Saturday, May 7, 2011

Ironman St. George Race Report

Pre-race Race Report

So, it’s Saturday morning, May 7th, I wake up at 3:45 am and drink some vitamin water and eat a banana and a few pretzels right away, as well as a small yogurt. This is about 400 calories right away. I put on my race outfit and then put sunscreen on me, making sure to get all of the important spots. I put on my race chip (that’s one thing you can’t forget). I drink some more, eat some more pretzels and the yam that I prepared last night. Another 200 calories. I have more pretzels to munch on over the next hour.

I’ve got my wetsuit ready to go, my swim cap/neoprene cap/goggles/Body Glide/gel all together and ready to go. I’ve got two bottles of water, my bottle with my race nutrition in it, and an extra bottle of water for getting my hair wet before putting the cap on (one thing about having long hair). I’ll put the chamois butter on now, never know how much of it washes away, but it seems to do ok. I’ve got a couple of top layers and a wind breaker to keep me warm this morning while I wait, as well as sweat pants. I will put all of this on.

I’m bringing my bicycle pump in order to have one less thing to stress about and to save some time this morning, TJ (#1121) will use it as well and his wife will take it back with her. I do double check as I get in my car. I’ve got my Bike and Run Special Needs bags, and my morning clothes bag has my nutrition and 3 bottles of water in it, as well as my wetsuit, cap, etc. And, the bike pump.

I leave the hotel at 4:15 am and drive the 1 mile to find a parking space not far from T2. I then head over to the drop off for the special needs bags. Now it’s time to catch the bus. I get in line for a bus and leave around 4:45am, so I get to the swim site around 5:15 am. Now, since my T1 bag is already there, all I have to do is put my Nutrition bottle on my bike, fill my Profile bottle with water and put air in my tires. Then, I get in line for the port-a-potty. I don’t want to be rushing to get to the start like I did in California. I put on body glide, my wetsuit and my swim caps.

The pros start at 6:45 am, and we start @ 7:00am, so I get in the water about 6:50am and swim to the front of the line, towards the center. The water is cold, but I’m moving and starting to warm up. I originally plan to be right at the front, but people keep getting in front of me and the line is moving forward, and I’m moving backward. Finally, I find some clear water and actually get close to the front of the line.

I start out right in the thick of things and head out solidly when the cannon goes off. I do my best to breath bilaterally when I can, but adjust depending upon any waves and where people are around me. As people passing me or get ahead of me at the start and I make a concerted effort to latch onto feet whenever I can. I maintain form, and really keep in mind all that I’ve learned about swimming properly over the past few years. While I certainly don’t want to “blow up” on the swim, I also don’t want the swim to feel too leisurely. There has to be some “effort” attached if I’m going to have a good swim, but it’s an easy effort. It’s rough at the start, but I’m used to that. I keep my elbows high to ward off blows to the head (only got one elbow in the face about half way through the swim). When the occasional mouthful of water occurs (3 times overall during this swim), I spit it out, maintain calmness and keep swimming. I find myself feeling like I’m keeping pace with the people around me for much of this swim. Calmness is the key, as is enjoying this part of the race. The water is cold, but that feels really good. I attack the turn buoys, making sure that I don’t get too slowed down by the inevitable crush of people around them. I come to the large rock island, that tells me the last turn buoy is around the corner and I need to be getting ready to leave the water. I increase my kicking to get blood flowing to my legs. I start visualizing T1. Out of the water in 1:10:56 just a minute faster than last year, although I feel like I swam better and harder, others tell me later they think the swim was either longer or with a greater current against us this year (comparing folks who raced last year).

I get out of the water, unvelcro my wetsuit, pull my strap down and get the arms off. I make my way up the ramp and lay down for the wetsuit strippers. I have my wetsuit in hand and am just a few feet from my Gear Bag. Last row, #1738, I grab my bag and quickly move to the changing tent, take off my goggles and swim cap, take my bike shoes out of the bag, grab my sunglasses and put them on, then grab my race belt and put it around my waist. Shoes go on my feet, strap them on, grab helmet and put it on my head, buckle up, then stuff my wetsuit, caps and goggles into the bag and get sunscreen put on my neck and shoulders (whoops, they didn’t do my legs and my right calf sunburn will attest to that), then head to row #30, grab my bike and I run down the carpet in T1, not too hard, but enough to remind myself how good I feel. T1 takes me 3:30, over 6 minutes less than last year!

I get the the Mount line get on and clip in. The only focus I have for the first few minutes is getting comfortable on my bike and keeping a good cadence that feels easy. I make the right turn out of the reservoir and head down the road. There’s a slight headwind, but it’s also slightly downhill. I think “be small”, which will be my mantra for the day. I will minimize the wind today. I take some sips from my Profile bottle, it’s just water right now, and continue to get into an easy feeling rhythm. People pass me, but I don’t care, I’m moving pretty fast and I’m not working hard. About 20 minutes into the bike, I start up the longest sustained climb on the course. I take my Nutrition bottle and put took long squirts into the Profile bottle. 300 calories and I’m good to go until the first aide station. The climb feels a little long, but it also feels easy. I stay “small”, tucked into my aero position. I’m hydrating and take my first gel, then my second gel. When I get to the first aide station I slow down, making absolutely sure that I take a bottle of water from the volunteer, and immediately pour it into my profile bottle, filling it to the top. After I get past the aide station, I squeeze two more squirts from my nutrition bottle in the Profile bottle, another 300 calories, stir it and “get small” again.

I keep the effort easy on the bike, the first loop goes by in no time and doesn’t feel that tough, I did have to stand going up “the wall” towards Veyo, but didn’t have to press it, it just felt easier to stand, just like at California. As I climb “the wall” I start thinking about my special patients who have passed away, and as I think of each one, I feel a surge of energy. A ton of people pass me going up “the wall”, in fact, lots of people pass me on every steep climb, but generally I pull many of them back on the downhills and less steep sections. I get the my special needs bag and take my additional gels, eat a few ginger cookies and I’m on my way. I’ve got the downhill to recover some, although I do pedal when the opportunity for some extra speed that doesn’t cost much occurs. I continue to stay “small” in my aero position. One problem I have during the first loop of the bike is stomach cramps. They are manageable, generally worse in my aero position, but I am committed to staying aero. But, I can suffer with stomach cramps on the bike, it only hurts and doesn’t seem to affect my performance. What I didn’t really pay attention to was the reality that the cramps got worse every time I took electrolyte capsules (more on this later). Before I know it, I’m already climbing on the second loop and I still feel good. As I get to the latter part of the climb I decide to just maintain my effort, I feel good, and I continue to make sure that I’m not straining and my legs aren’t burning. The second time up “the wall” feels so much better than last year, I know that my race is on target. No one is passing me anymore, and in fact, after I get over “the wall”, I start to pull back most of the people who had passed me earlier. Of note, my bike pace for the first section (from the swim to the first loop) was 18.54mph, not bad on a rolling section with a headwind, going easy; my pace on the first loop was 17.46mph, not bad for 30 miles of climbing followed by a downhill against a moderate head/crosswind. My second loop was 17.01 mph, really not bad, the headwinds were brutal (I’m going to guess over 20mph with gusts to 30-40mph, a little scary in fact. I stop eating about Mile 108 and just take a few sips of water. Summarizing my nutrition on the bike, I take in 1800 calories of carbopro, about 1000 cal of gel and 4-5 ginger cookies (another 100-200 calories), so about 3000 calories for the 6:24:28 bike ride, 25 minutes faster than last year, and conditions were much more challenging this year. In fact I’m 38th in my age group and 558th overall on the bike.

I’m heading down Main Street and T2 beckons. I dismount and a volunteer takes my bike, I move left to the last row and call my #1738 and a volunteer hands me my bag. I jog to the changing tent, sit down, take off my bike shoes, put my hat on, take my shoes out of the bag, grab the vaseline which I quickly put on my left foot, followed by my left Zoot Compression sock, up to the heel, then up the leg; then do the same with my right foot, vaseline, sock, slide my feet into my shoes and grab my race belt. A volunteer had put my racing shoes into my gear bag, which he takes. I up, on my feet, and moving out of the changing tent onto the course. I stop briefly to get sunscreen (fortunately everywhere), I put water in my two small Fuel Belt water bottles (with 50 cal of carbopro in each already), then grab a couple of cups of water to drink and start moving onto the run course. T2 takes me 4:37, five minutes faster than last year.

I’m excited, all I need is a good run and I will smash last years time. But it is not to be.
My mantra is that I am going to run the whole course this year. I start very easy, breathing every 5th step. I put on my arm coolers and get into a rhythm. I will enjoy the scenery and use it to keep out the fatigue and suffering that is inevitable. I just need to keep running. I only pay attention to the mile markers form the second loop, 14, 15, 16...I’m practicing for how good those numbers will look the second time around. I’ve broken the course into four sections, essentially the turnaround points tell me that I’ve made it through 1/4 of the course. Unfortunately, this plan is not to be. My stomach cramps have returned and as soon as I hit the short 8% grade section, I realize that I have to walk. When the grade is 1% or so, I can run, but anything higher is a killer. Not only am I getting stomach cramps, but a side stitch as well. I start taking in cola, and that’s “ok”, but doesn’t solve my issues. I end up running about 65% of the first loop of the run, keeping an overall pace of about 10:45/mile. It is hot, I’m putting sponges in my tri top. One thing is notable, I’m not upset by how I feel. I’m not disappointed. I’m not discouraged. It is what it is and I will persevere.

I’m getting my Run Special Needs bag after the first loop, those ginger cookies taste ok , but I’m struggling with my nutrition. I decide to hydrate and eat, focusing on cola and pretzels for the next three uphill miles, which I walk. I figure, if I start feeling better I can do better. Adjust to the circumstances. I’m really trying to take control over the situation. But, I’m continuing to have trouble running uphill, every time I try, my GI tract rebels. So, I fall back into last years approach, walk every uphill and run every downhill. Running the downhills is actually a little harder this year, but I do it, because I know I can. The difficulty certainly has something to do with the 90+ degree temperatures and how my nutrition has taken a turn for the worse. With 6 mile to go, I decide to limit my intake to water and some cola and see if my stomach feels better. Not so much. At mile 24 I get a nosebleed! I tear off a piece of sponge and stuff it in my nose and don’t miss a beat. I have to do this twice before the nosebleed is under control. Before I know it, I’ve got 2 miles to go, it’s hard, but I’m running the whole way. As I get to the finish line and hear Mike Reilly say, Michael Wasserman, from Englewood, Colorado, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN! My run time is 5:02:23, 4 minutes slower than last year, but 29th in my age group (best age group result of each discipline!) and 509th overall. Everyone suffered today, I think that this years race was actually harder than last year, but I have gone 33 minutes faster. Overall, I’m 29th in my age group and 509th overall, also an improvement from last year. Not bad for a 52 year old guy.

I was really happy with my swim and bike, and the run was what it was. If I had tried to push harder, I very well could have done much worse. I adjusted and did the best I could under tough conditions. I feel really good about how I did in the worlds toughest ironman (after the race spoke to a guy who has done Lanzarote, he thought this was harder).


beth said...

great job. it looks like you persevered through some really tough stuff...
its nice to see your comparisons to last year.
great work, now rest up!

Damie said...

Nice work! Glad to see that you took on a challenging IM...what a reward to finish. Sounds like harder conditions and a better race from you. Congrats!