Wednesday, November 9, 2011

What happened to October?

Last weekend was an amazing Ironman weekend in Panama City, Florida

....but first let's play some catch up. The last couple of weeks have been crazy! The weekend after Stump Jump 50K we made a quick trip to NY for my 25th high school reunion - how did I get so freakin' old - and a quick visit with my godparents, cousins and aunt & uncle.

 Upstate NY is absolutely incredible in the fall. Number one thing I miss about my hometown.

Me and Terri at the reunion

The following weekend I had to work but still squeezed in a Duran Duran concert (fantastic even after all these years) while John went down to Pine Mtn for the North Face 50 miler. I also managed close to 26 miles that weekend. The next weekend was The Great Floridian (my Ironman race from 2010). Terrie Tillman (2nd IM) and Philip Sustar (first IM) were competing and John went to support. I really wish I could have gone but I am running out of vacation time and planned to head to IMFL the following week so I let John cover this one. Terrie and Phil did amazing jobs on a very tough course and I salute their incredible efforts. My weekend mileage was 20.

Mike Delang, Terrie and Phil at the Great Floridian
 Then came the really crazy Homecoming weekend starting with trivia on Thursday night and John's fraternity dinner and cocktail party on Friday. In the past this usually ends with a massive hangover on Saturday morning only to be mollified by more continuous drinking through the actual football game and beyond. This year I kept it light since I knew I had a long day on the trails planned for Saturday. 

 ***On a completely separate topic - one friend at the cocktail party wanted me to write a blog about how 2 first time Ironman competitors stay married after one finishes and the other DNF's - I will shelve that topic for another day but I think it is worth while discussing. I am often asked how all this training affects a marriage so I will definitely work on that for a later date.

I slept in a bit Saturday morning and got through my 18 miles. I came home, showered and then headed to Acworth for a co-workers wedding reception and then dashed home, changed and went to the Get Fit Halloween party. Sunday I was up again and got 10 miles in on the silver comet for a weekend total of 28. While that first 18 was not very fun, I am finding that next days run are getting easier and I have been less sore each time. There must be something to this training stuff!

This brings us to this past weekend. Last year when I did the Great Floridian I was completely blown away by all the support I had on race day even though I tried to keep it stealthy. One of the people who came down to support me was Teesha McCrae. Teesha had just finished an incredible year of doing her first ultra, learning how to swim, doing her first triathlon and ending the season by doing a half Ironman. Teesha is super strong, smart, upbeat and an absolutely beautiful girl inside and out. Teesha ran with me during the first part of my marathon and listened patiently to all my bitching and swearing and still signed up to do Ironman Florida a couple of weeks later. I knew then that I had to be there for her when she did her first Ironman. 

Teesha, Yvette Webb and I before our first 50K

On Friday I packed the car and headed down to Panama City with Peggy (one of the Wisconsin Ironkids). John was also heading off on his own journey to crew Coach Mike on his pursuit of the Pinhoti 100 and that requires a whole other blog post right there. The drive was uneventful and I was grateful for the good company because that is one BORING drive. This is one of the many reasons I am not interested in doing IMFL - the long stretches of nothing but scraggly pine trees and flat open terrain. The wind was pretty gusty and I was hoping for calm seas, warm temps and no wind for raceday. We got to the condo, unpacked and headed off to Ironman central. We hit the expo and found all the IM Kswiss gear was 50% off including great deals on other clothing and Tshirts. Not to pass up a sale, we did a little shopping. We then found George - back for his 2nd IM which also happened to be his 2nd triathlon ever! He is a little crazier than most of us. George had a room at the host hotel that was in a great location and would serve as home base for the rest of the weekend.

While George headed off to dinner we headed to the airport to pick up Elaine. I had googled Panama City airport before I left and it was only 8 miles away. I plugged it into the GPS and we were on our way. We drive up to the airport and I notice there are no cars, the parking lots are filled with weeds and there is a definite "zombie apocalypse" feel to the whole place. I said "Something is wrong here!". Captain Obvious, that's me! I stopped the car and pulled out my phone to figure out what was up when a security guard rolled up and came over to the car. Apparently, this happens all the time. The guy told us that we wouldn't find the airport in our GPS and the airport has moved - well the web page hasn't been updated either so no wonder it happens all the time. He just so happened to have printed directions to the real airport so we set off again while letting Elaine know we would be late. If the security guard had not been so strange I would have taken a picture of the "zombie airport" just for fun. Once we had Elaine in hand I texted George that we wouldn't make dinner and we headed over to where Teesha was finishing dinner with her boyfriend and family. We caught them before they left, wished her luck, hugs all around and then had dinner ourselves. 

The next morning came quick and we headed over to George's room. Katie and Damon had arrived and we met Team George - a super cute family of three that have known George for years. Each had T-shirts with Team George on the front and Run George Run, Swim George Swim and Bike George Bike on each of their backs. Very sweet! Wetsuits were put on and nerves were jangling. Teesha had a braid emergency that Elaine went to fix and soon it was time for everyone to head to the beach. Peggy ran Teesha's special needs bags up to the truck and just got them on before the race. I hugged Teesha with tears in my eyes and said Good Luck. Off she went to get her place on the beach. The air was cool but the ocean was very calm. The canon went off and the washing machine started!

I tried to get some pictures from higher up on the beach but there were too many people in front of me. I moved down to the waters edge and watched all the swimmers finish their first lap and get ready for round two. It was hard to pick anyone out but next thing you know there was Teesha smiling and heading for lap 2. We then headed up to the swim exit to see if we could catch George. He went by too fast along with Damon and Nick but soon we saw Teesha and Katie. Snapped a few pictures and then off they went on their bikes. 

Starting the second loop

Teesha before the second loop

Blurry Teesha is out of the water

Katie is out of the water

The bike course in FL is a giant 112 mile loop so we had some time to kill. You could go out and try and see the bikers farther out on the course but it made more sense to stay near the finish and transitions. We headed off for breakfast and coffee. After breakfast another trip to the IM store - did I mention that Kswiss stuff was 50% off!! After more shopping we changed and Mike, Peggy and I headed off for a little run. We followed the run course for a bit but we did not want to interfere with the racers so we kept straight on the main road. We crossed the race path a few times and got to see the pro men and women run so fast and seemingly effortlessly while we watched in awe.

 We completed our little 6 mile run (so I wouldn't feel like such a huge slug). Just prior to this we found out Katie had to drop out of the bike with a migraine. Oh, no, poor Katie! We headed back to transition just in time to see Nick head out on the run, quickly followed by George. My camera was still in the hotel room so no pics. Everyone looked strong! We showered and headed back out to wait for Teesha. Teesha came off the bike ready to hit the run and it was so great to see her so fired up!

Best pic of the day - the bike is done

Now that everyone was out on the run we checked in with Katie and she was doing well. She had her medication and was not in bad spirits and was cheering on Damon and the rest of the Get Fit crew. Peggy, Elaine, Mike and I grabbed some pizza at Mellow Mushroom and settled in for the  rest of the run. We found a place just before the turn around so we could see everyone making their final way to the finish line or heading to the turn around for the final lap. Nick and Damon came by looking strong headed to the finish and soon we saw Teesha heading for the turn around. We ran with her for a bit until the turn and then when she came back I ran a little more with her to the next aid station. She was doing so well. She had no idea about the time and seemed worried about finishing within the cutoffs. I assured her she had 5 hours to complete 13 miles and there was no way she wasn't going to make it. She was concerned she couldn't eat anything but chicken broth so I told her to just keep eating chicken broth it's that simple. She seemed to calm a bit and she ran off for the rest of her journey. 

We continued to cheer all the runners on and did our best to keep them smiling and their spirits up. When the time was getting close for George and Teesha to be heading back we moved closer to the finish. We positioned ourselves just outside the main chute so we could see the runners coming out of the dark and heading to the finish line. I played with the camera to see if I could actually get a shot in the dark. Of course, I missed George again with the camera but when he saw us his face lit up and he seemed so happy. He ran confidently to the finish line and PR'd by over an hour from last year. 

George is an Ironman again!

About 30 minutes later Teesha came out of the darkness and a smile lit up her face when she heard and saw us screaming for her. Teesha is an Ironman!!

It was an amazing weekend in Florida. Get Fit had close to 80 runners in Savannah for the Marathon and Half while John was in Pinhoti for Mike Delang's 100 miler. Many PR's and great accomplishments by everyone! It will be hard to top this weekend!

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