And so we begin...
Last Saturday I achieved a dream. I did not achieve it in the style nor the manner that I had dreamed of. I have envisioned for two years running down that line knowing I have first place, tears finally able to fall freely and letting the full weight of the emotion and reality of what I had done come out. I was unable to do this on Saturday, the tears did not fall, the realisation was there but it was a blur. I was not coherent, I was not strong. I had pushed myself to the point I was on a dangerous edge. But at the end of the day it was position that mattered. For someone who was always told in life: You can’t do this because...You can’t do that because...I had finally proved them wrong. I defeated my demons. I proved to myself that you CAN do anything...you just have to believe.
We don’t need to go back to the very beginning where it all started. If you have followed the blog you will know the journey I have taken. So let’s fast forward to Wednesday 24th Feb. I am going to mention as many names along the way of those who have played a part in last week’s journey. I may however miss some out. If I do. I sincerely apologise.
John sent me to the airport. He knows me inside out. He has seen how the sport has taken hold and become my life. He has always stood by me. He didn’t have to, I was no longer there for him, but he was always there. And as we said goodbye on Wednesday morning I gave him a hug and he said, ‘if I can tell you anything at all, it is you go there and you PUSH. YOU PUSH yourself Emma. You know you can do it. You have done the training more than anyone. So you go and PUSH’. Well I am crying now as I recall those words and yes, I was crying at the airport too – what’s new! Me and airports always brings out the waterworks.
I was staying pretty calm...but then butterflies would suddenly sweep through my stomach and I would have a sudden panic stricken realisation of the fact that it was all about to end and also begin.
I arrived in Langkawi and checked in. Daniel was already there. I was there to race but also supposed to be there in a work capacity. It never really happened though. I was given space and time and I really appreciate the support TBB showed me. It helped me stay calm, I wasn’t stressed out, I did feel guilty at times but I was never given the evil eye of you SHOULD be working. For that, Thank you, Alex, Abby, Janet, Daniel, Joe and Ali.
In my short time in triathlon I have made a lot of friends. A lot. Some are newbies, some age group legends, some are pro’s and some are the cogs that make the events happen. I feel blessed and lucky to know so many people. Being female and travelling alone to races I have never felt alone nor uncomfortable. So for me Langkawi was a triple ‘A’ race and a place where I would be able to catch up with friends – I would be in my favourite playground of all.
Thursday morning I went for a ride with Keat Soong, Kevin Mackinnon and Whit Raymond who in 10 years of working IM Langkawi has never ridden a bike on the island. Thank You Faisal for lending out your bike...I do believe he had a blast. I felt great on that ride. We rode the big loop. My legs just wanted to go so the rule was, no lactic allowed.
Friday morning was the swim, bike, run ‘touch up’. The swim, if you read Sofian’s blog it was not pretty. I was angry and upset with myself. I apologise Sofian for breaking down. But we have become the kind of friends I am afraid where that guard will now fall down! He asked if I wanted to go back in and have another go. I said I was too angry with myself. It would not be wise. I changed, got on the bike and rode the small loop with dear Disco Dave, Jamie Vigaray and Whit. I came back to life, and the smile returned.
I hung out, chatted and enjoyed the atmosphere at bike check in. I think I was calm. We checked out the sexy bikes and then I headed to Starbucks with Faisal for a choc frappaccino – a little more sugar if you please! I was back in the hotel ready for bed at 6:30pm. Not tired, the past few days my energy levels had been rising fast due to low training so I put on an Eddie Izzard DVD and chuckled the evening away with some banana bread – oops!
Okay, it was a good sleep I awoke to my morning alarm call of ‘It’s a Beautiful Day’ By Queen. This song is my alarm but also is my theme song. The main lyrics of ‘Nothings gonna stop me’ has got me up and out of bed and through many many many tough training days. It was good to hear it at the swim start. Twice I might add. Thank YOU Mr. Music Man.
I was really calm. Very odd. Had arranged to walk down with Fasial. He on the other hand was like a cat on a hot tin roof. Got a lot worse too after I plied him with some extra EXTRA strong coffee. We walked down, like soldiers going into battle. Some athletes wore iPods, not much talking. An eerie silence, everyone was doing this for their own reasons. The fact that every man and his dog knew my reasons did not deter, I didn’t even feel additional pressure from everyone saying – THIS IS YOUR DAY. I think I may be starting to learn HOW to enjoy these things.
In line for body marking - Big smiles I was chirpy, chatty. Just mixing and mingling takes my mind off the job in hand. But then someone would take me aside and whisper some words of encouragement and the tears would start to mount of the enormity of the task I was about to undertake and the expectation I had of myself. In those moments I had to blink and walk away and re collect my thoughts but it seems everyone wanted to say hi and snap pictures, so I tried my best to be as relaxed and as FUN as I could. Big hugs from the boss – Alex, Big hugs from close friends and I then I found myself looking for Disco and Sofian, my swim companions. We got in the water early and went wide and before I knew it the day began.
Here we go...
Oh, wait a minute. You may like to know I still don’t know my exact times and splits etc. I have not looked at them. I do not wish to look at them. Time is irrelevant. Position is what counted. Of course I wanted to do a personal best – who doesn’t? And I believe it was in me to go at least 10:30 – if you have to have a number. BUT, as I said many times before, you can be as ready as you can but on the day it is up to the elements and him upstairs. It wasn’t my day to have a fast race. BUT, it was MY day :)
Ok, with that said and done, on to the swim.
I lost Disco, what can I say? I have no clue how to draft. I have put a lot of time and effort into my swim. And while I knew I would not be super fast I hoped for a little improvement. My main comfort though was I knew I was very swim FIT. This means I get out the water and GO. I am not tired. Swimming takes a lot out of you but many people just don’t realise it until later in the day. The swim on Saturday most probably accounted for most of the DNF’s – it wasn’t easy – so I am told.
My good friend Sofian stayed with me on my right. He suffered with some nasty chaffing from keeping an eye on me. I cannot express how much that meant to me, at times I looked up and there he was, never ever moved – except forward! We clambered out the swim – he let me go first. I thought to say something but the words never came. I had one thought in my mind and that was GO GO GO!
GO GO GO I did, straight into the male changing tent! I didn’t even realise I was with all the guys. I just thought – ‘hey’ rather a lot of people in here. They quickly diverted me next door to where I was alone. Threw off the speed/slow suit and I was out of there. Standing by George I repeated to myself again and again. Relax, stay calm, and take your time. Grabbed the bike heard Sofian shout and finally was able to say Thank YOU.
Exciting T1, I have never heard so many people shout my name. It was AWESOME. WOW, WOW, is all I can say...I heard you all.
The Bike...my legs were working, we were firing. Everything seemed to be going along nicely. I even had a really, really long pee...ok, now it’s time to change the seat! The pace was on for a 5:10 and that felt comfortable. I decided to hold it and just worked away but then things started going pear shaped towards the end of lap 3. I had been drinking mainly water and was working through the nutrition on my bike all to plan. Then the water as we all know ran out. I was on empty. Then a couple of stations later there was water – in bottles. It was warm, didn’t refresh or taste great but I took it. I My race pants were coated in thick salt...never had this before. And my usually cast iron stomach was feeling decidedly dodgy. I finished the bike 1minute quicker than last year. The head was pounding. I ran into the tent and had a quick change.
There was no sunscreen available. I put on my Avi-Lite II’s, threw more liquid in and loaded my pockets with GU Chomps for the run. As I was out on the run I realised I was still wearing gloves. Head was not on straight. I passed the gloves to Nik who like a trooper had followed me on a lot of the bike shouting out words of support and encouragement. He was there again ready to shout as I came onto the run. I saw him, stopped and passed him the gloves and said see you at the end.
The Run...the bizarre thing is my LEGS wanted to go. Just like the bike they felt great. But while they wanted to work, sadly nothing else did. I was struggling to regulate my breathing and trying to relax and keep a panic attack at bay. Head was pounding and I felt decidedly sick. Despite my body state, I told myself it will come good. Work into it. No big deal, I will feel better. Well that never happened. Not even after I had a pee on the run. Still no relief :)
One of the army guys whose name I do not remember but he has ridden in my pack at many short OD events joined my side and fell into step with me. Normally I find this extremely off-putting and would tell anyone on my shoulder to back off. But today his light step and company was welcome. We eventually separated after maybe 12k’s and saw each other later, but at the time – he was the only thing that was keeping me going – Thank YOU. Once I lost my running partner I felt precisely that, lost. I was losing focus I was struggling to contemplate how on earth I would get to the next aid station let alone the finish.
On the first loop heading towards the U-turn Alex and Whit came by on a motorbike. They said they had been looking for me. And shouted out you are in first place. JUST HOLD ON BISHOP, they said. HOLD on? If I had 2k to go, hold on is something I could probably manage. But being told to hold on with 33k to go, was not something that got me excited, it scared me. Knowing the mess I was in and how much I wanted to win, at that moment I almost gave up – how could I hold ON? I found out afterwards, after the shouting they exchanged words to the effect (and excuse the language) ‘Emma looks like S***, I don’t know if she will finish’. Well I guess I am glad they didn’t tell me that little nugget.
Well what can I say; I went through each aid station throwing as much in and over as I could manage without stopping or slowing down too much. If I stopped, I know my body would not have started again and as the K’s slowly ticked by my mind started to take control again and we decided that I DO NOT WANT TO HAVE TO DO THIS IN 2 WEEKS TIME. I AM GOING TO GET THIS NOW. I would allow myself to throw up, fall over, and collapse only at the finish line. NOT before. 2nd place was catching. I started with I think a fairly good cushion but as my 3:45 run target went on by she was just 2minutes behind me. PUSH EMMA, PUSH. I tried to push, I tried to go faster. I couldn’t let myself be caught. The last couple of U-turns the gap had stabilised.
There were so many people shouting, so much terrific support and I feel sad that I could not acknowledge you. I was in no state to, if I switched my focus just for a nano second I may have broken down and breaking down means emotions and emotions mean probably an asthma attack or worse a panic attack. So I had to ignore all of you. But I heard you; I also heard you say I looked strong and looked awesome and cool. You are all liars!!! But thank you anyway :)
And so to the final k. I only thought it was in the bag as I entered the finish straight. I lifted my sunnies as I wanted to ‘see’ everyone. I wanted to let my emotions finally out. But it wouldn’t happen. I had nothing left, not even a tear. I crossed the line and managed a smile or something like it and then Alex was there to catch me along with the medics as my legs no longer wanted to hold me up. I knew he was talking to me, but I was unable to respond. I didn’t know what to do. I was cold, I was thirsty, but I didn’t want to drink. I sat in the shower, I couldn’t move. I could not regulate my breathing, this scares me, and it has happened many times before but usually I am aware and able to control it. I was helped to the medic area and lowered onto the bed. I felt sick I still had not thrown up. I drank some water and that must have stirred the stomach and since a bucket was nowhere to be found my boss kindly held my plastic shoe bag (without the shoes in it) which I promptly filled with 3litres of coke liquid.
The drip went in. I was cold and asked for a blanket. They wouldn’t give me one. Apparently I had a temperature. They put ice on me. They took ice off me. They wanted to elevate my legs. I slurred NO. They said we must. Oh, ok. Cramp in my foot. Finally the temperature went down; I was allowed blankets and sipped some soup and rolls. This is the weird thing. Even though I felt crap I knew I had to eat and forced it in. This could be why and how I actually finished the race, even though I never wanted it, I forced fuel in.
As I lay there I heard others come and go. My eyes hurt and I didn’t want to talk. I was warming up and feeling nice and toasty. The medics kept coming around and snapping photos. They said I was beautiful – HA. I didn’t feel it and I KNOW I didn’t look it – but Thank YOU. After I don’t know how long I was helped to my feet and started shuffling. They took out the drip and I left, collected my bike and was driven back to the hotel.
All the time I was in the medic area I kept thinking about the promise I had made to be at the finish for Sofian and my other friends. I did not know if I would be able to keep my promise and that made me sad. But miracles do happen. I got back to the hotel showered, cleaned my kit, shoes and then at 11:45 left the hotel with Alex back to the finish line. It was the best place for me, there was energy at the finish line and I fed on it. There was a great atmosphere and I saw Ezer, Peter, Prakash, all 1st time IM, finish in style – super proud of you all. Stupe, Mai Senn, Adeline and finally Sofian the man who has become and played a very large part in my dream, I am so glad I was able to be there for you and Tip.
I got back to the hotel at 2am. Had a chat with my roomy and fell into a fitful sleep. I was still not bouncing off the walls with excitement, I was just glad it was over.
Going to collect my slot on Sunday, I still felt pretty ill. The room was spinning; I felt as though I had a very bad hangover, yet not a drop had passed my lips. I made up for this fact though on Monday night!
So part one of the journey is complete. I achieved my goal, my dream to get my slot in Langkawi my home race. The next part of the journey starts now. You see I only ever wanted to go to Kona once. I am not a pro, nor do I want to be one. And so I just want to race there once. And I want to race well. I want to do well...so this is not the end; it is but just the beginning.
And thanks also to EVERYONE who followed online, took pictures, shouted out, passed me fuel. You all played a part and I share this with all of you.
Footnote: My blogging intentions are to inspire others. I sincerely hope my long arse story here does that. It is not pretty, but it is honest and highlights what a brutal sport Ironman is. I do not want people to read this and think, whoa! That’s not for me. I hope you can draw strength from my experience and use it for your own goals and dreams. The stars are there in the sky, there is no reason why you cannot reach out and touch them.