If you have nothing else but passion, you are strong enough to move mountains….
A month out from Ironman I was sweating anxiously at night, heart palpitating, kicking my own arse for entering in the first place. I was physically not prepared at all for this race and my reason for entering not at all that well thought through as it was. Thoughts of pulling out haunted me for nights!!
I am incredibly passionate about triathlons and ever since 2014 when I was privileged enough to grace the podium twice at Olympic distance triathlons, the passion, desire, drive to do so more often multiplied a million times. Doing my first Ironman in 2015 confirmed to me that getting to qualify for a spot to go to Kona, Hawaii – World Championships, would be my ultimate dream come true.
That being said after Ironman 2015 I allowed life to steal that passion. I allowed others to invade my soul, my dreams…. Like vampires I willing let them suck me dry, till there was no desire, no passion, no drive left…… my dreams blown away in the wind. From April till October, just the thought of getting up at 4 to go and train felt like it was a mountain to climb. Any session that I manage to slog my body to, was over after 20-30min – my mind just not willing to push through.
By the time October arrived, I was just plain miserable. No happy endorphins released, so no happy me. I was aimless, goalless and entering Ironman 2016 not even a thought…. That would be a serious waste of money and I was also not in a space where I wanted to share this journey, which is a powerful one, with another vampire and I sure as hell was not ready to journey on alone again. It just didn’t seem worth it to me!
The thing about social media is where you have likeminded friends… they all started entering Ironman. And like all Ironman fanatics, you have to post that you have entered so that the entire world is aware of this as well as that for the next 6 months, you will become unsociable, grumpy and only sleep, eat and train Ironman. I had a flickering deep within me……. I wanted to go! But I would have had to start from scratch with my training and I was not sure if I had the heart.
A week later I decided that I just HAD to enter. I knew once I entered, I would somehow find the heart again to start the process and get over the finish line. I sold my Mountain bike and entered. Step 1 done! Now to work on the heart and passion and drive to get up and go and train… It was a struggle.
My training, if that is what you could call it, was very unstructured. I had really no plan, and as a very resourceful person, that is quite scary. Eventually I took out my previous years programme. I knew that if I followed that it would get me through the race. Only a small problem… My fitness, endurance and strength levels were not even close!!! Not to mention, the lack of mental strength. As a result, I never completed any of the training sessions and most of them didn’t even happen due to constant fatigue.
I needed help!! Thankfully I met up with Coach Ray, who is a mad nutter but such a lifesaver. He simplified the programme going forward. I also started running (a term I use very lightly as what I did could not be classified as running as such) with his group. No matter what you do, if your mind is not in the right place, giving up on yourself, letting yourself down, is oh so easy.
January 2016 arrived and so too the 10 days I got to spend in Miami. It was heaven. No contact with anybody. Just me and my thoughts. For the first time in my life, I didn’t have to worry about food, my kids, where money for month end was going to come from……. I have never felt more free and at peace with myself and the world as I did during those 10 days.
I came back, well rested, at peace with myself, re-energised and ready to put my head down and train as hard as I could with the time remaining…. That was not about to go down. The flu virus came to visit and when I tried to train a bit – I would just be man down for 3-4 days afterwards. After a couple of these, Coach said no more and forced rest was on the cards – for weeks!
March started off great with me back at full strength and a nervous wreck. With 6 weeks left before race day, I was going to have to wing the race and hope and pray I get to the finish line before cut off.
2 weeks out I started visualising the race. Every single step of the way. I saw myself running on the red carpet and heard Paul Kaye’s voice saying.. ”June, you are an Ironman”…… Those words became like a drug that fed me. It was then that I knew, no matter the lack of preparation, I WILL finish the race. Determination and will power kicked in and I was certain that the passion for Ironman that has been buried for so many months, would fuel my mind come race day. 2016 I would be racing with a heart of passion.
The one thing that I thankfully did not have to wonder about was nutrition. That I have sorted. I know what works for me. I have been eating cleaning LCHF/banting since 2014. I seldom change things. If it isn’t broken, you don’t need to fix it.
My nutrition before race day:
Breakfast – I keep it simple and so every day is the same. 3-4 scrambled eggs in lard, with ox liver and an avo if I had any. Moringa – a handful which if I counted was about 11-12, Moringa chilli on my eggs, cause it is my addiction, and I have started taking Vit D as well.
Early dinner – avo if there was, tuna or salmon sashimi and I had some nuts. Didn’t drink anything but water and a couple cups of coffee daily.
Race day breakfast: call it bread in a mug. Pea and Hemp Protein, mixed with desiccated coconut, ginger, cinnamon, cacao nibs mixed together with 2 eggs and bake. Had it with butter and almond butter as well as a BPC that had butter and Brain fuel in.
Nutrition during the race:
I carry 2 bottles on my bike with the following mixture that I have been using since beginning 2014 – Rooibos tea, a dash of honey, coconut water, brain fuel and pea and hemp protein. I also take a bottle of water with and changed the water out at every aid station. I also have food bars – which I make myself - dates, pea and hemp protein, coconut oil, cacao nibs, desiccated coconut, mixed nuts and peanut butter………. Again I keep it simple – all my food is basically the same J My fueling strategy is to drink 100ml on the half hour and have half a bar on the hour – this I will do through the bike to make sure I am fed for the run. This year though I also took 2 x 15ml of Brain fuel with in small bottles.
It is hard to describe the overwhelming feelings as you stand on the beach waiting to start… The sun rising over the ocean as the day breaks – a day where you push your body but also where you tap into your inner being, your thoughts, your steal!
The swim is always the best for me… the water calms my soul and being in the ocean it feels like I am home. The bluebottles attacking me was not so pleasant but I think they came at the right time – I was not even half way yet and thoughts of turning onto my back and floating was very tempting.
I have gone through every step of the race including the transition so many times, that I had hardly any nerves once I started the swim. We forget so often how powerful our minds and thoughts are, and looking back now over the race, I am once again reminded of this.
Transition went smoothly. I even found my bag without a struggle even though without my glasses I am more of a feeling kinda person than a seeing one J I got on my bike and 180km started. The weather was perfect. A tad hot but thankfully no wind! That was such a blessing. I kept to my fueling strategy and felt strong as I rolled back into town to turn around at 90 and start the second half. Admittedly I was now getting nervous that I would run out of energy – Most of my training was 1 ½ - 2 hours – with only 2 relatively long rides in the saddle. I took out my first small dose of brain fuel – 15ml of keeping the mind happy.
The going out route is totally amazing. Rolling hills and I decided that since my run was going to be slow no matter what, I was going to give it my all on for the next 45km. I felt like a racing snake. I had such a blast – even the one or two hills that felt hard on the first round, was easier. My mind did not once fill with any thoughts of being tired, or that I found myself drifting – I was solely focussed on the joy of being there, of having a wonderful day, of feeling strong. I even convinced myself that getting to a bike time of under 6h30 is going to be possible. Turning back and I knew that I just had to spin my legs around, keep on with my nutrition and the bike leg would be done in no time.
The feeling of elation of coming back into town, with no mechanical s and staying on my bike the entire time – aka not falling off around corners – was just so unreal. I was super grateful that I was blessed with such good fortune. The balls of my feet on the other had were on fire – I was convinced that as soon as I take my cycling shoes off, I would find them in a pool of blood. I walked to my run back, and made my way to transition. The helpers are amazing but all I wanted to do was sit down and contemplate this next leg – also the one that would carry me over the magic carpet! I was not feeling the run yet.
I sat down, took my time in putting my running shoes onto my still intact feet – had another dose of brain fuel, some water and then I slowly started making my way onto the run course. At first I thought I would walk to the first aid station, but changed my mind and started with my slow shovel – checking my watch regularly to make sure I keep it at the same slow pace. That was the strategy going in. To start slow and if I had any oomph left to pick it up toward the end..
I ran from aid station to aid station and walked through each on. I interacted and smiled and cheered with the crowds. I walk both small little uphills on every loop. At one stage thoughts of doing a sub 5 hour marathon did come to mind. This would also have meant I would have been able to do a sub 13 hour IM….. but as the last 14km approached, those thoughts quickly left. By then I could not wait to take my running shoes off. My tootsies were screaming at me!!!
I had the privilege of running with one of the local heros – Terri-lynn whom is also one of my friends – she pulled me through till the last 4 when her second wind kicked in. The only thing that kicked in on my side…… well no, actually nothing did J My feet hated every step – my heart and soul were never more happy. I managed to actually do Ironman for fun, without being hard on myself or thinking I was a failure.
Ironman is so much more for that a physical challenge. It pushes you as a person beyond boundaries that you place on yourself. It teaches you humility. It reveals your inner strength, your drive, your passion, your determination, your willpower. It teaches you to appreciate all the blessing you have in your life.
I have learned many lessons during this Ironman, but one of the most important was that even though I am very much a loner, I am not on this journey alone and that my passion for life, for making a difference, for Ironman is a special gift and it will never be destroyed.
I had 4km to go to the finish and I could hardly put one step in front of the other. Coach Rays words echoed through my mind.. whatever you do keep on moving forward. Don’t stop cause if you do – you will be running Northtclif’s hills everyday for the rest of the year.
Needless to say, I kept on moving forward. Soon we were at 400m. I had picked up a partner in crime Lukas who was doing his first Ironman and he was helping me get to the finish. The amount of camaraderie is just unbelievable. We could sense the finish line – It really is a magic carpet that awaits.
Pain, tiredness, fatigue, hunger, your bed calling – everything apart from the fact that the end is in site, vanished from your mind. You run a bit taller, your shuffle is a bit faster – your smile gets bigger……….. You have just over a 100m to go – turning right off the main road toward the finish line…. The crowds are loud, the music pumping. You turn another right corner – Paul Kaye and his team is waiting for you and so is the red carpet leading you to the finish line – with 20 m to go Paul’s voice calls out as you pass him. June, YOU are an Ironman – high 5’s all round – arms in the air – You have done it!!!!!
If I didn’t enter the race when I did, I would not have entered at all and I would have missed out on the most amazing experience of my life. Don’t put things off till you perceive you are ready. Life is short – grab every moment by the balls and experience it fully with passion and desire.
I AM…..Powered With Passion
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