Before I tell our Iron Man Story. Here are some of the support tools we used. Above is the image so many of us changed our facebook profile over too!
This is the front and back of our T-Shirts and our Facebook Cover Photo's. Below are the Iron Man-I mean Shad Man and Todd Man Images we used for our posters. Huge thanks to Mitzi Richardson for designing all of these for us!!!
Finally after a year of training it is time for Shad to compete in his 140.6 Ironman Competition. I can’t believe it is finally here. After waking up alone almost everyday for a year it was here. This bigger than life event that we had all made so many sacrifices for was finally here.
Shad, Henry and I left on Wednesday after work for the Woodlands. (Originally we were going to go on Thursday but as the race got closer Shad decided we should go down earlier and he was right) Emma stayed with Lolly and Dede. She has already missed a lot of school and they would be coming on Friday after attendance was taken. The drive was uneventful and Henry was loving being an only child.
When we got to the hotel there were obvious athletes everywhere. Although he doesn’t think so, Shad fit right in. It was late and time to get to bed. The next morning we got up and took a stroll down the canal to check out the transition area. The finishing touches were being made and I wanted to make sure I knew exactly how to maneuver around all the fencing and the best places to position us to see Shad. Next we headed to packet pick up. Shad was instructed by his coaches to only spend 20min at the expo. Well that was next to impossible…the line was ½ an hour long. Off he went and Henry and I began scouting cow bells and plaques to display daddy’s medal in. Henry and I headed into the Ironman tent and started gathering all the M-dot gear we liked in daddy’s size. Now you guys that know me know just how out of character this is for me. I knew this was (or hoped) a once in a life time opportunity. Finally Shad appeared through the registrations line and into the merchandise store. I made him try a few things on and with our arms filled we checked out and headed to lunch.
Shad’s nutrition coach Mo told us about natural/organic burger place called The Counter. It was AMAZING!!! Not lowfat or lowcal…depending on the choices you make but natural none the less. It was so good we ate there the next day for lunch too and Lolly and DeDe took the kids there for lunch on race day…so I mean GOOD!!! After lunch we were pooped and a long nap was calling our name.
That night Henry and I had dinner with Nancy Davenport while her husband Todd, Shad and our friend Jeff went to the Athlete Welcome Reception. We had a great time. Henry made Nancy and I save all our pizza bones. He wanted to show Nancy the fish under a bridge we had visited back when Shad did his Ironman training camp. Before we went to feed the fish Henry found a fountain to play in and made a new friend while getting completely soaked. We had no luck finding our fish friends but Nancy and I did find a pub that had patio seating right on the run track for the race. She ran in and grabbed a card so we could make reservations to have dinner there on race night. Best find EVER!!!! We walked back to the hotel with a soaking little boy leaving a water trail behind us.
The next morning we got up early and drove to the practice swim. I could tell Shad was pretty nervous. I have never seen him that way before. It was SCARY!!!! I tried to stay super positive. Henry and I scoped out a spot to have a picnic breakfast and watch the swimmers. It didn’t take long for daddy to come back and we were back at the hotel. Time for a short bike ride. Shad put his bike on the trainer in our hotel room. Almost immediately we knew there was a problem. Something was wrong with his chain…I could hear it popping and see an uneven knot in it….HOLY MOLY!!! Are you kidding me…back to the expo to find Ahmed and get help. Ahmed is the owner of Playtri, Shad’s team. Ahmed was on it!!! He walked into the QR tent and intrupped to works to get help. (Shad rides a QR bike) Ahmed told them Shad was on his race team and wanted them to stop and look at the bike. They gave it a once over and sent us to the mechanics tent. That made me even more nervous…we didn’t know them and here we were going to trust them to fix his bike that he NEEDED to be on for 112 miles. I was wrong…the mechanic was GREAT!!! He had Shad fixed in less than 5 minutes and tried to not even charge us. We were so grateful.
Now that the bike was fixed we went back to the room to finish packing up Shad’s transition bags and then to drop off his bike and bags. This process was so impressive. I can’t believe the difference in this race as compaired to the 4 ½ Ironman races Shad has done. There were 4 lines to get into the transition area. When it was your turn they took a picture of you and your bike and then a volunteer greets you and walks you to where to put your bike up. After they help you possiton your bike they walk you to drop off both your bike and run transition bags all the while giving instructions-such as…when you come into transition call out your bib number and a volunteer will grab your bag and bring it to you. WOW! We could not have been more impressed with the organization of this event, the staff, and the volunteers.
Ok…swim practice check, bike fixed and dropped off, transition bags dropped off, mapped out the course…ok now for lunch and a movie. We went back to The Counter and then made a quick trip to Baby’s 1st Furniture. I had to get a little business in. We met up with JoJo and Big Daddy and got to visit with the Mullers for a few minutes before taking Henry to see The Croods. When we walked into the theatre Shad and I chuckled thinking that a lot of the athletes must have gotten the same advice that he did…limit your walking, go see a movie, find a cool place to relax. Henry and I loved the movie and Daddy got another little nap.
Lolly, DeDe, Gracie, Belle, and Emma were close to being at the hotel and JoJo and Big Daddy had already checked in.
We headed back and met up in the lobby to grab a quick dinner and call it another early night. Our kids were really pretty good…everyone was asleep before 9:00pm. That is except me. This is where the hard part really started. I laid in bed next to the AMAZING man. How was it possible that I could love him more now then the day we got married. I thought then that I was so in love. I guess it is because we have grown and changed so much together. He was incredible when we met and now look at him. Nothing stops Shad. He sets goals for himself and he will not accept failure. But even that doesn’t describe him correctly. He loves to be challenged and he makes all the hard work and determination look so effortless. I began praying for him…so specifically…I am sure the Lord thought…Anne you know I know…but I still had to say each and every request. What if I missed one thing? What if I forgot to pray for 1 stroke, 1 push, I stride, endurance, faith, strength…the list goes on and on. What if I never got to sleep next to him again. I was terrified. I finally drifted off.
The alarm went off at 4:00am…time to make breakfast and start helping him get ready. Kids woke up by 5:00am. Shad left with few words. I knew he was nervous and trying to mentally prepare for what he was about to face. I finished getting the kids ready and packing our bags for the day. We met the family in the lobby at 6:00am and started the 1+ mile walk to the swim start.
There were literally thousands of people walking and talking together…I walked ahead with Emma, Belle, and Henry in the stroller. We saw chalk writing on the road written by supports in hopes their athlete would read these words of encouragement just at the right time. We even saw a proposal. We got to meet one of the blind athletes. That was a real treat. The walk seemed so long…what if I missed the start…walk faster…..walk around people…walk faster. Then we were there…Jeff called me and told me where to meet up with them. We never saw Todd, Nancy, or the girls. We spent a few short minutes with Shad and Jeff. Helped them finish zipping up their wet suits said a quick prayer in Shads ear and then he disappeared into the sea of athletes. I might fall over and die right now.
(side note: Shad and Jeff were swimming in wet suits…that means they started 10min after the main group. Shad was really worried he would be the only one...or there would just be a few. He was WRONG!!! The reason there was a time penalty was because the water had gotten just a few 100ths of a degree to warm to be “wet suit” legal and wet suits make you more buoyant and therefore faster. )
The family and I quickly positioned ourselves as close as we could get. I ended up climbing up on a little brick wall with some other spectators. I believe my words were “move over boys…I’m coming in” They were very friendly. BOOM!!! The cannon shot off and they were on their way….you could see the slapping, kicking, fighting for position…it looked so violent. We watched while they disappeared farther and farther down the way. Ok..time to move…gotta fight the crowd and walk back to transition to see him come out of the water.
You can't even see the last bowie in this picture....it was a long long way
The last 900 meters of the 2.4 mile swim are straight down the canal. You can get so close and look just about every athlete in the eye. Drew and Haley Carnes had met up with us at the swim start and now Drew and David stood with me at the waters edge keeping an eye out for our boys. We spotted Todd and new Shad and Jeff wouldn’t be far. Drew finally decided to walk down the way so if he saw Shad he could call me and let me know he was coming. That was a GREAT idea and he was just in time…he saw Shad and gave me the call. David and I ran along side cheering him on. When he hit the shoot Jeff Li was 1 person in front of him. They both had a GREAT swim and had caught up with a lot of the people who chose not to wear wet suits. Thank the Lord he is out of the water. I tell him all the time I can scrape him off the pavement but I can’t pull him out of the water…and I am just crazy enough during a race to make them stop it and look for him. Shad knows he has to find me at transition. I’ll be standing there…we just have to make eye contact.
Jeff was out of T1 and on his bike 1st. I stopped and texted Tara, Jeff’s wife, and let her know they were out of the swim and on the bike.
Shad had made the decision to try and make this race as comfortable as possible by changing gear at each transition and not wearing a tri suit. T1 took about 12-13 mins. Shad grabbed his bike gave a little wave and he was gone again…this time I knew it would be at least 6 hours. 112 miles on a bike and it was getting hot and windy now.
We took the kids back to mom and dad’s hotel room to make posters and then we took them for a swim. It was about that time that my nervous were getting the best of me. Laurie had just gotten a text from Tricia and Mitzi and they would both be there shortly and all meet for lunch. I took this chance to excuse myself. I headed down to the hotel patio and guess who was sitting out there…my daddy. Daddy and I had a drink and I just sat and talked to him it was nice not to be alone and to have him there to talk to. He was almost as scared as I was. I checked in with Nancy to see where they were. She and her family had scoped out a spot right by the water just below were Daddy and I were sitting. I stopped by and chatted for a minute then they came back up to the patio with me. We made the plan that after I saw Shad and Jeff out of T2 I would meet back up with her at their spot and they would give us their folding chairs while they headed to their dinner reservation. (theirs was and hour before ours) We sat around and talked for a while before she left to go catch Todd come off the bike. Around that time my mind started playing tricks on me. I had started my stop watch and I knew Shad had told me at least 6 hours but I couldn’t help but think…maybe he would have a great ride and be fast and I might miss him…or they my bring him in on a stretcher….Ok…time to move back to the bike transition and wait.
I was way WAY to early. I waited there for hours watching bike after bike pass by. Dad came with me…I think…I can’t really remember…or maybe he went to get mom. I don’t remember. I know after a while Laurie, David, Tricia, Granna, Mitzi, Chuck, Breigh, Brook, Landry, Lyla, Libby, Caleb, Ava, Gracie, Belle, Emma, Henry and Haley Carnes showed up. Oh and at some point Drew was back too. David stood with me at the fence spraying me down with sunscreen every once in a while. Laurie entertained all the kids on the curb just behind us. Mitzi and Chuck walked down the line so they could text when he was coming. Again it worked perfect. We saw him ride all the way in. We were all screaming at the top of our lungs. He looked good. Hot but good!!! Drew, David, Emma and I ran along side of him all the way till he disappeared into the changing tent. He was in there for 14 min. When he came out for the run he looked GREAT!!! STRONG!!! READY!!! We got a few high fives and he was off again.
All I could do was thank the Lord…we were 2/3rd of the way through and he still looked good. Next in was Jeff…I texted Tara and told her he looked good! Then Emma and I started back to the hotel to find the Davenports and switch spots. We were dying for a drink. I sent Emma into the lobby with Laurie to cool down and get a drink. David brought Drew and I some drinks out to the race course.
We were right up against the walk. There were runners every few feet. Some were walking. Some were running. Some were almost crawling. IT WAS HOT!!! The crowd was crazy…screaming and cheering…calling each runner by name (it was printed on their bibs) Come on Donna you can do it…Lets Go Brad…You got this. Inspiring to say the least. At this point we started using the live tracking on the website. Immediately we saw Todd’s 1st run time check point…it was way off his normal pace…I saw him and could tell he was struggling. You see these athletes hadn’t trained in heat all season. We have had such a long winter and cold spring. This was the hottest day of the year so far. Finally we saw Jeff. He looked really good. He was steady in his pace and running his race. The was the run was set up we could see the guys on the opposite side of the canal and then they made a loop and ran right up in front of us. When Jeff ran by Drew ran with him for a while and came back to say he was doing well. By this time we new that Shad was sick. Mo was hanging out around mile 5 and had run with Shad for a bit. Shad was nauseous and Mo told him no more nutrition…water and flat coke…that is it. His pace was way off and the live tracking took FOREVER to update. It seemed like hours between updates. Finally…FINALLY we saw him…he looked really good. I think some of that might have been for my benefit. After his loop and running right up to us Drew took off with him. As soon as he was gone…I lost it. David and I waited for Drew to come back and then headed to dinner. Laurie had already moved the kids on that way. Oh and at some point mom and dad had come down and sat with us for a while.
At the restaurant we had a great table and squished 13people around an 8 top. Dad and I sat outside the restaurant right on the water. It was so loud and I was so sick to my stomach and I wasn’t going to chance missing him. We saw Todd…he was back in the game and looking good…next was Jeff…looking good (another text to Tara) and then Shad again. All that took hours…by the time Shad passed us again all the kids had come to sit with me. Shad ran through a line of cheering Yellow McGaha Support Team Shirts. Ok that was my last chance to see him before the finish line…time to get up there.
I pushed my way and inched up closer and closer…praying that those in front of me would clear out. Finally I made it…right to the fence. I had to stake my claim..I wasn’t moving an inch. As the time clicked off tears would come and go as I watch each athlete cross the finish line…the looks on their faces are indescribable. I was so proud for each and every one of them. Like they were family. I could tell everyone around me felt the same way. Without knowing it I had found the perfect place to stand. The way the final run shoot worked I could see the runner run in and then they had to run down make a turn and come back to finish….That gave me a few minutes to get ready. I knew we were getting close so I called for Emma to come. There was one lady who needed a little encouragement to let Emma in but other than that the crowd easily let her wind herself to me.….Jeff…Jeff…here he COMES!!! I screamed to my family that was at the back of the crowd. The Davenports were there too but I didn’t see them yet. Todd had finished 2 hours before and showered and came back to watch his friends. Back to Jeff. Tears streaming…screaming my head off…and holding the GoPro….I heard “Jeff Li you are and Ironman” Awesome!!!....ok that means 10-20min and Shad will be here. Emma was fading fast…we were all exhausted..so we started singing and dancing to all the fun music…we would say oh this is a good song for daddy…or no no daddy don’t come now this song isn’t right. Then I saw him. HERE HE COMES!!!! HERE HE COMES!!! I started screaming and waving my hands…it was like everyone around me knew Shad’s story…they all started screaming louder and LOUDER!!!! Shad was giving high fives all the way down the line….then a few steps away from us he raised both his hands!!!! “Shad McGaha of Wichita Falls, TEXAS YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!!” He did it. He did it. I knew he could do it…but he really did it. Dad grabbed Emma and dropped her with Laurie and mom…I took off running through the crowd to see him.
I could see the “catcher” walking with him to make sure he was ok. Then he saw me. He came straight up and hugged me. He had a cold wet rag on his neck and a HUGE medal around on. The volunteer let us talk for a second and then offered to take our picture. Then she told me to keep walking and she would meet me with him at the entrance to the expo. I did just as instructed. We walked in to get Shad some Chocolate Milk and food…no IV for him.
He grabbed me and hugged me so close. Told me how proud he was of me….me???? How much he loved me and thanked me. I was dumbfounded. Seriously. Here was this incredible man. He had lost over 140lbs the hard way and he had just finished his 30th race (really way more than that but he only counts them if they are over 13.1miles-1/2 marathon distance) Humble isn’t a strong enough word to describe my husband. He inspires and amazes me everyday. It was a great day. One neither of us will ever forget. My husband is an IRONMAN and he earned every inch of that title. He fought for every pound and every step. He is inspiration to all those who know him.
A few days after we got home Channel 3 called and did a great story on Shad, Jeff, and Todd. It was a great story. Click Here to watch