The sun has drifted below the horizon but that angle allows it to glint pink off jagged cloud bottoms high above me. Harmonies of Korean music accompany the ever-changing sunset as I wolf down my spaghetti with the only utensils the pension has provided chopsticks and a spoon. My friends are out hiking and checking out the local scene as I prepare for the day Ive trained for during the last three months
Theres something about the looming challenge of a race that drives away walls. Something about the adrenaline of finishing that brings out the raw real person who never seems to show during the humdrum of everyday. Again, someone asked why I so love challenging myself with these races. And I was lost to explain. Theres a camaraderie between athletes standing in common fear and anticipation before the starting gun; a shared satisfaction of accomplishment as they cross the finish. Along the way there are countless glimpses of courage, self-less-ness, and human spirit that I have not seen anywhere else. Perhaps only combat comes close. They are two concepts which words stretch to encompass; two things of which it is far easier to say, If you have to ask, you wouldnt understand.
The feat that was driving such pensiveness was Ironman Korea, my first full Ironman triathlon. I started at the front of the pack of 1075 people for the 2.4-mile swim, which I finished in just over an hour. I love the swim, especially in salt water and a wetsuit, which combing to make you float like a raft. And the swim is always flat. In this race, it was the only part that was flat! Constant hills on the bike (and one HILL at 65 miles) made it hard to eat like a pregnant lady as my volunteer coach Brian advised me. Nevertheless, 112 miles, 6 hours and 42 minutes, 2 Power bars, 4 Power gels, and 6 peanut-butter-and-jelly fajitas later, I gladly gave the bike to the volunteer and changed into my running shoes. A thrill coursed through me as the loudspeaker blared my name and country, Number 1020, Donna Kohout of the United States on the marathon. I cringed and tuned him out surely this was just another run at the end of a triathlon. I would not admit to my legs that its a marathon. Marathon it was, however, but it sped by with Mount Hallasan towering over the course in the afternoon haze, the sunset throwing color across the sky, and a kaleidoscope of triathletes parading in the opposite direction on the out-and-back (three times!) course. Twelve hours and 51 minutes after I toes the starting line in the morning sun, I almost had to turn sideways to fit my smile through the arch-way marking the finish line.
The best part was having friends there at the finish to sweep up the pieces and carry me (literally!) back to the hotel room. Someone please remind me not to do another of these and yet even that night, as I lay like an invalid in bed with Carrie and Slick bringing me everything I needed, my recalcitrant mind was considering how to do better on the next one. Yikes!
Have a good week – hopefully one as relaxing as this one has been for me. And if you want to read about the whole race…it’s here: http://www.kirbyf16.blogspot.com/