Warning: I tried to include as many details as I could to give me something to look back on getting ready for my next race, so this is a little long.....
First of all, thanks to the hundreds of volunteers for keeping everything organized and well run, and the sheriff’s department and all of their people for keeping us safe on the bike course.
Now, onto the race…..
I had a relaxing drive down to Orlando, parked at Disney and rode my bike the 10 minutes or so over to the event site. Instead of doing my planned 20 minute ride and 10 minute run, the ride to the race site ended up being my pre-race workout.
Registration was extremely well organized and I was in and out. Later that night, Susan Wallis was nice enough to get a few of us Hammerheads together for a carb loading dinner at the Olive Garden, even though she couldn’t make it herself. Thanks Susan.
After dinner I went back to the hotel, and thankfully I was able to get a few hours of sleep before my alarm went off at 3:30. I ate (or should I say drank) breakfast and headed over to the parking and took the shuttle to the race. Getting to the race really early makes for a very easy and stress free morning: plenty of time to setup transition, inflate tires, hit the bathroom, fill up water bottles, and most importantly, relax for a bit before the race. Fortunately I’ve learned from previous experience: rushing to get to a race start SUCKS!!!
Although the race started at 6:20 with the pro men, my wave didn’t go off until a little after 7, so I hung out for a while watching the other waves start. I was actually surprisingly relaxed waiting to go….until our wave was in the starting shoot a few minutes before we went. I felt a surge of adrenaline and my heart rate skyrocketed….. I’m guessing there were 150 of us in our wave…..
There were a few things I did really well, a couple I didn’t, and a huge setback at mile forty on the bike…..
One minute to go….toes on the edge of the lake….the airhorn goes off…..swim time…..The first thing I did well: paced myself well from the start. Everyone has the tendency to swim too fast out of the start….I did start out fast, but under control….after a hundred yards or so I fell into a pretty good rhythm. Second thing I did well…remembered that triathlon swimming is a contact sport. I stayed out of the middle of the pack and kept myself from getting pummeled. I found myself getting tired after a few hundred yards, which I’m fortunately used to and expected. I knew as long as I kept swimming at a comfortable pace, the fatigue would disappear, which it soon did. To keep my mind occupied, I started counting strokes. Every 12 strokes or so, time to look up and make sure I’m still on course – I did a reasonably good job at not zig-zagging too much. Finally, I made the last turn back to shore, looked at my watch, realized I was right on target. I had planned for about an hour swim. VERY slow by comparison, but unfortunately that’s about my swimming ability at the moment. Better to have a slow swim and save energy for what’s next. I was SO grateful to cross the timing mat out of the water and know that the hardest part of my day was over…or so I thought….
Got into and out of T1 with no problems….had a gel, grabbed my bike, ran through transition, clipped in, and off I went for what was supposed to be a relaxing 56 miles. My heart rate was really high getting on the bike after the swim, which I expected (175). My heart rate stayed a bit higher than I would have liked (160’s), so I kept it pretty easy for the first half hour or so. I was at the right intensity, and then two things showed up: wind and hills. As far as the wind, no big deal…I’m used to training in it – just go in an easier gear and spin – no sense in using up my legs this early. The hills were a bit unexpected (note to self – drive the course the day before the race)…although they were mostly pretty short, a couple of them were pretty steep…Same concept as getting through the wind….use an easy gear and just spin –
although a couple were steep enough I had to stand up…I did a few things very well on the bike: used the right gears for spinning up the hills without killing my legs, following my nutrition plan (alternating sipping water and perpetuem – an endurance sports recovery drink - every ten minutes, with a gel every hour), and keeping my heart rate at a reasonable level (although a little higher than I would have liked). Then I got to mile forty…..
The sound every cyclist dreads…that’s right – the sound of a tire going flat. I never saw it until I ran over it…going through one of the intersections, there was a bunch of glass and nails….. such is life in triathlon racing…fix it and move on…unfortunately that proved a little more difficult than expected.
First the good news…the sheriff’s people at the intersection (they were at every intersection keeping us safe – THANK YOU) got on the radio and within just a couple of minutes someone was there with a broom making sure no one else had to ride through the crap on the road….
Now the bad news….put in the spare tube, put on the CO2 adapter, twisted……nothing…..UGGHHHH……now what????? UGHHHH (that's not really what I said, but I'm keeping this G rated)….So the sheriff’s folks called the tech support van for me….and now I get to wait….and wait….and wait…..this is absolutely not a complaint….I’m grateful that there was a support van and that they were able to get me going again…..which they did….THANK YOU….Although I’m not exactly sure how much time I lost, I’m guessing it was somewhere between 20 and 45 minutes…..Yeah – I’m back on my bike and riding again….Now for the big mistake of the day…..
Andy’s body says I just had a nice long break, I feel good, time to hammer on the bike for a while….Andy’s brain says good idea, I’ll make up some of the time I just lost; besides, I’ve run two marathons and a couple of half marathons, so I can suffer through the run…..So Andy hammers on the bike for the last 15 miles or so….BIG MISTAKE…..
Two things happened: 1. Because I was working too hard and my heart rate was too high, I lost my appetite. I forced myself to eat anyway, but nothing was really digesting. Lesson one: high heart rate = no digestion = bad. 2. I used up a LOT of energy on the last 15 miles of the bike. Lesson two: triathlon is a cumulative sport. What you use on the bike you can’t have for the run.
I took it easy on the bike for the last half mile or so, standing up on the pedals, stretching my legs out as best I could, getting ready for the run…..T2 was pretty uneventful…I got out of my shoes while still clipped in, which definitely sped things up at least a little (glad I practiced in advance)….Another gel (even though I had NO desire to eat anything….two more salt tablets (on the bike they were mixed in with the perpetuem). Off to the run…..
Made it out of transition and my legs felt tired starting the run, as expected – the first mile always sucks. Ok – quick check of my heart rate and pace….uh oh – I left my heart rate monitor on my bike…. Such is life in triathlon racing…fix it and move on….sound familiar?
Unfortunately my legs still felt really tired after mile 1. Note to self: DO NOT HAMMER ON THE BIKE IN AN IRONMAN EVENT!….enough said…..The run course was an interesting three loop course. Why interesting? Because most of it was on dirt trails and not on pavement….no big deal…just keep running…..there were aid stations with water, Gatorade, and a bunch of other things I didn’t really want about every mile or so. Had a few sips of water through the first aid station and kept running to my next goal, which was the next aid station. That’s one lesson I learned from marathons – have some smaller goals along the way to keep me going….Made it to the next station – few sips of Gatorade, poor some ice water on my head and back to cool off….keep running……
The first loop felt pretty much like the last few miles of a marathon….SUCKED…..loop one completed…starting loop 2…just keep moving…..just keep moving…just keep moving….The second lap wasn’t too much different than the first – just trying to make it from one aid station to the next….two laps down….
One quick comment before getting to the third lap…triathlon is a mental sport. Having the focus to train consistently; having the discipline to keep easy days easy and hard days hard; and digging deep to keep going when there’s absolutely nothing left. The end of an event like this is no longer about physical endurance…..it’s very quickly becomes about heart…..and remembering why you’re doing a crazy race like this in the first place…..
Anyway, onto lap three. Made it to the first aid station…..just keep moving, just keep moving….This is about the point where my body decided it had enough. Some cramps started showing up in my quads and calves – nothing too unbearable and nothing that lasted very long …..just keep moving…just keep moving…..
As bad as I wanted to keep running, that was no longer an option….so it became run for one minute, rest for 15 seconds….Of course the rest breaks soon became 30, 45 and 60 seconds….. Hmmm…..DO NOT HAMMER ON THE BIKE IN AN IRONMAN EVENT!….Finally I passed mile 12 and I knew the suffering was almost over…At about a ¼ mile out, there were still a lot of people out cheering us on…..Time to leave everything on the course and finish strong…..I ran as hard as I could through the finish, heard them announce my name, and was thrilled I had just finished my first ½ ironman…..Overall it was an amazing event and I’m thrilled I did it. I do indeed love seeing how far I can push myself. My swim, although slow, was right on target. The bike would have been except for the flat. Somehow I managed to do the run in 2 ½. All in all, a good solid effort.
In a way, I’m glad I got the flat. I learned my lesson. There’s a great analogy from golf. Don’t hit two bad shots in a row (think Tin Cup). Fix it and move on. That same mistake in a full ironman would probably keep me from finishing – a mistake I won’t make again.
My thought after finishing? God I don’t ever want to suffer like that again……So when they gave away the 50 spots for the full Ironman…..Of course I was one of the first people there to grab one…..If I didn’t get a spot for IM Fla this year maybe I’d still do one in the future, maybe not….It would be very easy to procrastinate….Now I’m totally committed (it’s amazing how writing a pretty big check will do that).
A few other things learned
I need to find a good swim coach. I’m ok with being a slow swimmer, but do need to do a lot of work on my technique, so that I’m at least a slow swimmer who uses very little effort and energy. If you want to run better, run more; If you want to bike better, bike more; If you want to swim better, get a coach……
I need a new bike. I knew when I got my bike it was only going to be good through an Olympic distance or maybe ½ ironman event. I was right……
Life is about to get expensive…between entry fees, new bike, time off and travel the week of the event…If anyone is feeling generous, please consider contributing to the Andy ironman fund - I'll give you a link to my paypal account. All donations are now being accepted and operators are now standing by…..
One last thank you to all of you who put up with and support my crazy habit. Put Nov 3 on your calendar. That’s the day we’ll all get to hear the announcer at the finish line say, “Andrew Hariton you are an Ironman.”
Last but not least, congratulations to Angie & Dustin – you both had truly spectacular times – good luck in IM Wisconsin!!!; Congrats to David Gerland – finishing your training, much less the race, on a bum ankle shows how much heart you have; Congrats to all of the other Hammerheads and everyone else who finished the race.
Now I'm going to sleep.......
Live with Purpose….Enjoy the Adventure