Tue, 9 September 2008
*** Check out my picture gallery of Ironman Wisconsin here. Once you go to my picture site, click on Ironman Wisconsin 08 for almost 60 pictures! ***
I’m a huge fan of Ironman Wisconsin, and really Ironman in general. I love everything about it. I love that it’s not something you can just “do.” Just ask those that have done it. It just gets in your blood. I hear it all the time – let me give you the scenario:
Ironman Athlete after finishing -“I’ll never do another ironman.”
Ironman Athlete after taking a shower, eating some food and getting down some liquid – “I’m definitely going to do another Ironman one day. Maybe in a few years.”
Ironman Athlete the day after – “Heck yeah I’m going to do another ironman. Next year!”
So there you have it. Once you do one, you want to do another. That is exactly how it is for me. I love it. While I was not doing the race this year, I wanted to be part of race day. I wanted to follow someone every step of the way. I wanted to feel part of the race. I wanted to be part of the action. As I have done in the past, I decided to follow and document a few of my favorite athletes. This year was an easy choice. I wanted follow my friend and teammate Michelle and new teammate JP. I also wanted to follow a pro, and this year was an easy choice – Hillary Biscay.
To make things easier for Michelle’s family, I picked her up at 4:45am on race day. I even recorded our conversation on the way to the starting line, that will make for interesting Podcasting. Anyway, I sat with Michelle and got the same race day jitters. It was sad for me in a way. I would have given anything to be right next to my teammates racing. I made a promise, however, to myself and my family that I would hold off a few years on my Ironman racing. Have no fear as I will race again. As the time got closer I walked with Michelle down to the start and wished her well. After wishing Michelle well, I turned and saw Hillary. As with Michelle, I wished her a good day! She was walking alone to the swim start. It seemed late to me, so I imagine she likes to get in the water close to the start. I guess you can’t blame her as she is a complete rock star in the water.
I watched the swim start and about 15 minutes. After that it was time for my Ironman spectator journey. I knew Hillary would be out of the water up front, so I went to the road underpass to see her for the first time. It didn’t take long until I saw her fly past me. I screamed some craziness at her and I’m sure she thought I was some crazy Ironman freak. I guess she was right!
After seeing a few men and Hillary, I had plans to see the lead group about mile 7 of the bike. Unfortunately, Hillary and the boys were too fast. I had to leapfrog the group and find a nice steep hill. As it turned out, I had a perfect vantage point and awesome spot for pictures.
The men started to come past and I finally saw Hillary. She looked great and I screamed again and again. She looked a bit puzzled, so I said “It’s me – Stu.” She smiled and said “Hey Stu!!!” I felt a bit better as I had interviewed her awhile back, and had E-Mailed her a few times wishing here well at the races. This spot was so awesome that I decided to wait for JP and Michelle. I was surprise to see JP only a few minutes past Hillary. I again went nutty on the hill screaming and running along side him. I did this at least 40 times until my buddy Michelle came up the hill. To be honest, I wasn’t sure she was doing well. I half smiled and she smiled widely, so I knew things were ok. I repeated my craziness and ran as far as I could. I was convinced that she was going to do well.
After each passing of Michelle, I had to report back on her blog, so I jumped in the car and drove around neighborhoods until I found a “public” WI-FI. It was actually funny as I would drive until I found a signal, hoping it was “public.” I made my update and rushed back to find my three peeps for the day. I was lucky to find Hillary right away and went absolutely berserk when I saw her. I was starting to worry for her. I wanted her to win and didn’t know how she was feeling. Anyway, after watching her fly past me at 28mph, I figured I needed a better spot. I tried to return to the “perfect hill” but was unable to get back due to closed roads.
I decided to head back to another steep hill later in the route. I found the hill and started the yell and run routine. I saw my buddy from Canada and ran all the way up the hill with him. It was so nice to see Laird again. (BTW – you have to check out his time. NICE!) Anyway, I did this about 10 times for those on the 1st lap and finally saw Hillary, JP and Michelle again. I was now dripping wet from running up and down the hill so many times. The group at the top of the hill kept laughing. There was even a little girl that started to put “tick” marks every time I made it to the top. My grand total? 48 times. I think that was a PR.
It was time for me to find another “public” WIFI. This time it took me a bit longer. I finally found it at restaurant. I bought some food and updated Michelle’s blog again. It was now time to pick up the run. I had my spot picked out for weeks. I was right outside my office. I had dreamed of this for weeks. I know. I even dream of Ironman when I’m not racing. Anyway, It was approximately at mile 2/11/15/24. It was also right at a turnaround so I was surrounded by people. I saw Hillary right away and screamed. I’m not sure if she could even hear what I was screaming as she was starting to have the perfect game face. She didn’t look to be struggling at all. I can remember yelling “Hey Hillary – this is it! This is the day. This is YOUR day. You belong! This is the day you win!!!”
I knew JP and Michelle were a bit behind Hillary, so I decided to run over to watch Hillary on the lake path. I ran over with my camera, saw Hillary and the lead pack twice and ran back just in time to see JP. I couldn’t tell how Hillary was feeling, as her smile had gone away, and she looked totally focused. Consistent. Focused. Ready to win. JP on the other hand, had this huge smile, like the day was a walk in the park. Alll day. He wins the prize for the happiest athlete. I cheered on the athletes that surrounded my small landing area. It was the perfect spot too watch the race. I was able to see Hillary, JP and Michelle at least 8 times on the run. I was starting to get nervous for Hillary and Michelle. Hillary had the lead all day, but could she hold it? Michelle wanted to break 12 hours. BOTH had the day in hand. Both had control. Both were about to find out how deep they could dig. After screaming like a crazy man all day. After worrying myself sick, I saw Hillary for the last time. For the first time in my many sightings, Hillary was now in second. At mile 24 I saw the bike turn the corner that said, 1st Place Female. As was the case all day, I expected Hillary to appear. This was not the case. Instead Karin Gerber of Switzerland ran past. I was so sad. I was devastated that Hillary had come so close only to give it to Karin. I looked to the ground and kicked the Gatorade bottle. After a few seconds I looked up and saw the 2nd place female bike. There she was - Hillary was about 50 yards down. Karin did not look good, but Hillary looked so determined. I screamed like never before. I can’t even remember what I said, but when she ran past me I knew she would win. No doubt. I wanted so bad to see her finish, but I could not leave my teammates JP and Michelle. I had a blast with Hillary, but I was loyal to my teammates. I gave one last scream and just had a feeling that Hillary would pass and win here first Ironman.
I sat on the ground for a few minutes just thinking about how lucky Hillary, JP and Michelle were. They had health, family, and Ironman. They had it all. I was so proud of them. I wanted to scream and run all the way in. I saw JP pass me with a smile of all smiles. He was an Ironman – and fast as well.
I decided that I couldn’t miss Michelle’s finish so I made my way to the finish line. It was hard to find a spot, so I went to the athlete exit. I watched the clock tick ever so close to the 12 hour mark. All of the sudden, out of crowd of athletes, came Michelle. She was smiling and looking like an Ironman. For those that know Michelle, the next words out of her mouth will not surprise anyone. It went something like this: “I'm not happy. I know I can do better next time.” She smiled as if to acknowledge what she had accomplished.
We went to find Michelle’s family. As soon as I shook her husband Jack’s hand, I decided this was time for me to exit. This was time for Michelle and her family. You will never see a family with more pride and tears. She had the support. Michelle was an Ironman, and her family was the Ironclad support!
I walked back to the car with a smile. Hillary had won. JP crushed it, and Michelle did the usual. She exceeded her goal, while setting the bar ever higher. All three made my day. All three are the reason that I WILL do another Ironman. Once my children are in college, Stu will be back. For those wondering, my son is a high school freshman. Four years until college.
Thank you Hillary for letting this crazyman scream his head off for you. Thank you for having the courage to come back and take a victory that you so deserved. Thank you for digging so deep those last two miles that you made me dream that in Ironman, you can NEVER give up. Thank you for showing the world how tough you can be! Thank you for inspiring me.
Thank you JP for the smile that made others smile. Thank you for coming on the Evotri journey with us. Thank you for making Ironman look easy. Thank you for making so many others smile when they saw you smile.
Thank you Michelle for setting the bar higher and higher. Thank you for showing the world that you can set a goal and that you can deliver. Thank you for showing that with hard work you can exceed your wildest goals. Thank you for showing the world how tough you are and how great of a teammate you can be. Thank you for being a great friend. And most of all, thank you for being the ultimate of all teammates.
The athletes are gone. The bikes are packed. The journey may be over for those that did the race in 2008, but the greatest thing about Ironman is yet to come. Those people that finished can proudly walk over to the line of people waiting to start their own dream for 2009. Where else in sport can you run with the pros? Where else can you feel like an Olympian? Where else can you tell people you plan to swim 2.4 miles, ride 112, and run a marathon? Where else can Hillary do TWO Ironman races in seven days? The answer is simple. You can do it in the dreams of Ironman. Here at Ironman you can DO what others only dream about.
Until September 13th at 7am, 2009, thank you Ironman for letting me race with my friends for one day a year and dream about it the other 364.
Category:SimplyStu -- posted at: 1:26pm EDT