Love, respect, and determination intermingled with the Whistler mountain air Sunday.
Joining a long string of bikes making their way to Rainbow Park post dawn – fellow spectators – there was an ominous mix of expectation, hope and worry. A knowledge that there would be achievement tinged with pain. There would be victors and at the same time carnage. Dreams realized, but at significant cost.
I had butterflies in my stomach. And I was only watching.
Someone had told me spectating an Ironman was hard work, which I found slightly ridiculous. But they were right. It’s not the jockeying for prime position around the transitions that is hard, it’s the wide range of emotions you experience. From incredulity to disbelief. Whether you are watching the pros streamlining down the highway or willing someone to take another step just by clapping hard.
It was, in its own way, grueling.
I wondered, as I watched an older man in incredible pain limping along the run course at the fourteen hour mark, what was possibly motivating him to set out for the second thirteen mile lap. What could inspire someone to strap on a headlight once darkness fell, knowing they had entered the water before the sun had risen. Behind every athlete, their unique story. Because even the ones who looked fresh on race day had suffered at some point of their arduous training.
A day of dichotomy. At times I watched perfectly sculpted super humans gliding past, while at others I watched softer forms in various stages of struggle. At the finish line some athletes sat on picnic benches and chatted with family, while 20 meters away the medical tent overflowed with salty casualties awaiting IV’s or wheelchairs.
Some athletes bounced away from the finish line, while others were carried.
One thing they all shared was the courage to try. Every face etched with resolve. Evey face.
On top of all that, this.
Euphoria at watching my friend rocking a race that I will never attempt. Chrissy, who I try to persuade to have another glass of wine, stay out later, come hang at the beach for a while. She quietly sacrifices these leisurely moments in order to train, making various excuses but never complaining. She chose her dedicated path, and on Sunday, was rewarded.
Tenacious despite fatigue. Focused and unwavering, she was the fourth superwoman to cross the line. I went to cheer her on, but every time I saw her on the course, getting it done, my throat closed up and I couldn’t squeak out a word of encouragement. A spectating fail. Amazed, I could only gawk at her strength.
Incredibly proud of Chrissy, and my other friends who not only finished Ironman, but achieved new milestones. In fact, props to everyone who attempted this test of mettle. Not only are you an Ironman, you are proof positive that we are capable of incredible things.