Alright folks, this is a long one, but so is a year of training. And so is a race that consists of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride, and a 26.2 mile run.
Registration was in May 2011.
To say that the year of training went without a hitch would be an exaggeration.
There were no flat tires. No rotator cuff tears. No IT band inflammation.
But, there was that peskey Gallbladder back in October.
And after the diabetes discovery there was a short debate as to whether or not to continue to pursue this dream. It turns out that having this race scheduled was not only a good motivation to remain active and nutritionally on target, but the training was a great distraction during a frustrating time.
Our Irondad was unbelievably dedicated, with early alarms, many 2-a-day workouts, and lots and lots of miles covered.
A great point along the training route was completing and cheering on the San Juan 1/2 Ironman.
Everyone was right on target with training and enthusiasm.
Heading to TX for this race was a family affair. At one point or another everyone participated in the training, and everyone was going to be there when Irondad crossed the finish line.
First I share the spectator point of view:
I had been part of a cheering team at one other Ironman a few years ago. I remembered that it was EXHAUSTING. With 4 kids in tow, I knew that we needed to be ultra organized. We had clothes laid out, signs made, snacks packed, noise makers, activities, sunscreen, cameras and phones charged, and a plan for drop offs, parking and spectating. We were ready to go when the alarm rang out at 4:15 am.
Off to the swim!
I dropped Irondad and the kids off at the Swim start, while I parked near the bike transition area. (Important for when the bike would be loaded back in the car hours later.) I made the 1.5 mile walk back to the starting line.
The time passed quickly and the sights and sounds were amusing.
Swimming lessons anyone?
And this was my favorite conversation: Irondude 1 says to Irondude 2: “Okay, so this isn’t like a 5k, we need to pace ourselves.” Good philosophy Irondude, hope you have a little training done to back up that stellar plan.
Back at the race start,
I met up with my gang. Everyone was marked up with Irondad’s number: 1979.
While the air was think with nerves and anticipation, the kids were swinging away, without a care in this world.
Have I ever mentioned that I LOVE that my children immediately come to a halt and put their hand over their heart with the first note of the National Anthem, Reveille or Retreat?
Time to get in the water – “Good Luck!”
The morning air felt great, but with such a warm winter in TX, the water temperature was reading 81 degrees. That meant that it would be a wet-suit optional swim. If you opted to wear a wet suit you could not qualify for Kona, you could not win any awards and you would take a 10 minute penalty. Since wearing a wet suit was part of his training plan, Irondad opted to wait the 10 minutes. As you watch the 7:00 start, you will see that waiting was wise, and he started catching the earlier starters in just about 500 meters.
The 7:00 am start:
Let the games begin!
The kids and I hustled to the Swim/Bike transition. We could walk our 1.5 miles and still have time to find a good viewing location. Now, at about 8:00 am, some of us were a little tired.
With 2500 bodies swimming down the canal, I was regretting that we didn’t mark up his cap with an identifying symbol…. but the we were able to pick him out of the school of swimmers. How? With each stroke, he waved at us.
Strokes looked strong and smooth.
And just as I wondered “how are you feeling?” Irondad read my mind.
We all scrambled to be at different portions for the swim to bike transition.
Caitlyn saw him get out of the water.
We saw him grab his changing bag.
He went in to grab his bike,
And Harry and I watched him ride away.
A little motivation for the ride:
The next few hours were re-charging for everyone (including the phones.) We ate, we read and we ate some more.
Time to find our cheering place! Just along the canal provided cool breezes, lots of viewing and some distractions.
Harry kept cool in the sprayground. While the girls “rested their eyes” until Dad came by.
He has been spotted!
I love being out to support runners/walkers. As one who has been on the receiving end of many kind words, I know how much of a difference it can make. Being called by name will put spring in your step. A high-five from a kid is inspiration to continue on. A funny sign can keep you chuckling for another mile.
Harry’s shouts of “I BELIEEEEEVE! I believe in you and you and you! I believe you can finish this Ironman!” were met with many smiles. It also alerted me that he may have a preaching gig somewhere in his future.
Since the run course lapped three times, we came to recognize a number of runners. Aside from our Irondad, the kids got a kick out of cheering for Fireman Rob. He does numerous events dressed in his gear, raising money for charity.
Check out his website. http://www.code3foracure.org/2012mission.html
We cheered along the canal.
We cheered from the bridges.
At one point Harry had turned into a one-man-band. A cow bell, a horn, a sign and some more motivational words: “You’re looking GOOD! Actually, you’re looking GREEEEEEEAT!”
While the athletes loved him, I was waiting for some of the other spectators to offer to pay him to quiet down. Actually, his sisters were actually offering to pay him to stop altogether. We had all been at this for about 12 hours now, everyone was a little testy.
It turns out that Irondad planned to call it a day around mile 13 or 14 of the Marathon. Then he decided that finishing the race would be easier than actually telling me that he was stopping. While that makes me sound really mean, it was fairly true. I WOULD NOT HAVE LET HIM QUIT. Okay, if it were a medical emergency, I would. But pain that would pass? Losing hope? Lack of determination? Nope, I wouldn’t have let him. I had a few tricks up my sleeve. Words that I knew would get him to the end. But I never needed to use them.
The sun was setting, one lap to go.
With the bike retrieved and packed in the car, we were back along the finish chute. If ever in your life you have an opportunity to watch the finish of a marathon, or a half or full Ironman, Do It! You will be inspired beyond belief. All ages. All abilities. All shapes and sizes. Watching complete strangers accomplish such insurmountable goals will move you to tears. Watching someone you know and love is even more emotional.
The time had arrived. What we had waited a year to see. A year plus 15 hours and 47 minutes. That moment had arrived!
YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!
Now that guy who is usually a man of very few words shares his experience (I suppose 15+ hours gives one some time to for reflection):
Recap of Memorial Hermann Ironman Texas 19 May 2012.
I thought the air temperature (61 start; high of 89) was great. Training in Puerto Rico definitely helped my heat acclimation. Water was warm (81.3) so the race was wet suit optional. I wore one because that had always been my plan. The wet suit people started 10 minutes later (7:10) then everyone else. The swim has always been my best event so I was really comfortable and got into a rhythm despite being kicked, hit and pawed. I did the swim in 1:25 (actually 1:15 with the 10 minute “penalty”).
I got out of the water feeling good and started the bike. I thought the roads were really smooth and averaged 17.5 for the first half. Stopped at the special needs which I would recommend for everyone to do. Those 3 minutes off the bike definitely refresh you. As I started the turn to the south, I hit the 10 mph head wind. Miles 60 to 80 was the hardest part. The roads were rougher, a headwind and strong sun. After this the roads got better along with the crowds and shade. I finished the bike in 6:51. I felt good, but I was ready to get off the bike. My ”plan” was still intact. I walked the first mile (that was my plan) and my feet felt funny, but I just thought they were just asleep. I started running 1 minute, walking 1 minutes, but stopped at mile 4 to check my feet. I saw the blisters and covered them in vaseline, but by mile 6, I knew I would have to walk the rest of the way. The blisters on my feet were a big surprise. I had never gotten even a hot spot on my feet from biking before, but all the training I did here was very flat. I guess those rolling hills of Texas were enough to make them form.
In every section of the race there is a time when you will question if you can get through it. It depends on how you deal with that questioning if you will get through.
I knew I had plenty of time to finish but it was pretty demoralizing because my “plan” had fallen apart. Jackie and the kids came to the rescue though. Their cheering and positive attitude pushed me on to mile 13. At this point I had decided to quit. Then at mile 14, I dug deep and starting talking to myself out loud (not a single person looked at me like I was crazy), pushing myself, reminding myself what I did to get here, thinking of Jackie and the kids, along with a hundred other things. I saw my motivation team again around mile 16 and knew I was almost to single digits. All I had to do was NOT stop. By now the blisters on my feet were about 2 inches across and new blisters had formed on my heels from walking funny.
Stomach, legs, hydration, energy levels, all were really good. I just wanted to cut off my feet.
At this point the Ironman became a mental challenge more than a physical one. It is amazing what you can do with will power. The power of a child’s cheer or wife’s look of belief in you can be stronger than any drug. It can help you more than any piece of expensive equipment or training book.
The finish was outstanding and Jackie and the kids were still there cheering, making it that much more special. The Ironman is NOT an individual event, it takes hundreds of volunteers and it takes the sacrifice of family to ge t through the training and the event.
The Final words — “YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!” 15:47:58
Will I ever do another? — Maybe.
Will I ever volunteer at an Iroman event? — Definitely People make a huge difference.
A Wind-Inspired Production: