Rather than tell you how I swam 2.4 miles, biked 112 miles and then ran 26.2 miles all in a row, in a total of 15 hours and 33 minutes, I thought it would be more fitting to share my favorite Ironman moments. The race report would basically say just that: I swam, 2.4 miles, biked 112 and ran 26.2, and crossed the finish line before the cut off time. The inspirational and hilarious moments are what really bring it all together. The whole experience, including the year or more of training, to me is what makes up an Ironman. It’s a long, committed, moving, and social yet independent race.
Section one, PRE RACE:
I started to collect paranoia stories from other competitors in the two weeks prior to the race, because everyone had some quirk that was playing out in their lives relating to being afraid of not making it to the starting line of the race, for whatever reason, after this whole hard year of training. My favorite paranoia being played out is still one of the first ones I heard, from my training buddy Deb. She works in the IT department of a big law firm, and her job is to help the employees with their computers. Well, for the last two weeks before the race, Deb decided she was not going to touch anyone else’s computer, mouse, keyboard, screen, hard drive, etc., for fear of getting germs, and thus getting sick before the race. How she managed to not touch anyone’s computers and still keep her job for two weeks is still a mystery to me, and the looks she must have gotten from the employees when she explained why she wouldn’t do it must have been hilarious.
Another thought I had was that other people also must have odd things they were thinking of doing during the race since I was planning on putting an iced soy latte for myself at mile 13 on the run, I started asking other’s what their race day quirks were as well. Sorella Karen wins that prize, when her answer to me was: “You are going to think this is really funny, but I don’t think I can make it through the whole race without brushing my hair”. She wasn’t sure if she was going to brush her hair after the bike and before the run, or during the run when her husband would hand her the brush, so as not to waste any time. I have yet to ask her which method she went with! Robert wins the runner up prize, when he told me he was going to put a single use packet of chamois cream, or “butt butter” as I call it, in his little bento box (snack box) on the top tube of his bike. I asked him if he thus was planning on putting butt cream down his lycra cycling shorts while he was riding his bike, to which he responded that he wasn’t quite sure how that was going to pan out.
The last pre race moment I will share was one that happened in the carbo load pre race athlete banquet, where over 4000 athletes and guests landed themselves in the
Section two, GOOD RACE OMENS:
Getting to the starting line of an Ironman is like working through a really hard calculus problem, there are a million and one steps, and you always forget at least one of them. It is nerve racking. Having passed most of the steps I made it into the transition area where I could check my bike tires and put on my wetsuit, and ended up walking with Jasper Blake, the winner of last year’s Ironman. I had met him a couple months earlier in Portland at a talk he gave, and we had chatted about how moving last years race was when he won and his mom was wheeled out in the finish line to great him in her wheelchair and she just started crying… as I was standing right next to her at that moment, volunteering at the finish line, I too simply started crying. So when I saw Jasper right before the race, I thought that was a good omen and we started to chat. A bit into our conversation I looked at him and suddenly said “OH SHIT!”, and he said “what is it?”.. and I had left my aero bottle full of my Gleukos drink for the ride, in the hands of my dad who was long lost in the crowds. Jasper looked at me and calmly told me it would be ok, I should calm down and that I was going to have a great race and told me to give him a hug, and that everything would be just fine. I figured a hug and some peace from last year’s winner was more than enough to at least get me across the finish line, and from then on out through the day, I had nothing but confidence. I considered this good race omen number one.
The woman who’s bike was racked right next to mine had the last name Zahn, and we exchanged a few words about having the same name, sort of, and I said to her; “Well Ms. Zahn, have an awesome race”… and after that I saw her at least four more times during the race, which is unheard of in a field of almost 3000 racers, I considered this good omen number two, and I yelled positive things to her every time I saw her.
As I exited the swim I checked my watch and noticed I had the fastest and best swim of my life, and was more than thrilled as I ran up to grab my bike bag. Someone nicely patted me on the back as I ran to my bag in that “way to go” kind of way, and I turned and it was Deb! Of almost 3000 racers, we somehow exited the swim at the exact same time, and I considered that good race omen number 3.
Somewhere up the first major pass, Richter, I noticed some chalk on the cement barrier that read in huge letters “TRUST YOUR TRAINING”. This is something that Deb has said to me many times, and is meant to encourage you to believe in yourself on race day. It was at this moment on the course that I realized not only do I know how to do this, but that this is the best day of my life. This is day that all that training comes back as one big reward, and I smiled the entire day. Good omen number 4.
The next one needs a little preface. My whole family loved (and maybe still loves) Bon Jovi back in their glory days, thanks to my teenage obsession with them, I think I just played them enough that everyone eventually gave in and loved them as well. When I got my new fancier phone just a few weeks ago, the first thing I did was get Living on a Prayer by Bon Jovi downloaded to be my ring tone. Sweet. This Ironman was definitly a race for me, my Mom, who is no longer here, my sister who couldn’t make it to the race, and my Dad and his wife Jay would were my support crew and patiently watching the whole thing. My Dad, Jay and I had driven part of the bike course before the race, and turned around at what I called “The Bear”, which was a fruit stand that for whatever reason had a giant wooden bear coming out of the hillside. When I got to this point on the bike course during the race, I immediately smiled at knowing this part of the course, and recognizing the bear. As I pass the spectators at this fruit stand, I hear none other than Bon Jovi’s living on a prayer being blasted from one of the spectators trucks, at which point I yelled as I was biking “YEAH BON JOVI!”.. and happily biked up the second major pass to yellow lake. Good race omen number 5.
As I finished the bike course and entered the transition zone to begin my run, I heard the music that was blasting at the finish line right next to the transition zone, and it was none other than yep, Living on a Prayer by Bon Jovi…. Blasting for me as I grab my run bag and switch into the last leg of the race. I couldn’t believe my fate! Good race omen #6.
The last good race omen, #7, came a mile into the run course when I ran passed my Dad and Jay who were waiting out front of our hotel, which was right on the course, and my Dad handed me his cell phone as I ran passed, and it was my sister on the phone! We were able to chat as I ran for a few minutes, before I reached the nearby turn around and then gave the phone back to my Dad before I ran off into the marathon. It was a real treat to see my family and talk to my sister all at once!
Section three; POST RACE:
There is nothing in my life that will ever compare to running through that finish line on my first Ironman. With my arms in the air I ran through that finishers tape and didn’t hear my Dad and Jay screaming and cheering, nor did I hear the announcer say “ZAN GIBBS, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!”, and I only know he said that because I asked my family. I was so focused on that finish line, nothing else registered.
The awards banquet the next day was extremely moving at times, bringing tears to many people. The CEO of the Ironman company, who is in charge of Ironman races all over, not just
The female winner, Lisa Bentley, also provided a very moving speech, including sharing one of her favorite quotes she uses to inspire people doing the race, which was “throw your heart over the mountain and your body will follow”. She congratulated everyone who simply made it to the starting line of the race the previous day, because she understood how hard it was just to make it to the start. There are so many logistics and factors that play out all year, and all of race week, that it is truly quite amazing that so many athletes do make it to the start line. I really appreciated her comments about this, and how much work an Ironman truly takes. It was a beautiful way to reflect on the past year, as well as on the previous day’s race.
On the run course their was chalk on the cement barrier by the road that read: “PAIN IS TEMPORARY, IRONMAN IS FOREVER”…. And now I can truly say, I am honored and proud to be a part of that community.
As Deb told me years ago: “I didn’t want to DO an Ironman, I wanted to BE an Ironman”.
…..and here I am…. forever changed…..and still smiling.