Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Ironman Florida Race Report

Couldn't think of a more fitting initial post than to post my detailed (you have been warned) 2008 Ironman Florida race report. This report is written keeping a non triathlete in mind so I will try to explain a lot of things that would be foreign to you if you are not a triathlete.

First off, my training this year leading up to IMFL was much better than last year. Last year I was nursing a hamstring injury which pretty much sidelined me from running in September and the first 2 weeks of October. Started running very slowly mid October and worked up to 13 miles 7 days before the race, then backed off to rest for the race. Needless to say I was very nervous about the run last year. My hamstring didn't bother me on the bike (unless I pushed really hard), so I just converted the training minutes I was supposed to be running into biking. I was pretty confident in my bike last year.

Well as I stated above things went well this year and I wasn't injured and was actually felling really good about my run and was easily (relatively speaking) holding 7:00 / mile pace on my long runs (longest being 23 miles). This translates to 3:03 marathon time, which I wasn't crazy enough to think I could do in an Ironman, but it sure built the confidence. My goal times heading into this race were:

Swim 1:00:00
T1 :02:30

Bike 5:15:00

T2 :02:30

Run 3:20:00

Total 9:40:00

Other goals in priority were:

-Finish Race (always a goal for an Ironman)
-Follow nutrition Plan to the letter of the law
-Pee twice on the bike (translation-hydrate well on bike)
-No sub 7:00 /miles for first 5 miles of the marathon.

So here is how it went....

Actualy got about 7 hours of sleep before the race. I am finding I am able to get pretty good sleep before my races, not the case my first couple years of racing.

Up at 4:00 AM

Followed pre-race routine perfectly, won't bore with all the details. 2 cups coffee to get the digestive system up and going, 2 oatmeal packets, 1 bagel. Double and triple checked the 6 lists I had to ensure I did everything I needed to and had everything I needed to bring and do once in transition. Getting to a stage of a race to only find you don't have a piece of equipment you have trained all year to use because you forgot it, is something that can throw your race off. Ironman racing is different from all other races because of the transition bags. Everything you need on race day has to be in these bags. Not in the bag, you don't have it, period. Dad and I off to transition at about 5:10, right on schedule. Dad was just dropping me off and going back to the condo for breakfast and to pick up my Mon to meet me before the swim start. I dropped off my run and bike special needs bags (you can access these half way through both the bike and the run, different bags for each). Things like extra old tire and a tube and an extra CO2 cartridge are things in bike SNB. Extra salt tablets, a small first aid kit of band aids and body glide, and for me this year a complete filled set of fuel belt bottles for the second 13.1 miles on the run. Basically, the stuff in these bags can be considered "race savers". Things that you can access to save your race.

Got bodymarked, they write your number on you with markers in several spots, before entering transition. Only athletes in transition. As an athlete you receive a bracelet (like the ones you would get in a hospital) with your race number on it. No bracelet, no entry. What happens is all of the non racers (family and friends) hover around the entrance to transition making it very difficult to get in. This is probably one of the main reasons you much check your bike into transition the day before and can't get it out on race morning. It would be completely ridiculous if folks were trying to get bike through this mob.

Filled aero bottle on bike with my pre mixed Gatorade Endurance bottle. I train with regular strength Gatorade, the power, as it is made with sucrose vs. fructose in the liquid bottles you buy. Sucrose is easier for your stomach to digest over long periods of time. The plan was to hydrate with 28oz of Gatorade each hour, which is less than usual due to the lower temperatures and probably lower sweat rate. That works out to 1.75 gallons of Gatorade. They serve bottled endurance Gatorade on the bike coarse and powdered regular mix on the run coarse. So that is about 150 oz of Endurance Gatorade (with fructose) on the bike. I figured if I can get a couple bottles, on in my aero bottle and another I was bringing along, of the sucrose version, that would be a good thing. I did label this as my detailed IMFL race report, so you have been forewarned :). Put my cut up 1/4 cliff bars and my salt tab dispenser in my bento box (this is a small bag that is secured on your top tube which you can easily access on your bike. As I stated above race nutrition was a major goal. Here was my nutrition plan by race times:

note: a gel is something which is pretty much all simple carbohydrates and comes is several forms, mostly single use packets. I use gel flasks where you empty 5 gels into a small squeeze bottle and use from there. They are easier to carry and use. I have perfected this nutrition plan over the past several years and Tailor all my training to it. You have to train your body to be able to absorb your calories. Basically, you should never do anything different on race day that you don't do in training. It's amazing how little tolerance your body has for something new or different when it is operating at peak performance. So needless to say, I am VERY used to eating this stuff. And yes I had this plan committed to memory, I know totally anal and cookoo crazy!

Full Ironman Nutrition
:30 gel (between swim loops while running on the beach)
1:00 gel (once first on bike)
1:15 bar (1/4 cliff bar)
1:30 bar
1:40 salt
1:45 gel
2:00 bar
2:10 salt
2:15 bar
2:30 gel
2:35 1/2 banana (from aid station)
2:40 salt
2:45 bar
3:00 bar
3:10 salt
3:15 bar extra bar in case hungry
3:30 gel
3:35 1/2 banana
3:40 salt
3:45 bar
4:00 bar
4:10 salt
4:15 gel
4:30 bar
4:35 1/2 banana
4:40 salt
4:45 bar
5:00 gel
5:05 salt
5:15 bar
5:30 bar
5:35 salt
5:45 bar (extra bar to set up run)
5:55 salt
6:00 gel
6:10 salt
6:15 gel (last one on the bike)
6:25 salt
6:30 gel (2/3 gel)
6:45 gel
6:50 salt
7:00 gel
7:10 salt
7:15 gel
7:30 salt
7:30 gel
7:45 gel
7:50 salt
8:00 gel
8:10 salt
8:15 gel (from fresh flask)
8:30 salt
8:30 gel
8:45 gel
8:50 salt
9:00 gel
9:10 salt
9:15 gel
9:30 salt
9:30 gel
9:45 gel
9:50 salt
10:00 gel
hydrate at each aid station, plus 1/4 fuelbelt bottle every mile
if cool, cut salt down to every 20 minutes at :10 and :40
8 gels in flasks for bike (5 in one 4 in the other 1 extra to be safe) + 2 (1 pre-race 1 swim =11 gels
2 run flasks with 5 gels each + 2 in belt=12 gels
11 salt tabs on bike (12 in dispenser) 4 in back up small bag = 16 for bike
11 salt tabs on run (12 in dispense) 6 in back up small bag on belt = 18 for run
14 1/4 cliff bars on bike. 16 to be safe
totals with safety factor
4 cliff bars
23 gels
34 salt tabs

So your initial thoughts may be....all that salt, you are gonna have a heart attack. Well, my body is well trained on sweating. It is called heat training. You get this by training in the heat of the day when ever you can. For Ironman, the marathon starts at 1:00 -1:30 in the afternoon so it is very different from just running a marathon, which typically starts at 7:00 in the morning. So you are going to be running in the heat. You have to get your body used to that and the best and really only way to do that is to train in the heat. So everyone of my long run days was in the afternoon, most 90+ degrees out. So my body knows how to sweat. When you know how to sweat, you know how to use up electrolytes. There is no way to get in enough electrolytes, mainly sodium, by drinking. You just can't drink that much, meaning you can't get your stomach to process that much liquid, so you have to supplement with salt capsules or tablets (tabs for short). I can't stress enough how key this is. I have blown this on too many races to over look it. Knowing this is critical to understanding my performance during this race as there was an issue here I'll explain later.

So morning prep continued, took my bike off the rack and stood in line for 20 minutes or so to use one of the tire pumps. Pumped up my tires to just under the rated psi. You want your tires as pumped up as possible. The high the psi the faster they are. There is a fine line there in that it you pump them up too much, you could pop the tube. Every pre race transition I have been at there is always at least one loud POP, where someone has blown a tube. Yes two extra tubes in my pre race back pack. Again Ironman is different, you can't have "race gear" in transition so all of the things which are typically in my transition bag aren't there. I had to transfer those things to a back pack which I was going to give to my Mom before the start. Every possible scenario has to be covered. Most of this is learned by good old fashion trial and error, some though others pain. Things like spare goggles, spare bike tubes, bodyglide (like a clear deodorant type stick which you put on to eliminate/reduce chaffing and blisters), anything where you would be "screwed" if you didn't have it, needs to have a spare in the bag. I even had a plan if I couldn't find my Mom and Dad before the race....everything in a dry clothes special needs bag they keep for you until after the race. Put the empty bag in the back pack, just in case. Have a plan for as many variables as you can think of.

Bike tires pumped, bike back on rack in my spot, down the todo list I go. Bike computer reset to zero (it has an auto start function where the clock will start once the wheel starts moving, but you have to make sure it's reset it to zero or it will just start adding to your last ride). Make sure bike it in an easy gear. Can't tell you how many time I see racers once on their bikes trying to get going in a super hard gear only to have to change gears to get started. This area is called the "mount line". You can't get on your bike before this line and it is chaos here. You need to get the hell out of here as soon as possible. Lot's of potential for crashes and minor altercations, all of which can lead to small injuries or bike malfunctions. Anything you can do to get clear of this area quickly, you need to. Being in an easy gear means you get on your bike get pedaling quicker.

forgot to bring any water with me so I had to fill a bottle I had used to fill my aero bottle. I just filled it at the bottle filling station to keep hydrated before the race. Off to the port-a-potty lines I go. At this point I am starting to get a little concerned as things are "moving" yet in this department, if you know what I mean. I figure standing in line and thinking about it might do the trick. My turn to use the potty, and nothing. This is not good and could mean a potty stop for #2 on the race course. I am pretty nervous at this point. Warning the following can get a little gross.....My race plan doesn't call for any potty stops. You may say, but your goal is to go pee twice on the bike...well it is meant literally, you pee while you ride (spray yourself down with water when you're done). The reason a #2 potty stop is a problem, is you obviously have to stop. This presents a host of issues. First there are only port-a-potties at the aid stations, roughly every 10 miles. There is usually a line for them which means you are just standing there waiting. When you stop your legs moving you open up the door for cramps and all kinds of other fun stuff, all of which is not in the race plan. So, the theme has been prepare for as much as you can. Believe it or not you have to train your body to "take care of business" in the mornings. You start this way in the off season (year round for me now), so that you don't have to deal with it in races. So here I am 60 minutes before the start and I can't get my business done. Plan B (a plan for everything right), I specifically where an old pair of running shoes in the morning just in case I have to go for a short run to get things moving, which in this case I needed to. This is the first time in all my races where I had to utilize this contingency plan. So off through the mob at the entrance to transition I go, by now it is just short of pandemonium there. There are a lot of concerned / worried family member. I run for about 3/4 mile and make my way back through the mob and stand in line at the port-a-potty again. This time the line is twice as long and is looping back and forth. Good thing there are like 30 port-a-potty's so it is moving pretty good. When it's my turn, there is only a little movement, damn. Well I did what I can, hope it doesn't trash my race, but I'll deal with it if it happens.

I make my way to the boardwalk, where I agreed to meet my Mom and Dad. I spot Dad right away and we walk to where my Mom is standing. She is right where we were last year, which is right where I wanted to head, perfect. We take a couple pictures and I start putting on my wetsuit, which can take as long as 12-15 minutes. They are extremely tight and you need to be careful not to rip them when you put them on. I have a new suit this year. Exact same as the one I have, only one size larger. The one I have is just too tight on my arms and is very difficult to get off, which leads to slow transitions. I picked this one up on eBay, brand new for $60. It retails for $499, so I couldn't pass it up. The old one has several repaired rips from putting too quickly, so it was time for a replacement anyway. I used a lot of bodyglide in the typical areas which I hadn't already applied. I had already got the "sensitive spots" on my rear end. The spots which need to sit on that saddle, which no padding at all (not even kidding, it's just leather stretched over carbon fiber). I applied bodyblide heavily to the back of my neck. This is the ares your wetsuit rubs every time you take a breath. This is called a "wetsuit kiss". You usually get an abrasion on the back of your neck. Really bad cases of it start bleeding. I have seen my fair share of bleeding wetsuit kisses while people of on the run. Keep in mind the run won't start for about 6 1/2 hours so that is a long time of dealing with that irritation. I figure I take 3,000 breaths on the swim in an Ironman, so you can see how that could lead to some abrasion. Westsuit's now on. At this point the adrenaline is pumping so much my hands are shaking emotions are EXTREMELY high. It is almost too much to take. The air before an Ironman is completely different than other races. Every person racing has made huge sacrifices to family, friends, their jobs, their bodies. Self doubt...did I train enough, did I think of everything, is my race plan right... is thick in the air. There isn't a lot of talking and cutting up going on. There is just too much on the line...too many sacrifices to get here. It is as serious as a heart attack!!!

I give my Mom and Dad a huge, thank them for everything, give my Mom my back pack and make my way to the beach. The Pro's start before everyone else, about 15 minutes, because there is prize money and Kona World Championship spots on the line for them as well. This is what they do for a living (I'm so jealous and in another life, this is what I'm doing for a living). The Pro's had already started and the National Anthem started playing so I stopped, I noticed how cold the sand was. The temperature was about 48 degrees, brrr! Getting out of the water and riding a bike while wet at 48 degrees was not sounding appealing at this point. My body fat was at about 2% so the cold just cuts right through me and I can't warm up. This could lead to cramping, which is a huge issue. Once the anthem was done they started getting everyone out of the water. Looks like I'm not going to get my swim warm-up in, damn. I wasn't too concerned because I had a short run warm-up, so everything was evening out.

They called out 5 minutes until the start. I made my way to the far left front. This is called the buoy line as it is the shortest distance and pretty much a straight shot to the first turn buoy. So this is why you do swim sprints in your swim training. If you know anything about an Ironman swim start you know why this is important. 2225 athlete's + a shotgun start = a blender of elbow, knees, arms, kicking feet. It is true chaos! That is the only way to describe it. Survival is the first order of business. Your arms are hitting others, you are getting kicked, your legs are getting pulled, it is full on molestation. You have to get out in front of this full on assault as quickly as possible. This is why you train with swim sprints, get out in front of it. Now the tricky part is that everyone else has trained with swim sprint as well, so it comes down to who is faster. There is also a fine line in how fast you can go. By this I mean, you have to manage your heart rate. I'll try not to get overly technical here, but I train with a heart rate monitor, which is a thin (about 1 inch way) strap held with an elastic strap you wear around your chest. It measure the electronic pulses your heart gives off each time it beats and transmits this, wirelessly, in the form of beats per minute to your watch. This information is EXTREMELY important as you have different heart rate zone, which indicates different exertion levels your body is going through. Again, trying to over simplicate here, but you physically can not race for 10 hours above a certain heart rate. Your body can not hold, process, and refuel itself at a rate to continue this rate. The major threshold is called your anarobic threshold heart rate. This is the threshold where your body can not process enough oxygen your body needs. This creates some conditions in your muscles where they fatigue rapidly. Also, once your body crosses this threshold for too long (about 10 - 15 minutes), it stays in this anarobic state. Translation, your day is pretty much done. So you have to go fast, but not too fast. So much of the training is to get your body to function at these peak levels longer and longer without the negative effects. This is one of those type things. If I can swim at an anarobic stat 2 minutes longer than the guy next to me, I get in front of him and get out of the chaos. There is a trade off to this though, yet another example of the great equalizing factors of triathlon. You can legally draft on the swim. Believe it or not, if you get behind another swimmer, there is a small current they produce and you swim in that current which sucks you along a little. So you need to go out fast to avoid the mess, but not the fastest as you want to try to find someone to draft off of. The trick is to find someone who is just a little bit faster than you are so when they suck you along, you can keep up with still swimming hard. It is a science for sure with a whole bunch of luck mixed in there.

The canon shot and I was off. The blender started. The beach water was very shallow, about mid thigh, for the first 20 yds or so. I tried a few dolphins (this is where you dive forward and glide, then use your feet to jump out of the water a little and dive forward again, you look a little like a dolphin when you do it) which is quicker but the waves were coming in. Started swimming and then it got shallow again and had to wade for a few seconds. Once past this shallow area the long day begins.

Got clobbered a couple good times and never really broke free of the madness. I did find some feet after about 5 minutes and drafted for about 5 minutes. Decided they were going too slow so I passed only to find I was getting clobbered a whole bunch more. Passed the first buoy, then the second, then the third and fourth. I can't remember if there was a fifth before the bid orange turn buoy. This is an area you need to watch out for. Everyone is converging on this turn buoy as you need to go around it. If you don't you are disqualified. Getting kicked in the face and loosing a contact is a huge fear of mine and I read in a race report of someone who's training I follow that is happened to him. Major bummer. So I made sure to look out for kicking feet. made it through the first turn buoy fine, a little slow as I had to tread water for 3 - 4 seconds, but safe. I remember thinking to myself, I'm gonna been happy to pass this one the second lap. It's a 2 lap course, each 1.2 miles. Around the second turn buoy without incident, how heading back to the beach. I remember thinking I'm 33% done with the swim at this point. I do this a lot. I calculate stuff. Weird I know, but one thing I have learned about myself is when I can't calculate, I'm anaerobic. It is the funniest thing, my brain can't do math. Your body is the most amazing thing and does an excellent job and controlling energy. It knows you don't need any of that precious oxygen, that it isn't getting enough of when you are anaerobic, to do any excess thinking. So, no extra oxygen to the brain means I can't do math. I slow down a little and the number start crunching. I know I'm a little off :). I say a couple jellyfish about 4 feet down and remember thinking good, stay down there. There is always a lot of talk about jellyfish stings on the swim. They sound painful and I don't want to deal with it. I started to wonder if there was going to be a current. In May I was in a Half Ironman (half the distances of all three sports) and the swim was unbelievable. The waves 5 - 8 feet and there was a huge current which pulled you from left to right as you came back in. Every time I sighted (you have to look up every 15 strokes or so to make sure you are swimming straight) I was heading too far to the right. It was miserable. Not the case today. Pointed myself towards the host hotel and just kept plugging away. The water started to get more shallow and the water got really cold, probably 15 degrees colder. Thoughts of "this bike is going to be cold" crept in my head. The air temp cools the shallow water along the shore much quicker than the deeper water. Getting close to the beach now. I rode a couple waves in and passed about 5 guys. Popped up and reached for my gel I had tucked in my forearm. Opened it and squeezed it in my mouth. As I ran across the timing mat I handed the wrapper to a volunteer. A timing mat is a mat with antennas in it. Each racer wears a timing chip on their ankle held on by a special strap. This chip is a unique number and the system knows you by your chip number (cross referenced to your race number). Cross the timing mat and the system knows you have been there and at what time. Took a left after the mat and headed down the beach for about 30 yds and back in the water for lap #2. Pulled my wetsuit sleeve back a little to peak at my watch, :28:43, I was ahead of schedule, sweet!

Did the wading and waddling through the shallow water and did a few Dolphins until I was in deep enough water to swim. Still in traffic as the kicking and elbows were still flying occasionally. The swim was much more crowded this year vs. last year. Found a set of feet to get behind and off I was. Around the first turn buoy and just as I thought earlier I was happy to be there. Calculated I was about 70% finished at this point. Around the second turn buoy and back to the beach. I remember thinking on this section that I have savings quite a bit of energy as I didn't feel I was exerting myself much. My split at the beach told me a would be pretty close to my goal time and for me the difference between a good swim and an ok swim is only a couple minutes, but a big difference in energy output. I would gladly give up a minute or two to save this much energy. I'm gonna need it later in the day. Rode a couple waves in just like last time. I can't figure out why everyone was stopping and standing up, the waves pounding against their backs. I ride these waves like a surfer. Granted the waves weren't very big today, but the concept still applies.

Out of the water and reach back to grab my wetsuit zipper cord (the zipper is in the back). My wetsuit has a breakaway zipper so you actually pull up on the zipper and the zipper comes apart, kind of like when your zipper is broken on the end and the two parts of the zipper just peal apart easily. Peal the wetsuit over my shoulders and peal the arms off. I get the top down to my waist. All of this before I cross the timing map. Over the timing mat and up the shoot, lined with "wetsuit strippers". These are volunteers who are there to grab your wetsuit and strip it off of you. This is an incredibly confusing area as there are a lot of people, both strippers and racers and everyone is frantic to get moving. The best approach is to run past the first 15 or 20 strippers as most racers stop at the first one they see and wait for them to finish stripping the racer in front of them. One thing to note is once you cross the timing mat this second time, your T1 (transition 1, which is alway swim to bike) time starts. It is said that transitions are free speed. You don't need to do long interval sessions (these are workout where you focus on sprints and are exhausting), just be smart and you save time in transitions. ABSOLUTELY no standing and waiting for anything in transitions. So I ran past the first 15 or so strippers and ran to a stripper who was waiting, pointed right at him and yelled "you" and promptly plopped my but in the sand. He grabbed my wetsuit arms, I lifted up my butt and 3 seconds later I am up and he is handing me my wetsuit. Continued to run up the shoot. Heard Mom and Dad yell out my name, with Dad's traditional "come on Brent", which I remember since I was 6 years old as a swimmer. Everyone quiets down for the swim start and Dad yells, "come on Brent". Ran under the shower to wash off some of the salt water and between the two building and into the transition area. I was told to yell out my race number so volunteers could locate my Swim to Bike transition bag. when I got there 10 or so seconds later they didn't have my bag so I ran down to where it was and grabbed it myself. Remember no standing around and waiting during transitions. Into the transition tent I go. I dumped my bag on the ground and a volunteer helped sort my stuff. Put on my bike shoes, clipped on my helmet, put on my arm warmers, grabbed my race belt and two gel flasks and off I go. Put the racebelt (this is a belt with an easy clasp that you pin your race number to so you don't have to pin it to your jersey). The night before the race I was thinking that I have never raced with arm warmers before (the are sleeves that cover your forearms and have elastic to hold them in place just below your shoulder). I have never tried to put them on when my arms were wet. I couldn't practice at that point because I had to put them in the transition bag the day before when I dropped off my bike. Well my worries were true. It seemed like an eternity to get them on. If I would have known, I would have rolled them so I could just roll them on. Oh well, lesson learned. I decided to wear them as they lowered the temperature forecast for the morning. Later I would be happy I had them. Total time in the tent was maybe 70 seconds.

My rack placement within transition (think racks holding 2225 bikes, its a big parking lot) was near the back, away from the mount line, which I explained earlier. Transition placement works a little different for IM. Normally, wherever you are in transition, you may have an advantage for the bike (close to the mount line), but have a long run out for the run (which is on the other end of transition). Well for IM they take your bike from you at the end of the bike and everyone MUST go into the changing tent (can't just put your shoe on by the transition bags). So in this case, having a rack in the back of the transition area is a slight disadvantage.

Ran with bike to the mount line and slightly past the line to get around the folks who just stop right at the line. On the bike and off I go. The first 10 miles on the bike were cold. Passed several guys who were off of their bikes and trying to work out cramps. Happy I had the arm warmers, those they wouldn't do anything to help with leg cramps they did keep me a little warmer.
Slight head wind for the first 20 miles. It wasn't noticeable until the other side of the bride, about mile 10. There were a LOT of "packs" on the bike. It is illegal to draft on the bike. The packs of bikes you see in bike races on TV are not allowed. Refs were trying their best to hand out the penalties, but at one point they would have had to give out 30 or 40 to a group which went by. I saw 8 or 10 of them standing in the next penalty tent. If you get a penalty the ref will indicate you need to stop at the next penalty tent, usually at each aid station, every 10 miles. The time penalty for drafting is 4 minutes. You have to wait in the tent for 4 minutes. The "legal" follow distance is 4 bike lengths, which if you are behind a single rider, you really don't feel any draft. If there are 3 or more riders legally in a row you definitely feel the draft, especially if there is a head wind. I know this because I tucked in behind 6 or 7 riders in a row (all legal), and my speed went up 2 mph and my heart rate went down 12 beats. Followed these guys for 3 or 4 miles and got dropped at an aid station. I worked for 20 minutes or so, way too hard, to catch back up but never did. Tried to hang with another group which came up but couldn't without getting my HR into zone 3. They were really moving and we were going 24 - 25 mph for a little while. I think I was with them for maybe 5 minutes or so. Guys kept passing me because I think they thought I was keeping too much room between me and the rider in front of me. Even though I was 4 bike lengths. Pee'd twice in the first 60 miles. About mile 30 on the bike I went to reach for my pill dispenser, where I had my salt tabs and it blew out of my bento box and the rider behind me ran it over. Oh SHIT. During the Half Ironman earlier in the year on this course my salt tabs blew out of my bag. I had them in a little bag. I thought the solution was this pill dispenser, guess not. I did have a back up plan as I had a small bag with 6 salt tabs in it, just in case. With the 2 I had taken out of the dispenser before it blew out and the 6 I had in the back up bag, I would be 4 tabs short of my nutrition plan. I explained the importance of salt earlier, but didn't say what would happen if you don't replace salt. The biggest issue is cramping. Your body needs the salt to conduct the electrical pulses telling your muscles when to fire. With out the proper level of conductivity your muscles start to spasm, also know as a cramp. A huge issue as you can imagine. There are other things which can happen is you can have digestive issues, called GI issues (stands for gastenal intestinal). Your stomach actually needs to have salt to get what's in it through the membrane and into your bloodstream. If what's in your stomach can't get through the membrane, trouble is on the way! The first sign is that your stomach is distended (sticks out), you can feel the liquid sloshing around in it, and you start feeling sick to your stomach. If you throw up, you solve the stomach issue, but now you are very behind on your nutrition and it is a very hard road to get that back. Again without getting real technical, your body can only process so many calories per hour and uses calories determined by how much effort you are putting out. This is oversimplifying a bit but it gets the point across. So, if you toss your cookies (throw up) you are behind on your nutrition. Actually, you are behind before you throw up because you have lost time getting it in to your system as it is sitting in your stomach. Once you loose this time, it is REALLY hard to make it up. The most effective way to get the calories in is to slow down so your body can send more blood to your stomach. This kind of defeats the whole I'm racing thing. Slowing down isn't in the plan. When the pill dispenser blew out and I did a quick calculation of tabs needed, I knew I was in a little trouble. So some of the things I needed to focus on for the next 3 1/2 hours is proper hydration and I would take a couple extra 1/2 bananas at aid stations (they have a lot of potassium in them).

At the timing mat, mile 73, I was 12 minutes down from my goal time. I knew the head winds would put me down and I needed to be careful not to be too concerned about being off my time. I couldn't expend too much energy to just hold to the time plan. There is a saying I have on my training blog which goes "so you think you rode too slow. You now have 26.2 miles to fix that. Think you rode too hard, that now has 26.2 miles to express itself." The meaning here is you have to make sure you save enough energy for the run. After all you have a marathon to run. I was still feeling pretty good at the 73 mile mark I decided to push and make up some time. I have about 40 miles to go and I knew I could make up 6 or 8 minutes. Some sections had a little tail wind, which was nice. The bikes have thinned out pretty good in this section. Very little passing. Made it back to transition and I was excited to get to the run, not sure if it was because I was ready to run or that I just needed to get off the bike as I was sick of pedaling. Ended up finishing the bike in 5:17:55. just under 3 minutes behind schedule. I had at least 15 dreams in the months leading up to the race where I had dreamed my bike split was 5:17, amazing.
While approaching transition I got my feet out of my shoes and pedaled on top of my shoes. Got to the dismount line, same concept as before only you need to be off your bike before the line. Hopped off the bike (shoes stay on the bike clipped into the pedals). Ran to the bike to run transition bag area and it was mass confusion as I was yelling my number and they were just looking at me. They weren't letting racers into the area so I am pointing to it until someone handed it to me....seemed like an eternity, but was probably 10-15 seconds. Ran with bag in hand to changing tent, while unlatching my helmet. Helmet strap must always be latch when on the bike or it's a penalty. Got into the tent and dumped the bag out. Rolled on my right sock and slipped on my shoe, rolled on my left sock and slipped on that shoe. unclipped my race belt from the bike and grabbed everything else, run race belt, fuelbelt, and run visor. The trick is to do as much in motion as you can. Some education here. a fuelbelt is a running belt which holds small bottles (7oz bottles on my belt). It also holds one gel flask. The belt keeps the bottle weight evenly distributed, which keeps it from bouncing as you run.

I hooked my arm through the fuelbelt, put my running visor on, put my race belt on, then my fuelbelt, all while running. I was probably 200 yds out of transition before I had everything situated, again, free speed. The reason I had a different racebelt for the run was that this belt was designed to hold a pill dispenser as well as gels in their packets. So I had a fresh supply of salt tabs, as well as a back up small bag in a small pouch on the fuelbelt as a back up plan. First thing I did was get a salt tab in me as I was behind 4 tabs.

Started running and tried to keep the pace down. I have a tendency to run too fast off of the bike. Probably because your legs are turning over at a pretty high cadence on the bike, about 90-95 revolutions per minute. Your legs have been doing this for over 5 hours, so your legs want to keep that cadence up. I have to continually remind myself to slow down, slow down. this is why I had the goal for run pace for the first 5 miles. Well ran too fast first 5 miles. My average pace was about 6:45 per mile. The faster you go the higher your HR which makes a difference as to what type of fuel your body is burning. I'll save the technical stuff here, but it leads to trouble when you are burning too high a % of carbohydrates or more accurately glycogen.

At mile 5 I was feeling REALLY bad, probably the worst I have felt in any race or training session. My stomach was sloshing around and I was getting tunnel vision. I was on the cusps of a serious BONK. OK, a bit of the science here, sorry. I'll try to explain it as easily as possible. This is when your body runs out of glycogen, which is it's primary fuel source. Glycogen is easy for the body to break down and use for fuel. It is replaced primarily from carbohydrates. Your body only can store a limited amount of glycogen and can only replace it at a specific rate. You body can run on some other fuels, like fat and protein, but these sources are not preferred because they require a lot of work to convert to fuel. Let's try an analogy, I love them and use them al the time (people from work are rolling their eyes for sure).

Let's say your body is a car engine which runs on gasoline, and you are driving from Atlanta to California. Now there are 3 primary blends of gas, regular, mid-grade, and premium. Your engine is one of those fine tuned racing engines which run best on the premium stuff, but can run on the others with some spitting and sputtering. The Premium gas is glycogen, the mid-grade is protein, and the regular is fat. Now let's say there is a gas shortage and gas rationing. You can only buy 20% premium (glycogen), 30% mid-grade (protein), and 50% regular (fat). So you are running on a gas blend. Actually, you can buy as much regular as you want, but your car has to slow down to run only on regular. Your body can store many thousand calories of fat (really an endless supply), but then you have to lug it around and the more you weigh the more energy it takes to move. A pound of fat is about 3500 calories, so we are only talking about a few pounds of fat needed for an Ironman race. At 3% body fat I still have over 4 pounds of fat to work with. Now the faster your car goes the more of the premium and mid-grade it burns, or the more glycogen and protein, and remember they are rationed. When you "bonk" you run out of glycogen and you have to slow down in order for your body, your engine, to be able to burn the other types of fuel. When I started feeling the sloshing in my stomach I knew I hadn't been getting the calories into my system for awhile, which leads to trouble. You can't just dump them in, just like the gas, you can only pump it in at a certain rate.

So I am faced with a decision, do a stop into a port-a-potty and make myself throw up to empty out my stomach and start over or do I see what I can do to get it to empty out. I decided to try to get it to empty out and ran past the potties at mile 5. At mile 6 however I was thinking I was going to blackout, so I thought I better see what I can do and stopped at a potty. I was in there maybe 20 seconds and once inside decided to just try to go pee and try to relieve some pressure on my stomach. Went a little and then back to running. This helped, or maybe it was the short break I don't know but started feeling a little better and kept plugging away until mile 7 where I saw Mom and Dad again. Can't tell you how much that helps to see friends and family. It's only for a few seconds but it is what you look forward to and it gets you from A to B. Ironman racing is tough for the spectators. It is hour after hour of the same just to see your racer for 20 seconds and then another could hours for another peak, but it is much appreciated!

I Kept moving until I was back at the transition area to start lap two. As I approached the turn around I yelled out my number where a volunteer grabbed my Special Needs bag and I dumped everything out of it and dropped my empty bottles from my fuelbelt. Pick up the new bottles, thanked her and started running again. This took probably 6 – 8 seconds. Watch beeps now are extremely annoying. I have my watch programmed to count down 15 minutes and beep 10 times and repeat the count down again. This is my Eating reminder. In a long race you sometimes have to do some major disassociating and this keeps you on task to keep the calories coming in per your nutrition plan. Speaking of disassociating, my most effective form is counting steps. Every right step is a number and it goes like this: 1,2,3,4,2,2,3,4,3,2,3,4,4,2,3,4,5,2,3,4…..up to 20,2,3,4, then back to 1,2,3,4,2,2,3,4. When it gets bad, you gotta mentally go somewhere else or you will be walking. It is just that simple. Your mind is throwing every trick in the book at you to stop. Self preservation / survival instincts I guess. When you disassociate, you essentially shut off you mind from telling you what it would like you to do. For this marathon, I started counting at mile 5… at that point I knew it was going to be a long day! So the watch beeping brings you back to reality and the pain that is shooting through every muscle in your body. Take care of business, gel, salt, drink, whatever, and back to my beloved numbers.

Mile 18 and there are Mom and Dad again, looking a little concerned at this point as I think I may have looked a bit beat. I kept plugging away, miles are now in the 8:00 – 8:20 per mile, which is slower than any of my training runs. Nutrition is not good at this point. I just can’t get the gel down. We are only talking about 1 ½ ounces per shot, but it seems like a gallon. When you take a salt tab or a gel you have to have a bit of fluid to get it in (get your stomach to absorb it). Mile 19 is coming up. I started walking though aid stations last year at mile 19. I AM NOT WALKING I told myself. I walked last year to get more fluids in. At least that is the argument my mind convinced me of, and at the time it made so much sense. Not falling for it this year! Past mile 19 aid station, still running. A guy in my age group passes me. His name is Norbert. It’s a strange, old fashioned name, which is why I remembered it. The reason I knew he was in my age group was because they right your age on the back of your calf (back in body marking In the morning). Crap! I can’t stand getting passed and he is the first in my age group (AG) to pass me on the run. Just keep moving forward, focus on my numbers, focus on my numbers. Mile marker 20, just an easy 10k now (a 10k is 6.2 miles, the marathon is 26.2 miles) keep going…no walking. I started catching up to Norbert now and passed him just before mile 21. At mile 22 I see Dad and he asked me “how’s it going” to which I respond with crossed eyes. At this point I can’t put anything in my stomach, no gel, no liquid, which means no salt. I make a decision I am just going to gut it out from here. Even the thought of drinking is making me nearly get sick and throw up. Really focusing on the numbers now, trying to visualize them, trying to smell them, even trying to taste them, which didn’t work as it got my stomach going again. Running right through the aid stations now, not grabbing Gatorade like I had been all day. Mile 23 comes and goes, mile 24 comes and goes. Then my friend Mr. Norbert pulls up and passes me. He is looking strong at this point and there is just no way I am going to keep up. He ended up crossing about a minute before me, which is a probably a couple blocks at this pace. Starting just after mile 25 the crowd gets pretty raucous. Lot’s of music and partying going on. The cheering is great, but I was way past the need for cheering stage and just needed for this race to be done. I just needed to focus on my numbers and all this yelling and music is distracting me from this. Usually this section is great and certainly was on my first lap, but it was really knocking me out of my disassociating and was actually the most painful stretch of the day. At about mile 26 someone yelled “Brent” (your name is on your race number), but this was more of a question. Kind of like is that you? I heard it and would have loved to turn around and see who it was but I would have stumbled and fell. I still don’t know who it was. Home stretch now. This time I ran to the right of the turnaround which said, “this way to finish”. I see Mom yell at me that she will meet me at the end. The finish shoot is an amazing place, kind of a holy ground if you will. Lots of cheering and music. The I hear Mike Riley (the voice of Ironman) say those beloved words…”Brent Schulte, you are an Ironman”.

I made it without walking a step, which is probably my proudest accomplishment. The level of will and determination required for this is unimaginable, this I know. I was not broken, I did not falter, I did not give in to the demons, I was happy for this. Time was 9:53:55, a personal record by 27 minutes, but off my goal time by just under 14. Mixed emotions altogether. I wasn’t happy with my run as I knew I had a 3:18 in me, but just put too much energy into the last 40 miles on the bike to make up time. Finished 154/2268 overall, and 24/378 within my AG. Kona slots went 12 deep I think (first 12 in AG get a slot to Kona, HI World Championships). In retrospect, my goal time of 9:40 wouldn’t have qualified me. Last slot was 9:33, so I need to find another 20 minutes, 25 to be safe. I think it needs to be 15 minutes on the bike, and 10 minutes on the run. Back to the drawing board.

Mom walked me to the recovery area and she grabbed a few grapes which looked good. Dad was still parking the car. Put one grape in my mouth and nearly threw up. I sat down and was getting tunnel vision. Mom ran down a volunteer from medical and the next thing I know I’m in a wheel chair without time to even put up an admirable rejection. A couple IV’s later and 4 cups of chicken broth later and I’m back. You need the warm chicken broth because the IV solution makes you so cold. Got a quick massage and ate a couple pieces of pizza and a bagel with Mom and Dad. It’s crazy to even write it but at this point I was ready to get training for my next IM in Coeur d’Alene, ID on June 21, 2009. This race will be much different as there are some mountains (hills) on the bike and run. Times won’t be close to this, probably mid 10 hour’s. I still need to determine goal times for this race.

I went back into transition to check out my bike and gear bags, loaded bike on the car and off to the condo we headed. Ate a couple bowls of cereal and sat in the hot tub for 30 minutes or so to get things loosened up. Took a shower and then Dad and I went back down to the finish line to cheer others in. We were there from race time 14:40 – 16:10. Grabbed a couple more slices of pizza and some water and joined in on the party. Certainly one of those few epic days you will remember for the rest of your life!

Unfinished Business as I still need to figure out how to claim one of those coveted slots to Kona.

No comments: