The finish was the most magical part, and it deserves its own post. When I made the final left, the crowds immediately grew. People were cheering, clapping, shouting congratulations, yelling things like “Ironman! You did it!” When I made the final right turn and saw the lights, the finish line, and heard the music, I broke into a giant smile, and started choking up. People continued to yell, and cheer, and call my name. Once my feet hit the carpet lined with the Mdot logo, everything becomes a giant blur.
The people lining the barriers had those plastic banging things, and they were banging them against the barriers and banners. I was half laughing, half crying. I couldn’t hear anything except the roar of the crowd and the banging. I couldn’t hear the music, I couldn’t hear the announcer. I was the only one on the carpet at that point, so I knew I would be coming under the arch by myself. At some point, I raised my arms up, and ran across the finish line.
I felt like my face would split open I was smiling so hard, and a volunteer was about to put the medal around my neck when I saw Kenny over to the side. I got my medal, and I’m not exactly sure what I said to the volunteer. I think I might have actually blown her off? Oops. But I ran over to him, and he grabbed me in a huge hug, where I think I half sobbed and half laughed “I did it, I did it!”
It took a solid couple of minutes for me to realize almost everyone else was there. There was a lot of screaming, cheering, and hugging, and I’m not sure there was much coherent talking going on. The volunteer, who was also amazing, had stuck by my side the whole time, and offered to take our picture for us.
Once we calmed down, the volunteer took charge of me again, walking me through the finish chute, asking me the questions I knew were designed to make sure I was ok and didn’t need to go to the medical tent. I said I was fine, just cold, but I had a sweatshirt in my morning clothes bag so I’d be ok. She helped me get my finisher’s shirt and hat, guided me to get my official photo taken, got me some water and offered me food, and then gave me a huge hug, congratulated me, and dropped me off to my group that was waiting. There were more tears, more hugs, and the three Iron besties were reunited, triumphant.
This experience was just incredible. I had so much fun during the race. Was it always easy? Of course not. Someone posted this summary of the race in the IM Louisville Facebook group, and it’s a pretty accurate summary of the day:
Through all of that, I never hit the wall, I was never miserable, and I never went to that ‘dark’ place everyone warned about. I had a plan, I stuck to it, and for once in my life, I didn’t go in to something with a huge amount of expectations on myself. I went in thinking it was going to be a long day, so I was just going to take it one discipline at a time, and enjoy it.
As I said on the Facebooks, and I’ll say again here, because it deserves to be said more than once:
“An Ironman is something you do not do alone. I have been so lucky to have an amazing group of people supporting me, encouraging me, lifting me up when I doubted myself, and cheering me on. Anne and Kim were my two Ironman training partners-in-crime, and it was so much fun to train with you across the miles and race with you. I am so proud of you both. Amy, Tara and Lorena came from all over the country to Louisville to be an amazing spectating squad. My other H&F friends were another amazing source of support and encouragement. The “Bachian” to my Team Smithbachian, Stephanie and Megan, for doing a tri with me and our runs, especially our now yearly run to the beach. Most importantly, and by far my biggest cheerleader and supporter, Kenny. Thank you to every single one of you for going above and beyond to help get me to the finish line of this race. It’s because of all of you that I can say that I am an Ironman!”