Sunday, November 30, 2014

Fly Like the Wind - Inaugural Disney Avengers Half Marathon and Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon 2014

Your mission, should you choose to accept:  Two half marathons, two states, on the same day... for the second year in a row.

After capitalizing on a schedule glitch last year with the Double Live Rock 'n' Roll San Antonio/Rock n Roll Las Vegas half marathons falling on the same day, Competitor Group split the races so that they wouldn't have the same kind of madness in 2014. 

Then Disney steps in and announces the Inaugural Disney Avengers Half Marathon in Anaheim, to take place the morning on the same day of Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas. Naturally, challenge accepted. 

And again, we blame Al.

Logistics this time were a lot easier to manage. Instead of the 2.5 hour flight across two time zones, this time the flight was less than an hour from Anaheim to Vegas. We decided to skip the Run Thru Wedding, saving us about an hour and there were at least a dozen flights leaving from the various Los Angeles area airports between 8:30 AM and 2 PM. Frankly, the hardest thing about setting up this Double was making sure we were online in time to sign up for the Avengers race. It sold out within a couple hours of opening the registration. Once we did that, it was just the matter of getting to the race. 

This year we were missing two of the seven members of our Magnificent Seven. Beth and Jim were committed to the Thunder Road Marathon in Charlotte, NC. Al and Caryn landed in Anaheim Friday. Susan and I got into John Wayne Airport just after lunch on Saturday, coincidentally, less than a half hour before Kamika come in from Las Vegas. We prepared a welcome for him.

Greeted for pick-up with "Double Live Tours".
And, for those who asked, those Iron Man ears are real. A lot of pictures look Photoshopped, even to me!
First stop, the hotel to drop off the bags and meet Al and Caryn. And just as importantly, to pick up our race gear, custom designed by Al and his design team just like last year. Then, off to the Expo. Everything was set up the same as it was at Dumbo a few months ago, so we even knew the back way through the parking lots from the hotel to downtown Disney. This time we didn't have to ask five different people where to get our bibs! Disney had a nice touch on the check in sheets if you didn't print out your own. Computer and printer stations were available in the bib pick up area for people to enter personal info and print a confirmation form right on the spot.

The Avengers theme was in full swing. We did notice that images of Iron Man were noticeably absent. It turns out that although Disney owns the Marvel comics brand (Iron Man's universe), the IRONMAN brand name has the lock on athletic events. As big as Disney is, they know not to mess with trademarks.

This time, we found the red carpet to the expo without much trouble.
And we get to ham it up a little with our new gear!
Lunch at Tortilla Joe's was relaxing. Dinner at Shakey's was a convenience. I found it really strange to be so unconcerned about doing the equivalent a full marathon the next day. Last year we did morning/evening training and ramped up to 18 and 20 mile weekends. This year, not so much. Having had a really good year with a range of training methods, we felt pretty good about going into another Double.

For the Dumbo, we were in bed trying to sleep at 9:30 when the fireworks over Disneyland started. They went on for about a half hour. This time around, we were outside enjoying a pretty good view.

This is where I should mention that I told Al that I want to some day walk a sub-5 hour marathon. That would be 19 minutes faster than my current PR. Even though it wouldn't be representative of a real race since we were planning to take pictures with the characters in the morning and had that long rest break between half marathons, I decided to push the pace whenever I was moving. Pushing the second half in Vegas on tired legs would be a good benchmark.

Race 1:
4:00 AM  Alarms go off. We'd already been awake for 10 minutes like usual. The race starts in 90 minutes. 
5:00 AM  We meet in the lobby of the Sheraton and take a group picture. The early start guarantees blurry phone pics for the first few hours of the day.

Close ups of the sleeves. Agents of Shield on the left sleeve, the Rock 'n' Roll Logo on the right sleeve.
Al put a little surprise on the RNR logo sleeve for our friend John Bingham.

5:10 AM  We head over to the starting line. It's a 12 minute easy walk.

See? Blurry.
5:28 AM  We all filter into Corral E. Al was assigned the earlier corral, but he needed someone to take pictures.

The back of the shirts turned out great. I wish I had a smaller pack that let the Vegas skyline show more. Temps started in the mid 50's and the forecast dry with wind gusts. More on that later.

5:48 AM
Announcer Rudy Novotny had the best view of what was probably the 'most costumed' race of the year. I bet the Disney Store sold out of all of the Avenger gear and accessories the day before. I'm glad I bought my Ears back on Labor Day.

5:52 AM
Support means a lot. Jeff and Connor were waiting for Jen outside the Disney Paradise. He said he had a LOT of people stop to take pictures of their sign. Later I gave him major kudos for excellent spectator placement - highly visible, yet not crowded so you can see each other during the race easily.

6:01 AM
The mile markers were awesome. At least the ones inside the park were.

6:04 AM
The Christmas decorations went up inside the park just a few days before the race. I didn't stop during Dumbo, but this just looked too good to pass up.

6:22 AM
There were four Avengers in the park. Thor was first. The line for pictures with him was about 25 minutes. They picked good actors for the parts. 

6:33 AM
Hawkeye was next. I remember that they aren't allowed to hold their props. I'm sure I'd get in some serious trouble if I got my hands on the bow.

6:42 AM
Here's where things got dicey. Black Widow had a line, but they weren't letting people line up by the time Al arrived. Why? They were worried we wouldn't stay ahead of the Balloon Ladies who make the course sweepers at a 16 minute mile. They didn't listen to the fact that we could easily make up the time. This was the best pic I could get. Next year, we skip ahead.

Captain America was the last Avenger in the park. Even at full speed, Al didn't get there in time to catch him in a background selfie. We're working on a strategy next year to leap frog to the next lines so we catch everyone. If not, we'll at least prioritize Black Widow for sure. 

Here's what he looked like. At least Susan caught him. I did notice that I was walking sub-10:30 miles in between the last two photo stops.

In fact, she had a lot of good pictures in the park.

Once we cleared the park, I settled into a decent pace. Susan didn't stop to take pictures and was playing it conservatively for the Double, so she was about 30 minutes ahead of us. Things were pretty uneventful until we closed in on Angels Stadium where the crosswinds picked up to gust up to 50 mph. Susan said later that she had dirt and pebbles blown through the mesh in her shoes, turning her socks and toes black. And remember those cool mile marker signs? They didn't fare so well in the wind. 

7:24 AM
About a half mile before going into the stadium was the best costume line up of the race. Since they were just cheering and not running, they didn't have to worry about overdressing or waving the big props. It's too big for blogger to upload, so here's the link to Susan's video Disney Avengers Mile 8

8:07 AM Coming into Angel's Stadium was a good break from the wind. On the way out, we saw a lot of people in WWII army outfits from the first Captain America movie. Some, it turns out, were real army vets in their authentic dress khakis. Makes me wonder if the guns were real. Disney has a lot of security that way.

8:22 AM
Best sign on the course. You had to stay until the end of the Avengers movie to appreciate this fully.

8:54 AM
Al and I caught up to Susan waiting near mile 12.5 and we finished together. 

8:59 AM
We got a great shout out from Rudy who wished us luck on our trip to Vegas that night. I bet he was saying that a lot this race.

And yes, we did finally get a picture with the Widow and Cap. Note to self: the characters leave for the finish line. Hustle your butts through the first few miles if you want pictures.

The winds kicked up even more at the finish line. Usually the stage area (below) is crowded with people, but the race officials worried about some of the tents being blown over and rolling over people. We got one of the last pictures in front of the stage before they moved people along into the parking lot.

Kamika finished about 15 minutes behind us and went back to the hotel for a nap. Caryn had been having back problems for a few months and gutted out a slow race. With our flight at 1:50 PM and the airport less than half an hour away, we still had plenty of time to shower, change, eat a quick lunch at the airport and get on the plane to Vegas!

1:42 PM
Beth and Jim were not with us, but not forgotten by any means. Al scheduled a call with them to let them know the progress on our mission. That's them on the other end of a FaceTime call from the exit rows. There were maybe a dozen people on the plane going to Vegas for the double. We're guessing there may have been a few hundred total that day doing both races.

2:50 PM
We land at LAS, 20 minutes early and pile into one large cab with a very entertaining driver. Traffic getting to the Westin was slow going with all the road closures, but we make it in time to check in and drop off bags.

3:49 PM 
We hop the tram to the MGM Grand for a quicker walk to the Solutions tent for same day bib pick up. By the time we get to the huge starting area off the Strip, it was nearly deserted as everyone was in the starting corrals. We just heard Corral 10 get released just as we were ready to go. You'll notice the significant increase in layers for this race. Temps started in the low 50's, and were going to drop into the low 40's with gusts to 40 mph. 

4:51 PM
We made our way to the start line so Al could give John one of the custom shirts. Given everything he's done for the sport it was only fitting to send him off. Al wouldn't be at San Antonio for John's last race with Competitor Group.

4:55 PM
We were losing the light at this point and I put away the phone after the starting line because I wanted to push my pace to see if I could walk under 2:30 for a second half. We had to take at least one pic. See what I mean about the hat looking photoshopped?

I didn't take a single picture during my race. I somehow forgot to pack my tactical glasses to keep the wind out of my face, but Al was kind enough to loan me his. He was planning on staying with Caryn until she found her friend who was looking to do about a 3 - 3:15 half marathon pace. At the turn just before mile 1, Nick, a runner from Chicago started pacing with me. He was trying to decide on doing the half or full since he'd done the Chicago Marathon a month ago. My first 8 miles were right on schedule, averaging 11:20/mile.

That's when the long day, the 2200 feet of (slight) elevation and the deceptive incline for the last 5 miles started taking effect. I never got under a 12 minute mile after that, no matter what I was trying with cadence or form. About mile 11, I thought about just packing in up and cruising in, but I remember what Al said after breaking his ribs in the middle of Ironman Florida. He was asking us to push ourselves and he didn't want to quit. I was able to walk my last three miles down from a 12:23 to a respectable 12:03.

The results on the RNR Las Vegas site won't reflect it, but I finished the half in 2:34:25 give or take a few seconds. When I got to the finish line, I stopped my watch and went back a mile to wait for Susan. We finished together, just like I wanted to, in just under a relaxed 3 hours. Delaying the finish also gave us a chance for some bonus pictures with Ann Wessling since she was on a break when I got there earlier. We missed John Bingham, but will hope to see more of him next week in San Antonio.

Subtracting time that I stopped for pictures in Disney and the finish line delay I finished the 26.2 in about 5:13 - that would have been a PR by 6 minutes for me. The second half wasn't sub 2:30, but I felt pretty good about keeping it together mentally.

Kamika finished about a half hour behind us. Caryn's back took a turn for the worse after the flight but she made it. Except for one stretch when she needed something to eat, Al didn't leave her side for the race. 

I usually do a recap of the races at the end of the blogs, but this one is long enough as it is. Given how well things went last year with Double Live I, Avengers 2 Las Vegas was a good sequel.

We plan to do it all over again in 2015.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Trust Your Training - Rock n Roll Savannah Half Marathon 2014

This is a race that almost didn't happen. With Rock n Roll Heavy Medal Series announcing a new Hall of Fame for anyone doing 15 races in North America in 2014, we just needed to add one more. The only weekends we had left were Cleveland (the second weekend on October) and Savannah (the second Saturday in November). We already had The Biggest Loser Six Flags Discovery Kingdom scheduled for the day after Savannah, so we opted for Cleveland.

Then Clevelend got cancelled due to low turnout.

This may send ordinary traveling marathoners into full panic mode, but Susan took it in stride. She found a flight that would get us back from Savannah in time to get to our hotel in Vallejo Saturday night. It looked tight, but doable.

Then TBL got cancelled, again due to low turnout.

Since changing the flight to Sunday would have cost us an extra night in the hotel and another $200 in higher airfare, we decided to keep the Saturday flight back.  We loved racing the Inaugural Savannah Full in 2011 so we were bummed that we were only there for a little while. After Denver, Vancouver and Panama City Beach and with Disney/Vegas the week after I have to admit I was getting eerily used to the traveling.

Oh, and did we mention the flight was in and out of Jacksonville, a two hour drive south? Thanks to Kevin for suggesting the route so we could take use the Southwest credit from Cleveland. Flying east, with the drive at the end, made for a really long Thursday. We landed after sunset, hopped in the rental car to head up highway 95.

Then the blue flashing lights showed up behind us.

One thing I need to do when I get behind the wheel of a rental car is to make sure I know the controls. Mirrors, seats, and ESPECIALLY the lights. The Ford Focus was equipped with running lights so I could see ahead of us on the highway, but the tail lights were out. Fortunately, the patrolman let us off with a warning.

Halfway to Savannah and 10 hours into the travel day, we stopped at Taco Bell in Oakdale for drive through. Apparently I wasn't speaking clearly enough to get my order for a crunch wrap, but she DID hear me ask for extra mild sauce.

The Friday visit to the expo at the Trade and Convention Center went a lot better than it did in 2011. Parking monitors kept traffic flowing really well, even when the cars stacked up close to closing time. Joe Harris reminded us that even though this was 3 races past our Rock Idol 10th for 2014, its still an achievement we should be proud of. Back in 2011, the first year they offered the Rock Idol Heavy Medal, Susan and I made matching shirts to wear for RNR Miami Beach.  The sappiness factor was pretty high.

At the Expo, Thao introduced us to Erin Zeman. Her husband Jake passed away at the finish line at Savannah in 2013 and Erin started a fund for their son's college tuition under the name Team Trust. Jake was fond of ending emails and texts with a single word -  "Trust". We've been blessed to support a number of charities that we encounter on the circuit. It just seemed right to honor the memory of a many who loved to run. Erin has raised almost $29,000 so far. If you'd like to make a donation, follow this link.

This was going to be a pretty low key race for us so instead of doing lunch and dinner in the city, we grabbed some snacks and picked up fresh pasta, veggies and bread from The Fresh Market near the hotel to make dinner in our room and watch The Amazing Race. I did manage to get in a quick heart rate training and take a really nice sunset picture from the Convention Center parking lot.

And no, the tub of Parmesan did not survive the evening. Susan saw to that.

About this time we were hearing from folks at other races. Kevin was heading to Wine and Dine at Disneyworld and forecasts were for non-stop rain. Santa Barbara had highs reaching into the high 70's and New York was looking like low 40s and brutal winds.

Then I realized we really owe the weather gods big time. The Savannah forecast would be high 40's to start ending in the mid 60's. It was pretty much perfect race weather.

Those are absolutely NOT brand new shoes that have never been worn for training. Nope. Nope. Nope.
Very little has changed on the course. The full and half marathons stay together until about mile 12. I remember in 2011 thinking how easy it would have been to just turn off for the last half mile, but that was back when we wanted to have at least one full marathon a year. We also knew how fast the course was. Savannah ended up being Ron's PR that stood for over 3 years until Punta Arenas.

The sun rises behind us up one of the only hills on the course.
About mile 2, I passed multiple world record holder, Larry Macon. Savannah was his 1380th full marathon life time. He's on track for 1400 by the end of this year.

The parts of the course through residential sections had a lot of classic southern feel to it with Spanish Moss just about everywhere you look.

We committed this year to educating ourselves about training and getting smarter about racing. After checking some data using the Firstbeat Training Effect metric, I found that I'd been pegging most runs at the top end of 5.0 "Overreaching". I tried to keep my heart rate down in the 140's for at least the first 10 miles. I kept a walking pace of about 12:30 minute miles.

That's when mind numbing boredom set in. Good thing Rocker Dude showed up. I know he's usually around mile 10 so it wouldn't be long.

I stopped the watch, reset the workout and tried to see how much I had left in the tank for the last 5K. I was able to push down to about 11 min/mile, finishing just under 2:40, a relaxed race by all standards for me. Sadly, neither the long slow 16K segment or the fast 5K segment were relaxed enough to get below the 5.0 TE.

Susan had no such restrictions and was enjoying the course. She finished at 2:35 which is her 8th fastest time. Eight of her 10 fastest races are this year and her Training Effect values are between 2.6 and 3.4, meaning that she's got a lot of speed left in her, should she choose to use it.

I nearly got ran over several times trying to cross the finish chute to say hi to John Bingham.  He has two more Rock n Roll races left before his retirement in San Antonio.

Thanks to Cassidy at CGI, we were able to get a parking pass as a thank you for loyalty after the RNR Cleveland cancellation. We had a great location between the start and finish lines that gave us an extra half hour to say some quick goodbyes and catch up with more of our RNR Gypsy friends.

Joe was a few days out of the ER with a kidney infection. He still got down to Savannah to finish RNR number 16 for the year.

Juan finished his 17th RNR in Savannah. Jessica flew a red-eye, drove four hours and set a PR for the half. 

If we had more time, we would have found the bigger fountain in Forsyth Park, but you know how hotel check out deadlines can be.
Many, MANY thanks to Juan for navigating through Luggage Gate.
With three more race weekends planned this year, we didn't have as much time to enjoy the trip as we would have liked. We didn't even have time to stop for hush puppies. 

When we get back to Savannah - and that's a WHEN, not an IF - we'll be sure to make that right.


Rock n Roll Savannah is in its fourth year. Other than St. Patick's Day, its one of the bigger tourist events in the city. Locals turn out early and with great enthusiasm, making this race one of our favorites. In 2014, the half had 10,631 finishers (median finish time 2:20), 2,796 finishers in the full (median time 4:34). There were also 5K and 1 Mile options available for the Remix Medals. About 1500 participants finished those distances.

Race temps were pretty much ideal, starting in the mid 40's and warming to the low to mid 60's by the end of the half marathon. The course started on East Bay street next to the Savannah River, heads east about a mile and a half before doing a counter clockwise loop ending in Forstyh Park. The full splits from the half at mile 11.5 to loop south towards Daffin Park. There is minimal elevation change to the course, making this an ideal PR race.

US Air and several other airlines do fly straight to Savannah from the west coast, but if you're cautious and don't want to risk the change fees like us, Southwest goes into Jacksonville (2 hour drive) or Charleston (3 hours).

RNR Savannah crossed off our 20th state for Half Marathons and our 4th new state this year. We've also checked off British Colombia to add to Quebec (2013) for two Canadian provinces. We're up to 148 halfs, 26 fulls and an Ultra lifetime with 4 more events each left this year.

We haven't signed up for RNR Savannah 2015, but may have it on our 2016 or 2017 calendar.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Upping our (spectator) game - IRONMAN Florida 2014

Last year we made a rare trip to Austin (without a race) to WATCH our first Triathlon. TriRock Austin was our first glimpse at a live swim-bike-run event. In the theme of "every year better than the last" and with Susan this close to getting Southwest A-List Preferred status, we added a few additional flights to go watch our friend Al at IRONMAN Florida in Panama City Beach.

Fortunately for us, we had veteran IM support traveling with us. Caryn had the pre-race routine memorized and she and Al laid out a great plan for support on race day. The swim and bike routes are loops so the only place we could see people was at the start and hope to catch specific people at the transition. The run segment was two out and backs, so we could be in full support mode for those into the late afternoon and evening hours.

This was our first time in Panama City Beach. If any place screamed "Spring Break," PCB certainly fits that description. Driving into the host hotel, we saw the rows of themed restaurants, bars and entertainment you'd expect from a tropical resort.
Pineapple Willy's was right outside of Al's hotel. The motto "Smile Big, Eat Big, Drink Big" was backed up well by the menu
Prepping for multiple events takes on a whole different level of complexity. The forecast was in the low 40's with winds up to 40 mph gusts at the 7 AM start time. Usually, we would just throw on a few layers and tighten our hats, but the brutal crosswinds had a lot of people worried about their wheels on the bike segment. Wheel rental was probably brisk as people traded down disc wheels for spokes for better control.

What was really uncertain was the tides. Up until the night before, the surf had been black flagged due to strong rip currents. From the hotel, we could see white caps out for hundreds of yards.

Race Day:
With a 7 AM start time, the plan was to be into the hotel parking garage by 5 AM. Road closures pretty much required that since the bike route went right by the garage. I wonder what it's like to be a non-participant in a hotel where everyone is up at 4 AM.

Al needed to be up early for body marking and bike check. As a veteran, he'd been adjusting his sleep cycle to be on east coast time for weeks so this wasn't a big deal. We were ready to stand in the wind to cheer people as they went by on the bikes. I can't remember the last time we were bundled up that much standing next to someone in what Susan called a 'onesie'.

The IRONMAN community is very tight. On the plane over, we struck up a few conversations with people who were on the way to the event. Even though we were on the outside looking in, we know it's a huge deal for people, especially the first timers. As we made our way out to the immaculate white sands for the swim start, we ran into Lisa Marie - a first timer - and her partner Ken who Al had met earlier in the weekend.

A few minutes before 7 AM, things changed drastically. Race officials, in an abundance of caution, cancelled the swim leg. The rip currents still hadn't subsided and white caps were visible for a mile out. Even the boats that would be monitoring the swimmers were having trouble negotiating the currents.  The bike segment would be a time-trial start format starting at 8 AM.

The decision made sense to me. Better to not risk lives. But for first timers like Lisa Marie who started planning this journey five years ago, it was a tough blow. Would this really be an Ironman? Does this count? Al spent the next hour talking her down. Having 34 Ironman events under his belt gave him perspective we'd couldn't begin to comprehend.

After stripping out of the wet suits ("I thought of something completely different when you mentioned there would be strippers!"), we waited about an hour before heading over to the bike start. Lisa Marie would be taking off around 8:30 and Al would follow about an hour later. Al's swim leg is usually his warm up and without that, he made the last minute call to add a windbreaker to his equipment. Fortunately, we had one handy.

9:34 AM: Al comes out of the bike start, Double Live Jacket and disc wheels equipped.

This is where the waiting starts. The 112 mile bike course is a single loop. Since there are strict rules about pacing or aiding IRONMAN participants, it didn't make sense to try to get out to the course, even for an enthusiastic music or cowbell station. We're used to seeing people for 10 - 20 seconds on the marathon support. Going out for 1 - 2 seconds on bike support, especially with the wind gusts didn't make sense, so we spent the next 5 hours back in the hotel watching the live tracker until Al hit the mile 91 mark. We were still in the hotel when Lionel Sanders finished his day with a 2:44 marathon time.

The run course was set up for multiple support points. Caryn handled the start/finish of the loop so she could have a change of sunglasses ready as the sun set around 6. Susan and I drove out toward  St. Andrews Park. Susan took a position at the 5K point, cowbells and coaching mentality ready. She actually got recruited into directing runners and cars near the crossing of Hilltop and Treasure. I'm thinking she made a big difference on the second loop since it was a pretty dark stretch of road. The checkpoint lead gave her a Volunteer Shirt for her troubles.

I was able to get into the park. Thanks to the Ranger at the gate for letting me in without parking fees since I was clearly not there for camping! The stretch between miles 6/19 and 7/20 was under trees and some open beach front. I didn't go all the way to the turn at the end of State Park, but I heard it was pretty exposed. I did my best to call out names and encouragement, ringing the cowbell for all I was worth.

At some point, I wasn't actually consciously ringing the bell. I was just so cold standing there that my arm was shivering.

Lisa Marie started her bike about an hour before Al, so we were looking for her first. I have to say, technology really rocked this time for communication. It's a huge deal for people supporting a race to be there for their athlete. Knowing when they were coming was a great help.

Lisa Marie at the first turnaround. We had lots of daylight left on the first loop of the run segment. 
After Al passed the turn on the way back, I knew I had a while before I would see them again and a while before they got back to Caryn at the turn. He didn't look nearly as chipper as I would expect and I found out later a few things about Al's ride. At a particularly windy stretch of road, someone in front of him lost control of his bike and went down hard, ending up with a compound fracture of his leg. Al had to bunny hop over him to avoid running him over. Al then stopped to help the injured rider until medical arrived.  It explained why one segment was quite a bit slower than previous check points. In the process of avoiding the other rider though, Al landed with his full weight on the aero bars. For the first 6.5 miles, he was having trouble taking in food or liquids and even taking a full breath - not the way you want to start a marathon.

He found out later after seeing his doctor at home that he had broken two ribs and cracked another three. Maybe the cold was keeping the swelling and bruising from showing up, but his doctor said he was amazed he could stay vertical. Al said he wanted to set a good example for us since he's been asking us to push our limits. I'm never going to argue with him on that again.

Making the time pass faster as both a cheer squad participant as well as an Ironman marathoner is a challenge. The couple shown above were holding hands every time they passed us on the course. Now that's built in support!

The sun set a little after a quarter past 5 PM. Lisa Marie was fully into the Bite Me Zone, already planning her retirement from the Ironman. Al came through looking really tired. I tried to honor the no-aid rules and stayed with him as long as I could before letting him go off into the last 6.5 miles. I hope the cowbells were a good incentive and not an annoyance. If anything, people would want to go faster to get away from the noise.

I drove ahead to find Susan holding down the 5K point. I didn't quite get there in time to see Lisa Marie, but Al came by shortly after I parked. By the time we piled into the car and headed to the finish line it was a little after 8:30. Lisa Marie passed Caryn at 8:45 about with about a half mile to go. Al met up with Caryn about 5 minutes later. 

Caryn had watched a few of Al's Ironman races but never got the chance to see him finish. With a quarter mile to go, Al took a break at Alvin's Island to give Caryn a chance to get to the finish line. He ran the last hundred yards at a pretty good clip, finishing at 9:05 PM.

As exhausted as he looked at the finish line, Al has a tradition to come back out and watch the last finisher cross the line. The official cut off time was 12:24 AM (adjusted due to the cancellation of the swim leg). The last finisher came in, unofficially, at 12:47.

Recovery, at least for his enthusiasm, was quick.
Susan headed back to the hotel since she had a long week at work with little sleep. With the crowd dwindling, I hung around the finish area to help hand out water to the finishers. 

Lew Hollander is an Ironman legend. At 84 years, 144 days old, he was the oldest finisher in Florida. He will be racing in a newly created 85 - 89 year old age group next year at the World Championships in Kona. I sent Ann Wessling this picture and told him "Annie sends her best."

Sister Madonna Buder, at age 84 is actually older than Lew by a number of days. She didn't finish IM Florida, missing the cutoff by 6 minutes. The rules are strict. Even for the legends. I doubt this is the last Ironman she'll run.

The last finisher crossed the line 18 minutes after the official cutoff time. Even without the medal, the crowd gave him the honor of hearing "YOU are an IRONMAN".

The day didn't start the way it we were expecting. Without the swim leg, people may always wonder what could have been. First timers and bucket list 'one and done' participants may have to struggle with how they talk about this day. The high winds caused a lot of people to drop out during the bike leg. There are 134 pages of results at the Ironman Florida website and the last 14 of them didn't make the cutoff or didn't start. I like to think that we've gone through a lot of long days, but after being on the sidelines in Panama City Beach for almost 20 hours one thing is clear to me...

...This is way bigger than most people even dream of doing. Getting to finish, getting to the transition, even getting to the starting line, is a huge accomplishment. It was an honor to watch and cheer for every single athlete.

We're already making plans to come back next year. We'll save up some weather luck to keep the currents calm.

And we're holding out hope that we'll see Lisa Marie again. In our minds and hearts, she's an Ironman. It would be great for her to feel like she's earned it.