10:00PM - The Finish Line
The level of excitement at the Finish Line is unbelievable. Throngs of people are pressed against the finish schute barriers on either side. Because it is now dark outside, and I'd fiddled with my camera settings (Bad idea - never mess with your equipment on Race Day!), my Finish Area photo is really blurry. In hindsight, this is probably pretty close to the way it appears to the athletes as they approach. Ford Motors is the primary sponsor, so there is a car on a big platform to the left, bearing an Ironman logo on its hood. Everything is lighted, making the effect even more surreal. The cheering and noisemakers go full tilt every time a new participant enters the finish schute to run those last 50 yards. Many run it with their children, or other family members. And many do NOT run by this time!
The Finish is an exhilarating and highly emotional experience for the athletes and the fans. I could not have been more proud of each of my friends in that moment. Chris has not stopped smiling since - it is as if he will burst. Finish time: 13:54:51.
Jerald jokes about the fact that he is a shorter-than-average man at times. As he entered the Finish schute, he was right in front of us. He jumped about three feet in the air and pumped his fist. As he jumped a beam of light illuminated his face. His smile was so wide I thought his face would crack. In that moment, he was 10' tall. Finish time: 14:53:18.
Jesus had a large contingent of family members there. He was completely surrounded and engulfed in hugs. Finish time: 15:41:29
We were expecting to see Renee between 14-15 hours. As the 15-hour mark came and went, we started to become a little anxious. Her boyfriend, Nick, was at the Finish with Nissa and me. Though he didn't say anything, I could see by his face that he was worried. He leaned over the barricades to get a better view of the incoming finishers, still no Renee. By 15:15 he couldn't take it any longer. Turning to me he said, I'm going out on the course to find her. I'll call you. Enthusiastically I nodded and off he went.
Ten minutes later the phone rang. Nick had found Renee at mile 24. She'd had some problems and had to stop and walk some, but was running now and estimated to be about 20 minutes from the Finish. Whew...that was the news were were hoping to hear.
Sure enough, Renee arrived as predicted. I've never been so happy to see someone finish a race. Screaming like banshees we sent her home, racing to meet her when she emerged from the finishers area on the other side of the Line. Finish time: 15:38:22.
Renee was absolutely overtaken by the enormity of her accomplishment, the tears streamed down her face. Later, on the phone with her brother, she said that she was, "...crying because she was happy, crying because every part of her body hurt, crying because she was overwhelmed by what she'd just done, and crying because she had nothing left.'
How many of us have ever really pushed to that physical edge in which there is no more to give? Relatively few ever will, but these people did. And I will forever be awed and inspired by seeing them do it.
I was astonished, amazed and incredibly proud of my former teammates. They showed a level of determination, commitment and fortitude that is truly rare.