Ironman Florida Race Report

I have finally found the time and energy for my race report, so here it goes. It may seem a little graphic, but I wanted everyone to feel the experience.

The morning started out early with my breakfast of champions: 2 pop tarts and 2 Boosts. I grabbed my gear and headed out to join the death march from the condo to the starting line. After dropping off the special needs bags, I went to prepare my bike.

I located a bike tech and borrowed a pump to air my tires. While removing the pump from my stem, I managed to leave a good portion of my knuckle on the concrete. I have joked in the past about cutting other swimmers so the sharks will follow their blood trail. I didn’t think I would be the bleeder for this race. After my shirt soaked up about half a pint, my knuckle finally stopped bleeding.

Now it was off to the swim start. With Susan’s persuading, I lined up with her on the right side and towards the front. The countdown went quickly and we were off. The first lap was the usual boxing match, but was pretty uneventful. I came out of the water and headed towards the water again. Some woman screamed, “Hey 934, get your butt back in there.” I was just pausing. For the second lap, we had to angle towards the second buoy and then head straight out. When you breathe on the right side and the buoys are on the left, you use the other swimmers as a guide. Unfortunately the guy to my right was clueless too. When I saw the sign that said “Welcome to Buras”, I looked left and realized I was off course. I made a left turn and aimed for the turn buoy.

I finally made the turn buoy and headed across the top of the rectangle. Then I got a nice kick in the mouth! If I had only reacted quicker, I could have bitten a big chunk out his foot. It would have been an interesting discussion at the medical tent trying to figure out what kind of fish bit him. Instead, I just laughed about it. As I neared the shore, I swam over a good-sized ray that reminded me of the Jaws reenactment that Otter & I performed on Friday. Susan & Special K didn’t enjoy it. I came out of the water hearing lots of cheers from my family and friends and Susan passed me on the way to transition.

When I entered transition, I was shocked by the mass of people in the changing tent. I changed as fast as possible and then got on my bike. The first part of the bike was not too bad: one wreck with the athlete being loaded in an ambulance, pit stops at the 10, 60 & 100 mile mark, and a bunch of hills on a supposedly “flat” course. And then there was Pamela & Howard.

Pamela & Howard passed me for the first time on their “tandem” bike at around the 50 mile mark. They had a well-coordinated two-man drill going that pissed me off. But I wasn’t going to let anyone or anything ruin my day, so I kept riding. After the special needs stop, they came by me again. I guess they needed to stop and plan out the second half of their team ride. When they were about 50 yards in front of me, along came an official. Howard was in the lead, so Pamela had to stop to get the black slash for drafting. Howard slowly started drifting back and people began to pass him (including me!). Finally, some of the cheaters got there due!

The ride began to drag on and my mental and physical condition began to waver. I passed Special K on the out and back section and was surprised she was behind me. I made it to that bumpy road that I remember too well from the Gulf Coast Half-Ironman, and the fatigue was building. At about the 90-mile mark, some pro woman blew by me. Where had she been? I made my last pit stop at the 100 mile mark and then ran straight into the east side of a hurricane. To say that the last 12 miles was tough would be similar to saying that a jagged piece of glass in my eye is slightly uncomfortable. Most of you know that my cycling skills are not the best, so the strong headwind made it even more difficult. Otter passed me about the 108-mile mark, so I knew I was doing okay. I got to see my family again before I jumped off my bike.

I finally made it to transition and went to the changing tent. I took my time and then headed out for what Susan calls “my specialty”, the run. And the real race starts now. I gave Christine my “I’m still alive” look and posed for a picture for my dad. Before I had gone a mile, my stomach decided it wasn’t happy. I caught up with Special K, who had passed me in transition, and she was suffering with leg problems. I couldn’t walk long because I was thoroughly berated for walking by Gloria, Brian & Pat-O! I started running again and a cycle emerged. Run a little ways. Feel like you are going to puke. Run a little ways. Feel like you are going to puke. This continued for 10 miles! Every mile they had an aid station and I tried Gatorade (which I did all my long training runs with), water, coke and chicken broth with no success at settling my stomach. I went for about 4 or 5 aid stations drinking only water trying to get something to settle down. This whole time my legs felt good which only added to my frustration.

At about the 8 to 9 mile mark, I was running along behind some European man. Then I noticed one of his water bottles must have sprung a leak. No, wait. He had sprung a leak. He was peeing on himself while running down the road. As if there aren’t two bathrooms every mile. And he was running by me, so he wasn’t trying to break any records. I had to stop and walk because I was laughing too hard and because I didn’t want to get any on me!

At the 10-mile aid station, I switched to plan B. I went in the porta-potty and stuck my finger down my throat. Dry heave only! Tried again with the same result. I jumped back out, grabbed some water and started running again. This time I actually ran all the way to the 11-mile mark! So I tried again. Dry heave only. I drank some Gatorade and ran to the 12-mile mark. Drank some more and ran to the turn around at the end of the first loop! I’ve finally got my stomach straight and my run back on track. All the people were screaming at me! It was awesome! Bring on the last 13.1 miles!

Excuse me Mr. Charley Horse, you want which hamstring? At the turnaround in front of everyone, I seize up! Now, I’m getting mad. I’m a runner. This isn’t supposed to happen. I hobbled to the end of the road where Christine, the kids, and Mom & Dad were. I gave Christine my special needs bag, kissed her good bye and told her I would be back in less than 5 hours or so. My mind started processing. “What is going on now? I wonder how much salt they had in the water I drank at 8 of the 13 aid stations? None, you moron.” I quickly broke out my thermolyte salt tabs, which were conveniently in my pocket, and started popping them. I would run a little and then cramp. Run a little and cramp. At one point my right hamstring cramped so bad, I couldn’t walk. I switched to a Gatorade/water mixture and some chicken broth for the next few miles. The cramps finally eased up.

At about the 17-mile mark, my engineering brain took over. I had two options: I could uncomfortably finish the race in under 14 hours or I could hurt and break 13 hours. My plan was to just finish. My plan was also not to be feeling like crap on the run either. At the Multisport meeting on Thursday, 7-time Ironman Champion Paula Newby-Frasier said she likes to leave it all out there. Fine with me. And the calculations began. Every mile I would adjust my formula. When I got to the pitch-black park, I knew what I had to do. Pretty simple: keep pushing. At around the 20-mile mark, Special K passed me when I was visiting my favorite hangout: the porta potty. I caught up with her during one of her Galloway walks and she looked like she was doing great. Actually she made it look easy.

She pressed on and I settled in to a half-mile run/ 50-yard walk routine. When I reached the 22 mile mark, I overheard some people discussing making a time. Good, someone else is trying to beat 13 hours. Then the woman commented that they were almost to the 9-mile mark. Poor lady was on her first loop! I felt bad for her, but I also realized I was getting closer. The next few miles were a blur. Then I was on my last mile. As I was getting close to the music tent, I heard Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” blaring. And everyone was singing along. So I started singing. I don’t know the words, but at that point I didn’t care.

I made the turn at Alvin’s Island and headed down the road to millions of cheers. Above all the yelling I heard my Dad yell out. That added another shot of adrenaline. As I started up the ramp, I began to worry. Where were Christine & the kids? I soon heard Christine screaming wildly and saw Lara & Mason at the top of the ramp. I grabbed them by the hands and made my way across the finish line. 12 hours 47 minutes 26 seconds. I AM AN IRONMAN!

IMFL_2005

To try and thank everyone would be stupid because I would forget someone. I do want to thank all the people who donated and helped me raise $7545.60 for the Louisiana Scottish Rite Foundation. I want to thank Jeff Kearns for all of his support (and the awesome website!) I want to thank the Baton Rouge Tri Club for being maniacs. I want to thank my Mom & Dad for raising me not to quit and for being there when they knew I had gone nuts. I want to thank my kids, Lara & Mason, for putting up with me being tired and distracted while I was training. I especially want to thank my wife, Christine, for everything: keeping me alive, running the kids everywhere, taking up my slack at home, and for just being there. And thank you Lord for giving me a body which can take punishment and a brain that is hard headed enough to make it.

Thank you all. Now I am going to rest.

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