Pre-Race: We got up at dark O'clock and were on the bus to the start by 4:15. It seems like it took the whole 2 hours to get ready, doing what I am not sure..But ready we were..
Swim: As I jumped in for my practice swim at 6:00 AM, the sun was already up. I felt strong and fast as I swam in the nice ocean water. I knew it would be a good day in the water for me. H & I said our goodbyes, we waded into the water waist deep with the 1400 or so other athletes and bang, we were off. The swim goes along a 1 mile jetty so there is not much sighting to do. At first, I did not get beat up too bad but as time went on, I felt myself get hit quite a bit, once in the eye. That kind of sucked. When I did raise my head to check out in front of me, alas it seemed I was in the front group. Push, push, and push I told myself. I sang songs in my head. I thought of the weird dreams I had had the night before. I tried to occupy my brain as I slugged it out. The never ending jetty finally came to an end and so did the sun in my eyes. As we rounded the jetty another slugfest ensued. I got on the feet of a faster swimmer and drafted for what seemed like about 15 minutes. The jetty again seemed like forever..Finally, finally we rounded the lst buoy and although the sun was in my eyes, I headed into shore. I had started my watch at the beginning and as I crawled out of the water I looked down and there it was, the elusive PR I had wanted all year-1:09! When I crossed the mat, the announcer said, Debi Wess, first out of the water in her age group! The thrill of that was indescribable..As I made my way into transition I really thought this could be the day all the stars would align and I would get a race PR. Feeling incredibly positive as I ran my bike out of transition, the announcer said, And it is Debi Wess from the United States of America, first women on the bike in her age group! Another fantastic moment in my career of triathlon. I was really psyched now and just took off. My legs were strangely sore, which confused me since I had not used them hardly for a week.
Bike: The bike is a 3 loop course that takes you away from the beach through the trees and is Y shaped. I rocked the first loop, pushing way beyond what I should have been doing. Wow, I thought, I am actually RACING an Ironman! A woman in my AG passed me. OK, so I will probably not WIN. Although I must admit I was wishing that she would get a flat or something. I played chicken with another woman, until I realized she was not even in my AG at all. As we headed back to town, I knew I was rocking the bike. The first loop took me about 2:10. I thought, OMG if I keep this up, I will PR the bike as well! Well, then is when things started to go downhill. The heat started coming on. Not just a little 80 degree heat but hotter and hotter until one guy said the temp on the bike course was 42 degrees centigrade-yes folks that is 107 degrees Fahrenheit! OK, I thought, I better a) stay hydrated and b) keep the salt tablets coming. Which I did. I drank and drank and took in electrolytes. I started to feel woozy, then I would take a salt pill and would feel better. I notice people on the side of the road, puking. This is not a good sign..The pros seemed unfazed as they whooshed by me probably on their 3rd lap by now. I made my way back to town and saw that my split was considerably slower-damn! Then things really got rough. The wind picked up, with probably 30 MPH gusts in some parts. I was sweating, I knew that was a good sign but I had not peed at all yet. I stopped a couple of times just to catch my breath. I was having trouble breathing-not sure why. And I felt better in aero-position although it was hard to stay there for any length of time at this point. As I rounded the last “Y” I started to feel dizzy. I tried eating, taking in more nutrition. I was dousing myself with water at every aid station. Oh and the flies were unreal. Each person that passed me had about 100 flies on their back. I had used bug spray but I guess the little critters have figured out how to get beyond that stuff because every time I stopped, they swarmed me. The poor volunteers were covered in flies. I felt sorry for them too. On the last stretch home, I have never felt so hot in my life. I made myself stop and pee-although little came out. I was starting to see double at times, not a good sign. The last road in had the worst headwind. It was brutal. I was starting to get really negative by now, vacillating between fuck this race and maybe I will feel better on the run. This was the first time I really thought I may quit. I was worried that I was doing some kind of permanent damage to my body in the heat, trying to remember what the signs of heat stroke were. I knew being chilled was one of them. I did not feel that at least. As I rounded the last turn in town, I was really low. I finally, finally got off the bike and much to my dismay, knew I had a marathon in front of me. I was really cranky by now, kind of short with the poor volunteers in the changing tent. Got the Injinji socks on the wrong feet. T-2 seemed like it took forever. I never saw anyone else in my AG. Maybe they had all DQd? Ambulances were going up and down the course on the bike, not a good sign! My stomach was completely and utterly shut down for the last lap of the bike-I could not take much in nutrition wise.
Run: Well, what can I say? I was ready to quit for at least the first 4 hours. I could not run, could only power walk. At least 75 % of the folks out there were walking, most of them on the second lap of the 3 lap course. I talked to myself, what would be the harm in quitting? I am not having fun, this is stupid, etc… then I thought about my One Thing, the One thing that would keep me going if I got in this place. Mine was a PR. OK, not doing that today. Had to switch my One Thing. I thought, hey I could not claim that first out of the water and PR on the swim if I did not finish the race..For some reason I believed that and kept going. I had bought an IMWA jacket-had to finish to wear that. Then I thought of all my kids that were watching at home. I could not quit and let them down. These things kept me plugging along, one footstep at a time. The run looked like the walking dead. I actually passed people walking! I was really low emotionally, pissed-there were flies everywhere! Millions of them! I was so pissed because the course is so beautiful and I could not enjoy it. The run is along the beach, where all the flies reside I guess. I tried to take in nutrition but my stomach was cramping. Finally after some Tums, things started to move. I finally after about 10 hours of racing-peed. I started to wonder where H was. I had seen him on the bike behind me so knew he was finishing that. I started to look for him in the crowd. If he had quit, then I was going to also. PLEASE let me see H in the crowd. I started wishing they would pull me off the course for medical reasons. All these crazy thoughts were in my head…After the first turnaround, where they gave you colored “scrunchies” to put on your arm to signify the lap you were one, I saw H headed for the turnaround. Not only was he running, he looked like a spring chicken! He said he felt great. I told him I was dying and begged him to catch up with me. He said he would. I kept walking, plugging along. Me and flies. The local people were out in force and cheering almost the whole course. The folks at the aid stations were fantastic. I stopped and got some more bug spray at one and told the woman I actually thought I was going insane from the flies. When I was heading back to the second turnaround, a woman stopped to talk to me. She was from here and it was here 2nd IM. She confirmed the brutal conditions. She walked with me for about 15 minutes. That helped me so much I wish I knew who she was-I would call her and thank her. It was about this time, the sun started thankfully going down. It started to cool off and amazingly, I started to feel better. The flies started going away-guess they only like scorching hot temperatures! I was taking in only coke and Infinite at this point, an occasional Powergel. I even ran for about 20 minutes..The second turnaround and scrunchie came, as did the glow sticks. I saw H again-he was gaining on me and finally he caught me about ¼ of the way into the 3rd loop. I almost cried. He was on his way for a PR. He was running this whole time. I told him not to walk with me-this was his day. But he insisted on walking the rest of the way with me. This is a true partner-not sure I would have done the same for him! We discussed our war stories of the hot bike..He saw way more casualties than I did. I wonder today how many folks DNFd because of the heat. H said he even passed a Pro woman on the bike course who was struggling. It got dark-there were still folks on the course cheering us on. God Bless them all! The last 4 miles seemed to take forever but we thought how cool it was going to be to finish together-I knew the kids would see that and that made me happy! I knew I could keep my “first out the water” status now. We passed Dave, the guy we had seen speak at the pre race dinner. He finished the first IM in 1978. He told us the conditions at this race were similar to Kona. OK, I never, never want to go to Kona! I also decided (I know we all say this) that this is my 4th and last Ironman. My body can’t take a beating like this again.
At last, H & I went down the chute, holding hands and heard the best sound in the world, Deb and Hartley Wess, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!
The bus driver that took us home said it was the hottest day of the year so far and by far the hottest race they had had in 6 years. OK, I did feel a little better about my performance hearing that.
Today, we are moving VERY slowly. I slept fitfully probably from all the caffeine I ingested. But I have the medal, the really cool finisher’s shirt and the finisher’s towel. I get to say I did Ironman Western Australia and I worked for every single second of that race..and I was FIRST out the water in my AG at a friggin’ Ironman!!
I have had much better races than this one-well most of them. But I really saw yesterday what the human will and power of thinking can achieve. I have never fought so hard for anything in my life. I have a sticker on my bike that says “Pain is temporary, quitting is forever” I repeated that constantly yesterday. If I can complete IMWA, in those conditions I can do anything!
6th out of 10 in my AG is not bad considering…I’ll take it!