Note: There are no pictures yet but I will post them when it is done....
Pre Race morning:
I set the alarm for 4:15AM and met my buddy Mike for breakfast at 4:30 in the hotel. They opened extra early for the athletes which was nice. We stayed at a hotel that was 1 block from the Ironman village so it was very convenient for the athletes. We ate breakfast, went back to our rooms and got our special needs bags and race nutrition. My nutrition consisted of 5 gel flasks of EFS and 80 ounces of Gatorade that I picked up the night before. The morning was fairly warm and the pre dawn winds were calm. We loaded our transition bags (that we dropped off the day before) with our nutrition, turned on our GPS tracking devices, put our drinks and bike computer on our bikes and got ready to swim. The water temp was between 59 and 60 degrees, since it was a little on the cold side and the swim was going to be over an hour I decided to wear my neoprene swim socks and neoprene cap (wise choice). We said good bye to our families, they took a couple of pictures and it was time to watch the pros start. The morning went really quick and was very busy getting ready so there was no time to get really nervy about what I was about to do. Before we got into the water I got my picture taken with Justin and Mike in addition to Rene and the kids. I could see that my daughter was worried. 2 years ago when I decided to do this Kathyrn and I were watching the IM World Championships on TV. They were showing the people wrecked, bodies not working right, collapses at the finish line, stretchers and IVs everywhere. I look down at Kathryn and she is crying. She looks up at me and says “Daddy, I don’t want you to do that, I don’t want you to hurt like they do. I don’t want you to be in pain” It was so heartbreaking. Before I got into the water I looked at Kathryn and could see she was about to break down again. I told her, “I will be all right Kathryn, you don’t have to worry about me… I promise you I will be fine” Those were the last words to my family before I jumped in the water.
The pros went off at 6:50 and as soon as their cannon sounded everyone made their way to the water. Justin, Mike and I agreed to get on the inside buoy line about 40 yards behind the start line. With 2700 athletes and over 1,000 first timers we thought that it would be a lot busier near the shore line so we took the inside. As soon as I got in the water my goggles lost seal so I swam to a kayak on the inside and adjusted the best I could and then I just tried to relax and not think too much. I have trained sooo much I told myself that when in doubt don’t think and just do. There are many cliché’s in this sport but one of the things that I have heard over and over is that I have trained my body to know what to do through the over 180 miles of swimming, over 5,500 miles over biking and over 1500 miles of running so let it do what it is trained to do and just do it. I talked to a couple of athletes around me and wished them luck. I had my ear plugs in so I couldn’t hear the music and Mike Reilly very well. At this point, I was getting a little nervy, there were swimmers all around me and I was in the middle of it all. Then I heard it… through the noise and the cow bells and spectators and buzz I heard the beginning of the song Ironman by Black Sabbath and this rush of adrenaline came over me and everything focused and my body seemed to “snap to it”. At my half Ironman it was during the pledge of allegiance, this year it was the beginning riffs of Ironman. I will never forget that moment. Then they played Colplay’s Viva la Vida just like last year. Mike Reilly instructed the Kayaks to get out of the way and told the athletes “I WILL SEE YOU AT THE FINISH LINE” and as soon as those words were out of his mouth I heard the faint muffled cannon and the 2010 Ironman was on the clock.
My heart was pumping so hard I mentally tried to calm myself down. I was in the thick of swimmers all trying to do the same thing….find some water and not drown. People getting hit, kicked and just trying to find a place to swim. None of it was malicious but it was still rough. I was “water polo” swimming to start just because it was so hard to find an open spot and I needed to see. I swam this way for probably 50-100 yards and because this is horribly inefficient my heart rate went through the roof just because this is the most difficult way to swim. I kept thinking to myself calm down it will thin out but I was very anaerobic while getting hit and hitting people. At the beginning of the day I knew there were three things that would keep me from going to bed an Ironman. 1) Panic and DNF on the swim (a lot of people do) 2) have a major mechanical problem on the bike that could not be fixed on the course 3) major stomach problems that would keep me from running. At this point in the swim, I had to fight back the panic and keep my head . No major contact until about 300 yards in and I could a full force elbow in the right goggle and it shoved the nose piece of my goggle into the bridge of my nose. I thought for sure I would have a black eye, my right goggle lost seal and the water flooded in. I was seeing stars and it really took a lot to maintain composure. I tried to get a few more strokes in because I knew if I stopped I was going to get run over from behind so I swam like this for a little while until I found some clean water. After several unsuccessful attempts to get my right eye to seal I just dealt with it and swam. After about 500 yards I was able to get into a nice, calm study rhythm and swam up on the group ahead of me and started weaving through them. Although I found a rhythm I was working to keep it and avoid as much contact as possible but there was still a lot of people. I would spot open water and swim to it but unfortunately there were so many people they would see the same water and do the same thing. Finally about 1500 yards in it really opened up and I was able to just swim at my pace, long and smooth. At this point I had totally given up trying to get the water out of my right goggle, my left was still clear so I just sighted with my left eye. I could see the second bridge and sited on the 2nd span and swam to it. I could tell by how fast I was moving through the bridge piers it seemed like I was making pretty good time but really it had already felt like I had been out there for awhile. I rounded the turn buoys and it got really crowded again. I navigated through some people and focused on being long and efficient as possible. My temperature was good and with the exception of my goggle I was doing well. I passed under the farthest bridge from the start on my way back in and spotted on (what I thought) was a buoy ahead. It was getting more difficult to see but I kept swimming. I swam like this for a good 20 minutes only to realize there was NO ONE around me. I sat up and realized I was about 100 yards off course to the inside of the return buoy line… I was sighting on the wrong buoy so I sat up, looked at what bridge span everyone was swimming for in the distance and started sighting on the opening and instead of swimming at 90 degrees I just started swimming towards the pier in the distance. After I got my bearings my calves started to cramp up. Nothing major just a little cramping when I would point my toes, nothing bad enough where I had to stop and stretch them, I just kept swimming. Once I made the piers, I was in the final couple hundred yards, rounded the last turn buoy and got to the stairs, a volunteer told me to put my foot on the step and he pulled me up. As I came out of the water, Mike Reilly said into the microphone Tracy Butler finished the Ironman swim in 1:21. A wetsuit stripper helped me get my suit off and off to T1. I saw the family, they yelled, I gave a fist pump and a big smile and WOOOT and now to get on the bike.
T1: T1 was a mad house, there what seemed to be 500 people all changing for the bike. I couldn’t get near the changing tent so I changed outside along with many others. Got everything on, threw my swim stuff in my T1 bag, borrowed a towel from another athlete to get all of the grass and mud off my feet, threw my bag in a pile and was off. Grabbed my bike and made the long run to the mount line.
The day was pretty overcast but by this time I would guess the temp was in the mid 50s. The arm warmers and cycling gloves felt good and I wasn’t super cold. I headed out past Arizona State University and purposely held back on the bike. There was a lot of bike traffic so as Doug Bristow told me, bike like you are bored and I tried to do so the best I could. With a tail wind that was easy to do and for the first 18 miles it was take in a lot of water and start my nutrition. I get to the turn around and the wind was really picking up. My speed on the way out was over 22 MPH but as soon as I turned around my speed dropped to 15-17. The weather still wasn’t bad but the wind was picking up. On my way back into town I saw something amazing on the bike. There was a guy wearing an Army cycling jersey and as I rode up on him I realized that he only had 1 leg. His right leg was amputated at the hip and I am assuming there wasn’t enough leg to attach a prosthetic so he had nothing. He had his left leg clipped in the pedals and was balancing on his seat with nothing on the right side to keep him steady. I have no idea how he kept his balance in that wind with only one leg. As I passed him I told him to “keep it up Army” and he gave me a thumbs up. Throughout the day I was constantly amazed by the fellow athletes. I saw a 61 year old woman with no leg below her knee DOING AND IRONAMAN. I was constantly amazed what some people can do. The second loop the wind was blowing constant and it started to rain. As I made it to the turn around for the second time the wind was really bad. About 5 minutes after that, the wind really picked up and it started hailing. The hail was coming in directly on the line I was riding so I could see it coming up the road. It was hard to tell what it was at first but I could see cyclists in front of me “hunker down” as the hail got to them. It came like a wave and the next thing I knew is that it was on me. Bikes were getting blown all around and the head wind was so strong I was lucky to be doing 10 MPH. Hail was coming in between my sun glasses and my forehead hitting me in the eyes and I was just focusing on keeping my bike straight. When the hail passed it was raining all the way into town. I couldn’t wait for the turn around so I could get a break from the wind. The third loop was more of the same and I focused on just getting through it. If I made it through the bike I knew I would make it through the run. As I rode into the bike finish chute I looked down to see that I was able to finish in roughly 6 hours and 25 minutes, only about 10-15 minutes behind my goal time. With the wind and the number of crashes because of the wet pavement and wind I was very pleased to have it done. My nutrition was good and I was able to get it all in without any major stomach problems. I was feeling as good as I could have after the first 2 disciplines.
T2: I found my T2 bag quickly and was able to get into the tent. I grabbed a chair and a lot of people were talking and in good spirits to have the bike over. I really nice volunteer grabbed my bag and dumped It on the ground in front of me. I grabbed everything I needed but I couldn’t find my glide (skin lube) for my toes to keep from blistering. He asked me if I wanted any Vaseline and I told him I would be fine but his response was (it is a long day out there, you better take some) so I did and boy was I glad. The worst pain I had all day was the blisters that I got on the bike due to my wet feet that I didn’t realize that I had them until the run. Without his advice it would have been horrible. I left T2 and was running out when I realized I still had my cycling shorts on I pulled them off and as I ran by Rene I tossed them to her to keep for me. The look on her face was priceless. She told me after the race that the spectators around told her to hide them because I would be penalized if race officials saw me discard clothes to a spectator. I didn’t care, I wasn’t running a marathon in cycling shorts….
The run consisted of 3 loop course around Tempe Town lake. Per my coaches advice I was running with “least effort”. I was feeling really good and for the first loop I was running between 9/9.5 minute miles. I knew it was fast but I figured I would do this as long as I could. I still had my arm warmers from the bike and when the wind was at my back I would pull them down because I got warm. When the wind was in my face I pulled them up. This went on for the entire first loop. The second loop I was starting to slow down a bit and at about 12 miles I found myself running at about the same pace as a guy name Chance. We started talking, it too was his first IM and he asked me my time goal. I told him I would like to finish between 12 and 13 hours. That was his goal too. He and I both were in good spirits so we decided to run the course together, walk through the aid stations to take in nutrition and fluids and run to the next one. He asked me why I was doing this and I told him about Deborah Olney’s battle with Cancer. I asked him the same question and he told me he was doing a fund raiser for a Phoenix Homeless Shelter. In addition, he had 3 of his vertebrae fused together in January. When I asked what his doctor thought about him doing an Ironman he shared with me his Dr. was a triathlete as well so I guess the goal is to find the right doctor . As we ran through Tempe town park I saw Rene, Jes (my buddies wife) and the kids. They yelled to me (1 more loop, you got this) and that is when it really started to hit me that I was going to bed and IRONMAN. The last loop flew by. Chance and I talked the entire time, walking the aid stops and running between them. My left toes were pretty raw and my legs were sore but I was feeling pretty good. We come up on the three miles to go mark and this surge of adrenalin came over me and it was almost overwhelming. I pictured what it would feel like running down the chute knowing I had just reached my goal and if it would be everything that I had pictured countless times. We skipped the last two stops and just ran like it was the start of the race. As we entered the park where all of the spectators were everyone could tell we were on the home stretch. We got several “great pace” or “you guys look strong” As we approached the turn for the finishers chute, I told Chance to “go get his pay day, I would catch up with him on the other side of the finish line once I talked to my family”. As I rounded the final corner I hear from my left TRACY and turned to see my family. I stopped and ran back to them, hugged and kissed Rene, bent down and looked Kathryn and Nathan in the eyes. I looked at Kathryn and told her “I told you I would be all right, you don’t have to worry anymore” I looked at both and told them and yelled “YOUR DAD IS AN IRONMAN. Then I turned and started a slow, purposeful jog down the finishing chute. The chute was probably 75 - 100 yards long and the crowd was enormous. Everyone was going crazy, I was pumping my fist and high fiving everyone that had a hand out. I didn’t even look at the clock, I knew I was well under 13 hours. As I crossed the finish line I heard Mike Reilly say my name and saw the two cameras click capturing the moment. I got my finishing medal, finishing hat and shirt. Got my finisher picture taken and immediately saw Rene and the kids. Hugged them, then went to find my buddy Mike and his family. Rene and Jes went to pickup my bike and transition bags while Mike and I just sat and tried to stay warm. Unfortunately, I never saw Chance to bid him well.
We walked back to the hotel, I sat in an Epsom salt bath, made a few phone calls and ordered a big fat cheeseburger and fries from room service. I could barely eat 1/3rd of it. Then went to bed.
General interesting things about the weekend:
My other buddy Justin was trying to qualify for Kona. He is super fast and on his drive in from Albuquerque he hears a loud thump from the roof of his car during a wind gust only to look in his rear view mirror to see his bike fly off the roof of his car and land in the interstate. He swerved off the side of the side of the road, ran out in traffic and almost gets hit by a car to grab his bike. His carbon frame was cracked and the only thing holding it together was his drink cage. Mike and I got word and started calling around to local bike shops. Tribe in Scottsdale said they were open til 7pm and to have him come by and “they would take care of him”. For a couple hundred dollars that build him a new bike using whatever spare parts they could from his mangled Isaac. He picked up his bike with literally less than an hour to get it checked in on Saturday. He rode 1 mile on this bike before posting a 5:04 bike split (really fast). He missed a Kona slot by 3 people but had a PR by over a 1 hour and 10 minutes.
I don’t even know where to begin. I had no idea so many people were interested or even cared but the outpouring of support was unbelievable. So many people watched me cross the finish line live on the web. Rene tells me as soon as I did her phone went crazy with facebook updates, emails, phone calls etc… I read every message that night before going to bed and it was very humbling to find out how many people really cared. I can’t put it into words how much it meant to not only me but my family. I have to believe that I had such a great race because of the support, prayers, and good Mojo from back home. You all are Truly unbelievable.
I bought each of my kids Ironman watches a few weeks ago and after the race I presented them to them with the message of thanks for being so great with me being gone so much over the past several months. In addition, I told them that the watches signify that they can do anything they put their mind to if they want it bad enough.
As most of you know, a major part of my inspiration was and is Deborah Olney. During the tough times of the race I just kept telling myself that Deborah couldn’t stop fighting her recovery from cancer and what I was facing was insignificant to what she has faced and was facing. The progress she has made and the determination that she shows every day is exponentially more than my Ironman. On the Saturday before the race, I spoke to my best friend Matt who called to wish me luck but also to tell me his son Tyson was in the hospital with a staph infection and a heart valve problem. He was very weak due to the infection, to the point of having to use a wheelchair. They are going to get the infection under control and after the first of the year he is going to have to have surgery on his heart. He sounded more down than I have ever heard him and he said Tyson’s “light was pretty dim” right now and his spirits were down in the dumps. I told him to tell his son I would dedicate the last 6 miles to him and those miles I would think of him for my inspiration to finish. The Ironman may have been dedicated to Deborah but the last 6 were to him. As I pushed the last 6 in the home stretch I thought of what he was going through and what I once thought was a big deal is again, really insignificant. Tysen’s prognosis is good and the antibiotics are helping the infection but the holidays are going to be rough and he may be in the hospital for awhile.
What I personally take away from this is challenges are relative but how you choose to deal with them are not. You can complain or feel sorry for the situation or you can raise your chin, see the silver lining and do your best just like Deborah, Barton’s, and countless other families who don’t choose to take on challenges but who take on challenges because they get dealt a blow that THEY HAVE TO DEAL WITH. There were people out there complaining about the wind or the suffering or there were those of us that smiled and knew that we were lucky because we could compete that day. As one racer put it, we earned our M-dot that day with a day. The thing I will always remind myself of is that it was miserable at times but the pain and suffering was by choice and insignificant by those standards that really matter.
BTW…. I looked up Chance’s blog later that night because I couldn’t find him after the race. He told me about his surgery but what he didn’t tell me was that it was actually his 3rd surgery and he was told he would never walk again. Not only did he overcome major surgery, not only was he and Ironman and did his Ironman for a great cause but he was a humble one at that. Everyone out there has a story and every single person I met this weekend was more inspirational than the next. I will do this again if for no other reason than as a reminder of what is possible and it was very inspirational for me.
Lastly, the same message that I started with, that I have shared with my kids is the same message I will share with you. I didn’t start this as a super fit person. I was in HORRIBLE shape. When other triathletes ask me “what discipline did you bring to the sport, swimming, biking, or running” I laugh and say none of them… my gift is “Hard Headedness”. That has not changed. I once heard someone say that “if you want to see what you’re made of, commit to an Ironman. You will know if you are a fighter or not.” Those words are true. It is hard but everything worthwhile is. What is even harder is committing to something that you are not sure you can do and then telling people you are going to do it with the hope you have what it takes to live up to your words. I will be changed forever by this experience not unlike marrying the man or woman of your dreams, graduating college, or having your children. This has been a life altering experience and it is one you can choose to undertake but the first step is choosing to undertake it. Anyone can do anything if you want it bad enough. Find something you want bad enough and go for it. I PROMISE YOU, YOU WILL BE HAPPY YOU DID!
Thanks for reading and the support