Thursday, September 2, 2010

My Husband the Ironman, Part 3

It was August 29, 2010, the day of the Louisville Ironman.  I'm not sure how much sleep Jason actually got the night before, but he did not waste any time getting up when the alarm clock went off at 4:30 a.m. (which was 3:30 on his personal clock).  I woke up to the crinkling of a Powerbar wrapper, and I thought to myself, here we go.

When we walked outside we were both surprised to be hit by a wave of hot, humid air because the temperatures the previous week had been so pleasant.  I began to worry about how high the temperature would climb, and how that would take its toll on the athletes.

I walked Jason down to the transition area where he pumped up his bicycle tires and put a few things in his transition bags. It was dark and there were people everywhere, as we walked to the back of a long line of athletes waiting to start the swim.  My mom joined us in line and we all three waited there for over an hour until it finally started moving forward.  The race had begun.

I parted ways with Jason about 5 minutes before he jumped in the water.  My heart was racing as I gave him his three good luck kisses, and I had a lump in my throat as I tried to capture his plunge into the Ohio River.  After seeing him off, Mom and I made a quick stop at the Subway across the street for a bathroom break and a breakfast sandwich.  Jason had given himself about 2 hours to finish the swim, but I wanted to be there as soon as possible.

We ate as we quickly made our way back to the transition area.  I ran along, shoving one last bite into my mouth before trashing the rest, and then I nudged and inched my way into the mass of people lining the path the swimmer's would run to get to their bikes. My camera was at the ready as my eyes scanned each swimmer to see if he or she were mine.

It wasn't very long before I saw Jason.  "There he is!  There he is!" I said as I snapped away and started cheering.  He smiled as he ran by, giving me a wet high five as he passed.  He had completed his swim in 1:24:30.

After seeing him there, Mom and I ran to the bike exit and stood on top of a wall to see him again.  We cheered and took pictures as he rode out of the transition area to begin his 112 mile bike ride.

I figured we had about 2 hours before seeing him at the 40 mile point in LaGrange, TN where they were holding a festival for all of the Ironman spectators.  Mom and I went back to the hotel to get Dad and the car, and the three of us drove to LaGrange.

I'm not sure how we managed to miss the right exit, or if the GPS we were following tried to take us the shorter route, but to my dismay, we ended up riding along with the cyclists. I tried to find a road that would take me around them, but we were out in the middle of the country and there was no where to go.  I tried to stay out of their way, always giving them room to go around me and pass other cyclists, all the while hating that I was in a vehicle on their course.

I was relieved when they finally turned off and we went straight, taking a different route to LaGrange.  Once there, we stood with the crowd along the road, cheering for the cyclists as they rode through town and looking for Jason.  I yelled as loud as I could when I saw him, and he smiled and waved looking strong and full of energy.  We had about an hour and a half before he would ride through again at mile 70, so we grabbed a hot dog and I stopped by a face painting booth to get the Ironman logo painted on my arm.

He rode through again, still looking great as he smiled and waved at us.  I was so excited to see him obviously having a wonderful time, and I hoped his energy would stay with him through the remainder of the ride and then for the marathon to follow.

After this second sighting, it was time to head back to Louisville to see him finish his bike ride and begin the marathon.  We drove as far out of the way as we could, believing ourselves to be going around the cyclists, but once again the only way to get back to Louisville was to ride with them. I hated it, but drove as carefully as I could, riding in the oncoming lane when I could see no other traffic coming.

We parked at our hotel, and Mom and I made our way to the transition area once again.  We climbed back onto the wall where we had previously stood and waited...and waited...and waited.  It was hot and the sun beat down on me as I worried and wondered if we had missed Jason or if something had gone wrong.  The occasional siren of an ambulance did not help matters.

I eventually called Mark, my brother-in-law, and asked if he would track Jason's progress online.  He found that Jason had finished his bike ride and was already running.  I was relieved that he was okay, but so upset that I had missed him.  I knew he'd be looking for me at that transition, and I really wanted to be there for him as he started what would probably be the most challenging part of the race. 

As I look back now, I feel sorry for Mom, because I was inconsolable as I tried to figure out what to do and where to go next.  I had a map of the marathon, but there were no mile markers, so I had no idea where to go to see Jason before the end of the marathon, and I wanted to see him so badly!

The two of us walked to the finish line, with me whining the entire way. When we got there we asked another spectator about the course and he quickly became my hero.  He explained that they would have to pass the finish line around mile 13 and then do another loop of the course before returning to complete the marathon.  He then plugged Jason's number into his Ironman iphone app and saw that Jason would be approaching his midway point in the next half hour.  I could have hugged him.  I hugged Mom instead.

While we waited to see Jason, we met up with his parents, his brother and his brother's girlfriend, Erin. When we finally spotted Jason, I could not yell loud enough.  He saw us and came over, hugging his mom and my mom before giving me a huge kiss and telling me to walk with him.  "Nothing is right, nothing is right." he said as we walked.  "Everything is right, everything is fine, " I replied.  "You are doing so well, Babe!  Just keep moving."  He gave me one more kiss and took off.  Despite his complaints about how he felt, his form seemed solid and strong.

After that, the wait seemed endless.  I took pictures of all Jason's fans who had come to cheer for him, and we talked and caught up and watched the other athletes, and I wondered how Jason was feeling, how he was doing, when I would see him...  I could not wait to hear the announcer say, "Jason Reneau, you are an Ironman," and my eyes stayed focused on the street leading up to the finish line.

Jonathan spotted him first and began yelling as I tried to cheer and take pictures at the same time.  Jason looked amazing as he ran through the finishing shoot with a marathon time of 3:45:41.  I ran along the outside taking pictures and grinning like a fool at my husband who had just completed his first Ironman.

A race volunteer gave him his medal and then walked the remaining way with him, as I followed along on the outside of the finish line.  She gave him water, a finisher's tech shirt, and a hat and they handed these things to me to carry.  Finally we reached the end of the line and he was handed off to me.  He was doing just fine, bright eyed, smiling and glad to be finished.

His family and mine caught up with us and they all congratulated him and I took everyone's pictures.  I was so happy for him I could have exploded.  After we took pictures, I sent him back to our room with his family, and Mom and I headed down to the transition area to collect his bike and transition bags.  Jason was over heated and extremely nauseated, but after a shower, some rest, and a little food, he was feeling better before I got back to the room.

Not only had Jason finished his first Ironman, but he blew it out of the water with a finishing time of 11:13:36.  When he signed up for this event he was injured, discouraged, and knew very little about competitive cycling or swimming.  And yet.

I had been right in believing that not only would he finish, he would finish quite well.  I am proud of my husband for many reasons, but on this day I was proud of him for challenging himself, keeping his eye on the goal, pushing through doubt, injury, pain, frustration and discouragement, and giving it all he had on race day.  It is how he has approached everything in his life, and that is what makes my husband the Ironman.


  1. so should i act surprised, like i didn't already know jason's finishing time was in the low 11's? that's awesome. give the hubby my congratulations.

    i went searching online today for an ironman to do during our furlough next year. i'm leaning towards the great floridian in clermont. i've got 4 minutes to knock off my time...

  2. Yes, you should act surprised, impressed, amazed, etc. :) Thanks for reading, sir. I already passed on your congrats.

    I don't know about that Ironman. I will have to look it up. Jason asked me where I wanted to go for his next one. Now that he has a time of his own, I think he is ready to see if he can chisel it down a bit.

  3. Wow, great series of stories about an incredible race! You deserve some praise too about your awesome supportive role through the whole thing. You guys make a great couple. Good luck on your long run tomorrow, and thanks for a great run today!

  4. Totally awesome!! What a great ending to the series :)!!


  5. I cried the first time because I'm a sap. I cried this time because I have a MUCH better appreciation for what it means. And... WOWZER, 11:13?? HOLY SMOKES!!! That's amazing...especially from what I've heard about that course. Im.pres.sive.