There is a Japanese proverb that I have looked to many times, which says, “Fall 7 times, Stand up 8”. September 13th, Ironman Day, turned out to be no exception.
I woke up on the morning of the race, and did not feel well. “It’s nerves,” I tried to tell myself. “Everything will be fine once the race starts.” But I knew it was more than that. From so many prior race starts, including IMWI in 2011, I knew it wasn’t just nerves.
I made it to the Monona Terrace and got my bike set-up and body marked. I then spent the next 40 minutes sick in the bathroom, before I donned my wetsuit in just enough time to start the walk down to the swim start, my mind still attempting to convince my body that all was going to be fine.
I made it through the swim with very little difficulty, and actually bested my 2011 swim time. I didn’t really have time to think about not feeling well, as the swim is all about surviving in battle. Swimming with 2900 people is intense!
Once I made it out of the water, and up began up the helix, I saw my cheering squad for the first time, amongst the thousands of other fans, and it was awesome. There is nothing else like the Ironman fans, and they play a large part in getting you through the day.
I got into transition, got changed over to my biking clothes, and again had to go to the bathroom to be sick. I became really worried about being well enough to continue, but I hopped on the bike and headed out.
On the bike, it felt like my legs were churning through wet concrete, and I could barely get them to turn over. I couldn’t keep any nutrition or liquid down, and I still willed my body forward, even though I never would have considered training on a day where I felt as bad as I did.
How could I quit? I had trained months for this. I was participating for an awesome charity and needed to get to that finish for every single one of the kids I cheered on this season. I had my friends and family out on every part of the course, sacrificing their entire day to be there to support me.
I saw my brother and sister-in-law around mile 30, on the outskirts of Mount Horeb. I pulled over to them and told them how sick I was feeling and it was exactly then that I knew that my body had finally gotten through to my bull-headed brain. It had had enough. I knew that if I continued, I was most certainly going to end my day not at the finish line, but likely in the back of an ambulance. I was not going to be an Ironman today.
Making the call to pull myself from the race was such a disappointment. It was something I had wanted so badly. I got angry. I shed a few tears. I felt I had let people down. And I realized that it’s normal to feel all of those things, and it’s ok to spend some time in that place. And after you spend some time there, you need to figure out where you are going to go.
It didn’t take me long to realize that I knew all along what I was going to do. I was going to stand back up. I was going to look at the entire experience of this year instead of just focusing on just one day, on one race. I was going to look at all the positives, and there have been many, of being an athlete ambassador for an amazing organization that does so much for the kids in our community.
This past weekend, I dusted myself off and got back in the saddle, literally, and participated in the Devil’s Challenge Off-Road Tri at Devil’s Lake. It was a blast.
Fall 7 times. Stand up 8.