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Ester Marsh column: Half Iron Man just 5 days away

It is just five days before the big climax of my 40-week journey. I will soon be at Wilmington Beach for the annual Beach to Battleship Half and Full Iron Man. I am excited, nervous and even a bit anxious. Just like I used to be when I competed in judo, body building, running and other competitive sports. I trained to win and I also would rather pass out than give up. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, right?

I think this “old dog” learned a good one. This journey has been wonderful. My workouts were hard and long at times but never at the level I used to train. Yesterday, I did an hour swim in High Rock Lake, which was beautiful. My daughter Edie was beside me in a friend’s canoe and we were able to start at a gorgeous area at High Rock Lake of one of my “Esterettes” (people who take my classes).

I am “only” doing the half Iron Man, which is a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and a half marathon run, all totaling 70.3 miles. Lawyers Earle Koontz and Pete Smith are doing the half also. Earle actually convinced me to enter because I was worried I wouldn’t be able to stay injury free throughout my training.

Earle was also the one that recommended that I get the insurance. For an extra $40, you get your entry money back if you are injured so I signed up the next day. Other Salisburians and friends Mike Mangum and Joe Campola and tennis pro Bobby Cristman have trained for the big one. If there are others in either races, good luck to you, too!

They go double my distances —2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and a full marathon. They will be at it for a while. I am so proud of everyone and gracious of all the support I have received. It will be a challenging journey.

I already know that I am number 3519 and that I am in the first wave of the half Iron Man. That means the first people will go in the water at 8:30 a.m. and every 4 minutes thereafter, other age groups will enter the water.

The full Iron Man starts at 7:20 a.m. and they all start from the beach. At one point, both groups will be in the water at the same time! So, now my goal is to stay cool and collected. I don’t want that competitive spirit to kick in and overexert myself.  I have trained to start and finish this race, and that is my No. 1 goal.

I want to thank Eva Nelson for letting me use her wonderful bike, which fits me perfectly, and all our wonderful YMCA members and Rowan County residents for supporting not just me but all the runners and bikers who are sharing the roads while we are doing our workouts. It has gotten a lot better. Yes, there are still those mindless drivers who honk, show a certain finger or even try to run you off the road, but those instances are fortunately few and far between.

This community has become so active since I have arrived 20 years ago and I love it! I can’t wait to tell you about my journey and if you don’t mind, please keep me and all other competitors in your thoughts and prayers for safety and to finish our goals.

And lastly, a special thank you to my husband Kevin Marsh who has been so supportive through it all. I could not have gone through this journey without you.

Ester H Marsh Associate Executive Director JF Hurley family YMCA

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