Monday, September 19, 2011


So it's been several months since I posted here... but not for a lack of news.

I've been preoccupied with training for and completing my first Ironman Triathlon.

To wit, an Ironman Triathlon is the following: a 2.4 mile swim, followed by a 112 mile bike, followed by a 26.2 mile run.

If you think that's crazy, then you're sane.

It's a long way to go using any means of locomotion, let alone only one's own.

So on Sunday, September 11, 2011, I sat just before dawn on the parking deck of The Monona Terrace in Madison, Wisconsin, watching 2500 athletes nervously shuttle back and forth with bicycles, bike pumps, wetsuits, gear bags... final preparations before we all took the first step towards our ultimate goal: completing the 140.6 mile course in under 17 hours.

I felt the still-cool late summer air on my face and a calm spread through me.  I imagined myself in a bubble protected from the frantic buzz around me.  I breathed in and out at a measured pace and instead of reviewing my race day plan or rechecking my bike set up, I thought back on the journey that brought me to this moment, just an hour from the start of what many consider to be the most difficult and grueling athletic event ever created.

To quote David Byrne, How Did I Get Here?

Although I signed up for the 2011 Wisconsin Ironman on September 13, 2010, and started training for the race in March of 2011, the real beginning of my odyssey lies over 5 years ago in July of 2006.

It started with my neighbor Terri provoking me into signing up for the Chicago Half Marathon.  I had been an on and off recreational runner since high school but had never run more than a 5k.  I consider myself reasonably athletic but after playing organized basketball and baseball up until high school, my athletic pursuits took a back seat to music and theater and I mainly dabbled in intramural, pick-up basketball, and gym workouts from high school on.

So there I found myself, the 2006 Chicago Half Marathon just 10 weeks away, staring at a computer print out that told me I needed to run 5 miles the following weekend.

Some additional context around this moment is that my first wife had just moved out of our house, initiating what a year later would become our formalized divorce.

So I will forever be thankful that Terri pushed me to fill my suddenly empty life and house with something productive and healthy: running.

Our training plan, in retrospect, was pretty spartan.  Just a bunch of distances leading up to our first crack at 13.1 miles.  Nothing about quality of training, nutrition, hydration... stretching.  Just... running.

But we got lucky: race day was beautiful, near perfect running weather with a start in the 50's and a finish temperature of barely 70.  This afforded me the chance to make some wonderful beginner's mistakes, namely 1) wearing a winter hat, and 2) not taking in a single drink of water or nutrition for the entire race.  Right.

I did manage to complete the race in 1:57, averaging 9 minute miles, really not a bad time all things considered.

Additionally, I was hooked on the energy and pay off of completing a race: the crowds and my family and friends provided amazing support and Terri and I basked in the glow of our accomplishment, namely by both contracting severe cases of... uh... 'upset stomachs' and spending the large part of our "celebration breakfast" trudging up and down our back stairs to use my bathroom.

Good times.

So on into 2007, I decided I was going to do the Chicago Marathon.  I registered and did what I normally do when undertaking something: buy a bunch of books and read about it.  This was helpful.  I got a little book called "4 Months to a 4 Hour Marathon," which was a great start.

Additionally, Andrea moved to Chicago that spring and she became my biggest supporter and constant training partner in each and every athletic undertaking.  She's remarked (and I think about this a lot) that part of the reason our relationship is so good is that we immediately started exercising and training together, and there's a certain type of intimacy that comes with this... You deal with sweat, dirt, fatigue, bodily functions, ailments... failure and success, emotions and frustrations... all of it in front of the other person with complete transparency.  There's nothing to hide behind after a 10 mile run.

So after (again, in retrospect) a fairly scattershot training season I headed out to the Chicago Marathon in October of 2007 and was greeted by... 90 degree humid temperatures and the Hottest Chicago Marathon on Record!!!  This race was truly awful.  It was like running through a riot for hours on end.  I did a lot of walking and did manage to finish albeit not in the 4 hours I was aiming for.

Feeling cheated, I registered for the 2008 Chicago Marathon and Andrea and I registered together for the 2008 Chicago Half Marathon.  We bought cold weather running gear and trained through the winter.  We moved in together that summer and our training took on a wonderful pattern of me leaving early in the morning, running 8 or 9 miles, and then picking up Andrea to run another 8 or 9 together.  We completed the Chicago Half Marathon (with Terri as well) in a driving rainstorm (it was a great race) and then at the Chicago Marathon I was greeted by... 85 degree humid temperatures and the Second Hottest Chicago Marathon on Record!!!


I did, however, finish this race almost an hour faster than the 2007 Marathon, fighting through cramps in both my quadriceps for the last 12 miles to post a respectable showing.

Feeling as if Mother Nature was conspiring against me, we investigated options other than pure running races (it should be noted that the 2009 Chicago Marathon had PERFECT running temps in the 50's and 60's... thanks Mother Nature, thanks a whole fucking lot).

We landed on triathlons as our next endeavor, which was weird because neither one of us was a particularly strong swimmer and we didn't own bikes.  But it seemed like a natural progression from running races: a more diversified experience and slightly less punishing on the body (or rather, punishing in different ways).

So Thanksgiving weekend in 2008, we bought swim caps and goggles and headed to the XSport Fitness on Elston to give swimming a shot... and it was awful.  I couldn't swim two laps without feeling like I was drowning.  Literally.  Out of breath, flailing... this was going to be difficult.

We persisted through the winter, improving our pool swimming to the point of tenuous comfort, and registered for the 2009 Chicago Triathlon, Olympic Distance: a .9 mile swim, followed by a 25 mile bike, followed by a 6.2 mile run.

I know we followed some sort of training plan, but can't remember which one or how detailed it was.  I do remember we didn't buy bikes until Memorial Day weekend (12 weeks before the race) and didn't buy wetsuits until near the end of July (less than 5 weeks until the race).

We were blessed with perfect race day temps, although the lake water temperature plunged to the low 60's the week of the race, making the swim even tougher than even we expected.  I fought through to finish with an extremely strong run and a decent time, and Andrea battled a later start time and some nutrition issues through a more challenging race.

But similar to my 2006 Chicago Half Marathon, we were hooked.

We plotted out a more extensive schedule for 2010, signing up for 4 races: The Galena Triathlon in May, the Bigfoot Triathlon (Lake Geneva) in June, the Chicago South Shore Sprint in July, and the Chicago Olympic in August.

We got more serious about our schedule and nutrition and the season went fairly well: in the middle of the summer, we got married.

The one blemish was an injury Andrea sustained while getting ready for the South Shore Sprint, pulling a calf muscle in transition just minutes before the race start.  We also battled hot temperatures for the Chicago Olympic and were not able to improve on our previous times, which was a disappointment.

It was at this point that I decided to sign up for the 2011 Wisconsin Ironman.


I don't know.  It just seemed like the next step.  The next insane step.  Andrea showed no interest in doing the race, but encouraged and supported me doing it.  I took a deep breath, and on September 13 I waited online until registration opened and quickly plunked down the $600 race fee.

My God, What Have I Done?

We spent the winter in what is termed Active Recovery, getting our exercise in activities not related to triathlon disciplines: we lifted weights, did core exercises, practiced yoga... Andrea did exercise classes at the gym while I played basketball.  We allowed ourselves some down time...

And then in March of 2011, we started training for the 2011 Race Season.

The plan was this: we would train together for the Galena Triathlon in May and the Bigfoot Triathlon in June, at which point our plans would diverge and Andrea would train for a short race in July to be determined and the Chicago Olympic in August while I would train for Ironman in September.

Things generally went according to plan.  We battled some awful weather in the early months and just focused on building our base distances and staying healthy.  We both had great races in Galena in May, significantly improving on our 2010 times.

The Bigfoot Triathlon was a mixed bag: I had a great swim but got a flat tire on mile 5 of the bike and had to withdraw.  Andrea battled a tough swim and some unexpected heat.  In retrospect, our challenges in this race helped us both: I learned how to change a bike tire and saved myself some of the impact of completing the race, and Andrea developed a better understanding of how she could approach the swim to improve her overall race.  This is a common theme in triathlons and one of the things that keeps us coming back: you always learn something about yourself and your race approach.  Every race is a different situation, a different piece of information.

At this point of the summer, things got interesting.  First of all, the weather went from cold and shitty to hot and shitty.  Humidity.  Thunderstorms.  Wind.  It seemed like we NEVER trained in any sort of favorable conditions.  Second of all, my training plan started to take off... I was less than 12 weeks from the Ironman.

I picked a training plan which embraced a philosophy that less is more.  It was still a LOT of training, but the general approach was to get up to longer distances a little bit faster, try to stay healthy, and focus on heart rate zones for lower impact on the body.  Andrea had gotten me a heart monitor/GPS watch as a gift and my eyes were opened to the wonders of heart rate training.

My training weeks followed this scheme:

Tuesday: Off
Wednesday: Bike 13 - 25 miles, Run 5 - 7 miles
Thursday: Swim 2000 - 4000 meters, lift weights
Friday: Bike 13 - 25 miles, Run 5 - 7 miles
Saturday: Swim 2000 - 4000 meters
Sunday: Bike 50 - 112 miles
Monday: Run 9 - 20 miles

Every fourth week, I got a second day off.  The build up to the peak distances was pretty extraordinary... the long runs on Monday went from 9 to 20 miles in 6 weeks (a normal marathon plan would take you at least 10 weeks to build this distance).  The long bikes on Sunday went from 50 to 112 miles in 8 weeks.

We trained together as much as possible, with Andrea doing parts of my long bike rides and swimming with me on Saturday mornings.

For almost two months, we were getting up at 4:45 a.m. 6 days a week to workout.

In retrospect, I'm not sure how we did it.  I managed to miss only one workout the entire training plan... a short bike ride that was hijacked by two flat tires.

My memories of the actual sessions are too numerous to recount... there were epic runs in rainstorms, there were bike rides that took me from the South Shore Country Club to Lake Bluff and back home, there were swims at Ohio Street beach at dawn in a warm, quiet and empty Lake Michigan ... As we trained, we experimented with various nutrition products, and both settled on a couple which our stomachs tolerated.  I got my bike professionally set up at Running Away Multisport.

Andrea completed a short race at Lake Holiday, IL, in late July, and I biked the 65 miles back home from the far southwest suburbs.

When you look back at an extended effort, you can generally see moments at which you made decisions that pushed you towards success or failure.  Turning points.

The first turning point for me was 3 weeks before the race when we went up to Madison for some on-course training.  There was an organized swim in Lake Monona called the Madison Open Water Swim, which utilized the same course I would swim for the Ironman.  Our plan was for me to do the full race (2.4 miles), Andrea to do the half-distance (1.2 miles), and then for us to jump on our bikes and ride the Ironman bike course.  We would also stay up in Madison on Saturday night and on Sunday do a run on the running course.

After the swim was delayed by an hour for a thunderstorm to pass, the day went downhill... Andrea lost her wedding ring about 5 minutes before race start: it slipped off and likely into the water somewhere.  Distracted, I got into the water and had a pretty challenging swim, clocking a 1:37 time, or about 7 minutes slower than I wanted.  Andrea, on the other hand, channeled her distraction into a very solid swim, which would later help her in the Chicago Olympic Distance.

We spent a couple hours looking for her wedding ring, even renting a metal detector, but to no avail.  As such, we didn't get out onto the bike course until well into the afternoon.  The course was set up as a 16 mile ride out to a 40 mile loop done twice and then 16 back into Madison... does that make sense?  16 + 40 + 40 + 16 = 112.  It is notoriously hilly and challenging and is regarded as the second or third hardest Ironman bike course IN THE WORLD.  Did I type that loudly enough?


There, that's better.

So the combination of 1) starting late, 2) having a shitty swim, 3) dealing with hills, 4) not having enough water... it was toxic.  I had a tough ride, doing the 16 out, one 40 mile loop, and the 16 back...

Just 3 weeks from the race I legitimately doubted that I could do it.

What it did do was the following: 1) Force me to reevaluate my hydration strategy, 2) force me to reevaluate my time goals, and 3) force me to figure out how to ride more hills for the final 3 weeks of training.

The second turning point came a week later, watching Andrea complete the Chicago Olympic Triathlon.  She executed her race to perfection, beating her previous best time by 16 minutes and finishing in the top 25% of her age group and top 28% of the 1000 woman field.


And she did it by being patient.  She had a slow but peaceful swim in the face of some awfully choppy water and because of this, she was able to excel on the bike and run.  I could not have been prouder.  And it showed me the virtues of patience, which I had been preaching all along but having a much harder time actually practicing.

The last two weeks of training flew by.

Taper week, the 7 days before the race when I rested my body and only did a couple workouts, was excruciating.  With little training, your brain turns to the next logical target: doubt.

Did I not train enough?  Should I have added a second weights session?  Did I train incorrectly?  Should my last long run have been closer to the race?  Should I have done more hills?  Should I have bought a tri bike instead of using a road bike?  Why didn't I take swimming lessons?

Any and every detail of my training bounced around my head and was fodder for obsession.

Luckily, a third turning point: my old neighbor Chuck, an excellent athlete himself, who had done the Wisconsin Ironman in 2004, emailed me a three page word document from his trainer.  It contained both specific and general advice for the week before the race and the race itself.  It highlighted the following mantra: "Slow is smooth, smooth is fast."

Andrea and I read through this and it all clicked for me: everything was going to go fine.

I came home from work one night and found the mantra taped all sorts of places around the house: on the bathroom mirror, on our training calendar, next to the bed...

Before I knew it, it was Friday morning and time to head to Madison.  We got out of town in the morning, but not before I tripped and fell getting out of the car at breakfast and tumbled onto the sidewalk before a surprised Andrea... skinned my hand and bruised my knee but, luckily, nothing more serious.

Friday and Saturday in Madison were administrative days.  I checked in on Friday afternoon and on Saturday brought my gear over to Monona Terrace where I would stage it for the following day.  The organization was incredible.  Like nothing I'd ever seen.  Gear was separated into bags, which were placed in different ballrooms... on the race day it seemed transition would be a case of the Keystone Cops, with people running between gear pick up and changing rooms and then out to bike or run... an added wrinkle of Wisconsin Ironman is that you have to navigate two parking ramps, which curl in helix shapes four stories on either end of the Terrace.

I checked in my gear and tried my best to visualize exactly how things would work the following day.  Then we went to my uncle's place, which is I kid you not under a mile from the swim start.  This was another key piece of my experience.  Instead of being in an unfamiliar hotel room and eating restaurant food all weekend, we got to sleep in a comfortable bed and eat home cooked meals... a huge advantage.

That night my parents showed up and Andrea prepared our standard pre-race meal of pasta, a light marinara, and bread.  I felt very calm, very quiet.  I drank water and listened.

At 9:00, we went to bed and slept well until the 4:15 a.m. alarm... at which point we quietly made our way downstairs for a quick cup of coffee and then headed out the door for Andrea to drive me to the race start.  Only there was a problem: both of our headlights were out!  Now, if need be I could have walked to the start, but my dad came to the rescue and drove us up to the Capitol Square where he and Andrea left me at 5:00 a.m. to drop my "special needs bags" (which contain supplies you pick up halfway through the bike and run) at the appointed location, and then head down to transition for a final check of my bike and then to the swim start for a 7:00 race gun.

I took a quick check of my bike, loaded it with my water bottles and some nutrition I would carry, and then sat down with my back against the convention center wall, just an hour from a beginning which began 5 years prior.

This is it, I thought: Time to go to the bathroom!

You think I kid... the pre-race bathroom strategy is among the 5 most important aspects of a race... Andrea and I developed the euphemism "Executing Our Race Plan" to describe it...

So after executing my race plan, I pulled my wetsuit half on, and walked down the parking ramp to ground level and swim start.  My mom, dad, uncle and Andrea greeted me there as I stretched.  I still felt calm.  I laughed.  I goofed around.  Andrea zipped my wetsuit up and I joined a procession of similarly-clad athletes in a river of black rubber and neon swim caps, which poured into the calm 70 degree waters of Lake Monona.

There was a moment of silence for the 10th Anniversary of 9/11.  I stepped carefully into the lake and made my way to the back of the swim pack... no reason for someone as slow as me to be anywhere near the front.  4 minutes until start.  I talked with a couple other athletes and shared with them my own guiding race acronym: S.I.F.R. (Save It For the Run).  They laughed.  Suddenly, the cannon went off.  I started my watch, put my head down, and started out along with 2500 others... we had to swim 800 meters before our first turn, and it was actually not as bad as I expected... yes, I got kicked and jostled but no worse than any other race... as it turns out, there's very little difference between 100 people swimming together and 2500 people swimming together.  The first turn was a little congested, but I managed and swam the 150 meters to the next turn easily... on the backside of the rectangle, my calfs tweaked a little bit, but I relaxed my legs and the cramps subsided immediately.  Breathing out my left, I could see Monona Terrace lined with people... so cool.  I made it to the third turn, did the 150 meters, and I was already on my second lap feeling good.  I relaxed more and tried to keep my head down... I could hear frantic kicking around me and tried to stay away from the overkickers... energy wasted on limbs needed later... I focused on my arms and nothing else, turning over my stroke and sighting every 3rd one... again I could see Monona Terrace as I breathed, meaning that I was on the backside of the second lap and under 1000 meters from finishing.  I made the final turn and set my sights on the red arch which framed the finish... 200 meters from shore, two F-16's flew over and I had a brief thought that something terrorist related had gone down... I bore down on the last 50 meters and pulled myself up the concrete ramp and onto dry land... looking down at my watch I saw: 1:30:35, almost 7 minutes faster than my time at the Madison Open Water Swim 3 weeks prior and right at the very fastest end of the range I had anticipated.

Fuck.  Yeah.

Which is what I screamed at my uncle and dad as I ran by, pulling off my wetsuit.  Or something like that.  I think I actually yelled "One fucking thirty."  It was all a blur as the wetsuit strippers (10% as salacious as they sound) helped me struggle out of my wetsuit.  Once free, I ran up the helix, egged on by the crowds the lined every foot of it.  I felt great.

At the top I hustled into the convention center, picked up my bike gear bag, and settled into the men's changing room.  A volunteer helped me collect my swim stuff in my bag, and I pulled on my bike jersey, bike helmet, and socks.  I was calm in chaos.  I took a long pull from a nutrition/endurance energy drink I had stashed in my bag, anxious to make up some of the calorie deficiency I'd sustained during the swim.  With all my bike gear on and my bike shoes in hand, I ran out another door to an army of volunteers in rubber gloves who rubbed sunscreen on my arms and legs.   I made a pit stop (number 1, number 1) in a port-o-potty, and then ran a couple hundred feet to my waiting bike, which I pulled off the rack and pushed to the bike mount line at the top of the opposite parking helix.  I threw my overall time watch in my bike jersey, started my GPS watch to track my distance on the bike, and pushed off onto the ramp, riding the brakes for caution but picking up some speed...

After the first 50 meters or so, I saw Andrea and my mom and let out a yell.  I was off!  The first couple miles of the bike are a no-pass zone and some twisting turns so it was a good occasion to relax and remember my mantra... at mile 3, the course opened up a bit and I celebrated by running over a stray water bottle and almost crashing... whew.  Crisis avoided.  I also saw the first of many athletes on the side of the road with flat tires and/or mechanical issues... heartbreaking.

I settled in and took stock: feeling good.  I began my hydration and nutrition campaign, trying to consume two bottles of water each hour along with two shots of 150 or so calories each of liquid endurance energy.  The 16 mile out was uneventful if not slightly uphill and I constantly monitored my pace and heart-rate.  Now... onto my first 40 mile loop, the source of my most significant doubt.  As I progressed, I noticed something different: the crowds.  On every hill, people lined the road like it was the Tour de France: wearing silly costumes, waving humorous supportive signs... drinking even though it was not even 10:00 in the morning... the energy was amazing.  I stopped several times at aid stations to refill my water bottles and stopped once to use a port-o-potty (Number 1 for the second time), a very encouraging sign that I was still hydrated.  I saw my friends Greg and Tim two separate places, and their antics and cheering buoyed my spirits still further.

In what seemed like no time, I was starting my second lap.  I took stock again.  My legs felt great.  My heart felt great.  The temperature had climbed into the 80's, but I was not feeling any ill effects due to my commitment to hydration.  I was consuming my calories at the correct rate.

Let's.  Do.  It.

As the second lap went on, I noticed I was easily passing people.  Like lots of people.  Passing them on flats, passing them on hills... I had an incredible energy, so much so that fellow athletes began shouting encouragement and praise to me as I passed them.  I tried to keep my effort in check, remembering that I had a marathon to run.  I kept consuming water and calories, stopping another couple times for water and once again to use a port-o-potty (Number 1, Number 3).

At about mile 70 I felt a sharp pain on my back, which I later learned was probably a bee stinging me.

I accidentally rolled over another water bottle and some other piece of rubbish on the road but managed to avoid bike disaster.

I looked at my watch and it read 90 miles.  Sure enough, I soon finished the second lap and pulled onto the stem back to the transition area.  This stretch is more downhill than up, and I started to really fly.  A woman named Judy and I passed each other several times and there was some spirited encouragement, but I noticed I looked fresher... not long now.

Then... Monona Terrace beckoned in the not-so-distant skyline.  In a flash, we were at the base of the helix, cranking up it past loads of cheering spectators, and handing our bikes to volunteers.

I hustled into the run gear room feeling tired but taking note of the fact that my legs were not cramping and I was breathing normally.

I changed into my run gear, positioned my lucky red bandana (I've done every race I've ever done with it), shot a GU Endurance Gel (my run fuel), and chatted briefly with an athlete sitting next to me... he said he was going to have to wait in transition a bit to rest... I sprung up, back to the sunscreen appliers, stopping at the port-o-potty (Number 1, Number 4) and began my journey on the run.

I looked at my overall time watch and it read 8 hours 35 minutes, a whole 25 minutes ahead of my run-start goal time.

I committed early to walking briskly through the aid stations that broke up the course at each mile and got to the first one on the other side of the Capitol feeling good and starting to find my rhythm... I turned onto State Street and two blocks down I saw Andrea, and my dad and uncle for the first time.  It was hot as heck (almost 4:00 in the afternoon) but I felt strong.

After running a lap on the field in Camp Randall (the football stadium) I ran past Greg, Tim, and Kirsten, and Greg ran alongside and gave me encouragement.  I noted that many people were already walking at mile 4.  Several more miles and I was onto the lakeshore path and the first major hill of the day, Observatory.  I dug in, cranking small steps, and watched van Hise (the language building) slowly go by... at mile 6 I saw my support crew again on Library Mall and enjoyed immensely the short stretch of State Street before turning around... my walk through aid station strategy was paying dividends.  I was getting good drinks of water, cold sponges, a little rest, and then picking up again.  I had done three of my race gels and my stomach was tolerating them with no problems.  Back out the lakeshore path past Picnic Point to the first split (mile 9) and I could see I was hitting 10 minute miles even with walking aid stations.  It was about this point I started seeing more people throwing up.  Gross.  The aid stations were a buffet of liquid and solid foods, and I was so pleased that my simple nutrition was working well... I saw my dad and uncle at mile 12 along with Andrea and the rest of the crew... and I was at the halfway point.


13 miles to go.

The second lap was a battle of attrition.  I clicked off the miles, emboldened that I was passing 10 people for every 1 who passed me.  My legs were on fire.  I was expecting cramps any minute but they never came... I just kept churning.  I allowed myself a little bit more walking time at the aid stations and I also walked Observatory Hill the second time I got to it.

I saw my support at mile 19/20, handed my sunglasses to Andrea, and told her I might have to walk more but I would see her at the finish line... the sun dipped and it cooled off and I saw that as much pain as I was in, I looked stronger than 90% of the people out there.  I got to the last split checkpoint and knew that I was only 4 miles from the finish.  At mile 23, I used a port-o-potty (Number 1, Number 5): still hydrated properly! At mile 24, I shot my 10th and final race gel.

This was it.

Past the SERF and my freshman dorm one last time and I was within a mile... I entertained the idea of not stopping at the last aid station on the Square but decided to stick with what had worked and took one last short walk and drink of water... and picked up running until I was on the backside of the Capitol and the crowds grew and I rounded the bend to the last straightaway, put my fist in the air, and saw Andrea and my crew.

I honestly don't remember the last 200 yards... I remember running as hard as I could, crossing the finish line, hearing my name called, and letting out a scream...

And there, 13:20:07 seconds (give or take 5 years) after I started, I was an Ironman.

Two volunteers took me under each arm for support we had this exchange:

Volunteer: "What do you want?"

Me (gaze comes to rest on a folding chair): "I want to sit THERE."

The volunteer persuaded me to instead drink some chicken broth and have my picture taken.  He then released me to my waiting family, which showered me with hugs and love... my dad called my mom, who had to leave in the middle of the day to head back to Chicago for a play.  I went to the food tent, gathered three slices of pizza and a Coke, and devoured them.

I wobbled.

I smiled.

Everyone smiled.

We made our way to get my gear and head back to my uncle's and there I took a shower, ate more, had a beer, and finally went up to bed at about 11:00...

At 11:45, as we lay in bed with the window open, we could hear the booming voice of the announcer at the finish line less than a mile away still announcing finishers some three and a half hours after I finished, names drifting on the night breeze, Ironmen (and -women) who were completing the course nearly 17 hours after they started ... and at 12:00, everything went quiet.


And I was left with my accomplishment.

With our accomplishment.

I don't know if I'll every do another Ironman.

I don't know if I want to.

I know that I ran the best race I could have on September 11, 2011.

I was me.

I raced like me.

And it was good enough.

It was better than good enough.

This accomplishment was the outcome of years of work.

Of failures and successes.

Of perseverance.

Of love and support from my family, friends, and most importantly, my partner in life and everything else.

It's no surprise to me that this journey spans the time I've known Andrea, because it has been through my relationship with her that I've become myself.

And it has been through this journey that I've learned that I can persevere through anything.

That I'm strong.

That I'm unique.

That I'm a success.

That I'm an Ironman.