Thankfully we both slept fairly well but the sound of the alarm at 4:30AM was still TOO EARLY! But we were “up and at ‘em” and out the door by 5:15AM. Much to our surprise, there was quite the line of traffic even though we were 6-7 blocks away so we just parked in the closest parking garage and walked the half mile to Tempe Beach Park and Ironman Village.
Before he got too busy getting ready, I presented him with his first “good luck” poster. This was from our dogs. Each time I leave for a half marathon, my dogs say to me – via my husband, of course – “Good Luck Mommy. We hope you win.” So this sign was a take on that.
As he left to drop off his Special Needs bags, double check his bike, go through body marking and get his wetsuit, we designated where I was to stay so that he could come back and have me help him zip up the wetsuit. But volunteers were shutting down the area where I was and I had to move. Luckily I was able to keep an eye out for him and yelled loud enough that he heard and saw me in my new location.
It was time to wish him good luck and give him a kiss. He would leave to take care of any final prep and I needed to find a spot near the swim.
The temperature at the start of the race was cooler than what we had expected it would be during this time of year in Phoenix!
I set reminders on my phone to take weather screen shots throughout the day. I will report NOW that I missed one of those reminders. CRAP!
The Pro Men started at 6:45AM and the Pro Women started at 6:50AM. The age groupers were scheduled to start at 7:00AM but I think it took longer for organizers to get everyone in the water so the cannon went off 5 minutes late. ACTUALLY…it was shot 4 minutes and 47 seconds early. I wanted to get some video (at least the sound) of the cannon being shot and I would have been ready at the 5 minute mark – since that’s when they announced it would happen – but I was NOT ready at 4:47.
Cousin M.S. arrived just as the age groupers were heading into the water but neither of us saw my husband walk by. We would just have to wait and try to see him run by after he finished the swim. But first – while everyone was in the water - we walked back to the rental car to put the first poster back. Then after a short walk to Circle K for some coffee, it was back to the car to get the BIG poster and then we headed back to the swim area.
M.S. and I hadn't been back for very long when I got a text from P.E. letting me know that he was there too. And he arrived with this FABULOUS sign! This is a long-standing (inside?) joke between him and my husband.
My husband finished the swim well within the time frame that he thought it would take him and we spotted him coming toward us after being stripped from his wet suit. The look on his face was priceless when he noticed that M.S. and P.E. were there with me.
Luckily where his bike was racked was right across from where we were standing in the swim shoot area. So we quickly walked to the other side and waited for him to come through the changing tent to his bike. It was during this time that I was able to put the first RED checkmark on the poster. After he got to his bike, he heard/saw us and came over to say hello. He got to see P.E.’s poster and his checklist poster.
He was then off on the bike and – after a bathroom stop – M.S. and I found a place a tad east of the bike turnaround to wait for him after the first loop.
We had a good spot because we could see the cyclist coming in from the east before they actually made the turn and would then pass by us to go out on the next loop. M.S. and I chatted about bikes and the different colors some of the athletes had on which made them easier to spot. We spoke to other friends of athletes and I met a lady that had done the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon two weeks prior. But we also saw this crash. It literally happened right in front of us. They checked her bike – and her – and she got back up and rode out on her next loop. (I’m pleased to write that she recovered from this crash and finished the entire event. Athlete # 1421 YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!)
We saw my husband coming in to make the turn and began screaming his name. He heard us and pulled over for a quick hello and update. He said that the winds out on the Beeline Highway were ridiculous and they were riding straight in to them. As a matter of fact, I believe his quote was, “The winds are effing nuts!”
And then he was off to tackle the second loop. M.S. and I walked back to my rental car. It would feel good to sit down for awhile and I also wanted to charge my phone. Based on my husband’s time on the first loop, we had about 2 hours before we would need to get back to the bike course.
We made it back to our exact same location and my husband stopped after the second loop as well. That loop took him a little bit longer. He said that the winds were still just as bad and certainly hadn't gotten better. He said there were times he was only going 10-15 miles per hour into the wind and you could see all the athletes struggling and how the wind was causing their bikes to lean.
Once he left for the final loop, M.S. and I decided to change locations and position ourselves at the bike dismount area. This can be one of the most entertaining areas of an Ironman. Some folks know how to properly dismount, yet others do not. Some volunteers know how to catch a bike and clearly others do not. But to hear some of the comments the age groupers make as they are slowing down to dismount is priceless. There were several people that moaned and groaned but here are two of the funniest comments we heard:
- “Bike for sale”
- “Someone please take this bike from me. I never want to see it again.”
As another girl rode in and when she saw her friends, she rode over and told them she had a present for them. Out of her back bike jersey pocket, she pulled out a used bike tube. She’d had a flat out on the course. We saw several people running their bikes in because one of the tires was flat. We’d later learn that there were over 500 flats on the course. The think most of them were caused my the winds blowing some thorny plant debris on the roads.
While at the bike dismount area, M.S. received a text that his daughter & Mom had arrived so he left to meet them near the entrance of Ironman Village. Not only did he see them up there but also P.E. was back and brought his son. They were all there to see my husband come in from the bike…but I’m not sure he saw all of us at that time. I was excited that we were going to have a BIG cheering section to send him off on the run.
As soon as I saw him dismount, I ran down to the transition area. I figured it would take Aunt B. a little longer to get down there and M.S. and L.S. would stay with her to help her get down there.
I got lucky and actually saw him changing in to his running shoes. I “think” we all made it down there but it was a bit of a blur for me. I took some pictures but then wanted to be at the RUN OUT arch with the checklist sign.
Noticing and pointing to the sign.
As he takes off we gather as a group to look for a place to see him come back from the first loop.
Luckily we had a Spectators Guide and realized that we would be able to see him three more times in this area since they would do two loops. We would see him at approximately the 3 mile mark, the 13.1 mile mark and the 17 mile mark.
We were all still there in a grassy stanchioned off area as him came in near the 3 mile mark. He was so pleased to see all of us and had a great big smile on his face. I’ve heard him comment several times since then that having us all there meant so much to him and that he will always remember that! YAY!!!
He didn’t stay long; he had 23 more miles to conquer after all. It was also at this time that P.E. and his son left and so did cousin M.L. M.L. had been there with me all day and I was very thankful for his company.
L.S. went to get some dinner for her and Aunt B. and when she came back I went to my car to charge my phone again. It was difficult to estimate how much time I really had. I knew he wouldn’t be running at his normal race pace after having a tough ride. But L.S. was tracking him on her phone and would update me periodically. I got my phone charged back up to about 80% and then headed back. Then I had to ask to “disappear” one more time. I figured now would be the best time to go get his bike and take it over to the TriBike Transport area. Of course I had to walk all the way around the bike area to get it. I got the bike, getting out wasn't as much of a walk but TBT was jam packed with people. I had to stand in line to get the pedals removed. It probably move quicker than I was imagining but I was so worried I wouldn’t get back to the run course in time.
Once I got back, L.S. left to charge her phone. Luckily she brought her plugin and found a tent that let her use an outlet. I meant to bring mine but forgot which is why I had to keep going back to the car to charge it.
Aunt B had moved to under the bridge to get out of the wind and I stayed there with her while L.S. was gone. Eventually I walked over to the Newton arch (which I think was the 13.1 mile mark) and waited for him there.
As you can see in the picture above, the sun had set. There was still some wind and being near the water made it even colder. He stopped to talk to me for a bit and mentioned how cold he was. I had his jacket (that I had been wearing earlier) in the backpack by Aunt B. I told him to keep going and I would go get it and catch up with him. Although I didn’t have far to go I was worried that I should have just asked him to stop. Thankfully he was stopping about a quarter of a mile ahead to get his special needs bags so I didn’t have too far to run to catch up. I was concerned that since this was just a cotton jacket it could make his situation worse if he started sweating in it and it would just cling to him. But he said it would be fine.
L.S. and I sat on the wall on the river/lake side of the path. We cheered on other athletes and tried to provide words of encouragement. You could tell in most of their faces that they were ready for this race to be over. While some looked stronger than others, most of them looked really tired. Knowing that my husband was cold (although he is a little on the wimpy side when it comes to that), I could only imagine that some athletes – especially women running in tanks and running skirts – had to be freezing.
Somewhere along the way I either missed a notification to take a screen shot or I didn’t set the reminders correctly because I have a weather gap from 3:00PM to 8:00PM.
At one point a golf cart came by with an athlete on the back all bundle up and you couldn’t tell who it was. Since it seemed to be taking longer than I thought it would, I was worried that THAT could have been MY athlete. Surely someone would have contacted me by phone, right? Should I have chased after it and asked? I decided that to give waiting on him more time. I knew that ONLY if he was having a medical emergency would he let them take him off that course.
It was more difficult to see him coming from a distance now that he was wearing the dark blue jacket. But alas, I see him coming toward us. As he gets closer I say, “Hey Mister, going my way?” And he just keeps walking. He doesn’t look at us or acknowledge the comment or anything. His eyes and his face looked like he was “POd” and – to me – he looked like he was near tears. So I jumped up and walked up next to him and asked if he was okay. His reply? “Oh, hi. Where did you come from?” I guess he never even saw me sitting there or heard my comment to him. That made me feel better about his state of mind. But he did mention how over it he was. He said he needed some place to stop and get some rocks out of his shoe. I told him that Aunt B was still here and just up a few feet under the bridge. That would be a good place to stop, take care of the rocks and to say hello. This was definitely a spirit lifter for him and at this point he also convince Aunt B to go home. He said that he was really slowing down and that it was going to take him longer to reach the finish line. The night air was cold and he certainly didn’t want HER getting sick. The rocks were removed from his shoe, we took a quick photo and then he was off for the last portion of the race. He had about 10 more miles to go. I would not see him again until the finish line.
L.S. and I helped pack up their stuff and we all walked back toward Ironman Village. L.S. was going to drive Aunt B home and then was contemplating coming back. I stressed with her that it wasn’t necessary but she also needed to stay up as long as possible so that she could sleep during the day on Monday since she was working the graveyard shirt Monday night. We said our goodbyes and then I walked to the car to charge my phone one last time and I also needed to get the poster that my husband’s “little brother” made for him. While walking back to the car two random ladies asked me if I knew what was going on today. They wondered if there was a football game or something. I wondered if they were from outer space. Had they not see all the signs? Were THEY from out of town? Anyway I told them about Ironman Arizona and what a triathlon was and the distances that the athletes were covering today. They were first and foremost AMAZED that people were swimming in Tempe Town Lake. So, obviously they were somewhat local! They said to tell my husband congratulations. Once I got to the rental car, I dropped my stuff off and walked back over to the Circle K for a coffee and got a bag of Cracker Jacks. I did a horrible job of eating today.
I toyed with the thought of driving to the hotel to put jeans on but I didn’t really know how much time I had to be gone. The worst thing in the world would be to miss him crossing that finish line. L.S. kept me updated through texts with what she was seeing via the athlete tracker. And she also confirmed that she was headed back and would be there to see him finish as well.
Once I was at the finish line area, I needed to figure out where to stage myself. Should I be after the line to try and get a picture of him actually crossing? Or should I try to be in the stands and then weasel my way down to the bottom row so that I can see him coming in? In my opinion, this was the one area where Ironman Arizona is not very fan friendly. The VIP tent on the south side of the carpet partially blocked the view of the finish line. The stands were packed and the fact that I was lugging around two poster didn’t make me as mobile as I normally would have been. I eventually wormed my way in the stands to about the half way point two rows up from the bottom. I almost came to blows with the lady on my right because she got angry that I held my sign up for 15 seconds. She just kept shouting “No! No! Put that sign down!” I told her that I wasn't going to keep it up the entire time and that I was just hoping the camera guy would see it and get a shot of it. I told her that we were just going to have to be nice to each other and try to get along. All I heard back was “No! No!” She’s lucky that courteous Susan was there that night and that I didn’t go all bat-$hit crazy on her. Plus my plan was to not be there for long. I kept watching below for people to leave and eventually found an opening. By this time L.S. had arrived and she helped with the holding of one of the poster. I had the checklist poster over the railing hoping that he would see it as he was coming in. Several people commented on what a GREAT poster it was.
And then it was time…I saw him coming down the carpet. I had my phone switched over to video and I was ready. As he got closer I was screaming my head off yelling his name but he was laser-focused on that finish line and never heard me. But it worked out well. No one else was crossing when he did. I was able get video of the finish and you can hear Mike Reilly talk about him having just turned 50, say his name and then announcing that he was an Ironman.
Then I needed to try and make my way back up the stands to go to the east end of them to get back down and out! Finally L.S. and I make it and we see him with the medal around his neck.
For the finish line in Louisville, he wanted an ice cold Mt Dew. This year he wanted a McDonalds sweet tea but we discussed prior to the race that it might be difficult for me to get one of those in time. So his second choice was to have one of the Lipton Mixed Berry Green Teas that he drinks at home. There were two of those in the cooler in the trunk of the rental car all day and I had “borrowed” the ice bucket from our hotel room. During my last stop at the car, I took the ice bucket liner, put the bottle of tea in it, filled it with ice and then tied up the top before placing it in the ice bucket. Then I put it in the backpack hoping that it wouldn’t spill over. I was able to present him with his ice old tea. Although I wondered if he would really want something cold to drink since he was probably chilled to the bone. Before he was shuffled off by a volunteer to get checked out and have his finishers photo taken, I was able to get a few pictures and L.S. got some shots of us as well.
One of the volunteers was also shooing us away from where we were so we had to go to the very end of the stanchioned off area to the north side and try to see him leave the finish area. Of course when he was done with the pictures he went back to where he left us and obviously we weren't there. Finally he made his way out and saw us. He wasn’t interested in going to get any food. He just wanted to be done and to go get warm. Thankfully he was willing to let me take a few more pictures!
We walked to where L.S. was parked since she was just a block away and then she drove us to our car.
Back to the hotel, we only took in the basic stuff that we would need in in the morning. He regrouped, got a better look at the poster from his little brother and then took a shower.
We also took a screens shot of his phone’s home page. I was hoping that it would have blown up from a day of texts, emails and Facebook comments. It looks like we all did a pretty good job.
We then went to bed. Believe it or not, we were setting the alarm to get up early so that we would be at the Finishers Merchandise tent when they opened.