Almost perfect conditions, almost perfect execution, almost a ticket to Kona!
I chose to focus on good execution over any time goals. This meant being consistent with nutrition (almost all liquid) and staying in zone 2-3 all day, and then seeing if there was any room to accelerate on the last 6 miles of the marathon. In my previous races, by the time I got to mile 10 on the run, I was happy just to maintain forward momentum. So, I did better than ever before at ignoring everyone else and just moving forward at an easily maintainable pace. Aside from the minor inconvenience of the rain and a minor mechanical issue (rear shift lever screw came out on the 2nd time down the big hill), it was a great day. I deliberately avoided looking at anyone’s age marking, and just focused on keeping it slow and steady. After keeping it steady and controlled all day, I was so happy to actually be able to pick up my cadence on the run after the 2nd descent to River road (mile 16?), and kept that rhythmic breathing/high cadence going almost ‘til the end of the race.
Total: 11:00:24 10th place in the AG. 250th Overall.
The verbose version. Good execution begins with good planning, good preparation, and good perspective. Having signed up for this race a year in advance, I tried to gain some run fitness through the winter, and although our consistency wasn’t perfect, Ayumi and I both did pretty well (hitting our goals) at the Cherry Blossom 10 miler in DC. My plan was to run 20 miles every other Saturday and that was going well until I one time when at mile 19, my soleus seemed to separate painfully from my gastrocnemius (sp?) – Dr. Jake fixed me up in a few weeks – but I had taken an entire week off of everything before realizing I could swim and bike with no problem, and then I eased back into running.
Throughout all this training, having become an older athlete, I ensured that I was getting enough sleep, always tried to warm up thoroughly, and then to recover well (I swear by Endurox R4). I also cut way back on alcohol and less-healthy food intake, and very slowly worked my way down to a good race weight for me.
Given my best ½ IM bike split of 2:35, I’ve always felt I should easily be able to bike a 5:30 IM, but always seemed to run out of energy after 80 or so miles, no matter how much mileage I was getting in. So, in the winter/spring, I took advantage of Lisa Farias’ 3-hour trainer torture sessions on Sundays – That definitely made me stronger, as evidenced by an easier ride to work when I started commuting by bike again and by being able to maintain 20 mph or over at almost all the RBR workouts. Huge Thanks to Coach Lisa!
Huge Thanks to Heather B. as well for arranging to have Brian Shea of Personal Best Nutrition come and talk to us all. It made perfect sense to me that our bodies can maintain a higher energy output when they don’t have process any protein, fat, or fiber while exercising. I experimented with gradually putting more and more servings of CarboPro into a single water bottle, and had no problems with as many as 4 (that’s 800 calories of CP, plus 100 or so of Gatorade from powder in a single 24 oz bottle) on long rides. I would also use a camelbak for those rides, because I knew I’d have the aero bottle on the bike on race day, and could get as much water as I wanted in small amounts. On race day, I carried some various gummies and Gu’s in my bento box, and a zip-lock back of CP and powdered IM perform in my Tri-suit pocket. Zipped past the Bike Special needs area, and stopped at the next aid station and poured the powder, and ice water into that same bottle for another 500 calories. I also had on stinger waffle on the bike, just to have a little chewing satisfaction. In each of the CarboPro bottles, I also added about 4 SaltStick tabs, one Endurolyte (for the ‘other’ electrolytes), and one caffeinated CP tab.
Almost all liquid nutrition.
Just a few days before this race, I realized I had to mentally abandon the pursuit of a Kona slot, in order to focus on that “easy all day long” RPE.
Swim 1:10:xx about 3 minutes off my PR of 1:07:xx …and I know I can do better.
The swim start was very much to my liking and preferences. I breathe on the right every stroke, and like to keep the crowd on my right – I also don’t believe a swim needs to be violent. I hit the first lap at 33:xx and was quite happy with that – then drafted off a big guy (thought it might have been Sergio) for the whole second lap. We were out on the outside lane, and I never once saw the cable. I knew that second lap was slower than I could have gone, but my RPE was a 2 at most. That lap was 36:xx minutes, and I thought it was close to a PR swim, so I thanked the big guy for pulling me the whole way and told him it was a PR – he seemed pretty happy with the swim too.
T1 is long – I passed a lot of folks on the run, and was disgusted to see some brute rudely shove someone aside to race by. Suggestion 1 – make the T1 run chute wider- just a couple feet.
With the rain, I wanted to wear my rain vest, and had left my bike gloves in my T1 bag so they’d be dry (normally I put them on the bar ends and put them on while riding (please practice this before race day)) so T1 was ridiculously long at 8:48 – I also had to take a few tries to get clipped in, because I usually leave the shoes on the bike. Note of concern: As I headed out of the tent, I shouted my number because some volunteers appeared to be fetching some people’s bikes, but someone said, “Too high” – WTH? If you’re getting bikes for people, it should be the ones furthest away to level the playing field. Whatever – I had to run to get my bike and run all the way to the bike start, while some lucky SOB’s were having their bikes brought to the Tent area. Suggestion 2: Make the transition distances equal for all athletes – either deliver all bikes – or none. Everyone should appreciate the fairness of having to cover the exact same distance in transition.
Bike: 5:53:xx – Three minutes off my PR of 5:50:xx …and I know I can do better.
Thanks to the rain, I found it easy to take it really easy on the first loop. I hit the first loop at 2:50 – way ahead of what I thought I’d do based on having come up in May with Lisa F and the gang. Since my RPE had been so manageable, I thought I was on track for a 5:50 time – equal to a PR at significantly less effort. Then on the second time down the big descent, the screw that holds the shift lever in seemed to have disappeared. So, the rear cassette was inclined to stay in the smallest ring. I thought this might make some of the climbs tough, so ((This is Ironman – problems will happen – resolve them and keep moving forward!)) I simply held it in place, wherever I needed it, for the remaining 50 miles. – At one point, I realized the rubber band helping to hold the aero-bottle in place could reach around the shift lever and hold it in place for a few minutes at a time. That allowed for brief periods of “normal” posture on the climbs. We can’t control many things – but we can control our reactions – I decided to focus on the fact that this mechanical issue forced me into an aero riding position for more of the ride than I normally would ridden. So I was happy enough to finish the bike in under 6 hours, but I know I can do better in the future. Pretty early on in the bike, I had started to nibble on the gummies, but as soon as I started to feel a slight twinge of a cramp, I switched back to the CarboPro mix because I knew there was sodium in it. Either the salts or the placebo effect worked.
T2 4:48:xx - decided to change out of wet socks into dry compression socks – nice, but makes for a slow transition. No regrets.
Run: 3:43:xx same as my PR 3:43:xx, and that was 9 years ago! So, Yes, I’m happy with that, …and I know I can do better.
So, for the first time in an Ironman, I felt fine starting the run. None of the “OMG there’s No F-ing way I can do this” or “well at least I have time to walk the whole thing” (that’s how I felt at Louisville). And I just eased into it. I carried a “dry bottle” – with 3 servings of Carbo Pro – plenty of salts, and some Gatorade (to have a different flavor than what was on the course) in powder form. At the first aid station, I dumped in two cups of Ice and two cups of water, and that was my fuel for pretty much the whole first half of the run. I did have one sip of coke at about mile 6, which was much earlier than I normally would, but it sounded good, and I took that as a signal from my body that that was what I needed. I kept it steady at RPE 3 for the first 16 or so miles – deliberately not looking at anyone’s age on their legs. After that, it was time to go for it, I had never felt this good at this point before. I was also sampling different things at each aid station on the second half, so I felt like I was at the threshold, but I was able to maintain it. Once I got into a deep breathing-high cadence rhythm I found it easy to maintain. This rhythm was so strong that I didn’t want to get distracted by the various music folks were playing out of their houses or cars. I had some pretty troubling pain in my right leg from about mile 6 or so on the run, but I thought of Jim Mitchell, and my pain became insignificant. I knew there was some Tylenol in my special needs bag, and that seemed to kick in a few miles after I took it.
I had really only been planning to “work hard” on that long out-n-back along River road, so I took it very easy heading up the hill (to reach the 22 mile mark) and was quite surprised to find at the top of the hill, that I was pretty quickly able to get back into that rhythm. You get stronger as you get closer to the finish…. On most courses. But that hill back into town is not your friend. Suzy was at the bottom of it. And Yes, I knew what time it was. WWSD? (how hard would Coach Suzy push you? …beyond RPE 5 to RPE-Suzy) Unfortunately, that increased effort and the hill, must have put me slightly over the threshold because the little drink I had at that next to last aid station didn’t stay down. Glad it was just a little – and didn’t’ slow me down much. I didn’t push the last ½ mile but just kept it steady b/c I was already happy with the overall time. Big Thanks to Coaches Suzy and Danny – who helped me realize that in training I could push myself a lot harder than I had been (after a thorough warm up of course).
The whole race I had been trying to think of a finish line gesture or dance, but there’s just no competing with the Sergio Shuffle…. I’m gonna have to learn those steps.
Everyone has said it in various ways, and there’s just no way athletes can thank the volunteers enough – But I’ll try by going back to volunteer for you/them next year. And the biggest thanks of course, goes to my wonderful, supporting, and awesome Ayumi –All you’ve done over the last year, culminating in your screaming and jumping on race day made me (and the whole team) smile and laugh and eased our pain and raised our spirits, and made the whole experience that much more incredible. I can’t wait to support you at your first ½ and full IM races… (Although I don’t think I can scream that loud!)