The photo to the right is Max Lawler (right), and myself (left) two days before the race. Max finished 11th in 25-29, beat his coach (yeah Max!), and just missed qualifying for Kona by 4 guys. He'll do it, and he'll do it soon. Until next race report, keep up the good fight, and keep the rubber side down.
Without ever having a "blog" or online journal, I suppose this would be as close as I will come to one. Thoughts made public, without censorship, here open for anyone to read. I have a new PERSPECTIVE after competing in 18 Ironman races. It's not "normal" for me to not qualify for Hawaii Ironman. 11 times in a row of racing Ironman races, year after year, passing on slots since the early 2000's, after getting bored with the Hawaii Ironman. In short, I had what I initially called a bad day--meltdown, complete and utter disaster where everything you could possibly imagine could and did go wrong. From illness to mechanical issues, and broken spirit, but that was only the beginning. All would morph into a 180 degree flip flop by the end of the day. It wasn't just the mentioned issues, it could be boiled down to something more basic. I was out of shape and plain and simple got my butt whooped, no excuses. The details included here were obviously beyond my control, but sometimes you have to bite the bullet and own up to a good ol' fashioned whoopin. Normally I would not write a race report for a really bad race, and save only long ones for good races. This is a turning of the tide, as this was a good learning race--even for a veteran of Ironman.
With a 20 month old, and only 8-10 hours a week to train on average, I relied heavily on my previous 17 Ironman races across the world, with expectations I could still pull off at least a 9:45, even under somewhat harsh conditions. Presumptuous at best. After turning down the last 4 or 5 Hawaii Ironman qualifications I've earned, I was at last mentally ready, to return to Kona. Ironically, it would be the first time I did not qualify in the years I have been doing Ironman races in my age group career. A personal "worst" time of 11:13 was 14 minutes slower than my slowest time to date, and nearly 45 minutes slower than my second slowest overall time. Every minute of the day after the first half of the bike I wanted to stop, and throw in the towel, but for some reason, I wouldn't let myself bail. I know the reasons, and they are valid (which I'll get to). Funny how often I visited thoughts of giving Mr. Fraser another 500 bucks for the misery I was involved in, cursing his name for allowing such a "crappy" course of boring desert loops and silly bike paths to run which ultimately represent NA Sports, and a swim course narrower than some pools I've been in.
The swim was a rough and narrow channel with only about 150 yards wide for the 2,500 or so numbers issued for race day. My choice to was start near the buoys in the second row, and then I proceeded to get beat up pretty good by some rather rude swimmers who insisted on grabbing my leg, attempting to push me under just to get ahead. I tried to steer left to get out of traffic, which took me a good five minutes to accomplish. Enough said there, it was a swim, and the effort level was mediocre compared to most of my swims, with a time of 1:00 and change (I'm usually under that by 1 to 3 minutes). The transition to bike was a little slow I felt, as I tried to wash little grass clippings off my feet, and some mud. Things were going pretty well until the temperature soared to 109 F in the Maricopa Indian Community desert outside of Tempe, on the three loop bike course.
Upon being passed by a few Cervelo pelotons, I shifted up and attempted to chase down a few of the speedsters, only to have my gears react with loud "clunks" when standing out of the saddle. All gears worked fine before the start of the race, as I went through all the gears, locking down skewers, and calibrating my Ergomo power meter, before suiting up for the swim. My watts at around 10 miles were around 210-230, and felt very comfortable, although I knew they were high to start with. The gear shifting never worked good the remainder of the race, and I adjusted everything before leaving Colorado, and checked it again upon arriving in Arizona. I finished lap one losing just a little bit of ground, figuring there were some over-ambitious cyclists that would fizzle out on the latter stages of the race. They usually crumble on the run from too hard of a bike. Lap 2 started, and bloating set in; while stretching my lower back by sitting up (no hands--but not recommended either), my bike got the high speed wobble despite not being at high speed. Odd I thought...but let's continue. I did this several more times on lap two before deciding to not tempt fate. The bloating turned to nausea and everything became what I would say "woozy"--a dizzy like state. Attempting to balance things out, I did some damage control with nutrition (hydration, Salt Stick, food, etc.,) to no avail. Aero position became unbearable, and the last half of lap two I had to resort to sitting up and holding the drops in a non-aero position through the steady desert winds. Lap three, still sitting up as by now (only going aero for the ASI cameras), several hundred Cervelos and Quintana Roo steeds passed by--my rear wheel slowed me to a near lock-up of the rear wheel. I hopped off, picked the bike up by the seat to try to spin the rear wheel--as the rear wheel DROPPED right out of the dropouts. There is no logical reason for this, but the wheel was fine when I left it in transition before the race. The quick release wasn't even in a closed position, and the nut was loosened about half way off the skewer. The only thing I can think of is my heel maybe clipped the lever, and road vibration continued to loosen it. This would explain the high speed wobble when sitting up.
From a power meter perspective, I was 210-230 watts on lap 1 of the bike, 165-180 on lap 2, and 50-65 watts on lap 3 before my wheel finally locked up. How could I lose so much power when my legs did not feel like they were performing any worse? How could my RPM's be more than my wattage output? This was a pickle, and I was stumped. When my wheel finally and literally fell off of my bike after I picked up the rear half of the bike, I realized that since about 1/4 into lap 1 of the bike, my wheel was already loose, and got worse as the ride continued. Yes, I rode the bike without my wheel locked into the frame until the desert road on lap 3. Luck would have it, I didn't crash. The bloating caused me to ride 2/3 of the bike SITTING UP in a non-aero bar position, much like a mountain bike. All the fancy teardrop helmets and wheels in the world will not help you if you do not use them as they were intended. After fixing my wheel, it was time to throw up. I honestly lost count of tossing cookies as I pushed my bike down the highway in my cycling shoes, but it only was about two blocks of walking before my stomach cleared enough to mount the bike again. Another item I need to clear up is getting new cycling shoes. I bought semi-custom Rocket 7's last year, and while stiff and lighter than anything else I have ever worn, they are VERY uncomfortable for Ironman racing as the insoles are next to non-existent. Shimano said at Interbike that next year they will have a new model out soon, and the Specialized Tri shoe looks good as well. Something I'll need to look into before '09. My feet were nearly numb and in a lot of pain well before I hit 56 miles of the bike.
Finally, arriving in T2...I washed my feet off with water, took some time to sit and stare at the tent wall, and then stood up in front of the massive fan they placed in the tent and put my hands on my knees saying how I really didn't want to go out in the blazing sun after the longest Ironman bike ride of my life. In spirit of the sport, I headed out after a slathering of some more sunscreen by the awesome volunteers. A hundred yards into the run, ahh...a porta-potty. Just like the one I stopped at on the bike in the middle of the desert a few hours earlier. To speed things up here, the rest of the run was spent diving into porta-potties as I really felt I needed to "go" but yet, I was so dehydrated that nothing happened. I would guess I stopped at every other mile for a pit stop, in addition to a few stop motion poses for the camera--operated by Michael Hagen (#1 in the 45-49 2007 USAT rankings). My walk/jog technique got me through the run in a record slow time for me, but I did have about 3 miles of actual running with the 2x defending overall amateur champion in this race. Kevin Dessart from Colorado Springs came up behind me and said, "C'mon Kevin, I know you're a better runner than that." I decided to run as far as I could with him, to help him pick off runners in front of him so that we could get him into first place for a 3rd year in a row. However, I was on lap 2 of the run and he was on the 3rd and final lap, and I knew I would eventually be back to walking before long. After about 3 miles, I had run as far as I could, as it was lose the cookies time again.
Along the way I stopped to walk and talk and encourage others having a hard time, to get them to continue. It wasn't that I couldn't muster the energy to run, even at one of the top AG run paces, it was that I had a stabbing pain in the stomach which prevented any sort of extended running motion. It was either something heat/dehydration related or gas. Either way, it was a long walk that afternoon. At one point, I picked up a guy who was from Boulder. He seemed to know who I was, and he asked how my day was. After the gamut of issues and stating it was my worst day in Ironman (aside from the flu in IM USA a few years back), I asked how his race was going. He stated it was likely going to be his best race yet. This really made me think that I best shut up and just continue. I decided to run/walk with this fella and told him we'd finish together at the same time. Which we did in the end, as it was a matter of finishing at that point. After a trip to the medical tent for an IV and a shot in the butt of something called "raglan" or something--for nausea (this all took 2+ hours), I moaned back through the IM Village, and ran into a guy named Chuck from Arizona, who did his 2nd IM ever. He was thrilled with his race and finished about 3 hours slower than my race--yet I was taken back by how disappointed I was in myself. I was happy for him, really, but needed some alone time. Less than 5 yards away, an older lady threw up her arms with one of the most blood curling screams I ever heard post Ironman, embracing a couple I believed to be her mom and dad. She said, "I FINISHED IT, I CAN'T BELIEVE IT!" I asked her if this was her first, and she said yes--so I said, "You don't know me, but heck, give me a hug too, I'm proud of you! Welcome to the Ironman Family!"
The series of events hit me after this. The athlete from Boulder I finished with, who had his best day while I had my worst...Chuck who was thrilled with his finish, and the lady who seemed like she just had won millions of dollars just by crossing the line. Sitting in the medical tent, I reflected on the day, and then in the blink of an eye after seeing a first time ecstatic finisher (post medical tent), my perspective completely changed. My worst day is someone else's best, and anyone who finished on this day was a winner, no matter the time. For me to sit there and moan, feel sorry for myself because I did not live up to my expectations, by finishing in 11:13, is a direct insult to anyone finishing even 1 second or 5 hours behind me. The last thing I want to do is make someone feel bad about a finish, by being down on myself. I respect athletes too much, and the work they put in to get to the line on race day, to put anyone down. I love this sport, and know the ups & downs are part of it. was bound to happen (slowing) as I got older. So it wasn't the ideal race for me, but I still am proud of battling my inner self to come out on top that day and finish when there was every excuse in the world to stop. One thing I am not is a quitter. One thing I don't want to do is make someone else feel bad by saying how bad my day was, when it would be a DREAM for them to finish where I did. I expect nothing less of the people I work with, and expect to live by the same rules I expect them to live by. It's all a matter of perspective, and it is in the spirit of Ironman to finish. Sitting here filling out this race report, I have to say that it is much easier to recover from an Ironman when you walk a large part of the marathon--and I want to get back out there soon. I may just have to give Graham another $500 for another pain fest in '09--although I said I was done giving him my money. After all, unlike my earlier thoughts, if Graham hadn't put on this wretched race, it would not have been so wonderful in the end--and I would not have learned so much about a side of the sport I either never knew about, or did and just plain forgot about it. Ironman is either an addiction or stupidity...likely a bit of both at this point. Ultimately I have so much to be thankful for from this race--from not crashing on the bike as I rode nearly 90 miles with a wheel that wasn't locked into the dropouts, to surviving the physical issues brought on by the heat and wind. Overcoming the broken spirit and marching forward to finish, and not becoming part of the 18% dropout statistic (3rd highest DNF's in Ironman history), to having those who finish behind me remind me of what this sport really is all about again. Until then, I'll need to get some new bike shoes, train real Ironman volume, pick a cooler race for sure, and most of all, get a lot more time with my 20 month old before I am ready to tackle another Ironman. Priorities are different these days, stellar finishes aren't a premium anymore, and to tie it all up, it is just a matter of PERSPECTIVE.