124 days ago with shorter hair, lighter skin, and fresh clothes free of rips and tears, we left our humble homes in Sutton Massachusetts. Over the last four months Steve and I have waged war against our simple suburban lifestyle. Heat, Wind, Rain, Snow, Hunger, Thirst, and exhaustion are all foes we have had to face.We’ve conquered every conflict…except one. As this journey ends, we approach the last battle. The climatic ending to this cross country epic. The battle that determines the outcome of this war. The Ironman. However, this isn’t just any ironman. This is the toughest the world has ever seen. So tough, that this is the last year St George will host one. Steve and I will make history. I am the 9th youngest male competing in this race. The only thing standing between me and the finish line is 140.6 miles of physical agony. I’m determined to finish. I will use all the mental strength I have gained on this trip as a lethal weapon to this race. I will not lose. It’s gonna be one heck of a good time!
My first road race was the Boston Marathon, my first bike trip was 4,000 miles across the country, and my first triathlon will be the St. George Ironman. Go big or go home.
With God at my side, there is no way I will fail.
Stay tuned for an after race post! Send prayers and positivity our way!
Taylor Thibodeau: future iron man.
Tomorrow is the last day standing between Taylor and I and the race. We are excited. Getting everything squared away beforehand has proven to be a challenge, and as such, hearing the gun go off will be a relief in itself.
One interesting puzzle we’ve been facing as of late is the inability to use bicycle transportation in the days leading up to the race, as we may need those muscles later. Finding transportation is a mystery yet to be solved. Of course, if it comes down to that, I will ride where I need to!
Here is my hand posing with the official Ironman wristband.
Other than the few remaining technical logistics, I need to take care of the food I will be eating for the race. Ironman has 5 bags that you fill (bike gear, run gear, morning clothes, etc) and they will supply them at different points throughout the race. It seems simple, but it’s not. Little known fact; brain function decreases roughly 80 Percent in the days leading up to an Ironman.
So I’ll be scrambling around for the next 48 hours!
With arms raised high and a look of shock and excitement, she jumps in front of my bike. I quickly veer left and pull firmly on the breaks. The old soft very very weak breaks I might add. She says something with a smile, but I can’t tell what. I turn my head around and smile back, “what was that?” I ask.
She pulls out her headphones… “I know you!”, she exclaims. “You’re from Trailing The Sun! You’re doing the Ironman. I added you on Facebook.”
I am now in a state of shock myself. I feel like a rock star. I’ve been recognized!
After our encounter, Erin Harding, the young vampire weekend-listening mom, went on to finish her 50k (31 mile run)
With one hand steering, I brush my hair back and readjust my earbuds. Pressing firmly and twisting until snug. I am now 30 miles into the toughest ironman course ever created. The majority of this course has been a gradual incline. I reach down and grab one of my two water bottles. Before I take a sip, I know by now the sun has surly had its way with my water. At 95 degrees in direct sunlight, it doesn’t take long for ice to melt and water to become stale. “Yup. Gross…gross, but necessary.” As I move, I find it difficult to keep my eyes on the road. Instead I place my vision to my surroundings. The red rock canyons cannot be compared to anything else. I lose myself staring at the bright orange menacing formations. I am an ant in a big big world. As I make a winding turn, I am presented with a great challenge.
Ahead of me is a mile long accent up a winding cliff. “You’ve got to be kidding me…”I think as I increase the volume on my iPod. “Good song” Beads of sweat roll down my cheeks collecting filth as they plummet to the tar. As I drop my head forward droplets fall into my sunglasses slightly impairing my vision. More of an extreme annoyance than a real hinderance. I take notice of my thighs as they tense up and enlarge while I press my feet down on rusted pedals. As I make my way up, I remind myself of all the other climbs I’ve made on this trip. I have never once gotten off my bicycle to walk up a steep incline. Never once. “I certainly won’t do that now!” I shift my gears. click. click. click. click. Four times. I hear the chain shifting. Clank. Clank. It gets stuck for a moment, but eventually corrects itself. I’m panting heavily as I raise myself off the seat to get a more efficient climb. Slow going. “This is harder than the big climb in Steamboat Springs”, I thought to myself. This was possibly the toughest climb I’d ever done. I’d have to do it twice if I wanted to be a made of iron. “I should have taken a longer sip”
Finally, after much exhaustion, I reached the top. Steve had done the course the day before and had informed me that there was a food mart not to far after the FIRST big climb. As I raised my bottle to my lips, I took a big gulp of warm water. “I need a cold gatorade.”
A couple miles later, I was inside an air conditioned food mart. While here, I talked with many other ironman competitors as they were training on the course as well. I also had a lovely conversation with my wonderful mother!
The smile left my face as I pressed my thumb and fore finger against my back tire. “No…not now!” Sure enough, I had severe flat tire. Just ahead of me was another mile long climb. “This is going to be fun.”
I spent the rest of the brutally hot day fishtailing and swerving my way home. I did make it though. SUCCESS!
I stumble into the house and fall on the couch. I press my finger against my red arm. As I pull away, I see a pale white fingertip-sized mark return to lobster red. The suns rays burn hot here in Santa Clara.
Things are all beginning to come together.
1)My tri suit and new helmet came in today.
2)Aquasphere hooked us up with some excellent free wetsuits which we will receive in a few days.
3)Steve’s Uncle Ben is shipping me his exctremely gnarly time trial bike to ride.
4) I bought new shoes.
For those of you sounding out that wonderful acronym above, it is pronounced the same as swimmer, but with a strong new england accent (SWIM-AH).
For those of you who have a natural disposition for perfect pronunciation and moved on only to be foiled by the meaning of the acronym, I will gladly reveal it. S.W.I.I.M.A is none other than:
Steve’s Wicked Important IronMan Advice
This will be an ongoing series of tips and hints that I accrue leading up to (and following) Ironman St. George. Of course, these tips will be made to apply not just to this race, but any endurance event you may lay your registration upon.
Without further a due:
1. Oreo cookies are NOT a feasible substitute for proper race/training nutrition.
This tip is especially important, and I can speak from recent experience. I, one known often as the ‘Steel Stomach’ or the holder of ‘Incorruptible Intestines,’ was easily foiled by this horrendous ploy. Of course, it is commonly known that those training for triathlons commonly ingest an oozy post-nuclear substance known affectionately as Goo.
That (surprisingly as it seems) is a much better idea than the oreos.
2. Avoid this:
I tried my best, but got hit with a great dowsing of it.. Alas! One of the great downfalls of bicycle travel lies not in the bicycle itself but its relationship with the premier transportation machine.
3. Embrace those around you who you share an interest with!!
Come on.. Unless you live in Amsterdam, or a few other select bicycle havens, it is not too much work to acknowledge fellow pedal pushers around you! Of course, it is completely acceptable to be in so deep a zone that you acquire what is known as ‘tunnel vision,’ thereby missing your counterparts.
The other side can be quite uplifting, however! Try this guy out, for example.
Well, That is about all I have for you for now. Yes, today’s 3 tips are quite heavy on the bicycle section. But they still apply to all three disciplines (maybe not so much swimming, unless you are creative) and even to life itself!
I hope you enjoyed the advice. I hope you can apply it when you get off the computer today to go outside and ride! I am sure that will be happening soon, right? Oh, it’s too cold out? You are tired? You have plans? I understand. That’s why you are reading this blog. Well at least go on a walk or something.
See you soon with some real life updates about my life and training!
Leave it to Steve and Taylor to sign up for the worlds toughest Ironman. St. George is home to the triathlon with the lowest percentage of finishers. This is sure to be a gnarly experience!
While we train, you should enjoy the photos below!
Here I am with a long awaited update and insight into the lives of your two favorite bicycle toting travelers.
Our travels have been speckled with hitchhiking rides across long expanses, bicycle rides through the most varied scenic passes, and the occasional sojourn with newly forged acquaintances along the way.
I suppose the story continued as we left the door of Eric Allred’s garage. Route 10 southbound became our gravitational stopper as we headed down slopes towards our eventual destination camping spot for the night. The day’s ride held a twist. Taylor regarded the tailwind and elevation drop as promising, and he accordingly went out with quite the gusto and speed. A different viewpoint was planned for me, however. Most of the morning was spent struggling to keep my significantly weighty bicycle at level with Taylor’s brisk pace. This did not prove very successful, and I had to watch from afar as he signaled the companion he thought was directly behind him. My hard work to keep up left me with an empty stomach and a need for some A/C. Eventually, lunchtime came into play and I opted to splurge on a 14″ Large pepperoni pizza, with an accompanying 12″ breadstick round. By the end of it all, there remained only 2 pieces of pizza and 2 end breadsticks. Taylor made the conservative (and smart) decision of eating his own food.
The two of us hopped back on the bikes, and I was in for more demoralizing miles as I struggled beside the coal trucks. Luckily, the difficulty was broken up with the inevitable views of the Utah landscape. I will let taylor’s pictures speak to that, as a median between the imagery I would attempt and the ability to actually be there and see them! Anyway, we continued on to the last small town before we would reach Interstate 70. We went into Randy’s general store and found from the friendly clerk, Mary Lynne, that it would be fine to use the rest area across the road to camp for the night. She didn’t let us get away with just that, and she insisted on buying us a snack and drink a-piece as her good deed for the day.
Taylor and I settled in and I informed him that I would like to take the next day as rest, so as to send back some weight that was holding me down. As the night fell, we found that Mary Lynne’s kindness was not soon to end. She had brought us hot chocolate!
Upon waking, we found breakfast waiting as well. The kindness we were shown is heartwarming indeed. The two of us went through our bags to send things home, and we got quite a bit out on the way to MA. The post man, Randy, expects a post card from MA when we return home, and this will hopefully serve as a reminder for me! Our activity for the day was a climb of a nearby rock formation that resulted in stunning views as well as some interesting finds. Taylor gained a unique cone shaped rock to add to his necklace, while I found a small geode and a piece of amber (petrified sap). We returned down and back to home camp before dark. At that point, Mary Lynne’s family extended even MORE kindness and we were invited to a wonderful dinner at their home. We found the company and the food to be first rate.
The following morning, we packed up and headed out, feeling well rested, well filled, and light on the bikes. We made it to the Interstate, and off we went, west across another mountain range. Confidence was in us both that day, and we climbed from under 5000 feet to nearly 8000 feet without a single problem, and averaging quite a speed the whole way. Our efforts gleaned quite a reward, and we then coasted down the mountain ridge for almost 20 miles, at which point we stopped for lunch. The day was going well, and despite our successes, we decided to try a new method of travel: Hitch-biking.
The idea was to hitchhike, but with our bicycles and gear with us. Not complicated at all. But who would pick up two guys so heavily laden with gear? Apparently, a lot of people would. We gained a ride within a few minutes, and met a truly kind guy who was on his way home from Moab. He brought us to Interstate 15. We were making serious headway for the day. Our goal became St. George by nightfall! We secured a ride again with a father and son on their way to Las Vegas for a car show; George and George. Coincidence? I think not. Their willingness to help others led them to stop again for a stranded hot rod, and we gained 2 more to our troupe. Their car was having some trouble, but we made it into St. George as the sun fell behind the red rocks, and the moon rose behind the same on the opposite side.
A cheap motel for the night was in line, and we chose the Sands. This motel will come into play in the future as well.
It was roughly at this time that Taylor informed me I once told him on the trip that I owed him a favor, and he chose to realign us toward Los Angeles. His yearning to see the pacific coast remained strong, and I had no choice but to oblige. Of course, when put that way, it seems as if I did not like the prospect, when contrarily, I quite looked forward to it, and besides, we had plenty of time before we needed to settle down in St. George for training.
The road was reserved for a bit more hitch-biking, and we had an easy time of it, until Las Vegas. We again made it our goal to arrive at our destination by nightfall, and we were now hard pressed to get a ride on the outskirts of Sin CIty. I was led to believe it was because of the outgoing traffic’s poor prospects at the casinos that they did not want to pick us up. That did not affect one driver, however, and we saw a small car stop behind us on the entrance ramp to the interstate. A well dressed girl roughly our age stepped out into the wind and greeted us merrily. We chatted for a bit, and all came to the decision that despite the size of the car, it would be worth and effort to attempt securing them in the trunk, as Nicky was also headed to L.A.
All was successful, and we jumped in the car. soon enough, we were 3 pals on a road trip, and we enjoyed the time well with good music and a stop at In + Out Burger. The time eventually came when we departed and she dropped us off in West Hollywood, where we were graciously offered room to stay with Joey Fiore and Bart Walsh. Good times were had, and we also got to see quite a bit of the surrounding area. Taylor and I rode down to Santa Monica beach, taking a detour through the Hollywood and Beverly Hills. The houses were grand, the cars were flashy, and the whole world around us was a beautiful, varied garden. The smelling was wonderful! We eventually got to the beach and trudged our way through the sand to place our bicycles in the great Pacific!
Later, we reunited with Nicky, and met her friend, Dana. The four of us instantly went off for some adventure, and on queue was a night hike to the Hollywood sign itself, and the Griffith Observatory. We saw a few coyotes passing through the quite neighborhood on the way to the observatory. After all, the four of us became peas in a pod, and we had many a good time. We were soon graciously invited to Nicky’s family’s easter dinner, and they let us crash on the couch at Nicky’s house the night before. We had a fun ride with stops at a hotel bonfire and a flock of flamingos, the site for the upcoming Coachella Fest, and a particularly flashy casino/hotel. Eventually, the night ended and I alone stayed up to cry my eyes out while watching the movie 50/50. I highly recommend it, but don’t forget to bring tissues.
Easter the next day was quite and affair, and we enjoyed company of the whole exciting extended family of Nicky, particularly some of her younger relatives during a rousing game of pickup basketball. We made our way back to Joey’s place, and we all said our final farewells. Taylor and I left the following morning en route back to St. George.
As we discussed places to stay for the night, Taylor talked briefly on the phone with Nicky. She informed us that her grandmother, Jeanne, may have some extra beds for us. Jeanne fondly refers to us and many others as her ‘idiots.’ We were gladly part of the group, and Nicky and Dana even paid a visit to the house later on, albeit only briefly. We said our goodbyes again, enjoyed warm beds, and took up Grandma Parks’s offer to drive us a bit of the way back toward St. george! When we were dropped off, we braved the hot Mojave Desert (yes, even in april), passed through Las Vegas again, and camped at a large truck stop/gas station area for the night. I slept only with my sleeping bag and mat, and the starry sky as my tent. We continued down the road, and eventually picked up a last ride to St. George. (It should be noted that our travels now include over 4000 miles of cycling, 1700 miles of bus transportation, and now almost 1000 miles of hitchhiking! We have gained some travel experience, you could say.)
We then met a refrain of the previous visit to our penultimate destination, and stayed at the same Sands motel as last time in St. George. Again, the room was a nice rest. We stopped in at a cool cafe, the Bean Scene, and struck up a conversation with Christina, a musician in town. She said she might know a place for us to pitch our tents, and soon we showed up at the door of Avalon and Jordan! The two have been gracious hosts as well as good new friends. Taylor and I have been relaxing a bit in the area and preparing all the last things for our race! It is in 19 days now, and we are looking forward to it with overflowing excitement!
Our travels are nearly done, with just the way back to Las Vegas for our flight remaining. All we have now is the race.
Thanks for reading, We will both be on more frequently now with training updates and posts pertaining to Ironman St George!!!