Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Ironman Canada - Aug 28 2011

Ironman. Not too long ago this seemed like an unattainable goal. Knowing many people who have completed the event I knew it was possible the question was really, am I willing to put forth the effort and sacrifices to reach the pinnacle of Triathlon, Ironman.

Without thinking it through I signed up for Ironman Canada last August. I was very surprised to get in as the event normally sells out with in person registrants the on the first day but I filled out the on-line form, pushed submit and to my surprise “CONGRATULATIONS you are registered for Ironman Canada”.

As spring approached reality set in, I plotted out a 30 week training schedule which included long rides every Saturday, starting at 30 miles and ending with a 120 mile ride and long runs every Sunday 8-23 miles. Booked a trip to Canada and it’s on!

It's the morning of the race, I’m Ready, I feel good, I know I can do this. I’m a little nervous about this swim start standing there in the water with 2,800 other athletes all sizing each other up and subtly jockeying for a start position. I was told to stay on the outside to avoid too much contact but I’m a strong swimmer and wanted to get a good line so I found myself front and center as the horn went off. And it was CRAZY! People climbing all over each other bumping into swimmers in every direction with nowhere to go. I just tried to maintain my cool, keep my head down, swim and breathe when I can. The water was clear and a very comfortable temperature ~70°. The congestion was worst at the turns as I went around the first buoy I thought I saw scuba tanks under me. On the second turn I noticed them, Scuba divers under the water watching us to be sure no one is trampled. After turn two, I am now sighting the shore and looking for the swim exit, before I know it I was there. I swim as far as I can, three strokes after I touch bottom, jump up, and start running while peeling off my wetsuit. Peek at the watch 1:15, that’s good!

As I enter transition I am met by a man who shouts at me to lie on the ground as he grabs the top of my wetsuit and pulls it right off of me. He hands me the wetsuit and I run through rows and rows of transition bags 1656, that’s me. I grab my bag run into the tent. Find a chair dump the bag on the ground. Shoes on, helmet on, oh crap, it’s broken! one of the internal straps is broken. Quick what should I do? Don’t tell anyone I’ll get DQed if I don’t have a helmet, just put it on, no one will notice. Glasses on, wetsuit in the bag and run to my bike.

I’m on the road, survived the swim and it feels just like another triathlon. Heading down Main Street in Penticton the crowd is cheering, I’m having fun now. I approach Skaha Lake right on schedule, I told Debbie I’d pass here at 8:30, and there she is :) This is going to be cake…

It’s a long gradual downhill as I ride along the lake to the little town of Okanagan Falls some short hills but I'm maintaining about a 20 MPH average through Oliver and on to Osoyoos. I’m in a pretty thick crowd of bikes, not sure how to avoid the impression that I’m drafting, the course marshals are trying to get us to spread out but there’s no place to go. My nutrition is getting a bit out of whack as I planed to take something every 10 miles, Gel, banana then ¼ cliff bar and alternate a bottle of water and electrolyte at each aid station. I grabbed a bottle at the 40 mile mark but the one on my bike is still full. But I’m feeling fine so no worries. About 40 miles in starts the climb up Richter Pass, 1200 feet elevation over about 7 miles, hard work but I’m feeling good about it. Heart rate is a little high at 150ish but I gotta get up this hill. As I approach the summit there’s an awesome crowd in the street, signs, music noise makers I felt like I was in the Tour de France the way the people lined the road leaving a very narrow corridor to ride through. Fun. And More Fun on this long decent, four miles down then a short climb and another 2 miles down. Fast.

As the road flattens out the fun fades and it’s starting to turn into just another long ride. Wide open space beautiful country but it’s getting hot and I got 56 miles to go, half way…

We come to a little town of Keremeos and there is a long 12 mi out and back stretch. I hate these because you get to see all the people that are well ahead of you as you are heading in. At the turn around was the special needs station. Athletes could have a bag delivered there with anything they may need. Volunteers would holler out rider numbers as others would find there bag for them. I didn’t use one, plenty of food at the aid stations. On the way back I got to see plenty of riders behind me so I felt a little better but I am tired of being on my bike and the climb to yellow lake is yet to come.

The yellow lake climb is another 1200 ft elevation but this time over 10 miles. Should be easier than Richter Pass but I’m getting tired. It’s hot and I haven’t gotten off the bike since I stopped to pee at the 40 mi aid station. I passed the penalty tent thinking “a 4 minute penalty in that shady tent wouldn’t be all that bad”. I’m making good time and only 25 miles to go, I see a shade tree up ahead and figured I should stop for a breather and stretch.

As I stop the bike and swing my leg over to get off everything starts to go dark and my legs feel like rubber. It was all I could do to sit on the ground before I passed out. WTF. I reached over to my bike laying on the ground, grabbed my water, had a drink and eat a gel. After about 5 minutes I thought I should get going. I stood up, grabbed my bike and started to climb on when it happened again. Quick sit. Oh shit. A group of younger guys where on the roadside cheering and came over to see if I was ok and give me some support. I told them I was fine I just need a moment but I was thinking oh crap is this how it’s going to end? How will I recover from this? If I pass out on my bike while riding down the hill it would be horrible but I don’t want to quit. After a few more minutes I tried to get up again but it happened again this time I literally dropped the bike as I almost fell. Very frustrating I have never had anything like this happen before. I was doing so well and feeling fine, what happened? A support van came by and stopped to see if I was ok. They offered me help but said I would be disqualified if I took it and I wasn’t ready to give up yet. I figured even if I had to take a nap for an hour I still stood a chance to make the 17 hour cut off.

I sat there for another 20 minutes or so drank another full bottle of water and eat another Gel. I stood up and walked along side my bike for a bit to be sure I wasn’t going to faint and was feeling better. I got back on the bike and was on my way, with a totally different mindset. I no longer cared about breaking 13 hours or who was passing me I just want to finish.

As I rolled into town Debbie was waiting for me at about the 108 mile mark I was only about 25 minutes behind the schedule I gave her but knew the rest of the day was going to be tougher than expected. I stopped the bike and filled her in on the incident and told her to expect me to be slower on the next few check points we arranged for her to see me. As I rode into transition I saw Mary Beth Ellis running in for her record breaking finish 9:03:10, nice for her but I still have to run a marathon. I rolled into transition in no hurry, changed my shoes, went to the bathroom, got some sunscreen on and off for the run.

Let’s just see if I can run to the first aid station. Ok, that wasn’t so bad, slow but I ran, lets get to the next one. Alright I got this. I see a lot of people walking but I’m determined to run. Lots of fans, the ice water sponges feel great in this 97° heat. No fooling around this time, drink at every aid station. I passed by Debbie at the 5 mile mark and was running strong. I told her I was feeling much better even though I was struggling a bit but I expected that. One aid station at a time… but by mile 9 I was really hurting. OK I will just walk up this hill. Than run to that tree. Ok walk to that street sign then run to the corner. Walk to that sponge in the road than run to that power pole. That’s how I got through the next 12 miles until the next time I saw Debbie at mile 21. At this point I was in serious pain. It was about 8:00 PM and I figured If I walked the last 5 miles I would still easily beat the Midnight cut off time so I told her that’s what I’m going to do. So I walked. And I walked. As I started getting into town there were people cheering on the road side trying to encourage me and I was feeling bad for walking so I started running. Just make it to the aid station. At the aid station I realized, only three miles left, you can do this. Run to the next aid station. And I did. OK one more. This is it, the final mile the street was lined with fans, I was high, all the pain was gone and I was running strong. I see the finish up ahead and there is a guy in front of me with a big Canadian flag draped over his shoulders. I don’t want this guy waiving that flag in my finish photo. I got to pick up the pace and get some space between us. There it is right there, I’m gonna make it, they’re announcing my name, I hope Debbie made it here to see this. YES! I AM an IRONMAN! Holy shit I think I’m gonna cry.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

New York Marathon 11.4.2007

I finished the New York Marathon! What an experience, soooo many people and from all over the world. Every one sporting the colors of their country and yes I wore my American flag shorts. I met people form Germany, England, France and a couple of runners from Israel. The crowd and diversity was the best and worst of the race. While very interesting, it made it impossible to run a consistent pace. At times it felt more like a NASCAR race the a foot race constantly weaving in and out of people and trying to find was to pass. I finished in 4:05:58 not quite my goal time but I ran a good race, I stuck to my plan and ran a fairly consistent pace, never panicked when I fell behind (maybe I should have) and felt strong at the finish.

The day started a 4:00 AM. After getting ready I grabbed a coffee and bagel from the deli downstairs that was open 24 hours for the occasion. Took the subway from the hotel to Grand Central station which was a short walk to where I had to catch the shuttle to the start at Staten Island. Surprisingly well organized getting all these people to the start. Plenty of busses and “New York Hospitality”, volunteers with bull horns hollering at us to “get moving”. We arrived at the start area at 6:00 AM so now I have four hours to kill in the crisp cold morning. I found a place to lie down and nap when some one hollered my name! It was Collin, the British guy I met on my way into town from the airport. I had a chat with him and his friends and I have to say I think the German guy I met spoke better English :)

The organization at the start was pretty decent plenty of porta pottys and no problem getting food or coffee. A decent Blues band was playing but I was just anxious to get started. The sun was coming up and it was looking to be a great day. We started lining up in our corrals that were sectioned off into groups of 1000. There were three different corrals and three different initial routes. I was in the Green corral which started off running on the bottom deck of the Verazanno-Narrows Bridge. I lined up towards the back of my group, thinking that I didn’t need to worry about getting in front. I expected my first two miles to be slow and didn’t want to make the same mistake I did in Portland and try to make it up all at once.

The Gun went off at 10:10 AM. The race started the corals started moving up and the order turned to chaos. Every one is pushing a head and we haven’t even got to the start. I saw the 4:15 pace leader way ahead of me but thought to my self “don’t worry, run your race as you planed there will be plenty of time to get on track after this breaks up a bit”. I finally crossed the starting line at 10:37. As we head up the bridge we got a spectacular view of New York City from the south. We’re not even a mile in and people are stopping to pee right on the side or the road. Europeans.

Mile 1 was at the crest of the bridge. 9:47 pace. Yea that’s ok, I expected that. (I need to run 9:09 to make the 4 hours) coming down the bridge I had to avoid temptation to run too fast. I have plenty of time to make up 40 seconds. Mile two was about an 8:45, a little fast but good. As we head into Brooklyn people are starting to line the streets. Proud immigrants cheering for runners sporting their national colors. Mile three crowds thinning a bit 8:55 pace, looking good.

As we come around a corner on 79th street the Blue corral merged in to our group and the crowd thickened. The spectators were awesome. The street was lined with brick and concrete row houses and everyone was outside, playing music handing out water, candy and paper towels. This is pretty cool. I can see people on the other side of the median that started in the orange corral and they look surprisingly slow to be ahead of me. I hope I pass most of them before they merge in. Miles 4, 5 and before you know it we’re at 6, wow time flies, this is going to be cake.

The water stations were pretty chaotic. With water on both sides of the road you couldn’t run around the crowd, things just bunched up. So many cups on the ground and we were running through huge puddles of Gatorade and water. It was as if there was a major rain. They handed out the Gatorade in these huge 12 oz cups that were practically full. Most of the runners take a sip or two and throw the rest on the ground. I need to pee but there aren’t many porta pottys on the course. Maybe four at each aid station and people are stopping and standing in line. I can’t stand in line, I guess I’ll hold it.

At mile eight the orange corral merged in. This is where things started getting difficult. Weaving in and out of traffic. Slowing down, and speeding up trying to weave my way through the crowd. We hit an ever so slight incline at mile 10 and quite a few people are starting to walk already. As we run through this part of Brooklyn there is a pretty interesting diversity of people on the streets. Bands at every corner and firemen out in uniform with their fire engines cheering us on, 9-11 is still fresh in every ones mind here. As we enter the Hasidic area I saw a bunch of people run up and pee just up against the buildings on the side of the road. That’s not cool, but maybe I should just do that, no I’ll wait.

The crowd is starting to frustrate me a bit. I have to run all to corners very wide to avoid getting stuck. Up ahead I see a bunch of guys lined up at a fence taking a leak, F it, you got to do what you got to do… That feels much better. Around mile 12 we climbed a small overpass which narrowed and more crazy congestion. I passed the half marathon mark at about 2:01:30 Not good but no time to panic, My legs are feeling fine and sooner or later I should get passed most of the slower runners.

The Queensboro Bridge was just past mile 15. It crosses from Queens into Manhattan. I carried my cell phone to check in with Debbie. She should be waiting for me on the other side of the bridge. This was probably the worst congestion of the race. The bridge narrowed and had a fairly steep incline. So many people walking, this is more like trying to squeeze into a concert then running a marathon. I’m running from one edge of the bridge to the other trying to get through. Probably running twice as far as I should. Trying to convince myself, “don’t get frustrated, enjoy this, your in New York, look out over the bridge there’s Manhattan.

As I come down the bridge and into the city I need to find Debbie. This will be tough, with so many runners and the crowd is just packed along side the road. How are we gonna… There she is, Wave hopefully she’ll see me, slow down for a picture, no kiss this time, she’s back off the road in the crowd. I can’t believe I spotted her. I later found out that she didn’t get a picture :(

Moving into Manhattan we headed up 1st street towards the Bronx. This street was wide and long. An amazing site, for as far as the eye could see, over 50 street blocks, wall to wall runners. This may be my chance to make up time. As I pass the 18 mile mark, I’m trying to do the math in my head… I’m about 5 minutes behind pace, crap I’m not going to make it. DON’T GIVE UP. It’s decision time, Quit or dig deep. Eight miles to go, If I can do about 8:20s the rest of the way I could still make it. Pain is temporary, pride is forever (I saw that one some ones shirt). It will be tough to live with quitting, time to dig in.

So I picked up the pace. Mile 19 about an 8:30. OK were making up time, don’t quit. I don’t know if I can keep this up or not but I’d rather crash and burn then quit. Crap, another narrow bridge to get into the Bronx. Climbing the bridge was though, not physically but congested and more people walking. Once on the bridge it widened up, it was s steal grate bridge with a carpet over two lanes. I moved over to run on the grating to get away from the crowd. The Bronx marked the 20 mile mark. Still feeling good but not making up any time. Still not gona give up trying. A big group of rappers were on the side of the road accentuating to the New York feel.

Another on-ramp and bridge to get back to Manhattan and into Harlem. A group of gospel singers and some guy shouting out inspiration when I needed it. There’s a park up ahead, I know it’s not central park yet but were getting close. Around a couple more corners and I see the park and the empire state building in the distance. I’m trying to find some speed but it’s not the crowd holding me back any more as much as I just cant get going. Mile 23 was an 8:55, decent but I’m not making up any time. I’d need to pull 7:30s from here to get in on time. That’s not going to happen so just enjoy the run through the park and see if you can find Debbie.

I called Debbie, she’s lost. I figured that would happen the finish area was very chaotic. Huge crowd and many of the roads were closed. I told her to stay put and I’ll find her after I finish. Getting close, past the zoo and out of the park back on to the road. Less then a mile to go. There’s the 26 mile mark up ahead and I’m already at 4:01 oh well. There’s the finish smile and pose for the photo. I made it.

Contrary to the start, the finish logistics were terrible. A huge crowd trying to get though a narrow path where every one is tiring to get food, have there chip removed and get their luggage from the start. I ended up leaving my luggage, it was cloths I planed on ditching but thought I may want them at the finish but now I just want out of the park.

After a long walk I found Debbie and we had about 20 blocks to get back to the hotel. I thought I’d jump on one of the Pedi cabs but couldn’t bring myself to pay $30 for it. So I got a NY hot dog from a street vendor and headed back to the hotel.

Although there were some tough moments it was a great experience. The scenery, fan support and crowd of runners helped the run go by painlessly. I followed my plan and felt good. The things I was concerned about, my sore calf, lung and nasal congestion from a cold I’ve been fighting, my endurance and training and the logistics of getting to the start were all non-issues. The thing that got me was the unforeseen crowd issue. If I was to ever do this race again I would not do it for time, and maybe sandbag my time to get an earlier start position.

Friday, October 06, 2006

I finished my first marathon Sunday. I finished in 4:07:49, missing my goal of 4:00 but still feeling accomplished. I had a few struggles leading up to the race, sore knees and a cold but come race day I felt pretty good. I started out strong, a bit too strong. The first 2 miles were very crowded and I got behind my target pace of 9:09. Once things opened up I tried to make up time, running a 7:30 for mile 3. I felt ok so I decided to settle in around 8:30. At the half way mark I was about 5 minutes ahead of pace but after climbing the St. Johns Bridge at mile 18 the wheels stared to come off. I knew I had some time to spare so if I just keep pushing I could still make it. There was a long down hill at mile 23 I tried to pickup the pace but eventually broke down, my legs started cramping up and it was all I could do to keep running. At that point my will to break 4:00 was replaced with “just keep running, finish without walking”. My legs were killing me. As soon as I saw the finish, I forgot about the pain and felt great that I made it.

Place Overall: 2257 out of 7548
Men: 1513 out of 3328
M 40-44: 242 out of 489
AgeGrade: 53.59% Place: 2802
FINISH: 4:07:49 pace: 9:28

Mile Pace
1 9:21 Still a bit dark out, running down 4th, working through the crowd. A little behind, I’d better pick up the pace.
2 9:53 Heading up front av. There’s Debbie J Still having trouble getting through the crowd. Surprised how slow that mile was.
3 7:29 Got to crank it up heading up Barber blvd. Whoa not that much. Slow down a bit.
4 8:24 back around to front.
5 8:02 Take advantage of the down hill.
6 8:24 10k mark, feeling good. This pace should work.
7 8:30 Need to take a leak… Did I hear some one holler “Borat”? Hey there’s Ron.
8 8:33 Heading up the industrial stretch on NW front. Felling good.
9 8:41 There’s the turn around.
10 9:11 Got time to hit the porta potty, well ahead of pace.
11 8:40 Gummy bears, Better get some fuel. Just about through the boring industrial stretch
12 9:20 Into NW Portland, Small up, hill better view, nice crowd.
13 9:09 Steep little down hill on this stretch. That kind of hurt. Half way mark. Over 5 minutes ahead of pace, great.
14 9:05 Heading up Hwy 30. slow the pace a bit, try to settle in around 9:00
15 8:53 Getting a little tired, board, I can see the St. Johns bridge up ahead, Anticipating the climb.
16 9:47 Slow the pace a bit, I got time, rest up for the climb.
17 9:19 Here we go, up the hill to the bridge. Zoned out, imagined climbing on my bike, churning a steady pace.
18 10:04 Made good time up the hill but hearting running down the other side. Quads are burning. Take a moment to enjoy the view from the bridge
19 9:46 That last mile was a bit slow. Dig deep and pickup the pace.
20 9:54 N. Portland, nice residential area, good crowd. Hit the big 20, Tired but still OK. Need to pick up the pace.
21 9:21 Portland state University.
22 10:34 This is getting hard. There’s Debbie again. Stop for a Kiss. I need some motivation.
23 9:49 Long down hill. Take advantage, Legs are hurting, use the hill, I can still make it.
24 11:35 Running down that hill hurt more then I expected. Legs are cramping. There goes the 4:00 pace group. Must keep up…
25 12:00 Over the steal bridge. Not gonna make it. But I can still stay under 4:10, just don’t stop running.
26 11:47 Back up water front 1 mile to go. Keep pushing. There’s Salmon street up ahead.
26.2 2:05 Huge crowd lining the road. Just around the corner up 3rd. There’s the finish. I made it!

Chip splits:

10k: 52:48 pace: 8:30
Turn-9.1Mi: 1:20:44 pace: 8:53
Half: 1:54:11 pace: 8:43
20 Mile: 3:00:33 pace: 9:02
35K: 3:17:42 pace: 9:06