No, I did not do an Ironman. Nor will I ever. But my husband did, and he wants to share his experience.
He did it This weekend, my husband completed his first full Ironman. The Beach2Battleship Ironman in Wilmington, NC.
2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26.2 mile run. Done, done, and done.
I could not be more proud of him!
Thank you all so much for all of the supportive comments. I showed them all to my husband and he was very grateful.
Here’s the race from both of our points-of-view. It’s going to be a long one
Jen: When the alarm sounded at 4:30 am, the temperature was 37 degrees and windy. At that moment my pre-race jitters disappeared. Instead of fearing he would drown or get run over, I just felt bad for him. I couldn’t imagine swimming in these temps or biking wet. Yikes.
When I said bye to him, I wasn’t scared. I actually didn’t feel anything, it was so surreal. (He had to board a bus before the race to take to the swim start. No spectators were allowed at the swim start or finish, so I waited at transition.)
Jeff: It was cold. All I could think about was how I’d stay warm on this very long day. But once we made it to transition at 5:45 am, I had to set my bike up, get body marked, take care of my special needs bags and transition bags, go to the bathroom, pump my tires, get my wet suit on, and get on the bus to the start by 6:30 am.
I started panicking a bit, worrying I wouldn’t make the bus on time. But I managed to say my good-byes to Jen and board the bus by 6:20. At the start, standing on the beach, I was freezing my butt off. I could not wait to get into the warm 65 degree water.
Jen: Hubby said the swim would take around an hour. But when only a handful of people came in an hour after the start, I assumed they didn’t start on time, so I had no clue when to expect him. I only worried he drowned for a half of a minute or so
Jeff: One of the main reasons I chose this race is because the tide is supposed to come in, and push the competitors up the channel. Meaning we’d have the current at our back for the 2.4 miles. But standing at the start I saw the spotting boats, kayaks, and surfers drifting the opposite way. I was a little concerned, but assumed it was the wind’s fault and not the current.
Once I started swimming, it felt great to be in warm water. I easily got into a good rhythm. I eventually saw a green buoy and looked at my watch- 35 minutes. At first, I thought this was a random buoy, but it was actually the buoy marker for the half Ironman start. Meaning it took me 35 minutes to swim 1.2 miles. I thought I’d be done with the swim in 50-55 minutes. We later found out the tide was going the opposite way than normal, so it was against us the whole time, and all racers had slow swim times. Once I saw I was in the water an hour, I knew Jen would assume I drowned. This encouraged me to swim faster.
Jen: I was thrilled to see him out of the water! So many competitors were white and shivering, but hubby looked great and was completely “in the zone”.
Jeff: In transition one, I quickly took off my wetsuit and put on my helmet, shoes, and arm-warmers and headed to the bike. I wore my bike outfit under my wetsuit. But a lot of fools were completely changing into new clothes. What a waste of time!
Jen: Because of how the course and road blocks were set up, I decided not to try and catch Jeff on the bike. He told me the course would take him about 6 hours. So I had 6 hours to entertain myself
I ran an easy 10 miles through downtown Wilmington, showered, read War and Peace, walked to find some lunch, spectated the half competitors, got jealous that I wasn’t competing, and then made my way to the transition area to catch hubby.
Jeff: The first 70 miles of the bike sucked. It was a head wind the whole time. Every time we made a turn- right, left, straight- we were still stuck in a head wind. Despite all of that, my paced hovered between 18-21 mph and I felt good. I rolled into the special needs stop at mile 50, and was looking forward to eating my peanut butter, honey, and chocolate chip sandwich. I grabbed it, pulled out of the special needs area, then dropped my sandwich I thought, “do I pick it up off the gravel? Or do I keep going?” A minute or two in a 12 hour race would make no difference- and since I am not the germaphobe in the family- I picked up my sandwich and ate it, still while going into a head wind mind you. Good choice. It was quite possibly the best sandwich I ever had.
Then I kept cruising along until mile 67, where we had to do a stupid quarter mile out and back which ruined my rhythm. In 112 miles, they really couldn’t find another place to add a half of a mile? When we made the next turn, the head wind miraculously stopped. I saw a sign that said “Wilmington 38 miles”. I worried in training that I’d get bored at this point in the race, but since I finally had a tailwind, I felt nothing but happiness.
Jen: I made it to the transition/finish area (I had to take a ferry to get here and the process took 40 minutes) and scurried to find a good spot to catch hubby. I was so caught up in watching the other athletes that I almost missed him! He came in 10 minutes earlier than I expected, so I wasn’t ready But I was thrilled he was ahead of goal pace. He told me he felt great. And I finally breathed a sigh of relief. He only had a marathon left, and even I could do that
Jeff: I coasted into transition 2, and was just excited that I’d soon be doing something other than biking. I was happy to see Jen for a second, and knew she’d be pleased to see me back knowing I didn’t get run over by a car.
Jen: The run course was 2 out-and-back loops. I parked myself- along with my in-laws and my furball- outside of my hotel so I could catch him at miles 3, 10, 16, and 23 (I didn’t wait around until 23 because I wanted to make the ferry back to the finish).
Mile 3: When Jeff passed, I decided to join him on the run for a half mile. I saw other people doing this, and knew he’d appreciate the company. He was running about a 9:00 minute/mile and I foolishly assumed he was doing this because he wanted to stay steady the whole race. Wrong. He said he was going slow because his stomach hurt. A hurting stomach at mile 3 of a marathon? Not good. But he said his legs felt fine, which is just incredible after a 112 mile ride.
Mile 10: These 7 miles took Jeff a really long time. When I ran with him this time, he didn’t want to talk to me. He wasn’t happy and it pained me. I had flashbacks of my marathon, and my heart ached for him.
Mile 16: When I saw Jeff this time, he was walking. I just kept telling him “what’s 10 more miles when you’ve already done 130.2?” and “the next time I see you, you’ll be an Ironman!” I knew he’d finish. But I also knew he didn’t feel well. The sun was setting, the temps were dropping, and he was getting further and further from his goal time. I felt an odd mix of sympathy and pride.
Jeff: I was looking forward to having a good run. In the past year, my running got a lot better so I was excited for this point in the race. As soon as I started, I felt off. Something was wrong, and that something was my stomach. Was my delicious sandwich from the ride evil in disguise? I don’t know. I think I ate and drank too much throughout the race. I couldn’t get my stomach to settle no matter what I did. My 4:00 hour goal marathon turned into a 6:00 hour marathon. I was frustrated, but I also knew no matter what, I’d finish, so I was happy. Seeing Jen, the dog, and my parents brought a smile to my face each time. I also started to get cold and just wanted to take a hot shower more than anything. That was my motivation to get through the run: a hot shower.
Jen: The finish line was stressful. We got there about an hour before he crossed so it was fun to people watch. Half of the finishers looked like death, and the other half looked amazing. I don’t know which was more alarming…
A little after 8:00 pm, Jeff crossed the finish line! He was an IRONMAN!
I wish I could tell you I cried tears of joy, but I didn’t. I was definitely beyond proud of him and thrilled to hug him. But it was cold. Competitors were shivering like crazy and some were collapsing. I just wanted him to get warm. I was so consumed with this goal that I couldn’t truly enjoy his Ironman moment until we got back to the hotel.
Jeff: I was glad to be done. My legs felt great sine I basically walked a marathon. They missed running, but my stomach was too jacked up to let them. I was disappointed I didn’t finish within my 12 hour time goal, but the excitement of going back to the hotel to take a hot shower overshadowed that.
Jen: I am overjoyed that my husband is an Ironman, and that he can cross that life goal off his list. I feel a little ridiculous that I worried so much, but what can you do? Now that I see he’s OK, the pride and excitement has really taken over. That 140.6 sticker on his car is the coolest thing ever. But not cool enough that I’ll ever want one
Jeff: I’m really happy I completed by Ironman, but I’ll probably never do the full distance again. I really enjoy competing in halves. The training isn’t too time consuming, and I have a better shot at doing well. Thank you all for your support! Now I’m off to bed…