"can you do an Ironman" by Wencke du Plessis
"Can you do an Ironman?
A lot of people know about the ironman, but do you actually know what it entails? You warm up with 3.5 km swimming (a little less than the channel swim), followed by 180 km cycling (about 6 times around Nevis) and to finish it off nicely, a good old marathon (42.2 km) at the very end.
I don't know about you, but to do an ironman had always been on my bucket list. But never top on my list to do, and also not concretely linked with a date....just somewhere abstract on the list to do.
I also haven’t done a lot of triathlons....as a matter of fact, I only did the one in Nevis in 2011. Hence my half ironman this year was only the second one I have ever done and the ironman my third.
Anyways, somehow in December I decided that an Ironman is just the right challenge for me for 2014, and before I knew it, I was doing it.
My lift to the venue turned out quite interesting ...the driver started listening to the motivational message of the "All Blacks" - the national rugby team of New Zealand. In case you don't know them, the main message is… just to give your personal best is not good enough; you have to push yourself till the animal in you comes out. And in case you don't succeed, you let your family and friends down...and by the way, then you are also the biggest looser. In summary, it is quite an intense motivational, psyching up sports message. When he also started asking me about the course etc., and it became pretty obvious I hadn't even looked at the course, he concluded "I guess you are not very prepared for this race". Yip, that would summarize it quite well...I just came here to have fun and tick off my ironman from the bucket list. But I realized that some people take it pretty serious.
When I checked my bike in, one other lady participant asked me if this was my first ironman...wonder how she knew?!?...and when I confirmed, she gave me kindly a long list of advises, wrapping up with the most important one at the end: "And most important, the first iron man is always the most special one....and there will never ever again be a first one, hence enjoy this one every second."
And then the big moment arrived....the start. I knew the water was going to be cold, and I had a wetsuit on...but just a shorty compared to all the other participants with full-body long ones. The moment I hit the ice cold water, I felt like I could not breath...the numbing cold, the excitement, and not having visual took its toll. Within 3 min, I thought I would die and was on the verge of turning back. I thought of my husband and my kids and decided that I could not face them..."Hej guys, I am back....I took part in the ironman for 3 min, and then decided the water was too cold." (Looks, like the “All Blacks” had an effect after all!) Anyways, I had to do breast strokes for the next couple of minutes just to get over the initial shock and get a decent breathing going... the rest of the swim was uneventful.
Concerning the cycling, I had a brilliant bike...but unfortunately had only trained up to 54 km. I had done “many moons” ago a couple of 105 km races, and somehow that stamina kicked in. But it was only good that I never looked at the course, since there were some severe extensive uphills...and guess what...a strong headwind as well. On the bright side, the spectators and volunteers were amazing. The scenery was beautiful and believe me – I had plenty of time to enjoy it.
Sometime in the race I remembered the kind words of my co-participant..."Enjoy every single second!" Hmmm, she probably was right and I should enjoy every single second of this race...but somehow I DID NOT. Before I reached the half point of the cycle, I started singing gospels and at some stage, every cycle step going uphill got a name..."Abigail, Vincent, Albert....Abigail, Vincent, Albert". Once I reached the half point however, I looked at my watch and knew I could finish it in time even if I had to walk the entire marathon...and that was a mighty good feeling. The rest of the cycling including the transition was uneventful. But when I got off my bike, I just thought: and now I am supposed to run a full marathon. NO WAYS! And at this insane thought, I couldn't help laughing and smiling. Which obviously was completely misinterpreted by the spectators:"Finally somebody with a smile. You go girl, go get them." If only they knew, but they cheered so enthusiastically that I ran the next 21.1 km. Then I got severe blisters on both feet and walked the last 21.1 km...believe me I know about every single meter! And I was supposed to enjoy every second?!? But the exhilarating feeling of being cheered into the finish line made up for it...and some friends that had driven over an hour to surprise me at the finish line just nicely rounded this entire amazing experience up.
In summary, I can now officially testify that it is insane to do an ironman. But it surely is an amazing experience...and something I am extremely proud of to have accomplished.
For Abigail, Vincent & Albert....dreams are there to be realized.
And I challenge every one of you to choose your own "personal ironman" ....whatever that might be.
You can do it."