The story of my first Half IronMan, Dubai 70.3, from a non swimmer and a non biker!
"Lights will guide you home...And ignite your bones..."
It was a dark, cool morning, and the loudspeaker was playing “Fix you” and I had goosebumps. It was really happening! Nearly 2000 faaancy bikes were racked up, and then there was mine!
With shaking hands and stomach jitters I filled up my tyres, did some last-minute preparation and then put on my wetsuit.
It was a 15 minute walk to the swim start. Along the way, there was a lot of nervous energy…photos taken, high fives, and thoughts of my potential swim DNF swam in my head. I banished them, as soon as I could, only for them to emerge from another side. Then I rationalised with myself, I had trained hard and there was NO way that I would not finish under the cut-off time.
It was a rolling swim start and with the sound of the buzzer off I was! The swim, I knew, was my weakness, and this was no different. I was kicked in the face by stronger swimmers and pulled off course by the current! There were times when I couldn’t see above the waves and had to breast stroke to sight. I simply tried to stay on the middle of the red swim caps bobbing around me. But often enough I found myself far away from them and then would have to work my way back, towards the buoys. All my worst fears found their voices in my head. But I simply went on, pulling one arm after another. I had done this distance within time before and I had to just do it again. I made the last turn and suddenly I was headed towards the shore. I will never forget the moment when I could see the red I-Dot, then the sand under my feet and finally after a few strokes I could stand. I had done it! What a relief! I had made the cut-off! I was out in exactly 60 minutes. The way we train is the way we race.
The swim is over, I will soon be a 70.3 finisher!!!
I took my time during T1 (12 whole minutes- just relishing that feeling of accomplishment for surviving the swim!) and after putting on my shoes, when I walked to the bike area there were only a handful of bikes left. As I rolled my bike out, I could not stop smiling that yes, I will finish this race.
My bike start was slow (I really thought that I was the last biker!) and it was only after 20 km that I saw some bikers and overtook them. That was a good feeling and then 30 km into the race, the leaders were zooming back from the opposite side, with their aero bikes and outlandish helmets! That put me in my place nicely! I kept my head down and continued pedalling, fighting strong headwinds during the first half. The second half was relatively easier with some tail winds and my new friend from Kazakhstan and I decided to keep pace with each other for the bike leg. We overtook a few more bikers and as soon we saw the Burj al Arab, we shifted gears and raced on! I was done. 90 km in 3:45 hours. Just like all the other 90 km rides I had done. The way we train is the way we race.
I had a relatively quicker T2 (5 minutes) as I was excited about the run.
Once a runner, always a runner
Things were going as per plan. And I was high spirits as I started the run. “Only a half now” was the thought in my head! With a spring in my step I headed out on the Jumeirah beach road just streaming past the other athletes who had slowed down. A lot of them were walking and my heart went out to them. It was 12.30 in the afternoon and the sun was beating down on us. I smiled at the cheering crowds and was surprised with my comfort level. I kept hydrating and kept going. All went well until 15 km mark, when there was no water at the hydration stop and there were kids and random tourists on the track. That got to me and I slowed down a bit for the next couple of kilometres, but as soon as I got the second wrist band, which marked 18km and only the last loop remaining, I picked up my feet and ran hard towards the finish line. Half marathon in 2:08.
My friend Zenobia and her family were rooting for me at the finish and as soon as I saw them I could not stop smiling. “We will, we will rock you” blared in the loudspeaker and I leaped over the finish line under the red arch.
PARUL SHETH 70.3 IronMan Finisher!
It was over. Tears streamed as I hugged Pratik. Dubai 70.3 IronMan was done!
“It was not a miracle that I finished the race, but that I made it to the start line.” John Bingham
For me, to train for a year, from a non-swimmer and non-biker to this finish just shows that if I can do it anyone can. In the words of one of my favorite race signs: “Smile, you paid for this!” It’s true, except for the fact no amount of money can purchase the determination and grit it takes to show up and finish. It has been a year of despair and small joys (which you all have been a part of) so I would like to thank each and everyone of you for your encouragement and support.
This race was a dream.
Life, for me, has been about facing challenges.
Some have been thrown at me and some I choose.
As I live each day, I learn to endure.
I may not always emerge a winner, but I hope to keep on evolving, getting stronger.
To find joy and love in everything I do.