Thursday, May 10, 2012

the day my husband almost died.

So… we weren’t going to do a big race this year.  That’s what I heard anyway.  I’m not sure I ever really believed it, but I tried!  I’m not sure if it was simply the magnetic draw that the Ironman has for my husband or if it was Louie’s fault, but the idea of St. George started creeping into conversation now and then, but the commitment hadn’t been formally made, until the week before the race.  I should have seen it coming, however, because the training time was there.  He doesn’t go in unprepared.  Louie (a lovely local friend) wanted to attempt his first IM in St. George (crazy person) and wanted D with him.  So, off they went every morning, by bike or by foot and spent their time in the pool and whadda you know, there was a race at hand.

Thing is, there is also life.  I had a baseball game on the schedule and a tumbling recital that had been on the calendar for months and then my parents called and said, “is this a good weekend to come visit?”  I looked at the calendar, where there was no race scheduled and said, “sure, we’ll be here.”  As race day approached, I had a choice to make.  A choice that I believe no woman should ever have to make.  Do I spend this particular weekend as a wife or as a mother?  Usually the two go hand in hand, but I couldn’t be physically present in both roles this time.  I chose mother.  I’ll be honest and say that if I had to do it again I’d choose differently.  I'd bag baseball and tumbling or I’d leave my kids with someone to handle those things and go.  My being there wouldn’t have changed the outcome, but it would have saved may sanity.  Maybe.

So we ran to the bike shop and the other bike shop and the tri shop and gathered the necessary goods, stayed out of his way while he meticulously packed his bags and sent him on his way.  I knew as he was driving away that it was not good that I was standing there in the drive way and he was leaving.  But I did take comfort in the fact that Lindsay and Dan would be there with him along with Louie and his other racing  friends. 


Sending him on his way.  His new mirror shield that was supposed to wield superpowers. 

The morning of the race I was just climbing out of bed as Lindsay texted me, “No wind and blue skies.  He’s climbing in the water now.”  He texted that it was a beautiful day for an Ironman.  They were both deceived, as were race officials who allowed all those swimmers to enter the water.  Not 30 minutes later lindsay writes, “scratch that.  wind has picked up with a fury!”  Comments from the morning included ‘crazy white caps,’ ‘seriously rough swim,’ ‘everything is swaying out here.’  The swim was soon declared the worst IM USA swim ever.  Lovely.  I was heart sick when I received a text that Louie, who had been sick the night before, was done.  People were being pulled out of the water by the boatloads.  Boats sank.  Lifeguards bailed and went back to shore.  Boats beached themselves because they were taking on too much water.  And yet there were swimmers still out there… MY swimmer!  They said that if the wind would have picked up 10 minutes earlier they would have cancelled the swim, it was just too dangerous.  Hundreds didn’t finish and those that did swam in crazy patterns trying to follow the buoys that kept blowing all over.  Dent said that resting for a minute or even switching to the breast stroke was not an option.  If you weren’t powering through, you were going backwards.  I can’t imagine the exhaustion one feels after swimming with their full strength for 2 solid hours.  But what the heck, let’s go ride 112 miles!

photo (20)

it looks so kind, doesn’t it?

photo (21)

preparing to meet their fate

photo (23)photo (22)

before the winds kicked up.  lindsay and dan… heros of the day.

photo (18)

he survived the swim

photo (25)

Dent’s swim pattern, according to his GPS.  There are full circles in there, people.  Made me sick to see it.

He felt sick early in the bike, about mile 30 which was way to early to feel sick.  The pros out on the course were reporting being blown off of their bikes and needing to reclip often.  One reached record lows on her bike at 6 mph as she was fighting a headwind going up a major hill.  Many got pulled off the bike course because they couldn’t finish before the cut off time.  There was talk of extending the cut off times for the bike and run as officials worried there were too many who weren’t going to finish, but it didn’t happen.  D made it in plenty of time and along with the transition came the update, “he looks good but says he’s miserable and wants to throw up.  imagine that.” 

D on bike

And so he moved on to run a marathon.  Bless Lindsay and Dan, they were present for all of the madness and from here it really got gnarly.  His stomach couldn’t handle anything.  Lindsay moved locations so she could see him and run with him more often.  She wanted funny material to talk to him about, it was all too depressing.  Katelyn suggested he visualize her running through the streets in her burqa.  He finally made himself throw up and felt better but was completely empty.  After he took off on his own again, Lindsay lost him for a while.  Of course she chose not to share this with me at the time, but found him later after he’d spent 30 minutes in a medical tent with his feet elevated.  When she saw him again, he was still throwing up any liquid he tried to keep down.  the terms, “violent,” and “white as a ghost” were used.  Katelyn joked that Dan must be stoked to sign up for an IM… poor guy will never consider it now. 

IM1photo (19)

Once he was down to his last eight miles, friends and family in multiple states were starting a countdown.  He could make it before the cut off time if he pushed it.  Did he have it in him to push it??  We were telling Lindsay to push him, keep his time up, he was too close now to not make it.  Just earlier, his childhood and BFF Justin showed up.  He saved the day.  Either Justin or Lindsay was with him until the very end.  And Louie pulled himself off of his own deathbed to come cheer him on.  In his sick state I have no idea how he ran with Dent, but they logged a few miles together at the end as well.  Justin and Louie were with him the last three miles and Justin was good to push him- he kept him aware of the clock and kept him moving forward.  As the clock ticked on, households in Utah, Arizona and California were tuned in to live feed on computers, ipads and phones as we texted our anxiety to each other.  Katelyn needed xanax.  My mom was ready to drink if I had had any alcohol in the house.  D’s mom was wishing the stinkin’ guy at the finish line would get out of the way of the camera.  My dad, of all people, was camped out in front of the live feed.  Lindsay texted, “I’m a mess.  He’s a mess.”  There were a lot of people at the finish line, which was awesome considering it was so late.  Katelyn was getting concerned about her heart rate.  I was in the middle of a contraction that had lasted about 15 minutes.  Wade was dying as were D’s parents, I’m sure.  Justin texted that they had 300 yards.  He was totally going to make it.  He totally made it, with 14 minutes to spare.  We all exhaled and screamed and maybe swore a little.  And cried.  He requested to go to the medical tent immediately, knowing he was dying.  The race volunteers told him they needed his picture first.  He obliged then headed straight for his IV.  They pumped two bags of fluid into him after Louie and Justin kept insisting that yes, he really needed it. His heart rate was ridiculously low.  The medical team had to take it a few times to be sure they had it right.  After he had hydrated, Justin took him to get a Coke slurpee on the way back to the condo.  He arrived a little loopy- Lindsay was concerned about him going to shower by himself for fear he might pass out.  He was really excited about his coke slurpee.  Seemed the IV fluid worked wonders and he thinks that might be a good idea after every race. 

We recently were able to view the pics the race posted online.  he said, “I look like death in my finish picture.”  Well, Babe.  You felt like death. 

photo (24)IM finishIM death

the finish chute.  crossing the line.  looking like death. 

He ran 2/3 of the marathon without anything in his body.  No fuel, no liquid.  It was mental will power and angel friends that got him across that finish line.  I felt so much gratitude Saturday for those who stepped in to carry him through the day.  He doesn’t think he could have finished without everyone there pushing him.  Lindsay ran about 6 miles that day in flip flops and had trashed feet to prove it.  Louie was sick, sick for another few days but had shown up for him.  Justin was honest about the fact that he would have to move it in order to make it.  Dan sacrificed his weekend with his wife for my husband and I love all of them for their sacrifice, support and friendship. 

I know that to keep moving when your body is screaming at you to stop takes some serious digging.  I know he had to dig awfully deep on this one and that it was the hardest physical feat he has overcome.  I am proud.  Of his determination and persistence and perseverance.  While one might question the sanity of feeling the need to finish something so taxing, I am grateful for the example my children have of a dad who can do hard things, who pushes himself to do more and be better than he was before.

Dad brought home shirts to celebrate his survival.  And the fact that was indeed a four-time Ironman. 


St. George has hosted it’s last full Ironman race as it will be a half distance race from now on.  And as for all of those who are wondering if he’ll really do this to himself again?  Well.  What do you think?


tenacious d said...

Ohmygosh! That picture of him at the finish is just...scary. He looks like a 70-year-old. Man, the things that people can force themselves through.

And of course he's going to do this again and again, because he can tell himself that it will never be that bad again, and he made it through this.

Debi said...

So wonderful that you could get up-to-date info all day and that Dan and Lindsay were there. So scary that he got so sick. I'm still not sure why D keeps doing this. He has definitely proved himself. I sure would like to see him live to raise his kids.

marie said...

Amazing! Absolutely inspiring!

Emily said...

crazy! Mark is dying at his gps of the swim. And yes, he'll do it again, and again. It really is like an addiction to these crazies!

Katelyn & Wade said...

1. Ummm, you WERE death D. You are a champ in my book for life, but you did not look like a champ crossing that line.
2. That swim still blows my freaking mind. Oh hell, the whole thing blows my freaking mind.
3. Will he do it again? Duh.
4. And not to diminish the D's amazing feat, but Lindsay ran 6 miles??? 6 MILES!? Has she ever run that far in her life!?See sister, you ARE a runner! You just need a dead man walking next to you to motivate you! Nice job Harrie!

eryka said...

Congratulations! He had fans anxiously checking updates in Brazil too! Crazy. So glad he made it and is still alive.

kimmalee said...

That sounds just plain awful! I'm with my momma. Not sure why your men keep doing this to themselves. It's incredible. What a blessing to be able to get updates all day and how cool to be in constant contact with family while D is racing. You've got an amazing family.

Lindsay said...

6 miles is a bit of a stretch...

Erin said...

Such a crazy day! Phil and I were so nervous for him and watching his times online. He is the Ironman of Ironmans for finishing that race. I can't even imagine. Well done! Hope the next race is a little kinder to him, though. :)

Katelyn & Wade said...


Torey said...

Oh my goodness Amberly! What really gets me is that satellite of his swim route. Enough to exhaust anyone. I'm glad you stayed home so you didn't go into labor.

jared & amber said...

My heart rate was racing just reading your post. What an amazing accomplishment, that's awesome!!!! Props to you for putting up with all the training.