ironman 2012

"Anything is possible."

This was the official motto of Ironman 2012; however, over 250 people last Saturday would not agree, as they were not able to finish the race. One of our steadfast triathletes was on the fence of being able to finish...but we will get to that later. 

Saturday, 5/19/2012- 2,700 triathletes enter the water. After the announcement is enthusiastically made, "today YOU will be an Ironman," everyone cheers and the start gun is blasted. The swimmers move forward, plowing over each other in the water. It the most inspiring and contradictory sight of harmony and chaos. It is equally motivating and unnerving at the same time. Out of those thousands of swimmers, we just happen to luck out and see Tate swim right by us on the edge of the swimmers pack. What are the chances? "Go Tate!" He looks calm and collected. And he must be, because he will soon beat his personal best swim time. 

The guys exit the water. Tate first in 1 hour and 20 minutes, then Dad 3 minutes behind him. In "triathlon time" 3 minutes seems like 30...for spectators and competitors. As a spectator {and a wife and daughter} you see your first triathlete come out of that open water swim and think, "Yes, thank you Lord he made it out!" then you think "Where's the other one? Weren't they going to try to stay together? It's been what 10 minutes? Nope, only 1." But when you see your next triathlete come your way, nothing but excitement comes over you. As Tate and Dad exit the water and enter the transition area they have to be high on adrenaline...or high on something to be volunteering paying to this. 

Helment, shirt and cooling sleeves on. Sunscreen slathered. Bike shoes velcroed. They are ready to roll {literally}. Dad runs up to Tate's bike and they head out onto the bike course together. In the time they ride 112 miles, the Barrett/Nicholson support crew has time to eat breakfast, nail some motivating signs along the running course, shop, watch the entire 'Chimpanzee' movie and eat lunch before they make it back to the transition area. I can't even imagine doing the same thing, much less something requiring that much physical activity for 6 hours and 30 minutes. 

We camp out along the end of the bike course and watch intently as each triathlete rounds the corner, hoping it is one of our guys. They all look the same from afar- lean, athletic, sunglasses, helmet and no matter what color jersey you are looking for it seems everyone else is wearing the same thing. Dad rounds the corner first. He is looking good and as usual, poses for a pic with mom's camera. "Way to go!!" Hmmm, but Tate isn't behind him, which is fine, but also a tiny bit strange considering they were going to try to stick together. What I didn't realize until later was that Dad got a "red card penalty" {who knew that was real in triathlons} for drafting {which isn't everyone drafting during the first half mile when you are maneuvering around 2,699 other cyclists} within the first 20 minutes. Therefore, he left Tate to haul it to mile 30 where he sat in the "penalty tent" {again...really?} for 4 minutes with a stop watch in hand. 

From what I understand, the bike was ba-ru-tal. Wind + sun + no clouds= brutal bike conditions. And you can tell. As people are coming into the bike chute, they look beat down. And who wouldn't after 112 miles, right? Tate is no exception. He rounds the corner 3 minutes after Dad {or 30 minutes in tri time}. He usually is sporting a smile, from what I can only assume is from either finishing a leg of the race or wanting to look good for the camera...or maybe both. However, today is different. He gives me a look that says "don't ask, it was rough." He whizzes past us to meet up with Dad in the transition area. I'm pretty sure this is where his mom asks him how he's doing and he, for the first time in his life, ignores her...for her sake more than his. 

At this point, at least the worst part is over, right? Wrong. The marathon will be the most trying portion of the race. It is hot, the sun is beating down and that windy bike ride made these guys work twice as hard to fight through the wind. The Support Crew rushes over to our little camp site 2 miles into the run course stocked with all the essentials- a tent, boombox, camping chairs, sunscreen, cooler, ribbon dancers, clappers and water guns. Last year we were pure amateur spectators, but this year we have our game faces on and are ready to cheer/annoy the heck outta those runners.

It's not long before we see our guys come running down the street. We go crazy! Dad stops to strip off a layer of spandex {don't worry he has another one on underneath}. As I lean down to pick up the soaking bike shorts, I see Tate lean over and put his hands on his knees. "Uh, oh," I think. Anyone who watches those annual Ironman Specials on tv knows once you stop it is nearly impossible to get going again. Dad and Tate walk a few more steps past our tent then stop completely. At this point I am standing beside them, along with the policeman who has apparently seen Tate is not in good shape and has headed our way. He asks, "Do we need to call the paramedic?" Dad quickly says, "no, if they call an EMT, he is out of the race for good. Just give him a minute." At this point Tate is in the shade looking out of it. He is pale, looking through us, and about 1 step away from passing out. I get him a Coke to increase his caloric/sugar intake and start helplessly pouring ice cold water on his head. I don't know what else to do and unfortunately have nothing motivating to say. I feel helpless..as I am sure he does also. At this point, Tate tells Dad to go on ahead. As Dad trails off he tells Tate, "You have time. You can wait for an hour and I'll be back around." The race has a 17 hour time limit and we are at about hour 8 or 9 at this point. The run is also made up of 3 loops, which theoretically takes about an hour and a half to make one loop. I struggle to take a stance on the situation; unsure if I am supposed to be the motivating wife or the cautious caretaker.

Do I tell him to keep going or tell him he should bow out? I ask Tate if he wants to sit, and he tells me, "no, if I sit, I'm done. I won't be able to get back up." "Ok, well if you can't sit, do you want to try to walk a little bit and see how you feel?" He tries to take a single step and loses his balance, almost falling over before Tye and I catch his arms. Well crap. Can't sit, can't walk, so we stand for 15 minutes in near silence that is broken ever so often by fellow racers yelling words of encouragement as they pass by, "Hey man, take a minute, and get back out there! You can do it! You have time, hang in there!" Despite the fact my husband is in the middle of a heatstroke, the moment is quite heart warming as complete strangers encourage Tate on the side of the road. It's like they understand each other's pain, it's familiar and personal. After 15 minutes pass, Tate walks the fine line between heroic and idiotic, deciding to continue on. Tye walks with him up the street until the path turns and Tate disappears around the corner. As I sit in the grass to say a quick prayer, Mom interrupts me with my keys and wallet and says, "Go follow him in your car for a while just in case..." She doesn't finish her sentence and she doesn't have to. Katie, my sister-in-law, and I jump in the car {with no gas, but that is the least of our worries at the moment} and follow behind Tate for a good 2-3 miles. It is amazing. After turning the corner, he starts to jog! Talk about mind over body. After almost passing out, this guy somehow finds the strength to not only push forward, but to pick up his pace, passing other racers for over 3 miles! I honestly don't know if he will finish the race at this point, but I do know I have never been more proud of my husband at this moment.

After he enters the tree path, we can no longer see him anymore and go back to our cheer/camp site. Morale has dropped a bit in the last half hour due to certain events, but it doesn't take too long for us to cheer/ribbon dance/dance once again. Our heroes are back out there and we have to cheer on the rest of the loonies. Round 2: About an hour later, here they come! They are only about 15 minutes apart, which is quite impressive considering their condition. Round three: Dad comes by and is looking great! He informs us he will probably finish prior to 14 hours, which was his goal! 15 minutes pass, 30 minutes pass, and here comes Tate...running! Well, he classifies it more as a shuffle, but nonetheless, he is moving towards that finish line! I run with him for a few steps and then we are off to meet them at the finish.

We are not camped out at the finish line for too long before Dad enters the chute. As he turns the corner and heads to the finish I see the time on the clock. Wow, he is going to beat his time from last year. He crosses at 13 hours 45 minutes! "JOSEPH NICHOLSON FROM FAIRVIEW, TEXAS, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN {again}!!" Amazingly enough, he gets his finisher medal and goes straight to the food tent, sit down, get water, stand with the spectators and wait for Tate to finish. He's been on his feet for almost 14 hours, what is another 54 minutes? What a great teammate. 

14 hours and 39 minutes later we see Tate enter the chute with the first smile I have seen since the swim. He high-fives his way down the chute and musters up the strength to run across the finish line. "TATE BARRETT, YOU ARE AN IROMAN {again}!!" Although it is his second title, I think he earned it more this time than ever. As he crosses the finish line he collapses into a wheelchair {which they have lined up in a pretty little row} and tells the EMT "I'm done. I cannot walk anymore." Literally, one more step would be too much to handle. She helps him stand and puts his arms around her as he is awarded his medal from Chrissie Wellington {famous triathlete and the most smiley person on the planet}. He takes a step to get his picture taken and almost falls over. They decide to put him back in the wheelchair and take him to the emergency medical tent where he gets an IV and some magical, mystery medicine. 30 minutes later, he is almost as good as new minus a limp due tired muscles and a stench of determination.

We have two 2-time Ironmen, people! Thank you SO much for your prayers before, during, and after the race. I mean that. I know we had many friends and family praying for Dad and Tate and for that we are so thankful. On the previous post, I mentioned that Dad and Tate are not able to do this on their strength alone, which was more evident than ever this year. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers and thank you Lord for your grace and provision during their 14 hours of need.

These two guys are my heroes! I don't know how they push themselves to accomplish the things that they do, but they do it admirably. They are strong not only in body, but more importantly in character and spirit. Thank you for being outstanding role models to us all, but especially to me on a daily basis. I love you both!  


the trime is near

Ironman Texas is in 55 hours. That's right. Tate and Dad have trained and trained...and trained, and now the anticipated race is finally already here! The the bike tires are aired and the spandex is packed. The guys hit the road to The Woodlands tomorrow morning. Last year, they finished the race in 14 hours and are hoping to beat that time this year. They start the 140.6 mile trek at 7:00 AM Saturday morning. Both of our heroes would tell you they physically and mentally could not do this on their strength alone. Thus, prayers are much appreciated and needed!
When you go to bed Friday night pray that in a matter of hours, as they wake up around 4 AM, that their nerves will be calmed prior to the 2.4 mile swim, and they will begin the day with the nutrition they need. Ask that they get through the water safely and calmly.
When you wake up Saturday, pray that they remain healthy, determined, and hydrated on that 112 mile bike ride.
As you eat dinner, pray that they have the physical and mental strength and perseverance to fight through the 26.2 mile run to reach that coveted finish line! Thanks for your support. I know it means so much that you are behind them all 140.6 miles and more.


your ironmate