Sitting on something other than a bike saddle felt good... really good. It's one of those little things about Ironman that doesn't appear in any magazine or training book. A bonus. The hard wooden chair in T2 felt like a leather lounger under tired, tight, 112 mile bike muscles.
In my bike-to-run bag was everything I packed the night before; running shoes, socks, white cap, race belt with number, yep all there but, there was something more...
there were words... written words. Among them these from Jon Blais: 1971-2007
"Live more than your neighbors. Unleash yourself upon the world and go places.
Giggle, no, laugh.
No... stay out past dark, and bark at the moon like the wild dog that you are.
Understand that this is not a dress rehearsal. This is it. Your life.
Face your fears and live your dreams. Take it all in. Yes, every chance you get.
And by all means, whatever you do, get it on film."
That's exactly what I intended. The next 26.2 miles would be the marathon of my life. You know, it's been 46 years of doing this, that, and the other, and I found myself in Wisconsin. Three and a half years after watching the video of my athletic epiphany it took me to get to that very spot. Years of depositing into the Ironman account of preparation and I was about to leverage all of its collateral and spend it on the streets of Madison.
There is where I would make my stand and give a wild dog bark at the moon. There I would issue my treatise over the epic distance of 26.2 miles. Oh yes... right there, and right then... I and the names of the 540 on the Honor Roll would take back what was stolen. Strong bodies, and even stronger hearts would finish this race without stumbling. The days of cancers as feared diseases are numbered. I'm sure of it. Just like the sun rising in the east, and waters of beautiful rivers flowing past crimson maples in spring, it's a certainty that each day, just like each of my steps, brings us all closer to finish.
For me, a medal...
for them, remembrance and honor...
for us all, a cure.
Downtown Madison was putting on a show when I hit the street. The Ironman carnival had definitely arrived. Turning left around the capitol building and heading down State Street were athletes moving forward in a scattered file. Some headed towards me to finishing their first loop or towards the finish. Spectators lined the street waving signs and holding banners, ringing cowbells, and sipping drinks from their cafe seats.
Ironman is an individual effort? In Madison?? Hah... I think not! Not on that run; not in that town. No, the city turned out to go the distance too.
Along the way I saw many from the TriBlogging Alliance looking fit. Some grimaced in their stride and others smiled with a passing wave. Even two, whom I had not met before, introduced themselves to me as blog readers and podcast listeners. Both thanked me for carrying the Honor Roll.
Although the encouragement from all pushed me along the street, my stomach was still a mess at the run's start and I continued stopping at each port-a-potty. At times the discomfort brought me to a standstill, literally. Stabbing pains took my breath away. Only walking and then stopping brought relief. Run all of the marathon? Ummmm, not on that day.
On the second lap came the night. But did that dampen the noise of the spectators? Heck, no! Every corner had a cheer station. Frat boys and co-eds yelled from their frat boy and co-ed apartment houses lining the route. There was no siesta at this fiesta.
At mile 22 things turned from bad to better. Finally, after 142 miles of dealing with a rebel gut I was able to leave it all behind. (Play on words intentional.) As if I took some kind of wonder drug my strength came back and flooded my legs with energy. I could run! Yes! Yes! I could actually run.
With shoes finally pounding as fast as my heart, I was racing up State Street towards the capital. The music was thumping, my heart was pumping, and a spirit was at my side. I felt as bright as the lights bathing the finish chute. Music so loud, crowd so loud, a let out yell of triumph.
It was over. It was done...
... and a new beginning had begun.