Anything’s Possible.

As the orange moon begins to descend behind the red rock canyons, the sky becomes a pallet of red and yellow. “Athletes, please make your way to the swim start”, a voice booms. With green swim caps and black wet suits, an army of matching determined warriors make their way to the base of the water. Functioning off of 3 hours of sleep and a small bowl of fruit, I take a stand next to my comrade.  I take a moment to soak in my surroundings. I see thousands of determined faces. Everyone beside me has dedicated the better half of a year to this race. Blood sweat and tears. The day no one thought would come, has finally arrived.
“Athletes, please make your way into the water.” the announcer commands. With a deep exhale, Steve and I meet eyes as if to say, “let’s do what we came to do.” I clench a  tight fist and throw it toward Steve. He meets me half way and our knuckles bump. We make our way slowly into the bone cold water. 15 minutes go by of simply wading. For a moment, everything goes silent. I can hear the thumping of my heart beating violently in my chest.
 and then…
*BOOM*
the cannon explodes. Surging with energy, we swim. What started out as a calm still water, became a violent whirlpool of flailing arms and legs. blood began to flow from my lip, as a powerful leg smashed into my face. Impossible to maneuver. The water raged vigorously. Constant hands and arms hit my back, feet, and head…all I could do was deal with it.  Then, when I thought the worst was behind me, an old enemy returned. No one saw it coming. In an instant ferocious winds formed an infantry of gigantic waves that came barreling through the water. Everyone was being thrown back and forth, left and right, and off course.  This being my first open water swim, I didn’t know what level of difficulty this was. Later, I was told it was the toughest swim in the history of Ironman. I was having an absolute blast! “If it was easy, everyone would do it.” I road the waves up and down, smiling all the while. Often gulping down large quantities  of water, which caused me to gag and choke. Off to the right, I could see dozens of people hanging on to the rescue kayaks, clearly out of energy. Had the wind started before the race, the swim would have been canceled no doubt.
After about 2 miles, I was done having fun and was ready to reach the finish. I was becoming dizzy and making slow progress as the massive white caps forced me backwards. Finally, the finish was in sight, and I cut through the raging water with all my might. “Show them what your made of.”After 1 hour and 45 minutes of fighting,  I climbed up onto solid ground and nearly fell over. I was extremely dizzy, everything was blurry for a moment. The crowed was booming and smiles filled my sights. I stumbled over  to the wet suit strippers and laid down. That’s when I noticed my tracking chip had been knocked off. I knew someone had pulled  it off in the chaotic blue water. “If you lost your tracking chip, you can pick one up at the ‘bike out’ I heard announced. Hundreds of people didn’t complete the swim course. Disqualified. I got my chip, got my bike, and busted a move.
It all happened in an instant. My body didn’t have time to adjust to the bicycle. The first 5 miles were treacherous trying to adapt, but soon enough I became one with my carbon fiber chariot. Finally, I was able to think well enough to come up with a plan. “Remember, save your strength for the run”, I thought to myself as I cruised passed another cyclist. I cut through the first 20 miles of hills with ease. “Ahead is an aid station” a man shouted as I passed by. In the distance I could see dozens of people lined up along the side of the road with extended arms. As I got closer, I realized they were handing out nutrition. I was riding with only one water bottle cage, because my other ones didn’t fit. This put me at a large disadvantage. I knew I had to get as much water as possible. “Perform! GU! Banana! Water!”, the volunteers shouted. I grabbed a water bottle and a banana from their helping hands and kept on cruising. The bananas were cut in half to make them easier to consume. With the cap of the water bottle pinned between my teeth, I used one hand to steer and the other to pinch the banana out of it’s peel. That golden treat disappeared in a single bite. I then chugged the entire bottle of water and tossed it to a volunteer. The sweat dripping down my hand caused me to slip off the handle bar. I became dangerously close to going off road, but I regained control and made it a point to just get to the next aid station. Now, about 30 miles in, I was approaching the scenic 2 loop portion of the course. AKA: the hard part. The first loop was gnarly. The suns rays beat down like a fire on my tender skin. The relentless uphills and powerful headwind caused agonizing pain. “Just keep moving forward.” 15 miles later, I reached the next aid station. This time, I had to stop and relieve myself of bodily fluid. “BIKE UP!” the volunteers shouted as they took my bike from me with a  smile. “Need me to get you anything!?” I was so amazed by the willingness to help from all the volunteers. Constantly trying to aid in anyway with encouragement.  Once my bladder was empty, I filled the single bottle attached to my frame and chugged the remainder liquid. OFF I GO!
After a series of towering hills, came the toughest one of all. It’s nickname: The Wall. This is a mile steep rock face. I remembered taking this beast down in training, so I was prepared. I lifted off my seat and began to pedal hard. The taste of salt filled my mouth as sweat streaked down my face. Gritting my teeth, I began my acsent! I passed every single cylist in front of me. “That’s the way!” I heard a pro athlete shout to me as I passed him. Everything in my being wanted to stop…but I knew I couldn’t. “You rock the bike!” another athlete exclaimed searching for breath. These words of encouragement carried me the rest of the way. Once I reached the top, I was in for a break. After one more long uphill, I would have a 15 mile stretch of pure downhill relaxation. I pedaled fast through the canyons topping out at 50 mph. Still, the pros blew right past me. I was in the highest and toughest gear and couldn’t accelerate. I didn’t understand how they were. Finally, I reached another aid station and poured the water down my back. I took out some gu I was storing in the back pockets of my tri suit and gulped them down. The 1st loop was done, one more to go. “How am I ever going to do this?” I began to doubt myself. The heat and wind really began taking a toll on my brain. It was fried and I was dizzy. “Just keep pedaling.” the second loop consisted of less wind and lots of bananas! The time came when I reached “the wall” again. “I’m going to walk this time…and I’m going to be okay with that” I thought to myself. However, by the time I got to the base of the rock, I changed my mind. “Go big or go home!” As I cruised up the hill even faster than before I heard many athletes praising me once again…which was so uplifting. “Holy Sh**!”  About 600 feet from the top, I pulled off to the side. The cyclist I had just passed encouraged me, “Don’t stop! Keep going!” …It worked.
I powerhoused the last 17 miles and finally came to “Bike Finish” I stumbled off the bike and found my way into the changing tent to gear up for the run.
I sat there, on the verge of vomiting, and wondered how I was going to finish this race. All the naked old dudes changing around me certainly didn’t help my nausea. I poured several cups of ice water down my neck, for just a moment of refreshment. I dropped my head into my knees. I thought of what life would be like after the race if I failed . How could I let all my friends, family, IronMan Company, and most importantly myself down? That’s when I lifted my head, tied my shoes, stood up, and marched out into an ocean of smiling, cheering, raging spectators. It all happened in slow motion. “Failure is not an option. Push that envelope.” I knew I didn’t have to do it fast, but I DID have to do it.
Jason: You know what they call the last man to cross the finish line?
Me: What?
Jason: An Ironman.
Blinded by cameras flashing in my face, I walked through the running shoot. “Let’s go Taylor! Looking great!” I heard a voice shout. That’s when I began my slow jog. My stomach churned and my head spun wildly. I barely held my balance. “God, I know I’ve done a lot of wrong in your eyes in this life. I know I don’t deserve to beat this, but please give me just enough strength to finish this.” I pushed foreword.
“Perform! Gu! Ice Water! Wet Sponge! Pretzels! Fruit!” Thank the Lord for those aid stations. I emptied several ice waters on my face, had a few grapes, and pressed on. It was about this time that my heartburn began. “Great…this is the last thing I need.” I began to stumble and slowed to a power walk.
It was at this moment that I met the man who carried me the last 20 miles. His name is Jason. He’s a father of 5, and this was his third St. George Ironman. He’s a true inspiration. The previous year he walked the last 22 miles of the marathon due to heat stroke and a sour stomach. He was feeling lousy again, and we agreed to tackle these last 20 miles together. The hours ticked slowly by. Jason kept my spirits high and promised me we would make it to the end. “Pain is temporary. To finish is forever” The sun fell behind the mountains, and the brightest full moon of the year lit up the course. A few times I heard “Trailing The Sun” shouted at me followed by words of encouragement. It certainly helped. “Looking great!”

The hours ticked slowly on. The heartburn didn’t let up, the dizziness got worse, the churning in my stomach became chaotic. If I stood still, I couldn’t see straight. However, Jason and the rest of the spectators kept my spirits high.
Me: Hey man, it’s swim, bike, run… it’s not Swim, Bike, Run, Walk… is this really going to count?
Jason: Listen, when your body is falling apart and you have every reason to quit, and you keep moving forward you’ll have truly earned it. That’s true strength.
With one hour to midnight and still 3 miles from the finish, the pressure was on. Under other circumstances, I could bang out those miles in 20 minutes easy…but not now. Not when I was moving at 4 miles an hour and falling apart fast. We kept moving forward and made  a couple friends along the way who were also burnt out. We encouraged each other the whole way.
Then, I saw the 25 mile marker…Something inside me ignited. The last 4 and a half months flashed through my memory. leaving home a naive kid, and ending up here a man.  I felt the iron begin to pulse through my veins.  Jason reached out his hand and I grabbed hold. “Let’s finish this thing like real IronMen”, I said. “You got it” Jason and I turned on full speed and I ignored my feet littered with blisters, I ignored my melting brain, and ran toward the sound of the crowd. Before I knew it, I cut the corner and saw the flashing of hundreds of cameras and the cheerful faces of thousands. I extended my arms and slapped hands with dozens of raging fans. I raised my fists to heaven with the biggest smile anyone could make. As I crossed that line, my body exploded with iron. It was over. I did it…at long last. I defeated the toughest IronMan course of all time.
Thank you Jason…thanks for it all!
Thank you Jesus. Thank you for it all.

20 thoughts on “Anything’s Possible.

  1. Amazing story, amazing accomplishment.
    LOVE this:
    Jason: You know what they call the last man to cross the finish line?
    Me: What?
    Jason: An Ironman.
    Jason rocks!!
    Can’t wait to see that smile in person!!

  2. You are an inspiration to so many others Taylor. CONGRATULATIONS on your HUGE accomplishment. Matthew 19:26

  3. I heard about your blog through a friend you met while biking (Bill in Steamboat) and have loved reading all about your adventures. Great job with the Ironman, you’re determination is inspiring!

  4. unreal bud. absolutely unreal. congratulations, you’ve done something truly amazing and no one can ever take that away. you’re an ironman!

  5. Congratulations Taylor, you are an amazing young man to have accomplished so much in such a young life. So very proud of you. I hope you both enjoy the rest of your trip and have a safe trip home. Enjoy your party!

  6. I love the same thing Auntie Laurie mentioned. Jason sounds like the MAN. If he wasn’t so corporeal and real, I’d wonder if he was an angel sent to carry you along. No joke.

    Anyway. Sweet post. You make me want to figure out what is wrong with my body, push my physical limits and accomplish something like this because it is just unreal! St. George may forever elude me…but I hope some day I will be able to say the Thibodeau family produced Iron MEN. Truly incredible journey brother.

    I love Jason’s line “Pain is temporary. To finish is forever.” TALK ABOUT GETTING ME INSPIRED!!!

    I can’t even begin to explain the feelings I had during your race. I expected you, as is customary for you, to kill it (not that you didn’t) a few hours before the time limit. At first, I didn’t even know that existed. But I got home from work and asked how you were doing and dad said it wasn’t good (although, we chalk this up to your chip wackiness). So then I sat there watching the live stream to find you. But no you. I waited for an hour or more. Eventually I went to lift. It wasn’t until about 7ish (I believe) that mom spotted you. But then you disappeared and so I went away…back to the gym. Then I come upstairs from my lift and discover I missed your passing by LESS THAN THREE MINUTES. I was mad. Mom said you looked dazed, confused, and totally out of it. I told her that I was sure you were, but I knew you could do it. That you had SIX hours to finish the marathon and you were way too determined to quit. Mom won’t admit it, but she was having her doubts. She saw your weariness and worried it was going to take you out. Let it be known I held faith the entire time! And kept making sure everyone knew it.

    Cut to hours later. 11:30 ish. You still haven’t crossed. So, I figure, you are close by. You must be. I sat in the stupid, uncomfortable chair waiting. Waiting. waiting. Listening to mom complain about every single person (runner, volunteer, whomever) that stepped in front of the camera for more than 1/3 of a second. BECAUSE THAT WAS JUST NOT FAIR TO ALL THE LOVED ONES. Aka…to seeing you. Who cares about the loved ones for those other runners hahaha. The tv didn’t stream you well either. So it was just not awesome. ANYWAY. TWO HOURS LATER. I’m like. Holy crap. Where is he. It’s 1:30. I have church in the morning. But I cannot go to bed and miss his finish. I turned on my laptop because I couldn’t deal with the dumb TV or mom yelling at her Ipad. My nerves were racked beyond belief. My faith that your finish would be well within the time constraints had been shattered. The announcers were talking about the time limit coming up. Talking about the last bend and how it takes roughly 5-6 minutes from that point. In addition, your STUPID chip was not giving us any updates. Then all of a sudden it updated….only it put you back at mile 6 or something stupid. I was like -________-. But lo and behold. Suddenly your chip registered you at the final stop before the finish. With 30 minutes and 37 seconds left on the clock to go 1.53 miles. I was like, EASSSYYYY. He’s got this. Then I realized your pace would take about 37 minutes. I was like oh em gee. Time passed super slowly. Every runner coming in was eagle eyed by me. Some guy with a twisted ankle, 20 years old, came limping in. I was like..IF HE CAN MAKE IT, TAYLOR CAN MAKE IT. With 20 minutes left, the announcer said “we can be heard about 1.5 miles out…if you can hear this, now is the time to stop walking and get jogging. You need to get in here and finish” I was like…taylor’s less than 1.5 out. If he heard this, and I’m sure he did, he will most definitely kick it into ultra gear. The minutes wore down. With 11 minutes left I was rocking and praying and biting my nails. As I had been for so long. It was all I could do. I was gonna lose control soon. The minutes were almost up and they would not stop moving at their constant killer pace. Some 60~ year old came on through and the crowd cheered him in. Then another guy in red. Then a dude in the back with white. You had white, I remembered mom saying so. I didn’t quite realize it was you at first because you were running with spread eagle arms and behind the dude in red. Then I saw you cross. And I just shouted. I leaped from my desk and booked it downstairs yelling “DID YOU SEE HIM! DID YOU SEE HIM FINISH!” I didn’t even wait to see you cross all the way. The second I saw your face I was gone. Mother said “no! what! Where!?” and then she remembered it was about 40 seconds behind. I was so excited to be able to see it all the way through. Mom was as giddy as a school girl. Jumping up and down with me. We probably looked wicked stupid to an outside party. But then there you were again. Crossing with hair flowing. An intense sense of relief, that could only be rivaled by yours upon finish, washed over me. Absolutely incredible.

    Alright this post was way longer than I intended. And it barely scratched the surface of my thoughts and emotions during this race. YEEEEP. Anyway!

    Cool story bro, tell it again? hahaha

    Okay I’m done.

    See ya soon…hope your birthday was a smash hit. You’re only 20 for 365 days!

  7. Rethinking my original statement about Jason…….even if he wasn’t an angel….I have no doubts he was sent to carry you along and make sure you finished. Way too coincidental considering all the prayer cover you were receiving. In your weakest moments, you meet a stranger who just happens to be everything you need to make it to the finish line and not give up? Yeaaaah…SOMEONE try and tell me that wasn’t a miracle…THE miracle we all prayed for.

    God is the man.

  8. Taylor,
    I was woried by the lack of a time for you on the swimming. Your post explained it all. What a great story! Life has many interesting choices for us all. I am so glad that you stopped along the way just to see where I was going, so that we could travel together for a while. Thanks for sharing your life with me. Truly an inspiring race for all who got to know you along the way.

  9. Congrats Taylor. After meeting in the transition in the morning I was happy to see you putting one foot in front of the other and getting it done on the run. You learned something very special about this sport, we are all in it together. Congrats on doing the most EPIC IM ever. If you ever decide to do another it will seem easy after what we all went through out there.

  10. I don’t even know where to begin… my head is spinning and my heart is overflowing! Thank you God, Thank you Jason, you are an angel, Kyle is right. Please, if you are ever in Sutton Ma, please look us up!

    Taylor, there is so much more I want to say… Kyle has told so much of what it looked like back at home. Correction: I never doubted for a minute… okay, maybe I worried, but I knew the Lord had to see this thru, I just knew it! And He did, He sent Jason… just as I was praying with renewed ferver, Jason comes along side you…. I started watching the race at 8:45am and except for a 5 mile run to calm my nerves, I never left the live streaming. I was glued, desparate for even a glimpse of your arm, something to tell me you were all right. I was worried when you left the changing tent, you looked like a person who didn’t know what day it was… Understandably so!! Then again at mile 6… and your head was already bobbing, I said, Lord, he needs your strength poured through his muscles. He needs you to carry him… and Yes, I was yelling at my IPad… but the wonderful helpers with the tin foil blankets kept blocking my view! And even tho it wasn’t you, it was someone else’s loved one… come on! So, maybe I was a little impatient… but it was like 1:00 am… emotions were running high (to say the least)…. when you came thru the finish, I screamed! I screamed so loud I probably woke the neighbors! You are such an inspiration… you are a flesh and blood example of that Saucony’s ad that I love so much! “What is strong? Maybe strong is just what you have left when you’ve used up all your weak!” And I also want to thank Jason for some new inspiring quotes!! What do you call the last man to finish? An Ironman! Priceless!!! “Pain is temporary, to finish is forever” deep exhale… that’s right… love you Taylor, always have, always will… xoxoxoox, mom

  11. For the record. I was worried but confident in your determination and how you would seek your power. All good things come to those who are persistent in the quest of achieving their goals. Can’t wait to see you tomorrow!

  12. I am trying hard to find adequate words as tears stream down my face. I’m a friend of the Countess and doing the Ironman has been a dream of mine. The furthest distance I’ve ever gotten is Olympic in a tri. YOU are an inspiration. As you described your feelings, I completely and totally understand. Anytime a finish line comes in sight, and your body is literally screaming, the feeling that you know you have finished is something that is hard to describe! I agree with the others that Jason was a Godsend. We all need someone during or race of life to pull us through the hard times, and the Lord sends them just when we need them.
    Well done Taylor. I don’t even know you, but am incredibly proud of you. Wish I had driven down to St George to have watched you conquer.

    PS. I work at a Running Store in SLC and we rented many of the wet suits that were there, and we heard the stories about the swim. My heart breaks for those that people that got pulled. Their training and dreams crushed in a white cap. You finished and you finished strong – that speaks volumes!

    xoxo
    mCat

  13. Taylor, this is an amazing story of strength and determination. You have been an inspiration to more than you can possibly know. Having known your family for all of your life and longer, this is a testiment to the power the Lord has within all of you. Congratulations!!

  14. How inspiring Taylor!! I’m the GU gal from the expo, and was looking forward to hearing how the race went for you both! I teared up at the end of your story. “WOW” is all I have to say. Congratulations Ironman!

  15. two miles of swimming and it stopped being fun?! both you and this article are amazing. i can only imagine your pain. i felt it as you adjusted from the water to the bi!ycle. ouch! congratulations! an incredible feat!

    i’m visiting from mCat’s blog 🙂

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