The day started at 4am with a quick breakfast and then out the door to catch the shuttle bus to starting line. You could feel the anticipation and energy throughout the cloudy morning, thankfully it wasn’t raining, yet. As I did my warm up swim turning back and looking to the shoreline of all the spectators and athletes getting ready there was a sense of excitement and knowing that all the hard work was about to pay off. This was the party! Yes I am the smiling happy triathlete out on the course even when everything hurts and all I want to do is stop.
The rain starts and the gun goes off, all 1500 athletes splash in the water trying to find their pace. I find mine by moving through pockets of people swimming and praying that nobody swims over me or punches me too hard. I finish the 3.8km swim in 1hr10min and as I exit the water I see my support crew in the rain cheering and I know that the hardest part of the race is about to start.
On the bike the rain picks up and the wind starts to blow, as I go flying down the hills I can’t feel my hands or feet and can’t wait to see a hill that I can climb to warm up. I told myself that I just have to make it to Pemberton and then at the aid station I had a bag of salt and vinegar chips and a Snickers bar waiting for me. Once in Pemberton at the 80km mark the rain stops and the sun starts to come through the clouds, I finally feel warm and pass everyone on the uphill climb back to Whistler. I complete the 180km bike ride in 6hr26min and a new burst of energy comes out knowing that I only have to run a marathon!
I find my pace quickly and stick to the game plan of walking every aid station and making sure I eat enough. I had no nutritional issues which is a big relief because many athletes end up having some sort of stomach cramp at least once throughout the race. I ran with another athlete for 15km and that helped kill some time and keep me distracted.
I saw my support crew throughout the race and every time I saw them I got an adrenaline rush and kept pushing forward. As my support crew saw me coming in for that last 200m they started chanting my name “Kelsy! Kelsy! Kelsy!” and in that moment I felt like a rock star! I finished the 42km run in 4hr10min, completing the entire Ironman race in 11hr57min! “Kelsy Traverse you are an Ironman,” was waiting for the announcer to say that all day. Of course as soon as I finished the rain started again.
Overall it was a challenging day but I never doubted my physical abilities, I had a coach who encouraged me throughout the training and had training races to compete before the big race. I had an amazing support crew, over 20 people came out to Whistler to cheer me on and friends and family throughout Canada were watching online. Knowing that there was a crew there kept me going even when I wanted to stop in the rain.
The Ironman dream all started with competing in Standard distance triathlon and then finding new ways to challenge myself not only physically, but mentally. I did most of the training on my own and had to push through my own mental barriers to keep pushing forward and knowing that every swim stroke, pedal stroke and step was getting me closer to accomplishing my goal. There are always moments of doubt when trying something out of your comfort zone for the first time, but by putting time and effort into the training anything is possible.
The biggest question after completing the Ironman is ‘would you do another one?’ if you asked right after the race the answer was a straight no, but now that it’s been a couple of weeks and my body has had time to recovery hmm…who knows I probably will try another one. The whole triathlon community is an amazing group of people who are there to push themselves and to have a good time. There is a sense of ‘we are in this together’ on the race course and that is my favourite part on race day, doesn’t matter if you are first or last we all pushed through the rain and cold to become an Ironman!