Rather, it's just beginning.
I signed up for the November 17, 2013, Tempe, AZ Ironman.
Otherwise known as Ironman Arizona.
Otherwise knows as IMAZ.
Before everyone tells me I'm crazy (I know) or asks me why I'm doing this (I don't know), let me share this video to whet your appetite.
And Mom, since I know you'll be the first and last to read this post, you'll be interested to know that I'm in this video at time-stamp 6:05. I'm the flat one. With the words written down my front.
Okay, before I get to my personal experience volunteering at and signing-up for IMAZ (next post), let me share the tear-jerking-ly inspirational stuff.
Like, let me tell you about some of the athletes I saw.
A few stand-outs:
1) The paraplegic who did the entire race with his arms.
Below is his picture and a link to a news article on him. You can also briefly see him and his special wheels in the video above.
I was there when he crossed the line.
2) The woman missing her leg.
The first video shows her crossing the finish line. What the video doesn't show is that she fell hard in her last lap (marathon course = 3 laps) and cut up her leg where it meets her prosthesis. Not one to quit, she reattached and finished anyway, in the last hour.
I was there.
Ryan and his wife, Bonnie, shared their pizza with me in the grandstands. Ryan's heart is calcifying, and nothing can stop it. He's slowing down the process by staying fit. And what better way? Ironman training and races.
Ryan is a machine, all muscle and sinew. When the race was over, he didn't even look tired.
He's a part of a documentary currently being filmed called Heart: Flatline to Finish Line. It will be out sometime Summer 2013.
Bonnie told me the stories of the racers in their group who were still on the course. I felt lucky she was nearby and that we happened to strike up a conversation. Each time one of her friends came down the chute, what could have been yet another person I didn't know crossing the finish line became a moment of overwhelming emotion for me.
I cried openly. Especially for one.
It made me wonder how many inspiring stories I was missing.
Everyone has a story.
The Ironheart film crew was there at IMAZ 2012, and given my own recent heart trouble, I'm donating to their cause and encourage you to do the same: http://flatlinetofinishline.com/donate/#fiscal
Official preview starts at 2:12.
4) The overweight racers.
I know that some form of political correctness is supposed to prevent me from writing the word "overweight." But it's the truth. Some of the racers were overweight.
They used to have an official Ironman division for higher weights, "Clydesdale" for men and "Athena" for women. They've done away with the division, but that hasn't stopped overweight people from training for the Ironman. And finishing!
And these folks were among the most inspiring of all!
Through the process of training, I assume that each lost a lot of weight before the race. But they still had more weight to carry than your average racer. So to finish? Their hearts and minds are as tough as anyone else in the race. Probably tougher.
It was like a live episode of The Biggest Loser, one of my favorite inspirational shows (when the contestants aren't fighting...)
Here's 13 seconds of video I shot of a finisher coming down the chute in the last hour of the race. She was not the biggest racer I saw who can now call him/herself an Ironman.
5) The 78 year-old finisher.
Yeah. You heard me. SEVENTY-EIGHT years old.
He's in the top video too. You should watch it, just in case you think that's no big deal. It is. He's 78.
I saw him finish.
6) The fireman who did the race in his gear.
Oy vey. That's an extra 60 pounds. On purpose.
Maybe it's all my emergency / disaster involvement, but I couldn't have been prouder.
7) The people who pushed it.
Everyone pushed themselves. This is fact. But there were folks who, when they rounded the corner, gave it everything EVERYTHING they had.
Here's a woman who tried to make it across the line is under 11 hours, and managed, by 1 second.
8) The last woman across... and all the people behind her?
There are time cut-offs throughout the race. You have to finish the swim in X, bike in X, run in X. The entire race must be done in under 17 hours, but if you're not on track, you get pulled early. For example, if you haven't started the last lap of the marathon by 10pm, you don't get to try.
I assume this is both a wild disappointment and a relief.
Of course there were people who didn't make time cut-offs, but everyone was amazing and inspiring, finishers or not.
Others couldn't close due to injury. I heard there were a lot of bike accidents actually. And I saw a lot of bloody shoulders at my run station to prove it. Joint injuries were not uncommon, knees and hips, and I personally know of at least one Achilles tendon failure.
A few even ended up in the hospital. Like the woman who got hit by a motorcycle on the bike race and broke her clavicle.
About 5 minutes before midnight, when all remaining runners shatter their glass slippers, the remaining grandstand crowd anxiously craned their necks, hoping another racer would make it around the corner. The announcer ran to the end, shouting, "If anyone can hear me, RUN! Five minutes to midnight!"
His cry continued, but changed by the minute.
"If anyone can hear me, FOUR minutes!"
And then the seemingly impossible happened. At one minute, a woman turned the corner into the chute.
She was moving too slowly, and everyone knew it.
One minute never seemed so short.
The crowd was manic. Cheering, yelling, shouting. A few people, including the woman's pro champ Linsey Corbin, ran out to run her in.
The woman picked up her pace, but it was gonna be tight.
Well, see for yourself.
And then... head out for some exercise. You can do it. Just a little. Just a bit. Take a walk, do some sit-ups. Stand instead of sit. Run. Eat better. Sleep more.
Be a healthier you.
Come on. Inspire me.