I don't know if you've read Mike's blog about his race, but here's my version of events.
We arrived in Austin several days before the race and it was HOT, especially since it was 49 degrees when we left Maryland that morning. We were hungry and Mike's version of acclimating himself to the temperature was to eat lunch outside. Mike said it was really hot, but for once the extreme temperature didn't bother me that much. However, I did feel bad for him and the other triathletes who would be racing in that mess. Yuck. Thursday night we hung out at his mom's pool where Mike and Brian competed in swimming contests and I refereed. I also sat in the hot tub a bit, but with the temperature turned down because I didn't want to break out in hives like I did last time.
We met up with my mom Friday morning. She was in San Antonio for the week visiting my grandma for her 92nd birthday so she met us halfway between both cities and took me to San Antonio with her and then we both drove to Austin that night so she could stay and see Mike's race on Sunday. Mom and I met Uncle Robert for lunch at a fabulous all-you-can-eat Mexican buffet and then we headed over to grandma's home for her birthday. Grandma has dementia and when I saw her in December with Gina, she didn't recognize me. This time she knew who I was almost immediately. I was surprised and happy she knew who I was, even with my short hair. I think seeing me with Mom helped a bit. Grandma was really good and seemed more herself than I had seen the last couple of visits. I think her new place is better for her than the big assisted living home where she used to live. There are only six residents here and I think she feels more comfortable. She looks great and did really well all day, except we noticed she was acting a little funny when we left but I thought it was because she was really tired from not sleeping so much.
Saturday morning, Mom and I joined Mike's aunts Valerie and Pam on a "million dollar home tour" right on Lake Travis. It was really hot that day and I felt like I was roasting in the heat. It was an organized event with shuttle buses that took us from the parking lot to the homes. There were lots of people (the $10 entry fee went to Make a Wish), which made it hotter inside the houses. We saw some beautiful homes: a walk-in wine "cellar" that had a clear Plexiglas floor built over a koi pond that went outside; a mirror with a built-in TV; and much, much more. We realized we were running late for Mike's TNT pasta party and we had to wait for a shuttle bus with a huge crowd. Valerie and Pam pushed our way onto the overcrowded bus, but halfway back to the parking lot it broke down. Several of us argued to just let us get out and walk, but they wouldn't open the door. Another bus finally arrived but it was much smaller. We managed to get on this bus and some people did start walking. We raced back to Austin and the frantic phone calls from Gail and Mike began. Gail was pretty ticked because we were running late and we had taken her car so she was stuck waiting for us. We finally got back, but Mom and I had to take Pam and Valerie back to Pam's place so they could shower. Thankfully, Mom and I weren't that sweaty so we didn't have to shower.
We arrived at the pasta party just before they closed down the food! It was pretty good, but I was disappointed they only offered two kinds of pasta with two kinds of sauce. I wasn't expecting a pasta party of that magnitude. For some reason, I just thought it was going to be the 23 local TNT athletes and their families in some small conference room just kicking back and loading up on pasta. It turns out, it was for all 500 TNT athletes and their families from around the country! It was a big motivational banquet explaining why everyone was there: to raise money for the LLS programs. The big shocker was that they had raised over $900,000 from just this race! GO TEAM!! The guest speaker was an author, motivational speaker, and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma cancer survivor…28 y.o. Meg Brown. She was AMAZING and I met her briefly afterwards and bought her book, which I read most of on the plane on the way home. She was misdiagnosed for four months and by the time she made it to the ER for her diagnosis, she was in such bad shape she was about one week away from dying. The most amazing thing: she ran the triathlon the next day. How awesome.
The alarm clock rang bright and early the next day: 6am. Mom needs a LONG time to get ready so she got up at 5am. I don't understand why. I figured I'd be hot and sweaty within an hour of being outside, so I didn't bother to take a shower. Mom, on the other hand, took a shower, blow-dried her hair, and put on make up. I put on sunscreen, put on our special purple "AM Victory Austin, TX 2008" t-shirt (with CANCER SUCKS! on the back) and was ready to go. We rode down with Gail, Brian, Yolandi, and Gail's fiance Michael. They closed the streets earlier than they said and we had a tough time figuring out where to park. We figured it out and walked down to the river where Mike was swimming and parked our gear along with everyone else. There were almost 2,000 athletes competing and I managed to find Mike in the crowd before his swim. He seemed really glad to see me and when I asked him later, he was really glad because he was on the verge of wigging out about the race. I chatted with him for a while and then headed back to his family, but I saw Gail coming towards me and took her over to him. It's amazing that I found him at all, but I kept looking for groups of TNT athletes with white swim caps. We hugged again and went back. Gail stayed by the finish line, but Mom, Valerie, Pam, and I stayed at the starting gate. I brought purple cowbells from Maryland and gave them to everyone in Mike's entourage. The race starts in waves, and Mike was in the white wave (like his swim cap). As each wave before Mike's passed us by, we clanged our cowbells and cheered for everyone, especially the TNT athletes. Some looked really thankful and happy we were there. In fact, after Mike went through the starting gate, someone commented to him that we were the loudest ones there. OH YEAH! GO MIKE!!!
Mike got in the water and waited for the gun. They jumped in from a floating dock and treaded water until the starting gun went off. Finally, the race was under way! I lost Mike in a sea of white swim caps plus they swam away from the spectators for most of the race. As he made the turn to come back, Michael spotted him in his binoculars and pointed him out. I could finally see him and he looked good. His stroke looked confident and strong. As he got closer, I went over to the transition area to cheer him on after he got out of the water. Soon, I heard them announce his name and he was out of the water. He made his way to the transition area and I cheered and clanged my cowbell. He told me later, he was a little out of it and barely remember seeing me.
We made our way over to the bike course and it was a mad house with bikers everywhere. Mike had to do four loops and I was supposed to hold up a sign counting down his laps, but I missed him the first lap. I finally saw him on the second lap. One of his teammates, Shannon, was near him so when I saw her on the third lap, I meant to keep an eye out for Mike, but she got clipped by another biker and fell. Shannon got up right away, but struggled to get back on the bike. She took a long time so I ran over to her to see if I could encourage her to keep on going. She was mad and crying and one of the TNT coaches helped her fix her bike. In all of that madness, I missed Mike's third lap. She finally got back on the bike and Mom and I cheered her on. We finally saw Mike again and it was on to the run.
We moved over to the running course and positioned ourselves near the start/finish of the run. By this time, it was getting really HOT and nasty. The run course was two loops of 3.1 miles each loop, but because of where we were sitting, we actually saw him four times as he started out or ended each loop. We finally saw him on the course and erupted into cheers and massive cowbell ringing. Brian hopped on the course and ran about .25 mile with him. I saw lots of athletes on this part looking completely exhausted and worn-out so I was sure to really encourage them, especially the TNT athletes. Some smiled and waved as they ran by (some looked annoyed, whatever). We spotted Meg Brown, the speaker from the night before, and she looked tired. One condition of her stem cell transplant is that her skin can get really tight, which makes it tough to move. She was running really stiffly and slow. We erupted into cheers of "Meg! Meg! Meg!" and she smiled and seemed to pick up the pace. She's awesome.
Soon enough, it was Mike's last lap. We high-tailed it to the finish line to see him there. Mom was moving a little slow from the heat and from hunger. I was a little disappointed I didn't see him cross the finish line, but I was close enough that I heard them announce his name. He was done! He finished!!! We hugged and kissed him and celebrated his amazing accomplishment. I am so proud of him. He did a TRIATHLON. Wow. His completion time was 3:09:32. It was an amazing experience and I'm super proud of his finishing this thing and for all of his training. He's been dedicated and spent many, many hours at the pool, on his bike, and outside running. All of his hard work paid off: he finished. GO MIKE!!!
Now he's training for his next event - a half marathon.