Friday, 24 July 2015

Repetitive Cowbell Injury

Even if your fingers are falling off and you've no voice left, every bit of support is worth it.

When I was a teenager, I spent a lot of weekends at rugby league matches and out marshalling motor racing. I thought I knew a bit about what supporting a sporting event entailed. I'd done my fair share of shouting at sweaty, muddy men and picking up the pieces (literally) when it all went pear-shaped out on the circuit.

It was nothing compared to what I experienced at IronMan UK. It's Thursday night as I'm typing this and my voice is still squeaky from screaming. My fingers are still bruised from the cowbells. Emotionally I've had a hangover for days; Rach did warn me but this was several orders of magnitude greater than I expected. I've talked through what we did at least a dozen times - everyone at school wanted to know why I was squeaking like Beaker from the Muppets - and I just can't seem to get through to people outside the Tri/Endurance world just what was so amazing about the day. I mean, what kind of twisted person:

- gets up at 4.45am

- stands in a biblical rainstorm in a DryRobe for several hours, holding a dripping flag and squinting at wetsuited nutters to find six people out of 2000

- then moves to a wind-blasted car park, still wet, and being battered by said soggy flags, to try and spot six people jumping off bikes and running past

- moves to a hugely crowded town centre, holds out this sign:

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...and proceeds to scream and cowbell not only at the six people in 2000 she's looking for, but everyone else that gets a laugh out of that sign too, for more than six hours

- stays til the last man is virtually carried across the line and blue-lighted away before his name even comes up on the screen, and then waits for the poor guy that isn't going to make the cut-off well after 11pm?

Rach, that's who. 

Yes, yes, and me too. Neither of us have any voice left! It left me speechless in more ways than one. I have never seen so much grit. Never seen so much courage. Our Bears & friends all came through beautifully, from the so-fast-we-missed-him to the last man home at over 14hrs. It was superb to see our kit out on the circuit, and heart-filling to see the faces of our friends light up to hear us. It was hilarious to have made so many people giggle; to point and shout "YOU! YES YOU, YOU ARE A GORGEOUS AND AMAZING HUMAN BEING!", and then see those same people actually looking for us as they came through on their second and third laps to ask if they were still gorgeous (yes, they were). I can't describe the rush on hearing the commentator shout your teammate's name and the magical phrase "YOU. ARE. AN. IRONMAN!"

So yes, we had a really fantastic day out; it was well-organised, accessible, and ran like clockwork. I'd recommend it to anyone.

I took home something really important for my own head, too. I spent a lot of time watching the run leg particularly, and what I saw were, admittedly, mostly middle-aged white men with a small proportion of women. Aside from the pros (who I didn't really see as they were too fast!), every kind of body shape was on display. Tall, small, built like a whippet, built like a rhino. People that looked like they'd been gazelles in a previous life, and people who honestly looked like they wouldn't be able to tell one end of a bike from another. People so slim they were cold in wetsuits at 19oC, and people who were barely getting into the neoprene. People whose bellies wobbled. People whose boobs were travelling many miles more than their legs were (both men and women!). 

And yet every single one of them could swim, bike, run 140.6 miles; and it didn't seem to make a difference what shape they were. There were as many people who "looked" like athletes struggling as there were people who "looked" like they lived on beer and cigs who made it all seem easy. Body shape was not a predictor of success.

Not one of those people let their body shape dictate their lives.

How amazing is that?

I didn't realise how important it was for me to have seen that until I got dressed into "smart" clothes for school on Wednesday morning. I rarely look in a full-length mirror, since the only one in the house is in the kids' room, but I'd got a new top and wanted to check it out. And my first thought on seeing myself was "This is not a fat body any more. This is a strong body. This body can do all sorts of things."

Yes, I'm still pretty overweight. I have a spare tyre I can't shift and may never get rid of. My stats are all in order, which is reassuring. But having done what I've done, and seen what I've seen...I'm not going to let any fears about that wobble bother me ever again. It's never stopped me taking part, because I'm bloody-minded like that, but I won't deny the churn that's gone through my head every time I change for training, or the six weeks it took me to pluck up the courage to buy shorts for running. That's not going to happen any more.

Thanks, IronMen. From the bottom of my bum. I would say my heart, but my bum is bigger! :D