Friday, November 27, 2009

TJ - IMAZ 2009 Race Report

TJ & Willie

When I started writing this race report, I envisioned a short bullet point race report list... to be followed by something with more prose and commentary. Instead, we've wound up with this one race report... half bullet point... half commentary... that is quite extensive and probably won't be read by anybody because it is too long. Oh well... I had to get it out so that I can now close the book on this past Ironman season.

Here is my "condensed" race report... summarized in 12.41 bullet points.

1. Ironman is hard. The race itself is hard but there is a lot of preparation involved, too. I firmly believe that Ironman (or any long distance triathlon) is 90% "mental game & nutrition" on race day... assuming you've done the training. And though I may have professed to understand this, I still was unable to be as focused as I needed to be at IMAZ 2009. I attribute a lot of that to the travel and other activity surrounding getting to the starting line on race day weekend. I had Tri Bike Transport, Race Day Wheels and had to shop for some items that were not brought to the race site. In addition, there was a social aspect to my race weekend and I think that fatigued/stressed me to some degree. Another thing is, it is hard to behold the Ironman Village if you haven't been there. Truly, the fitness elite. It's like taking the most fit 5 people from gym's around the country and plopping them all into one place. Lastly, an Ironman season is LONG. And, it doesn't help doing a race in late November... if you train in the Mid-Atlantic climate. I am going to look to do something in late July, August or September next time I do an Ironman.

2. The distances for each discipline are about 33% too long. That is what makes it so hard... at least for me. About an hour into the swim, you're like, "OK... this is starting to get long." On the bike, it's the same way... after about 70 miles, you've had enough... but you still have 42 miles to go. And then the run... well... that middle 10 miles can be a very dark place mentally. There is so much to think about, too. Pacing, nutrition and equipment status. Then, there are the other competitors. The swim is a blender of arms and legs... on the bike, you have to be careful of other riders. So, your physical endurance is tested... but the mental endurance is just as tiring. Especially for the people who have short attention spans (ahem).

3. I did something I've never done before in a race... I held onto a kayak during the swim as competitors swam by. The mass swim start is crazy, as is well documented. The sun started to come up over the horizon and shine into our eyes about 30 minutes into the swim. I tried to stay to the left and swim along the bouys. I reached the far turn buoys about 40 minutes into the swim. I wandered a little between the two far buoys. I could feel my calves "catching" the whole way out... but at about 60 minutes into the swim (so, I was heading back), both legs "seized up" and were locked into a palsied state. I could not swim. I waved and yelled out to the guys on the jetskis/kayaks and managed to pull my way (with a breast stroke) over to a kayaker. I held on for about 5 minutes, waiting for the leg cramps to release. It was like they were frozen into a cramped state. The right calf in particular was balled up and painfully tight. The kayaker (a he) had some water on board and I drank a little from his bottle. DNF did not cross my mind... but I was worried. The water was 63 degrees and the kayaker told me several people had leg cramps and had held on to his craft for a bit.

4. My transitions are disorganized. I do not go through T1 or T2 with purpose and tend to wind up where the "wind blows me". When my wetsuit was stripped, both legs cramped up again and I had to delay movement for the cramps to release. Then, I was mostly walking towards picking up my T1 bag. I considered taking a chair outside the tent but then remembered I'd be getting naked before putting on my bike shorts. So, I went into the tent and looked for a spot. I sat next to Willie in T1, if you can believe that. He had been in the tent for a while already as he beat me out of the swim. So, we're in there talking and complaining about the cold water and the grass that was sticking to our feet. Come on already... GET YOUR BUTT ON THE BIKE!!!

5. Whoever says the IMAZ bike course is flat is a liar. There is a gradual uphill on Beeline Highway. The last three miles to the turnaround has a steep grade. I don't know what percent of a grade, but it's there.

Incline on Beeline. With a headwind and on loop 3, this part of the bike course is a pain.

There was significant headwind on the way out Beeline on loop 1. Coming back from the turnaround was a blast. I was able to sustain 32 mph at some points. On the way out for loop 2, the wind had shifted and was more of a crosswind. By the time we were coming back down on loop 2, it wasn't a headwind but the cross was coming more at us than behind. By the time we got to loop 3, the wind was negligible. It wasn't an issue at that point. It warmed up as the ride went along and the asphalt was definitely hot on the last loop. So, you are now tired from the ride and the heat is really becoming an issue. Fortunately, it was only a challenge on the way out. On the way back, with the downhill, it's really not a factor.

A guy wrecked his bike right in front me at mile 53 of the ride. I pulled over to try and help him out. He had lost concentration and run into the "keep drivers awake" ridges on the side of the road. BAM... down like a sack of potatoes. His name was Raymond. Definitely had some road rash and was clearly pissed... still had over half the ride to go. I comforted him for a bit and then got going again. I helped him collect his drinks and other stuff that got strayed out along the road. Man, that must have really hurt.

I really didn't have any issues... stopped to pee once on the way out on the second loop... around mile 40... I picked up my special needs bag on the way back on the third loop... around mile 92... I just ate my chips and took my Endurolytes. I ate two Clif bars and went through two bottles of Accelerade throughout the ride. I drank lots of water as it was very dry out there.

I had two dark periods... mile 70 and mile 100. Both times, I got through it just by concentrating on my breathing. Your breathing won't lie to you.

6. At T2, I was more purposeful and quick with my movements. But, as I was changing, a guy in the chair next to me asked a volunteer to come over. He wanted to know where he could turn in his chip. I thought it was important to try to talk him out of it. I put my hand on his shoulder and looked at him in the eye... "are you sure you want to do that? Why don't you just wait in here for a bit... or come out with me and we'll walk for a little while." I could tell the gears were moving in his head but he looked back at the volunteer and said, "no... I'm done." I looked away from him and said out loud as I got up, "It just wasn't your day." Then I was off. But for the Grace of God, there go I.

7. The volunteers were really great. There was a big crowd, too. Along the Ironman Village waterfront, there were hundreds of people with signs and cheering us on. That was really great and helped when running on that side of the lake. The aid station at the far end of the run course was the best. They were very attentive and helpful. The Phoenix Tri Club aid station had the best looking girls... they were dressed in cowboy outfits. (This post encapsulates what is wrong with my runs... I'm checking out chicks and seeing who is more attentive... rather than concentrating on my run performance).

8. My run sucked. Honestly, a veteran Ironman has to do better than I did. I was very disorganized and did not really have a plan to begin with. I stopped and started without much rhyme or reason and I took in fluids and food without looking at my watch as I normally do when training. In fact, for about the last 2 1/2 hours, I could not even see my watch. My vision is poor to begin with and then my right eye got foggy. I was carrying a little water bottle (7 ounce fuel belt bottle) in one hand and a gel flask in the other. I mostly did water and flat coke at the aid stations. I ate grapes and oranges. I had one cookie around mile 18. I tried some chicken broth, but this year it did not taste good and I spit it out. The bottom line is I need to do a better job of pacing and also have a walking/feeding plan and stick with it.

9. The middle 10 miles were particularly dark... dark as in "Darth Vader Evil" dark. I was not feeling it and even considering just walking the rest of the way at some points. But, even with sporadic cramping in my right calf and right quadricep and walking associated with that, I managed to run and as I got over to the bridge on the west side of the run course on loop three (mile 19?), I sucked it up and got behind two women who were going at my kind of pace. I just locked in and ran it in almost the whole way from there. I was even able to sprint up the chute. I don't really remember crossing the finish line though this year they did call my name, hometown and "You are an Ironman" which had not happened at my two previous Ironman's. The way the finish takes a left turn into the grandstand is really cool. I wished I was more tuned in so I could savor it.

10. I'm going to do another Ironman. It won't be in 2010. I MEAN IT. I know I said it last year that I wouldn't do one this year... but, I'M NOT DOING ONE NEXT YEAR. I need to clear my head. However, I will do another one... probably in 2011. I love the sport, I love the distance and I believe that I like the training more than I like the racing. However, I know that I have a 11:45 Ironman in me... and I'm going to prove it to myself one day.

11. Willie and I had company this past weekend. Roseann Dougherty, from Team Inspiration, was staying at the race hotel and we hung around with her pretty much the whole weekend. She did the race with 140 LiveStrong bracelets on her bike and body for the run.

Kona Chick - Roseann Dougherty

Roseann got second place in her age group (50 - 54), which qualifies her for the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii. It is totally awesome. Her time was 11:28 and I am extremely proud of her. It made the weekend even more special as we were like three peas in a pod pretty much the whole weekend.

2nd Place Age Group

Roseann is an oncology nurse. She is very involved with cancer patients and her Team Inspiration's mission is aligned with inspiring those who have cancer or are survivors of those who have passed due to cancer. It is a result of deaths in my family due to cancer that I found this sport... this lifestyle.

12. My mom and my sister were there. It must be a real trial to stand out there all day. My seven year old nephew Joseph was there, as well. Mom and sis both had volunteered and shot some pictures and video on race day. Thanks and I love you both. I don't think I could do that... stand out there all day and watch people race. Chad and KDOG were in attendance, too. I saw them on the bike course near the turnaround and Chad would jog a little with me on the run course to check in on me. I missed training with them this year so it was good to see them on the course.

TJ & Jessica Ann

12.41. The Sky is the Limit. I'm a three time Ironman. I have a PR of 12:05:00... which is pretty good. I've been under 13 hours each time and I've finished each race. No DNFs. Ironman helps me focus on the Desire, Discipline and Determination that is required to get through life. The people I've met along the way are the real treat of this sport. The first time Ironman finishers from DC Tri Club were very inspirational to me this year. Colette and Davis were two training buddies who accompanied me on long swims, rides and runs. Linda and Jessica Rose have been very patient on my long ride Saturday's and Sunday bricks. I've been encouraged by veteran Ironman finishers from the club and am in awe of Philip Schmidt's sub 10 hour Ironman at Ironman Louisville this past August.

Willie, we did it. To God goes all the glory. And, listening to Ron R. at the Midtown Group on race day morning reminded us both of this fact... we've climbed our highest mountain already. To have lived through all that we've been through and then not only toe the starting line, but complete an Ironman... MORE THAN ONE... it's an awesome gift. I am grateful. And... I'm a THREE TIME IRONMAN!!!

The numbers don't lie.

-- TJ

1 comment:

  1. TJ, Nice race report. I also tend to write long race reports myself so I enjoy all the details. I know your sister from the Annapolis Triathlon Club. I have told her this before, but your blog was the first blog i started reading a couple of years ago when I first started triathlons. In fact it was your first blog about IMFL that convinced me to sign up for IMFL 2009 (and start my own blog here I did finish my 1st IM in my 12th triathlon and I can't wait to do another. Your talk about mile 70 and 100 on the bike is exactly what I felt. Congrats an a great time and finish. And BTW there is a big group forming from the Annapolis Triathlon Club that is planning for Ironman Wisconsin in 2011. Maybe you can convince Jessica to do it and join us. Congrats again!