After an early wake up of 4:00 AM, I started the walk of silence down to the race site. It is very eerie seeing hundreds of people all heading to the same destination: a long day of unknown difficulties and almost certain pain. I dropped off my special needs bags, got body marked with my number, and went to get my bike ready. I ran into Rusty, Jerry, Thomas and Clay and we all seemed ready. And then a tire blew on a bike. That is not something you want to hear before the race starts. It wasn’t one of ours, but it did remind us that there are no guarantees that things will go smoothly.
Closer to race time, I wandered down to the starting corral and found my family. My Mom, Dad, Christine and Mason were all waiting for me on the beach. I spoke with Lara on the phone and we exchanged good luck wishes.
Unfortunately, she was in Louisiana on her way to the high school city swim meet. I headed out into the water for a quick warm-up swim and then returned to await the start. Mark (in his rainbow wig) and Mylissa Horrocks from Habitat for Hope showed up to cheer me on. Everything was in place. All I needed to do now was swim 2.4 miles, ride 112 miles, and run 26.2 miles.
And the cannon went off.
Two thousand two hundred and seventy seven people ran into the ocean all trying to swim towards the buoy about 1000 yards away. And immediately I began taking a beating worse than any in my life. It was actually worse than my first triathlon in False River when I had no clue what I was doing. The panic began to build as I was pummeled repeatedly and I had serious doubts whether I had made a major mistake. I started trying to figure out how to get to the outside, but that would be impossible. So I just kept swimming and kept getting beat up.
I made the first turn and things got a little better. I would take an occasional grab or slap every once in a while, but I found a little clear water where I could swim stronger. The trip back into the beach was uneventful except for seeing the Ironman symbol on the ocean floor about 20 feet deep. It reminded me that it was going to be a long day.
I came out of the water after the first loop and the clock said 41 something. That figures. At that point I didn’t care. I was just happy to be alive. Then I glanced at my watch and it said 31 something. Oh yeah, the pros started 10 minutes before us. I headed back out for my second loop and tried my best to settle down in to a comfortable rhythm. And when making the first turn around the Ford buoy I took a kick in the jaw so hard that it lifted my head out of the water and cocked my goggles. My goggles didn’t leak, so I didn’t bother stopping to get the license plate. I made the far turn with no more problems and then the last turn on the way back. Everything was calm. I was at peace and swimming smoothly. And then….
Thwack! I was hit in the back of the head by someone’s stroke. About four strokes later Thwack! I was hit again! And after another six or eight strokes, Thwack! Okay buddy, three strikes and you’re out! But before I could deliver a right haymaker, he veered sharply away. My guess is that he broke his hand on the back of my head.
After that, it was all smooth swimming back to the beach where I finished with a swim time of 1:09:19. That was faster than 2005, so I was happy. Actually I was thrilled because I was out of the water!
I hit transition, changed clothes and headed out on the bike. Christine and company were screaming for me as I headed out for a long bike ride. It didn’t take long before Clay came by looking strong after a great swim. I wouldn’t see him again until the run course. Soon after I had my first comment on my shorts when a nice lady informed me she was definitely looking at my butt.
The comments continued throughout the race from men and women alike. My favorite unfortunately was some guy who said, â€œYes, I am looking at your butt. And you have a very nice butt.â€ If it was only a woman, I may have been motivated. In this case, I was a tad bit scared.
And then my favorite motivator came by with her words of wisdom. Gloria was on a motorcycle catching cheaters, and she said, “Look at that old, ugly out of shape cyclist!” I had to get her to repeat it to be sure I had heard right. I was offended by her remarks; so let me set the record straight. It does not take much research on the Internet or my website to know that I am not a cyclist!
There was a slight wind heading out, but my pace was good and I felt pretty good. At the first penalty tent I saw Llew and got a high five. Things were good. I continued to get passed by thousands of people and quite a few pelotons of cheaters, but unfortunately that was typical and aggravating. I only had to make a couple of aid station pit stops, so the hydration level wasn’t too bad.
Around the 50-mile mark, I saw my Mom & Dad on the side of the road. It makes a difference on the bike leg to have support because it never seems to end. I went past the second penalty tent and there was Scott & Charles. Then I saw my Mom & Dad again. And again. After the last time, they headed back towards the transition area.
And then I saw Christine, Mason, Mark, Mylissa and family. And Christine informed me that she was absolutely looking at my butt! I was heading into the last 45 miles of the bike feeling good.
I saw Susan and Brandon at penalty tent 3 and screamed hello. BRTri had the entire bike course covered. You guys rock! I pedaled on for a while still feeling pretty good until the wind started acting a little weird.
On River Road in Baton Rouge, you can ride the loop and some days it seems you are riding into the wind at every turn. The race started to get that way for me. Every turn I prayed for a tail wind and got hit in the face. It wasn’t a strong wind, but a persistent annoying one. And I entered the dark period of the race for me. My pace was dropping. My energy was dropping. My motivation was dropping. All I could do was keep pedaling.
And then someone came by and gave me some words of wisdom. My race number was red as opposed to most other racers because of the Janus Charity Challenge. A man rode by and said, Keep going Tim, you look good. And you are doing this for the right reasons. That put things in perspective. We had already finished 2nd in the Janus Charity Challenge, so now I just had to finish the race. So I started praying more.
I got to the crappy road (Hwy 388) and I knew exactly where I was. I knew how far to go and what to expect, so all I had to do was keep moving forward. After about 103 miles, Rusty finally caught me. My first comment was “Where in the #&^$ have you been?” Rusty is a much stronger cyclist and should have caught me sooner. He was having a rougher than usual bike ride. Finally, with about 5 miles to go we had a tailwind!
I had one last chat with Gloria on her motorcycle before heading into transition to have my bike surgically removed. I gave a quick shout to the family and got off my bike. My time was only about 7 minutes faster than 2005, but I didn’t really care. As long as it was faster, it was a victory.
I changed into my running attire and headed out for the run. I caught Rusty in the first mile and we discussed a new plan. Our old plan was to break 12 hours. With both of us feeling a little tired, our new plan was to break 12:30, which would be 5 minutes faster than Rusty’s 2005 performance (mine was 12:47). He told me to go, so I continued on and was feeling pretty good. I continued with a decent pace for about 8 or 9 miles before things started to slow down a bit.
Between the 9 and 10-mile mark I saw Thomas and Jerry and they both looked strong and were having a good time. But my energy level continued to fade. At the 12-mile mark, I ran past the beer stop with the scantily dressed women. I was offered a beer, but I deferred to the second lap! At the 12.5-mile mark, I started with some slight cramping and tightness in my left hamstring. I knew it was coming sooner or later. I had been praying for much later,
I made the turn around, talked with Christine at length about clothing options and my leg problem before heading out for lap two. For some people I know dread the second lap. For me, it doesn’t matter because I run on a very small mind-numbing loop at home. I was actually looking forward to heading out and watching the big mile numbers as opposed to the smaller ones.
I was still cramping a bit and I just felt dead. So at the 14-mile mark I tried some Coke. That was a major mistake and made for the longest mile of the race for me. It immediately upset my stomach and made things miserable. I made it to the 15-mile mark, puked in the porta potty and felt much better. No more coke for me. I stuck with the water, Gatorade, and bananas.
After 16 miles, the left hamstring began locking up. Every time it happened I would have to walk a bit while trying to massage it out. Then I would run some more. At close to 18 miles, both legs locked up. I immediately stopped and grabbed my legs as if my hands were tourniquets preventing some toxin from traveling up my body. And that’s when it hit me. Normal people don’t do things like this. Normal people give up when both their legs are racked with charley horses. Normal people don’t pay to punish themselves like this. Oh well, who wants to be normal anyway.
I hobbled on and made it to the 18-mile aid station. No chicken broth. 19-mile mark? No chicken broth. 20 mile mark PLEASE? No chicken broth! At this point I was only able to run about 2 to 3 minutes before the cramps took over and I had to walk for about a minute. When I finally made it to the 21-mile mark and asked for chicken broth, they said yes! And that’s when I saw a bright light and heard the Hallelujah Chorus being played. Actually, I think the hematoma in my head from the triple Thwack in the swim erupted. Either way, I was thrilled. I drank a cup of broth with some water and continued my assault towards the finish line.
Every aid station I would get more chicken broth and eventually I was able to get my run time up to about 4 to 5 minutes at a time before my legs would tighten up. And then I hit the 25-mile mark and the beer stop. No beer! The women let me down. Fine, I will find my own beer. So I started running.
A little ways down the road I saw Mark and he ran with me. He stayed with me a little while, but I was in the zone now and was not slowing or stopping for anything. The energy of the crowd and the draw of the finish line overpowered any pain or cramps I was having. I enjoyed this trip down the shoot much better than last time giving high fives to everyone. I saw Christine. I saw my Mom & Dad. I saw Mylissa. And then there was Mason running with me. Tim Hutchinson, you are an IRONMAN! I finished in 12:22:44, which was 25 minutes faster than last time.
It has been a long year with a lot of training and some tough races. A marathon. My first 50K run. My first Rouge Roubaix. Holy Toledo in a monsoon. A hot summer of training. And now an Ironman. And it was all worth it because I finished the race and we raised $67,000.00 for Habitat for Hope.
Thanks to all who donated and said many prayers for me on Saturday.
Thanks to all the members of Baton Rouge Tri who make up the best tri club in the world. Your motivation and determination is unsurpassed.
Thanks to Habitat for Hope and Mark, Mylissa, Bella, Isaiah, Samuel, Joseph and Mary for supporting me all year and being there with me to the end.
Thanks to Mom & Dad for always being there no matter whether you think I am crazy or not. No parent wants to see their child suffer, so thanks for supporting me even when I do.
Thanks to Lara and Mason for putting up with grumpy, tired Dad all year. And congrats to Lara for making her second high school state time in swimming on Saturday!
And of course, thank you to my wonderful wife Christine. You have been there every step of the way and felt my pain. I may be an Ironman, but I am your Ironman. Now I can take care of all the projects that have been on hold for a year (like my office!)