Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Beyond All Daily Limits – A First Time Ironman Finish for Ms. Sam Stanley-Paul

I received this story online from Ms. Sam Stanley-Paul - it's worth a read!

"This is the story of an Ironman dream that began many years ago. My husband Michael and I watched on television in 1995 as the legendary Paula Newby-Fraser “Hit the wall” 400 metres from the finish. I don’t remember breathing from the moment she went down ‘till she miraculously sat up, then stood and walked barefoot and triumphant to the finish; “I’ve got all day,” she said. That’s when I knew we’d do an Ironman. I say “we”, because the sport of triathlon is something that has been a part of our lifestyle for many years.

Meanwhile, patience was the watchword as we both changed careers, added a precious daughter to our lives, and “kept our oar in” triathlon, and marathon running as our 40th birthdays came and went, and ten years ticked by.
One of our favourite triathlons is in Bala, Canada in late July. Limited to 300 participants, the course is beautiful, the folks friendly, and the feel, definitely grass roots –this is triathlon - pure and simple…One year at the tiny “race expo”, Michael and I put on Tri suits for the first time –after 10 years of racing we figured it was time; and the gear was on sale…

It was later that afternoon that we decided…
In some shared moment of aspiration, the next day we registered for Ironman USA Lake Placid, exactly one year away…The race filled within hours, and we were in… For a while, the magnitude of what we’d undertaken happily eluded us! But in January, our Ironman journey began.
Preparing and training for this event appeared to be a full time job. But we each had one of those already, and an engaging three year old child too!

So how to do the Ironman, and remain employed, married, and motivated, while training mostly individually and minimizing the time away from our daughter? These tasks alone seemed worthy of the Ironman label!
We didn’t share our training methods with too many people – Even one of the Pros we later met at Lake Placid said they’d never be a triathlete if they had to train the way we did…But we wanted our Ironman dream badly… There were the bike rides that started at four-thirty in the morning. Michael got the Saturday slot and I took Sunday. The goal here was to get the long rides in before the roads got busy and without eating up the whole day, and without babysitting expenses…

We alternated our running as distances increased too. Our three year old would lovingly embrace me: “Hi Mama, you’re sweaty!” She was a willing companion in the Baby Jogger stroller for the shorter runs. Michael would run home from work, I would run on my Lunch hour.
…We juggled constantly, and with ongoing discussion and scheduling, we each logged hundreds of hours and kilometers. We laughed out loud when people asked if we’d check out the course in the months before the race. The luxury of time and money to train on, and “preview” the challenges wasn’t ours; Race Day was it. Sometimes it would have been easy to accept the “limits” others perceived, and say that it couldn’t be done within our daily lives.

But dreaming big is about finding your own way…If you tell yourself you can’t, you can’t…We let
the “can” of getting to The Start drive us. Finally, race day arrived as we stood on the shores of beautiful Mirror Lake, Lake Placid, at 6:45am. The swim is my strength, and I loved it!

Out of the water and on to the bike course. The miles rolled by with a lot of hard work and a spectacular backdrop of mountains, trees, rivers and lakes. Some of it reminded me of Bala
and I felt at home. The volunteers who supported and fulfilled our every need on the course were seemingly tireless…It was a huge day for us; an even longer one for many of them. Ironman Champion Peter Reid once commented that Ironman racing is so difficult, a huge part of winning comes down to who’s the smartest.

At any level of competition, I believe this is true. To stay in the moment and
continuously ask yourself, “What do I need right now?” and then to have the discipline to do it is key. Part of the great intensity of this event is that you never stop thinking. And as any veteran Ironman will tell you, fuelling your body intelligently and adequately is the unsung fourth event of the day.

Even in training, I was mesmerized by the number of calories that needed to go into my body in the form of Sports drinks, energy bars and gels …Once each hour, I declared “a holiday” from the role of “Nutrition Vigilante” and eased up on the
input…And one does need to be vigilant! The reality check was to witness participants go down, bonk, hit the wall–Their day was over, their race was done. My heart went out to them…

Finish before midnight, cross the line, become an Ironman…Let it be within you.
I didn’t dwell too much on the sheer enormity of the day’s final task as the scenery rolled by on the bike. I have run enough marathons to respect the distance as a stand
alone event, never mind as part of the Ironman package. It remained the great unknown in this context. And I didn’t want to walk the thing, even though the official athlete’s guide condoned, “running, walking or crawling” as acceptable means of locomotion.

I bargained
with my body, and my determined lope brought me both comfort and remarkable support from volunteers and spectators…Michael and I high-five’d as he headed toward the Finish, and I continued the run out of town. “We’ve got all day,” he said, and I knew we’d both be called “Ironman” before midnight… I ran on in the twilight, with the cooler air and a hush of sorts. At one point, as I was coming back into town, two spectators on bicycles cheered me and rode on ahead to alert a group of spectators with a megaphone at the top of the next hill. “We have a runner!!” a voice yelled excitedly over the megaphone. And then, they were cheering like I was the frontrunner! Honestly, I felt like an Olympian with winged feet. I dug deep to crest the last hill of the race. The Finish was not far away!"

-Ms. Sam Stanley-Paul
   Ironman Finisher

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