I didn't leave for Madison until 7:45am (45 minutes after the 2.4 mile swim was under way), but a few of my friends/teammates were there to witness the washing machine of humanity churning up the water in Lake Monona.
I arrived while the Iron Cheerleader was out on the bike course, so I walked the 2 1/2 miles (along the marathon course) from where I parked to State Street to meet the girls at a coffee shop.
|Lake Mendota with the Capitol building in the distance.|
|Superheros of Aid!|
|122.4 miles into the day - and still smiling!|
After the Iron Cheerleader passed us, we made our way back to State Street for a quick Starbucks/bathroom stop before continuing up State Street to the finish line. As we were walking, we saw Fireman Rob just past the 14 mile mark.
Once we arrived at Capitol Square, we met up with a very special surprise for the Iron Cheerleader. If you'll recall, he told us that he's never had family/friends waiting for him at the finish of any of his 3 previous Ironmans. That was about to change.It turns out that his daughter knew one of the girls in our group, T, from grad school and when she saw all the pictures of him being tagged on Facebook she got in touch and made arrangements to meet up with us and surprise him!
The crowd on Capitol Square was INSANE! People were stacked 4 or 5 deep along the barriers and as much as we would have liked to be able to watch the Iron Cheerleader cross the finish line, there were just too many people in the way, so we settled for watching it on a giant monitor suspended high over the crowd.
|Beautiful backdrop for a finish photo|
|Iron Cheerleader: You. Are. An. Ironman!|
After he made his way through the finishing chute we all hung around for a bit; talking, laughing, and listening to his recap of the race. It wasn't the finish he wanted, but none the less, he became an Ironman for the fourth time! Does that make him four times as crazy as someone who was doing their first Ironman?
I bid the crew goodnight and set off to hike the 3 miles (still along the marathon course) back to my car. That path took on a very different feeling at night. It's almost pitch black except for 2 aid stations lit by flood lights and almost completely devoid of spectators. The athletes remaining on the course were mostly walking - their bodies completely exhausted and moving forward by sheer force of will. I talked to a couple of guys and walked for about a mile and half with one girl who had been sobbing in the dark because she was convinced that she wasn't going to make the midnight cut off (she had 2 1/2 hours to run/walk/crawl about 5 miles). As much as I love watching the pros and the middle of the pack, I respect the hell out of the back of the pack because they're on the course for so long.
I'm already formulating a plan for next year that involves being able to watch the swim start without having to get up at Stupid O'Clock, volunteering, and then parking myself on that lonely gravel path to cheer late into the night as some ordinary people attempt to achieve something extraordinary.