Ironman Canada '12 fan perspective

Post date: Aug 31, 2012 6:56:37 AM

Here's a guest post from my wife, Maria.

3.9 km swim + 180 km bike + 42.2 km run = IRONMAN BRIAN

3 dogs + 378 meals + 12 house guests = IRONHOST AND IRON HOSTESS CAMERON AND SUE

From the “Ironman” support team, behind the scenes…

We stayed at our cousin’s house: Cameron and Sue with their four amazing kids: Brendan, Sophie, Claire and Rachel. Cameron and Sue were the most unbelievably generous and gracious host and hostess. They were the “Iron Hosts”. Staying at Cameron and Sue’s were: Robin, Brian’s brother from San Francisco, cousins Susie and Tim from Ladner with their three amazing kids: Hayden, Callum and Olivia, cousins Adam and Kris from Vancouver, Washington and cousins Blythe and Claire from Scotland. They had a full house with eighteen people and three dogs: Solo, their husky, Mia-Bella, our Italian Greyhound and Toby, Susie and Tim’s beagle.

As the “Race Chasers” (like the “Storm Chasers”), Robin, Cameron, Mia Bella and I left the house early with Brian at 5:15 a.m. for the Ironman swim start. We took photos of Brian getting “body marked” with number 1500 and then watched the swim start. They took off like a flock of birds and looked “ like piranhas eating” (Robin). After watching the start, we went back to Cam and Sue’s to gather the “Ironman support team” and we returned to watch the end of the swim, arriving 1 hour and 36 minutes after the start, just as Sister Madonna was coming out of the water.

Sister Madonna is our super hero, an 82-year-old nun who has completed something like 45 Ironman distance races. We went to her book signing for her book, The Grace to Race, the Iron Nun, two days earlier. We were thrilled to see her come out of the water. Two years ago, she was wearing a new wet suit, given by a sponsor and had to stop short as it was too tight and constricted her breathing. Last year she missed the bike cutoff by one minute because of unexpected headwinds coming back into town. Expecting that Brian would finish after 1:40 (his “optimistic” estimate), we settled in on the beach, cheering the swimmers. Little did we know that Brian had already finished at 1:28 …

We saw the sea of blue and pink caps bobbing and as each blue-capped swimmer would emerge, we would quickly scan his face, “Brian?” At two hours into the race, they relaxed the barricades and everyone was allowed to come right up to the finish line in the water. We were cheering everyone on and then the cutoff was announced: “There are three men left and it looks like one of them won’t make it”. “Oh no, Brian must have had muscle cramps!” I thought. Brian was hoping for a 1:40 swim time but wasn’t sure he would finish the swim because of his experience with cramping when swimming and said, “the Ironman may be an expensive swim”. However, we just couldn’t accept it, was there anyway that Brian had already finished? No, he was “hoping for a 1:40, at the earliest”. We fought back the tears, determined to cheer as he emerged when at 2:19, one minute before the cutoff, we got a text from Brian: “Top of McLean Creek Road”, whew! He was already on the bike! We stayed to cheer on the last finisher who forgot his prescription goggles at home! (King Lasik could have helped with this problem!) Whew!! What a relief, Brian was still in the race! The swim was an emotional roller coaster as we thought the race ended early for Brian. Thankfully, he was still in the race! We (Robin and Cameron were the official “race-chasing” drivers J) raced home to gather the rest of the “Iron Support team”, who needed more sleep and raced along back roads to emerge at Yellow Lake on Green Mountain Road. We kept telling the “Iron kids support team”, “Brian should be here any minute now, he’ll just be around the corner.” The kids were amazing sports, with positive attitudes and brought smiles to the athletes’ faces with their “high-fives” and encouraging words. We would see the name of the athlete on his/her number and encourage them by name. We cheered on cyclists for three hours until we saw Brian! Hayden, Sophie, Callum and Olivia spotted him first and began to run up the hill with him. Robin got some great photos of this beautiful memory. By this time, it was close to 4 p.m. and the “medical tent” volunteer team had to leave – Cameron the doctor, Susie the nurse, Tim, Hayden, Brendan, Claire and Blythe. Lots of athletes were dehydrated, nauseous, and in pain. Their shift was from 4-8 p.m. but they were short of volunteers so they stayed and helped until midnight! Unbelievable “Ironvolunteers”! The rest of us “Ironchasers” got back in the car and drove along the bike route. Brian stopped and pulled over to the side of the road with leg cramps but we couldn’t stop because it was one-way traffic. We stopped at a highway store to buy some water and as we came out Sister Madonna rode past us. We jumped back into the car and drove alongside her to get some pictures of her beautiful smile. We turned the car around and by this time, Brian was back on the bike so we got some great photos of him, streaming down the hill. We drove the car back into town and ordered Indian food “to-go” for everyone. We arrived at the bike transition a bit before 5 p.m., just as Sister Madonna was beginning her run. (Brian and Sister Madonna were neck and neck all day.) We cheered her on and were waiting for Brian to arrive as the bike cutoff time was 5:30 p.m. We were looking the wrong way (at the on-coming bicyclists) and Adam just happened to see Brian pass us on foot. We were so surprised to see that Brian had already finished the bike leg and was already starting the run! We would have had a repeat of the swim experience if Adam didn’t happen to glance over to the side just as Brian was passing us. We would have waited until 5:30 p.m. and driven back to try to find Brian on the bike course. Whew! A close call!

Robin had a brilliant idea that I could walk with Brian for some of the race and he would pick me up at the lake so I sped-walked with Brian until Skaha Lake. He was like the energizer bunny and my quadriceps and feet were starting to burn, he was walking so quickly. I had to do the “walk, walk, walk, jog” to keep up for 5.6 km, huffing and puffing, lol! We exchanged stories and by the time we reached the lake, he took off like a bullet. I realized that no cars were allowed so I thought I would have to walk back into town when I saw Robin. Robin found a way to park on the other side of the beach and walk across. Excellent! I was hungry and tired, lol, but Brian was fine! As soon as Robin saw me, he asked, “Where’s Brian?” “I just left him”, I replied and we started to run after him on the race to get photos but he was already so far gone that we could no longer see him on the road! It had only been minutes before that I had left the road-runner.

We drove home and had a delicious Indian dinner feast, making sure to save some for Brian, as Robin told him the dishes we ordered and Brian was really hungry even thinking about them! We returned to Skaha Lake around 10:15 p.m., when Brian had 6 km left to go. It was dark out, the runners had glow in the dark necklaces and headbands on. After walking for a while towards the runners, we ran into Brian. Kris and I race-walked with Brian into town. He told us that when he passed Sister Madonna at mile 11 she was bent over and looked like she had stomach pains so we made sure to tell every volunteer we met, please look out for her and make sure Sister Madonna is OK and please help her to finish this race! We wanted to go back and carry her but knew that the rules were that you could not carry or push a participant or he/she would be disqualified.

The crickets were out, the air was warm, in some spots, the stars lit our paths, in others the street lights. There were many supporters (some dressed as fairies, butterflies, unicorns, etc.) along the sides of the road, singing and sharing encouraging remarks. With 2 km to go, Cameron met us with the Brendan, Sophie, Claire, Callum and Olivia. They all joined the race walk (Brian’s speed was a jog/run for them) and we made a singing parade with everyone jumping, running, hopping along, chanting, “Let’s go Brian, way to go! whoo, whoo!” It was so spirited and fun, the spectators were cheering, “Love the support, kids!” “Way to go, family teamwork!” “We love the ironkids!” We could not enter the “finisher’s tunnel” so we ran behind the bleachers with Brian as he crossed the finish line! He saw Hayden and Susie in the medical tent and we filled the stands, cheering for all of the finishers and waiting for Sister Madonna to cross. Everyone was holding their breath and the announcer said, “If anyone has seen Sister Madonna, would they please come and tell me where she is, we need her to cross this finish line to make the new world record.” At shortly after 11:20 p.m., she was spotted and the whole crowd turned into a roaring fire, leaping and jumping with joy. We were so excited and relieved to see Sister Madonna finish! Last year, Brian and I were volunteering as “catchers” and Sister Madonna experienced some serious headwind on her bike and finished at 5:31, a minute after the deadline so she could not complete the race. The race cutoff was midnight and we knew she would make it! We all stumbled into cars and drove home - Sue and Cameron had champagne to toast Brian’s success! Bravo and thank you, ironkids, ironhost and ironhostess, ironphotographers, ironchasers and ironvolunteers.

It was an inspirational, energizing and amazing feat, all around


“Only a wonderful, loving creator could have made such a lovely, beautiful day.” (Sister Madonna after finishing)

I took 3 videos:

Morning Swim, interviewing Cameron, Brian waving at 2:31 of the video as he entered the water in the swim.

Ironsupporters on the side of the road on bike course – so happy and encouraging!

The chanting and running with kids on the final 2 km stretch- what a joyful finish.