Below is the report which overlaps attached story. Dad is not supposed to read it; it mentions my surgery.
You were constantly in my thoughts last weekend.
It started with 1 of those awkward silences between 2 people years ago. Something came over me and I told my brother “let’s do Ironman” instead of just wishing him to get well soon. I spent the next few days wishing the promise away. I was ignorant of triathlon at the time, and any run over 10k seemed impossibly long.
I kept the preparation simple: learn and practice swim; watch lots of DVDs on stationary bike; pound my body against pavement on regular basis; hold the body weight within a 4 lb window. I practiced consuming all major brands of gel, bar, and sugar/salt based drinks to avoid having to carrying my own nutrition during actually event.
Biff and Tanisha conveniently showed up in my life and guided me to the starting line of Ironman CDA.
The condition was less than ideal at Coeur d’Alene Lake. The organizer offered athletes a way out: skip the swim and do an official duathlon. Biff and I stood at the back amongst other aqua-challenged triathletes like bunch hesitant emperor penguins. No one wanted the Iron Chicken option. Short of Australian shark or toothpick fish, I was going in.
The cannon blasted. Thousands of arms and legs propelled. I stayed at the edge of the madness consuming gallons of water, unable to time the waves. I eventually found a slow swimmer to draft. She kicked my face a few dozen times. Small price to pay.
Life was all roses when I entering T1. The day was half won!
Nutrition: large quantity of lake water that let to a long potty break
I was 7 minutes off projected time:
2 hr swim + T1 + 7 hrs bike + T2 + 5 hr run + potty breaks = 14:18:29
I entered a guessing contest where hitting that time would win a set of aero wheels.
Transition 1. Hypothermia
The shiver started after the wetsuit came off. The volunteers urged me into the hot tub. “But I’m already behind!” He shook his head and put a hand on my quivering shoulder understandingly.
I sat helplessly waiting for feelings to return and worry about the 17-hr deadline.
Untrained for hills, I convinced myself my legs were genetically blessed for this course. “I’m all quads, all fast-twitch muscles,” I kept telling myself after the panic attack 4 weeks before the race when I saw the altitude profile.
I checked the bike obsessively on Saturday but missed the bottle cages. One cage was damaged during shipping. Being an impatient fool, I tried to rectify the situation on the bike and ended up crashing at mile 20. I got off easy: scraped elbow and a giant headache, which subsided within a few miles. Ripped jersey, damaged shifters, impacted helmet. The Ironman bills continued to mount.
Most of the 112-mile ride was a mind and butt numbing experience. I daydreamed through much of it riding the scenic route.
I monitored my effort with heart rate instead of cadence. TriBike Transport screwed up the computer before scratching the frame and wheels. I stayed in aerobic zone until the hills of 2nd lap. All the bike problems and 9 months of struggling in water finally got to me. I went up 3 hills like a madman passing athletes walking their bikes. It was immature and risky but was also the most fun I had all day.
My ego was kept in check when lapped by top competitors hurling disk wheels. The artificial limbs alone the way were further humbling.
A wave of relief swept over me when dismounting the bike. No more mechanical concerns, no more oven-temperature helmet, no more postage stamp sized seats, no more crashes. Shower and pizza were only a marathon away.
1 gel / 15 minutes
24 oz of Gatorade / 30 miles
2 bananas and 2 salt tablets
2 additional gels + 1 Power Bar last 15 miles.
Transition 2. Numb quads
I estimated sub-4-minute T2 but didn’t anticipate the inability to move after 112 miles on bike.
I learned my legs could run comfortably for only 20 miles at White Rock Marathon. Biff and I discussed various walk-run ratio and settled on Setnes’ 25-5 strategy. The spreadsheet told me I could get through a marathon in 5 hours this way.
I felt surprisingly fresh at mile 3 and adjusted my speed for a 4:54 marathon. I was so gonna win that wheelset I didn’t even like!
The roadside was littered with runners bending their limbs to work out cramps. A few bent over unable to hold fuel.
The walk-run strategy worked beautifully the first 6 miles before hunger sets in. An empty feeling crept throughout my veins. I craved a 72 oz porterhouse and an Idaho potato with butter and extra bacon. Mostly I wanted to stop. Air temperature dropped with the sun. I tried moving faster to generate body heat. My legs didn’t want to go at all.
“Johnny, you look great!” The couple I met at the 4th Street pho restaurant shouted from the sideline. “I feel great!” I shouted back. I didn’t feel so great and didn’t know how much longer I could keep this up. The wife climbed over the concrete barrier and gave me a big hug. “You’ll make it.” They could always tell when I lied.
My walk-run discipline evaporated by mile 18. It was disheartening seeing all the fit people wrapped in silver blankets reduced to a painful walk. I was on the verge of joining them when 2 runners from Reno caught me and urged me to go on. My new friends pace me through the longest 8.2 miles of my life.
1 sip of liquid / 1 mile: cola, Gatorade, chicken broth
Final Time: 14:27:21
# of finisher: 2085.
95% finish rate.
Heart rate monitor data:
Average: 141 bpm
Energy burned: 8985 kcal
Every finisher got a personal catcher to chauffeur him through the line: medal, T-shirt, cap, and photo before optional medical tent, massage, and pizza. This is the best-organized event I’ve participated. The sleek marketing machine constantly reminded me the event is a for-profit business, but it’s hard not to be touched by the 3500 volunteers; many traveled far to celebrate ordinary people.
“I can stand. I’m just cold.” I told the volunteer propping me up waiting to be photographed.
“I know. You look good.” He wouldn’t let go of my shoulders.
The medic told me I needed a hot shower. I went back to the guesthouse and missed the photo finish of Tanisha and Biff with 3-month old Sammy who donated a tube of his butt cream for my bike ride.
I passed out after the shower and woke up the next day with soreness but was able to walk mostly normally. I probably could’ve gone a little harder. Should’ve hammered 1 more of those hills.
It was cool to be recognized at the airport. It helped to talk to spectators on the run course, Mike Harris style. One guy asked me if I had 12 minutes and offered to buy 60 hotdogs.
Waiting for the plane to take off, I wondered how my life would’ve differed if I told my brother “let’s go grab coffee” instead.