Monday, September 6, 2010

IronMan Canada - Our Return

I just got back from our trip to Penticton B.C. for Ironman Canada, and my head is still spinning! It’s hard not to be affected by such an intense journey. Being surrounded by 2800 ironman athletes and their support crews (families/friends/coaches) for a week was an incredibly inspiring experience. It’s difficult to put into words but I’ll try. Behind each athlete I saw the year of intense dedication and training that it took to get them to that one event. Behind each athlete I saw their family’s dedication as well. I saw the hours of training, the injuries, the mental & physical fatigue that I’m sure each one endured, and of course the belief in themselves. Behind each one there was a ‘story’. The athletes came from all walks of life and from all over the world. They were young, they were old. They were mothers, fathers, grandparents and everything in between. This is what is fascinating about the sport – there is no limit to ‘who’ can become an ironman, there is just the drive they all share to become one. After some lengthy conversations with Carlos about what it had meant to do the Ironman, I realized for HIM it was not really about the swimming, biking and running – it was about the challenge of seeing what your body is capable of, and the mental obstacles (and will-power) to accomplish these goals. That is what makes an Ironman. Over the course of our stay in Penticton we had the opportunity to meet some of the other athletes and families and many of their stories were incredibly inspiring. There were athletes there that were doing the race for loved ones that they lost this past year, and this was the most heart-breaking of all.
This was Carlos’ first Ironman, and we did not know what to expect. Upon arriving to BC the preparation started almost immediately – bikes had to be re-assembled (and in our friend Peter’s case fixed!), registrations needed to be completed, supplies for each transition area had to be gathered, and there were daily ‘short’ training sessions and meetings with coaches leading up to the event. This was during the 3 days prior to the race. Race day was a long and draining day for both athletes and spectators. We were up at 4am to prepare for the 7am swim start. There were THOUSANDS of people at the starting line, and I couldn’t catch a glimpse of Carlos over the crowds – I just saw a huge swarm of athletes running for the water when the gun went off.

I was hoping he was ok – last year a swimmer drowned. I didn’t see him again until he completed an amazing 4km swim (out of the water in 1 hour) and was on his bike speeding down main street. I would not see him again for 6hrs! During the 180km bike course the athletes were caught in an unpredictable extreme weather condition up in the mountains – heavy rain and winds posed a huge challenge for them. Carlos said he was freezing cold, and the drops of rain were painful at 80km speeds coming down the mountain. We had no idea how they were doing up there, and therefore it was a stressful 6hr wait! When I finally caught sight of him finishing his bike ride I was hugely relieved. At this point many of the athletes didn’t look so well!

Carlos was off for the last 42km run, and I was at least hopeful that he wouldn’t be injured in an unpredictable way (there was still the risk of the body shutting down, kidney failure, fainting, and of course muscle strains).

In this second picture you can see me and my son Jordi trying to run alongside Carlos, but that didn't last long - we couldn't keep his pace!

He completed the marathon portion in 4hrs and 20 min. His final time to complete the ironman was 11hrs and 50min. This is great for a first timer. I was incredibly proud and relieved to see him. He felt ‘ok’ at the end of it (aside from the general fatigue, stiffness in his legs, and blood seeping through his shoes
Many athletes were stumbling across the finish line completely incoherent.
We are still in the post-ironman ‘cloud’, coming back to reality. Carlos is eating non-stop and I told him we have to support his adrenals through this post-ironman fatigue. I am still in awe of what he accomplished, and how we came together as a family to help make it happen. It has been a strengthening and bonding experience for us, one that pushed us to the extremes. It made me appreciate how a family unit has to function together, and all need to support each other towards specific goals (whether it be to eat healthier, run a 10km race, or lose 20lb – it’s always easier when everyone is on board).
Lastly, I have to say a huge thank you to our support team (family and friends who were there with us through this journey – your kind words of encouragement have been much appreciated), and Carlos’ coach Sara Gross ( who was an integral part of this last year. Her knowledge, support and friendship helped Carlos achieve his goals through her hundreds of emails. Sara actually coached Carlos mostly online – through daily workout assignments, analysis of his training, and nutritional advice. Her experience was invaluable and pushed Carlos beyond his comfort zone to achieve new heights in his training. He is truly thankful for all that she has done, and I know that seeing her along the course in Penticton gave Carlos strength.
If you’re interested in hearing the details of the race from Carlos himself, you can read his blog post here
In summary - go after your dreams with the same dedication of an Ironman – I now believe that anything is possible!

Dr. Anna Falkowski HBSc, ND
Naturopathic Doctor, Clinic Director
Twitter: @NaturoDoctor
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