Ironman Boulder Sherpa Report: Part Two

Read part one first!

I left off with the finish line. He looked so strong coming across the finish line, but looks can be deceiving.

A few moments after he walked into the medical tent, I was able to ask one of the attendants how to get information about him. He led me over to the spectator side of the medical/food tent. I could see Mr. Neon inside the tent. He was sitting in the “good chairs” where I was told the athletes usually only stay for about 30 minutes before being released. They told me that he was just dizzy and a little nauseous. At that point, they thought some zofran and chicken broth would perk him up.

I had to stay close because I had to wait for him to come out of the tent. There was no other way for me to communicate with him. I was so tired. I had been awake for nearly 20 hours at that point. I hadn’t eaten dinner and had barely eaten lunch. I just kind of wandered around in a daze, glancing up at the tent every few moments. Several spectators and other BASE athletes checked on me. Again…thank you, Ironman family.

After about 30 minutes, I noticed that Mr. Neon was no longer sitting in the “good chairs.” I asked again about him and was told that he had passed out. They had taken him to the back for fluids. The medical director came over and spoke with me. I let him know that Mr. Neon has vasovagal syncope episodes when his stomach acts up. He told me he would find me in about 20-30 minutes with an update.

The next update was more of the same. He couldn’t stay conscious sitting up. They were going to give him another bag of fluids. I found a tree and parked myself underneath it. I managed to choke down a Honey Stinger waffle. Thankfully my family had handed two bottles of water off to me before they left. Hydration is good.

Speaking of family, shout out to my amazing mother. She took the boys and went to get Mr. Neon’s bike from transition 2. She hauled it and all his gear bags back to the car. When it became clear that Mr. Neon wasn’t leaving medical anytime soon, I sent her and the boys back to the airbnb. She’s a rockstar. I could not have done this trip without her. She took care of my boys (McDs and iPads for the win!) when I needed to take care of my Ironman.

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Nephew and his Pam. He learns names quick. She melted every time he said it.

After about 20 more minutes of waiting, I heard my name being called. There was a man calling to me from the fence around the food tent. He said Mr. Neon told him to look for the cute, tiny wife in a pink tank top. Apparently I was the talk of the medical tent. He was the doctor in charge of caring for the athletes and told me that the second bag of fluids was still being administered, but Mr. Neon was still getting pasty when they tried to sit him up. He would come find me again soon with an update.

Another twenty minutes later, I was still sitting under the tree, zoned out in exhaustion. This time the doctor came around to me, sat down in the grass across from me, and told me he had good news and bad news and which did I want first. I told him the bad. He said they had exhausted everything they could do for him in the tent and that it was time to go to the ER. What on earth was the good news?! He looked at me, smiled, and said, “I get to take you to him.” He told me that keeping the two of us separated was awful. He said we clearly needed each other. I braced myself to see my Ironman. He really didn’t look too bad. He was pasty and tired, but he smiled at me. I don’t think he ever stopped smiling. We took a quick ambulance ride to the hospital. I will say that Ironman is thorough. Within moments of the ER decision, I had two phone calls from Ironman making sure I knew about the situation. Frank Lowery, the regional director, checked on Mr. Neon twice in the hospital and kept in touch via phone and text in the week after.

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Medical director Jeff thought this moment needed to be documented.

The ER doctor was very reassuring despite using some scary words. Rhabdomylosis (google it.) and acute kidney failure was the diagnosis. The only solution was fluids and hospital observation. I also found out during our time in the ER that Mr. Neon had a syncope episode between mile 24 and 25. That’s why it took him 45 minutes to go 1.5 miles. He said he felt the episode coming on and sat down before he passed out from standing and hurt himself. He had two medical personnel with him then. One wanted to pull him. The other one wanted to let him continue. Thankfully the second one won and got Mr. Neon moving. After all the ER paperwork was signed and all of his issues were addressed, Mr. Neon sent me back to the airbnb to sleep. I went back to the condo and fell into bed. I had been awake for 23 hours.

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The mini sherpas slept HARD!

The next morning, I woke up to a text from my guy. They had gotten him into a room around 2:30am. He asked if I could bring him shower stuff, clean clothes, and some breakfast. I brought him a McDs sausage mcmuffin with egg (no cheese). Our favorite post long workout treat. He looked a lot better that morning. I helped him shower. I wish I would have taken a picture of his tri shorts. They literally stood up on their own from the salt. He had been wearing them for 30 hours at that point. Gross and yet hilarious. I also got my first full body post race Ironman hug. Man, that felt good!

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The smile never faded! It’s hard not to smile when you are an Ironman!

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I had two BASE team members (including Mr. Base Matt Miller) reach out to me during Mr. Neon’s stint in the hospital, making sure we had a place to stay. BASE Performance…YOU ROCK!

The rest of the day was spent visiting him at the hospital, napping, walking the halls, and figuring out our next plan of action. We had to wait for all his bloodwork numbers to start trending back down. Unfortunately by the end of the day that meant one more night in the hospital. Poor Mr. Neon. Leaving him that night was hard on all of us. The boys wanted their daddy home with them. We cried as a family more in three days than I think we have in our entire 13+ years together.

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140.6 was meant to be the end of a long 168 day journey, and we all felt a little cheated out of the recovery side of things. The next morning, Mr. Neon was deemed fit enough to go home. Mom, the boys, and I grabbed some lunch from the hospital cafeteria while we waited for him to get discharged and get copies of all his records to take home to our regular doctor, who we had been in contact with the entire hospital stay. Boulder Community Hospital is top notch, by the way.

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The Ironman and his watermelon balloon!

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First stop after getting out of the hospital…Whole Foods for vegan chocolate chip cookies! You can see here how swollen his calves were from the fluids.

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As badly as we all wanted to get home, we decided to take the rest of Tuesday to rest and get a good night’s sleep in the condo before heading out the next morning. Poor Mr. Neon was still dealing with some indigestion, queasiness, and lots of edema from the nearly 13 bags of saline they pumped into him over the course of 40 hours in the hospital. He slept really hard Tuesday night and about halfway home on Wednesday, but then he woke up and looked and acted much more back to normal. Mr. Neon has a knack for sleeping away all ailments, including apparently Ironman-induced rhabdomylosis.

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HOME!

So that’s the story of Mr. Neon becoming an Ironman. He spent the next week in recovery mode, following up with our doctor and drinking lots of water to flush out the horrible edema he had in his feet and calves. So far, he hasn’t had any adverse side effects. He’s even started slowing easing back into training. He’s run a couple of times…very slow and very easy. He did my long bike with me over the weekend and said it was the best bike ride he’d been on all year. But when you get to ride 19 miles at 14mph on your road bike with your wife…well…that is the best bike ride of the year!

As for the future, I think Mr. Neon is ready to stick to the shorter races. 2017 will see lots of sprint triathlons and hopefully an increase in speed at the shorter distances. There are a lot of half Ironmans every year and lots of opportunities to volunteer at Ironman events. It sure would be nice to take a vacation without a race in the middle too!

And since I’m sure people will ask. We don’t really know why this happened to Mr. Neon. All the doctors had different theories. It could have been the altitude. It could have been a lack of fueling on the bike or run. It could have been Mr. Neon’s specific body chemistry. He has genetic high cholesterol and takes a low dose statin, which could have caused some issues too. It could be that he simply found his physical limit. His case of rhabdo was mild compared to others we were told about. All that matters is that he’s ok and HE’S AN IRONMAN!

Thanks for reading. And as always…stay neon!

Ironman Boulder Sherpa Report: Part One

Part One. I had to split it into two parts. It’s still long. Thank you if you read the whole thing.

Where do I even start?

Let’s go back approximately 12 months. Mr. Neon told me he wanted to do an Ironman in 2016. We just had to pick one. He gave me two options. Louisville or Boulder? Kentucky or Colorado? October or August? Of course, I picked Boulder. Colorado in the summer?! Sign me up!

Hindsight being 20/20, with the exception of the altitude, Boulder was the better choice. It was right before school started. The peak of training happened in the summer when Mr. Neon was off work. It was in Colorado and only an 8 hour drive, instead of a 12 hour drive.

So let’s get to the sherpa report…

Checking in for an Ironman is a three day ordeal. We got into Boulder Wednesday evening. We checked into our airbnb. Airbnb gets two thumbs up from me. It was a million times more comfortable than a hotel. Thursday morning, Mr. Neon got up for an easy run. Then the boys, Mom, and I went out for a run. The weather was gorgeous. 70 degrees, slight cloud cover, no humidity. I kept waiting for the altitude to affect me, but it never did.

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We got ready and headed to Ironman Village. I fought the urge to call it “the expo” all weekend. It’s a village, people. We got Mr. Neon checked in. Blue wristband on…Beast mode activated. Then we did some credit card damage. BASE tent = new tanks for me and Mom and more salt. Zoot tent = new tri kit for Mr. Neon. Hoka tent = new Cliftons for Mr. Neon in Ironman red, of course. Clif bar tent = fistfuls of samples into our bags. You can never have too many snacks in the sherpa bag. Ironman Merch tent = name tee, name hoodie, water bottle, and support tees for Runner Boy, Tiny Boy, me, and Mom. We explored Boulder for the rest of the afternoon.

Friday we went back to the Ironman Village to take a picture with everyone, since Mr. Neon’s parents and brother, SIL, and Nephew arrived Thursday afternoon. Mr. Neon did a short bike ride, and then he and his brother drove the bike course, while Mom, the boys, the SIL, and I went to the Celestial Seasonings factory, which was conveniently a block from our condo. I bought lots of tea! Mr. Neon and I went to dinner at the BASE house and got to rub elbows with other BASE athletes and Matt Miller and Tony Demakis. I love the BASE family…such a neat group of people.

Saturday was bag and bike drop off day. We had a bit of a hiccup when Mr. Noel got his wetsuit ready to go. Parts of it had fused to itself and it tore when he went to lay it out. Tip…don’t buy an Xterra suit. They are modestly priced and offered at deep discount for a reason. We ended up going back to the Village and buying him a sleeveless Roka suit. This ended up being a good choice, which I’ll explain in a bit. We dropped off the bike, bike gear bag, and run gear bag. And then we tried to relax. Emphasis on tried.

The alarm went off at 2:45am on Sunday. 2:45am…is that even considered morning?! We got coffee into us and some breakfast and then we headed to downtown Boulder to catch a bus up to the reservoir. Mr. Neon double checked everything, while I tried not to freak out. What my love was about to do hit me hard. I just started crying…a theme that would continue throughout the day.

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Mr. Neon kissed me and headed to line up for the swim. The energy in the air was thick. This song started to play over the loud speakers and it resonated with me. A quick google revealed it to be “Go Big or Go Home” by American Authors. I haven’t stopped listening to it since. I had a hard time finding Mr. Neon in the sea of green and pink caps. I knew where he would line up, but I still couldn’t spot him. They all looked the same. I finally found him and started taking pictures for everyone waiting back at the airbnbs. I got several good ones of him going into the water. He was off. I cried some more and got many hugs from random spectators. Ironman family…I love you.

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I wandered up the hill in between the swim start and the swim finish. I munched on some Nature Box chocolate waffles and updated social media. It wasn’t long before I heard Mike Reilly announce that they could see the first swimmers heading back in. I had nothing better to do, so I wandered over. About that time, Mr. Neon’s brother texted me that he, SIL, and Nephew had arrived at the reservoir. They found me and we moved over to the side of the swim finish where we could follow him through transition.

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Mr. Neon had told me that he planned on a 1:30 swim. Nope, he came out of the water in 1:13. New wetsuit for the win! He’s such a strong swimmer. I completely missed him until he was right in front of me. He gave me a big grin and stuck his tongue out at me. He was having fun! YAY! His number one goal for the day was to have fun and enjoy every moment. He made his way through transition. We ran around the side to wait for him to come out of the tent into the sunscreen station. It was cute watching my seven-months-pregnant SIL run between areas. We watched him go off onto his bike! See you in six hours, my love!

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We had to take a bus back down to the second transition. I missed seeing him on the bike, but Mom and the boys got to see him at mile 20. I made it back up to the condo and managed to take a fitful 45 minute nap. Once he hit mile 65 on the tracking, we headed back downtown to find some lunch and figure out the best place to watch him on the run.

My heart fluttered a little bit when I saw him hit mile 107 on the bike tracker. I was going to get to see him soon! We are one of those disgusting couples who doesn’t go more than a couple of hours without at least texting or sending each other silly snapchats. Six hours is a long time. I was also really excited for him because he was going to hit his goal of a 6 hour bike.

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He came into transition smiling. Bike was a 5:53 split! 19.02mph! I watched him dismount and his legs looked strong. Tiny Boy and I were standing on the “hot corner” and ran around to the other side of transition to find Mom and Runner Boy. They said they saw him cross the bridge, and he had grinned at them again. Operation Have Fun appeared to still be in full swing.

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In another ten minutes, he came running past us. He was running and looking very strong. I was impressed. Then came the sinking feeling that I wouldn’t see him for another 10 miles. We had originally thought of bringing my bike down with us, but then decided against it. I tried to make my way down to the flux capacitor part of the course, but I would have had to run much farther than I thought. We made a camp site on the lawn near the high school and waited. When he came back through, I got a big hug and was able to run next to him for a few minutes. It was really the first time I’d gotten to talk with him all day. He said he was feeling really good. Nutrition was good, liquid intake was good. He said he was tired and would probably do some walking/slowing down, but he was still moving forward.

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Mile 10

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Mile 13 – Photo credit SIL.

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One of my ugly cry moments. My SIL’s reaction to me crying was to laugh and take pictures. Stinker!

We saw him again at the halfway point. Then began the long wait until mile 23 when he would make his way back to us. His pace really slowed on the tracker, and I started getting anxious. Eventually, I started walking backwards on the course, hoping to find him. I finally did and he looked exhausted. Still smiling, still in good spirits, but darn tired. I walked with him a bit, kissed him, hugged him, and told him we would see him REALLY soon at the finish line where he would become an IRONMAN.

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Mile 23. Tired Mr. Neon.

We got to the finish line and I was a bundle of nerves. I kept checking my tracker. I figured it would take him about 20-30 minutes to make it from the last check point to the finish line. It ended up taking him 45 minutes. My BIL started walking backwards away from the finish chute, found him walking, and texted me that he was on his way. I watched my love cross the finish line and become an Ironman. Mike Reilly announced him and then we made our way around the tents to where we could get to him.

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I saw him being led by a volunteer and I knew something was up. I hollered at him. He waved at me and pointed at the medical and said, “I’m going to medical.” And that was the last time I got to talk with him for two hours.

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Part two coming soon!

Mr. Neon

Tomorrow my love will become an Ironman. For the last 167 days, he has pushed himself to the limits physically. And through all of that, he has remained a devoted husband and father and a passionate educator.

Mr. Neon, no matter what happens on Sunday…I am PROUD of you. I am PROUD to be your wife. To stand beside you. To have grown up next to you. You are an incredible man, father, husband. You are the best and I love you.

CORN

He’s bib# 945 if you want to track him on Ironman.com. There’s live streaming of the finish line, so you can watch him cross and hear Mike Reilly say those coveted words. I’ll also be posting updates on my various social media sites.

Stay neon!!

Things I learned while spectating a Half Ironman

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1. Sunscreen and bug spray! I’m quite a bit browner than I was when I got to Lawrence. Thankfully I’m blessed with olive toned Lebanese skin that happily soaks up the sun and rarely burns. My fair-skinned brother-in-law ended up a little pink. Sunscreen would have been a good idea. Also, Clinton Lake is a state park and a tick mecca. Bug spray is a must. Our tick count was only 6. Two on the dog…one attached, one dead but stuck to his hair…yay, Vectra 3D. John had a tiny one attached to his shoulder. I found one dead in my blankets the night we slept at the lake. I slept next to the dog though, so yay again for Vectra 3D. And I had one crawling on my shirt while we watched the runners go past the trailer. If we hadn’t used bug spray, the count would have been much higher.

2. Be prepared to cry, not only when your athlete crosses the finish line, but when others do too. War veterans, cancer survivors, badass old people…so many awesome athletes battled 70.3 this weekend. Right before Noel finished, they announced a 65-year-old male finisher. He crossed the finish line and put his hands on his knees, relaxing his breathing and smiling so big. Then I heard a voice behind me happily yell, “DADDY!” A women not much older than myself vaulted herself at the finishing gate, just next to where we were standing. He ran over to her, and they hugged HARD. She said, “You did it!! Happy Birthday, Daddy!” Tears flowed freely from yours truly and my eyes are watering up again just thinking about the beautiful moment.

3. Good shoes are VERY important. I initially had on a pair of my more sturdy flip flops, but I changed into my running shoes because it was chilly at 5am. I’m glad I did. I walked and ran A LOT. During both transitions, we only had about 3-4 minutes to get to the new spot where we could best see him off on the next leg. My Vivofit goal is now up to 12000+ but I did only 15000 steps while watching Noel. The run course had lots of turnarounds, so just by walking/running a bit we could see him multiples times. I think I ended up seeing him close to 8 times on the run. And he said that’s the one thing that really kept him going during the very tough run.

4. Patience! Triathlons take a LONG time. Noel’s unofficial time was 6:47:26. Noel’s brother and I watched him get in the water, walked around the outside of T1, waited for him to get out of the water, walked around T1 again, watched him get on his bike, and then headed back to the campsite. We took naps until the pros started coming by. We kept our eye on the mobile tracker and headed up to T2 to wait for him to get off his bike and on to the run. Then we ran around the campground catching him as he passed different places along the run course. Then we had to wait for him a bit at the finish line. I was pooped by the end and still had to drive us all home! Spectating is a sport in itself!

5. Be prepared to put your needs LAST. When Noel was done, he needed hugs, then he needed food, then he needed beer, then he needed to pick up his gear, and then he needed a shower. He’s slept a lot since then. And I’m used the “evil” stick on his shoulders and legs multiple times to roll the soreness out of him. I feel a bit like a recovery nurse…an Ironman nurse.

But it’s all worth it to watch your spouse, your best friend, your training partner finish a race that he had trained very hard for and was very ready for! I secretly can’t wait to watch him do the next one!!