It has been too long since I’ve blogged and lots of things have happened to remind me that my cup runneth over with love. The most notable was two weeks ago when I had the honor of being a part of Ironman Texas. I’ve watched Ironman’s live before through the computer, but I’ve never actually been there. I was excited to be able to help, as well as spectate the hell out of the thing.
Friday B and I squeezed out of work as early as we could to be able to head down to The Woodlands, where the event was being held. One of the cool things about IMTX is that it is on a Saturday, so we had to get up really early the next day because we had volunteer as wetsuit strippers. We got in fairly late but decided to drive around the area to get aquainted with the start area before the chaos of the morning. We headed to bed and the alarm for 4 am came nice and early.
I took a quick shower to wake up, got some grub from the hotel who opened their breakfast early for the athletes and headed to the start. We didn’t have to get organized for stripping until around 6:15 and since we got there super early, we headed over to transition. I think I had to wipe my mouth several times from all of the drooling over the awesome looking bikes. Race morning feeling is super awesome, I know I wasn’t racing, but you can feel this mixture of excitement and anxiety that consumes everyone.
As the athletes headed towards the swim start in one direction, we had to head back to the parking lot to meet up with the rest of the wetsuit strippers – where we found these LOVELY ladies!
The water was hot and we knew that going in, so we weren’t sure if it was going to be a wetsuit legal swim. We got the word that you could wear one if you didn’t want to be eligible for a prize (they also punished them 10 minutes.) Pros started, 10 min later non wetsuit age groupers, then wetsuited age groupers. As soon as all of the strippers congregated, we got down to the swim exit.
While waiting forevah patiently for the swimmers to come we hung out for a bit and got to meet Susan Lacke! (Of course I didn’t get a picture, duh) More people starting getting around us and the excitement really started to build. Soon we saw the first swimmer!
Also, I’d like to apologize to the awesome SUP boarder who fell while trying to guide people. THAT’S why you don’t look backwards and get your balance offset, duh.
Anywho, none of the pros were allowed to wear wetsuits, only speedsuits, so we could only yell and cheer at them as they ran by. That continued with most the age groupers. Some of them asked if we could help with their zippers, but mostly we told them how awesome they were. Then the wetsuits started coming. While there wasn’t a ton of them, they kept us quite busy. We all paired up and would yell at them to come see us. I got to demand people get down on their backs and pick their booty’s up and I stripped, got them back up and told them to have a great ride! I can’t tell you how much fun we had – Susan eventually pointed out that we were probably covered in a mixture of the nasty water (which btw did look kind of gross) as well as pee, since most triathletes pee in their suits. So yeah, that was awesome.
Being there was infectious, in a very good way. You have such highs during the day trying to help these people achieve their goals. I would have done whatever is needed to get someone across that finish (um, keep reading if you want to know what that whatever is…) But the one thing no one really talks about is after everyone has cheered on their people and have moved on to the next part of the race. The few families and volunteers that are left also get to be a part of those moments where people have not made the cutoff. There were a few that I saw and they Broke. Your. Heart. I’m not kidding y’all, there was a woman out of the water who finished Texas last year and missed the cutoff this year. She was exhausted and when she was told they needed her chip, she needed help walking. TPG to the rescue helped her through transition. She came back and told us all the woman could say is that she was such a loser. There is nothing on earth you can say to someone who is that upset at that moment. Personally I think she was a badass for being out there and I know all of us either had tears or fought them back. You live these extremely high highs and very low lows with these athletes that you have never met.
After we left the stripper area Brian went and bought a rolling cooler so we could move around all of the beer and water for spectathleting. Seriously, if you want some fun, bring us, we come prepared. After we stood around for a while around transition the pros started to come in, we ran all the way to the tent area to watch them come out – and that’s the coolest thing! These pros are amazing to watch – they are so fit and determined that you can’t help but be sorta in awe.
I didn’t get any great shots of the women coming out of transition, but we ended up going around the run course and finding a nice shady spot. This is where we cracked open a beer (initially apprehensive because we weren’t sure if it was allowed) but the security guys stood right next to us and said nothing. Party on. We stayed there for a long part of the day cheering on people – we got to see the first male pro finish (way to come back from a VERY distant second off the bike and kick the crap out of the run Jordan Rapp!) It made me laugh, but also sort of feel bad for the athletes I were cheering for who asked if that was actually a beer in my hand. Yes it was, I was hydrating, thank-you-very-much…
I cheered my little heart out for as many people as I could. Susan and I went back and forth reading bibs and calling people out for being awesome. I had such a great time and appreciated every smile and thank you I got. I also loved being able to surprise so many by calling out their name. I also loved yelling for Neil (Susan’s IHB and the reason she was there, she also makes a great Iron-Sherpa) mostly because I never met the guy and while Susan was embarrassing him I was just yelling. You could see his half smile / half I don’t know these people look from across the way.
Brian and I were soon on our own for a little while then we met up with the fantastic women we stripped with. They had a little surprise for me – it looked a little like this…
Booty shake skirts and glow sticks oh my! We were just after mile 24 of the marathon and I was given this awesome coin wrap to put around my waist. And let me tell you it was like magic!
Suddenly, with a little beer in my system and a little bling around my hips, we were on fire! We shook our ass at men and women. Although the men appreciated it more! We started at around 7:45 and didn’t leave till almost 11. I shook my ass and yelled at so many men I was sore and hoarse the next day.
Brian took a video – and while you can’t see much it’s totally worth hearing our yelling and how loud our booty shaking was. Find it here. Seriously, do yourself a favor and WATCH IT.
This was the most rewarding part of the day. At mile 24 on a 3 loop course when it is getting dark and spectators are leaving because their athletes are done, those out there need the most support. They have had rough days and all they want to do is be finished but if I can bring a smile to their face I’ll happily shake my ass and scream till I’m hoarse that they are going to be an Ironman today. Every time I told someone that they would be an Ironman today I nearly teared up. These are people I’ve never met, but who have sacrificed their lives for upwards of a year to be on that course and to dig deep and see what they are made of.
I remember the spectators that have made the difference in my race. The ones who yell out my number when its all I can do to stare at the ground because I can’t look them in eye – they might see my disappointment in myself. The ones who tell me that I’ve got this – tell me they are proud and tell me to MTFU and get er done. These are the people who make the difference. The spectators, the volunteers who give of their time and money to make sure that you cross the finish. Each and every one of these people deserves a hug and a thank you from the athletes. I think we did so well at making people smile and maybe for a second forgetting how much pain they are in because we have all been there. Each of us has failed at a race, wanted to die and has been affected by a volunteer or spectator.
When the ladies headed back up to the finish line to cheer people in, Brian and I headed out in reverse of the course to find a friend racing who was still out there. It was an extremely tough day with the heat and the wind and Ken was out there battling to find out what he was made of. The course was dark and empty I told every single person that came by how amazing they are. We ran into Ken and checked in on him for a little bit to make sure he was okay. Once we knew he was on track and was going to finish strong we went to the finishing chute and waited.
Watching the finish line is overwhelming. We were in the very front of it where people realized it was about to be all over. The emotions are overwhelming and overpowering. You can’t help but cry and celebrate every single person you saw. We watched Ken finish and waited for the last person to cross then at midnight the finishing line was closed. While we were high on emotions, our bodies were exhausted after such a long day.
I look back at these pictures and I get emotional. I’m not an overly emotional person despite how many times I admitted I teared up that day. I was inspired to be better. To dig deep. To give of myself. To challenge what I am made of. I was out there to volunteer and cheer. And you know what? I got a lot more out there in return.
So tell me, are you going to come shake your ass for me when I cross my first 140.6 at IM Texas next year?
This short look – An Inside Look at Memorial Hermann Ironman Texas 2012 is an amazing video and will inspire you.