Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Ironman Bike and Run

I was very excited to start the longest ride I have done without stopping especially after having such a good swim.  I was also very excited to see Anne since I had not seen her yet.  The bike course was two loops with the transition being in the middle.  You had a 15 mile out and back to transition and then out the other side for a 40 mile out and back.  We had to do this twice.  The first out and back was pretty low key with very few hills and was a great spot to get my bearing.  As I started to settle down I was excited and hoping that I would see Anne early and when I spotted the Colorado support crew ahead and was able to narrow my focus in on Anne I slowed down to a stop and give her a big kiss.  She means the world to me and to have her out supporting my Ironman made the day all that more perfect.

Because I had done a pretty fast swim I started the bike with guys and gals that were rocking the bike course and for me I had two goals.  Number one was to keep my average HR for the entire bike ride to be under 150 BPM and my second goal was to not allow my HR to spike above 165 while climbing.  For me that meant that I had to settle down and allow people to pass me and not let it affect my day.  I was use to this because on most of my races I get out of the water pretty quick and then the fast riders and runners that are not so great in the water have to make up the lost time.  What I did not realize was how many of those swimmers were at Ironman CDA.  The entire day I was getting passed.  Passed on the flats, hills and turns and so I had to make a game of it since I was going to be out on the course for 7-8 hours.  As someone came by me I would give them a nickname and try to get them to talk to me.  The first 10 times I tried this I was able to get some pretty funny reactions both positive and negative from the fast riders.
The 1st turn came fast I was headed back into town were Anne and the crew was and I was again really excited to see them.  I had just been passed by Peter Atwater who was looking to have a good day and it was fun to see one of my training partners out so strong.  Anne was loud and gave me the boost that I needed to carry me into the next 40 miles of hills. 

The hills again were pretty funny since I had to keep my HR down and sometimes that was a REALLY slow speed.  It allowed me to cheer on the Pro’s and the really fast Age Groupers.  A few  of the Colorado crew would podium the next day and to see them in action was great. 

The first lap went pretty quick if 3+ hours can be considered quick and I was getting excited to see Anne again.  I passed her with a great smile and was off to the small out and back starting lap two.  The second send off and my last 40 miles on the bike was pretty hard.  I hit a low spot until I was able to see my coach Beth and chat it up with her a bit.  OK, I did not chat I sang the “Red Solo Cup” song and made a few people around me smile.  The hills on the second loop seemed to be higher than the first and the down hills were shorter but after a long time I was headed back to town and getting my arms wrapped around the run that I had a head of me.  The last climb the sun decided to finally show up and the temperature started to rise.  Usually not a good sign for me but I had done such a great job keeping to my goals that I was thinking I would be OK.

Coming out of transition I had the sun block girls lather me up and I was headed out the run shoot onto the course.  The crowds at Ironman are RIDICULOUS.  They spend all day cheering for everyone and to feed off that was very helpful.  We had a climb right out of the shoot and I had to slow down like 4 times to get my HR down to my goal effort.  I saw Anne and the crew again at the same area and felt a jolt of power.  It was at this point that I realized I had been going for over 8 hours now and had a marathon to run.  My HR spiked when I started to think about the time and the effort it would take and I was even able to cry until I pulled myself out of it and focus on 1 mile goals and not the total distance.
The run course was next to the first out and back of the bike and so it was fun to be running next to the lake and have the view that we did.  I climbed the first hill and did well on the flats eating, drinking and working to keep my effort consistent.  The second hill I started to slowly run up but I ended up walking since it was so long and steep.  I saw Peter coming down the hill looking good keeping a steady hard effort. 
The run course allowed me to be even closer to all my friends and we all made eye contact, hand signs and comments to each other depending on where they were.  I made it to the run turn and headed back towards town.  It was going well but I realized that I had stopped sweating which was not a good sign.  I slowed down again and took a lot more aid as I passed the next mile marker.  Over the next 30 minutes and almost half way done I started to feel my energy disappear and I knew what was coming.  I was dehydrated and heading to a bad spot.  I felt my stomach turn and I made the choice at mile 9 to walk.  The next 10 minutes trying to deal with my present situation was REALLY, REALLY hard for me.  I was in a bad place and it took all that I had to just keep walking.  Runner after runner would pass me and the spectators would cheer me on and I was pissed.  I had done everything that my plan called for to the tee and I was now doing what I did not what to do on the run and that was walk.  I had over 14 miles left and it was going to be a very long day.  I passed the next aid station and did not take anything but had to leave a token gift behind the port-a-potty.  I took a sip of water and started to walk to the run turn around where Anne and the support crew were stationed. 

My spirit was low, my body was hurting, I had been moving for over 11 hours and now I had 13.1 miles to go.  I did not want my day to end this way but still wanted to finish.  Coming down the gentle grade where Anne was gave her time to cross the road and as I approached her I stopped, turned and put my head down on the fence.   I felt like stopping.  I told her I had burned up and was going to have to walk the rest of the day to finish and had a pretty low spirit.  She told me she loved me and I would finish and would be an Ironman just as soon as I walked the second half of the run.  That sparked something inside me and I stood up and the idea of stopping never entered my mind again.  I had a quarter mile to the turn-a-round which seemed like a mile and then I was back to where Anne was.  She gave me a cold bottle of water and told me to take little sips and to keep walking.  She started to walk with me and had the intentions to walk the whole way until I told her it was not allowed.  She is my rock and understood what I was going through and was going to help even if it was walking next to me.  I gave her a quick hug and told her I would be back in 3.5 hours.  That was what my mind calculated the walk time would take me.  The next thing I remember was looking at the front yard of one of the houses on the run course.  The grass was shaded and looked so inviting so I laid down and closed my eyes.  Someone asked if I was OK (NO I WAS NOT is what my mind was thinking) and all I could say was “yep just taking a rest”.  I think I could have stayed laying on the cool grass for a long time but I had to get up and keep going.  My feet hurt and my toes were swollen and so I had to loosen up my laces to stop the pain.  One by one all my friends would pass me as they were headed to the finish with what every positive comment they could give.  They were all in the last push of such a long day and anything they gave was huge.  I passed the next aid station and they offered warm chicken broth and it tasted great.  The comments that I was getting from the crowd stopped bothering me and I really felt that they were genuine.   I was going to finish this race and regardless of when I crossed the finish line I would be an IRONMAN.  The next few miles were better and I was able to start thinking clearly.  I picked up my walking pace and started to look at my watch.  I realized I could walk a pretty quick mile if I tried and if I really pushed my walk I could finish under my goal time of 14 hours.  The next aid station I took coke and chips and within a minute of drinking the coke I felt strength return to my body.  The next aid station I drank two cups of coke and more chips and again I felt more strength return.  I looked at my watch and determined that I needed to run a bit to get under 14 hours.  I decided that if I kept feeling better I would run the last 3 miles and if I was lucky I would cross the finish line just under 14 hours.  I was trying to walk fast and feel good when I saw Beth on her way back to town.  She actually stopped and talked to me for a minute and gave me as much positive MoJo as she could.  She took off again and went to finish her first Ironman having a pretty good day.  I had 1 mile to the bottom of the big hill were the run turn-a-round was and I decided that I would try to run just a few block.  I picked up my head, put a smile back on my face and started to run very slowly.   It worked, I could run again so I decided that I would run just a few blocks but that turned into many more.  I was able to run and so I did not want to stop.  I kept running all the way to the bottom of the hill. 

 That mile was huge for me because for the first time ever in a race I was able to come back from a death march to the finish.  The hill seemed to be smaller than the first time and as I crested the top and started to go down the back side I could see the run turn-a-round.  I was nearly 6 miles away from finishing my first Ironman and I was on target to get it done in less than 14 hours.  I hit the timing mat and the familiar beep sounded which said I was on my way to the finish.  I walked back up the backside of the hill and took on some more coke and chips.  I looked at my watch and determined that the mile I ran gave me 2 minutes to work with.  That gave me a boost and I started to run again but this time my feet were not the only ones running.  I had picked up some company and I was pulling others from a walk to a slow run.  We ran down the hill and towards the bottom I felt the best I had in the past 5 hours.  The guy walking in front of me was talking to a friend on a bike and as I approached them he started to take off.  I yelled “hey bike guy” and he turned around.  I asked if he had a phone and he said yes.  I asked if he would relay a message for me and he called Anne.  He got her VM and left the message “Tyler is running and will be to the finish shoot in about an hour”.  The last time I left her I said “I will see you in 3.5 hours and that was not going to be the case”.  My watch beeped which told me I had finished another mile and so I looked to see that my last mile was a 9:17 which was the fastest of the day.  I had 5 more miles to go and I now had 2 people holding on to me as we ran passed all the walkers towards the finish.  The next three miles were spent digging deep and keeping a steady pace to allow me to possible make it to the finish running.  I was now 137.6 miles done and 3 mile to the finish.  Now I was running on parts of the run course where I had walked earlier.  I passed the port-a-potty where I left my token gift and was now only two miles out. 

The last mile was amazing, the two people that were running with me had dropped off and I was again all along to finish the race.  I was approaching the split there those that had another lap would go right and those that were done would go left.  I took the left turn running and made the right turn towards the finish line.  I was a few blocks away but the crowd was crazy and I was able to feed off of them.  I was going to finish under 14 hours and was going to be an Ironman.  I saw Peter, Sonja, Michelle, Michael and others and gave them running high fives.  I was looking for Anne but did not see her yet.  I was just a few hundred feet away and the crowd on each side had layers of people cheering.  I was jumping, yelling and going from side to side giving high fives to everyone.  I was soaking up the moment and doing what I had imagined on so many workouts this past year .  I stopped short of the finish line and did a little dance.  I was caught up in the moment and loved it.  I took all of it in and can tell you it was nothing short of what was talked about by others.

I became an Ironman on June 24th 2012 after 13 hours and 42 minutes of effort.  I AM AN IRONMAN and will have the memory of that day for the rest of my life.

Anne, you are my Rock and I am so glad that you were there to help me make it to the finish line.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Ironman CDA 2012 Swim

Couer d’ Alene Idaho is an amazing place with the lake sitting at the bottom of all the pine trees on the hills edges it’s a place that feels magical.  When I arrived the city was alive gearing up for the Ironman Triathlon that was about to happen for the 10th time.  CDA has more volunetters that sign up to help than athletes that show up on race day.  Some years is has nearly been a 2-1 ratio making it the best run race to date.

Anne and I at the swim beach at Lake Couer d' Alene
Nicole, Anne, Michele and Nancy were the best support crew EVER.  Beth and Keith were my constant training partners that I was very excited to spend the race day with!
My calm before the storm!  I was checked in and ready to race.

The days leading up to the race were spent working on last minute race plans, testing the water (which was really cold both times that I tried swimming in it) and getting myself in a mental place that would allow me to spent almost an entire day racing.  It was a sun up to sun down challenge that could not last longer than 17 hours.  I was gearing up for my first try at the Ironman distance triathlon.  Anne arrived the day before and she went straight to work making my life easier and doing everything she could to help me get ready.  We were staying in a house with the 3 others that arrived at Panera Bread Company 1 year before and signed up together.  We also added a few to bring the total racer count to 6. 

I was able to sleep really well the night before and I was able to get my transition set up just the way I wanted.  I went for a jog and made sure that all systems were a go and then headed to put on my wet suit with 2300 fellow racers.  The cannon was set to go off at 7am as a signal to start the day.  2300 people were placed on a very narrow beach front for a two loop swim both being 1.2 miles long.  Michele, Keith and I made a mad dash for the right side of the group and placed ourselves right up front.  We were going to swim the longer distance to the turn buoy but felt we could have clearer water doing so.  I WAS WRONG. 

The second the cannon fired I was off pushing the pace pretty quick from the start to get away from the masses.  I had practiced my swim start a ton of times over the last few months.  The problem I had was 500 others were trying to follow the same plan I was and I had no breathing room and was getting kicked, hit and pushed around just like I was told, read about and saw on TV.  I felt that they exaggerated the feelings and it would not be that bad.  I was a good swimmer and should have no problem finding clear water but not today.  I made the first turn, second turn and still had to fight to swim smooth and fast. 
I kept calm and did not even feel the temperature of the water the entire race.  All the stress over cold water and I could care less, I was trying to get away from the other crazy swimmers.   The sound of the announcer was loud even several hundred yards from the beach and I was getting pumped up to start the second lap.  I touched sand and was up on my feel running to around the turn and off to the second lap.  I looked at the clock and saw that I was done in 32 minutes and was jazzed.  I could hear my name being yelled but could not place it. I found out later that Anne and Shannon were at the turn and it was her yelling my name.  My race plan after a quick start was to go at a steady, medium effort and today that felt pretty fast.  The second lap was just a repeat of the fist with the one exception being that on the last leg back I was able to swim without getting touched.  I hit the sand again and was up and trotting to the transition tent. 
 The amount of people cheering at the swim beach was unbelievable, thousands of people cheering and yelling.  As I made my way up the beach I heard my name again and was able to focus this time on Nancy and Michele and gave them high fives and then headed over to the wet suit strippers.  Rather than going straight to transition I ran to the T1 bag area and yelled my race number to several volunteers.  They had my bag held high in the air by the time I made my way down the row and I was moving into the changing tent. 

These are the bags you grab before heading to the changing tent in T1

This was the first race where they have separate male and female changing tents to get ready for the 112 mile bike journey that I had ahead of me.  I took a few seconds to look around at the mass of people coming into the tent and changing.  What a day it was turning out to be.  I was loving it at this point and was ready to take on the rest of the day with excitement.
I finished the swim in 1:07:27 feeling really good and excited about the rest of the day!