I assume a wide stance, like a fighter. But like a fighter who was just punched in the stomach.
Knees wide, capped by the palms of my hands, my fighter’s stance supports a violently heaving upper half.
I know how this story ends, I think to myself.
And then, somewhere in the 19th mile of IRONMAN Arizona run course, I throw up for the 5th time.
Yes, I know how this story ends.
I recall the last time I threw up with such force and frequency. That story ended in a Nepalese hospital with IVs pumping life into a body succumbed to amoebic dysentery. Then, halfway across the world, living in a dusty little village, contaminated water was likely to blame.
But now, hunched over in the land of plenty, I struggle to make sense of what is causing this to happen. The nausea, the dizziness, the disorientation.
This was not at all how things were supposed to be. Not at all what I imagined each morning I beat the sun up to crush wattage on my trainer. Not at all what I dreamed those nights I trained in the dark, skipped the dessert, and put myself to bed early.
No, this was not a part of the plan.
I wonder if my father had a similar thought when the doctor diagnosed a cancer he had never heard of. I wonder if he questioned where myeloma, then with a 5-year-average survival rate, fit into his plan. And I wonder after the myeloma forced him to trade his 40-year running ritual for a walk, how deeply painful those first walking steps must have been.
I take my first walking steps. Not just of IRONMAN. Not just of a triathlon. But the first walking steps I have ever taken in a race. I had never walked in the Turkey Trot at my elementary school. Never in my high school cross country meets. Never in a 5k or a 10k or a marathon. No, in 27-years of running, I have never walked.
But today I take my first walking steps. Because I know this story would otherwise end before the finish line.
I take my first walking steps because today, more than in any other trot or meet or race in which walking was not an option, I need to get myself to that finish line.
With each walking step, I understand that there is no PR or Kona slot or course record waiting for me there.
But I also understand that each walking step takes me closer to the man who taught me the fighter’s stance, the man who assumes that fighter’s stance even from the chair in which he sits each week as the chemotherapy pumps into his veins.
Right about now, as I am slumped over on the side of the road, tasting a horrifically acidic version of everything I have swallowed in the last hour, I know that my mom is sharing my surprise with my dad. Telling him that the MMRF and the IRONMAN foundation have arranged VIP passes into the finisher’s chute so that he can medal me.
Walking hurts. Walking humbles.
But I need not explain that to my dad. Like so many other feelings I have never spoken, he knows.
So he squeezes me extra tight when I walk across the finish line and into his arms.
The details needed to make this an actual race report:
A bit violent, a little choppy, but pleased with my swimming improvement.
Started to feel nauseous about a quarter into the bike. Did this bike by feel, as my heart rate monitor would not pick up the beat. Erred on the side of a conservative effort, backed off even more because of the nausea, but it never subsided until long after I crossed the finish line. As a result, my legs felt daisy fresh when I finished the bike
The best of that story is told above. The worst has hopefully evaporated in the Arizona sun.
Second only to Hurricane St. George in time needed to complete. My sixth IRONMAN, but of course not my last.
Huge thanks to:
–Dave Deschenes of IRONMAN and Alicia of the MMRF for arranging our finish line father-daughter hugs.
–My parents, Uncle J, Aunt Stevie, Jeffrey, Maja, and Nate for being my support crew!
—Zoot Sports: It’s hard to look good while throwing up on the side of the course, but that Zoot kit made it possible.
—SmartWool: Though I faced many challenges during this race, blisters were not one of them.
—Nalgene: Thankfully, proper pre-race hydration got me across the finish line when my body rejected all during-race hydration.
–Coach Tim of QT2, boy do we have a lot of work left to do.