Sunday, March 8, 2009

140.6 miles (226km) to Freedom : Ironman NZ Race Report

The short version: I swam, I biked, I ran, my Achilles didn't explode...and I would do it all again if I had the chance...well all but that pesky little Achilles issue. The race left me renewed and feeling better than I have in months.


The Unedited LongVersion:

Teaser:
140km in the bike I was watching my hopes for a sub 6 hour bike split slip away...I had to pee but couldn't relax enough to "let if fly" on the bike, my full bladder was really hindering my performance as more and more riders went by. I began to think about the run coming up..."I don't want to blow up out here." I thought to myself..I began to think the inverse of Judi's little saying " I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike..." I was praying for Spa Road and the descent into town, when I would throw on my running shoes and know if I was strong enough...If my leg would hold up or I would be another dreaded you tube clip...but that was down the road...I needed to grab a wrist band and make it to the next aid station...precious minutes be damned.

After hitching a ride to the race start from fellow Competitor Richard from NZ and his wife,I filled my water bottles and began the long wait until race start...I met up with Rell from Oz ( who was staying in the room next to mine) and dropped my camera off to her boyfriend...it really sucked Catherine wasn't here...having a friend wait for you outside transition always makes it a little easier, also she's a freelance photographer so you know if you hand her the camera the pics are going to be good ( although Craig Rell's BF was a good shot.) Anyway as I stood in line for the bathroom one poor guy had his front tire explode, as he changed the tire I remember my front was a little low, I would check the pressure before walking to the swim. The nerves were setting in. I pulled on my wetsuit and grabbed my stuff for the swim, I lost my cap on the way down and as I made my way to the starters table one of the volunteers shouted "#122" and waved my cap above his head. I grabbed it and thanked him. Caroline from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation gave me a hug for luck ( I donate to these guys every year.) I got my cap and goggles on and made my way toward the inside line of the swim. I bumped into Chris from Cali and we psyched each other up for the swim he was stoked and I sort of fed off his energy. I calmed down and began to joke with some of the guys around me. " Apologies in advance for any kicks or flying elbows." We all laughed we knew it was going to be Grecco Roman wrestling. The lights flashed 3 min...2 min...1 min...and then the cannon.


The Swim: Not much I can really say after the cannon went off, we all fought for position and by the 5th or sixth buoy I found a line. For some odd reason I couldn't hold to the inside this year, maybe it was the current or bad sighting but I seemed to always be about 50-100 meters wide. We made the turn around and I passed one pro( they got a head start this year 15 min. just like the states.)...but I was pissed there was one dude doing BACKSTROKE ahead of me. WTF? Me beaten by a backstroker? I had to check my watch at the finish because Mr. Perisol beat me out of the water....if I was beaten by a backstroker my swim must have been in the 1:15 range...I checked the timing gantry as I ran up to T-1 55:00 not as good as last year..but not too bad either.

Swim Split: 55:49

T-1: I'm never drinking a 2 liter bottle of water before a race as long as I live....

T-1 pretty uneventful except for the 400 meter jog up to transition. As much as the run sucks the people lining the course are awesome. I had a 2 minute pee break... my time was about 5 minutes but I figured if I peed then I would be good for the first half of the bike ride...
T1 Split: 5:32



The Bike: Da Kiwis and da Aussies like da hammerfest.

Heading out on the Taupo bike course is rough, you tend to sprint through town because you're feeling fresh and everybody is screaming for you. I was leap frogging with a couple of guys for about 20km and the pace was cooking ( holding over 20mph...pardon the conflicting measurements but the course was marked in km and my computer was in miles.) I dropped into another group of riders still holding a hard pace and I was impressed maybe a sub 6 bike split was in the cards then at about 35km...the granola I had for breakfast hit my large intestine... I needed to go and it was not the kind of going that you could let fly....I rolled through the aid station and guys ran through the routine "Water, Sports Drink, Chocolate, power bar, gel." "Bathroom" I shouted looking for the portolet. After a 3 minute "stretch "break and throwing granola on the list of things I will never eat pre race again...ever...until next time... it was back on the bike and back to hammering...part making up for lost time..part trying to stay in the top 10 in my age group...I had passed a few guys in the opening climb and was desperate to keep them behind. We got to the turn around in Reporoa and then it was back to Taupo for lap 2. It was about this time I was passed by Todd from Oz. Reasons why we will remember Todd. #1 he is in my age group. #2 competed in a pink speedo the entire day. We hit the next aid station and there was a little incident with a banana I was riding behind him when he attempted to place the banana on his person...afterward I shouted "Man I really didn't need to see that." I leaped frogged around him...about 5k later he went back around and pulled away. The rest of loop 1 was pretty uneventful...I cameback into town feeling pretty good a sub-6 hour bike split within reach...at least until I hit the hill the second time.
The hardest climb on the bike course is about 5km in, a nice 8-10% grade, the first time I went up I felt pretty good, this time my legs were feeling it. I was out of the saddle and struggling to hit 10mph..classic case of going too hard too early. I hit Broadlands Road and checked the speedometer still averaging 19mph..still hope for a sub 6 bike split. Got our first armbands and went on the "side trek" for the second loop. I tried to leap frog with a woman from Taupo ( they stood out with their sexy red race numbers.) I was still feeling good until I hit about 120km I had to pee...I'm not stopping before the turn around... I flew by the aid station and tried to let it fly on the down hill...no go...my bladder ached and the officials were out in force so no pissing on anyone's lawn unless I wanted a 4 minute stand down. I started thinking about the run as I hit the turnaround and it looked like my sub 5 hour goal was becoming a pipe dream. My legs were really tight and my bladder was starting to give me cramps in gut. My pace slowed as a pack of riders just chugged on past. 20km to the next aid station why did they have to be so far apart...we hit a section of newly sealed road and stopped for a second because I thought I blew a tire...hmmm..that field looks like it could use a little water...along comes Mr. Official on his motor bike... and I though better of it...15k...and it's all up hill....why? I started to repeat Judi's little "I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike." phrase to myself but as more guys surged around me and 6:10 was looking like it was going to be close I wanted only two things a toilet and my running shoes...The old guys started passing me "I want off my fucking bicycle." Old guy passes " I want off my fucking bike." Old chick passes "I want to put on my freaking running shoes." Passed by 3 old guys at once..."and pass these psycho cyclists hating life." it was about this time Gus from Mass. Came along side I decided to leap frog with him for as long as possible...it would at least keep my mind off peeing as I was pushing more fluids to keep from getting dehydrated....finally like an oasis in the desert it appeared...the aid station complete with an empty toilet....I could talk about the breaking of the Hoover Dam...but I'll just say I left feeling relieved... now that I was lighter for the rest of the ride into town I didn't feel so bad, but my legs were still lead blocks...my speed was dropping I wanted the descent so I could go faster and stretch my legs. When we hit Spa road I took it a little harder than I did last year really having to get on the brakes for the left hander on to Lake Terrace and toward transition. I slipped my feet out of the shoes but I didn't do the sexy dismount. The Achilles injury was playing head games I normally dismount left and I didn't want to pop the thing dismounting. So after a cautious coming to a stop and stepping off I made my way into the T-2 tent.
Bike Split:6:08:22

T2: A place where everybody knows... your name...

Ok to explain the Cheers reference... I run the local 5k in town as my last warm up run for this thing. This year know exception I meet a lot of the locals and a few of the volunteers I try to remember names and faces Lu ( competing this year.)and her husband Steve, Wayne another of the Iron crew. Doug from last year. Well some of the guys I met last year came over to me did the hand shake thing as I was preparing for war. I taped my feet up threw on a fresh set of socks realized they were too short threw on another set of socks, and headed out. I took some fluids and sunscreen and it stung my neck where I always get a wetsuit hickie...I made my way to the foot bridge nearly crashing into the railing they guy behind me was like " dude you go first you're on a mission." My run began in a hectic start.

T2 Split: 5:18

Run: Just keep running just keep running....

I knew going into the race it was not going to be a PR day on the marathon...my training was scant...the weather was hot and humid..but I still wanted to keep my sub 4 hour streak alive. So I pushed it I got my first armband. The spectators in town were screaming my name, the Girls from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation were my own personal cheering section it definitely took away from the suffering...funny last year I felt like I was flying on this leg this year it was an aid station to aid station battle...coke , water, ice...bunch of screaming spectators, occasionally a smile...just keep moving forward. As I approached the turnaround I saw a lot of guys walking...especially guys in my age group..keep moving forward...keep running and pick them off. I made the turn around...and got passed by Jo Lawn...about 500 meters later I re passed her, then she passed again...for good. As we had gone through the aid station everyone was taking water and ice...the heat was feeling oppressive, as we made our way back to the airport..."just rain already" I mumbled to myself...someone up there must have heard it because the skies opened for about 5 minutes briefly cooling things...I flew on the way back to town picking off groups of walkers... my hips were starting to ache but my calves and heels felt fine I continued to go and pushed the fluids...at one point I felt nauseous and took pretzles to get my salt levels up...I ran past the special needs bags and got my second wrist band. I passed Chris and he ran along side...he was like "Dude you're kicking ass I'm not going to be able to hold with you for long but keep it up." Chris dropped back and I surged forward...each km each aid station the same routine...in my head the clock ticking down...20km to go...15km to go...people cheering me legs growing weaker then a little pressure in the ankle...oh no not now...not this close... still running the turn around 12km more 7 miles almost there.The airport hill aid station again...10km...down hill into to town the crowds cheering the high fives..almost out of the woods...just silently hoping my aching legs held up. 5km to go..please... make it please make it...I look at my watch 3:45...it's not going to be a sub 4 hour day.I pass 2 guys with in a 2km of the finish they pass me on the chute as I take some time to enjoy it giving out high fives, I shoot past a guy and his daughter running down the chute.I break the tape and shout "Freedom!" Freedom from ALS maybe, Frredom from CF, possibly...Freedom from having to run another km...yeah but maybe it was more a freedom from doubt, from uncertainty...this year was different than last year...it hurt and the outcome was unknown until the end. It wasn't easy, it was work and it was worth it. It was a decent day 11:17:10. 3 minutes slower than last year with my slowest ever marathon 4:02:05...part of me was a little disappointed the other was estcatic that I did decently with very little training. That despite everything I made it, I finished in one piece and still felt good enough to limp back to my hotel, stopping along the way to encourage others in. As one competitor said "there are others out there who will never know what it's like to finish in daylight." I've been blessed in that I've done it twice.

Run Split 4:02:05

Overall time 11:17:10

Overall Place: 388th

Age group Place 8th ( Kona slot rolled to 5th spot...maybe next time.)

Now it's back to real life. I've got some summer races to train for, a degree to earn, work, bills...it just all hits so fast. It's like race day...time just flies by and suddenly it's here and over before you know it. My second experience in New Zealand was a little bit more memorable than the first I was a little crazier (ie a crazy night post race...what happens in Taupo stays in Taupo?) , met some more memorable people, set a land speed record with Frank from Taupo to Auckland, might have gotten a crew gig for this thing next year, and now am planning for trip number 3...hey I want to have this thing planned out early...

The Thunder from Down Under.

R.D.

11 comments:

iron-boyer said...

Finally your race report. I was checking every day. great race! I will be ordering some surprises for us. :)

Jodi said...

Strong work out there. Hope you enjoyed the rest of the trip!

Claire said...

Finally!!! It's great to finally get to fill in all the blanks between the numbers on what happened that day. From where I was sitting, you ran the last 10K in 5 minutes. Smokin'! Ironmanlive isn't all that LIVE, I guess.

If you did a North American race and were able to train properly, you would definitely break that 6-hour bike wall, probably get a comfortable cushion below 11 hours, and maybe even get that Hawaii slot you've been chasing. If you can pull together such a solid race under such adverse conditions (New England winter, an achilles injury, stomach issues from not having your usual pre-race breakfast, NZ chip seal, some of the fastest youngin's in the world...), then I bet you could pull off your slot... maybe even without a rolldown. Not to mention save a few bucks.

Good work out there! Congratulations.

Speed Racer said...

Oops, that last one was me.

Charisa said...

Great race!! Enjoy the rest of your trip :)

Runner Leana said...

I've been waiting for the race report! Congratulations on Ironman #2. 8th place in your AG is FANTASTIC, especially since you didn't think that you were as trained for this one and had issues with your achilles. You've got that Kona spot in you, I know it. Great job and I hope you had a terrific time in NZ!

Bob Almighty said...

Bjoern: Thanks...hopefully the surprises are carbon fiber and equiped with dura ace ;)

Jodi: Thanks. The trip was pretty amazing but too short..then again isn't it always.

Claire: The only draw back to North American races is I have to fly my butt out to podunk and line up for registration after the swim start...Kona might still happen Providence 70.3 just got Kona slots...which means I better start biking alot...and lifting/ speed work alot....

Charisa: Thanks although now I'm back in the US and A.

Amy said...

Wow. That's pretty impressive.
Intense. and graphic lol

Judi said...

you'll get that kona slot. you will. you raced really well considering the amount of training you had. 8th in your a/g is a huge accomplishment.

and that is a song - bicycle, bicycle, i want to ride my bicycle, by queen.

IronMatron said...

Nice work! Sorry it took me so long to discover this post. I had been waiting for the report, and then, well, forgot!
That is an awesome time. Great report.
It's amazing how well you did considering everything! Congrats!

LG said...

Aside from the bathroom issues, a solid race!! Great report, I felt like I was there! Too bad about Kona (i blame that on the bladder - damn granola!)