Saturday shed new light on my world of what it means to be an athlete. My 10-yr-old daughter and I were out the door at 5:45 am, and headed east over the mountains. We drove through the pass in the dark and with the rain pounding - I was glad to have company. Somewhere on the other side of the mountains the skies cleared. The sun came up over the hills, the mountains cast a purple haze across the valleys and pink fluffy clouds drifted across the sky. It was beautiful. At about 7:00, a couple hundred miles further east, 67 ironman participants were wading into the water to begin their swim. We stopped to grab some breakfast. We drove through vast farmlands and wound our way through canyons, lakes, and rivers to reach the start area for the Grand Columbian Triathlon. In addition to the ironman and half ironman competitions, this was the site of the 2006 ITU Pan-American Long Distance Elite and Age Group Championships. By the time we arrived, the majority of these competitors had completed their swim - 'cept for the half-iron people. At 10:15, they headed out for their swim. We got to watch both transitions and were out along the trail during the run portion. (We sat under the blue sky at the edge of the Grand Coulee Dam and ate lunch during the bike leg - it wasn't easily accessible for spectators.) The weather was fantastic, and my brother had a great day - finishing in 5 hours, 31 minutes on a fairly hard course. The bike segment had some pretty good climbs and was fairly windy. This was his first half, and just last year he was excited when he'd complete even the swim portion of a sprint-tri. He's already looking toward next year. He was pretty tired when he was through - hopefully pretty proud of himself. It'll be fun to talk to him once it has all sunk in and he realizes what he accomplished. Clock time would've been about 3:45 in the afternoon when he was finished. We hung out for a while as he recovered, watched some finishers, ate some food. It took a while to watch the results come in, gather gear bags, retrieve the bike, etc. Once we returned to the car it was about 5:30. We had watched a few of the iron athletes come through the half-marathon point, but the leader hadn't come through when we left the finish line - he likely came through just before 5:00. My daughter and I drove back through the canyons and the rivers and the valleys, heading west and following the golden sunset. We stopped for dinner around 7:30, headed back over the mountains in the dark where it was once again raining, and arrived home around 9:30 - roughly a 4-hour drive. We put away everything we'd dragged in from the car, and shared stories about our day with my husband. I grabbed a cup of tea and sat down to relax. I eventually headed off to bed - must've been just after 11:00 pm. Within the next hour, the last five ironman competitors would complete the marathon course. According to the results, the last finisher completed the course with a time of 16:42:07. I was fast asleep by then.
I get to go camping this week at Mt. Rainier, and I keep thinking about that rain as I drove over the pass yesterday. Guess I oughtta pack some warm clothes and some raingear. Maybe I'll get lucky and that big mountain will peak out from behind the clouds.