In 2015, I watched Ironman Wisconsin via the live stream and was simultaneously exhilarated and frustrated. I was happy to cheer on my buddy Erin achieve her dreams of getting to the IM World Championship in Kona, HI. AND I was bummed because I felt like training for an IM was beyond what I could put my family through at the time.
Fast forward one year.
This year I have really learned that life is fleeting and there is just no time like the present to work towards what lights you up. So when the option to go and volunteer, with my friend and training partner Kendra, at Ironman Wisconsin I was all in.
Kendra and I left several children in the capable hands of their grandparents and hit the road! Amazingly, both of our husbands were out of town the weekend of Ironman so it was really all hands on deck for childcare. Notice the lack of car seats and boy flotsam & jetsam in my van.
We met Michaela in Madison – or rather a distant suburb of Madison – and caught a beautiful afternoon, after a morning of spotty showers. All the while, all I could think about was signing up for the race in 2017. My mind was full of images of myself swimming, running and biking around the capitol. Michaela and her friends were also contemplating signing up, so we had a good time weighing the pros and cons over dinner. By the time we arrived at our volunteer station at 5 am the next morning I was fully committed.
We dragged ourselves out of the rental house at about 4 am to get into Madison by the time we were supposed to be there. SO EARLY. With the van safely parked, Kendra and I set out to find bike special needs bad drop. Along the way we met athletes and volunteers and collected inspirational stories. My belief that I had to be at some specific place in my life in order to train for an ironman was rapidly decreasing!
I signed up for the earliest volunteer slot on the advice of my friend Erin and I am so happy I did! It was awesome to see my friends who were racing before their day started. And I loved encouraging all the athletes as they prepared for the race. When our shift ended, we met back up with Michaela, then went to find spots to watch the race start on the helix. Incredible. We got to watch the sunrise over Lake Monona, chat up other spectators and then be apart of the energetic crowd cheering on the athletes as they ran up the helix towards T1. Man, was that fun!
Next we jumped in the van and raced out to the infamous Barlow Road (read Kecia’s post about Barlow here) to cheer. Whoa.
Every hill I climb now reminds me of this terrifying monster. Again it was amazing, incredible and inspiring (if you are tired of reading these words, then you’d better just scroll right on through this post!) to be on that crazy, hard hill to cheer. I have heard lots of opinions on ‘how to race Barlow’ – personally I think that no matter how people got up that beast they were amazing. My calves were tired just walking up it! I’m really hoping that I get to ride it at least twice next summer before I find myself huffing and puffing on two race wheels.
By the time Kendra and I made it back into Madison to cheer on the marathon course we were exhausted. In some ways, I wondered if racing the Ironman might be less taxing! I was dehydrated and hungry when we arrived at State Street. But there were athletes to cheer! Friends to track! Voices to loose while cheering our faces off! We rallied. And I am so glad that we did! I learned so much from the curb while I cheered for athletes struggling and running and walking that marathon course.
The day flew by and suddenly we were jockeying for position near the finisher chute awaiting our friends’ triumphant arrival at the end of their epic days. My voice was completely gone as was Kendra’s. My feet ached and my back hurt. But we both felt a sense of responsibility to the athlete’s that we had wished well 12 odd hours ago in special needs bag drop. Since that early morning volunteer shift we had seen and cheered for some of the same strangers at 5-6 different locations. We were heavily invested in seeing them reach the finish line!
As I stood there like a zombie watching & cheering I dreamt of what it would be like in 365 days when I would be running towards the sound of my name being announced. Pretty powerful.
After our last friend finished we somehow made it back to the distant suburb and our rental house. I woke up with the worst headache and a race day hang over. I’d planned on driving home and signing up online but after text exchanges with several friends I decided to just drive back to Madison and sign up in person. As my husband pointed out, why give myself a chance to back out? It’s funny because I can’t say I have ever committed to something 12 months in advance. No turning back now: Ironman Wisconsin 2017, here I come!