Clearwater 70.3

Ironman World Championship 70.3
Clearwater, Florida

My first World Championship Race as a Pro

WOW. It's been almost a week now, and I have had a lot of time to reflect on the race.

Let me start by saying I have had better racing days. In fact most of the races I have done to date have felt physically better than that one.
The weeks leading up to Clearwater have been up and down, but mainly down. My training has not been at it's peak and I knew this going in, but just because I thought I was not 100% ready to go didn't mean I really wasn't ready to go. Does that make sense? well, to me it does. sometimes when we think we are too rested and feel sluggish, on race day it turnes out to be an awesome taper and you have a great day. and then sometimes when we think we are ready to go - then we find out on the bike that we are flat and out legs feel heavy.... and of course, there are those times when you don't feel ready, but you convince yourself you are and you just go anyway. you throw it on the wall and see if it sticks. sometimes it works...I went in hoping it would stick.
it's a puzzle.
actually, it always works and comes together, but the outcome all lies in your definition of "sucess" and "winning".
The key to being the best is to figure out the puzzle. Joanna Zeiger is good at that. I admire her for her ability to be consistantly great. even as I passed her as she walked the run at KONA last year.
I sat behind her in the pro meeting the day before the race and noticed her ring - with the olympic rings on it. I was suprisingly calm going into that meeting. the greatest athletes in this disatnce where here, and i was among them. Would I ever be as fast as her? maybe. who knows. I have aspired to be there for a long time now, and there I was sitting there alongside them.
The days before the race were filled with meetings and fun in the expo. It was hard to find down time but it didn't seem to bother me. I was enjoying being there and seeing everyone from Lifesport and Zoot and many others I have meet throughout the years. I was taking it all in - in my new perspective.

On Thursday, Missy and I did the expo and came across the BLAZEMAN FOUNDATION booth where low and behold was a big picture of DONNIE! We stopped in our tracks. it was emotionally overwhelming. he was there with me. i mean, he's always there with me in my heart, but he was right there. he is on this journey with me, still.....perhaps still trying to reminding me that I get to do this :-) we stopped and spoke to the Blaises' about Donnie and the impact he had on not only Missy and myself, but our whole community. Mr Blais mentioned he recently read an article on ironman.com mentioning Donnie - that was the article about me from Clearwater last year and how Donnie helped change my life (the article is on my website)!! Once we made that connection, it was like meeting a part of the family. It was meant to be. I have always followed the Blazeman and the efforts of his family to keep his spirit alive, but that's just it - i have always followed.
I danced around the idea of making that change in my life 7 years ago for a while before I actually did it. ( kinda like quitting smoking - you know, you quit 100 times before you actually do it. ) Donnie helped to direct me in the right direction. There is no doubt that I met Donnie in 2002 for a reason. He was brought to me by something greater than us both. Now the Blaises have been brought to me face to face. No more supporting from the sidelines and dancing around the issue. No more crying in the crowd when I hear them speak of their son. I remember 2 years ago at Clearwater when The Blazeman was there on stage after he watched KONA (he was progressing so quickly he couldn't do the race again). It was so emotional for me. And in 2006 year when his parents threw some of his ashes into the sea at Clearwater. It's now time to do more. Time to reach out for ALS. I am where I am for a reason. And I am connected.
It takes me a while to get it sometimes.....but I do eventually see the light!
If I forget the whole race one day (which, I admit, at times I wish it would blurr more quickly!) , I will never forget being there with Missy and having that conversation with Robert and Mary Ann Blais.
OK, back to the race. I woke up early as usual before the race and managed to get my stuff together in plenty of time to walk down to transition. I wanted to get there early as I was going off at 6:47 and wanted to have plenty of time in case something went crazy with my bike or something. Walking down the road, I ran into a guy I met last year in an airport waiting in the customs line. ((I missed my plane that day waiting on my bike...))anyway, he was easy to spot because he is a PC athlete, so we walked down to transition together and talked about stuff that's been going on. He has been busy coming off of Kona and a marathon in the past Month! I felt like a bit of a slug at that point! haha
Anyway, I manged to get set up quickly in transition [the camera's didn't seen to get in my way at all :-)....as a matter of fact, I think I got in their way a lot more!! haha ] and then hooked up with Russell and Melissa who flew in to watch the race before heading out on their 10 day cruise (lucky...). they were my 'domestiques' for the day since Ryan couldn't come to the race because of work. thanks for being there you two!
I went out for a quick swim before the race start then saw my friend "Fisch" from Cancun there at the start (he's actually from Switzerland, but we were buddies in Cancun). It was great to see him. I knew he would be there, and I looked for his wife in the program...but apparently they are a "hip couple" as he calls it - so she doesn't go by his last name! Now, who wouldn't want that last name?
It was great to see him and if there was any edge to going into this race, that "reunion" took it off.

Swim start - man, lots of camera's on the pro's. again, I think I was in their way more .....although there were going to get run over by me if they didn't move! The swim went off without a hitch, except I was a little slower than I wanted to be. Other than that, I felt great and relaxed.

Then it was onto the bike. After about 10 miles, I was hoping to settle into a good pace. I kept looking for that pace and a good feel, but never seemed to find it. "It is what it is" I kept telling myself - even if it is not what I want it to be! I was struggling. I felt like my legs just wouldn't go. I was working really hard to go this slow i thought. maybe it was the wind (not). maybe I had a flat. No. I was the one that was flat.

There were a few girls around me on the bike and except for one, they were all riding pretty legal i thought. I was a bit peeved at one girl drafting close to me (especially since i didn't feel good to begin with and was working hard enough just to carry myself along), but the officials soon took care of her! she pulled out of the race later on...

so, about halfway on the bike, i conceded to the fact that today was not going to be the stellar day I was hoping for. but i was still out there, upright and moving. I was just going thru the motions now, hoping for some magic and that things would improve...this course didn't seem quite as fast as I remembered it!

I went to some dark places on the bike. places i have not been a lot, but have visited on occasion. Why does this happen, I don't know. Controlling those thoughts is a work in progress. And I admit, I was not doing a very good job for a while. The ideas of calling it a day passed thru my mind over and over. I had a good reason to stop - I'm a pro now. If the race isn't turning out the way I want it to, I should stop to save face. Who want's to be in the bottom 3rd? not me... so, DNF (Did Not Finish) - that's what Pro's do, right? It's all about winning as a pro, right? Surely I'd be ok with it if I just rode into transition and called it a day. My sponsors would understand. I kept going back and forth. I thought....It sure would ne nice to stop this misery.
Then I turned a corner and saw a guy laid out on the side of the road beeding from his nose and mouth. He had to be a pro that crashed bad. the medics were everywhere and he was unconscious from what I saw. I only had a glance of the situaton, but that was all I needed. It was a wake up call. That guy (bless his heart, and I hope he is ok) would trade places with me in a heartbeat to be upright and riding right now. then I began to think of many others who would like to be where I am at this moment. Maybe I'll feel ok on the run....
Into transition and onto the run....it was ugly. My legs were like lead. or maybe it was the few extra pounds in my booty! [that's another story :-) ] I saw some spectators and friends as i was going out on the run and as they cheered me on i am certain my response was not a positive one. I could kick myself now for letting the bad stuff overwhelm me, but I had to go thru that I guess in order to take away from the race what I eventually did. I made it to about mile 4 where Andy Potts passed me up heading home for the day. I cheered him on thru the aid station while I was walking and slamming a GU... I was really not feeling good at all. I even had the idea that I could just call it a day after one loop. I mean, it was getting worse than ugly out there. But I just kept moving on. I made it over the bridge that kicks my ass every time then down to the ground where the message board was...and I saw something on that board that sealed the deal for me. I knew Missy typed something in there for me on Thursday before the race....what would was it I wondered?....."ENERGY FOLLOWS THOUGHT". she nailed it.
It was then that my lightbulb went on. no wonder I was feeling so bad. My mind was going negative so my energy was negative. why I didn't get a grip on this sooner, I'll never know. but it turned me around almost immediately. no way am i stopping now. I was out there for bigger reasons that winning that day. I have a greater purpose then many of my peers.
Thanks, Missle.

The rest of the run was a personal victory. I had no excuse to stop, except plain ol' quitting, and that wasn't gonna fly. My career as a triathlete has a different foundation than most of the other Pro's out there. I have 10 years of being a bum to keep me motivated to "just finish" without feeling like I am settling for less. 7 years ago my life was on a different path. everytime I finish a race now - no matter where i finish in the results, I suceed. It's all about perspective.
And it sometimes takes a conscious effort to keep it all in perspective. I have to work at it. I have lost it on occasion and have witnessed others lose it altogether and believe me, it wreaks havoc on you.
So, my eyes re-opened at that moment and my energies turned positive. I began to really focus on the good things. Perspective. I mean, all along in the race so far, these positive thoughts floated around in my brain, but i failed to really tune into them.

At the finish line, i was not only relieved to finally be there, but also happy to see everyone else there. I saw Ben Harper with Zoot and fellow athlete Amanda (who just came off a top 10 finish at IM FLORIDA!) waiting for us to come across - and some of the other girls that were out there suffering alongside me for the past 4 1/2 hours. I told everyone about my day and how relieved I was to make it to the end - and what an internal personal journey it was. My time was reflective of how poor my overall race was, but my attitude was reflective of how excited I was to be there, how truly blessed I was to be in that moment and to pursue a dream.

then it was time to eat.....


Heather Leiggi said...

It was great to hang out with you a bit at Clearwater and have a fellow "newbie" pro at the stacked race meeting. You definitely helped keep me calm. Anyway, great effort at Worlds and hopefully we'll catch up soon. Enjoy your offseason!

Gilbert Fisch said...

Hi Caroline. Great race report. I am flattered that I am in it. Was great to see you again - next time we do have to have a couple drinks. And yeah, next time I will be racing in Clearwater and not just ring that cowbell and yell for hours. I am on the start list of 70.3 New Orleans and the flight is booked. So I guess we will see each other again beginning of April. In the meantime take care and stay in touch (my blog: gilbertfisch.blogspot.com - only in German but with lots of pics and movies). Gilbert.

Eileen Swanson said...

I truly love having a friend like you. You always put things in perspective and see the BEST in everything! I love this. Thanks for being so positive!