Friday, Aug 23
|Louisville does it right!|
|Love my sponsor! We have so much fun!|
|X marks the Finish|
Saturday Aug 24
|Me, Gary, Jill, Beth, Chuck|
I meet up with Jill and Dougin again at 3:15 to walk over to check our bikes and gearbags in (must rack them before 5 pm) - We met up with Lindsey who is our team REFUEL sponsor rep for the weekend. I had met Lindsey when I raced in Nashville earlier this year, but had yet to see her this weekend. She made my day by telling me she barely recognized me because of how fit I looked today. We got some pictures together and got our bikes racked and gear checked in. This process was the first REAL moment for me. Something about dropping my bike off and having packed my gear bags with EXACTLY what all I thought I needed for race day, and now leaving them in transition created some unexpected anxiety, but again, Jill and Dougin were awesome in reassuring me of everything.
|Is this where my bike goes?|
The MAFS crew decided to meet up for a group picture, and it was one last chance to wish everyone good luck tomorrow. Molly and I went on our own back down to Fourth Street for dinner, and after some debate settled on a Potbelly sandwich that gave me exactly what I needed for a light early dinner. Shuffled back to the room, and double checked my lists and plans for race day and was laying in bed watching the Colts game at 7. By 8:30 or halftime I shut it off and set the alarm for 4:15. I actually had very little problem falling asleep.
Sunday Aug 25 - RACE DAY
I first woke up at 2:15, and then Molly woke me up at 3. This was planned so that I could eat a pre-breakfast. This was important to top off all of my fuels for the day and it helped jumpstart my digestive system for the day so that I could have some relief in the bathroom before we left. I dozed on and off as I played out the possibilities of the day in my mind. And at 4:10 I got up and began my prep. The plan was to meet Jill and Dougin in the lobby at 4:45. She originally said 5:00, but I wanted the extra 15 minutes. Transition actually opened at 4:45 and I'm sure there was a line to get in, as by the time we got there it was really hopping with athletes prepping their gear, pumping their tires, loading the nutrition and water bottles on their bikes, etc. My setup was pretty easy, just load the bottles on my bike and turn on the MyAthlete tracker that I would put on after the swim. Oh and pump up my tires...yes, seems simple enough until I borrow a bike pump from someone else. Without a quick "how to" use the pump which was different than mine and therefore when I attach it, it pulls the stem OUT and ALL THE AIR RUSHES OUT! I NOW HAVE A FLAT FRONT TIRE, and part of the stem is hanging out of the end of the pump. *GULP*
I panic immediately thinking I need to get my bike to the tech area for them to fix it. The pump owner is able to pull the stem out of the pump, and I'm now carrying my bike to the tech line which is at least 20 people/bikes long (not sure why I didn't just take the front wheel off - duh!). I'm looking for Dougin thinking he probably knows a thing or two about bikes, but can't find him. I flag down Molly and am panicked to tell her what has happened. The guy in the tech line behind me overhears my story and says this is not uncommon and I can twist the stem head back into the stem. I had tried this with no luck once...because I had it upside down! *DUH AGAIN*, so I twist it in and sure enough it goes right back in. Someone near the fence had just finished with her pump (that looked like mine), so I asked to borrow it and held my breath while I pumped feverishly to get the tire up over 100 psi. I kept telling myself there is no way this tire is going to hold air all day, and I was just sure that it was going to wreck havoc on things to come. Nevertheless, I returned it to the rack, and finished my setup. Once I rejoined Jill and Dougin I explained what had happened, and they confirmed that it should be no big deal. In fact Jill went on to say the good news is "your one bad thing for the day is now out of the way". Not sure I believed that, but it was calming.
We began the long walk to the swim start (nearly a mile). Lindsey had lined up an interview for us with local media to begin at 6 a.m. We arrived to meet her at 5:45 and got our body markings. Most Ironman races begin with a mass start in the water, but this one begins with a single file line and everyone jumping in the water off the docks (6 athletes every 2 seconds until everyone is in the water which takes about 40 minutes). We decide we need to take our place in line and then beg those around us to understand that Dougin was holding our place while we needed to do an interview and will come back. Thinking it will just take us a minute or two to walk to the end of the line - WRONG! The line was over a half mile long and took us nearly 10 minutes to reach the end of the line. Found Gary sitting in line (probably looked like a deer in headlights to him). Passed Chuck already in line, and he said Amy was near the front of the line (she must have got up early for that spot). It is now 5:58 and there is no way we are making a 6:00 interview. I borrow another athlete's cell phone to call Molly and explain the situation and she puts Lindsey on the phone who was VERY understanding of the situation and allowed us to bypass the interview in order to reduce the stress of the situation.
So now we have an hour to SIT and WAIT! This was the longest hour of the day! To be so mentally ready, but to make your body sit on a concrete sidewalk and wait for an hour! Ugh! There has to be a better way! We literally watched the sun come up, and kayaks enter the water in anticipation of the start, the line finally stood and moved slowly around 6:45 before the cannon went off at 6:50 for the pro start. *cue the nerves* I called Molly again (thank you fellow athlete) to make sure she was on her way to us as I needed to give her my things, and she was. The 7:00 cannon went off for the age groupers, and now the line is moving quickly. Molly arrives and tells us all the cool things we missed like the Trumpeter playing "My Old Kentucky Home" and "Call to Post" The national anthem and the pro start which she viewed from the VIP area in an overlooking restaurant (where she also enjoyed a steak and egg buffet breakfast with mimosas ). The line is moving swiftly and I'm getting quite nervous now. I jump into a port a pot (now that there is no line for it) and take my last nervous pee. I run back up to the gang and Luke is there to give me some encouragement. "Take each sport one at a time. It's a long day. Focus on what you can control. You got this." BIG HUGS!
I kiss my wife good bye, and cross under the swim arch. We are now literally jogging down a long winding ramp to the docks below, and knowing Molly was on the VIP balcony I wave to her one more time, start my watch, and jump in!
With my hands on my goggles I go under water and pop up quickly to get into my stroke. Goggles stayed on and I've got a good start. Plenty of clearing and very few collisions with other athletes. The sun is behind the trees as we swim between Towhead island and the marina/trees. There are 6 yellow buoys before we get to the red turn buoy. We are swimming East straight into the current, and as I learned at the practice swim yesterday, that current is REAL, and you have to WORK to get through it! I keep my head down and keep stroking, pulling harder than I had planned to in order to fight the current. Once past buoy 4 which is near the end of the island we veer to the left and sighting is made more difficult by the sun in our eyes. No problems until I reach the red turn buoy where the congestion was enhanced by everyone fighting for the shortest line. Everyone is breast stroking and treading water to get around it as you loop all the way around it nearly 180 degrees! I check my watch and it has already been 37 minutes! There are a total of 18 buoys plus the turn buoy so I figure I'm only a third of the way into this thing, so 37 X 3 is WAY too slow... But now, I'm swimming WITH the current...and it was GREAT! I got into a great rhythm cruising past buoys 7, 8 and 9, and now we start counting Orange buoys 1-9, but first I stop on a "lilly pad" to adjust my goggles and massage the bridge of my nose which was hurting from my goggles being too tight. The lilly pads are hard foam floating islands about 5'X5' with a rope around it. You can hold on and rest as you need to, but it does not move to advance position. Some very encouraging words from the lifeguard on the pad, and I'm off again. We swim under the pedestrian bridge first, and then under I-65, and I mixed in about 10 breast strokes for every 20-30 freestyle strokes to slow my breathing and give the arms a break. Once I passed orange buoy 6 I was pleased to see that buoys 7, 8, and 9 were much closer and lead straight to the final red turn buoy which essentially marked the swim finish. I swam strong off a draft from an athlete ahead of me, and reached the stairs much quicker than I expected. Climbing up the stairs and gaining my composure, I check my watch with MUCH delight!
Official swim time 1:22:36 - This was MUCH better than my "A" goal of 1:30 - VERY pleased!
After the swim I am 247th in my age group, 1392nd among men, and 1744th overall
(Note: The fastest pro time today was 46 minutes, and my new friend Dougin swam a 50:21 (first in his age group)! Wow!
I walk the bike WELL past the mount line to find a clear space away from the crowd to get on and clip in. This is a very congested area and highly prone for accidents. I press the Garmin lap button to switch it from T1 to Bike...and nothing happens! I press it again, and it lets out a faded beep as if to say "help me!" Seriously, Garmin, come on! I press it again and nothing. All this while pedaling up to speed, and trying to get my first nutrition in me and avoiding cyclists coming around me. This goes on for a couple miles and I was really disappointed, but ultimately decided I had to do something different. So I STOP the watch at 1:40. I figured this would be an easy total elapsed time for me to remember so that I could add it to my time at the end of the day and know what my total time was. I press and hold RESET, and then choose the bike mode, then press start. I now have a bike time running and will be able to monitor my pace...or so I thought...for some reason, the watch is showing my speed as 0.1 mph and distance traveled of 137 feet...translation=The GPS is NOT WORKING! Many of you know how heavily I rely on my Garmin data for training and racing. This was not cool! This means I will have to use the cateye bike computer to gauge my success on the bike today which has a running clock, distance, speed, cadence, etc., and thankfully I just changed the batteries in it last week! However, I did not reset it back to zero after my flat tire panic which means it was showing several elapsed minutes already. I decided I could deal with it as long as the clock on the Garmin was running so I knew what my total bike time for the day would be.
As for the bike course, I had never had a chance to ride the course, and ran out of time on Saturday when I had hoped to drive the bike course, so I had no idea what I was in for. The flat ride out of downtown was easy and uneventful. I used this to load in some nutrition and get into a rhythm, but the first turn out of town had us on a climb that required some work. I would later learn this hill was NOTHING compared to what was to come. It's 18 miles out to highway 1694 which is known as "the out and back". It is exactly what it sounds, but it is the most dangerous section of the course by far. All I knew about this was Amy F had told me to "just stay to the right". The elevation changes quickly on a rapid down hill descent on a narrow road that includes a technical right hand curve to a bumpy bridge at the bottom. I was riding the brakes and caught nearly 40 mph while other cyclists were still screaming by me on the outside. Making matters more dangerous is that there are cyclists on their way back from the turnaround who are struggling to climb this hill in the other lane and there's very little room for error. This would explain the devastation that I came upon at the bottom of the hill. Bodies and bicycles are littering the center of the road after a major crash that resulted in some injuries and bike damage that ended the day for several athletes. I'm sure wrecklessness played a major role in this and I was in a defensive mode during this entire section. At the top of the hill is aid station 2 and again I witnessed many bikes running into each other as they tried to navigate in and out of the aid station. I got my needs and got out. Screamed back down the hill on the way back, and fought my way back to the top using my little ring and easiest gear the entire time at a higher cadence but very low speed. Bottom line for me is that the out and back is an extremely dangerous stretch of the race, and while the challenge of the hills is appreciated, the risk involved is not worth it to me, and I feel it should be removed from the race course.
Once the out and back is completed it's on to a section called the loops. Simply put we do two laps in this section. Each lap is about 30 miles around. There are a couple major hills in this area as well, the first of which has some riders getting off their bike and PUSHING their bike up the hill! I was lucky to not have to do this, but really spent a great deal of energy and burned up my quad muscles to climb these. We come through a small community with aid station 3 and crowds of people that we have not had in miles, and I pass by the special needs area that I will get on my second lap. The hills are not quite as bad through here and one lady even yelled out, "welcome to the flat lands"! I was beginning to feel some cramping already, so began my routine of popping salt tabs on the hour! All other nutrition is right on with gels every 45 minutes and a half a payday every hour opposite the salt. The next small town is LaGrange and this is a community that embraces Ironman! The local church was having an outdoor church service, and several of the members were roadside cheering for us. As we turn into the heart of the downtown I am overwhelmed with the walls of people on both sides of the road! The first person I recognize is Amy Fletcher's husband, Doug, who yells out, "Go Chocolate Milk"! This boosted me a great deal, but I didn't want to increase my speed too much as I'm watching for Molly and company.
It wasn't long before I got into the heart of the downtown which is gated off so pedestrians can not cross the road in front of us, and while scanning both sides for my supporters, I spot Pete's hat before anything else! Yes, Pete and Amy had driven down on race morning to cheer the MAFS crew on! There stood Pete and Amy with Molly and Staci cheering me on as loud as they could as I zipped by at nearly 20 mph. Would have loved to have stopped and chatted, but that's not how this works! Feeling confident I push on through mile 40 and 50 climbing up and flying down each of the rolling country hills. There are beautiful horse farms in this neck of the woods overlooking thousands and thousands of rolling acres. The miles and miles of white fence are beautiful to see even while pushing 300 watts up a hill that seems to never end! This stretch of road has more and more flat tires and broken bikes on the road side than anywhere else. Little scooters with spare parts and bike wheels come zipping by to help stranded cyclists, but I'm thankful not to need their services. At one point, I couldn't get my gears to shift back to the big ring, but this only hurt me on the downhills that I would have liked to push a little more on. Maybe a good thing that I saved the legs and coasted down instead. Mile 60 brings lap two of the loops and I'm feeling more confident about this now that I know what to expect and think I can make better gear selection choices through here. I was also pleased that I started my second lap before the leaders caught me. I was just sure Patrick Evoe or Chris McDonald was going to come screaming by me on their way back to downtown, but it never happened. Though at the same time I'm doing the math in my head and know that I'm a little behind where I'd prefer to be.
Once through the next aid station, I know I'm going to find my special needs bag soon, and come to the station where if I yell out my number they will radio it in and a volunteer will have my bag ready for me. I yell out 1584 and seconds later I arrive at the area marked 1500-1600 where little Xander and his mom are waiting for me. Xander is about the size of my Emma, and he handed me my bag with a smile. His mom says to him, "let's see what he has in his bag" (must have been their ongoing mystery game of the day). When I pulled out my Uncrustable he laughed and smiled and I asked him if he likes them, he says yes. Then I reach in and pull out my Peanut M&Ms and asked if he'd like some. He smiles and says "no thanks", but it warmed my heart to be stopped and having a social moment with this youngster. I grab all my other nutrition and load up my pockets. I open the ibuprofen and take it with water right away. I thank them and then start to roll away only to realize that there is a place you can pull off and eat or rest. I didn't want to try to eat while rolling, so I pulled in to stop and eat my Uncrustable. When I got into the parking lot a volunteer asked if she could hold my bike for me, and I could see the portapot was available, so I thought to myself sure, why not?! So I got off the bike, and waddled to the bathroom to test my hydration. My thought was that I didn't feel like I had to pee, but if I could, then I was drinking enough...and if I couldn't, then I needed to drink more. Good news...I can pee! As pleased with myself as a 2 year old going for the first time, I head back to my bike and scarf down my Uncrustable and dump my Peanut M&Ms into my bento box to snack on over the miles to come. I push off and would guess I was only stopped for a total of 3 minutes max!
Shortly thereafter and headed toward mile 70, I pass through LaGrange again, and as expected my support crew was in the same place cheering me on just as they had over an hour and half ago! So now my tummy is full, and I'm well hydrated, I got my last boost of love from my supporters, and I'm looking for mile 80 now! I remember Gary telling me that with 33 to go on the bike he was going to put his head down and go to work. Who knew getting to that point was going to be as hard as it was?! At mile 80 (or thereabouts, the details are fuzzy) I find Doug standing on a corner cheering for me! No clue where I was (I think the sign said Sligo?), or where he was, or how he got there, but that guy knows how to navigate this course better than any other spectator! Not to be outdone, just a few miles later I come to another intersection to find Pete and Amy along the roadside waiting to find me. I learned later that they rode their bikes across the middle of the loop (about 4 miles) to find me and upon arriving Pete blew a tire on his bike. A local helped get him get fixed up and on his way. Amazing what my friends put themselves through to support me! Finally I reach mile 90 and am done with the loop section, now it's 22 miles straight back to downtown Louisville. And while 22 doesn't sound like much at this point, the simple math says at 15mph (which is what my cateye is showing my pace as) It will take me another 90 minutes to get there! Ugh! The rolling hills continue, and to add to the difficulty the traffic has picked up a great deal. The course is not closed, but there is not much traffic outside of the little towns, but when there is, it is dangerous. We've since learned of a cyclist crashing into a car at the edge of LaGrange resulting in broken bones, and I'm sure that other wrecks occurred as a result of motorists being on the road. Realize the challenge for a car is climbing a hill at 6 mph behind a cyclist climbing that hill while another cyclist is coming up behind that car. The car can't get out and around to pass because we're going up a hill so the driver can't see what's coming over the hill in the opposite direction. I was in enough pain at this point, that I had no business pushing myself up on the bumper of a car, but rather just laid back and increased my cadence in the small ring to climb to the top.
Eventually we do get some relief and by mile 100 I can see the Ohio River on my right, and I can see the tall buildings of downtown Louisville up ahead, but still have 40 minutes in the saddle, and my butt hurts!!! I had only done one 100 mile training ride, and the pain in my butt and toes was bad then...this was worse! I continued flexing my calves to find relief in the toes, but nothing seemed to help. Not too many left around me because so many have passed me by now, but those that remained were often friendly commenting on how far we'd come, and we "only" had a marathon left to go, etc. but at this point I'm not sure what my legs will be able to do. The back feels good, but the legs and feet are hurting and my stomach is beginning to turn and I don't know if I've eaten too much or not enough, but I know the jostling running motion will be tough.
The end is in sight and before I navigate the final turn toward the dismount line I spot Molly jumping up and down yelling for me, I smile but can't wave because I'm turning in and over a curb (ouch) and coast right up to the dismount line as I unclip and firmly plant both feet on the ground. *pause* I want to make sure I can stand before I throw my leg over the seat to dismount. Everything feels pretty good and I can waddle better than a western cowboy who just got off his horse. I grab my water from my bike, and hand it off to a volunteer who will rerack it for me while I head off to change.
Official Bike Time: 7:24:50 (15.11 mph avg) - I missed my "B" goal of 7:10 but met my "C" Goal of 7:30 - while it wasn't the time I wanted, I can't be disappointed as I had no idea what those hills were going to be like, and I did all this on my $600 Specialized road bike with stock wheels and no aero bars. Can't help but wonder how much better I might be on a $1000+ tri bike with race wheels?! This is the only leg of a tri that I feel like the gear could make a difference for me.
At this point I have fallen to 283rd in my age group, 1646th among men, and 2042nd overall.
(Note: winner Chris McDonald did the bike in under 4:30 (a course record at nearly 25 mph avg)
No point in running, I want to compose myself and find my legs. But first I need to find my run gear bag. Not as many to choose from, so the volunteer finds it easily and hands it off, and I'm back to the men's tent to change. Quite a variety of strategies going on here. Some sat quickly, removed their helmets, changed their shoes and ran out; while others were getting naked and giving themselves a sponge bath while having tea and crumpets. You get the idea. When I sat down to change shoes I remember thinking how nice it was to sit, but I wanted to be efficient. Slow to remove the shoes and socks, and wipe off my feet I didn't want any dirt on my feet at all going into the marathon. Fresh socks and shoes felt great to put on, and removing the yellow MAFS jersey in exchange for the fresh clean orange REFUEL tri top was the right move! Popped some more ibuprofen and asked a volunteer to put all my gear back in the bag for me. Also, I stopped my watch again, and shut it completely off during this time. The watch never registered my bike data, but the clock kept running so I knew that my overall race time was probably somewhere around 9 hours and with the relief of getting off the bike I knew it was all up to my legs and mind to finish this thing. I grabbed a little Vaseline for the underarms and headed out to the sunscreeners. I turned my watch back on and waited for satellites to find me while the sunscreeners slathered me from head to toe. I'm not gonna lie, I may have lingered here longer than I should. When this woman put her hands on me and started rubbing it in on my shoulders I was happy to wait, but when I took my hat off and she plopped it on my head and started massaging my scalp, I may have gone weak in the knees. Garmin beeped at me that it was ready, so I set it on run mode, and left my massage for a marathon. Climbing the stairs out of transition I cross a timing strip and start the watch.
Total time spent in T2 was 11:05. I'm guessing at least a minute of that was sunscreen and worth every second!
I jog out of the gated area and spot Molly. I'm pointing at my watch to tell her that it has malfunctioned today and I just need to know what time it is. Luke is with her and tells me it is 4:29 pm. I've got to be done by midnight so worst case scenario, I need to do the marathon in 7:30. That should work. Molly asks how I feel and I respond "like crap", and Luke jumps in and says "No, no you don't you feel good, you can do this, let's go" and with a kiss from my wife, they both started jogging beside me. Molly says she'll see me at mile 13 and Luke keeps running. Luke goes into coach mode and immediately has my attention! He says I have a good stride and pace, but to relax my shoulders. He runs up ahead of me and snaps a couple pictures. Then jumps in with me again and says I'm going to run around the block and he'll meet me there, he tells me there's a hill, and I should keep running up it, but take it nice and easy and keep my heart rate low, and that he'll be waiting for me at the top of the hill. As he splits away from me he looks back and says "and keep your head up". I know he meant this literally as in "don't slouch", but I also heard it as "have confidence, you got this". As I came up that hill he was exactly right and there he was reminding me to take it easy and when I got to the top he cheers me on and says excitedly, "that's it, you just saved yourself over 4 minutes by not walking that first mile!" (and he was right), "now keep it up, you've got a lot of fans here waiting to cheer you on" (and again he was right).
To my surprise the first person I saw was Beth McKay. Beth was racing today too, but she was standing on the corner in street clothes smiling and cheering me on. As much as I wanted to stop and find out why her day was over, I knew that stopping would be a HUGE mistake at this early point of the marathon. Later I found out that Beth had muscle cramps during the swim and was actually pulled from the water. Glad she's okay. I also spot Dougin on the road side, but this was not a surprise to me. As I mentioned earlier, he was using this race as a training day. He had a great swim, and the bike was the longest ride for him in quite some time, so he got the training he wanted, but ultimately only ran 1-2 miles into the run and called it a day. Yes, he did this voluntarily. It was all part of his plan. That has to be hard no matter how disciplined he is, but I'm so impressed by his understanding of the big picture, and knowing his body well enough to quit so he can save himself for a more important race later next month. (Good luck Dougin!)
Two bicycles come rolling up beside me and there are my biggest fans Pete and Amy O. Pete says they had to work to catch up to me. They weren't sure where I was and couldn't believe I was already so far into the run. They asked how I was feeling and I told them I was in for a long walk for the rest of the day, but that I'd make it. I told them I was quite sure Chuck was still up ahead of me, but no clue where, so they rode on up to look for him. I worked miles 4, 5 and 6 with some good effort, and saw Jason Tucker working his second lap heading back to his finish. (Jason finished in 11:29 - WOW and congrats!) When I got to mile 6 Pete and Amy had stopped to wait for me, but said they never saw Chuck. I was surprised, and a little concerned figuring the turn around was at 6.5 and he was likely running ahead of me. As it turns out the turn around is actually mile 7, and I did finally find him at the aid station at mile 6.5 where he was coming toward me working his mile 7.5. He and I were in the exact same boat. He said he'd been walking the whole time too, but thought he might be able to run some on the back half. Either way you could tell that, like me, he knew he was going to finish and that was all that mattered.
When I hit the turnaround and was coming back I see Amy F still very close to me, so she had obviously picked up her pace some and I had likely slowed mine down a touch, but at this point, I had committed myself to taking it one mile at a time and making sure there was never a single mile over 15 minutes. I monitored the Garmin regularly and if it slipped over 15, I found a little downhill grade to jog down, or I sucked it up and jogged through the pain to the next aid station to pull the average back down. THIS WORKED for me all night and I was successful because of it. Coming back toward downtown there is one little road near Churchill Downs that requires a very short out and back detour, and this creates a couple back to back aid stations where I decided to add chicken broth to my menu. I had been living on water, perform and flat coke for the last 90 minutes, and I had heard how good the chicken broth would taste, plus it would give me a big shot of sodium that my muscles probably needed versus the sugar I was getting from the coke. I also grabbed a handful of potato chips and within minutes felt significantly better in my stomach. Pete and Amy continue to pop up out of no where and give me plenty of encouragement even getting off their bikes and walking with me from time to time. But it's dinner time, so they pedal off in search of food!
Coming back into town on miles 9-12 I spotted Gary who was jogging well and looking strong starting his second lap, and a few other familiar faces including Derek Hammer who looked impressively strong all day. At mile 12 I spotted Dougin waiting on me, and he joins me for the walk. We talk about how I'm feeling and what I'm dealing with. He tells me what to expect and how the turnaround will work and where I will get my special needs bags. Again, these are all things that I "know", but at this point in the day my mind is so fried, it is good to have someone by my side reminding me of how this thing works! As we approach the turnaround, which is literally a city block, Molly is waiting there for me, and I'm delighted to see her. I'm very excited and my pace is quickening. I get the love I need from her and she says see you again in a few knowing when I circle the block I'll come right back by her on my way out for the second half.
Emotionally this is a tough stretch as you are literally nearing the finish line. You can see and hear everything and you're sharing the road with runners who are .2 miles away from the finish, while I still have over 13 miles to go. Thankfully the crowd support is immense and I was especially pleased to find Monte and Kendra Hitchcock sitting along side the road cheering me on! On the other side of the road there was Amy Thomas taking my picture, and I think I recognized David Poor with her there too, but mere seconds before I turn off for my special needs bag, Reuben McCracken caught me from behind. He looked great! And I was so pleased to be the last one to high five him and congratulate him on his finish as he turned into the finish corral, and I turned off to start my second lap. (Reuben finished in 12:22 - congrats pal!)
As soon as you turn away from the finish chute to start lap two, there are the special needs bags. In my bag I had only put vaseline (for my underarms) and ibuprofen, but I asked Molly to have the kids write me notes of encouragement, as I knew I would need something more at that point! I knew Morgan had written a couple nice things and some silly things as she had taped a sign in my car the night before and tucked a note in my bento box that I found while prepping my bike.
But what Emma did blew me away! (grab your tissues now)
The card reads "I am the one and only Ironman" "And that is who I am. No one is exactly like me"
And when you open it up it reads "When we were little we would finish with you. I still can. Just wear that bracelet and we will finish together"
Affixed to the front of the card around the m-dot logo was a bracelet that she made for me! She used a glue stick to adhere it, and I peeled it off very carefully so as not to rip it. I put it on slowly and as I got to Molly she snapped a picture of it. She had already seen it and knew I would be emotional. I certainly was. I did finally get it on my wrist, and as of this moment, have not taken it off! By the way, mile 14 was my fastest mile since mile 4! So great to have the motivation there!
I also knew this was the last time I would see Molly before the finish, so one final kiss goodbye and I'm off for the last half of the run. Dougin continued with me back out on the run course as he was going to be watching for Jill to finish. He said to me that if I continued at under 15 min pace for 12 more miles, he guessed he would see me again in less than 3 hours! Seems doable! So I leave him behind and am back on my own. I continue with the jogging efforts when I can but it's few and far between. A young lady jogs up beside me and begins walking. I start to walk away from her, but she lengthens her stride to keep up. She's quite short and looks up to me and says, "You walk fast!" I said "yep", she said "how fast are we walking?" and I replied between 14 and 15 minute miles. She said she should walk that fast each time she walks and asked if she could join me, to which I said sure! So Amanda from the D.C. tri club was also doing her first full after having done a handful of 70.3s She had a great swim, but a slower bike, but she still had some running legs, and after a good 10 minute meet and greet, she either lost interest in my stories, or decided she could run again, and off she went. I told her if she got tired, she could wait for me, as I'd be holding this pace for the next 2.5 hours! During this time I saw Gary jogging in nearing the end of his second lap. He looked spent, but I yelled to him to finish strong, and he knew what to do (He did - finishing an impressive 12:59! So proud of you GT!)
Somewhere near mile 17 a familiar voice comes by me. Yep, Amy F caught me, and she's got a nice stride going. She found her running legs again! I told her she looked strong, and keep it up. She snickered and looked back at me and said, "You're gonna be an Ironman"! I laughed out loud, and said back, "Yep, I am!" It's amazing how your friends just know exactly what you need to hear. I watched her jog away from me and wanted to jog up with her, but knew I couldn't. The pain in my feet from the blisters were nearly unbearable by this time. When we reach the turnaround, I can see that she's not all that far ahead of me, so I'm motivated to powerwalk as much and as hard as I can, but it's no use I'm not gaining any ground. And if I am, I don't know it because by now it's getting dark out and I can barely see the hand in front of my face.
My power walking continues to impress many in the late miles as I'm still passing many folks who were walking at a snails pace just trying to keep one foot in front of the other. I overheard a race official give an athlete an ultimatum. "Either get up on your own and show me you can still walk, or I have to call medical and DQ you." Even heard another athlete negotiating with a police officer to let him sit in his air conditioned squad car for just a minute to "catch his breath". Thankful I'm not at this point of desperation, I'm joined by Tom from Tennessee. Tom is a basketball coach and father of 3, and is doing his first full also. He asks the all too familiar question, "how fast are we walking", and I reply again, "under 15 minute pace, and I'm holding this all the way to the finish!" As impressed as he was, he decided he could jog on ahead. He stopped to walk the next aid station where I power walked right by him, and he never caught up to me again.
This was all great until mile 19 when I struggled to hold that pace, I had to jog a little to pull it down to a 14:52 mile, and again during mile 20 to pull it down to a 14:54 mile, both times just before it clicked over to the next mile, but I held on to my goal. Mile 21 and 22 were not much better and I decided I had hit my "wall". I overheard a guy say to another, "what's his hurry, we can walk 20 minute pace from here and still finish before 11 p.m.", and I almost let him get to me and give in, but that was not what I'm about. It would have been "easy" to let myself fall into that trap, but I refused and pressed on. It was at that moment that out of the darkness emerged those familiar faces....Pete and Amy were still on their bikes chasing me around at 10 p.m. in the dark! Pete asked how I was doing and I told him I was jealous that I hadn't gotten one of those cool glow-in-the-dark necklaces that everybody else had. He said, I'll take care of ya, and robbed some volunteer of two them, but they didn't have any connectors, so he twisted them together like a bracelet for me; one for each arm. I laughed and thanked him and then told him what I was really thinking. How I wanted to press on and get my best possible time, but I felt like I had hit my wall. We shared some stats and did some math together, and he basically convinced me that if I wanted to dig deep, I could make a run for the finish line and have the strong finish that I truly desired, and so I did!
He left me, and I spent the next 4 miles focusing on that pace, I saved mile 22, but 23 was weak. I pushed hard through mile 24 to go under 14 min pace (more jogging), but 25 was weak. Then with just a mile to go, I pictured myself back in Yorktown at the corner of River Rd and 600. This is the spot where every morning for the last 4 years my watch beeps at me for the first mile of my run, and decided I just had to jog it in from there. I visualized being on the trail at the sportspark and the traffic on River Rd. I visualized turning into my neighborhood, and I knew I couldn't be stopped. A volunteer was yelling at the top of his lungs, "140 miles behind you...point 6 miles ahead of you...you will be an Ironman!" He repeated this countless times probably once per minute. And it really got me going as I made the final turn toward 4th street. Mile 26 was my second fastest mile of the day! Second only to Mile 1!
And as I turned onto 4th street, I could see the finish line lights ahead of me. The road is pitch black, and the spotlights for the camera are blinding. It feel like you're running into a train tunnel in the dark, and the only thing you can see is the light of the train coming at you, and the only thing you can hear is the roar of the echoes of the cheers between the buildings around you. I was aware enough in my moment to spot Monte and Kendra Hitchcock still holding their spot where I had seen them 3 hours ago, and with a huge smile and a high five I got their congratulations and then perked up for the moment I have waited so long for. The last 0.2 miles was one of the most amazing moments of my entire life.
No matter how many times I played out what the finish line would be like in my mind, I never imagined it would be like this. For those of you that saw it, it was nothing but RAW EMOTION.
For those of you that didn't see it, well...here ya go. This is the video from my wife's cell phone, and yes, I would say she too demonstrated RAW EMOTION!
Official Run Time was 6:07:54 (14:02/mile) I missed my "A" goal of 5:45, but beat my "B" goal of 6:30, so I'm happy with that effort.
Official Total Time was 15:15:23 which landed me 269th in my age group, 1523rd among men and 1921st overall, but more importantly earned me the title, Ironman!
As soon as I finished I nearly collapsed into the volunteer catcher's arms, but was able to continue to walk on my own. The back didn't hurt at all, but the quads were burning and the blisters on my feet were screaming. I immediately heard Molly yelling at me (did you hear the video) and pause in my tracks to find her. She is literally running toward me and past a security guard into a restricted area to hug me! Worth noting, I found later that she had enjoyed the adult beverages in the VIP area more than the food and was thus VERY happy! I'd say she earned it!
I was most surprised to see my high school friend, Katrina, who with the help of facebook we have remained close friends over the years, and I know that she has worked hard to get and stay active as well. She lives in Louisville, but I never imagined she would fight Ironman traffic to come downtown at 10:30 pm on a Sunday night just to see me. She is responsible for many of the best pictures from the weekend, and she stayed with me through the entire post race experience!
I shouldn't be surprised, Jill and Dougin were both there and looked as fresh as ever, like they could both do it again! Jill rocked an impressive 12:39 today! And Lindsey was waiting for me too, as well as Pete and Amy. Gary had retired himself back to his hotel not feeling well, and Amy too was no where to be found. (Amy finished with a PR of 15:28 - awesome!) Jason Tucker was there to greet me and I couldn't be more happy for his day! I took the obligatory post race photo and flexed for the camera, but could barely flex enough to show any definition I was so tired, then Jill jumped in one with me for the sponsor photo! We then hobbled to the convention center where Chocolate Milk hosts the #myafter party! Was glad to find Chuck there and get to congratulate him! Chuck and I have grown so close through this whole process checking in with each other regularly, and so it was no surprise that our times were less than 3 minutes apart! Delicious chocolate milk awaited us just inside the door, and honestly, that was all I wanted! I was not hungry at all and food didn't sound good at all. They were serving up pizza and lots of snacks, but my stomach was a rock, and I couldn't think of eating anything. A couple final pics with Jill and massive thanks to Lindsey and the REFUEL team with a little feedback on the weekend, and I was ready to head back to the hotel.
**warning gross foot picture coming**
On the way to the room I had Molly stop by the front desk and request a bag of ice be delivered to the room so I could get an ice bath. I was so thankful Molly had already gone to transition and retrieved my gear bags and bike so that I didn't have to mess with that right now. I limped into the bathroom and peeled off my clothes to soak in the tub. Yes, there were some open sores that burned deeply, and bending the legs 90 degrees to sit down was very difficult, but the worst pain of all remained in my feet. I peeled back the sock to reveal the blister on the inside of my right heel that still today (3 full days later) is just as big as it was then! Doc says I need to drain it!
The blister on the bottom of my foot is much larger but flatter to the skin and not as red and raised as the heel one, and much smaller one on the inside heel of the other foot already popped.
Once I emerged from the ice bath, I logged on to my phone to see literally hundred of facebook notifications and text messages. No way I could reply to any of them, so instead I logged onto my phone and watched the final finisher at midnight before rolling over and falling asleep. Ate nothing, drank very little, couldn't pee or poop, and my body was beyond numb! Fell asleep hard and woke up at 7:15 to a buzzing phone of text messages saying that if I wanted any finisher gear, I needed to get out of bed and get down to the expo quick. Turns out the expo opened at 7 and there were many already lined up to get in. I knew I wanted a finisher jacket, so a quick text conversation with Chuck resulted in him grabbing me the LAST XL finisher jacket on the shelf, so in return Molly rushed down there to get it from him and share her 30% off Ironman staff discount privilege with him! Thank you Chuck, I LOVE my jacket!
She returned with a breakfast sandwich from Panera because I was too sore to even think about walking to the free athlete breakfast, and I was able to eat it and it tasted pretty good, but at that point I was just ready to go home! So we loaded everything up and headed for the car. Pete and Amy ended up grabbing a hotel Sunday night and so as a result we met up with them for a pizza buffet in Columbus. I'm pretty sure that buffet lost money on me that day, as I easily ate more than their cost of the pizza! We were home in time to get the kids off the bus, and shared big hugs all around!
So now what? Well, it's hard to say. I've had to answer the obligatory question of "will you do it again?" I will never say never, but it is certainly not in my plans to do it again. The best analogy I can come up with is this... Ask a Dr if he or she will ever go back to school to get another doctorate degree. Once in a while you might find one that will say yes, but for the most part, many would answer by saying, "no way, why would I do that?" And that's how I feel, "why would I do that?" The time it takes to study/train. The cost involved with tuition and books/entry fees and gear. The sacrifice to the family to chase that title is immense. The Dr. may have had an A or B on the final, but he earned his degree and will be forever known as "Dr.". just as I may have had an A or B race, but I earned my title and will forever be known as "Ironman"!
*disclaimer: I am purchasing the copyrighted finisherpix photos used in this post.