The racing season of 2011 is coming to an end. But I was going to end it with a Big Bang! My first Ironman. Yes technically it is a Iron-distance race since it is not a branded Ironman, but still the same distance.
After the Ironman70.3 World Championship in Las Vegas I didn’t have time to train as much as I wanted. Moving to Seattle and starting my new Job had a big impact on my training schedule. At least I got two solid weeks with 12h of training in. That was it, after that I was tapering. In the last week before the race I had sleeping problems which is very unusual for me. I assume it was because it is a new distance and I wasn’t prepared as well as I wished. But there was nothing I could do now. I arrived in Wilmington NC on Thursday and started the race preparation. This meant lots of pasta and 9h of solid sleep from Thursday to Friday. I realized that the biggest challenge will be the weather. The expected temperature in the morning was 3C together with rain and up to 30km/h wind.
It was really cold at the starting line, I couldn’t wait till there was finally enough light that the Coastal Guard allowed the organizers to start the race. (15min late).
At the start I tried to stay calm and not get my heart rate too high. The water felt comfortable thanks to my skull cap and neoprene booties (which I bought for this race). It was pretty crowded at the beginning and a proper stroke was hard. For the first 5-10min I was constantly fighting for space. Even after that there were many people who couldn’t swim a straight line and body contact was unavoidable. I tried to draft of people a couple times, but not with much luck. Swimming is my weakest part and I knew it would be a long swim since I have never swum that far before. It was a point to point swim which made it hard to judge how far along I am. While I was wondering how much of the distance I covered, I didn’t pay much attention and a wave caught me off guard and I swallowed some water (ocean). I wasn’t too happy about that, since I thought I wasn’t even at the halfway point. But to my surprise, I realized a little later that we already passed the halfway point and were at the first turn. Wow, I guess the incoming tide is helping more than I thought. After two more turns, I was at the dock. I couldn’t believe my watch. I swam the 3.8km in roughly 46min. This was about 20min faster than expected.
For all that I was that worried about the cold swim when I was planning this race. It turned out to be the warmest part of the race
This was the longest transition I ever had. The run from the dock to the bike was couple hundred meters long. But it was very nice that they offered two shower tents (one of them even warm) to wash off the salt water. As planned, I put on a bike-jersey, a bike jacket, gloves, and a cap for under the helmet. Being warm trumps being aerodynamic.
Right away on the bike I was feeling the cold weather. At least the wind wasn’t too strong at the beginning. I quickly settled into my race pace at 30km/h. To my surprise my heart rate (HR) was much lower than expected. In the race preparation I decided to race by HR because the wind would make it hard to maintain a consistent speed. When I realized that my HR was lower, I kept that in mind for later on when I would be riding in the wind. Only 20min later we turned onto the highway and were facing a head wind. For some reason I had a hard time to keep my eyes open and I almost rode into a red cone which was separating the highway lane from the traffic. I tried to be more alert but a little while later it happened again. I was glad when we finally turned of the highway onto other streets where I was able to follow the white line on the curb of the rode.
An interesting thing which I realized was my cadence. My optimal cadence is around 90-95rpm. But due to the cold weather, I couldn’t move my legs that fast and I constantly was below 85rpm. I had to focus hard to keep a higher cadence which normally is very natural for me. I remember checking my watch 2h into the race and thinking about giving up for the first time. I was miserable, I was cold, sometimes the wind would slow me down below 25km/h and that it started raining (even though very light) didn’t help either. But then I remembered what I told Amy and my Parents. I made a commitment that I wouldn’t give up, even if it meant that I would have to walk the whole Marathon at the end. So I was laughing it off thinking how pathetic it would be to give up only 2h into the ride.
I knew that key for this race would be the nutrition especially with the cold weather which doesn’t make thirsty. I had to pee 3 times during the ride, which meant I was drinking enough. After 110km the clouds were clearing up. What a relieve, I started to feel better. Only 10km later we turned into a tail wind. Suddenly I was averaging >40km/h with the same HR. What a great feeling and to top it off a little later the sun started shining. Live was/is good! Unbelievable that I was thinking about giving up a couple hours earlier.
To my surprise I started overtaking people who are doing the half distance. They started about 90min after us, but did only half the distance. I was wondering what they were thinking when we (rider from the full distance) were flying past them?
I was so excited to be done with the bike portion of the race that I started to go faster and my HR rose. So I had to hold myself back not to push too hard toward the end.
I finished the 180km in 5h43min. Even with the cold weather that was still 7min faster then I planned. Interesting fact, I consumed approximately 1800 calories during the bike ride.
Finally in transition I jumped of the bike and noticed right away that my feet were feeling funny. They were numb from the cold and I had barely any feelings in them. So barefoot running was hard and painful. I ran to the changing tent and took of all the biking gear and put on the running shoes.
I was VERY excited to start running. Finally my favorite part and besides my cold feet I was feeling great! I started off with what I considered an easy pace. Checking my HR revealed that I was just below 160 which was very reasonable. I passed the first mile marker at 7:10 which was faster then I planned, so I eased the pace a little. Originally, I had planned to run a 7:40min/mile (4:45min/km) pace, but since my HR was in check I wasn’t too worried and kept a nice pace. Due to the strong wind on the bridges I lost my sun hat which I had been wearing in all my other races. I was sad about that, but since it fell into the swamp there was no way I could retrieve it. Well all the sacrifices I make for racing
There were lots of half-distance people still on the course which were going considerable slower. All these people made it hard to count the competitors ahead of me or find someone to run with.
Early on in the run I decided that I am not going to walk till at least the half marathon point. I also realized that this might be a self fulfilling prophecy, which is why I added at least in there
I was still focusing on nutrition and was drinking a cup of heed on every aid station (roughly every mile) even though I didn’t like the taste of it.
Then I was at the turnaround point. I did the first 1/4 in a little over 46min. That is when my head went crazy. I could do a Boston qualifying time during an Ironman. How crazy would that be. But then I also knew that I eventually would slow down a little. So I said to myself just keep it going as far as you can and deal with it once it is not going that smooth anymore. The second half of the first lap was uneventful. I was still feeling good and having a consistent pace and HR. I started the second lap after 1h35 minutes. I was so psyched about that. I saw the race clock which said: 8h15 which meant if I would slow down less then 10min (1h45) for the second half I could finish under 10h. What a crazy though! But reality hit me soon after that.
I noticed that my legs were tired and heavy so I walked a couple of steps up the next bridge but started running right after that. Then I was able to run for quite a while again, but I noticed how my legs got more and more tired. To make things worse my adductors started to cramp. I never had this muscle cramp before. Once it started cramping I walked for a bit and then started running again. I also started to take more time at the aid station. I drank some chicken-broth and coke and ate some pretzels. They also had many other things which seemed so delicious. Like Oreo cookies, I thought that wasn’t fair to tease me like that and decided that I would go back and get some cookies after the race. When I was at the turnaround point, the only thing which came clear to me is that I was considerably slower and to my amusement I didn’t even care. All I wanted was to finish this race and eat some pizza and Oreo cookies!
All the additional nutrition didn’t seem to make the cramping better, except that my stomach was now upset now. At least I was still able to run at a decent pace when I was running. That is when I overtook an Asian girl who asked me on which lap I was. I signaled a #2 with my hand and she said: “Wow. I would love to have your legs”. I was smiling and thinking… believe me you don’t
I noticed that I started to walk more frequent and also walked longer. I then attempted to only allow myself to walk if I was cramping which still happened often enough. In addition to that the wind also had picked up again. I couldn’t wait to cross the finish line.
I finished my Marathon in 3h35min and an overall time for the whole Ironman of 10:15:24.
I got a hot chocolate in the warming tent, received a massage, and ate 3 slices of Pizza and some Oreo cookies. The world started to look much better after that. I was pretty beat up the next day but was still able to walk more or less normal. The only thing which worried me was my ankles which started to get swollen. But now 4 days later they are almost back to normal size. I also gathered some more blue nails and a bloody blister (which I also never had before).
Beach 2 Battleship is a very well organized race. I enjoyed it and would definitely recommend it to others, especially first timers (assumed it would be nicer weather).
I finished 35 out of about 500 men. After the race I was very happy with my time and that I finished it. But only two days later, I started to think that I could have done it faster if I would have been able to suffer more on the second half of the marathon. In hindsight (also considering the feedback I got from friends) it is funny that I was thinking that only two days after the race. My competitive nature plays some tricks on me sometimes. A week earlier I was worried since it was a new distance and that I didn’t do proper training and then once I did it instead of enjoying my “success” I question myself why I had to walk that often. In either case for future races I might be worthwhile to do more mental training.
Now I will have two whole weeks without a single workout. Well earned RECOVERY TIME
Thanks @Iris,Marcel and Melissa for the cheering. Congratulation to Adam who finished 3rd in our age group!