[This is the third and final of a series of posts by Peggy McDowell-Cramer (Be sure to check out #1 and #2). She’s a masters triathlete from Santa Monica, and a pretty cool person to hang out with. While I was off trying to kill a blind kid, Peggy was taking on her seventh Ironman World Championship. If you take the athlete’s time and divide it by age, Peggy kicked Macca’s butt. Read on to hear about the power of Red-Bull, and how hairy legs can get the job done. -Ben]
The last of the days before IMH are a mix of activity and enforced non-activity, but both lead to one wanting to just get on with it. And this year was the same. Thursdayâ€™s the busiest, so it’s a no training day. I went to the masters women’s breakfast and from there it was to the expo to see friend Hillary Biscay as the featured pro at a booth, and to connect with her parents. Weâ€™d met years ago when she and our Hillary were in a swim meet together and we discovered some mutual friends, etc. We not only reconnected again, but the aunt/sister was connected into other Atherton friends of mine. Small world.
After doing race preparation things I went to the IM worship service, held at the Kona church I go to, and this year it was a packed house. From there it was a short walk over to the King Kam hotel for the pasta party. This latter involves entertainment: Hawaiian in the beginning, then IM stuff. After it was over and new this year, was the competitors’ briefing. I guess separate meetings didn’t draw enough people, so they thought they’d capitalize on a captive audience.
Friday: Swim and the espresso boat was in much closer. After the swim I ran into old swimming friend Karen sing, who works with wetsuit companies. She suddenly asked me if I wanted to try her trisuit (aka skin suit), a prototype she had with her, and she was there to oversee such suits on a number of pro racers Zoot (the company) sponsors. I really had to think. The cardinal rule is: nothing new for the race. But Iâ€™d been thinking about them, since they were all over. Theyâ€™re sleeveless, non-floating slick material, legs to above the knees, zip up the back, and worn over whatever you’re going to have on for the race. I decided to try it out and accepted the offer of a loan. I amazed myself.
I had bags packed and bike ready early, so went over to drop them off around 12:30. Thatâ€™s after checking the bags many times, against my lists. Itâ€™s not nice to come up short on something. Later I drove to pick up Hillary at the airport, drive back to the condo, and send her off with the car. And then while away the time. I even watched TV: interview with Eric Clapton. I really amazed myself.
I loved it. I finished it. I had a great race. It was a great day. I am SO grateful. There you have it.
The swim was my best ever. Partly because Iâ€™ve been swimming a lot lately, I tried harder on every stroke, and the Zoot suit help. It went by really fast for me.
Out on the bike it was its normal long set of hours, but Iâ€™d driven much of the road twice during the week and it seemed less daunting in every respect. A large part of it, of course, is just hunkering down and pedaling until it’s over. The climb in and out of Hawi was windy, but I kept waiting for that stretch to be done and then be done with the wind. When I got down to the turn back onto the queen k highway what did I hear but shouts that sounded familiar: my offspring. They driven all the way up there and were cheering. I was cheered. I was also headed home, thinking it was all going pretty well. And then I hit the headwind, which lasted all the way back to Kona. Sigh. Nothing fast about that. Just kept pouring water on my head at every aid station, kept drinking food, and thinking how lucky I am to get to do this.
all during the swim, bike and run I had some songs going through my head, and one was music from a CD I had just gotten because it sounded like majestic music for coming over the finish line. And I surely had that picture in mind when I ran through it each time: starting at the top of Palani road and on down. Chariots of fire-type music, to me.
The end of the bike was just as Iâ€™d imagined, as was the transition, and it was then off on the run amid throngs along the street. I was planning to run the first slower than usual (if that’s possible: I stink as a runner), but even that didn’t feel very good, so after a mile or two I went to running four minutes, walking one. I count, ceaselessly, to keep myself on 90 right footfalls/minute. In its own way it’s absorbing and makes the time go by rather quickly. Another thing that makes the time pass well is seeing people I know along the way, both racing and not. A hard spot is going up Palani road around mile 9 or 10. Itâ€™s steep. Then it’s out on the queen k again, but in pitch black. This goes on for six miles (aid stations with some light every mile) before making a left turn down into the natural energy lab property. Thatâ€™s two miles in, slightly downhill, and then back. I decided to just keep running down and pick up the run-walk on the way up and out. At the end of this blackest of black stretches one hits a timing mat, then whatever extra food you’ve sent along. I had another flask of gel, but I also put in a can of red bull. This, under the rationale of what’s there to lose? By 18 miles the body has sorted things out already. Iâ€™m here to report that this is good stuff, legal, and does something or other that equates with new legs.
Just before getting out of this area we passed another timing device that didn’t beep, but did enact a message board in front of us. I had two women pacing right behind me (for miles, even: imagine my surprise and thrill, that that thought would even occur to someone), so all three of our names came up. There was a message beside each—friends could record one during the week, which was posted when the runner came by. What was mine? “#245 p. Mcdowell-Cramer: best hairy legs”. Honest. I burst out laughing, and immediately thought son Chris was the culprit.
Coming back the last 10k on the queen k Chris and Hillary drove by, found me, and yelled. I yelled to them, “I don’t have hairy legs!â€ As it later turned out, they didn’t do the message and thought this bizarre comment meant mom was losing it. Then I heard the most marvelous music: they cranked up the main cut from the magical finish line music of the CD. I was headed for plain, I could hear MC mike Reillyâ€™s voice announcing finishers all the way up there, and I really wanted to be where he was. I steadily ran the whole last 6.5 miles, and hitting the top of plain was as wonderful as I remembered. Itâ€™s still a mile, but it seems as naught. I saw C&H again at the bottom of the hill/turn onto Kuakini Highway, and then went along my way as they cut over to the finish line.
The finish is a complete rush, but doesn’t happen in a rush. Itâ€™s about 1/4 of a mile, and the crowd grows and grows. Everyone wishes you well, hands are out for you to touch, people screaming, and —at least for me—I cannot get happier. It is a high of highs. And then I heard mike yelling my name, age group, occupation, name again. And it goes like this: Peggy McDowell-Cramer,
YOU are an IRONMAN! He was down off the tower at that juncture (11:31pm), grabbed me and hugged me, as did a fellow LA tri clubber right at the finish. and then cameras in my face for a bit, handlers (who keep you upright), Chris and Hillary, towel around my shoulders, on to the finisher activities (food, picture taken, clothes), flop on my back a bit……it was all glorious. And I just kept thanking god for it all.
This IMH, more than the others, was more epic. Or maybe I was more aware of what an epic event it is.
I was still on a high the next day, at church, at lunch with my pastor friends, at the awards that
night. I was amongst the award winners (top five in each AG), which is a somewhat heady experience, as well as rewarding in a material sense. Beautiful lei, Hawaiian wood bowl with event and place plaque, watch, and even a pair of running shoes.
I loved this race. I loved the opportunity to do it. I loved finishing.