As many of you probably know, I’m related to a couple of professional athletes. Matt Light is a second cousin of mine who after 11 years in the NFL retired from the New England Patriots. The other pro athlete is my sister-in-law, Meredith Kessler, who competes in Ironmans. The Ironman is an endurance event consisting of 2.4 miles swimming, 112 miles riding the bike, and a 26.2 mile marathon.
This past weekend, she competed in the Ironman 70.3 series (basically a half Ironman) at the Vineman race just north of San Francisco where she resides with my brother. My daughter and I flew out to spend the weekend with them and if she decided to run the race, we would do our duties of cheering her on.
The reason I say “decided” is because she had run a half Ironman in the Rev3 Portland the week before and got second. Two weeks before that race she had captured her third Ironman title of the year at Coeur d’Alene in Idaho. So her body might have needed a little rest, but she decided she was ready for one last race before taking a little time off before her next race in September.
My daughter, my brother, Meredith, and I left their apartment at 4am to get up to Vineman by about 5:30am. This race had some stiff competition with the defending champ, Melissa Rollison, plus Leanda Cave and Heather Jackson.
Meredith put on her swimsuit, my daughter asked for one more pic with her Ipod, and then at 6:32am the pro women started their swim.
Meredith’s specialty was the swim, but the announcer stated three names that were leading the swim and Meredith’s wasn’t one of them, which he seemed surprised at. None of us said anything, but I was wondering if Mer was a little more fatigued then she let on.
Why wasn’t she in the lead?
The first two female swimmers came out of the water and to our relief, one was Meredith. Those stupid wetsuits are hard to get off and Meredith was passed by about 4 people during the transition from swim to bike. My daughter got a couple pics as Meredith went on her way.
At that point, we knew she would be on the bike for a couple of hours so we went and got some breakfast. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get any updates online. Twitter was blank. No one was reporting anything, so we had no clue how Meredith was doing on the bike.
After a hearty meal, we went to the Windsor High School where they would have the bike to run transition and the finish line. We were in luck because 10 or 15 minutes after we arrived, Meredith showed up on her bike with the announcer saying she was in the lead. Second place was about 45 seconds behind.
We got pics of her coming in on the bike, then taking off on the run. My brother was a ways down the street to talk a little strategy with her before she left us in the dust. Melissa Rollison was 3 minutes behind. A former steeplechaser, she looked strong going into her run. Heck, she looked like the Terminator going to track down John Connor.
Would Meredith be able to hold her off in the run?
At that point, we decided to throw the frisbee for awhile. We then moved to the finish line and tossed the football some. Aaron, my brother, got an update at the 6 mile mark from Mer’s coach, Purplepatch Fitness owner Matt Dixon, that she was still in the lead, but Melissa was coming on strong.
Then there was an announcement that Rollison had moved into second place. Then at about 8 miles, she passed Meredith for first. But, Meredith kept her in her sights. She was only about 20-25 seconds behind her. Understand, we aren’t watching any of this, we are just getting occasional updates from the announcer.
Then we got an announcement that perked our ears, as it was shouted Meredith had recaptured the lead at about 12 miles, with very little of the race left. Talking with Meredith after the race (who had talked with Rollison), Meredith gave it one last push to increase her speed and found she was closing the gap. Rollison had spent so much energy catching Meredith, she had nothing left and couldn’t keep her pace.
Finally, Meredith popped into view all by herself. She ran down the home stretch smacking hands with the crowd and then crossed the finish line a champion. If you click here, you can read a brief article about the race. Look at the pictures for the Vineman and you’ll see a picture of Meredith giving the crowd five. I’m in the pic with my white shades.
For Meredith, it was a sweet victory that showed some guts, resilience, and probably put a scare into some of the other athletes in the Ironman world. She also had a lot of her family there which made it extra nice for her. Now it is time to rest and prep for the World Championships in Nevada.
My daughter really enjoyed the experience. When we were looking at some visors to purchase for my daughter, one of the sales ladies came up to her and asked if she was enjoying herself. She said yes. She then asked if she was able to see some athletes finish the race. My daughter said, I saw a lot of athletes finish the race. I even saw my aunt finish. The sales lady smiled and said, oh that’s nice. We decided not to tell her exactly where her aunt finished.