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Posts Tagged ‘ironman triathlon’

Iron Moments V – Amazing

4:00 a.m. July 27, 2014, Wilmington, New York

 It is an unusual time to be stirring so early but this is not a usual day.

This is Ironman Sunday.

What began as an once-in-a-lifetime challenge in 2006 has become a bi-yearly ritual.

At 64 I am back for my fifth race and our youngest daughter, Jane, has returned for her second, which is quite impressive as she is only 20 years old.

This year we enter the race with different challenges.

Jane has been training in earnest for less than two months.

I have been closely monitoring her efforts, and she has been consistently hitting the markers I have placed before her.

It could be a long day, but she and I think she can finish in the allotted 17 hours.

She is not the only one, though, with challenges.

I have been dealing with a recently healed broken collarbone and my second torn rotator cuff.

Also, out of respect for my age I have radically altered my training.

Back to back hard workouts are a thing of the past and my volume is down about 25%.

But my times have never been faster, and I have remained injury free.

My confidence is what you would expect from a nine-year veteran.

My doctor, Marc Cesari, and I have put together a training plan and it has worked to perfection.

 

6:42 a.m. Mirror Lake

The mass start of races past has been replaced by a rolling start.

The 2,471 athletes have seeded themselves based on how much time they think they will need to swim the two loops totaling 2.4 miles.

Jane, my friend and five-time finisher Lock and I are projecting a finishing time of approximately one hour and twenty-five minutes.

The forecast calls for scattered thunderstorms and showers. It could rain a little or not much at all as this is the Adirondacks.

As we prepare to enter the water, I turn to Lock and observe “If you see lightning, stay away from me.” (My comment is homage to my 2005 adventure in Mirror Lake where I was, in fact, struck by lightning.)

We cross the mat to activate our timing chip.

Ironman 2014 has begun.

 

7:28 a.m. Mirror Lake

I’m out of the water, crossing the timing chip again and headed out for the second loop.

My 46-minute first loop is much slower than my training times have been owing to starting, stopping, and climbing over other swimmers.

Jane and Lock are a little over three minutes ahead of me.

If I stay on this pace, I should be within striking distance coming out of the swim.

Looks like it may rain.

 

8:02 a.m. Mirror Lake

The skies have opened and it’s begun to pour.

I’ve turned the corner at the farthest buoy and am heading back to shore for the final stretch.

Another 12 or 13 minutes I’ll be out of the water, and I can begin to think about the bike.

I have begun to cramp and am trying to keep my legs as relaxed as possible.

As I look to my right, there is a man in a kayak coming toward me.

He seems to have been following me for the last few minutes and is starting to get on my nerves.

I stop, pull out one of my earplugs and ask him what is going on.

“Thunder and lightning,” he says.

“All swimmers have to leave the lake and swim to shore as quickly as possible.”

Seems like my little attempt at humor with Lock is not that funny.

 

8:15 a.m. Mirror Lake Drive

This is weird.

Having exited the water, we have all been told to walk around the lake and proceed to the changing tent.

The race is still on.

It is raining and we can hear the thunder.

As I approach the tent, I see Lock.

He has decided to withdraw from the race citing concern for the conditions.

I hear what he says but it doesn’t really register.

I have a changing tent to get to, a daughter to catch and a race to run.

As I arrive at the tent, my thoughts immediately go back to 2008—the year of the “140 mile swim.”

On that day I endured indescribable misery from the constant rain and cold.

I make a decision.

My finishing time will not matter today.

I have 112 miles in front of me.

I will be warm, I will be safe and I will finish.

As I leave to mount my bike, I see Mike Reilly, the “Voice of Ironman.”

He is imploring each athlete to use both their front and rear brakes as they approach the seven-mile descent outside of town.

 

9:35 a.m. Keene

Mike’s advice to use both hands on the downhill was a smart call, and the participants seem to have heeded his words.

People have been cautious and most have arrived at the bottom of the descent without incident.

I am pretty comfortable riding in the rain and in the last hour have passed over 100 cyclists.

As I arrive in Keene, the sky is beginning to lighten.

Looks like the worst is over for now.

My thoughts, though, have turned to another matter.

Where is my daughter?

 

10:15 a.m. Outside of AuSable Forks

I finally see Jane—the “rabbit” I chased all day in 2012.

She looks great.

She has an even bigger lead on me than she did two years ago despite the fact that she began seriously preparing for the race seven weeks ago.

I look forward to her “new book,” Training is Overrated.

I better get moving.

 

11:10 a.m. Wilmington Aid Station

I have had a strong ride since spotting Jane.

The five-mile climb into Wilmington has been good, and I feel great as I see my family members for the first time.

Jane, they tell me, left five minutes before I arrived.

My stop takes five minutes so I am confident her ten-minute lead will not hold up.

Seeing loved ones always energizes me.

I am refueled and ready to go.

I have a fifteen-mile climb ahead, and I have my eyes pealed for Jane’s bike.

 

12:20 p.m. Lake Placid

I arrive in town having completed the first loop.

Nancy and some friends are waiting for me.

My first question to my wife is “How far ahead of me is Jane?”

“Jane is behind you,” Nancy replies.

“She stopped to rest.”

Huh?

How did I miss that?

I think back.

I saw an ambulance at one of the rest stops but that was about it.

I chalk it up to another example of how weird this day is.

As I start the second loop, I realize the hunter is now the hunted.

 

3:15 p.m. Wilmington Aid Station

Everything is on track.

The sun came out hours ago and it’s been a beautiful day.

But where is Jane?

As I pull into the aid station for one last break before the final push into town, my son Zack comes over to assure me his little sister is okay and not that far behind.

A new set of hugs from everyone and off I go.

 

4:27 p.m. Lake Placid

As I arrive in town, Nancy and friends—including Lock—greet me.

Though I miss not having him in the race, I am grateful for Lock’s presence.

Off to the transition tent I go to change.

 

4:43 p.m. Main Street

Nancy has remained on the course waiting for Jane.

My stay in the tent has taken longer than it should, but my finishing time is not a concern this year.

I will be on the course for a long time and want to be comfortable.

Lock and his daughter Caitlin, an aspiring Ironman, are there to greet me as I leave the transition area.

I have a long run ahead and their support means a lot.

Although the rain returned with a vengeance during the ride back into town, the skies have cleared once again.

As I leave to start the run, I toss my rain jacket to Lock.

I’m traveling light and hope this is the last of the rain.

 

5:15 p.m. Sentinel Road

My attention is squarely on the run.

I have decided to stick with the method I have used throughout my training.

I will run nine minutes and walk one minute.

This approach has worked well the last few months, so I am anxious to use it over 26.2 miles.

I have run the first nine minutes and walked one minute; but as I start the second mile, something strange has happened.

Suddenly I have no energy.

I can’t seem to run, only walk.

After 28 minutes, I have covered only two miles.

At this rate it’s going to be a long, long night.

 

7:30 p.m. Mill Pond Hill

Ironman is full of surprises.

Many today have not been pleasant but this one is.

As I struggle to get moving, I notice a young woman not far ahead.

She is power walking.

In 2010 I had used this approach, and it had helped propel me to my best finish ever.

I catch up with my fellow competitor and introduce myself.

Sara is from Massachusetts.

I ask if I can run with her and she agrees.

Suddenly I have someone to talk to.

My concerns about how I will keep moving begin to fade.

As we visit, the miles seem to melt away.

We are not setting any land speed records, but we are moving.

There has also been one more surprise.

Jane has finally reappeared!

She is about three miles behind me, but she is on the course and looking good.

I have no idea where she has been, but I am glad to see her if only for a few seconds.

At the rate she is moving, Sara and I believe she may catch up to us.

 

8:02 p.m. Main Street

The first 13 miles have taken about three hours.

At this rate, I’ll finish a little after 11 p.m.

Not what I had planned, but nothing in Ironman ever happens exactly as planned.

And for now I have a traveling companion in my new friend.

 

10:05 p.m. The River Road

I left Sara with her husband and daughter about a mile into the second loop.

I am grateful for her company, but I have decided to see if I can pick up the pace.

I want to get this over with.

As I have made the course turnaround to begin the trip back into town, I see Jane again.

She looks tired.

I am definitely going to beat the cutoff, but at the rate she is moving it’s going to be a close finish for little Miss Bryant.

As I approach the 22-mile mark emerging from darkness, I hear “Are you Michael Bryant?”

Rachel, my eldest daughter and Jane’s older sister, is waiting to walk back into town with me.

I am overjoyed to have a loved one with me and break into a weak smile.

 

10:35 p.m.  Mirror Lake Drive

The time has flown visiting with my daughter.

I have reminisced about the day and have finally learned what happened to Jane.

The ambulance I passed toward the end of the first bike loop had a special passenger—my daughter.

Jane, it seems, had become lightheaded during the bike.

An ambulance had been called, and the responders were ready to take Jane out of the race.

But this young lady would not hear of it.

Jane informed the technicians that she wanted her vital signs checked and if all was well, she was getting back on her bike.

She had a loop to complete before the cutoff and a race to run.

This little “detour” had taken about 40 minutes and explained her mysterious disappearance and reappearance.

 

10:58 p.m. Finish Line (16 hours 16 minutes and 0 seconds)

Oh boy.

Here we go again.

One hundred yards of magic are in front of me.

Later finishers at Ironman are treated like rock stars and the crowd is going crazy.

Bright lights are everywhere.

My image is on the Jumbo screen.

It’s time to savor the moment.

Head up, smiling from ear to ear, I finally have rediscovered the run that has been missing all night.

For the fifth time I hear the voice of Mike Reilly:

“Here comes Michael Bryant. He’s 64 years old. YOU ARE AN IRONMAN, MICHAEL!!!”

 

11:15 p.m. Athlete’s area behind the Finish Line

My day is done, but I have another reason to celebrate.

For the first time, there will be no trip to the medical tent.

I feel fine and decide that a little pizza and french fry “therapy” is just what the doctor ordered.

I have not yet left the area behind the finish line.

Though I have finished, the race is not over.

Not until I see my daughter.

 

11:53:40 p.m. Finish Line (16 hours 53 minutes and 40 seconds)

Midnight is almost here.

Ironman 2014 is nearly over.

And then:

There’s Jane!

Arms flailing.

Eyes beaming.

Flying down that finish line.

And then I hear Mike Reilly:

“Jane Bryant, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!”

With six minutes and twenty seconds left in the race, Jane has crossed the finish line.

In 2012 she waited for me.

It’s my turn to return the favor.

I put the finisher’s medal around her neck and give her a big hug.

What a hug.

What an amazing young lady.

What a day.

 

Post Race

This strange day has finally come to an end but not before one more twist is added.

Because some swimmers were allowed to finish the two loops but others were pulled from the water, it has been decided everyone will be given credit for the time of their first loop.

My finishing time of 16:16:00 will be officially listed as 15:11:21.

Jane’s 16:53:40 has been recalculated and her time is officially 16:18:52.

For the 2,293 finishers, it will be a day they will not soon forget.

Those, however, are the numbers and for me the race is no longer about numbers.

It’s about so much more.

It is about the privilege.

In 2006 my original coach, Hollie Kenney, summed up this race:

“Ironman” she explained “is not a right. Ironman is a privilege.”

Five times I have felt privileged to be a part of and complete this epic day.

And it is about the honor.

I have had the honor of witnessing the courage, the resolve and the amazing will of my daughter.

I have had the honor and privilege of competing side-by-side with so many determined, single-minded people making this dream come true.

This is what this amazing experience has become for me.

This is Ironman.

 

Enjoy this video recapping the day. At the 11:25 mark, watch me put the finisher’s medal around Jane’s neck!

 

 

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