For the last year, my husband has been training countless hours for the Ironman in Louisville, Ky which was held this past weekend. It was a day he knew would test his strength, endurance, mental tenacity and determination. A day he would hope to be worthy of the title, Ironman.  A day I never once doubted he would indeed succeed in his ultimate goal.

Joining us for the weekend was his sister, her children and his mother.  We comprised “Team Richard” and surprised him with our gear Saturday night. He was amazed by our enthusiasm and was assured we were behind him all the way to the finish!

Sunday morning came very early. Richard woke up at 3 am to fuel up with Cliff Bars and protein shakes.  He left the hotel by 4:15 to drop off the rest of his gear and line up for the start.

Team Richard met downstairs in the hotel lobby at 6:15 and made our trek to the starting line.  I don’t think we had any clue how hard it would be to find Richard.  He had asked Miles to bring him a Gatorade the night before.  In Miles’ efforts to find Richard and not let him down, he lost us.  Imagine my anxiety of not being able to find my husband and losing our son in the first 30 minutes of the day!

I found them at almost exactly the same moment. Richard in line, much further back than I had anticipated and Miles coming up the line, still looking for Richard.  We snapped a few quick photos as the line started to move, hence the blurriness.

The kids and I shimmied our way down to the dock and the camera found him just as he was about to jump in. If you look at the photo on the left, see that Elmo, that’s where we were. lol Elmo was important part of our team.  He was easily seen by Richard and helped keep us together.

The swim, of 2.4 miles started here, went around this island and then out into the Ohio River.

As the swimmers started, the sun rose along with the hot air balloons. It was a beautiful morning.
Knowing it would be impossible to see Richard swim, we made our way to the finish line/transition area.  Only to discover that we were stuck on the wrong side of the barricades to walk over to the swim finish.  So we positioned ourselves, as best we could, to see him as he moved onto the bike portion.  He finished the swim in great time. 1 hour and 25 minutes!

Richard then started his long trek out to La Grange, Ky, rode loops around the town then returned to Louisville to equal a 112 mile bike ride.
We were lucky that Richard signed up for a GPS system called “My Athlete Tracker”.  It was a relief to know where he was and have a better chance of meeting up with him on the route.  
We missed him on his first lap around La Grange because we decided to drive ourselves instead of take the shuttle. (Which ended up being a good decision because the “shuttle” was actually school buses and it was soo hot.)

While we waited for his return to La Grange we enjoyed the little festival, cheered on other athletes and made signs for Richard.  Cow bells were a great way to show support for the athletes too!!
When Richard finally made the corner back into La Grange, I’m not sure who was happier to see one another!!

He was making really good time and while it was extremely hot and humid he was doing good and he looked excited and up for the challenge.
We returned to Louisville to meet him at the transition.  There were times during the wait we thought something must have happened, because the tracker showed several stops and some really slow mph.

So this photo tells nothing of the completely remarkable, pivotal moment in the race that occured on that ride back to Louisville.  
Little did we know he had a flat back tire and strained his achilles. While there are bike stations along the route to help with minor repairs, the station he was able to ride on the flat tire to was a medical station. The volunteers at the medical station said they didn’t have a way to contact the bike people and offered no hope for his continued ride.  Not until a man, laying flat out on the ground, waiting for medical help and not wanting to continue, offered to give Richard, someone he’d never seen before, his back wheel.  This is totally remarkable and speaks to the spirit  and generosity of triathletes. Richard gave him is phone number, changed the tire and continued on his way.  I must imagine, and can tell from his time splits that this exchange and momentary devastation of not being able to continue, took a toll on him as well as his injury.

I also did not know this would be the last time I would see Richard until a mile out from the finish late into the evening.
He went on his way and Team Richard reunited and decided to take a break from the route and eat dinner. (And boy did we feel guilty eating while he toiled away running the marathon.)
After dinner, we walked back to the run portion and did our best to find him.  I then decided, rather mistakenly, that this would be a good time to go get his bike and his belongings he left at transition. (I was going down to the river by myself and figured it be better to do it then, instead of after dark.)
Team Richard saw him one more time while I was gone.
After this, we basically missed our opportunity to see him again as he was further out of town and it turned out that when we could have seen him again, we were on the wrong street. 
By about 10pm, I finally figured out that he was on his way in, but was still a distance out.  I couldn’t stand it any longer and walked out to meet him.  Emily came with me and I left Miles and my niece with my cameras so that when he crossed the finish line they would be able catch a photograph and video of him.  
We walked out from the finish line about a mile.  Emily refused to go any further and I couldn’t blame her. It was dark and pretty desserted where we were.  (We did end up on a corner with two police officers, so we were safe.) While waiting for him, Emily and I cheered on the athletes doing their best to finish the marathon. It was truly inspirational to watch athletes of all shapes, sizes and ages struggle through the many aches, pains and pure exhaustion,  yet kept moving forward to that inevitable finish line.  We were the only people out where we waited and I could tell that our cheers were very much appreciated.  Half the time, once the athlete past and I gave them my upbeat encouragement I would begin to cry, almost uncontrollably.  I can’t really explain it.  There was a connection there, that you knew how much they were struggling and how much finishing this race meant to them.  I also knew that soon, my husband would be coming down that road in very likely that same exhausted, painful pace.
He did indeed come down that road and was encouraged by our walk him in to the finish. We left him at the shoot to run into the roaring crowd, matching his run down the sidewalk.  And while I wasn’t the one to take these photos, I was right there with him, almost step by step, cheering him on and taking in his moment!!

Words can’t begin to express how proud we are of Richard.  This is a huge accomplishment and undoubtedly an inspiration to our children… Any goal you set you mind and body to, can be achieved through hard work, dedication and the will to succeed.

I love you my Ironman, and you are forever my sweetheart.

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  • Swimtaxi
    September 3, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    Your story brought us right back to the excitement of the day and Uncle Richard&#39;s achievement will stay with us forever.<br /><br />B &amp; D <br />(and me too)

  • Stephanie Y.
    September 3, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    This is BEYOND impressive. I&#39;m amazed and awed. What an accomplishment. Congrats to Richard! You guys are so great and I&#39;m sure your support meant more than anything to him.

  • Gloria
    September 3, 2010 at 6:15 pm

    WOW, your husband is a true &quot;ironman&quot;, all that sure looks fun but must really be tyring…what a great accomplishment and its awesome that you got every moment documented:)

  • KKGhoffman
    September 4, 2010 at 2:42 am

    Congrats Richard that is awesome!!

  • Briana Johnson
    September 4, 2010 at 2:56 am

    wow —- congrats to him and the rest of your family! How special – you got so many great photos too.

  • Jennifer
    September 4, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    That is AMAZING!! What an inspiration!


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