Hi everyone! Patrick here with a guest post today. Since the whole blog community has read Tori’s race recap of the ESI Ironman 70.3 Augusta event and the surprise that awaited her at the finish line, I thought I might offer my insight as to how I pulled of this epic engagement and all of the planning that went into it.
Tori and I had been talking about our future together, an engagement, wedding and all of the other things that come with being a happy couple. I will have it admit, it’s tough to talk about an engagement and secretly plan one at the same time. Going to 3 weddings in a row didn’t really help either. But what Tori didn’t know is that I have been thinking about this for a long time.
She and I have always said that “When you know, you know”. And I have always known. I just needed the right special moment to do it. Many different thoughts went through my head as to when I could pop the question and the best way how. Some ideas involved peanut butter, first date memories, and Timex watch boxes. But when Tori mentioned that she wanted to complete an Ironman 70.3 this year, I know that was my opportunity. Unfortunately, we decided this in February/March and the race wasn’t until September, so we still had some time to go.
Working in the “business” really helped with the planning and coordination. I knew what I wanted to do but it took a few weeks to iron out all of the details. I was able to get the medal a few weeks ahead of time from Ashworth Awards. I have worked with them over the past few years and they have always been fantastic to work with. Plus, they were very excited to help me out with my big day.
The next task at hand was getting the special ring.
Ever since I was born, my grandmother declared that she would like for me to inherit her engagement ring. I never really thought much of it until I met that special someone and the time came near. Tori and I went to Richmond this summer on vacation and I was going to try and ask my grandmother at that time.
Unfortunately, the right opportunity never arose so I had to make other arrangements. I had been traveling and working for the past few weeks so I figured I could “extend my trip” by a few days and make a special trip to Richmond to talk with my grandparents. So after working for a week in the awful sun in Las Vegas for the Championship race, I flew to Virginia for 14 hours with one purpose, to get the ring.
My grandmother and grandfather were ecstatic to hear the news and my grandmother was glad to pass along her ring to me. As she said “it isn’t the biggest diamond but it helps it sparkle”. I thought it was beautiful and I knew Tori would love it. Plus it was a family heirloom and has a huge sentimental value to it.
Once I had the two vital pieces to the puzzle, I employed the help of my mother to assist with a little arts and crafts project. I needed her assistance with getting the ring on the ribbon and medal. Since the ribbons are all one piece, we needed to cut it to get the ring on. She was able to slip the ring on the end of the ribbon so it would hang just above the front of the medal. She was then able to sew two pieces of Velcro on the ribbon so we could take the ring off once she crossed the finish line.
The next step was a little more nerve racking. I had to ask her parents.
While Tori was visiting the Greenbrier, I was able to speak with her mother one day after work. I told her my plan to propose at the finish line and she was more than happy to give me her blessing. However, moms are always easier to talk too. I was still pretty nervous about speaking with her Dad. Unfortunately, I was never able to catch up with him during the week prior to the event so it would have to be during race weekend. Thankfully I was able to speak with him the day before the race and he gave me his blessing to marry his daughter.
“Whew” that was over. The only thing left to do was finish the race.
As race day approached and arrived, I was never really nervous. My lack of training was a bit unnerving but I knew that as long as I finished the bike, I would be OK. I had a goal of going under 6 hours and to beat another one of my co-workers but this was all secondary to my main purpose. I am sorry to all my staff members who bet on me to finish first. I owe them all a beer at some point. I had a great race on Sunday morning. The event organizers, race director and staff members did a fantastic job with the 70.3 and I was thankful to have them all there for support. It was a bit different being on the other side of things.
I went into the water about 15 minutes ahead of Tori so I knew I would cross the finish line before her. She was a bit nervous about making the bike cutoff but I knew she would be just fine. I had my own race to focus on, but in the back of my mind, I was thinking about Tori and the Augusta hills. During the first loop of my run, I tried to think positive about everything but when my parents mentioned that they hadn’t seen Tori get off the bike I started to worry a bit. Thankfully, on my second loop, my dad told me that he had seen Tori on her first lap of the run course and she was doing well. At this point, I knew everything was a go!
As I crossed the finish line, I didn’t even really get a chance to enjoy the accomplishment. The great volunteers put a ribbon around my neck, handed me a finisher hat and the race director gave me a nice cold beer. But I had other things on my mind.
My mom had held the ring and medal for me throughout the weekend and during the race. Our parents were able to hang out in the VIP tent during the race and they were able to watch me as I crossed the finish line. It was great to have them there and be a part of such a fantastic day. Now, all I had to do was wait.
I want to say a special thank you to MP (Marie-Piere) and the team at SportStats for their awesome work with timing and splits (I think she was almost as excited about the proposal as I was). They put extra mats out on the courses to record the splits of all the athletes and this helped me see where Tori was on the course and what pace she was running.
As Tori hit the mile 12 timing mat, I got everything ready at the finish line. Our families, the announcer, the staff and I were eagerly awaiting her arrival.
As she came down the Finish chute, it put a huge smile on my face. Not because I knew what was about to happen, but because I was watching her finish such a great race that she had worked so hard for over the past 18 weeks. I was proud of her for so many things.
When she crossed the finish line, I put the medal around her neck and wrapped her in my arms. I was amazed with everything she had done and I was so proud of her. She/we were so caught up in the moment that she didn’t even know what was hanging around her neck. As we kissed and hugged and shared our great accomplishments, I whispered to her “Nice medal”. At that point, the rest is history. I choked up, she cried, our friends, family and staff cheered, she said yes and all was right with the world.
It had been a long, difficult, emotional and happy journey. But everything was worth it. I am very thankful for everyone who helped make this event possible. Dan Ashworth and Ashworth Awards, my grandparents, my parents and her parents, AJ Sills (the Race Director), the wonderful staff members who I have shared so many weeks and months with over the season and who put on a fantastic event for us, the Augusta Chronicle, Boulder County Communications (especially John and Rowen), and MP and SportStats Timing. Thank you all for your support and sharing such an incredible day with us. It will definitely be a race that we will never forget.