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Cross country coach shares experience of Ironman 70.3

(Editor's note: Miranda Murphey, a Thomson High School teacher and cross country coach, participated in Sunday's ESi Ironman 70.3 Augusta. This is her account of that day, as shared in an e-mail.)

Hello all,

So yesterday was the big day! I woke up around 4:30 ready to go compete in the biggest race I will likely ever attempt.

I was on an emotional roller coaster most of the day. At times I was nervous, other times excited, and even at some points incredibly calm and peaceful. Before I knew it, it was time to jump in the water and begin my race. I got off to a great start in the swim, finishing a full 10 minutes faster than my time from last year! Many thanks to all my lifeguards for their time and advice in helping me prepare for that section.

Then it was time for the bike. It was a brutal 56-mile course with long, rolling, steep hills. Several times during the bike section, I wanted to quit. I witnessed no fewer than 15 athletes throw in the towel during that portion alone. I found out later that over 100 racers quit during the bike section. However, with lots of prayer and thoughts of all my loved ones who were lifting me up in prayer or cheering me on from home, I made it through the intense cramps, the heat, and the general fatigue to finish the bike portion.

As I got off the bike back in the transition area, my legs buckled under me and I fell to the ground. And for all my THS colleagues, I was not even wearing heels! ;-) After consuming a few gels and power bars and taking in some fluids, I headed out for the run with my teammate Jessica (Ruark, Thomson girls soccer coach), and another woman I met on the bike section who was ready to quit. Bernadette, Jessica and I all set out walking as fast as we could, considering the cramps that were by that time spreading up our legs.

In spite of the humidity and the heat, we kept our spirits up, and kept a pretty good pace. We felt very encouraged as we neared the end of the first 6.5-mile loop on the run course. It had also started raining, and that was a great blessing as it helped cool us off. We only had one more 6.5-mile loop to go and we would be finished.

Sadly, as we crossed the end of the first loop at exactly 4:02 p.m., we were informed that we had missed the 4:00 cut-off for that portion by 2 minutes. We were told by a race official that we could not continue as we had missed the cut-off. When I begged to be allowed to finish, he told me that the rules were set, and he had to take my race chip and send me across the finish, but then I was free to do as I pleased. My official time would be listed as DNF, or "did not finish." I fought back tears as I stood still and waited for him to take my race chip from my ankle. I bowed my head, walked across the finish line, and tried to drown out the cheers from the spectators that thought they were congratulating an athlete who had just finished her race. As I walked down the finish chute, I saw the entrance to the second loop. I stood there for a few moments, letting the rain blend with my tears, and felt as low as I ever have.

And then I kept going.

I went back out onto the course and headed out for the second 6.5-mile loop.

I knew that I signed up to complete 70.3 miles, and even though it would not technically count, that is what I was going to do. I was told as I started out that I would not be able to get any water, sports drinks, power bars, or fruit from the aid stations. I was also told that if I got injured, no one would be able to help me. Essentially, as the race official put it, "{I was} on my own."

I was never "on my own." While those last 61/2 miles were the hardest of the day (that is when I developed multiple blisters, severe leg, back, and stomach cramps, and a vision-blurring headache), my spirits were the highest they had been all day.

I felt the prayers that were being lifted up, and I knew God was quite literally with me every step of the way. True to the official's word, none of the actual race volunteers could give me any fluids or food, but athletes that had already finished were cheering me on, and when I told them what I was doing, they shared their own sports drinks and fruit with me to keep me going. At exactly 8 hours, I again crossed the finish line -- this time having done the entire 70.3-mile course.

Sunday was the most physically challenging day of my life, but also the most rewarding. I am proud to be able to tell you all that "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith" (2 Timothy 4:7).

I also learned that "I {truly} can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13). God's word also says that "those who hope in the Lord will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint" (Isaiah 40:31).

God's words and strength, along with your prayers and encouragement, kept me going throughout the race. I thank you all for your prayers, your support, and your encouragement during the last few months as I have prepared for this race. I couldn't have done it without you.

With love and gratitude,


Web posted on Thursday, September 29, 2011

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