We had been swimming for maybe 100m but all evidence pointed to the fact that I had been crammed into a tumble dryer with 600 heavy weight boxers. I don’t know what I thought would be different this time, as I gasped for air while getting kicked in the temple. It was my second triathlon, second bunch swim and my conviction to “get in it” this time now seemed completely stupid and made me question my entire decision to do triathlon in the first place.
Just when I was convinced I had made a huge life mistake to enter the water four minutes ago, some wetsuit-clad man started to swim over me. My body was puny compared to the ripped middle-aged men that surrounded me so swimming over me was an easy task. Then, however, for the first time my triathlete instinct kicked in, literally. With some fierce flutter kicking I reclaimed my spot in the water. Empowered by my split-second of badass defence, I warned my wimpy self to stop panicking about breathing and searching for a sense of safety. I was here to swim as fast as I could and, like every one else, the gloves needed to come off. I guess there is only so much decorum a Canadian girl can ignore. I took a beating the rest of the swim and silently apologized to any swimmer I felt I had impeded. When the swim was finally over, the only emotion I felt was relief.
I ran up the steep hill toward transition, ignoring how awful my legs were feeling as I peeled off my wetsuit. Ten kilometres down the road and some energy drink later and my legs still felt like cement blocks. When I was 13 minutes behind my first time split, I didn’t think it was going to be my day. At 48km the course hit Tabayesco, an 10km climb with an average gradient of a gentle but taxing 6%. While everyone seemed to groan and grimace, I finally felt like I was in my own terrain. By the top of the climb, I had found my legs and I was only a few minutes off my time split. I rolled over the top, whacked it into my biggest gear and sprinted down the mountain.
Terrified I would lose it, I held on to my rhythm with a death grip, checking my watch every kilometre or so. I passed my final time split bang on the minute and flew off the bike 2 minutes under my target time.
Like everyone else, I wobbled out of transition and waited for my legs realize we had changed sports. I was feeling okay and ticking over right on pace. I could feel it coming though. I tried to ignore it, “mind over matter” it, but it didn’t work. It had been over six weeks since I had any knee pain but here it was, slowly revealing it’s painful presence. It was manageable discomfort at first but the downhills were torture. The pain increased every kilometre and with 14km to go, I didn’t think I was going to make it. Every aid station I devoted an entire cup of ice water to my knee but it was a losing battle and my pace gradually slowed. Eventually I stopped looking at my watch, running aid station to aid station, in pure survival mode.
On the final lap of 7km, aid station to aid station had became lamppost to lamppost. I practically limped over the last hill but as I ran into finish venue everyone’s cheers spurred me one. With 300 meters to go, I took my limp back into an almost-run and finished with a smile on my face. The race director was pretty excited I was Canadian (since it was so far away) so he asked for a picture with me. The gesture was nice but stopping dead still after over 5 hours of movement made my entire body instantly cease. My whole body ached with pain. I gingerly baby-stepped through the finish area to hand in my time chip. I had a whole new respect for Ironman athletes, something, I instantly decided I was NEVER going to do. It may have only been a half Ironman but it took my whole heart, soul, mind, and body to just complete.