Thursday, December 31, 2015

Selfies of 2015

I took a lot of selfies this past year. 

I just wanted to share as we close out 2015.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

A Final Word for Our Father

My brother and I spoke at our dad's memorial service today.  While dad was in hospice we shared memories and compared notes about what we remembered about dad.  As a follow-up to my roller coaster ride here are the two speeches we gave today.

Rob's speech:

This is one of John’s lunch boxes.  Don’t worry, he’s not in there.  Though that’s not a bad idea.

John Gibb was my father and one of the finest men I've ever known.

A while ago he wrote a few pages about what he considered to be his life's accomplishments.

He was foremost a husband, father, father-in-law and grandfather.

He was an engineer, a builder, and a world traveler.

And he started as a paperboy, lifeguard, and Boy Scout.

I think the last sheds a lot of light on his life.  How can you not think of John when I say a Scout is:
trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, (my favorite) thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.

I'll also throw in the Boy Scout motto, Be Prepared.

When he got his diagnosis two years ago, he became the Project Manager of his cancer.  He also had an amazing Project Assistant in Carol.  He took charge of his medical decisions and treatments and put up a good fight for two years.  He also chose when to stop fighting.

A week ago Saturday, my husband Dave and I went to visit him and Mom.  There were a few seconds when he and I were alone and he said "I should've died two days ago."  He was pissed.  He was behind schedule.

Because he took control, there are no regrets. And we are here today to celebrate his life!

John Gibb is the man who taught me how to camp, how to canoe, how to swim, how to travel and how to drive a stick shift.

He constructed a permanent model train layout on a platform which would retract into the basement ceiling on a pulley system.

He helped me build pinewood derby cars in the Cub Scouts. When it came time to paint the car, instead of a high-gloss paint with a racing stripe and number, I insisted on staining it Walnut.  I'm sure John just rolled his eyes. But we got second place due to his perfectly placed weights; it's good to have an engineer for a father. 

He tried to teach me sports, but mom and dad finally gave up and produced Gibb 2.0.

He also taught the entire family the card game Qualify.  He learned it from his parents and it has now been passed down four generations of Gibbs.

John, Carol, Eric and I are very different people with very different interests.  But whenever we got together we laughed.  We are officially “The Fun Family”.  Yes, it’s official because we have a wooden plaque which says, “The Fun Family”.

And today, when the extended Gibb family gets together, we laugh.  Our family Christmas dinners at Eric and Aimee’s are epic and legendary.

When dad decided to end his treatment, the family got together Labor Day weekend and went through boxes of dad's photos and mementos.  As we passed things around, dad would identify friends and family and tell us stories, many we had never heard before.  And we laughed.

Even in the last three days when Dad was in hospice the family gathered, reminisced, and laughed.  I'm sure he could hear our laughter and I know he enjoyed it.

I want to share two words of wisdom John gave me:

“There's a difference between wanting something and needing something.”


“When you pick a college, pick one that you can drive to, but you're not home every weekend.”

Here's a short story from his travels.  He and mom were in France, I think, and John was walking around on his own. He came across a guy working on the foundation of the house. He stopped, observed and the guy saw him watching.  Speaking no French, dad pointed at something that caught his eye and gestured to the other guy who spoke no English but seemed to understand and made some other gestures.  Suddenly they were having a conversation which spanned language.  I guess guys who build houses can do that.

Dad spent his last few weeks sleeping most of the time. He would wake and tell mom the most incredible, detailed dreams.  My favorite is when he was arguing with Donald Trump.  Dad was in charge of 4000 construction workers, waiting for instructions.  And Donald Trump didn't have a plan!

Finally, quite a few years ago, my friend Donna asked me to go to a psychic session with her.  Sure, why not.  During the session the psychic told me, “Your parents have sought each other out over and over, life after life. They enjoy each other’s company.  They have played with all types of relationships, currently they are husband-and-wife.”  When I told my parents, my mother said “Yeah, we're going to keep doing it until we get it right.” Well, Mom, I think you got it right.

The psychic also told me I specifically chose John and Carol to be my parents.  “You chose them because you felt you could learn something from them.”  What they taught me was how to be myself.

So Dad, we love you and miss you and I'll be looking for you again.

My speech:

When dad first decided to stop his chemo treatment I knew it was only a matter of time before he would be gone.  I wanted to write his eulogy so he could read what I was going to say about him.  Primarily how much I felt people admired and respected him.  The more I thought about it the more I realized two things.  First he probably already knew that.  Second he probably didn’t care. 

If he already knew, it was because of the type of people around him.  Quality attracts quality.  He respected those around him and they respected him. 

Secondly, if he didn’t care it was because he was at the top of Maslows Hierarchy of needs.  Physiological needs, safety and love, the first three levels, were achieved early in his adult life.  I would say once he married my mom.  The esteem and self-actualization, the top two levels, would slowly build as he became the great man that he is.  He didn’t need anything.  He was already filled with morality, creativity, lack of prejudice and acceptance.

As we look back at his youth, he delivered newspapers, was a life guard with significant responsibilities, and a scout.  Each of which took a certain amount of dedication, initiative and drive.

He was a hard worker with a 38 year career at NASA.  Ted Olsen, who was head of the Propulsion Division at the time of my dad’s hiring, commented his two greatest hires were Neil Armstrong and John Gibb.  To me one was a great man, the other was an astronaut.  Our family workcations to Cape Canaveral were a unique way to spend time together.  Dad would pile us all into the station wagon and drive down to Florida.  Even though he was working on a launch I always enjoyed our beach front accommodations.  I was even fortunate enough to witness the launch of both Voyager missions in 1977.  These trips weren’t all about work.  For some strange reason I remember one night we were driving through Atlanta when we hit a opossum trying to cross the highway.  Rob always said it was a racoon.  No Rob it was a opossum and dad agrees with me.  As part of his final ten years with NASA, dad was a member of the Senior Executive Service.  Members of the SES serve in the key positions just below the top Presidential appointees and are links between these appointees and the rest of the Federal workforce. 

Dad was humble about his work and accomplishments.  Mom admits to not really know what dad was working on most of the time.  Yet she worried about his health because he would spend long hours getting the job done. 

This lunch box, to me, is a symbol of hard work.  Sturdy and solid, this was used by a man with the same qualities.  If he had still used it in retirement it would have, of course, been filled with Double Stuff Oreos...his favorite cookies.  Don’t worry…I brought enough for everyone.

At the same time he was building a highly successful career he had time to meet the needs of his family.  In fact he was the first Renaissance Man I knew before I could appreciate what that meant.  “A present-day man who has acquired profound knowledge or proficiency in more than one field.”  That was my dad.  His involvement with scouting continued as both he (Pack Leader) and mom (Den Mother) took leadership roles for both Rob and I.   His scouting also led to our family camping trips to the Adirondacks, Canada, Florida, New Orleans and a host of other destinations that involved hiking, canoeing, exploring, learning and playing cards. 

After retirement, his hard work continued for 18 more years with Habitat for Humanity.  When he wasn’t out golfing with his friends, he was working at a Habitat house twice a week.  His work with Habitat and golfing were the primary means of getting dad away from the house, keeping him busy and out of moms hair.  It was a highlight of his retirement.  A renaissance man doesn’t stop learning.  Through Habitat he met many excellent people who shared their talents with him.

He also had a religious faith that carried him through to his death.  Wherever he was he became so involved with the church: finance committees, usher, sound system, youth groups, ground maintenance.  It seemed like he wanted to know more about the church than the guy who built it. 

All of the things I have mentioned above have one common thread.  And it is something that a person either has or does not.  Some are born with it and some it has to develop.  Leadership.  Dad had it all along.  How else do you get your office staff to call you Mr. Gibb, Sir.  That’s like a double dose of respect.  To this day one very special person still simply calls him Sir.  And that is something that is earned.  As we gather in the barn later you will see many awards that are a result of his leadership abilities.  But the unseen reward is the love and respect of his family, co-workers and peers. 

I have heard so many good things about my dad from so many people that I cannot recall them all .  Comments from the NASA community, church community, Habitat and Weslyan Village. 

I share these words from a neighbor at Weslyan Village.

Sadly, we lost one of our wonderful neighbors this week.  John seemed to live his life finding ways to help others.  Despite battling a terrible disease, he maintained his good humor and helpful nature.  One would never know that he bore this burden. His manner with everyone was unfailingly upbeat and pleasant.

I cannot recall any specific words of advice he offered me.  Instead, everything I learned is through his character and actions.  Hard work, Respect (of others / by others), compassion towards and acceptance of all people.  How else could he have handled “unique” situations presented by Rob (a gay man in the early 80’s) and I (becoming a father at age 19).  He never wavered.  He never hesitated.  He accepted the situation.  He accepted his son’s for who they were.  Rob was the first to thank our parents, and I wholeheartedly agree, for not (insert colorful language) screwing us up. 

I am still learning from my dad.  I am still learning how to be the man he is.  But I have a pretty good blueprint to follow.  

I can't say these are our final words about dad.  If you ask about him we will talk and share our memories of our lives with him.  With these memories he will always be with us.

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Ironman Roller Coaster

Talk to any Ironman veteran and the topic of emotions is sure to come up.  There is this roller coaster of emotions that one rides during training and racing.  I have been there, filled with doubt in the middle of Musselman Triathlon I went on to have one of my best races.  You can also ride the roller coaster during training.   Whether it is one more f'in hill or snapping at the one you love because your favorite pair of socks are STILL dirty.

Instead of kindergarten, All I Really Need to Know I Learned From Ironman.  I've come to realize that as this past weekend was one of the craziest roller coaster rides I have ever been on....and am still on.

Two of my worlds, past and present, looked to collide the weekend of October 9 - 11.  My 30th High School reunion and Ironman Louisville.  Living close to my alma mater, Westlake High School, made it hard to avoid the weekend activities that involved friends I have known 30 - 40 years.  But many of my tri friends were going to Ironman Louisville to either participate or spectate/volunteer.  Aimee and I were going to volunteer and also spend time with my son Andrew and daughter-in-law Jess.

Most roller coaster rides allow you to share the fun with someone sitting next to you.  I'm lucky enough to have Aimee by my side during my rides.  She supported me when I said I wanted to stay in town Friday night for the reunion social.  She said she would drive my tired ass down to Louisville Saturday morning. 

Friday night was a lot of fun.  I was able to re-connect with many people.  One of the best things I noticed is that the wonderful people I graduated with 30 years ago are even more awesome now.  We shared memories from the past and talked about what our lives are like now.  My only disappointment was not seeing people that had shown up and left before I was there.  I would not be at the formal Saturday event so I would miss those that would be there.

The rest of the weekend would be shared with Aimee and my triathlon friends at Ironman Louisville.  We signed up to be volunteers in the morning changing tent and would then be on the bike and run course cheering for our friends and over 3000 athletes.

We drove down to Louisville Saturday morning to get into the CTC group picture and wish our friends good luck.  The rest of the evening was spent with Andrew and Jessica.  No matter what we are doing we always have a great time in Louisville.

Sunday morning, similar to Saturday morning, came very fast after staying up too late and getting up early.  We got to the transition area around 6AM and were able to see several friends and give them hugs and encouragement for their big day.

We helped collect and sort the special needs bags before our duties in the changing tent began.

In the changing tent we would great the athletes coming in from the swim and help them get ready for the bike.  Some athletes didn't need any help while others took their time and welcomed the assistance.  I would help someone get their gear in order, struggle with putting a cycling top on, stuffing their pockets with bars, gels, sandwiches and whatever else they needed for the ride.  When they were done I would stuff the wetsuit, goggles, swim cap and whatever else into the transition bag and throw it in a corner to be sorted later.  It was controlled chaos and I was loving every minute of it.

At one point I took a moment and looked up.  I saw a tent full of athletes in varied state of undress, some completely naked, with steam rising off of their warm bodies.  I was in a corner helping as many people as I could so I had a good view of the entire tent.  It was amazing.

Somehow I managed to see some friends like Jeff Geagan and Chris Martino and missed Christian and Adam.  There were so many people that I helped get through the changing tent.  However I couldn't help them all.

One athlete came in and sat down on an open chair.  He sat there and put his head in his hands.  I asked if he was okay.  He responded saying he was a little dizzy.  I told him to take his time and I would be right back.  I returned a couple minutes later and he hadn't moved.  Still sitting there with his head in his hands I sat next to him and asked how his swim was.  "Okay.  I'm just dizzy now." was his response.  I didn't want to rush him but I also didn't want him to loose momentum or not be properly prepared for the bike.

I helped him get a jersey on but he just kept sitting back down.  Just as I was looking for the changing tent captain to get some medical help an Ironman Staff member walked over and made the call for a doctor.  I was able to continue helping other racers but kept an eye on Mr. Dizzy.

I was close enough to hear bits and pieces of the conversation.  "I checked my numbers this morning", said Mr. Dizzy.  Shit....he's diabetic.  "The numbers were odd all week", was another response.  Now it was getting serious.  The doctor finally said he couldn't let Mr. Dizzy continue.  They removed his timing chip and contacted a friend to pick him up.

As a volunteer you try to help everyone have a good race.  Unfortunately there are some that you just can't help.

When the last athlete left the changing tent our work continued.  We started to pile up all of the bags to hand off to more volunteers who were putting them back in numerical order on the lawn.  Aimee was already sorting bags.  I also helped with garbage pickup around the bike racks.  It was best to clean up the area without the bikes on the racks.

Once we were all done we went back to the volunteer tent to get some food.  It was now 11:00 and we were hungry.  We started to talk about our changing tent experiences when Aimee told me about the envelope in her jacket pocket.  One of the female athletes handed it to Aimee while getting ready for her bike ride. 

There were two Starbucks gift cards and a note the choked me up each time I read it.  Aimee gave one of the gift cards to another female volunteer she met and shared the story.

I have stalked found Jennifer and she shared with me her story.  That will be something for another post.

Before heading out to the bike course we saw newlyweds Mark and Jen who were getting ready to be bike catchers. 

A quick drive out to the bike course put us in the same spot we were at last year.  Due to traffic closures we couldn't get to where the majority of CTC IronFans were located.  But as soon as I jumped out of the car in my speedo and hat we joined the other fans cheering for the athletes.

We spent about 2.5 hours on the course cheering for Jeff, Brian, Tariq, Desiree, Barb, Elizabeth and Danette.  We just happened to miss some of the other people.  We had signs like "Shut Up Legs" and "You are all Nucking Futs."  A highlight of the day was when a female athlete was riding by and yelled, "Were you at Triple T!!!".  I quickly yelled back yes.  Of course she recognized me.  She saw me three days in a row wearing my hat and speedo on the run course at Triple T.

After we saw Elizabeth a second time it was time to go back to Louisville.  We were excited to get onto the run course and cheer louder and closer to our friends.  This is when the roller coaster took a sudden dip.

Flashback to Labor Day 2013.  Feeling bloated and out of sorts my dad drove himself to the emergency room leaving my mom a note because he didn't feel it was anything serious.  He was then transported to the hospital with Stage IV liver cancer.  After two years of treatment, and almost normal lifestyle, his options were exhausted.  Two years to the day from the original diagnosis he decided to stop all treatment and enter into the program at the Hospice of the Western Reserve.  He received weekly hospice care at home for 5 weeks. 

Checking my phone I missed a call from my brother.  I called him back and was told my dad was transported to the hospice center and they didn't know how long he would last.  This is where having Aimee and my co-pilot pays off.  My mind was confused and I heard her say, "Go to the hotel.  We will get our stuff and drive home."  On auto pilot I did as I was instructed and told my mom we were coming home.  She said there was a 50/50 chance of me seeing him before he would pass.  That was good enough odds for me.

I felt bad leaving my friends behind when I wanted to badly to see them cross that Ironman finish line, but I knew they would understand.  They aren't assholes.  They are the best people I could be friends with.  Once we emptied the hotel room of our luggage we started the 5.5 hour drive home.

I called my son Andrew and told him to sit tight until we knew more about what was happening.  Three hours later he called me to say he was leaving to drive home to see his Grandpa.  Yep, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree and I didn't blame him.  I just wanted him to drive carefully.

Our drive was fairly quiet as we both thought about what we were returning to.  Would we be there in time?  Is this really happening?  When will it end?

We arrived at the hospice center around 8:30PM.  My dad had been there about 8 hours so far and they said his condition had stabilized.  We were all there supporting my mom and waiting for Andrew to arrive.  Aimee went home to get some rest and unpack the car of our bikes and gear...she is my angel.

Andrew finally arrived around 12:30AM.  We stayed another hour before leaving my mom with dad.

Monday was a long day of waiting around.  The time became magical as we told stories and cheered each other up as only the Gibb Family can.  We watched videos of a little girl turning a tissue into a "bird" and recounted how dad wanted a viking funeral (setting him adrift in the canoe and lighting it on fire).

Actually my dad is cool enough for this.
Mom finally left for the evening and slept at home.  We were all still in a state of limbo.  Just not knowing what or when.  Tuesday morning was more waiting around.  My brother's spouse Dave was able to visit before going to the hospital for knee replacement surgery.  Yes, can you say worst timing ever.  I was very happy that he was able to stop in before his surgery.  He was able to see dad and we could give him our best wishes in person.

After lunch Aimee returned to work while Andrew and I went home to cook lunch.  45 minutes later mom called with the final announcement.  Dad had passed away quietly without her hearing a sound.  Andrew and I rushed back to the hospice to be with mom and see dad for the last time.

He looked peaceful and as mom said, he never made a sound.  Mom had her things packed up and we bid farewell to a most wonderful facility that made my dads last moments comfortable with care that exceeded anything I could have anticipated.

Hard to believe the roller coaster ride started 90 hours ago.  At this point I don't really know when the ride will end.  I know there are many ups and downs still yet to come.  I have shared his passing in my own special way and the response from friends has been the most supportive.

So I relate this roller coaster ride to something I understand, Ironman.  In both situations there will be ups and down.  Sometimes you never know when those dips will occur.  But no matter what, you always ride it out because change is just around the corner and it is bound to get better.

All I know is that I am happy to share this ride with a great family, fantastic friends and Aimee sitting with me in the front row of the first car.  I only wish that I had asked my friends to join me on this roller coaster two years ago.

Regardless, I'm still one lucky guy. 

Game On.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Ironman Muskoka 2015

The drive to the race was dark and quiet except for the songs playing on the radio. Aimee and I were the only ones on the road coming from the east towards Huntsville. It seemed that everyone else stayed in Huntsville or west of town. Approaching the parking area there was a long line of cars coming from the opposite direction. We quickly made our way to the parking area and boarded a bus for Deerhurst Resort.

Special needs bags dropped off, check. Tires pumped and bottles on the bike, check. As I started to see people the excitement began to build as I ran to give them hugs and best wishes. Done in the bike area we went to check our transition bags. Last minute items and we were good to head down to the swim start surrounded by friends and fellow athletes.

I gave Aimee a final kiss and we parted ways. I headed toward the 1:10-1:20 sign where I expected to see Durno, Beech, Asher, and Uzl. Jeff and I waited on the left side opposite from the other guys. I wanted to be left so I could find clean water quickly. We saw some of the Cleveland cheerleaders like Magda, Maria, Ben. It is always comforting to see familiar faces. It helps keep me relaxed. Relaxed enough to dance with the music playing on the beach. Jeff and I were in a group that started about 8 minutes after the starting cannon went off. I walked into the water, took one dive and started swimming.

With the rolling start the swim start was great. No congestion, no claustrophobia, no bumping and hitting. I found a good rhythm quickly and settled in. I was consistently passing people who started in front of me. I would swim through a small group, find open water ahead of me, then swim through another group. I obviously started way too far back but I was still getting some benefit drafting people as I passed them. My sighting was good but occasionally I found myself zig-zagging. Usually when I was breathing bilaterally so I would switch back to breathing only on my right side. I would guess I swam 80-90% of the course using a 2:1 breathing pattern to my right side. It felt very comfortable so I stuck with it.

At the first turn I started to find people to draft with because I finally found people around my speed, specifically one woman and stayed with her about half way along the return trip.

I was amazed at how many people had bad swim form. I saw hands and arm surfing up, legs split apart, knees bent too much, also some very quick turnover.

I was very mindful about my tempo. I think I was swimming at a 1.2 – 1.3 pace breathing every stroke, to the right. Occasionally I would breathe to the left side or alternate after several 2 stroke breaths. But I felt great, under control, and not over exerting myself. After making the final turn towards the swim exit the water was a little cooler but nothing shocking. I swam all the way to the steps leading up to the fairway of the 18th hole of the golf course.

I stepped onto the stairs and was helped up the stairs by a volunteer. As I turned left towards the wetsuit peelers I spotted a free one and pointed him out. I ran to him and his partner and had the wetsuit stripped off in no time. I grabbed my gear and started the long uphill run to transition. I saw Elizabeth, Dave and Maria. There were people all along the path to the changing rooms cheering for us.

My swim time was 1:02:49

I found my chair and dumped out my bike gear. (In transition each racer had their own chair. It was sweet because it was all yours with your gear bags waiting for you.) The volunteer started to help with putting my wetsuit away. Brad Scholtz appeared and took over as my personal assistant as I got ready for the bike. It was great seeing Brad there with me. As I was getting ready Mark Durno yelled at me across the room. Since there was only about 50 guys in transition we could see each other. We bantered back and forth before heading out to the bikes. Mark and I mounted our bikes at the same time and headed out for a little 180km ride around Lake of Bays.

T1: 7:11

The bike course has been named The Beast: or the whole course depending upon who you talk with. The elevation gain and hills were freaking people out. It is Ironman and if it were easy it would be called your mom. So it was time to tame the Beast. Aimee and I had driven the course on Friday. We were familiar with the terrain and I didn’t see anything that was extremely hard. Two or three hills were steep but rather short. And even the long climbs were really not that long. Having done the American Triple T 5 times and Ironman Lake Placid I had seen longer climbs. I think the accumulated elevation is what had everyone concerned….upwards of 8000 feet. So Mark and I rode the first 20k together. Sometimes side by side chatting sometimes he was leading sometimes I was leading. At the first aid station I stopped to use the bathroom because I wasn’t ready to pee myself just yet. That is when Mark pulled ahead and I wasn’t sure when I would see him again.

Back on the bike course I found myself often riding alone. First of all the race didn’t sell out. There were only 1300 people registered for the race. Second I had a good swim and was ranked 129 overall by time. I may not have been the 129th person out of the water due to the rolling start but I was damn well up there. So I was bound to be riding by myself at times. I chatted with a couple of racers like Todd McCall who had a cool IM tattoo on his calf. We saw each other a few times because I would pass him...stop to pee…then pass him again. So I stopped at the second aid station and took another break to empty the bladder. I did the same at Musselman and it worked for me there, so why not do it this time also.

I can’t say enough about the bike course. We went through the towns of Dwight, Dorset and Baysville, each one a nice little town with people out cheering for the racers. Some of the roads were fresh pavement and some were a little choppy. But the scenery was just amazing. The open sections with the rock cliffs reminded me of Lake Placid and St. George. The wooded sections reminded me of Triple T. I felt right at home and the many spectators along the way put a smile on my face.

I felt strong and in control of the first loop. I wasn’t over exerting myself and felt like I could have gone faster, which meant I was holding back just the right amount.

Near the end of the first loop I caught up to Brian Wilson, Don Asher and Mark Durno. I chatted with Brian and Don a little and was within 100 yards of Durno when I stopped at special needs to get my replacement bottles. I wouldn’t see Mark until the run course. The second loop was going well until the course left Dorset and turned onto Route 117. This part of the course is fairly open and straight. The winds had picked up a little and the headwind was a little bit of a challenge. I had to gear down a little more this time to keep things under control. I could see how some people might have muscled through this section and paid for it later on the run. I could feel my quads begin to lose some power during this period. I made note of it and waited to see what would happen. One important aspect of Ironman racing it to remember how long the race actually is. There is a lot of time to recover from a dip in energy as long as you recognize it and counter it accordingly.

As I got closer to Baysville my stomach felt full and bloated. Experience tells me that the digestive process wasn’t working efficiently to empty my stomach of the nutrition I was putting in. I had to ditch a bottle of my Perpetuem and grab a water bottle at the aid station. The water would help the digestive process and allow the calories to be absorbed.

Sure enough after a few sips of water I felt better. I tried Perpetuem again but the bloat returned. I grabbed one of my PowerGels and two things happened, positive things. I was able to take the gel with no problem and my quads felt better. So I am thinking that perhaps my stomach just didn’t want any more Perpetuem. I did go through four bottles of the stuff up to this point, plus a Z-Bar, Fig Newtons, a PowerGel and some brownie made by Tiffany.

With 10k to go, the rest of the bike course I chatted with a couple of people. The final road back to Deerhurst was possibly the hilliest part of the ride. There were several steep uphill sections with some nice down hills. Approaching transition I didn’t prepare to dismount with enough time. I had slipped my one foot out of the right shoe but didn’t have time to do the left. I came to a complete stop at the dismount line and took my left foot out of the shoe. I ran towards the bike handlers, gave my bike to a volunteer and headed toward transition.

Bike: 5:55:03

Inside transition I was excited to start the run and let people know with an encouraging holler. I went straight to my chair and dumped my run bag onto the floor. A volunteer started to put my bike gear into the bag, primarily my helmet and socks. I also changed out of my bike jersey and into a running singlet. Fresh socks and my running shoes completed my attire for the marathon. I put on my race belt, hydration belt, hat and made my way to the exit. Upon exiting the building I was greeted by the ladies ready and willing to apply sunscreen. I stopped, paused a moment as they looked at me and I said, “Sure, give me some lotion.” Two or three ladies rubbed their hand on my arms and legs to prepare me for the very open run course.

T2: 4:49

I stopped in the port-o-pottie again and was good to go. The first aid station immediately out of transition I filled my bottle with water. That would be my primary fluid replacement since my PowerGels would provide my electrolytes and calories. The strategy would be to take a gel every 4k which is 2.5 miles. This follows my normal race fueling of taking a gel every other mile. In hind sight I could have taken a gel every 3k/1.86 miles. The math was probably easier with every 4k. Almost immediately the course presented us with hills that needed to be walked. Expending too much energy this early in the marathon would be a recipe for disaster. I was determined to power walk the hills and at any other time. As I was heading out on Highway 60 the leaders were finishing their first lap. I would see them again on the out and back course two more times. I felt the course was great. A variety of terrain and neighborhoods kept it interesting. The worst part was the long stretch on Highway 60. Otherwise the course ran through neighborhoods and the center of Huntsville. Some immediate memories: Running through one neighborhood that was an out and back I saw a woman working on her garden. As she looked up and smiled I told her, “Thanks for letting us run through your neighborhood.” With a smile she replied, “It gives us something exciting to watch.” Her street was overrun with triathletes and she welcomed us.

The volunteers who controlled the traffic were great. They were patient with us and made sure we had the right of way with plenty of space. The drivers I think were pretty accepting of the situation. Through the center of town there were canoes laid out on Main Street. It was a nice touch to divide the street that was closed for the race. The aid stations were fully stocked with helpful volunteers and plenty of options to refuel. I was running quite well at a steady 9 minute/mile pace, or at least that is what it felt like. I never started or looked at my watch the entire race. The immediate time was on no concern to me. My running time was of no concern to me. I was able to stay in the moment and race by how I felt.

I was able to see plenty of friends on the course and exchange some hand slaps. If I came upon someone walking I would spend a few moments with them to check on them and provide some encouragement. But I didn’t stay long because I had to get to the finish line. One advantage of having the run course marked in kilometers is your progression is constantly being monitored. You get to see the progress quicker. It also kept me mentally in the game. I needed to constantly do some math to remember when I needed a gel. Every 4km was my goal which requires more mental acuity than every even mile.

I was staying on top of my nutrition and refilling my water bottle when I needed it. I would occasionally take some Gatorade at the aid stations. During my second lap I started to change what I took at the aid stations. The water was losing its appeal so I started to take cola. The extra kick from the sugar and caffeine was a nice boost on top of the gels. I know it was a lot of carbs entering my system but I regulated it with water.

With approximately 8k remaining, or 5 miles, the effects of the long day were starting to catch up to me. Water was not cutting it anymore and I started to switch to cola at the aid stations. I was still taking PowerGel which under normal circumstances is not the best combination, however there wasn’t much left in the race and I could worry about the effects after I crossed the finish line. I just stayed focused and kept moving forward. The long stretch on Highway 60 was difficult for everyone. Many people were walking and I would occasionally walk small segments of the hills with a promise that I would continue running once I reached that construction barrel, sign, person or line on the ground; and I stuck to my promises. I continued to pass people who were struggling. I was also but I like to be an actor and conceal my suffering. If you give the presences of looking good on the outside the mind will convince the body of the same thing. The final 3k was possibly the hardest portion of the day. I was struggling to keep it all together…..not physically but mentally. Training for an Ironman is a very taxing endeavor. The mental and physical stamina required is hard to describe and is best experienced. So when I finally make it to race day I become very emotional at the finish line. Sometimes the emotion comes out sooner.

At Ironman Lake Placid 2006 it was while hugging my son and daughter after becoming Iron for the first time.

At Ironman Wisconsin 2008 it was at the finish line after nearly drowning during the swim.

At Ironman Wisconsin 2013 it was in a port-o-potty at mile 12 when I realized I would have to walk the rest of the marathon.

This time at Ironman Muskoka 2015 I fought to hold back the emotions. Breathe Eric. Keep it together. Up one more hill. Through one more aid station. Around the Subaru. Turn left towards the finish chute.

Okay….now you can scream you head off running down the carpet to the finish line and your fourth Ironman finish.

“Eric Gibb from Avon, Ohio……Eric…You are an Ironman.”

Redemption. Redemption after having a troublesome race at Wisconsin 2 years prior. Redemption after struggling with stomach issues during some swimming. Redemption having an injury free marathon.

Crossing a finish line never felt so good.

Run: 4:12:50

Total: 11:22:42

My personal video from Finisher Pix.
At 1:50 of the video I am slapping hands with my teammate Mark Durno as I come in from the bike and he starts the run.

This is the Ironman race day video. 
Starting the swim at 1:46
My friend Jeff is at 4:00 and I am seen again immediately after.
My finish is at 13:37