This weekend last year was a weekend I will remember forever…it was the weekend I saw an amazing man perform an amazing feat. This was the weekend Justin complete the Ironman Woodlands 2011. How the official website describes the race is like this….

Athletes will begin with a 2.4-mile swim in Lake Woodlands. Next is a 112-mile bike course that will take participants west through the scenic, rolling farmland of east Texas. The day ends with a 26.2-mile run course entirely within The Woodlands that concludes with a spectacular finish on Waterway Ave.

What is it really like??? As a spectator I can tell you the last thing anyone is thinking about is the scenic rolling farmland of east Texas. Standing next to the water I feel like I am about to vomit just thinking about all Justin has to do that day, for fun?!? This is what he thinks is fun??? Many times while exercising in spin class together he would tell me to “embrace the suck.” What he meant was for a period of time things were going to be uncomfortable but when you get to the end and it is over you will be glad you finished and did you best….embraced the suck per say.

This is the beginning of his race…we are walking to where he enters the water.

Under normal circumstances this race is almost unfathomable to just the sheer length of it…each of the three portions of the race is HUGE but they do give you 17 hours to complete it in. Standing on the sidelines for the time 16:29 was exhausting to me and my newly pregnant self last May but swimming, biking and running for that long, for “fun” is just plain crazy!!! These were not normal circumstances for Justin though. A few weeks before the race he found out he had a stress fracture in his left tibia. Most people would have withdrawn from the race, Justin was not most people. He was so strong physically but with was even more so strong in mind. Also, we know now he had end stage cancer. Point being he should not have been able to complete the race that day but he did. With a fractured leg and cancer he completed the end all of triathlon races…so what is your excuse in what challenges you each day?

Justin used motivation to get himself ready for whatever the challenge was in front of him and the Ironman race was no different. He would watch YouTube video constantly! Laying in bed he would wake me up to watch a video I had seen a hundred times already. One particular video is one with the song “Until I Collapse.” I played that song at the hospital for him in ICU almost daily for him. I know he was fighting SO hard to live and in all actuality running the race of his life in that hospital bed. Last May Justin gave the Ironman race everything he had physically and mentally…until he collapsed when he crossed that finish line. On April 2nd when he left this earth he, again had given everything he had physically and mentally…until he collapsed into the open waiting arms of our Heavenly Father. So what is your excuse? Are you going until you collapse and giving your all?

On January 21,2011 Justin wrote…It is about mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it don’t matter. On his blog the countdown clock is still going for the Ironman race…he also talks about the beginning of his training here.

Can you see him?!? He is out there, one of the green caps in the mix of thousands of green caps.

I remember when we rode up on his during his biking portion he was yelling at us that he was cramping terribly in his legs. He was worried he wouldn’t he able to finish. He also said he could not lean completely over into what he called “arrow” position because of the cramps. After the race on the way home he told me at one of the aid stations during the bike portion of the race he go off his bike and into a tub of ice water…that he felt overheated and delirious. An official had been pacing with him while he was “running” his marathon watching him and Justin told him to leave. If they are watching you, they are about to medically pull you from the race. He wasn’t going to let himself get pulled. What we found out in October is that one of his kidneys was not functioning at all…that is why he was cramping so badly. Not only does he have a fractured leg, cancer but only one kidney functioning but finished…what is your excuse?

On January 23, 2012 Justin wrote down the following quote… “The only one who can tell you ‘you can’t’ is you and you don’t have to listen. He was not writing about a triathlon race here but the race he was running for his life…against cancer.

The day of the race was much like link above shows…there were people from all walks of life. Every shape and size. People were crying by the last 8 mile loop of the marathon. There were people being carried off in stretchers and hooked up to IVs in a triage area with ambulances waiting by. People were taken to the hospital that day…people have died during this race. It was dark and closing in on the 17 hour time limit when Justin appeared and was closing in on the finish line. He yelled out “can I make it?” Meaning…did he have enough time…we didn’t know for sure. We told him yes…he HAD to run. He did not come that day to not complete the race. With a fractured leg, cancer and only one kidney functioning Justin ran across that finish line. No excuses…he had given his all. He gave everything that day. To witness determination like that is indescribable. He was amazing to say the least. Many times I would tell him that…he was amazing. Sheepishly he would reply to me that he was not but just a normal man but he was far more than that. He was an amazing man who I love so very much.

This is what Justin was awarded when he crossed the line…it cannot be bought, only earned!

The shirt Brock is “wearing” and will have to grown into is the same shirt Justin was given at the end of his Ironman race, the same shirt worn for his first day of Chemo along with his “quits” and also the same shirt worn when he entered the hospital on March 16, 2012 for the race of his life.

One other video he watched was this one….entitled, The Race. He watched this after he learned about his fractured leg but the message holds true for life. We all fall but life is not about the race but the RISE. If I have learned anything, life has “falling” points but you have to rise. You cannot wallow in self-pity, it will get you know where. Justin would want me to rise in my race of life. We were given Brock to rise with.

Everyday Brock is told about his Daddy and what he accomplished. These stories, pictures and mementos will tell Justin’s story and he will continue to RISE here on earth through his children.

The Tuesday after he completed the Ironman he got this tattoo. His feet were bruised and all torn up still from what his body had been through that day. He was so proud to of completed the race and wanted something permanent to wear showing his accomplishment. To wear the Ironman brand is an honor. Justin was an Ironman before last May and he died an Ironman…embracing the suck and RISING until he was called home. Such an amazing man.

So what is YOUR excuse…..