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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Ironman Louisville; the Non Participant, Volunteeer and Cheerleader Report!

Wow, wow, wow.  Where to start?  It was an amazing weekend at Ironman Louisville!

Being silly before heading to the race,
OC, Me & Jim (Mel's Hubs)
First thing's first though, Mel finished in 13:55.  We're all sooooo glad her Achilles held out and she finished.  She executed a very smart race and even though her bike was slower than she wanted (she sacrificed speed for heart rate), it made for a more comfortable run and of course the finish.

Up until this past weekend the largest event I'd been to was the Lonestar 70.3. The transition area looked huge for that event, but that was because the bike racks used for the Sprint and Olympic distance the day before.  On Sunday morning we got to transition at 5am and I just couldn't believe how big it was.

Mel was in great spirits; a little nervous, but totally excited.  It was almost a  1.5 mile walk to the Swim start from the transition area, and I couldn't help but think, here we are walking 1.5 miles... I pray Mel doesn't need this 1.5 miles later.  Truthfully, in my gut, I knew she would finish.

I saw her to the start with her Husband and OC then headed back to the volunteer check-in; I was going to be working in the woman's changing tent from 7am to 10am.  At the tent we got the rundown of how it all would work and waited around and at about 45 minutes, the first of the pros emerged from the water.  Most of them just ran through the change tent to get to their bikes, a few of them stopped, made a quick change, and were assisted.  I helped out two pros, that I remember specifically -- so that was kinda cool.  Every one of the athletes were so appreciative of the help.  It was good to be a volunteer in this particular area.  I'm glad I did it.  It's not something I can do here locally.

Only a half of the transition area
As I left the volunteer tent I saw athletes leaving on their bike.   Of course I was noticing how there were very few "fluffy" triathletes there, and I'm talking about fluffy like me, fluffy.   I finally saw someone who might was about my size.  And you know me, I have to root for the birds of my feather!  I'll call her Hammer girl, because she had on a Hammergel jersey.

Once we finished volunteering we re-grouped and hopped in the car to visit mile 30-something in La Grange.  Mel would loop twice around, so we'd see her again at almost 70 as well.  She was looking good on the bike, though a little miffed she had to go a little slower to keep her heart rate down.  I think she mentioned the climbs were a little harder than the computrainer course was, but she was managing and she looked great.  Smiling as usual!

Before the Swim Start
After she passed we grabbed some lunch and waited another 90 minutes before she'd make it around again.  We decided to really turn-up the cheerleading.  So what did I do?  Cartwheels, of course!  Yes... me.  I can still do cartwheels, and in succession even -- but they're only for special occasions :)  I practiced a few and got some cheers from the crowd and cyclists -- quite hilarious.  I was ready with my cartwheels by the time she came around again and she loved it!  On the 2nd loop she stopped to eat her cookie and quickly headed back out there to finish up for the run.  And yes, still smiling.

We drove back to Louisville and waited for her at the bike-in.  Her husband "borrowed" our volunteer shirt so he could get into transition to walk with her from the bike-in towards the changing tent; it was a great boost for her to see everyone.  She had a super-quick transition and made her way out on the run. We caught her several times out on the course, but she made it clear that the 3rd time we saw her it was "way too long to go without seeing any one."  Her Husband ran back to the hotel and got a bike so he could ride the sidewalk, not on the course, to keep up with her easier.  The rest of us hopped in the truck and tooled around to wait for her.  At mile 18 we took her dinner order, picked up everything she wanted and met her at the finish line.

Cookie break!  Mel, Me, Her Hubs and OC
When I finally saw her dots come in, I just started to cry.  I was so overwhelmed happy she completed this; I knew how badly she wanted it.  We all knew she would and could -- last year was just a bad race day. She is an Ironman now, 100% earned medal and all. It might have taken her 278+ miles to to believe it herself, but we all knew she was an Ironman already. :)

We collected her and took her back to her room for a while, until she got her second wind.  We went back at around 11pm to watch the remaining athletes finish.  Here's where it gets really fun!

Mel Finishing!
So we went to the end of the finishers chute; just before all the bright lights and music gets loud. We cheered runners on.  These athletes were spent and their faces showed every ounce of determination they had.  It was amazing how most of them came to life and donned a smile twice their normal size.  It was great to see them realize... I'm going to finish!!!

One guy in particular, I don't know his race number, came toward me for a high five.   Clearly he was talking himself through finishing.  I don't think he was delirious, but I do think he was completely spent.  He jogged past me to the city sidewalk. He totally dodged the chute and was now running on the sidewalk.  It was just 100 yards to the finish, but he wasn't going to cross the line if he continued.  I literally sprinted when I realized what he had done and then realized he didn't know what he had done.  I collected him and sent him up the chute to Finish.  The time was about 16:51 or 16:52... I can't remember for sure, but I have an idea of who it was looking at the results.  So Joseph Prudhomme of Miami, if  in this small Internet world you find this story -- Awesome job!  Not to toot my horn, because I'm glad I was there, but could you imagine if after almost 17 hours of effort and months of training to not officially finish?  Oy!!

I never saw Hammer girl finish, but Mel said she saw her on the course and figured Hammergirl was at mile 18 when Mel was at 23.  Mel said she looked good.  I"m sure she finished after Mel, but before we came back down at 11pm. 

Lastly, there was a female athlete who approached the chute at like 16:50-something,  She had on a NJ Triathlon jersey, so you know I had to show a fellow Jersey girl some love, right?  She wasn't young, but she wasn't old... I felt like if you saw her on the street you'd never suspect she was a triathlete.  Anyway, she was looking really spent (who didn't look spent?) so I talked to her and ran along side of her from the sidewalk and she started to pick-up the pace and run again.  Unfortunately the clock ready 17:01 by the time she had crossed.  After that, the music was turned off and they start breaking down the race. If you finish after 17 hours your an Ironman in your heart, but not on the results page.

As we walked back to the hotel I saw my fellow Jersey girl exiting the Finisher's chute.  She was completely alone.  No friends or family.  I was curious if she had finished (I was glad to see she did have a medal, but her results were not on the results page).  She was walking ahead of us, stopping occasionally to rest.  I didn't want to say anything to her, well, because, I didn't want to bother her if she didn't want to be bothered.  Leave it to OC though... he just struck up a conversation and told her good job.  She smiled and continued on.  I'm not sure I would have been all that talkative either.  *hugs* to that lady from Ocean Grove, NJ

The whole experience just solidified my desire to continue moving forward with plans to do an Ironman one day.  What an amazing day!

4 comments:

sharla said...

Don"t even know Mel, but now sitting here wiping away tears!

So glad she finished and you had a great time!

silken said...

what an adventure! a real boost for you to get to be a part of it!! and way to go to Mel (I am acquainted w/ her mom, we both swim at 24 at the same time on occasions and she told me about the upcoming event, so I am glad to get to read this "report"!)

moll1998 said...

I remember watching the NJ Triathlon girl come in at 17:01. She sat down alone and my heart broke for her. I wanted to jump over the fence and hand her my finisher medal.

She is an ironman in my eyes and I am sure she is in many others eyes as well. She did the 140.6 and finished strong.

Donna said...

Moll, she is totally an Ironman in my eyes too! Hey, she did get a medal though -- just that she's not listed on the official results. :( No one finishing after 16:58 is listed.

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