Wednesday, May 23, 2012

About The Toughest Race I've Ever Done

I selected as my first A-event of the 2012 season, the Ironman 70.3 Florida which was held in Haines City on Sunday, May 20th.  I picked this early event simply because I wanted to test how well my off-season training efforts had improved my skills.  I trained hard and I trained smart.  Every discipline individually, showed tremendous improvement.

In the water, I had been swimming miles at about 41-42 minutes.  For me, this is monumental. On the bike, I was averaging over 18mph on longer rides.  Again, huge improvements.  I set a 10k PR just a few weeks ago.  So, everything was looking promising.

I entered race week extremely confident.  Not cocky by any stretch of the imagination.  Just confident.  I felt good.  I would sleep well at night the few nights before the race.  This I had never done!  When asked by my wife how I felt, I told her that I felt so good, it was kinda scary.

We, my wife, younger daughter and I,  packed up the car and left for the long drive very early Thursday morning.  We were to pick up our oldest daughter in Ocala, Fl Thursday afternoon.  This was going to be a family outing.  Somewhere, about halfway through the trip, the car started malfunctioning.  We opted to spot and pick up a rental to have for the rest of the trip.  Didn't want to deal with a broken car before the race. Would this be a sign of things to come?  Little did we know.


We arrived at race site on Friday, early afternoon and registration had just begun.  Walked through in a very timely manner.  Everything was extremely well organized... as usual.  Received my package which included all the necessary paraphernalia to participate in the race.  My bib was #200.

After walking through the expo and leaving behind a small fortune (visor, bike jersey, water bottles, etc) we left and headed for the hotel.

Another huge perk of racing in Central Florida for me, is the fact that I got to spend time with  my brother and sister and they got to come watch me race!

Friday evening we met my sister and her husband for dinner.  Carb loading at its finest!


My wife and daughters left early for they wanted to go shopping in Orlando.  That was just fine by me for I had other plans.  A small and easy bike ride and short and sweet run.  Also, had to get the bike ready to take it to transition.

Early afternoon came and we took the bike to get it racked.  Now, there was nothing else to do but wait.

Later on we meet my sister again, and my brother with his girl friend as well as his son.  We went to dinner for a good ol' protein/fat/carb feast... but not to large!

I slept well.  I had been doing so all week.  I was ready.  Anxious and respectful of the task ahead is how I felt.


I arrived at transition about 5:45 to a mass of humanity.  Yes, there were lots of triathletes.  Lots of family and friends, lots of media, TV cameras and crew, a helicopter hovering overhead and Lance Armstrong.  He was getting ready.  Right beside me.  I was number 200 after all.  Two racks next to his!  WOW!

6:00 came and it was time to close transition.  Off to the swim start.


There was a calm inside me I couldn't explain.  Usually, at this point, my nerves are pretty well shot.  But not today.  I was ready.  I saw my friends Michelle and Leigh and we wished each other good luck!  And then the cannon went off.  It was time to rock-n-roll.  First the professional men, then the professional women along with one paraplegic triathlete.  I was in the next wave.

We walked into the water and it felt like a bath tub.  The temperature, we were told was 81F.  The water was dirty and nasty due to the lack of good rain in the area.  When I got my face wet, I tasted how nasty it was.

The horn went off and so did we.  Our wave must have had 30-40 athletes.  It was pretty shallow for a while, so some ran, others did the dolphin dive.  I think I ran, but I can't be sure.

The swim start was a cluster.  People everywhere, everyone jockeying for position.  I needed to move to the outside like I usually do; to escape the hits and pushes and shoves.  It didn't work.  Way to many people.  I would loose much needed energy worrying about this, so I stayed as close to the inside as I could, along with every other swimmer with the same idea.

For about ten minutes I felt great.  I was getting in my groove.  I felt great.  Remember thinking that this is just how I trained, this is just how I envisioned it.

And just like that, without warning it hit me.  A muscle cramp on my left calf.  One of a caliber which I had never felt before.  It scared the heck out of me, but quickly I regained my composure.  I stretched my toes a couple of times trying to work it out.  And I did.  For about a minute.  Then another cramp.  Then another. And yet another.  This time the cramps were moving to the bottom of my foot and even my toes.  What the heck?  Had to turn on my back to give my leg a chance to stretch.  This took valuable time but it needed to get done.

Every time I tried to kick my leg, I felt a cramp coming.  So I opted to kick with just the right leg and leave the left alone.  Big mistake.  It was the right leg's turn to cramp up.  Just like the left did.  Every muscle, every tendon, every ligament were hurting.

I would be lying to you if I told you that even for the smallest of moments the idea of calling for help and maybe removing myself from the race didn't cross my mind.  I say for the smallest of moments because at that point, when this thought crossed my mind, there was not a single boat, canoe or kayak in sight.  Right then and there I realized that this truly was about survival.  Mine.  If my resolve was being tested, I hope I passed.

I spent more time on my back during the entire swim, nursing my legs hoping the pain would go away.  It never did.  First chance I got to put my foot on solid ground was about 40 yds from the swim out. The pain was so intense it knocked me to my knees.  I stretched for a bit and came out of the water.

My goal for the swim was 45 minutes.  Total swim time was 1:10:23.  But hey, I was just happy to be alive!

Very gingerly I walked/ran through transition.  I didn't want to find out what would happen if I pushed it at this point.  Just wanted to get to my bike and continue my day.


I arrived at T1 and I couldn't tell if I was more upset at what had happened or at how bruised my ego was.  I laid down to put on my bike shoes, and couldn't get up.  Quads locked up!  It took just a few moments to get my legs to move.  All geared up and ready to go, I walked my bike out of transition and saw my entire family hooting and hollering, yelling my name.  This put a smile on my face.  What a great send off!


If there was a bright spot on my day was my bike.  I felt good.  Muscles were behaving and I was able to ride like I wanted to.  My first bike split show that I averaged 18.61mph.  I was flying.

Then it got hot.  Blazing hot.  And oh yeah, windy.  I was having to push harder, even though I used bigger gears.  My legs began to take a toll.  Quads began to hurt so before they would cramp up I chose to slow the pace down some.  Second split was 14.99mph.  I'm still happy with my best bike ever.

Bike goal time was 3:15.  Actual bike time was 3:14:11.  This is a bike PR for me.


Once again I came in to the cheering of the crowd.  My family right in the middle of it.  It was sweet.  However, when I dismounted the bike, I almost fell to me knee because the calf and quad cramped up again.  Made it to my spot and again, once I sat down to change shoes, I could hardly get up.  But I did.


The first couple hundred yards were slow.  I wanted to gauge how my legs felt.  Would the muscles take me to the finish line?  At this point I knew I was in for a very long run.  The temperature had continued to rise and there was not a cloud in the sky!

The whole run consisted of running and walking.  At times it was mostly walking.  If I ran for more than a couple of blocks my calves and quads would complain.  I did manage, however to put on a good show for the crowd as I went through the park twice and at the finish line.  I ran through here.  I always say:  Never let them see you hurting.

Run goal time was 2:30.  Actual run time was 3:01:00


I have never been so happy to see a finish line as I was to see this one.  My body was in pain, agonizing pain.  Muscles I didn't know I had were hurting.

My goal was to finish this event in under 7:00 hours.  I have never done this.  Actual time 7:37:13

Regardless of the outcome, there's always a lesson to be learned.  For me, on this race I learned how important it is to be mentally ready to overcome whatever comes your way.  Had it not been for the fact that I train my mind as well as I train my body, this race could have possibly ended in disaster or even tragedy.

Now I have just six weeks to figure out why I cramped like I did.  Potassium?  Hydration?  Both?  Neither?  Next test will come on July 7th at the Ironman 70.3 Muncie.

If any of you have ever experienced anything like this, I'd like to hear how you solved this issue.  Please drop me a line on the comments section of at the bottom of this post or post a note on my blog's facebook page (click here)

In the meantime, please continue to check my blog's facebook page (click here) for daily training updates and tidbits of motivation and other cool stuff.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

About That Time

In just seven short days, Ironman 70.3 Florida will take place. My wave is set to start at 6:40am.  Yes, once again, us older guys go immediately following the pros and right behind us, the 18-24 year old males.  My bib number is "200".  Luck number!  For me, this will be the first of three A-races this summer, all three 70.3 distances.  All three Ironman events.

Training for this race has been different to say the least.  Different in that it hasn't compared to last year's regime for the Ironman.  Nonetheless, I followed my coach's instructions (for the most part) and put in the required numbers of yards and miles... for the most part.

For the most part, I say, because there's only so much you can do with a damaged plantar fascia.  It requires a lot of rest and while resting, obviously you can't run.

Right about this time, I always begin to question my training.  No matter how much I've done, no matter how little I've done, no matter the event, no matter the race. It has become a "tradition" with me, if you will, to always question my readiness.  If everything falls into place, I should be able to put this behind me in a day or two.  Luckily this time around, I've had a couple of tremendous training sessions in the past few days, so this has helped.

One big difference is that up until the Ironman, the swim always made me loose sleep.  I would put in the laps, the yards, the time, but I would still loose sleep over it.

After spending 1:51:54 in the Ohio River last August, I came out of the water with a whole new perspective.  I do believe I left all my fears in that river.  Don't get me wrong, I still respect the swim, but it's not dominating my every thought.  For this, I am grateful.

Yesterday I had one of my best bike rides ever.  I managed to average speeds above 17 mph with a good amount of elevation.  I've never been able to do this.  Winter gym work and off season trainer sessions are to thank for this.  Now, I wait and see how this translates to the race course.  But confident is what I am.

This week will be an easy, relaxing, tapering week.  I will do the required short and easy workouts.  I will travel to Florida on Thursday with the family and upon arrival to the race site on Friday, I will begin to put my race face on.

So what's in store for me on Sunday?  No one knows.  What I do know is that, as in the past, I will not worry about things I have no control over.  I will concentrate on the task at hand.  I will race my race.  I will do my best, because "If It Is To Be, It's Up To Me"