Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Ironman Florida: The Spectator Report

Isn't goal setting is supposed to motivate you to reach your goals? Usually right after setting goals, people try really hard and have some success at first. It's only after some time has passed that they get lazy and fall off the wagon. Well, I had one day on the wagon and then I was pushed off. I couldn't help it. It's all Ironman's fault.

My 8 week countdown until the end of the year started last Thursday. That day I got in 7 miles, so Day 1 was a success. The next day, the kids and I boarded a plane to Panama City, Florida to watch my husband, Mike, compete in his first Ironman. After several hours of sitting, changing planes, and carrying way too much luggage, we arrived in sunny Florida. Mike picked us up and we went to the Ironman Expo to people watch and do some shopping for him. That left just enough time for an early dinner and then it was off to bed at 8:00 so that he could get a good night of rest. Day 2: Fail. No exercise and lots of eating.

Saturday was Ironman Day. I've asked Mike to do a guest blog about his Ironman race, so I don't want to give too much away. Since I know the suspense is probably killing you, I'll tell you that he had a great race and not only finished, but had a good finishing time. I'll let him tell you all about it from his perspective.

For the kids, myself, and his parents that came to spectate, it was an exciting and exhausting day. I was up at 4 a.m. to go with him to the start. I'm so used to being the person that is nervously waiting to line up, it was fun to be the support crew. On the one hand, I wanted to assure him that he was well trained and that he was going to have a great day. On the other hand, it is an Ironman race and anything can happen. Just because someone has a bad day doesn't mean that they didn't train well or that they aren't a great athlete. Sometimes it's just not your day or something fluky happens. I wanted him to know that he could be proud of what he accomplished getting to the start line. He wasn't as keen on this line of thinking. He had trained to have a good day and that is what he wanted to focus on. Apparently not every one finds comfort in my strategy of setting the bar low. So, after a few "you will do great" pats on the back, he was off.

We headed down to the beach for the mass start. The pros started first and about 2,500 age groupers started at the sound of the cannon ten minutes later. This was quite a sight to behold. For me, this was the best part of the race to watch. The sight of all of those arms churning in the water was like no other race I had seen before. The race was two loops, so we got to see the athletes get out, cross the timing mat and take another 1.2 mile lap in the ocean. As the professionals exited the water, they calmly walked across the mat, waded back in and started swimming again. As the first of the age groupers exited, they ran across the mat and rushed back into the water, spending a lot of energy running through the water until they could start swimming. Mental note to self: take a tip from the pros and don't spend a lot of energy at the beginning of the race just to save a few seconds.

How is it that when you are watching a race, you are screaming your participant's name at the top of your lungs and they are 3 feet in front of you but they somehow don't hear you? I guess swimming 2.4 miles in the ocean might have something to do with it. Even though he didn't see us, we were able to see Mike get out of the water and head for the transition. We saw him leave on his bike and he looked great.

Although we didn't get to see him on the bike, we did see lots of the other participants. My main impression was that bike shops around the country must be making a lot of money. I don't recall seeing a single road bike. Granted, we were watching the athletes who were in the front half of the bike leg, but the number of high end bikes equipped with expensive racing wheels was mind blowing. As each one passed, I just kept thinking, "There goes $5,000, there goes $5,000..."

We had brought some folding chairs so we settled in to watch the run. During this part of the race, what I kept thinking was, "That person has zero percent body fat, that person has zero percent body fat..." The physiques on these athletes was quite impressive. Again, we were watching people that would later finish under 13 hours, but I kept waiting for somebody show me a little bulge or something! The runners didn't have as much energy as you normally see at the beginning of a marathon, but at the first mile when we saw them the first time, all but a very few of them were running at a decent clip.

We got to see Mike quite a bit on the run, so that was great. I knew once he made it past the halfway point in good time that he would make it to the finish. We headed to the finish area where the announcer was greeting every finisher by name and saying, "You are an Ironman!" It was awesome. About 30 yards from the finish, directly across from us, we saw a man get down on one knee, pull out a ring and propose to a woman. She started crying and I was thinking she had better hurry up and give her answer because, you know, this is a race and the clock is ticking! She said yes and miraculously, after 140.6 miles, he popped back up and ran across the finish line.

I was so happy for Mike when I saw him enter the final stretch. He looked so happy and he was announced as an Ironman. We rushed out of the viewing area and waited for him to come through the finish area. He had on his medal and, although he looked tired, he was upright and talking so I was happy. Now, back to me, me, me! What did I do after I helped gather his stuff? I went to KFC for the first time in a decade and got fried chicken. I was starving and I couldn't help it. I ate my chicken and all of the chicken that the kids couldn't stuff down. Day three of my 8 week challenge: no exercise and bad eating. Fail, but not really fail since I got to be there for Mike's big day.

Here is my final take away from the race: At a marathon, you see all shapes, sizes and ages. At an Ironman, it is a uniformly fit group. Since Mike was understandably tired and we left right after he finished, I didn't get to see the athletes that finished in the final 4 hours of the race. Maybe there was a wider variety of physiques among the later finishers. Of course, those athletes had to sustain their level of effort for even longer, so I would think they would require even more endurance and more hours of training. When I saw Mike run his first marathon, I saw other people that looked like me and I thought that the marathon was something that, if I trained really hard, I could do. I'm not there yet with the Ironman.

The next morning we were able to sleep in a little and headed home. A mechanical problem with our flight led to a missed connection, so it was 13 hours later before we finally made it home. Day 4: No exercise and lots of airport junk food. Fail.

When Monday came I woke up and put myself back on the wagon. Sure, I'm not as lean or as strong as those Ironpeople, but I can do my best and try to meet my goals. I made it outside for a run on Monday and Tuesday and it was back to the gym today. This morning I registered for the Las Vegas Half Marathon taking place on December 6th. It will be my first Rock 'n Roll event and I'm pretty excited about it. Oh, my Ironman husband? He signed up for the full marathon. Geez!


Mel-2nd Chances said...

Wow, congrats to Mike. I never thought about it that way... but I totally have the same line of thinking with the low bar... haha. If I surpass it, then I'm a happy girl! :D Must have been an amazing experience to witness though.

Velma said...

Wow - that sounds amazing! Next time, stick around a bit longer and you will see a lot of "normal" people :) Have fun in Las Vegas - it is supposed to be a great race.

I Run for Fun said...

Congratulations to Mike! I am in awe. You must be proud of your Ironman hubby. And I'm sure it meant a lot to him to have you all there. You are too modest...I think you are amazing too. You could be Ironman someday.

Helen said...

Great story!! Mike did awesome and it must have been huge to have you all there for support.

Las Vegas - ye-aaay I will be there too! Not actually signed up for a race yet but thinking of the half.

amybee said...

Sounds very exciting Beth! WOW! Good for your husband and I look forward to reading his race report.

I think you are doing fine too....we can't be perfect all the time.

RE: Ironbodies. Come to IM MOO next September and you may see a person that does not fit your IM FL description..... I'm just sayin'...

Londell said...

Good for you and him... Part of being a good mate is adjusting your goals to assure the mate succeeds... So may have had four days off the wagon, but being a support crew, in my mind, is harder than running a race... Do not be to hard on yourself, you will be just fine. It will be interesting the hear his first timer account. Sounds like he may be ready for the Superior 100 mile?

Love to Run said...

First, Congratulations Mike. Awesone Job! I would love some day to do an Ironman. That swimming 2.4 miles concerns me some though.

Good Luck to both of you in Las Vegas. Sounds like a great marathon and half marathon to tackle. I can't wait to hear all about it.

AZ said...

I have a goal of doing an iron distance triathlon too but now I'm all intimidated. Sounds like your hubby did great.

I too think being a spectator is hard work. You were go, go, go for several hours too!

Nat said...

I agree with Amy, come to IM MOO, people of all shapes, sizes - it's great! Congrats to Mike! And, you are doing awesome too with the running, we can only fit it in when we can - we're all human :)