I was feeling good going into the race because I had several strong race rehearsals on the computrainer and because I really nailed my taper as far as biking and swimming (I felt great energy and power on the bike and swim in the week leading up to the race). My only concern was that my run legs were still feeling awful after I apparently overdid it with one final 2 hour trail run 3 weeks out and that I hadn’t had a “successful” run since.
For the last 6 months I always imagined my race would go like this: I’d come out of the water in an OK position, move up to 30th or 40th place in my AG by the end of the bike, then run a heroic 3:05 marathon to get a Kona slot. Since I was banking on a strong run, I was a little concerned about my lack of strong run legs leading into the race.
I ate my usual 6-7 moderate meals the day before the race and actually managed to fall asleep early enough to get almost 8 hours sleep. I woke up before at 3:30 to have my usual pre race meal of 1.5 almond butter and banana sandwiches on sprouted grain bread plus a protein shake made of whey protein isolate and plain soy milk. I also ate ¾ of a cliff bar about 30 min before the start.
For the swim start I lined up pretty far inside and wondered where everybody was! It didn’t seem any more crowded here than anywhere else along the beach even though this was a much shorter line and provided convenient buoys for swimming a straight line. I guess so many people were avoiding the crowded part of the swim start that there was no crowd!
On the beach there was the usual clear line between the aggressive people and the relaxed people and I went right behind the aggressive people. I took a few whacks early on from people swimming over me from behind, which was a little fatiguing for a minute, but I very quickly settled into a rhythm. My plan was simple- don’t go anaerobic at the start, try to always be on a pair of feet, sight well, and make sure I am swimming aerobically (occasionally test myself to see if I can do 4-5 stroke breathing). The swim pretty much went exactly as planned and I finished the swim in just 1:03:54, which wasn’t bad for me on this slow swim course.
1:03:54, 26th AG, 158th overall
Walked on the sandy beach and up the steps, then jogged the rest.
I felt great immediately on the bike. The only problem was that my heart rate was high- in the 150s and it wasn’t coming down despite doing my planned wattage (I had hoped to bank lots of time in the 130s early on the first loop). My HR stayed high for pretty much the entire first loop. My wattage was conservative, my perceived exertion was low, but my heart rate was high. As the great philosopher Meatloaf once said, “2 out of 3 ain’t bad”, so I didn’t ease off despite the high HR. Also, my heart rate was sky high for my bike last year in Switzerland, and I think I paced myself properly there. But I was aware that I was taking somewhat of a risk and I would keep an eye open for signs that I was making a mistake.
When I passed by Caroline after the first out and back along the lake she told me I was in 26th in my AG after the swim! I was way ahead of schedule! I think I did an OK job of sticking to my wattage caps (trying to stay at 210 watts or below on the flats and 270 or below on the hills, except for the steepest hills), but I was probably a bit too aggressive on the first loop.
For the entire ride I was passing people on all the flat sections, but I got passed by many riders on the climbs. I was doing 290 watts on the steep hills and it seemed like lots of people were flying by me (mostly the people I just passed on the flats by riding 210 watts) like I was standing still.
When I finished the first loop I saw that I averaged 21.7 mph. I was far ahead of schedule and I made a conscious decision to be very conservative for the second loop. I was doing some math and figured that even if I slowed my pace a little I would be in an amazing position to achieve my goal of getting a Kona slot IF I could run a decent marathon. I was especially meticulous about coasting above 29-30 mph and soft pedaling above 25 mph on the second loop. I dialed it back quite a bit but was still passing people for most of the flat section back to the hills. Some people passed me and pulled ahead on the hilly section of the course, but I let them go and rode within myself. I rode conservatively all the way to the end of the bike leg and finished feeling pretty fresh. I averaged 21.4 mph on the 2nd loop and 21.5 mph for the entire ride.
Nutrition: I poured 1 water bottle per aid station into my aerodrink and added 2 squeezes of Heed concentrate. I was also eating 1/6 of a cliff bar every 10 minutes when my watch beeped. I think I drank about 1000 cals of heed, 200 cal of gu + 4 cliff bars on the bike for about 2200 cals or about 400 cal / hour.
BIKE: 5:12:45, 14th in AG, 70th overall
For me the most emotional part of the Ironman is starting the run and realizing that I have good legs. Would it happen this time? Yes! I started the run and my Garmin was giving me good news! I was running a good steady pace and feeling great. My first couple miles were 7:07 and 6:57, which is my typical transition run steady pace. My heart rate was a little high (158-159), but not bad. When I saw my wife Caroline, she told me that I was in 13th place after the bike! This was amazing news. Before the race I had geeked out on excel and figured that I would be in good shape for a Kona slot if I was in the top 30, maybe even top 50 coming off the bike.
The first 10k I focused on keeping my HR below 160 and not pushing. My next miles were 7:01, 7:09, 7:10, and 6:59 @ 159 bpm. I was feeling relaxed and good. The only problem was that I was barely passing anyone in my AG. After the first 10k I caught someone in my AG and figured I was somewhere around 10th. He picked up his pace to run with me and we stayed together for awhile and we kept marveling at how we didn’t pass anyone in our AG! I kept up the pace though to the half marathon, but I still figured I was in 9th place, just outside of a Kona slot.
Going into the 2nd loop I was concerned that I was starting to feel a little fatigue but I found I was able to raise my effort and maintain my pace. In the past I had always been afraid to push the 3rd 10k, but this time I had visualized pushing and my body was coming through for me. I did have some stomach issues during this time & I switched from cola to water for a couple of stations then started diluting my cola some and it worked itself out. I used all cola during the run and let’s just say that the hot Sam’s Club cola they were serving did not go down as easily as my ice cold Cokes did in race rehearsals. I raised my effort and heart rate (which was now in the low 160s), but I managed to do the 3rd quarter at only about 1 second / mile slower than the 1st quarter of the race. I think I picked off a couple of people on this 10k and figured I was in 7th or so- probably good for a Kona slot — if I didn’t get passed!
My first sign of troublesome fatigue happened on the hill before the turnaround- I looked down at my Garmin and I was going 9 min / mile! I remembered feeling this way at Wildflower and I stayed calm. I know I can stay fast on the flats and downhills just by maintaining good technique. I furiously race walked for 10-20 steps then started running again to the top of the hill.
After the turnaround I flew down the hill and mentally switched gears. I accessed that part of the brain that lets a mother lift a car off of her child. My mantra was “I can. I will.” I used anger. I used fear. I wasn’t going to put myself through another roll down. This is my slot. No one will take it from me. I told myself that even if my feet shatter I won’t slow down– I will hold 7 minute miles on bloody stumps. I told my body that it does not have permission to slow down. In my mind there were 2 runners behind me coming on fast to steal my slot and I was running scared. To slow down or be weak for even a second would risk everything I worked for over the last year. Fatigue was hitting hard in the last 2 miles through the neighborhoods. I skipped the last aid station and race walked over the last little hill with my arms pumping like a maniac!
Turning into the last straight away was amazing. It’s a gradual downhill and you can see the finish in the distance. I was the only one on the street for most of the way down and everyone was cheering and I could hear the music and Mike Reilly’s voice. All the way to the end I was running scared even though someone told me I was all alone turning the final corner. I was so close to my dream coming true that I didn’t even dare to slow down in the chute. I was asking people if anyone was behind me, but they couldn’t hear me. I was so tired that I tried to look behind me but almost lost my balance. I was trying to high five people in the chute but I couldn’t make contact with their hands.
I managed to only lose about 10 sec / mile off my pace for the final ¼ of the race (most of it on uphills) and I raised my HR up to 166 for mile 26 and up to 173 bpm coming into the finish.
Nutrition: I carry a .75 liter bottle with a flip top in my hand. When the bottle is empty, I refill it at least half way with cola at the aid stations. I would guess I probably drank 2-3 liters of cola on the run.
RUN: 3:10:04, 1st AG, 12th overall
After the finish Caroline told me that I finished 3rd in my AG! I couldn’t believe it — I never even considered the possibility of being in the top 3. After barely missing Kona by less than 10 minutes in my first 2 tries, I finally did it! I would barely be able to walk the next couple of days, but the pain was worth it.
OVERALL: 9:31:49, 3rd AG, 22nd overall
I loved this race and I signed up for next year. The course was beautiful. The rough water helped make the swim more than just a meaningless warm up. I saw a refreshing lack of drafting on the bike, even on the flats. And the run course has just enough undulations to keep it interesting. This was my first small town IM and the community support was amazing.