Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Completing a First Ironman at 67

I finished the Boulder Ironman is 16:52 minutes.  That time is about 20 minutes slower than I planned and only 8 minutes to spare before the 17-hour cut-off.   But my plan also was set at 16:30 to give me some cushion and obviously I needed it.

I was told that no Ironman goes to plan and this one was no exception.  Things went off plan immediately.  The water temperature was 78.1 degrees, which meant that wetsuits were optional.  Optional in that you can’t qualify for the world championships in Hawaii if you wear a wetsuit. 

Hahahaha.  And I don't plan on turning pro either.

My goal on the swim was to do it in about 2 hours and get out of the water not exhausted and not drowned.  I was out in 1:55 but exhausted and with a head full of lake water.

Originally the swim start was to be a stagger start by expected swim time.  That would allow the slower swimmers to get to the back.  But when wetsuits became optional the non-wetsuit swimmers were placed at the front and all the wetsuit swimmers (and there were maybe 1,500 of them) in a pack at the behind.

The affect was essentially a 2,000 swimmer mass start and it was mayhem. 

I was going to use the first 200-300 meters to warm up and get my rhythm.  That was impossible in the chaos.  I had my goggles and swim cap pulled off.  Another swimmer I know had his timing ankle chip torn off.  Another was hit so hard he had a concussion.  The first 800 meters were awful and I was seriously concerned that me day would end here.

Getting a swim cap and goggles on in the water is a real challenge.  This was my first encounter with one of the volunteers—all of which would be fantastic.  I managed to catch my stuff before it sank and swam over to a kayak where a woman helped me.  I don’t know her name but many, many thanks.

 The last 800 meters were also tough.  My legs cramped hard starting at the ankle and going up the entire leg.  Fortunately only one leg at a time cramped but for most of the last 800 meters I was dragging one leg or another.

Coming out of the water my wetsuit was stripped off me and I was met by a volunteer who had my cycling equipment.  He was my age and talked to me about the ride coming and how important it was to go ridiculously slow for at least the first 40 miles.  He was very calming and I greatly appreciated his words and actions.

I have learned that a long distance triathlon is a race (against other racers or against the clock) with three phases.  It is not three events (swim, cycle, run) because each phase has implications for the following phases. 

In this case the swim affected the cycling and run.  I rode for the first sixty miles with knots in my calves from the cramping and the lake water drainage from my sinuses would go on all day.  Nasty stuff.

I have ridden the bike course many times and knew how deceptively evil it is.  I went out slow and stayed slow until the last 20 miles.  Many, many other riders didn’t have the proper gearing for the climbs, went out too fast, were not ready for the altitude,  or just weren’t good cyclist.  The ditches the last 50 miles were cluttered with riders on their backs or throwing up their gels.

And the weather was actually as good as it gets in August.

I finished the ride in 7:40 giving me some extra time for the run.  I was met at the end of the ride by another fantastic volunteer who had my running gear and more wise words about the run.  His advice was I had time, go slow, the last half would be very hard and be ready for it.  All things I knew but having them said one more time in a very comforting voice was great. 

By mile 11 in the run my left IT band where it connects at the knee was hurting a lot which caused the left leg to not extend properly.  I had to walk.  But I figured that if I could keep a fast walk up I would finish in time; close but in time.

And that is how it worked out.

The finish is exciting but I didn’t find it emotional.  I was tired and my goal was to finish in time and if not in time, just finish the distance.  I guess I didn’t have much emotion wrapped up in doing this race.  For me it was all about the challenge of training, planning and doing it. 

Will I do another?  I will probably not do another full Ironman.  It just takes too much time to train and impacts my family a lot.  I need to become a much better swimmer and solve my left leg issues.  And 2016 is already busy with half marathons.

Maybe in 2017 I will do a half Ironman where the family can also take a vacation.  Say Los Cabos or Cozumel.  Or even Los Vegas.

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