Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Keeping it Real!

Last Sunday I ran a 5K for the first time in several years. I didn't have a clue how I would do for several reasons including, but not limited to: still recovering from the Ironman, bad knee, had not run seriously since the Ironman, etc...

I originally told my friend that I wouldn't due to it, but since it was for a great cause and I knew I would regret not doing it, I decided to get out there and suffer with everyone else.

5K's are tough on everyone. If your a distance guy like myself they are WAY too short, and don't give you near enough time to get into a good rhythm. If you hate to run, but are doing one just to get in-shape, they are way too long.

The best thing about a 5K though is the diversity. There were guy's there running in nothing but cycling shorts and running shoes to a guy I saw running in blue jeans and a long-sleeve shirt (note, it was around 85 degrees).

I had a great time. The start was WAY TOO FAST as all 5ks are. The second mile was my favorite as it was along the river and was shaded. Third mile had a nice hill, and was through the university. After I finished I waited on my friend and we ran back to get our wives, who much to their chagrin got stuck at the end with their strollers. The funniest thing is that they had this new timing system and it clocked my second time. So the record has me finishing in an hour and 2 minutes. Man am I glad I paid an extra $5 for that! For the record: I ran a 6, 7, and 10 minute mile respectively. Needless to say I was disappointed in the last mile. O well, at least I have a baseline going into winter marathon training season.

Pictures will be up soon.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

The Race

It's hard to say when it started. I got "out of bed" at 3:30 but really did not sleep the whole night. Two days ago at a mandatory race briefing the race director joked "there are usually some guys who sleep at the start who are there when I get there at 4:30" I took this seriously. You see the start is "first come, first serve" and the 17 hour time cut-off begins from the time the last person starts the swim. So however many extra minutes you have from that time, is essentially how many extra minutes you have to finish.

So I got there at 4:10 thanks to my awesome wife who drove me there and our awesome friend Becca who babysat our daughter while my wife was gone. So I can officially say that I was leading the entire race in the amateur division (the pro's started 10 minutes earlier than everybody) as I was the first person in the entire race of 2400 to start.

Right when I jumped in and started swimming, I had so much adrenaline it took about 20 meters to figure out that I had some serious water in my goggles and I really could not see that well. (Back story: every triathlon I have ever competed in I have had problems with my goggles) I stopped, readjusted my goggles and was good to go. We swam upstream for 0.85 miles. The first part wasn't really bad, as we were beside an island that was taking the majority of the current away from us. However, at the end the current coupled with the fact that there were 2400 swimmers making a 180 degree turn together, made life interesting. I thankfully didn't get kicked in the head but did get dunked a couple of times and had a couple of swipes at my bad leg, but nothing serious. After I made the turn, everyone was really spread out and I was in the middle of a group. I look up every 8 strokes. And in 8 strokes I went from being in the middle of a group to being in the middle of the Ohio River by myself. No worries though, I eventually got to where I needed to be.

At the end of the swim I really wasn't that tired, I could tell I hadn't swam in a month though. I didn't think the river water was that bad until my wife and friends told me they saw a swimmer hit a dead (floating) fish!

Transition was fine. It took me awhile to load all of my stuff in my bike jersey. Note, I couldn't have done this the day before, because when you put on a bike jersey when you are soaking wet it curls up in the back and everything falls out. Anyway, I hopped on the bike and felt great. The scenery was gorgeous by the river and I was munching on an avocado sandwich that had been sitting out for over 12 hours (Dave Scott special). {sidenote: You have to leave your bike and all drop bags in the transition area by 5pm the day prior to the race} I was feeling so good I decided to take a shot of some gel and then eat a peanut butter banana and honey sandwich. Which, turned out to be a VERY bad idea.

I immediately got unbearable stomach aches. I couldn't bend down in my aero bars and could barely even cycle. The whole time though all I could think about was how much time I had spent training for this. I just kept pushing through it. After about 40 miles they essentially went away. I had to cut out everything but water. This course would be really fun if I was out riding it with my friends, but for an Ironman triathlon, everyone was saying in there head "what the hell, Kentucky has hills like this?" I actually saw a couple of cyclist fall off because they couldn't make it up a certain pitch of a hill. Thankfully, I had trained on Lookout Mountain for the majority of my training rides and was prepared for this.

We passed through LaGrange at mile 35 and there was a huge crowd. I think it was the whole town, it was really awesome they made you feel like you were a celebrity in the Tour de France. I didn't see my friends and wife at that point though. When you are doing the LaGrange Loop that everyone was talking about all you are thinking is: "I can't believe I have to do this twice" But honestly it wasn't that bad on the second lap. I think it was because you knew what you were facing. The second time I passed LaGrange I saw my family and friends and it was a HUGE motivating factor seeing them cheer me on. You can see on my split times that my bike time improved after I saw them.

At mile 90 the bodies started to pile up on the side of the road. I felt so sorry for this one girl who was laying in a ditch and looked like she had gotten hit by a car. I'm sure I looked the same way, I just wasn't passed out.

I was worried about the cut-off time around mile 85 so I pushed as hard as I could and passed a couple of people and made some serious time up. The last 15 miles were very flat to which helped. I tried taking some salt pills but couldn't stomach it, so I was just in my aero bars cruising away.

Second transition was pretty fast for me. Inside the changing tent it looked like something off of MASH. Nobody was talking and everybody looked horrible. I ditched my bike jersey for my favorite running tee (that doesn't match anything according to my wife).

I actually felt great the first mile of the run. It was through a little part of downtown and then across a bridge. I kept pushing through and the second mile was fine too. This was perhaps my favorite mile because I got to see my daughter for the first time of the race. I also noticed my wife had special shirts for herself, our best friends and my daughter. They had posters and a cowbell, it was awesome. I saw them briefly during the bike, but so brief that I did not notice any of their encouraging paraphernalia. Miles 4&5 were fine too, but I started walking around the 4.5 mile mark. A guy at the swim told me that he gives all newbie Ironmen the same advice: RFP - relentless forward progress. All I repeated to myself during the run was this and a verse my wife told me when she dropped me off at the swim start: I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. Phillipians 4:13.

By this point I felt great. I knew to finish on time I had to have a plan better than just "gut it out" So I started running "Galloways". Sorry but for humility reasons I need to give a back story. I first heard about Galloways a couple of years ago and I thought to myself "oh that's nice, but no serious runner would ever do such a thing. Well, let me somber in ultimate humility, Thank you Mr. Galloway, you are the reason I finished this race. At first I walked 30 minutes and then ran 30 minutes but then quickly changed it to a 15 minute schedule. I think normal Galloways are run a mile then walk a mile. But it was getting dark and I was scared I would walk too much so I just stuck with the time issue. Also, I knew that if I could average 4 miles an hour (I know it sounds pathetic, but it is what it is) I could be an Ironman by the end of the night, or possibly by the beginning of the morning, however you look at things.

At mile 17 I was feeling rough but thankfully I was downtown around a lot of people and hallucinating slightly at this point envisioning my drill instructor from Marine Corps boot camp as I was running. I then saw my wife and she started running with me with our daughter strapped to her front side. This was definitely my favorite mile because she was talking away keeping me entertained and informed. Also note, she was running in flip-flops. I told her of my plan on running Galloways so she then walked another 15 minutes. My wife is a complete freak show when it comes to power walking. Our pace was only 2 minutes behind my run pace for mile 18. She definitely kept me going.

At mile 20 I got a second wind and started running pretty hard. I was queezy and ready for this to be over. By this point the glowsticks had come out (Note, my secret goal was to not finish with a glowstick). At mile 22 I saw a race clock I had never seen before from a distance of about 100 yards. When I ran up to it, it wasn't there. But it was another 150 yards away. When I ran up to it this time "they" moved it again. When I ran up to it another time "they" moved it again. By the third time I had fortunately/unfortunately figured it out. I was hallucinating. My first thought probably should have been something like: oh no, I'm hallucinating that is really bad medically. But remember, I'm an endurance athlete with a public education from Memphis so instead my thought was "COOL, I've always read about distance runners hallucinating while they were running, I'm glad I get to experience it now"

Miles 23 & 24 were tough, I was getting really light headed, I kept dry heaving every couple of steps and it was so dark I wasn't even able to see anything. I just kept pushing forward. I was scared to try and eat or drink anything new, but yet couldn't' stomach anymore gels.

Around mile 25 I saw my wife. We have been married for over 6 years. I say this to say that we know each other pretty well. She immediately inundated me with phrases like "you are doing awesome" "you are almost there" when her eyes were saying things like "man you look horrible" "good thing I have life insurance on this guy"

We got into the city at mile 26 and I started seeing more people. So I started running again. I wanted to finish with my wife and daughter but the race officials snagged them right before the finish. Nevertheless, I finished.

Right after they gave me a finisher medal a guy grabbed me and told me where medical was before I even asked. I got my finisher bag and then met up with my best friend Brent, his wife Becca and my wife and daughter. They were extremely nice and offered all congrats but were also worried about me, so I went to medical where the Doctor said I had two options: 1) sip water and after a couple of days I'll get back to normal, or 2) get an IV and I'll feel better tonight. I opted for the latter. When I was getting an IV they made me keep talking so I didn't pass out. I talked with an amazing woman named Sharon who was told by doctors that she would never walk again. Long story short, she went to a massage therapist and now she walks just fine. While I was getting an IV I was in a bed next to a guy who was having uncontrollable spasms in his legs due to his potassium/sodium levels being out of whack. Unfortunately, they told him he could die if he didn't go to the hospital. I only say this because it was just another reminder on how serious this event was - not to be taken lightly.

I also got a blister popped by a podiatrist who said that in a couple of days I would have a piece of skin fall off my foot the size of a silver dollar.

I then got a massage and walked back to the hotel with family and friends. By this point it's around 2:00 A.M. Around 2:30 my wife drew me a nice ice bath. It was my first one, and it worked wonders. I really wasn't even sore the next day. It was 3:45 A.M. and although I was wired awake, I knew I needed sleep. So that was it.

I'm an Ironman. What I like most about triathlons is that they are the great equalizer. Meaning, if you lack confidence they give you confidence, and if you are arrogant they give you humility. For me, I lacked patience and the Ironman has given it to me. No one, and I mean no one just gets up and does an Ironman Triathlon. You have to train for months, and really years to do it. Which of course makes it that much more special when you finish.

Be sure to click here to see the slideshow.