Ironman Florida – The Finish Line at Midnight

As I’ve blogged in the past, probably the most moving moment of any Ironman race is watching the last few finishers push to make the midnight cutoff.  All Ironman races start at 7:00AM, and allow competitors until midnight to finish – 17 hours in total.

Given I finished a bit earlier, I had plenty of time to get all cleaned up and come back out and cheer for everyone else.  Besides – despite a solid (slow) waddle on my behalf, there’s really no reason I wouldn’t come out.  Plus, I enjoy the very festive and supportive atmosphere – something you honestly rarely see at the pointy end of the pack.

I showed up around 11:30PM and began to work my way through the crowds as finishers trickled in.

IMG_3924The two finishers above were looking pretty beat and simply walked across the line.  Though, most folks – even at this hour – do actually run in.  I think it’s just the adrenaline of it all helps you to find some power somewhere – even after 17 hours – to run the last 100 yards.

In fact, some find so much energy they even do a little dance.  The women below meets announcer Mike Reilly in the final stretch and does a bit of a jig before heading in to grab her finishers medal.

IMG_3934If you get down next to the chute, it’s lined with boards displaying various Ironman sponsors.  The spectators will typically starting banging the boards as folks approach – or in tune to the pumping music.

Of course, giving high-fives is a big part of it.  Folks lean out over the edge and then the finishers get a streak of high-fives all the way to the finish line.

IMG_3947 IMG_3958The center of virtually any Ironman finish area is the announcer.  He (or she, though I’m not aware of any M-Dot 140.6 races emcee’d by a women) keeps the crowd going for hours on end.  Usually tag-teamed between two guys, they announce the names of virtually everyone crossing the line.

“And now coming down the chute from Alexandria, VA – we have Ray Maker.  Ray Maker – You are an Ironman!”

And so it goes, for hours on end.  But, many folks doing an M-Dot (official Ironman race put on by the World Triathlon Competition) wait for those final four words ‘You are an Ironman”.  Because you simply can’t take that away from anyone.

As I mentioned, one of the most ‘legendary’ announcers is Mike Reilly (pictured below).  He’s got more energy than a 6-pack of Red Bull’s and just keeps on going.  From well before the starting canon until even a few minutes past midnight as the last few trickle in.

IMG_3974

So let’s cut to a quick video I put together of the last few minutes of the race – ending with the final official finisher to come in (which, btw turns out to be IronMoe – so go give her some love).

Ironman Florida 2009 at Midnight from Ray Maker on Vimeo.

Once the clock strikes midnight (17:00:00 hours), the race is officially over.  However, there are usually a few folks within range that just barely missed the cutoff.  Everyone still says though to cheer them in – getting just as big of a cheer as anyone right before the cutoff.  In the past when I was at Canada they also announced just how far out these folks were and we’d try and make as much noise as possible in an effort to ‘pull them in’.

IMG_3968However, it doesn’t take very many minutes after midnight until things started clearing out.  At Florida this year, there wasn’t reported to be anybody within sight – so people started trickling out within just a few minutes of the clock striking 17 hours.

IMG_3979

And the crew didn’t waste any time.  Less than 5 minutes after the final official finisher the timing equipment was being pulled away and getting ready to be trucked to the next location.  Ironically about 90 seconds after the photo below a unaccounted for finisher wandered down the chute.  While everyone was caught off-guard, we all cheered as much as possible.

He wouldn’t be officially listed on the final results as a finisher – but he still gets a medal & t-shirt. :)

IMG_3978So with that, I’ll wrap-up my Ironman Florida 2009 series and get on with a short vacation – which starts later Wednesday evening.  But more on that wild (aquatic) adventure in the next day or so…

24 Comments

  1. Kim

    Very nice wrap up! Loved the video, got me teary eyed.

    Reply
  2. Fantastic job you did on the race and fantastic video! Thank you so much for sharing!

    Reply
  3. Ian

    Real men can cry! Great job on the video and at all 3 'Ironman' events this year. I always look forward to reading your blog entreies. Good luck for next year. Picked your race(s) yet?

    Reply
  4. Most inspiring!

    (Enjoy the vacation - aquatic is good!)

    Reply
  5. You're just TRYING to make me cry during my taper, aren't you?! Great video, very inspirational.

    Reply
  6. Loved the post, tears welled up in me too. i just sent the link to my sister and mom

    Reply
  7. Ray, your blog really inspires me. I'm moving toward my first marathon this coming summer in San Diego, and I want to start biking and swimming after that. Thanks for the blog!

    Reply
  8. Pia

    I just love your blog! It's all very inspiring and motivating. Thank you for sharing your stories, pictures and videos. I'm not sure if I'll ever be able to visit Florida but watching your pictures and especially the video is the next best thing.

    Reply
  9. Awesome video, Ray! Great race!

    Reply
  10. Bob

    The video, as well as all Ironman broadcasts, brings tears to my eyes, especially in light of my recent surgery...tears of joy for the finishers and tears of hope that I may one day be blessed with the opportunity to finish.

    Reply
  11. Found your blog through Molly's --- LOVE the video.. I'm crying over here with 18 days to go until my first IM

    Reply
  12. Finish lines at extraordinary races are interesting. I was at the finish line of the Leadville 100 as a spectator a few years back (you get a belt buckle for finishing in under 30 hours)(this is a race that starts at 10,000 feet and quickly goes to 12,000 feet) and NO ONE came in in the last half hour--obviously those persons who obviously weren't going to make the cut-off had been called off. The winner, who was in front by 11 minutes at one point late in the race, finished ahead of number two by 34 minutes, obviously number two had given up towards the end and merely ran (walked?) to stay ahead of number three. The winner collapsed on a nearby park bench while his wife made worried cell phone calls for 45 minutes, then got up and shuffled off in her care. Your Ironman stuff is stunning, Ray, and when are you gonna do a 100-miler? You could get something to hold up your pants in Colorado.

    Reply
  13. I'm misty eyed. All my hard work is all for those last 100 yards and the rush that take over the body as the finish line approaches.

    18 days!

    Reply
  14. got chills reading this, can't even imagine....

    Reply
  15. Anonymous

    Nice job. I was working the finish line as catcher from 9-12.

    Everyone working with me were literally trying to 'WILL' those last few across the finish. It was so sad when the clock ran out and there were no more finishers to see.

    I also worked the swim , I think it was worse seeing those few who missed that cut off. We saw the tears and heard the sobs.

    Reply
  16. I love these midnight posts of yours - they're absolutely perfect. They totally capture the spirit of the race, and of the triathlon community. Great job!

    Reply
  17. Anonymous

    What band and song is this? It's awesome and perfect for the video

    Reply
  18. Nevermind...it's The Killers singing "All These Things That I've Done"

    Reply
  19. Nat

    I keep coming back to watch the video - so great! Thanks again Ray!

    Reply
  20. Thank you SO much for your wonderful post!!!! Can't thank you enough, actually :)

    Reply
  21. Good luck to all of you with your first coming up!!!!

    Reply
  22. that was top notch Ray. Terrific video, perfect song.

    You're an inspiration.

    Reply
  23. Such a great video, Ray! Make me cry for some reason every time I watch it!

    Reply
  24. Such a great video, Ray. It makes me cry every time.

    Reply

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