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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Iron Man Update

Friday night our family stayed the night in the Woodlands so we could watch our friend, John start his Iron Man early Saturday morning! What an honor to be his friend! I wanted to share with you his post-race report. Words escape me...

Iron Man Texas – May 21, 2011
If IronMan had not decided to have an inaugural race in The Woodlands, located just about an hour north of Houston, I am not sure if I would be writing this race report. The timing was somewhat eerie. But after completing two IronMan 70.3 races in 2010, what would be the difference? So I signed up. I can assure you that two halves do not equal a whole.

Since January 2011, my life has revolved around getting ready for IronMan Texas. I was told that the time commitment was enormous, and boy were they right. I had help from Coach Trent in getting my training on the right track, however, I couldn’t have executed it without my accountability training partner, Robin. Many mornings when the alarm clock went off, I would surely have turned it off and went back to bed if it weren’t for her. In addition, I met some amazing new friends during this journey. Trying to name them all here would take half a page. But I would like to point out just a few. Philip and all the folks at that work and ride for Shama Cycles are simply fabulous people. I learned a lot about cycling from them and they kept my bike tuned up and working efficiently. Trent, Andrew and Muddy organized a terrific IronMan training camp, where I learned a lot about strategy, nutrition and trying to educate me on a race that was simply hard for me to comprehend. And finally, Cindy and Ronnie who introduced me to a great team called Tri4Him. God was working when He called for our paths to cross and my perspective on triathlon in my life and why I train and race and participate in this awesome sport have been transformed forever.
When the week of the big race came, it seemed like the past 6 months just flew by. My mind raced with doubt…am I ready? We (Robin and I) got our packets on Wednesday and then came home to do some final packing before heading up to the Woodlands on Thursday. Got some dinner at PF Changs Thursday night and over to the athlete meeting. Thursday flew by so fast! Friday morning, there was a practice swim in Lake Woodlands. The water temperature was 79 degrees and at that point, wetsuits were not going to be legal. However, I could wear one, but just not be eligible for slots to the IronMan World Championships if I posted a fast time. I knew there was NOO way…so wearing a wetsuit entered my mind. However, I thought I would be too hot, so I made a decision to not wear one.

Friday afternoon was spent checking in my bike and transition bags and then heading back to the hotel and relaxing. Friday Evening I had dinner with Robin, her husband, mom, step-dad, Christy and her kids, Luke, Carleigh and Cora. Aimee was bringing the girls up that evening after the athletics banquet at Sydney’s school. Kelvin, Christy’s husband, arrived in The Woodlands, later that afternoon. Kelvin and Christy are Emma’s parents. Recall, that Emma’s Hugs, is the organization that I wanted to bring attention to and help raise money for as they help families in need when they have loved one’s in the hospital in the Texas Medical Center. It meant the world to me that they made the trip up to see the race.

I finally fell asleep around 9:30 that evening. I guess I was sleeping pretty hard as I didn’t even hear Aimee arrive at the hotel room. My wakeup call rang at 3:45. After a bagel and peanut butter, some orange juice and a Starbucks Double shot, Mike drove Robin and I to transition for one final check of tire pressure and put some final things in our transition bags. Then…off to the swim start. It was about 1 mile from transition, so Mike drove us there, too. At the swim start, I saw my friend John, who convinced me about 4 years ago that I should train for a marathon. Who knew that it would evolve into this? Met up with my family, Kelvin and Christy, Robin and her family who were all wearing their Emma’s Hugs/Team Mohr t-shirts. We had a prayer devotional with Tri4Him, I put on my skin suit, swim cap and goggles and headed for the water.

It was crowded and right as I got ankle deep in the water, the gun sounded to start the race. I was trapped by all the people behind me trying to fight to get into the water, the people in front of me trying to wait for people in front of them to start swimming and a boat dock on my right. I swam under the boat dock and was free of the chaos. I got into a steady swim pace and then started getting poked and prodded from all direction by folks who wanted to make the 2 hour 20 minute swim cut off and become an IronMan just as much as I. I found my way out of the chaos, held onto a kayak for a minute, caught my breath and then resumed. The rest of the swim was uneventful until we hit the canal heading up towards Discovery Green Park. The canal was about 75 meters wide with concrete walls on each side. When you put a bunch of swimmers in there, the water was like swimming in the ocean. The swim down the canal was about 2/3 of a mile but I made it, and exited the swim, total distance swam was 2.4 miles in 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Now was time to get ready for the bike. The transition tent was like a sauna!! I wanted to get out of there as fast as possible. I got to my bike, loaded up my pockets with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cans of starbucks double shots and granola bars. Aimee and the girls were right next to where my bike was racked, so I got to hear them cheer for me before I headed out on the long bike ride.

As I was about to mount my bike, someone tapped me on my shoulder and asked if I had white sunglasses. I said yes…and when I looked down at my bike, they were gone. She said they fell off back in transition. So, with bike in hand, I headed back up stream to go look for my sunglasses. And they were no where to be found. I started asking people in the crowd for a pair of sunglasses and to no avail. I finally came to the realization that I was going to ride this 6 hour bike ride with no sunglasses. UNTIL…I saw Triny and Wendy on the side. In a state of panic, I told them, “I lost my sunglasses!!”. Wendy handed me her sunglasses and I was off. (THANK YOU WENDY!!) The first quarter of the bike ride was uneventful. I saw David on the road and my mother and father in law. Crossing mile 25 or so, I saw Robin’s pink bike ahead. She said a police man stopped a group of about 100 riders at a stop light to let traffic move through. I couldn’t believe it!! We chatted for a minute, I gave her some of my peanut butter and jelly sandwich and I peddled on. The ride to the north was beautiful as we entered Sam Houston State Park and Forest. The part off Osbourne road was my favorite part of the ride. Through the trees, down hill and FAST! Once we turned and began heading south again, the head wind emerged. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, but I was 65 miles into the ride. At about mile 70, my chain dropped off my gears as I was shifting to get up a steep hill. So, I had to stop and get that fixed. At mile 92, I had a flat tire and had to change that. Coming back into the transition area after 112 miles of biking, I felt pretty good. I saw Aimee and the girls as I headed into transition to get changed to go run a marathon. I finished the bike in 6 hours and 19 minutes.
So far, my race was going entirely as I had planned it. All I had left was 3 loops of a 8.5 mile run course left between me and my IronMan. My plan called for taking it easy on the run, keeping my heart rate in the 130’s for the first 10K and see how I felt. This put me at about a 10:30 min/mile pace and at that time I knew it was going to be a long day. I am used to running 8:45 min/mile to keep that same heart rate. However, in hindsight, that is what I should have expected for the hot temperature and the high humidity. So I stayed true to my plan to run based on my HR and ignored my pace. The nutrition I packed in my fuel belt got messed up by sitting in the sun for 8 hours or something happened to my sense of taste. But none the less, it made me sick to drink it. I ditched my fuel belt during the first loop of the run and changed my nutrition plan. I started drinking the nutrition at the aid stations and continued taking my salt tablets. Running by the Tri4Him cheer zone in from of Landry’s at mile 7 or so, where Aimee and the girls were camped out, too, was a refreshing relief. They were the best cheer zone on the run course! I knew I’d see them again at Mile 15 and 24 and that kept me motivated to just get back to that spot 2 more times. The sun came out during the second loop. I saw so many runners on the side of the road hunched over, throwing up. All I could do was offer them a squirt of cold water on the drape of their neck from my water bottle and pray for them as I went down the road. Many I am sure had to be taken off the course. My heart rate rose to the 150’s just walking. At that point I went into defensive mode. I filled my water bottle up with ice water at every aid station and pushed through the second loop taking my salt tablets, drinking my water and pouring the rest over my head. At the beginning of the third loop I saw Philip and John who I mentioned earlier. I tried to stay close to them, but I just couldn’t go any further. I wanted to stop so bad, but I was determined to finish. As the sun went down, I got some strength to begin running again, but it was more of a moderate shuffle than a run. Running a marathon is challenging. Running a marathon after riding 112 miles is exceptionally hard! Running a marathon starting at 3:00pm after riding 112 miles when the temperature is 90 degrees with 60% humidity is darn near impossible. I saw my friend Robin when I hit the 25 mile marker as we turned the corner. The thought of her being there at the beginning when we signed up and right there at the end of my journey carried me that last 1.2 miles to the finish. I hit mile 26, stopped and kissed Aimee, Sydney and Ashley before making that final, memorable trip towards the finish line. My friend Wayne came to watch me finish, too. As I ran towards the finish line, I heard those famous words from Mike Reiley…”John Mohr…YOU ARE AN IRON MAN!!”. My friend Triny caught me at the finish line and made sure that I was OK. I glanced back at the clock…13 hours and 51 minutes. But the time was irrelevant at that point. I am an IronMan and the journey changed me forever.

There are things throughout life that we are told that add meaning and sense of accomplishment to our lives: “Job well done!!”, “Congratulations!”, “You did it!”. “You are an IronMan” is one that I will never forget. It has added meaning, but most of all it has added purpose through efforts with Emma’s Hugs. If we can take things that add meaning to our lives and augment them to add purpose, what a different world we would live in.

While “You are an IronMan” will be added to the list of phrases that describe what I have done, it will not define me. “You may kiss the bride” and “It’s a girl!” are the phrases that form foundation of my life as it exists today. Because of those phrases and the people behind them, I am who I am today. I could not have completed this IronMan journey without my family’s support. I have missed soccer games, volley ball games, campouts, making breakfasts after sleepovers and many others during this journey. And I hold deep regrets for those losses. But tomorrow is another day and I look forward to a 20 mile bike ride. And when I roll out of the driveway, I look forward to heading down the road and seeing where God takes me with a new perspective on life.

...I found myself in tears as I read John's account. All the work and training! Inspiring!

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