Once again we made the trek up to Penticton for our annual Ironman vacation.
This year Joe was competing and I was there as support crew. Joe wanted to be in the heart of it so we got a room on the beach right by the final turn-around for the marathon. Perfect positioning. The green goddesses were also in the same hotel and Special K, June Bug and Pam were going to be coming up on the weekend to aid me and mumsy in our cheering as the – wait for it…..THE JOSPEPH WITNESSES – LOL.
I obviously can not tell you how Mr J felt through out the race but I can tell you that it was an emotional and stressful day for me and the Joseph Witnesses however we cheered our hearts out for not just Joe but all the athletes and had a fantastic time.
The night before the girls and I gathered our chalk and headed out to the streets to write some messages – starting from the entrance of our hotel: Home of 1333 – Iron Joe and up the street with messages for him finishing off with our best and most popular a big Arrow followed by BEER THIS WAY. It was a lot of fun doing this as the roads were still open and so we had to keep shouting “car” and moving out of the way. Once we had finished and the girls left to go back to Mom’s, I grabbed my camera and went back out to take pictures of our artwork – which was good because he did not see/notice any of them and at least I had evidence that we did do it.
4:30 am – what the – oh you are up – right so off I move to the bedroom to continue sleeping until 5:30 – after all I wasn’t racing. I had slept on the couch the night before so as not to bother him. 5:30 am – up dressed with the unveiling of the crew shirt – he smiled. I helped him gather his bags and off to transition we go – 6am. I had to run back to get my phone so that when the girls got to the hotel they could call me. The walk was a bit longer than we anticipated and my OCD started to kick in – they close transition down at 6:30 – yikes he has to get his body marked, pump his tires, put on wetsuit – yikes. We finally find the entrance to transition so he can get body marked and drop his aid bags and then I lose him. Shoot wanted a picture of his body marking – damn – SHAUN –oh there you are – okay have a good race. Click off a quick picture then back to the water to get a spot to see them start. There was absolutely no where to stand – I finally finagle the edge of a park bench and then hand my camera to a taller person yo take pictures for me.
Girls call – I am on a park bench in front of Slumber Lodge Hotel – Okay we will come down. National anthem – off comes the hat and start to sing – others follow my lead and start singing – really it is kind of disappointing the so many people do not sing, but I digress. And they are off. After I find everyone we decide to stand in the water so we can watch him come in.
Special K – what is he wearing? Me – a black wetsuit and blue cap….. Special K - hmmmmmm that narrows it down. We did not have to wait long though as all of the sudden I spot him coming out of the water. 1:20 Joe, Joe you are doing awesome !!! Oh crap take a picture – well there is his back. All right gotta move – I bolt out of the water and sprint all the way over to where they come out on the bikes – I mean sprinted positive I would get there in time – nope missed him!
Next on the list coffee – we pick up coffee and then back to the hotel for biffy breaks for all. Once everyone had sorted themselves out I loaded everyone in to the car with signs I had made – extra paper, chalk, markers and Megaphone. Off to the BEAR- Keremeos. We got to the bear and got prime positioning taking over a picnic table and getting our supplies out and ready. I took the signs I had made – and stuck them in the handy planters by the side of the road. We got out our chalk and wrote messages up and down the road and generally settled in for the wait. The bear was great with bathroom, fresh water and lots of fresh fruit, veggies and other stuff we could purchase.
After I got the megaphone working we got out the tambourine and cow bells and started working the crowds. Come on people lets cheer loud it was awesome to see the elites bolt by and then we checked on-line how Joe was doing – what that can’t be right – 2 hours to Richter’s – wow – seems a little fast…. Then my phone rings – his dad from Ireland – did you see his time – I think he has gone out too fast. Yep Dad – it seems so but I can’t do anything about it – it’s his race – he knows what he is doing – he trained for it. Hang up from dad. Okay so based on that time we should see him between 12:30 and 1 if he keeps up that pace.
We spent the next few hours actively cheering – coming up with great one-liners on the megaphone. We had people coming up saying hey can you call out to number …. Sure let me know when you see him. Best one-liner – Hey nice legs – do you work out much?
It was around 1pm and I was taking a much needed biffy break and walking back to the table - all of the sudden – OMG Joe – it is JOE – and sprinting back to the table grab the cow-bell and tambourine screaming – Crap where is my camera.. darn missed him again. So then we had to wait for Special K to come back with the car – she had gone back to get June-bug. When she pulled up I said move, move – he passed by a while ago and loaded everyone in the car and made a dash back to town in the hope to catch him coming off the bike on to the run.
At this time I did not know my boy was in trouble and distress – probably best I did not know or I would have had a melt down – I was already stressed that we did not follow him in the car up Yellow Lake and just wanted to get back into town to see him go out on the run. He later told me at the out and back he was cramping really bad and ran into a team mate who gave him some salt tablets. Then while he was going up Yellow Lake he started to cramp even worse – he says he got to the top and called out for help, officials were able to catch him and the bike he was cramping so bad. He then managed to get to the tent and had to lie down for about 10 minutes or more. He was finally able to get back on the bike and ride back but it was a tough go into town and he had been looking for me – why did I not follow in the car – I just told him long story and left it at that.
So we got back to the hotel and I jumped out of the car and started heading to transition. I texted Jude who was waiting at transition to see if she could catch Joe coming out on the run if she had seen him and she was like no. I looked at my watch and was like he is on the course – lets go see if we can find him and turned around and then all of the sudden I got another msg from Jude- He just passed me he is on the run course heading your way!!! OMG okay we are good he is just starting on the run. We stopped and cheered and then I was like there he is – there he is!!!! He looked great – go honey go!!! Crap where is my camera – darn it – another picture of his back.. Did you see him – he looks awesome.
We headed back to the room for something to eat and relax for a bit . After about 50 minutes we all got back into the car and headed off to the run course. Then it got frustrating – they would not let us on the road to OK falls – how am I supposed to support him from here! We were at the 8 km mark on the course okay well I guess we set up shop here – and cheer. So that is what we did and we cheered and we cheered and we cheered. And then I started to worry – it should not take him this long – he is a strong runner – then finally the update came over the Iphone and I was like oh no – something is not right – 3 hours to the half way point – he never takes that long to run. But I kept my thoughts to myself and decided to start walking down the road to see if I could see him – I just kept walking and looking – I called my sister and chatted to her as she calmed me down. I was so anxious – if I could just get out there and find him I know I can talk to him and help him. I called Cindy – my friend who was an official and she told me that she rode beside him for a while – he was cramping really bad but his spirits were up and he was moving forward but just having problems with cramping. Okay so I walked back to the girls and reported what I knew and then as I turned around there he was. OMG JOE- yeah – I was so excited and relieved to see him that I once AGAIN forgot to take a picture. I ran with him for a couple of minutes and talked to him – he was still going to go for sub 14 hours. He wanted a 13 in his finish time.
Back to the car we bolted and I raced back to the hotel. We got there and I literally jumped out of the car, leaving the girls to sort themselves out and ran to the front of the hotel. I was walking up the road and there he was – screw the camera I just started to run with him – asked him how we was feeling and he said he hurt, told him he was fantastic and he said he did not want to talk he had to finish. So we just ran and he was motoring. At the fences I told him I loved him and that this was his moment. And then I just stopped and watched him head to finish line and I listened. Joe Smyth you are an IRONMAN!!! YES I turned and started to head back to the hotel whoo, he did it! – the next thing I heard was the next few competitors names and that the time was 13:59 and they had made it under the 14 hour mark. WOW – he did it he did it he beat 14 hours! The girls came up to me and I said you missed it he just finished and then I called Jude and told her.
After I got everyone settled in at the hotel I went back to find my Ironman and pick up his gear. He came out and looked exhausted but super happy. I admired his medal and technical finishers shirt –(we got t-shirts the year I did it) and sent him back while I went and picked up his gear and bike.
His final time 13:58:32 – 2 hours and 23 minutes faster than me. He rocked it! Later he was able to tell me about the issues on the bike and run with cramping as such and I know that it was best that I was not right there by his side because I would have been that much more stressed. I honestly think it is easier to race than to spectate for this race- the stress and the timing – the logistics were a lot. When you race – you just race – that is all you are thinking about- much less stressful.
Oh and his medal well when we got home a few days later I went to look at mine on the wall and then I said hmm – hey can I see your medal for a sec? Yep it is smaller than mine! You have an itsy bitsy medal – it is about ½ the size of mine. He looked at it and went you are right – it is smaller. I told him it was because I was out on the course longer and the longer you are out there the bigger your medal is. So I guess the winner gets a lapel pin. Either way he is an Ironman now and I could not be prouder! He totally wants to do it again and so we have decided that we will both do it in 2013.
Note – the medals – about a week after the event the athletes received an email apologizing for running out of the water on the course (unforgiveable) and for the medals. It turned out the supplier had sent the wrong medals and there was not enough time prior to the event to get the proper ones so they ordered the plastic backs and attached them to the medals in an attempt to make them look bigger. Personally I say get the real medals and ship those out now or send each a finisher’s DVD.