Friday, November 29, 2013

Ironman Race Recap

We woke up way too early, about 3 a.m.  Let me tell you something.  You might think we’d bound out of bed all excited and ready to do this race, right?  So excited unable to sleep?  Yeah, not so much.  I woke up as grumbly as I have for any training day this year or any other race. 

T and I walked over to Starbucks where we’d grab coffee, a couple pastries, and some spinach feta wraps for breakfast.  I don’t know if they just didn’t taste as good as they normally do, or if it’s the fact it was 3 in the morning, but whatever it was, I managed to eat about ½ of the wrap.  I saved my cheese croissant for transition and we milled about the room for a bit more before finally deciding to venture to the race. 

Once there, we found our bikes and spots in trans.  T had her bike checked out by the mechanics and I had my tires pumped up.  Then I tried to find out where Kris and Mark were.  The idea was to meet up with them just prior to dropping off my morning clothes bag so I could toss my cell phone in there.  Met up with them in plenty of time, handed them the baby dinosaurs, got some good vibes and kudos, and then found our friend Corie.  We chatted with her for a bit, took a couple pictures, and then got in line with the rest of the team so we could enter the water. 

You may find this hard to believe, but about a minute or two before I hit the water, I was overcome with a serious feeling of apprehension.  I don’t know if I was afraid of the cold water, the mass start, or it was simply nerves, but I was very close to bailing.  Last year, as a volunteer, we heard that a guy hopped in the water, said “fuck this” and hopped right out.  That very well could have been me.  Imagine that.  $783 in race fees, countless hours spent on the road, swimming 4K in the pool, and I was ready to bail!  Luckily, I just kept moving.

Jumping in the water, I started cursing a lot, not out of anger or frustration or pain, but out of sheer jubilation.  The race was finally here!  It was time to show off everything I had been working at for 11 months, and really, for years.  Because let’s be honest; since 2008 when I watched that YouTube video of Kona, Ironman has always been my dream.  I knew I’d get there someday; today was that day.

I sat on a ledge for a minute or two, just to slow my heart rate down.  The excitement in the air obviously got me a bit excited and I didn’t want to start the race jumpy.  T and I stuck together until the cannon went off, wishing each other well and promising it would be a good day.  A quick kiss goodbye, a love you, and suddenly the cannon went BOOM!  My Ironman journey was beginning!

The Swim
Anyone who has ever described an Ironman Swim Start as a washing machine is being generous and downplaying it.  As T put it, it’s more like the movie Titanic after the boat goes down and everyone is clinging to someone or something trying to survive.  That’s what an Ironman Swim Start is like.  Survival is just it.  You know for the first several hundred meters you’re going to be fighting for space, so instead of stressing, just accept and know it’ll come.

T and I must have been more towards the back, although you’d never know.  Bodies were flailing everywhere.  People were looking around, almost confused, like this was a novel concept or something.  Me, I put my head in the water when I could, and when I couldn’t, I propelled my way forward using any method I could.

Probably 2-300 meters in, I was able to start settling down and swim.  I was really really focused on taking it slow, ensuring my breathing was stellar.  See, I wasn’t planning on being fast this day.  No sir, I was planning on having the endurance to keep going after the swim.  What good is it to swim 2.4 miles if you have nothing left in the tank for the ride AND the run?  So I kept very steady. 

Just before the turn around, some dude kept zigzagging into my swim path.  I understand, sighting isn’t easy, especially with the sun right in your face, but c’mon, man!  This was insane.  I sped up just to get away from him, but he sped up too!  I was slightly annoyed, so I actually moved quite a bit over. 

The turn is the only part for the rest of the swim where I got bottled up.  Everyone wanted to hug the buoy to minimize time in the water.  Makes sense, but damn it led to some snarls.  I didn’t get caught up too badly and kept pressing on.

Here’s some random thoughts I had on the swim (yes I was thinking things):

-       It’s kind of cool to swim under a bridge
-       Wasn’t there a helicopter last year?
-       They’re taking off of runway 8 at PHX
-       Those condos are nice.  Won’t we run by them later?
-       I’m not cold
-       This lake is yucky
-       Another Southwest airplane
-       That bridge isn’t coming up.  Why is it so far away?

When I hit the turn to head inbound, the buoy got ridiculously crowded and I actually treaded water for a second.  A dude and I made eye contact and laughed at the mass hysteria.  But I knew I was going to make the cut.  There were a lot of bodies around still heading in, which was a great sign.  When I made the steps, I forced myself to slow down.  I sat on the edge, and very slowly pulled myself up.  Mindful of T’s toe injury the day before and her nasty ankle injury, I refused to be a casualty.  A volunteer helped me up, and I jogged up the steps.  Now I finally took a look at my watch and saw 1:30 something.  Satisfied, I worked my way to the back of the wetsuit stripper line, got my wetsuit peeled off, and headed into the change tent.  Swim done!

Knowing my back was not against any clock, I took my time, making sure I had everything together.  After grabbing my gear bag, I spent extra time body gliding and sunscreening.  A volunteer helped me gather everything and I was so grateful.  Quick schnarfing a BonkBreaker bar,I ran out of the change tent and towards my bike.  A volunteer more or less ran with me to my bike and pulled it off the rack.  I grabbed it, handed him the wrapper of my bar, ran out, and began the next journey.

The Bike
Coming out of T1, the strip of road is super narrow, and instead of mounting right away, I ran down a bit before I found a clear spot.  Pedaling slowly to get my legs under me, I saw our friend Scott, who is doing his own Ironman next year and wanted the experience of being there with us.  I pointed at him, smiled, and started on my way.  And of course, I saw my friend Mike at the turnaround point.  I yelled something to him about the Simpsons and began my ride in earnest.

So that pre-ride that we did?  The one that filled me with a boatload of confidence and had me figuring I was going to hit some ridiculous speed?  Yeah, that wasn’t happening early.  Speed was hard to find and certainly wasn’t what I thought It’d be.  Nonetheless, I had a simple gameplan for the bike: keep my cadence in the 85-90 range and whatever speed I hit, I hit.  I also planned on eating every 3-4 miles and going heavy on the water.  Salt would be taken in about every hour.

The first loop was pretty quick.  Climbing out on the Beeline highway, the climb was definitely taking effort, which I had anticipated.  Still, I was a tad surprised.  I was working on adequate food intake and liquid intake, but at some point, I literally became full.  I think after eating two Oreos and a few Bonkbreaker chunks, I was done eating for awhile.  However, I made sure to keep my fluid intake up.  I had water in my aero bottle and a bottle of Skratch in my cage.  A lesson I’ve learned from past races is that I tend to take in too much fluid early in the race, get the sloshy feeling, and then not drink until late, thus getting the sloshy feeling on the run.  Therefore, I was going to pace myself.  Given that it wasn’t too hot out, I would be fine.  However, I dropped my salt and Advil early moving things around in my Bento Box, and I hoped/prayed that I could manage.  I wasn’t in muscular pain, nor did I have a headache, so Advil wasn’t necessary, but salt…well…we’d see.

When I came back down the Beeline, I pedaled like a man possessed.  Threw it down into a pretty big gear and enjoyed myself.  Probably averaging 22-23 mph for 10 miles or so, I was feeling great.  I felt no fatigue and while I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep that pace for the long term, at least I was accumulating time and speed.  I also saw T and smiled, knowing she was on the bike course.  We yelled something of encouragement, although I don’t remember what.  Coming into the turnaround point, I saw my parents and waved, and yelled something to Mike, who was the slow-down guy.  Probably something sarcastic about not wanting to slow down.

Loop two was definitely a grind.  An awful grind.  The sun was higher overhead, and the hills were being felt a lot more.  I kept up my cadence, but my legs were feeling the fatigue.  Now keep in mind, during training, I did a lot of long rides, including 70, 85, 100, and a couple 60 mile rides + the ½ Ironman.  I was over 40 miles in, yet my legs were beginning to feel a bit fatigued.  Not a good sign.
Up near the top of the Beeline, I saw Kris and Mark, which definitely boosted my morale.  They told me T was doing fine, and that made me even more relaxed.  I also realized that I was now halfway through the bike.  That, my friends, is the best feeling in the world. 

Bombing back down was not as easy this time around.  My legs were suddenly feeling like lead.  I repeated one thing in my mind: patience.  Patience was a mantra I developed early in my training.  To me, it is simply allowing the gains to come to you.  Don’t chase things, and don’t push it.  The lesson I learned from Cheyenne in 2010 came back to me as well: to speed up, slow it down.  So mentally, I was fine.  But physically, I was worried I was starting to break down.  To break up the monotony, and to force myself to take in some salt, sugar, and enjoy what I was doing, I stopped at my bike special needs to drink some Sprite.  It was something that sounded really good.  Coke, for whatever reason, did not.  I drank one-half of the bottle, rested a bit, reapplied sunscreen and body glide, and moved on.  I figured I’d eat some pizza I had in my box too to increase my salt.

I saw my parents at the turnaround again, and they were certainly a sight for a fatigued Baby Dinosaur.  I forced myself to head back out one more time.

People talk about the wall, and Matthew Inman talks about the Blerch.  I don’t know what it is, but let me tell you what happened at mile 80.  My brain started to shut down.  My legs didn’t want to spin anymore.  The fatigue and grind of the race was really bearing down on me, and while I wasn’t worried about making the bike cut (I was still looking to come in under 6:30:00) I was still thinking about T and hoping her ankle would hold.  Coming down on loop 2, she said she was in pain. 

So here we are, loop 3, and I’m attempting to stab the imaginary pain that is trying to make my body slow down.  The sun is hot now, I’m damn near bored, and my body pretty much just went into “go” mode. 

Around mile 90, I saw Ky, my teammate and friend, on the side of the road.  It was obvious she was wrecked.  I stayed with her for a bit, chatting with her.  She said some bloke clipped her and down she went.  She was on loop two and mailing it in.  I didn’t blame her and told her I’d stay until the sag wagon got there.  She refused to let me, telling me to keep going.  Taking her words to heart, I hopped back on my bike, and suddenly the wall/Blerch/imaginary pain I wanted to stab was gone.  I was prepared to move, dammit!

Up at the top of the Beeline, I again saw Kris and Mark, and hopped to actually chat with them and scratch the baby dinosaurs.  They said T was still doing well, but slowing down a bit.  I told them about my fallen teammate and they wished her well.  After that, I grabbed some more water at the aid station and headed back down.
Let me tell you something.  There’s a scene in Breaking Bad (spoiler alert) in the final episode where Jesse is imagining himself working with wood.  And he’s making this beautiful carving, with sunlight pouring into what appears to be a beautiful workshop.  Suddenly he’s snapped back to reality, and he’s chained up working to make meth for the Nazis.  If there’s a Nirvana, a euphoric feeling, whatever you want to use, I found it on the way down.  Suddenly riding in the desert was beautiful.  The cacti were talking to me.  I chatted with a few other cyclists, sharing war stories and just enjoyed myself.  There was no pain.  It was just me and the bike and the road.  Truly, I have never felt that feeling of peace on the bike, but if I can duplicate it someday, well…

Coming back onto Rio Salado, I threw it into granny gear and just spun.  I flushed as much lactic out as I could and enjoyed the last mile or so.   Saw my parents yet again, gave them a big smile, and headed into transition.  Not having to flip and make that turn was a feeling of glory.  Straight up.  I handed a volunteer my bike and shuffled to the gear bags.  Another volunteer handed me my bag, and I went into the tent.

I looked at my watch and was highly satisfied.  I was going to have nearly 8.5 hours to complete the run.  I could walk the damn thing and make it!  No problem!.  Therefore, I REALLY took my time in T2.  Not that I could have gone fast, trying to get those stupid compression socks on, but damn they were worth it.  The volunteer and I made small talk, he helped me apply some sunscreen and I put on Bodyglide.  I asked for a shot of whiskey, but no dice. J  Headed out of the tent, skipped the crappy sunscreen (I know, I put it on people last year), started my Garmin, and was ready to tackle my first marathon.

The Run
So remember those sub-9 minute miles I was doing in training right off the bike?  Yeah, that wasn’t going to happen.  My legs were completely shot, destroyed from 112 miles of riding.  I then realized I was going to be very slow, and instead of sulking and worry about it, I was simply going to embrace it.  In other words, embrace the suck!

Until about mile 4, I was struggling.  I couldn’t get my legs under me.  Even after seeing T come out of transition and knowing she was going to make it, I couldn’t quite get it going.  But around mile 4, I felt better and started to actually run.  I attempted to make friends, but no one really seemed interested. 

Around mile 6, I saw another teammate, one who raced at Boulder 70.3 coming back.  He was around mile 11 and feeling great.  I wished him luck and told him I’d see him soon. 

At this point, I had hit nearly every aid station, taking in water and Perform, being very careful about not taking in too much Perform.  I also took in grapes and orange slices, but that was about all I wanted for food.  I discovered something wonderful; ice can be great for both cooling down and hydration.  I carried cups of ice with me from the aid stations and loved it.
Just before the TriSports aid station, the one we volunteered at last year, I saw Kris and Mark yet again.  They told me T was doing well, and walked with me for a bit.  Passing through the aid station, I yelled for Seton and Debbie, but didn’t see them.  I’m sure I looked like a crazy delusional triathlete, but whatever.  And lo and behold, who would I see right after the aid station?  The other member of Team Baby Dino!  She was doing great, looking really strong.  So right about now, she was in between mile 5 and 6 and I was between 10-11.  There was no doubt in my mind now that we would both finish.

Coming back, I actually made two friends.  They were friends from Utah who had both done Ironmans.  They liked to finish together, so they stuck together through the races.  One was telling me he was struggling bad.  The other told me I should walk so that T could catch up to me and we would finish together.  I didn’t know if I should, and pondered it for a bit. 

Coming up to the half point, I saw our friend Scott, and he walked with me for a bit.  He said I was looking great, to stay strong, and I would finish great.

So at the halfway point, here’s where I was at.  Every 5 miles, I was hoping to hit in 1:10:00.  That would bring me in just over 6 hours, which would be highly respectful.  Furthermore, it would bring me in under 15 hours, which would be awesome.  At the ½ point, I was just over 3 hours, like 3:01, so if I could hold it, I’d be fine.

And then…let’s rinse and repeat the entire course!  Seriously.  It was the 2nd loop, and the grind became much more evident.  The run course was becoming quieter.  People were finishing, yet here I was still plugging away.  Yet I knew in the back of my mind I was over half done.

Around mile 16, I saw T starting loop 2.  I asked her if she wanted me to wait for her, and she said “up to you!”  So again, I debated.  I saw my parents, T’s parents, Kris and Mark again, and handed my mom my arm warmers.  Then I decided to keep running for awhile.  This was unchartered territory for me!  I’d never run further than 16 miles.

Yet mile 18 or so, I slowed.  To a walk.  The two guys reemphasized walking to have T meet up with me, so I made a decision to do it.  That lasted until about mile 19.5, when I saw my parents on the other side of the lake.  They had literally walked across the bridge to say hi to me!  I was amazed, happy, and glad to have the company.  They told me that even walking, there was no way she’d catch me; she was about 40-50 minutes behind me still and it just wasn’t going to work.  Plus, I realized that if something happened to her, it could jeopardize my race.  Therefore, right there, at mile 20, I picked it up.

Around 21-22, I ran into another teammate, Derek.  We hadn’t met before, but it was great to meet on the course.  We walked/ran and chatted for a bit, but definitely walked more.  He had a friend he met on the course, who I found out later was a congresswoman out of California.  Pretty cool, quite frankly. 

Mile 23, I saw Kris and Mark again.  By this point, I was pretty much walking the entire thing.  My goal of sub-15 was gone, but I was still going to finish and I didn’t worry about it.  Kris forced me to run down the hill to Seton’s aid station.  This time, Seton was on the microphone that TriSports has, and we shared a big hug.  He got the volunteers to whoop it up for me and it was just the boost I needed for the final 3 miles.

And again, right after the aid station, I again saw my parents.  I was truly impressed with their dedication of being there for me.  Let’s be honest; they haven’t been crazy about my ventures into triathlon.  Growing up, I was not a runner.  I was a hockey player.  Hockey was my love, and let’s face it, I still love the game very much.  But triathlon has given me a new purpose in life.  I’m healthy, happy, and I was about to achieve something that very very few people achieve.  I think my parents had a great appreciation for it that day, and I’m just proud they were a part of it. 

Then mile 23.5 hit, and any running strength I had was gone.  I mean, dead gone.  I would run 5 feet and have to walk.  Then I’d try again, and walk.  It seemed I was spent.  For the rest of the race, I was going to have to walk.  But again, I knew I was going to finish. 

At mile 25, I started some reflecting.  In the pitch black night of the Arizona desert, I reflected upon the journey.  The 11 months preceding, the long swims, the fall I took in early September on my bike, and the simple fact that in 2009, if you would have told me that I’d be an Ironman triathlete, I’d laugh at you.  That is what I reflected on.

At some point, two volunteers talked to me, and asked me where my tattoo was going.  I gently told them I wasn’t interested in a tatt, and they told me I’d change my mind.  They congratulated me and wished me well.  Suddenly, out of nowhere, I had a boost of energy, and started running.  I mean, this wasn’t the shuffle I had done most of the day.  No, this was a RUN.  A solid run.  I was hightailing it to the finishers chute and was elated.

Running up a slight incline, I saw some people on the side of the road.  I pumped my arms to get them to cheer, and they responded.  I turned the corner, and hit the finishers chute.

Let me tell you something about the finishers chute at an Ironman, especially being a slow age-grouper.  It’s nuts.  Just nuts.  The lights are bright.  There are photographers everywhere.  And the amount of cheering?  I’ve scored game-winning goals in hockey, in front of a lot of people.  I’ve had people cheer for me.  Yet, at that precise moment, in that finishers chute, the amount of cheering for me, and me alone, was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in my entire life.  The jubilation that came over me was overwhelming, and it took everything I had to not cry.  I saw my friend Scott and pointed at him, smiling.  I heard Mike Reilly say my name, and pointed up at him in his tower.  And then, with 140.6 miles behind me, and a huge amount of training, I raised my arms in a glorious fashion, pointed to the time, and became an Ironman!

I was immediately grabbed by a volunteer and a mylar blanket was wrapped around me.  She walked with me, congratulating me, leading me to the photographers.  Along the way, I was given a medal and a shirt/hat.  I didn’t want any water. 

After the photo, I went into the finishers area, wondering what my food options were.  I was handed a bottle of chocolate milk and was happy for that.  I grabbed a basket of fresh French fries and a couple slices of pizza.  I ate about half the fries and a slice of pizza, then headed down to grab my cell phone.  I wanted to hurry and see T.  A volunteer found my run gear bag for me, which was great.  I pulled out my cell and someone was calling me.  It was my friend Steve, who used to do triathlons.  He and I had discussed them in college, and he actually probably planted the idea of the Ironman bug into my head.  He congratulated me, saying he had been tracking me all day.  That gave me an idea of the support I had that day.

I texted my parents and they met me at the park entrance.  They helped me get my compression socks off and more or less just supported me while we walked back to see T.  I made it back just as she crossed.

She came over, hugged me, and I headed back into the area.  We got a picture together and grabbed a bit of food for her.  Then we headed back out and met up with our entire entourage.  My parents, T’s parents, Corie, Mike, Kris and Mark.  Talk about support!  Seriously.  T and I sat there, and Kris and Mark went to get our gear bags and bikes.  My parents and T’s parents skedaddled, and again, I cannot emphasize how awesome they were.  Corie, Mike, Kris and Mark, and myself hung around until midnight, then we walked back to our hotel with promises to see Corie and Mike the following day.  Kris and Mark would be unavailable, but we didn’t mind.

We made it back to the hotel, sore, tired, exhausted, but with the title of Ironman. J

Monday, November 25, 2013

My Pre-Ironman

It’s one week to the day after I crossed the finish line of Ironman Arizona, and I think my thoughts are finally put together enough to blog about it.  The entire race.  The days leading up to the race.  And most importantly, how I’m feeling after the race.  This will be one of those blog posts where you already know the result, so I’m going to work with that as a starting point, then go back to the beginning.  15:24:52

Monday Night
I got home Monday night somewhat early, able to commute from the east coast on a United flight.  T picked me up at the airport and I was officially on vacation ready to go!  We ran a couple errands, visited Run Colorado for a last-minute hug/good luck, then got home and started to get packed for the trip.  The car was going to be stuffed beyond stuffed with all the gear/bikes/bags we intended to bring, but it needed to be done.  We double-checked our stuff the night before and kept our fingers crossed that we didn’t forget anything.

Awake at the ridiculous hour of 3:30 am, we hit the road.  By 4, we were on the road, planning on a stop in Colorado Springs for coffee.  I didn’t know this at the time, but a surprise was waiting for me.  With 140.6 or Bust written in car paint on the back window, we were off!

After grabbing our coffee, we drove up a road, but I had no idea why.  Turns out we were paying a visit to Norm, a friend of ours from Run Colorado who wanted to see me personally before we jetted out of town.  With some pats on the back, some very blurry pictures, and well wishes, we got back on the road.

The drive is what it is.  Boring.  Dry.  Long.  We kept hydrated, fed, and amused.

Arriving into Tucson on Tuesday night, we stopped immediately at TriSports to drop our bikes off for a tune-up.  This was our first snag of the trip.  I had prearranged for TriSports to tune up our bikes, but the mechanic told us that because of a previous mechanic quitting, he wouldn’t have them done until Thursday.  Obviously, this wasn’t part of our plan, and while we were ready to adapt and deal, I dropped the owners name, which I didn’t want to do but felt I needed to.  Leaving our bikes, we skedaddled to find food.   Not 10 minutes later, T got a call saying that the bikes would be done the following morning and ready to go.  We both felt a bit guilty, but moved on.  We did our ritual of Eegees and Lucky Wishbone for dinner, then found the hotel.  Exhausted from the day, we crashed for the night.

Wednesday morning was a lazy morning for us.  Our bikes would be ready at noon, so we lazed around the hotel room for a bit before heading to breakfast.  After we ate, we hit Target and otherwise just killed time until our bikes were ready.  Then we headed back to TriSports to pick up our bikes and last bike needs.  We browed the store for nearly an hour, feeling in our element.  Picking up our bikes and gear, we repacked the car and chatted with a triathlete who had just finished Kona.  He wished us luck and told us we’d do fine.  With the car packed, we headed up to Phoenix, where we’d stay with my aunt and uncle for the night.

After arriving at their place and getting settled, we changed clothes and headed down to Tempe for a short run.  We didn’t have a lot on our workout plate this week (obviously) but we still needed to get some fitness in.  Found parking on the opposite side of the lake where transition was located, and ironically was underneath the bridge where we volunteered with TriSports late in the race last year.  We jaunted off for a 1.5 mile run, one that would take us up the most difficult hill on the run course.  Hardly a hill so much as a gradual incline, we both determined it would be very little factor on loop 1, but a greater challenge on loop 2.  Heading back to the car, we headed back to my aunt and uncles, where we enjoyed a good dinner and crashed for the night.

Thursday morning we woke up, ate breakfast, and headed down to the expo to check in.  This was going to be the first real exposure to Ironman.  We picked up our friend Mike, who was staying at a hotel not too far away and was volunteering/cheering us on.  We parked not too far away, and headed into the park.

Check in was no different than it was for 70.3, except a bit busier.  Pick up your waiver, your insurance info, etc.  Then you get your wristband, backpack, etc.  We picked up our swag and headed back to my aunt and uncles house, where we quicked packed up our stuff due to my parents coming in.  They were going to be staying there, so we had to find a new place to stay.  (it was arranged, so no big deal.)  We visited with my parents for a little while, chatted, then headed to our hotel.  It was a Holiday Inn Express near the ASU campus.

After this, we decided to go for a pre ride on the Beeline.  Unfortunately, we could not find a place to park to ride, so we parked at a mall and just rode a few miles.  It was a ridiculously fast ride, and gave us some great confidence for our upcoming race.  We had Mike ride back to his hotel, where we’d pick him up for a dinner at my aunt and uncles.  

11 people in all, and all were there with a vested interest in our race.  My aunt and uncle, T’s parents, my parents, our friends Kris and Mark, plus Mike and ourselves.  11 people.  Dinner was tasty and conversation flowed.  It was great.  We visited for awhile, then skedaddled for the night.

Friday morning was kind of lazy, kind of not.  Woke up in the morning, ate hotel breakfast, then headed over to get massages.  I wanted my shoulders, hammies, and calves really worked.  After that, we headed down to the expo again for the athlete briefing.  Normally I wouldn’t care about the athlete briefing, but since it was my first Ironman, I wanted to be there.  I listened, hearing a few things that actually were relevant. 

After the briefing, we grabbed lunch, then worked our way back to the park.  I was meeting up with a pilot friend of mine who would also be racing IMAZ.  He wanted to catch the pro panel, so we did that.  Then we hung around for another athlete briefing and met up with some fellow MaccaXers.  Caught a few photo ops, then skedaddled.  We rested up a bit before the athlete dinner, which we didn't really want to go to, but I'm glad we did.  We hung out with Aaron, my pilot friend, and listened to Mike Reilly for a bit.  It was actually really fun and relaxed, and I'm very grateful we went.  Then we walked back to the hotel, and retired for the night.

Saturday morning we woke up and headed over to the park, where we would get in our race pre-swim.  It'd be our only chance to truly test out the water, so we wanted to do it.  Given how cold it was supposedly to be, I had some nerves about it.  Jumping into Tempe Town Lake, I experienced that initial shock when you hit the water, but got over it quickly.  T and I both agreed the swim would be very short, nothing more.  Simply getting used to the water and see how it felt.  We stayed together for the most part and after the initial shock, I warmed up surprisingly quick.  I felt the swim would be a non-issue and my confidence in myself was even higher.

There would be a tiny bit of drama leaving the water.  After I pulled myself up and out, T did and promptly showed me a bloody toe.  Apparently she cranked it off the bottom stair pulling herself out and cut it.  She visited an ambulance nearby and got patched up.  We both laughed about it and hoped it wouldn't affect her the next day.

We drove back to the Holiday Inn Express, where we checked out and got ready to head back to the course where we would check in our bikes and drop off our gear bags.  Making our way to trans, we saw our friend Mike volunteering and laughed at him.  I told him to do stuff for me and he told me no, do it myself.  Kept us relaxed and laughing.  We racked my bike on the end of the rack, where I was assigned.  Then we walked to T's bike spot.  She walked past her spot, walked backwards to get back to it, and tripped, falling right onto her front cog.  Blood spurted from her ankle, and suddenly, our concern was no longer IMAZ.  We had to get her better.  We quick racked her bike and attempted to find her medical care.  We were told to head over to the parking lot where we parked.  No med care available, I decided we should head back to my aunt and uncles, where my mom and aunt could wash out the wound and bandage it.  Once there, my mom took one look at it, washed it, and told us to get to Urgent Care.  Suddenly it looked like one member of TBD would have their season derailed due to injury.  And not an overuse injury either!  I mean, c'mon, man!

At Urgent Care, we got her cleaned up and 5 stitches in her ankle.  Thankfully, the cut was right on the bone, which would not destroy her.  Our afternoon of rest would be that and more.  The doc didn't want to green light her for IMAZ, but T basically said she was going to do it no matter what.  I guess that's what 11 months of training will get you.  

We checked into our new hotel, the Tempe Mission Palms, which was very close to the race start, and went out for some much needed sushi.  After that, my parents met up with us for a bit.  It'd be the last time they met up with us, and I'm very glad they did.  They took care of T and iced her up, got her comfortable.  The rest of the day we would kill sitting in our hotel, only venturing out for our standard breakfast dinner.  Our friend Corie, who is another MaccaX member and friend who raced IMAZ last year came to our hotel room, as did Norm's friend Layla, who introduced herself by punching me! (Norm told her to)  She had an awesome sign that we took some pictures with and she wished us good luck.  We got our special needs together and otherwise just wound down for the night.  The following morning would be big, and I think it warrants its own blog post to follow. :-)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

As Ready As I'll Ever Be

Over the past week or so, a lot of people have asked me, "Are you ready?" I answer as I do above - "As ready as I'll ever be." Or, sometimes, "If I'm not now, I never will be."

And it's the truth.

I have put in:

114505.73m (71.15 mi) of swimming

1763.5 miles of cycling

458.98 miles of running

2293.63 (or 2302.79)* miles total

263:22:16 total hours of work

All of that comes down to 140.6 miles and 17 possible hours. I may have possibly jeopardized that a little with two blood sacrifices to the Ironman gods - I slammed the big toe on my left foot into the bottom of Tempe Town Lake while exiting the practice swim and ripped off some skin.

Worse, and more importantly, while racking/checking in my bike, I somehow managed to fall over on my bike and put a gash on the ankle bone of my left foot ... needing five stitches to close. I'm icing it; I'm adding ibuprofen to pretty much all of my transition/special needs bags ... I'm praying that my mental toughness and my ability to pretty much ignore pain will get me through. I've come way too far to let a little thing like this hold me back.

140.6 miles

17 hours to finish.

I WILL do this.

* Adding up the numbers on BeginnerTriathlete, they don't quite jive with what I've done here this year. Either the swims in miles got rounded out that crazily, or I screwed up my math somewhere. Probably the latter.

Day Before Ironman...all is well

I'm laying here in Tempe on a beautiful, somewhat chilly Saturday morning, contemplating what I am about to undertake tomorrow morning.  The excitement of the expo, the friendliness of the athletes, saying hi to people I know, it's just been a whirlwind experience.  

And that's just the past two and a half days.

Imagine how much of a whirlwind experience the entire journey has been.

We first talked about doing this race in 2011, around the time we did our first 70.3 distance.  While I believed it would happen, it was kind of hard envisioning it.  I mean, I only had a few tris under my belt and had only recently entered the sport.  How was I going to undertake this massive task?  I had read things about how difficult the Ironman was; saw the heartbreak of people who had come up short.  And yet, I wanted to be a part of this.

Fast forward to January of this year.  The base began to be built.  The foundation, if you will.  We grew stronger, faster.  Then we hit the actual training program.  Suddenly short runs were a thing of the past.  Two-a-day workouts became the norm.  Bike rides took planning and food had to be thought out.  In short, it became real.  Fast.

And yet, most of my training has gone very well.  For the horror stories I've heard/read about, my training had very few hiccups in it.  Even while focusing on upgrade to captain, I never lost focus of my Ironman goal.  Take a look at some of the highlights:

- an 85 mile bike ride that took us all the way to the city of Golden
- long swims in St. Louis while I was in airline training
- a sub-9 off the bike when I did my century ride
- pushing through a wrist injury sustained in a crash sometime in August
- PRing at Boulder 70.3 this year
- learning Oreos taste REALLY good on the bike
- so does pizza
- making new friends and learning new things
- a feeling of overall confidence in myself that I have not had in years
- knowing that I can push myself farther and harder
- regular rides to downtown Denver, getting to enjoy great scenery on the way
- swimming miles at a time without even thinking about it
- a PR at the Rock and Roll Denver 1/2 marathon
- admiration from people that I admire

These listed above are just some of the things I discovered on this incredible journey.  

Curious as to what I'm thinking this morning.  Am I nervous?  Anxious?  Worried?  None of the above.  No, right now, I am in a place of zen.  If there's such a thing as nirvana, I've achieved it.  I will hit that race course tomorrow, give it everything I have, and if what I have is good enough to cross that finish line, then so be it.  If it isn't, that's okay too.  Considering the battle I have fought to hit that starting line, I'd say the victory is simply toeing it.  

Which reminds me.  You might be wondering how I got this weekend off of work.  I had bid for vacation for it way back last year.  The problem is, when I upgraded, I lost my vacation.  Well when the November schedules came out, I saw I had the days off beforehand, and the days off after, but the three days over the weekend I did not.  I simply emailed the chief pilot, explained what I was about to undertake, and that was that.  Got the days off, and a couple good lucks from my bosses.  That, right there, is achieving peace.

I'm ready.  That's the bottom line.  I'm ready for this.  I'm ready to test my limits.  Ready to push myself to some scary places.  And most of all, ready to achieve Infinity.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Taper

I first saw this a few months ago on the MX12 VIP Facebook page. It brought tears to my eyes then and I wasn't even as close as I am now.

For all of you who have dreams of 140.6 or 70.3 or even of a super-sprint, this encapsulates the sport for me.

NOTE: there is no credit given, because I have no idea who originally wrote this. If the internet can discover that for me, it would be much appreciated.

"Right now, you've all entered the taper. Perhaps you've been at this a few months, perhaps you've been at this a few years. For some of you this is your first IM, for others, a long-overdue welcome back to a race that few can match.

You've been following your schedule to the letter. You've been piling on the mileage, piling up the laundry, and getting a set of tan lines that will take until next year to erase. Long rides were followed by long runs, which both were preceded by long swims, all of which were followed by recovery naps that were longer than you slept for any given night during college.

You ran in the dark.

You rode in the rain.

You ran in the heat.

You ran in the cold.

You went out when others stayed home.

You rode the trainer when others pulled the covers over their heads.

You have survived the Darwinian progression that is an Ironman summer, and now the hardest days are behind you. Like a climber in the Tour de France coming over the summit of the penultimate climb on an alpine stage, you've already covered so much ground ... there's just one more climb to go. You shift up, you take a drink, you zip up the jersey; the descent lies before you ... and it will be a fast one.

Time that used to be filled with never-ending work will now be filled with silent muscles, taking their final, well-earned rest. While this taper is something your body desperately needs, your mind cast off to the background for so very long, will start to speak to you.

It won't be pretty.

It will bring up thoughts of doubt, pain, hunger, thirst, failure, and loss. It will give you reasons why you aren't ready. It will try and make one last stand to stop you, because your mind doesn't know what the body already does. Your body knows the truth:

You are ready.

Your brain won't believe it. It will use the taper to convince you that this is foolish - that there is too much that can go wrong.

You are ready.

Finishing an Ironman is never an accident. It's the result of focus, hard work, and belief that all the long runs in January, long rides in March, and long swims every damn weekend will be worth it. It comes from getting on the bike, day in, day out. It comes from long, solo runs. From that first long run where you wondered, "How will I ever be ready?" to the last long run where you smiled to yourself with one mile to go ... knowing that you'd found the answer.

It is worth it. Now that you're at the taper, you know it will be worth it. The workload becomes less. The body winds up and prepares, and you just need to quiet your worried mind. Not easy, but you can do it.

You are ready.

You will walk into the water with 2500 other wide-open sets of eyes. You will look upon the sea of humanity, and know that you belong. You'll feel the chill of the water crawl into your wetsuit, and shiver like everyone else, but smile because the day you have waited for so VERY long is finally here.

You will tear up in your goggles. Everyone does.

The helicopters will roar overhead.

The splashing will surround you.

You'll stop thinking about Ironman, because you're now racing one.

The swim will be long - it's long for everyone, but you'll make it. You'll watch as the shoreline grows and grows, and soon you'll near the end. You'll come up the beach and head for the wetsuit strippers. Three people will get that sucker off before you know what is happening, then you'll head for the bike.

The voices, the cowbells, and the curb-to-curb chalk giving you a hero's sendoff can't wipe the smile off your face.

You'll settle down to your race. The crowds will spread out on the road. You'll soon be on your bike, eating your food on schedule, controlling your Ironman.

You'll start to feel that morning sun turn to afternoon sun. It's warmer now. Maybe it's hot. Maybe you're not feeling so good now. You'll keep riding. You'll keep drinking. You'll keep moving. After all, this is just a long training day with valet parking and catering, right?

You'll put on your game face, fighting the urge to feel down as you ride for what seems like hours. You reach special needs, fuel up, and head out.

By now it'll be hot. You'll be tired. Doubts will fight for your focus. Everyone struggles here. You've been on that bike for a few hours, and stopping would be nice, but you won't - not here. Not today.

You'll grind the false flats to the climb. You'll know you're almost there. You'll fight for every inch of road. The crowd will come back to you here. Let their energy push you. Let them see your eyes. Smile when they cheer for you - your body will get just that little bit lighter.





You'll plunge down the road, swooping from corner to corner, chaining together the turns, tucking on the straights, letting your legs recover for the run to come - soon! you'll roll back - you'll see people running out. You'll think to yourself, "Wasn't I just here?" The noise will grow. The chalk dust will hang in the air - you're back, with only 26.2 miles to go. You'll relax a little bit, knowing that even if you get a flat tire or something breaks here, you can run the damn bike into T2.

You'll roll into transition. 100 volunteers will fight for your bike. You'll give it up and not look back. You'll have your bag handed to you, and into the tent you'll go. You'll change. You'll load up your pockets, and open the door to the last long run of your Ironman summer - the one that counts.

You'll take that first step of a thousand ... and you'll smile. You'll know that the bike won't let you down now - the race is down to your own two feet. The same crowd that cheered for you in the shadows of the morning will cheer for you in the brilliant sunshine of a summer Sunday. High-five people on the way out. Enjoy it. This is what you've worked for all year long.

That first mile will feel great. So will the second. By mile 3, you probably won't feel so good.

That's okay. You knew it couldn't all be that easy. You'll settle down just like you did on the bike, and get down to your pace. You'll see the leaders coming back the other way. Some will look great - some won't. You might feel great, you might not. Not matter how you feel, don't panic - this is the part of the day where whatever you're feeling, you can be sure it won't last.

You'll keep moving. You'll keep drinking. You'll keep eating. Maybe you'll be right on plan - maybe you won't. If you're ahead of schedule, don't worry - believe. If you're behind, don't panic - roll with it. Everyone comes up with a brilliant race plan for Ironman, and then everyone has to deal with the reality that panning for something like Ironman is like trying to land a man on the moon. By remote control. Blindfolded.

How you react to the changes in your plan will dictate your day. Don't waste energy worrying about things - just do what you have to when you have to, and keep moving. Keep eating. Keep drinking. Just don't sit down - don't EVER sit down.

You'll make it to the halfway point. You'll load up on special needs. Some of what you packed will look good, some won't. Eat what looks good, toss the rest. Keep moving. Start looking for people you know. Cheer for people you don't. You're headed in - they're not. They want to be where you are, just like you wanted to be when you saw all those fast people headed into town. Share some energy- you'll get it right back.

Run if you can.

Walk if you have to.

Just keep moving.

The miles will drag on. The brilliant sunshine will yawn. You'll be coming up to those aid stations fully alive with people, music, and chicken soup. TAKE THE SOUP. Keep moving.

You'll soon only have a few miles to go. You'll start to believe that you're going to make it. You'll start to imagine how good it's going to feel when you get there. Let those feelings drive you on. When your legs just don't want to move anymore, think about what it's going to be like when someone catches you ... and puts a medal over your head ... all you have to do is get there.

You'll start to hear the people in town. People you can't see in the twilight will cheer for you. They'll call out your name. Smile and thank them. They were there when you left on the bike, and when you left on the run, and now when you've come back.

You'll enter town. You'll start to realize that the day is almost over. You'll be exhausted, wiped out, barely able to run a 10-minute mile (if you're lucky), but you'll ask yourself, "Where did the whole day go?" You'll be standing on the edge of two feelings - the desire to finally stop, and the desire to take these last moments and make them last as long as possible.

You'll hit mile 25. Your Ironman will have 1.2 miles - just 2KM left in it.

You'll run. You'll find your legs. You'll fly. You won't know how, but you will run. The lights will grow brighter, brighter, and brighter. Soon you'll be able to hear the music again. This time, it'll be for keeps.

Soon they'll see you. Soon, everyone will see you. You'll run toward the lights, between the fences, and into the night sun made just for you.

They'll say your name.

You'll keep running.

Nothing will hurt.

The moment will be yours - for one moment, the entire world will be looking at you and only you.

You'll break the tape at the finish line, 140.6 miles after starting your journey. The flash will go off.

You'll stop. You'll finally stop. Your legs will wobble their last, and suddenly ... be capable of nothing more

Someone will catch you.

You'll lean into them.

It will suddenly hit you.

You will be an Ironman.

You are ready.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Week Forty-Five: 11/4-11/10

Also week 19 of IM training. One more week; can you believe it? Can I believe it?

Also: week 45? Where the hell did this year go????

Monday, November 4: Off: scheduled
- Taper, I love you.

Tuesday, November 5: Bike: 21.88 mi in 1:05:10; avg cad 91; 20.1 mph
- 26.2 mph max
- pedaling in front of the TV - easy cycle
- Saving my 90:00 until Thursday. But yay for easy cycles! Brandon also thought I looked very smooth - that it looked easy - hopefully I'll feel like that on race day, too.

Wednesday, November 6: Swim: 2000m in 45:41 - 2:17/100m
- 20x100m
- shoulder just a little funky
- Shoulder for me and nausea for Brandon means we cut a 4000m swim short again. Not too horribly concerned, though.

Thursday, November 7: Run: 3.13 mi in 30:06 - 9:36/mi
- trail out-and-back
- felt pretty good; lungs a little rough
- First relatively decent run in a while and first "major" run in a week. Knee held up pretty well - lungs noticed the time off, though.

Friday, November 8: Off: choice
- We had the option of two off days this week - with all the stuff I need to do before leaving, I felt it was okay to skip today.

Saturday, November 9: Run: 4.74 mi in 49:30 - 10:26/mi
- Run CO Saturday run
- first few miles felt good ... then knee acted up
- So Mike thinks the knee could be IT band related - lots of stretching on deck for me as well as a pre-race massage!

Sunday, November 10: Swim: 1000m in 22:56.35 - 2:18/100m
- 10x100m
- quick; just to get the arms moving
Stretching: 8:00
- plus looooots of foam-rolling
Bike: 38.39 mi in 1:55:02; avg cad 91; 20 mph
- 23.2 mph max
- Tempe training ride
- Short swim and a shorter ride than planned, but preparing to leave is a bit more important. Still very glad I got stuff in, though.

Weekly training time: 5:56:25
Weekly training mileage: 70 mi
Yearly training time: 262:19:35
Yearly training mileage: 2291.57

Race Recap - Denver Rock and Roll 1/2 Marathon

My God is this recap late...I'm sorry.  I'll do the best I can.

I got home Thursday morning before the race, having completed my sims and being ready for IOE to start.  But more importantly, I got home ready to get this race done, and quite excited that I was able to do it in the first place.

We hit the expo on Saturday and spent most of it hanging out at the Run Colorado booth.  When we were done with the expo, we should have been going out for a 50 mile ride, but neither one of us had the motivation to do so.  I don't know if our bodies were telling us to relax and race the next day or what, but we instead just went out for a long walk and spent the night relaxing.

Race morning, we left the house early and found a meter near the start/finish.  That worked out awesome.  We walked to the near start, checked in our gear, and found the porta-potties.  The lines were crazy at one set, so I found another group of them that weren't nearly as full.  Then we weaseled our way to the start.  We said hi to our friend David, who was in one of the first waves.  Then we ran into more Run CO people, which was just awesome.  Chatted with them a bit, and found our way to the "corral".

We got close to the start, the horn went off, and so did we!

The Race
We vowed T would pace us this race.  We both had dreams of smashing our Denver 1/2 PR, our actual 1/2 Marathon PR's (mine was 2:15:48) and hopefully cracking 2:10:00.  Our running had been going really well up to that point, so I figured both were within reach.

The first mile, our Garmins had us well within reach of it, but already we were showing that we were off in distance.  The Garmin had me doing a 9:49 but the race had about a 10:15.  I vowed to not care/complain and continue on.  

We both kept plugging away, speeding up a bit, feeling comfortable, and not stressing.  When we hit the 5 mile point, someone screamed "yay Run Colorado!"  That felt good.  I later learned it was Janelle, who is a MHTC member.  

When we hit City Park, this is where the race usually/typically gets grinding.  You have to get into your head a bit.  And you have to trust yourself.  T and I both kept plugging away.  By 9 and 10, before you hit Cheeseman Park, it's probably the toughest stretch.  You're getting tired.  You want to slow it down.  But you have to keep going.

In Cheeseman Park, we were both wondering if 2:10:00 was within reach, but neither of us voiced it.  We didn't want to be negative.  Usually in these longer races, I have a tendency to not be positive, and I didn't let this happen this time around.  Right about the time we were both ready to mail it in, a bunch of our running friends were there.  High-fives, cheers, it was exactly what we needed.  Our spirits were boosted and we made it to mile 12.

The final mile, we agreed to pick it up and run together.  That lasted about .01 miles as T shot off like a cannon.  I tried to keep up with her, but to no avail.  The funny thing is, we joke about her having great speed later in races, but I wasn't moving slow by any stretch.  She was just moving that much faster.  Oh I promise you I tried to catch her.  In the meantime, I was eyeing my Garmin.  My Garmin indicated that I was on pace to finish 13.1 miles sub-10, but it was going to be VERY close.

I picked it up as best I could, and hit the finish line.  I knew I had PRed regardless, so I was quite happy.  We grabbed the usual bananas, water, chocolate milk for me, and a couple other things and moved on out.  We then tried to figure out if we hit our goal of sub-10 per mile.  

OFFICIALLY per the race, no, we did not.  Per my Garmin, I did a 9:58 per mile for this run, so logically, I know I did.  Regardless, I don't care, because I PRed, did a great job, ran very well, and had a MAJOR confidence boost.

Overall, I'll take it. :-)

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Trainer Century - in Photos

As you know from training, I had to do a century ride in training. Since circumstance was that Brandon and I couldn't do it together and that was way too long of a ride to do alone (and unsupported) given my crash history, we both did century rides on the trainer.

We've spent a lot of time on Skippy this year (even had to get new rear tires as a result) and this was the longest single session yet.

I know some of you are probably asking why, oh god why would we do this (and I wondered that myself at times), but I think it worked out for a few reasons:

1.) It was fantastic mental training.
2.) As mentioned before, crash risk is negatory.
3.) It took a lot less time than it would have outside - less time out of my day is a giant perk.

It went well and as you saw in my training log, the run off the bike was very spry and I had tons of energy afterward and felt pretty good the next day.

So, here's the story ... in pictures.

The beginning.

Food pile. Apple pie Bonk Breaker bars, "crack" (no-bake) cookies, an extra bottle of water and potatoes from the Feed Zone cookbook. I think I screwed something up with them though since they did NOT taste like they were supposed to ...

The videos I chose to watch.

Run clothes set up for the transition.

Tempe ride, ready to go.

"Let's do this!"

Essentially my view for the next few hours. ALSO: new water bottle - Profile Design HC Aero. SO AWESOME.

Since Coach Troy during the Tempe ride is a drinking game waiting to happen, I had iTunes blaring as well.

Mile 25.

And we are now doing the Kona DVD. It is ridiculously boring. Sorry Troy.

Mile 40. I'm getting sweaty.

Mile 50. This is when it started to get horrible.

The dwindling food pile.

Mile 75. The sweat is driving me insane.

Mile 90. Yes, that is the look of insanity. It is also the look of me starting to go inside my own head to finish this crazy crap.

The view outside. Worst part was, it actually was a nice day out.

The end is near, so very, very near.