Ironman Boulder – The Pregnant Wife’s Perspective
i am not sure words will be able to accurately capture the amount of pride i continue to feel for my husband completing the full ironman. six months ago, i had no idea what an ironman consisted of or how grueling it would actually be. it’s a total of 140.6 miles in triathlon form – 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and then a marathon (26.2 miles)…all one day done by one person!
when my husband said he wanted to do an ironman, most people asked him if he ever even run a marathon. he had not. many people encouraged him to start slow and do the ironman eventually. that’s not how my husband works. he is an all or nothing guy, there is no average with him. he truly lives his life with the motto “dream big” and even more importantly – he does big.
ravery then expressed that one of the main reasons he was interested in doing the ironman is because it is a mental and physical challenge like no other. he likened it to getting as close as he could to what i might experience in birth and he wanted that experience too (for real though – if he could birth a baby he totally would).
he trained for six months, many times traveling for the week for work and then coming home and having to go for a seven hour workout. it was hard. neither of us liked saying ‘bye’ especially after he just got home (but unfortunately him pulling me behind him on the bike wouldn’t be good for anyone).
since moving to colorado at the end of february, he has been gone more days than he’s actually lived in this fine state. this means he had to get creative with his training from running miles in a las vegas parking garage because the hotel’s gym didn’t open in time before his keynote. he swam in the ocean when we traveled to hawaii and florida, he even talked his way into jewish community centers to use their stationary bikes and pool when his gym franchise didn’t exist in upstate new york. when this man sets a goal – he goes all in.
the week before the big race day was his busiest of the season. he delivered two trainings in dallas, a keynote in pennsylvania and another training in new york. ravery got back in late friday night and left at 8am saturday to drive to boulder to get everything situated for the race there on sunday august 7, 2016. i had my amazing baby shower that saturday and then alison and i headed up to boulder to meet him.
he awoke sunday morning (at 4:30am) with a sinus infection and a lingering pinched nerve in his neck from a week before. he felt horrible and i was a huge bundle of nerves. he had trained so hard for this day and now all of this crap was happening to him. 140.6 mile workout is no joke – even on a healthy, well-trained body.
i knew he needed my positive energy so i pushed down the thoughts of ‘what if…’ and slapped a smile on my face while i rubbed vaseline all around his wetsuit (‘wetsuit hickies’ are a thing and not sexy in the least). i continued to tell him ‘you can do hard things‘ and that all he needed to do was the best he could at that exact moment – that was all anyone could ask of him (including him asking this of himself).
you start with the swim and i was a nervous wreck. i knew when he had tried to swim earlier in the week, his pinched nerve sent such excruciating pain throughout his whole body that he would have sank in the pool if it wasn’t for the lap rope. i was legit scared of that pain happening again but this time with thousands of people slashing through water around him.
alison was amazing and calmed my nerves, reminding me that the swim was his strongest since he was a swimmer in high school. the amount of relief i felt when i saw him come running down the transition line was immense.
he said he would be happy to do the swim in 1 hour and 30 minutes (the cut off time for the swim was 2:30) and he managed to do it in 1:08! he finished 17th in his division for swimming – truly impressive and so dang fast! the pinched nerve did not drown him, thank goodness.
while we waited for him – we saw this guy! haha obviously channeling his inner borat.
we saw him briefly between the swim and the bike transition and he told us he was feeling good. he felt strong in the swim and ready for the 112 mile bike ride. i could breathe a bit easier seeing his face and seeing his smile.
after wishing him good luck for the monsterous bike, alison and i boarded the “shuttle” (aka school bus, which feels very taboo to sit on a school bus while pregnant) to get back to the car.
we have some seriously good friends in our lives because our friend jef drove up from lubbock, tx to come support ravery! we grabbed him and then selected one of the many cute coffee shops on pearl street in boulder to have a leisurely breakfast while ravery continued on his way.
jef has done an ironman before so it was also quite helpful for me to pick his brain about progress and recovery.
we hopped in the car and set out to find ravery along his bike route. we got to him at mile 40, where he stopped for a few minutes and said he felt decent. his neck was hurting but not excruciating and the cold medicine seemed to be working okay.
again, the relief of seeing him fairing well does a wife good. we told him we’d try to see him again around mile 60 or 80 and to keep going!
we went to another coffee shop to cool off and the amazing jef bought us lawn chairs because i didn’t consider we could just throw them in the car through the day (lifesaver jef!)
the rough thing about this course is that it’s a two-loop and not just any loops but loops through mountains. imagine feeling like a total badass climbing that mountain…only to realize you have to do it again. oooof.
as we tried to catch him in the same spot on the loop, we noticed a ton of roads closed as well as ambulances.we heard someone say that an ironman competitor was hit by a car and immediately my stomach jumped into my throat. there were a quite a few ‘time stamp markers’ so we could track his progress and we saw that he was still in motion. we tried another spot to try and see him but according to alison’s impressive time skills, she determined we missed him.
i knew the bike ride was his roughest. i felt like he really needed to see our faces and feel our energy and i was sad that we couldn’t give that to him on mile 60 or 80. we eventually found mile marker 100 and hoped with all of our might that we hadn’t missed him. the fun thing about the backroads of boulder is you never know what livestock might be hanging out!
thankfully after a few minutes of waiting, we saw his yellow bike roll up and he was hanging in! at this point, he said the bike was absolutely rough and he was more than ready to be off of that bike. by this point, the clouds had burned off and it was about 85 degrees (though earlier in the week it was 97 so that was as welcomed temperature).
he said that he was also nervous that he hadn’t seen us earlier so he thought maybe i was in labor and no one could tell him (cell phones aren’t allowed). thankfully that wasn’t the case!
we went and had a late lunch, where i forced down a smoothie because i was definitely getting overheated and my anxiety was spiraling. pregnant ladies and full day races aren’t the best mixture.
the run area was chaotic and parking a pain. we thought we missed him so alison literally ran all over the place trying to at least catch up with him briefly to give him some words of encouragement (she’s a marathon runner). turns out, he was taking his time through the transition and thankfully jef walked to the exact moment at the exact right time and they saw each other! his parents saw ravery for a few minutes and then he was off for his final 26.2 miles. alison stayed put for a few minutes to catch up with him and gave some good things to think about (like every mile he passed, what he would want to tell our daughter when she turned that age!)
the crazy thing about the ironman is because of safety reasons – you are not allowed to have headphones which means you cannot listen to anything for the whole day. in preparation for this, my husband never once listened to any music/book/audio during his training! isn’t that nuts?! i must have music to distract my mind on a 3 mile run so i’m super impressed. i will say he often came home with some nutty and wild ideas after hanging out only in his brain for hours on end!
at this point, we couldn’t see him again in a great spot and it was time for alison to head back to portland, jef back to lubbock and his parents back to denver. alison and i rushed back to the hotel to get her on the shuttle. i am so grateful to have had alison and jef with me throughout most of that day because they kept me sane, fed me food, figured out the navigation paired with ravery’s timing so we could see him and i will forever be grateful for them!
alison told me her fitbit said we walked over 10 miles by the time she left and i know i walked at least a few more after that! basically this pregnant woman walked a half-marathon that day – i’m taking that and running (not literally) with that knowledge!
the run was also looped:
i took a quick shower and maybe watched 10 minutes of “full house” with my feet up back at the hotel before i set out by myself to try to find him again. i wasn’t worried about being alone and truly – my adrenaline was pumping consistently that day that i wasn’t feeling super tired and surprisingly, my feet weren’t swollen!
then i tried to calculate and navigate where he might be on the run according to his time stamps. i could see that his time was getting slower and slower, which made me nervous. then it got dark and then everything started to hit me.
i finally figured out where he would be about mile 16 and was very proud of myself for making it there…until i actually arrived there. this was around 8:45pm it was pitch black, the boulder creek trailer was not lit and i felt like i would be murdered so i left. then i found out that the cyclist that was hit earlier in the day ended up dying. how horrendous is that? michelle walters was 34 and drove in to compete from nebraska. i was overcome with grief for her family and then feeling so grateful that my husband was still safe.
i had a little cry session in the car and then did some self talk that included “chelsea! get it together! he’s still in the race, you’re not in labor and there are cookies in the backseat.” a few minutes later i got a text from our friend and amazing photographer cassie saying she was finishing up shooting a wedding in estes park and wanted to know if he was still racing and she’d come see him! talk about amazing timing! after more stress of trying to tell her where to actually meet me, we found each other at mile 22 of the run (i had not seen him since the beginning of the run and had no idea how he was doing).
she squeezed me hard and let me have a few panicked moments about his health, his unknown status and some fierce pregnancy hormones coming out. forever grateful to you cassie!
we waited and waited for him to make his way to the time 19.6 mile check in so we knew he was still in the game. when doing this race, there are certain time cut offs you have to make during each phase in order to stay in the race – once you meet those, everyone has 17 hours to complete the race from the moment they entered the water.
we finally saw him and along with someone lighting his path (this story will appear on friday with ‘tell me something good’). he said he couldn’t stop because he was very close to the time cut off but he was hanging in there. he said his neck was in excruciating pain with the pinched nerve every time he tried to run so he had been walking most of the marathon. he hadn’t been able to consume anything other than little sips of water for the past few miles because he felt so nauseous. we walked along with him for about a minute – me basically scream talking about how proud i was of him, how he could do it, how the home stretch was in sight and how his daughter will be so thrilled to be born with her dad as an ironman! he had 4 more miles until the finish line.
cassie and i raced to the finish line, where she offered to take some photos and video because she’s the freaking best. i stood there with my stomach in knots (it was about 11:10pm at this point) because i knew he had mere minutes to cross the finish line within his 17 hour mark for it to officially ‘count.’
as we stood and waited, i watched about 1 out of every 4 people literally collapse in wheel chairs after crossing the finish line. they were then immediately wheeled into the medical tent – i mean 17 hours of intense physical activity is bound to do that. i mentally prepared to see my husband do the same.
suddenly i heard this sentence “ryan avery…YOU are an ironman!!!” and immediately burst into tears.
i have never seen him with that look on his face. the look contained pride, accomplishment, relief and happiness. not only did he cross the finish line but he did so strong and in a healthy way. he didn’t permanently injure himself trying to make a certain time or beat other people – for that i’m so incredibly proud of him (because he’s fiercely competitive). he also finished the ironman boulder with a pinched nerve in his neck and a sinus infection!
he did it.
i am married to an ironman!
one of the volunteers noticed that he had not been given his medal yet and she handed it to me to place around his neck! how awesome is that?!
then we hugged and cried and kissed and cried and hugged some more.
can we just take a second to acknowledge how insanely intense that is that he worked out straight for almost 17 hours?!?! he had 7.5 minutes to spare before his 17 hour mark – so damn proud of him! as he ran into my arms, he said “this was the hardest thing i have ever done.”
cassie is SO amazing and captured those forever-cherished photos of us together as well as this video (all while laughing/crying/in the dark!)
the night ended with me making him take a quick bath, force-feed him oatmeal in the bathtub and drink a little bit of gatorade before passing out around 1am. we both woke up around 4:30am filled with excitement and relief that he had done it and neither of us had to go through that again!
ravery has done a lot of things to make me proud to be his wife and this one is absolutely in the top three slots. congratulations ryan austin turner avery – YOU are an ironman!
(sometimes i blog for you, sometimes i blog for me. this one was more about needing to capture this day for me so if you have read all of this – kudos to you!)