Sorry this is insufferably long - I wrote this for my coach who wanted details...(I actually deleted a fair amount for this post).
It was the best of times, it was the worst of (my IM) times. Beautiful country and race course. Escaped the summer heat for a few days. Had my wife and two of my kids there for the first time. But my slowest overall time by a couple of minutes, slowest swim and ride, and just a minute or two faster than my slowest IM marathon. But, hey, I had a screamin' fast t2!! Overall went 10:33 and was 15th in my age group.
All I can attribute the performance to is not being fresh. I didn't taper as much as usual, with my focus/A race this year being Kona. Two weeks before the race I had my heaviest training week of the year, and I think that zapped me a bit.
Ideal IM weather. It was windy for two days leading up to the race, putting quite a chop on the water, but very light breeze and sunshine on race morning (it's light up there by 4:30am - no need at all for a headlamp when transition opened at 5am).
Swim - 1:13
8 mins slower than my AZ and WI swims. Official water temp was 53.5 degrees. Coldest I've swam in. Lots of DNFs due to hypothermia, and, more likely, just panicking. Best thing I did was the practice swim (one of Terry Bass's good tips). After 3-4 minutes of struggling to breathe on my practice swim, I got used to the cold, so knew to expect that on race day. On race morning I taped my fingers together b/c I couldn't hold them together once they got cold. Wore an insulated cap and put vaseline on my face, hands and feet for warmth.
My first beach start, and I'm not crazy about them. I tried to find a group of 1:05-1:08 swimmers to draft off of, lining up 2-3 rows back, but I kept asking the people around me "are you a 1:05", and I got two answers that should have concerned me. First "what's a 1:05?"; and second "dude, I'm just hoping to backstroke this thing". These were people on the first or second row!
I went as hard as you can go in the frenzy of a mass start for about the first two minutes. It was, as always, insane. Caught some feet at about 500M and felt I was in a groove. After the first turn, though, I had a hamstring cramp! I've never cramped in the water when fresh, so it must have been the cold (?). Think I swam a relatively straight line, and got out of the water after the first lap, expecting to see 33 mins or so, and was at 35+. "Bummer! I'll make it up in the 2nd lap, though, without the mass start". Then swam a 38 min 2nd lap. I felt like I was swimming the right pace, but I DO remember a couple of times thinking "this should be harder....I must be superman!!! " Um, not so much.
No issues. Wish I could have moved faster, but hands/feet were numb. Did my best.
Bike - 5:41
12 mins slower than WI. Felt poised for a strong ride, but it didn't happen. Dug for the power, and it just wasn't there. Came out of T1 thinking "no big deal, I'm 5mins behind where I thought I'd be but I can still go under 10:00. I've got a 5:20 ride in me." My attitude was great the first hour. I rode right at goal power. Then came the hills where I backed off a bit but was more or less on my power target. Then for the last 30-45 mins of the first loop, coming back to town I just didn't feel right. That's when I first thought "I must not be fresh."
I decided not to push it and get some calories in me going back to town. Came through half way at 2:44, and at that point knew this was no PR day. Tried to go strong the first (fast) part of the 2nd loop, and suspected maybe it was a calorie issue. I had just about finished all my Gu and Envervitine at that point, and was REALLY looking forward to my bike special needs bag (which was at about mile 66). But, all I'd put in the bag was a tube and CO2 cartridge - I'd never needed any calories in the bag before, didn't put anything in it this time, and had forgotten that I hadn't! I started getting desperate at that point and grabbed a banana and on course gel. The food in my stomach was a big boost, and still had plenty of calories in my drink "sludge", most of which I got down over the rest of the ride, so I really don't think calories were the issue of the day. Ran out of water once, but peed probably 5 times on the ride so I knew I was hydrated.
The last 35 miles or so were just no fun. The entire last two hours all I could think about was not doing the "Ironman shuffle" for the marathon. I knew if I tried to hammer it and shave 5 mins off the last part of the ride, I could easily end up walking the marathon. I was just hanging on by a thread, and have never gone into T2 with that much fear of what was still ahead of me.
T2 - under 2 minutes!
I have to be one of the fastest shoe putter onners on the entire Ironman circuit! They should do an article on me!
Run - 3:30:54
16 mins slower than Wisconsin. This is the part of the race that I'm happiest with. It was the toughest ever, but I held off a hamstring cramp the entire way, and most importantly overcame the "darkness" within.
My plan was to go slow the first 5 miles - :30 secs/mile above my target/goal pace. Going in, I thought maybe I had a 3:10 in me, and was thinking 7:50s for 5 miles, then 7:20s for 15 miles, then just "get it done".
But on the last two hours of the bike, I, thankfully, made a serious adjustment to that plan, and thought maybe 8:15s or 8:30s the first 5 miles, and to just hope for the best. So I came out of T2, slammed on the brakes, and went 8:15 the first mile. Then, let's just say it became not so much a slamming on of the brakes as an "oh....my.....gosh", and I slipped to 8:30-8:45s. Then there's a brutal, long hill on mile 6 (repeated at mile 19), and I went over 9:00 on that mile. And, almost from the start, my left hamstring was tight and felt like at any moment it could seize up and cramp.
(Side note: Crowie came screaming toward and then past me when I was outbound at mile two and he was inbound at mile 24. What a stud! Of course, he started the day at 6:35am, so to be fair, hehe, I shouldn't have seen him until at least mile 5!!!)
I took in a gel and envervitine right at the start, and began hammering Coke and water at the very first aid station and every mile therafter. It must have helped because about the time I crested that hill after putting up a 9:02 mile, I started feeling better and my pace started picking up. I dropped it down to the 7:45/mi. range for the next 10k or so, and just kept hammering the calories at every station. Kept peeing on the run, too, so knew I was staying hydrated.
(Side note: I ran past two guys who were walking at mile 7. 1st guy: "I rode a 5:20!"; 2nd guy: "that's awesome!" There's nothing awesome about a 5:20 ride when you walk the entire marathon!)
(Another side note: I suspect Julie Dibbens is actually a man. She came at me about mile 10. What a beast!)
I'm a bit surprised about miles 13-20. I thought I was holding 7:45s or so (except on the cruel hill, which was another 9+ mile), but the results show me dropping back to over an 8:00 pace. In hindsight, though, this was another brutally tough section, both mentally and physically. I had a RedBull in my run special needs bag and pounded the entire thing. Kept popping salt tabs and taking in the calories/coke at every aid station, and just hung on for dear life. Once over the hill at mile 19, though, I knew I had it. Many of the first loop runners at that point knew I was driving for the finish and shared an encouraging word or two, which was a huge boost. The last 4-5 miles were just insufferably long, and I kept taking in Coke/water the entire way, but ran solid 7:30 avg pace.
Is there anything longer than an Ironman marathon? And isn't it odd that when you run the first loop and see those mile markers for the 2nd loop, you think "man, how I wish I was on mile 17 instead of mile 4!" Yet, when you get to mile 17, you don't think "man, I'm glad I'm not on mile 4!". All you can think is "oh my gosh, 9...more.....miles!!
It's a spectacular finish. Of course, you're just so darned happy it's over at that point that it could finish in a sewer pit and it would feel spectacular! The finish is downill and in sight for perhaps 1/4 mile. I passed two dudes right when I turned on to the finishing road (Sherman Ave.), and at that point there was no one between me and the finish 300-400 meters ahead. The crowd makes you feel like a rock star and my wife and two of my kids were at the finish (and throughout the day) which was awesome. Saw the finishing time as I went through at 10:33, and was just happy as a clam that the day was in the bag.
I didn't hit my goal time, but in hindsight, I shouldn't have been surprised by that - tough course, and I just wasn't fresh. When the day got especially dark, though, I just thought about my friend with cancer, my grandmother who had recently passed away, the cross, all the things that matter. This, I do, for fun. And, it was a great, blessed day!
"There are no shortcuts."