The lights will draw you in And the dark will bring you down And the night will break your heart Only if you're lucky now. -Ryan Adams
One of my favorite lines from a humorous Ironman Maryland 2015 race report that I read on Facebook was about how it was on the run that author realized the city of Cambridge, MD did not believe in outdoor electricity. I was thinking the same thing as I was completing the run portion of the race. While I started the run in the daylight, it wasn’t long before it got dark, and you could hardly see anything in between aid stations. There were very few streetlights. If I were faster, and the race hadn’t been postponed to later in October, perhaps I wouldn’t have had to worry about running so much of it in the dark. But it was all good, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Despite the lack of lighting (which is really my only complaint about the race), there was such a great vibe around this race! We were all so happy just to be there! Here’s why…
For me, there are a few reasons why this race felt so wonderful even though I didn’t break a personal record (PR) or anything. Mostly it had to do with the camaraderie and the fact that I got to see so many people I knew on the race course. One thing that I did on this race that I hadn’t done before is join the Facebook group associated with the race. What I loved about being part of that group is probably true for every race’s FB group. But in this case, I think the group had a lot going for it, because it was there that we learned that (a) The race had been canceled due to an approaching hurricane, and (b) The race director (Gerry Boyle) was going to do everything he could to get the race postponed to two weeks later. And he did! This was a testament to him, the city of Cambridge, and the Ironman organization (at least in this case). Gerry Boyle became so famous for his efforts that people sought him out and were excited to take selfies with him when we finally got to actually do the race.
To understand how significant this is, you have to realize that the Ironman organization had never rescheduled a race once it had been canceled. All those people who had spent tons of money to sign up for a race, train for a race, and travel to the race site, typically just had to accept that the race they planned for had been canceled. They could do another race, but they couldn’t do the race they had been imagining. (Even Ironman Melbourne, which is the Asia-Pacific Championship race, was recently canceled due to scheduling conflicts with another event, and they aren’t rescheduling it–even though it wasn’t supposed to happen until March 2016. So, if they can’t reschedule, it’s amazing that Ironman Maryland was able to!)
There were still people who had come from as far away as Australia, only to find out the race had been canceled and could not return on the new date. On the FB page, we all witnessed their disappointment and thanked them for coming, encouraging them to try to come back next year. My husband and I were lucky, because we live in Maryland. But it was cool to see how many people *did* come back, even though some had a hard time finding new accommodations. The race organizers really did a lot to try to find people places to stay.
Anyway, I promise I’ll get around to my recap of the race soon. But I just wanted to note a couple of other stories that I only knew about because of the FB group. First of all, there was one participant who was very active on the FB group, and was so enthusiastic about this being her first Ironman, that everyone just had to join in and relish it with her. And when I was in the transition area early on the morning of the race, the announcer mentioned her name and the fact that it was her first full Ironman, and people cheered. Maybe we don’t know her personally, but we had followed her story, and it was great to be there with her and be excited for her in that moment.
Another person we knew about from the IMMD FB group (and another FB group called “Pathetic Triathletes” #pathetic ) was a 72-year-old competitor, who–if he finished–would automatically get a slot for the Kona Ironman next year, because he was the only person in his age group to complete the swim. The whole day, people on FB were encouraging him and cheering for him. Alas, he did not finish. But after the race, the note he wrote to all the people who had supported him was so touching. He couldn’t believe he had all these people pulling for him, and he said he would be back next year!
We also learned of yet another person, who, unfortunately, had a heart attack during the swim and had to be pulled out. The good thing is that this person lived to tell his own story on the FB group and was so grateful to the people who had taken care of him. If you have ever read about fatalities during an Ironman, they do rarely occur, and usually it is during the swim portion. So, it was seriously amazing and wonderful to know that this person survived what had to be a harrowing experience!
The Swim (59:59)
So, let’s talk about the swim… My swim time looks pretty impressive, but it’s not. That’s because the swim was actually shortened. While we were standing around waiting for the start, the organizers announced that there was a “small craft advisory” in the area, and unfortunately, we would not be able to do the full swim. We all started wondering if they would cancel the swim altogether.
At first, they said it would be half the normal distance (so, 1.2 miles). But then, in keeping with the can-do spirit of this race, they realized they could at least lengthen it to around 3,000 meters (1.8 miles), which is at least longer than a half-distance. Anyway, it didn’t bother me. I was just glad we got to swim. I already knew that the Choptank River can be, well, choppy. And there can be a current that makes at least one part of the swim more difficult than the rest. But in this case, the swim was not terribly choppy until the last little bit. And I bet faster swimmers did not even experience any chop. It must have been getting worse just as I was finishing, because I did hear that other people thought it was a lot harder. And, hey, this was the only part of the race that I did faster than my husband. So woohoo for me!
The Bike (6:23)
I had already told myself that I was going to take it easy on the bike in order to save energy for the run. After Lake Placid, I had learned my lesson, and I wanted to actually be able to *run* this time! So, my plan for “taking it easy” was to ride around an average of 18.5 mph.
Well. The wind had something else in mind.
I had ridden the course several times, and I know the Wind of the Eastern Shore well. The person whose race report I referenced in the beginning of this post talked about how there must be a special vortex in Cambridge, MD that causes a headwind to come at you no matter what direction you ride in. And, that was pretty much true for most of the bike course. It was chilly also. So, most everyone had at least arm warmers on –if not something warmer. There was one section that was quite nice. But it would have killed me to maintain the pace I had planned on for most of the course. So, I ended up averaging 16-17 mph instead. And that was a bummer, because I have ridden that course in 5:50 before, and I really expected to be closer to that. Oh well. I stuck to my plan and saved some energy for the run. So, all was good. It was also fun to see my husband as he passed me early on the bike. I didn’t see anyone else I knew for the whole bike course, even though I knew a lot of people racing. That changed in a huge way on the run.
The Run (5:14)
The run was like a party. I saw Craig, Rhonda, Jeffrey, John, Harry, Lauren, Noreen, and a ton of other people from our tri club. I did not run as fast as I would have liked, especially since it was cool out and I should have run faster. I definitely ran faster at Arizona. But after Lake Placid, I was just thrilled to *be running*. I came out of transition and got to the first aid station, which was sponsored by our wonderful, fabulous, amazing local tri club (Annapolis Tri Club – ATC), and they announced my name on the loud speaker. They were playing great music and had personalized signs posted for each of us. Everyone cheered for me. I felt like a rock star!
It was so great to see everyone, including our dear, dear support crew (affectionately known as “sherpas”) – Terese & Jon. They told me Craig was up ahead of me, which I had expected. The ATC water stop was right by the water. A beautiful location, but also windy. Those tireless volunteers really put in a hard day, keeping cups from blowing everywhere, giving a million high-fives, and trying to stay warm. And the best part for us was that we would come by this water stop six times on the run. So, you just knew it wouldn’t be long before you would see everyone again, with different people showing up throughout the day. Every time, it seemed, there was a new person to hug and celebrate with.
The Finish (13:03)
So, if I had cared at the time, I probably would have picked it up more at the end of the run in order to get a 12:something finish time. My best Ironman time to date is 12:40, and it would have been great to stay in that 12-hour time frame. But I wasn’t really thinking about it. The finish was on a path that you actually ran over two times before you turned down the finishing shoot. It’s a brick road in downtown Cambridge. And it’s great – because there are bars that people hang out at and cheer for you every time you go by. But those uneven bricks! Sheesh! My legs were already tired, and I have questionable ankles that don’t like uneven surfaces. Plus, your feet are just sore by then. But you deal with what you have to deal with. And the last part of the run, coming down the straight-away to the finish line, was awesome even with the bricks. I was SO HAPPY to be at the end! I gave EVERYONE in the finishing shoot a high-five! And, there, at the end of the shoot, right before I crossed the line, was my husband, along with Jon & Terese. It was so great! I knew I had not finished with a stellar time or anything. But I had a great time doing it. The whole race was fun.
I really recommend this race. It can be choppy and windy. But there is a great spirit in Cambridge, and I hope that continues to be the case in future years.
In closing, I’d just like to note that my husband Craig–who got me into this silly sport–finished IMMD with a PR time of 12:20! I’m so proud of him and I feel so lucky to get to train with him and share these kinds of experiences with him. It may seem like I’m just concerned about myself and my little triathlon experiences when you read this blog. But you must know that my life Would.Be.Nothing without him. Thank you, sweetie 🙂
Here is an easy-going post-race playlist for you. (See if you can spot the embedded IMMD triathlon.) Enjoy!
- Lucky Now – Ryan Adams
- Messages – Xavier Rudd
- Into the Wild – Lewis Watson
- White Daisy Passing – Rocky Votolato
- Way Back When – Kodaline
- Fire and the Flood – Vance Joy
- The Breach – Dustin Tribbutt
- In the Wind – Lord Huron
- Running for Cover – Ivan & Alyosha
- In My Mind (Summertime) – JR JR
- Shooting Stars – Bag Raiders