Getting off the bike, I realized that the marathon was going to be nothing that I ever expected. I knew that I would be slow. I knew that it would be a run/walk. I had planned to go out much slower than race pace, in fact, the plan was to run 10:30's for the first 6 miles, and then hang on or adjust depending on how I felt. My goal time had been around a 5 hour marathon. But I knew that my legs were already shot! I walked out of the tent with another awesome card from Jennifer in my hand. The transition chute was long, and I walked with a few others trying to decide what to do. At the top of some short stairs, I saw the marathon timing mat, so I started jogging as I went across. That didn't last long as I saw my dad and walked next to him up to the first aid station. I had one of the awesome volunteers pour ice water on my neck and back, which made me feel so good...everywhere but my legs. I kept walking down around the KFC YUM! center in the shade and up a hill. At the top of the hill, I decided to see what I could do with a slow jog and did ok for a block. I saw Jennifer, Caffrey, Trevor, Wyntre, Tom, Colleen, Abigail, and Brittany standing on the side of the road cheering for me, so I ran to them and stopped to strategize.
Our hotel was in a perfect spot and RIGHT ON THE RUN COURSE! Here's what the course looked like. Our hotel was right where the top left corner of the orange #14 box is on the map.
|We were actually RUNNING!!!|
Tom is a Type I Diabetic, so after awhile, he told me that he needed some sugar. He ate some nutrition that he was carrying, but he obviously wasn't as energetic as he was when we first started. It sounds funny, but it was actually perfect, because I suddenly was the encourager, which only boosted my positivity. We continued the long walk talking everything from triathlon to religion. I can't tell you how awesome it is to have such an incredible friend that not only is willing to drive 7 hours to come support me, but is willing to walk with me to make sure I'd finish. Tom, I love you, bro! You are the man! Thank you!!!
As we got back to where the cheerleading squad was, my awesome brother-in-law, Trevor, who also had driven up and had to work the next morning (a 5+ hour drive), took me around the loop, by the finish line. We stopped at Special Needs and I decided to switch socks and shoes. I had been feeling a hotspot on the bottom of my left foot. It turned into a beautiful blister. Wanna see?
It wasn't the most comfortable, but neither was moving...PERIOD! The volunteer at Special Needs was so awesome. Both of my legs completely locked up as I sat in the chairs there. I couldn't even bend to get my socks and shoes off, so this complete stranger bent, untied both my shoes, took those stinky things off, took my sweaty socks off, put fresh socks and shoes on, and handed me my Snickers that I had packed for this time. She was incredible!
Trevor and I walked back to the cheering squad where a photographer took this picture. Still smiling, but hurting!!!
|Low Res from Finisherpix|
Now I know for many of you, you can walk a 20 minute mile in your sleep! Me too! But it was all I could do to keep moving forward. I was putting down some really fast miles (haha) at 16 or 17 minutes, and that was enough. Remember that the cutoff for an Ironman is 12:00 midnight. I had started 34 minutes later because of the time trial start, so I had less time. Never in my life had I thought that I would be anywhere close to a cutoff. I was thinking 14 hours at the latest.
Colleen kept me moving forward. We talked vacations, spouses, babies, you name it. Although it sucked, she made it fun! The sun went down, and we put on glow sticks that went around our necks. There were hundreds of others walking. Hardly anyone was mustering any kind of run. We reached the turn around and had a little over 6 miles left. Here's where it started to get really hard. I have never been that physically exhausted in my life! When I started the marathon, I thought, "I can walk all day!!!" Now, I was really questioning whether or not I would be able to go 6 more miles. It was all I could do to put my hands on my hips and just keep putting one foot in front of the other. I found out later that I wasn't the only one that was hurting. Colleen's feet were throbbing, and I don't blame her! Did she ever say something? Nope! She was positive the whole way. What an incredible friend to be there by my side the whole way back.
With .8 miles to go, we saw Tom and Abigail who walked a little ways with us. Tom and Colleen walked me through the rest. They told me that the last half mile was for me to think about the last 8 months of training, the early mornings, the long runs and rides, the sacrifice, the pain, and everything else that I had gone through for this moment. Tom told me to turn on "the jets" as I left them, and I did...for 10 seconds before everything locked up again. I had to kind of laugh to see the miserable shape I was in. I wanted to run, seriously! As I rounded the last corner, I could see the bright lights of the finish, and that was enough to get me running no matter what muscles were cramped.
The street was lined on both sides with 6-8 people deep as they were straining over the barriers to get a high-five from any Ironman Finisher. It was the coolest thing in the world! I felt like a king! They were there to see me!!!! I saw Josh Woods, who had finished the race a couple hours earlier, and Brittany, his Wife along with my dad there. Pretty much right in front of them, in the center of the chute was a manhole cover that was slightly raised. I saw it, but I didn't realize that my steps were so close to the ground. I tripped over it and about sprawled all over the ground. Luckily, I saved it and laughed as every muscle cramped worse. I had purposefully held back so that I had the chute to myself, because I wanted to hear those words "Matthew Smith, You are an Ironman!"
My dad took this picture of me running up the finisher chute. You can see me way up there in the light.
I've heard that Louisville is one of the coolest finish lines ever because it is under the Fourth Street Live roof. The noise is deafening! I started to weave back and forth between the sides slapping hands on both sides. Jennifer says I slapped hers, but I don't remember it.
FINALLY, I crossed the finish line!!!
The catcher gave me my medal, water and chocolate milk, and I was ready to find Jenn. She was on the other side of the fence, but I found her quickly. I had been waiting for that moment and just hugged her and let all the emotion out. It was AWESOME!!!
After seeing my dad, Josh and Brittany, I started to feel light-headed and queasy, so I sat down. I had heard that getting an IV is one of the best ways to recover, and the way I was feeling, anything was worth a shot. A volunteer wheeled me to the medical area where I got an IV.
After hobbling the couple blocks back to the hotel I was completely overwhelmed by the incredible support that I had as my phone was blowing up with texts, phone calls, emails, Facebook posts, and tweets. You guys are awesome! I couldn't have done it without you. Just to know that so many of you were tracking me through the day, some even using up all their data on their phone (MINDY), made my day worth continuing. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
But there are several people that I would like to specifically thank for their dedication to me becoming an Ironman.
Jennifer and Caffrey: You guys got the worst of it. Early mornings when I would be gone. All day Sunday by yourself as I rode century after century. Listening to me complain about being sore or tired. Encouraging me when all I wanted to do was quit. You two are the best! I could never have done it without you. Even on race day, you had just as long a day as I did, but you stood out in the heat and never complained. You are my pride and joy! I am the luckiest guy in the world to have you, Jenn, as a wife and you, Caffrey, as a son. I love you both SO much!!!
Josh and Brittany: You guys are awesome too. Josh, you have trained the most with me, supported me through the slow rides and runs, encouraged me, pushed me, motivated me and kept me going. Thanks for being such a great friend. You are the man, and I love you! Brittany, you're a great friend too, and I'm so glad that you married J-Woo!!!
Dad and Grandpa: Thanks for making the long drive up to Louisville to sweat it out in the heat just to support me on race day.
Trevor and Wyntre: Thanks for driving all the way up to see my race, to walk that long block with me, to carry my shoes. Thanks for being tired the next day at work because you stayed to support me. Love you!
Tom and Colleen: You guys are incredible! From the endless wisdom and experience of doing an Ironman to encouraging me and advising me. Thanks. And obviously, thanks for doing the whole marathon with me! I can't even explain how much that means to me! I'm so glad God put us in the same area so that we can be friends. You guys are the best! Maybe one day we will be related...through our kids. :)
The Buford Family: All week long, I have thought about how so many of you stayed up late to see this pastor cross the finish line. What a fantastic church I get the honor and privilege to serve. You really are family, and it means the world to know that you guys love me too! Thank you!
Brooks Running: Thank you Brooks for all the free gear this year! You made it possible to train in the best equipment out there. My body thanks you!!! Let's do it again in 2014!
And to all the others of you that I didn't mention, your wisdom and advice and support and motivation helped so much, and I will always be grateful. Thank you!!!
Will there ever be another Ironman in my journey? Well, I guess you'll have to keep reading!