Yes, enough already. I know that. This is IT. After this post, I am an Ironman so relax and know there are no more cliffhangers. Although – Jeanne McCann – that might be slightly overstating it?
In the past few months, my running has been great. The workouts that I found really hard were my swims and my bikes (as you well know). Seeing a run in my schedule was always a relief – I might not always hit the required paces, but I always knew I could complete the workout. On top of that, I had quite a few long runs which were just wonderful. No other way of putting it. Slow – much slower than I’ve run for years. But for the first time in years I was able to run and think I could just run on and on. Nothing hurt, nothing felt hard.
So finally racking my bike and running into the changing tent in Zurich I felt close to euphoric. I had succeeded in beating the cutoff (I could hear them announcing that the bike course was closed as I changed out of my cycle shorts) and now I was going to do this thing I enjoyed. And I had 6 hours and 20 minutes to do it. For the first time in almost 10 hours, the pressure was off me. I jogged slowly out of transition and made my way out onto the run course, noting that my legs were stiff and crampy but feeling unconcerned about it. I knew that this run would be slow and that my legs would hurt, but I just didn’t doubt I would get round it. The experience was completely different from the bike course. The bike course had been largely empty, with very few spectators. The marshals looked to be Swiss soldiers, young men doing their compulsory military service, and most of them were clearly supremely bored by their assignment for the day and barely noticed you as you cycled past. In contrast, the run course, a 10km looping course which had large bits of out and back on it, was lined with spectators cheering you on.
My happiness to have made it to the run coupled with the incredibly supportive people lining the route made the run just wonderful. I smiled at everyone, thanked them for supporting and, also for the first time in the race, got to interact with other runners. Every time we passed a place in a small park along the route you were given a coloured sweatband to indicate which of the 4 laps you were on. So I could see who was ahead of me (most everyone) and who was behind me. And I cheered everyone on, telling them they were nearly there or had made a good start. It’s very possible that those who were in a bad place and were walking wanted to murder my beaming little face every time I came past, but I felt completely undeterred. I made myself walk every aid station and eat and drink (and there was an aid station every 2.5 km) and I just looked forward to seeing my support crew at some point in the race. And finally – about 8 km into my first loop, right at the turnaround back to the race village, there they were.
And barely 2 kms later I was greeted by my parents who could not have cheered louder or been more enthusiastic.
The whole marathon felt like a dream. There was so much to distract me from any pain I might feel, so many people to see and interact with (on the 2nd lap Ian filmed me running and the kids ran alongside me for a while which was just an amazing experience).
Ian told me that he was posting photos to Facebook and that people were cheering me on remotely, which I was incredibly moved by. I was so conscious that I was at the end of this massive goal I had been working towards for a whole year, I felt very close to people near and far who wished me well and I could not have felt happier. On my final lap it was dark and I really, really savoured this lap. I knew this was it, I was so nearly there and I tried to remember every bit of this lap. I said goodbye and thank you to the volunteers who had high-fived me 3 times before, I thanked the spectators for staying out there for the stragglers, and I cheered and thanked my parents for the last time before running down the finisher’s chute. Along the way I high fived Adam and Sophia who were wedged into the spectator area. I turned to high five the commentator (and yes, I did do a lot of high-fiving that day – it was that kind of day). And finally I heard those words “Petra Duguid! You are an Ironman!”. It was amazing. It felt wonderful. I cried with pure happiness as I crossed the line and finally, finally, finally – after 14 hours and 18 minutes and change – stopped moving.
It was amazing. It felt amazing. I felt amazing.
I quickly sought out and found Adam and Sophia and my parents – Ian and Jay and their kids had flown back to London and Felix was in bed – and, in a daze, went to retrieve my bike and gear bags. Suddenly, the whole thing felt unreal. 14 hours, 18 minutes had flown by. And it was over. And I had done it.
And then home. Where I found myself, finally, tired. Unable to drink the beer I had saved for myself. I went to bed and slept fitfully. Woke up to a Facebook page full of love and support and encouragement. Incredible amounts of it. I feel very undeserving of the admiration expressed. I totally think that anyone can do this if they commit to the training. More than any other event I have ever done, the hard work was doing the training. The race was the reward, in so many ways.
And then there’s the support I got in person from so many people. Alex at La Bicicleta who sold me my first tri bike, and then my second tri bike – without which I very much doubt I would have made the cutoff. And who gave me more great advice and freebies than I ever deserved. My clients whose belief in my abilities often exceeded my own but who proved to be right. My friends who emailed, wrote, phoned and in some cases, flew to Zurich to cheer me on. I love you Blanford family! My parents, who drove to Zurich and spent 14 hours on the course, cheering me on, taking countless photos (most of the photos in the blog are by my dad) and who made me feel so special. My lovely children, Sophia and Felix who gracefully endured my absences for training rides and runs all year, who were happy about making this holiday “all about me” and whose support means the world to me. And of course my amazing and wonderful Adam, who despite the fact that he would never do this kind of crazy stuff himself, nonetheless encourages me, supports me and believes in me.
More than 2 weeks on from the race and I have done nothing in that time. My race was the final coaching effort of my wonderful coach – someone whom I have loved having in my life this past 2.5 years and without whom I would not have achieved a fraction of what I have done. So I am coach-less, schedule-less and goal-less. And that is good. I love this phase where I just rest and think and talk to people about what I might do. I am waiting for that race, for that experience, that will tweak at my mind in a way that makes me think “yes”. I haven’t found it yet – but send in your suggestions..