Ever have one of those moments in life that is so full of awesome that you realize, while it is happening, that you’ll remember nearly every detail for the rest of your life?
Yes. It was THAT kind of weekend.
We arrived in The Woodlands ready to serve and got up very early Saturday morning excited for what the day would surely bring. There was an electricity in the air along with all the humidity. My first thought as I exited what had to be the nastiest hotel room I’ve ever experienced, “I’m glad I’m not racing today!” My stomach was in knots as if I were though – big day ahead and I didn’t want to mess up a thing!
Our first job of the day was stripping. We got tee shirts and gloves, but no instruction. I’m thankful that I’ve been stripped before and I knew what to expect. The water was hot, not warm, and while wetsuits were allowed, the consequence of a ten minute penalty assured us there would be very few to strip. So we set about the business of watching and waiting for the first swimmers to exit the water.
Now, I’m a solid back of the pack athlete. I don’t get to see the first ANYTHING when I’m racing. So I, we, blew UP when the first swimmer came careening out of the water. We screamed, we clapped, we encouraged, we stripped. And stripped. Word was that about 300 athletes ended up wearing wetsuits. And those that weren’t, well, we saw ALL KINDS of swimwear!
Meeting Satan while we waited. This is becoming a theme for me.
Lemme just say, you haven’t really lived until you’ve seen a (male) athlete running top speed in only his burnt orange itty bitty speedo trunks. I was worried for him (and a little for us) that they were going to come right off! Lemme also say that if you’ve ever wondered if in fact that triathlon is a full body workout, well, just stand at the swim exit and any doubt will be removed. Wowza. I need to get in the pool more for sure!
My bestie, Sare Bear and me. Soaked.
We were soaked in nasty lake/lagoon water after our first shift but that didn’t stop us from grabbing breakfast to fuel up for our second shift, catchers. We were going to need the energy! While we all felt uninformed and disorganized at the swim exit, the finish line was a well oiled machine. Those Reillys really know what they are doing! I was super excited to see Mike Reilly until I spotted, gasp, Chrissie Wellington! Oh my good golly Pete, she is JUST as charming in person as you would imagine. I just want to put her in my pocket! She sang and danced the entire afternoon, graciously posing for photos with love struck fans and even jumping in to put medals around the necks of finishers. It was such a joy to watch the look of realization come over their faces when they recognized Chrissie!
Yes, that IS Chrissie Wellington. She was fabulous. (and tall, she's very tall!)
Waiting to catch the first age groupers. (they are changing out the clock)
Also, I am a little bit (okay, a lot bit) in love with Caitlin Snow. She came in second female and is just so crazy precious! (and I have GOT to find that pink and black plaid, Pearl Izumi tri kit…simply must have) She too stayed for a few hours greeting triathletes and cheering.
Gretchen caught this pro athlete from Slovenia. His first words? “Texas is effin’ HOT!” Indeed my Slovene friend, indeed. I don’t think people who aren’t from this part of the country really understand just how incredibly warm it really can get. I’d see a Canadian, waving her little red and white flags and think, “Well, bless her heart.” A friend of ours, who is FROM Texas, would train with up to six layers of shirts to acclimate to the heat and humidity. We aren’t messin’ around with the hot here!
We even made the IMTX video! About 10:55 in.
I stood at the finish and the Reillys passed me over quite a bit. Maybe catching really isn’t the best job for someone my size. I mostly caught the girls and the little guys. A few times the guys would put their arm on my HEAD to balance themselves. Guess my shoulders are just too low to the ground, ha ha! I DID get to catch the fourth female. She asked me, “Was I fourth?” I was excited to tell her, YES!
After missing her at Houston AND Galveston, due to her injury, I FINALLY got to meet TX Runner Mom! Yea! It was so nice to hang out with you and your husband - he's hilarious!
Every guy just wanted to know where his beloved was. First question, every time, “Where’s my wife?” So sweet!
Mile 24 during the day. It was HOT!
After catching duty, we set about the business of which I am a Viking: spectating. It is well known that the FIGJAM girls can spectate the CRAP out of any race and we weren’t about to let these Ironman hopefuls down. Donning our jingly bellydancing scarves, glow necklaces and me, my trusty cowbell, we stood on either side of the course with a plan. We’d shake it for the guys and form a bridge for the ladies. What we lack in coordination, we more than make up for in enthusiasm!
Yes, we shook it all night. Anything for an Ironman!
A three loop run course, we got to see the same athletes over and over. And it was a thrill to see them smile, chuckle and pretend to smack our scarves! I’m still hoarse today from all the yelling.
I would be remiss if I didn’t give a special shout out to Fireman Rob. Have you seen him before? Of course, being the patriotic and magnanimous spectator that I am, I’ll always take off and run with a firefighter, Rob being no exception. He told me that his feet hurt and I learned a little of his incredible story. I’m amazed that anyone can cover a full marathon after 112 miles on the bike and 2.4 miles in the water, but Rob does it in full gear! Mad props to Fireman Rob!
I made one woman cry. Whoops. Not in my usual “tough love” kind of way either. I ran with her a bit and said the words, “You’re awesome! You know that, right?” And she began to cry and nodded. I hope she believed it because it’s true!
It was an incredible experience that I’ll never forget and such a privilege to share in such an intimate moment with these outstanding athletes. A tiny bit sad to say that I won’t be able to spectate next year…but honestly, we think we ought to take our show on the road to spectate professionally, ha!
Watching the very last finisher come in just before midnight. It was a long day but worth every minute of it - and an experience I hope to soon repeat!
Did you race IMTX this weekend? Did you volunteer? Spectate? Message me and I'll link to your post about the race!