Ironman 70.3 was one of the most emotional weekends of my entire life. So many highs and lows.
If you know anything about JG3 Fitness or myself, you know we do things big and we do them as a group. It’s just how I feel moments are meant to be spent. Friday started off with my family pulling a camper down to Delaware State Park with Cortney, Kyle and Lex following. We got down and set up the camp site to be joined later in the day by the Lunsford’s, Aaron and Christina Rodriguez and Lisa Kramer. My brother and sister and law’s and their families were down in a different area of the campground too. The day’s mission was just to eat and relax. We went to the beach and just got as prepared as possible. That night we were chilling around the fire eating, when raccoons galore showed up. We had been warned about this but didn’t realize how quickly they would show up so we learned to put our food away a lot sooner in the night.
Saturday was my daughter’s eighth birthday and the plan was to get our athlete stuff out of the way so we could enjoy the night. This is the first time I let creep into my brain how big of an event this was. The bike racks, the expo, the rules, it was all overwhelming at first. We wrapped up with everything and had a huge BBQ for my daughter’s birthday. The coolest part of doing an event like this, a lot of the same people were invested in enjoying my daughter’s birthday. So we ate a ton of food, relaxed and enjoyed the little moments. Then we crashed really early. Side note: Jason Dunfee had showed up and asked to sleep in our camper.
3:30 AM, some dipshit’s (yes Jason, I’m fucking talking to you) alarm went off and it was time to get up I guess. We ate our prepared oatmeal bowls from CR Juices and chit chatted. Walked to the shower area to get the first of many “nervous shits” out of our system. Kyle made a friend that he offered to take to the Ironman course with us and we patiently waited to get going. All trying to maintain our composure as the day was here.
We showed up at the swim at roughly 5:30 and headed straight to “Athlete Marking” to get our numbers drawn on us. I made a joke to the guy doing mine that he was going to have to write them over tattoos and he laughed and said good call. Then I heard someone yell “Jay” it was Carey Pemberton. The first emotional high of the day. We all hugged her and chatted with her, handed her our bags. Took “nervous shit” number two and then we headed over to a quieter area to chill before the race. At this point I realized I forgot my chapstick sunscreen and that Carrie Mayle still wasn’t there. I did happen to see Mary Mayle so Carrie was there I just wasn’t going to see her before the event. It was time for emotional moment number two.
I hugged Kyle and Lex and told them to trust their training and they fucking got this (along with some personal shit that is for their ears only). Then I fucking stressed that I couldn’t find Carrie. I had to go to the starting line as I was going to be in the second group of people to go. So that went to an emotional low as I really value myself as a coach, not just an athlete but it was out of my control.
An odd calmness came over me as I stepped up and wiped off my goggles, this was going to be a good day I just knew it. Joe was with me and he would make it so. Then I entered the water…. And got kicked right in the fucking Adam’s apple and swallowed what felt like a gallon of bacteria infested water. I battled not puking and immediately got hit with reality. 2600 people wanted to finish Ironman and they didn’t care if they ran you over to do it. I should’ve seeded myself faster, swam out ahead of people and just got out of the way. You live and learn. I veered off to the side of the course and stayed clear from all but two people. The guy who kicked me… I pulled his ass under me out of frustration. Another guy who ran into me and several women, I ran over him. Other than that the swim was non eventful.
Exiting the water and seeing your loved ones is something that I’m unable to put into words. I thought I was so happy and had to have looked it, they said I looked angry. I guess I hadn’t recovered from getting kicked. It was transition time which meant eat, put socks and shoes on and apply sunscreen before moving to the approved bike area. Then it was bike time.
Holy fuck, I am not good on a bike. Because of my swimming ability, I was able to be out with a lot of the pros for the first part of the bike. They made me feel very inadequate and I had to just ride my own race, I didn’t. Try not to keep up, I did. And don’t do anything stupid, I did again. I went out the first hour in the fastest pace I have ever done by over a mile. I needed to pull my shit together or I was in for a long day. That’s when I hit emotional low, I forgot my salt tablets and started cramping… at mile 30 of the bike. Fuck this was going to be a long day.
In saying that, I kept fighting and kept trying to stay in the game. I kept asking Joe for signs and he would hit me with a head wind that made me want to cry… he didn’t want it to be easy. I just had to keep moving. I was going to get it done, but it would be a battle and slow because quitting wasn’t an option.
Emotional high number three came at the bike to run transition when I saw my family again, this time my kids were there. I was done with the bike and dealing with cramps but seeing my loved ones gave me a boost I couldn’t believe. Racked the bike and put shoes one, applied sunscreen and 13.1 more miles to go.
Starting the run I forced myself to smile for all my friends and family. I pointed to my kids, I smiled at my wife and whoever was standing with her (I apologize as I don’t remember which groups were where). I know I saw the Lunsford’s, England’s and Carey Pemberton at some point too. Christina and Aaron. So many people were there for us. I had to keep moving and look happy, even if Jason was telling them that my pace was off compared to training.
As soon as I could no longer see my family… I walked. I was in hell. Thinking about quitting and something being easy are two different things. There was no fucking way I was quitting, there was no way I was going fast either though. Mile 1, I hit red bull (caffeine for headache) and ice station to cool off. Not a lot to talk about until mile 7 other than a lot of reminding myself to stay in the fight.
Mile 7 I hear, “There’s that sexy ass I’ve been looking for all day!” and a bunch of women saying what? I knew the voice, he was talking to me. Kyle came up and looked insanely good. He picked me up and we ran together for a mile. It was very clear he was in good shape while I needed to pace, he told me that the Carrie and Lex were out of the water and on the bike. Which was a huge emotional high. Then he told me about an accident that unfortunately ended in a death on the course. He told me to finish with him. I told him I needed ice and let him go.
Mile (fuck I don’t know somewhere around 11-12) I get squirted with a water bottle from none other than Mighty Mouse (Carrie Mayle). She asked how I was doing, I mumbled something about clearly being in good shape as everyone keeps catching me. She laughed and asked if we would finish together, I said you are going to have to walk a bit, I have maybe the last mile in me. Then she walked with me. Carrie doesn’t like to walk, she said walking means it doesn’t count… yet she walked with me because we were finishing together. After hitting the last aid station, we ran.
Emotional rollercoaster alert. We are about to enter the stadium to finish and Amanda and her girls were right at the entrance, big high fives and so happy to see. We enter the stadium and it sounded like the loudest thing I have ever heard. Carrie and I both said no sprinting so we casually ran. Then you saw the sea and I mean sea of JG3 in the stands. They were going nuts. Just get to the finish before you lose it. We cross the finish line and I look up (as does Carrie) and just said, “I love you Joe and I miss you buddy this was all for you!” I hug Carrie and tell her I’m proud and then I make a straight path to my wife and kids.
I kiss my wife, my son and my daughter. Then I move on to Carey Pemberton and I did what I’ve dreamt of doing for over five months, I hung the medal on her and gave her a big hug. Then I don’t really know the order of people I went but I just soaked up the moment. Then asked who was tracking Lex, to which everyone was. And we got ready to go ape shit when Lex crossed. Which she did not long after. Which was amazing and I’m so proud.
Debbie, you are my rock and I love you more than I can ever show. Thanks for supporting me and being there the entire weekend. This was as much you as it was me!
Trenton and Skylynn, Daddy loves you so much and hopes you chase your dreams.
Joe Pemberton: This was for you. I miss you everyday bro. I love you.
Carey, Alayna and Taylor Pemberton, you are family. I love you all. This started for your husband/father but I hope you know it will continue for you.
Kyle Tester: You are a different “Bread” I am so proud of you brother. You are an Ironman. The rest I shared privately.
Lex Gedeon: You are far more mentally tough than you ever let on. You are a boss and an IronWOMAN. The rest I shared privately.
Carrie Mayle: You are a pain in my ass, but you are still one of my favorite people in the world. It was an honor crossing the finish line with you. You are an IronWOMAN. The rest I shared privately.
Christina and Aaron Rodriguez. Holy shit did you guys do a lot to prep us for this. Lemony-lytes, oatmeal bowls and so much more. Thank you for everything you did and always do for me.
Lisa Kramer. You helped more than anyone will ever realize. Thank you.
Jason Dunfee. Thanks for waking us up at 3:30 dick. HAHAHA. Thanks for always knowing every little detail of our training so you could communicate what was going on.
Cortney McNair. Thanks for dealing with our asses all weekend. You are a special individual and it’s been a pleasure getting to know you.
The Lunsford’s. Thanks for camping and being there for everyone and especially thanks for the brisket.
The England’s. I know you don’t miss church often. Thanks for the encouraging words and being there because you knew it was important. You guys are awesome.
The Johnson’s. It was awesome knowing you were going to be there. It was even better when I was done and getting to thank you in person.
Amanda. Thanks for coming down and seeing us cross into the stadium.
Magic Mike (Eric Torres): Thanks for being there and the encouraging texts.
To anyone and everyone else that sent me text messages of support: I thank you. I don’t want to risk missing someone because there were so many. Thank you all.
Finally, to all the people who talked shit, said it was impossible, said we didn’t prepare right, said I wasn’t a smart coach, said anything negative or copied my actions for personal gain…. Thanks, your words were needed too.
I can’t doesn’t exist. BOOM.