June 21, 2009....."It was a dark and stormy night..."
The day we had all been training for had finally arrived. In the days leading up to race day, we all made our last minute preparations. One final swim, one final ride, get packed, unpack and pack again, go through the checklist, bring this, don't bring that etc. Then haul ourselves to Idaho. For my family and me, that was the toughest part. The Ironman started on Wednesday when we left the house.
Our flight got screwed up....well we missed it. Crowds were horrible at the airport, we arrived a little late and the perfect storm of circumstances resulted in us missing our flight. We were able to get a new flight arrangement that flew us from Austin to LA to Seattle to Spokane. Instead of arriving at 10:44 am in Idaho, we arrived at 7:00 pm. Not so easy on Benjamin or the parents of this 3 1/2 year old bundle of energy.
The following day, I got checked in at the Ironman Village, got some Ironman swag, went for a swim in Lake CDA (Colder than Barton Springs but refreshing and clear), one last minute ride to ensure the bike was working properly. A few last minute things, and I was ready to go.
The weather leading up to race day was a bit spotty. A little sun, a little rain, a little chill in the air. We all anxiously watched the forecast to see what race day would bring. Fortunately, the predictions continued to improve and we were greeted on race morning with partly cloudy skies with temperatures in the low 50's with predicted highs in the 60's and a chance of rain in the late afternoon. The wind was up a bit. The lake was choppy.
We positioned ourselves at the far end of the beach in a vain attempt to find clear swimming. The gun goes off at 7:00 am. Into the surf we go. We've got 17 hours to finish this thing. The swim was choppy with 1 to 2 foot waves in spots. It was like a washing machine. I tried to stay calm and find a good tempo. The first loop was encouraging time wise and I was sure the second would be faster now that we were all spread out. Wrong. Three minutes slower. I was a bit disappointed at first, but It seems we all had slower than expected swim times, and I was still on track to meet my time goal. To the bike.....
Due to the temperatures, I donned an extra cycling jersey over my tri-top. Others opted for jackets and arm warmers. I tried to settle in on the bike. Pacing is the key. I made up my mind to hold back as best I could on the first loop. I had driven the bike course twice and knew the hills were nothing to be trifled with. The course looped out and back along the lakeside. Nice scenery and then pushed north out of town. I had the wind at my back. I arrived in Hayden where the racers were greeted with the first "hill." A small climb.....sort of an appetizer to what was to come. The next fifteen miles was a constant up and down struggle. These hills were serious. Someone had posted signs at the roadside that said "Legs of Zeus." I'll take whatever motivation I can get. I tried to spin up the hills the best I could. I played cat and mouse with a few other riders.....I would pass them on the hills and they would go flying by on the downhill only to repeat the same dance on the next climb. I rolled back into to town, thinking..."I've got to do that all over again." I took it one section at a time, one hill at a time. On the last hill, I was seriously thinking about all those Step-Ups coach Pain made us do in core class. I think it paid off. Also, seeing fellow T3'rs on the course was great motivation. I was off the bike in a little over 6 hours. I was still on track to reach my time goal. Now if I could just put together a half-assed marathon.
I trotted into transition after handing off my bike. This was encouraging. My legs actually felt pretty good at this point. I left transition with Logan D. and Kevin B. We ran the first out and back at around an 8:00 min/mile pace. Yikes. Too fast. Kevin and I pressed ahead, at about mile 3, Kevin asked me "what kind of pace are you trying to run?" I told him "not THIS pace" We continued to try slowing. I didn't want to crater and have to walk it in. The miles continued to pass. The final turn around is on a hill. I was determined to run the hill even if it was barely a shuffle. The first loop went well, I was encouraged. The rain and wind started moving in.
I started the second loop, still on a steady, but slow pace. I was on track. I hadn't taken in very much in calories and knew this could be a problem later on. I reached mile 16. Two hours to go 10 miles to be under 12 hours. Surely, I could go 10 miles in 2 hours. Well let's keep pushing on. With nine miles to go, I needed calories. Gels weren't appealing, nor was the concoction of CarboPro and Nuun in my bottle. I decided to rely on Coca-Cola and Chicken Broth the rest of the way. I reached the final turn around and considered walking the hill. I wanted to run it if possible. I told myself, "an Ironman would run that hill." I shuffled up the hill made the turn. Only 5 miles to go. I had over an hour to make my time. Well let's keep pushing all the same. The final miles melted away. The T3 sherpas on the course were fantastic. Everytime I thought about walking, I knew they would see me, so I kept going. Somehow I missed the 25 mile marker. No matter, the last mile seemed like only 1/2 mile. The final turn on Sherman Avenue and I had 7 blocks to go. All downhill. Carrie B. caught me with about 50 meters to go. She sprinted ahead, fists pumping in triumph. For a moment I considered going with her, but the legs were pretty baked at this point. Instead I slowed to high-five some of the hands extended over the barriers. Something I had not done in the past. I wanted to savor the moment. I finished. The clock read 11:46:40. I made it with time to spare.
Diane and Benjamin greeted me at the end of the chute. We shared a hug and a few tears of joy. After warming up in the med-tent with some chicken broth and getting into some warm clothes, we stayed to cheer on as many of our teammates as we could.
This report would not be complete without giving thanks to my family, friends, teammates, coaches and supporters. Ya'll are the best. You've kept me motivated, healthy, and somewhat sane through this past six months. Thanks for putting up with me. I love you all.
After some well deserved recovery, I'll be off to the next challenge. I'll keep you posted.....