My wife and father-in-law came to this one which helped in several ways, George kept me company as we walked all over to turn in bags and bike the day before race day. And he and I drove the course. Granted there were about 9 turns instead of IMTX’s messed up course in May with 88. But it was really nice to know all aspects.
I can’t say that I slept and ate perfectly the week leading up to the race. There was a small historic event going on with a childhood dream of my beloved Cubs winning the World Series. And an Adele concert. Such is life, packing it all in, letting the chips fall where they may, and not worrying about it.
On race morning, I walked the 10 minutes to the race area. As I did, I noticed the wind. A wind that wasn’t there the two days previous. As I walked by a couple athletes, I remarked that maybe it’ll die down at sunrise. Wishful thinking.
I did the typical pre-race stuff—getting bike ready, placing Special Needs Bags in their place (for stops for extra stuff like pain meds, Band-Aids, extra tire/tube). Call them Just-in-Case bags. I was there early, so there was wait time. Ended up sitting next to a Chicagoan, so of course we had plenty to talk about, which served as a great distraction (he’s 44 and completed his 4th IM today). We were so distracted, at some point, I said, we’d better get our wet suits on and head out to the beach (race was wet suit legal by less than a degree Fahrenheit. I had not dipped even a toe in the Gulf in the past two days (Coach said NO practice swim, and like every day of my training since the beginning, I listened). As the sun rose, you could see the wind wreaking a little havoc with the surface. Lots of chop. But not huge breakers to push through. So I didn’t fret. Again, my new buddy, Scott, was a calming influence. We got in the corral and got mentally ready.
Jennifer was down at the beach taking pics and observing her first IM. She couldn’t believe we were voluntarily wading into the water. She could see how far out we’d swim before turning left twice and coming back (we had to do the loop twice as going too far out there was probably not a good idea). I waded in and started swimming as soon as it was deep enough. Immediately, we were tossed around like floating debris. Although we got in a steady stream (not a mass start), it was crowded and you had to fight for space. I always seem to be the guy who moves over when people cross my path. I was determined not to get kicked in the face.
One literally gets seasick out there between the waves and inevitable salt water drink. It was actually nice to get out halfway through it, and rinse my mouth and drink a little water. People lined the shore ankle deep where we crossed back towards the start–part walk, part swim.
There were a few large jellyfish down at the bottom, but they seemed content to just watch the mayhem. It was a treat to actually see in the water (again avoiding people). As with IMTX, as I got close to the finish, I took an elbow or hand to my nose. I literally said ouch out loud while taking a breath. At least my goggles did not move.
I typically swim 2.4 miles in 1:24. I didn’t catch my time at the moment of exit, so I felt like I was slower. Actually, it was a minute quicker. Quickly got peeled from my wet suit—this is one of the most critical jobs as a volunteer. He had that suit off very quickly.
I came out of the water in 150th place out of 330.
Transition to bike is a lot of running. You grab your bag (I found mine before the volunteer since I taped it up with yellow duct tape to stand out). You run across the entire corral (outside it) to dressing area in the hotel. The place was mobbed. Found a seat and put on bike stuff (stayed in my tri kit this time). I couldn’t find my baggie of chamois cream right away, but there was a new package of Butt Butt’r sitting on floor right below my seat—very fortunate. My only mistake here was not taking my Advil. Then you run all the way back to where the bags are, and then run all the way back to bike rack where my Shiv was waiting.
This took a lot more time than I would have liked, perhaps two minutes longer. But what can you do. Eight or so minutes.
I got on my bike and saw that 1:32 had transpired since start (my Garmin was my companion all day—I didn’t see clocks anywhere). I figured I swam poorly, so off I went on the bike, passing people immediately. Coach wanted my Normalized Power to be 190 Watts and the HR around 150 as a backup metric. At first, the HR strap wouldn’t work at all. I was thinking, that would be a problem for the run. But slowly it started to show a number inaccurately, but then accurately. Situation averted.
My NP was 210 Watts in hurry, but partially due to the fact that we turned into the NE wind fairly soon. HR was still very low. So I didn’t fret and kept passing dozens and dozens. They just kept coming and coming. Once in a while, I’d get passed (and half of those, I passed eventually down the road).
Having driven the route, I had a good feel for how far away the turns were and where is was going to get really windy… like in your face windy. And most of the first half of the ride was just that. Having the tri bike (The Shiv) this time certainly helped. I was in the aero position 99% of the time and it helped reduce resistance.
Well-supported turns and a safe route. My only complaint was they had little kids handing out bananas. That was all I wanted half way through and as I passed those kids, they’d practically pull it away a little, nervous about a handoff with a bike blazing (not too fast) by. Twice I missed it and kept going. The third try (dozens of miles later) was successful. Had a cool refuel on the Shiv, too. As I approached a rest stop, I opened the cap to the water bladder that’s inside my frame. I grabbed a bottle at the start of the station, and was able to squeeze all the water in and toss the bottle in the garbage zone at the end of the aid station (tossing after you pass it is a time penalty). Had never done this in motion and was impressed I could do it.
Things got a little faster in the spots where we had a tailwind, but by then I was starting to fade. NP was down to 197ish. I had small scare at Mile 93ish. Some guy passed me, got in front of me and slowed down. I was immediately too close and could be penalized for drafting off of him. And of course, that’s when a motorcycle roared by with a race official. She looked at me and wagged a finger (like back off). I pointed a finger (index) at the guy in front of me to signal, he did it. But it’s my job to back off when passed. She drove off. So at this point, I wasn’t sure if I was signaled to stop at the next penalty tent (at end of ride) for five minutes of standing still (not a good place to do this) or if it was a warning. I didn’t see a red card nor her writing down my number, so I assumed it was a warning and hoped for the best. I guess it was.
Rolled into the dismount area (after some really bad wind coming through town) and handed my bike off to a volunteer. Grabbed bag and went back to changing area. Only about 20 in there at the time. I figured I had passed many–although not many had the age of 45 to 49 on their calf. So I was perplexed as to where all of them were.
I guess I passed them and just had my head down working hard because I moved from 150th to 30th in my Age Group. I was hoping to break 5 hours based on last year’s results, but I think the wind had other plans. 5:13 was good enough, around 21.5 mph average for 112 miles.
A quick change. I did not change my socks (I did at IMTX, left a fold in the sock and ending up in serious pain due to the blister than formed quickly). I did put baby powder in them the night before and hoped it would be dry enough. Took pain killer this time and jogged to the exit to start the run. I was happy to start running, just knowing this was the last leg. About 4.5 minutes for this one.
At IMTX, my legs were not willing to run under 10:00ish/mile. I could run, but not fast. I was very curious to see what would happen here. Coach said to warm up a little then rev to 158 HR. THAT was not going to happen. Don’t know why. Just felt comfortable at 145ish and kept it there as the pace was around 8:00/mile. Good enough. Long day.
My only discomfort around Mile 2 was I had to pee. Badly. Even though I “relieved in motion” on the bike. Twice. I couldn’t pull that off while running (on the bike, you just stand up and think happy thoughts). So I stopped at a portapotty. And was there forever. That delay actually cost me later.
So, I ran and ran and ran. The route is two loops that are out-and-back. So you see the same people and sights four times. My head just wanted to get to Mile 13 for the turnaround for the second loop. Then I knew I just had to do it once more. It kinda sucks when you see Mile 19 while running the first loop, knowing your sign is Mile 6. But I dreamt of the second loop when those teen markings would be mine.
Eating, drinking, taking salt tablets. That was the only break in the monotony. I saw the Male and Female top three athletes (labeled as such by the bike behind them). The women were 13 miles ahead of me. So strong and looking like champions.
When I got to about Mile 19 I was ready for this to be over. I could see my pace creeping up every mile. I tried to push it in the middle somewhere, but that was short-lived. At Mile 23, I did something I never have done at a race. I switched from Gatorade/water to Pepsi. Once you start Pepsi, that’s all you drink to avoid a sugar crash. It may have helped—not sure. By Mile 24, my right leg started to hurt (more than the rest of my body). I had to dig deeper and keep going knowing the Mile 25 sign was ahead and then it’s all downhill.
Then you can hear the announcer and crowd. And then you see them. I got passed by some jackwagon in my age group as I entered the finisher’s chute. Whatever dude, neither of us are going to Kona. He would have passed me anyway, because I had Jennifer and George staged to hand me the Chicago Cubs W Flag we bought just weeks ago (funny story about this I’ll save for another time). George begrudgingly handed it to me (he’s a Cleveland fan having grown up there), and I gave Jennifer a kiss. And the last 20 yards, I barely remember as I flew the W over my head.
I actually made up more ground from the swim during the run. I moved up 5 (almost 6 or 7) slots to finish 25th in my age group and 179 overall (out of 2250).
Of course, I could barely move, but the three of us made it out to dinner. A special thank you goes out to all those friends and family keeping track of me all day. Whenever I crossed a timing mat, I thought of all of you wrapped up the excitement of the day and rooting me on. I felt your presence, believe me. There was no way I was going to give up and back down—I didn’t walk—even in aid stations. Oh, I wanted to stop, but I knew I’d be “flying the W” soon enough if I’d keep the pace up.
I wanted to crack 4 hours on the run, but that pee stop at Mile 2 (and maybe the W) cost me a few ticks over. But, who cares. The day was a success–practically the perfect race as far as avoiding surprises and mistakes. Final time: 10:50:58. At IMTX (which was 17 miles shorter on the bike, 50 minutes perhaps), I finished in 11:30ish, in 117th. I’m happy, even if my body isn’t. I’m typing this at 2:00 AM because it woke me up and my mind was swimming with all the stuff to capture in this write up! Good use of the free hour, I guess.