Monday, June 30, 2008

The Ironman . . . A Game of Inches

Ok, so the answer was no. I did not have a sub-10 hour Ironman in me. Yet. Regardless, it was a great trip! We had lots of fun in Seattle and Coeur d'Alene. I even bought a 17 pound Halibut at the Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle. That's the place where they throw the fish. We watched them throw all kinds of salmon, trout, etc., and they never dropped any of them . . . until my halibut. It actually knocked the guy down it hit him so hard, which was quite hilarious! (Why is it that we laugh at people when they fall???). Alas, we'll be eating a lot of halibut for a while! We've had one steak, and it was awesome, so we're looking forward to the rest. We'll see how excited we are about fresh halibut about 12 pounds from now!

On to the race report: I took a while to get this post up because I wanted to include a cool picture from the race when I posted this. But it's taking too long to get the pictures so you'll have to stay tuned for actual pictures of me and the course. This bear is the best pic I have so far. And he is a pretty good description of how ridiculous an Ironman can feel at times (before you get on to me for being sexist, I said "he" because I'm sure that a girl bear would not be so silly as to try something like that!). Although, I'm not sure what that bear is riding for (halibut perhaps??), he doesn't sound like he's giving up. And, fortunately, neither did I.

THE SWIM - The water was 59 degrees! The only colder race I've done was in 54 degree water, but that was a sprint, so I only spent about 15 minutes in the water at that one. This was over an hour. Regardless, the rest of the competitors made it very easy to forget about how cold the water was. That's because all 2300 of them were trying their hardest to drown me! This was by far the roughest swim I have ever been in. The water itself was relatively calm. The people were not! And with two loops, it never really opened up like the course at Arizona did. The course went out, made two left turns, and then straight back to shore to start the second lap. Because each segment was fairly short, and everyone wanted to hug the turn buoys (and drown me!), it was REALLY crowded for about 2 of the 2.4 miles. To top it off, I had no idea what my time was because my watch had been stopped at some point. I spent most of the day wondering what my actual swim time was, and being thankful that no one was successful in their repeated attempts to kick me in the face and drown me.

My Goal - 1:05
Lindsay's Guess - 1:10 ("but if the water's cold, it could slow you down a minute or two.")
Actual Time - 1:11:52

One other thing before we move on to the bike . . . the grass in the transition area is VERY slippery when your feet are numb and wet. And, guys, the volunteers REALLY don't want you running into the women's changing tent after the swim! Trust me, you will fall down if you try!

THE BIKE - After picking myself up off the ground, and finding the right changing tent, I managed to get in and out of T1 pretty quickly. Then it was on to the bike course. The first 10 miles or so is along the lake and is pretty fast. Then it turns North and slowly climbs out of town before getting to 20 miles or so of some fairly difficult rolling hills. I was out of the saddle a few times just to get up a couple of them. After the hills, the course goes back down for 10-15 miles to the end of the first loop. This section is a long gradual downhill, which I thought was going to be a great place to get my legs back under me for the second loop and to help prepare for the run in the last 15 miles of the route. However, the wind was blowing straight up the hill, which meant instead of cruising at 25+ mph, I was grinding it out at 18-20. This was actually the most difficult section of the entire course because of the wind, and partly because I was planning on it being the easiest section of the course. But you have to adjust to the conditions, and the best place to make up time on your competitors is when climbing and into a headwind ("everyone can go fast downhill and with the wind at their back!" Thanks, Lindsay). So I grinded it out at around 20 mph into the wind for about 40 minutes to finish the first loop. I ended up averaging 21 mph for the first loop, which was my goal for the entire race. I fell off pace on the second loop (and came out of the saddle on almost every climb -- somehow those "rolling hills" turned into mountains on the second loop!). I finished the bike in 5:36, "only" 16 minutes off my goal time.

My Goal - 5:20 (i.e., 21 mph)
Lindsay's Guess - "around 20 mph" (i.e., 5:36)
Actual Time - 5:36:21 (I think I should start trusting Lindsay more. Seriously, that's scary! Almost 7 hours into the day and she's off by 21 seconds?!)

THE RUN(s) - Yes, "Runs", but we'll get to that later. Started off strong. Ran the first mile in 7:30, then the usual leg cramping came. That happens when you have been riding that hard for that long and then you start running. It usually takes my quads a half mile or so to figure out how to run again. Sure enough, by the second mile marker, I was 15:10 into the run, and the cramping was gone . . . at least in my legs. I averaged 7:44 for the first 10k. Then I was forced to make my first of two stops in the port-a-pots. I spent 10-15 minutes total in port-a-pots over the next 5 miles. Hence, calling this section "THE RUN(s)." Yes, that is disgusting. And yes, I am childish. But that's the nicest way I can think of to describe what happened during those 15 minutes. After that, it's a little difficult to run strong again (excuse the pun, and my middle-schooler mentality). So I did some walking through the aid stations, and at the mile markers, and whenever the cramping returned, and up the steeper hills, until the last 5k.

THE LAST 5K - Like I've said before, I look for opportunities to test myself late in a race. In triathlons, they always write your age on the back of your calf so that you can tell who is in your age group while you're out there (which reminds me, at the CapTex in Austin, they also put the letter of your wave on your calf since you don't all start at the same time. I passed a girl on the run with "34 DD" written on the back of her leg. Again, I'm an immature middle-schooler, but I found that hilarious. And a little bit disturbing.). At Ironman events, they also print your name on your bib#. So you start to figure out late in the day who has been racing along side you all day long, and who you need to beat in order to place higher in your age group. Well, with less than 5k to go I start seeing lots of guys in my age group. One was "Matt from Boise" who was 31, and whom I had been going back and forth with since the early miles of the bike course. There were several others (one of which dropped us both in the last mile), but I felt like Matt would challenge me since we had seen each other all day. Sure enough, when I went by him, he stayed with me. We picked off several others the last two miles, but never caught the one guy that blew by us both. We were too far back for it to matter for a Kona spot. But holding off Matt from Boise definitely helped my confidence to know that I can "race" that late in an Ironman event. Of the 6 guys in my age group that were battling it out in the last 5k, I finished second. By 3 seconds.

It's unbelievable to me that you can start the day at edge of the water, swim for over an hour, bike for five and a half, go through the two transition areas, stop for unscheduled bathroom breaks, run for almost 4 hours, and finish 3 seconds ahead of the next person in your age group. It's amazing that a 10+ hour race can come down to just 3 seconds. Mere inches.

My Goal - 3:30 (i.e., 8 minute miles)
Lindsay's Guess - 3:20-3:30
Actual Time - 3:59:37 (I guess Lindsay didn't factor in my stubborn stomach.)
So I was off by 56 minutes for my "dream time." However, I was running strong before the stomach issues. I spent close to 15 minutes sitting in the port-a-pots. That slowed me down for the second half as well, which means I was definitely capable of running a 3:20-3:30 marathon. And really, who's going to question Lindsay's Guess when she was so close on the swim and bike? 10:15:23 took the last Kona slot in my age group. So without stomach issues, I'm around 15 minutes away from Kona. Mere inches.
Where can I find those inches? My first transition was good, my second should have been at least 2 minutes faster. I have no doubts that I can gain 15-20 minutes on the bike course next year. I know the course, and I'll be stronger. I didn't start to really ride to my potential in training this year until April. For next year, I'm starting this weekend. I have 51 weeks to find those inches.
People often ask me "what's next" after I finish an Ironman, as if it was a one time thing, and now it's time to move on. While it's easy to dwell on bad races for too long, it's just as easy to pridefully rest for too long after having a good race. Days can turn into weeks, weeks into months, and before you know it, you've lost fitness and almost have to start over. Even a BAD day at the Ironman is a GREAT day of training. About an hour after I finished the Ironman, Lindsay (genius that she is) sent me the following text message:
"Good work today Barry. Get some rest and hydrate. Let's catch up tomorrow to recap the race and begin preparing for the next!"
Exactly what I needed to hear. So, "what's next" for me is two more half ironmans and a marathon this year. Gotta find those inches!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The work is done . . .

Or "the hay is in the barn" as they say (who are "they" anyway? And why do they think they know everything?). Regardless, it's Ironman Week, and I'm ready to race!

I haven't updated the blog in a while. I intended to do lots of good posts regarding my last long run before the race (it was HOT!), and the 1:24 swim across Lake Ray Hubbard (it was ROUGH! Seriously, up to 3' swells! Thanks to Dee, Mason, and Tim for the kayak support. I think they worked as hard as we did in that choppy water!). But, alas, work got in the way of my fun time (I've got to come up with another excuse), and I didn't get it done.

This week has been especially tough mentally. I'm ready to race and I'm anxious to just get out of town and start preparing for Sunday. I'll feel much better once the canon goes off, but until then, I'm a little on edge.

Brian and Dee pick us up at 4:30 tomorrow morning to head to the airport. We fly out to Seattle, and then make the drive to Coeur d'Alene from there (I promised Dee we could stop at Starbuck's on the way out of town. Anyone know if they have those in Seattle?). I was invited to a breakfast with on Friday morning, so Krisha and I will be going to that before the morning swim. Short bike ride after the swim, then pick up Ryno at the airport on Friday night. Saturday is another swim, and a short run. Then rest.

Thank you to everyone that has helped me get to this point this year. My wonderful, beautiful wife Krisha for always being so supportive of my training (even when "work gets in the way" of the rest of our lives together). Brian for keeping me company on all those long rides, and for the occasional slap to keep me from taking this stuff too seriously (I think you're going to have to start hitting harder, Brian. It's not sinking in!). Dee for letting Brian keep me company on all those long rides (almost done, Dee!). Lindsay at CTS for being the best coach ever! (You ROCK, Lindsay, even though sometimes I think you're trying to kill me!). Jason and Rockwall Cycling for ordering things for me even when they don't really carry them in the shop, and especially for providing me with a bike to ride while mine was being shipped to the race (I promise I'll pay you as soon as I get back to town!). All the guys at the Tri-ProSoap team for all their encouragement. Ryan for a great weekend of training in Boulder. Ross, Swanson, McGaffen, and all the rest of the guys that push (i.e., "punish") me on the Rockwall Cycling group rides (even though sometimes I KNOW you guys are all trying to kill me!). And everyone else who supports me in any way. Thanks. I could not do this without all of you!

I don't like to talk up goals too much in public before a race like this, so I'm not going to list them here. Let's just leave it at, "I hope to race that other Ironman event in October this year." We'll know on Sunday night (possibly not until Monday morning). If you want to keep track of my progress, there will be a link on on Sunday morning where you can track athletes. Be sure to keep up with Brian Young and Tim Glasson (first Ironman for TIM!!!) as well.

Am I ready? Yes. Can I go under 10 hours? Yes. Will I go under 10 hours? Stay tuned . . .

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