As soon as I crossed the finish line, I was greeted by two volunteers, one on each side. They were very nice, asked me how my race went, and congratulated me on my finish. It wasn’t until I watched the finish line video that I noticed that each was holding on to one of my arms. They were the finish line “catchers” and they were there to make sure that I didn’t fall on my face. They were quickly and quietly evaluating my physical condition. Was I able to stand? Was I able to walk? Was I coherent? Did I need to be carried to medical? They helped me to another volunteer that removed my timing chip, another which put the medal around my neck, brought me my finishers shirt and hat, and they got me some water and chocolate milk (I slammed both…stomach was working again) and they got me in line for the finishers photos. Once they were convinced that I was ok, they went back to the finish line to “catch” the next finisher.
The finishers photo is awful. I can easily see the physical and emotional exhaustion that I could not hide anymore. I had left it all on the course, everything that I had.
Once done, I headed out of the finishers area. The food tent was right next door. The smell of pizza made me instantly ill, and I kept walking. I did not have any “sherpas” with me, so I walked the block or so back to Monona Terrace to get my gear. On my way, I passed by the massage tent, and figured that it would be worth a detour. It was. The massage lasted over a half and hour, and really helped to release a lot of my stiffness and soreness. After that, I finally went to claim my gear. They had tied the 3 gear bags tied together (bike gear, run gear, morning clothes) and got them for me. The combo was quite heavy and hard to carry, but my strength was returning and I was shortly on my way. Transition was the final stop. As I entered, they called out my bib number and someone quickly returned with my bike. They triple checked to make sure it was mine and I was on my way.
The hotel was about a half mile away. Part of me wanted to go to the finish line and watch some of the final finishers, but I was too tired and carrying to much gear. Instead, I just made my way home. I did cross the course and saw a few runners trying to make the cutoff. I cheered them as they went by knowing they had enough time to make it.
Once I the hotel, I was a little to wound up to go to sleep. I desperately needed a shower to rinse off the sweat, the salt, the dirt and the sunscreen, and it felt wonderful. I called home and got some tearful congratulations. On the course, you feel so alone at times, and it is so good to know that loved ones were planted by their computers all day waiting for me to reach the next checkpoint and watching the live feeds of the finish line. I then checked my emails and FB to find that both were flooded with good wishes and congratulations. That was it. That put me over the top. The sea of emotions that had build up all day came pouring out. All the messages were so good to read.
Thank you to everyone that followed me and supported me on my journey. You have all helped me more then you can imaging.
With that, exhaustion overcame me and I crawled into bed and drifted to sleep…