Thursday, October 25, 2012

Race Report: Great Floridian Endurance Festival

This was Jason's day, but by the end of the night he made it ours. You can read Jason's recap at I'm going to use his same structure so you can see the parallel from both of our perspectives.

Matching Medals
commemorate our special day
A Little Background

At last year's race
I remember spectating this race last year when Jason did the shorter distance and Stephanie the 15K. Jason was training for the Breast Cancer Marathon, his second, because he knew he wanted to do a full Ironman (running isn't his favorite sport). The race was a lot of fun to watch, and with a huge registration discount I encouraged him to signed up for the full already. My reasoning was that he had done his first half in Clermont, so why not do his first full there too. I knew it would be tough, but I loved the race's slogan, "tougher than iron," because that really does describe him. As I often say, "he knows how to suffer." I contemplated doing the 15K to give me something to do since I knew I'd be sitting around for many many hours and because Stephanie spoke so highly of it. Once we decided we were moving to San Francisco, and Jason had to forfeit the other races in the sprint tri series, we transferred some of that credit to my 15K registration and I convinced some of my running group to do the race or come cheer on Jason.

Race Prep

Packet Pick-Up on Friday
With the move to San Francisco, Jason made all kinds of excuses as to why he wasn't getting in his training. The longer he waited, the more overwhelming it became to get back into a routine and he considered not doing it. I wanted to be supportive either way, but I knew he would kick himself if he didn't see this through. Initially we were flying back for the race because we had already shelled out the pricey registration fee, but it quickly became apparent that we would be paying more than that to fly back and ship his bike. With the closest ironman distance race several months away, he finally decided he wanted to see this through in 2012 and not let all the training go to waste, and I knew it would be better to do his first back home where he would have the support of his family and friends. He eventually got back into a routine and got in some solid training in the hills of San Francisco and Marin county. It was awesome being part of every step of this journey with him, from helping him put together a new training plan, to following along on Cyclemeter when he went for those super long bike rides and runs, to the post-workout milkshakes :)

Before we knew it, it was race week. We flew into Orlando late Wednesday night and promptly went to sleep. Our biggest concern was if the bike would arrive intact, so we didn't make any plans for Thursday or Friday in case putting it back together took longer or if he had to make alternate arrangements for the race. Thankfully the box arrived unharmed as did the bike. He spent Thursday putting it together and fine tuning it, then we headed to Clermont Friday to pick up packets and rack his bike. Now the concerns turned to the water temperature of the lake and if the swim would be wetsuit legal. Signs were not good as the temps were in the low 80s, but by some miracle strong winds cooled down the lake for a 76ยบ reading on race morning.

Race Day

We woke up way too early at 4 am, ate breakfast and were on the road by 5 am. There wasn't too much for him to setup, but we wanted a good parking spot so I could easily go back and forth to the car throughout the day. He got body marked, set up transition, then we heard the good news about the water temp and he got downright giddy. I knew I'd have plenty of time to watch him finish the swim and then get ready for my race, so I just focused on easing his nerves and capturing the moment.

The Swim

After Swim Lap 1
It was finally time to suit up. I have to admit I was a little disappointed Jason wouldn't be racing in his tiny speedo ;) but I know the wetsuit would make things way easier. I wished him luck, kissed him goodbye, and he went off to warm up. I snapped a few photos, then went to the pier to get a good spot to see him coming out of the water. He finished the first lap pretty quickly, but seemed a bit disoriented as he completely missed the water station right in front of him and walked way further than he needed to get back in the water for lap 2. He finally found his way and started lap 2.

While I waited for him to finish the 2nd lap, Chris showed up. We got caught up on running group and he shared his recent ironman spectating experience. It was nice having someone who had been through this keeping me company. Before long, Jason was out of the water and I was screaming like a crazy groupie, leaping off the pier and sprinting to try to catch a shot of the strippers getting off his wetsuit and him running in his tiny speedo. I failed miserably, but the race photographers delivered! While he was in the changing tent, Chris reminded me that I still had many more hours of spectating and my own race to run so I should take it easy on the sprinting lol

The Bike / My 15K

I saw him head out on the bike and then was able to focus a bit on my own race. As I was told later, I was really scattered. Knowing that I was going to miss him finishing the first lap of the bike because I would just be starting my 15K, I kept telling everyone who was there to spectate (Shannon, Stephanie's boyfriend Steve and his parents) that they could watch me start but then rush over to the bike special needs area because he would be coming in shortly after. I sounded like a broken record as I kept saying it to anyone who would listen. I really wanted to make sure he had someone there to cheer him on and capture the moment when I couldn't. I am so grateful so many were there.

Sole Mates Galloway Group
Everyone from my running group had arrived and it was time to warm up. We took it easy and just enjoyed catching up. We took a zillion photos, then it was go time. It felt so good to be running with them again and doing a race where people I knew were taking photos and cheering for us. I really missed that. We started with 90s/30s intervals and had a blast chatting and enjoying the gorgeous course for the first 3 miles. I knew we had started too fast, but I was a bundle of energy and wanted to suck it all in. I even answered my phone when Sean called and told him I was running and would call him when I finished. Then the wheels fell off. The shade was gone, the hills had really started, and my stomach began to cramp. I took a walk break when the rest of the group kept going and I was never able to catch back up to them. The hills really weren't too much of a problem, but the heat really got to me and I felt like my stomach was going to explode. I slowed way down and contemplated that I may not be able to finish this race, but I dug deep and got through it. I'm really glad I did and got to experience a little bit of the pain that awaited Jason.

All smiles after lap 2 from our cheers
I didn't really have time to be disappointed because I knew Jason would be finishing his 2nd bike loop soon and I was not about to miss it. Besides, this was his day and I was not about to complain about my little 15K when he was out there suffering far more for far longer. I grabbed some food, found my parents, and then rallied everyone that would listen to come see him with me and take photos. Knowing it would be hard to get a good shot in the few seconds when he zoomed by, and because my camera was still in the car, I asked everyone with a camera or smart phone to take a photo while I kept a look out and cheered him on. When we saw him, everyone screamed and snapped photos. Shortly after, Jason sent me this text message: "You guys are awesome. Tell everyone thank you!"

Some of our signs
Now I had time to relax a bit. I downloaded Shannon's photos to my laptop, changed and ate some snacks while my parents returned with my lunch, and Sean and I entertained ourselves making some signs for when Jason returned. We found a spot in the shade and discussed strategy for the next part. I finally realized how tired I was from the 15K but I had no time for that. I got a few messages from Jason 30 minutes later complaining about cramping and saw his bike speed decreasing. I knew things were not going as planned if he had time to text me, because he is usually too focused to waste time on that. I did my best to tell him what he needed to hear and keep him going.

The Run

Run Start
My parents returned just moments before he finished the bike with my grilled cheese and a milkshake, but I was too pre-occupied with making sure I didn't miss Jason starting the run to enjoy it. I ate a few fries, grabbed the milkshake and went to wait for him to come out of transition. That's when Laura arrived and saw me frazzled. He took forever in the changing tent and I started to worry that I had missed him. He finally came out about 10 minutes later, and it is incredible to see the difference between his other races. He is usually rushing out of transition with a face of determination, but this time he was walking and taking his time and looked spent. He finally crossed the mat and started running. I took a few photos and asked how he was feeling. He was understandably tired and feeling the effort from the last 8 hours; he said this would be the worse marathon ever.

The run is 3 loops with 2 out and backs, so we got to see him 6 times. I love that because I could see him perk up and quicken his step just a little bit every time he saw us and our ridiculous signs. Sometime during the first lap, we are guessing around mile 3, he texted: "Ugh I got nothing. I'm doing 1 and 2s right now" Again, I texted back words of support and encouragement and then rallied Facebook to start posting funny motivational comments to keep his mind off the pain. And boy did they deliver! Thanks so much to everyone who contributed. It kept us entertained too!

I had some time to catch up with Laura between laps, and Sean was great at tracking where he was and how long we had before we'd see him again so we could time our trips to the car, go find food and use the restroom. Sometime during the 2nd loop, Jason texted again about his calves cramping up and he said "This sucks." I told him, "Yeah well it's an ironman. No one said it would be fun :)" That seemed to make him laugh and help him dig deep. Sean and I were worried about him, so we walked a little further to see him sooner, but when he came through he was running with someone else and looking much better, so we just let him be.

Finish Line - Look at the smile!
It knew he was in pain, but he never failed to smile for us so I knew he'd be ok. He just had to dig deep. He finally passed us one last time for the final out and back, so we packed up our stuff and took it the car, then met back at the finish line to wait for him. It was dark now and the field was really spread out so every athlete had the finishing shoot to themselves and they held the "tape" for everyone to "break." I wanted to cheer for him and see him finish through my own eyes instead of behind a camera, so I gave my camera to his sister to capture the moment. I told everyone when we saw him we had to scream like we had never screamed before. We finally saw him coming down the finishing shoot and started screaming our heads off. He was clearly hurting, but he was digging as deep as he could to finish strong. I was so proud! I thought I would cry when I saw him finish, or that he would, but I think we were both too tired and relieved that it was over to cry.

After the Race

I met him behind the finishing shoot after he got his medal and gave him a hug and kiss. He was limping, but wasn't really hurt. He was just done, but still smiling. God how I love that smile :) The rest is a bit of a blur, but I'll do my best. We kept offering him a seat, but he wasn't sure that was a good idea. We joked that he could lay down on the ground, so he did and pretended he had passed out.

He then sat up and reached for my hands. I thought he needed help getting up, but he stayed down on one knee and started saying how I'm such an amazing girl. I still didn't really have an idea of what he was doing. I thought he was just hanging on to me because he couldn't get up and thanking me for being there for him through all of this, which he did. He acknowledged the role I played in him even doing this race and make it across the finish line and the positive influence I've had on his life in general. He told me he loved me and then said, "Will you marry him?". I just smiled and said yeah. I hugged him as he kneeled on the ground and then I finally helped him to his feet as we kissed and hugged some more.

I never thought this day would come, but it was absolutely perfect and worth the wait. It felt so organic. I am really glad I did the 15K so we have these matching medals as our engagement bling, and because I was able to experience a little bit of the pain he suffered during those grueling 14 hours. I am so touched that he chose to share the spotlight of his greatest achievement with me by proposing. I was absolutely perfect. He is the most selfless person I know, and I am the luckiest girl for having him.


The next few days in Orlando where a whirlwind of celebrating and catching up with friends before we headed back to San Francisco. I am glad we left this for after the race so we were able to share all the good news. I want to thank everyone who came to Clermont to support him, and those who met us for dinner on short notice on Monday to celebrate. I know we missed seeing many of you, but we'll be back in January and hope to see you then.

When he finished the race, he said he never wanted to do that again and that it would be a while before he swam, biked or ran again. We all knew he was lying. He was fine and walking normal within 2 days. He biked to work yesterday and is already considering the next one. It's not a matter of if, but when because the training is a big commitment and he wants to enjoying exercise without giving up his life, but I know it's only a matter of time before he gives it another try. So stay tuned! :)

PS - I am sure there are many questions about the engagement/wedding, and I'll try to post more about that later. For now, let's celebrate Jason's incredible accomplishment.

1 comment:

Whitney said...

Kitzzy and Jason...Congratulations!!! How exciting to become an IronMan and fiance in the same day.

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