by marlys good
Imagine swimming 2.4 miles, going on a 112-mile bike ride, and running 26.22 miles. No break in between; one after the other in that order, and completing all three in 17 hours or less. Anyone who can accomplish the task becomes an “Ironman.”
Meet Sibyl Govan, 46-year-old daughter of David and Julie Owens of Greybull who became an “Ironman” on Sunday, Aug. 12. Sibyl, mother, and grandmother, lives in Helena, Mont., where she is a project manager for the State of Montana.
The swimming, bike ride and marathon were part of the Ironman Triathlon that was held in Couer d’Alene, Idaho, Sunday, Aug. 21. Julie was in Couer d’Alene to watch the triathlon and said of her “Ironman” daughter, “Pride isn’t a big enough word for what we are feeling about her.”
Govan did it in style. She swam the 2.4 miles in 1:15.39, biked the 112 miles in 7:44.57 and completed the 26.22 miles in 5:18.58. Her total time of 14 hours, 36 minutes was well within the mandatory 17 hours.
The Ironman race typically starts at 7 a.m.; the mandatory swim cut off time for the 2.4 miles is 9:20 (two hours, 20 minutes); mandatory bike cut off time is 5:30 p.m. (eight hours, 10 minutes) and the mandatory marathon cut off is midnight – six hours and 30 minutes.
Govan started the grueling competition at 6:11 a.m., and crossed the line in the marathon at 8:45 p.m.
Owens said her daughter did not start working out, until “she became a grandma three years ago. Her husband is a biker, so she started biking with him, and just got fitter and fitter.” She has always been a swimming enthusiast; one thing led to another – and to the Ironman competition.
Govan wrote after the race:
“I woke up (day of race) at 3 a.m. feeling serene and well-rested, visualizing what a great day it was going to be.”
She got to the transition venue by 5:15 to get “marked, prep the bike and drop off my special needs bags by the time transition closed at 5:45.”
She was still calm as she donned her wet suit for the swim. “I felt very comfortable keeping pace with others around me and was able to take advantage of lots of drafting opportunities. I took a few good smacks to the head, but no injuries. Before I knew it, I was out of the water and headed for my second loop, which went just as well as the first.”
She finished this portion of the competition in 1:15.39, and then headed for the changing tent, emerged and started the 112-mile bicycle ride.
“On the first loop the weather was ideal; I didn’t notice any wind. I was having a nice time, not realizing how far I was falling behind my training pace. My knee felt great until mile 48, when it went to hell on the last big hill.” She babied the knee back through town, took her time at Special Needs, mile 63, took some pain meds, applied some Volaren, mixed a bottle of Perpetuem and went potty. I felt much better after that stop and my knee never bothered me again.”
A 20-25 mph headwind made for slow going on the second loop. “I didn’t let it get me down; I just stayed in aero and concentrated on the work. I couldn’t wait to turn around at mile 90 and sail back into town.”
She covered the 11-bike course in 7:44.57, changed into her running attire and started the marathon, the final grueling test.,
“I walked a little bit before starting 4:1 intervals. My gel flask and holder were driving me crazy so I threw them in a garbage can. Gel was back-up fuel anyway; my main fuels would be Perpetuem from my 10 ounce bottle and fruit from the aid stations.”
Govan said she “started to feel just a little bit bonkish at mile 15. My legs got really heavy and my brain went numb. I walked the next few intervals; stumbled into Special Needs (mile 18) and sat down for a minute. I couldn’t figure out what I was supposed to do. Finally, I grabbed a Kind bar, mixed another bottle of Perpetuem and got moving.”
The third loop passed in a happy blur, she heard lots of encouragement, the sun set over the lake just as she made her final turnaround and headed back toward Sherman Avenue. “I felt so much better than I had expected to feel at this point and was so excited to get to the finish line.”
There were lots of positives in the experience: taking her entire family, renting a house in Couer d’Alene, and turning the Ironman race into a real family vacation; swimming like a fish, having a good hydration system on the bike; having her best friend “cheering like a madwoman on the downtown part of the course,” having her family (her mom included) cheering like crazy people in the neighborhood part of the course and discovering that orange slices taste like heaven on the run course. “Weird,” she said. “I don’t even like oranges in real life,” and finally “getting hugs and power-ups from the kids.“
It was a long, grueling, albeit exciting day. Govan said after it was over, “I don’t remember hearing ‘Sibyl Govan, you are an Ironman!’ I’ll have to find it on the video.”