PART 5 : Race Day
What… a… day …
Finally, the moment of truth, the day I had been eagerly anticipating finally arrived and the feeling of trepidation had finally kicked in. I was excited to put all prior effort and commitment to the test but also fearful of not knowing what that would feel like on a physical level on the “Big Stage”.
I woke up at 4.15am to the sound of thrashing wind and rain which dramatised the moment even more. Still, I was ready to go regardless of what mother nature had chosen to serve up for the day.
On arrival, we were notified of a delayed start time for all participants. Speaking to locals and other race goers, we were among some of the worst conditions of recent times for the half ironman, however, due to the past 2 years swim legs being cancelled with shark sightings, they were adamant on keeping the swim leg in this year.
The big blue resembled anything but the flat glass top I was promised. Despite these less than ideal conditions , not once did my mindset falter me. The tougher the conditions the greater the opportunity I told myself glancing at the waves. This was quite the game changer for me. The swim was by far my weakest leg in training, it held plenty of fears for me and was taking every ounce of positivity to reassure myself i’d be fine in the lead up. To be challenged like this before I even began and to not let negative connotations take over my thought process proved to me everything was going to be more than ok and to back myself in. I was already in charge and I hadn’t even stepped foot in the water yet…. you beauty !
I stuck to my plan for the swim from start to finish. 10 strokes freestyle, 15-20 strokes breastroke. I had practiced this religiously in training and executed on the day. It wasn’t pretty, but it was effective for me. 43 minutes later, I was jumping for joy as I headed through the inflatable transition marker and onto the bike.
On the bike, I found a strange zen type state – I was present but not – hard to describe. From 0 – 40km I was in a great rhythm and holding a good speed, confidence building and building . From 40km – 90km, the head wind set in and my lower back was giving me plenty of stick but that really is all I can remember from the bike leg… 2 hours and 56 minutes later, the bike leg was complete and it was time to hit my strongest leg, the 21.1km run.
For the first 6km, I was on track and my pacing was impeccable. “I got this” I thought to myself. That was the exact moment that the wheels fell off and the mental tug of war began. I had a plan and I wanted to stick to it at all costs like I did for the swim. My beloved Garmin watch was my best friend when the numbers where on point but soon enough , as my split times began to blow out , I discovered my new worst enemy with 15km still to go.
I ended up disregarding my watch all together and focused on jogging between drink stations with the goal of no walking. On the fly I had to adapt and be ok with letting go. The struggle this provided was intense, however, once I accepted this change it allowed me to keep one foot moving in front of the other all the way to the finish line. It was bloody rough but again it was effective.
5 hours and 53 minutes after commencing , I proceeded to sprint / tumble across the finish line and oh how sweet a feeling this was…. It was all over! For once, I was completely happy and extremely proud of myself and overwhelmed by the ever elusive feeling of contentment. I am forever my biggest self critic, regardless of achievement, so this was a very welcomed and satisfying feeling albeit slightly foreign.
Post race, people asked me what place I finished and I couldn’t tell them. I had absolutely no emotional attachment to a placing nor was I defining myself with a placing which is strange for an uber competitive bloke like me. I did everything in my power to reach my end goal which allowed for me to indulge in my own self acceptance and pride once the race was completed.
As I reflected on the drive home, I confirmed with myself this : I really can do anything I set my mind to. It may sound cliche but I know that regardless of the hurdles, and there are always going to be hurdles, if I clearly define the end goal and am relentless in the pursuit of it I will achieve it. I kind of knew this about myself already but the potency of these thoughts would fluctuate with circumstances. Now, I have a rock solid reminder to fall back onto if the self doubt kicks in or if I am tempted by the path of least resistance. I guess subconsciously this is the validation I was looking for from myself. It’s been there all along but I lost my way a little and it just needed to be awoken, I was able to do this through the process of training for and completing a half Ironman.
The final piece of this blog is one I have deliberately left out until now but was the final piece to my puzzle. Who you have around you matters! The ones who are in your corner no matter what your goal or vision is should never be taken for granted or undervalued. I am so damn lucky to have a wife who knows me better than I know myself. She somehow knew that this “crazy” ambition I had was far more than just a fitness test and she backed me in all the way from start to finish despite the unnecessary stress it placed on her / us. Without her, the past 12 weeks could have been nightmarish.
Carting 3 kids, including newborn twins, down to Busselton to watch there Dad flog himself was never going to be an easy task but she insisted and I am so glad she did. Being able to share the moment of crossing the finish line with her and my 3 sons there was something I won’t forget, they were apart of this journey as much as anyone and proved to be the icing on the cake as it all drew to an end. This was one of those pivotal life moments that I will always be grateful for.
Well, thats me signing off from my Ironman journey, for now. Would I do it again? Absolutely. As always in life the task seems far less daunting now that it has been achieved.
Moving forward, it’s all about putting into action what I have learned about myself and about life back into life and the people around me who matter the most. Words are powerful but serve no purpose without meaningful actions. Its go time. That’s pretty exciting really.
Thank you to everyone who has read this blog series and offered words of support and encouragement to help me stay the course along the way. I have thoroughly enjoyed being able to document my most honest experiences along the way and hope that you have to.
Until next time…. Chief “ Trevor Hendy” out!