You have more can than you think you can – favorite shirt
Don’t drown, Don’t Crash, Don’t quit – my own mantra
Remember your why – favorite sign
Scott, You are an Ironman! – my favorite sentence. A 5 word sentence that I did not really care about before race day.
I assume every Ironman has asked themselves during the race why they are putting their body through this pain. I know most of the pain is a lie that my brain tells my body to make me quit. My brain tells me I am done long before I am really done; but this I have learned during training, “I have so much more can than I think I can.” And more importantly, I “get” to do this. I have close friends battling Cancer from hospital rooms. My wife could not make the trip because she had to take her mom to ICU on Friday. My wife wants me to finish. She does not want me to repeat this investment for a while… “What investment?”, you ask
Money? Oh damn, this game is expensive. $700 for the entry fee. Join a team, $150. Oh, that bike won’t do. Low end tri bike $1400. GU, Carbs, Protein, Shoes, Helmet, etc… Hotels, training travel, training races… Oh my.
Time? Tuesday after work run. Wednesday after work bike. Saturday long ride. Sunday run. Daily lunch exercise. Tired all the time
I am a swimmer. I did not swim competitively when I was young, but I grew up with a pool in the back yard. As it happens, recreational swimming and distance swimming are not the same. Lots of pool time, not enough open water time. I could have trained harder.
I am not a strong rider. I don’t love the bike, more to the point, I don’t like cars. In metro Atlanta , there are few places to train hills and avoid cars. Thank goodness I spent the money to buy a team. Training weekends on the bike were so much better in no drop groups. I trained and whined. I could have trained harder.
I am a strong runner. I like to run. There is a reason I have done 8 marathons since I quit smoking. I switch on my audio book and disconnect my brain. I picked bike hours over run hours. I could have trained harder.
The entire week before the Ironman, I was a nervous wreck. Concentration was impossible. I am not a fan of the extra hotel night of Friday Check-in, but getting to Chattanooga finally let me breathe. I could focus on the fun and the fun with my brother. He trained harder, but shared the nervousness. It was me and my team, together for whatever. Everything about the weekend was about the event. Friday was check in and dinner with the team. Dru and I ran the hilly 5 miles of the run course. Saturday was a test swim in the river and bike check in. Early to bed and Sunday to rise will make this man stronger and done with this Tri.
Dru and I were at the Courtyard beside the Ironman village, so we were able to check our bikes and get body marking done with time to head back to the room for Hotel Room poop. I do love a nice private poop. The swim start is actually part of the greenway run course later. A mile of athletes waiting for an epic day means long lines at the porta potties. The official water temp meant that wearing a wetsuit was optional, meaning the wearing a wetsuit disqualified you from age group awards. Dru opted to swim without his wetsuit. I choose buoyancy. Wetsuiters had to go last, so I gave Dru a hug and wished him a great race.
Once my feet hit the water, the day was on. I have never loved open water swimming. Something about bumping into others keeps me from getting into the “zone.” It took a couple hundred yards to get a good google seal. Eventually, I got settled into a groove. I had a number of course resets and looking for open areas to swim, but 2.4 miles has never gone so fast for me. The TVA limited the current, but 3 days of rain made for favorable waters. As the finish came into sight, I took a break and relaxed; I had to tell the volunteer kayaker that I was just warming the water. It beat waiting in a pottie line. Don’t drown – Check 1:05 Swim
My shorty wetsuit made for a simple transition. I stuck to my nutrition plan and stuffed my face as I ran my bike out. Dru and I had come up 3 weeks before and rode the bike course. I knew this course would not beat me, only riding too fast would beat me. I planned to keep my average at 15 MPH. 3 weeks of taper had me feeling good and staying under 17 was a challenge. I made it to the first aid station at mile 20 before another bathroom break. Fortunately, there was no line for rest stop one. Finally, I felt I was really on my way. 116 miles on the bike is monotony. I did not have the breath for chatting. Thank yous for the volunteers and “on your left” broke up the day. The ride is beautiful. The hills are not hell on the ride. The most exciting moment of the ride was the Pros passing me like I was standing still on the turn on to Hog Jowl Road. My biggest fear was knocking into one of them and ruining their race.
A friend of mine had told me that the game of Ironman is nutrition. Gatorade Endurance on the course, Base Salt and GU, put me in great shape. I had peanut butter crackers and more sport beans in my 56 mile bag. I also had a packet of Chamois Butt’r. Never before have I applied napalm to my balls, but to prevent further damage… One final pee break at the final aid station and I was homeward bound. My tailbone was on fire. The last 16 miles hurt, but I finished. I admitted that the bike and me were breaking up. We had some good times, but she was breaking me. Don’t crash – Check 6:52:42
My half distance race (70.3 miles) had taught me that the tri kit zipper would bounce and draw blood on the run. I hated not wearing my team gear, but my bike to run transition included a compression shirt that I was incapable of putting on. Another big volunteer “thank you” for helping an old man dress. Another coating of body glide and I was out for a run. Only one goal left, don’t quit.
As it happens, I am a strong runner; but I did not have a run plan. I started at a 10 minute mile and figured I would run until I couldn’t. Then I would walk. Then I would run until I couldn’t. Then I would walk. Repeat. This was a recipe for injury. I got lucky. I got lucky that I had a team. At mile 2, I found Tara from my Endurance House Team. I asked Tara about her run plan. “Run 3 minutes at the top of every mile. Then speed walk.” She was certainly speed walking. A 14 minute mile walk pace meant a 12 minute mile average. I decided to stay with her until 13 or so. “Or so” became the rest of the night. Thank goodness for teams.
Scott, you are an Ironman. The 5 words I did not care about for 20 or so hours on Sept 27. Somewhere around 8 PM, those words started to matter. There was a sign along the course, “Remember your Why.” Those words were never part of my “why” but they were part of my finish. As we crossed the bridge for the second loop, I could hear people finishing. I could hear people becoming an Ironman. I wanted to finish this step of my journey. Scott, you are an Ironman became part of “don’t quit”. Dru and I would do this together.
At mile 21 we found another teammate struggling. Lee joined us in our now 13:30 minute mile pace. Together, we made a plan. Tara, me, then Lee. We would each hear our name and those words. I would see my children. I would miss my wife who was home with her mother in the hospital. As my feet hit the IM carpet, I threw my arms in the air. My kids tell me I ran by too fast for them to get a video. “Scott from Georgia. You are an Ironman!” Yes, I am. An amazing volunteer walked me through the finish activities. He delivered me to my children. I was stinky and sweaty and hugged them anyway. I swore I would cry, but I didn’t. I was happy and proud. Dru found me and hugged me. I was so proud of him. Mom and dad found me. They were so proud of their sons. They also had Mellow Mushroom. I would have picked Mellow Mushroom over sex at that moment.
The Ironman was harder than I thought it would be. Constant motion for 13 hours and 54 minutes was exhausting. My pain was not so bad. My teammate Tara had saved me with a manageable run, I might have been able to finish 20 minutes faster, but would have resulted in injury and that demoralizing loneliness of miles 18-21 on the run. After a little rest and relishing the joy, we headed to the hotel. I showered in my full run kit. It needed washing anyway. I told my kids I was heading back to the finish line. I had to be there to cheer for the midnight club. It was an awesome experience. Finishing was hard for this 42 year old. I never worried about the clock. Cheering for men and women whose “all” was dangerously close to a DNF was awesome. Find the video of the man who finished at 11:59:59. The true story is that he paced in the man before him; however, the drama of his finish matched the day. The day is everything that every man and woman has to give.
I love that I am an Ironman. I loved the weekend with my brother. I love that my family was there at the finish. I love that my team made my day. I love asking Dru, “what’s next?” I love know that more epic shit is in our future.
Dru, you and your brother Scott became Ironmen as part of a life of epic shit. Keep doing epic shit!