Spectator – sort of….

Usually, July is my craziest month of the year.  I always have way too much going on and my anxiety level goes through the roof.  This year was no different.

If you have been following my blogs, you probably have a feel for what I’m talking about.  A lot of things go down in July.

This year, I decided to back out of a couple of races.  One of my biggest races of the year is the Ohio Ironman 70.3.  I have done it the past couple of years and was signed up to do it again this July.  But, due to bike issues and the fact that I just wasn’t feeling it this year, I decided to do a relay instead.

We’ve all been there, right?  Too many things on your plate, and something needs to go.

We had a busy June with the kids being out of school.  There were some camps here and there, just the usual stuff. We headed into July and started with July 4, then came Dan’s birthday, and then everything went into warp speed, as usual.

One of our biggest events of the year for the racing company I work for is in July.  There are a lot of details that go into the race, and it’s a very key event.  It usually happens right around Dan’s birthday.  This year, the week leading up to the race was super busy – busier than it’s ever been.

We had two different camps going on, which meant the kids had to be somewhere all the time.  I became TaxiMom extraordinaire.  On top of that, I was still working my day job, coaching, and getting things in place for the race.  We also usually go on vacation at the end of the month, right after Ironman. But, this year, our plans fell through since our parents sold the cottage and were coming back to Ohio early.

Needless to say, it was difficult.  Somehow, I made it through in one piece, thank goodness. After three days of working in the heat and humidity, getting up before 4 am, and coming home exhausted, I needed a break.  I had to wait a couple of days to get it, but I finally was off work by the following Wednesday.  I got a quick breather, and then my dad was in a car accident.

Then, it was Ironman weekend.

This year, Dan decided to the race.  I was going to swim on a relay.  I went to packet pick up with my friends that were doing the bike and run.  It was bittersweet.

On the one hand, I felt relieved that I didn’t have to bike and run in the heat.  On the other hand, it was hard to be in Ironman village.  I felt like an imposter.

I looked around at the other athletes that were checking in, and I felt out of place.  I wasn’t trained like they were, I was only doing the swim and then I was done.  I bumped into some friends that I work with that also work this event, and we chatted a bit while I was there.  That helped lighten my mood since we were laughing about licking our wounds from working so hard the previous weekend.

I came home and tried to shake it off. I still had a goal time in mind for my swim, and I wanted to focus on that.  I wanted to be there 100% for the relay and enjoy a little piece of the action.

The next day, Dan was going to head up to packet pick up.  He asked if I was coming, and I really didn’t know what to say.  This was his race this year, not mine, and I didn’t want to ruin the experience for him just because I was being Debbie Downer.

At first, I politely declined and went for a shake out swim.  But, during my workout, I felt like I wanted to be there with him.  When I got out of the pool, I quickly sent a message to him telling him to wait for me.

He did.  We drove to Delaware and I listened to him talk about the race. There are a lot of logistics since it’s a point-to-point.  He had to check in, get his gear bags, set up T2 and go to the athlete briefing. Then, we had to drive to T1 and drop his bike.

We talked in the car, and I tried to hide my feelings. I felt so conflicted.

After trying to keep it all to myself, I finally let him know how I felt after dinner.  All I could manage to say was “This is really hard for me.” It sounded so lame coming out of my mouth, but I just didn’t have the right words.

We set our alarms and tried to sleep.  It was morning before we knew it. I didn’t really have to do much, so I got my kit on and made some coffee.  I had my bag packed and ready to go, so I put my legs up and closed my eyes while I waited for Dan.

We drove up in the dark and hit traffic that had us stopped a mile before the park entrance. Dan was getting a little antsy, and understandably.  We were creeping along and the clock was ticking. We still had to park and shuttle down to the start line and he needed to get air into his tires.

After an eternity, we were finally on the bus and shuttling in, but there was still way too much traffic. Athletes were abandoning cars and busses and opting to run to transition.  Dan and I thought about it, but we were so close….

When we finally got off of the bus, there were only 2 minutes left before transition was closing.  I was so calm, it didn’t bother me.  I walked to the relay tent, and left my little pile of shoes and clothes, put on my timing chip, and wandered out into the crowd. It was a strange feeling. Somewhat surreal.  It was like I was watching a movie.

Needless to say, the swim was hectic. It was very crowded, as usual.  The rolling start helps, but there are always people that seed themselves in a faster pace than they can swim, which results in the course getting really clogged up.  I tried to find my own water as best as I could, but it was tough.  I worked my way around the course, picking off one buoy at a time, steadily moving through.

I had set my goal time in my head, and really pushed myself since I knew I didn’t have anything to do after the swim.  After getting kicked, thumped, tugged, and swum over, I finally reached the swim exit.  Two of our club members were there cheering, which made my day.

As I ran up the beach, I realized how sick I felt.  It’s always hard to run at the swim exit when the water has been choppy. I was having trouble finding my legs.  But, I pressed on and up the hill since I knew my teammate was ready and waiting to get out on the bike course.

We exchanged the timing chip, and she was gone.

Then, I just stood there. That was it. My work was done. Weird.

As empty a feeling as that could have been, it passed quickly.  I grabbed my things and headed to the T1 exit so I could cheer for people and look for Dan.  He was smiling, of course, and gave me a quick kiss before clipping in.  Then, he disappeared.

I put on my running shoes and began to run in the park, since I had to wait until the last biker was out for them to open the roads. I still wasn’t really sure how I was feeling, but I wasn’t as upset as I thought I would be.  I knew that it wasn’t my day, it was Dan’s.  I knew how much it was going to hurt out there in the heat, and I was grateful that I wasn’t going to have to force myself through it. But, still….

I remembered last year when Dan had taken me to drop my bike the day before the race.  I had told him in the car that I was looking forward to the pain during the race. Especially the last 3 miles of the run.  He had given me a strange look, but I was serious.  It’s hard to explain…

I decided to look up my results and was thrilled with my time.  I had placed 57th out of a couple thousand athletes, so I felt like I had given it all I could.

I finished my run, and left the park.  It wasn’t until later that I found out about a tragedy that had happened on the bike course.  I had heard some sirens during my run and had said a quick prayer for the athlete, thinking it must be heat related.  However, I later found out that an athlete had been hit on the course and was killed on impact.  My heart ached.  I still can’t wrap my head around it completely, as many of us can’t.  Life is such a fragile thing.

Once again, everything hit home.  Do what you want, enjoy your time here, fuel your passions; no boundaries.  Every moment is important. Love your life and those around you. Experience life from the driver’s seat, don’t just go through the motions – be present.

My heart and my prayers go out to the biker and her family.


Stay safe, friends.

Swim, Bike, and Run happy. Swim, Bike, and Run long.


Amy is an ultramarathoner and triathlete, a coach, a mother of four, an Exercise Physiologist and a Physical Therapist. She lives with her husband, Dan (also an ultramarathoner and triathlete), and kids in Ohio.

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