O Canada! Part VIII

I'm trotting along around the 9-mile mark when a joyous cry assails my ears---it's David approaching on the other side of the road, heading for the finish.

"TriBaby!" he cries gleefully.

"David, you look great!" I cry with equal joy.

"You wanna be an Ironman, Tricia Richter?" he queries in grand rhetorical style. "When you finish your bike ride....

"GO RUN A MARATHON!" we chime in blissfully silly unison. We slap hands in passing and, laughing as we go our separate ways, I add a vociferous "VOGUE! VOGUE!" over my shoulder. Geez louise, for having been so nervous before the race, David is having one helluva day; he'll break 12 hours easily. Mighty impressive for a Tri Poser.

A lovely downhill follows my encounter with David. No innocuous little bump or grade, this; the return trip here will be unholy hell, a fact made abundantly clear by the pained shuffling of those going the other way. This hill struck fear into my heart when we rode the course on Thursday. For now, though, I cannot think about coming back; right now, I'm just here, going down, playing the tangents of this snaky stretch of road and enjoying the view. I take advantage of gravity and open up my stride, enjoying the free ride and the gorgeous vista of Skaha Lake and the surrounding mountains. This is a good moment.

I finish the twisting descent and a familiar face appears just beginning the climb going the other way. "Marty!" I cry. "Gosh, I expected to see you ages ago---what's up, how are you doing?" Marty smiles with equanamity and assures me that all is well; he's just not in the shape he'd have liked to be in today, but no major problems. "Well, you're on your way home now, keep it up," I urge.

Onward, onward. At the next aid station I suck down my first cup of chicken broth, and does that taste good! Salt is good. Only 3 miles to the turnaround now, just 3 more miles. Encountering a tough rolling uphill I decide to tackle it at a walk. Strangely, though, walking seems to require more energy, so I immediately abandon this strategy and resume a spritely jog. Amazing how strong I still feel. Guess I'm just lucky today; a lot of other folks out here don't appear to be in such good shape. Many are walking, even on the downhills. Don't think about it too much, though, just keep the legs moving, keep going, and look for the next portapotty....

I spy Rolf coming toward me at about 12 miles. "Go, IronMac!" "Go, TriBaby!" "Looking good, Rolf, you're on your way home."

Just another mile, just one more. I wonder where Jason is; I have yet to see him, and I'm nearly at the turnaround. Could I have missed him? He couldn't possibly be behind me---Jason's far too strong a cyclist to have gone as slowly as I did on the bike. Then again, he probably had a slow swim, given his recent broken collarbone, so he probably did come out of the water behind me. He MUST have passed me on the bike at some point; perhaps when I hit the portapotty at the special needs aid station on the bike.....

"Hi, horses." I greet the placid pair of equines in the field on the right. I remember passing them at about 9:00am this morning. The white one's an Arabian, I reckon; the chestnut may be a Quarterhorse, but looks a trifle small. Might just be a grade animal. Cute, though. I'll be seeing them once more before the day is through.

Almost there, almost there! Right now the very idea of the turnaround is just as sweet and wonderful as the idea of the finish line. I assess my condition as that glorious haven draws nearer; aside from slightly tight legs, I'm in pretty good shape. How about a massage at the turnaround? Naw, don't EVEN consider that. You know what'll happen if they get you down on that table now---you will never get back up. But hey, you get to pick up your special needs bag, and that'll be nice. I wonder what Skippy put in there?

In the days before the race I had advised Skippy that part of the Crew's job at an Ironman is to drop some sort of inspiring treat in her athlete's marathon special needs bag----after the athlete has put her last practical items in there and will no longer have any need to peek inside. Hmmm, what could it be, what could it be....my feet beat out the tattoo as that wonderful, marvellous, glorious, miraculous turnaround aid station comes in sight. There it is, there it is! I'm halfway, YES!!!!!

Continue the race....