Standing in the clear blue waters of Lake Tahoe about to warm up for my second attempt at an Ironman triathlon, I heard a voice come on the loudspeaker. Within one minute, I heard the words: “The race has been cancelled.” This phrase rang slowly in my mind over and over as I looked around to the other competitors. My dad, who I had just parted with to say good luck was before me, motionless, with a blank expression. The athletes looked around at each other and some began making their way back to shore.
That was too soon for me. I needed a moment to let it soak in. 9 months of training to race one of the hardest IM courses and just like that, it was not going to happen? Perspective almost immediately kicked in and told me this was not the worst thing. Of course not, things can always be worse, much worse and things can always be better, much better. But I deserved a moment in the water, before retrieving my bike from transition.
An arsonist had started a wildfire that spread too close to the bike and run courses. A few days before the race the smoke began to clear as the winds shifted, but it was not enough. The particles in the air were considered unsafe for inhalation. The race was off.
Making my way over to where my dad was, we hugged and the first words out of my mouth were “We will find another race.” He works a laborious job six days a week and the training for him, like many others, took up his only free time. It’s a big commitment and sacrifice from one’s spouse, so to think of it being a whole other year away to race again, seemed quite overwhelming.
We swam around a buoy and I reached out to touch it, somehow this made it better, to feel like I was actually at the race. As we walked out of the water, a group of young guys were heading out to swim the full 2.4-mile course. One guy forgot his goggles so I slipped mine off, told him they were an old pair (not 100% true...) and he swam off with the group. $20 of given up goggles was my small contribution to helping a fellow triathlete and as the day wore on, I was given small gifts of compassion from the Ironman community.
My dad & I decided to change into our bike gear and ride the 8 miles back to our house rental. As I walked around transition there were a lot of stunned people. People who flew from Australia and other far off parts of the world. People who did not finish an Ironman this year but were determined to make it to the Tahoe finish line. People like me who wanted to do something out of their comfort zone, promote a good cause and connect with family.
After getting back with our bikes, my dad and I contemplated our next move. When we arrived at our cabin, I was immediately online looking for races.
Scrolling down the Ironman website, there were few options remaining in 2014, as this is considered the end of the training season. That is, until I found availability for Ironman Cozumel. I am not a fan of racing in humidity, hot weather and flat courses. But this was my only option to finishing an iron-distance 2014 race with my dad. Next year holds other challenges for me, and I was not willing to sacrifice another 8 months of training for another attempt at Tahoe.
Within two hours of our race being cancelled we had plane tickets, hotel and registration for this next race – only two months away. I suggested we go for margaritas to celebrate, even though my heart was still afloat in that lake, figuring out what the day and race now meant.
After a breakfast with my family, we headed over to Squaw Valley to pick up our run transition bags. This was the most emotional moment for me – picking up my run bag. I had high hopes for the marathon. My run training has been the strongest it's ever been and I had a hearty goal time in mind. Usually, when you get to the run transition area, there is so much fatigue; it takes a while for your legs to adjust. Arriving to pick up my bag, there were only few bags left and smoke in the air. A nearby athlete mentioned it was a tough day and my eyes welled with tears. He gave me a hug and I proceeded out to collect my things and meet up with my husband, who drove us back to our house.
The next week was very difficult emotionally for me. I felt zapped. With Cozumel to look forward to, I knew I had another goal in front of me, but there was a huge feeling of loss from Tahoe. I will never know what I was capable of that day and it’s a very unique experience that I won’t get back. But we can’t live with imagining what things may have been. They are what they are. It’s about picking yourself up and doing what you can do with the resources you have.
With two months to go to IM Cozumel, I am getting back to the race spirit. I began training with my team again and got in some hard workouts over the weekend that are jazzing me up for my next big race. In the meantime, I signed up for a local 70.3 in Rancho Cordova. This will be a great reminder that races will continue and goals will be met.
Racing for Cause
I’d like to take a moment to share an article that Ironman wrote about me. It’s a part of my story that showcases one of the most character-building, difficult times in my life. I intended to keep this fundraiser between some family & friends, but when Ironman approached me to profile it, I thought it would be a good story to tell as many times we think of illness being physical, but going through a depression can be just as hard – and maybe even more difficult at times, as there is a stigma in society, and less people acknowledge it. There are more pieces to my story and I imagine as these become easier to share, I will share more. The support to my story has been overwhelming and has already brought me closer to my family, friends and teammates. Thank you to all – your notes, encouragement and love warms my heart.
I had to give up my qualifying race for the Boston marathon this year due to the timing conflict with IM Cozumel, but when my race was cancelled last week, I realized it meant more to me to race with my dad than to fulfill a personal goal. Had the race not been cancelled, I may have never fully realized this. That’s how life goes – you learn some unexpected extraordinary things at unexpected tough times.