Tuesday, June 25, 2013

My Husband is an IRONMAN!!

Usually I talk about my running successes and my struggles.  Today I'm going to brag about my amazing husband!

Joe had toyed around with the idea of doing an Ironman for awhile.  He did a sprint triathlon a few years ago and was hooked.  He progressively did longer distant triathlons until the only distance left was an Ironman.

We had a long talk about it.  It is not something a couple goes into without both parties being very aware of the time and sacrifice involved leading up to the event.  The entry fee was $650 and that was just the beginning of the extras that came up throughout the year.  We talked about the time he would take for training, that there would be plenty of times (actually most of the time) where training came first.  However, we have been married a long time and that does have it's advantages.  Talking about it up front and acknowledging the challenges that would come was important.  Being willing to accept those challenges and have a plan to not kill each other was also important.  :-)

Joe had just done a half Ironman distance triathlon at Pacific Crest in Bend, OR.  The bike ride got cut almost in half because of a snow storm on Mt. Bachelor but overall that race went well.  On the way home we stopped in Bend at Burger King because we could get free wifi for the lap top.  We then waited for registration to open for the 2013 Ironman Coeur d'Alene.  Once we registered it was the real deal.

My husband worked hard.  When he decides to do something, he does it 100%.  He found a training plan he liked online and then tweaked it around his firefighter schedule, 24 hours at work, 48 hours off of work.  Except for the weekends it worked out well for the family because he was able to get his training done while we were all at school.  :-)  And since Christmas I have had my own long runs to do on the weekends so we were both training.  Although he obviously was doing WAY more than I was.

Fast forward to one year later.  I went to DC/NYC with 8th graders from my school.  I got back last Wednesday night late.  Joe left for Coeur d'Alene with his buddy Josh, who he trained with and was also doing the Ironman, on Wednesday morning.  This gave the guys a few days to get situated and get checked in and drop off all their gear.  Believe me, there was a lot of gear!  The hotel room looked like an exercise room had exploded in it yesterday.  lol

Wendie and I left Friday morning to join the guys.  We had a fun drive over to Coeur d'Alene with lots of laughing, talking and singing.  :-)  I was more than ready to see Joe! It had been seven days since he dropped me off at the school to leave on my trip and for us that's a really long time.  :-)  Twenty-three years of marriage and I still miss him like crazy when we are apart.  Lucky me!

Now usually before races or events my husband is calm, cool and collected.  Actually in most aspects of life he is calm, cool and collected.  It takes a lot to ruffle his feathers.  The Ironman ruffled his feathers.  My job as the spouse was to be the "You Got This" girl.  Not a hard job when I totally knew he truly did have this in the bag.  So Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday morning my focus was on encouraging, supporting and making sure he knew I believed in him 100%.  Was trying my hardest to drown out his negative self-talk.  He does it often enough for me so I was just returning the favor.

We dropped the boys off so they could check in and get ready for the swim. As soon as they were out of eye sight I cried.  Typical for me, I'm a cryer.  I cry when I'm happy, when I'm stressed, when I'm angry, when I'm proud.  I'm a cryer.  My friends and family know this about me and laughingly tolerate it.  So after a weekend of encouraging my husband and stomping down my own fears and concerns I could let it go a little.  I never once believed that he wouldn't finish the Ironman.  I totally knew he could do this.  But I did worry about him getting injured or not being able to finish because of something outside of his control.  That would suck and be really hard for him.  That's what I was scared about.  And to tell you the truth, it freaked me out a little to have him freaking out.  Joe just doesn't freak out about things, ever.  I didn't want him to get more freaked out because I was freaking out.  We could have easily cycled into "I can't do this" mode in a hurry.  I also knew that once Joe got going he would mentally be fine.  So we needed to hurry up and get this party started so that he would stop thinking about it so much.
Josh & Joe ready to head over to the swim.  Let's get this going!

We left the guys and headed over to the cheering section on the beach of Lake Coeur d'Alene.  What a beautiful part of the country Coeur d'Alene is!   The weather had been raining all week but the forecast was for fog in the morning, low 70's in the afternoon and then rainclouds moving in during the evening.  Almost perfect weather for an Ironman.

IronMates Lisa & Wendie
I don't know how I would have made it through the day without this fantastic lady!  Wendie was there for hugs and high fives all day as we watched and waited for our guys to finish.  There is a lot of hurry up and waiting for those that are cheering on loved ones.  It makes for a very long and stressful day.  Other than the few times we see them and the tracker that shows they hit another checkpoint we have no idea how they are doing, mentally or physically.  

The swim was a rolling start.
The swim started with a rolling start for the first time at Coeur d'Alene.  Instead of everyone stampeding into the water when the cannon fired, they had them line up along the beach according to their estimated time to finish the swim.  Then they started letting people in the water at 6:30.  This kept people from getting hurt but it did make the course clocks not completely accurate for the athletes.  Joe crossed the start pad at around 6:45 a.m. so the time on the clock at the finish was not his actual finish time.  This meant that there was some mental math going on.  The midnight finish was not going be accurate because everyone was in the water before 7:00 a.m.  They each had 17 hours from the time they crossed the start line. Joe basically had to finish by 11:45 p.m. to be an official Ironman.  No problem!  :-)

Josh is to the left with the red cap showing under the green cap.  He's finished lap one of the swim.
They athletes had to do two laps in the water.  They would run on shore and then run back into the water and swim at angle back over to the buoys for the second lap.  In the picture above the swimmers in the background are finishing their first lap and the athletes standing in foreground are heading out for their second lap.  Volunteers stood in the water all morning showing the path for the athletes.  That was a cold job!

Joe finishing the swim.  Official time of 1:16:58!  He rocked it!
By the time the guys were heading out on their second lap of the 2.4 mile swim the fog was burning off and the sun was coming out.  So beautiful!  Wendie I made our way down to where they came out of the water.  Being part of the Ironman crowd was so much fun!  Everyone was cheering and yelling for all the athletes.  It was like a big all day party.
Probably my favorite sign of the day!

Josh came out of the water a bit behind Joe.  Looking good!
I didn't get pictures of Joe's transition on the bike because I wanted to stay and see Josh come out of the water.  The funniest part of watching people get out of the water was the way some of them staggered out.  Evidently if you don't wear ear plugs the cold water in your ears for that long can affect your balance.  A lot of the athletes looked drunk when the started walking.  Fortunately they balanced out quickly.  That would not be good on the bike ride to be wobbly.  They had volunteers who would grab the strap and unzip the wetsuits as the athletes went by.  You can see it in the picture above.  Then they would get a little further towards the transition tent and the had two volunteers who would grab the wet suit and whoosh, peel it off for the the athletes.  Those suits are not easy to get into or out of.  That saved the athletes a ton of time!  Looked entertaining too.
Josh heading out on the bike.

 Joe passed us after the first big loop.  The pictures I took were all blurry.  I was more interested in seeing my man than taking quality pictures.  He was smiling and pointing at us as he went by.  Usually when he races and I'm spectating he doesn't see me.  He is very focused on what he is doing.  It made me so happy to see him smiling and waving at us.  He looked like he was having a blast.  For the first time all day I relaxed a little.  I didn't realize how tense I was until I saw him at that point of the bike ride.  He looked like he was having a blast!  Guess what I did.  Yep, I cried.  lol  Not long after he went by Josh passed us as well.  He caught up with Joe on the little loop so they were together when they passed us again.  Loved seeing these two fabulous men riding together.  They did a lot of training together this past year and it was amazing for Wendie and I to see them go by together, laughing and joking.  What a kick!
Josh caught up with Joe after the first big lap.  I LOVE this picture!

My favorite picture of the day!
The smile in the picture above says it all.  Joe wasn't going for a super fast time or trying to beat anyone.  He was going for the experience and trying to enjoy it all. He didn't kill himself on the bike but had a good ride that would leave something for the marathon.  I will never forget how he looked during this point of the race.  I was so proud of him!!!

They had another 40+ mile loop to do before we would see them again.  One great thing about this race for the spectators was the way the course was set up made it easy for us to be in spots often where we could see our athletes go by.

Wait, you have my shirt on!
The guys came out of the transition tent after the bike ride and they were wearing their shirts for each other.  So fun to have Joe wearing the Team Gum shirt and Josh wearing the Team Van V shirt.  They were hamming it up for us and we were laughing.  They looked really good and ready for the last portion of the day.  Bring on the marathon.
Couple of Hotties!

The things I do to make my husband smile!
We waited at the turn around for the halfway point of the marathon.  Joe chaffs really bad if he doesn't put on his "nippy covers" which are the small round bandaids.  So this seemed like a funny sign to make that would make him laugh.  His splits were looking good and he was keeping a somewhat steady pace.  When we saw him he looked good and still had a smile and a wave for us.  At this point we were pretty sure he could have walked the last 13 miles and would still make it in the time limit.
I'm good, I've got this!
I had an app on my phone call IronTrac that would give me splits when he passed different checkpoints.  It was great all day.  It helped give us an idea of where the guys were and how much time we had before they would be somewhere we could see them.  Due to the fact that we refreshed the stupid thing often our batteries on our phones died quickly.  Luckily we had been able to score a parking spot a couple blocks away from the park where everything was centrally located.  When we knew we had some time we would go back to the car and get some food and then charge the phones.  It was a pretty good system.  
When Joe got to the last six miles of the marathon he crossed a check point and was averaging about a 15 minute mile.  The first half of the marathon he had been averaging 13 minute miles.  I now know that if I want my husband to run as slow as I do then all I have to do is make him swim 2.4 miles and then bike 112 miles and then I can keep up with him on the run.  :-)  I have a funny feeling he is not going to go for that.   The wait for him to cross the next check point was an ETERNITY!  When he finally did he was averaging an 18 minute mile.  I knew then he was walking.  But it is so hard to wait and know that it is taking a lot longer than it should if he was running.  I was figuring that he was walking but then I started to worry that maybe he got hurt.  How would I know?  Waiting is so hard!  Especially when you don't know what's going on.  He couldn't carry his phone so it's not like he could text me and say "Hey, I've got a blister so I'm walking, I should be there a little after 11 p.m."  That would have been nice.  

When he went over that last check point he only had two miles to go and he would be an Ironman.  We had already been standing in the chute for over an hour.  It was going to be at least another 40 minutes if he kept at the same pace as the last check point.  Good thing it was a giant party in the bleaches in the chute.  It was so much fun!  They had music blasting, spectators were dancing, singing and yelling for the athletes.  Some athletes came down the chute very focused and went straight to the finish line.  Others slowed down and high-fived people in the stands.  Some made a huge production of it.  Those were my favorite.  They wanted the moment to last as long as possible.  One guy stood at the start of the chute and waved his arms up and down for more cheering.  The crowd when bonkers.  Then he proceeded to slap all the hands on one side and then he would back up and get all the hands on the other side.  He just went back and forth down the whole chute doing that.  He didn't miss anyone.  There were married couple that held hands as they finished.  Smiles that were so big and bright we didn't need lights.  Tears, lots of tears.  Both from the athletes and their families.  And from me because I just can't help watching them having their moment and not get emotional about it.  It was so freaking awesome!  Some athletes would see their loved ones and stop and get huge hugs.  Others would be so overwhelmed by all the people and excitement that they didn't see their loved ones.  It was all good!  At this point my phone is going bonkers with Facebook notifications and texts from people who were wondering if Joe was almost done and letting me know that they were watching the live feed from where ever they were.  We had family all over watching.  So fun!  Even family in Iowa watching and they had to stay up even later to see it live. 

Suddenly Wendie is yelling "I see him, he's coming!!" Sure enough there comes my man.  Here's his moment.  What he has worked for for an entire year.  Just thinking about it right now is making me cry.  I can't begin describe how it was to watch him come down that chute.  He had the biggest smile on his face and he was slapping hands as he went by.  He didn't see us and it was so loud that he could hear us but he knew we were there somewhere.  That's all that really mattered.  I watched him cross the finish line and put his hands up.  "Joe Van Veldhuizen...you ARE an IRONMAN!" the announcer said.  Wow!!!  I practically trampled people trying to get out of the bleachers.  I wanted to get to the other side before he went into the athletes area.  I came around the end and I could see he was looking for me.  He knows me well enough to know I was going to be there somewhere.  I yelled and he spotted me.  That was another moment that I will never forget.  He started to cry and, of course, so did I.  He wrapped me up in a HUGE hug and just squeezed me tight and held on.  Have you ever tried to convey to someone how much you love them and are proud of them all in one hug?  That's what I think we were both doing.  We just held on tight for the longest time.  I didn't want to let go!  My man is an Ironman!  

There is a reason that this race is called the Ironman.  It is not easy.  There are the obvious physical challenges of doing the distances for a swim, bike and run.  But there is a lot of the work on the mental side of things too.  I met one woman who had to stop after the swim.  She was telling me that she just panicked about swimming in the open water and the first lap took her over 90 minutes.  We saw another guy at the halfway point of the marathon and could see it on his face that he was done.  He happened to be parked by us and he said that he just could keep going.  His body felt fine but he just couldn't get himself to keep going.  He was so close to finishing!  Crazy!  I'm not sure I could handle the physical aspect or the mental aspect of this kind of race.  It was hard enough just watching my husband go through it!  

We had a whole group of guys from the Willamette Valley area participating.  All of them finished.  What a great group of people.  Loved cheering them on and truly enjoyed getting to know their families and friends that came to support them.  I think the reason these athletes can do what they do is because they are the kind of people they are.  They are the kind of people they are because of the kind of people they have around them supporting them.  The picture below is just three of the other guys we cheered on.  There are a couple of young guys that finished while it was still light outside that aren't in the picture.  Oh to be young and crazy.  lol

Joe V, Josh, Joe Y, and Terry.  Ironman one and all!!
I'm so incredibly proud of Joe!  I'm so thankful that I got to be there for his "moment" at the end of the race.  It has been an amazing journey.

1 comment:

  1. Love that poster and the smile on your face. You're such a rascal, Lisa! This was a very exciting time for us as well - texting with you and then watching Joe come over the finish line. You two make a great team. Heartfelt congratulations to both of you!