Since Bryan started competing in triathlons last year, his goal was to eventually qualify for the Ironman World Championships in Kona. So for Christmas last year, all he wanted was to register for Ironman Louisville. Merry Christmas Bryan, you are now registered for Ironman Louisville 2013! Since then he’s been training, and the time had finally come for his first full Ironman.
A week and a half before Ironman Louisville, Bryan got gastroenteritis. It was severe. He couldn’t keep anything in (I’ll spare you the details), solid or liquid for four days. So on the fifth day (Monday the week of his Ironman), I finally convinced him to go to the doctor. I think my exact words were “You can forget about your Ironman next week if you can’t keep fluids or nutrition in your body.” He called his doctor but due to the length of his illness he was told to go to the ER for a fluid IV due to dehydration. At the ER, he was hooked up to a fluid IV and had blood work and a stool sample taken to determine the cause of his gastroenteritis and was sent home after a few hours. The IV really helped him recover. He was rehydrated and finally keeping fluids and nutrition in his body. We hoped it was enough to get him through an Ironman.
That Friday Bryan and his friends drove to Louisville while I was at work, and I met them there that evening. Friday night we went out for dinner and walked around downtown Louisville. Bryan was in good spirits and feeling much better, still not 100% though. Saturday morning while I was running, Bryan had a practice swim, set up his transition area and went for a light run. Afterwards we out to dinner for carb loading and to celebrate Bryan’s birthday!
The next morning Bryan woke at 4:30 a.m. He filled up on oatmeal and fluids while D.J. and I sleepily rolled out of bed. We met up with a group of our friends that were also participating in the Ironman to drive over to the swim start. It was pitch black outside and hundreds of people were lined up for the swim even though it wouldn’t start for at least another hour. The start was a time trial start and on a first come first serve basis. I couldn’t believe how many people had been waiting for hours in the dark. All the athletes were in one line while supporters were in another line across from them. And just like that the line was moving and it was time for Bryan to complete his first Ironman.
It was funny walking along next to him before he jumped into the water. As soon as he got to the dock, he was hard to point out from afar. Everyone looked the same in their swim caps. After he jumped in, we took off for the swim finish and transition zone, knowing we wouldn’t see him until then. We found the perfect spot at the transition zone where we could sit and wait for him to run by.
He said on a good day it would take him 1 hr 15 minutes for the swim and on a bad day 1 hr 45 minutes. I was hoping for the 1 hr 15 minutes. At 75 minutes, I started to get nervous. Was he okay? Did he cramp up? Is he dehydrated? But then at 1:21.42 Bryan was out of the water. He looked solid and even had a smile on his face at one point.
We watched him in the transition zone, but after he exited at the bike out we knew we wouldn’t see him again for about six hours, so we went out to breakfast. I was able to track Bryan on my iPhone app IronTrac. I could see his distance and average pace at each split on the bike course. I could tell he was holding back on the bike. His speed was slower than he had planned. I didn’t know if he was already burnt out after the swim due to his illness just a few days prior or if he was conserving energy. We were able to perch at a good spot at the bike finish to wait for his arrival. After seeing his Tri Loco teammates arrive, it was time for Bryan. But where was he? My phone was being slow to send me his splits and he was at the six hour mark. At 6:17.44 he came rolling into the bike finish with a giant smile on his face and a 17.79 mi/h pace average. He didn’t look tired at all. Some of the riders before him looked to be in so much pain and could barely walk that I didn’t think they would be able to continue with the run, but Bryan looked fresh, reenergized even. It was probably because he just turned 36 while on the bike course!
Now is was time for Bryan to do work. It was time for the run, his strongest leg of the race. Again still worried due to him just coming off an illness, I hoped he wouldn’t burn out during the run. Watching his run splits, he started out strong at a 9:11/mi pace closing the gap on his teammates. He is usually a 7:11/mi marathon runner, but after swimming 2.4 miles and biking 112 miles, it takes a toll on the body. His parents, our friends, and myself decided to wait for Bryan at the 13.1 mile marker (halfway point of the run course).
Based on his run splits, I could tell the fatigue and dehydration was starting to take hold. His splits fluctuated between 9:11/mi and 11:22/mi. Then we saw him! He bypassed his special needs bag and ran over to us for a fist pound and high fives. Again with a giant smile on his face. He looked great. Didn’t look tired and was holding steady. His childhood best friend, jumped onto the course and ran with him for half a mile. It was cute to witness the brotherly love. He told D.J. that he couldn’t feel his legs, but from the smiles on his face no one could tell.
From there we went to 4th Street for the finish. We knew we had about two hours, but we found a spot on a crosswalk overlooking 4th Street. We sat at a table and watched and cheered on other finishers. When it was close to the time Bryan would finish, we went to the finish on the street level to cheer him in. It was so crowded! I had to push and shove my way towards the front of the finishing chute. Some people were really rude and wouldn’t let myself or Connie, Bryan’s mother, near the front to look for Bryan. A couple standing at the front told me to squeeze in by them which was very sweet. They were waiting for their brother/brother-in-law to finish his first Ironman too. After what seemed like forever waiting for Bryan, he finally approached the finish chute! “Bryan Schmidt, You are an Ironman!” the announcer shouted as he crossed at 12:24.12 for his finish time. His marathon time was 4:31.32 with a 10:21/mi average. His division place was 109 out of 308 for M35-39 and overall rank was 724 out of 2349.
I was a proud wifey! I had tears in my eyes. Not only did Bryan finish his first full Ironman, but he did it coming off an illness and it was his 36th Birthday! What a way to bring in his birthday! I greeted him at the finish line with a big box of Lucky Charms and fruit snacks, his favorite.
Watching Bryan compete in the Ironman was inspirational. His months of work finally came full circle. Not once did he have a look of pain or hopelessness on his face. For a full 140.6 miles, he always had a smile and looked to be enjoying himself. It was a sight to see. He was disappointed with his time considering that he was hoping to finish an hour faster. But I told him to not be so hard on himself. The heat was a huge factor, the overall race times were slower for 2013 than the previous four years due to the temperature reaching 90 degrees. He wasn’t fully recovered from the gastroenteritis episode and it was his first full Ironman, so he wasn’t fully sure how to pace himself. He agreed, but was still a little frustrated with his performance. Now that he knows what to expect he plans to do two full Ironman’s in 2014 and two in 2015. He’s hoping that 2015 will be his qualifying year for Kona. I know he can do it and will qualify. And I look forward to being there with him, supporting and cheering him on every step of the way!