As of a couple of weeks ago, my race calendar included IRONMAN Canada in Penticton on August 27th and IRONMAN World Championship in Hawaii on October 14th. Endurance athletes, and probably most athletes, label their races according to their importance, so it likely goes without saying Kona, as the World Championship is often referred to, was my “A” race and Canada was my “B” race. I recognized recovery between the two was going to be hard and being at my best for Kona was going to take a lot of restraint both during IRONMAN Canada and in the weeks between the two races.
Then an unforeseen challenge arose a week before IRONMAN Canada…IRONMAN canceled the race. It’s unusual for IRONMAN to cancel a race so far ahead of the actual race, but the wildfires in British Columbia forced the city to take drastic measures. The people in the surrounding areas were evacuated and needed housing in Penticton, forcing them to close the city and therefore the race. I certainly understand, appreciate and applaud the decision. People had lost and were losing houses and their belongings; their lives were at risk. The race no longer mattered.
Regardless, the decision hit me like a ton of bricks. I had been training for that race for 6 months. I had envisioned myself swimming the 2.4 miles in the lake, riding 112 miles of the hilly, wooded expanse of British Columbia and running 26.2 miles through the town of Penticton. It seems trivial to say it left a hole or a gap especially when the people there were experiencing what they were, but it did.
You sacrifice a lot when training for an IRONMAN…spending 15-20 hours a week training, foregoing late nights with friends and weekends with family…you wake up at an ungodly hour to get your training in and go to bed super early in the hopes of getting a full night of restorative sleep.
Was it smarter to be focused on only one major race? Sure. And that’s what I had to tell myself. My coach and I quickly regrouped and put a new plan in action. I would still recover for a week and run a “mock” race on the day Canada should have taken place. This would be a litmus test for the training I had done, my nutrition and hydration plan and the amount of recovery I had done leading up to “race day”.
So instead of racing IRONMAN Canada on Sunday, August 27th, I swam 1.6 miles, rode 70 miles and ran 14 miles, while practicing my race day nutrition and overall plan. It wasn’t the day I wanted…it would have been amazing to have the perfect day, which would have made me feel as though my plan and approach were ready, but I fell short on my hydration plan, which greatly impacted my energy and gut on the run. I did however learn some valuable lessons that I’ll try next time. The plus side? I’ve been working hard on my mental strength and overall resilience as sometimes when things aren’t going as planned, I struggle with negative self-talk. What did I learn that day? The actions I have taken to build my mental game are working! I certainly waned during the run and had to walk more than I would have liked, but I never beat myself up about it, I continued to put one foot in front of the other and I felt a huge sense of pride with what I had accomplished.
Fitting a mock race day in like that consumed the majority of my Sunday but it taught me what is working and what I need to tweak. You better believe I’ll be practicing my hydration in the 6 weeks I have before Kona…I’ll need a near-perfect plan to combat the heat and humidity. And I’ll continue to hone my mental toughness to help ward off negativity when I face the challenges that are sure to come on race day.
Knowing the symptoms of pancreatic cancer is perhaps a strange leap from IRONMAN training but it’s certainly a more important one given the earlier pancreatic cancer is detected, the higher the likelihood of survival. According to the National Cancer Institute, it is the 4th leading cancer-related death with a low, 12%, 5-year survival rate.
Recognizing the symptoms, speaking to a gastroenterologist if you experience the symptoms and being your own health advocate are critical. Some of the most common symptoms include sudden weight loss, jaundice, onset of diabetes, back and/or stomach pain, loss of appetite and fatigue or weakness. Mike and I didn’t know these symptoms and, looking back, he was certainly experiencing some of them. In the few weeks, he and I had together he asked me to create awareness in the hopes of educating others and reducing the likelihood others experience what we did.
You can absolutely leverage the list of symptoms I mentioned above, but why not learn about the symptoms or share them in a truly unique way. Sky Foundation created a rap (yes, you read this right, a RAP) of the symptoms, check it out at Pancreatic Cancer Symptoms Rap. Another awareness campaign was donated by Mike’s former employer – Pancreatic Cancer Red Flags. I certainly wish we had known these symptoms and facts earlier. Please help me create more awareness by sharing the symptoms, these videos and this blog with your family and friends…after all, knowledge is power.