Mike and I packed up the suitcases and made our way down to Houston, TX with lots of sunscreen and antiperspirant/deodorant in tow. As far as I was concerned, we were entering the depths of hell. Heat. Humidity. Wind. All I could think was THANK GOD I’M NOT DOING THIS RACE. It was going to be tough racing conditions for everyone but when you’re in “Ironman” you don’t give a shit about anyone else. It’s all about you. Or in this case, Mike.
This was the inaugural year of Ironman Texas, which took place in The Woodlands, about an hour outside of Houston. The swim course was in a river – very, very narrow, warm and stagnant. As I stood alongside the bank during Mike’s practice swim, I looked down to see a dead fish. Gross. Along with the dead fish, came a water temperature of 79…most athletes opted out of the wetsuit. Strike 1. I will never, ever race a triathlon that I can’t wear a wetsuit in. never. EVER.
The race was on a Saturday and Mike and I had a pretty chill day Friday. He was relaxed and ready. So ready. To get back to it. Last year’s events prevented him from racing Ironman Coeur d’Alene as well as Ironman Florida. This was his comeback. He fiercely prepared for this race with the help of physical therapy, massage and most importantly, our amazing coach – Craig Howie.
As Mike entered the water for the 2.4 mile swim and the cannon boomed, I got the nervous butterflies and chills often associated with Ironman swim starts. The flailing arms. The sea of swim caps bobbing. The screaming and whistling of the spectators. The anticipation of the long day ahead for these people. I was thrilled and excited for the 2700 athletes who spent millions of hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars collectively, preparing for this very moment. The dedication attributed to Ironman training is indescribable and it takes a very special and courageous person to do it…this is why less than 1% of the world will ever dare to show up at the start.
I didn’t see Mike exit the water but I did see him get on his bike and get his legs back. He was smiling and so was I. In 112 miles I would see him again because of this out and back course. I had some friends to hang out with as the hours ticked by and even had a nice surprise visit from our cousin Joel and his family as they lived nearby. The heat continued to rise but we were blessed with a heavy cloud cover.
When Mike made his way back from the bike, all I could think about was that he only had 26.2 more miles to go. Piece of cake. He’s come so far. In just a few hours, he would be called an Ironman for the third time. The run course was broken down in 3 loops. He was suffering, no doubt. The sun broke through and his primary objective was to stay cool and keep moving. He had some dark moments but miles later he resurrected himself from that place and gained his momentum back. His pace increased and the smile came back. The Comeback Kid came back. Redemption was his. He conquered his demons. Not only in this race but in the year leading up to it. As I watched him come through the final quarter mile, I started bawling. An Ironman finish is so emotional, for the triathletes and the spectators -it's awe-inspiring... to think about what these people have had to go through for 140.6 miles - physically and mentally as they spent hours shaking away the pain and self-doubt, mile by mile.
As I saw Mike cross the finish line on the giant video screen, while U2's where The Streets Have No Name blasting (ironically we were supposed to be at that concert back in Denver that night!) there was only one thing I could think about...the comeback was complete.
After 14 long hours, my baby did it. He crossed the finish line of his third 140.6 mile day and became my hero. Again.
Congratulations Pizza Lover… I love you!
|Ironwife and her Ironman|