Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Ironman Florida 2014: Post Mortem

The day before the race I brought my bike and bike/run gear bags to transition as is required at Ironman. Before racking your bike they photograph each bike.

My rack.

Bike bag row.

Run bag row.

As for the race.....the day before the race was beautiful, warm and had moderate winds. The forecast for race day however was COLD and WINDY. As I lay in bed the night before I could hear the wind whistling and deck chairs sliding around. I knew it was going to be a challenging day. I got up at 4:15am and forced down some food. I had a hard time eating due to nerves. I was nervous due to the following;
1) I was undertrained for this race. Due to family and work commitments I was unable to put in the required training to prepare optimally. In the past lead ups I would routinely put in running weeks of 40k+ but this time around I rarely got over 30k. I was swimming once a week and biking twice weekly - not enough for good conditions let alone challenging conditions.
2) Lack of recovery. Due to challenges on the homefront I have been not getting the proper rest required to do well. I could see this in training where I would rarely hit numbers that would comfortably hit in the past. Sure I could have the odd day where I felt good but it was few and far between. I was not getting the sleep I needed.
3) This was my fourth Ironman in two years. That, along with a lack of quality recovery and accumulated fatigue, have resulted in a depleted system that, quite frankly, is detrimental to my overall health. Not smart! I have realized that, given my lifestyle over the past couple of years, I am not really suited to multiple IMs per year.
Back to the race...I got my things ready and headed out to a blast of cold air as I opened our condo door. The winds were blowing at 40k from the NNW with gusts over 60k. It was only 4C at this point with the wind making it feel, you know, COLD! I drove down to a parking lot near transition where I would leave the truck for Sara and Logan who would bike down from the condo to pick it up. I got body marked, checked my bike, did the last minute bathroom thing and immediately got indoors (like everyone) to stay warm. I stayed inside until 6:45am. At that point I started to head to the beach to get a short warmup in. It was at this time I heard the announcement that they had cancelled the swim. There was a lot of shocked looks at faces. I looked at the water for the first time at this point - the kayakers and a couple of boats were having a tough time staying in position. It didn't look rough close to shore but further out the swells looked big and the boat I was looking at almost disappeared when it was in the trough. I think the Race Director made the right call but it really changed how I looked at the race.
For me it didn't feel like a Ironman - it felt like I was going to do an organized brick workout. The other challenge was the timeframe to getting on the bike. From the announcement of cancellation to when I'd start my ride ended up being almost 2.5 hours. For most of the compeititors that meant getting back inside to stay warm, contact family and friends with the update, and wait. It was also difficult because I did not have a lot of nutrition on my bike - at least not enough for a 2.5 hour wait and at least another half hour to the first aid station.
The only great thing about the wait is that I got to sit beside and chat with legendary Ironman Lew Hollander. Check out the profile below - he's unreal. I took a selfie with him on Sara's phone - I will put it up in the near future.


As my time to ride got closer I got layered up. I put on the following: trishorts, long tights, vest, long sleeve jersey, short sleeve cycling jersey, arm warmers, hat and gloves. With all that I was cold while waiting for my turn to ride. At first they were sending people off one at a time by race number every 5 seconds. They soon realized that the people with the highest numbers would not start for 3.5 hours! From there they started going 2 at a time rack by rack. As I was #1113 I had to wait a while. I heard that even later they started sending 3 then 4 at a time. Regardless of the start time the majority of people were going to finish in the dark.

To say I was stiff at the start was an understatement. I got going and I knew it would be a while before I "warmed" up. The wind was doing its best to further prevent me from warming up. I decided to stay within myself today, look after my nutrition, and make the best of the day. The winds heading north were quite challenging - I just tried to stay as aero as possible and not push too hard too early. It was like this for 1.5 hours. I was absolutely amazed what people were wearing. I was fully layered and still feeling cold and I saw many with hardly anything on - I am that wimpy! Once I made the right turn it was more of a cross wind so it provided a little relief. The first 80k was steady but definitely slower than I'm used to. I must have been well hydrated because I stopped 3 times to pee.

At about 85k I saw Sara - just before the rough road out n back. I didn't find the road as bad this year for some reason. I got my special needs at the turn and headed back. I saw Sara again near the 100k and pulled over for a smooch. I was not in a rush and I wanted to remember my 10th Ironman.

 For the record, Coachie Coach (aka Sara) gave me crap for stopping. Another lady said I made all the racers look bad because no one else had stopped to greet a loved one. From there it was a long stretch of about 40k into a head/slight cross wind. This section is mentally draining because it is pretty much straight and at a time when you're starting to feel the ride. With the cold I was still a little stiff but by this time I removed the hat and gloves. The tailwind on Hwy 79 back to Panama City Beach was a blast - speeds were consistently around 37k+. Making the turn to head back to transition meant more heavy cross winds so the last half hour of the ride was challenging. Overall I finished the ride in 6:27, almost a full hour slower than my ride last year (5:31). I was glad to get away from the winds, or so I though....

 Starting the run felt better because going slower allowed me warm up a little. It was about 11C at this point but I knew the sun would go done by lap 2 of the marathon so I'd have to take that into consideration. I got rid of most of my layers and started the run with a singlet, long sleeve jersey, trishorts and my long tights tied around my waist. It's funny - if you look at my first 10k I went from 9 min mile pace to 10:30 back to 9 and so on. The reason for this is the stops I made over the first loop. I saw Sara and Logan at mile 3 - I stopped and talked to Sara briefly and Logan for a couple of minutes before getting going again. I continued on to the State Park and once I made the turn I realized where the wind was - in my face! It also felt cold.

 Here I stopped again at mile 10 where Sara was because there was a rock wall I could sit on and take my shoes off to put my long tights on. With the sun going down I was now starting to get chilled. All the while, everytime I stopped to talk to Sara, go pee, put on more clothes, etc I would stop my watch and restart once I got going again. The funny thing is that my split for the first 13.1 miles minus the time wasters was 2:03 - not bad really.

 Oh no, sun don't leave me now!

 Here's Logan at mile 17. He had his 3 foot Godzilla out and his file of sound effects that he'd play for the runners as they went by. Some were Jurassic Park, Godzilla, eerie instrumentals. Sara said the runners gave a lot of thumbs up - it was different from the usual. It also made Logan feel involved - he loved it!

 Another stoppage after the shock of seeing Godzilla after I turned the corner! Logan told me about his experience and the great response he was getting - I was so proud of him. Despite my difficulties with the cold it made me happy to see him having fun and trying to help the runners out in his own way.

 After my "visit" Coachie told me to get moving. My run at this point was more like a shuffle that resembled my best dance moves - pathetic. My lack of fitness combined with the cold were full on now. I also knew that in a couple of miles I'd make the turn in the State Park and head home into a cold, stiff headwind. Sure enough that is what greeted me. By this time it was about 6C. I slowly got back to Sara and Logan at mile 22 and I seriously didn't know if I'd make it. I was shivering. I took the hoodie Logan had on and one of those tin-foily things you get at races (I have one in the truck for emergencies) and through them on. I could not get warm and it was demoralizing. By this time my back and legs were stiff. I ended up walking from mile 22 to basically 400m from the finish. I tried to walk as fast as possible but I'm sure it was quite slow. I managed a slow shuffle into finish chute and barely raise my arms at the line. I was so relieved to be done. My marathon time was 5:30 right on the dot. I finished in 12:17 for a bike/run. Last year I finished 11:39 with a swim/T1 added on - go figure.

Ironman Florida 2014 marks my 10th Ironman (albeit with an * due to the bike/run format). Originally when I did my first Ironman in 1989 (IM Canada) I set a goal to complete 10 in my tri "career". I'm now at 10 and I don't know where to go at this point. Doing 4 Ironman in the past 2 years has depleted me. I noticed this year that my heart was not in it. When the inevitable hurt would come I just didn't have the fitness and fight required to push through. If you're heart's not in it how do you expect the body to follow - it doesn't. For that reason it is vitally important for me to take a break.

 I met up with Sara and Logan shortly after. Love this shot! I thanked Logan for lending me his hoodie. I think he was concerned for me and also relieved I was done. It felt SO GOOD to go indoors to the warmth right after! Sara and Logan were champs for enduring the day. Spectating in these conditions is no fun - I really appreciated it. You don't get through these things without support. I also appreciate Dave Whiffen for helping with my bike - couldn't have done it without you!
What's next? REST!!!!
I have done 4 Ironmans in 2 years and 3 of them, for sure, were not good. I am burnt out and need to look after my health - that will priority one. I plan on a good break and then SLOWLY start light exercise. I will also do some strengthening over the winter. I am signed up for IM Tremblant but, at this point, am not sure I will toe the line. I definitely won't be doing 2 IM in 2015. I will also commit to getting proper rest and getting healthy. Thanks everyone for the support - I greatly appreciate it. Thanks for reading!

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