So, when last we left our little Leadman adventure, T had just left on his bike. Susan and Joe were kind enough to add baby Austin to their menagerie, so Erin and I headed back down the mountain for some breakfast and then a little rest/regroup at her place. Thanks to the RoadID app (best thing ever, btw!), I could keep an eye on where T was on the course. He seemed to be making good time, which both pleased and worried me. This is a LONG bike ride and overdoing it early on can lead to bad times later on. (Foreshadowing alert… )
I was debating if I should head out to spectate the bike course when I got the following text from the boy: “75 into the bike. My feet hurt. Don’t know how I’m going to make it up Bachelor again.” I texted back that he shouldn’t think about Bachelor, just keep spinning the pedals and he’d be fine, but figured that a little moral support couldn’t hurt. So I hit the road for Sparks Lake, around mile 112 on the course and a good spot in the climb up Bachelor to cheer for someone. I had pretty much just arrived and was contemplating where to set up my camp chair, when I got another text from T: “I can’t. Can you come pick me up?” Unfortunately, cell service is very spotty there, so it wasn’t possible to talk him off the ledge via text, so I got in the car and headed his way (not quite mile 90 of the bike course.)
It took a little longer than I expected to reach him and he was a pitiful sight when I got there: sitting on the curb in his socks. I coaxed him over to the car, where I basically handed him things and made him eat them: pickles, a banana, a bunch of water. Then I put some compression sleeves on his calves and made a deal with him: ride for 15 more minutes and if he still wanted to call it, I’d give him a ride. (The road that I’d just come up was very flat, so I was pretty sure this gamble was going to pay off… ) He reluctantly agreed and headed off.
While all this was going on, I got a text from Susan asking for an ETA on T’s arrival at T2. I texted back a brief synopsis of the situation, to which she promptly replied “I’m on my way!!!” I told her to meet me at Sparks Lake and hit the road after the boy. He made it the initial 15 minutes and announced he was going to give it a go. Khai texted to check on T’s status, so I gave him a heads up on what was going on, so he rallied the group and agreed to meet me at Todd Lake, which is the point where you’re almost done with the last of the big climbing up Bachelor and an apropos place to cheer for the boy.
I waited to see the boy at the 100 mile point, just in case, but he looked good, so I headed off to meet Susan and Joe. As I was driving, I saw that the 110 mile aid station was a better spot for them to wait with the dogs, so I dispatched them to that point and headed to meet up with the rest of the group. While I was waiting, I took a photo for posterity:
Eventually, Susan and Joe met up with me and told me the boy was looking good. Susan apparently went full paparazzi on him because she had seven pictures of him at the aid station during the few minutes he was there. These are two of my favorites:
Given the state of riders on the course, he was doing amazingly well. (I saw two different riders walking their bikes along the road, one of whom was only wearing one shoe, as well as all manner of suffering on the bike.) Khai texted me that the group had decided to go to the mile 120 aid station, so Susan, Joe and I cheered T as he went past and I headed off to join this group of jokers:
With them was the wife and mother of one of the competitors that T was playing leapfrog with, so we got to know them very well. The mom actually lives three blocks away from me, so we bonded over that. The wife was ~six months pregnant and a freakin’ rockstar. Both of them were so awesome, we thoroughly enjoyed cheering with them. Everyone brought a fun, party energy to the proceedings. Moments after arriving, I had a beer in my hand:
There was a lot of this:
David had found a plastic “le” on the shoulder:
So, T quickly got renamed “Le T”, much to everyone’s enjoyment. Finally, we spotted him coming down the hill:
Which set off a flurry of cowbell, attempted beer hand-offs and picture taking:
(God bless that poor volunteer in the yellow shirt. She must have thought we were quite mad.) The rest of the group headed back to town, while Khai and I stopped at strategic points to cheer on T.
This involved judicious amounts of very loud cowbell and shouting of hilarious and/or encouraging things:
We’d heard from our other spectating friends that there was a 7:00 cut-off for the bike and they were right up against that, so I was a little nervous that all of this was about to be for naught. But the boy made it with a few minutes to spare. We heckled him while he was in the change tent, so that probably spurred him onto the run course more than anything else. (Must. Get. Away. From. Fans!) But he left running and smiling, so that was something.
At this point, I met up with Susan and Joe and reacquired Mr. Austin. They wisely decided to head back to the hotel and I told them I’d text when he finished. Erin brought me some delicious chicken and rice when she and the rest of the crew returned and we found a spot to spectate near the finish/start of run loop two. I’d originally planned to go out on the run course, but I decided to wait and see how he looked when he came through. The waiting can be very tough, as anyone who has attended one of my races can attest. Plus, Bend gets very dark at night for being a good-sized place, so I was worried about that. (I’d had Erin & David bring a headlamp to give him, since we hadn’t thought to pack one.)
I had plenty of time to pick up his race bags and pace around. Finally, I just walked out on the course to see if I could spot him and thankfully saw him coming around the bend. I gave him the headlamp and checked in with him. He was doing okay, considering he’d gotten a little lost and run an extra 3/4 of a mile. But he was running fast enough that I was having a hard time keeping up! I opted to let him finish out the second lap on his own, but was having a hard time settling down. The gang went to get some food, so I took Austin for a walk along the run course and milled around the finish line area, chatting with the cheering sections of other late finishers.
While here I got to see one of the guys who’d been behind T on the bike, who I’d been cheering for/chatting with, cut the course with ZERO sense of embarrassment. We saw him come in off the bike after T and I was happy he’d made the cut-off and then he’d basically decided that one loop was enough. I sort of understand that part of it, but then I saw him posing with his race swag in front of his fake finishing time and I had to shake my head. People be special.
I went back to the spot where I’d seen T earlier and was joined by the mom of our co-spectators, Debbie. Their athlete was having a much rougher time and I think he walked the entire course. He’d done three Ironmans before this, so that should give an indication of how tough this race is. We chatted in the dark while we waited for the boys. It was nice to have company. Finally, we saw a headlamp bobbing along and I called T’s name to hear a confirmation. He was definitely tired, but still running. I ran/walked with him for the rest of the way in my compression socks and flip-flops (so fashionable) and then watched him cross the finish line to a small, but mighty group chanting his name.
Moments later, loaded up with a medal, a shiny belt buckle and a beer in his hand, the boy looked dazed but happy:
The next morning was a better representation of his true emotions:
There are no words for how grateful I am to everyone for cheering T on, both in-person and online. Your energy and positive vibes were invaluable and I know much appreciated by the boy. Those things are always appreciated, but I think in this case particularly got T through some tough stuff. And a special shout out to Nerissa and Erik, because this was waiting on the table when we got home:
So. Much. Awesome.