Shuffling between bodies on an overcrowded Louisville pedestrian bridge, I squeezed into an opening to set up my camera as a silky gold sunrise illuminated the Ohio River.
A perforating steam rose and sat on the dark blue water as Ironman athletes propelled from the docks toward their grand conquest.
The inlet yielded sailboats and yachts, which were docked all the way up to the final two raised platforms.
Triathletes, sporting highlighter pink and green caps, plugged their noses and jumped into the river feet first from the empty jump offs.
From my viewpoint, the swimmers looked like feeding shad — frantically bustling at the surface — moving as a group towards their end goal as one.
I will never forget that image.
An Ironman competition is a sporting spectacle.
Near 3,500 competitors from around the world conglomerated to Louisville to do a 2.4 miles swim, 112 miles bicycle ride and run a 26.2 miles marathon.
I think what hit me the hardest, as a spectator that Sunday, was that these athletes aren’t built the way you’d guess — with tall, broad and muscular (and egos to match).
It was all shapes and sizes.
Most of the triathletes were fathers, mothers, daughters and sons — ordinary people you see every day.
Names you’ve never heard.
Up and down the gargantuan course, spectators of all ages cheered on the competitors, giving high-fives whenever the chance presented itself.
There were thousands of people with signs, custom made T-shirts and costumes rooting on the racers.
At the bike transition, two girls that couldn’t have been older than 8 years old had shirts that said, “I love my Ironman Daddy.”
As the race progressed, from one event to the next, many wore bright smiles.
Nearly 100 miles under their belts, with plenty to go, and smiling.
Most people I know would look half-dead after running a single mile.
The athletes were just happy to be out there competing.
Forget all the pain and anguish on the course — these athletes relished that they finally got a chance to test themselves.
Go online and look at Ironman finishes, with the runners crossing the final line.
Any person who is a fan of athletics, in any form, should experience an Ironman race at least once.
It’s an unforgettable experience.
When I started working with Stacey Parisi this past winter, I didn’t know what to expect with her columns.
I didn’t know how long each event in an Ironman was, and how much of an accomplishment it was to finish one.
As the columns were published, and I got to know Stacey, I better understood the magnitude of completing an Ironman.
Most of all, I saw the dedication and sacrifices it takes to achieve a seemingly unattainable dream.
I hope that Stacey’s columns have inspired some of you, our readers, to chase after some kind of aspiration — big or small.
Jordan Morey is the sports editor of The Tribune. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.