Ironman Lessons

This day, 16 years ago, I completed my first Ironman event. It had been a dream of mine to do this race ever since I started doing triathlons in the 1990’s. My friend, Lisa, who I have written about before introduced me to them.

An Ironman consists of a 2.4 mile swim/112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run (3.8 km swim/180 km bike/ 42 km run for my metric friends). You have to meet a minimum qualifying time to participate. Prior to training for this, I had completed two marathons. These were a stretch for me as my favorite distance to run was 800 m – so running an additional 41.2 km was certainly not something I was good at! For many years, I let go of the Ironman dream thinking “how is that even possible?” and “where would I begin?”

After I resigned from my corporate career at HSBC and went back to school to get the prerequisites I needed to get into naturopathic medical school (first high school, then university at the age of 33), I had extra time on my hands. This was the perfect opportunity to start training for Ironman. One of the keys to success in this event are the long training rides (6-8 hours) and long runs (3-5 hours). The key for these is time – lots of it! I qualified for the event a few months before and set my sights on the race in Penticton on Aug 26, 2001.

On race day, it was a beautiful sunny day, not a cloud in the sky. The forecast was temperatures rising to 34 C – so it would be a hot and dry. In previous race starts, I had been trampled over during the mad rush to get in the water, so for this event, I hung back after the gun start. I wanted to start my swim calmly without getting punched in the head – or worse, pulled under- by another competitor. The swim is proportionately the shortest even of the three and I had a comfortable ease as I glided through the lake water. I exited the water 1 hr 10 minutes later and ran into the tunnel towards the bike racks. I quickly located my bike and hopped on. The start of the ride is motivated as the streets are lined with people cheering you on. I noticed an extra burst of adrenaline as I raced by.

The bike course was difficult as the heat of the day was approaching and there are many hills to climb. The key to a successful bike for me was refueling while I rode (with perogies and pasta that I had cooked the day before & stashed in my bike pouch, power gels and lots of water). My biggest fear was that I would get a flat tire and thankfully this never happened. My aunt, who was camping in Osoyoos, drove to a section of the course and cheered me on as I raced by. I felt like I wanted to stop and get her to give me ride!!

When I finished the 180 km ride in 6 hrs 26 min – I had been racing for just under 7.5 hours – my first thought – was “if I run my best marathon ever, I could finish in top 25 in my age group (30 – 34)”…..this thought made me burst out loud as I attempted to start running. My legs felt like mush and I would be lucky if I could walk 42 km let alone run! But slowly and surely, I put one step in front of the other. The lactic acid build up was unreal. Other racers were popping anti-inflammatories like candy, and at one point on the course, someone offered my ibuprofen and I decided to take it. In this day and age, I would probably think twice before taking a little pill from a random stranger while out running! The worst part about the run was that I didn’t study the course beforehand. As I neared the finish, there was a T junction and to the right of the T was the finish line – as I approached, I thought I was done, so I attempted to speed up to have a faster finish. I was dismayed to find out that at that T, it was only 41 km and the course turned left with a 500 m out and back before approaching the finish line. I walked most of that last kilometer as I had spent what little energy I had “dashing” for what I thought was the finish. But finish I did – not in the top 25 – but I did finish. I was 63rdout of 137 in my age group with a final marathon time of 4:55 and overall time of 12 hr 40 min. What I didn’t mention was that my nephrologist was against me competing in this event as there was some concern about the ability of my kidneys to handle the stress of the event. I know this was terrifying to my mother, but I never gave it a second thought. I trusted that my kidneys would not crumble under the physiological stress – and they didn’t.

The next day, I could barely walk. I wasn’t following a naturopathic training program at that time that would have helped me with endurance, performance, and recovery. The other interesting thing to me was that I started the event with relatively clear skin. I have struggled with acne since I was 14 years old and the day after the race, my skin exploded in acne! I remember saying to a friend “Why is this happening to m skin” and her response was “It is because you are TOXIC!” At that time in my life, I was still very sensitive and I found her remark rather toxic emotionally. I left feeling insulted and even more embarrassed. Now, I look back and I am amazed at what we store inside of us. Our skin is our largest organ and an important organ of detoxification. I always tell patients that when the body tries to eliminate, it is a good thing. We live in a toxic world which is why one of the specialties at the clinic is environmental medicine. In my case, this was when I had come off psychotropic pharmaceutical medications that I had been on for 15 years – my body was clearly chemically burdened. Not only did I leave sweat on that race course, I left an environmental puddle of all the chemicals that were stored up in my body. If you are interested in an environmental assessment – we have four NDs at our clinic to help you. Or if you need help supporting your ligaments and joints, schedule an appointment with Dr. Mason-Wood to discuss prolotherapy and PRP by calling 87-521-3595.

Thus ends my story of completing a lifelong dream. Now, when the going gets tough, I always remind myself “C’mon Chris, you’ve done an Ironman, you can DO this!” – whatever this is!


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