Tuesday, June 28, 2011

IM CDA - It's all about FINISHING the journey!

The Ironman race morning began early as I didn't sleep well as usual, however this time it was different I wasn't worried about my own race, but instead I was worried about everyone finishing.  I know all that goes into the journey to become an IM, so I didn't want anyone to experience the empty feeling of not reaching the white line in the road mile 140.6.  I was having crazy dreams all night which some I won't share, however one of them was so real it almost happen which involved the always humorous Kim Dotson and her awesome pink cowboy hat she wore at the finish.  I dreamed Kim was running down the finish line with cowboy hat blinking and rope in hand ready to dance and celebrate in style which is almost exactly what she did as they said, "Kim Dotson #654 YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!"

This picture above represents the beginning of one of the most memorable days of my life when I felt proud of who I was and ability to inspire others to make their dream a reality!

One of the many pre-race pictures as Jay, Kimberly and I just got body marked by Team Blazers Debbie Jahn and Jerry Gray!  It was so awesome to see so many club members volunteering and giving back to the sport we all love to participate in.  The volunteers are a key piece to the IM race day experience!

 This is my pre-race IM cookie that Melissa Salazar made for me.  It was great to see Max & Melissa and all the other Team Blazers out on there all day long providing a ton of encouragement to all of us.  I was so looking forward to eating this cookie after the race and it was delicious!


These pictures represent the swim start which is always crazy in every IM. This day was par for the course.  I had to swim through some guys that should have been in the back the first 100 yds, although after that I was in a nice pack and felt great!  Once I reached the first turn buoy I noticed I had missed the lead group and I was caught in small pack of 4 swimmers that unfortunately took a wrong turn as the 2nd turn buoy was actually farther out than the first.  (Reminder lesson: make sure you sight as the group probably swam 50 yd off course) 

As I came around for the first loop my watch read 28:10 which I was happy with especially enlight of my detour.  The only problem was that my hands had gone completely numb and although I tried to shake out my arms and clap my hands I couldn't feel anything.  The 2nd loop I felt like I was moving my arms and going no where fast.  I did manage to stay with a group and draft, although I really started to feel dizzy and disoriented as I approached the beach in time of 1:01 which was slower than I planned but today was all about the finish!

When I exited the water my hands were so numb I couldn't get my arms out of my wetsuit, so thank goodness Team Blazers John Martinek and David Lund were there to help me out.

 This picture represents the true feeling within Team Blaze where everyone supports everyone and on this day John & Mason both helped me to regain my sense of focus.  I spent the next 22 minute in the warming tent which I should have stayed longer but I wanted to see some of the speedy Team Blazers on the bike.

As I got on my bike I was still cold, but in good spirit as I saw my wife Tristin's awesome sign in the background.  It was such great feeling to be getting on my bike to do another IM and I had forgot all the amazing support you recieve!

The 112 mile bike ride was totally different than any of my previous 3 IM races.  This time my total focus was on making sure every Team Blaze athlete made it to the run.  So I pedaled easy for the first 40 miles as most of the 32 club members past me.  It was awesome the see the excitement on their faces!  When I reached mile 40 it was what I thought was short pee break pit stop, however it turned it an hour long break.  I soon found myslef talking to some of the volunteers I knew, encouraging Team Blaze members, helping the volunteers to rack bikes and I also went pee 3X so obviously I was hydrated.  I asked the medical volunteers if they could check to see if Kim, Karen, Brandi and Norma made it out of the swim, however they wouldn't help me. Instead they told me about all the people that got pulled out of the swim due to hypothermia which didn't help the situation. Finally after about 40-50', I saw Kim, Karen & Brandi.  Then right as I was about to ride away as my watch read 1hr of waiting I saw Norma!  I was so relieved they were all still in the race and their dreams would become reality!

As we rode the 2nd loop we traded positions at different times, although I was trying not to ride too close to them as they needed to ride their pace.  It was fun as Kim blazed past other tired riders on the downhills with me in toe I would yell , "on your left" as I was worried someone would wreck into her.  When we reached mile 90  I tried to encourage all of them as in my mind I thought the bike cut off was 5pm when it was really  5:30p.  So, rode the last 20 miles fast as I wanted to make sure I made the bike cut off.  My total bike time was 8 hr14 min (actually ride time of 6:05 which isn't bad for 6.5 weeks of training) and now I waited hoping they would all make the cut off.

After my 30 min. T2 pit stop Norma and I headed out on the run.  The sun was shining and I was excited to finish this journey.  I knew Norma was really fit and we could probably run 10:45 pace.  We actually did run 10:45 pace, however like any IM sometimes things are out your control and unfortunately Norma experienced serious GI issues.  She was absolutely as tough as nails out there as I'll save everyone the details other than to say she went to the Honey Bucket at least 15X. 

This picture represents a small snap shot of how the Team Blaze spirit was on full display with 32 atheltes started and 32 finishing!  Norma and I are starting out and Bill was completing his first loop!

Many people would have quit, however Norma kept pressing on until about mile 21 when we discussed the fact we had 2hrs to go 5 miles so lets just walk. 

We were actually walking at 15 min. pace, although I have a new respect for those after dark finisher as it got cold!! 

Norma and I  finishing at 16:01!  She recieved an award for 4th in her age group!  It was a tough day for the older athletes as 12 women in her age group started and only 6 finished. What an amazing journey we've had together over the last 5 yrs! She's a  model of consistency in training and has reaped the benefits by qualifying for the Boston Marathon, 70.3 World Championship and now she's an Ironman! She's an amazing person, athlete and friend.  She once again taught me that through consistent training, belief in yourself and perserverance to keep going even in through VERY difficult circumstances with severe GI & stomach issues you CAN finish the jounrey.  I'm so proud Norma and all the athletes that I get the opportunity to coach.

This picture is pretty funny and another perk to finishing after dark!  They give you a whole pizza!  This pizza really wasn't very good, but I was so hungery as I've never done anything that long before.  My previous IM races were in the 10:25-11 hr range, so I was going on some serious borrowed time.  In addition, I really only trained 6.5 weeks for this IM, which I totally don't recommend as it's still 140.6 miles.
Another great picture of my awesome wife Tristin and her huge IM sign! 

My 4th Ironman and my journey back to full health is probably one of the biggest highlights of my life to date.  Words can't express how truly blessed I feel to have the opportunity to do what I love to do again and share the gifts I've been given with others.  Each one of these Team Blaze members have inspired and taught me about the most important aspect of any IM which is enjoying and most importantly finishing the journey!

I have a whole new appreciation for those athletes finishing after dark.  Yes it's still 140.6 miles, however it's a completely different experience when you go from chasing 10 hrs to trying to make the cut off times.  I learned from this group of people that finish after 15 hrs that they seem to really appreciate the race, encourage instead of yell at each other on the course and actually thank the people that make the IM possible which are the thousands of AWESOME volunteers. 

When you finish after dark you get treated like a rock start!  It also gets really cold and dark along the lake once the sun goes down.  They hand out shiny beads, glow sticks and warm chicken broth!  As I ran down Sherman Ave with Kim in front of Norma & I my heart was filled with unbelievable amounts of joy!  I felt like I was floating to the white line at mile 140.6 and slowed Norma down at the finish to truly savor the moment!  The crowd was so loud I felt like we had just won the IM, which we had won because we proved anything is possible!  I know that when I had heart surgery I never really thought I would ever do IM again and certainly not 6.5 months later, although again anything is possible if you tell yourself you CAN!

IM is so much more than swim, bike, & run.  The family/friend support, volunteers and teammates are so key to making this special journey complete.  I'm so grateful to have shared this experience with the athletes I coach.  Ultimately it truly is all about about FINISHING the journey!

My finish video can be seen through link below by forwarding to 9:35-10:35.


Thanks for reading, supporting and inspiring me to be a better person!


Anonymous said...

I enjoyed my time spent volunteering on Sat. I even more enjoyed the swim start that I was able to view. Wish I was able to stay the whole day and watch the group proceed. I enjoyed your post of your activities for the day, and the progress of others. You are all an inspiration, and I am so happy to be a part of Team Blaze. You all ROCK!

Kirsten said...

I saw you and Kim and Norma cross the finish line on the live video feed. You all were so impressive! Great job!