I never thought I would be writing a race report about an Ironman. However, I knew the day was coming and it wouldn’t be my last. There were times I thought I couldn’t accomplish such an amazing feat. I was told it was impossible.
I have corrected clubfoot. My feet, legs, and hips are not like everyone else’s. I can’t run very well. I am not like the others in my sport. My lower body has deformities that make running and exercise a very painful experience.
I again want to thank those who believed in me; my wife, my children, my parents and my mother and father-in-law. I want to thank Miracle Feet for giving me a reason to race that was bigger than myself.
I want to thank my son for giving me a reason to race. Without you I would not have a cause. Without you, Eli, I would not have a reason to sacrifice the time and energy it takes to make you proud and to be the best example I can be.
I want to thank my nutrition sponsor, Xterra Wetsuits, Profile Design and Recovery Pump for getting my legs and feet back to normal after days of hard training and pain. With the Recovery Pump I was able to log mile after mile. I especially want to thank Hoka One One for their support and one hell of a great shoe that eased my pain through the marathon. Without your shoes I would be running in excruciating pain.
My day started at 4 am and felt great upon waking up. I managed to get a full night sleep, which is rare for me the night before a race. I headed down to transition and felt completely calm, as if it was just another day of training. I got into transition around five and quickly set up my bike and double-checked my nutrition. I managed to have some time to kill before the race so I was able to hang with a few friends, which got my mind off the gigantic physical task before me.
I managed to take in a few gels followed by some electrolyte drink to make sure I topped off my glycogen stores for the swim. I then headed over to the swim start and saw many panicked, excited and peaceful faces. The swim start was flooded with emotion and tension. It was thick in the air and no one could escape what was about to take place.
I entered the water along with 1800 other athletes about five minutes before seven. I quickly scanned the sea of bodies to see what would be a good strategy for getting to the front of the pack. I decided it would be best to hug the wall for a few moments and see what others would do before the gun went off. I quickly discovered that this was not the best idea.
I looked around and saw several people with the same strategy. Before I knew it, the cannon exploded and I was quickly swallowed by panicked bodies thrashing to and fro. I am a very strong and confident swimmer and I knew if I rode out the chaos I soon would be up front where I am most comfortable.
After a few punches to the face, kicks to the stomach, feet to the face, I arrived in my comfort zone, the front of the pack. In a few brief moments I wove through traffic and found myself all alone in a comfortable and sustainable quick pace. About one mile in I began to take in the emotion of the day. I thought to myself that I would have never thought in a million years I would be doing a Ironman. I thought of my son and why I was doing this. I thought about thousands of children born with clubfoot. I thought about my family and my amazing wife who challenged my to do my first triathlon 5 years ago. Soon, I felt a tremendous peace and confidence surge through my body. I sucked in the energy and felt invincible. I knew today was my day to be an Ironman. As I looked up I saw the last turn buoy in sight and the sea of bodies exiting the lake in a crowd of craziness. I was heading into the swim to bike transition.
Cycling has always been my strongest of the three sports and I felt that I would be able to make the 112 mile journey easily. Throughout my training I spent numerous hours building my endurance and speed. I rode hundreds and hundreds of miles throughout training and knew if I got into a steady pace I would be fine. I carried about 1800 calories and managed to burn through it by the end of the ride.
Heading out onto the Beeline Highway I felt great. My legs and feet worked together in unison like well-oiled pistons. The Beeline Highway has a false flat, meaning you think the road is flat, but really you are climbing a steady incline the whole way up. The course consisted of three 37.something mile loops. As I made the first turnaround I was greeted with a tailwind that left me flying down the Beeline and thirty-plus miles an hour.
As I made my way into town I saw my wife and friends. That added a boost to my confidence and well-being. During the second lap I began to feel my energy fade. I realized I was hammering to hard on the bike and I needed to slow my pace in order to keep from blowing up. The winds out and back during the third lap where absolutely brutal. They changed from head wind to side wind to tail wind without warning. I was forced to make some strategic moves in order to keep my pace and cadence high while maintaining even power and heart rate.
I flatted at mile forty. I was lucky tech support was there to quickly change my flat and get me back on the road. As I was heading into town after my third lap I tried to ignore the screaming neck and back cramps I developed around mile twenty. During this time I began to feel nauseas and almost threw up several times because of the pain. I managed to suck up every drop of pain as I pulled into Transition Two, knowing my night had just begun.
As I hit the run course, I still was struggling to shake off the cramps without success. Soon the DNF (Did Not Finish) demons were resting comfortably on my shoulder trying to talk me out of completing this marathon. I fought them with every tool in my mental toolbox, including a brief moment of pause reassuring myself that the cramps would go away now that I was in an upright position not hunched over on the bike. I knew that if I jog/walked slowly I would regain my composure and tick off miles quicker as the marathon progressed. Throughout the marathon I battled inner demons and felt my mind rise above my body. Heading out I knew my twisted and deformed feet would give me the biggest fight of my life, but I was determined not to give in. Mile six was quickly approaching and I felt my body begin to loosen up and the remaining miles became less daunting. I quickly rediscovered my pace and ran at a steady cadence. My feet where in so much pain, but I ignored them and again thought about why I was attempting something so brutal.
As the sun slowly set I began to plan how I was going to finish the marathon. I sucked up my pain, began to find my inner-strength and focused on one mile at a time. I managed to see my friends and my wife several times throughout the run, which left me energized and refocused. I saw the mile 18 marker and my endorphins kicked in. I ran the remaining miles high on endorphins, which made my pain non-existent. I crossed mile marker 25 and knew I had this in the bag. I stopped and sat for a moment, not because I was in pain, but because I wanted to take a moment to think how far I had come in my life.
I sat on the edge of the wall that surrounded Tempe Town Lake and thought about the times I doubted myself, my pain, my disability. I thought about the sacrifice the last six months. The missed events, the early mornings, and late training sessions. I thought about my family, my amazing and understanding wife. I thought about my family. I though about my inner-strength and the opportunity God has given me to be an example and inspiration to others born with clubfoot.
I took in the moment and rose from that wall. My inner voice reassured me that that day I would be an Ironman. I tightened up my Hoka’s one last time and darted to the finish line. It was pitch black by the time I reached the 100-yard marker before the finisher chute. I felt silence and a warm numbness possess my body as I approached the chute. I felt the energy of the crowd, but could not anticipate what I would feel next.
As I turned into the finishers chute I was greeted with a large cheering crowd, bright blinding lights and the indescribable feeling of accomplishment. I reached deep down inside myself and disregarded all my pains and fears that day. I tossed them aside and picked up a new me. I picked up my son and his clubfeet. I picked up a new outlook on life and an unwavering desire to inspire others to be their best. I quickly ran through the chute reaching for volunteers to catch my weak body. I fell forward and felt the day come over me like a warm blanket in the middle of a cold night. I did it. I am an Ironman!