Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Anything Is Possible – Ford Ironman World Championships

Ironman competition is consecutive back to back to back events starting with a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride and finishing with a 26.2 mile run. It is grueling and not for the faint of heart.

The Louisville Ironman competition this past September is a qualifying event (there are about 30 qualifying races per year) for the Ironman World Championship competition in Kona, Hawaii. Approximately 1,800 competitors from all over the world qualified and would be racing in the World Championship race in Kona.

There were 4 competitors this year that qualified to go to the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii from Louisville, Kentucky; Andy Rumsey, Jo Ann Jessie, Chad Holloway, and our daughter, Monica Murphy.

In Kona the environment was great. The scenery was beautiful and the weather was terrific. We met people from all over the world. There were 47 countries represented plus 48 of our 50 states for the Ironman competition.

We arrived as “Team Murphy” a week early. As the days progressed, Monica made final preparations as the town of Kona transformed with people, bleachers, banners and broadcast structures. The excitement was building.

Race Day! We were up at 5:00 am for the final check in. Race numbers are painted on the participating athletes. The sun comes up and the competitors enter the water. A C-130 cargo plane circles above the bay as the crowd gathers. 5 Navy Seals parachute from the plane into the bay as part of a ceremonial pre-start for the race.

A few minutes later, at 6:45 am, a cannon blast signals the start of the swim for the professional triathlete's that number about 120. At 7:00 am the remaining “non professional triathlete’s” begin to swim to the start line for position. A second canon blast echoes off the surrounding coast and crowd.

It is 7:00 am and the beginning of a long arduous journey for these 1,800 competitors. Only the most committed and determined will finish sometime in the next 17 hours.

The support group of Team Murphy is in place to give cheers and words of encouragement plus offer prayers of safe passage for our daughter and the other participants.

The professional triathlete’s exit the water in a steady pace and take off on their bikes. They will be followed by the “age groupers” who are non professionals. The swim cut off is 2 hours and 20 minutes. The first pros out of the water (both men & women) are magnificent athletes that have trained for upwards of 50 hours per week to compete in this event.

Team Murphy cheers Monica as she passes us and heads off on the bike. It is going to be a very hot day. The temperatures would eventually top out at 105 degrees. Taking fluids and staying hydrated is literally a lifeline.

On the lava fields of Kona, it is long, hot, boring and windy. The trade winds are a steady 30 to 35 miles per hour with gusts to over 60 miles per hour. There is no way to get out to this portion of the course to lend encouragement. The athletes are alone with their thoughts and physical pain. It now becomes as much a mental challenge as a physical challenge. We won’t be able to see them for about 100 of the 112 miles.

We can check on the internet to see if loved ones have passed quarter points. However the website is down. We wait. It grows hotter. The professionals return and start their run. We worry. We pray. Finally we see Monica and explode with relief and enthusiasm. We try to find out how she is feeling as she whizzes by us on her bike. Thumbs up!

Team Murphy quickly scrambles to the next vantage point to cheer our daughter as she comes out of the transition area onto the run. We decided to split up so that we can give encouragement at multiple locations on the course.

I am at the last vantage point before the athletes head back out the road to the lava fields. We stay in touch be cell phone. I get the call that she is on the way. There is a blur of people passing. Finally Monica arrives. She looks strong. I tell her that we are so proud and that we love her. She smiles and heads into the peak heat of the day. As Monica fades in the distance, I yell “See you at the finish line!”

Hours later, darkness has fallen and we wait. Team Murphy is now all together; Mom, Dad, our son Sean and daughter-in-law Katie. We have picked up friends along the way. We still wait.

Monica arrives and passes us. She has a mile to go. Thank goodness she looks good. Monica wants us to run in with her at the finish line. We take a short cut diagonally across a parking lot. We all join hand in hand to cross the finish line.

The announcer calls Monica Murphy’s name amongst all the lights, cheers and music. “Monica…YOU…ARE…AN…IRONMAN!”

Monica finished in 12 hours & 9 minutes. She insisted on staying until midnight, the final cut off. Monica knew how important our support was for the others that were struggling to the finish within the allotted 17 hours.

I am glad we stayed. We saw friends finish, plus a 76 year old man completed the course. A young lady with one leg completed the event. Another man that had been in a terrible car accident and died 8 times on the operating table 4 years earlier finished the race.

Now time was short. It was 11:30 pm. Just a few people left on the course somewhere out in the darkness. We saw a blind man finish with his assistant. But yet we waited for one more person.

This person was seeking to achieve something never done before in an Ironman. This man had no legs below either knee. How absolutely courageous.

We got word that he was coming down a long hill about a mile out. We looked at our watches and at the official timer. It was going to be close. The crowd waits in anticipation of history being made.

The young man appears out of the darkness and finishes to thunderous applause and cheers at 11:50 pm. Yes, he is an Ironman too.

I came away from Hawaii with a new view of the world. Never had I experienced such dedication, inspiration and example. We are very proud of our daughter, but then again, we always were and we always will be.

Monica and all of the other athletes have shown us that Anything Is Possible!

By Pat Murphy (my dad!)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Home from Hawaii!

I recently returned from the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii and what a whirlwind it's been! I desperately need to update you on the trip, but for now I'll leave you witha few intriguing thoughts (mainly because I don't have time to write a race report right now :-).

On this trip I learned a lot about myself and the person I strive to be. While training in Kona I got to meet some of the most amazing people in the sport including Sister Madonna Buder and Scott Binzer. While I also met all the pros and big names of Ironman, it was Sister Madonna and Scott who made me realize why I'm in Kona, and why I continually strive to push myself further and harder.

Making it to Kona is about the journney of self discovery. I looked back on training rides and runs where I was discouraged because I didn't hit my marks, and started to realize it's those workouts that make you stronger. They made me realize that I am blessed with an incredible ability and I should be thankful to be out with my friends and family enjoying the experience. I realized that instead of battling with myself throughout these workouts, I need to embrace the experience. Breathe in the air and look around. I am blessed with a great ability and I am going to take full advantage of it. Scott Binzer looked at his injury not as a setback, but as an opportunity, and now he has become the first double amputee to ever complete and Ironman. It has made me realize, in all aspects of life, that anything is possible that you set you mind to!

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Inaugural Ford IRONMAN Louisville 2007 Race Report

OK, so here’s the scoop. I’ve been MIA for way too long, probably because of the E.Coli I caught from swimming in the dirtiest river in the States… well, not really E.Coli, but I did get a nasty stomach bug that put me through more pain than the race did.

So, it’s Sunday morning around 3:45 am, August 26th. I woke up feeling well rested and excited for the events to come. I ate a good solid breakfast and waited for my brother and wife to pick me up. Around 4:45am they arrived and we were off to Waterfront Park! We wanted to get there as transition opened at 5:00am because Ironman changed the swim start to a time trial start on a first come first serve basis. Our goal was to get marked, inflate tires, drop off special needs bags and head ¾ of a mile down river to the new swim start.

The swim was originally scheduled to be 1 mile upstream, 100 yards across, and 1 mile downstream. However, in the week leading up to the race there was flooding up north which caused the river to rise and the current to become too strong to swim against. With this event being inaugural, Ironman NA wanted it to run flawlessly. Since the water was already too warm for wetsuits, they decided not to risk it and changed the course to the athletes advantage. The new course started us ¾ from transition going upstream in an area protected from the current, then it swooped us around into the main shipping channel and back downstream with the current to the original exit (making a J shape).

So, back to where I left off. We arrive at an already bustling transition area. We are walking to get stamped (because at Ironman races you get cool number stamps) and my stomach shuts down. I knew I would be nervous upon arriving race morning, but this felt like more than just nerves. I thought I was going to pass out! Thanks to my amazing brother and my super-hero sister-in-law (who saved the day with the medicine cabinet she carries at all times) I was able to stumble through check-in and work my way to the swim start.

The swim start was so cool! It’s hard to describe! The sun is rising and there was a Bugler calling all athletes to post. There were thousands of people looking down onto the docks of a swim start that has never happened quite like this in Ironman NA history!! Finally after what seemed like forever… the canon blew and the line to enter the water slowly moved forward. Sean (my brother) and I slowly weaved our way down the hill onto the docks. We were both too nervous to talk, yet too excited to stop smiling! Athletes were diving off the pier two by two, every second. Then, I was next. I gave Sean a huge hug, and dove into the start of an amazing day!

Making the turn into the main shipping channel was awesome! It’s like someone grabbed my arms and was pulling me towards the exit. As we swam closer to the exit, we could see people lined up along the river cheering us on. That Gatorade bottle marking the exit kept getting bigger and bigger, then WHAM! I was yanked out of the water by a volunteer with a huge smile. “Go, Go, GO!” They were yelling. 1 hour 11 minutes, a swim PR for me. Sean came out right behind me, a PR for him too.

I was in and out of transition in just a few minutes. It was such a rush to launch out through a chute of screaming supporters. I kept thinking to myself, slow and easy. But the first quarter of the bike is fast and flat, it’s hard not to just go. But, I held back and felt great going into the first loop… that’s where the real fun starts! There are some pretty steep and technical climbs along the loop, however there was also a devil and a few other crazy supporters to help push me along. Then as quickly as I turned onto the loop for the first time, I was making my way back for round 2. Wow, I lost a lot less time on the loop than I had expected; my legs really responded to the hills and we had the wind at our back for the return. So I decided to take on loop 2 a little more aggressively. I maintained a strong pace and made my final turn onto US 42. 42 is fast and flat and descends all the way back to transition…it doesn’t get much better than that! I really pushed it on the return, partially because I lost some time when I pulled over at a penalty tent. Note to race officials: First, don’t hold up three fingers at me and drive off like I should know what the heck that means (still have no idea). Second, when you red card someone, yell out their number. Myself and the three riders around me had no idea who had been carded (it turned out not to be me!).

OK, so I’m finishing up my bike and I realized I had made up some time. I finished the bike in 5:54 (my goal was to break 6:00) so I was right on the money. With no time to lose I rushed into transition, still flustered about whether I had been penalized. Luckily, my transition volunteer is a coach and friend. I told her I wasn’t sure if I got carded, but if I did I didn’t stop to get my bib marked! She looked at me and said, “It doesn’t matter now, Della’s out ahead, go catch her!” Della is her coaching partner and another really cool person I had the opportunity to meet.

I started out on the run seeing my amazing family and friends cheering me on. I love seeing my family along the course, nothing makes me want to push myself harder! The first part of the run is a ½ mile out and back, so I got to come back past the transition area and see my family again. This time my lovely brother, Christopher, decided to boost my spirits by putting on my Team USA Speedos, a sombrero, and a t-shirt with mine and Sean’s names across the front (the first letter or my name was an M-dot, creative Christopher!).

8 miles marked the first turnaround. I’ll be honest, it was hot and my hips were tight! I was slowing down with each mile, but knew I had to maintain if I was going to break 11 hours. The next six were a struggle… and slllow! But that led me to the turnaround at the finish line so there were a ton of spectators. I was really hurting at this point but knew I had to push through. At mile 20, and the final turnaround, I passed my brother and his brother-in-law! I was soo excited to see them doing so well out on the course, they looked awesome!! I was at 10:18 with 6.2 miles to go. Sean yelled at me, “Go break 11!” and of course I laughed and continued on at my 10 min/mile pace, but seeing them certainly gave ma a boost and I was able to pick it up for the last few miles.

Getting to that finish line was the most amazing feeling in the world! It wasn’t by my individual efforts that got me to that line, but Sean always encouraging me got me there, my parents and Christopher who were out on the course for longer than I was helped get me there, my sister-in-law Katie definitely saved the day and helped get me there, the crowd support, the amazing volunteers, my coach, all my friends and training partners, so many people got me to that line. It makes you realize what this race is all about, taking that final step across the line, and completing 140.6 miles.

11 hours 20 minutes. I was ecstatic! Everything came together so perfectly for me, and all that hard work and sacrifice finally paid off. We stayed at the finish for a few more hours to cheer on the finishers. People came across crying, laughing, throwing up, and doing cartwheels! Sean and Matt came across the line together looking so strong. I was so proud of Sean! He had worked so hard and had a horrible experience in Ironman Wisconsin, to see him come across that line in 14 hours was huge!! Way to go Sean!

So we get home around midnight. I’m so overcome with emotion and pain it’s paralyzing. I could stop thinking, “That was the most amazing accomplishment of my life!!” I knew I had finished well in my age-group, but thought I had finished 2nd or 3rd. So when I got home, instead of checking the results I sat down and ate some pasta and chicken. Sean and Katie came over for food, when they arrived Katie asked how I had finished. So I go get online and search F18-24…RESULTS: 1st – Monica Murphy. NO freakin’ WAY!!! I sat there for a second in disbelief, then uttered, “Uh, Mom…We’re going to HAWAII!”

I couldn’t sleep that night! My body ached, my mind kept replaying the race, I’m getting up in the morning to reserve my KONA slot! Oh my gosh, OH my GOSH! My cell phone rings… it’s the morning calling. Actually, it’s Nina. She had already gotten the paper, not only did I come in first in my age group… I came in 20th Overall!

Congratulations to all the finishers of the Inaugural Ford Ironman Louisville 2007. I will never forget the memories it gave me and I hope for many more to come!

I'm Back!!

OK, so I get to France and wouldn't you know it... no computer at our hotel! Sorry to leave ya hanging like that. So here's the super condensed version of my amazing trip:
I fly into Paris, bike and luggage made it! It's about 8:00am there, but the middle-of-the night my time. We take a bus around the Paris airport to pick up all other Team USAers who were on different flights. That airport was HUGE! We finally snatch everyone up and travel through Paris to the train station. We got to take a four-hour bullett to L'Orient. I would say it was cool, but I slept the whole time ;-)
L'Orient is a small town, so having the World's here was a big deal to them. Everyone was taking our pictures and there were billboards all over town about the race. Our hotel was pretty far away from the hustle and bustle of the town, so during the day when we weren't training we would all just hang out and get to know eachother. It was so much fun and I met some great friends!
Race day was awesome! We had great weather starting out. The swim began as a wave start with all females in one wave (about 200 of us). We did a two loop swim, having to climb up and over a pier in the middle... it was different! I felt good coming out of the water and finished the 2 mile swim in just under 1 hour. The transition was in one end out the other, so everyone ran the same distance through transition. However, this also made transition about 3/4 mile long!! It went forever! The bike course was beautiful. It was out and back twice for a total of 49 miles. We rode along the ocean and the countryside, it was awesome. Pretty flat course, had some strong crosswinds from the ocean though. But the most difficult part was going over the french version of a speed bump before and after each of the traffic circles we went through. Their speed bumps are long and not well marked. Thinking back it was really funny to watch people ride over them. I came off the bike not doing as well as I had hoped, so I really pushed my run (12.8 miles). I finished the race in 5:09, 5th in my Age Group.
Going to France on my own was such a cool experience. I met some great friends and learned some really valauble lessons about racing!! I ended up extending my trip two days to tour Paris with Jill and Nikki, two of my coolest teammates. We walked for 14 hours straight fueling with baugettes, nutella, espresso, wine, and cheese! It was perfect, and a great end to an unforgettable trip!

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Hello and Welcome!

I've created this site to document my triathlon training experience. Working to balance school, a job, an internship, and Ironman training is a heavy load! But with the help of so many great people I've come a long way in a short amount of time.

This season I have qualified for Team USA and will be competing in the Long Course Triathlon World Championships. I'm shipping out to France tomorrow morning! So check out the site as I update it daily to document my first big race overseas!