From this side of the finish line
After a 2nd DNF at Ironman, Texas ... it was time to choose another race. Ironman Arizona became the option. Round 3. 3rd time's a charm. This race will be yours.
But let's keep it a secret. Dang it woman!! Why do friends keep doing this to me!? I love bragging about my friends and athletes!! So for 6 months I kept my lips zipped and sent constant encouragement to my friend Tish. As she conquered the long swims in best times, her long bikes just as she needed, and long runs with minimal aches, pains, and issues, I grew more and more excited; CONFIDENT that IMAZ finish line was in the bag! And not to ruin a good story, but it WAS and she DID!! She FINISHED!!! But let me share her day with you from THIS side of the finish line...
Tish and her boyfriend JG arrived in AZ on Thursday to get all checked in. Tish had previously used Endurance Nation so a travel package was all set up for her. I got to town on Friday and raced straight to see her face. I knew looking into her eyes I would have a feel for her confidence level and "readiness". She was ALL smiles. Cool, calm, and relaxed. I'm sure her head was screaming with anxiety and nerves wound up tighter than a $2 watch! but I felt it, and she knew it: I'm going to be an Ironman.
We grabbed dinner and called it an early night (due to a call complaining of an unreported dog in her hotel room... we have NO idea what that was all about ;) ;) ).
Saturday morning Tish checked in her bike and grabbed a swim while I ran a quick 10k in Tempe. We had lunch and decided on a relaxing afternoon in the movie theater. Waiting for the movie, we had a beer at Bear's Brewery (a dog lovers bar and grill ~how perfect!!). We settled in with popcorn and watched The Martian. SUCH A GOOD MOVIE!! I was so impressed; the movie felt real. I mean, that totally happened, right!?
I cooked dinner at my mom's house for all of us while they got acquainted with my stepdad, Bob. Grilled chicken, rice, veggies, salad, bread, and corn on the cob ~perfect pre-race meal!! Now GO TO BED!!
First thing Sunday morning, I picked them up at their hotel and we headed for race site. Having done IMAZ in 2014 and volunteering in 2013, I knew the area well. We parked in PRIME location and got Tish down to transition for set up and ultimately swim start. We found a private area of the park with picnic tables and waited calmly for start. While putting on her wetsuit, Tish pulled a muscle in her back. Seriously woman!? I totally played it down (as did she) but inside my heart was racing. You seriously wait until RACE DAY to hurt yourself!! I was SO afraid of the bike to run transition with this new little issue. AHH!! I didn't dare say a word though and kept the "shake it off" attitude. We get her over to swim start and wish her off. I started my watch coinciding with her entering the water to better keep up with her. JG and I exit the area with tears in our eyes, still confident for her day.
What do you want to do? We started walking along the Tempe Lake, reading placards. We took some pictures and chatted about the swim. We watched a man try and try and try again before getting pulled out of the water ~heartbreaking. And we walked a bit more. Watching our time, we found an ideal swim exit spot and strategized our next few hours while we waited for Tish to appear. There she is!! She exclaims, "I got kicked in the ribs!!" Ouch! My thought, well maybe it balanced out the pulled back!? We wish her well on the bike with plans to see her in about 30 miles (3 loop course). She yells out to us, "I forgot lube." Ha ha ha!! That's gonna suck later!
"What do you want to do?" BEER and PIZZA! It's 9am and we have our priorities!
Finishing "breakfast" we were able to see Tish twice on the bike coming in from loop 1 and heading out for loop 2. She's all smiles and gives us a thumbs up! Coach kicks in and screams, it's cold, drink water, WATER!! With mild temps, it's easy to forget we still need to stay hydrated.
It's chilly. A bit of a headwind for her going out. And on and off misting rain.
Between loops we need a toilet. Pretty bad. Remember, beer at 9am! And we head back to town for lunch. This time we found tacos. Good grief, we are eating like frat boys! JG!!!
We catch Tish again coming in from loop 2 and heading back out for loop 3. She yells that she feels "fucking fabulous". YES!! (besides her back though). Loop 2 was her strongest and only 1 loop to go.
Loop 3 gets hairy. It's gotten much colder and now it's raining. Pouring. JG and I head to the nearest CVS for rain gear. We're worried that Tish is cold. But no, she likes the colder weather! I bet she's so chafed. I hope her mind is right. She's already passed the hardest miles (80-90). The weather calms down and in no time, Tish is coming back in. She's still smiling and didn't even seem touched by the bad weather. She told us later that it SUCKED and that she used chapstick for lube but everything else was great.
We see her immediately from T2 to the run course. She needs to walk a bit ~her back. I was worried about this (but again, didn't express my concern). My back muscles seize up and it's so unpleasant. I wanted Tish to have a really great experience, not be fussing over pains the entire marathon. The IMAZ course is great for spectating. They do two loops that consist of two (sort of) out and back so we get to see her several times to keep her motivated. YAY! We see her coming easy with her BRIGHT orange shirt and we've discovered who (and each nicknamed) we see before we see her.
So we're back and forth on the course, over the bridge, up and down, waiting and cheering and having fun on the run course with our garbage bag rain gear. It's so cold. But we note that Tish is still sweating and not even a little bit cold. Crazy girl loves this cold crap! She's in great spirits and has no doubt of finishing. She asked me to "math" for her a few times and JG and I had done the math enough times over and over to know she could and would finish in time. And actually, with time to spare. We got down to a 10k + a 5k and she was mostly walking now. Her back was so tight and was feeling something strange with her achilles. IGNORE woman, you HAVE to walk 15min miles to make time. Final 5k. This is it. We knew. She knew. It was all going to happen... We cheered our final bit of motivation and waved, SEE YOU AT THE FINISH LINE!
And now we're waiting at the chute. We start seeing all our people... Ginger, blond happy girl, old guy that sat down beside us, my friend Jenn, SOLO girl, knees and cape, long sleeve orange shirt guy... any minute. I have goosebumps. I have tears in my eyes. I won't tell the world that JG did too ;) But he did. And now we see her. I leave JG to have his moment with Tish and I rush to the stands to record the finish (for her dad and for her later).
She's running. She's all smiles. I know what she's feeling which excited me so much more and still excites me now thinking about it... I made sure to get her attention for the camera and I'm screaming and there are bells ringing and music blaring and CHEEEERS (I have to insert too that this IMAZ finish line was a bit disappointing. But it's because of the weather. It's usually SO packed full of people and just pounding with energy. But the rain and cold really scared people off). LaTisha Collier, you are an IRONMAN. Her arms flew to the sky and I'm certain her breath left her body and tears filled her eyes... I know mine did. And then JG and I rushed to be at her side.
Eyes red and glistening... body exhausted, the pains now revealing themselves... she's okay though. She's fine and okay and so happy.
We got her back to the hotel and exhausted, with somewhere between 21 and 25 miles, so were we. I slept hard. HARD. And woke up early to make sure I got Tish back to Ironman village for some finishers gear. You deserve that jacket woman. DESERVE.
I wish we had time to hike Camelback Mountain while you're here (and post Ironman), but we'll just have to next time. I dropped Tish and JG off at the airport and admit, I drove off in tears. I'm so happy for my friend and I know how bad she wanted that finish. She's already texted me, "I'm ready for my next Ironman." Ha ha ha!! Of course you are!!
Congratulations Ironman Tish.