Since March, Seymour resident Stacey Parisi has swum 101 miles, biked 2,965 miles and run 737 miles: totaling 126 hours in preparation for Ironman Louisville.
On Sunday, Parisi heard her name called over the loudspeakers for the first time as she crossed the finish line on Fourth Street in Louisville.
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“Stacey Parisi, you are an Ironman.”
The journey, which started near 7:30 a.m. when Parisi’s outstretched right leg hit the water of the Ohio River, came to an end after 13 hours and 22 minutes.
With a couple of miles left in the marathon run, the magnitude of her accomplishment hit Parisi.
“Once I hit Mile 23, I could see towards downtown,” Parisi said. “I knew I was coming up on it. With two miles to go, that’s when I got the most emotional. I had time to process all the hard work that it took to get to this point.
“I got all choked up. I wish I could describe the feeling — the one thing you worked so hard for, that you never thought you could do, you’re going to finish. It’s like nothing else. The more I ran towards the finish the faster I got. I was ready to hear my name called.”
Sifting through the crowd, Parisi was able to find the Seymour Multisport team, her husband, Chris, and kids.
“I was so happy to see my husband and kids,” Parisi said. “They had made T-shirts and had been out there cheering all day long. They walked 14 miles that day. The whole thing at the end was surreal. I couldn’t believe it was me finishing.”
That Sunday morning, the air was cool as the sun rose behind the launching point on the river. Steam rose from the river, as nearly 3,500 athletes started their trial of endurance.
Following her 2.4-mile swim, Parisi made her way to the cycling transition station.
“The swim was my favorite part,” Parisi said. “I was really nervous waiting in line. They kept moving the lineup closer and closer, so I didn’t have a lot of time to think about it. Once I jumped in the water, it was, ‘OK, here we go.’
“I had no complaints about the swim. The water was clean and didn’t have any issues at all. There was plenty of space to swim. I wanted to finish in an hour and 20 minutes, and I did an hour and 16 minutes.”
With athletes running up and down the rows of the thousands of bikes, Parisi found hers and spent 19 minutes in the changing tent.
As she walked her bike up to the path, Parisi waved to her fans and blew a kiss to her family on the outskirts of the barricaded transition area.
The 112-mile bike ride went as planned.
“Once I got on the bike, people seemed to be pretty spread out,” Parisi said. “There were some who weren’t as courteous as others, but for the most part people were great.
“The bike, since I had already ridden the course twice, was really fine. I felt great coming in from the bike. It wasn’t until I had actually changed in transition to run that I thought, ‘Oh boy, I have to run 26 miles.’ I wanted to take it a couple miles at a time. I broke it into six-mile increments.”
She said the run tested her physical abilities the most.
“I tried to not look at my watch too much and wanted to just keep running,” Parisi said. “When I got to the halfway point, I got my special needs bag and ate a couple mints and a Mr. Goodbar. My stomach was cramping almost the entire run.
“It was pretty ugly from mile 15 to 18. I tried to give myself little goals to work towards. I walked one minute and then ran six minutes. I then decided I would just run the rest of the way. My legs just hurt, not one specific part — my muscles were just tired. I don’t know how I did it. I ticked off miles at a time.”
Throughout the running portion, Parisi said, she relied on her faith.
“I probably said the Lord’s Prayer for our five times, the Nicene Creed and the Apostles Creed,” she said. “I mentally went through that stuff.”
At the very end, Parisi soaked the whole experience in as she received her finishing medal.
“When we turned that final corner towards the finishers chute, I let the person ahead of me just go because I wanted to make sure I heard my name and took it all in,” Parisi said. “Then I heard my name, ‘Stacey Parisi, you are an Ironman.’”
Parisi said she doesn’t regret putting in all the work to accomplish her goal.
“I was just grateful to be there,” she said. “I really did feel at peace.”