Sunday, April 16, 2006

"You Are an Ironman"

Wow its finally over. Here's the race report I wrote. I'll post a bunch of pic too in a separate post.

One of me and my wife’s favorite groups is Maze featuring Frankie Beverly. They’ve got a song called “Joy and Pain”. Joy and Pain is what this Ironman deal was really about for me. Here’s my race report, enjoy.

Coach J took me on this journey of becoming an Ironman. Some of those workouts seemed nuts (120 miles + run for 30 minutes). But in the end, he knew exactly what it takes to get through those 112 miles and still have legs to run a marathon. Bro, I couldn’t have done it w/o your guidance. Big ups to you Coach J.

It’s a good feeling to train for 7 months and then experience the joys and pains, highs and lows of doing this deal. Now I’ve joined the ranks of the folks that have finished an Ironman.

I chose IMAZ since I used to live in the Phoenix area for 10 years and my wife, Lisa was born and raised in Phoenix. It worked out good since I knew the course and it was easy to have friends and family come out for a cheering section. I did have to make some obligatory visits to friends and family before the race, but in retrospect it was a small price to pay in time/energy when I had a bunch of folks pumping me up during the race that gave me back so much more energy.

Pre race
One of the members, Bill from my tri team, Fleet Feet Carrboro also did the race and it was very cool to have him to hang out w/ for the pre-race stuff. One thing about this IM deal is that the race is just one part of the whole experience. There’s all kinds of stuff going on (IM village, registration, bag check, swim practice, pre-race dinner and on and on) so it was definitely good to hang out w/ Bill and meet his lovely wife Melissa while trying to navigate through all of the activities. Also I blew up his mobile a million times asking questions and wondering if I packed this bag and that bag w/ the right stuff.

One thing that also happened is I felt like I had one minor mishap after another leading up to race day. During the Thursday swim practice I stepped on some rocks going into the lake and bruised my heel to the extent that I had some small dark discoloration and could feel pain in the heel w/ each step for the remainder of the day. I also cut the skin underneath one of my toes during that episode. Then the next day, I do another pre-race swim w/ Bill and after that we go for the ART massages (Active Release Therapy) that were free at the IM village. This one dude that works on me asks me what is wrong, so I tell him there a little bit of soreness in my left shoulder. He gets to digging down in my shoulder muscle and doing all kinds of hard pressure applications and I’m feeling some sharp pains while he’s doing this, but I figure it’s cool my man knows what he’s doing. The next day (Friday) I can’t even turn the steering wheel on my car w/o having pains. Then to top it off, I bit my tongue good enough to cause some bleeding and swelling at the pre-race dinner. Luckily everything was minor and I felt fine on race morning.

I attended the Ironprayer service Friday before the pre-race dinner. Heather Gollnick was one of the speakers. She was pretty inspirational. I got to take a picture w/ her which was very cool. I also met a 68 year old lady named Elizabeth Johnson. Her IM story was chronicled in the book, “Becoming an Ironman”. She’s done like 20+ IM’s. What a lady!

Race morning I got up and had oatmeal w/ peanut butter, pecans, pancake syrup and a banana. I went cold turkey on coffee 2 weeks prior to the race (well I did cheat twice) and had a good cup of joe on the way to the race. I couldn’t find Bill, there were so many people, but I did find a couple of my best friends from when I lived in Phoenix 10 minutes before the start. It was so cool, the 3 of us said a prayer right there by the swim start and I then was really to jump in Tempe Town Lake.

The swim
Since it’s a deep water start I was worried about using up energy treading water before the start, but Bill gave me a good tip about leaning back and just bobbing. This worked out good and then the cannon went off for the start. Someone gave me a good blow to my lip just as we were starting but nothing too serious. There was some bumping, getting kicked, and getting grabbed a good bit for the first 10-20 minutes after that it settled down until we came to the turn buoy. The course is basically and out and back, so the one turn at the out portion got congested and the contact was on again. I estimated I would be really happy w/ a 1:30 swim and I ended up w/ a 1:24. I was really happy w/ that 1:24. One thing funny about the swim, this is where I had my greatest anxiety, but it turned out, by a whole lot to be the easiest part of the day.

The bike
Coach J and I talked about a bike plan for the race. My strategy was to break the race into 4 parts of about 30 miles each and stay in Zone 1 for the first part and then increasing my HR through the other parts. The strategy was pretty easy to implement since it was a 3 loop course. I did manage to keep my HR down pretty good for the first part. It was tough to watch other passing me, but I kept it easy. There was this one dude that was 75 and passed me early on. He called out my name (they put your name on your bib numbers) as he passed and I thought to myself, dang I can’t let a 75 year old man beat me on the bike. I finally caught him after a bit, and he told me, “hey Robert, I thought I dropped you”. I saw him again on the run and he gave me some positive vibrations. For the next two sections, I picked it up and started passing a good number of riders. That felt like the bomb. I was staying aero had good energy and rolling.

The course is a 3 loop deal where you come back to the crowds and you get the feeling like you’re a rock star or something w/ all the cheering. I would see my wife, Lisa and some of our friends and I definitely got a boost from them. Big ups to Lisa for spending so much time out in that 90 degree sun and cheering for me. She made a huge difference.

Everything went pretty good until about mile 90 when it was getting increasingly hot and windy. My plan was to go all liquids on the bike. I mixed up 2 bottles of Sustained Energy and chased it w/ water. I also used Endurolytes every hour or so. This was all good until I ran out of nutrition w/ about 10 miles to go on the bike. During training rides the last 10 miles usually isn’t too bad, but during the IM, I wanted to try and keep my HR up and finish the bike strong. I did knock down a couple of Gu’s during last part of the ride.

The last 10-15 miles was weird, because I couldn’t seem to get my HR up. I would try and pedal harder, but my legs weren’t having it. I did manage to finish w/ a 6:15 bike split. I was hoping to be over an 18 mph average, but I take that split anytime. Especially in those hot and windy conditions.

The run
I think it was like 90 degrees or something that day, maybe even a little hotter and I suffered big time for the marathon. I wanted to run at least to the aid stations, but for like the first 5-6 miles I had to run for 3-4 minutes then walk. I repeated this and was averaging a 12-13 min/mile paces. The sun and heat just beat up on me. My mind was playing tricks on me and giving me all kinds of weird thoughts like I could jump off this bridge into the lake, or having my wife pick me up and put a stop to this suffering.

I drank at every aid station, but it was weird, I kept spitting back up liquids. This happened for the whole run. I’d take a Gu, Coke, water, Gatorade or whatever and then spit up some of it for the first minute or two as I left the aid stations. Its like my stomach was rejecting fluids. I also felt pretty bloated which was also weird. Then I had the cotton-mouth big time. I just couldn’t generate any saliva. The last weird thing was my left arm started going numb during like the last 10k of the race. I was getting worried that I might be having some cardiac issues, especially since I take medication for hypertension and I’ve had some episodes of atrial fibrillation in the past.

The last 10 miles I really prayed to God for strength to be able to finish and got my pace down to 10-11 minute miles. I thought I’d never say I’d was happy to run sub 11 min miles, but believe me it felt real good when I looked at my watch at a milepost and it was under 11 minutes. I joked w/ my buddy after the race that I don’t think there’s too many atheists during the run on an Ironman. It was such an amazing feeling to be coming down that last half mile, hearing the crowds/music/the announcer. Then as I got closer to the finish, I could see the big jumbotron and knew I was about to become an Ironman.

Post race
I finished the marathon w/ a 4:59 time. Its weird to say, but that 4:59 felt more gratifying than a sub 4 hr standalone marathon. My total time was 12:53, which I feel real good about. Looking back over the results, the race started w/ 1943 athletes and 1724 finished. That’s like an 11% DNF rate.

A bunch of Lisa’s relatives and my best friend came out and met me at the finish. I was on a high and had a blast hanging out w/ them. Some of our relatives are struggling w/ overweight issues, so hopefully I was able to inspire them to take better care of themselves. I also went to Med tent and the doc told me that I likely had inflammation on the “funny bone” nerve in my elbow. This is somewhat common and is a result of positioning on the aerobars that caused the numbness in my arm..

I’m not sure if I’ll attempt one of these again. Bill is talking about IM CdA for ’07. By the time registration opens, maybe I’ll be fired up for another one.

For me it was a day of nervousness, fun, faith, more faith, joy, despair, strength, self-doubt, but mostly a day where I felt a deep sense of satisfaction knowing I set my sights on goal that was unbelievable a couple of years ago and wound up finishing an Ironman.

1 comment:

Danny said...

Rob,

I'm proud of you, man. Congrats on your first IR! You're awesome!

When you're ready to start training an olympic gold medalist couch potato (me), let me know.

-D