Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The magic of a 70.3, both as a competitor and a volunteer.

These last few weeks have been full of events, activities, travel and FUN!

Two weeks ago, I competed in my first Ironman 70.3 in St. Polten Austria. And last Sunday, I was able to volunteer for the first 70.3 triathlon distance to EVER be held in Greece - Astroman. Both events were a life changing experience not only physically but mentally and spiritually.

Both my husband and I trained for about 18 weeks in order to line up on the starting line of the Ironman 70.3 in St. Polten. We both did it and we both finished. It was our anniversary weekend - 5 years- so the entire event and victory represented the victory through the ups and downs of our relationship. It was sweet to come up on top!

The Ironman 70.3 St. Polten was my first international race and I made a lot of mistakes but I learned from them. My swim start was at 7:15am. I felt rushed before I got into the water to make my deep water start. I placed myself poorly in the group and this cost me precious minutes from my swim time. I never felt a rhythm during the entire swim. What I did feel the entire swim were women around me, kicking and pushing me off course.

The bike transition was long and it was the first time that I had to transition away from my bike (the few races I have done allowed me to have all my transition gear in one place and laid out in an organized fashion). My stuff was in a big bag. I had too much stuff since we just didn't know if we were going to face rain and cold. Bottom line: I was slow and confused during the transition.

On the bike and out of the transition was when I got that feeling...just an overwhelming feeling of being stoked to be in the race. I smiled and even talked to myself saying how awesome I felt and how great it is to be competing in an Ironman! The ride took us in and out of the Danube wine country, along the river and into little narrow villages and streets lined with Austrians clapping and yelling HOP HOP HOP! The bike went so quick! I paced well (maybe even too slow) and finished in about 3:13min.

We then entered the town of St. Polten again and into transition 2. I was feeling great as I hopped off my bike and ran to the T2 to pick up my run bag. My legs were fresh for the run and my starting pace was fast! I had to really slow myself down on the first 10K loop since I wanted to have energy to race the last 10K. Approaching the second loop, I was full on. My body felt great. I had no fatigue and I was ready to race the last 10K. I turn it on and burned past about 30 women on my way to the finish line. I ran a 2 hr half marathon.

Getting the Ironman medal represented not only the accomplishment of finishing the race but it was proof that I can tackle any challenge that will be thrown at me in this life. The reason I like to race endurance events is because I am able to tap into my soul, my spirit. I have the connection to my true being and a disconnect from my ego.

After Austria, we came back to bankrupt Greece. We missed the open green Austria country side, the hospitable people and the neat and orderly lifestyle. But after getting back to work, I prepared, along with the organizers of HOP! Events, to host the first ever 70.3 distance triathlon to ever be held on Greek soil. I was back and forth in my mind about potentially racing but decided that my role was better served to help manage the volunteer stations on the day of the race.

I never thought that volunteering could be almost as great as racing. This event - Astroman 2010 - was filled with good vibes from the start. The race day was hot (about 39 C with no breeze or relief) and the athletes need well organized and well stocked aide stations. I worked my butt off to make sure that everyone's role was utilized, that we had enough supplies and lets not forget about ice. I must have bought all the ice in the village of Astros. Greeks don't really use ice so finding big bags and unlimited supply was a challenge but we were successful. The athletes came to us after the race with comments like "If it were not for the volunteers, I would have not finished the race" and "On the entire run, the only thing that was keeping me going was your aid station". This experience was help out another athlete and pick them up when they are down is one of the best feelings! I made the right decision to not race b.c if I had raced, then I would not have been a positive impact that helped so many athletes cross that finish line under extreme conditions.

On this day, in the little beach town of Astros in the Peloponnese I saw hope for Greece. I felt positivity. I saw local spectators sitting outside of their house to cheer and support the athletes. I saw money being spent and shop keepers happy. If only the Greek government could WAKE UP and start supporting positive movements like this one, Greece would see a revolutionary change.

I don't have any short term plans or races booked but I am keeping fit because endurance racing and triathlon is part of my life. My reasons for not racing is that my job now is to have a baby. Then it is back to racing.

I have been on both sides of the starting line - as an organizer and a competitor. The magic is in both places and now my mission is to encourage others to get involved. This is where God is leading me and this is where I am headed.

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