Last week I completed my third Ironman triathlon at Lake Placid. There is something very special about this race for me. I love the scenery, the people, the town and my teammates and friends who race and support the team. I was never an athlete growing up and I still struggle with the term. But on that day, I get to play one. There are those who finish before me and those who finish after me, but it’s how I stack up against myself that is important. Did I do everything that I could? More importantly, did I have fun?
The training this year was challenging. The Northeast had a winter to beat all others and children and life have a habit of getting in the way. So I didn’t have the training season I wanted. But I knew I would finish no matter what.
The swim was fine. It was slower than I wanted and I got a few more knocks to the head than I like! And then on to the bike, which somehow this year became my favorite discipline. I know the course well and so know where I’ll be challenged and where I can relax a little. But it also holds a little emotion for me. Last year, there was lightening and rain and the famous “Keene descent” was as terrifying an experience as I’ve ever had. So this year was about getting down with as little fear as possible. My first two miles on that portion I was averaging 32.5 mph. For me, that is absolutely flying! So I was excited. I was so happy I was fist pumping at the end of my first loop. The second loop was slower but still felt really good. However, the run is where it unraveled. I have never run well off the bike and this year would not be any different. The first loop was ok but I was having challenges with my nutrition – I didn’t want it anymore!! About mile 16, I had to stop for a little dry heaving. But as one of our coaches told us, when you get sick, you puke and rally! So that’s what I did! When I passed the girl who had asked me if I was ok, she said “glad to see you’re back!”. At mile 22, my training partner, who was out for this year, jumped in to take me “home”. She walked with me for a bit, talking and singing to me as she always does. And then we hit my team’s cheering section. Seeing my family and my team screaming my name and encouraging me on, we ran for a bit. Then it was time for the Oval. One of the best finishing lines in Ironman – the Olympic Oval, which when you come in when I do, is filled with screaming fans. It is impossible to walk past that crowd. And so off I went, running towards the finish and to hear, once again, “Cindy Aiena, you are an Ironman”.
This year I was fortunate to have friends racing with me. It was amazing to see them out on the course, cheer for them and know they would finish their first (and hopefully not last!!) Ironman. It is truly a journey and experience unlike any other.
So did I do everything I could, maybe not. Did I have fun, ABSOLUTELY! And I’ll be back next year to do it all over again.