Thursday, November 19, 2015
I’ve been using Facebook for several years. At first I thought it was a good way to keep in touch with friends and family. I soon found it to be a way to meet other people with similar interests, triathlon in particular. I also saw it as an opportunity to share my thoughts and ideas with others. Unfortunately, Facebook has its pitfalls for someone like myself who battles with being a workaholic. I have obsessive compulsive tendencies that are hard to keep in check in a Facebook world. I would find myself checking Facebook regularly throughout the day. Since I was retired at the time, I didn’t really take note of the impact of doing this. Since I have started working again, it has become very clear to me.
In the last couple of months I have realized the value and importance of prioritization. I have a new grandson. There is a priority that is filled with wonderment for me. Watching this little guy enter the world and seeing him grow on a daily basis is a reminder that I still have room to grow. I also want him to know his grandpa. My wife and best friend deserves my undivided attention. It is too easy to take the person who means everything to you for granted. Distractions and unnecessary habits detract from what’s really important in life. I have two daughters and now two sons whom I would do anything for. I also have a commitment to my health which I have focused on the sport of triathlon due to my need to be goal oriented. And, I have a job. Fortunately, I have found a job with no real pressure. I can channel my passion for older adults in a meaningful way. Since it is a job, however, I now have some control over the time I spend in the pursuit of my passion. I really should strive to maintain my commitment to the vulnerable elderly to 40 hours a week. In the past, I went way off balance in this regard.
Balance….being a grandpa is having a nice pull on my recognition of this need. Priorities….In the past, everything was a priority. In fact, I have rarely been able to truly prioritize. This is no longer healthy for me, and I come back to the discussion of Facebook. Is there really a need to communicate with people via this mechanism? What happened to actually talking to people? Do we need feedback on everything we do in life? It seems nice when a bunch of people “like” something that we post, but is is necessary? What matters is that I “like” what I am doing and talking about.
One of the truly unhealthy aspects of Facebook has to do with the fact that we can easily be reminded of the priorities of others. It is human nature to make comparisons. We all want to be loved and cared about. Facebook becomes an artificial way of receiving attention, but it can also be a reminder that we are not as important to others that we wish to receive attention from. The psychological aspects of Facebook continue to intrigue me, but I think that I’d rather be intrigued as an outside observer, rather than as someone who occasionally sees the smiling faces of those who don’t care about me.
I do have a blog that I rarely use anymore. It was meant to be a place where I could share my thoughts, ideas, feelings….a journal of sorts. I think that it’s time for me to go back to that space to share things. If people choose to read my blogs, that’s ok. I’m inclined to disable comments, as that’s really not the purpose. If someone knows me and wants to talk about what I’ve written, they can call me, or ask me to have a cup of coffee. Whatever happened to getting together for a cup of coffee?
So, I will be taking a sabbatical from Facebook. I’m not sure if I’ll ever go back to it. At the very least, I won’t even ask that question until the new year, which is 6 weeks away. Maybe by then I won’t even remember what Facebook was?
Sunday, September 6, 2015
Driving into St. George, there is a sign noting that the county is named Hurricane. My wife always liked to ask why that was the case. This year, we saw the sign as we drove towards Sand Hollow Reservoir, the swim venue for Ironman St. George. It had become an annual tradition to stop and check out the water before checking into our hotel. Ever since the swim at the inaugural Ironman St. George in 2010, one of my biggest concerns each year was the water temperature. That year, temperatures as low as 52 degrees led to fifty people not making the swim cut off, and many more than that were ultimately affected by hypothermia. This year the temperature was already 63 degrees. The water felt nice when I tried out my new wetsuit, the Tyr Freak of Nature. My wife had a memorable reaction when she saw the credit card bill and said, “that much for a wetsuit, what is it made out of, gold?”. Four days later I would tell her that the wetsuit might have saved my life.
The days preceding the 2012 Ironman St. George were unusual insofar as I felt an unusual calm. Usually, prior to my races, I feel nervous. Not this time. This carried through to the morning of the race, when I awoke before my alarm at 3:15am. I took in almost 500 calories right away, which was also unusual for me. Usually my stomach is nervous, but not today. I gathered my special needs bags and my bicycle pump and made my way to the buses. As I got on the bus, I remained relaxed, sipping on my pre-race vanilla soy latte. Arriving at Sand Hollow Reservoir, it was 65 degrees an calm, just like the weather report had predicted. I pumped up my tired, got body marked, put on my sunscreen, body glide and my wetsuit and handed over my bicycle pump to my friend Rudy. Rudy and his wife Wendy had come to St. George to lend their support and friendship for my third consecutive Ironman St. George. We had already been told that this would be the last full Ironman at St. George. Something about people not wanting to sign up for so difficult a race. There were 80 people starting the race who had finished the first two. That felt pretty cool!
I made my way to the swim start and down to the waters edge. The air was calm and the water was like glass. Mike Riley, known for calling “You are an Ironman!” at the finishes of many Ironman events, told us to enter the water just before the pros were to start. I got a little concerned that I was going to be in the water for a full fifteen minutes before the start, but the water temperature was now about 63 degrees and I figured it would be ok. Besides, I was determined to start right at the front this year. I got into the water to my knees and the gun went off for the pros. I then slowly made my way into the cold water, dabbed water on my face and slowly swam towards the front of the line. I did put myself about 20 yards from the farthest buoy, figuring that I could angle my way in. The past two years, I had swum 1:11, but both years I had swum relatively easy. My swim training had gone well this year, and I planned to go off as fast as I could, taking advantage of the potential ironman draft. Last year, as the time to the start got closer, the front of the line moved forward, and I didn’t, ultimately impeding my attempt to start quickly at the front. This year, as the front of the line move ahead little my little, so did I. The waters were still calm when the gun went off. I started as fast as I could, and was surprised to find no jostling, no one swimming over me and I actually had feet in front of me. I was flying. I got into a solid rhythm and I felt comfortable. Occasionally, I would lose the feet of the person in front of me, but then there would be someone else replacing them. As I swam fast towards the first turn buoy, I realized that the front of the pack wasn’t stringing out far ahead of me, which is what typically happens to me in the swim portion of a triathlon. Later on, another athlete with a lot of open water swim experience would tell me that he realized from how fast we were swimming that there was a pretty strong current building behind us.
As I turned left at the farthest buoy, staying about 10-15 feet wide in order to avoid the typically turn buoy jam, I turned into waves coming at my left side. At this point in time, I really wasn’t thinking about the changing weather and the possibility that this could get worse. I was just thinking about getting to the next turn buoy. I realized that the people to my right were getting pushed further out and then I tried to make sure that I was moving in a direction that wouldn’t push me further away from the next turn buoy. I was glad to be breathing to my right side, since that was away from the waves. Finally, I saw the next red buoy and realized that I’d been pushed about 20 yards away from it, so I directed myself towards it and made my way around the buoy. When I made the turn, I began to see and feel the full force of the oncoming waves. I had recently read an article about open water swimming, so I shortened my stroke and started making my way forward. Remarkably, the next two buoys came about quickly, which I didn’t realize was probably because the wind had pushed them together. Around this time the waves began to come faster and with more fury, finally catching me unaware and causing me to swallow/breath in some water. This is always disconcerting, but under these circumstances was a little bit frightening. I gathered myself and continued forward. The other athletes were scattered all over the place. Drafting wasn’t something to be considered. The waves seemed to only get bigger. I wondered why I wasn’t seasick, but decided that I would just be thankful that I wasn’t. I was moving forward. I wondered momentarily if my all neoprene wetsuit was a help or a hindrance, as it kept me high in the water with the waves coming at me.
Another wave hit me in the mouth, and again I swallowed/breathed in some more water. This took my breath away and I stopped to tread water. Unfortunately, this only exposed me to more waves crashing over my head as I struggled to maintain where I was, kicking my feet in more of a bicycle kick. This only made me feel more short of breath. I looked around and didn’t see any kayaks, or for that matter, any other athletes. Then, my right calf suddenly cramped up. For a brief moment, I got scared. Several years ago I struggled with panic attacks in the open water and the feeling of panic began to invade my consciousness. I thought, what if I can’t do this, how do I get help? Raising my arm would only cause me to sink, besides, I couldn’t see anyone. I might die, I thought. And then, I remembered that my coach had told me that the most important thing during an ironman was to “stay in the moment”. And so I did. I decided to just start swimming forward and focus on each stroke, not to think about what had already happened, or worry about what might happen. There was one thought that did stay in my consciousness for the rest of the swim, and that was my hope that no one was going to drown today. I had stopped worrying about myself, but I knew that there were athletes that normally struggled to finish the swim. What was happening to them? Were they going to cancel the swim? How would they do that? Stay in the moment, I kept reminding myself. I relaxed, tried to time the waves so that they wouldn’t push me back and began sighting the large rock that I knew I had to swim around. I was moving once again and before I knew it, I was to the right of the rock. Only then did I realize that there were a lot of smaller rocks sticking out of the water and the 5 foot swells might push me into them. I aimed to my right, looking forward to getting around the rocks and turning left towards the swim finish. I hoped that once I turned it would get easier. That didn’t happen. The waves kept coming, and now they were coming to my breathing side. I occasionally breathed to my left, which I had practiced and was comfortable with, but that didn’t allow me to see the waves coming at me.
I had made my way past the large rock. I couldn’t see any other athletes and could see no more turn buoys. Apparently, the final turn buoy had been blown off course. One thing I did know, and that was the fact that the swim finish was on the other side of the large rock. So, I turned towards the finish. In retrospect, I may have turned a little before where the final turn buoy was supposed to have been. However, it wasn’t there, and I didn’t know any better. As I made my way to the finish, the waves pushed me to the left of the swim exit and I realized that I had to negotiate getting around a large platform that was in front of me in the water. I swam towards the exit, almost not giving myself enough room, as another wave almost pushed me into the platform. Soon, I could see the bottom and I’ve never felt better about touching the ramp at the swim exit.
As I came out of the water, I looked up, the time on the clock showed that I had completed the swim in 1 hour and 19 minutes. I had originally hoped for a 1 hour and 5 minute swim, but I knew that my time was good under the impossible conditions. I did not know at this point that close to 600 people wouldn’t make it past the swim. Close to 1800 people had signed up for the 2012 Ironman St. George. Close to 1200 would be contesting the rest of the race. Sixty percent of the women who started did not make the swim cut off! Approximately 100 men in my age group started the swim, and only 59 made it onto the bike. The older men fared much worse. This was a swim course for younger and stronger men. The hypothermic 2010 swim that led to an approximate 15% DNF (Did Not Finish) rate, was a distant memory. We had just set a new standard for one the toughest ironman swims ever. Later, I would hear some stories that would add exclamation marks to my frightened journey. Two kayaks overturned. In fact, one athlete found an empty kayak with a life jacket floating next to it. Another athlete saved a person from drowning and got them on a boat. One of the boats was completely filled with athletes and began taking on water. The driver’s 9 year old daughter was screaming in fear. Athletes in the water, unable to move forward, were calling for help and they were told they had to wait for the boat to come back for them. Another athlete later shared with me that he resisted being pulled out of the water only to realize that he'd been going backwards!
It was becoming ironic that “Titanic: The Musical” was playing at the Tuacahn Ampitheater. The idea of Ironman “St. George: The Musical” was beginning to form in my mind as I tried to make sense of this day. I laid down for the wet suit strippers, grabbed my bag and made my way to the changing tent. I sat down and the guy next to me told me that he had been pulled from the water and had already called it a day. I didn’t get to full import of this until later. I followed my well rehearsed transition, putting on my helmet and my shoes, putting on sun screen and quickly made my way out of the tent. I stopped for more sunscreen and got my bike. Transition time right around 5 minutes, almost the same as last year. Pretty good under the circumstances. After I passed the timing mats, I saw my friend Rudy. I took the time to walk over and say “I hope that now one drowned today”. I mounted my bike and began pedaling. Later I would find that I had the 314th fastest swim time overall, and was actually 14th in my age group out of the water. My first two years at St. George I was around 30th in my age group.
In previous years, I remembered that the bike ride from Transition to the main road went by pretty quickly. As I began my ride, I began wondering why it seemed to be taking so much longer. It wasn’t like my legs were a problem, or that people were passing me. I didn’t realize that I was already feeling the force of 20-30 mph headwinds. One of the reasons I probably didn’t notice was that I was already having pretty severe stomach cramps. The previous year, I had suffered with stomach cramps throughout the day. This felt worse. I cautiously took sips of water. I made my way up the longest sustained climb on the course. My legs felt fine, but I needed to get calories. I tried to take some gel, but it was tough. Every so often, I would belch and the contents in my stomach would come up. That wasn’t good. I tried my best to stay tucked in my aero position, but that was uncomfortable due to the cramping. I had survived the swim, I had to survive the bike. I made my decision to stop at the first water station and try to use a port-a-potty. I did, and it didn’t help.
Back on the bike, I continued to persevere. Being a physician, I palpated my own abdomen, only to find it was quite tender. I began to realize that I probably had an ileus. That would mean that my intestines had shut down. Swallowing too much of the Sand Hollow Reservoir could have set this off. My GI tract was not working properly. I continued to try to sip water and take in some gel, and the cramping got worse. When I arrived at the next water station I tried the port-a-potty again and then went to the medical tent, where I sat in a chair and pondered my day. Should I just give up? Suffering with this level of cramps would make for a horrible day. As I sat there, I felt a little better. I also thought, hell, I just made it through the most difficult ironman swim ever, I was a three time registrant for Ironman St. George, and damn if I’m not going to be a three time finisher! If I’m going to sit down, I might as well sit on the bike, I thought. So, that’s what I did. I got back on my bike and just began pedaling easily into the jaws of the 25 mile climb towards “The Wall”. Ironman is about the ability to adjust your plans and compensate, to adapt to the conditions. I decided to stop eating and drinking. While I knew that I could not sustain no nutrition all day, I figured that I needed to give my GI tract a chance to rest. For the next hour and a half I took in no fluid or nutrients and just worked on pedaling as comfortably as possible. I stayed in the moment and tried to ignore the fact that the mile markers were coming along at an interminable pace. When I reached the climb that came before “The Wall”, and saw people walking their bikes up it, I realized the full force of the winds. I guessed that the average wind speed was 30 mph, with gusts to 40-50 mph. Later, I read that Ben Hoffman, the eventual winner of the race, was almost knocked off his bike by a wind gust. Another athlete later told me that he was producing 250 watts of power on a gradual downhill against the wind and was going all of 10 mph! Two years previously, on the friday before the inaugural St. George Ironman, winds of 40-50 mph reared their ugly head. I’ll never forget thinking, I don’t know how I could handle this course with winds like this? I was now finding out the answer.
Finally, I could see “The Wall”. It’s a half mile section of the course that reaches gradients of 14%. As I got closer to it, I suddenly realized that we would make a right turn, and maybe the wind would be different. That turned out to be the case. I won’t say that I flew up “The Wall”, but it was relatively easy compared to everything I had already done. A 30 mph tailwind will really help a steep climb! Unfortunately, the top of “The Wall” led to a left turn back into the brutal headwinds. Fortunately, there was another water station ahead. I stopped yet again for the port-a-potty’s. Still, not much help, but I was doing somewhat better. I got back on my bike and started to pedal and my chain stuck. Shit! I got off and called for help. My chain was stuck between my small chain ring and the frame. It wasn’t loosening up. Three mechanics finally made their way over and started working on my bike. This wasn’t looking good. As I stood there, all I could think was, “I’ve made it this far, I can’t be stopped by a mechanical”. I also thought about the Tour de France and how professional cyclist’s make use of the time when they have mechanical failures. I asked for a banana and a bottle of Gatorade Perform and sat down and took in some nutrition. It felt ok. Finally, with the use of something akin to a small crowbar, they got my chain loosened. It had probably taken 10-15 minutes, but I was feeling somewhat better. I got back on my bike and tested the shifting. Everything worked and I was on my way.
Soon, I made the right turn at Veyo. Normally, you hit a headwind at this point, but not today. Finally, after over 50 miles of cycling, I had a consistent tailwind. I was flying. I began passing people and the only cyclist that passed me was a pro triathlete on his second loop of the bike. As I made my way down the highway, I realized that my speed was probably right around 50mph. I kept reminding myself to stay relaxed, I wasn’t going to waste this opportunity. I got to the end of the first loop and began my second loop. Things were looking up. I began passing the same people that I’d already passed twice before (remember, I had stopped three times). I never wondered what my bike split would have been like without the stomach cramps and the stops. It didn’t matter, I was “in the moment”. I started taking in nutrition. I had stopped for my special needs bag and picked up a cooked red potato with some olive oil and salt. It was like manna from heaven, and actually helped to settle my stomach. I would nurture that treat onto the run. It may have saved my day. The mile markers felt like they were coming faster this time around. When I hit Mile 80, I recalled how two years earlier I had bonked. I checked myself and realized that I was doing ok. Mile 90 came, “The Wall” came again, albeit a little harder than the first time. However, I realized that I didn’t even remember going up the horrific climb before “The Wall” the second time around. I was going to make it through the bike. I had spent somewhere between 30-40 minutes of my bike ride off of my bike. I didn’t push for the last 12 miles, mostly downhill and flying. I wanted my legs to be ready for the run. I had no idea how my GI tract would react this year, but I wanted to give it my best shot. Coming to the dismount line, I have to admit that I was relieved. My bike split was 7:51, almost an hour longer than 2010 and almost an hour and a half longer than 2011. My age group ranking ended up being 47th (out of 55 who finished) and I had dropped from being 14th after the swim to being 40th in my age group. I was now 684th overall. But I was on my feet!
I grabbed my bag and took the time to stop and pee (a good sign from a hydration perspective), then quickly put on my socks, my shoes, my fuel belt and my hat and made it out of the tent. I stopped again to have sunscreen slathered everywhere on me and made my way out of transition. Another solid 5 minute ironman transition. Not too bad. I had seen the clock and knew that I was already 9 hours and 23 minutes into my day. I would not finish this race in under 13 hours, but I could make it in under 14. But enough of that, stay in the moment! I began running, and it felt good! Shortly thereafter, I ran up to a guy named Toby, and found that he was on his second lap. We began running together and it felt good. We were going downhill and I asked him what our pace was. He said about 8:20/mile. Woah! That’s a little to fast I said and he agreed, so we found a moderate pace that we both felt comfortable with. In fact, he told me that I was helping to pace him. I told him that he was helping to pace me. We ran together for the entire loop, shared stories and just helped each other. After we finished my first lap, he pushed ahead and I decided not to push too hard. I was following my race plan. It turned out that I maintained a very solid and steady 9:20 pace for the first 12 miles of the run. I was still gentle with my nutrition, alternating Gatorade Perform with occasional sips of coke and water to keep the stomach contents form being too strong. It seemed to be working. As the miles went by, I had expected to see my friend Rudy. I had no idea what was unfolding for my family. The ironman.com tracking was not functional and they had no idea whether I had even completed the bike. Rudy had based my expected time into transition on my very slow first loop, and I had made it onto the run course about 15 minutes sooner than he had expected. My wife was freaking out, worried that something had happened to me. What they didn’t know was that I was beginning to worry if something had happened to Rudy. He was supposed to see me at Miles 2, 4, 6, 9, and 11. Finally, Rudy found out that I had dropped my bike off and taken my run bag. He did the math and found me at Mile 11. He told me that my pace was solid.
I probably slowed just a little towards the end of my second lap, but was still in the nine minute/mile range (maybe now a little closer to the upper end). As I started the third lap, I had hoped to start pushing, but when I hit Mile 19 and tried to increase my effort, my stomach began acting up and my legs also tightened a bit. I decided to modulate. Pushing too hard now could have a huge impact. This is the point where trying to go 30 second per mile faster could ultimately add a half an hour to my run. So, I ran the downhills and did a walk/run on the uphills. Ultimately, my pace for the last 9 miles would slow to about 12:00 pace. Still, not that many people were passing me. As I ran up the last uphill section, hitting mile 24, I suddenly felt very nauseated and weak. I slowed to a walk and collected myself. I walked to the final turnaround and began to jog the last downhill section. I wouldn’t fly down this hill, but I would run it. I stopped a couple of times to walk for 20-30 feet, just to make sure that I would be ok. I was going to finish in under 14 hours. As I came down the finishing chute, I had my right hand up with three fingers showing, as Mike Riley said, “Michael Wasserman, a three-time St. George finisher, you are an ironman!”
My finishing time of 13:52:21, put me in 479th place overall (passing 205 people during the run). My marathon time of 4:30:39 was the 18th fastest in my age group and moved me from 40th off the bike to 24th in my age group at the finish. While this was my slowest St. George finish, it was my best placement. Approximately 100 men in my age group started the race, and only 55 finished. 1800 people were signed up to race, we may never know exactly how many actually were at the swim start, but only 1024 finished. This was arguably the highest DNF percentage of all time for an ironman.
Because of Ironman St. George’s reputation as one of the toughest ironman courses in the world from it’s first two years of existence, it had already been decided that this would be it’s final year as an ironman course. I started the day as only one of eighty people to have the opportunity to finish all three years. Only 28 of them ultimately made it to the finish line in 2012. I’m proud that I was one of them. It is remarkable that 2012 made the first two years seem easy! The toughness of the course, combined with the brutal weather conditions, made this a fitting end to what will go down in history as a the hardest ironman of all time.
In the end, there was only one word for this day, and that is epic.
Monday, August 3, 2015
So, I have a tradition of pre-writing my race report, which I did for Boulder. Interestingly, the swim ended up being non-wetsuit and was slower, but my plan and description might have still be pretty close. My bike was pretty close to were I expected it to be, although I struggled back and forth throughout the day with the feeling that my energy levels were off and my stomach wasn’t cooperating fully. But my race really starts on the run, where I had predetermined that I was going to give it everything I had. Unfortunately, my run became a survival challenge. When I got off the bike, I realized that I just didn’t feel very good, but by the time I put on my run shoes and made my way out of transition, I didn’t fell that bad. In fact, the first couple of miles on the run I kept a pretty decent pace, of under 10 minutes per mile. Of course, this section is a little downhill. The problem? I stuck to breathing every 6th step as planned, but I was lying to myself. When I let my breathing naturally find it’s natural cadence, it was closer to every 3rd step. Plus, my stomach still didn’t feel right. I have to admit, the negative thoughts had started at around 80 miles on the bike, but I successfully put them out of my head when I started my run. However, after 2 miles of the run, I knew that this was going to be a long day. I had a few choices. The first was just to walk, as I had at Lake Tahoe. That would leave me with a 6 and a half hour run. Somehow, I just couldn’t wrap my head around that. So, I adjusted. After all, this is ironman and that’s what you do. The first thing I did was stop at the aid station and start eating and drinking whatever I could stomach. My GI tract’s reaction to this approach wasn’t the greatest, but it also wasn’t bad. In fact, I literally walked a couple of miles, hoping to digest what I'd taken in and get some energy back. I even sat on the grass at one of the aid stations and ate and rested for a few minutes. The rest of the run became a study in attrition. I tried to balance getting in nourishment and recovering with finding a run pace that didn’t just cause me to want to completely collapse. Somehow, as the run went on, I found something. There is never any doubt that I am capable of pushing through pain. Hell, I’ve run with a broken hip socket! (Well, biked and walked). During the second loop of the run, I stopped at special needs and took one bite of my traditional red potatoes, and felt very sick. I think that my GI tract stopped working completely by about Mile 18 of the run. From then on, it was a matter of finishing. While this is far from my fastest run, I managed to run the second loop faster than the first, which tells me that I managed my body as well as I could on this day. I came out of the water 23rd in my age group, out of the bike 22nd, and finished in that very same spot. Why do I do these races? That’s a question for another blog, but again, I am proud of what I accomplished. Here’s the rest of my race report, edited to include what really happened!
Am I a klutz or what? A few days prior to Ironman Chattanooga, I tweaked my low back while putting on my bike shoes. I have a long a storied history of strange injuries that occur prior to my big races. I’ve been hit by shopping carts in the supermarket, I’ve strained muscles taking a misstep off a curb, you name it, I’ve done it. I was heading along blissfully ok in Boulder, not thinking about this, when I got up on Friday morning and put on my tri shorts. I was planning to go for a bike ride. Just before leaving the hotel room, I realized that I’d put my tri shorts on backwards. When I started to pull them down, wham! A muscle in my right hip/low back went into spasm. Unbelievable. I massaged it and stretched a little and went ahead with my bike ride, which actually went well. In fact, I rode most of the last loop of the course, a total of 24 miles. It also allowed me to envision the “climbs” that everyone has been talking about. This is Colorado. These aren’t climbs. To the strongest cyclists, they’ll be bumps. Unfortunately, that’s not me. To me, the relatively short elevation increases on the last part of the course will slow me down, but I’ll be able to stay in my aero position for most of them, except for an occasional steep pitch that will allow me to stand up briefly and stretch, which is a good thing towards the end of the race. Back to my muscle spasm. I spent the entire day working on it! Aha! My body must have been trying to take my mind off the race and the taper craziness! I took a mineral bath, put on tiger balm, massaged, electrical stimulation, you name it, I did it. By the time I went to bed, it was a dull ache that I noticed when getting up from a laying position. Well, that’s the point, I can’t lie down during the ironman! I’ve got to stay upright, on my feet, all day (after the swim, of course, and aside from my aero position on the bike).
I’m a big believer that our bodies will tell us the answers. Over many years, I have gotten to know mine well, and it never ceases to surprise me. I’ve been preparing for this ironman with a totally new method of training. I do what I feel like doing, when I feel like doing it! Ironically, over the last 11 weeks, compared to my preparation for Boulder last year, I’ve still averaged over 9 hours a week of training (compared to 12 last year); but my run volume has been significantly greater (25 miles a week versus 15); my swim volume has been about the same; and my bike volume has been significantly less (50 miles a week versus 90). Interestingly, I’m trying to run faster, so we’ll see if the run focus pays off. In fact, in the end, it may be how I managed to finish.
The week leading up to the race I arrived in Boulder on Tuesday, visited friends in Denver on Wednesday, swam a little almost every day, did a solid 6.55 mile run (1/4th the marathon distance) on wednesday at an easy breathing effort (which surprised the heck out of me!), and still ran 8:50 pace. Got in almost an hour and a half of cycling on Friday, but it was all easy and comfortable, seeing how my strained muscle would react:). My diet has been pretty similar to what I’ve been doing. Avocado with olive oil and salt for breakfast; tablespoon of coconut oil; sardines or Master Amino Protein. I added some carbs this week for both the race and recognizing the increased carbohydrate needs at altitude, by having my favorite gluten free pancakes at Turley’s Kitchen. Dinners were big salads from Whole Foods with salmon. I’m a creature of habit. I also took some supplements, CoQ10, glutamine, both have which have become pre-race staples for me based on Macca’s suggestions. Also, the first few days of the week, I did some echinacea and eleuthrococcus (felt like I was fighting something). I’ve been taking quercitin for my allergies as well. Prior to saturday, I also used some cleansing capsules, and V-8 juice, doing my best to clean out my GI tract prior to reducing fiber and roughage. The details that go into preparing for an ironman! But, this being number 8, I’ve clearly developed a routine, which seems to include tweaking some muscle!
Saturday was about resting. First, I did some foam rolling and then I started working on my race report (I pre-write most of this report!). Was able to drop off my bike at the Rez early due to my All World status:). For one of the few times ever, I decided to deflate my tires, since it was hot today, and there is always time on race morning to put air in the tires. Dropped off my run bag and met a friend and his son for lunch at Turley’s. After that it was back to the hotel for another mineral bath and to stay on my back and rest. By the late afternoon, my back was almost 90% better. It’s amazing how little I was concerned, having been through this many times before.
I always try to keep things simple during race week, but it’s remarkable how I can get caught up worrying about the slightest thing. This worry of the week turned out to be deciding how I was getting to the race. I didn’t have anyone to take me, so I would need to drive and park, which also meant figuring out what to do with my car keys. Amazing how something as simple as this can become a focal point of worry. Fortunately, I decided on Saturday afternoon to park to the east of the high school and put the car key in the pack on my bike. That way, I wouldn’t worry about it getting lost. I also put on my race number tattoos (a great investment).
I had pancakes for lunch and finished them around 4pm, and started winding down, with the plan of going to bed between 7 and 8 pm, which I did. It’s amazing how well I manage to do this prior to ironman races. As usual, slept pretty well, and woke up just before the alarm at 3:15 am. I had my avocado with olive oil and salt, as well as a sweet potato. Put on my sunscreen and my tri suit. Got my race nutrition and my special needs bags and left around 4 a.m., was able to get a decent parking space, dropped off my bags and took the bus to the reservoir. First thing was to put air in my tires and chill. No wetsuit today! The water temperature was 78 degrees. That’s ok.
Just like last year, I went into the water with the second group and started off to the side. My goal this year for the swim was to just swim comfortably fast. My focus was on breathing easily, but also on keeping good form. There was the usual bumping, but overall, I just stayed focused, really trying to make sure that I didn’t swallow any water, which I didn’t! People kept trying to swim into me, no matter where I positioned myself in relation to the buoys. I feel like I zig zagged, but I’m not so sure looking at the other swim times in my age group. The only thing I know for sure was I swam quite wide after the first turn because I thought I was sighting on a yellow buoy, but was actually sighting on a paddle boarder wearing a yellow jacket! The swim did feel like it went on forever, but considering that I’d recently done two 90 minute pool swims without stopping, this was pretty easy. I made my way out of the water and to the transition tent. Unfortunately, the bench I used last year was now outside of the path, so I had to use the transition tent to put on my helmet and bike shoes. Put on my headband and sunglasses and my Synthe aero road helmet and then put on my aero gloves and arm coolers before putting on my cycling shoes. This was all done quickly and comfortably and I was off to get my bike and get out of transition. Walked my bike up the hill to the mounting point and got on my bike. Coming out of the Res was something I’d done many times before. I know this course, although I actually hadn’t ridden the exact course before, but knew what to expect. My goal today was getting to the run unscathed. Keeping my wattage down was the key, staying nourished and hydrated on a hot day was my goal. The first miles out of the Res are a false flat that can tempt one to push harder than they should. I just rode easily and before I knew it I was coming back up Nelson on the longest sustained minor “climb” on the course. I kept a good cadence and didn’t push my wattage, and managed to stay aero. I took in some almond butter and started drinking from my mixture of UCAN and Tailwind. I wasn’t sure how many calories I’d need, but just went by how I felt, trying to keep taking calories early on in the bike. Hydration was key today, especially with the heat, and I even took extra water and poured in on my head and back when I had the opportunity. Before I knew it, I was doing the second loop and once again, focused on keeping it easy. I had decided not to push at all until the last 20 miles, which included some very short climbs. “I was feeling good when I got to mile 80 and knew that I was on my way to a solid bike ride.” That was the original plan. Instead, at mile 80, all I wanted to do was get off the bike. My butt hurt, I was starting to hate being on my bike, I couldn’t stay comfortable in my aero position. I stood when possible to stretch out my back and legs. The last 20 miles seemed to take forever and then, I was dismounting and running, in my cycling shoes, to T2, where I got my run bag and quickly put body glide on my feet, socks on, shoes on, hat on and race belt on. Off to the run course, with a quick stop to have extra sunscreen put on me.
One addition to my bike ride. My power seemed to be about 10-20w under where I expected it to be. I did try to load up on nutrition early, but my stomach did start rebelling and I had to modulate. I did drink plenty of water during the bike, and wonder if I didn’t take in enough electrolytes. I kept having the feeling like a switch was turning on and off. Sometimes I felt great, other times I actually felt a little light headed. I have been training to teach my body to burn fat, but the high altitude may have thrown the ultimate curve ball to my body. I took in carbs, but my body had trouble processing them at the rate that I needed. In fact, it felt a lot like my early ironman’s felt in that regard. That feeling only got worse on the run.
Saturday, March 28, 2015
This was my first race of the year. I'm coming off a torn posterior inferior serrates 2 months ago which caused a rib to pop out. It still has been hurting a little, but doesn't affect my training at this point, and actually was not an issue today. It turned out to be a very interesting race today at the Oceanside 70.3. I Didn't hit my times, but had one of my best placings ever in a 70.3, so go figure. Was 33rd in my AG out of the water (my worst swim here); but was 20th in my AG off the bike (also my worst bike, from a time perspective); was actually thinking of just going easy on the run, very briefly, and decided to go with my original run plan, which I did, and by the time I hit the finish line I was 13th in my AG...have never moved up like this before, maybe there's a lesson in this:). And, I left it all out there today, I was close to passing out at the end:) My swim was uneventful, solid effort the whole way, sighted pretty well, drafted occasionally, never got hit, but didn't feel fast today, maybe my form wasn't perfect, but it wasn't bad, I just felt a little sluggish. That said, all of the swim times were slower today, so I may not have been that far off my usual swim on this course. Very solid T1, actually ran the whole way and was out quicker than I've ever been. On the bike I never really felt good, but I just kept pushing. Interestingly, my power splits were very consistent. These are every 5 miles: (NP/AveP) 192/169, 168/162, 171/163, 168/165, 179/169, 181/166, 181/174, 187/169, 179/167, 163/160, 148/138...the last 8 miles my left aerobar shifter came loose (just replaced aerobars due to Specialized recall)...I spent the last 8 miles forced into my aero position out of fear the shifter would pop out, definitely stopped focusing on effort... back tightened up being forced not to sit up intermittently, which I do like to do...was getting worried about run:)...Ave Power for ride was 163w, NP was 175w, actually not too bad...it was windy, felt like I had a headwind most of the way today...the fact that I moved up 13 places on the bike tells me I actually rode ok. Also, drives me nuts how many people were drafting..ridiculous, and I was good! 4:00 T2, a little long as my gear was moved a little and it took me longer to put on my shoes...still, not bad. As soon as I started the run I looked at my watch and it showed ~8:30 pace with breathing every 5th breath. What the heck! Decided to go for it and carry out my original plan. The first 7 miles were done breathing every 4th step and my pace was right around 8:40...At mile 8 I increased effort to breathing every 3rd and around mile 11 I felt like my legs weren't quite cooperating, but I still pushed, breathing probably got up to every 2nd step...I was punishing myself. While miles 11 and 12 were ~9:10 pace, I managed to do the last 1.1 miles in ~8:50 pace and hit the finish line 13th in my AG...I've never moved up like this before. All in all, I think I paced the bike reasonably well and definitely left it all out there on the run. Nutrition was fair, took in ~700 cal on the bike (200 cal UCAN, 400 cal Tailwind, one gel), but miscalculated fluids and didn't drink the last 40 minutes...took in a bunch of fluids the first half of the run and then started to feel a little sloshy so backed off....not too bad, probably was a little dehyrdated at the end, but doubt it affected me much. I have to be happy about this, especially, when my one constant goal was met, and that is that I left it all out there today. I had nothing left in the tank at the end.
Thursday, October 9, 2014
Wow! What a year. I started in March with Ironman New Zealand. This would be my first year doing multiple ironman competitions, and I didn't know how my 55 year old body would hold up. I guess I got my answer yesterday. After placing 22nd in my age group at New Zealand, 15th at Boulder, at IMCHOO I managed an 11th, but more importantly, was only 9 minutes out of 6th, and only 45 minutes away from a Kona slot.
The week was a whirlwind, driving home from Lake Tahoe after the cancellation from the fire, getting into Chattanooga, and flying out a day later. I had prepared assiduously for Tahoe, and realized that would not be possible. So I decided to relax and just enjoy myself. I went with the simple race strategy that my coach, Frank Castle Lucho, always give me. "it should feel easy until it feels hard." And, it did!
My friend Tj and I got to transition early and caught an early bus to the swim start. We were seeded in the first couple hundred people. The seeding had nothing to do with predicted swim time. In fact, the slower swimmers were probably at the front out of fear of a 16+ hour time cut-off (it's usually 17 hours). So, we just hung out and rested. We were told that the race would not be wetsuit legal. This was fine with me, as a wetsuit doesn't help me as much as others due to the fact that I have very good swim form to begin with. I got in two bathroom breaks and before we knew it we were lining up.
We made our way to the dock, crossed the timing mat and jumped in the water. I immediately headed towards the middle of the river, as TJ had suggested the current was faster there. I swam mostly by myself for about 300-400 meters, and then a guy (#1782), swam past me on my left. I thought to myself, this is it, and got on his feet, where I stayed until we climbed out of the water 2 miles later. While others were staying closer to the buoy line, we stayed closer to the middle of the river. I had to stay focused in order to stay on his feet. I tried not to hit them too often, but did occasionally tap them. He pulled up once to sight, and I almost swam over him, but I pulled up and waited and we kept going. A couple of times sometime tried to swim between us, and i wouldn't let them. My effort was solid, and I focused on my form and keeping my strokes long. From an effort perspective, this was my best and most solid swim ever. The current certainly helped. The pros swam between 38 and 42 minutes. I swam 52:50. Wow!
When I got out of the water, unlike Ironman Boulder, my legs felt good. I even ran, albeit slowly, up the ramp to transition. Got my transition bag, sat down in the tent, put on my helmet and visor (should have forgone this, more on this later), put on my arm coolers and bike shoes and was up and off to get my bike. On the way to my bike I out on my aero gloves... Needed help from a volunteer to pull one one, but well worth it. Got my bike and was at the mount line. 6 minute transition, very solid, considering the run in and out of T1. As soon as I got on my bike, I turned on my garmin bike computer. "Low battery," what the heck! I had just charged it. Not a problem, I did IM New Zealand without electronics, and I rather enjoy not racing with data in front of me. I know my body and am comfortable racing by feel. Besides, the feel was that it should be easy...for the whole bike! The outward leg of the bike course was a gradual uphill, but I never felt it. I wonder if there was a slight tailwind, because I found afterwards that I was going over 21 mph. The humidity caused my visor to fog, so I stuffed it in my tri-top and ditched it at the first aide station. I started my nutrition early and often. I had two red potatoes, 2 Justin's almond butter packets, and 1000 cal of liquid (200 cal of UCAN and 800 cal of Tailwind). I'm pretty sure that I took in 400+ cal during the first hour. I also took several tablets of MAP, an amino acid formulation. I drank water sparingly, as the weather was nice and cool. The miles flew by, and before I knew it I was going up the longest and biggest hill just before the turnaround. I had a gel under my bike seat and it was velcro'd...I spent the entire ride up the hill, loosening it up and pulling it out. I used excess energy here, but it wasn't from my legs! I actually rode the hill super easy. The ride back towards town was downhill, but probably had a little headwind, but my pace stayed above 20mph. The mile markers kept coming quickly. I felt really good. The course was quite pretty. The only issues were packs of riders who were clearly flaunting the no drafting rules. After the race I heard some people say that it was hard not to draft on this course. Honestly, I had few problems staying four bike lengths behind people. The packs were literally riding 3-4 abreast, with wheels almost touching. I never saw an official the entire day. The worst part of the packs (I counted four of them, ranging from ten to thirty people) was that they were dangerous as they passed you. I tried go ahead of one, but that took too much energy. The funny thing, and the most telling, was the fourth pack of about 10-15 people. They would pass me, then we'd come to an aide station and I'd pass them. It would take them several miles to pass me again. Before I new it, I was nearing the end of the first loop, where there was a screaming descent. Unfortunately, a pack had passed me just before this descent and held me up from bombing the descent the first time around. I didn't let that happen the second time. My nutrition remained good, continuing at about 400 cal/hr. When I started the second loop I still felt good, but now there was a headwind as we went uphill. Still, I was managing 19+mph. I also was standing up when I could and stretching. This course called for staying aero as much as possible, and my back was noticing. Three days before the race, putting on my bike shoe, I had a horrible spasm in my right low back. It was scary horrible. I had spent three days doing all kinds of therapy on my back. Foam roller, stretching, icy hot, even one day of aleve (which I avoided the day before the race to avoid any stomach issues). My back was 95% the morning of the race, but I needed to pay attention all day to keep it that way.
Before I knew it I was climbing the hill before the turnaround and heading back, again with a slight headwind. I began to dial down my nutrition, which was about the right time, as my stomach felt a little queasy. On comment on that. I recently added activated charcoal and Gaia acid relief to my regimen. It definitely keeps my stomach settled. The miles continued to fly by, and despite no electronics, I had a feeling that I would have my first sub-6 hour ironman bike. As I hit mile 90, I realized that I had no doldrums on the bike. I never did. I bombed the descent this time and finally began the long ride back to transition. I say long because the bike course was 116 miles long, four miles longer than the standard ironman course. While I had saved 15 minutes on the swim, I'd add almost the same on the bike, plus the fact that the bike effort on the legs adds up more in relation to the run. Whatever:). I just kept feeling really good and maintained a very comfortable effort back to transition, where I got off my bike and clomped in my bike shoes to pick up my bag, sit down in the tent, take off my helmet, gloves and bike shoes, put vaseline on my feet (my successful method for preventing blisters), put on my compression socks, shoes, hat and race belt, and make my way out of transition. I had to pee, it would have been bad form to pee while on the chair, so I made my one port-a-potty stop for the whole race. Still out of transition in under 6 minutes.
I felt great! All I could think was how I was having the perfect ironman. I had a feeling I had ridden under 6 hours (5:51), so that I was near 7 hours in terms of race time. This was a place I never been before. In fact, I would see pro men and women on the run, albeit doing their second lap. I ran down the ramp and immediately did something I've never done before. I raised my arms as I passed the fans and urged them to cheer for me. And, boy they did! What an adrenaline rush! They seemed to love this goofy old guy with flowing white hair egging them on! I did this the rest of the day, even when it became more of an effort towards the end. As I ran up the long hill in the first mile of the run, I realized that I shouldn't go out too fast. I still had a marathon to run. Still, my first 5 miles, running conservatively over flattish, with that first hill, and a number of "bumps" were run around 9:30 pace. I talked to people, which helped me to pass the time, egged on the fans when they were large enough, and walked on as far through the aide stations as I needed to get a drink and some orange slices. I drank gatorade perform, which worked ok at Boulder, but I'm not so sure it worked here. I was feeling a bit nauseated, so became very careful about my nutrition. I did take a charcoal capsule and another gaia, and some MAP. Before I knew it, I was heading over the bridge towards the hills that began at around mile 8. These were definitely hills. A lot of people were already walking, but I had already dedicated myself to running no matter how I felt. So, I took it easy, and ran slowly uphill, then ran comfortably on the downhills. I only ended up walking about 100 yards up a steep climb where I realized that I could power walk faster than I could run. My pace edged up to between 10 and 11 minute mile pace on this section. The last 3 miles back to the end of the first loop were hilly and my pace was 11:00 min/mile. I still felt good! It was great to feel this way at the midpoint of the ironman marathon! I egged on the crowds and they responded enthusiastically.
I headed out on the second loop and realized that I was feeling bloated. I felt my stomach and realized that it was full. Ok, I thought, don't increase my effort yet, and it's time to start sips of coke. Also, I stopped to get my special needs bag and put on my Ironman Lake Tahoe finishers shirt, which I wanted to wear across the finish line. My timing for this was perfect as it had just started to drizzle. Up until this point, I had used cold sponges and ice at every aide station to keep my core cool. The drizzle and cloud cover might have made me too cold, so this was good. I passed Susan Haag, no time to stop for a hug, but still a boost!
I kept running, although my pace had dropped about one minute per mile from the first loop. Not bad, but not my plan. I began to breath harder and started my "grunting" ritual, where I grunt with each exhalation. I call it my Jimmy Connors approach to running. It keeps me focused, helps ward off side stitches, and scares everyone I run past. On the side stitch front, I had put Golden Tiger balm on my cheat earlier and now repeated it. I also started jamming my finger under my diaphragm on the right side of my chest. This helps. I took sips of coke at alternate aide stations, missed the first station with chicken broth, and kept slogging along. The easy had become hard. I had hoped at mile 21 to increase my effort, which I suppose I did, although I could't maintain my earlier pace with the increased effort. Still, as the hills came, I stubbornly ran them, only walking twice for about 100 yards each on the steepest climbs. I did finally get some chicken broth, which tasted great! I saw TJ, he looked good, and I shouted that I was on my second loop, which was probably obvious. The last mile included a bridge, I wanted to run faster, but couldn't. Of note, I managed to keep the exact same 11 minute/mile pace each time I ran this section. Hence, I think I ran as fast as I could at the end. Finally, there was a downhill to the finish and I was able to open it up a little. As I came down the finishing chute, I knew there was someone behind me, and I wanted my moment to be my moment, so I pushed to keep my space. As I came to the finish line, I pointed with both fingers to my Lake Tahoe Finisher's shirt, and heard Mike Riley point out that I was one of eighty (someone later told me the actual number was 78) people from Lake Tahoe who were racing. I gave a double arm pump, and raised both arms in exultation. I knew that I'd had the best ironman of my life (thus far). 11:31:59, forty five minutes faster than my previous best at New Zealand. I was only 37 seconds out of 10th place, and 9 minutes out of 6th. 45 minutes faster and I'd be going to Kona. It actually doesn't sound so formidable. I was "only" 64 minutes out of 1st in my age group.
I'm excited because this result will move me, albeit temporarily, up the All World Ironman standings, probably into the top five. One of the things I like about the standings is that it reward endurance and consistency, in addition to speed. Too bad it doesn't come with a Kona slot:).
I can't think of anything that I would have or could have done differently during this race. I was in the moment all day, stayed with my race strategy, and was completely spent when I crossed the finish line. I had, in fact, had some visions of passing out after crossing the line. Fortunately, I didn't, but kept my volunteer "catcher" with me until I was safely seated and had gulped down two cups of chicken broth. The night was complete, when after going back to my hotel and showering, I came back in time to see my friend TJ finish and also to meet my FB friend and fellow triathlete, GlennGlenn Cook woke up this morning with a sore back, but otherwise feel pretty darn good. I don't want this adrenaline rush to leave me, but I know it will. It's time to spend some quality time with my wife, who is incredibly supportive of my ironman addiction. Then, the training will begin for next year, with three more ironman's on the agenda, Couer d'alene, Boulder, and Maryland. Unless I win a Kona slot in the Lake Tahoe special lottery (about a 5% chance of winning):)
Monday, August 4, 2014
Let me begin by saying as I write/edit this I feel like I’ve been run over by a truck. I actually write my race report before the race and use it for visualization, and then I edit it afterwards for what actually happened.
As soon as I completed Ironman New Zealand in March I began thinking about this race. First of all, I had dedicated myself to having my best ironman performances this year at the age of 55. As I like to say, I’m good enough to smell a Kona qualification spot, but not good enough to taste one. With that said, I’ve really been trying to achieve my best results this year. My wife and family know how much I’ve been focused on this for the past five months. I began to realize as the race got closer that I was thinking about it when I went to bed, when I got up, and pretty much most of the day in between. I guess that this is one of the “advantages” of being semi-retired. Ironically, I really don’t feel any pressure, despite setting a goal that is over an hour faster than my best ironman, which was actually New Zealand (my best time by a half an hour). The reason not to feel any pressure is the uniqueness of ironman that makes finishing the ultimate goal. In many ways, the actual result is secondary. Nevertheless, I only know how to operate with a goal, and usually a lofty goal at that. In life, and in sport.
My preparation for Ironman Boulder included a nine hour, 121 mile bike ride with over 14,000 feet of climbing, the Mulholland Challenge, in April. I got in three 16 miles runs that were of high quality. I also did some very solid workouts on my VASA swim trainer, even managing to get close to an hour on the trainer. Check, check and check. I’ve done five previous ironman’s, there is now a fine line on overdoing the training versus getting in quality workouts. My focus, with the great help of my coach, has been on quality.
With all of that in mind, I have really tried to focus on the other aspects of my preparation. The first, how to adjust to the altitude of Boulder, began with a 3 week trip to Colorado in June with my wife. I could see a significant improvement during the two weeks we were in Boulder. The second day, I did the Boulder sprint tri and could hardly breath during my best effort on the 3 mile run, going ~8:45 pace. Two weeks later, I did the Boulder 70.3, and actually managed an 8:45 pace over the last 7 miles of the race, again, going as hard as I could. I was definitely acclimating. With 3 weeks of altitude under my belt, I arrived in Boulder 9 days prior to race day. I immediately noticed that I wasn’t noticing the altitude. However, I did realize that if I pushed my effort too much, I would notice the altitude, which is actually a good thing. The key to having a successful ironman is not to waste energy during the day.
Arriving in Boulder with over a week before the race, I had the opportunity to truly rest. And I definitely took advantage of it. I spent most days laying down, sitting down, just resting. I believe that I went into this race with the most quality rest time that I have ever had prior to a race.
One of my biggest ironman issues has been my stomach. I have a very sensitive GI tract, and I’ve been dedicated to changing this. I watched my diet all week, continuing with my good fat/protein, relatively low carbohydrate diet that I have been on for most of this year. Yesterday, I did allow myself a few gluten free pancakes in order to get some additional carbohydrate into my body prior to race day. However, on friday and saturday, I stuck with my race day breakfast of an avocado with olive oil. I’ve also been starting each day with coconut oil, fish oil, extra CoQ10, glutamine, B complex and a few of my other regular supplements (prontandim, energease, recoverease). I’ve been testing Gaia’s Reflux Relieve as well. My pre-race diet was fairly light for a change. I didn’t finish the pancakes at lunch, and slowly ate them until about 5:00 pm. Also, had a couple of packets of almond butter, and a bell pepper. I continued to sip on water and electrolytes. My final intake of the day prior to bedtime consisted of a sweet potato and some UCAN superstarch. I was also very careful not to overhydrate, as it is quite possible to leach electrolytes from your body in that circumstance. The one exception to this whole process, was, when I went to sip on my bottle of electrolytes and UCAN, air must have built up when I shook it, and it spurted out into my mouth, similar to getting a mouthful of water during the swim. Fortunately, I didn’t drown from my electrolyte mix and despite a half an hour of irritation, did fine.
I had gotten a solid night of sleep on Friday, with some very bizarre dreams (which I am way too embarrassed to share), but a good night nevertheless. As always, I went to bed at 8pm the night before the race, and began my bedtime race visualization that always manages to help me sleep, as well as prepare for the race). I usually fall asleep before I get past the swim, but tonight I must have gone through the race a few times. Not sure when I finally fell asleep, may have been 11pm. Got up once to pee (hydration is key) and like clockwork, woke up at 3:15 am from my alarm, which is unusual as I usually wake up on my own, took my glutamine, ate my avocado/olive oil/coconut oil/salt mixture, ate a sweet potato, took some Master Amino Protein (MAP) took my Reflux Relief and put on my race outfit. I wear the 2xu tri suit, with ICE technology, which truly does help cool you down when it’s hot. Put on Aloe Gator sunscreen, which I’ve learned will stay on all day, gathered my special needs bags and took the shuttle from Endurance Sports Travel to Boulder High School and the busses to the Boulder Reservoir.
With the exception of Ironman Lake Tahoe, I have found myself to be quite calm the morning of an ironman. I didn’t have much to do, having pumped up my tires to ~135psi the day before, so that they would come down to about 115-120psi on race day. I would turn on my garmin computer, so I wouldn’t have to fuss with it once I started, and so that it would engage the satellites. I also had to put my two red potatoes in the bento box on my bike. Spent time sitting down and relaxing, and used the port-a-potty a couple of times. With that, it was time to get into my wet suit and prepare myself for the swim.
The swim course was a little different than the usual Boulder reservoir course, but the difference was nice insofar as we weren’t swimming into the sun. The pros went off at 6:20 and at 6:30 the first, and fastest, age group swimmers waded into the water to start. I had seeded myself in the middle of the second group and calmly made my way in, and began to swim. This type of rolling start doesn’t completely get rid of the craziness that is an ironman start, but it is much more reasonable. I pretty much know what my swim is like, and once I get going, it’s pretty routine. There is no reason to exert too much energy during the swim, so I focused on drafting as much as possible and enjoyed the swim. I did get punched in the eye early on, but fortunately, it didn’t knock me out or knock off my goggles. It hurt very briefly, but not much. I kept running into a crazy person who would swim over into me and flail away, I’m not sure if it was one person or more than one...always hard to tell during an ironman swim. Of note, the best parts of my swim was when I was alone and was able to focus on my form and swim breathing to both sides. I was able to make up ground on people in front of me, felt really good and smooth...but that wasn’t possible for much of the swim.
I don’t wear a watch when racing, so all of the numbers I got were post-race. My swim time was 1:13:54, off from my usual swim time of about 1:11-1:12. However, looking at the race results, I think that the course may have been slightly long, as even a number of the pros swam close to 1 hour. I came out of the water 17th in my age group (out of 116 people) and 607th overall (out of 2814). Solid result, consistent with a solid swim.
Coming out of the water, I walked up the ramp, unzipping my wetsuit at the same time. I felt fine from the swim, except that my legs felt heavy. This is not a usual feeling for me, and I’m not sure what it meant. At the top of the ramp, I took a right turn, got my wetsuit stripped off, and picked up my transition bag. When scoping out the transition tent the day before, it looked to be on the small side, so rather than get caught up in the confusion that occurs in the tent, I stopped at a bench on the grass and took out my helmet. Put on my arm coolers, my sunglasses, my headband, and my helmet before putting on my bike shoes and stuffing a couple of gels in my jersey pocket. Put my wetsuit in my transition bag and made my way through the tent and then to my bike, where it waited, right at the front of the row, which made it easy to find. Took my bike out of transition, and mounted it.
My first transition was a very solid 6:03, considering the relatively long run that one has to make in their bike shoes out of transition.
Coming out of the reservoir there is a very short steeply pitched rise, and I took great pains not to press my wattage too high going up it, then settled in to my aero position, taking care to keep my wattage below 170w for the first 10 miles of the course, most of which is a gradual uphill. This was going to be the key to a successful race and I was very disciplined on this day. A lot of people passed me, as expected, but I would catch many of them on the downhills and flats. The first reprieve was going down St. Vrain, but then after turning around had to climb back up, again, being careful not to push my wattage too high, although I did allow it to come up a little higher this time, but still below 200w.
The Boulder bike course is quite beautiful, with the mountains to the west and the plains to the east. There are a lot of rolling hills and the key to my race was going to be not pushing too hard up the hills, but to make sure I could bring some speed and momentum into them, so as to effectively shorten them. I thought that this would make the course relatively easy, but boy was I wrong! That works for a half ironman, but in retrospect, maybe my bike fitness wasn’t quite what it needed to be for 112 miles of this. Also, it was hot...in the 80‘s, but I admit my feet started getting hot inside my bike shoes (no socks). My wattage seemed to run on the lower side of the 140-170w range all day, but I was also able to “draft” with all the people out on the course. Of course, I kept the necessary 7 m distance between me and the people in front (not so for everyone...there were large packs throughout the race).
About 60 miles into the bike I realized how I stay in the moment during an ironman bike. I am constant monitoring my nutrition and how I feel. I was determined to stay hydrated, so I would sip on water and electrolyte mix every few minutes. I had 900 cal of a mix of UCAN/Tailwind Nutrition that I would take a gulp from and then wash down with water. I had my two red potatoes with olive oil and salt in my bento box. I stretched this out throughout the bike to help my stomach. I also ended up taking in 3 honey stinger gels and a Justin’s almond butter gel early on. I would guess that I took in about 1800 cal throughout the bike. I have to admit that by the time I finished I was tired of gels, my mix, and my red potatoes. My hydration was good, although not great, because I never had to pee during the ride. Around mile 85, I finally went through the ironman bike doldrums...ironically, I didn’t think about this race. I started thinking about why I do this crazy sport and why I had already signed up for ironman Lake Tahoe in just 7 short weeks. The thought even crossed my mind to make this my last ironman race...all par for the course, I guess. I suddenly realized, that this might mean my nutrition was a little light, but after a swig of my carbohydrate drink I felt nauseated. I had taken a couple of capsules of activated charcoal earlier on, but figured that the heat and effort might finally be keeping my stomach from processing the nutrition, so I lowered my effort for the next 10 miles or so, which seemed to help and allow me to get my nutrition back on track. I was beginning to look forward to the end of the bike. The right side of my back was a little sore and I did keep sitting up on climbs or when I was in someone’s draft to help. My legs never felt great during this ride, but at the same time, they never felt bad.
One of the interesting things about the bike ride was that my breathing was always pretty easy. Surprisingly, I felt constrained by my legs, not my breathing, which is unusual for me at altitude.
Around mile 100 there were three short steep climbs, but I had checked them out previously as was not concerned. By this time, the excitement of finishing the bike was beginning to build and I had to be careful not to push my wattage up too much going over them, which I didn’t. That said, I was able to solidly push up these climbs, which I noticed seemed to be taking it’s toll on other people. At the final aid station I grabbed a bottle of cold water and poured it on my body, which helped to cool me down. It was definitely getting hot. I should have done this at the 90 mile aid station, but didn’t thikn about it. In fact, I had left an open bottle cage on my bike for this reason...at least I finally had used it. The final section of the ride is into Boulder, and I made sure that I stopped eating and drinking the last 4-5 miles.
I started my bike 17th in my age group and finished it 18th, having dropped down to 20th at one point, but gaining that back towards the end. Similarly, I had gone from 607th to 818th overall. Of note, most of this occurred in the first 44 miles of the bike, after which I held my own pretty well. My bike time was 6:11:55, with an average speed of 18.07 mph. Of note, my three bike splits were very even...I had given a solid and consistent effort on a challenging course. I had thought the course would be manageable, which it was, but it was definitely tough.
The second transition was actually longer than the first, having to walk/run our bike after dismounting, and in my bike shoes, this was mostly walking. One of the exciting parts of this walk was seeing my friends Treg and Shelly cheering me on. I didn’t expect this and it gave me a shot of adrenaline! I finally made my way to the high school track, the walk was at least a quarter of a mile, where a volunteer took my bike before I then went to grab my transition bag. My bike to run transitions are typically longer during an ironman than during shorter races, and I was endeavoring to make this one quicker. Again, I found a bench before the transition tent (where it is always too hot anyway), off with my bike shoes, hat on, vaseline on my feet, compression socks on, left then right, shoes on, tighten the lace locks, grab my race belt and get the hell through and out of the tend! I’ve got to get moving, is what I was thinking.
My second transition time was a remarkable 6:50. I was very happy with this.
This is where my original pre-written race report ended. I never know how the run will feel anyway. This race was dedicated to me giving the run everything I had, and ultimately I was not to disappoint, though I didn’t really realize this out on the course. As soon as I started my run, I knew I was in for a challenge. My energy had been sapped by the strenuous bike, it was in the high 80’s, and I was already tired. Fortunately, I wasn’t really sore. I quickly decided to just start running at a manageable effort and walk deliberately through the aid stations. It was important that I stay hydrated and nourished for the 26.2 miles. That would ultimately define my run. I hit the first aide station and looked at the smorgasbord that is an ironman aide station. I took as much ice as I could and stuffed in my my jersey and pants. I find this helps keep me cool. I took ice and put coke in it. Well, my decision was made, start with coke early. I knew that at some point I would tire of the coke, but one step at at time. Around mile 2 I saw my friend Rudy, who would ultimately keep me company for about 11 miles of the run (it was an open course, so Rudy was just out for his run workout). With that said, he pretty much followed me at the pace I was able to keep. The good news is that I don’t wear a watch and Rudy is a watch when it comes to running pace. He figures that when I was running, I was running right around 8:45 pace. I did walk the aid stations and usually a good 1-2 minutes after them, finishing my coke. Also, I started eating orange slices early and often and an occasional banana. My nutrition and hydration were pretty much on target.
The Boulder ironman run course is deceptively hard. The first stretch is a gradual downhill, but there are lots of little ups and downs, which got progressively more difficult as the day went on (more me, but also for everyone else). My pace on the run was ultimately remarkable consistent, comparing the first loop to the second. In fact, I almost even split the run...the effort, was something else, as it should be. More on that soon.
Unbeknownst to me, while I felt like I was having a rough day on the run, I was not alone. This course was decimating people. I began the run 18th in my age group and 818th overall. Keep in mind that I almost always finish my race where I start it on the run. Today was going to be different. In the first ten miles I had moved up to 718th overall and had actually moved to 15th in my age group. My pace was right around 11:30 per mile. Coming back into town, my friend Treg and Shelly were once again there to cheer me on! The final leg of the first loop takes you uphill, before turning around for a nice 2 mile gradual downhill, where I actually felt like I was getting a second wind and did around 9:17 pace. I didn’t want to get too excited, however and start pushing the pace further as of yet. This was actually the best part of the entire run.
I had dedicated myself to having my best run possible. I knew that my swim had been reasonable, and close to my predicted swim time. I also knew that my bike had been about 20 minutes slower than what I had predicted...all in all, I was about 25 minutes off of where I had wanted to be, but that would still have kept open the possibility of a solid time if my run were good. The ultimate irony of this is what my coach always reminds me of, it’s not the time, it’s the effort on any given day. While my time would ultimately be well over an hour short of where I wanted it to be, so it would be for a lot of people. By mile 20 of the run course, I had moved up to 602nd overall, and still was holding on to 15th in my age group. This was the point at which I had hoped to “turn it on”. I realized, however, that pushing too hard now could lead to a massive “blow up”. This happens to the best of us, and in fact, during the first loop I was passed by a pro woman , Uli Bromme, on her second loop, and near the end of my first loop, I actually passed her, as she had fallen back from 2nd overall to fifth. This might also have been an indication of how solid of a run I was having under the circumstances.
I took a little extra time when I needed it walking the hills on the way back into town. Ironically, it felt like I had slowed down, but my friend Rudy told me that my form was holding up and when I was running I was still keeping close to the sub 9 minute pace I’d had earlier in the day. I had switched my nutrition over to Gatorade Perform, which, with ice, I was tolerating well, in addition to the orange slices. However, nutrition just wasn’t feeling good at this point, so I switched to ice water and hoped to trudge to the finish without getting sick to my stomach...this might have been my one mistake, as I think I was pretty low on fuel when I hit the finish line.
My IT bands had also started feeling sore around mile 13, but I always bring Golden Tiger balm, which I put on my IT’s. Both sides of my back were also hurting, and I put the balm there as well, which always helps. All in all, I was hurting all over, which today I can attest to. This course kicked the living shit out of my body!
Honestly, I felt like I was dying the last two miles, but somehow, managed to maintain a 9:29 pace for the final leg to the finish line. I kept thinking that I’d never felt this bad during an ironman, which I find hard to believe considering the courses that I’ve done and the results that I’ve had. On the other hand, I think it is possible that I really pushed myself deep into my limits on this day.
When the dust had settled, I had moved from 818th overall to 580th on the run! I came in 15th in my age group, my best age group result ever for an ironman. My overall time was 12:34:19, my second fastest time ever. Remarkably, 10:25:47 won my age group, although only two other people went under 11 hours, and just barely at that. 6th was 12:03 and 10th was 12:13. My result was quite solid on this tough day.
I always say that it’s not about the result, it’s about the effort. If I leave it all out on the course, I’m happy. I left it all out on this tough Boulder Ironman course, and then some!