It took me a while to compile all the pictures and piece everything together however, I feel it is well worth the wait! Below is a link to a video I put together that highlights my day at Ironman Wisconsin.
Three weeks ago from right now I was out of the water and already on my bike. It has been a crazy three weeks as I have been recovering from the Ironman, traveled to Italy and back, and tried to process all that happened on race day. I'm not sure if I am fully recovered from the race, or if I am tired from jetlag. My body feels relatively fresh, but finding the energy to get out for a run or bike ride hasn't been there in abundance. I never liked swimming while training, so I never anticipated having a desire to swim now that the race is over! Overall, in the three weeks since the race I have continually found myself saying, "That was really cool." I don't have an ounce of regret and am still a bit giddy that it actually happened and that I really did cross the finish line.
Below is a bit of a recap of what happened on race day, and what was going through my mind during each of the segments of the race:
I came out of the water in 1:40, which was a little slower than hoped, but truthfully right on pace for what I think I am capable of. Seeing as how 6 months ago I got winded after swimming 50 meters, I am more than happy with a time of 1:40. I felt like I could not see for 95% of the swim. My goggles got a bit foggier than normal and for a massive portion we were swimming straight at the rising sun. That, plus a lot of spray from those around me, made my visibility quite low. For the most part I could generally see (or hear) a few kayaks in the water and could tell where the other swimmers were. I basically told myself to stay between the other swimmers and the kayaks, and I would be fine. Every so often I would hear someone in a kayak directing, "swim to your left" or "swim to your right" which was helpful to those like myself, unable to swim with much direction. I'm pretty certain that if you followed me from an aerial position, you would have thought I was swimming drunk. I was probably swerving left and right and making an S shape the entire race, but that's fine with me.
I lost my form a lot because I was worried about breathing, and I recognized that while swimming. But, I'd rather not drown than try to finish 5 minutes faster. For the majority of the race I felt really calm and relaxed. I didn't feel like I was pushing as hard as I could -and seeing as how I knew I still had A LOT of racing left, I could make up for any lost time there.
Toward the very end of the race I started to get very impatient. For almost 20 minutes I could hear the announcer calling out names as they came out of the water. With every stroke I knew I was getting closer, yet I didn't feel like his voice was getting any louder. After a while I kept saying, "I should be there by now" but "now" wasn't coming! Finally I could just about see the finish line and could hear the crowd roaring. The end was in sight! As I reached dry land, I got really disoriented when I came out of the water. I stumbled and almost fell over as soon as I stood up. For the whole run up the helix and into T1, I was feeling pretty loopy and disoriented. Kind of funny looking back at it, but kind of scary in the moment.
The bike ride was TOUGH. Down here in Florida I am lucky if I get 50ft of elevation change in a normal ride...race day had over 1,000 ft of elevation change. Down here I can cruise at 19/20 mph and feel like I am barely pedaling. While training, I set my watch to go off every 5 miles and my goal was to do a 5 mile chunk in 16 minutes - I think I only hit that mark once the whole race! I finished the ride in about 6:45, which was close to an hour slower than I hoped. The course was filled with so many rolling hills. I read about it a number of times but never really believed it would cause me many problems... boy was I wrong! I never felt truly comfortable on the bike. I never seemed quite able to get a comfortable speed going for any portion of the race.
My lower back and neck were in a lot of pain as I got off the bike. My back hurt more on the bike than it ever did in training. Around mile 70 I started to think to myself, "why did I do this?" But around mile 80 I saw my family and support crew for the 2nd time on the bike, and they gave me some much needed energy. I tried hard to pass them with a smile on my face, and some good looking speed. After being reenergized by them, I approached mile 90. With only 22 miles to go, I was just a training ride away. I commonly biked to/from my school which is 21 miles each way - therefore when I reached mile 90, I was able to visualize myself riding from school to home. I did that ride so many times that I knew my distances at virtually every street. A number of times in that final stretched I imagined myself along the route, which seemed to bring a bit more energy and joy to the ride.
Overall, the hills were just annoying. There is a real tough stretch that has the nickname "the three sisters" and... they suck. They said in the athlete briefing that Wisconsin bike course is among the most difficult in all of North America. This was my first Ironman, but I feel bad for anyone doing a bike course that is more difficult than Wisconsin.
Running is by far my strongest discipline. I actually thought to myself while on the bike, "When you're riding you can rely on your expensive bike to help you out. When you're running, all you have is your body, mind and determination." I felt like I knew I could pass people on the run because running is not dependent upon any kind of equipment you can buy. I got through T2 pretty fast and was pumped to start running.
I crushed miles 1-7 and even hit 13 miles on my goal pace. I think mile 3 was a 7.35. I wanted to do the first half between 1.45-1.50 and then be able to break 4 hours with a 2.10 or 2.15 on the back half of the run. I think my first half was around 1.50, so I was well happy with that.
But then came the difficult stretch. Miles 14-19 were really, really hard. I'm accustomed to feeling fatigued during a normal marathon, but that generally doesn't hit until mile 20 or 21. This time around, I was feeling that same fatigue at mile 14 and 15! The run wasn't as hilly as the bike course, but a few ups and downs made it challenging. There was a big hill around mile 18 that I walked up - I ended up walking for nearly a mile straight at one point, a 15 minute mile! I was tired. I was sore. I wanted to be done.
I saw my dad around mile 18 and started softly crying and put my head on his shoulder and said, "I just want to be done." I knew he would understand without me having to say much. He simply said, "I know. But you won't stop. Just put one front in front of the other and keep moving. I'm proud of you."
As I turned the next corner I saw the rest of my family and support crew. I got a hug and high five from my wife. My brother stepped onto the course for 25m to walk with me and talk. I honestly don't remember anything either one of us said, but I know I was encouraged.
After seeing my family I was revitalized. It wasn't any secret, any time I saw my family, I was pumped up with energy and enthusiasm. I wanted to do well for myself, but when I saw my family I wanted to do well for them. I wanted them to be proud and I wanted to give them something to cheer about. They have been involved in this journey from day 1, and I knew I wasn't alone, it wasn't just me out there on the course.
With as awful as I felt during miles 15-19, something incredible happened after that. I don't know what, and I don't know how, but I finished the final 7 miles around a 9.30 pace - only stopping at the aid stations but keeping a steady jog the rest of the way.
I finished around 4:19 on the run. About 20 minutes slower than I wanted, but I definitely felt better with my run than the bike.
All things considered, I felt really good in the final 6-7 miles. When I think of the day, I love thinking about the final 6-7 miles of the run. it was such a positive way to finish the race. I wasn't able to smile much during the 15-19 stretch, but somehow after mile 19 a smile returned to my face. My body was in pain, but it was able to keep going. I was tired, yet I felt strong.
Overall a finishing time of 13:09. Slower than my original goal, but this was my first ever triathlon so I am not going to complain at all. In the days that have passed since the race, I look back and cannot help but smile. After the race my wife and I grabbed a pizza and headed back to our hotel room. For the rest of the night and the entire next day I would find myself randomly giggling and smiling, my wife would look at me a bit confused and then I would simply say, "we did it."
And, I truly mean WE. I admit that training took a lot of discipline, time and sacrifice. But none of it could have been done without the love and support I was shown every single day. Most Sunday mornings my wife would wake up 30 minutes before I did, make some pancakes to get me some morning carbs. Then, as I did my long run she would bike right next to me carrying water, food, and a speaker so that I could listen to music and be hydrated along the way! She showed me that kind of support not just on Sundays, but every day, and I am grateful for it. We did it.
Last I wrote I was just beginning my Ironman training. A number of weeks later, I am happy to say that I am absolutely loving my training. It is tough. It is hard. It is demanding. Yet, it is a lot of fun. I have been geeking out as I am learning a lot about new physical activities and all that goes along with them.
Without a doubt, swimming has been the hardest discipline for me so far. When I jumped into the pool to start my training, it had been a solid eight years since I last did a lap in the pool. My tag phrase was, "I don't know how to swim, I know how to not drown." While I am still not an expert, I am getting better and seeing progress. Just yesterday I reached what I consider a milestone in my swimming. For the first time during a swim workout, I found my mind starting to wander and think about things that had nothing to do with swimming. At times when I run I get so comfortable that a few miles will go by and I will have to remind myself, "You're running right now!" My mind just goes off in different directions. I reached that point yesterday while swimming! Now, not every swim has been like that, in fact, most days when I see swimming on my training calendar, I wince and complain until the workout is over. Slowly but surely, I am getting better and growing in confidence.
Last thought for today: With every training regimen I go through, there always seems to be one song that I hear over and over again while training - or one phrase that keeps popping up in my head. A few weeks ago while running the song "I'll make a man out of you" from the movie, Mulan, started playing. It was perfect. It initially caught my attention due to a line about knowing how to swim (see below) but the play off of words in "I'll make a man out of you" and the fact that I am training for an Ironman... seemed to flow beautifully. So, I am trying to make an Ironman out of myself.
Lyrics that always make me smile when I think about my swimming:
I'm never gonna catch my breath Say goodbye to those who knew me Boy, was I a fool in school for cutting gym This guy's got 'em scared to death Hope he doesn't see right through me Now I really wish that I knew how to swim
Today is a beautiful day. A day I have been highly anticipating for several months now. It is the day I officially start training for the Ironman taking place in Madison, Wisconsin, on September 11, 2016.
Go back in time a few months to October when I was faced with the reality of bidding farewell to my twenties, and ushered in a new phase of life by turning 30. Not wanting to fully let go of my youth, I decided I wanted to tackle a new adventure that would still make me feel youthful and energetic - with that in mind, I decided to sign up for an Ironman. Having yet to even compete in a triathlon of any distance, it may seem ignorant and unwise to immediately jump into such an adventure... but that's the way I like to do things - I had never even run a 5k (minus one or two before the age of ten with my dad) before running a marathon. I had never sat down and attempted to write anything, before sitting down and trying to write a book. With a bit of stupidity and ignorance, I like to skip over the smaller stepping stones, and just go for the biggest prize out there.
As I embark on this new adventure I am filled with two distinct emotions; relief and excitement.
To be honest, I am relieved that this day is finally here. For the better part of the past five months, I have been talking about, reading about, planning for, and anticipating training...and now it is finally here. I am relieved to finally take the first steps and begin this journey.
I am beyond excited. It is a new adventure and a new challenge. Over the past months I have seen a growing excitement toward figuring out how to cycle - in recent weeks I have been studying and learning proper swim technique. After running a handful of marathons the training and daily miles had become a bit monotonous, having new disciplines to work at and new techniques to try and improve upon is giving me a lot of excitement. Perhaps the initial excitement will wear off over time as the early morning workouts, and two-a-day workouts get tiring, but for now I am excited about what the next six months of training will look like.
At this point I don't have a lot of specific goals, however, there are two that are sticking out to me right now:
2. The race will start around 7am and the sun will set around 7pm - I want to finish while it is still light out. Because of my schedule and the training demands, many of my workouts will occur before sunrise. Therefore, I have the mindset of training before sunrise so that on the day of the race, I can finish before sunset.