Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Ironman Revisited

I have recently been asked to explain my experience about my Ironman event in 2010.  This I think has happened at a good time.  Lately I have been struggling to find my mojo per se.  This year I have signed up again to tackle IM Louisville.  This year I am racing with my wife in her first Ironman race.  It will be a time of lot of emotions shared between us.  For those that have raced at this level I think you know what I am talking about.  Experience goes a long way.  My wife and I have made a lot of changes since August 2010.  I am pumped and getting ready to train with her to finish this amazing feat.  So prior to that event, enjoy a recap and further insight into racing Iron distance events.

IM Louisville is the only Ironman that uses a time trial start. One person every second or two enters the water.  My morning started at 1am.  I ate a bit and drank a bottle of PowerAde then went back to sleep.  I woke again at 4:15a.m ate again then Kerrie and I headed out to the transition area at 4:30a.m.  It was a 1/2 mile walk to transition from our hotel.  My bike and all my other gear had been checked in on Saturday so I only had to put my bottles on my bike and check my tires.  I arrived at transition along with a huge mass of athletes, I was in and out and walking again to the swim start.  It was a 3/4 mile walk to the swim start from transition.  It was already 80 degrees and dark as night.  This was a non wetsuit swim since the river was 86 degrees. I got to the swim start at 5:15a.m.  This was a self seeding line and was a first come first serve.  Now what I didn't know was that people had sent their support crews to stand in line for them prior to transition opening (Many of us thought this was rather cheeky but what can you do).  I was about 1/4 mile again from the actual enter point from the swim. I found my spot and began the wait.

 Looking back on this I made two big mistakes already.  The first, I have never gotten up before a race to fuel or eat.  I had heard that this was the thing to do.  I trusted the experience of others and decided I would give it a try.  I knowingly broke my first rule of triathlon, NEVER TRY ANYTHING NEW ON RACE DAY.  The second mistake was that I drank another whole water bottle roughly 20 oz prior to race start.  This was probably more nerves and the cotton mouth I was feeling while waiting for my line to start moving. The first mistake would come back VERY quickly to hurt me in the first 40 minutes of racing.

 At 6:45am the pros hit the water.  The swim was 3/4 mile upstream and then turned downstream for the remaining distance.  At 7am the line began to move and move quicker and quicker.  Once I hit the dock we were running I had about 10 seconds to hit the watch get my goggles on and jump in all on the fly.  I hit the water and began to swim.  I was very relaxed and found a good groove.  The washing machine effect was very prevalent despite the time trial format and bodies were everywhere.  I was strong through the first 1.5 miles and then I had a bad feeling of nausea.  At about mile 2 I puked.  I was able to continue albeit in a breast stroke while puking then with about .1 mile left I puked again.  Finally I exited the water in 1hr 30min.  Looking back I think I got sea sick and had a belly full of liquid that never settled.  This was a first time ever for this.  I think between the rocking of my body, the current, and the other people around me I tossed my cookies and all my early race nutrition...

 Leaving the water I was miserable.  My stomach was in a giant knot.  I went through transition, changed my clothes, forced a Clif bar down and walked my bike out.  The beginning 30 miles of the bike were smooth and it felt like my body was coming back.  I was not able to eat anything of solid consistency, but I could get my chomps down and fluids in me. 

 The ride itself was a lollipop shape with an out and back leg off the stem.  The out and back had an awesome descent of about a mile on which I hit my top speed at about 42 mph on the descent.  The uphill was challenging but I managed with no sweat.  I continued my ride and was feeling well.  The sun began to warm things up very quickly.  There was no shade on the course of rolling hills.  I had heard that temps went quickly to 95 degrees or so by 10am. 

 There was a cool town, Le Grange, I remember because I kept thinking about ZZ Top any time I heard it mentioned, and they had closed the roads to traffic.  They put fencing along the road and for two miles it was lined with people screaming and yelling. It truly felt like we were rock stars.  Riding out of town I felt ok but I had a bit of a pit in my stomach.  As we came around for the second loop my water and mixes began to get very warm.  It was necessary to keep using them but it provided no relief from the heat.  At mile 70 I stopped and peed that felt great.  At mile 80 I was looking to grab cold water at the aid station but they were out of water.  The next aid station was at mile 106.  For the last 40 miles of the ride we rode back to town with a 20 mph headwind and no relief from the baking sun.  I felt as though I had no strength and just focused on the next transition to bring me home.  My bike split 6 hours 10 min I think for the entire ride the slowest I have ever ridden.

 Entering into transition I felt ok although my dismount would have been a 4.0 from any judge.  I could not eat and had forced a lot of stuff into me but felt that I could not satisfy the thirst I had.  I changed my shoes lathered with my sunscreen and headed out on the run.  I saw finally saw my wife Kerrie and was able to let her know what was happening and got the encouragement I desperately needed to continue.  The run was lightly rolling and definitely not flat as advertised.  It was a cool two loop course.  I was able to set a goal to walk for 4 min and run for 8min for about the first 3 miles.  I quickly found myself losing the mental battle.  I ended up walking for about the next 10 miles. 

 It was somewhere along the far end of the course that I had picked up a partner in the process and we helped each to keep moving.  At mile 13 we began to run 4min and walk 4min for about 4 miles.  I then again had to walk.  At mile 21 I set my plan to run for a min and walk a minute. This continued to mile 25.  At 25.5 my calves were wanting to cramp, I pushed to run and did so through the finisher chute. 

 It was amazing.  I crossed the line standing and running.  My run split 6 hr 11min.  I found Kerrie and got a hug and kiss we cried a bit and then I found myself needing to get to medical.  My total time on the course was 14 hrs 11min and finished at 9:30 pm. I got a massage and an emergency blanket.  I finally got back to the hotel at 12:00 and hit the sack.

 Walking away from the event I have had plenty of time to reflect and learn.  I gave up a lot during my 40 weeks preparation for this event.  There is so much that can be shared, but I believe one of the strongest messages I can express is remember those that are sacrificing to help you in your goal.  I missed a lot of my children’s events, inconvenienced my wife and friends, and spent a lot of money that I had not been prepared for.  Those items aside the rewards that I have reaped stemming from this challenge have been quite fortuitous. 

 Mentally I now have the confidence that I can do just about anything.  I know I can go the distance. I know I can push and push past any pain or mental block.  Physically I got faster and stronger and leaner.  I placed a huge value in nutrition and eating right everyday.  I value every moment with my family and hope that my boys take my accomplishment and apply it to their own lives.  Strength in your family and support crew is so important.  You can’t take them for granted at all.  Remind them however you can and thank them for all that they do. 

 Iron distance racing must be respected.  Just because you watch it and see others doing it does not mean it is easy.  It is a process.  Educate yourself in any way you can.  To be successful and have a long life in this awesome hobby takes time and persistence.  I had said to others that I would never tackle this event again.  I have since taken this back.  This year I refocused myself.  I am not about going as fast as I can.  I am not about pushing myself to limits and then superseding them.  This year it is about family.  I will be going back to Louisville this year.  Though, this year my team has included one other.  My wife will be taking on her first Ironman this year. 

 Our relationship is quite unique.  Ten years ago she set out to change our lives.  Triathlon was the calling.  Ever since that moment of great depression and realization we captured that moment of change and took the strides to improve every facet of our life.  From nutrition, to our communication, to how we raise our boys, everything has changed and evolved for the better.  Together we have educated ourselves and finally learned how to train and help each other achieve our respective goals. This year I go to Louisville with her.  This year even though I am participating I am her biggest fan. I will help her with every step she takes.  I know the challenges and still am learning the pitfalls but I know with her by my side and me by hers we can certainly accomplish any feat.  I have purpose, I have reason, now I must reach completion.

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