Tuesday, November 25, 2014

My Jubilant American Summer, Part Three

Greeting her family with
"Cheer Kits,"
my youngest daughter
prepared her family
for her Ironman Race
with bananas, water,
race programs,
race ETAs and suggested sites
to best see her compete.

"Mom, I don't care if you skip my MBA graduation, but I want you to be home for my IRONMAN race." So said, my youngest daughter, an avid marathoner.
I appreciated my child stating it so bluntly. There was nowhere else I could be, but right by her side when she asked like that. The highlight of my jubilant American summer was when our family gathered to cheer my youngest on in her Ironman Wisconsin race.
Ironman Wisconsin
was on September 7th, 2014
in Madison, Wisconsin.

Participants were to swim
2.4 miles (3.86 km),
bike 112 miles (180.25 km),
and finish with a 26.2 mile
(42.22 km) marathon
and finish within 17 hours.

My family gathered
on the roof of the
Monona Terrace
Convention Center,
designed by Frank Lloyd Wright,
to watch the race begin.
Sunrise on Lake Monona
Volunteers wait in the water
for the race to begin.
Green swim caps for men,
pink swim caps for women.

Here's what the start of the swim
looked like from the parking lot helix
that the runners would later run up
(five or six floors)
to get their bikes.
Video courtesy of crushingiron.com
It was awe-inspiring to me -
2,500 swimmers
all taking off at once.
It was glorious to watch.
I was really grateful
for all those years of 
middle and high school
swim practices,
knowing my child
would be swimming
for an hour-and-a-half.
Fired up and ready to go!
After the swim,
Kelly ran up the helix
knowing her
most challenging part
of the race
was next.
Kelly's older sister
and brother-in-law
were also ready
to cheer her on
in our
cheer crew tshirts.

That's Kelly in the red,
getting her bike.

The biking portion
was the one where she had the
least experience.
She was bringing
some bicycling experience,
the rest was hope.
"Watermelon Fury,"
was to be her companion
for the next eight hours.
I worried Kelly
was expending
her energy on
cheering everyone on.
Every time I saw her
she was cheering!
No worries, on her part.
"Bring it on!"
she seemed to shout.
Eight hours on the bike
is a long time.
We, as cheer crew,
did move from site to site
to cheer her on,
but we also had time
to go see
where my
oldest daughter worked
in downtown Madison.
That was fun.
Here's some video
of the bike course.
The sounds of the Ironman
are fantastic.
I love those ringing cowbells!
I knew if Kelly could make it
through the bike portion
it was all downhill
from there.
She was an experienced
marathoner and had run
at least one 50-mile race.
Making ourselves
easy to find:
Above is my sister,
my oldest daughter
and my Mom.

During the race,
there was lots of time
to interact with
other folks who
had come to cheer on
their competitor.
I loved watching this family.
What's not to love
about a teenage boy
cheering on his Mother?
This family's cheer shirts read
"I trained six months
to wear this T-shirt."
Kelly says: "Ironman Wisconsin was one of the most fun days of my life! Starting with the swim - bobbing up and down in Lake Monona while watching the thousands of spectators in the sunrise on the terrace. The bike was my hardest leg of the race, but that's because I biked 42 miles further than I ever have in my life! My bike broke at mile 70 and I managed to fix it all on my own, which kept me positive enough to make it to mile 112! The run was just a total blast - seeing everyone around Madison! Thanks so much if you came out!"

By nightfall,
I would have been exhausted.
I was amazed to watch
my daughter stop her race
at mile 19
and do push-ups
with another runner.
High fiving
and leading cheers!
No stopping her now.
Goal met!
Another sound
from the Ironman
that will stay with me
is the voice of
Ironman Wisconsin
He's there all day long
from sunrise to midnight.
When he pronounces a runner
an Ironman
as they cross the finish line,
the way he says it
brings a lump to the throat.
He communicates all of the
hopes, dreams, goal-setting,
training, endurance, stamina,
and results:

You are an Ironman!"

What a wonderful family memory.

A couple months after the race, my daughter received this email from a fellow participant:
"I wanted to tell you (and my husband encouraged me to be brave and do this) how GREAT it was to cross paths with you on the last half of the marathon at Ironman Wisconsin. Your energy propelled me along. At about the EXACT time I was thinking, 'You know, I could just walk this out...," you came up and were like, "JENNY! I'm going to run with you a while!!" And then I thought, "Well, crap. I can't walk now!!" Everything about you had this great exclamation point after it. I was in awe of your spirit and energy....I hope you had a fantastic race and that life is treating you well. Thanks again for all the positive energy you brought to the race. I think people sometimes wonder if something like that matters because it doesn't seem to make obvious differences or whatever, but I think it makes worlds of difference. I saw tons of people perk up all around you even if they didn't verbalize it. Who knows who was able to finish simply because of your energetic encouragement?? So! You take care of yourself. And stay positive.
Here's a review of the Wisconsin Ironman course, with great views of the helix where swimmers transition from swimming to biking. The Wisconsin Ironman gets more spectators than any other Ironman, even the World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. An estimated 75,000 people turn out.

Here are a few other posts on Madison and Wisconsin:

The book that made me crazy with homesickness for America

Enjoying Neil DeGrasse Tyson at the UW Senior Sendoff on the Union Terrace

The Marvelousness of Madison

Empty Nest Expat is on Facebook - why not follow me there?
Missed my earlier posts? They're below:

My Jubilant American Summer, Part One

My Jubilant American Summer, Part Two


Dan Perry said...

Wow, I'm always amazed at the athletes when the Ironman comes to town. Send my congrats to Kelly.

Karen said...

Thank you, Dan. Will do! I watched the midnight finish of the 2010 Wisconson Ironman. I had no idea at the time I'd be back four years later to watch my daughter do the same race! It was so fun.

Backto Bodrum said...

Unbelievable - how does the human body stand it. Congratulations sounds so insufficient.

Karen said...

Thank you, Back to Bodrum. I think it's the mind at work. They get completely psyched up to race!

Turkey Tours said...

Simply Great! Very energetic images.

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