Iron Man World Championship

By , Nov 2, 2010

Mahalo for the Journey!

Mahalo for the Journey!

 

Aloha and Mahalo!

As many of you know I am an oncology nurse and my qualifying race was in Arizona where I wore 140 Livestrong bracelets with the name of a cancer warrior on each one. Matt Fitzgerald, one of the editors at Triathlete Magazine wrote a wonderful article about my Ironman Arizona experience and titled it, Fueled by Gratitude. If I were to sum up Kona in one word it would be Mahalo, which means thank you and is used to express true gratitude. It was my mantra throughout the race and actually throughout my entire experience in Hawaii! In Kona I wore a lei around my race belt with the name of my cancer warriors on the pedals of the flowers. For me the lei also represents the Aloha Spirit which is the joyful sharing of life energy in the present moment. The theme for the Ironman World Championship was KA ALAHELE O KE KOA which means the way of the warrior. My journey at Kona was an incredible experience of affirmation in my belief that we are here to help and inspire one another through life’s challenges.

I received this email the day before my race at the Ironman World Championship in Kona on October 9, 2010. It is from one of my beloved cancer warriors, Michael Dahan: “I am thinking of you every minute and, as you lifted me in the past to my personal victory, I want to be the wind in your wings tomorrow, with all the others that you touched.”

Michael Dahan and my many cancer warriors are the wind under my wings on this incredible journey!

Michael Dahan and my many cancer warriors are the wind under my wings on this incredible journey!

I came to Kona, not exactly where I wanted to be as far as physical preparedness. I had a great training program and all the support I could ask for from my wonderful coach Mike Matney. However, I had a rather complicated foot/ankle injury which kept me from running through what would have been my peak training straight to race day. My last run was at Iron Girl on August 22nd. Despite this grim reality, I held to the conviction that I WOULD run race day. In the weeks preceding the race, I went to physical therapy, acupuncture, massage, reflexology, reiki, ART (active release technique) and my podiatrist in my quest for healing. I know this too was part of my journey. I met many wonderful people along the way who cared for me in much the same way I care for my patients and this again affirmed my belief that we are here to help one another in our life’s journey. My journey also led me to the realization that we can set and achieve our goals even while ill or injured. Dreams have no boundaries; they are a source of powerful intention.

My ART angel Pali Cooper!

My ART angel Pali Cooper!

 

One of the many great things about Ironman races is that they have fantastic support, including a team of the best ART therapists from around the world. On my first day at Kona I went straight to the ART tent. I still was unable to run with only five days left to race day! I met a wonderful ART therapist from California named Pali Cooper. I told her about my inspiration for coming to Kona and she told me of a similar journey she was involved in. She was a member of an event called Climb Against the Odds, which is the Breast Cancer Fund’s annual mountaineering expedition for breast cancer prevention. Pali climbed Mt. Shasta carrying prayer flags with the names of breast cancer warriors on each one. She immediately took me under her wing and worked diligently with me every day so that I would run on race day. She also gave me the names of her dear cancer warriors for me to add to my lei.

Finally the big day arrived. My Aloha Spirit was flying full force as the day began!

So thrilled to be here!!!

So thrilled to be here!!!

A friend and member of our Team Inspiration Iron Girl team hand painted a beautiful flower lei on my bike helmet. Her son made decals for my bike that read Aloha Spirit and Team Inspiration and he also made wonderful hibiscus flowers for my bike. I always dreamt of a riding a blue tri bike with hibiscus flowers at Kona; dreams do come true! My race belt lei was overflowing with cancer warrior energy, KA ALAHELE O KE KOA! I was ready!

In the lava fields with my custom lei helmet!

In the lava fields with my custom lei helmet!

There seemed to be a palpable calmness at the pier that morning. As I write this, I realize that it was probably because each of us was in a quiet place of overwhelming gratitude to be here. Mahalo! After the usual final transition area check, we headed into the water. I was still in a state of disbelief as I looked at the very familiar scene of the race start: The Kona coast line, with the white steeple jutting above the shops and trees on Alii Drive and the swim patrol on their surfboards holding the line. It was getting very tight as we waited for the cannon to go off and I was looking back at shore because I wanted to see the smoke from the cannon shoot across the water. I didn’t get to see it; the cannon went off and 1800 triathletes were ready to swim!

The cannon goes off!

The cannon goes off!

 

This was the most incredibly beautiful swim of my life and probably the least stressful Ironman swim. I was able to take in all of the beauty of the Pacific Ocean’s marine life and crystal blue waters. It felt as if it was a solo swim, but each time I sited the buoys I realized I was still surrounded by a sea of triathletes. All went well until the very end when I got nailed in the ear so badly I thought I had ruptured my eardrum!

 

Transition went smoothly with the help of many wonderful volunteers and I was feeling good starting out on the bike. The bike course is pretty much an out and back on the Queen K, formally known as the Queen Ka’Ahumanu Highway.

Queen Ka’Ahumanu Highway

Queen Ka’Ahumanu Highway

It is an amazingly beautiful and brutal ride as you climb along the coast to Hawi which is the turn-around point. It is not so much that the climbs are steep or long, but the headwinds, side gusts and heat are the real challenge for the Kona warrior and that’s why we came! I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

Kona Winds!

Kona Winds!

 

At some point on my return from Hawi, when I was going downhill at a ridiculously slow speed because of the headwinds, I looked out over the Pacific Ocean strewn with white caps and glistening under the sunlight. I was overwhelmed with the spirit of Mahalo for having the opportunity to experience this event. I realized with absolute certainty that I was not here alone. I could feel in the wind that danced around me, every person who was a part of my journey just as my cancer warrior and friend Michael had written in his email. I realized at that moment I probably will never be able to fully express the Mahalo I feel for having been blessed with such a wonderful life and so many wonderful people to share my journey, but I will keep trying!

Yes! The toughest part of the day!

Yes! The toughest part of the day!

 

Off the bike and into the transition tent once more. I could really feel the heat and could tell I was getting a little cranky as I tried to figure out if I should go with the arm coolers and compression socks! It was too hot to fool with either, so I grabbed my cancer warrior lei and headed out of transition. It took a few minutes before I realized I was running! Not terribly fast, but I was running down Alii Drive!

There were gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean, and crowds of cheering spectators lined the streets. I was feeling good until I got to the Queen K Highway where the heat from the day got the best of me and I started feeling pretty nauseous. I had to stop on the Queen K a few times to get rid of the little bit that was in my stomach, and I thought I might not be able to continue to run, but things settled after a bit and I kept going. I was grateful to be running, but frustrated to still be out on the course and it seemed as if I would never get to the turn-around point at the Energy Lab. As I entered the Energy Lab at dusk, I felt a renewed energy coming on. I looked out at the setting sun on the Pacific and remembered the beauty and honor of being a part of this race and all the people who were with me in spirit.

Sunset @ the Energy Lab

Sunset @ the Energy Lab

 

There was music at the turn around point at the Energy Lab as I came through. They were playing Knocking on Heaven’s Door, and I felt as if I could almost touch heaven! Then as I returned to the Queen K, the stars came out and I felt the energy and love of all the cancer warriors; those who were on my belt and the many others I have not met, but they were out there once again as the wind under my the wings! At that moment I thought of a mantra I created for one of my yoga classes: May I feel love and gratitude for all that is and may I feel connected body, mind, and spirit to all on this earthly journey and to all that is beyond this world. That was exactly how I felt! Mahalo!

 

 

On to the home stretch and Alii Drive!

My # - 575 on Alii Drive

My # – 575 on Alii Drive

To a triathlete, just the mention of Alii Drive ignites a sensation of excitement and victory; it is the road to victory for a journey filled with challenges and an overwhelming sense of Mahalo for the journey itself. My friend, Michael Dahan, writes of his journey as a cancer warrior and his victory as he passes through what he calls The Dragon Gate. The finish line on Alii Drive was my Dragon Gate, and one I hope to return to in the future.

 

 

Cancer Warrior Mike Leahy at the finish line

Cancer Warrior Mike Leahy at the finish line

 

I also met Mike Leahy, the founder of ART who is a cancer survivor and Ironman World Champion  with an incredible story of inspiration which I will share with everyone at greater length under separate cover. I had wished for someone special to be at the finish line to greet me…I had no idea who it would be when I sent that wish, but as soon as I saw Mike’s smiling face and now we shared a special bond in the this journey, I knew he was the one.

Mahalo!

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