Note: for the technically/numerically minded, I’ve placed stats at the end. The narrative was also intended for family and friends and is a bit verbose
Perma-grin. I’m smiling ear to ear this morning as I write this for a host of reasons. Smiling because I’m thinking of the wonderful team-mates and coach I finally got to meet this weekend. Smiling for their accomplishments and astounding results. Smiling for the incredible 1st IM race of my great friend and team-mate Will Hayes. Smiling because my second Ironman® went off like clockwork. Smiling because I ’get it’ now. Smiling because I love the Ironman® race. Smiling because ‘Work Works’ but Execution is Everything, and I proved that yesterday.
Arizona2012 was my second long course triathlon in as many years, and I came looking to prove to myself that I could swim, ride, and run 140.6 miles to my full potential after one year of training with Endurance Nation (EN). I have made huge changes over the course of the year with EN: lost 20 lbs, dropped 1 min/mile off my run, gained 40 watts on the bike, learned how to properly do race nutrition, and most of all learned how to execute the race. Considering what I now had in my tool belt, my primary goal was to break 11 hours and to do that I needed to set big personal records (PRs) in each discipline. I projected, based on race rehearsals, tests and training, that I should go 1:15 swim, 5:35 bike targeting 169 watts, and sub-4 hour marathon: pacing 9min/mile. That also meant I needed snappy transitions to get me under 11 hours. Based on those goals, the night before the race I wrote down splits and times for my wife, so she’d be able to check in and see me each time I came around to the transition area.
The race day broke with near perfect weather, cool and clear, very light winds. Several of the 30+ team members racing found each other in the crowd of 2900 and donned our wetsuits together, then individually everyone made their way into the water. The water temp was in the low 60’s, cold to many, but what I actually like: cool enough to not feel hot in the wetsuit, warm enough that my hands and feet don’t go numb. I was really most anxious about the contact sport called swim start, but based on advice from EN vets I swam up toward the start line and positioned myself about 30 ft back at the center. It seemed the least crowded there. After the canon fired the scrum ensued, and it was more tame than I anticipated, being mostly light foot grabs and tangled arms, no dunking or kicking. Still, it took at least 12 minutes before I felt like I found open water and a rhythm. I was surprised to see the turn buoys so quickly and checked my watch. I was 34 minutes in, not quite halfway but still ahead of schedule, and feeling very relaxed and smooth. The field in the second half thinned considerably, which meant less drafting, and by the time I pulled myself up the stairs at the end and crossed the timing mat the clock ticked 1:15. I had slowed down a bit, but I was perfectly on target and feeling great. An 8 minute PR for the swim in the bag.
I ran the long transition zone: about 2-300 yards, grabbed my bag, waved to friends, put on shoes sunglasses and helmet, slugged down 8oz of pickle juice as cramp prevention, stopped to get sunscreen slathered on my legs and shoulders, and still made it to the mount line in 5:49. Could have been faster but Ill take it.
Now it was time to settle in for a long morning ride. Our EN rule is to ride stupid easy for the first hour, which for me meant about 160 watts (about 17mph uphill at IMAZ) Then at the top of the course turn-around, I pressed down on the gas to bring up the watts to my target for the rest of the ride: 170 watts. I was taking in only Perform (think Gatorade), about 1.5 bottles (36 oz) an hour and a gel every 30 minutes ( total about 450 cal an hour.) This is what works for me now, no solid food all day. The ride was totally uneventful, except that I had to pee after the first hour, and could not make that happen on the move. Squirm.
The light winds flipped direction after the first lap, turning the outbound headwind to a tailwind. I finished the first and second laps on schedule in 1:52, and 1:48 respectively. I was right on target for 5:30 for the 112 mile bike. Finally on the home stretch of the third lap, I was able to pee on the downhill and get prepped for the run. Never once on the ride did I have digestive problems. I finished the last lap in 1:53 for a total time of 5:33 (20.2 mph avg) A race PR of over two hours!
Again I made a quick jogging transition, and I felt remarkably good. I slugged down another 8oz bottle of pickle juice, grabbed two more for my fuel belt and made it out in 3:11. Snap.
I had to force myself to stay slow on the first couple miles as is typical for me: I always get excited and roll out too fast. Each time I checked my watch in the first mile, I was pacing under 8 min per mile: way, way too fast. Finally I settled down to a 8:30-40 pace and by adding 30sec of walking at every aid station maintained a steady 9:00 min per mile pace. I felt very good and smooth through the first and second laps racking up 17 miles nice and easy. My wife commented on each pass that I was running like a machine and right on schedule all day long, down to the minute. I paused each lap and gave her a kiss for that! And then I started repeating to myself a new mantra as I ran – “like a machine.” I took in sips of perform at every aid station, dunking water on my head and slipping sponges under my jersey. I had gels at miles 4 and 8 and then I could take no more: I had taken in 12 gels over the course of the day, enough by any standard. Time to switch to coke. So from mile 12 to the finish, I drank mainly coke and perform. I believe this was critical for my last half to remain so consistent: a good sugary boost with lots of caffeine. I saw lots of EN people on the the first two laps of the run, ran with EN team-mate David Ware for a bit, and got lapped by team-mate Todd Mellinger as he was hitting his last 3 miles looking smooth as silk on his way to an Age Group 2nd place and a slot to Kona! I even got to say hello/congratulations to 2012 Ironman® and Half-Ironman® World Champ Leanda Cave, and pass on some info on the pros ahead! Nice gal.
As I came around for lap three of the run, I began calculating my finish time. I knew I could blow my goal of sub-11 hours if I slowed at all in the last 8 miles, so I focused my mind on my terminator machine mantra, picked up my cadence and began hunting down the runners ahead. Of course this is exactly when my legs began to fatigue and twinges of hamstring cramps started, so I broke out my secret weapon: adding sips of pickle juice at each mile, to keep them at bay. The worry over finishing under 11 hours was consuming me up to mile 24, until another 40 year old cruised along side me and surged ahead. I thought: “Oh hell no, I am a terminator machine!” and then, internally, in my best Gandalf voice “YOU SHALL NOT PASSSSS!” Thus began a surging battle over the last two and a quarter miles, steadily answering each other’s passes, taking advantage of corners and crowds to block each other, we worked our pace down from 9:00 to 7:30 minutes per mile. At one point he huffed: “just tell me we’re going to finish under 11.” I laughed looking at my watch, and gasped “yeah dude, we’re gonna make it now.” As we turned the corner toward the finish with 200 yards to go, I surged one last time, and I never saw him again. I rounded the corner to the finish chute, which I now had to myself, and I could see the clock read 10:52, I broke out the EN gang sign and one huge grin.
It was a great day for me, I had tears in my eyes as I finished, a validation of all the hard work leading up to race day, and all the hard work during the race. I hit every goal I had, and executed like a machine. My splits remained right on target: swim 1:15, bike 5:33, run 3:55 (avg 8:59/mile, and a PR of 60 minutes). I finished 64th in the 40-44 age group, and 351st overall. I am astounded at how great I felt and that I had the juice to finish my last miles in a surge. Between fitness gains and race execution strategy, I improved my Ironman® time by 3 hours and 14 minutes in one year! As we say in Endurance Nation: “Work Works!” But now I’ll happily add my own caveat: “but Execution is Everything!”
Thank you Coaches Rich and Patrick for building EN and coaching us to our full potential. Thank you for all the great advice, support and motivation from my EN team-mates, you all make this so much fun. Most of all, thank-you to my family and friends for your support, love, and patience!
################ Numbers: A Year in EN #################
Pre EN Jan ’12 OutSeason:
Weight: 185 lbs
Swim TT: 1:47 /100yd (25yd pool)
Bike FTP (inside roadie) : 205 watts
Run Vdot: 44
Post OS April ’12:
Swim TT: 1:45/100yd (25yd pool) No swimming in OS
Bike FTP (outside roadie) : 245 watts, 19% gain
Run Vdot: 49
Pre IM Nov ’12:
Swim TT: 1:40/100yd (25yd pool)
Bike FTP ( outside Tribike): 235 watts
Run Vdot: 49
Swim: 1:15-1:20 ( Previous 2.4 best 1:23)
Bike: 5:35 ( 169watts @ 72%, with 1st hour @ 160 watts)
Run: 3:56 ( Based on VDOT my z1 was 8:40, but decided on a conservative pacing of 9:00 so targeted pace while running was 8:30-40 + 20-30s walking)
Transitions: fast as I could
Bike: 5:33:30 ( NP 163, AP 159, VI 1.03, IF 69.9, TSS 266, Cad 87, MPH avg 20.24, Cals 3174)
Run: 3:55 ( Avg Pace 8:59)
Finish: 10:52, 64 AG (40-44), 351 OA
Bike: 36oz/hr of perform+ 2 gels/hour = 475cal/hour; Total: 2612 calls in
Run: 3oz perform per mile x26 = 600; 2 gels=160; 3oz coke x12 = 450; Total: 1200 cals in