The words said from the announcer as Forrest was just feet away from crossing the finish line of the IRONMAN, a triathlon consisting of a 2.4 mi swim, 112 mi bike, and 26.2 mi run.
I have been looking forward to writing this blog but at the same time, honestly, I have been procrastinating. I feel like this is one of the most worthy blogs I will ever write, and I hope that my words here will somehow capture at least a fraction of the pride and excitement felt on that day.
I am excited to tell the story because it gives me a chance to re-live the day, a day filled with immense, individual accomplishment, a day given to us by God to remind us the blessing of love and support from family (a day given to us by God period) and truly a day that will be remembered for the rest of our lives.
The date was May 23, 2011. This was the first ever IRONMAN in Texas. It took place in the Woodlands which besides the heat, wind, and humidity (kind of important factors in a triathlon) it ultimately was a nice place to have it. The weekend before was perfect weather but we cannot complain as the weekend after was worse. Forrest was prepared, he anticipated the heat, had trained under our Texas blazing sun and against the record breaking fierce wind, and knew no matter what, this was going to be the most physically challenging event he has ever participated in. Ever.
Friday morning, the day before the race, we checked into our hotel. Forrest got his bike ready then racked and we check out the swim start as it was all set up by now.
Trying to prepare, what do you do the night before? Stock up on carbs of course, which the family appreciated. We carried on the triathlon tradition by dining at Buca di Beppo.
After an early dinner, we came back to the hotel and the “cheer squad” had a quick practice before the big game.
We go to bed early after setting our alarms for 430am, but in the morning we realize there was no need for an alarm clock. We hear a knock on our door at 4 in the morning, only to find that Cheri is dressed and ready to go with her ironman tattoo on and everything. We watch as Forrest’s nerves are in high gear as he gets the last of his things together before we head out the doors of the hotel. Might be one of the biggest “did we get everything?” moments ever. We get to the event site, Forrest’s dad parks the truck while Cheri and I walk with Forrest to the transition area. After setting up, it is time to walk to the swim start, about a mile away, where we will meet the rest of the crew.
A little humor…
Before a sweet, heart felt prayer led by Dede
A hug and kiss before the big moment.
Unfortunately, we did not have a good place to watch him start the swim, and besides that, it was hard to tell which one was him in the midst of the swim cap chaos! It is tradition in IRONMAN events that all participants start together instead of in waves like in other triathlons, so it was like playing where’s waldo when looking for him.
On our way to the swim finish, we took a picture on the bridge which was a great view of a portion of the swim course. Notice I said “portion” which gives you an idea of how long 2.4 mi is in water.
We all split up to increase our chances of seeing him after the swim. Cheri and I stuck together and found a small window of a place to stand where we could barely see around a 6’ 5’’ tall man, not exaggerating. We waited and waited hoping he would see his loved one and leave, getting yelled at in the meantime by 2 event volunteer ladies that were trying to clear where we were standing. I really think between me and Cheri’s raging emotions that day, we would have started a commotion had that monster of a man not left when he did. So lucky for those ladies, we got our spot, were “out of the way” now, and it was just a matter of time until we saw him.
Then we did, finally, saw that bald head that caused us to mistaken about 20 people before him. Our hearts were racing, cameras were in hand and ready, and prayers were being said immediately thanking God that things appeared to be going okay. Phew! We thought, and one down only two to go…
SWIM TIME: 1:46:58
Check out his Dad in this picture, he had seen Forrest get out of the water, called Cheri to tell us to be ready, then ran along beside Forrest until this point. He is still on phone with Cheri, and cannot get over to where we are at because it would cross the race course.
Now he is off to the transition where he will get on his bike gear, and head out towards to bike transition. And that means we are off too, off to fighting for another good spot. My pictures are blurry here because I was trying to video and snap at the same time.
Now that Forrest is off on his bike at this point, we all know we will have several hours of time to kill before we will get to see him again since the bike ride is one giant 112 mi loop. We all go find places to eat, Amberly and their family go back to the hotel. After eating, Cheri, Big Forrest, and I check out the finish line.
Earlier, we had set up an area where we could all sit and relax during the bike portion. We headed back to that spot to watch the athletes and wait for Forrest although we had several hours to go. Throughout the race there are specific check points where you can go online and track them to see if they have passed a certain point. On the bike there is one at the half way mark so we kept refreshing the tracker page to see if he had crossed it.
YAY my Sister and Mom showed up!!! Here they are making their way through the crowds.
When it came close to the time that we anticipated seeing Forrest, Amberly decided to head about a street over to wait for him, that way she could call us and let us know when he passed her. Then my Sister went to take pictures across from where we were standing (genius) so that we would all be in the background of the pictures. The plan worked perfectly and as you can see we fired him up, as he gave us a little fist pump!
BIKE TIME: 7:11:30
Next up is the run. We did not get to see him run out because instead we wanted to get a view from the bridge which was still within the first mile of his run. He looked up and waved with a big smile on his face as his legs were still adjusting to running.
We again, the queens of finding good spots, planted ourselves at mile 5 so we could see him again. And this time, we would finally be close enough to reach out and touch him.
I am still in love with this moment.
So back to the camp site we go. We will see him again at mile 9.
And here he comes, after 9 miles! Looking good and happy to see everyone. Everyone gets a high five.
Then again at mile 18.
Look at that stud, and only 8 more miles to go!
So we pack up our things and head towards the finish line area. There were stands right next to the finish line but they were packed. Cheri, Amberly, and I decide to scope everything out and try to find a good place to wait. Amberly finds a spot back by the tents where the finishers run after they cross. I found a tiny spot on the front row of the closest stands and squeezed my way through. I waved to Cheri to meet me and text my Sister and Mom where I was. Eventually some people left and we were able to have about a half a row to ourselves.
I did the video while my Sister took the pictures. Everyone else was crying too much to work their cameras. As Forrest was running in to the finish, he heard my mom amongst all the loudness (my mom is VERY loud, you will hear in video so turn your volume down if it is all the way up). Anyways, he turned around just feet away from the finish line to come see us and I was thinking WHAT IS HE DOING!? My eyes went big and I didn’t know what to think! I guess I was a little star struck or something, I don’t know (it made Forrest feel so good when I told him that later. Ha ha). He finds me and waves me down to give him a kiss then says “I love you Bird” in my ear. Then he turned around and headed back to the finish line, crossing just seconds later. The feeling was indescribable for the both of us.
I think my Mom was a little star struck too…
RUN TIME: 5:28:46
Total Time: 14:47:58
Forrest and I enjoy reflecting back on the day of the IRONMAN. I will never forget what he said to me one day in the car as we were talking about it. He said that during the run as he was getting close to finishing, he has never felt so alive. Then I happen to come across this quote shortly after that conversation.
“Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, & go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive...”