We did not have an alarm clock in our room, so I set both cell phones and one of my watches to wake us up. I set them staggered 5 minutes apart to make sure any sleepiness got kicked in the butt! Around 3:15 I woke up to use the bathroom, and in glancing at the clock on the microwave I thought it was 3:45, so when I got back in bed I just rested and thought about the race. When the alarm didn’t come I looked again, and now it said 3:23 “ so I actually had another half hour! Back to sleep I went. Right on time at 4 the first alarm went off, so I jumped out of bed “ started the coffee and had two of my breakfast yogurts.
Around 4:15 I nudged Mary out of bed, and started gathering my things. About 4:30 we left and walked the ½ mile to the Transition area. I went in to get my bike and gear ready, and Mary walked down a little further and dropped off my special needs bags.
I got everything prepared pretty quickly “ and by a little after 6 we went inside the hotel and found a quiet corner to relax. I listened to music on my mp3 player and visualized about my race.
Sometime around 6:30 or so “ Mary and I headed outside to the start area. It was a lot less hectic to get to the start line “ mostly because rather than crossing the timing matt and having to enter the water right away, we were able to spread out along the beach.
6:50 “ boom off went the pros. I moved up to the edge of the water and chatted with a couple of folks looking for someone planning to swim my speed to find some feet.
7:00 “ boom off we went. The start was about 15 quick steps through the surf followed by a couple of dolphin dives and then swimming. Sticking to my plan I hung back and didn’t make any strong efforts, my mission for the swim was to stay relaxed and find feet. By the first buoy I had slipped into a group of 4 people. Two guys in front; and then myself and another in the second row. There may have been more behind us, I’m not sure.
I was towed through the first loop in just under 26 minutes, but I knew the second loop would be a little slower because of the shallow diagonal stretch to the outbound buoys and I presumed that it would be rougher waves on the second loop.
I got through the diagonal stretch before the driver of my group “ so I just plodded along until he came charging through – as soon as he did myself and another person latched on, this time single file with me third.
We swam that way until the stretch that was parallel to shore “ the chop had really picked up at this point of the morning and I wasn’t able to hold on to them with the waves. When I turned to head into shore they were about 10 yards in front, and 5-10 yards wide “ so I just continued in towards shore at the same effort of my swim.
I exited the water feeling good with 54 flat as a swim. I moved through T1 pretty uneventfully.
I started the bike with the intent of riding easy for the first 40-60 minutes, trying to keep my power below 220, intending to start riding a closer to steady between mile 25-30, and then depending on how I was feeling push just a touch more around mile 55-60.
The first hour went pretty well, my heart rate fell relatively quickly to about 140, but didn’t seem to fall much more “ I focused on the game plan of riding easy, intending to event extend the easy riding to get Power, PE, and HR all in line. Sometime between miles 10 and 15 a few guys started riding through, all of them riding much faster than I was, so I didn’t even try to stay with them. One of them road up to me right around the hour mark, and it was a good opportunity to grab on and see what happened. He and I road together for a while “ bouncing back and forth as the follower would bump up into the draft zone. After long of this a group of 5 or 6 guys riding together rode through “ very legally IMO. My buddy grabbed onto them and I was quickly about 100 meters behind them.
Without much added effort I was able to maintain the gap, and after about 5 minutes decided to burn a couple of matches to close the gap and sit on the back of the line. I have to admit “ it was a neat experience to sit in a group of cyclists riding together stretched over 100 meters or so “ very much like you see of the pictures of the pro race in Hawaii. Everyone in the group seemed to be very aware of the distance requirements and rules regarding passing.
About two hours into the race I realized that I was reaching a critical decision point: while I was currently riding below my planned effort for this stretch (210-210 vs. 220-230), my heart rate was not coming into line with my PE and Power “ my aerobic system felt just a little to strained for an Ironman. Do I plow forward with the plan or do I back off “ taking advantage of a flat course and the downhill/tail winded back-half and do my best to enable a strong run. I decided that I would drive the plan until about half way and decide then.
Around this point the group passed through a major intersection and I accelerated a bit to my planned power “ this more or less pushed me from the back of the group to the front of the group “ for a few minutes. After a bit, either I started to slow, or other guys in the group made a move also, I drifted to the back and then let myself fall off “ keeping a steady pace.
After a few minutes another group rode through (also legal), we hit special needs, and then turned onto 231 “ shortly after that a group of more guys than I can count rode through “ not legal at all. Clustered together wheel to wheel, two wide at some points “ I just let myself drift back. It was not quite halfway yet, but I knew that the correct choice was to back down, coast the bike in and try to run myself in to a good finish.
It took riding at ~180 watts to get my HR down that I felt comfortable with, fortunately the smooth roads, pitch and wind direction was extremely favorable and this generally resulted in speeds of 24+ mph.
The remainder of the ride was uneventful, just easy riding and positive self talk to prepare for the run.
T2 went quickly and uneventfully. I started the run feeling better than I expected “ not great, in reach of a 9:3X if I just put out a 3:3X marathon. The first mile passed to fast (of course), but I focused on slowing my pace, taking in hydration and nutrition. My heart rate was sky high for the pace I was running, but I was determined to get the job done, it’s the end of the day, the end of the season. I can sleep in the med tent after the race if I have to. The only problem I had on the run was that every 5 to 10 minutes my breathing would get very short, and I would have to focus on my breathing to get it back into a normal breathing pattern. I did my best to shout out encouragement to all that I saw. I’m not sure where it happened, but somewhere between miles 10 and 11 I decided that I needed to start walking the aid stations. I just felt that my stomach wasn’t working well and while it would cost me some short term time, the way my running pace was gradually slowing it would help to enable me to maintain an overall 9-10 minute mile pace.
I continued my walk/run pace “ and at mile 14 was confident that I would be able to pull in just under 10 hours “ almost an hour slower than my best case scenario, but not bad. Suddenly around 16 or so, I fell apart, my aid station walking turned into a stagger. I just kept moving forward feeling like I looked like an 80 year as I walked. I moved through a couple of miles like this “ figuring this would be the remainder of my day.
Shortly after mile 18 “ as we turned back onto Thomas drive to head into the state park, I got mad. Mad for wasting a year of my life to have two days like this “ more than one race that wasn’t just bad, but was a pure disaster. What a waste of time, money, effort “ I was furious with myself. It felt like these thoughts churned in my mind for about 5 minutes, but in reality it was about 5 feet of walking “ and suddenly I was running again. I was determined to fuel 6 miles of running on my anger, and when I hit the next mile marker and realized that I actually had 7 miles to go I was even more furious. I ran on that anger until mile 22 or 23 when my arms started to cramp, I walked two aid stations to stretch them out and take some salt tablets. I was able to run the last couple of miles on sheer determination to finish “ each step getting easier as I was pulling myself closer and closer to the finish line.
I finished up in 10:27 “ when all is said and done it is a pretty respectable time. Not what I had hoped for, but I learned a lot during the day. And when considered along with the rest of my season, perhaps a sign that I need to take a step back and refocus.