From behind the podium, I accepted a microphone and an opportunity to address a 200+ crowd of orange-clad triathletes and their families.
I’d like to tell you a story about two girlfriends, I said, both of whom are racing Ironman Lake Placid this Sunday. A story about two girlfriends and their fathers.
The first of these friends was in her mid-20s when she lost her father. While biking, her father was struck by a distracted driver. Her father died before she could make it to the hospital to say goodbye.
The second of these friends is me. When I was in my early 20s, my father was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a rare and (as of yet) incurable blood cancer. The prognosis read 3-5 years.
But that was eleven years ago.
I explained this as I addressed 110 triathletes and their families who, over the course of the past year and in preparation to represent the MMRF at Ironman Lake Placid, had raised over $865,000 for myeloma research. Some of them had been personally touched my myeloma. Most had not. Instead, they raised those funds in exchange for a highly coveted Ironman bib. It was my task to thank them on behalf of the myeloma community.
Since its inception in 1999, I explained, the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation has brought six new myeloma drugs to market, one of which has kept my father golfing and cycling and far outliving the stark prognosis he faced eleven years ago. Thanks to you and the tireless work of the MMRF, I have had the past eleven years to process and express to my father the full extent of his influence on my life. I have been able to demonstrate to him in every Ironman that I race that I was, in fact, listening to all of the lessons he taught me as a young girl about setting goals, believing in the impossible, and defying odds.
I fought back tears and returned to the story of two girlfriends and their fathers.
None of us know how many final seconds, or days, or years we will have to express gratitude, communicate influence, heal deep wounds, and retire old grudges with our loved ones. But if we start now, we just may have enough time.
In May, with my parents cheering me on, I raced Ironman Texas, won my age group, declined my Kona slot, placed 3rd amateur, qualified for my pro card, and broke 10 hours. I was a happy triathlete.
But I didn’t get into triathlon for podiums or Kona qualifications.
So when the MMRF put together a team of 110 triathletes united by a cause greater than themselves, I seized the opportunity to join them, even though it meant two exhausting Ironman competitions in as many months.
This is why I race triathlon. To be a part of something greater than myself.
And that something took Lake Placid by storm.
Speaking of storms, it poured.
1:05. Luckily, I was on the final stretch of the 2.4 mile swim when the lightning sent the first of many snapchat selfies. Though I was permitted to finish the swim, those further back were not.
Safety crews directed the latter waves of swimmers to the closest shore, where they began the 1.5 mile barefoot walk back to transition. I was thankful to already be on my bike.
5:52. Pelting rain, low visibility, lighting and thunder, tremor-like shivers, numb hands and feet. And a laughing heart.
I still find the Ironman distance fairly ridiculous, so when you layer a thunderstorm and piercing rain on top of 140.6 miles, laughing is the healthiest response to the absurdity.
I executed a 112-mile build, holding back in the first quarter, and building throughout the final three. Experimenting with a slower build, I was able to consume more fluid, calories, and electrolytes. I even hit a 112-mile pee PR of 5x!
3:30. I started the run well hydrated and feeling strong. In a three hour and 30 minute blur, I slowly moved my way up through the field to capture the top spot in my age group.
I know this race report appears slim on details, but racing an Ironman is about so much more than the miles and watts and the gels consumed. I accepted the invitation to explain this perspective on this year’s Ironman Athlete Panel. Unfortunately, WordPress won’t allow me to embed the Livestream video, but click here to watch my conversation with Mike Reilly at about 11:40-14:30, and again 16:00-17:00. That is the raw race report of every Ironman I race.
-My Sherpa, Sarita.
-To Team Poppy Tony’s supporters. For helping us surpass $75,000 for myeloma research.
-To Alicia and Jane at MMRF. For an incredible five years together racing down a cure.
-Zoot Sports. For my snazzy and functional tri-kit, designed specifically so I can represent the MMRF.
-SmartWool. Remarkably, even after all of the driving rain and pools of pee collecting in my socks as I biked, and later after running through sprinklers and dumping cups of water to cool my temperature, I had no blisters. It’s not called SMARTwool for nothing!
-Nalgene. For my most well hydrated race yet!
-Coach Tim at QT2 Systems. For pushing back.
-Rose Physical Therapy. For putting my plantar fascia on the road to recovery.
-And most of all, to a girlfriend and her father.