Going into the race, the goal was to either break 10 hours or sneak in and a get Kona slot…or both! It became apparent once I saw the list of names racing and the size of the 40-44 men’s field that a Kona slot was not likely, so I focused on breaking 10 hours. In the days leading up to the race, I was yet again suffering from nausea, a new pre-race phenomena for me this year, but I managed to take it all in stride. Physically, I felt great everyday during the taper, and at times, I thought maybe too great. I actually like my body to feel a bit tired, like a couple of days after a good training day (foreshadowing). Socially, race week was simply awesome. I got to finally meet Michelle and Matt, hang out with Teresa and Mark some more, and I had a lot of teammates and friends from home doing the race. Spending time with good people is the other draw of the ironman experience. Onto the race:
The swim: 58:06
I lined myself far left in the front with a straight shot to the first buoy. I was prepared to battle as this was probably the ideal position for the shortest line. The cannon went off and I was surprised at how quickly I found clean water. Within 100 yards, I had nobody in front or on either side of me. But once we reached the first buoy, everybody converged and things got a bit busy, but never bad. Throughout the swim, I knew I was having a good swim instead of a great swim. A great swim (54 min) feels like my heart is about to pop out of my chest, but yet I can maintain. I weighed the factors and I decided that it wasn’t worth the increased heart rate for a 2-minute time gain, unbeknownst that it would actually be a 4-minute time gain. I was a bit disappointed in the time, but knew I was still pretty high up in the field. Unlike many people, the cold was not an issue, must be from all those years of racing Escape from Alcatraz.
The bike: 5:53:56
I took the first lap out very controlled and focused on my nutrition: about 100 calories every 20 minutes, sip of fluid every 10 minutes, and a salt tablet every 35 minutes. The plan was to split the first lap in a 2:45-2:50 and pick it up a bit in the second lap for 5:30 bike split. In order to go under 10 hours, I had no choice but to split 5:30 or faster. I started to feel a bit fatigued just before the end of the first loop, but you always have a low point during an ironman, and then you come back to life. Thus, I just kept calm, carried on, and I waited to come back to life. I went through the first loop in 2:48 and thought, I’m still on pace. But I never came back to life, and I just kept getting more fatigued until I bonked. It was during this time that I felt like I was just plain out of shape, sort of like when I do my first long ride of the season. So many times, I fought to get back into the race. When Michelle went by me, I set a goal to stay with her until the end of the ride. All I can say is that on this day, I learned that even though the mind is willing, the body can’t respond. My mind was so willing but my legs burned so bad and had nothing. It was at this time that I let go of breaking 10-hours and focused on getting back to T2; and in the process, find the joy in this ironman as though it was my first.
The run: 4:20:34
As I was approaching T2, I decided that I would at least salvage this race and try to PR my ironman run split. I felt great starting the run, my turnover was quick, and I was in really good spirits. Nobody passed me the first 11 miles and I played the game, how many runners can you pick off. I started to get tired at about the 12-mile mark but soon saw Michelle up the road. I set a goal to run up to her and if I got tired, we could help each other through the second loop. But it took me another one or so mile to even catch up to her, she picked up her pace! Once I got up to her, I felt good so I continued my pace and passed her. But as soon as I made the pass, a wave of bonk came over me. I hit the aid station and had to walk, and slowly, things deteriorated. From mile 18 on, once again, the mind was willing but the body would not respond. I would will myself to run but the body couldn’t do it. For the next 5 miles, it was mostly walk with attempts at shuffling, and eating everything in sight: pretzels, orange slices, and chicken broth. Finally, the nutrition kicked in and with it my spirit and the drive to run the last two miles. And oh the finish, did I milk that finish. I was waving my arms, taking bows, kissing my biceps (a little trick I learned from my new friend Hank), and pumping up the crowd. I found the joy in ironman racing as though it was my first. When I crossed the line, I wanted to turn around, run back out, and do it all one more time.
The result: 11:19:40 [362nd overall; 73rd age-group]
This FB update from my friend Mark expresses my sentiment quite well: “Ironman CDA yesterday was not my best day for 140.6 BUT I got er' done. There are some days you just have to finish what you start. Yesterday was one of those days! :). Onward...” And remember the foreshadowing part? My gut instinct tells me the reason I felt great during the taper was because I was just plain out of shape. I know myself and I know that I lose my fitness real quickly, thus, I don’t usually rest that much during a taper. But I also wanted to try and see if resting a lot more would work because statistically, most triathletes go into races too tired and not rested enough. At least now, I know with confidence exactly what works for me.
70.3 Liuzhou Race Story
2 weeks ago