Thursday, September 17, 2015
Last Sunday was my 9th Ironman start and my 8th successful finish and I have to say it was probably one of the harder Ironman races I've done in a while. I really felt the fact that I haven't been able to train as much as I would have liked because I was on travel. To be honest it felt a whole lot like I really just fell back on my vast Ironman experience and just gutted it out.
For the swim I got out to the water about 10 minutes early and start with my friend Brett in the back kind of the south side of the boat ramp. I've decided after doing this race 6 times that there just isn't a great place to start the swim. You get beat up no matter where you start so it is just best to seed your self a little back but at least near the buoy line. Like always the first half mile to the first turn was a fight, it's just so packed and the faster and slower swimmers haven't created the separation yet. I got swam on, kicked and hit but nothing more than the usual Wisconsin swim. It kind of sucks because space is hard to find and you just can't get settle into the swim rhythm you want, but you kind of just deal with it. About halfway I looked at my watch and realized I was a little off the pace I wanted to swim. I tried to break into my good swim technique but I was struggling to maintain good form. I wasn't tired but just couldn't keep my good long and slow strokes I swim in the pool. I'm pretty convinced that I really need a sleeveless wet suit for Wisconsin. When I got out of the water I actually felt pretty good but it just wasn't as fast as I would have like it too be.
Transition ended up taking longer than I expected because I put my calf compression sleeves on. With wet legs it is really difficult to get those on so I found those longer that I should. I out swam my friend Brett but he beat me out of transition by about 5 minutes. Plus I spent some time fiddling with my phone to get it working which ultimately didn't make sense because I couldn't send my precanned messages from it. Next time I'm not sure if I will mess with my phone or not, at least wait until my first stop to mess with it.
The bike this time didn't go very well at all. I could tell at the beginning that my legs just didn't feel right. They felt a little "crampy" on the way out the loops but I was hoping that it would go away and was lingering effects from the swim but it turned out to not be the case. On my first big climb into Mt. Horeb I could feel the tell tale sign that my legs were already tired and in cramp mode. They didn't cramp but after you do these races enough you know enough about your body to know what's going on with it. From that point on I had to "protect my legs" which meant slowing down and not doing anything stupid as I rode, I knew that was going to lead to a slow bike time.
The first loop went without any real incident I got through it slower than I wanted but there wasn't much I could do about that. The second loop start to be a struggle, like it always to be. By this point legs that felt like they were going to cramp up started to cramp on the longer climbs. I was able to work through it but I really had to slow down on the climbs to avoid all out revolt from my quads which would lead to walking the hills.
As I was headed into Mt. Horeb the second time I heard a motorcycle come up behind me which can mean one of two things, either sag wagon/bike support or draft marshall's. In all my races over the years generally once you pass mile 60 and it's clear you are no longer a "racer" but a finisher the draft marshall's stop handing out penalties. Well turns out that was not the case this race. As I was listening to the motorcycle come up behind me I heard them slow down and give a penalty to the person behind me. At that point I decided to back off a bit from the person in front of me, but it was too late. The guy pulled up beside me and gave me a 5 minute penalty to be served at the next penalty tent about 10 miles away.
I will be the first to admit I am a major offender when it comes to drafting. In nearly every race when I get to the parts of the course that have a headwind I grab onto the first biker that passes me get one inch off there rear tire an draft until the wind is at our back. This time I was not doing that at all, I was trying to keep my distance but had drifted into the 3 bike length back draft zone and was penalized. I rode the remainder of the 10 miles to the penalty tent stopped to get my watch which was kind of nice because I needed the break but I expressed my concern about the fact that giving all of "finisher" penalties seemed kind of dumb. The Ironman official agreed and said that last year he only had 20 penalties all day but this year had 120 when I chatted with him. He assured me the problem had been dealt with and I would be safe on the way in.
After the penalty tent it was time to head into the big hills for the second time and his time they were really hard. My legs were cramping bad, my right ankle had developed some pretty bad pain which had me concerned I would actually be able to run but once again nothing I could do about it. I did manged to slowly make my way up each of the hills without cramping so bad I had to get off the bike. I'll just say that I was happy when I finally made the turn back towards Madison and was done with the dreaded loops for the day.
When I got to transition I could feel a weird sharp pain from time to time in the top of my right angle on the right side but it didn't hurt all the time. What I couldn't tell from the bike was whether or not it was so bad that I wouldn't be able to run. Like I said earlier there wasn't a whole lot I could do about it at the time so I put my running stuff on and headed out the door. I say the family and got to talk to them for the first time that day told them the day wasn't going that great and I was really worried about my ability to run because of my ankle. So as you can tell I was a bundle of joy at this point. I kissed them and headed on my way to see what the run had in store for me.
For the first 10 miles the run went great. My quad cramps pretty much went away, my feet felt good and my ankle was fine. I ran like a champ for the first 10 miles, averaging right around 9:30-10:00 minute miles which was awesome. Right around mile 10 things kind of turned around and it went downhill. Like every year my feet really started to hurt. I had developed a bruise on the balls of both my feet but the right foot was way worse. By this point I had made up enough time that I could slowly walk the rest of the course easily make the midnight cut off but I as disappointed because after a slow swim and bike I thought this may be my opportunity to make up some time. I've been here numerous times before and knew that the next 3.5 hours were going to hurt.
I started the second lap, got my special needs bag, found Jen and boys and sat on a bench on the side of the road for a few minutes to eat my beef jerky and chat. I told them that I was going to finish but it was take another 3 hours or so and it was going to be a sufferfest. I kissed them and headed on my way. For the next 3 hours I did my best to keep a reasonable pace 15-16 minute miles but it was hard. At that point my legs were sore and tired but my feet felt like I was walking on glass. Sharp pain from the blisters and deep pain from the bruises that just got worse with every step and every mile. I took ibuprofen but it really didn't do much to help the pain, at that point it just hurt. I told myself that this next year I need to do something to toughen my feet up so I can actually run past mile 13 for once.
About 10:45 PM I finished my 8th Ironman and was happy to be done. This year it was clear that I didn't train enough and being in France right up to the day I checked into the race was a bad idea. I really shouldn't be upset because I knew this year was going to be a struggle. I'm signed up again for next year and have set two goals for myself. 1) Toe the finish line 175 lbs or lower and 2) Do something to toughen my feet up over the course of the next year. If I can do those two things I'm confident that I could finish in 13:30 next year.