1) My girlfriend kicks ass.
2) Spectating ironman is as long of a day as racing one and far more boring.
3) So much has changed in a month that writing about this day seems like it was forever ago.
So, in order, let's be a little more complete.
1) Daaaamn, Girl
Ethel did her first ironman last month; she did Vineman, a long-standing race in California's wine country. I'm still not sure what possessed her to do such a thing, but it was an awesome goal for her to take on. Her official goal was to finish by sunset, and her secret goal was to break 12 hours. She did both; breaking the tape in 11:59:24 and with the sun still several fingers above the horizon.
She was cheerful and relaxed throughout the whole thing; a curious thing about racing is that there comes a point where one can do nothing additional to prepare. Que sera, sera. So accepting whatever level one has trained to and going through the motions of the day can be quite a relief and actually fun.
On the phone with her agent
She exceeded all expectations for swim, bike, and run, as follows:
Swim: she was nervous about swimming 2.4 miles, and rightly so. She'd never swum a single stroke further than half that distance in training. However, she just got in the water and kept moving those arms, springing forth in 1:17.
Well-prepared (photo d^2)
Bike: she rode one lap of the course a few weeks prior at a pace that dictated she should complete the race distance of 112 miles in 6:30 or 6:45. I also staunchly warned her to ride easy on race day. Between those two factors, we planned all our photo ops based on those calculations, and the cheeky monkey ruined them all. She rode easy and whizzed by all our spots an increasing number of minutes before she should have. I would have been worried, but she was so bloody cheerful every time we saw her that I figured she was fine. And she was, finishing the bike in 6:05.
Run: it was a hot day, but not as hot as it could have been. It was a shade-deprived run course, but not as bad as it could have been. And she was tired, but not as tired as she could have been. The classic ironman run performance is to do the second half of the run anywhere between 15 minutes and 2 hours slower than the first half. Murphy, however, came out of the gate running 10-minute miles, and never slowed down. Like a cute little Irish metronome, every time she came by our picnic spot on the course, she was bang on for 10-minute miles, and finished it out that way, running her marathon in 4:25.
Running past the walking wounded
Cheerful at the catered buffet that is an ironman run course
With a few minutes in each transition, that stacks up to sub-12, and also a 3rd in her age group finish, and also 13th woman overall.
There's no real reason to be happy at the end of an ironman; it's a brutal and awful thing to do to your body. However, relief is wholly appropriate, as is pride, a grand sense of accomplishment, and hoping to avoid case-study worthy dehydration. She did all of those in spades.
2) Sun-Stroked Spectators
We had a nice cheering section for Ethel. In addition to the usual suspects, we had Heather and James, Jesse and Lisa, Gerard and Brian, and Lauren. Waking up at the same time as an ironman racer, following her progress throughout the day, and laughing because she can't walk in a straight line after the race will really take it out of ya.
The obvious thing to do is to amuse myself in any way possible to help pass the hours; this includes taking lots of photos, eating lots of pastries, and making other racers' days better. The best thing I could come up with for the last task was to go buy a pesticide sprayer from Home Depot, lug it along with a pissload of water out onto the run course, and spray people who wanted some misty relief from the crushing boredom of running a marathon over the same stretch of pavement 6 times.
Here are some of my favorite photos of people who aren't Ethel.
Johnson's Beach canoes
Like a gasping trout
Under the bridge
Flat vineyards turned round
Fast dood and vineyard
Happier than she should have been
Come to Jesus (photo d^2)
Gutting it out
No shade here
3) Miles Away
4 days after Ethel notched her triathlon bedpost, I got thwacked by a car on my bike (been through that already a couple posts ago). 6 days after that, we left for Europe even though I wasn't going to be able to race. Now 3 weeks after that, we've completed our business in France (well, except for the race) and Italy and are headed to Amsterdam and Belgium (the latter for a Formula 1 race).
We hunkered down as much as we could in both the Alps and the Dolomites, great friends along with us, doing what we could to settle into local life and not be rabid tourists. Between the flights, drives, and train rides, we've changed our surroundings drastically in the 3 days of actual travel we've had in the last 3 weeks (I'm writing this on a wi-fi equipped train from Paris to Amsterdam after traversing Italy and France in a massive car day). Along with changing surroundings comes changing outlooks, priorities, and coffee consumption (all in the positive direction, thank you very much).
Computer time has been at a minimum on this trip, which is awesome, and being ensconced in cultures and languages that are unfamiliar has whisked me so far away from Vineman, my own aborted race plans, work, and home, that it seems odd to be writing about something that happened so damn long ago. That's no excuse, however. She still kicked some serious ass!
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