Fun, Racing, Training by Susanne Davis
Have you ever mapped out and organized what you thought was the perfect plan to achieve a dream but it didn't happen? Maybe it did happen, but the time table, course and order you thought events would happen were a total surprise.
It's fun to look back at the road map of our lives and see all of the twists and turns. From your first true love, buying your first car, graduating college, finding a real job, getting married, having children, coaching other athletes, running a 10K, qualifying for Boston, competing in the Olympic Trials, qualifying for Kona, winning a National Championship or winning the Ironman World Championships, none of these goals had a straight road. There were often bumps, road blocks or incredible detours that took you way off course, or so you thought. In my life many of the road blocks have helped me appreciate the guts and glory of my dreams. Once you've achieved your dream, it just reminds us we are all human and not everything has to go in the order we have determined is "perfect".
I hadn't planned on Kona this year until our great friend Jason made it into the lottery. We discussed it as a family, or should I say my husband booked the condo, airline tickets and let me know we were going. I was primarily focused on defending my status as the reigning two time National Champion in Olympic distance and seeing if I could get a good result at the World Championships in Chicago. I put a plan in place to qualify for Kona, Nationals in August, World's in September and hit Kona this October for the 6th time.
The plan on paper seemed challenging but surely something I could do. I was about to come face to face with a few of those road blocks I'd mentioned.
I teach spin class at 5:15 a.m. two days a week to get in my intervals and run brick. One morning, one of my regular 5:15 spin clients who I was going to coach for her second Ironman touched my shoulder and took me aside. "Susanne, I have a new race to run...I have breast cancer." I was in shock! She was early middle age in great shape and always took good care of herself. In a flash my client's dream took a major detour. She had reminded me that I've never had a mammogram and I am 43 years old. I was moved to make an appointment that same week, just 3 weeks before my Ironman qualifier. Like most triathletes I prepared to be at my best for 6 months and peaked to perfection for the race. The appointment was not even a blip on my emotional radar. A few minutes into the appointment I was shocked to find I had a lump of my own. My doctor calmed me down and told me it was probably just a cyst so I dismissed it. The ultrasound a week later showed more concern and I was not so calm. This lead to another week of waiting until I
had a biopsy of the lump.
Only a triathlete can appreciate that I biked 75 miles the morning before my 10 a.m. procedure. The doctor's quickly let me know that this was my last ride and swim for at least a week. That was a tough reality to take with a Hawaii Ironman World Championship qualifier looming just 3 weeks away. I had one of my best friends Cathy and husband Scott at my side in the waiting room for support. Ironically, my friend Cathy happened to be the angel at my side when my husband had a heart attack and was unconscious for 8 hours without any movement only 2 years ago. This past experience gave me the "hope and faith" that this moment in time too was just a detour in God's great plan. Early the next day my cell phone rang!!! I answered with excitement because it was only 24 hours after the test! Waiting is the hardest mental training I've ever gone through. The first time waiting for my husband to wake up and say my name after his heart attack and now the doctor on the other end of the phone line had my fate. A 112 mile ride in 105 degree's is only physically demanding, but the emotional side of a process is much harder. My stomach churned waiting for him to speak. "Susanne, your biopsy is negative!" Glory and relief poured over me. I called my husband but no answer. I left the message of joy! After 3 weeks of mounting fear I was cancer free! Scott called me back an hour later. I said, "I'm cracking the champagne! Where are you?" He replied, "I'm in the driveway. I was let go from my job today." In disbelief I said, "WHAT, are you kidding?!?!" Ok, well I quickly replied again, as he walked in the door "We are celebrating. I am cancer free and you are a free man from work. This was a strange turn on route to my Kona qualifier.
My husband had bought a ticket to Coeur d' Alene just a week prior. We had decided that if I did have breast cancer I needed his support and if I didn't, well then we'd be our usual team. We had overcome a breast cancer scare, overcome his loss of a job and on the way to Idaho. I headed up a couple days before him only to find the predicted race temperature was 105. By the time Scott landed 2 days later, I had come down with Bronchitis. Neither one of us talked about it. Scott kept telling me "your fine" don't think about it. But we both knew. Bronchitis, Ironman and 105 do not play well together.
We went to CDA Ironman with 6 people and only 3 finished. The Ironman announcer would say that it was the hottest Ironman he's ever been to. Me too! I envision it now as a Seinfeld episode. Kramer would have had a hose spraying me down from head to toe only to have it backfire and hit him. Elaine would have a kiddie pool of ice every 5 miles on the run allowing me to jump in while she sips a cold drink. My friend Erin reminded me of George Constanza who literally stopped while running her own race, squatted down and started cheering and dancing for me. I could see Jerry at mile 25 of the run saying to some spectator, "Why are they doing this again? They paid $675 to race?" "seems a bit nuts to me".
As my dream unfolded over the coarse of 4 weeks so did the detours and distractions. I had crushed the swim, sub 57 min. The bike went great for 75 miles... until it didn't. I had lost places in transition, which never happens. I lost places at the end of the bike. Only 3 go to Kona and I was on the run starting out in 5th. My husband and his computer saw I was 7 minutes out of Kona, then 6, and 5. I began to drink up, stretch and loosen up. 4 minutes down and the girl ahead of me was fading. 3 minutes, I can do this, 2 minutes, I got her, 1:45, 1:30, 1:20.....the end of the road came at 26.2 miles.....I was 4th. In the last 15 years I've been out of the top 3 in my age group only twice. The emotions stirred. Happiness that I finished, relief I didn't have to take another step, curiosity at who was ahead of me, disbelief that I didn't catch them, sadness that the Kona dream was over and peace of knowing I had given 100%.
As time passes we all reflect. I got my diploma in 1994...but I had to take summer classes. Looking for a spouse I saw none and finally found him while not looking as he was my home stay 15 years ago. My son came 3 months after trying to get pregnant. My daughter took 5 years. I started racing Ironman simply to lose the baby weight after having the kids. It was my dream to finish my first Kona. The 2nd time I raced the Ironman World Championships, I was 1st American Amateur. The 3rd time I broke the existing 35-39 age group world record...and was second to the winner on the day. The 4th time in Kona I set a record for the fastest American Amateur over 40 in the history of the Ironman.
The truth is we don't know where the detours are, when we will see them or where the story ends. This year took a detour. I won't be going to defend my National Championship at Olympic distance in August. I won't see my family in Chicago at World's in September. I will be in Whistler in 6 days on a detour to Kona. We don't know how this will end and if I'll be in Kona in October or 4th in Whistler. I do know that God's plan and joy are bigger than I could ever imagine. I must say it's been one heck of a ride so far! Thank you to my family, friends, Timex Team and Sponsors who keep this road so supported, memorable and motivating.