I've always been a cynic when it comes to Matt's newly developed athleticism. I think to myself, How can running 10 miles make you feel better when you could just sit on your ass and eat a chocolate bar with me. That always makes me feel better!
I've been supportive, but rarely excited about the triathlons.
I was not excited about the Ironman. I was supportive by holding my tongue and telling him good job no matter what I was actually thinking.
Yesterday changed my mind. Not enough to want to participate or even encourage more insanity. Yesterday changed my mind about the human spirit.
This is not what I thought this blog post would be about when I imagined what I would write days ago. I thought then I would fill this page with anecdotes about how we whiled away the day while Matt sweated. I thought I would write little quips about amusing Matt moments. Yesterday, I learned that there is little amusing about Ironman distance triathlon.
Matt's day, and the day of those who finished with him, started early. The clock started ticking at 7 am while Grace and I were still at home. We arrived around 10 am and had our first Matt sighting around 1 pm. He says the waves during the swim were about 1.5 feet high and the wind was like a brick wall during the bike. I saw he was tired and frazzled during that first 1 pm stop to refuel his water bottles and food pockets, but was not effected myself yet.
I knew he was tired when he finished his 112 mile bike ride and hobbled into the tented area to change into running clothes. I willed him with every thing I had to come out of the tent. I knew if he had his running shoes on he would finish the race, because what is the point of starting if you weren't going to finish, right?
I panicked when he came back to the home base after the first of the 3 laps required to fulfill the 26.2 mile run. I could see he was sunburt, his face was white with sweat salts and his pace was slow. Gracie and I kissed him and sent him out for another 9 miles.
That is when I started to understand.
The sun was starting to set and the rain was beginning to sprinkle on and off. The winners were already finished as Matt started his marathon. Others were still coming in off their bikes as my husband was beginning his second loop.
When the skies were dark and the rain began to fall heavy, I rocked Gracie to sleep in her stroller shielded with umbrellas. I sat there watching faces. That's when I understood. When the already lack luster crowd support all but disappeared. I couldn't blame them. It was cold and windy and raining, but I refused to move to my car. I needed to watch faces and clap for each runner.
There was an old man, his leg said age 70, doing the full triathlon. I saw him coming in from a distance. His hobble was distinct even at 9:15 pm. I clapped for him. Way to go! You're almost there! I was so sure he was finishing. He was moving so slowly. At 9:30 he was back in front of me again. He wasn't done. He still had one more lap to complete. 9 more miles, alone in the pitch black rain.
That's when I cried.
The determination was unbelievable. His is a poignant story, but it is everyone's story. I finally understood that it is more about determination that fitness and conditioning. Nobody looked good as the finished the marathon. OK, the first few people to finish the thing looked good, but do they really count?
My prospective on the sport, and what it means to accomplish something like this, is forever changed. And while I knew I could always depend on Matt for anything, his show of sheer willpower and expression of mind over matter has forever changed my opinion of him. I now have proof that Matt will fight to the end no matter what the challenge is. And win.
The old man did in fact finish, 22 minutes before the cut off time of 11:59 pm.
And Matt? He can now call himself Ironman with a completion time of 14 hours and 57 minutes.