I really had no nerves going into this race. I had done the work that Coach Tim had laid out for me and this brought me a lot of confidence. I was also seeing some pretty incredible things going on with my body during training so I was feeling good. If I had to pick one thing I was nervous about leading into this race, it was whether my nutrition plan was the right one for me. It had me taking in a lot more calories than I did typically on race day and this lead to a couple rough runs off the bike in training.
For breakfast I had 3.5 cups of applesauce,24oz sports drink with whey protein, and a banana at 3:30am. Thought I would have some decaf as well but there was no room in the gut. I had a powerbar 1hr before the start and then a gel and salt tab at 15min prior to the start when I got in the water. No stomach issues at all in the water. Before the race I was very calm, almost too calm if that is possible.
Very rough start. I started in the middle thinking that there would be fast folks on the buoy, slow folks outside and more of a gap in the middle of the line. This logic didn’t play out as I couldn’t pop out into clear water when I started getting clobbered. Other than the rough swim and really never getting into a rhythm there were no major issues or major wins during the swim. Oh, I did pee once so I definitely started the day hydrated!!
I went through T1 very conscious of not sprinting the long transition and spiking the heart rate. I remained smooth and controlled with no issues. I think a major win here was taking my time and not spiking my heart rate unnecessarily.
I was pretty disappointed with my swim but I didn’t know if the swim was long or everyone had rough swims or whatever. It was done and I could only focus on that point forward. I couldn’t control what had just happened. I got on the bike and focused on my task at hand. The positive was my heart rate was low and I started on sports drink immediately. The first 25mi or so I tried to cap my watts below 210w. I’m not sure that I was successful with this, but it definitely forced me to slow some. I think I lacked the confidence early on to stick to my low power caps (as I was worried that I would have a super slow bike time that didn’t reflect my fitness). In typical fashion everyone and their brother, mother, aunt, uncle, were passing me. It was so hard to just let them go. Just knowing that I was in the best shape of my life and people were still just flying by me was a really hard thing to accept. Around mile 25, it was go time. I knew I had to pick up my power to my designated goal (220w) if I wanted to do something special in this race. I was a bit scared cause I knew at this point my body would let me know if my power target was possible but I also knew I was fit and it was time to make something special happen…it was all in at this point. As I was getting started on my move to goal power a guy who I knew had Kona aspirations went by me and this was my moment. This time I didn’t let this rider go, I stuck to him and used him as motivation to get it done.
As I started riding at goal watts I had a pretty good feeling that it was going to be my day. I knew I was moving well based on the ease I passed my competitors, many whom I knew from local races and had beat me on the bike in these races. The miles were clicking off much quicker than I expected. I think a lot of this was due to my mantra of staying in the moment and focusing on what I could do right then... trying to stay within my power goals, riding from aid station to aid station, sticking to my fueling plan and making sure I got my electrolytes. However, I noticed myself erring on the side of higher power than goal and as I rode my confidence kept building. It was weird though, instead of fearing a glorious blow up, something inside of me told me I would be good to go. Maybe it was the fact that I had trained so hard for this race, maybe it was my focus on mental preparation where I knew if I got in trouble I would figure out a way out of the mess, maybe it was the fact that Coach Tim challenged me in my workouts on a regular basis and I never felt out of sorts at all like at times in my training. I felt great on the bike, was drinking 1.5 to 2 bottles of sports drink an hour and taking two succeed tabs and one gel every hour. This resulted in having to pee 4-5 times during the bike leg. I kept waiting for a low spot but it never really happened. I didn’t drink any coffee in the morning or leading up to the race and started on caffeinated gels about 2hrs into the bike. As I started taking the caffeine I just told myself that I would get stronger with each gel. Near the end of the bike I had a bit of a twinge in my left hamstring so I started taking 3 succeeds per hour but stuck to my fueling plan. At around 105 on the bike I switched to water and brought it in strong. I was amazed by the amount of people I ended up passing on the bike.
I got off the bike, had a very smooth T2 and was off running. The goal was 8min/mi for the first 6mi and then to hang on to 7:45-8min/miles for the rest of the race. I took a hand held water bottle with me out of the transition to help myself slow it down. I watched my Garmin and looked at my running pace every 100yds or so, I told myself out loud slow down, slow down…I went by my dad and he yelled out I was in 14th place…14th place! 14th place!! I’m in the hunt!! First 6 mi 7:26 pace. Shit, this was not the plan. I continued to tell myself to slow down, I kept watching my Garmin and I really tried to slow down through aid stations to get my nutrition and slow the mile pace. Although my confidence was building, I still wondered when the wheels were going to come off. Around mile 8 I realized my nutrition plan was NOT going according to planned. I did not want Clif Bloks at all and the thought of a gel was disgusting. Just kept doing the ironman perform drink and water. I got to the halfway point and felt great…well, great for an Ironman is relative but I was still smiling and pretty aware of what was going on. The next 6 or so miles were about the same pace, doh! However, 13 miles were in the bag and I was still feeling very strong.
I headed out for the second loop. Around mile 15 or 16 I hit my first low point of the day. I was conscious enough to make a good decision and realized I was running low on calories. At the next aid station I started on cola and this was just what I needed. I was so proud of myself for realizing I was having a problem, what was causing the problem and making the correct decision…this isn’t always the easiest thing to do 8 or 9 hours into an Ironman. I then switched the plan to alternating ironman perform drink and water to cola and water. But, just when I thought I was out of the woods I started having twinges in my hamstrings. I then decided I would start back on salt tabs every other aid station until the twinges went away. Around mile 20 I was getting pretty tired. I was still running strong but the miles were taking a toll on me. I then switched my strategy again to run to every aid station and then walk the aid station to get all my nutrition. This went real well until about mile 23 when I got a cramp in my hamstring. I bent over for 2 seconds the hamstring cramp released and at this point for some reason I knew I would be good the rest of the run. At mile 24 I picked it up and knew I would be done in about 2 miles. I was running in with everything I had left and really didn’t know what my time was as I was just focused on mile to mile and didn’t ever look at my overall split. I turned the corner and realized when I saw the clock I would be in under 10hrs. Crossing the finish line in 9:57:15, I realized that I had finally accomplished what I set out to do when I first started racing Ironman 7 years ago.