Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Port Macquarie Ironman 2012 - My spectators perspective.

Since starting in this amazing world of Triathlon's - I have always been a competitor. I have experienced the happiness, pain, doubt, fear and everything inbetween. Racing, although being surrounded by a multitude of your friends whom give you encouragement is still a SINGULAR sport. You spend hours in your own head talking to yourself making sure you get yourself through your challenge. The journey of racing is your own and you have goals to meet and dreams to fulfil.

I have realised though - now that I have spent the day at an Ironman race as a spectator - how mentally challenging it is for family members and friends. Having heard my husband, Mum, children, cousins and friends last year say to me how exhausting it was - I never really grasped how exhausting it TRULY was. Physically you are tired, but mentally and emotionally it is by far harder than any race I have done.

Lets start at the beginning. I woke up yesterday morning after quite a sleepless night. Mind you - the night before I had a great night spent with Sarah and Mark. Dinner was FAB and so were the drinks. So you would think after a few nice Cab Sav's I would have slept like a baby - WRONG. I was so excited and nervous for everyone I just couldn't settle. I kept saying little prayers and hoping that all their dreams would be realised and very selfishly of me I was kind of wishing that I was doing it too. But I was not here for me - I was here for my friends. And I couldn't wait for it - hence my anxiousness.

The next morning, I woke up before the alarm went off and I was ready before I made my first cup of coffee. I was chomping at the bit to get down to the start line and see as many of my friends as I could before they started. I saw Paul, Ruth, Peter, Glenn, Leigh, David, Josh, Andrew, and many others from a distance. I wanted to hug everyone and wish them all the best but had to feel satisfied knowing I would soon see them and cheer for them as they exited the water or passed me on the bike and run.

Watching the swim start I felt quite shocked to watch the ferocity of it. I knew it was bad when I did the 70.3 last year - but seeing nearly 1500 competitors take flight was quite a shock. Their arms looked like a flock of birds in flight - quite majestic to watch but knew full well that the reality was it was a full on fight for the fittest in that water.

As they exited the water I was overwhelmed with excitement. Not only because our PTC members were going to be coming out soon but because I got to see the Pro's up close and personal as they flew past me on the bike. Now it was a countdown to see all our clubbies exit the water and cheer them on. I sure didn't want to miss anyone but knew I had, and felt a bit sad that I had. However I still knew that I would be able to catch them on the bike and run.

Stephen and I made our way up to the hill where the PTC tent was set up with Sarah and her children. Up there we caught up with heaps of other friends and I got my mug on film with my PTC get up. Not sure what all the fuss was about really?

Seems I must have done a good job with my artwork because I got so many wonderful comments from strangers. Kids especially loved it. Anyways......

Watching everyone come back from their first 90km on the bike was awesome. They all looked amazing, so fit and strong. But we were missing one of our riders. We heard there was an accident and that Fiona was involved. Our hearts dropped because we didn't know the extent of the accident. We knew she had been taken to hospital but didn't know anything else. I didn't find out till I saw her at the end of the day what had happened. She was so badly bruised on her right side of the face - thankfully nothing broken but still a whopping injury. So glad apart from the swelling and bruising that she is ok. I also noticed that one of our other girls Kate had heaps of scratches on her shoulder. She too had been injured on the bike. But was able to resume the race. 

It was now almost lunch so Stephen and I headed down to get some food and then make our way out to Settlement Point to support the runners. I knew having done the half last year that that was the loneliest stretch of road ever. There are some supporters but still so quiet and I guess the stretch of road where your mind has too much time to think - and I wanted all of my friends to know that myself and Stephen were there for them if they need moral support - a chat - or even just a familiar face.

This was most definitely the hardest part for me emotionally. Knowing full well you cannot assist it goes against every grain in my body to not help them when they are hurting. But I guess thats where just being there for them with a few kind words can make all the difference in the world. I tried to think of new and wonderful words but found myself repeating the same ol' same ol'. However as each and everyone of them came past me for their last lap I told them how proud I was of them. That they were the most inspirational human beings I had ever met. I remember saying to Paul that I was going to have to leave my spot as he headed out to the point for the last turnaround because I wanted to be at the finish line for him. And that before too long he was going to hear those famous words "Paul, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN". So as I left him and those that remained out there I could feel myself getting all chocked up. And I couldn't walk back quick enough.

As we started to walk back to the finish line I looked back and could only see a sea of fluoro lights heading off into the darkness. I hoped I had done my part to help them a little bit on their journey. And with that I turned back to town and to the increasing sound of music, cheers and a waiting party of supporters.

The finishers chute was alive with activity. Those that had finished and been allowed out of the finishers compound were now revelling in their outstanding accomplishments. As I congratulated them and made sure that they were all ok I could feel my own inner flame grow bigger and brighter knowing that I was wanting to be a part of this next year - but as a participant. Seeing how bright their eye's shone with jubilation regardless of the pain that they were feeling made me want to feel that too. I found out that Bob had come 8th overall - how awesome is that. And that all of them had either come out with a PB and those that had done this for the first time realised their dream and the enormous potential that each and every single one of them has inside to conquer anything they set their minds too.

So it was soon time for Paul to pass through the finishers chute and accomplish a dream of his. I remember looking down and seeing him come closer and closer and his smile was bigger than the grand canyon - I am 100% certain at that point he felt no pain anywhere - only pride in himself. We were all banging and cheering and as I stretched my arm out he grabbed hold of it and kept running. He said afterwards he wasn't sure if he grabbed hold and I said "You sure did". And with that I saw him give his beautiful wife a kiss and up the ramp he went. He took one look back at the stopwatch and with that he was wrapped in his towel, given his medal and then he disappeared.

I later saw him and gave him the biggest cuddle. So proud of him I am - Paul is like my brother here in Aus. He looks after me like my other brothers would if they were closer to home. We were both teary. You SMASHED it Paul. I then saw Glenn and equally gave him the biggest cuddle I could as I didn't get to see him finish but did spur him on as he made his way back at Settlement Point. His time was awesome too.

I then saw Ruthy cross the line knowing full well this girl from the moment she said she was going to do Ironman was going to make it to the end. So to see her run up that ramp and take in all of the bright lights and cheers was awesome to watch.

Now when David crossed that line even the commentator got in on the action. By this stage the finish line had become one massive dance party with every finisher being welcomed home to the famous PTC dancers. Once again I think I could be on TV as the same cameraman was roaming up and down the bleachers we were dancing and singing on. Can't wait to see - should be hilarious.

We kept screaming - David, David, David and banging our feet and making as much sound as we could. I saw him pass behind us for his last 3kms and we told him we were waiting for him. So as he made his way onto the carpet I could see THAT look in his eyes. The one that showed that he was about to be called an IRONMAN. His smile grew bigger and bigger and as he gave his beautiful wife a kiss and made his way up the ramp he turnaround and pumped his fists in the air with such a sense of fulfillment it was a real honour to watch.

A few more competitors came through and then it was time to bring the last IRONMAN home. Even though cut off and been called we still stayed on to welcome him home. I know his name was Bob and with that we welcomed him home we our arms all making an arch for him to run under. We are so proud of you Bob. Your a legend.

And so after many hours of being awake I headed home with some very sore feet and hips. Sheesh, anybody would have thought I just did an Ironman. Emotionally I don't think I had anything left - what a rollercoaster day of emotions. But would I trade it - only if I get to compete. I loved supporting everyone but knew that if I was feeling emotionally drained - how were their close family members feeling. The mind boggles.

So am I going to do next years Ironman????? Damn straight I am. And I can't wait. Fingers crossed I get in within the 5mins. Cause thats how long it took to sell out last year.

Barb's back.

Your hard work will be rewarded.

"The path to a dream is paved with sacrifices and lined with determination. And though it has many stumbling blocks along the way, and may go in more than one direction, it is travelled by belief and courage and conquered with a willingness to face challenges and take chances" Barbara Cage