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Iron women



Two locals share stories from the 2001 Ironman Championships

Neither Mae Palm nor Dawn Weberg-Titus knew what to expect once they got to Kona, Hawaii for the World Ironman championships on Oct. 6. They were both just happy to qualify.

They had heard last year’s race was the windiest on record, and were prepared for more of the same – but neither racer realized just how windy things could get.

"I though Squamish was windy, and thought ‘just how bad can it be?’" says Palm, a 61-year-old veteran endurance racer who battled crosswinds in excess of 90 km/h to win the women’s 60 to 65 race in a time of 14 hours and 46 minutes. "I soon learned that my concept of wind and their concept of wind were completely different things. I had trouble just keeping my bike on the road."

At one point Palm passed a woman who was holding on to the handlebars of her bike as it flapped in the wind "like a flag." Every time she managed to wrestle it to the ground, another gust of wind would pick it up again.

"I wanted to help her, but I knew if I ever got off my bike I probably wouldn’t be able to get back on. I had enough trouble keeping my own bike in the bike lane, I was always blowing over the yellow centre line, towards the traffic that was coming the other way. Fortunately there wasn’t much traffic coming the other way, only a couple of media vehicles, but it was really scary at times," says Palm.

A course marshal finally went and helped the woman, seeing that she was only racing in the recreational category; it would have been against the rules to help her if she had been in the pro division.

"The worst part was that you didn’t know which way it was going to hit you. One moment you’re leaning right, into the wind, and suddenly the direction would change and you would have to lean the other way – and fast – or get blown off the road."

Palm says it was as much a mental battle as it was a physical one to complete the 112 mile (180 km) bicycle section, and wished that she had at least driven the course once so she would know where the turnaround point was. She drew her strength from the other riders, who were going through the same things. Her biggest boost came from Weberg-Titus and Patrick Wadge of Squamish, who were already well ahead of Mae, but shouted encouragement to her as their paths crossed.