Thursday, November 16, 2017

Ironman Florida Race Report! Last One Fast One!

Sometimes you need a little time to digest just what happened in your race. This race report has been rattling around in my brain for a week or so, and I’d better get it written down before I wait any longer.

The Short Version

Swim 1:08:32 / T1 6:06 / Bike 5:52:05 / T2 6:07/ Run 4:33:48 – Total time 11:46:38

The Long Version

I signed up for Ironman Florida with just at 4 months to race day. My “mentee”, Margaret had signed up for it the year before when the Alabama Triathletes were there volunteering at bike special needs. I watched an old DVD while I was on the trainer one day, and it inspired me to do “one more Ironman”.
My Mentee, Margaret after a lake swim!

I wrote out a detailed training program for the 4 months, and pretty much followed it to the letter. Monday was a swim only day, so it was kind of a rest day, but other than that I think I only took 4 or 5 days off completely from any training. But I believe I trained smart. I like having a plan that is consistent week in and week out. Sometimes it makes it difficult to get training partners, because it is rather rigid, but for me it works best knowing that on Tuesdays I have my long run, Wednesdays are a swim, mid-distance ride, and run off the bike if I feel good, etc.

So here is how my week was laid out:

Monday: Long Swim (not a continuous long swim) 5000 yards.
Tuesday: Long Run
Wednesday: Swim, Mid-Distance Ride, Transition Run (only 1-2 miles if I was feeling good)
Thursday: Mid-Distance Run (this started 4 months out at only 4 miles, it was the longest I was running)
Friday:  Swim, Short Ride (23 miles), Transition Run
Saturday: Long Ride with the local bike group
Sunday: Recovery Run

Once the long rides became longer than the typical Saturday Druid City Bike Club rides I switched them to Friday. Up until then I would ride the typical 50 or so with the group and then head out for some more miles. I also wanted to do my long rides on my tri bike by that point, and not on the road bike. So I scoped out the flattest roads I could find, even if that meant multiple (and I mean multiple) loops on the same roads. I parked at a place along the course so I could stop at the car to refuel my hydration. I trained with the same thing that they were serving at the race. This way I didn’t have to worry about bringing my own on race day. I had a plan and stuck to it. One e-Gel at the bottom of the hour, a salt pill at the top of the hour, and the Gatorade Endurance. I also had some mini Payday candy bars that I took when I felt hungry. When the weather was hot I tried to get one bottle of water and one bottle of Gatorade per hour. Once it cooled down some I decreased that amount somewhat.

Refuel after a long ride!!

I built my midweek long ride from 50 miles, which was the typical group ride distance, to 70. It took 6 weeks of increasing the distance to get it to 70, and then that is what I did every Wednesday following a swim with the Crimson Tide Masters. That swim was typically 3000-4000 yards.

The swim was the easy part for me. Monday I did a longer swim, in the month of September it was a 5000 yard swim. Not a straight swim, lots of different intervals, varied through the weeks. I don’t believe in the long straight swims, the main set needs to be close to what you will be swimming in the race. So on these days the main set was about 4000.

Now for the running…I have “bad” knees. I’ve written about them before, two micro-fracture surgeries, one in 2002 following IM Florida, and one in 2008 following IM Louisville. Last December I had one more for a torn meniscus, removal of a loose body, and some debridement. My longest run training week was 31.4 miles, and my longest run was 17. Every Thursday was the mid-week long run which I built to 8-9, typically this would have built to 12-13, but here is one of the areas that I held back. My long run was on Tuesday, trying to keep it from being back to back with the long ride is better for the knees, giving them some time to recover.


We're here!!

We got to Florida on Wednesday, rented the most amazing house from VBRO, it had a giant Swim Spa Hot Tub, a fenced back yard, and it came with a golf cart, so it had a one car garage! (Perfect for the stinky bike post race).

Got Bill a VIP pass to make the day easier!!

Thursday Bill, Margaret, and I went to the Ironman Village to get our race packets, and do a little shopping. The “expo” was a little unimpressive, but we did spend some time in the Normatec Recovery Boots. These were amazing, would love to have had these during the training. The next day was bike and gear check in, all went smooth.

Pre Race Practice Swim!

Race Morning:

I had a very uneventful race morning, which was good. Dropped off the special needs bags – nothing special in them. The bike SN had a PayDay, a couple gels (in case I dropped one while riding), a tube, quickfill, and tire irons. Run Special needs had another Payday, a gel flask, and a short sleeve shirt.

I had my wetsuit, goggles, cap, and a can of Skin Slick with me, so before I put my wetsuit on I sprayed everywhere that there would be possible chaffing. A guy saw me, and asked if it was lube, and if he could use some. So I sprayed his neck for him – one of the best things about Skin Slick and TRISLIDE (other than the fact that they work amazingly) is that you can share it and not have a stick glide toughing someone other than yourself.

Warmed up some before swim start, this is important to me because of the wetsuit freak out that I experience. Margaret and I did two ocean swims when we got to Florida, and my new Roka wetsuit with its very flexible upper body felt great.

IM Florida is a two loop swim, I lined in about the middle of the first corral of swimmers. The time for this group was actually 1 hour or less, but after talking to my friend Becky who has done a bunch of Ironman races, she reminded me that people lie. There was a very old man in front of me in the corral, absolutely no way he was swimming a sub one hour. After the gun went off I scooted around him because he was walking super slow and I didn’t want to get stuck behind him. I had absolutely no bumping or issues on the swim. I started on the right hand side of the corral and angled in like Becky advised. Only one time did a man cut in front of me (twice) as he was zigging and zagging. I did the roll over his back with a backstroke and kept on my merry way! Came out of the first loop in 32 minutes but had a tough time angling back to the course once I started on the second loop. So my second loop even though I swam straighter was slower than the first. Bill found me in the corral just before the gun went off, he said he had been looking for me for an hour. He asked what time I thought I would swim and I told him 1:10. Total time 1:08:32.

Running to the change tent on the asphalt was tough. I stepped on a rock or something and the ball of my foot behind the great toe got bruised. In the change tent no one was there to help me so I just was going to stand up and get ready, so I dumped my bag by a trash can. Then changed my mind and sat in a chair a few feet from my pile. A volunteer then came over and shouted “WHOSE STUFF IS THIS??” I said it was mine, and she got onto me saying it couldn’t be in the aisle (it wasn’t) and that the aisles needed to be kept clear. I said “Thank You For Reprimanding Me!” She then apologized and said she thought one of her people did it… yeah right, there was no one helping me remember? I finished getting ready, and carried my shoes with me until I got to my bike. (No bike shoes allowed to be attached to your bike.) Transition time 6:06.

Onto the bike ride!! Started out and felt great! My right piriformis had been bothering me in the few weeks leading up to the race, and I felt it twinge, but then just backed off and it went away. In all of my training rides I followed the exact same protocol. Easy ride for the first 2 hours, and then increase and build speed. In training this meant in the 17+ mph, but this was a race so I held it closer to 18. I don’t wear a heart rate monitor but I could tell that I was riding easy. Within the first 5 miles a woman in my age group went by me, DRAFTING. Uuuuuuggggghhhhhhh!! Just after she passed me, I could still see her up ahead, a marshal came by and waved to me! I waved back and said “old lady in the white jersey drafting”. They zoomed up and rode next to her for a long time, maybe a mile or so. I didn’t see her at the first penalty tent, so I don’t think she got dinged. And who knows if she continued to cheat later on in the ride. Why why why….

I was totally planning on stopping to use the bathroom, went by mile 20, 30, 40… I guess I just wasn’t paying attention at the aid stations because toward the beginning of the bike I never saw the port-a-potties. Margaret and I had talked about peeing on the bike and I wasn’t planning on it, but did it anyway… ewww gross. I just rinsed after wards with water. They say in Ironman if you don’t have to go at least 2 times during the bike then you’re going to be in trouble on the run. Well, not to worry, I think I went about 5 times. Guess I was well hydrated…

Bill, Margaret and I talked about bike times before the race and I didn’t think a sub 6 hour ride was possible, but I was happy to see that I made it with 8 or so minutes to spare!! Yay!! Right before I got off the bike I had an average of 19.1, that made me unbelievably happy. I was hoping for an 18.5. Bike time 5:52:05.

I could have easily kept riding. In the three other Ironman races I did, I couldn’t wait to get off the bike. I’ve actually described it as dislodging the bike from your body. But on this day it felt like I could have ridden another 40-50 miles! Nothing hurt, I was really comfortable. This goes to show you just how much a good bike fit is worth. I got mine from John Cobb years ago on this bike and it was the best investment ever! I ride a Cobb V-Flow saddle, and have for years, I am biased but I honestly think that Cobb makes the best saddles out there!

T2 was also uneventful, I kind of wish the nice volunteer didn’t help me. It almost felt like it slowed me down, she knelt there holding things out for me, but in a really strange order. I sprayed my feet all over with TRISLIDE - bottom of the feet, heels, between the toes. I had also sprayed them the day before and put my socks on, then took them off to put in the transition bag. This way there was a light coating inside the socks. I did this before every one of my long runs and never had one problem with hot spots or blisters. Proved again in the marathon!! T2 6:07.

Our numbers both added up to 19 - Prime Number!

I had dorked my watch coming out of the swim so when I was running out of transition I stopped it and switched to run mode. But like an idiot, started it as I ran out of the changing tent. Then I stopped at the port-o-potties while still in transition and my watch kept running. What an idiot.

Saw Bill as I ran out and stopped to give him a kiss and a sweaty hug! As soon as I started running I realized that the bruise on my foot was going to give me some problems, it was hurting bad! And I had put some different insoles in my Hoka Bondi running shoes because I had been having some plantar fasciitis problems, and while this worked well on fresh feet, it did not when my feet were slightly swollen from the bike. My little pinky toe on my right foot (the same one as the bruise) felt buzzy and numb. I tried not to think about my feet and after a while (like 10 miles) I stopped thinking about them.

Bill brought Bogey out on the run course!
He got lots of pets!

Becky and I not only talked about the swim start but a lot about the run too. She said if you want to have a good Ironman run you’ve got to keep moving. So I only walked enough to get two cups of water or Gatorade down at each aid station. I had my e-Gel flask and mostly used water. By this point the sweet Gatorade starts to get cloyingly sick tasting. The water cups were paper and made the water taste bad, so I finally started getting a cup of ice and a cup of water and pouring the water into the ice, that way it was colder and didn’t taste as bad.

Lap 1 Feeling Great!

I had my watch set to alert every three miles to remind me to take a gel, and I was taking one salt pill per hour. Before the race I talked with some of my friends at work and felt that I would be okay in the marathon as long as I didn’t cramp. Well, around mile 18 or so I felt the twinges of a cramp in my upper left leg. Not so bad as it shut me down, but bad enough that I knew if I stepped wrong it would seize.

Just before the turn around in the State Park there was a tent for Base Performance. Margaret uses Base salts and gave me a little vial once, I tried it but didn’t like it so I gave it back to her. On lap one of the run (Florida is a two lap out and back course), I took one of the vials and had a few licks but then ditched it at an aid station because the salt was irritating my tongue. But on the second time I went by the tent, just after my leg cramp I stopped for a second to try and massage my leg. One of the guys, who I later learned was Matt Miller, came sprinting over to me. “Are you cramping?” “Yes” “Have you taken any salt?” “Yes I just did.” “A salt pill, that will take like an hour to work. Here take 6 licks of this, and drink this down and I promise you won’t cramp for the rest of your race.” I looked at the little bottle of light pink liquid, couldn’t read the label, and thought for a minute that this might really mess up my stomach. Then I thought... what have I got to lose, I have to do something. So I took the 6 licks and drank the little magic bottle of liquid. And guess what… no more cramp. It was like magic, and I am now a believer.

Lap 2 after the Base Salts!

Without a watch running constantly from the beginning of the race I had to keep switching mine to look at clock time. I thought we started at 6:40 am, so I kept doing the math in my head of where I was and my predicted finish time. By this point in time you can calculate it, but then a mile later you’ve forgotten what you were thinking and have to do the math all over again. If I’m running 10 minute miles it will take me an hour to run 6 miles, but it’s really 11 minute miles at this point so I need to add 6 more minutes…so it will take me 66 minutes at this pace to run 6 miles. Then another mile goes by and you do the math all over again. And all of a sudden I realized that I was going to break 12 hours if I could hold on. At mile 24, the guys were out there with the glow sticks, also known as “THE STICK OF SHAME”. My friend Laura named these, that if you were out on the course after dark you had to carry the stick of shame. It’s also a tradition to toss it to a kid before you finish, so it’s not in your finish picture. Well the guy offered me the glow stick and I remember saying “I don’t need one, I’m about to FINISH!

Running down the finish shoot, and knowing I broke 12 hours was pretty emotional. I honestly did not think I had that in me. My “best” race scenario was to finish in 12:30. I did it in 11:46:38. After I crossed the finish I turned and looked back at the clock, and started crying. My marathon time was 4:33:48, just 10 minutes slower than in my very first Ironman when I was 31, 25 years ago this year. Bill was right there at the sideline and called out to me. It was so great to have him there and see what I worked so hard for these last few months. I was dedicated, I trained hard, I raced smart, I stuck to my plan. A 13 minute PR from my very first Ironman! It all fell into place for the best race of my life.

My retirement race, what a way to go out.

I placed 3rd in my age group at an IRONMAN.

I still can’t believe it.

I was hoping, hoping, hoping to be in the top 5.
But I got 3rd, me it may as well have been 1st.

I have lived the Tri Life for 33 years.

The best sport in the world!

Thank you for coming along on my journey.

Margaret and I both placed 3rd in our Age Groups!!!
Her first Ironman!!

Some super cute deer we saw on our
easy ride a couple days before the race!


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