Thursday, October 13, 2016

IRONMAN MARYLAND 2016


126.2 miles of tears, smiles laughs, adaptation, but mostly JOY!!!




2 Timothy 4:7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

You read all the time that an Ironman really isn’t earned on race day, but it’s really earned through all the training for the months leading up to the race.  I don’t think that could have been more true for me on my journey to that finish line on October 1st, a little after 10pm.

Well, how many times did things not go perfectly well during my training?  Quite a few times, that’s for sure.  Most people will remember the NUMEROUS flat tires I experienced during my rides up coastal MA and NH.  You’d think I was riding over glass, tacks, and nails all of the time.  Well, it sure got me prepared to fix flats.  Of course, with all the racing I did this season, I didn’t flat during a single race, especially not during IMMD!

I went through the entire season without a single injury. I certainly increased the mileage covering 3168 miles in 2015 and a total of 3564 from Jan 1st up to and including race day on October 1st. Regular visits to my chiropractor and my two fav massage therapists helped keep everything in line. 

Wednesday

We headed down to Maryland on the Wednesday prior to race day.  Most Ironman races are on Sundays, but IMMD has there race on a Saturday.  The drive down was uneventful and we arrived in Salisbury, MD just after dinner time.  We decided to spend the first two nights in Salisbury and then would move into Cambridge to stay at the host hotel from Friday until we left for home on Monday morning.

Thursday

We headed into Cambridge for package pick-up on Thursday morning.  I went in with the intention of swimming in the Choptank and then having a ride on the course for a bit.  Now it had rained most of the night on the eastern shore there and there was lots of flooding in the area and many schools had a delayed start.  When I looked at the river, to say I was nervous was an understatement. It was real windy with a lot of chop (remember, Choptank river?).  I decided I didn’t need the swim, so I got my bike out and did about 12-15 miles.  Very flat as I had expected and the wind was pretty strong at times.  Nothing I hadn’t seen riding up 1A in NH!  When I was done with the ride, I dropped my bike with Sue and Owen. 

Looking at the Choptank River
My friend Ken Sirani had come to race MD as well and we decided to tour the entire bike course to get a good look at where we would be riding.  I took the role of navigator and off we went.  The roads of the course were in excellent shape.  Only a few spots to be be aware of.  Things were going great and then we hit mile 24 on the course.  FLOODED ROADS.  We had heard of this and people said it happens often.  But seriously, about ½ a mile of water, sometimes, more that 6 inches deep at least.  That was the only concern, but it was certainly a big one.

Ken dropped me off back in Salisbury and then Sue, Owen, and I headed back to Cambridge for the Opening Ceremony and Parade of Nations.  It was a great event where they even gave me a shout-out for being the first person with dwarfism who would be racing in an Ironman.  We were able to sit with my friends Mindy and Eric Randall.  I have done a few triathlons with Eric and I have always respected his hard work and drive. He is always positive and up-beat.  Mindy is also a terrific athlete who was there to support Eric’s race.  She's an amazing photographer as well.  I would see her numerous times during the day on Saturday and her pictures and cheers really helped keep me positive that I would complete the race.

We got some dinner (Subway) and then headed back to the hotel.  The rain just kept coming and it would rain most of the night.  I did have a GREAT night of sleep.  An important thing to try and do two nights before a big race.

Friday

We got up Friday morning and then headed into Cambridge to the Hyatt Hotel. They already had our room ready and so we dropped off all of our stuff.  It was then that I got a text from my friend Trevor who was racing along with his buddy Vinnie.  They also live up on the North Shore here in MA and we had all raced Timberman 70.3 last year.  They had been downtown in Cambridge and had taken a pic of a sign at the Chamber of Commerce. It simply said, “Go John! Be the Hammer” All I could say was, “WOW!”

Dorchester Chamber of Commerce


We headed in the Cambridge for lunch.  I had been doing my best to hydrate most of the day  remembering to drink whenever I had the chance. We went to a lovely little restaurant in the downtown area called Katie Mae’s Country Shoppe.  Not a lot of tables, but filled with a few locals, other athletes and GREAT FOOD.  I had spaghetti and meatballs along with a salad (HUGE).  We didn’t have room for dessert.  I then needed to check in my bike.  We returned to the hotel to get my bike, bike bag and run bag.  We dropped off Owen to spend some time in the hotel unattended.  Heck, they had an arcade, so he was happy with that.  When we got to transition, parking around there was a s***-show.  The RD had made it quite clear that parking was not allowed on the streets, but a lot of people were simply ignoring that rule.  I didn’t blame the RD for getting upset and when he started to ask people their bib numbers warning they would be penalized or possibly DQed if they ignored the no parking order, people started to listen.  I was happy Sue was able to simply drop me off with my bike and bags.  The wind was still pretty strong and when I racked my bike I noticed since the front wheel did not touch the ground, the bike was rocking back and forth.  All it would take was a strong gust and #TheAnvil might fall off of the rack.  Wouldn’t you know it when a volunteer saw my dilemma and without me asking he hopped on his bike, rode home and brought back two bungee cords for me to use.  A photographer also offered me a reusable twist tie.  The bike was secure and I called Sue to come back and get me.

We returned to the hotel and Sue and Owen decided to head out to the mall for a bit (or maybe they went to the mall earlier, I can’t really remember) as Deb and Mimi from CNN wanted to spend some time having me answer a few last minute questions prior to the big day.  “How do you feel?”, “What if you don’t finish?”, etc.  I can’t remember if it was before this interview or after, but we received news from Ironman Maryland that the bike course would be shortened by 8 miles due to all the flooding.  What Ken and I had seen on Thursday was now a lot worse.  I kept saying to myself, “Worry about what you can control.” The weather and course changes were out of my hand.  All I could do was prepare and do my best to adapt to any changes.

I went back to my room to make sure all of my bags were packed. Clothes set out for the morning with a morning bag and both special needs bag.  I also had to get all my nutrition bottles ready.  Rather than fumbling with individual gels I bought these small bottles from CVS (intended for shampoo) and I filled 3 of them with Honey Stinger Gels (3 in each).  I prepared 5 bottles with CARBO-PRO.  Two for the bike, two for bike special needs and one for the morning to drink.  In my bike special needs, I put the bottles, one gel bottle, packets of chamois butter, packets of Biofreeze and a zip lock bag of potato chips.  My coach Brian had messaged me that he had heard about the course change.  He reminded me to check my nutrition plan, because along with the shortening of the course, a bike aid station would be removed.  I needed to make sure I had enough fuel to make it from Aid#1 now to Aid#3, about 20 miles instead of 15 or so.

It was time for dinner and without batting an eye I wanted to go back to Katie Mae’s for dinner.  I had an awesome meal of “stick to your ribs” chicken and dumplings.  The local paper had a story about me racing IMMD and the staff at the restaurant said they’d be out cheering in the morning since the run course went right by their shoppe.  Off we went back to the hotel.  All that was left for the evening was to check and re-check my gear and try to get some sleep.

Saturday

I awoke around 1:30AM to hit the bathroom.  I knew I’d need some added energy and so at that time I drank a PowerBar Vanilla shake.  Luckily I managed to get back to sleep.

I set my alarm for 3:45AM and was up right away. Breakfast was two small cinnamon raisin bagels with PB along with an orange and banana and a small cup of coffee.  I also started drinking my bottle with carbo-pro.  Got changed, gave Owen a big hug (he was up for some reason) and I headed out the door.  The hotel was supplying a shuttle to the swim start and I just missed it when I got down to the lobby.  I quickly texted Deb and Mimi and they swung by to get me.  Can you tell I was feeling anxious?

The ride down to the start took no time at all and Deb and Mimi dropped me off two blocks from the entrance to transition.  They needed to go and park and then bring the cameras down to start documenting the day. I walked down the block and the first shock of the day appeared.  The road to transition was flooded.  The volunteers were saying it was due to the tide and would be gone by the time we were on the bike. All I was worried about was our bike and run bags hoping they had been kept dry.  I went to find my bike bag to get out two of the bottles for my bike (I should not have put them in the bike bag and simply brought them with me in the AM).  My bag was fine and all was dry inside.  I had double-bagged it just in case, but you never know.  The bib sticker on the bag left me a bit worried and in the future I will remember to bring a sharpie so I can number EVERYTHING just in case. 

I returned to my bike, loaded up the bottles and this is when I first saw Brian, my coach.  He had traveled down from NYC to support me and witness this amazing day.  Knowing he would be there encouraging me and “kicking my ass” all day was a true relief.  Race start time was fast approaching.  I got out my SURF BUTTA and asked Brian to help apply it to my shoulders etc, where my Blue Seventy Helix was most likely to give me some chaffing if not attended to.  I took a couple of puffs of my inhaler, ate my apple-sauce grabbed my wetsuit, goggles and caps.  I put all my clothes in the morning bag and went to drop it off.

Then the short walk to swim start.  I didn’t want to get my suit on until I was on some grass.  Another trip to the porta-potty for a ”pee”.

**Bodily function post coming up** I consider myself VERY LUCKY in the fact that on most race days, except for one when I was battling a little bug, I only ever need two trips to the “loo” for #2. I have always been able to do those prior to leaving home or the hotel. 

I got to swim start, found a nice patch of grass and got my wetsuit on and then went looking for some of the officials.  They told me the PC athletes would be leaving before the AG athletes started.  The AG athletes were told to self-seed based on speed and would enter the water one or two at a time.  Not the conventional mass-start that many triathletes feel is the ONLY way to start a triathlon.  It is used in a lot of races now to try and reduce the anxiety that some athletes experience.

When I got to the start, Brian was there and I found Sue and Owen as well. I went to the water’s edge to so some pre-race sighting.  The water was pretty rough but I was prepared to do this!  One of the volunteers gave me some great sighting advice on what to aim for on the first long leg.  With about 10 minutes to start I put on my caps.  I always wear two caps and had brought one of my Pingree Swim Team caps to wear under my purple Ironman Maryland cap.  It was then that they announced that the swim start was going to be delayed by 30 minutes.

Photo by M.Schiffman

It was still a little dark, but they said they hoped that once the sun was up fully, the water and wind might settle down a bit.  I have no idea where that comes from, but the announcer mentioned that is what happened at last year’s race.  I wasn’t around a lot of other athletes at this time and I truly feel that was best, FOR ME.  I wasn’t having to listen to complaints or worries by others.  I have really worked on concentrating on what I can control and the weather is not something I can control.  Nor can I control the decisions made by the RD and his committee. 

Now Gerry Boyle, the RD is an amazing man.  This was my first Ironman race, and all I have been hearing from other seasoned Ironman athletes is that Gerry is in a class all his own.  He is active on the IM Maryland facebook page quickly answering athlete’s questions.  When I first posted I wanted to race IM Maryland almost a year ago, Gerry reached out to me right away.  Letting me know he was more than happy I had chosen this race and he would answer any questions I had along the way.  He did, every-time I asked.

With about 10 minutes to go before the adjusted start the kayaks and SUP started to go out to take their positions and there was a cheer from the crowd.  This race was going to START!! I gave Sue and Owen another hug, knelt down and said a special prayer.  I don’t pray to be fast and I don’t pray to win.  I pray to keep safe, keep the other athletes safe, race the best race I can and if I don’t finish, understand there is a reason for that.

I didn’t want to see what saw next.  The water safety people started coming back in.  And then the dreaded announcement came that the swim portion of the race had to be canceled.  I would later hear that the USCG had issued a small craft warning and instructed the RD they could not have the swim.  I am confident the vast majority of the swimmers were prepared to start.  But 2000 athletes in rough water and wind along with kayakers who are struggling to control their own craft is a recipe for some real trouble.

They announced we were all to get back to the changing tents, change into our cycling gear.  We would have a TT start commencing at 7:50AM (35 minutes later).  I think they should have done something to organize who got changed when, because basically all of us tried to find our own small spot to get changed.  I was bib 11 (the lowest one in this race) and then heard they were going to start in bib order.  Heck, I was going to be LEADING the Ironman for a while. Athletes were told if they were with their bikes, they needed to keep them racked until their numbers were called.  I would later find out that it took about 2 hours to get all the riders started.  It makes sense as they can’t have all of us start at the same time.  That would be a recipe for disaster leading to overcrowded roads, with possible crashes and a real mess at the aid stations for sure.

So let’s take a second to go over all the ups and downs.  Crazy wind and rain Thursday and Friday. Flooded roads leading to the bike being shortened. Flooded roads walking to transition, swim delay by 30 minutes and then swim cancellation.  Talk about having to adjust to race day conditions.  We did notice numerous athletes leaving transition, choosing not to race.  I can totally understand if there are more Ironman races in their season.  Why expend the energy on a non 140.6 race?  But they had already come to race on a shortened bike course, so I’m not sure why DNS now? Totally their choice and I would never criticize another athlete’s decision.  Once I started, what other unexpected things would occur?

Photo by M. Schiffman
As I neared the starting line, the officials reminded me to run my bike out of transition and mount at the indicated line.  Gerry came over and whispered a little encouragement in my ear.  And then I was off.  I ran up, mounted #TheAnvil and off I went.  The streets were lined with fans cheering, yelling, with lots of cowbell too.  I heard a number of people yell, “Be The Hammer” and it was amazing.  I quickly got into aero position and hunkered down for a 6+ hour ride.



Video by Owen Young

Every 45 minutes or so I had a gel or an uncrustable sandwich.  I reached the first aid station around mile 14 (at the high school) before my bottle emptied, so I simply grabbed a Gatorade and filled up my aero bottle, took sips of what was left and then chucked the bottle. It was after this aid station that we entered the first loop of the two loop course.  Bike special needs would be when I returned to the high school.  This is where the wind really picked up.  There would be parts of the course sheltered by trees, but a lot of it was wide open marshland.  I think I face less of a wind being smaller, but it still seemed to be a factor.  I never felt like I was getting blown around though, and that was good.  Every 30 minutes or so, I would stand up out of my saddle and pump my legs really hard.  I was conscious of the fact that I didn’t want to stay in the same position all day long.  That would be recipe for disaster.  One thing I could not do at all, was coast.  With such a flat course and with no hills to climb, there are also no downhills.  I chose to use a bike computer instead of my watch as I worried about the battery on the 920xt lasting for 16+ hours.  For some reason, I didn’t check everything and the cadence sensor wasn’t working so I didn’t have that to monitor.  It had been previously, so not sure why that happened.  I saw Brian a few times on the bike course and it always gave me a great boost.  There weren’t a lot of spectators, but the ones that were out there were great.  All of the aid stations were terrific with lots of people cheering and making a ton of noise.


I reached the adjusted course turn where I would now be on roads I had not seen when we drove the course on Thursday.  It seemed somewhat sheltered and there were actually some gentle downhills, or so they seemed.  It wasn’t a chance to rest, but I did seem to get some good speed going.  It was now that I realized it might be a good chance to use my bottle of Carbo-Pro on my rear cage.  With my shorter arms, I can’t reach it while riding, so I had to stop, get off the bike and dump it in.  I probably lost about a minute or so between when I started to brake until I was back up to speed. 

The weather at this point was total cloud cover.  The forecast said rain was to start around 10AM and they were bang on.  It started coming down pretty steady for a while and then even poured quite a bit.  Nothing like the monsoon I had rode in at Pumpkinman.  I was making sure not to ride on any painted lines, so as to not slip.  In terms of how I felt, there were really no problems.  When muscles seemed to stiffen, I shifted my position.  Hands, arms, and shoulders were all good. I’m sure that might had been different had I done the swim.

All the aid station stops were the same, in that I would take a Gatorade bottle, dump it in and then continue.  A few times I would grab a banana, eat it right away and chuck the peel along with the empty bottle.  I had all the gels and sandwiches I needed in my Champion System bike jersey.  I also managed to put in an additional tube and CO2 cartridge, that thankfully I would never need.  I had enough practice with flats during training and it would be an added relief not to have to worry about them at all on this day.

Photo by J. Model
When I got to bike special needs. I wanted to make sure I took my time and didn’t miss anything.  I called out my bib number and a volunteer had my bag for me the moment I stopped.  I asked someone to hold my bike and they were happy to help.  I got off the bike, ripped the bag open and quickly changed out my bike cage bottle, filled my aero bottle.  I also changed out my gel bottle.  I also put two more sandwiches into my jersey along with a small bag of chips. I then took some chamois butter and applied it to the inside of my shorts.  I also used the Bio freeze on both of my knees as they had started to feel a bit sore. It looks like the stop took me no more than 2 minutes.

I was off for the 2nd loop.  I tried my best to recall landmarks in the hopes that it would then help me mentally.  It was very reassuring now, as I was halfway into my ride.  The rain lingered a bit but the real downpours did not return.  I managed to complete the 2nd loop without needing to stop and refill from my own bottle.  The course was well staffed with course marshals and police.  I did notice a few riders pass real close to my left without saying anything and at least one pass on my right.  Most announced their presence, with many calling out, “Go Hammer” or something like that.  Whenever someone yelled “Be the Hammer” I often had the same response, “All day long baby, all day long.”

Whenever an athlete says something like, “You inspire me”, I always yell back, “And you inspire me too!!!”  One athlete said something to me that kind of pissed me off.  He said something to the effect of how crappy I must feel choosing this race as my first Ironman.  Obviously implying I should be disappointed because the course was shortened.  My reply was, “Whatever”.  I think he was pissed off with my reply, but I really didn’t care.

When I reached the end of the second loop, the distance I thought I had left was quite a bit shorter than it should have been had we had the 104 mile course as they had indicated.  The way back was still flat but with more turns as we rode into Cambridge.  As I rode down the last street into transition, I passed runners heading out and there were plenty of fans cheering. I looked at the bike computer and it wasn’t even at 100 miles.  The course was actually even shorter than they had said.  Either they miscalculated or they had to shorten it even more.

Either way, I got to the dismount line, got off my bike and went to rack it.  Well, they had actually moved my rack.  Once I placed the bike, I was able to give both Sue and Owen a hug and had the worse run of my life heading back into transition to change for the run.  6+ hours on a bike and lots of muscles were stiff.  Running in cycling shoes isn’t easy either.  I was got my bike back and went to change.  I remembered what Brian had said and took my time.  The most important thing is to try and be more comfortable for the run.  I had decided a full change.  I completely stripped down, vaselined and lubed what I could and dressed.  I put on running shorts, my Achilles running (not tri jersey) shirt, Work Live Tri visor, socks and shoes.  I put on my Fuel Belt and made sure to put gloves and arm warmers in the empty bottle sleeve (I would never need them).  I also put on a headlamp which I was really glad to have later.  One guy asked to borrow my vaseline and I said one thing to him, “No double dipping.”  That got a laugh from others around us.  I put all my bike gear into the run bag, tied it up, gave it to a volunteer and proceeded out to the run.

Before we got out on the road we had to run around the outside of transition. It was somewhat muddy and I did what I could to avoid most of it.  Once out onto the road, things were actually a lot better than I had hoped.

Photo by M. Randall
Photo by Brian Hammond
I wanted to try and keep my initial pace under 16:00 minute miles and I was able to do that for most of the first 8 miles or so.  The course is a left-right out and back three times where we pass most areas a total of six times. It is just as flat as the bike course with only a couple of very slight gradual hills.  When I did the first out and back and was heading back towards transition, another athlete heading back out said, there were some puddles in town.  HMMM, more flooding.  And that’s when I saw it, first at transition, water and mud everywhere.  This marathon had now turned into something of a mud run, or Spartan race.  I would experience more water downtown.  It was at this time that I kind of threw my hands in the air and thought any kind of paced run was going to be pretty hard.  I had soaking feet and then it didn’t take long for the blisters to come.  I had thought about taking my shoes and socks off for the water, but then thought what if step on something under the water?  Now for the other athletes the water was maybe calf or close to knee deep at the deepest point.  For me that meant thigh deep and even higher.  So high that at one point, my “bits” were getting wet. Certainly time for another laugh.  We were actually doing the SWIM at last.

The downtown area on the first pass was amazing.  Lots of spectators cheering and yelling.  This course is a bit of tease because you actually have to pass the finish chute 5 times before you get to enter it. 

Back through transition again, with the mud, and out to Jenkins Creek Road.  I would have to go all the way out twice.  On my first lap there were some kids holding signs saying GO HAMMER.  It truly made my day to see them.  Well, on my 2nd time out there, it was getting dark now, but there were more kids with signs.  They truly saved my spirits at that time as I was doing a lot of walking.  Well, I managed to get back to running again.  Brian popped up a number of times, but I had not seen Sue and Owen since I left on the run and was getting worried.  Brian had tried to text Sue, but no luck.  When I saw Deb and Mimi they could tell I was bummed.  Runners could too as they were yelling at me to pick up my head!!! Good advice for sure.  I asked Deb to text Sue and she got her and was able to tell me they were getting my bike and bags from transition.

What a relief that was knowing that both Sue and Owen were ok and were somewhere around the course. I continued on, feeling good all over in terms of nutrition, hydration and all of my body, except the blisters on my feet.  I continued to drink my Carbo-pro on my fuel belt.  When that got low, I re-filled the bottles with Gatorade at the aid stations.  When I felt I needed it, I had a banana, or orange slice and even some chips when they were available.  A lot of the stops had cookies too and even warm soup.  The only thing I wasn’t happy with was the water they had.  I noticed them filling the cups with water from a hose, and it tasted like it.  When I got to the turn around on my 2nd loop out by the bypass a friendly face appeared.  Not someone I’d met before but someone I knew through fb and our mutual friend, Caroline Gaynor.  It was Tina Ament.  She is a VI para-triathlete who had raced IM Maryland last year along with Caroline as her guide.  She said she had been tracking me all day and she was helping out at the aid station. 

I left the turn-around knowing I would not need to go back that far on my third loop.  I was more than ½ way done now.  I find reaching the ½ way point of any race gives me a boost and the best part of a triathlon is that I experience that during each leg, so three different times.  I saw those kids with the “Hammer” signs one last time and was sure to HIGH-5 as many of them as I could.  It was starting to get real dark now and I’m glad I had my light on.  It felt really good knowing when I came back out this way I wouldn’t need to go out this far.  As I got back down near transition an athlete going back out said, that she had seen Sue and Owen with my bike.  As I neared the entrance to transition, I started yelling, “Sue, Sue,….. Sue”.  And then she yelled back.  They were with Brian and my bike.  A big hug and kiss for both of them.  At this point I had about 6 miles left, so that meant about 90 more minutes of running.  They would have time to get my bike to the car and then get back to the finish line to see me complete my race.

What a boost this was.  It was a relief to see a lot less water on the roads now, but transition was still really muddy.  Add to that all the other athletes getting their bikes and gear along with shuttles along the roads and things were a bit crazy.  I needed to really watch where I was going.  I passed Vinnie and Trevor who had both finished.  I hit the turnaround right downtown and told people I would be back one more time if they wanted to wait.  A number of people said they would, and you know what?  They were there my last time through about an hour or so later.

Again through the muddy transition and back up for my third loop.  This would be a shorter loop as I only had to go up to Bayview and then turn back for the finish.  It was totally dark now and they had some spot lights up, but my headlamp was invaluable.  I could see the road and what’s better, is that other runners could see me.  My pace had slowed considerably, but I was still managing some running along with walking.  I wasn’t really paying attention to my watch and I know my discipline all broke down with having to walk through the water and mud.  Just excuses I know, but at least I was still moving forward and feeling good about what I was about to accomplish.  “HEAD UP JOHN”!!!  There it was again from another runner.  I went through transition for the last time.  I did pass run special needs 5 times and in the end I didn’t use it.  I had a long sleeved shirt, some chips, fresh socks and some CARBO-PRO powder.  In the end I don’t think I really needed it.  People who saw me either knew it was my last time through or asked.  I proudly said, “This is it. On my way home!” The cheers helped me now to do a bit more running than walking. 

With about a mile left I saw Brian and he walked with me a bit and told me something I’ll never forget.  He said a person only has one First-time Ironman finish.  All the training you’ve done, all the effort and work and time you’ve sacrificed, this is where it all comes out.  This last stretch is for you, he said. Soak it all in and remember every moment running down the chute.  I thanked him for being here and for all he’s done and I started to run and cry of course. 

I wanted to get all the angry reasons I did this out of me now.  I wanted the chute to be pure joy.  And so for the next half mile or so, I thought of all the name calling, all the doubters and all the people who think it’s OK to snap our picture when we are out in public.  And I yelled out loud, “LOOK AT ME NOW.  TAKE PICTURES NOW!!” And then I thought how lucky I am.  How lucky to be 50 years old and doing this.  I have not had a single surgery related to my dwarfism and for that, I am so thankful.  Thankful our son Owen has experienced the same so far in his life.  I thought of a number of LP people who have had a much more challenging life than me so far.  People like; Katie, Vivian, Jaden and Quaden. They are so much stronger than I am.  They faced countless challenges and surgeries early on in their lives and dealt with the pain.  The pain I was facing I chose and so I needed to be strong. I had to be strong.

I passed by the chute one last time and could hear the announcer, “YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!” I only had maybe a ¼ of a mile to go.  Up the brick road to the center of the town and then it was a quick turnaround to the finish.  I passed by the brew pub one last time and people were screaming, “GO JOHN!!  GO HAMMER!!!” And then I heard it, the song they were playing at the finish line.  It was “I Will Wait” by Mumford and Sons.  One of my favorites. And that’s what Sue and Owen were doing.  Waiting for me.  And so I ran!! All the way down.  I saw Thomas, a major player in the MD triathlon community.  He got in his golf cart and headed down to the finish.  I kept running.  The music got louder and I got faster.  No pain, head up, arms pumping.  This was it.  Over 14 hours of racing.  I entered the chute and the lights hit me.  All I saw were the lights.  I clenched my first and screamed!!!!  And then the lights faded and all I saw were Sue and Owen with the medal.  I ran into his arms, hugged him and he put the medal around my neck.  All 3 of us hugged. And I also heard the words, “You did it John, you did it.  YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!”



Video by Sue Casey


Photo by Brunswick/Schiffman
With the GREAT Gerry Boyle
Photo by T. Hutchinson

Photo by Brunswick/Schiffman
I trained for it and I was prepared and ready to complete 140.6 miles.  In the end the race was 126.2 miles because that’s all we were allowed to race that day. I have fought labels my whole life.  Some people like to call me names and that rarely has bothered me.  I deal with it head on and don’t ignore it, making sure people realize it’s not appropriate.  But then I experienced something different after completing Ironman Maryland.  WTC, who owns the rights to all Ironman races called my name at the finish line, like they did for every finisher.  Heck, I received a finisher medal and an award for earning 2nd place in the PC division.  They awarded Kona slots to athletes who finished top in the age-groups.  And yet there are triathletes saying we aren’t allowed to call ourselves Ironmen because we didn’t complete 140.6 miles.  Just like I don’t allow people to label me, I also don’t allow them to tell me I can’t call myself something.  Along with every FINISHER in Maryland on October 1st, I earned the title of Ironman.  Will I get a 140.6 tattoo or sticker, NOPE. Will I proudly wear my FINISHER hat and shirt?  You bet I will!!

Photo by M. Randall



8 comments:

  1. Congratulations on your accomplishment! Ironman Maryland was definitely a unique day, and you persevered! Keep up the awesome work!

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  2. Congratulations! great race report.

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  3. Awesome. So awesome. Congratulations Ironman!

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  4. Way to go John! You EARNED that Ironman title. Wear it proudly!

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  5. What an epic day! Congratulations, Ironman!

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  6. awe.. my eyes are leaking.... Congrats John! So thrilled for you.

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  7. Someone is seriously cutting onions over here...I "met" you on a few FB boards (From Fat to Finish line and Pathetic Triathletes...) and you are seriously one of the biggest inspirations that I have come across! I'm 37 YO and everyone has a story, and I definitely have mine (it's on my blog...) and I understand the name calling and being told "you can't do it"...luckily I have a lot of family and friends now, in my life, who tell me I CAN and I WILL! Right now I'm just getting into running and next year will be my first sprint triathlon...and hopefully (before I turn 45) I want to do my first half IM...but I just want you to know that you are truly one of the biggest inspirations I've ever met in this sport and am so happy to follow you!

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  8. Loved reading your report, huge congrats Ironman!

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