Â By now most of you know that I made it!!! I can call myself an Ironman!!! Jean’s leg was still too sore so she wisely didn’t do the race.
You probably also know I didn’t have the race I had hoped for or expected, but my goal was to finish and I did. Rather than rely onÂ rumor, I thought I would give you the details straight from the horse’s mouth (although I have been mistaken for the other end).
I awoke on Saturday at 2:30 AM and never got back to sleep (I wasn’t excited was I?). At 4:30 or so I started getting my gear around and looked out at the gulf. The waves were hitting the shore pretty hard, a bit rougher than I had wanted but you take what the day gives you. (Did I tell you that I made it-I’m an Ironman?)
I was very calm before the start of the race but it was lonely without the tri team there. The mass swim start wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. People didn’t run into the water thrashing and kicking, at least not in the back where I was. I knew it would be tough when I was wading out. I stepped in and the water got thigh deep, then came up on a sandbar calf deep and then got deep again. I was in knee deep water when a wave came in and broke right under my chin. I found out later that the waves were 1-2 feet (if you know waves, they are measured from the original waterline–from the bottom of the trough to the top of the crest of a 2 foot wave is more than two feet). From the bottom of the swells I couldn’t see anything and sighting was difficult. Then the masses of people closed in. It was wall to wall bodies with no open water to swimÂ in.Â I got kicked in the shoulder (yes, the one that I separated at Iceman 2 years ago), whacked in the head as well as most other parts of my body and pushed all over the gulf. One guy was on my back so long I thought we were engaged. I got out of the water on the first loop in 39 minutes (I crossed the pad at around 40 minutes as people were walking and it was crowded) and got back in the water. The second loop angled over to meet the line we took on the first loop. I was amazed that there wasn’t anyone in my way. It was great until I realized I was way off course. I was swimming up the middle and would have ended up between the two lines of buoys. As I realized and corrected my line, a jet ski came over and said I was going the wrong way and should be swimming toward shore. I told the guy I was going out, not in! The second loop took longer than the first but I was still out of the water in around 1:26 (I could be off–I haven’t checked the official times yet). (Did I tell you that I made it-I’m an Ironman?)
The transition went smooth (I took my time but didn’t dawdle).Â I got on the bike and kept it in an easy gear the first few miles. At mile 6Â I came across an accident. The guyÂ was laying on the pavement in a fetal position not moving at all. A few bikes were there so I kept going. I later heard that the guy was 55 and was in critical condition. I don’t know the details but the rumor was that he was hit by a car. The first 20 miles or so were flat. The firstÂ 7 were downwind and the next 13 were crosswind. When we turned on highway 20 it was directly into the wind (not strong but 10 mph or so) and the terrain was slightly rolling. I checked my time at mile 37 (a third of the way) and I was at 2:05–on pace for a 6:15 bike which was what I expected. Then it happened! We got our bike special needs bags at 50 miles and I spent less than 2 minutes switching camelback bags. I had eaten a couple of power bars, 2 bananas, drank 50 oz of G-Push, two partial bottles of water and a partial bottle of Gatorade. Within 5 miles (almost exactly the halfway point) I felt the first twinges of cramps in my quads. Those of you on the tri team know that I’ve had the same problems in all my long races (both Iceman mountain bike races, the Pineman half-ironman and the Great Buckeye Challenge half-ironman) but never in training. I had hoped they would go away but they didn’t. Within 10 miles I knew I was in trouble and went into survival mode. I dropped a couple of gears and began to spin hoping he cramps wouldn’t get any worse. They didn’t, but they didn’t get any better either. I was so zonedÂ out that I didn’t see Jean and my mother at mile 60. I only saw my brother Bob because he crossed the street to get a picture. To add insult to injury it started raining hard for about 45 minutes. The roadsÂ at that part of the bike were chunky and full of water puddles which made it all the harder.Â I finally finished the bike, but my 6:15 turned into 7:30 or so (again I haven’t checked the times so I could be off a little). (Did I tell you that I made it-I’m an Ironman?)
I went to the changing tent and got into my running clothes. I didn’t think I could run at all, but I ran out of the transition area andÂ felt decentÂ the first 4 miles. Then the cramps got bad again and I had to walk. The next 22 miles were pure torture. It was a combination of jog 300 yards or so until the cramps got too bad, then walk 300 yards or so until theÂ cramps went away, then repeat the same process. That worked alright until the walking caused blisters on the pads of my feet (50 cent piece size on the right foot, quarter size on the left foot) and I couldn’t run at all. Again to add insult to injury it rained hard for about twenty minutes.Â I had hoped for around 14 hours but with an hour lost on the bike and at least an hour on the run I was 16 hours plus. When I ran up the chute (in a lot of pain but I didn’t show it) I expected the crowds to be gone and the sweepers to be cleaning up the area, but theÂ bleachers were full and the peopleÂ were all cheering. It wasÂ an emotional experience that can’t be explained-it can only be felt.Â (Did I tell you that I made it-I’m an Ironman?)
That’s the story. I’m not proud of my times but I am proud of my perseverance.Â There are lots of details that I will pass on as time goes on so just tell me when you get tired of hearing about it andÂ I will stop.Â I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me. I made it and that’s all I really intended to do. Feel sorry for the guy laying on the pavement in the sixth mile of the bike–feel sorry for the people they picked up in the water on jet skis because they couldn’t go on–feel sorry for the people who quit the swim after the first loop because the water was too rough–feel sorry for the people that had bike problems and couldn’t continue–feel especially sorry for the people that did the whole race but didn’t make it by the midnight cutoff. (Did I tell you that I made it-I’m an Ironman?)
PS-Travel note. We started home Sunday morning after breakfast and came up through Alabama. We would normally drive until 6 or 7 but we were both tired so we stopped at 5 in northern Alabama. When we got in the room, we saw on the news there were tornado warnings in Alabama and Tennessee andÂ one of them was crossing I-65 right where we would have been. Many people were killed both North and South of where we stayed but we were safe. Someone up there is watching over us (Thanks Dad).
P.S.S.-(Did I tell you that I made it-I’m an Ironman?)