Tuesday, October 19, 2010


I don't remember my first Ironman, which I did last year, hurting as much as this one did. But now I feel that the race was a nice warm up and today I'm ready to do Ironman for real. The nervousness is gone, the confidence is back and now that I know I can do it, I'm ready to give it a try, only faster. Well, maybe I'll wait a while. The spirit might be willing but the body hasn't quite recovered.

That being said here's my Ironman experience:
I woke at 4 am with no butterflies or nervousness at all. I was actually calm. I ate a good breakfast - eggs and waffles -- and drank gatorade. Everything was going smoothly until it was time to head out to the King Kam for body marking. Then the butterflies hit full force. We headed down and I turned in my food bags and got my number stamped on my arms. Then Karen and I went inside the King Kam where I just tried to stay calm and finish getting ready for the race.

With about 45 minutes to go I started heading out to the pier. It was so crowded with age group athletes on the way to the pier I missed the Pro start and was starting to wonder if we were going to make it to the water in time for our start, which was 30 minutes later. I made sure I took time at the top of the steps leading into the water to pause and take in the scene.

Thousands of people lined the seawall. Hundreds of swimmers were reluctantly making their way into the water. Mike Reilly, the voice of Ironman, was coaxing us into the water with promises of glory at the end of the day. I hope I was calm enough to smile as I took it all in ( I was on the inside).

Just as I took my first step down toward the water a wave swept over most of us catching us off guard. So much for romanticizing my walk into the sublime sea, I thought. No Shakespeare came to mind this year. Just thoughts of a long, hard day.

I weaved my way through all the swimmers wading and waiting. I had no idea what time it was so I didn't know if we had five minutes or 15 minutes. I headed out to the left of the starting line. After a while Reilly said we had about 10 minutes until the start.

Ten minutes and it was already getting packed in my spot. I moved forward and more people showed up. I floated into Laura Sophia - someone who lives here part time, and is a much better swimmer than I am. She looked nervous and said it was crazy out there. I agreed and tried to back up a little but there were swimmers everywhere. By the way, Laura ended up becoming world champion in her age group.

Panic started setting in. Too many people. Ironman packed us in tight this year. Fear was in a lot of swimmers' eyes, including mine. Athletes were shivering, not so much from the water but from nerves. the final minutes before the start seemed to take an eternity.

I thought about swimming for shore and just waiting unitl after the cannon fired but there were too many swimmers blocking me in. Then I figured I can either be submissive or aggressive. Submissiveness is going to get me hurt, I thought. Aggressiveness is going to get me into open water. So I set my focus on the front row of swimmers and waited. Don't forget, I just learned to swim a few years ago so I'm still nervous in the water.

Four minutes, three minutes, two minutes, one. BOOM!
Feet, arms, legs, torsos are everywhere. The spray churned up by the athletes is blinding. The roar of the crowd deafening. Hitting. Getting hit, kicked and hit again. So much fun, fear and adrenaline you think you are going to explode with excitement, or die. Maybe both.

People have asked me if the swim start is as violent as it looks on TV. I answer them like this:
Pick any room in your house. Fill it with people until they are touching front and back and shoulder to shoulder. Then add a few more people. Let them stand there for a few minutes to get them really hot, nervous and panicky. Turn off the lights. Now count down 3,2,1, go and have them start doing jumping jacks as fast as they can. Get the picture? That's how my swim start was.

If I put my face in the water I got kicked and hit. If I swam with my head up I got clobbered from swimmers hands and elbows. But I was focused on just plowing through to open water. In the thick of it I think I got hit in the head every stroke for at least 10 strokes. BAM! BAM! BAM! Nonetheless, I made it to fairly clear water, drafting when I could and passing when I had room. Always trying to stay the aggressor, which is a change for me. Normally I'm pretty timid in the water. But I made it. I had a few cramping problems after the turn for home. That, combined with no speed suit this year I think is why my swim was about a minute slower than last year. But I felt stronger and was way more aggressive this year. TIME: 1:15

I tripped getting out of the water again this year. But as with last year, there were people there to help me up and get me on my way. The volunteers in the changing tent were super helpful in getting us on our way to the bike.

The bike was a lot faster than I planned it to be but I felt strong and rested so I just went with. I kept up on salt and hydration and hoped I wouldn't cramp up in my legs like last year. That was short lived however. By mile 50 my left quad started cramping. I was determined not to stop this year because of it though. So I just tried to pedal as best I could until the spasms subsided.

I pushed the last 25 miles pretty much as hard as I could trying to break 6 hours. My time ended up at 6:06, nearly 30 minutes faster than last year even with the cramps and some scary crosswind.

I'm not sure why my transition times were so slow, 8 minutes and 7 minutes. I didn't think I stayed that long but it is quite a run from the tent to the timing mat.

I knew the run was going to hurt because I pushed the last 25 miles of the bike pretty hard. And sure enough, I wasn't disappointed. It hurt. By mile 4 or so I was beginning to slow down. By mile 8 I was a minute off my goal pace time and things just got worse from there. At mile 14 my legs began to cramp forcing me to stop. I couldn't even walk. For a moment I was afraid my race was over. Someone ran by me and offered me some Ibuprofen but I knew that wouldn't help. I had been downing salt tabs and magnesium all day so all I could was wait it out. After a few minutes I tried walking, then jogging and finally the cramps subsided.

My goal this year was to get out of the Energy Lab before dark. Fortunately I met up with a guy who was running about the same speed as me and we both helped each other to keep going. We actually made it a mile or so down Queen K before it was completely dark. We ran and chatted like two old friends the rest of the race. I'm so thankful that I had someone to run with the final miles. I would probably still be out there if not.

The finish for me this year was in fast motion. I saw a lot of people I knew cheering me on as I was entering the chute and before I knew it I was through it and my second Ironman was complete.

It's hard not to compare this year's Ironman with last year's. All I can say is last years race was a perfect race for me. Maybe not physically. I had problems last year, too. But emotionally and, yes, even spiritually, last year's race was a dream. In a word, perfect. And honestly, I had TV cameras there to help motivate me last year. That combined with the newspaper stories all helped to make it a unique, once in a lifetime experience.

So this year's race, for me, was to prove to myself that I could do an Ironman without the extra help. Well, I did it but it hurt so much more than last year.

Karen, Rebecca and Aaron took lots of photos and I'll post them as I get a chance.

Giving Karen a kiss after 10 miles on the run.

That's me in the shadows at the beginning of the finishing chute.

The End!

This is a drawing I did for Bree Wee before Ironman. I meant to get it made into a poster for her but ran out of time. If you can enlarge the photo you should read the quote. If you know Bree, you'll know that this sounds just like her.

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