Part 1: Pregame
The alarm went off at 5am. I grogily reached over and hit the snooze button, but I knew I needed to get up. I laid in bed, pleading with myself to sit up. I had only fallen asleep 3 hours earlier. I have a real problem with sleeping the night before a race, but I had finally fallen into a deep sleep and the alarm went off.
I sat up and woke up my wife as she needed to get ready for work. My goal was to leave the house about 5:15 so I could get to Lake Hefner in plenty of time to get all my stuff organized and laid out before the race started. I also wanted to attend the pre-race prayer service as I knew I would need all the prayer and strength I could muster to get through the day. I started with my normal daily routine and by the time that was done, it was nearly 5:15. I was finishing gathering all my stuff when I realized I hadn't put on my race numbers. The numbers they supply come in the form of temporary tattoo's instead of just writing them on with a marker at the race site. I grabbed my numbers, read the instructions once more, and had my wife help me put the numbers on. Once that was finally done, it was a little after 5:30. I quickly finished getting dressed and grabbed my backpack which I had smartly packed the night before so as not to forget anything. My wife snapped a quick picture and I was out the door.
By the time I was in my car, it was 5:45. So much for the prayer service. At that point, though, I wasn't too worried. What worried me was the fact that I had about a 30 minute drive to Lake Hefner, plus I had to park and walk quite a way to the transition area so I could set up and get ready for the start, and transistion closed at 6:30. I got about 5 miles down the road and as I was triple checking to make sure I had all my essentials, I realized I never grabbed my water bottles for my bike. Time was my enemy at this point, and I didn't have any time to go back home, so I just pressed forward. Luckily, I knew that they would supply water and Gatorade bottles on the course that would fit in the water cages of my bike, so ultimately I wasn't extremely concerned about it, just frustrated that I went off and left them at the house.
Being that it was so early in the morning, there was very little traffic and I made good time to the lake, arriving about 6:10. That still only left me 20 minutes to get to the start. I parked, grabbed my gear, and luckily found a shuttle van that was parked and waiting to take people to the start. I hopped in, a few more people loaded, and we were off. I was dropped off and made it to the transition area at about 6:20. I went in and started setting up my stuff. Since I had worked out in my head what I needed to lay out and what I needed to do to get ready, it took me almost no time to get all my stuff together. What I didn't realize the day before when I brought my bike up was that the start of the race was within the transition area, so as long as I was in transition, I could take as much time as I needed to get ready before it was time to get in the water. This calmed me quite a bit as I knew I would be in the water until about 7:45.
I found Joleen Chaney from News Channel 4 who is coached by Ryan Ellis of Conquer Training just like I am. We were chatting a bit, probably trying to calm each other's nerves, when she pulled out her timing chip and asked me where we got the chip holders at. I panicked for a moment because I had done everything I needed to do to get ready, but I forgot about my timing chip. I asked someone else who was standing around us and they informed me that the chip holders were at the front of the transition area. I went and grabbed one for me and for Joleen, put my timing chip on, and then I was finally ready to start. My good friend from high school, Nina, was racing that day as well. Just like me, this was her first 1/2 iron-distance triathlon and it was really nice to have a good friend there to not only talk to but to help calm the nerves that we were all no doubt feeling.
They started making announcements about the swim course, explaining the bouys and where exactly we needed to swim to. Looking out at the water, I saw three white Redbull bouys and several neon orange bouys. They all looked way far out in the water, but the last orange bouy wasn't too bad. I figured I could make that no problem.
"So, we go out to the last orange bouy and turn around, right? I guess they just have the white bouys way out there to mark the outer edge of the course so you don't go too far?" I asked Nina.
"Oh no, we have to swim out to the white bouys. That's the parimeter of the course." Nina replied.
My stomach dropped. I could hardly see the white bouys from where we were standing. I hadn't swam in nearly two weeks since the pool I used was closed down for the remainder of the year and while I had swam the nearly 1.2 mile distance at one point in my training, the course looked so much further than I could have ever imagined.
They played the National Anthem, made a few more announcements, and the first wave of swimmers headed off down to the edge of the water to get ready to start the 2011 Redman Triathlon.
Part 2: The Swim
The gun fired. The water started roiling. The 2011 Redman Triathlon had begun. I watched from the transition area as the first wave of swimmers took off. Then the second wave, and the third wave. Finally, it was our turn. I said a prayer. Walking under a Redbull arch, we left the grassy area of the shore and walked down the boat dock. There was a gentleman playing the bagpipes and I remarked to Nina that it sounded like we were on a funeral march. We followed a path of mats all the way to the edge of the water. A lot of people were wearing wetsuits, but because of my size, inexperience, and finances, I didn't have one. The water temperature was about 70 degrees and all I was my swim cap, my goggles, and my swim trunks. I'm a bad judge of temperature, especially water temperature, and I was scared it was going to be so cold that I would have a hard time swimming. We crossed the timing mat and entered the water. It wasn't nearly as cold as I thought it would be. The biggest issue was the deep, thick, red mud/clay that my feet were sinking about half a foot or more into every time I took a step. I sloppily manouvered my way through the mud and got ready to start. The gun fired. No turning back. I decided that I was going to walk as much as I could before I absolutely had to start swimming. I also knew that because the lake was so low, the course had to be moved way out to the middle of the lake, which naturally is the deepest, and therefore it wouldn't take long before I couldn't touch anymore. It didn't take long at all. I was maybe 50 to 100 meters from the start bouy and I was treading water. I readjusted my body into my swim position and took off.
Throughout all my training, I had been doing pool swims. In a pool swim, you can see everything around you and you have a lane that you can see clearly which helps keep you moving in a straight line. Also, the pool I trained in was no deeper than 5 feet so I could touch if I absolutely needed to, and being that it was only 25 meters, I could stop, turn around, and push off the side of the pool.
This was my first open water swim and I have been told it is completely different than a pool swim, which of course makes sense. I was also told a lot of people panic when they first get in but for whatever reason I didn't panic at all. Once I got my stroke down, I started feel pretty comfortable and confident. Besides, there were lifeguards in kayaks all over the place so if I needed to I could always ask for their assistance (which they are allowed to give, they just can't move you forward). I got about 500 meters into the swim and my goggles started fogging. I've had this problem in the pool, especially on cool days, but I've always been able to stop, stand up, clear out my goggles, and restart my swim. I didn't have that luxury this time. I stopped and started treading water and somehow managed to get my goggles off my face, dip them in the water, get them back on, and keep moving forward. Then, I had another problem. I didn't get a good seal when I put my goggles on and they started filling up with water so once again I stopped, dipped the goggles in the water, tried to get them on with a good seal this time, and once again continued forward. I repeated this process probably every 75 meters or so and it was starting to take a toll on my legs with all the treading I was doing.
My plan had been to keep as close to the orange bouys as possible since staying at the interior of the course would mean I wouldn't be doing any more than I needed to. It didn't take long before I was drifting way too far to the right, so I started to angle back in to the left, using the white bouy as my guide point to swim to. On the way to the first bouy, my leg started to cramp because of all the water treading I was doing as a result of the goggle situation. I knew I might be in trouble but I continued to press forward, as other than the goggle and leg situation I was feeling pretty good. There was one point that I had been swimming with my eyes closed since my goggles were filling up with water and when I finally stopped to adjust, I had somehow gotten turned around and panicked because I couldn't figure out exactly where I was. I finally found the white bouy and continued forward.
After what felt like forever, I somehow managed to reach the first bouy. It was an amazing feeling as I knew that since I had made it all the way out there, surely I could make it to the next bouy and all the way back. I started for the second bouy, and after 100 meters or so I decided that I had had enough and called a kayak over to me. I grabbed the side and took a breather, clearing off my goggles. The lifeguard in the kayak informed me that a lot of swimmers were having the same problem, so I at least felt a little better about it. Once I had cleared the goggles and got them back on my face, I thanked the lifeguard and continued on to the second white bouy. Somehow, it looked much further away than I imagined but I kept moving forward and eventually made it there. At that point, I knew I was over halfway done with the swim. All I needed to do was make it back to shore, but I was running out of energy and it wouldn't be easy.
One of my good friends from college, Levi, happened to be the swim director of the Redman Triathlon. He had told me before the race even started that he was going to make sure I finished the swim. I was doing my best to move forward towards the shore but it was getting more and more difficult. The cramps were starting to come more frequently and my goggles were fogging up again. Suddenly, I heard a voice.
"Chris! Do you need to stop for a second?"
I didn't recognize the voice, and thought it was a lifeguard from earlier who asked me my name when I was resting.
"Yeah, I think so," I said.
I saw a yellow flotation device come out my way and I grabbed on to it, pulling myself towards the boat so I could grab on. I managed to get my goggles off and looking up, I saw Levi. It was an unbelieveable relief to see him, someone I knew, that I knew would help me get back to shore. We chatted for a second and he informed me that there were only about a dozen swimmers left in the lake and that he could be staying with me the rest of the way in to shore. It was a big relief mentally to hear that, as I knew that I would always have a boat there with me in case I needed to stop and I wouldn't need to look around or yell out for a lifeguard.
I continued swimming forward, stopping periodically to catch my breath and clear out my goggles. About 600 meters from the shore, I stopped and talked to Levi.
"I'm having cramps," I said, obvious worry in my voice. "I think I'm okay but I wasn't expecting it."
"You're doing amazing, man. I've already had to pull 7 or 8 people out and you're still going. I told you I was going to get you to the finish and that's what we're going to do," Levi replied.
I shook my head and took off again. A few minutes later, I stopped.
"How far to the shore?" I asked.
"About 500 meters. But, if you keep going straight you'll hit shallow water sooner, and you'll just need to move towards the last bouy, through a small cove, and then to the exit of the water. I don't care if you walk the rest of the way, as long as you don't leave the water then you won't be DQ'd," Levi answered.
"And if you have to bring me in, that's it, right? I'm DQ'd and can't finish the triathlon?"
I shook my head and once again started swimming forward. Levi had to nudge me a few times with his paddle to keep me on course since I kept veering away from the last bouy. I stopped one last time, about 250 meters from the finish. I grabbed the side of the kayak and started to vomit. Just a little came up and I felt a little better, so I started swimming once again. When I had reached what I thought was my limit mentally and physically, I kicked my legs down and was shocked. I hit solid ground. Thankful, I stood up and the water was up to my knees. I stood there for a second, taking a breath and thanking God that I had made it back in. I took off my goggles and reoriented myself. I could see that the last bouy was about 200 meters to my left, so I started moving toward it. I slowly got into deeper and deeper water until I was fully in the cove that Levi told me about earlier and couldn't touch anymore. I somehow found the strength to swim across the cove. My toes finally grazed solid ground and a couple strokes later I was able to stand up again. I took about 5 steps and vomited everywhere in the water.
"You know, it's funny," I said to Levi. "It's the worst feeling when you need to vomit, but as soon as you do you feel much better."
I walked my way past the last bouy and onto the shore. I was the last person out of the lake, but I managed to make it. I crossed the timing mat - 2 hours, 4 minutes, 59 seconds.
Part 3: The Bike
Levi walked with me all the way to the transition area.
"Thank you for being there for me and helping me make it back in," I said, hugging him. "And remind me to never to do this again."
"You're welcome," Levi replied while lauging.
I went into the transition area and grabbed my bag, then to the changing tent to change into my shirt and bike shorts. I ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that I had brought with me, took a few drinks of Gatorade, and grabbed my bike. I walked it to the start of the bike course and hopped on. There were a lot of people there cheering me on, which was awesome. I took off on the bike, riding around the Lake Hefner dam. As I got to the end of the dam and to the first water station, there were already a few riders coming back in from their bike which was astounding to me. I grabbed a Gatorade from the water station, took a drink, then put it into my bottle holder. Coming off the dam, I turned north on MacArthur. Surprisingly, I felt really good on the bike. Depite how long I was in the water and how tired I was when I got out, I think being on solid ground and knowing that I finished the swim and couldn't drown on a bike gave me a lot of confidence. I also said to myself that 56 miles on a bike was kind of overwhelming, so I would think of everything in 10 - 12 mile spurts since that was about how far it was to each aid station.
About 6 miles into the ride, I saw another good friend of mine, Nick, who took this pic of me:
Note how happy I look in that picture, because it wouldn't last.
The ride was great, starting out. I made it to the second aid station where I dismounted, used the bathroom, got more gatorade and something to eat, then took off again. I began passing a lot of riders coming back towards the lake, and that was a nice feeling to be able to see other racers again. I even saw a few people I knew which provided a nice boost. I made it all the way to Waterloo, and turned west towards the halfway point. I made it to the third aid station and once again dismounted and filled up on liquids and food. I mentioned that my legs were feeling a little tired, so they gave me some electrolyte pills which also contain sodium. I took that and hopped back on the bike. A few miles later I was at the turn around and that felt awesome that I had made it to the halfway point of the bike. I started my long road back. About halfway back to the aid station I passed Ryan Ellis going the other way and I could tell that he was elated to see me, and it was good to see him as well. I made it back to within sight of the 3rd aid station and as I was coming up the last hill where the aid station was located, my thighs began to cramp. I was around 29 miles into the ride.
I stopped and got off my bike. The volunteers at the aid station helped me walk to a chair where I was able to sit down and stretch out my legs. I drank more gatorade and took more electrolyte pills. After stretching for a bit my legs felt good once again so I got back on my bike and took off once more. About two miles down the road, I cramped up again. I got off my bike and stretched as best I could. My mantra during the race had been to always move forward no matter what, because as long as I kept moving forward I was getting closer to the finish. I found that walking helped relax my thigh muscles, so I started to walk my bike forward until I got to a downhill, then I got on and coasted down the hill. I was feeling good and managed to get up and over the next few hills with no cramping. I made it back to MacArthur and was able to turn back south towards the lake. l went less than a mile and the cramps started once again. I got off my bike and started walking uphill. Several times throughout this whole ordeal, all the bikers who passed me asked if I was okay and needed assistance. I yelled that it was cramps and I was fine, but it was really cool to know these other athlete's were willing to risk their own time and position to make sure I was okay.
I repeated the cramp/walk process for the next few miles. About 3 miles from the next aid station, a fireman who was volunteering with the event stopped to make sure I was okay. He had Gatorade and water with him, and I happily accepted it. I could tell he was evaluating me to make sure that I could continue on and at one point he mentioned that I looked okay enough to continue, cramps notwithstanding. I thanked him and made my way foward once again. I finally reached aid station number 4 and happily got off my bike to rest and eat and drink. I had also become the talk of the race at that point, apparently, because when I pulled in one of the USAT officials mentioned that he was glad to see that I had made it and even the bike director stopped by to check on me. After I consumed enough fluids and food to fill my stomach, I hopped back on my bike. Turning back west on Covell, I made it about half a mile before the worst cramps of the day hit me. I got off my bike as fast as I could and stood up. My legs were completely locked up and I did a squat to try and stretch them out. I looked down and could see my thigh muscles above my knees moving around on their own, as if I had critters moving around frantically under my skin. I was nearly in tears at this point, screamed out an explitive, and told myself that if saw an official race vehicle I was going to stop because I couldn't go anymore. My legs hurt way too bad, the cramping clearly wasn't going to stop, and I had lost all hope of making it back to the lake on my own.
I didn't want to stop. I thought a lot about it as I was walking my bike. I knew that no one would be disappointed or think less of me. I had already accomplished so much in the last year, had a hard time training because of the heat this summer, and had been injured just a few weeks before in a bad bike wreck. I also knew that those were all excuses for my short comings. I knew that while everyone else might not think less of me, I would think less of me. I would be mad at myself for not training harder and giving up.
I pressed forward, mile after mile. I adopted a method of coasting downhill and walking uphill so as to do my best to avoid cramps. I was getting really irritated that I hadn't seen an official vehicle. About a mile after turning back south on Council, my friend and coworker Travis came up behind me on the bike. He rode with me for a while and I was in so much pain that I don't really remember what we talked about. I know I told him about the cramps and I might have even told him about my plans to quit. We rode together for a quarter mile or so, then he took off. About 2 miles from aid station 5, I ran out of both water and Gatorade. I was feeling my lowest of the race so far. I had forgotten that there was an aid station between the last one I was at and the lake, and when I crested a hill and saw a couple of white tents and the volunteers in their green shirts I couldn't believe that I had made it to another aid station. I pushed forward and pulled in the station, getting off my bike with cramps once again. I explained my situation and they put me in the shade of the tent and told me to drink more Gatorade and suck on pretzels so I could get more sodium in me. It lucked out that one of the volunteers at the aid station happened to be a bicyclist himself and was able to give me some great pointers and encourage me that the last little bit I was on was not as hilly as the rest of the course. After resting and replinishing my fluids not only in me but in my bottle cages on my bike, I thanked him and pressed forward. 10 miles left.
Using the tips the volunteer gave me, I managed to have a pretty good ride back into the city. The hills weren't as bad and for several miles I didn't cramp up at all. I was going pretty slow, but I didn't care at that point. I finally made it to Britton road and turned back east. Just two miles to the lake, 3 miles around the dam, and I would be home free. It was a little after 4:30 at this point and much of the police support was gone. I had to stop at a couple of red lights and wait for them to turn green before I could go through but I was okay with that. I crested one last hill and there is was: Lake Hefner. I was so elated. I coasted down the hill, through the intersection, and up the last hill I would ride to get back on the dam. I was halfway up the hill and the cramps returned. I got off my bike and my thighs were cramped so tight that I could hardly stand up. I did this weird waddle/walk up the rest of the hill to the aid station. I repeated the process I had done at the last aid station, drinking Gatorade, sucking on pretzels, and taking in electrolyte pills. After resting for about 10 minutes, I stood up and my legs felt surprisingly good. I once again remounted by bike and began making my way around the Lake Hefner dam. I got about 150 meters from the finish of the bike, and my legs cramped one more time. I got off my bike, sucked down more Gatorade, and resigned myself to the fact that I was done with the bike. I walked it in the rest of the way.
Just before I made it to the finish of the bike, I saw the race director, David Wood. He smiled and said he was glad to see me. I explained to him that I had been cramping the last 20 miles and I was in miserable condition.
"Are you gonna do the run?" David asked.
"I have to," I said.
He patted me on the back, told me good job, and I went forward to cross the timing mat - 7 hours, 20 minutes , 48 seconds.
Part 4: The Run
I had nothing left in me. My legs were toast, I was dehydrated, and had no energy left. But I had been through so much at that point, I absolutely refused to give up. I racked my bike, grabbed my bag, and went to the changing tent. I got out of my bike shorts and put on my running shorts. I took my bag back to my bike, sat it down, then started for the run portion of the Redman Triathlon.
I knew I was going to be slow and I knew I was probably going to have to walk most of the 13.1 miles I had left to go, so I did just that. I began walking and although I was exausted it felt good for my legs to be doing something different other than pedaling a bicycle. It also felt good to be around other people and other racers. Everyone on the course, spectators and athletes alike, were very supportive, calling out my name, clapping, and encouraging me to move forward. I got about half a mile and and decided I was going to try and jog to see how it felt. I made it about 10 yards before my thighs once again started to cramp, so I stopped that immediately and started walking again. It was the last time I would attempt to do anything other than walk.
The sun was slowly moving towards the horizon and I knew that any hopes I had of finishing before dark were gone. I kept going. One foot in front of the other. One foot in front of the other. One foot in front of the other. I saw some familiar faces on the run. I saw Ryan and Travis who were both elated to see me. I found out later they were worried that I wasn't going to make it that far since I was in such dire straights on the bike. I plodded my way forward, stopping at all the aid stations for water and food. Fortunately, they had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at most of the aid stations so I was able to get some good food in me which I really needed. I kept going, first one mile, then two, then three and the halfway point of the first loop. I made it that far, all I needed to do was go back, then one more loop, and I was done.
Around mile 4, I got an unexpected sight. My sister-in-law April was waiting for me. She had come out with my wife to watch me finish the race and they were both worried about me, so April said she could go check on me and help walk with me to keep me going. Seeing her gave me a large boost of energy and I was able to pick up my walking pace. I made it back to the turn around and waiting for me was my wife. It was an amazing sight to see her. I just remember giving her a huge hug over the fence marking the course and kissing her. She took a couple of pictures, gave me more words of encouragement, and off I went on my last loop. 6.5 miles to go.
April met back up with me and we kept walking. The sun was setting by that point and it really was a beautiful sight to see over the lake. My energy level and confidence were slipping away with each step and we got to a point where I wasn't talking much, just walking forward. One foot in front of the other. One foot in front of the other. One foot in front of the other. My legs were really tightening up around mile 8 or 9 and it was becoming harder and harder to keep them moving. I knew there was a medical tent at the turn-around point and I was praying they would have some Icy Hot or Biofreeze or something that I could put on my legs to help them feel better. We made it to the medical tent and fortunately, they did actually have some Biofreeze.
"I don't know how I've made it this far," I said to the medic, then explained about all the cramping from the bike. "I don't know what's moving me forward. There was nothing left when I started this walk."
"Except 13.1 miles," came the medic's reply.
"You're right," I said, my voice cracking and tears welling in my eyes.
The medic at the tent put the Biofreeze on my thighs and as I started walking again I could feel the muscles somewhat loosen.
"I have to tell you something," I said to April as we were making our way around Stars and Stripes Park.
"Sure, what is it?" She asked.
"God is good."
"All the time."
"I mean it, though. At the beginning of today, I prayed to have strength and speed for the ability to just finish the race today. Every time I was at my lowest point and thought I couldn't go anymore, He sent someone to me to help me through. Levi was there when I needed him during the swim. I didn't see an official race vehicle when I wanted to quit during the bike. Then you found me during the run, and you're helping me make it to the end. It's amazing when you think about it, but I really feel all those things happened and God made those things happen when I needed it the most."
We crossed the timing mat at the halfway point of the run and began the last 3 miles back to the finish line. I had begun moving even slower at that point, but remained with my mantra: One foot in front of the other. One foot in front of the other. One foot in front of the other. I saw another good friend of mine, Chris Berry, manning the YMCA tent. I couldn't stop to talk because I just needed to keep moving forward but we did talk for a couple minutes as I walked by and it was good to see him.
About 2 miles from the finish, my mind really began playing tricks on me. I was so utterly exausted that I could hardly talk. I just somehow kept walking and following the signs as best I could. 1 mile left and I could see the finish line. That gave me a slight boost. I rounded the corner to head in for the last .2 miles. The spectators that were left were cheering me on. I was so exausted at that point that all I could do was lift my arm halfway and give a thumbs up and a weak smile. I told April to go get my wife, Carrie. She ran ahead to go get her and wait for me at the finish line.
Then, there it was. The chute to the finish. I walked in, slowly moving one foot in front of the other. I could hear the announcer say my name and my thank you's to Ryan, Steve, and Carrie. I began to cry. The Finish line moved closer. People were cheering and I was moving. One foot in front of the other. One foot in front of the other. One foot in front of the other. Thirty seconds later, I crossed myself, walked under the finish line banner, and heard the timing mat beep for the last time - 5 hours, 23 minutes, 40 seconds.
Part 5: Post Race
My official time was 15 hours, 14 minutes, and 37 seconds.
I crossed the finish line and went straight to my wife. We gave each other a huge hug and through sobs she told me how proud she was of me. I told her I loved her and that I needed medical attention.
I was taken to the finishing area where I received my finisher medal and then back to the medical tent. I explained that my body felt pretty good other than my thighs which were toast. Once again, I explained the cramping situation. I was helped over to a chair and somehow managed to sit down despite my legs not wanting to bend at all. They took my vitals and decided that I needed an IV. The nurse who gave me the IV had a hard time finding a vein and ended up sticking me and missing veins in both of my arms. Finally, another nurse came over to assist and he managed to find a vein and get the IV started.
For the next two hours, I sat in the medical tent with my wife and sister-in-law. We talked when I felt like it and I drank a couple of cartons of chocolate milk. As I was gradually rehydrated I started feeling better and better, I became more talkative, and my apetite came back. They ended up putting 3 liters of water into me and I probably could have taken a fourth but since I was able to pee they knew that I was rehydrated enough to leave. We went to the transition area and I picked up my bike and my gear and I walked with Carrie to our cars so we could go home.
Once I made it home, I ate some food and passed out. The nurses told me to elevate my legs if possible with some pillows underneath them, so when I went to bed I did just that. I thought the legs under the pillow would last until I rolled over for the first time then it wouldn't matter. I woke up 6 hours later and I hadn't moved a muscle.
Believe it or not, the next day we went to the State Fair. I know that sounds just this side of crazy, but it actually helped a lot. I was told I needed to take a walk anyway so my muscles didn't seize up on me, and by the time we left the fair my legs felt a lot better than I thought they could or would.
Part 6: Thanks You's and Final Thoughts
I'd like to take some time to say thank you to some people that helped me achieve this amazing accomplishment both before and during the race:
My wife, Carrie: She has been my biggest fan and supporter since I first made the decision to lose weight and turn my life around last year. She put up with my crazy hours training, came and rescued me a couple times when I was out in the heat just a little too long, and has in general put up with me entering these crazy events. She's always there at the finish line to take a picture and is the first person I look for when I finish a race. She showed up at the Redman about 3pm thinking I would be finishing soon. We didn't leave the lake until 12:30 that night. She waited for and with me for 9 1/2 hours. That's love and dedication, and I love her for it.
My sister-in-law, April: April was a Godsend during the walk. I had some dark moments in the 13.1 miles and without her there with me to keep encouraging me and pushing me forward, there's a very real possibility that I might have just sat down and quit.
Ryan Ellis: Ryan was my trainer for the Redman Triathlon. He imparted all of his knowledge about triathlons to me, helping me with a training plan, teaching me how to swim, helping me find a road bike that I could use, and supporting me from day one. I litterally could have done none of what I did on Saturday without Ryan's help and I will be forever greatful to him for all that he did. I asked him once if he ever had anyone he trained not finish a race. He told me that he hadn't, and I'm thrilled that I wasn't his first.
Steve Schlegel: Steve is the owner of Schlegel Bicycles at 9th & Broadway in downtown OKC. He didn't even know me when he first agreed to let me borrow a bike from his shop so I could train for this race. Since then, we have talked several times and I feel I have a new friend and someone to look for at races. He was also kind enough to offer to let me keep the bike to continue my training as long as I'd like. I can't say enough about how awesome Steve is and I sincerely encourage you to check out his shop if you're interested in biking or triathlons. The people that work there also compete and volunteer in many of the races around town and their knowledge is invaluable.
David Wood: David is the race director for the Redman Triathlon. He was instrumental in allowing Clear Channel and myself be a part of the event. He was also willing to answer all of my questions, no matter how mundane, before the race and he ran an amazing event. I'm blessed to know him and am looking forward to seeing him at many more events around the city. On that note, I also want to shout out to his wife Peggy who found me in the medical tent and talked me through what was going on, and reassuring me when the IV was giving me the shakes. I had met Peggy at the Lighthouse Triathlon a couple months ago and it was wonderful to have a face I recognized with me at a time I was a little scared my legs might not ever work again.
Travis Beams: Travis is an account executive here at Clear Channel and the one that got me and another one of our AE's, John Pitt, into this whole thing. He saw something in me quite a while back when I was starting out losing weight and especially after I finished the Memorial 1/2 Marathon. He encouraged me to sign up for the event and introduced me to Ryan Ellis. He always offered to let me join him on early morning runs and bike rides even though I never did, and he was a big source of encouragement during the race. He's one of the biggest reasons that today I can call myself a half-iron-distance triathlete.
Levi Graves: As I mentioned in the swim portion of this epic tale, Levi is a good friend and also the director of the swim portion of the race. Had he not been with me that last 900 meters or so, there's a very real possibility that I may not have finished at all. He encouraged me and wouldn't let me give up even when he could probably tell that I wanted to. He also took that awesome pic of me in the water!
The volunteers: I've done enough races at this point to know that no matter how big or small the event, none of it happens without the help of all the amazing volunteers who give up a few hours, a day, or even weeks and months of their time to make these happen. If not for all of the volunteers at the bike stops, there is no way I would have ever made it back to the lake under my own power. I can't begin to say how grateful I am for all their knowledge and help on Saturday.
The athletes: Never before have I been around a more supportive group of people. Wheter it was us calming our nerves before the race started, giving thumbs up and encouragement on the bike, or calling out each other's names and telling each other good job on the run, the athlete's on Saturday were nothing short of amazing. I am in awe of each and every one of them for their accomplishments and thank them for taking the time to check on me during the bike and encouraging me to finish the run.
The medical staff: The medical staff was amazing. They were completely on top of everything and made sure that everyone was well taken care of both during and after the race. I know for a fact that two doctors and at least eight nurses were checking on me constantly after the race and they're a huge reason I wasn't near as worried as I probably should have been when it was all said and done.
In the end, I learned a lot about myself. I learned the true meaning of mental toughness and never giving up. Without a doubt, I had a few dark times during the race when I had to truly look inside myself and decide if I could or even should continue on. I knew I didn't ever want to give up, but everything in my mind and body was telling me that I needed to do just that: give up. But I didn't. I learned that the body can do so much more than the mind thinks it can and I am forever a changed person because of what I have accomplished. No matter what happens from this day forward, I can always say that I swam 1.2 miles, biked 56 miles, and walked 13.1 miles. 70.3 miles in one day, a day I'll never forget.
I am a Redman!