A Triathlete Supporter’s Biggest Question
By Becky Timmons
The question "why?" has slowly but surely become the standard response to many of my husband and son’s extreme workout regimes. Their decision to enter the Ironman 70.3 Branson in September proved to be no exception. My idea of an excellent Saturday is a glass of wine and a good book; but to my husband and son, a 50-mile bike ride or 10-mile run are the only elements that can fulfill their insatiable appetite for exercise. So here I sit in the middle of this training relationship as mom, wife, encourager, time-keeper, and water girl, but still I cannot help but wonder "Why…Why do they do it? Why do I do it?"
When distance or scheduling kept the two from training together, they would call, text, email and even send smoke signals to each other about what they had done that day. When we would meet for dinner, the conversation often turned to their training:
“Riding 75 miles this Saturday.”
“Wanna do a brick?”
“Interval swim, open-water swim.”
“A day off — not till we start tapering.”
“A 1.2-mile swim in Table Rock Lake. Water temperatures expected to be 70 degrees — we will be able to wear a wet suit.”
“A 56-mile bike course through the rolling hills of the Ozark Mountains—you taking GU or beans?”
“Before the two-loop 13.1-mile run course around Branson Landing, be sure to get your legs under you the last mile of the bike.”
And there I sit at the dinner table, nodding as if this foreign language of athlete "speak" makes perfect sense to me, all the while thinking, “Why?”
This particular race had two transition areas. Because of the crowd of participants and the traffic, my daughter-in-law and I (Team Timmons) decided to wait for them at the second transition area. We determined what time we needed to be there to see them get off the bike, put their shoes on, and begin waddling as they got their legs used to running. As the wife and the mom, it’s important to know when my athletes will be at certain points. Although I can’t do the race for them, I wanted to be there to show my support and let them know I am there for moral support. Team Timmons was ready to roll.
We got to the bike/run transition area and waited about 20 minutes to see my husband enter the transition area. He spotted us, placed his bike on the rail, put on his running shoes, grinned, and gave us high fives as he moved on to the run. Right on schedule.
We then waited for my son. Forty-five minutes later we saw him staggering into the transition area — walking his bike. He slowly placed his bike on the rail and fell to his knees. After painstakingly removing his bike shoes and replacing them with his run shoes, he shakily began to stand. Staggering towards us, his eyes met ours before collapsing in the corner of the transition area. I took off running to the medical tent. You would have thought I had been the one in training.
I later learned he was kicked in the head during the swim. Seeing stars, he managed to get to his bike and rode the 56 miles. But once off the bike, he began to lose his senses.
The paramedics returned and whisked him and my daughter-in-law to the medical tent. They gave him a shot for nausea and start an IV for dehydration. Seeing that he is starting to act normal (whatever normal is!), my concern eases. His color is coming back and he is not smiling, but at least responding to our questions.
Once again, I am wondering why.
Waiting with hundreds in the finishing chute area about 20 feet from the finish, I see him rounding the corner. As he runs in front of me, I holler, “Go sweetheart!” As if on cue, he grabs his left hamstring. Each time he tried to bend his leg, the pain intensified. A paramedic rushed toward him to see how he can assist him. In that determined face, I know and love, he responded, “It’s a cramp. I am going to finish.”
I began yelling words of encouragement at him, as if I can magically will his pain gone and get him to finish. I started hollering, “Go, Todd!” Hearing his name, the crowd began to chant and became instant cheerleaders. He tried to stand, but fell to the ground in excruciating pain. He rolled around trying to find a position that is not so debilitating. Realizing he could not stand on that leg, he began crawling towards the finish line on his elbows with his legs stretched behind him. Surrounded by a paramedic and cheering fans, he got to his feet — two yards from the finish line — and fell across. Finish time: 6:06:18.
Maybe this is why.
I returned to the medical tent and learned that my son asked if he could run the 13.1 miles even though he had been diagnosed with a mild concussion. The doctor stated that if he didn’t get sick in the next five minutes that he could run. Five minutes later, his IV removed, he headed out the tent to finish the race. I see him on the course with the same determined look I had just observed in my husband. I knew then he was going to finish. Finish time: 7:20:08.
Maybe this is why.
A couple of days later, reflecting upon the happenings of that day, I wondered what they were thinking for their future athletic pursuits. And then I overhear: “70.3. No — let’s train for the 140.6.” I instantly snapped from my pride and nostalgia at their achievements with this acknowledgment of future pain. I looked at them both and asked, "Why? Why?!”
Inspired by the multisport accomplishments of her husband and her son, Becky is now training for her first sprint triathlon.