle you through a series of tents, picking up different race materials and filling out forms along the way.
In short, it’s stressful.
There were so many athletes; I don’t think I’d ever seen so many fit people in one place in my entire life. I felt incredibly out of place; I was just this skinny young girl who didn’t look like a triathlete at all. I don’t have wide shoulders like a swimmer, or big calves like a biker, or a tall and lean build like a runner. No one looked to be my age either, which was VERY intimidating; I was surrounded by adults.
On Saturday, the day before the race, you must “check-in” your bike. Thousands of bikes are ridden down to a HUGE caged area for storage. This part of race day prep was definitely the most intimidating. There were so many bikes that must have been worth thousands of dollars, and here I was with a cheap road bike. I definitely felt like I was going to have a slow bike which I worried would affect my race overall.
On Sunday morning at 4:00am my alarm went off, waking the entire house up to prep for this long day. Breakfast consisted of lots of carbs and caffeine. Then the walk to the beach began. Thousands of athletes in tight black wetsuits and swim caps that made us look like eggs huddled onto the freezing beach, waiting for the starting pistol to fire.
Finally at 6:15am the shot went off, signaling the start for the thousands of athletes that rain into the ocean. I was kicked and hit A LOT in the water, but luckily I wasn’t injured. What really got to me was all the salt! I felt like I was going to puke if I put my face in the water one more time! The last 500m of the swim I had to float back in on my side to avoid putting my mouth in. This was definitely a disappointing start to the day.
A fast transition led me to the biking portion of the race. The ride was incredibly long. Fortunately, it was a beautiful ride and there weren’t many hills. Looking back, I don’t think there’s anyone like triathletes. Throughout the entire ride I got to experience first hand moments that restored my faith in humanity. With each passing competitor, I was wished luck and given encouragement. Finally, after almost 4 hours crouched on my bike pedaling away and eating baby food I was DONE!
Next was the run, my favourite part. This is where all the athletes really come together and you feel like you’re on Cloud 9. Starting my run at a fast pace, I finally got to see my family cheering me on! You never realize how far a little encouragement can go until you’re five hours into a triathlon.
After 5 kilometers, I was feeling pretty tired. At every kilometre on the run they luckily have aid stations. These aid stations consist of Coca-Cola, potato chips, pretzels, and other sugary or carb-filled snacks. You can bet that I was eating handfuls of potato chips and chugging cola for the entire 21km!
On the run, I found myself beside many inspiring athletes. At one point, I was running with a 71-year-old man who was absolutely killing it. By the end, a young woman and I were running at pretty much the same pace and began talking. We were together for the last 3 kilometers. This doesn’t seem like a lot, but mentally by this point it is tough to keep going. I felt like giving up. My shins ached and I was hot. We didn’t let each other stop, however, and eventually we crossed the finish line together. Who knew a random stranger would make such an impact on my life?
Crossing the finish line felt like nothing else in the world. I’d never been so happy in my life. Seeing your family after 7 hours and 40 minutes of continuous movement is very relieving. All the post-race hugs and congratulations made the entire day worth it. I couldn’t feel my legs and was very hungry by the end, but I felt like a million bucks. Triathletes are truly one of a kind. I don’t think any other sport has such inspiring and supportive athletes.
Less than 24 hours after the race, I had already decided I was going to double the distance to complete a full ironman next summer.
The biggest lesson I learned through this crazy event is that truly anyone can do it, no matter your age or body type. Anything is Possible.