Panama City Beach, FL; November 4, 2012By David Lewis
Back in 2010 I set a goal of racing Ironman. For me, Ironman is the ultimate, it is triathlon.
My 2011 season was going to be the warm-up. My plan, 2-3 half-iron races and some honest IM training. Following year (2012)… Ironman. Well, we all know what they say about making plans. Started 2011 injured, 3 months all I could do was walk. I’ve been hurt before, the list is long.
But this time was different. Triathlon had changed me. I will just say I went to a place in my head that I’m not too eager to revisit. Despite injury and a mental meltdown, 2011 season was a pretty good one. That’s one thing about this sport that is different than any other sport I have competed in. It makes you very mentally strong. So 2012 plans are still on, but to say I was hesitant would be an understatement.
My training plan for my first Ironman was simple. Ask Neil to coach me. Not only has he been there and done it, he has done it very well. His question was easy, “what’s your goal?” My answer… get me there in one piece. As a friend and a coach I knew Neil would do this. But I do not make the best student. First off, I don’t use a heart rate monitor. I have one, came with the watch. I have worn it maybe three times in three years. And when I do wear it I don’t use it correctly. I remember something Dave Scott said about how he trained. When training he thinks of only two things, his rhythm and what’s for lunch. That’s cool, that’s the way I have been training for the past 5 years. I have a GPS watch, use it to tell what I have done, not what to do. And I don’t wear it for sprints or Olympic distance races. I have worn it for half iron, but do not look at more than a few times. Most of the summer, weeks are between 10-14 hours. Basically doing fast stuff, with some long workouts sprinkled in for IM training build up. Then 8 weeks of real IM distance training. IM training in a nutshell, get your legs good and tired with the bike, then run on them. For instance, 160 miles of biking on two consecutive days with a 20 mile run on the third. Longest brick was 60 mile bike followed by 13 mile run. Don’t get me wrong, this is my kind of stuff, but at this point as a triathlete I cannot imagine training like this for more than 16 weeks. They say to fully realize your potential at this distance, it takes of 6-12 months of this, peaking with 30 hour training weeks. I can see myself doing that, but not in the near future.
A mass swim start of 3,000 people is completely nuts. They tell you to seed yourself appropriately, and all will be well. OK, that puts me right smack in the middle of this “swim” chaos. I’m closer to the front then the middle, maybe 40′ from water’s edge at the cannon.
Which is really cool, I wish they would start all races with a cannon shot. I walk until I’m in about waist high water then dive under the first 6′ wave and I’m on my way. About 20 seconds after that you realize you are in a sea of people. Zero open water to be had… none. The first 1/2 mile you’re not really swimming, you do what ever you can to move forward. Kicked in the ribs, elbowed in the back of the head, and the best of all drank a mouthful of salt water…YYYYYummy. Good thing football is still my favorite sport, because I like contact. If you don’t like mixing it up and getting rough, you better be a great swimmer. First turn buoy is a major traffic jam. All stop, tread water for maybe 10-15 seconds then slowing start moving again, it was fairly civil. Someone suggest we should all lock arms and drift back in .Whole first lap is just solid people 1.2 miles of touching someone every stroke. Second lap is a little better. I’m thinking find a draft, hang on, make up some time. WRONG!! I get on some toes but I can’t stay there. They would be there one second and gone the next. Once I found some open water, I noticed the big rolling waves and the current. So I spend the last 1.2 jumping from one set of toes to the next. Never finding a good rhythm or a good draft. Must have done a lot of zigzagging because 2nd lap is slower than first. Time 1:11:46. Ok with me. I’m Alive!
Both T1 and T2 are slow, but I’m in no hurry. Run in that door, find your bag, run this way, that way. Down the hallway into the changing room. Out the small door NOT the big door. Spend some time running around the transition area just to get into transition entrance. Get to my bike, and a volunteer is standing there holding it for me. NICE! They do a good job of getting you where you need to be, and taking care of your stuff along the way. This is just a lot more than I’m used to doing. But I could care less about transition times today.
Two days before the race, I drove the bike course. It is flat and all but about 5 miles is in the open. There are a few rolling hills on the back side of the one loop course. And two out and backs. The first one is about 5 miles out, on a narrow and very bumping road. Second one is a further out and back. The road is also narrow but a very smooth surface. At the pre-race meeting they tell us, DO NOT DRAFT and if you do you will get caught and you will serve a 4 minute penalty. Out of T1 I go along with the rest of the field. I fall in line, and make sure I’m legal. Now, the plan is 21-22 mph average. It’s a warm day, 83 and the dew point is a high 68. I decide early I’m going to stay around 21, better safe than sorry. Even now I still don’t know how I feel about that decision. Mostly because it keeps me with a large portion of the field. And that kills me later on when I get to the out and backs. Plus this is a bikers course, you can hammer all ride long. I think of Taggart Downare, Tag if you ever do Ironman… go to Florida. You would crush this bike course!! So I sit back and stay around 20-21 for most of the ride. EZ that’s the thinking in IM bike leg. Save the legs. So I just sit in line passing only when I have to. Meanwhile groups of guys are flying by me, clearly drafting. It’s only cheating if you get caught, right? And catch people they do. The penalty tents are full, with lines of bikes waiting their turn to serve a 4 minute penalty. So 4 minutes could turn into much more with some bad luck. I remember one guy very clearly, around mile 60. He goes by with sweat dripping like he just got out of the shower, mouth wide open, he’s hitting this bike like it’s a sprint. All I think is NUTS, I’m not ready to go there. Finally, around mile 80-85, I just cannot take anymore and I start to race. My last two splits show it, the last split I went pretty hard, passing a lot of people. 20.88 is not that fast but most of it is into a stiff head wind off of the gulf. I also second guess this decision,this is what might have been my undoing on the run. As far as nutrition, I take about 2000 calories on the bike, 4-5 bottles of water. Time 5:22, I think I could have easily taken off 20 minutes. But I remember more IM wisdom, 20 minutes saved on the bike can cost you 2 hours on the marathon. I come into T2 feeling very good, right foot feels like it has been stomped on. Legs feel strong and ready to run.
The run course is also flat and all in the open. It’s an out and back that you do twice. With a slight climb to the turnaround point. With a number of lefts and rights as you wind your way through side streets. There are aid stations every mile with a wide variety of nutrition options available. Coming out of T2 I feel good. A little light headed, and my right foot stops hurting within a couple of minutes. First mile was 7:45 it felt slow and very easy. I’m thinking this is a very good sign. Within a couple of minutes I go from thinking this is going to be a good run to I can’t believe this is F***ing happening. Some people get calf and quad cramps coming off the bike, I get stomach cramps. Most of the time I know I am in trouble on the bike. This time it hits me around mile 2. Mile frickin 2 of a marathon. I can gut out a 5k (NPI) without stopping or slowing that much. Even a 10k.. I’ve done it in the past. This year it happen to me twice; Park Rapids and Waconia. The rest of the year I had no problems. So what do PR and Waconia have in common with this day? High dew point. Now when this happens it is always a very strange feeling. It’s like my legs look up at me and ask what the HELL are we doing, let’s go Lewis. My only choice is to walk it off. Mile 2 thru mile 19 my stomach hurts. So, I walk to let it ease up, then run until I can’t take it anymore. Repeat. This sucks!! At one point I almost take my watch off and throw it as far as I can. Instead I calmly turn it off. At mile 20 the sun goes behind the wall of condos, and it finally starts to cool off. That’s when my stomach calms down and I can run without walking. By then I’m pretty beat up, my legs hurt, I feel overheated and just plain done. I say to myself NO way in hell this 10k is going to take an hour and you will finish before it gets dark. The last mile of this race is awesome, the people cheering, the music. It’s a crazy atmosphere, it gets you to the finish, no matter what sort of shape you are in, you just come alive. I’m pretty sure the party really cranks up the later it gets. Because when we left around 8:30 it was really rockin’. Wish I could have stayed, I just wasn’t up to it. Next time.
For my efforts I won a trip to the medical tent. Shortly after finishing I became light headed. I had to sit down, although I did not want to because I knew my legs would totally lock up, which they did. I sat for about 20 minutes and drank a bottle of water and a big glass of lemonade. Still very light headed. I stand up and almost fall down… the world is spinning. This is new, and I can’t say I enjoy it much. Better go get checked out. Heart rate and blood pressure good. I ate and drank at every aid station on the run. Not dehydrated, and I never felt like I was going to bonk. And I have bonked hard a couple of times, so I know what’s that’s like. Two cups of chicken broth is all it takes. My head clears up, my stomach stops hurting, I almost feel as good as new. SALT!! Hopefully that is the answer I have been looking for. Although I do not think it is that simple. I think it is a combination of things, heat stress, muscle fatigue, and salt loss. If anyone has any ideas please throw them out there.
To sum it all up, I feel like Neil’s coaching and guidance had me well prepared for the race. My goal was 10:20. That would have had me in or around top 25 of my age group. Missed it by 30 minutes, which I guess isn’t too bad considering its Ironman. I may have made a few race day nutrition mistakes, but I learned a bunch, the hard way of course. Any time you race a new distance you learn a lot and when things don’t go your way, you use that experience. When I started, I said I was either going to love the Ironman distance or hate it. I found that answer too… LOVE IT. Can’t wait until the next one.
Thanks to everyone for the support.
ED. FUN STORY DAVID POSTED ON FACEBOOK
OK, seeing Rinny was my personnel favorite….the best. But the coolest thing that happened was at mile 12. All the top 5 pros had bike escorts who would blow a whistle to alert runners that they were coming through. So I hear the whistle blowing and I’m hoping it’s Rinny. But, she was in third when I had seen her last. It was the 1st place woman who was behind me. I moved over to allow her to pass and when she came up beside me to pass I finally looked over and I didn’t recognize her. I knew she was the leader and eventual winner as she had a big lead over the rest of the female pros. Instead of just blowing by me, she slowed down and started running with me and asked me how my race is going and how I’m feeling. All I could manage to say was “good”. She asked me if I needed an extra gel and gave me the one in her hand. She was at mile 24 of the run. She ran ahead of me and then stopped and stretched. When I caught back up with her she ran with me for a little while… and I’m thinking “what is she doing?” And then she just took off for the finish. Later I found out is was Yvonne Van Vlerken who had been 2nd in Kona in 2008. Another unbelievable athlete! I didn’t use the gel… kept is as a souvenir. Vanilla Bean Gu by the way.