Friday, August 31, 2012


I met so many good friends through the two years of Ironman California.  Some have passed on, sadly, Ironscrote (Scott Smith) and Rocket Rod Nesmith as well as Perry Rendina who wasn't so much a friend as he was a reminder of how fragile life can be.  And then there is Dirk who lived through a long stay at Queens Medical Center after a brain bleed out on the Honu course almost cost him his life.  We all seem to remain friends for the most part to this day, though many of us haven't caught up in years.  The yellow page truly lives on...

I found my old race photos so I'll go back and add the ones I have to the Florida and Canada entries.


I remember catching up to another bike sporting a pair of older vintage Vineman water bottles on a ride home from work one day.  As we slowed through the tourist mess of Sausalito, we struck up a conversation.  I found out that he used to race, but had burned out. At the time it seemed like a huge shame as he seemed to have a lot of the cycling background that I was trying so hard to acquire.  That day was the first day I considered what it must be like to continue to train and race without making improvements.

My first two seasons of triathlon competition were a complete blast.  I gained experience and my times improved.  I reached a new level of fitness.  I grew new muscles.  I beat my times from the previous year on the same course.  Ironman Canada 2000 was the peak of my 2nd season and by all means a great race for me.  I moved to San Diego to ride through the winter and see how far I could go.


The first race of my season has always been Wildflower.  The Wildflower long course is simply a great race.  It is tough enough to leave you completely destroyed well before the finish line but it is also short enough to warrant a full effort the entire way.  I find that the last few miles of the Wildflower run course are very similar to how I feel on the last ½ of an Ironman run course.  So it was somewhat disconcerting to end up 20 minutes slower at this year’s race, with the majority of the difference coming out of my run split. Running is my background and my one strength in the world of triathlon.  I have grown accustomed to gaining ground throughout the run on all of my good races, so I know when people start running by me that things aren’t going very well.


It is easy to write off a single poor performance.  It is a bit harder to write off a 20 minute difference, and even harder to accept a poor performance prior to a big race.  So, when I bobbed up to the Ironman California starting line on May 19th, 2001, I already had my doubts about my abilities.  I chose to race without a watch so that I would not be influenced by my splits or HR.  The canon fired and the washing machine kicked into full gear.  For the first time, I my goggles got knocked hard enough to fill with water.  I stopped to clear them and continued.  It wasn’t so much that people were overly aggressive, just not particularly cautious.  There were countless times where the swimmer on the left of me and the swimmer on the right decided to put the sqeeze on.  In many cases, I found open water on one side.  I was slightly annoyed that my fellow competitors did not share my desired to swim unobstructed.  I came to the natural conclusion that I was swimming a bit slower than I would normally (which was pretty easy to predict given my Wildflower swim split) and that the course was a bit more congested than my two other Ironman swim courses (which I realized ahead of time, but was not aware of how much.)  So I tried hard to hold a steady, “all-day” pace through the swim.  I did find some brief periods of open water.  The fatigue I felt at Wildflower was noticeably gone.  I climbed over the sand bags and onto the ramp.  I felt good, but had no idea of my swim split.  Assuming that it was slow, I cranked through T1 (second to Tim DeBoom by only 1 second) and out onto the bike.  After the race I would learn that my number had been taked down for skipping the change tent.  Had it been a great race for me, that simple mistake could have become a huge issue.  However, as it ended up, the 10-20 seconds it would have taken me to run through the tent vs straight to my bike after getting my helmet and glasses from my bag would not have changed anything.  I was fortunate that the powers that be decided it was not necessary to give me a penalty for a simple misunderstanding.

Lap 1

I got into a rhythm on the bike fairly quickly and proceeded to take my place in line for the crowded part of the ride.  It was noticeably more crowded than my 2nd Ironman, much closer to the position I was in at my first Ironman.  There is a big benefit to saving 5-10 minutes on the swim because you have a lot less people to deal with.  And other cyclists are your worst enemy on the bike leg because of the drafting rules and the dangers of riding close to a bunch of hammerheads.  So I tried to take it easy and keep myself under control.  I felt pretty good as the miles clicked by.  I started taking in fuel, and I was drinking well.  The conditions were perfect:  overcast and light to no wind.  I did not feel a supreme elation, but I had a significant absence of negative input.  What kept me from being truly excited was not knowing how slow I swam, and watching how fast everyone around me was riding.  I heard someone mention 1:08 for the swim and I got a little more depressed.  I got a chance to see the majority of the racers ahead of me on the first out and back.  I was a little behind where I wanted to be, but not more than 10 minutes.  Ten minutes in an Ironman is not particularly significant, but it can be a good indication of what to expect later on.  In my case, I intended to go out at a reasonable pace and try to pick it up on the second lap.  I ended up starting slow and getting even slower.


We hit the backside of the course where the hills take over.  At that point I was holding the pace I wanted to hold.  I would give up some time on the climbs and make it back on the descents.  I used my 55/11 and my race wheels to my advantage.  I really took it easy on the climbs, not wanting to give up more than I had so early in the day.  I could not help but notice how many were able to put me to shame.  I did not have the confidence to assume that they would blow up on the second lap or the run.  Indeed, there were too many of them, and only some could be considered idiots for riding outside of their abilities.  Without a watch or any other gauge of my effort or performance, I began to sink into a state of blah when I should have tried to just keep humming along.  I was correct in my interpretation of my overall place in the race, but not particularly cognizant of my performance on the first lap of the bike.  By all means, despite a slightly slow swim I was still doing pretty well by the time I turned onto Vandegrift (aka the wind tunnel) and headed back to transition to start lap 2.  I did lose a bottle of fuel on the turn on the tracks, so I circled back for it.  I lost less than a minute, but I was not willing to risk losing the entire bottle of food.  I discovered that the fall had cracked the top.  I tried to get some of the food into my front water bottle, but ended up making a big, sticky mess on my hands and bars.  I gave up and tossed the bottle.  I had two more waiting for me, but one was a different mixture and I had intended to use it only as backup.  I knew that I could finish reasonably well on only 2 bottles (700 calories/bottle) but I wanted a little bit more than just enough.


Coming through the transition area at the end of the first lap was an incredible feeling.  The streets were lined with people like it was the tour de France or something.  It is strange to go from a completely deserted bike course (except for the aid stations) to a completely packed one with everyone cheering like mad.  That moment made me appreciate the people who cheer at Richter and Yellow Lake on the Ironman Canada bike course.  A little bit of encouragement at the right time can mean a lot.  I got my bike special needs bag from the volunteer who was extremely helpful.  I grabbed my two bottles and took off.  So far the casualties were 1 bottle and a slightly slow swim which put me a little behind where I wanted to be, but not anywhere near the danger zone. 

Lap 2

I had a bit more space going out on lap 2 as many of the riders I had seen on the first lap had moved ahead of me.  In particular, a friend from San Francisco had passed me on the first lap and was within striking distance.  I tried to push it on the flats during the front section of lap 2.  I knew that was where I would make or break my entire bike split.  I wasn’t feeling destroyed yet, but I wasn’t feeling a great strength from holding back on the first lap.  Instead, I felt like I had during the swim, a continual blah of apathy.  Why I would feel apathetic during an Ironman race completely baffles me, but I had none of the intensity which had been my adversary and my foe at Canada last year.  I was just riding along, getting progressively slower, and watching as the hairy-legged riders with dorky bikes kicked my butt.  I got passed by a special interest case with the camera crew in tow and that was enough to really piss me off.  I passed their motorcycle on the left, very close to the yellow centerline.  Although the day was not terribly windy, there were a number of packs and not as many officials as I would have expected.  I chose to not draft as I usually do, although the temptation was not overwhelming by any means.  I find it very uncomfortable to ride in a pack during a race, perhaps that is my guilty conscience speaking.


Conventional wisdom says that an Ironman race starts at mile 80 on the bike.  I suppose for strong cyclists this might not be the case, but for me it is very true.  I start to fall apart over the last ¼ of a 112 mile bike ride.  It’s pretty consistent when it happens.  I just lose my strength and pedal slower and slower.  I tried to take in the contents of one of my bottles, but I had mixed it so thick that it would not come out.  I checked it before the first hill, down to one bottle and the minimum calories I needed to complete the race. So, I was not terribly surprised to watch more cyclists pass me on the hills.  In a way, I just kind of sat there and watched my PR slide away.  I knew I was supposed to crank through the last stretch.  But I didn’t have the leg strength nor the mental game to do much of anything.  So I settled in for a slow pace on the flats, even slower on the climbs, and as fast as I could go downhill.


At the top of “dead man’s curve” I had been all but deserted by my fellow competitors so I opened it up and let it rip.  I was fortunate (or lucky) enough to be holding my crossbar instead of my aerobars.  There was a marine at the top telling us to slow down.  I feathered the brakes a bit, making sure they were there if I needed them.  But I’m pretty sure I had it up past 40 when I noticed the body.  I didn’t swerve, so I rolled within a couple of feet of Perry Rendina’s legs.  He was still in the middle of the road.  I could tell it was a very bad accident, but I did not know he had died until Roger caught me on the run and told me they had put a tarp over his body.  I estimate that the accident happened less than 5 minutes before I arrived.  It looked as if there had been enough time for the blood to mark the road, but not enough time for the marine at the top of the hill to know (he gave no special indication) or the marines at the bottom to have the situation under control.  There is no doubt in my mind that it could have been me lying there, face down, skin shredded, bleeding to death if not already dead on impact.  I can’t say exactly how this accident affected me, but it certainly did nothing to my already waning internal drive.


Fear and loathing on Vandegrift is all I can think of for my last 10 mile limp home.  I was done, put a fork in me.  I watched a few riders pass by.  One particularly petite female followed by 4 strong male riders in obvious violation of drafting rules.  I let them gap me and watched as she shifted and they regrouped behind her.  Considering none of the men near me on that stretch had any hope of a kona slot at that point, it was pretty shameful.  I was unimpressed with the officials.  I did see a couple of them enforcing drafting rules.  Those of us who choose not to draft are in the minority.  I suppose we are the stupid ones.  It would be a more significant issue on another day, but on May 19th it was a lonely thought that soon departed.


Ironically, the temperatures ended up closer to Canada and very different from last year’s race.  When I got into T2, it was a lot warmer than out on the bike course.  I ended up getting an ugly singlet tan (yuck.)  And I had been close to a little too cold along the last few miles of the ride.  It’s a great feeling to come off the bike and feel the sun.  I had a more reasonable T2 and was out on the run.  Sunshine and an afternoon marathon.  Oh well, I didn’t have much else to do today.
Tim and Tony behind me, 1 lap ahead


As soon as I was out on the run course I was told to “stay to the right, runners coming through”.  Not knowing how far back I was, I asked who was winning the race.  As I was told “the DeBoom brothers” they came into view over my left shoulder.  I stole a glance back and asked them “who wants it more?”  Pretty stupid thing to say, but that’s all I could come up with at the time.  They cranked past me and I tucked in for a couple of minutes of virtual fame.  I considered killing myself to run with them to the turnaround until I heard someone say that their first lap had been a 1:20.  My ½ marathon PR is a 1:21, so I knew that trying to stay with them would be a whole new world of hurt.  So I just sort of shut it down and let them fade off.  I settled into what felt like a 10 min/mile pace and took it out as easy as I could.  The miles rattled by as the course seemed different with all the people on it.  I ate a gel, had some water, one cup of Gatorade, and took a little bit of a mental break from the race for those six miles.  I ran without determination or reason, I just ran.


To say that Roger was a big part of my race is an understatement.  He showed up about a minute behind me by the turnaround.  I figured he had been running faster than me, but I also figured that I stood a better chance of getting the race over with if I stayed with him than if I ran alone.  So I stopped at the bathroom and by the time I came out he was well ahead of me.  I ran as hard as I could and caught him by the next aid station.  We chatted a bit.  He was feeling OK, having a pretty good race.  I was a little disappointed with my performance so far but very happy to have found a friend.  We ran past the pier and everyone recognized either Roger or myself, not both.  Roger was definitely better at noticing other people, as I was kind of withdrawn.  As we hit the sand toward the end of the first lap Roger checked his watch and mentioned that he thought sub 11 was a possibility.  I said “sure” before I even asked what time it was.  Before that I hadn’t even considered how I would feel if I didn’t break 11 hours.  I remembered the joy I had felt at Florida, my first Ironman where I ran a 3:40 to break 11.  Sub 11 was a legitimate goal given how the race was progressing, and by choosing to tackle it I felt a reason to keep going.  We hit the timing mat just before 9 hours, and I thought that a half marathon in 2 hours was a piece of cake.  Especially considering I had gone out so cautiously and that running was my strength and Roger was on my side.  No problem I thought as we headed out for the second lap.


Of course I forgot that I had wanted to walk as early as mile 2.  So what started as a piece of cake quickly became really tough.  I had loosened my elastic laces before the race but they were still a bit too tight and my swollen feet were starting to ache.  My legs were stiff and going up the inclines (even the short ones) really took a lot out of me.  All of my personal pride in running was put on hold for a 9 minute shuffle.  But Roger dragged me through my rough patches and I could only hope that I was dragging him through his.  I let him get a little ahead of me at times, and I waited for him at times, but we kept within 100 meters of each other and I fed off my obligation to get him home in time.  The last 6 were a bit of a blur as you keep fooling yourself into believing that once you get to the pier it’s all over, then the harbor, then the sand.  Finally on the sand Roger checked his watch and realized he had screwed up and we actually had less time than he thought.  I said we have to make it and he seemed a bit uncertain.  Not knowing the time really freaked me out and I just kicked it into high gear.  I skipped the last two aid stations and ran what felt like an 8 minute pace.  No way was I going to go down without a shot.  I kept signaling to Roger to keep going and he held up just behind me.  I wanted to get back there and push him, but I didn’t want to stop for fear that he might slow down too and I wanted him to do it all by himself.  It’s weird how wanting something for somebody else can motivate you when wanting it for yourself does nothing.  I thought about how bummed I would be if we were right on the edge.  I decided that no matter what our finishing time was I was going to get a picture with Rodger if it killed me.  I rounded the corner but still couldn’t see the clock.  About halfway down the chute I finally saw 10:57 and I knew we had made it.  I turned around and walked backwards waiting for Roger to catch up so I could get my damn picture.  I took off my hat and glasses.  Roger started spazing like a 5 year old kid.  It was wonderful.  I am not one for finish line antics, so I just tagged along and watched him work his magic.  He didn’t notice the 3 or 4 others we shared the chute with.  Some ran past us, others were passed, and nobody really cared.  I think everyone was in a bit of a sub-11 daze, and I felt like the sole observer.  Not that I wasn’t affected by the situation, but more that I wasn’t feeling any internal joy at my own accomplishment.  Instead, I felt everyone else’s joy and it made my day.  I hope I managed to sneak in next to Roger for the finish photo, but I haven’t seen it yet.  Even if it doesn’t come out, the race was still very special because we got to do a large part of it together.


In retrospect, I am not particularly unhappy with my swim.  It was 3 minutes slower than Canada on a fast (for many) course.  But I got more than my share of bumps and I kept the swim aerobic.  I am not unhappy with my first bike lap either.  I was basically on pace until the second lap of the bike.  I just let it fall apart there without fighting.  I can’t help but be jealous of the others who managed to hold it together.  I didn’t think I went out too hard at all.  I just didn’t come through when it counted.  The run I can write off.  It was my slowest marathon, but it was also one of the most enjoyable ones.  I don’t really care what the time was, I got the job done.  I am a little nervous about how the rest of the season will go, but I suppose this race was not a setback by any means.  I gained experiences and those are worth more than PR’s.  But I really would like another IM PR before I die, and Canada is an easier course…

Thursday, August 30, 2012


More lame old ironman race reports.  I'm too embarrassed about my tri years to re-read any of these so they will just be reprinted as-is. I can't seem to find any photos for the first two but I definitely have some for the next few.


I’m not sure what made me sign up for my second Ironman race, but I do know that even before I had completed my first I wanted to go through the experience again.  There is something unworldly about pushing a single event into the forefront of your personal life for 6 months that makes the thought of stepping back into a “normal” life almost unthinkable.  There is also something completely terrifying about signing up next year’s torture while you’re still in the middle of this year’s.  Still, curiosity gave way to interest which led me to desire and eventually I snuck in through the last round of signups and considered myself fortunate to have the opportunity to participate in such an event.


My girlfriend, Kerri, was using a private coach, Jeff Devlin, to help her through her second Ironman.  I really liked his meticulous attention to detail as it was something that I could relate to and understand.  I figured his calculating wisdon would make up for my youthful ignorance, so I hired him to get me through the last two months of training.  What I didn’t realize at the time was that in order to meet my time goals I would be doing a lot more high intensity training than I had ever done.  For my previous Ironman training which was done by the seat of my pants I simply trained the distances I would be racing on the weekends and got in as much as I could survive through during the week.  It was an easy immersion test as far as volume goes and I think it really helped solidify my confidence and endurance which were both in short supply.  But this time the training was at a pace that hurt and I had to stay out there for almost as long as I had before.  I cracked on more than a couple of the big days and ended up a bit short on my run training.  The run is my strength and I knew I had plenty of speed but I wondered what my breaking point would be during the race.  I fantasized about feeling perfect for the entire race, breaking all my predictions and the 10 hour barrier to come across the line with Lori Bowden and a ticket to Kona.  I knew that reality lay somewhere between fame and despair, I was certainly capable of a very solid race but there were no guarantees about the competition which had consistently been a few notches higher the entire season.


I woke early on Sunday, ready to begin my journey.  Early for me was 3:30.  By 5:00 I had eaten my bananas, blended my food into sludge, warmed up my muscles in the shower, and donned the obligatory sunscreen.  Outside it was a gusty morning and the lake was showing whitecaps visible from the hotel window.  I was significantly depressed about the swim conditions because I really wanted to break an hour on the swim but I would need a glassy lake, a good draft, and a smart swim to do so.  As I walked toward the transition area with my bike pump, special needs bags, and wetsuit I was shivering.  Ironic that I would be faced with cold weather and wind when those were the two elements I feared the most.  I was ready for 100 degree heat, but Penticton was not delivering on the sunshine part of our deal yet.  So with mixed concern/anxiety I went through my morning routine happy that none of my gear was missing or damaged.  I felt a distinctive B written on my left calf indicating my age group.  I then slapped on the glide and then settled into my wetsuit as I walked past Peter and Lori.  I gained a small sense of peace when I saw the two of them, as I knew that they would beat the course into submission so that I wouldn’t have to.


I wandered over to the far end of the swim start to keep the bully’s on my strong side.  As the crowd surged forward before the start I realized that it wouldn’t be a very fair swim start given the shallow water and the head start our side was positioned towards.  In many ways I hate mass swim starts because they are so unfair to the majority.  But I had been smart enough to pick a good spot to start and I made it out into the water without the usual bruises.  I could tell that there was a big frenzied mass behind me and to my right, but I swam far left along the outside of the course.  About halfway before the first turn I started to worry about getting a draft.  I tried a couple of times but everyone was swimming past me.  I knew I had started too hard, but I was also getting pretty beat up by the chop.  I swallowed a little water along the way, thankful that the lake had little taste.  Compared to my two other 2.4 mile swims, I was swimming as intensely and feeling the fatigure, but at least I wasn’t hot.  In fact, the lake was the perfect temperature to keep me from overheating in my neoprene even as I flailed through the chop.  By the first turn I was pretty tired but I remembered that this was what I wanted to feel like if I expected to come close to my goal.  I got a few licks through the first turn and some in the second, but not enough to really aggravate me.  I remember fingertaps on my heels at the start of the return leg which were annoying because they were so distracting.  I remembered seeing a white cap go by and then a yellow cap right after it.  I assumed that if I were swimming well I might have a chance to see Lori in T1, but I just couldn’t get lengthen out my stroke in the chop.  I couldn’t find anyone to draft behind because I was too tired to keep up.  So I swam the whole way back on the outside just like I had on the way out and most certainly slower.  I was annoyed by the sun which was at the perfect angle to obscure the swim finish.  I had no idea how far it was and I could not remember how many buoys or see anything along the shoreline to tell me my progress.  I refused to stop to check things out, but I really suffered on the last stretch.  Then, when it finally became too shallow to swim and more I had to crawl across the rocks to get to shore.  So far it had been a rough day, I was already tired, and as I checked my watch after having my wetsuit forcibly removed I realized I was 3 minutes behind my ultimate goal, but at least ahead of my previous swim split.

Richter Pass


It was with mixed feelings that I ran to my bike.  I had left my arm warmers in my dry strip bag as I assumed it would warm up and become a nice day.  But I was cold already, pretty tired, and not breaking any world records in the process.  I had a prior commitment to myself to finish as quickly as possible even if I started to feel bad, but I really wanted to feel good.  I reached my bike, slipped into my bike shoes, and managed to get out onto Main street without crashing.  I figured that 90% of the race was ahead of me so there was no need to pass judgement on the day until I had something worth judging.  The first stretch of the bike felt smooth but my legs were missing the fire.  They only remembered what it was like to go out and hammer on a taper ride, and they had forgotten the slushy feeling of a long swim.  I worried that they might never return, but Dave Scott had told everyone to be patient about muscle recruitment and I had plenty of time to see how things went.  The first small hill came and everyone bunched up.  I hated the first few hours of an IM race because I am not good enough to break away early.  I knew that by the halfway point I would either be too tired to care or things would have spread out enough to be enjoyable.  But I wanted my room now, when I felt OK, so that I could get into my groove.  Instead, I was battling for position with 50 or so of my closest competitors.  There was even a large pack of 10-15 guys who were blatantly drafting.  When they got in my way I would speed up and pass them in bulk, but eventually they would always catch me and I would have to slow down to let them pass without risking a drafting penalty.  There were others screaming at the draft pack, but I chose not to waste my energy telling anyone else what to do.  So I silently endured this annoyance and waited for a time when I could start to race.  I had stripped off my computer for the race so I had no idea how fast I was going, but it didn’t feel slow even with the speed changes so I wasn’t overly concerned about anything yet.  I actually consumed the majority of bottle #1 of my food supply realizing that eating and climbing were not a good mix.  By the time I hit Richter I was ready to get the hell out of the mess I had found myself in.  Another guy who was also sick of the drafting suggested that we get past the pack on the hills.  I tried to keep up with him, but even with 2 scoops to carry and a camelback he was too strong on the hills.  Still I was passing a decent number on the climbs and feeling strong.  I had trained for the hills and I was ready to give it while I had it.  Still, I was worried about the advice everyone had given to go easy on Richter.  I knew Yellow Lake wasn’t as tough of a climb, but I was worried about my strength on the back stretch and certainly not overconfident of my cycling skills.  Oh well, it meant a lot to get past the dorks that were in my way and I finally caught a decent groove on the initial rollers after the climb.  There was a ton of support and people all over the place.  On one of the climbs I heard some guys talking about drafting Lori the entire swim.  They agreed with me that the swim was tough, so I still felt like a player who had a chance.  When I cleared the last roller (I swear I counted more on the bike than I had in the car just a few days before) I was tired.  I was also behind on my eating so I tried to step it up a bit.  I knew that by the 60 mile mark it was pretty flat, but I wasn’t expecting the wind we ran into.  I was instantly bummed as I felt the psychological effects of what I considered a pretty brutal wind, some intermittent rain droplets, and a general chill that I knew was not the recipe for success for me.

Approaching T2


I guess I foolishly expected that I could be strong for 112 miles on a hilly and windy bike course.  However, even riding on $6K worth of cycling technology I fell apart.  I stopped eating.  I lost my power and my desire.  I put my head down and sipped water as an alternative to despair and boredom.  The out and back was a death march for me, but I did get to see Peter which was a mixed blessing.  I realized by that point that I had pushed too hard too early, but I also realized that despite my efforts during my second season I was still a couple of cans short of a six pack on the bike.  I was very surprised, however, that only two or three others managed to pass me along the out and back.  I was in a hole, but I could hang on and keep going as long as I didn’t get dropped further.  It helped that I could skip the special needs bag because I had only consumed one of my food bottles.  In retrospect, this was the same breakdown I felt during my first IM, although it came on later and after a more intense start.  I knew I should shove a gu down and try to get my spirits up but I physically couldn’t.  I couldn’t do anything but turn the pedals and sip water.  It was hard to just keep the bike going forward, but as long as I could hold position I could tune out the world.  Finally the out and back was over, but I knew that so was I.  It was a long, slow spin up Yellow lake, out of the saddle and in my easiest gear despite the realization that it wasn’t a terribly steep hill.  None of my strength on Richter pass was left, I wasn’t eating, and I was mentally destroyed.  It wasn’t the hardest ride of my life, but I was disappointed that I was human and I really didn’t feel like I had had a good part of the race yet.  I didn’t want to eat any more, but I did force myself to keep drinking and keep pedaling.  One guy passed me on the climb up Yellow and mentioned that the going was getting tough.  I saw him tackle it like a superstar but I had no reply of my own and I didn’t even care if he was in my age group or not.  To say that the crowds helped me up Yellow Lake is an understatement, they practically pedaled for me.  But at the top it was lonely again and the downhill just never came.  Each minute was an eternity and when I finally felt like I couldn’t take it any more the rains came.  They soaked my face and my hands, and I watched as my HR dropped below 140 for the first time since the start.  The race was over, I had lost and the elements had won.  Finally the downhill came, but I was both soaked and frozen so I could barely steer and I worried about the slick roads.  I did not pedal once on the downhill from Yellow Lake, as compared to my frantic efforts on the rollers before.  I just tried to hold it all together and finally made it to the left turn into town.  I passed a pro walking his bike and realized that my fate so far was actually pretty good.  But I was sure I had not eaten enough, my stomach was not particularly happy, my arms and legs were frozen, and I was exhausted. 


Only 26.2 to go
I spun into T2 in my small ring as I watched the stronger runners heading out to the marathon.  I was too late to see Peter who was at mile 10 by the time I left my bike.  I stopped to pee for what seemed like an entire minute although I didn’t feel the usual relief because I was still frozen.  I remember the door to the port-o-potty swinging open violently in the wind but I was too tired and out of it to deal with the situation.  I banged my head on the roof, lucky I was still wearing my bike helmet.  Finally I walked into the tent, removed my helmet and socks, wiped off my feet with a towel, and slowly put my fresh running socks on.  I slipped into my shoes, made sure everything felt good, and grabbed my gu and hat.  On the way out there was a tray of fruit and I was hungry and desparate so I grabbed a piece of cantelope.  It was the best piece of cantelope I had ever tasted and I really wanted to stop and gorge myself.  But I was surprised to realize that I was only 10 minutes behind my ultimate goals for the day at that point and I just did not have a good enough excuse to quit.  Too many people were checking my times and silently cheering for me.  How could I explain a DNF on the run (my strength) after PR’s on the previous two events.  I realized that life is cruel, but there was no choice but to head out onto the run course.  I saw a guy I had biked with run past me and chuckled to myself that I would see him again as he was burning his battery down while I was going to take it easy and go hard on the way back.  Of course by the time I hit the 5 mile mark I realized I was going as fast as I could expect to go and he was nowhere to be seen.  He ended up running a 3:07 marathon and taking one of the precious slots to Kona, something that I would have been overwhelmingly difficult for me to attempt even if I had managed to negative split.  But I was passing people and I did feel good.  I finally had something to be happy about, until Kerri came up next to me and informed me that I was 31st off the bike.  I told her that I would have to run very fast if I wanted to go to Kona and while I knew it would probably not happen I still hung to a shred of hope.  I knew I was on pace for a time that would have qualified last year and maybe I would pass a big pack of B’s toward the end and have a chance to sprint for the tape, something I was very confident that I would win.  The sun had come out and it was time to put up or shut up.  I remember my coach’s advice, the run is my strength so go for it.  I saw Peter running by and I knew he would win so I was very excited for him.  So I yelled “Go Peter” as loud as I could and shook my fist at him.  Later I saw Lori and gave her a similar cheer.  I really wished I was running next to Lori, it was so cruel to be so far away from the finish line even with the throngs of spectators and the wonderful volunteers at the aid stations.  I had snarfed a cup of Pepsi in T2 and it appeared to make me feel better while the 3 gu’s I had managed to get down were not helping my sensitive stomach.  So I switched to water and pepsi realizing that I was already broken so why not push it as far as I can go and see where the breaking point was.  I kept looking for B’s, but although I was passing and not being passed, I only saw C’s and D’s.  There were two or three female pros mixed in and even a male pro or two.  There is a special feeling when you pass a “P” in an Ironman race, the kind of feeling that makes you forget that you have to go to work in a couple of days and perpetuates the dream of one day becoming a professional athlete.  Still, passing women, even professional women, was not completely satisfying because I knew that there were a lot of men ahead of me.  Passing the male pros was not completely satisfying because the ones I did pass looked like they were in the midst of their own hell.  But passing any P is still a lot better than passing an age grouper, for the simple fact that I was still not used to the feeling.
A long way from town and still heading out.

Struggle Street

The miles started to get longer after 15 and I realized by my splits that I was slowing down.  I knew I needed more food, but my stomach was just tapped and it had become difficult to get even coke down.  My problems with nutrition had started on the bike so this struggle was nothing new and I was plenty tired of it.  I had another piece of cantelope, then skipped an aid station to let my stomach calm down.  I just kept getting slower and trying to get a little coke and a little water down.  The end of the lake looked so far away even as I broke into the 20’s.  Miles 20-24 were just plain brutal.  I had slowed almost to a walking pace but I refused to blow a good race so I kept my run form at a greatly reduced cadence and a pretty short stride.  The sun had come out again and it was also windy so there were times of heat and times of cold.  My mind had deteriorated, but I was still on the lookout for B’s even as I knew the situation was hopeless.  I figured that there would probably be a pack of them somewhere, all gutting it out for that slot to Kona, so if I could just find them I would have a reason to kill myself on the last stretch.  As it was, I was almost all alone, running in my own world of pain and more than ready for the race to be over.  My muscles and joints ached, and I really wanted to stop.  From behind me a runner approached and I really didn’t care until he passed and I saw the B on his calf.  At this point I was pretty sure that I would need a whole lot of rolldown to get a ticket to Kona.  I figured there were at least 15 people in my age group who were ahead of me, so at least 5 of them would have to decline their slot or have already qualified for me to get a chance.  But in years past, rolldown has been as high as 100% at Ironman Canada.  It’s a sick individual who still wants to do another IM race in less than two months on the day after the last one.  So I figured that my chances were slim, but I also realized that my finish time would have qualified last year and there was no guarantees about what would happen during the rolldown process.  I didn’t know at the time that any unused slots in older age groups are re-assigned to younger age groups, but I knew there was a certain grey area and that I was at the tail end of it.  So, I let him go reluctantly, cursing myself the whole time because if he took my slot I was going to be very disappointed with myself.  I listened to the announcers cheer in the final sub-10 finisher, who apparently made it by a second.  At the start of the race I was dreaming that I might be closer to sub 10, but at this point I was dreaming of regular food, a shower, and some warm clothes.


Rounding the corner to the home stretch was far more difficult than I ever imagined.  Turning away from the finish line when all my body wanted to do was stop was beyond cruel.  But it did give me one last chance to confront the B up ahead.  I decided to just go for it in case I stood a chance, so I reeled him in on the way out and then put my dejected face back on as he passed me just after the turnaround.  I figured he wasn’t expecting anything and he might not even realize I was in his age group plus he wouldn’t put up a fight until he saw me pass and by then it would be too late.  I was right and he didn’t even offer a challenge.  He was obviously the smarter of the two of us as we were a good 10 minutes shy of a chance to go to Kona.  But I had my small mental victory to cap off the day and as I hit the tape I was plenty happy with my results.  I knew I had gone faster on all my splits and I had made it through a tough day on a hard course in a time that was as good as I could expect out of myself.  But I also knew there was room for improvement and that sub 10 would be a cool goal for my next race.  Of course there is a world of difference between sub 10 and sub 9, but anything in the 9’s on a hilly course is very respectable.  Basically, it wasn’t time to quit my day job, but it wasn’t time to write my off either.  Kerri presented me with my finishers medal which put me 1 ahead in totals, and some very friendly volunteers spotted me as I swayed around the transition area and shoved down some fruit and a donut.  Finally my brain switched back on and I realized I had to find Kerri before she got really mad at me for being clueless.  I had spent 10 hours of selfish indulgence and I was ready to call it a day.  After a shower and some warm clothes we ventured back out to eat and watch some of the late night finishers.  The crowd at the finish line was spectacular, they were an event of their own.  It was great to finally watch such an energetic finish line, something I had heard a lot about but never really witnessed firsthand.  I almost got jealous as some of the finishers received the complete attention of thousands of screaming fans.  I feel asleep with the thought that there is no sport quite like this one, none that puts you so low and so high on the same day.  When I woke it was to the sound of fireworks welcoming the arrival of the last finisher with Graham Fraser and Lori Bowden as escorts.  Although I was too tired to look outside my window, I was coherent enough to recognize that someone else just had one of those moments that is worth a year of struggling.  I dozed off for the second time, my mind content and my body exhausted.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Panama City Beach

More race reports from the vault.  This one is my very first Ironman experience.  Laugh away, I was a total rookie.


I sat on the beach in my wetsuit with my goggles in my left hand and a flourescent green swim cap in my right hand.  I felt a little guilty about sitting down because it was Saturday, November 6th 1999 and I had planned this day to be a modern version of my rite of passage into adulthood.  I would turn 25 the day after, so I wanted one more accomplishment to mark the first segment of my existence.  I looked out at the calm waters of the gulf and contemplated my first attempt to complete an Ironman distance triathlon.


I played competitive tennis from age 10 to age 12, but was not ready for the pressure and quit tennis altogether by age 13.  My father encouraged me to excel in athletics and although I had rejected the sport that he thought was perfect for me (probably because he liked to play also) he was very encouraging of any athletic interests.  He was the one who signed me up for my first triathlon when I was very young, perhaps 15 or so.  It was a very short race, maybe a 300 meter swim, 12 mile bike, and a 3 mile run, and it was for kids only (I think 15 was the oldest you could be, if not then the cutoff was 16.)  I did reasonably well, but there weren’t many of us who were actually there to race it (I went in thinking I’d kill everyone easily and came out happy to be alive.)  I remember being confused as the eventual winner blew past me on the bike, thinking it was rather odd to be pushing so hard.  I hit the run and blew up, it was a struggle for me to make it to the finish line despite the fact that I had at least two seasons of track practices under my belt, I just didn’t have anything left to give.  It wasn’t a major decision to avoid doing future races, I just didn’t see myself as ready to compete with adults and I knew I needed to put a lot of training time in if I wanted to be reasonably confident during one of those triathlons.  I decided to focus my efforts on water polo in the fall, and track in the spring.  I often complained about how hard it was to switch between the two.  The concept of training in the off season did not enter my mind more than once or twice and I dismissed it as either “foolish” or “impossible”.  A friend from a rival high school who I admired pursued his triathlon training while still kicking my butt on the track and proving himself in the pool.  I remember seeing him with a bunch of road rash on his face when we were about 17 and wondering what drives a person to train so hard. I also remember watching the Hawaii Ironman one or two of those years, I might have seen Julie Moss’ finish, and I remember one winner puking after crossing the line.  All of this feedback strengthened my impression that triathlons were a bit too extreme even for a guy who loves excess.  I only put a medium effort into most of my track workouts, but I put on a decent game face and managed to pull a good race off every once in a while.  I made my high school goal of scoring a point in the state meet during my senior year, mostly because some of the other good runners were pulled for earlier events.  I have my best 3200 ever, something just under 10:30 in ideal conditions with some really fast guys pulling me in (I had nothing left after that.)  I was pretty proud of myself for coming through in the big meet, that is a joy that many of us can relate to and one that goes beyond any kind of congratulations from others or any relative comparisons of times.  It’s funny to think of how my friend Jess was running 4:30 miles before I was even born, the competition in Hawaii cannot compare to that of California.


After I graduated from college and found the first fool who would hire me, I began to actually care about my life and decided to move to San Francisco.  I didn’t know anything about San Francisco, but I had heard that it was better than New York and I hated living in New York, so I figured it was the way to go.  I also managed to realize (even with my limited geographical abilities) that San Francisco was in California, and I knew from watching Big Wednesday that California was the cool place to be.  OK, I also had a bunch of friends from both high school and college whom I expected to enjoy drinking lots of beer with, and I had no life in New York.  The only thing holding me back was a bunch of college friends who I enjoyed hanging out with once a month when we all collected from the surrounding states (usually in Stamford, CT or Manteloking, NJ).  I was lucky enough to exploit my father’s connections and find an outstanding group of consultants working on PG&E’s gas pipeline information systems.  The project was challenging (I logged almost 300 hours in February 1998) and the people were exceptional in every way.  To balance the intensity, I started swimming with two other co-workers, Jess and Vince.  Before I left New York I was in great running/lifting shape because I had nothing to do.  I had almost fallen prey to the tough guy New York ideals as I worked my way up to bench 300, but I knew I should balance that with some cardio training which just naturally defaulted to 5-6 miles of running every few days.  On my own, I wouldn’t have ever stepped foot in a pool, I hate swim practices.  I remember dreading the one season I swam in high school.  At least at water polo practice we got to toss the ball around and hit each other.  Who wants to swim laps back and forth in an indoor pool in San Francisco I thought?  Oh well, I was getting a decent beer gut and I really liked hanging out with my two new friends, plus I hated the idea of anyone being better than me at something so I started going to practice every now and then.  In retrospect, I probably missed more than I made before May 1999, but it was tolerable.  The masters swim coach asked us to start coming to her practices, and we all showed improvements in our times as well as our overall aerobic shape.  I love the feeling of walking away from the pool after a hard workout with my whole body tingling and I started to get addicted to exercise.  I was 24 and it was time for me to pursue any athletic dreams I might have because I had nothing to hold me back.  Together with Nicklas, another friend from work, Jess, Vince and myself decided to sign up for the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon.  It was mostly Vince’s idea, he had run the San Francisco marathon before, and his brother was kind of the 100+ mile endurance runs, so he was no stranger to extreme pain.  Jess had a solid running and cycling background, but an injured foot, so he was more tentative and realistic but nonetheless willing to give it a shot and maybe walk the run.  I was scared of the swim (especially the cold) and the bike (all those hills) but reasonably confident about the run (hey, I made it through the Bay to Breakers didn’t I?)  Nick was a runner and with legs up to my ears he wasn’t going to have much trouble on the bike plus he was showing an interest and learning an aptitude for swimming the more he came to practice with us.  We signed our names in blood, wrote out the $150 dollar checks, and our fate was sealed.  At that point, it was not clear that we would all even finish the race, but we were willing to give it a shot.


I switched projects (and companies actually, but that’s not really important to this story) and started working with/for Brian, a guy who had completed the Wildflower half Ironman as well as many marathons.  On a scale of 1 to 10 of triathlon difficulty, with 10 being the hardest full Ironman race (IMUSA?) and 1 being the easiest olympic distance race (San Jose) the Wildflower half is well above a 5 while the Escape is well below a 5.  It is an order of magnitude harder to finish a half Ironman distance race because you have to deal with fatigue, nutrition, hydration, and pace.  An olympic distance race is actually a much simpler race, you just push as fast as you can as long as you can without sprinting.  So Brian eventually pushed me to come to Wildflower, watch the half, and race the olympic distance the following day (which was actually a very serious race because it was the NCAA finals.)  Brian and I did a couple of bike rides, the longest being a loop around Lake Tahoe which left me completely destroyed.  Through Brian, I met Lori who was doing Wildflower as her first triathlon along with a bunch of her friends.  Lori asked if I would take some of her friends down with me, so I met Kristyn and Kimberly as I took the scenic route to Lake San Antonio through Walnut Creek J  The weekend was a blast, I met some amazing athletes (John D, John K, and Leslie) and I watched the pros hammer the course (Cameron Brown, Heather Furh).  I managed to finish respectably, but the hills did kick my butt and make me wish I had trained harder.  I remember wondering why I felt so bad on the run because I had actually trained a little bit this time.  Still, I was happy to have found a sport that I enjoyed, and very excited about meeting such a wonderful group of new friends to train with and admire.  John Dougery placed 15th overall, the poor guy was going to be so sick of my annoying questions over the next few months after I realized how amazing he is.  I was still beaming when I showed up at work on Monday, even with my middle-of-the-pack finish.  I decided to push harder and do more bike/run bricks so I went on a training binge and did a proper taper for the Escape.  I couldn’t sleep for the whole week before the Escape, I had so many vivid dreams about the swim especially that I was overwhelmingly anxious and excited by Saturday morning, June 5th.  It turned out to be a beautiful day, I had a reasonable swim (but not as fast as I could have/should have gone) and a solid bike/run to leave me in 5th place in my age group.  I have this picture of me passing a guy in the chute, he looks like Mr. Triathlon and I look like stupid, dorky, surf wimp, but I’m passing him and he was the one who will have to live with 6th place until next year.  This sport was turning out to be more fun than I realized.  We had a great post party, my friend brewed some tasty beer, a friend I had met at Wildflower found his eventual bride, and we all basked in a sense of accomplishment because the Escape really is a great race.

The Hard Part

After the Escape, I had a great race at the San Jose International, and figured that my road a spot at the Ironman world championships in Kona was paved with gold so I gave in to greed and signed up for the Vineman half and Ironman Florida.  I did not yet realize how much harder a half was than an olympic.  I predicted my finishing time based on the previous year’s results and failed to realize that the bike and run courses were different.  I brought enough food but failed to eat any of it because I didn’t want to waste the time.  I missed my bike goal, blew up on the run and felt miserable.  I still don’t understand how my race photos came out so good when I felt the way I did.  I remember shouting to Brian that “this is really hard”.  Vineman opened my eyes and brought me back down to earth.  It was going to take a lot of work to compete in these endurance races, and also a lot of thinking during the race.  So after my disappointing finish at Vineman I really started the serious training.  I trained through two more great and one more good race, and ramped up to 20 hour weeks of 200-250 miles of cycling, 30-50 miles of running, and 5000-6500m of swimming.  I paid my dues up front because even though Ironman Florida was the flattest full Ironman course I could find, I wasn’t foolish enough to believe it wasn’t going to hurt.  I had a lot of drive to carry me through those long training weeks, but they were grueling.  I wasn’t fast enough to train with the two guys I knew who were going to Kona two weeks before my race, and all of my casual triathlon friends were ready to wax up their skis/surfboards and take some time away from triathlons.  It started getting darker earlier and I crashed my bike coming home one Friday night, so I figured it was time to start the rest and recovery phase of training.  I had done more than I ever thought possible during the last few months, and I was mentally exhausted by the end.  I was reasonably confident that I could physically finish a full Ironman distance race if I could avoid making any major mistakes.

Race Day


I waited until many of the other competitors had already splashed into the water to start my warmup.  I took a few strokes and realized I felt pretty loose.  There was no need to worry, and I knew I had a long day ahead of me, so my warmup was barely a 200m swim. The water was warm, but there were some colder spots as the depth and currents varied over the course.  I walked into what the announcer was calling the “corral”, a rectangular, fenced off area, open at the water’s end that would serve as the swim start.  I was pretty worried about the swim start because I had been pretty battered in my most recent swim start which had only 1/3 as many competitors.  So I lined up way off to the outside edge of the corral and eventually wandered out of the corral and down the beach until I had a clear path to the first buoy.  I talked for a while with some of the other competitors, working out a bit of the nervous tension.  The canon fired, I started my watch and did a bit of water running before I started to swim for the first buoy.  My plan worked pretty well as the most I had to deal with from other competitors during the swim was some feet tickling and water splashing.  The first lap took forever, I couldn’t believe how long it was.  I tried to go at a fast pace but I didn’t want to tire myself out either.  I finished the first lap just after 32 minutes and checked out my position.  I was further back than I’ve ever been in a swim before, and I confirmed my suspicions that there were some serious competitors out there.  I hopped back in the water, enjoyed the wonderful taste of diesel fuel at the halfway point, and finished my second lap a bit slower for a 1:07 swim.  I was hoping for a 1:05 swim, but I knew I took it a little easy on the second lap and I also knew that 2 minutes was not worth caring about in a race this distance.  I was alert and still very competitive after the swim start, so I ran to the racks, grabbed my bag, and ran into the changing tent.


To my dismay, the entire changing tent was full of semi-naked male bodies.  Yuk, definitely a low point in the race for me, but I found a chair, sat down, and put my socks/shoes, race belt, helmet, and sunglasses on.  I forgot to grab any of the food in my bag, shoved my wetsuit, goggles, and cap into the bag and ran out to my bike.  I made my first mistake of the day after I had grabbed my bike and tried to move it from my left side to my right side (which I was more comfortable mounting/dismounting from.)  I lifted the bike vertical by the handlebars and poured most of the contents of my front water bottle onto the ground.  The rest was either on my hands or on the bike.  My second water bottle had a mixture of Metabol, Cytomax, and ameno acids, it was my fuel for the next 56 miles and luckily it didn’t feel the need to get off the bike as quickly.  I figured it was ten miles to the first aid station, and I had slammed a gu and a cup of water before grabbing my transition bag so I didn’t bother to refill the front bottle.  The mistake had been made, it was time to just deal with it.  However, I knew I couldn’t stand sipping on the fuel bottle for too long without water.  I headed out on the bike and was surprised to pass a number of people in the first 5 miles.  I wasn’t pushing hard at all and I consider myself a relatively poor biker, so passing people was an unexpected source of nervousness for me.  Was 22-23 MPH too fast for the first few miles on the bike?  I chalked it up to a natural re-shuffling of swimmers and bikers and stuck to my pace where there wasn’t too much traffic to deal with.  I chuckled to myself thinking about the drafting rules as there were maybe 100 bikes visible ahead of me and nowhere to spread out to.  There were a few people cheering along the way, but fewer than I expected.  I guess the bike course at an Ironman is just not that exciting.  I felt good about my swim and transition, and I felt strong and ready for a long bike leg.  I was in an up state, but not euphoric, and I was definitely in control of my speed and turning the gears as softly as I could stand.


I made my worst mistake of the race directly after the first aid station at mile 10.  We were packed very tight on the bike course, so I had to wait a while before one of the volunteers offered me a bottle.  I filled my empty front bottle, hoping to grab one more bottle for my second rear cage so that I would be prepared for the next 10 miles in case I was very thirsty.  I was going perhaps 12-15 MPH, and the empty bottle was in my left hand.  I attempted to throw the bottle as far off to the right as I could, so that it would not be in anyone else’s path as they exited the aid station.  The force of my left arm caused my right arm to counter balance and steer hard right which threw me to the ground on my right side.  I scraped my right knee, hip, shoulder and elbow and (unknowingly) cracked my helmet.  Even worse, my right foot was still clipped into my right pedal and I couldn’t get up.  I finally managed to work my foot free, crawl out from under the bike,  and pick it up.  I had to dodge other cyclists, and attempted to apologize for making a mess of myself.  I had poured the gatorade which I had just put into my front bottle all over myself during the fall, and my stem was now way off center.  I grabbed my handlebars, and straddled my front wheel, then twisted my bars into something approximating straight and managed to hop back on the bike.  I didn’t really think much from the moment I knew I would crash until a minute or two after I was back on the bike and headed toward the second aid station.  I knew I was now very thirsty and I hadn’t eaten enough, plus I was worried about my bleeding and I knew I had hit my head (although it didn’t hurt yet.)  I also felt like a total loser, what kind of dope crashes in an Ironman race at mile 10 on the bike completely from his own stupidity.  I already knew that I am not a fast biker, but how low was I going to stoop today?  I chuckled to myself about how anal I had been the day before, double-checking every little piece of my bike and making sure it was all adjusted perfectly.  Now the bars were pointed a bit to the right and (I would discover when I picked my bike up that night) the front brake was rubbing the front wheel rim.  Oh well, at least the crash had released much of my nervous tension, and I didn’t feel any joint or muscle pain yet (just a nice sting in four different patches of skin.)  By mile 15 I realized that there wasn’t anything I could do about the crash anymore other than fix my handlebars a bit better.  I didn’t want to stop yet and I actually found it kind of amusing that I was pointing at the centerline and riding straight along the sideline.  I really earned any and all dork awards for crashing on my bike at mile 10 in my first ironman race, I mean who else can do that?


The next few miles were rather uneventful.  I managed to successfully maneuver through the next four aid stations, although since we were still very packed I was offered more water than gatorade.  I had read that it’s good to drink water along part of the bike because you don’t want to throw your electrolytes too far out of balance.  But I did want some of those free calories, and I was worried about drinking too little gatorade and too much water.  I felt fine up until the halfway/special needs point.  I stopped to pee once at mile 45 or so, there was a nice shoulder that ended so I rode right up to the edge, peed on the grass, and pulled back into the flow of traffic.  Time lost was less than a minute, and I felt a little better, although I didn’t pee much because I hadn’t had enough to drink yet.  I hit the special needs and was surprised to find many of the people blowing through.  I thought I should at least stop and get my second bottle of fuel.  I had a frozen bottle of cytomax that I was dying for since I knew it would taste different than the gatorade/water mixture I would be stuck with in the second half of the bike.  I had stupidly thrown the last few sips of my fuel bottle away at the aid station at mile 50 thinking that 6 miles wasn’t that far.  I had also stupidly gulped down a bunch of fuel before tossing the bottle, which left my stomach a little confused, and I had two bottles of gatorade.  I sucked as much as I could from the front bottle, filled from the colder gatorade bottle, and tossed both bottles (I felt really bad about wasting a whole bottle of gatorade, but it was too late, I had already made the mistake.)   I grabbed the two bottles and skipped all of the other goodies including the Advil and Tums that I wanted to pick up but forgot to scrounge for.  I thanked the volunteers, was disgusted at all the trash on the next mile of road, and settled back down.  I had a full bottle of fuel, a full bottle of cytomax, and a full front bottle of gatorade, I was intact and feeling OK.  I wasn’t pushing it hard by any means, my average speed was between 20 and 21 MPH, and I was not getting too depressed with the steady stream of faster bikers who continued to pass me.  I was a little annoyed when cow-girl passed me and shouted at everyone to move to the right, so I just let that pack go and hung back a bit.  It was going to be a long ride and I was starting to get tired.


Everyone says that during an Ironman you go through peaks and valleys throughout the day.  Well I had started off at sea level during the swim J, had a bit of a shock early on in the bike, and was now starting to fade.  I felt weak and sore by mile 65, well before the imaginary wall waiting for me at mile 80.  By mile 75 I was starting to tear up a bit, I was tired, sore, crabby, and my average had dropped from 21 to just under 20.  Even worse, my odometer had me two miles ahead of the mile markers so I knew my actual speed was probably just over 19 MPH, a statistic that I wasn’t overly thrilled with.  I know I don’t have a lot of background on the bike, and I know that many of the others did, but watching cottage-cheese legs steadily pulling past me was not the Ironman experience I was hoping for.  Even worse, I was forced to get out of the saddle very frequently to ease the ache in my neck and back, which I knew was not helping my aerodynamics.  I had trouble eating and drinking during this period, but I did force a bit down and I found I was on pace with my fuel consumption when mile 100 finally hit.  It had been a very long bike ride, I was very tired, and I had lost all hopes of a qualifier spot at this race.  I still wanted to do well, but I was worried that another ½ hour on the bike would strip the rest of my strength from me and leave me doing a long, painful, slow, cold death march on the run course.  The bottom of my low came as this old guy with gray hair pulled past me on the bike just at the overpass.  After 115 miles on my odometer I finished the bike, and to my amazement ran to my bag and into the tent.  I went from depressed to elated in 5 minutes as I changed shoes, peed for the second and final time, and realized that all of the pain I had felt on the bike was gone now that I could run.  My feet had been really sore from pressing the pedals, my neck and back ached, and my quads were ready to throw in the towel.  But, I had pretty fresh hamstrings and calves, and my stomach was in better shape than I was expecting, maybe even better shape than I was even hoping for.  I knew I had consumed adequate fuel, so I went out at my goal pace.  I think I even smiled on my way out of the transition area, I was very happy to get away from that bicycle.

Lap 1

I threw down two advil, two tums, and my second gu of the day and hit the lap button as I passed the first mile marker.  I glanced briefly at my watch, a little nervous about what it might tell me, and found out I was right on target.  I had made it to a world that I felt comfortable in, even thought I had never been there before, it was time for my first marathon.  Just before mile 2 my back cramped significantly and my neck ache made itself known.  I was pretty sure that these two would go away, but it did make me a bit nervous. I waited it out, dropped 30 seconds off my pace and tried to relax.  By mile 6 I was over the pain, shoving down a gu every two miles and passing lots of people.  I wasn’t sure who was on their first lap and who was on their second lap, but as it turns out, I only saw a couple of people who were on their second lap and they stuck out like a sore thumb.  I saw Lothar, the eventual winner, looking calm and collected.  I saw Jayme Yon and gave him a cheer a couple of times.  I saw some old dude with a “Yo” on his back who puked right in front of me and then scampered away.  A French guy passed me in considerable pain, I paced off him for a while and attempted conversation but he told me in broken English to buzz off.  Nobody was going my pace, so I just assumed that everyone was doing their second lap and was feeling the effects of pushing the bike leg.  I didn’t realize that I was passing people on their first lap, I just didn’t think they would give up that fast (or maybe the ones who hadn’t given up were running and keeping ahead of me.) Still, there were a lot of people who just didn’t look good on that first lap, and I felt light and fast.  On the way back, at mile 12 I felt elated and had visions of my upcoming finish. Forgetting for a moment that I had a second lap, I ran a 7:40 mile and started smiling.  I hit the lap button at mile 13 and realized my mistake in time to drop the pace back down and avoid putting myself in further jeopardy.  I hit the turn around and told my father, the anxious spectator, that I was feeling OK.

Lap 2

I had hoped to hit the turn around before 9 hours, and I had made that goal, leaving me breathing room to break the 11 hour mark.  I knew 10:30 was out of the question, but I really wanted to break 11 hours and I still felt good.  I was mentally composed through the next few miles and concentrated on holding pace and shoving the gu down.  I missed on gu mile (I was doing every even mile until 12, but I think I missed one and switched to odds for a while, then I hit my blackout period.)  I chugged through the park, grabbing some coke at mile 18 and pushing through my fatigue.  I was a bit off pace, but not too far and I was happy trying to hold what I had.  It was not time to push the pace yet, it was time to avoid disaster.  I hit the turn around and found out to my dismay that there was no coke left at most of the aid stations.  I felt really sorry for the others, but at least I had gu to keep me going and there was still adequate water.  Gatorade was out of the question, and gu was hard enough to get down, I gagged every time I shoved another packet down, but I knew it had to be done.  I was ready to come home, and in a daze.  I was handed a light stick and grudgingly accepted.  The sunset in the park was beautiful, but I was ready for the show to come to an end.  I ran for a while with a guy who said he ran the first ½ lap in 48 minutes and was just trying to hold on to a sub-11 finish.  I figured we were in the clear, but then number 151 ran past me and I got pissed off at the idea of someone passing me.  By that point I realized that he was the first person to pass me on the run (I just didn’t know that I had passed him earlier).  So I took off trying to catch him.  While he wasn’t running too fast, he was pushing it more than I could, but I used the anger I got from the thought of someone running faster than me to drive me through some of those last miles.  It was dark, there was no coke, I was sick of gu, and I wanted to take a shower and most of all rest.  I had no kick left, but I wasn’t slowing down so I was happy. 


I passed the last group of spectators before the finish and someone said something that made me tear up.  It was something like “go Ironman”, something so simple that I wouldn’t have noticed except that I looked at her in the eyes and she said it so softly, kind of like she believed that I was an Ironman even though I had yet to prove myself.  I was happy to run that last mile to the finish line, but I was hurting big time and wasn’t this race over yet?  I was even happier to realize I could break 10:50, a rather unimportant barrier but still something worth being happy about.  I hit the finish line and had to slow down quite a bit as the woman in front of me got her moment of glory.  Usually I like to finish strong, but I realized that seconds didn’t matter and it would have been rude of me to pass her so I let her go and gave up my chance to break the tape.  She seemed to take forever to get her picture taken, I just wanted to get to the mat so the clock would stop (at least for me.)  Hey, I didn’t work this hard to waste 10 seconds at the end.  I realize now that these were some pretty absurd thoughts, but I was a little out of it.  I was ushered to the medical tent, had some of my road rash cleaned up, weighed out 10 lbs lighter than I had weighed in, and released.  I went straight to the shower, cleaned my smelly, bloody, salty, grimy self off, went to collect my bike and bags, and hobbled to the bar to down the world’s best cheeseburger.  The journey had been worthwhile, but I was ready for a long night’s sleep.

Lessons Learned

I should…

1.        always throw water bottles with my right hand.
2.        drink one bottle  every 10 miles on the bike.
3.        drink as much as possible on the run.
4.        squeeze those paper cups and pour them into my mouth.
5.        toss the cup only after drinking all of the fluid.
6.        toss bottles only after I can see a replacement.
7.        stay calm during the first 10-20 miles on the bike.
8.        never give up on the bike, I’ll have it on the run.
9.        get my body more used to the aero position and biking in general.