Becoming an Iron(wo)man…

Okay, okay I am back!! I know it has been almost 14 months since I blogged.  So much has happened in those months it’s hard to know where to begin.  Firstly, I am sorry I have been absent! Especially since I love blogging and sharing the ups, the downs, the downright funny and of course the heartwarming moments of my life with my readers. Secondly, I achieved something in those months that I honestly thought was going to be one of those things that was on the “Life List” that didn’t get ticked off.

By far one of the most amazing journeys I have experienced thus far and truth be told I have had some pretty amazing chapters in my life.

I am an IRONMAN

You know that race they do in Kona, Hawaii!  A little endurance triathlon that consists of a 2.4-mile (3.86 km) swim, a 112-mile (180.25 km) ride and a 26.2-mile (42.2 km) run, raced in that order and without a break..  Yes all in one day!!!  Oh yeah that is a marathon after a swim and a ride.  Epically nuts, right?

The race is now a little under a month ago but I still get emotional thinking back over the 7 months leading up to the race.  Even considering doing an Ironman is epic and the journey has been one of the biggest experiences of my life.

I commence a FIFO (fly in fly out worker) lifestyle almost 12 months ago so this presented a number of issues for both myself and my coach! But I certainly am non-conventional and my training ended up being pretty non-conventional too.

Here is the kicker! Before signing up I had never participated in a triathlon, nor had I ridden a bike for at least 10 years (and before that only very sporadically), I hadn’t swum regularly in 20 years and I had basically given up running for Crossfit…. this ‘little’ Ironman goal was certainly going to be a challenge!

For months I woke up at 0430 and completed swims, rides, runs, strength and mobility sessions that would test my mental toughness almost as much as my physical body.  My strength increased with a deadlifted of 125kg (I weighed 65kg when I lifted this) and managed some very hilly solo rides over 130kms.  I was developing legs that were strong, powerful and just a little bit sexy!

Strong Legs

Strong Legs with tan lines and scars!

I don’t know how many kilometers or hours I spent training but one thing is for sure it infected my life in such a powerful way that I grew to love myself again after the events of 2013 that left me sad and took a piece of my soul.  All the hours of training lead to the event!

Melbourne IRONMAN 2015

In the days leading up to the race I could only be described as being in a bit of a state. The bike needed assistance (how the hell do you put that back on! and what the friggen hell is this bit).  Unsure if I had everything I needed (read checking everything 10 times in a mental panic) and traveling with other people presents a whole set of different circumstances that I would normally not have. I am by nature far more solo oriented than most would realise.  You need to be considerate to other people when you travel with them and honestly when I was chucking my little hissy fit over the bike I would rather no-one see that!  Thankfully the bike was sorted and I finally calmed down.  A message from my coach basically telling me not to fall apart however was what really got me focused again.

The night before the race I got a solid 7 hours sleep and according to my Sleep Time App I had 97% efficiency. Race day, Sunday the 22 March 15 was finally upon me. I couldn’t stomach much breakfast but walking down to the start in the morning I was calm and confident by the end of the day I would be an Ironman.

The plan was really to have fun and finish. I knew I would be testing my body but not pushing it to the edge. The swim started fairly calmly and I tried to latch onto as many peoples feet or hips as possible. I realised quiet early in the race that I hadn’t fixed my wetsuit properly and was going to have one hell of a rash on my neck but trying to fix it and keep going with the group proved difficult (some dude swam right over the top of me!) so I forgot about it. Rounding the last major buoy I hit the changing tide. I felt like I was swimming strapped to the wall and I wasn’t moving. In fact the starfish on the bottom liked like it was moving faster than me! I looked over at a guy near me and he clearly was feeling the same thing so I just put my head down and kicked a little harder satisfied I wasn’t the only one struggling. Coming out of the water at 1:17.52 was a slower than I would have liked but I was still happy with it.

The bike started really well. Cruising along I knew the headwind had already picked up but that coming back I should be able to make up some time. This worked for the first lap and I was still out there to finish and to have fun. During training I had whistled a lot at cows whenever I went on big solo rides so despite there being no cows I started whistling. Anything to keep my mind off the fact I still had 90 odd kms to go. Cruising along and a guy rode past me and slowed down and said ‘You’re fucking whistling on an Ironman’ I don’t think he was too impressed but it was a good laugh for me. I wasn’t being passed by many people but I was passing people. I didn’t expect that and cruising past some very fit looking, young boys made me smile. Especially up out of the tunnel I seemed to cruise past people that never caught me once out of the tunnel. The second lap was far more difficult than expected. The wind decided it would plague me and I had a headwind out and back. The heat and wind had a different effect too. I started throwing up my nutrition from about 160km because it was hot and horrible by that point. I finished the bike in 6:28.16 which was 28 mins more than I was hoping to do but with the headwind there wasn’t much I could do about it. Plus it was the first time I had ridden 180km!!!

Bike 45km Mark

Bike 45km Mark

I changed into running shorts for the marathon and headed out knowing I wouldn’t be able to maintain the pace Dan and I had set but that was ok. I tried to get nutrition in and it made me queasy so after 1.5 hours I decided to stick with water and ice. Except at the Redbull station. I managed to keep that down!! I walked each aid station and chatted to anyone and everyone. I hid the fact I had stomach cramps and my ribs felt like they might crack. I was still holding a fairly even pace so wasn’t too worried. I slowed down at the 30km mark and by 36km I was walking. My legs and stomach just said not a chance. I was throwing up everything I was trying to take on. I knew I wasn’t going to make 13 hours (my own personal goal) but I was going to make it. Old have a chat here chatted away to all the other walkers. I got really emotional at one point and then realised even if I walked the rest I was still going to be an Ironman. I had already swum, ridden and run 220 odd km so I kept walking and gave up on fluids and just had ice.

Run 1km mark - no pain yet!

Run 1km mark – no pain yet!

With 1km to go I decided there was no way in hell I was walking down the finish chute and started running. Something happened that can only be described at that point as insane! All pain disappeared and I cruised through the last km. I saw my Mum about 200m from the end.  After a massive hug I couldn’t hold back the tears as I kept going. Seeing Jules (one of the coaches from Mavericks – a very cool bunch of athletes I now belong to) in the finish chute gave me the final bit of boost I needed. I decided I was going to jump over the line. Looking at the video now I am really not sure how I managed it but I had done it! 13:38.22 later and I am an Ironman.

I am an Ironman

I am an Ironman

After being ill on the bike and not being able to take nutrition on the run I was unable to eat after the race.  I did however have another Redbull.  I have a bit of an addiction to energy drinks but I was grateful for it in that moment. The next day I couldn’t keep anything down and moving was sheer and utter grief.  Finally I made the decision to go to the hospital. 1 drip later and I was fine. Literally the next morning I woke up with a massive appetite and now body pain.  I even carried my bike downstairs like I hadn’t even competed. So 36 hours later aside from the nasty wetsuit rash you wouldn’t have been able to pick I had just completed 226kms.

It all started with a text message to borrow a wind trainer of a friend as I was considering doing a Half Ironman (70.3) and well true to my unconventionality, to date I still haven’t done a 70.3!  In less than a month I have the Great Wall of China Marathon then towards the end of the year I have the Noosa Olympic Distance Triathlon and finally that half Ironman – the Sunny Coast 70.3 lined up!

Will I be back for another Ironman? You bloody bet I will.  But next time I won’t be there to finish! I will be there to test my limits!!! I am a different person to who I was when I started this and to be honest I am in love with this person! It takes courage, determination and as I found out blood, sweat and tears to finish an Ironman!

This is the part where you reinvent yourself! I could have continued to dream about doing something as epic as an Ironman or do what I did.  Enter, get a coach, training and just go for it! I had nothing to lose but I gained more than I could ever imagine!

FINISHER!

FINISHER!

Oh and if you want a brilliant coach look mine up – http://ironmandanonline.com/  😀

Blessed Be

Robyn xox

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