The long road to next year
On Oct. 16, a day that featured 98 degree temperatures and 100 percent humidity, wheelchair athlete Candace Cable, also know as Truckee’s Ironwoman, swam 2.4 miles in the open ocean, then pedaled her handcycle 95 miles through scorching lava fields before being forced to give up her hopes of finishing the 2004 Ironman Triathlon World Championship in Hawaii.In the end it wasn’t the heat that got the best of her, nor the fickle Hawaiian winds that blew in her face on both the out and back legs of the 112-mile bike section. It wasn’t a physical collapse or the uncontrollable nausea that overtakes many competitors during the day, nor was it a mental breakdown or a lack of will.After almost 100 miles of exertion Cable wanted nothing more than the chance to finish up the bike leg and head out for the final 26.2-mile run portion. Yes, that’s a full marathon.No, in the end it was time that did Cable in. Specifically the mandatory cutoff times that organizers assign to each leg of the race, which this year was 10.5 hours to complete the swim and bike sections of the course.Around mile 95 of her bike leg, time caught up with Cable, forcing her to abandon her attempt to become the first woman with a spinal chord injury to finish the Hawaiian Ironman.Cable was so determined to finish the race this year, though, that five minutes before the 5:30 p.m. cutoff time for completion of the bike leg, and with approximately 20 miles left to ride, she told the course monitors that they would have to catch her first – and she renewed her efforts toward the finish line.
But tired, 50-year-old arms can only do so much, and race officials eventually did catch her. At that moment, however, the only thought going through Cable’s mind as they helped her off her hand cycle and into the support vehicle was: “Next year. I’ll be back again next year.””I was totally psyched by my experience and encouraged to come back even though I wasn’t able to finish up the whole thing,” Cable said.No obstaclesSo it goes when you are one of the elite wheelchair athletes in the world. Cable is a six-time Boston Marathon champion in summer, the Overall World Cup Champion on cross country skis last winter, and a woman who has never let any obstacle stand in the way of her dreams.This year, her first-ever attempt at the Ironman, was the perfect way to learn what works and how best to prepare for next year’s race, Cable said while recapping her Ironman performance after returning home to Truckee.
One thing that took her by surprise was a feeling of vertigo that overcame her early in the swim stage with all of the 1,700 other competitor churning the water around her.”I started to kind of get caught by the spinning and I heard in my brain ‘Just swim.’ So I put my head down and started to swim, and it started to go away,” Cable said. ” And then I had the dueling voices of ‘I can’t do this,’ ‘I can do this,’ ‘I can’t do this,’ which I then overrode with just swimming.”Another obstacle that became especially annoying during the bike leg was the swirling ho’o mumuku headwinds. Cable rode into the gale on the 60 miles to Hawi, which then switched directions, forcing her to ride into the wind again on the return leg back to Kona.But it was the advice given by a friend that helped her keep going despite all obstacles.”You’re going to feel a lot of stuff out there. Things are going to be good and things are going to be bad,” she recounted, “but don’t get attached to any of the things that you feel. Let go of everything because things are going to change. Just let go of it.”In persevering despite the winds, Cable let go of everything except for the support she carried with her from the Truckee community and the many volunteers along the course.
“It’s that kind of test of the human spirit that makes you realize you have a lot more skill and ability than you realize, because it’s all put to the test,” she said. “And knowing that I had the support of my community behind me and those 3,000 volunteers out there made me feel like I was never alone, even when on the bike I was totally alone so often.” Without that assistance, Cable might not have even made it to the competition, as one of her main fundraisers was promising to send financial supporters postcards from Hawaii with a personalized post-race note. She ended up sending back more than 150 postcards, she said – a testament to the amount of encouragement she has received from everyone in town.Check it outOn Saturday, Truckee residents will have the chance to witness what triathlete Candace Cable endured when the Hawaiian Ironman Triathlon World Championship is broadcast on NBC (KCRA channel 3 if you are a cable subscriber. The broadcast airs on Nov. 20 from 1 3 p.m. Cable is not sure if she will make the broadcast, but as one of six wheelchair athletes competing in this year’s race, her story is an interesting one that may very well be featured.
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