Today we conclude Julia’s epic Ironman tale. Here’s Part III if you missed it.
The run course was crowded and crazy. We were about 8.5 hours into the race and the pro athletes were finishing up. There were almost two thousand triathletes running on a ten kilometre loop fighting for space.
On the narrow parts of the course I tried to stay as far right as I could because I knew there were a lot of top runners wanting to make good time and I didn’t want to get in their way. Sometimes it was just impossible. If there was one aspect I did not like at IM Barcelona it was definitely the design of the run course.
I finally saw my family and they yelled out “happy birthday”. The first part of the course was on a dirt path along the waterfront park, past the transition, more dirt paths and wood boardwalks. Then it continued down a ramp under the railroad, back around down a long stretch of asphalt street, again down a tunnel under the railway and back onto the dirt path. Repeat four times.
I was okay with this for the first loop. Piero and I had looked at the course the evening before and saw that the portion near the finish line was well lit, so I assumed the rest of the course was the same. Well, it wasn’t and this is where I started to have problems.
The four kilometres stretch past the transition until you hit the street was pitch black. I could barely see a thing and was afraid of tripping and falling. So I walked.
I get a lot of flack about walking in races from Italian amateur athletes. They seem to have this rule in their heads that you’re not allowed to EVER walk in a race. I’ve had fingers pointed at me that I’m not a “real” athlete because I’ve walked in long distance triathlons and in marathons. I want to let everybody know that I do this for fun and the only person I race against is myself. Besides, most people yabbering on about this are male runners, four age categories behind me. So I smile and keep doing what makes me happy. Isn’t that what we should all do anyway?
I tried to eat and drink at every aid station, keeping my stomach under control. A piece of banana, an apple, a dab of energy gel; a sip of water. I finally had to pee (three times) and thankfully there were plenty of porta-potties to choose from.
I knew I’d finish in time but it was pitch black and with so few people still on the course it got to be a little discouraging. Seeing my family gave a little pick me up at each loop. Evan even ran with me for a kilometre giving me advice on how to keep it going. “Breathe deep, Mom. Relax your shoulders”. I have no idea who he gets this from!
A few triathletes asked me if we were going to make the cut off. My answer was always, “Just keep moving”.
On the last loop a group of three yelled back for me to catch up to them. It took me about ten minutes to make my way up but then we ran/walked for few miles together. It was great to talk to someone after so many hours living in my head. They were doing too much walking for me so I started running again with one of them following behind. We were almost at the finish line when she took off ahead of me. I was fine with it because I really needed a moment to have a quick happy cry and then run the last hundred meters into the finish line.
My daughter Olivia took this photograph. She posted it on Facebook and wrote, “I guess you’ve just got to believe in yourself no matter what. Happy Birthday again, Ironwoman.”
If there’s anything that I’d wish my children to learn from me about sports and life, it’s exactly that.
Believe in yourself, no matter what.