Saturday, May 17, 2014


Journey Complete.

Short Version:

2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run

Long Version:

486 miles swimming, 13,770 miles biking, and 4,860 miles running

Super long, extended, detailed version:

Sometimes the path to your goals does not turn out exactly the way you had planned it, but adapting to the path you find yourself on, is part of the journey to finishing.....not just an Ironman or race, but anything.

The weekend started off well.  I was able to get up to the Woodlands early to register before the crowds, look around, and get a feel of the venue and transition areas.  I usually like doing that before the crowds show up.  That way, I get to talk more with the volunteers, and get their stories and tips, as they have more time to talk to individuals (and some of the volunteers are actually really experienced triathletes who have a lot of good pointers....just an fyi).

 (credit to Kevin)

On Thursday night there was an athlete dinner.  Usually I avoid events like this, but I am glad I went.  I was by myself, so I just sat at a table near the back.  Met two nice ladies from Chicago and a guy from Minnesota.  I told them they lucked out on the weather (low humidity and first time ever the Texas Ironman had been completely wetsuit legal).  You would have thought we had all been friends forever talking, joking around, and telling stories......but that is another reason I like triathlon as a sport, really down to earth people with unbelievable stories (ok, there are some triathletes that are complete a*% clowns, but I think every sport has those....right??).


The crew.  One last time.

Jamie is a rockstar being able to entertain this crew all day while waiting on me.  And just getting them up at 5AM to come hang with me before the swim start.  Playgrounds are always good too. :)

Just a soothing, reassuring feeling before getting in the may-lay they call a swim start.  This was the real deal though - no wave starts (where age groups usually start 5 minutes after each other, until everybody has gone).  Everybody, all at was pretty awesome.

As always, some good pre-race advice from this one.  Since I've never had a coach or an official tri group that I belong too, she fits that role for me.  At least from a motivational aspect.

Swim:  1 hour 26 min

Yep, a bit slow.  Didn't get a clean start, and was a little bogged down in the masses at the beginning.  Swim went smooth though, didn't get kicked or smacked too bad, and only had to kick a couple arms off my feet.  First half mile was a little crowded, but I found my way to some relatively "open" water, and settled in.

The end of the swim is pretty unique.  For a little less than the last mile, we swam down a canal which was lined on both sides with spectators.  It was pretty cool to see and hear them so close during a lengthy portion of the swim.

I felt great at the end of the swim.  Not tired or sore.  No cramping.  Felt like I could have kept swimming for another long while.  As I climbed out of the water, I felt really comfortable with my day and the plan I had laid out.

Bike:  6 hours 40 min

And this is when everything fell apart.  No planning or training could have prepared me for what was in store the rest of the day.

I was just settling in and getting mentally comfortable with the long ride that was ahead of me.  Started to get excited about the course I had reviewed online and all the sites I was going to get to see, especially the ride through the National Forest.

Then, as I passed a slower cyclist.......things fell apart - very quickly.

First, when passing you are only supposed to be two riders wide, especially near the beginning, when the lane we are constricted to is narrower.  As I was passing, another cyclist started passing me on the left (making us 3 wide), which I was fine with - until the biker on the inside, who was going pretty slow, had no one in front of him, and had no one to pass.  He started drifting left - I had nowhere to go.  He bumped me, and that was enough.

This is what it would have looked like, with me in the middle (and the two behind not so close):

From just getting settled in and getting comfortable, to skidding across the asphalt/concrete at 22 mph.  Probably skidded about 10-15 ft.  I distinctly remember while skidding, tucking my head, and thinking to myself, "Please.  Let it be a bike and not a car that hits me."  When I stopped skidding, I was amazed that I was not hit by either a car or a bike.  As I stood up, I started to take inventory of myself.  Amazingly, nothing was broken.  Nothing felt cracked or fractured.  My whole right side was scraped up pretty good though.  Arm was pretty bloody, helmet saved my head (J got this close up the day after).

Once up, I started to look around for my bike (unbelievably no one else fell or was effected by the wreck).  An officer who was helping with the race had my bike off to the side of the road, a good ways away.  As I walked back to retrieve my bike, my thoughts turned to how my day was going to end.  All the training that I had put in for this day, to have it end so early into the bike. I was so sad, discouraged, and frustrated with how my journey was going to end.

As the officer handed me my bike, he asked if I needed medical attention, I half heard him, as I was trying to figure out what was damaged on my bike (as I was sure something was): wheels, spokes, cables, chain, pedals, gears.  As he asked me a second time, I hadn't noticed any significant damage other than the chain had come off.  I respectfully declined the medical attention, and told him I thought my bike might be "ok".  I fiddled with the chain a bit, got it back on, spun the peddles, and everything seemed good.  I told him I was going to ride it for a bit and see what happened.

He had seen the whole thing, and was as shocked as I was that I wasn't seriously hurt and my bike wasn't damaged.  It was an uncomfortably long ride.  My right side was pretty beat up, but it was the pain behind my right knee that bothered me the most.  Must have landed on it awkwardly at some point during the wreck........but I was on my bike and riding - I had gotten a second chance.  At that point, I was thankful to still be a participant, and all my meticulously laid out and calculated plans had changed from specific times and goals for certain miles on the bike and run to..........just finish.

 I love biking.  I was excited for the 112 mile bike ride.  The bike course was absolutely stunning and beautiful.  But on this day, I was really thankful to be off the bike (as in dismounting and racking, not as I had earlier found my way off the bike).

Run:  5 hours 42 min


I had run a marathon back in January to get a feel for the distance, and had done alright for a first timer (3 hr 43 min).  But there was nothing kind or comfortable about this marathon.  I take that back.  The course and fan support (mainly along the river walk, which was a good portion of the race) were amazing.  The best I have ever seen.

You know it's never a good sign when you hit mile 3 and know your body isn't fully functioning properly.  At that point I was determined to do whatever it took to finish AND fully enjoy every moment of the final hours of my journey.  So on the first two laps, I made sure to stop and talk and hug and chat with my support crew for a minute or so.  I think the kids really enjoyed that.  And it gave me a little relief from my right knee. ;)

Big shout out to J and the kids, and Jamie's Dad and Mom and Deesh coming to cheer me on!  Much appreciated and needed.  After I passed the crew on lap two, they headed to the finish line, and I had about 10 lonely miles to figure out how I was going to get there.  Pace and cadence came in key.

(the expression explains a lot)

The back of my right knee that had bothered me biking, became noticeably more uncomfortable each mile of the marathon, until about mile 17 when it was just a tad on the painful side.  Miles 17-26, took me places I didn't know existed. Part of the allure of Ironman, to me, is to test your limits.  What can you really do?  What is your body actually capable of? The marathon I ran in January gave me a glimpse of what it was like to have your body tinkering on completely shutting down physically, these last 9 miles gave me a glimpse of what was mentally possible.

Mile 17 to 18 consisted of me arguing with myself to "just finish.  You could walk the rest of the way and easily make the time limit." and my other voice saying, "This is it. Leave everything you have out here.  You already missed your goals, your body is beat up from the bike wreck, but don't just do enough to finish.  Give it a good honest final effort.  Find your limit."

Miles 18-26 were about 12:30 min pace, which is all I had.  It was almost like after making the decision to sell my body out, my mind completely shut off.  I couldn't feel anything, not the pain in my knee, not the sore legs, nothing.  It was almost like me, watching me.


The crowd, the excitement, the noise, the atmosphere, and the finish were all more than I had even imagined.

And all of this for one last medal.  A medal that will forever hold a story, a journey, and experiences I would have never imagined.  While the medal may be tangible, it is the intangible stories and experiences of triumph, trial, discouragement, improvement, support, and accomplishment that will always be the true value of the medal.  What a journey.

Thanks for all the love and support.

Special thanks to Jamie for bringing the kids each time to my races and corralling them during the races, just to see me for a brief moment and a high-five here and there.  To Jamie's family for coming and helping her with the kids and cheering me on in the warm weather.  To Ryan and Chad for riding with me super early on Saturday mornings - you two would have loved the bike course. And to my family who followed my every moment online and by texts with Jamie.......must have been close to 100 texts I read through eating dinner after the race.

Deesh and the kids eating pizza, where's mine?  That would have tasted good around mile 20! ;)

p.s.  While my journey is complete, I'll still be keeping in shape for marathons or half Ironmans, so if anyone gets the urge - give me a call and I'll be there with you. :)