When I was 20 years old my father said, “This is the time of your life where your body is really receptive to building muscle” I responded: “That stuff just isn’t for me.” Triathlon has changed my way of life. I eat to live. Over the last 6 months I got serious about my diet and dropped about 20+ pounds. On race day I weighed in at 185 pounds with a body fat around 20%. This will mark the first time in my adult life where my body fat has been average (barely).
I wanted to go big for my first half ironman race. My primary goal was to be healthy going into the race. (I tried to do Big Bear last year, but I over trained and fractured my shin.)
The morning started off quietly. Woke up around 4am had half a bagel, a banana and about 12 ounces of Gatorade. This was the first race morning where everything went off without a hitch. Arrived at transition with plenty of time to spare and took my time setting up. Was shocked when I heard that this was not a wetsuit legal race, my strength is swimming so I just made a slight change to the gear selection. I always have trouble with races where my wave starts 90+ minutes after the start of the race. I tried as best I could to find shade and relax. I spent the previous weekend in Florida swimming in the ocean so I wasn’t too worried about the swim.
I was worried that the swim would be like the Nations swim, but it wasn’t anything like it. The waves were separated out nicely and it was relatively straightforward. I caught a couple of elbows to the back, and a stinger hit me in my rear—pretty much expected. I focused most of my swimming on sighting (didn’t want to swim off course to start the day off). I tried to balance speed and relaxing. Aside from the minor skirmishes in the water, mission accomplished.
I made the decision to change into actual bike clothes for the bike. I figured I would be riding for a while, so I might as well be comfortable. I used a towel to cover myself up, and it actually went pretty well. I wasn’t really worried about my T1 time, but I thought it was pretty solid considering.
For me the bike broke down into two parts. I had ridden the course before and bonked around mile 50. I chalked this up to poor nutrition, high winds, and torrential down poor. My last ride on this course was 3:20. I figure with a little race day endorphins, I might have a shot at 3:00.
As the ride started, I felt good, I had a bit of pain from the elbow in my rear, but I had a strong cadence and averaged 17/18 mph. The only thing I was a bit concerned about was that my HR was spending a bit too much time in Zone 4. I felt fine, but knew that 3 hours in Zone 4 might be a bit much. I focused on breathing and trying to keep my speed while dropping my HR. It worked and I got into the high end of zone 3 --atleast I was under my threshold. Right before I hit mile 28, I thought things were going well.
At mile 28 I encountered my first race flat. I somehow ran over what looked like a staple from a staple gun. It double punctured my tire and I could feel some bounce when I pushed down on my petals. I have changed tires before on the side of the road, but my real preference is to change a tire in my living room. I flipped my bike over and started the procedure. It took about 15 minutes and I was back on the road. Right before I finished the assistance vehicle came up, I asked if he had an extra CO2 catridge, but he said he only had a pump. I knew I should have asked to use the pump but my tire felt fine. I regretted this for the next 28 miles.
As I continued riding, I could feel my tire still giving a bit. I knew it was still a bit flat, but I also knew that I have ridden on a flat before and it just takes a bit more energy. I made the decision to expel energy and try to conserve (some) speed.
The one thing I didn’t account for was that the water stops would hand out warm Gatorade/water. This hoodwinked me. I couldn’t get my body to cool down and I was spending every bit of energy I had to make it back to transition. This turned the bike into a much more challenging adventure than I would have liked. I could tell my body was starting to have issues cooling down, but the quickest way to cold water was to finish the bike. Eventually I made it to where I could see everyone running, and I got a boost of energy. I finished the bike and wasn’t sure I could go on.
I was exhausted by the time I got to T2. I kept telling myself that once I got to the run there wouldn’t be any mechanical issues to deal with. I couldn’t find any ice. I could tell my body wasn’t doing well with the heat. I took enough time to get my HR down and I prepared for what would be the most physically demanding, mentally trying event in my life.
I am not a runner, but have spent almost the entire off season working on my run. I ran through the entire winter building up mileage to be ready for this race. By the time I got to the run I could tell my body was pushing a very serious danger zone. I tried to run the first mile, but the second I started running, my heart rate hit the roof and I could tell something wasn’t right. I finally made it to the first water stop and loaded up on water and 3-4 cups of ice.
Side note: The volunteer who went out of her way to get me a ridiculous amount of ice might have saved my life. This might sound dramatic, but I have never valued volunteers this much.
The run dragged on, I changed my Garmin to go from pace to distance (survival mode) and stumbled .10 miles and then jogged .10. It felt like I could not go on for almost the entire run. I felt like I had exhausted everything I had. But I kept stumbling on. The idea of a snow cone kept me going for miles. I finally made it to the halfway point, and realized I had a shot to make it—without my snow cone :-\.
I thought once made it to the halfway point I would have a little more energy motivation to go faster, but as the race continued I realized that my determination/motivation were maxed out and going forward was all I had left. I finally crossed the finishing line 8:05:48. Death before DNF.
It was the greatest challenge I have ever faced. It was harder than I ever could have imagined. By the grace of God I finished. I am an Eagleman. Next race 19 days away.