What would it take to motivate someone to complete 70.3 miles in under nine hours swimming, biking and running? Probably as many reasons and motivations as there are participants. This day was an emotionally lifting journey to see and encourage athletes from all walks of life who set a goal and make it!
We were there with family and Marilyn's great friends to cheer her in her second half Ironman. She attempted and completed her first one last year.
She trains most of a year for this day, draws on support, prayers and her own amazing courage deep down to do this great challenge. Seeing her jump off the dock into the choppy Offats Bayou in a group with other brave souls, set the level of excitement high; we didn't know how intense and rewarding this day would be.
The swim: 1.2 mile stretch across the bay is marked by many large yellow and orange buoys with volunteers in kayaks and other crafts to keep swimmers on course.
We watched the progress from the water's edge. Many swimmers came out dazed and needed a few moments to steady their sea legs, others were out strong, celebrating first of three tasks completed.
Then to run down the gauntlet of cheering supporters, strip off the wet suits and transition to the bikes while the clock is ticking.
We cheered her on her way, and off to Sunday Mass at St Patrick's, prayed for safety, success and good weather. The forecast had predicted 100% chance of thunderstorms all weekend. We just had occasional sprinkles. We ate lunch, ran some errands on the island, played at the beach, then back to Moody hoping to see her transition off the bike. Marilyn had improved her time over last year and was already running when we met up with her cheering section.
Last year, we stayed at the state park off the bike route and cheered Marilyn and bikers from the side of the road. It's a quick and exciting exchange and a little hard to tell the riders apart until they are right by you and then quickly gone. We cheered, they'd yell back. This year, we couldn't get past the traffic baracades to cheer on the bikes. We really enjoyed cheering the runners.
13.1 miles laced in and out around the grounds of Moody Gardens.
Sabrina and Michael had a spot where we could catch her pass three directions. I sat by Sabrina with her cheerful voice calling out the names of the runners. I hasn't noticed their names under their bib number, and thought she knew an awful lot of them.
Nicholas was inspired! His happy smile and awesome enthusiasm greeted each runner with an energetic high five as they passed him by. He said he wanted each one to think he was cheering them on individually. Later many runners thanked "Captain America" (his Tshirt) for his support.
We felt attachments to so many participants now that we knew their names and cheered them on many passes, and were thrilled to see many of them cross the finish line. I had goose bumps and tears in my eyes in happiness for their achievements!