Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Ironman Racine 70.3

i certainly wasn't nervous for this race.  i knew i wasn't a contender.  i am no triathlete.  i just love pushing myself for a lot of hours.  and this was just a practice race b/f the full Iron in September.  so when the pros ran into the water and took off swimming, the hour and a half that i had to wait for my wave seemed to take a long time.  i just wanted to get going .  the day was already getting hot.  i broke a sweat just trying to put the wetsuit on.  so i hung out for an hour and a half in the water, waiting.  oh and for some reason, the 34-39 year old males had to wear pink swim caps this year.  so...there was that. 
i'm not much of a swimmer.  i get nervous swimming in groups of people.  so i stayed away from the pack and just took my time and tried not to think about it.  it went by relatively fast.  45 minutes later, i peeled off the pink swim cap (b/f the photographers got me) and ran to shore.  i could feel my HR a little high but jogged it into transition.  peeled the wetsuit, threw on shoes, helmet and shades and ran the bike out.  mounted and took off w/ a fire burning strong.  i felt good and was ready to breeze through 56 miles.  but it was 96 degrees by this point of the morning and i felt every bit of it.  i kept on strong and felt the drip of sweat coming off my chin turn into a pour.  it was going to be rough.  i drank five bottles of fluid throughout the ride.  took six salt / electrolyte capsules and forced down four or five gels.  i was pushing hard and began to get dizzy at points.  i'd back off and hydrate a bit.  then something in my head would say / this is the point when a strong cyclist would drop the hammer / and up off the saddle i'd go and i'd hammer it.  i passed people all day.  only a few passed me.  but i'd literally been one of the last people out of the water, so that was expected.  i cheered for other riders and cheered back at spectators.  mostly to keep MY spirits up.  i cruised into transition w/ a lot less knee pain that i had the year b/f.  racked the bike and talked to a guy who was also going through transition. 
right behind ya brother / i called out.  he was in my way a bit. 
oh sorry.
no worries.  how ya feelin?
oh, i don't know.  it's a little hot and i'm about to run my first half marathon. 
you're first?
that's awesome dude!  go get em! / and i took off.  i hoped my run would be the final nail to seal up the days event and give myself a good time.  but after about a hundred yards, i knew my legs were tired.  i'm not sure if it was the heat, pushing myself too hard on the bike, or running a 50 mile ultra the week b/f.  i'm not here to offer excuses.  but it was tough and i ran slow and just tried to hang on.  a two hour half marathon is pretty slow for me.  i jogged it and wouldn't let myself walk, like so many others.  i put my head down and gutted it out.  98 degrees and most of the race on a hot blacktop.  it was grueling.  but that's how i like it.  i put ice down my jersey and in my hat whenever i could.  i drank fluids at every aid station.  13 miles isn't usually much of a run for me but this was tough.  i crossed the finish line five hours and 37 minutes after i had ran into the water.  it was HOT.  i was TIRED.  i hadn't come close to placing but i had a good time and it was PRACTICE for a bigger event that's coming up.  and the longer the event, the better i tend to do.  so far...

here's a few pics and a dubious video of my finish...

Monday, July 11, 2011

Dances With Dirt 50 miler

the race started off just like any.  i wasn't even going to do the Dances With Dirt 50 miler this year b/c it was only a week away from Ironman Racine.  i knew i'd be focusing hard on triathlon at this point in the year.  but i couldn't let an ultra that's so close to home go w/out having a crack at it.  besides, 50 miles is doable at this point.  i don't really give it much thought.  i've gone further.  i've never DNF'd (knock on wood).  the less i think about it and the less i worry about it, the easier it becomes. 

i got to meet Nick M. at the start of the race.  he's one of my longtime DM buddies.  i started out in the middle of the pack.  got stuck in the trafic jams of people as we all went uphill right off the bat.  i didn't talk to many people.  i just saved my energy and tried to find a comfortable pace.  took a header at about mile three.  the people behind me gasped.  two people passed me w/out thinking about it.  i got up.  the scrape that was on my hand from wiping out a few weeks ago was now open and gushing again.  nice.  dirty and bloody by mile three.  perfect start to the day...

i had a hard time getting comfortable and finding a decent pace for the first 18 miles or so.  but when i finally did, everything made sense.  we were going to be circling Devil's Lake twice, going up and down both bluffs two times each.  there's a large portion of the course where there's no trail at all.  you just have to bushwhack your way through.  and of course at the very end of the race, they send you up and down a bunch of ski slopes to see exactly what you're made of.

i passed a couple of strong runners at mile 20 that i've seen at other ultras.  they were struggling w/ the heat a bit.  i didn't know at that point that i was taking the lead of the race.  i didn't realize i was in the front until i made it to the aid station at mile 23 or so.  they told me i was the first 50 miler to come through.  i didn't believe her--i was convinced that there must be some kind of mistake.  i refused to believe it and refused to let it go to my head.  but at the next check point, they told me the same thing.  i was leading this race.  the next few miles was a little out and back on a gravel road so i knew i'd be able to see how far ahead i was.  right after the turn around i saw 2nd, 3rd and 4th place all w/in a mile or so behind me.  i didn't have near enough of a lead to be comfortable.  the next 20 miles or so was going to be hell and they would be hunting me down.  i took off hard and spent entirely too much time thinking about leading the race.  i'd never led a race b/f.  it stressed me out.  by mile 38, i was so stressed out i wondered how i was going to finish at all.  my legs were jacked and my heart rate was not coming down at all.  it was simply too hot and i was pushing it too hard.  there was no ice anywhere on the course so all day i'm drinking warm liquids.  no ice to put in my hat or shirt.  no ice for the camelbak.  brutal, brutal day...

i finally calmed down a bit by mile 41.  i accepted the fact that i was in the lead and i may or may not win.  i just needed to keep moving.  i was walking a lot of uphills by this point.  there were a lot of people walking the trails around Devil's Lake and they were all in my way.  but i'm sure they didn't know there was a race going on.  i think i sounded pretty rude and urgent as i let people know i was coming up behind them and i needed them to move out of my way.  i felt a lot of dirty looks.  i thanked them all after they had moved for me though.  at this point, i'm walking the uphills and sprinting the downhills to make up lost time.  every aid station i come to i slam down two drinks of Mt. Dew or Gatorade and take two gels for the road.  i fill up my camelbak every other check point.  i was suddenly on a mission and i became focused on getting to the finish line as quickly and efficiently as possible.  i was constantly looking over my shoulder, yet i was fine and relaxed w/ however the day turned out.  after all, i don't come to these races to win.  i just come to have a nice, long relaxing day where i'm completely leveled out afterwards.  my quads felt like they were going to blow up from all the downhill.  then at mile 45, they bring you right by the finish line.  right by where your truck is parked.  right where the spectators are lounging around and cheering and drinking beer and eating food in the shade.  they let you get a good smell of the food that's cooking...and then they send you up the ski slopes.  now my legs were gone by this point, so this was torture.  it was a death march to the top.  no protection from the sun and uphill slopes that never ever end.  it was awful.  i learned a lot about myself in those five miles.  i charged the downhills, still convinced that someone was going to come up behind me, looking more fresh than i felt.  somehow, i made it to the finish line.  i survived the fastest, as Dean Karnazes likes to say.  i took my ear phones out and the crowd was cheering.  they gave me an armload of prizes even though i could barely stand up.  i asked them if i'd won and they assured me that i did.  everyone wanted to know my name and everyone wanted to get me a beer.  i used the little makeshift shower they had outside to clean off 8 hours and 41 minutes worth of grime.  a guy named Mike crossed the finish line 20 minutes after me, taking 2nd place.  he's from Thailand where he works as a teacher and gets summers off.  i had run about four miles w/ him earlier in the day.  my sis and bro in law came to see me finish but were about 20 minutes late.  they nor i had any idea i'd be winning the race.  but i'm glad they came up nonetheless.  they helped me celebrate the hardest day of my life.  it was perfect...