Hi All (Settle in and get a coffee, this is a long one!),
As you know, this past Sunday I competed in my third Ironman. I arrived home last night and I’m enjoying my customary post-race recovery scotch. Thanks so much for all the kind words and support before, during, and after the race. Many of you that followed on line know the outcome, and have been asking what happened, so for those that weren’t able to and those that want to know, please indulge my malignant narcissism one more time. Here’s how my day unfolded.
Let me start first off by describing the setting. Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, is really pretty. It reminded me of British Columbia on Prozac; an Okanogan Light; like the result of a romantic dinner with too much wine between the Rocky Mountains and the Muskokas. Northern Idaho is much nicer than I have ever expected and is a great setting for a race.
My morning started off well. The day was cool but comfortable. After a few years of doing this sort of thing I’ve gotten my pre-race rituals sorted. I was hanging with my friend Kevin and we were chatting as we were getting our wetsuits on. Kevin happen to notice something odd on the ground…it was a piece from my goggles!!! Yikes, that’s not good! We had a pretty interesting debate as to what I should do. I was fairly confident i could re-attached it and my goggles would work fine, he kindly patronized my clear lack of reason and offered his spare goggles. After my multiple refusals, he insisted. In hindsight, he was completely right. I don’t know what i was thinking. Regardless, my stubbornness still got the better of me and i used my goggles, but for safety i wore his goggles around my neck so that if mine failed I could put the spare pair on. Thanks Kev!
Coming into this race, the common comments from those that have completed is that the water is cold and choppy. Okay, stop right here! Let me set the record straight. Saying the water is cold and choppy is like saying Galileo and the Catholic Church had a mild difference of opinion!!!! The water was very cold, but not as terrible as expected and i handled surprisingly well. Choppy?! No way man! This was full on survival! The swim is 2 2km loops. From the sound of the gun til the end of the first loop, it was like a boiling pot of people! The congestion was suffocating. I continuously had to breathe every second stroke just to see where i was; where people were; what direction we were going in…you get the point. So often i was swimming over someone, being swam over, pushed under, pushed over, pushing others, and one time i was put in a headlock! I thought, how the hell can that happen. Then during lap two, I did it to someone else. It was so crowded. By the end of the first loop I was convinced never to do this race again! During lap two the congestion was “better” but the waves got bigger and were much stronger. With every breath, i was either at the top of a wave and got a good breath of air before crashing into the next wave, OR I was at the bottom of a wave and got a full breath of water from the wave crashing over top of me. I had to stop and hang on to a surf boarder at one point to catch my breath and my left hamstring started cramping on my, due to the cold water i suspect. I accepted the reality that this was a survival swim and all i needed to do was stay cool and hang tough till the end. I was told to expect to be 10mins of my planned swim time and sure enough I was. Not bad:) I exited the water, regained my bearings and headed for transition. Surprisingly, i was in good spirits.
I was pretty freaken cold, so i put on arm warmers and a jacket for the bike. I headed out on the bike and in short order i was feeling pretty good. My race plan was to warm up the legs and get in fuel for the first 20k. To my surprise, all of a sudden I felt like I had an extra gear, I looked at my computer and sure enough, I was at 20k. Great! All is going to plan. The bike course is 2 90km loops. We headed east out of town, then back to town, then south for 35km and back. Times 2. The southern out and back was tough. We were, for all intents and purposes, riding up hill all the way out (with one big down hill mixed in there somewhere), and there was an unrelenting headwind the whole way out. I hit the turn around to come back and it was fantastic. I wish every ride could be like that. Mostly downhill with a strong tailwind:) I stayed with my race plan, not over doing it, and kept to my nutrition plan. I flew back through town, big smiles and thumbs up to those that were part of our group cheering us on. East out and back, feeling fantastic. Big smiles and thumbs up again. I was on track for a 6 hour to 6:15 bike. Sweet! Then, on the southern out and bike, like someone flipped a switch at 130km, my legs started cramping. No panic. Easy gear and spin. Then, my legs seized on me. It happened a couple times and I had to get off my bike and stretch. I rode easy back into town. I was feeling pretty low. That swim seemed so long ago!
I got to transition and had a challenging mental moment. Continue? Or stop? Wait! Haven’t I been here before? Continue! At least see how my legs would hold up. I wasn’t going down without a fight. I ran a little but it was a massive effort. I wasn’t really running but more like hobbling like a turtle in third gear. As I lumbered along, I would get about 200 to 300 metres and need to walk. Surprisingly, I felt “not bad” all things considering. My spirits were good. Finally, after about 3 kms, my running was done. I could only get 10 to 20 metres and have to stop again. Remember that muscle cramp I had in the water? Well, that muscle decided it was no longer going to participate in this any longer. My running at this point was really just a poor Terry Fox impersonation. The run is 2 21km loops (do you sense a pattern?). By 8k I was walking for good, and by 15k I was walking like Terry Fox. I still believed I could continue and maybe be one of those people on TV finishing as they count down the last minutes of the race, crossing the line with minutes, maybe seconds to spare. Nope! At around 19k my legs hit a new low and i new i wouldn’t be able to walk another 21k. So, after 22kms of the run course, my day was officially over.
Had I not continued off the bike i would have questioned my decision, but after pushing through as I did, I was very comfortable knowing I did all that I could. Overall, I had a fun weekend: visited a new place that didn’t disappoint; had a good time with friends; a fun day (honestly, I just won’t ever do that swim again); and got to watch a couple of friends cross the finish line for their first ever Ironman.
Thanks again for all your support and kind words.
Oh yeah, I dedicated this race to Rob Kelly’s back (he’s down and out right now). Sorry I didn’t get it all done Rob, you’ll just have to heal up quick and show us how it’s done!