Sunday, November 20, 2005

Tri-Brother's IMFL Report

Tri-Brother's IMFL race report landed in my e-mail inbox yesterday. He says one or two nice things about me. Go figure! And he discusses drafting on the bike. What he doesn't mention is that the aforementioned drafting caused a hellacious crash right in front of him. Read on for the full report...

"It has been a very long and busy year. I started my high intensity training in November of 2004 with the idea of trying to qualify for Kona at Eagleman in June and if everything went according to plan, doing Kona the end of October. My fall-back plan, if I did not qualify, was Ironman Florida in November. If you want to do an Ironman race you have to plan and sign-up one year in advance. So I went ahead and signed up for Florida just in case. The sport has gotten that popular. People are starting to understand the rewards the sport can bring. For those of us who are in the know, we know how addicting and fun it is. For those people just starting out, they are in for one helluva ride. It's like a Lays potato chip--"You cannot eat just one". So many people start out doing sprint triathlons and end up a couple of years later doing the Ironman. My brother is a classic example. Two years ago he watched me do the Chicago Triathlon. I swear, even before my race was over, he was formulating a plan. He is now signed up for the 2006 Ironman Wisconsin race. Along the way he has developed a TriBlog solely devoted to the sport, he's getting ready to purchase bike #2, has discussed opening up his own tri/bike store, and has already made an impact for himself in his age group. "The journey"! "The addiction"! It has begun.

"Since I missed qualifying for Kona back in June by 1 minute 45 seconds my focus turned to Ironman Florida on November 5. Since I did this race two and three years ago my plan was to break my previous personal best of 10:35. Forget the getting older and slower crap!

"Race Day! 4:00AM comes pretty quickly. When you think about it, there will be people in this race that will wake at 4:00AM and not finish the race until almost midnight. How sick is that? My race day should end much sooner than that. Hopefully I'll be in bed sleeping before some of these people end their race day. But you know what, at the end of the race when they cross the finish line they will have the same smile on their face. They will have the same satisfaction and strong emotions. Some will even cry because they will be so overrun with emotion. The sport has that kind of effect on people.

"You arrive at the bike transition and begin preparing. You end up checking each of your bags to assure that everything you will need for an entire day is there. You have a swim to bike transition bag that must have all of your bike gear. You have a bike to run bag that must have all of the run gear. You have a bike "special needs" bag that you decide what you want in it. They will hand you this bag at the midway point of the bike. My bag included a couple of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. These things are full of energy. You also have a run "special needs" bag that they will hand you at the half way point of the run. Unless the weather is severe I don't see a need for this bag. They have everything you will need in the aids stations along the way. The last bag is a dry clothes bag that they will give you at the end of the race. Needless to say the transition area is a zoo of activity. The morning is almost cold but the high for the day is going to be 83 degrees. It's going to be a great day for an Ironman race!

"The swim starts at 7:00AM with 2,100 people jumping into the water at the same time. In most triathlons they run the contestants in waves. But in an Ironman race it's a mass start. It is quite the spectacle and even more fun being a part of it. The energy right before the gun goes off cannot be described. It's one of four reasons I do these races. The first loop of the swim is pretty uneventful except for the fact that it feels like being in a washing machine. At the end of the first loop I could feel that my timing chip was about to come off so I stopped to fix it. When I looked up, the time on the board said 46 minutes. I was crushed until I realized that the professional athletes went off 15 minutes before us. That meant my first loop was completed in 31 minutes. That is an awesome time for me. By the time the second loop is completed people have spread out significantly. I felt really good and completed the swim in 1:05:18. That is 9 minutes faster than my previous best. Things are looking good so far. But you have to be careful about getting to excited. It's a long day and frankly, the swim is an easy warm up. The hardest parts are now beginning.

"The transition area for an Ironman race is like no other. They take care of each athlete like we're all professionals. You come out of the water to a specific point where people strip your wetsuit off for you. You run up, grab your swim to bike transition bag, and enter a tent where someone helps you with everything. They put sunscreen on if you need it. They put all your swim gear in the bag for you. They hand you items to put on as you request. It's awesome! By the time you run out of the tent, someone has gone over and grabbed your bike and is holding it for you to grab and go.

"The bike starts out with no wind in sight. In Florida the wind doesn't pick-up until later in the day. The weather forecast has said the wind would be around 5-7 mph so nobody anticipates the wind to be a factor anyway. How wrong that turns out to be. At around mile marker 90 we make the final turn home and we find ourselves heading straight into a 15-20 mph wind. Nobody is able to maintain anything over 15-16 mph on their bike. After riding 90 miles there is a fatigue factor. You also have to be careful because there is still a 26.2 mile run still to go. You can't burn everything in a 22 mile stretch of the bike.

"I want to say something about drafting. In triathlons drafting on the bike is illegal. It is a huge advantage if someone drafts. Not only do you sometimes get a quicker bike time but you are significantly less fatigued for the run. I was passed by 4 groups of 25+ people all drafting on each other. It is rather discouraging when people feel the need to cheat. It is not what this sport is all about. Take a little pride in your own abilities, in your own mental and spiritual strengths. That is what this sport is about. Unfortunately when there is so much at stake, like Hawaii Ironman slots, there will always be those few "dishonest" people who will do whatever it takes, including resorting to cheating. Anyway, a 5:29:28 bike split put me exactly 1 minute slower than two years ago. Before the head wind I was averaging 20.9 mph. When I finished the bike the bike split was at 20.4 mph.

"The RUN! This is frankly where the race truly begins for most athletes, especially age groupers who have jobs. By this time you have worked pretty hard through the swim and the bike and now one faces a marathon. The weather is pretty close to perfect for running. The sun will begin setting soon so the temperature will begin to drop. I feel pretty strong going out for the first loop and that feeling is maintained for the first 13.1 miles. As I come into the turn after the first 13.1 miles of the run I notice that my half way point time is 1:44. If I can maintain this pace that would give me a 3:30 marathon. You see, you have a lot of time to think during a marathon and one tends to run through all kinds of scenarios, most of which won't happen because I tend to run through unrealistic scenarios like, what if I could do a sub 3 hour marathon. Yea right!! Anyway a 3:30 marathon would put me in at around 10:15 to 10:20. That would be awesome!

"Heading out on the second loop is mentally tough. You're sore and tired and now you have to leave the finish line behind and head out for another 13.1 miles. At this point I am still feeling pretty good. I am actually smiling and do a little dance as I pass a large group of people who are partying big time and have music blasting. Maybe I should stop and have a beer with these folks. Nah!! Let's finish the race first.

"With any Ironman there is a point for most people where the race becomes more mental than physical. For me it came very hard and quick at mile marker 16 of the run. One minute you think you're OK and the next minute your body is screaming to your mind to get you to stop. It's a harsh reminder that you have been at it for almost nine hours. It's a harsh reminder that we do have some limitations and that our bodys, as awesome and as resilient as they are, cannot go forever at such a pace. This is the point where the race truly begins. It's the part of the race that hurts but it's the part of the race I enjoy. Why? Because if you have done your homework leading up to the race, you know that you have the mental and spiritual strength to push yourself through it. You also know that when the finish line does come it will be that much more gratifying. I was hoping this feeling would not come until inside of 20 miles because then adrenaline and the smell of the finish line can propel you. At mile marker 16 my back is still to the finish line so it's going to be tough. At mile marker 16 I spend more time at the aids station grabbing liquid, oranges, and now--chicken broth. CHICKEN BROTH?? In the course of an endurance race like this a persons appetite can change dramatically. What once looked good, tasted good and provided energy, now looks gross. It is strange but at Ironman races they serve chicken broth later in the race and it is awesome. It is warm, it is a liquid, and it provides instant energy. I need that energy because the next 8 miles are going to be rough.

"At mile marker 24, I can now smell and feel the finish line. These last two miles I somehow muster up the strength to run a 7:15 minute pace. It is these kinds of things that leave an impression in ones mind that maybe I could still do better--NEXT YEAR!! Maybe I didn't give it my all and left something in the tank. But then again, maybe not. At mile marker 25.5 I pass the party tent and they haven't slowed down one bit. Still drinking beer, dancing in the street, and playing David Bowie-LOUD!! NICE!!

"Home sweet home! The end of the race this year at Ironman Florida has been changed to accommodate more people, has a huge jumbo tron, which telecasts each athlete finishing, and a finish line that makes you feel like a professional athlete. Somewhere along the line I lost everyone around me and crossed the finish line all by myself to the words of the announcer yelling over the loudspeaker "and here comes W..., a three time finisher of Ironman Florida from Alexandria, VA". HOW COOL IS THAT!! You are instantly surrounded by support people who throw a towel around you, provide you with water or Gatorade and hand you an Ironman bag with numerous very cool gifts. They walk you to a tent where you get a 15-20 minute massage. I was lucky enough to have two very cute girls work on my legs. I was too sore and tired to care. How sad is that?

"It's almost sad really when the race is over. 12 months of intense training and in 10:37:02 it's over. The race is over and the year is over. My buddy and his wife who live in Panama City pick me up and take me to their house for some beer and food until I pass out from exhaustion. Boy it was good to taste beer again. It's been a long while. Maybe I'll spend a couple of weeks getting reacquainted with beer, wine, desserts, and fast food. I might even put on a few pounds of fat. After that, it's time to think about next year and the possibilities!!

"Once again, thanks to my friends and family for your constant and continued support. It was a very fun and rewarding year. In triathlon, it always is.


Flatman said...

What an awesome race! Congrats to your bro on a great year!

Can't wait to see what he (and you) does next year!!!

tri-mama said...

He makes it sound so easy...great race.

nancytoby said...

Thanks for posting that! Inspiring!!

BTW... I just signed up for Steelhead '06. Twisted Shelley's arm, too. You in? :-)

Comm's said...

that was a good report, need to read many more of these to sustain that fire in my belly.

Shelley said...

Love that you think he would share his "training diet" with us???

The Clyde said...

Awesome report...loved it.

So you're interested in starting a Tri-shop, eh? You and I may need to do some talking at our SEBA/WEBA's this summer......

Welcome Nancy to the Steelhead crew!!

jp said...

Rock on. What a great report....congrats to your bro on a fantastic race. 10:37 is a stellar time

Cliff said...

What a great race report. Thanks for sharing with the rest of us. :)

mipper said...

VM... where are you?!