Sunday, November 7, 2010

Now I belong….Ironman Florida Race Report

The first time I ever did a tri was more than 25 years ago. It was the Wolfeboro, NH GraniteMan Tri. I did no special training and thought I could rely on my running ability to carry me to the finish line. Boy was I wrong. I remember going into the swim I went all out and was soon sucking wind within 50 yards. It was a half mile swim. I was going into survival mode already…ugh!!! Then I struggled through a very hilly 18 mile bike ride and then a 4 mile run. I don’t think I passed a soul. I remember driving home and saying that I would never do that again.

Fast forward to 2003. I had taken the summer off from work and decided to do the Timberman ½ ironman race. All summer long I planned on training but there was always another boat ride to take or beer to drink. I didn’t run a step, or bike much at all. The only swimming I did was to take a quick dip in the lake. When I was picking up my race packet, I took a look around and noticed that these athletes weren’t you average Joe’s. They all seemed to be ripped and laser focused. I was out of my league once again. The weather wasn’t cooperating either. It was hitting 95 degrees. I used a jet ski wet suit which is high on the friction scale. I struggled mightily to finish the 1.2 mile swim. I think I invented a couple new strokes. On the bike I was cramping up quite a bit at mile 40. So much so that I had to stop and stretch. Once the run started I figured I’d kick some A$$. Didn’t happen!! I had no legs left. I ended up finishing in 7:30. I was close to last place. I was humbled.

Over the years I’ve done the Timberman race many times and have had a little success but no real triumphs. So when I decided to sign up for the Florida Ironman, I knew I had a lot of work to do. A real lot of work. I needed to learn to swim long distance, I needed to learn how to stay aero on the bike. I needed to learn how to run after a long bike ride. I needed to learn about nutrition during the race. I needed a plan, an audacious plan. I seeked out the knowledge of all my friends and they all came through.

So one year later I was standing on the beach with some doubts about my abilities but I had 2 things I was focusing on. The first was the race directors words of wisdom “you WILL do this”. The second was what I live my life by “Never give up”. I wrote this message on my right hand.

On race morning I was up at 4 AM. Took care of my normal pre-race business and had a protein shake and a raisin bagel with peanut butter on it. Followed by a Gatorade. Then it was off to the transition area to put PB&J sandwiches in each of my transition bags and to do final set up of my bike. Lastly I needed to drop off my special needs bags a ¼ mile down the street. Then it was back to my room to rest.

At 6:30 it was time to head to the start. My room was located 20 yards from the beach and 50 yards from the finish line. This made many logistics very easy. I slipped on my wet suite, swim cap and goggles. I was about to use a new set of goggles. The ones I had the day before were leaking. This goes against everything I know about racing. Never use anything new on race day. I had no choice.

I headed down to the swim start with 2500 other competitors. 1375 were first timers to the Ironman distance. I was nervous, but kept telling myself that “I WILL do this” and “stick to the plan”. To remind people I actually had 4 plans
1. Finish at all cost.

2. Finish in 13 hours

3. Finish in 12 hours

4. Finish in 11 hours

My swim plan was to stay far right on the 2 loop counter clockwise course and stay out of the hoards of people, it would only cost me about 7 yards if I was able to swim on a direct path to the first turn buoy. At 6:50 AM the pro’s started. Holy cow can they ever swim fast. Then it was my GO time. The announcer did a count down then started yelling GO, GO, GO!!! I didn’t run and dive in, I walked in and eased myself into the water and started to swim. I was getting the s!#@% beat out of me, mostly by women, old women. I kept having to stop and look up to see if I could find an opening to swim. When I reached the first turn buoy I checked out my time, it was around 18 minutes. I was pumped. But I told myself to relax. At the 2nd turn heading back to the beach I had a good rhythm going. I hit the beach in 40 minutes. I was pumped. I had figured I’d be around 45 minutes. I had to run up on the beach and step over the timing mats and by the time I was back into the water I was at the 42 minute mark. The second loop was much less crowed and I was able to get a good rhythm going and ended up finishing in 1:23:04. I was shocked. In my widest dreams I figured I could do 1:30, with a 1:45 my realistic time. I got out of the water in 1677th place.

Off to T1. I grabbed my T1 bag and it was off to the men’s changing tent. It was packed. I ended up in a dining hall that they had to start using for over flow. Changing went slow but I didn’t want to rush. Then on the way to my bike all the fluids I drank in the morning were pushing on my bladder. So I stopped at one of the porta johns. Finally I got to my bike.

By the time I hit the bike mount line 13:09 went by. I didn’t know this but I really didn't care. I mounted my bike and I was off. I started off slow so I could ease into a smooth pedal stroke. Now drafting is a no no and carries a 4 minute penalty if your caught. But this was next to impossible, so I hung on the right side and was passing people, lots of people. I was using many of them as a sling shot when I’d go by. I stayed in the aero position most of the time and was taking nutrition every 3 miles. At the 10 mile mark I took my first GU. Another rule is that littering carries a penalty. When I finish my GU I had to take the almost empty packet and tucked it in the bottom of my biking shorts until I got to a aid station where I could throw it out. But within a mile I felt this dripping on my lower leg. I reached down to find out what it was and my hand and leg was covered in GU. So I had to ride the next 100 miles with a sticky leg and hand.

As the ride continued I was in a good zone. The road was smooth until the 50 mile mark. Then we got on this 10 mile spur road that was like riding on a very bad New England road. It was bone shaking. At mile 55 I had average 21.7 MPH. I was shocked. I was having the ride of my life. At mile 63 we took a hard left into the wind and rollers until mile 80. I was slowing down. This section was taking it’s toll on me. At mile 80 we finally took a left heading south on some sweet tar. I was crushing at 25 MPH. YEEEEHAAA!! I hit the 100 mile mark at 4:43. It was at that point I knew that I’d be able to finish up at over 21 MPH. So for the last 12 miles I took it easy and keep it right around 22 MPH. I wanted fresh legs for the run. I finished up with a 5:17:49 and had an average speed of 21.14 MPH. I was now in 566 place. I had passed 1111 people.

In T2 I took it slow and made sure I kept my heart rate low. RELAX. Once again I had to hit the porta john. This is good because it told me I was well hydrated. I got out of T2 in 7:13. I was carrying a PB&J sandwich and some Endurolyte tablets. I grabbed a Gatorade and munched on the PB&J. It went down easy and I was running smooth. I hit the first mile mark in 8:11. I was thinking “that wasn’t so bad”. So I picked it up a bit. I ended up averaging 7:31’s for the first 6 miles and was passing about 10 people every mile. I was running smooth and easy, I wasn’t even sweating. I started doing the math and thought that a sub 11 hour Ironman could be had. But I was starting to slow. The next 7 miles at the half marathon point I had averaged 8:30’s. At the turn around point I grabbed my special needs bag and grabbed my next PB&J. I took one bite but my stomach was NOT happy. I spit it out and throw the sandwich away. I was starting to get in trouble. I was going into survival mode. All I needed to do is average 10 minute miles. How tough would that be? IMPOSSIBLE!!! My legs were still light and lose but I had no energy left. Nothing at any of the aid stations were helping. By mile 19 I was reduced to run a little, walk a lot, run very little walk a real lot. My sub 11 hour Ironman was gone. I went into total survival mode and it wasn’t until mile 24.5 that I was able to regroup and take it home hard.

My fastest mile came in at mile 26. I ran a 6:50. Crossing the finish line I screamed as loud as I could. I probably sounded like a teenage girl. Then I heard those magic words “Scott Graham from Westford MA, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN”!!! I finished in 11:14:28 in 513th place. I had averaged 9:39 per mile in the marathon. I was given my finisher medal, a hat and a shirt then was escorted over to have my picture taken.

Next was the food tent but I was not able to even look at the stuff. I headed back to my room and cleaned up. I took a couple of calls from friends and family and proceeded to take a 1 hour nap. When I woke up at I grabbed some food from my fridge then headed out to the food tent and grabbed a couple pieces of Pizza. After that I headed over to the bar to grab a Coke. While in the bar the race director came in and I approached him and thanked him. Especially, the enthusiasm of all the volunteers. I though Boston was fantastic, it doesn’t compare to this.

At 11 PM I headed out to the finish line. Here to me are the true determined people. At this point they had been out there for 16 hours. This was a huge party atmosphere. Everyone was dancing, the music was loud and people thumping anything that would make noise. For every finisher the crowd went wild. You could see tears rolling down the faces of most of these people. The last guy finished at 16:59:30. Talk about cutting it close to the 17 hour shut down time.

I went back to my room at 1 AM and was still wired. I needed to sleep but I had drank 4 Cokes. I was wired, I needed to get up at 5 AM to get in line to purchase Finisher stuff. I woke up right at 5 and went out to get some ice and noticed there was already 10 people in line…WTF, these people are tough. I made myself a protein shake and put it in a cup to go. I dressed in just about everything I owned because it was 35 degrees outside. I was about 30th in line. At 7 AM they let us in and in 10 minutes I had everything I wanted. Next it was off to the picture company. They handed me 2 photos of me crossing the finish line and will be sending me a link to all the photos they got of me during the race.

Now I needed to do some laundry. This hotel had 324 rooms and no laundry room. So I ended up walking 3 miles to the laundry mat and 3 miles back. My legs were surprisingly fresh. On the way back I stopped off at a diner and grabbed 2 hotdogs with onions. Boy did those taste good.

The weather had warmed up and I wanted to see what I had left in my legs so I went for a 4 mile run on the beach. It felt great. I had already done a lot today so I took a 1.5 hour nap. Then it was time for the awards banquet. I attended and they showed a video of the race. Guess who made the video? MOI.. On my first loop I was getting interviewed by a guy camera guy on the back of a motor cycle.

I found out that I finished 27 of 239 men in the 50 - 54 age category.

So now I know that I can compete with these Tri people and hold my own. I belong!!

Thanks to everyone who helped me in my journey. There was a lot of you and you know who you are. Thanks again!!!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Florida Ironman Day 3...T – 12 hours and counting

I am nervous, very nervous. This morning after waking up I did a quick X Stretch and felt wonderful. Then it was time to try my luck in the water. I stepped outside and took a look at the ocean. Holy S%#@%!!!! The water looked like something you’d see in a horror show. The good news is that the sun was shining, but the wind was blowing causing to the ocean to have white caps for as far as the eyes could see.

OH well, let’s give it a try. I slipped on my wet suit and dove in, or should I say I had to walk out 100 yards through the breakers to be able to start swimming so I would get killed by the waves. There was one other guy out there and it looked like he was struggling too. Then there was another problem, my goggles were leaking…NOOOOO!!! But I did plan for such a problem and brought a second new pair. Anyway I continued swimming for about 15 minutes and gave up. It was just to ruff. I headed in and sat on the beach for a couple of minutes trying to figure out what I was going to do if this weather continues tomorrow. I came up with NOTHING!!!

Time to head back to the room and make one of my now famous protein shakes with my not so secret recipe. After that I just hung out for a couple of hours and tinkered with my bike. That’s when I realized that I was not able to get my pump to work with the front 808 wheel. Off to Ironman Wheels I went with my pump and bike. They had the same issue and made some adjustments to the wheel and I was now good to go.

Well then let’s go for a ride. So I put on one of my aero suits and stopped dead when I stuck my head out the door. It was still about 45 degrees out sided. Back in I went and got a set of arm warmers. Heck I’m from NE and we’re tough. I went out and got a good 10 miles in at a fair pace.

Back at the hotel I grabbed some lunch, a Graham PB&J Special with some grapes and a Gatorade. Yum.

Now it was time to start organizing all the transition bags and special needs bags. Thank god I created lists for each thanks to Randy Uram’s starter list he sent me a couple of weeks ago. I also did all the final tweaks to my bike and applied all the numbers to all my equipment. This whole production took several hours. I checked and re-checked everything. Leave nothing to chance I always say.

By 2 PM it was time to put my bike over in T1 and hand off my 2 transition bags. First thing I needed to do is make sure that I would have access to the bags tomorrow morning because I still have to add some PB&J sandwiches to each (fuel of the gods.

After racking the bike it was time to take one more look at the ocean. S@%$@ it’s worst then this morning. After talking to a couple people they assured me that it will calm down by the morning. I sure hope so because I don’t want to DNF in the swim.

OK time to get some grub. I walked back down to the little place I was at the other night and got some more chicken and veggies. My favorite pre-race fuel. As I walked along the beach on the way back from the restaurant I received a call from 2 friends, David Katz and Matt Carroll. They were commuting together from work. They busted my chops for a couple of minutes and wished me luck.

Now it’s time to chill out. I created another list of all the things I need to do tomorrow morning. Which includes making sure I bring my water bottles out to the bike, and adding stuff to my Transition, and special needs bags.

I’m as ready as I can be. I most likely will not send out another report until Sunday. All systems are go, I’m locked and loaded. NEVER GIVE UP!!!!

Forecast for tomorrow...Pain Heavy At times!!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Florida Ironman Day 2

Day 2 started off a little later then day 1. I was able to get a solid 8 hours sleep and woke up at 4:30 AM CDT. This is good because that’s the time I need to be up on race day. I started my day off with an easy P90X workout, XStretch. This is an hour of slow easy stretching.

Next I thought about going out and doing an easy swim but the rain storm from yesterday was still hanging around and making the ocean look pretty bad. So plan B was to go for a run. I headed out onto the marathon course and ran easy. There were tons of people out on the course and I ended hooking up with a guy from Tampa. We ran easy 8 minute miles and covered 8 miles. I finished feeling refreshed but very wet.

I then cleaned up and it was time to make breakfast. Protein shake. Over the past 6 months I’ve kind of developed my own special formula. 8 oz skim milk, 1 whole banana, raspberries, 1 scoop of protein powder, 1 raw egg, 2 table spoons of coconut oil, and crushed ice. Blend until smooth, pour into a tall glass and enjoy a delicious frap like drink.

Next item on the schedule it was back off to the Super Walmart. Once again I was walking in the rain. I needed to get some more bread, a tall plastic cup for my protein shakes and some straws. I was successful on all accounts.

Then it was back to the expo. Things were really starting to pick up. Yesterday there weren’t many people or vendors. Today the vendors doubled and the line to get checked in was over 2 hours long. I don’t understand why it takes so long to check people in but their process is very poor. Mike O should give them some lessons.

I scanned the long line and spotted Sean Snow, coach of S2 Tri team. Sean is from Concord, NH and did Lake Placid, then went to Kona, now is here for Ironman #3 in 3 months. Next he’s off to Clearwater, Fl next week for the championship 70.3 race. He is an animal. We chatted about the race on Saturday but then got talking about Snow Shoe season. He and I are really looking forward to a change of pace.

Now it was time for lunch. PB&J was on the menu with some nice ice cold grapes. Now your might be thinking PB&J, what kind of power food is that. Well think about it, peanut butter is high in protein. The J of choice for me is strawberry preserves, so I get a fruit and some sugar. The bread was whole wheat with a touch of honey. For me this is my perfect energy food.

After lunch the sun finally came out so it was time to get out on the bike and test out my control of the new wheel set. The wind was blowing pretty good so I started off slowly to get used to how the wind moved the bike around. After a couple of miles I was comfortable with the wheels and got down to business. The area is so flat that I was able to easily bring the speed up to 23 and hold it there for 20 miles. At the finish once again I felt light and refreshed.

Now I was taking a look at the ocean and thinking of heading out for a quick swim. I walked down to the water and stuck my feet in. The water was about 75 degrees, nice!! However, I decided to walk away and save my ocean training swim for tomorrow morning.

When I was walking back to the hotel from the water’s edge, a women stopped me and asked “you didn’t swim without a wet suit, did you”. I’m looking at her thinking that these southern folks are wimps. But then again, I am very afraid of the heat so everything is relative.

Next was the pre-race banquet and mandatory meeting. They really get the crowd going at this event. Their message was “You WILL do this”!!! That’s right there nothing negative in this message. They brought a couple people up on stage. The youngest, 18 years old. The oldest, 81 years old. The person who lost the most weight during training, 90 pounds. Lastly the person they called “The Everyday Hero”. This guy, named Jack is blind. He has a pacer on the swim who is attached to him with a rope, and rides a tandem bike, then is hooked to his pacer by another rope on the run. WOW!!!

Now it’s time for bed.

Florida Ironman Day 1

I was up at the bright hour of Dark:30 on Wednesday. Did my usual SSS and was out the door to Manchester Airport to catch a 7 AM flight to Panama City Fl. No traffic at that hour so everything went smooth. Had to connect through Atlanta, boy was that airport busy. Landed in Panama City Airport right on time at 11:11 AM CDT. Panama city is right on the edge of the EDT but is on Central time. So the race will start on Saturday at 8 AM EDT.

I gathered my bags. OH BTW, never fly Delta. My one bag I checked weighted 66 pounds. Which was 16 pounds over weight. $90 thank you very much!!!! WTF!!!! I asked if I get a discount because I only weight 150 pounds and most males clock in at 200+ dice.

I went out to the taxi stand. Yeah right...This airport is to small for one of those. However I asked one of the Panama Cities finest and she told me to go and stand "over there and something might come along". GREAT!!!! Did I mention it was pouring. OK, but low and behold and transport service car did show up in 2 minutes and I was on my way.

Holy cow is this area flat. The driver got me to my hotel in no time. I checked in and was off looking for my bike. I used TriBike Transport. I found them and everything was out in the rain, including my gear bag. I found my bike and bag. Next up is to go get my bike set up with a set of Zipp wheels.

I show up at the Wheel tent and give them my name. I'm not on the list...WTF!!! There was a mix up and they had me on the list for Kona. I had received a call the day before Kona. "Scott where are you, we have your wheels and we don't want you to miss the race". I had explained to them that I was doing FL, not Kona.
The good news is the guy I spoke with remembered the mistake and the guys had me set up in no time with a 808 front and a 1080 back. Nice.

Back to my hotel room to add all the pieces back onto my bike that I took off for shipping (back bottle cage, bike computer, and peddles). In no time my bike was complete. Nice.

Time to check in and go to the IM shop. Check in was the worst race check in I've ever seen. I had to go to 5 different tables to get fully checked in. What a cluster "F". It didn't help that none of the volunteers had ever done any kind of a race in their life. Off the the IM store. You could spend a lot here but I held back. I don't want this stuff if I don't complete the race.

Now it was time to round up some provisions. I knew there was a Super Walmart about .7 miles away but it was raining very hard. Oh well, looks like I'm getting wet. The good news was that I packed my rain jacket at the last minute so it wasn't to bad. You know jeans weight a lot when they are soaking wet. I bought some bread, eggs, bagels, milk, gatorade, water, bananas, and raspberries. Made the walk back to the hotel.

Time to hook up some dinner. There is a place about 1/3 of a mile down the road that I walked to in the pouring rain. I got some buffalo chicken wings then a chicken meal. That hit the spot.

After all the travel and walking I turned in early. Today is a new day and I hope to get a run and ride in. Hopefully the rain will stop.