My older brother is a physical beast, so when I learned several months ago that he planned to train for “Ironman Wisconsin” it didn’t surprise me. Dustin Jonathan Hough won “The Wild Man” award as Senior linebacker for Barnesville High School in 1991, he was a rescue swimmer overseas in the United States Navy and played college football upon his return. The man I have always called “Dusty” has never been one to start something that he can’t finish.
As I waited for my brother at the finish line of Ironman Wisconsin on Sunday, my only doubt was whether he would be smiling like he had been all day. An Ironman competition consists of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike and, oh yeah, a marathon. As Dusty has prepared over the months, I have been completely unable to process the amount of physical and psychological training. It hurts just to think about it.
When I woke up on Saturday morning, I was upset because I didn’t sleep that well and had a long day in front of me. Then I pictured my brother Dusty as a smiling, taunting thought bubble: “Ironman?” Oh hey, thought-bubble brother! I will stop complaining about having to walk to my car, press on a pedal for eight hours and then watch you work out for eleven hours.
(NOTE: I wasn’t actually driving. My Dad drove most of the way, along with my sister. But hey man, back off, because I drove the last leg home from 1:30-5:00 AM on Sunday and that is an impressive mental feat).
When we arrived in Madison, I sat in the car as my Dad and sister unloaded the vehicle. It’s not that I didn’t want to help, but I couldn’t help think of Chris Farley from Saturday Night Live, who had grown up in Madison. What type of shenanigans could I get into during the next 24 hours? We checked in to the Madison Concourse and Governor’s Club, which was quite impressive. Boom. Facebook check-in.
The whole family was together which made the experience much better for everyone involved. My mother was able to drive separately with her friend, and was enjoying a light meal with my brother at D Lux restaurant near the Capitol. My sister Paige and I hopped in a shuttle to meet them and were joined by a boisterous couple. The gentleman let us know that he had put down a few drinks, and told a story about being forced into a dinner with his girlfriend’s boss. We joked about how he was definitely not one of the Ironman competitors, and he gave us a line like “Hey friend, who says I’m not?”
Paige and I walked down to the restaurant and met up with the rest of the fam. Dusty’s confidence was high, repeat, confidence was high and I felt sorry for the other competitors. This was going to be nasty. My stomach was a bit queasy due to one too many tacos the night before, but I looked over at my brother (Ironman?) and shut up. I had nothing to say. I couldn’t really even walk around and pretend that I was a competitor because I’ve put on a few pounds over the last month. So, what happens? A good-looking waitress stops by, and I try to make her smile with my impressive beer knowledge. As my mind-train slowly derails, Dusty whips out his cell and says a girl that he met the night before is going to stop by. Ok, what? You’ve been in town for a day and already scored digits? The life of an Ironman.
Mom took off, and then us kids walked towards the lake and surveyed the starting point for the following morning. We all posed for awkward photographs and Dusty spoke of his preparation for the competition and the amazing people he had met along the way. Two weeks prior, he had traveled eight hours to Madison to get a feel for the course.
Later on we met up with my Dad and walked down State Street for some dinner. The hungry group (minus Dusty) looked around while I went inside Tutto Pasta Trattoria to see if we could get a table. The place was bumping hard and sweat was already dripping from my face as I spoke to one of the waitresses. I thought of Chris Farley and his disastrous business pitch from “Tommy Boy”. Richard (played by David Spade) commented, “By finesse, do you mean sputtering sentence fragments and lighting things on fire?” Yeah, that’s me. We scored a table and I waited alone upstairs for the rest of the funky bunch. I have a tendency to break chairs on occasion and looked around for the best place to not cause a major scene. My family (and Dusty’s new friend Kily) found me and we had quite an extraordinary dinner. I managed to get through the whole meal without breaking anything or spilling. The Ironman of Pasta Dinners. Dusty needed to get some rest, which had been difficult with all the excitement. Ironman Wisconsin would begin bright and early the next morning.