Greetings from Kona, Hawaii. We are now 3 days away from race day and enjoying the beautiful warm weather….
Its been exactly one week since my completion of Ironman Coeur d’ Alene on June 27th.
Race Results (Men 40-44):
Swim – 1:10:44 (division place 89th)
T1 – 4:49
Bike – 5:24:06 (division place 40th)
T2 – 4:23
Run – 4:50:38 (division place 185th)
Total – 11:34:37
Overall – 441 out of 2,265
Age Group – 98 out of 402
For those that know me, the race did not go as planned. In fact the swim and the bike results were actually very deceiving. I had numerous problems during both that eventually lead to a very difficult and painful run.
However after having had time to reflect on the race and playing many of the situations back in my mind, I’ve come to the realization that my time and ability to overcome each ‘challenge’ was quite an achievement in and of itself. But I’m not gonna lie. It was the hardest race I’ve ever endured both physically and, especially, mentally. Having raced my first triathlon WAY BACK in 1985, I’m still experiencing and learning new things to this day. (My lessons learned from this race are shared last.)
Before I highlight each part of the race, I wanted to thank all of the people that were instrumental in my preparation for this race.
Rachel Main – Girlfriend & PacWest elite athlete who crushed the same course taking 6th overall amateur female and 2nd in her age group. She returns to Kona in October. Her support both as my training partner and girlfriend is truly special.
Keith McDonald – PacWest Elite Team & Multisport Program Director and friend. He took on the role of coaching me so that I did not have to do the difficult task of coaching myself. His support and guidance were invaluable.
Derek Colderbank – NorCal Muscle Clinic (www.norcalmuscle.com). Derek & Laura Miles specialize in MAT (Muscle Activation Technique). It is AMAZING. I can’t not give it any higher praise. The results and benefits it has had in my performance and recovery during my training and racing before IM CDA were incredible. I just wish I could have come through with a performance worthy of them and MAT. Next year! Don’t wait folks. Go see them!
PacWest Teammates – Thanks to all of the PacWest athletes (elite and club team members) who supported and pushed me during the past six long months. You all are awesome!
Thanks finally to my family, in particular my daughter, Emily; my nephew Travis and his girlfriend Lindy; and my dad for making it out to CDA to watch me race. It meant so much to me to have you there!
Swim – 2.4 miles
My 1:10:44 was actually the minimal time goal I was shooting for so that was a positive but it was not without drama. Despite the rough starting conditions by having 2,500 athletes entering the water at the same time, I made it to the first turn on the long rectangular 2 loop course fairly well. Unfortunately upon making the initial left turn, the ‘entire field’ came to a hard stop in the water. After a short attempt to restart my swim, we came to another stop but this time in a split second a forearm came crashing down on my forehead and proceeded to strip my goggles down to my chin. What the ####? Are you kidding me! After getting practically swam over, I was able to shove my goggles back over my eyes…filled completely with water (thank god it was fresh lake water vs ocean!). I swam 10-12 strokes with my eyes closed before being forced to stop again. This time I was able to get much of the water out but was having to tread water pretty hard to stay above the fray of swimmers. After making the second left turn, I was on my long way back to the beach. Despite the small amounts of water swishing back and forth in the goggles, I was able to get my stroke long and strong again. However it wasn’t too long when my right leg started to cramp…a lot! It went from hamstring, calf and then foot during the remainder of the first loop. I thought “was it from all of the treading I had to do earlier?”…
After getting out of the water and running around the timing mat toward the start of the second loop, I was able to clear out my goggles and get a good seal over my eyes. Splash! I’m back in and swimming. I had a good line inside the buoys and less traffic this time. I felt strong for about 10 minutes into the swim but then the cramping reappeared. This time though the cramping moved to the left leg! Same thing: hamstring, calf, foot. Did a good job of staying calm and relaxed but I will say that it definitely played serious mind games on me as I had not expected this at all. Turns out that many of us were cramping in the water…
Finally made it out of the water checked my watch and saw that amazingly I was still within my time goal but just barely!
T1 – 4:49 Hamstrings cramped during the wetsuit strip. What is going on! Some how I made it through the changing tent and out on the bike but not with out serious concerns. Clearly this was a sign of things to come over the next 5 hours…
Bike – 112 miles (very hilly course)
My new sponsor bike, Blue Triad w/SRAM Red build, is an awesome machine! For the first 30+ miles of the first loop I was flying comfortably past the field. But I was also still very much aware of signs of cramping. Took in plenty of fluid and nutrition during this period to counteract.
After reaching the bottom of a medium decent somewhere around mile 30, I started to shift both the front and rear deraileurs at the same time. I also recall coming out of my saddle to push up the next climb. To my shock, the chain suddenly jammed and locked up my cranks! It was so bad (and loud) that I couldn’t get in the small chain ring. I severely bent the cage. I was forced to go back to my large chain ring in the middle of the climb. To make matters worse, I was riding a time trail crank set 54/42 (vs. normal 53/39) with 11/23 cassette. Ouch! This was very, very bad news. I’ve been racing a long time but have never dealt with this type of situation let alone these series of challenges all in one race. Before my eyes, I knew my race was in serious jeopardy.
I now started to struggle through the hills but saw that I was still catching up with Andrew and Rachel at the out/back turnaround on Ohio Match Road (Mile 33). With about 12 miles to go for the 1st loop, I caught Rachel and went into the start of the 2nd loop at 2:30-2:31 which was fast. But knowing I had a major mechanical problem, I pulled back on my effort. I had some ‘padding’ for my goal time at this point and I thought maybe, maybe I could pull this off…
Sadly by the time I made it past Hayden Lake Road, I came to the realization my race was done. My legs were severely cramping and there was one short but very steep hill that I seriously thought I was not going to make it. I slowed down to the point I almost tipped over. Honestly don’t know how I made it. I continued on, but not far down the road I was coming to a hard left turn (Dodd Rd) and felt my front wheel start to feel ‘loose’ and ‘give’. I just about crashed leaning into the turn and had to correct quickly. A rider behind me said I made an amazing save. I’m in disbelief at this point. I had a flat (a slow leak in my tubular). Unbelievable. I needed to fix the flat but knew there was shade and a flat part at the top of the long gradual climb to Rimrock Road. Somehow I made it up and pulled off . As soon as I got off my bike, both of my quads locked up like I was on max electro stimulation. It was painful!! Took a good 10-12 seconds for them to finally release. This is when Rachel passed me back. She asked if I needed help. Are you crazy, “KEEP GOING!” I said. She was having a great race.
Since this appeared to be a slow leak and not a full puncture, I took a calculated risk and choose the fastest fix. I blew a CO2 cartridge vs dealing with unstrapping and tearing off the electrical tape for my ‘Pit Stop’ flat inflator. It worked and I was back on the bike…but my legs were starting to shut down.
I made it up and down a couple of more hills but I finally told myself that I wasn’t going to make it up another hill unless I do something. So at the bottom of the next descent, I came to a stop, clipped out, reached down and pushed the front deraileur as far back as possible. It worked. I was able to shift down to my small ring…but I was the loudest rider on the course with my chain ‘clicking’ both on the easiest and hardest gearing…click, click, click, etc!
After all of that, I mindlessly continued to push hard toward T2. Once back in town I saw Rachel on the final out and back on Northwest Blvd. I had caught up with her to where I was only about 2 to 2:30 minutes back. BUT my front tubular was loose again and started to bottom out so at the turnaround on Northwest I slowed to a crawl and carefully made the turn. Then when I had to turn on to the sidewalk coming into T2 the wheel bottomed out hard. It was almost completely flat again. Amazingly my bike time was 5:24:06. Still overall pretty fast and the combined time was still right at my minimal goal pace. However like I said this was deceiving to everyone but me.
T2 – 4:23
Honestly I have know idea how I was faster in T2 then T1. Both legs severely cramped once I sat down inside the tent. I took my time changing over to my running shoes and reloading my nutrition in my back pocket. I thought to myself, “how in the hell am I going do this?”. Then I thought “#### this is really going to hurt”. I took a PowerGel, 3 salt tablets and a really DEEP breath then existed the tent and started the marathon in the hot blazing sun. I can’t quit…though I really, really, really wanted to!
Note: the only other times I have ever suffered this much in a race was my experiences doing XTERRA races. However those races were over in less than 4 hours. This was not XTERRA.
Run – 26.2 miles
The ironic part of the race is that this is my strongest of the three disciplines but the one that I had no chance to perform well in. My legs were so destroyed from the bike that it felt like I was running on wood 2×4′s. No bounce. No smooth stride. No energy. I walked most of the first half marathon. The only positive experience was all of the encouragement from friends, family and teammates out on the course. I drank and ate as much as I could to help try to get my legs ‘firing’ again but it never fully happened. I did however get into somewhat of a rhythm on the second lap and finished respectably though my feet were cramping badly as I came through the finish line. Marathon time was 4:50:38 (avg 11:06 min/mile). I’ve never run over 4 hours in a marathon before. Nearly went 5 hours. Praying I never experience that ever again.
- Stay off your feet and out of the sun the day before the race. We washed and tinkered with our bikes outside in the hot sun much of Saturday morning. Big mistake.
- Drink plenty of electrolytes no matter what the day before the race. I was drinking mostly water.
Note: The above lessons are what I preach as a coach to my athletes but I did not follow myself. The cramping during the swim was likely related to these mistakes.
- First put on your goggles then your swim cap(s) in big races. At least it will minimize the potential for them to be swiped off. Goggles vs swim mask? Let the debate begin.
- If you somehow experience a mechanical problem on the bike that could negatively effect your race, stop (like you do for a flat) and try to fix the problem. In hindsight I should have stopped immediately and tried to push my front deraileur back in place. Who knows how my race would have turned out if I did but in the heat of racing in such a ‘big’ event sometimes you don’t make smart decisions when you don’t have previous experience in certain situations. Now I know what to do next time…I hope!
- Change out the chain rings from 54/42 to 53/39. Also change cassettes to a 11-25 or 11-26 next year. Respect that course!
- Oh ya. Never attempt to shift both the front and rear deraileurs AND come out of the saddle while starting a climb at the same time!
- Finally, no matter what, do not stop taking your nutrition on the bike and run. Could have ate a bottle full more of salt tablets and taking in more calories.
OK, that’s it. That’s my story. That’s my race. Good day or bad an Ironman finish is still a GOOD DAY and a heck of an accomplishment.
Thanks again to everyone for your amazing support…and, most importantly, your willingness to read my recap! =)