Friday, March 7, 2008

Ironman New Zealand: The Aftermath.

When we sat at dinner on Friday Teri, who won her age group, warned us that the memories of just finishing the Ironman can be quite fleeting, indeed from the moment I got my finisher's medal, to stepping out of the shower to Simon and Catherine at my door, most of the post race is quite a blur. I remember the post race massage, getting my blistered heels taken care of and, chugging some tomato soup, but any major points I don't really remember. I did try to find Catherine and Simon post race but after not seeing them by the police baracades made my way into the med tent for post race thearpy. I met up with Justin saw Leo cross the line in 12:09, and actually BSed with Jo Lawn out side the med tent, but the most definiate thing I remember was going to the bike pick up with Justin and Joe Glah. I remember getting my bike and gear bags back, cramming into the van and dropping my crap in Justin's room before heading to Tui Oaks to shower and grab a quick bite to eat. I hobbled into the breakfast room looking at Dave ( the owner ) his family and some of the EST support crew looking out at the steady stream of runners continuing to battle with the worsening conditions. " How'd you do?" Asked Michelle one of the competitors ( who sadly DNFed due to being too hypothermic to move after finishing the bike.) "11:13." I replied wearily. " Did Mickey run by yet?" ( Mickey being Mickey Shappiro the oldest female starter at age 71) " DNFed Mate. " Dave replied, "she didn't make the bike cutoff." Damn..I really wanted to see her finish it would have been her 21st complete Ironman. Patti Paul's wife chimed in. " Did anyone see Jonathan?" " I did as I was heading past the turnaround." I answered. " I saw him out there and he must have torn up his feet pretty bad, because the toes of his shoes were blood red." That's how you know you're messed up if the white mesh on your sneakers is pink you are going to be needing some quality help from Dr. Scholls. I made my way up to the room the finish not sinking in ( Hell it's been almost a week and it still hasn't sunk in I'm in perpetual Faris Al Sultan mode:" Hey you really did that!" ) All that was on my mind, shower, change, finish line, Jonathan had been one of my closest friends this trip and I wanted to be at the line when he crossed. I hoped into to the shower and began spraying the layers of salt, sweat, coke, road grime, that icy hot the massage chick rubbed me down with. There was a knock at the door. I threw on a towel and answered it. It was Simon and Catherine, " We've been looking all over for you. Medical, the Massage area, the finish line Transition..." "Sorry guys I tried to find you but when I didn't see you by the barricade I had to high tail it into medical or the volunteers were going to drag me there." I said trying to make sure my towel would not blow off. " Well good stuff mate." Simon said, " we're heading back to the finish." " Sounds like a plan one of my mates is still out there in this. I'm just going to finish showering and I should be down there until midnight." I replied. " Well good job..we'll see you down there". Catherine said. Now the words and phrases may not be verbatum but I had just run a PR marathon in the Ironman for crying out Simon, Cat, for the record if I misquoted either of you it was because I was still out of it/hypoxic/ functioning on toast, powerbars, sports drink, some soup and about 3 liters of flat Pepsi/4 hours sleep. They left the room and I finished my shower. I got dressed, threw on my rain jacket and met up with Justin. Joe drove us back to the finish. I grabbed myself a thing of Fries/Chips, the salty greasy goodness reward for 11+ hours of exercise. and set myself up next to the baracade by the med tent. The party at the finish was in full swing. A bunch of drunk Kiwis had taken control of the left grandstand, and were going nuts. Mike ever the show man came down from the gantry and started doing paces down the carpet, as more finishers came in despite the pouring rain. 13:30, 13:35, 13:40, 13:45, still no sign of Jonathan I looked across, Simon and Catherine were standing directly across from me. I went over and hung out with them, still checking the clock..13:50, 13:55, 13:59:59 still no Jonathan. Met Luke Bell and got a rather good snap shot. Still no Jonathan. 14:05 then suddenly out of the distance...some Kiwi kid appeared some dude tossed him a rugby ball and he dove over the line like he was scoring a try...I think that's the right term....That got Simon laughing......still looking at the clock, then I heard Mike start saying something about a 3 time Ironman, I heard Jonathan and the butchery of his last name....I darted for the finish line, and in he came, the pride of USC, I believe it was 14:15 but you have to check his blog ( which I have linked as USC Jonathan to make sure)" Yeah Man!" I screamed out he gave me the look of my feet are going to fall off, and if I don't get into some warm dry clothes I am going to start convulsing right here on the carpet look. ( Like I said from finish line to med tent, you go from being a God to a mortal again.)I went back over to my perch. Simon and Catherine had to take off ( Catherine had to go become a slave to the almighty editing room.)...the next two hours seriously became part sporting event, part carnival, part side show. Pete and Bill showed up with a case of Tui we each had a celebratory beer. Ken came back down and started to catch up with the race directors, Ironman live guys, pros...guys who remembered The Sprint in Auckland 1990. The rain lightened up, but the wind kept howling. Dave came in, followed by Paul. Mike Ramsay made his way to the finish continuing his streak of finishing every single Ironman New Zealand. Then the most remarkable finishers of the night hobbled in. Tony Jackson and his wife. Tony like Mike had started and finished every Ironman race in New Zealand from 1984 on. Unlike Mike he had a much harder fight, shortly before Christmas he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Docs gave him 13 weeks to live. His response " Shit that doesn't leave enough time to train for an Ironman." He battled through just enough Chemo to make it to the start line and did the entire race side by side with his wife. He got a standing ovation as he crossed the line, a hand shake from Mike Ramsay, a few moments to address the crowd, he plans on being at the start line next year, with an attitude like that he most certainly will be. Slowly but surely the rest of the finishers trickled in. One guy came in at 16:51 Mike R. Shouted out " You are an Ironman" to him about a meter from the line. He hugged him then ran back along the barricades high fiving each person on ground level...." Dude you might want to cross." Mike shouted..." Well it makes no difference 16:51 16:56 when you cross you cross." Finally after high fiving the other side on the way back in. He had his moment , granted five people passed him as he thanked the crowd but hey, a finish is a finish. Finally the clock reached 16:58 " We've got one more about a k out." Greg screamed from the booth. The chants of stop the clock went up as it approached 16:59 The race director shook his head.....17:00 .......then she came into sight, hobbling beaten by wind and rain, a 60 year old woman stopping every 20 feet, her kids and a group of townspeople walking her in. Some of us left the stands and got in the mob behind her, Mike up infront of her egging her on. 20 feet stop breath, You can do this, another 20 feet, then another, and another, finally the finish chute. The mob stopped at the carpet and she crossed the line. 17:16 after it had begun she was an Ironman. They gave her her medal and shirt but she was kept off the official list, We still argue they should have stopped the clock, but the paper doesn't matter, she was an Ironman.

I could continue to ramble on about other things that happended in Taupo, but right now it's mute point. The Ironman is a one day journey, a journey to a finish line, a journey into the self to see what you're really made of. For me it seems to early to tell if the person who left Taupo an Ironman finisher is all that different from the person who was griping abut snow delaying his flight at JFK two weeks ago. Life goes on work, classes, eventually training, local races, but all I know is the following while on this Ironman journey:

I made some pretty good friends
discovered that most of the friends I have are amazing
Even the most trival accidents make us stronger.


Ok now all the Ironman New Zealand Posts are done, except for the photo wrap up. ...Next on the agenda recovery and strength training.


Runner Leana said...

It has been great to follow your journey. It sounds like one amazing race - I can't believe the weather you had to contend with - but what an amazing finish. Thanks for sharing!

Maybe you should consider the Disney marathon for one big blogger meet up party in January!

rocketpants said...

Nice job! Drinking Tui and eating chips like a kiwi. Good on ya mate :-)

I am impressed you made it til 17 hours to cheer everyone in. That is the spirit of the Ironman.