On Sunday, my husband accomplished an incredible feat. He swam 1.2 miles and cycled 47 miles of a 56 mile bike ride before being pulled off the Austin Iron Man 70.3 race course.
Had you told him 7 years ago that he would even compete in an Iron Man 70.3, he would have laughed and asked the name of the video game to which you were referring.
At that time, my dear husband had lost a significant amount of weight but to many he still appeared to be a rather large guy. He was exercising regularly on an elliptical and a few months into our marriage had tried his hand at a spin class and really liked it.
Fast forward the clock a year and our move to Texas introduced us to an event called the MS 150. The then pastor of our now church was participating in this event. My husband commented how neat it would be to participate one day. A guy who had not been on a bicycle since his youth dreaming about riding over 100 miles in two days. And yet a year later, he did just that. He rode in the first of 5 MS Rides to date.
If a two day bike ride were not amazing enough, Marshall began dabbling in triathlon sprints. Swimming, biking and running. My husband who says he doesn’t run or swim was doing both and getting stronger by the mile on his bike.
So when he came to me with the idea of an Iron Man 70.3, I knew he could do it. Little did either of us know or truly comprehend the amount of hours it would take each week, swimming, cycling, and running to prepare for such an event. Every Saturday morning, Sunday afternoon. Every Wednesday and Thursday night devoted to training. Did I mention we have two small children and another on the way?
Lots of obstacles got in the way of training. Cranky kids, pregnant wife, demanding job,needs galore. And yet my husband braved it all. Trained his heart out and last weekend braved an event that many only daydream about.
He’ll be the first to tell you that the lake was not easy. He swallowed a lot of water, wondered often what he’d got himself into…but he finished. When he stepped onto the running path from the lake, I could not have been more proud.
As I watched him in the transition area, drying his body and suiting up in his cycling gear, I could tell that he was tired, that the less than friendly current of the lake had drained him significantly. But he was steadfast and determined to keep going. And so he rode out on his bike with nothing but determination on his face.
As I found out later, there were plenty of moments of vomiting lake water, and pushing through pain and exhaustion to keep going. And keep going he did. Until mile 47 as he rode into a rest stop to reload on fluids and was told what every athlete dreads. He was out of time. They were pulling him off the course. As he described it to me, there was both disappointment and relief that flooded his body. Disappointment that he could not finish but relief that he didn’t give up. He would have kept going.
Many people could describe this story with a sense of pity or ‘that’s too bad’, but I neither see a sad ending nor would I label my husband’s exploits as a DNF (did not finish).
My husband has been on a journey that spans deeper than our marriage of almost 7 years. It’s been a trek of weight loss, healthier eating habits, and the development of an inner strength and belief in one’s self. For that I just couldn’t be prouder to say: that’s my husband!!
The Austin Iron Man 70.3 for 2014 is over but my husband’s journey as an athlete is far from complete. He will continue to swim, bike and run and become a better husband and father as a result. And in my book, medal or not, he is an Iron Man.