Ironman Florida 2008 Race Report Ė Bob Valley
I flew down on Wednesday to get ready for the race. Itís a Saturday race, this is my first full IM, and I wanted to give myself plenty of time to get ready. Coming from Vermont, I didnít have much for bike shipping options, so I took my bike with me on the plane. All of my other stuff was packed into another bag. I checked in both pieces of luggage, and when I arrived in Panama City, I only had the clothes on my back.
This caused some stress as I was unable to do anything including registering for the race because my timing chip and USAT card were in my bag; therefore, I drove the single loop 112 mile bike course. This proved very valuable to me because it gave me an idea of where the main turns were, the elevation, pavement conditions and just how far I had to bike. I think I would have started out too fast otherwise. Also, HWY 20 appeared to be gradually uphill with a few rolling hills for about 15 miles. Itís a flat course, but I noted to be careful on this section and not to push it here.
That evening while having dinner I got a call that my luggage had arrived. The hotel wouldnít accept it because they claimed I wasnít registered even though I had the key in my pocket. The luggage man had tried twice to deliver it to the hotel and he agreed to meet me at the restaurant to drop off my stuff. I gave him a good tip for his efforts.
Thursday, I put my bike together and brought it to an onsite bike shop to inspect it for me to ensure I put it together correctly. Also, my Salt Stick dispensers werenít working properly, so I had them replaced. Good thing they checked my bike because the aerobar pads were on backwards. Once they finished, I went for an easy bike ride to ensure everything was working correctly and it was - one less thing to worry about.
I went for a swim in the morning and as Kevin pointed out, to pay attention to the currents. There was a current that moved from left to right between buoys 1 and 2. It was surprising how strong this was for the gulf. The wind was from the north which was from the beach out which made the waters calm and the swimming easy.
The final thing I did was to register for the race. I got all of my bags Ė bike, run, special needs, and morning warm-up. I got bright stickers from Wal-Mart which I wrote my bib number and placed them on my bags to make them easier to find during the race. The bike and run bags were in two different locations in transition.
After the Athlete dinner, I took a muscle relaxer to help me sleep. The previous two nights I only slept about 4 or 5 hours each. I would wake up thinking about things I needed to do, but this night I slept very well. I didnít take a pill Friday evening for fear of oversleeping.
Friday, I started off the day with an easy run and the rust was leaving my legs. I was feeling pretty good. I was so confident with my ocean swim yesterday that I almost skipped this today thinking that I didnít need it. What a mistake this would have been. The winds had shifted and were now coming out of the southeast. The water was much rougher and my overconfidence was gone. Based on todayís swim, it was going to be long swim tomorrow. Also, there is a sandbar that parallels the beach about 50 meters out where the water gets very shallow Ė maybe a foot deep. I practiced walking along the sandbar to determine the best way to use this for the second loop of the swim.
I has getting hungry now and it was time to register for IM FL 2009; therefore, I grabbed my pancakes and waited in line to register. Kevin suggested eating before waiting in the lines which can take an hour or so to get through. Once I finished, I went back for more pancakes and a bagel (yep six pancakes and a bagel Ė I was hungry).
The afternoon was spent getting my bags ready and bike into transition. I had laid my stuff out on the spare bed and made a list of things I needed to do. This helped me to sleep better as I wasnít worried about forgetting something. That evening I ate an early pasta and chicken dinner which I finished by 5:30PM. I wanted to ensure I had plenty of time to digest my food. With my race clothes spread-out on the bed for tomorrow, I sat on the porch overlooking the swim course and watched the sunset. It was time for me to go to bed.
The alarm was set for 4AM and I was up by 3:30AM. I wasnít nervous at all. I was more stressed the previous days than today. I had prepared as best I could and the goal was to finished.
I ate a few bowls of cereal, took a hot shower to warm-up the muscles and then got dressed. The door to my hotel faced the transition area, so it was very convenient for getting ready. I grabbed my bike pump and special needs bags and headed out for body marking. The temp was about 50 degrees. I then pumped up the Zipps and let a few guys borrow my pump to do the same. It was nice not having to wait in line for air. I headed down the street to drop off the special needs bags, and back to the room to drop off the pump and take care of personal business. Again, it was nice not having to wait in line for a porta-potty.
I did some light running as I had two pairs of running shoes with me. I didnít need to dig my race pair out of the run bag. The legs felt great! They were loose and fresh. I was ready to fly. Back to the room I went to get into my wetsuit as it was now a few minutes before they closed the transition area. I put some Vaseline on my neck to prevent chaffing from the saltwater and I had no problem. By the time I got down to the race start, I didnít have time for a warm-up swim. Sorry Kevin, I know I was suppose to do that. The beach sand was cold, so I wore a pair of old socks which I left on the beach as a souvenir for a spectator. Two minutes before the start I put on the goggles and swim cap on top. 2,300 people on the beach ready for the start. I took an inside position about halfway back on the beach. I was surprisingly calm as the race was about to begin.
The gun went off and I walked into the water. My focus was to avoid tripping and getting kicked as the swimming began. Once in the water, I spent a lot of time avoiding feet. Many swimmers were not sighting well. I knew after the first buoy that the current would push me away from the course, so I sighted often to stay on track. When sighting I focused on just taking the goggles out of the water. Several times a big swell prevented me from seeing anything, so I just put my head down and tired to time my sighting to be on the crest.
Going around the corner buoy was crazy Ė a lot of swimmers funneled into a small area. As I got around the second corner buoy, I felt an arm come over my neck and my right arm over her arm. We were locked and unable to swim. We stopped, got untangled, laughed about it and continued on.
Upon reaching the timing mat and heading out for the second loop, I walked quickly along the reef toward the first buoy. I actually took a swim line to the corner buoy and let the current push me on course - this worked perfectly. On the second lap I tried to focus more on staying relaxed and using good swimming technique. I will need to work on this for next year. I was too focused on avoiding people rather than on swimming. Iíll probably take a further inside line next year to get more open water and just make sure I get around the corner buoy.
I could tell my right shoulder was getting fatigued as it didnít command the power in the stroke as my left side. This was due to the rotator issue I had been experiencing six weeks prior to the race, but I didnít have any shoulder pain. Coming out of the water, I was relaxed. One part down, two to go. I didnít use the Peelers (formerly called Strippers) because there was too much sand and people. As I went under the showers I just rinsed my face and mouth. Others were bathing, and I had to push them aside to get through. Swim time 1:22.
Into T1 I grabbed my bike bag which was easy to find as I Knew I was in row 28 and I had those stickers on my bag. I picked it up and headed quickly into the tent. It was warm and steamy inside and hard to find a spot to sit. I got the wetsuit off and dried my feet and face. I put on socks and shoes and my arm warmers. I lost valuable time trying to get the arm warmers on over wet skin. I might need to put them on under my wetsuit. Iím not sure what Iíll do but I need to cut down on the time. I then headed to the porta-potty, got my bike and got out.
I was glad I took the time to put on the arm warmers as it was cold to start the ride. Actually I didnít feel hot all day so I ended-up keeping them on. For the first 10-15 minutes I just rinsed my mouth with water to get rid of the saltwater and let my stomach settle.
Heading out on Beach Front road and then onto HWY 79, the ride was very fast. I probably should have gone a little quicker than I did, but it was just the start of the bike and there was a long way to go. I told myself the race doesnít start until 80 miles into the bike. There was one bridge to go over and that was the steepest part of the entire route. I focused on staying relaxed and being comfortable. I also practiced legal drafting by finding someone who gradually passed me going just a little faster than me. I estimated the seven meters as best I could and stayed right there. I drafted like this off about four riders for about 2/3 of the ride.
As I turned onto HWY 20, I was into the wind, slightly uphill and some rolling hills. This lasted for about 20 miles. This was the slowest part of the ride, so I sat back some and conserved energy. This is where I made my first of four pit stops. Most people were carrying their bikes to the woods (about 30 yards away). I just slid the bike off the road and went while still straddling the bike. One woman said ďit must be niceĒ and I replied that ďit wasĒ.
The Special needs bag was located just before the turn onto HWY 231. Again, another stop to get my Infinit mix and a couple gels. I had too many stops in all and Iíll need to reduce this next year. Maybe a mixed bottle instead of powder will help. Now I was dealing with a crosswind and some rougher pavement but not too bad. It was a slight downhill and I was riding around 25 mph with ease. I did the ride on perceived effort only occasionally checking my heart rate. It was in the 131 to 137 range each time I checked which is zone 2 for me (just like in training). I tried to do the ride like a training ride Ė no greater effort, no less.
Turning onto RD2301 the road became bumpy and I got out of the aerobars to shift some of the shock off my neck which I had injured last year. All of my water was splashing out of my Profile bottle. The next right was onto a short out and back. This was even worse. It was the most uncomfortable section of the entire ride. It led to what seemed like an endless out and back. Upon the return and heading east on HWY 388, the road improved some and the wind was at my back. I didnít realize this at the time, but my bike split proved this as my average time was up 1.5mph for the final 40 miles and I was taking it easy.
Upon crossing HWY 77 and continuing on HWY 388, the road became smooth again and it was clear sailing the rest of the way. I now focused on saving the legs for the marathon. I slowed down as I hit HWY 79 again. Up and over the bridge in my granny gear I went - then putting it on cruise control along Beach Front road heading in to T2. Bike time 6:13.
My T2 time was ok. I removed my socks to put Vaseline around my toes to prevent blisters. Next time Iím going to put Vaseline in my bike bag, so I wonít have to remove the socks. This alone would have dropped my time in half saving me three minutes. Also, I had kept my arm warmers on for the entire bike. The high temp was in the mid 70s, but I never felt hot. Mind you I go 150 lbs, so a bigger person might not have wanted arm warmers at all. I was most concerned about comfort the entire day. I didnít want to be hot or cold. I put a shirt in my run special needs bag incase I got cold.
I felt great starting off the run but one mile in, I started to feel some discomfort in my knee. At this point I knew the run would be a little slower than ideal. I walked through each of the aid stations to ensure I could drink well. I took some Salt Sticks with me to take each hour. I also had some gels, but didnít take them as I was sick of them.
I soon became very hungry and started eating everything: cookies, pretzels and bananas. This was a bad sign and shortly I started to have stomach discomfort. The run was through a lot of neighborhood streets with speed bumps. It wasnít an ideal course, but not much I could do about it. I started to get warm, so I pulled the arm warmers down onto my forearms. It wasnít much of a fashion statement but that was the least of my concerns. I knew it was going to be dark before I finished, so I kept them on. I eventually made it to the State Park for the first turnaround. 6.5 miles down, 25% done and the run is just beginning.
Heading back was more of the same. The knee pain would appear and then disappear, so it wasnít getting worse. My biggest problem was the stomach. It appeared that it was shutting down but I was hungry. I continued to eat which may have been a mistake. The warm chicken broth hit the spot. I didnít check my heart rate at all. I was in a survival mode and just trying to stay relaxed.
I was now back to where the run had started. The only problem was that I needed to go back out again. Not much changed from the first out and back other than I was slowing down. When I used the porta-potty, I had sea legs Ė I was bobbing up and down while standing. My urine was getting dark and this problem would be dealt with later. I had drank about two gallons today, but I was becoming dehydrated. Probably somewhere around mile 16, there was a cookout at one of the houses that I was about to pass. A guy was holding a hamburger and not paying much attention to the race. I wanted to take his burger so bad. I was salivating and it took great willpower not to snatch it as I ran by.
By the time I made it to the timing mat Ė 75% done, it was dark and the temperature was dropping. The volunteers were handing out glow sticks to wear around the neck. I didnít take one. Iím not sure why but I didnít want it. I pulled up the arm warmers and headed for the finish.
The race was taking on a new tone. It was getting quiet. Less people talking on the course and at the aid stations. The neighbors were heading inside. There were a lot of people out there but it was getting lonely. I was stiffening-up when I walked the aid stations and knew that soon I would have to keep running. The hip flexors were sore; the calves were sore; the glutes were sore, and I donít recall how the quads were doing.
With three miles left, it was time to run to the finish Ė no more stopping. The last pit stop caused me to stiffen-up so much that it took a minute or two to loosen-up and mind you my pace wasnít much of a pace. I was intentionally going slower for fear of twisting an ankle or tripping over a speed bump and being unable to get up. The final two miles the calves were totally cooked. During this time I was thinking that I should have been focusing on my technique more and less on the discomfort. Itís a strange time to be thinking of technique. Run time 4:42.
Well there was the finish. 40 or so yards in front of me. It was a numbing experience. I didnít speed up or slow down. It was an indescribable feeling hearing my name being call out as an Ironman for the first time. Total time 12:35:20.
After the race I took a shower and went to the bathroom to find I had some bleeding and dark urine. I stopped by the medical tent for an IV. They decided to ship me to the hospital for some testing. They gave me a total of five bags of fluids Ė over a gallon. By 6AM they let me out as I was meeting my brother in two hours. I spent the day with him, went to the awards banquet, and then to bed for the first time in over 40 hours.
Everyone I spoke with earlier in the week told me to enjoy this one because the first Ironman is special. They were right. I really enjoyed it all. The entire race was an unbelievable experience. Itís the first time that I spent the entire day living in the moment. I didnít wish or rush any of it away. I wasnít thinking about the past or future. The day was indeed a special gift. Thanks Kevin for showing me the way.