Tag Archives: Ironman

Ironman Chattanooga 2014 – Race Report

After doing my first 140.6-mile Ironman triathlon in 2011, it took three years for me to pull the trigger again and sign up for another. Or more accurately, I should say it took three years for me to be able to convince my wife that I could do it while continuing to be a decent husband and father. It was a BIG task, but I finished the race and I’m still allowed to live at home, so that’s a victory!

My daughter's idea of inspiration.

My daughter’s idea of inspiration.

Knowing what my family sacrificed in order to give me the time I needed/wanted to train properly for this race, I figured I owed it to them and myself to give my absolute best effort on race day. That was my plan. I held out hope of possibly qualifying for a World Championship spot in Kona, Hawaii. I didn’t know exactly what it would take, but the 40-44 age group is typically the most-competitive in the sport. I figured I would need to go at least under 9:50:00 to even have an outside chance at a roll down spot (if someone chooses not to accept a qualifying spot, they give it to the next guy on the list… and so on.)

Unlike in Florida three years ago when just my wife came to the race, this time I was thrilled that my two children would also be there. Chattanooga is a great city and there were a lot of activities to keep them busy while I was racing. I highly recommend this race if you have a family.

kidswater

When I signed up for IMChoo, I knew I wanted to race to the absolute best of my ability. My coach/friend/mentor, Chance Regina of AVC Endurance, put together a GREAT training plan for me leading up to the race. All I had to do was listen to him. This is a lot easier said than done… We started training almost 10 months before the actual race day. He significantly reduced my racing schedule to make sure I stayed healthy and focused on the task at hand. I only raced three times (1 sprint, 1 olympic, and 1 half-iron distance) before Chattanooga. Along the way, we added only one other minor goal… sub-40 at the Peachtree Road Race (goal accomplished). Occasionally I would lob a “hey, what if I did XYZ race…?” question at him. He almost always said “no.” I’m glad I listened to him. By the time Chattanooga rolled around, I was in the best shape of my life — at 43 yeas old — and ready to get after it!

Proud coach (in blue) with AVC athletes (L-R) Tad, me, and Bryan

Proud coach (in blue) with AVC athletes (L-R) Tad, me, and Bryan

The only thing I wish I had done before the race was scout the course… I had planned to ride or run the course several times before the race, but each time a family obligation came up. I promised my wife that I would never let training or racing take precedent over a family activity. Regardless, I spoke with many people who trained on the course and felt I had a pretty good idea of what to expect. The hills on the second-half of the run loop were a bit more than I expected. Thankfully, coach had me run countless hill repeats leading up to race day. I was WELL-prepared for the hills I encountered.

After the race, I sent coach a note recapping the training and race day (I stole the handy template from Tad.) He’s the guy in the Captain American helmet “encouraging”other competitors while riding his bicycle.

Tad sharing bicycle-riding wisdom with Jason.

Tad sharing bicycle-riding wisdom with Jason.


Here is a recap of my training and race day, as told by me to my coach.

Overall Summary:
 VERY pleased with my day. Trained hard, raced hard, had a better result than expected. Rolled the dice and tried for a Kona slot, but it wasn’t meant to be. Swim could have been better, but that’s about the only thing I would improve upon. Even with a faster swim, I still would have been 13th in 40-44 as the 12th place guy was 7 mins ahead of me. I was 19 mins away from the final Kona spot in my AG. That’s a HUGE gap. 20 guys in 40-44 went sub-10, including 7 who went sub-9:30. Winner of 40-44 AG was 2nd-fastest overall amateur. FAST day!

Training: 
Couldn’t have been better. I think I did about 98.5% of the workouts on the calender. The bike miles through the winter paid off BIG time on the run. Your advice of limiting my race schedule to focus on my “A” race was spot on. Having 4 races – Sprint, Olympic, Half, Full – was a perfect race buildup. I came into the race HEALTHY (go figure!) rested and confident. I was ready to get it on.

  • Swim – Training was fantastic. All of my time at Dynamo could not have prepared me better for race day. I had absolutely ZERO concern over it being a non-wetsuit swim. My practice swim in Louisville was a BIG confidence boost, too.
  • Bike – I think this was the single biggest difference in my race. I had fewer run miles than I would have liked, but we avoided injury and built a really strong bike base. When people say “the bike sets up the run” … this is the proof. Late in the ride (about Mile 80), I found myself leading a pack of about 6-8 guys. When I spun easy up one hill to save my legs, several of them surged past me. I quickly caught them on the downhill (because they repeatedly wasted their effort on the uphill and then chose to recover by soft-pedaling the downhill.) Downhill are NOT for coasting! When they then all started switching places and forming a bit of an annoying, rotating pack, I was able to hammer a hard effort for about 90 seconds and dropped most of them for good. I did NOT want to get a penalty after having had pulled them along for about 10-15 miles. Never in a million years did I think I would ever be the guy at the front of the line during an IM bike leg, let alone be the guy who would then be able to drop the group without much concern.
  • Run– Being able to shift my training from the speed work we did early in the tri season and as we geared up for the sub-40 Peachtree goal, worked well. Yes, some of the hills on the second lap of IMChoo course were tough, but not nearly as tough as they could have been. The many days spent doing mile repeats at 6:10/mile pace in the pouring rain at 6 am were harder… 10×3-min hill repeats were harder… the 3-hour trail run at Kennesaw Mountain was harder… I had a full library of mental images and experiences to rely upon to get me through the tough spots.

Race summary: – Thrilled. You knew the goal was sub-10 but I didn’t tell a lot of people that it was my goal because I wasn’t sure I could do it. Then they added 4 miles to the bike and it became a bigger doubt in my mind. Yes, the swim was fast, but I don’t think it completely canceled out the extra bike miles. I still think the bike added about 4 mins to the course when you subtract the swim current. With all of that considered, I still would have come in under 10.

  • Swim:  Ran down the ramp with no hesitation. Tapped the initials I had written on my arm for my mom (3-yr anniversary of her passing) and jumped in without hesitation. As I sank down under the water, I realized somebody might jump on top of me. Luckily, nobody did. Settled into a decent rhythm fairly quickly. How to attack the swim still remains the missing link… I was confident and had no anxiety at all, but trying to gauge the appropriate level of effort is still tough to figure out. I’ve run numerous marathons (and know what my HR/pace numbers should be) and have done countless long rides (again, my data tells me the effort I should be putting out). But without those numbers on the swim and with only one other race-day 2.4-mile OWS under my belt, it’s hard to judge. In the end, I think I could have gone a bit harder and maybe shaved a couple of minutes, but I’m still ok with it. (Wore the Fusion speedsuit under the TYR swimskin. It was a non-wetsuit swim so I had to roll it down under the swimskin and then pull it up on the way to T1) 

    Exiting swim, pulling up Fusion Speedsuit.

    Exiting swim, pulling up Fusion Speedsuit.

  • Bike:  Thought I was going out too hard, but realized that it was just a really fast part of the course. HR was steady at 152 (low zone 3) for the entire ride. I thought about trying to get the avg down under 150, but just rode consistent and steady on the flat sections, focused on not working too hard on the uphill sections and let it fly on the downhills. Mind started to drift a bit in the middle of the ride and really had to re-focus on my nutrition and making sure I stayed hydrated. Went through my 4 bottles of NUUN. Grabbed a water bottle at every single aid station… took BIG gulp of water and tossed the bottle each time. Peed 5 times on the bike… getting really good at this skill. Nailed my nutrition plan throughout the bike.
    bike
  • Run:As we discussed before the race, I thought your initial run plan was a bit too conservative but I understand why. Better to be too conservative than too aggressive when it comes to the marathon distance, especially an IM marathon. Needless to say, when you approached me at the start of the run and told me to roll the dice and start trying to run people down, I was happy to hear it. The fact that I was actually “happy” to know that you were giving me the green light to run harder for an IM marathon says a lot about where my fitness level/state of mind was.
  • Start of the run. (Photo credit: Trijuice.com)

    Start of the run. (Photo credit: Trijuice.com)

    Soon after the above pic was taken by Nick Morales of TriJuice.com (Great seeing you, Nick), coach approached and told me I was 22nd in my AG after a 5:14 ride. He asked how I was feeling. And after a smart ride, I knew was feeling strong and ready to run. We adjusted the run plan on the fly. He told me there were 4-5 guys in my AG just up the road. “Start running them down.” Then the last thing he said as I ran away stuck with me for rest of the run… “Don’t be afraid, Mike. Don’t be afraid!”  I’d never thought about racing like this before. Basically, this was his way of saying “trust your training.” Three years ago, I was capable of going faster, but I was afraid to take a chance of blowing up. My goal this time was different. Have a GREAT race or blow up trying. Either way, I was determined to have NO regrets!

    As the founder of AVC Endurance, coach has a favorite saying: Amat Victroia Curam. Simply put… Victory Loves Preparation. Thanks to him, I was prepared and he knew it.

    I walked many of the aid stations, especially late in the race to make sure I got hydration/fuel. I’m not going to lie… it also gave me a slight mental break from time to time. Probably cost me about 2 mins over the course of the 26.2. this is the ONLY regret I have about my run. Still, I was able to finish strong and I think I might have even negative-split the run… it’s VERY close. First 13 miles = 1:46, second 13 miles = 1:46·       

    Seeing my family on the bridge was AWESOME!

    Seeing my family on the bridge was AWESOME!

    On the second half of the run, I kept seeing another coach on the course with one of his athletes. I must have passed him 5x. The last time I passed him, with about 6 miles to go, he said “AVC, you’re looking stronger every time I see you.” I felt strong, but it was good to hear it. All of the on-course support from all of the ATL-area teams —  All3Sports, Dynamo, TricoachGeorgia, Endurance Concepts, North GA Tri Club — was awesome. Special shoutout to Stacy Sims for the on-course ass-slapping, Kathryn Honderd O’Day for running all over the place blowing her heart out on her green Dynamo Vuvuzela alongside Allen Heaton — the bike whisperer, and AVC athlete FauxRunner, who drove out to cheer everybody on.

    Stacy - OWNING it!

    Stacy – OWNING it!

    Shanks, El Diablo and BPease. 'MURICA! #Hashtag

    Shanks, El Diablo and BPease. ‘MURICA! #Hashtag

    The toughest part of the run came at about Miles 22-24 climbing the hills on the other side of the river. Let’s just say I was happy to see my coach on the hills. His words: “and you thought you were going to suffer out here alone?”

    Based on my math, I knew I would need to finish before 5:48pm to break 10 hours. As I approached the last pedestrian bridge and headed for home, coach approached me again and said “We’re KILLING sub-10. KILLING IT!” (or something along those lines.) and gave me a mighty low-five as I ran by. I could see the joy on his face and the fact that he used the word “we” let me know he was in it with me. I was beyond elated to be able to perform the way I wanted to on race day… and to be able to validate all of the time and training coach and I did together… even though I was not showing the same sort of outward happiness.
    run
    Coming across the pedestrian bridge for the final time, I thought I spotted Herbert Krabel of Slowtwitch.com with his camera. Sure enough, a few days later he posted this pic with the caption… “man on a mission.” That’s exactly how I felt.

    Terminator mode...engaged

    Terminator mode…engaged

    So many things can go wrong on race day. I know I was fortunate to come out on the positive side on this day. Crossing the last bridge, his words of wisdom were “I know you’re in the (pain) cave, but I need you to give me a little something extra!” Man, I HATE it when he’s right! Time to dig a little…Final mile clocked in at 7:17.  I finished with a 3:33 marathon, the 11th fastest time in my AG, and 9:49:55 overall. Looking at this below pic taken by my wife, I’m pretty sure I went after it…

  • exhausted
    My time was 38 mins faster than IMFL in 2011. I was psyched. However, Kona was not to be. I’m ok with that… for now.
    In addition to my improved time, the best part about IMChoo over IMFL was the below picture. It was AWESOME to be able to hug my wife and kids… after I got out of the medical tent, that is.

    Dad was a bit stinky...

    Dad was a bit stinky…

  • Mental: I’ve always believed my mental strength was one of my better traits as a competitor. Maybe this is due to the Napoleon complex I always had from my days of being an “annoying little sh!t” on the ice during my youth hockey days. I guess I tend to adopt the “it’s not the size of the dog in the fight that matters, but the size of the fight in the dog” philosophy. However, with only one IM to my credit, I still had some doubts about how I would react while doing a hard 140.6-mile effort. Happy to say that I won the mental battle on this day. The fact that I could barely walk two days later told me that my mind made my legs do something that they didn’t want to do.
  • Nutrition: No issues. UCan served me well. Felt that I might have been taking in too many solid calories on the bike, so I backed off a bit, but made sure I stayed on top of the hydration plan. Some of the coke on the run was very fizzy, so I was careful about taking in too much carbonation. Had about 3-4 gels late on the run and a salt tab about every 45 mins.

I agree with what Tad told you…  as much as I didn’t want to see you out on the run course, I knew I wanted you out there. You have a way of poking and prodding just enough to drag that extra effort out of me without making me too mad. Your words at the start of the run echoed in my head as I ticked off the miles… “Don’t be afraid!” I think I did a decent job of tossing my fear out the window and went after it as hard as I could have without blowing up. You prepared me well and I consider my race to be a personal victory.

Editor’s note: Soon after I finished, I spent some time in the medical tent getting an IV bag of fluids and a light massage. Soon after, coach found me and gave me a serious hug. I could tell he was happy for me. It was a LEGIT bro hug. I couldn’t help but think of this scene from Jerry Maguire:

 I won’t say never, but as of now I don’t think there will be a next time… at least not at the 140.6 distance. Maybe when I enter the 50-54 AG.  In the meantime, let’s get back to Boston…

Later that night, we tracked AVC athlete Laura B, whom I had coached leading up to her first IM. We soon learned that she had crashed while out on the bike and was out on the run course with a broken arm. I found her on the other side of the pedestrian bridge, running along with her husband. She was in bad physical shape, but determined to finish. Her attitude was perfect… “I’m not dead!” she said. What she went through showed the true spirit of “endurance” sports. It doesn’t really matter how fast or slow you go, it only matters that you give your best effort and don’t quit.

Even Mike Reilly — the voice of Ironman —  was clearly impressed with Laura’s effort as he called out those fateful words… “Laura… You. Are. An Ironman!” And now I know how my coach felt. It was a special moment watching her cross the finish line and a great way to end a special day. As Laura would later say… “BEST. DAY. EVER!”

Laura B getting it DONE!

Laura B getting it DONE!

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Ironman Florida Race Report – The Bike

Part II of a four-part series…


After getting my words of wisdom from Coach Chance, I made my way to the “Bike Out” area. As I crossed the mount line, there were plenty of people stopped and throwing their legs over the bike while standing still. What’s up with that? As I’ve learned in my short period of time in triathlon, the “flying mount” is how the cool kids do it.

So, I took a few quick steps, grabbed hold of the handlebars and launched into the air like a flying squirrel in a phone booth. Yet another successful flying mount! The day will come when I completely screw this up and fall flat on my face in front of the gathered masses outside of transition. Today was not that day.

I rocked it!  Just like this kid…

Pedaling out of town I quickly realize how cold it is. Damn, I KNEW I should have grabbed that vest. What a sissy I am. Too late now. I pedal onward. The Ironman Florida bike course is one giant loop that heads out of town in a northeast direction before looping back to town mostly in a southwest direction. On this day the wind was out of the northeast, meaning we rode into a headwind almost the entire way until the turnaround.

My initial goal was to average just over 21 mph for the ride. If I was able to do that, it would put me at about 5:15. I didn’t feel that pace was unreasonable, nor did I think it was too hard to hurt me on the run. I don’t ride with watts (I don’t have a power meter), so I usually end up riding by “feel.” I have a pretty good ability to tell when I’m pushing too hard and know how to use my gears to my advantage.

Into the headwind, I rode a LOT in the small ring with a high cadence to keep the pace up with as little strain on the legs as possible. I make up the difference on any decline by getting as aero as possible and quickly shifting into the big ring and using the terrain of the course to increase my speed. I’m amazed by how many people I see sitting up on the “downhill” sections to stretch, shift in the saddle, etc. That’s what the “uphills” are for! Sure, this course is almost totally flat for 112 miles, but there are a few times when you have to get out of the saddle for a short climb.

I do my best to follow Coach Chance’s orders from our many training rides. I believe it went something like this; “Never get out of aero position unless a tree falls on you!” There aren’t many big trees along the course, so I knew I had little choice but to stay aero for the entire ride.

I had mapped out a pretty simple nutrition plan. I had a 40 oz. Standard Speedfil on the bike half-filled with water. (I grabbed water on the course as I went by aid stations to fill it, as needed.) In my aero bar-mounted 16 oz. bottle I had 350 calories of Carbo-Pro with one tablet of Strawberry Lemonade NUUN.  I had another 16 oz. bottle (with same contents) mounted under the back of my seat. I packed 5 GU Roctane Cherry Lime packets with me and took one every hour. I also took a salt tab every hour. I stashed two extra bottles (with 350 calories Carbo-Pro and a NUUN tablet) in my special needs bag along with a banana and a Crunchy Peanut Butter Clif Bar.

The first 2 hours of the bike went pretty smoothly. I had a small pain on the inside of my left thigh, but I tried to ignore it as best as possible. It felt a little bit like a pulled groin muscle. I hoped it wouldn’t bother me when I got to the run.

Fighting the headwind out of town made it hard to keep my 20 mph goal but I didn’t get too worried about it. I was mostly concerned with saving my legs for the run. As they say, when it comes to having a good Ironman, “it’s ALL about the run!” And that’s good news for me. I love the run! Bring it on.

Because the temperature remained in the 50s for most of the first half of the ride, I wasn’t sweating much and had to make sure I drank my bottles even if I wasn’t thirsty. Most of my calories were in liquid form, so I HAD to get them down. This created a new dilemma for me. As I rode along, I quickly began to realize I was going to “off-load” those same liquid calories. I always wondered if I would be able to pee while on the bike.

Attempt #1

Looked behind me. Coast was clear. I rise out of the saddle and keep pedaling along. I try to think about a babbling brook, the sound of water being poured into a bucket, a strong-flowing waterfall. Nothing … Darn it!

Attempt #2

I stop pedaling and give it another shot. Still nothing… finally, the faucet begins to flow at a slow trickle. At this rate, I figure I should just forget it and stop at a port-a-potty. Nah… I’m not giving up THAT easy.

Attempt # 3

I get to a small downhill section, stand up and coast. Suddenly, I’m having one of those moments you have in college when you’ve had too much to drink. You’re asleep in bed, dreaming that you’re relieving yourself in the bathroom, only to wake up when you realize you’re peeing yourself in bed. (Please tell me I’m not the ONLY one who did that in college!)

That’s what peeing on your bike feels like. It’s mostly a mental game. Your mind is telling you that you’re not supposed to be doing this. Once you win that mind battle, it’s pretty easy. So easy, that I do it three more times. By the fourth time, I’ve become a so good at it, I’m expecting to be awarded Le Short Jaune when I get to T2!

NOTE: After each potty break, I grab a water bottle as I ride through an aid station and spray myself down a little to “clean” up. If I had stopped each time I had to go, it would have cost me about 5 minutes, at the very least. I also would have found it much harder to beat my 10:30 time goal.  (yes, I realize this hardly makes sense to the average person who is still puzzled by the fact that I peed myself… four times. But I wasn’t alone!)

Other than my plethora o’ pee, most of the ride was pretty uneventful.

While I was busy wetting myself, my wife was busy enjoying some much-deserved  margaritas (in a bag.) Classy, I know.

The wife and a puzzled-looking Coach Chance plotting strategy.

One of the highlights on the road was seeing members of the Dynamo Multisport team out on the course. It was easy to spot Team GREEN.  It was also easy to hear them. It’s amazing how much noise a couple of people can make with some vuvuzelas! Thanks for the GREEN love!

After reaching the turnaround, I slowed for a quick stop at the special needs area and swapped out my two empty water bottles for new ones and grabbed the banana and Clif bar out of my bag. I eat the banana and stash the Clif bar for later.

The most annoying part of the ride was seeing several large groups flying by in the other direction when I approached the last turnaround section at Mile 95 on Steelfield Rd. (Note: Steelfield Rd. is awful.  It’s nothing but bumpy and chewed up asphalt for the entire section.) However, this is the only part of the ride with rough road, so I can’t complain too much.

I had been pre-warned about the large packs of riders but still shook my head in disbelief every time I saw a group. What’s the point? I’m sure you rode sub-5 hours and perhaps you snagged that elusive Kona slot. But do you feel good about drafting for half of the race? Personally, I know I wouldn’t feel good about it. At one point early in the ride, I found myself behind a large pack. There was nowhere to go. I had to hang back and wait for a small opening to appear on the left side. When I finally got some space, I had to crank hard to zip past them and get out front. Half of the group was chatting and socializing. Annoying! If you’re going to draft or ride in a pack, go fast enough that other riders don’t have to worry about crossing the double yellow line to get around you while you ride sitting up in your saddle. (End of rant.)

Without question, the absolute worst part of the ride was the final 5 miles into town. With the condos, hotels, tattoo shops and Waffle Houses lining the sides of Front Beach Rd., the wind was whipping extra hard in all directions. Mostly, it was directly into our face. At one point, it turned into a mini-sandstorm. I’m not going to lie, it truly sucked.

By the time I made the final left hand turn and headed towards transition, I was ready to ditch the bike. I’d had enough.

Just at the moment I started to think “holy crap, I still have to run a MARATHON,” I spotted my wife on the side of the road exactly where I told her to be. She was jumping up and down yelling “GO! GO! GO! HONEY! RIDE LIKE THE WIND!” Little did she know…  I was DONE riding like the wind. I officially had had enough of that bike. Get me off of this thing!

I finally reached transition and handed my bike off to a volunteer. (With this being my first IM, I totally forgot somebody was going to take my bike from me.) What a great feeling it was to finally hand her off.

Bike Splits:

BIKE SPLIT 1: 55 mi 55 mi (2:45:15) 19.97 mi/h
BIKE SPLIT 2: 95 mi 40 mi (1:46:02) 22.63 mi/h
BIKE SPLIT 3: 112 mi 17 mi (51:42) 19.73 mi/h
TOTAL BIKE 112 mi (5:22:59) 20.81 mi/h

My time ranked 308th overall and 57th among 40-44 AGers. Not too bad, but there’s plenty of room for improvement.

I attempt to “run” to grab my T2 bag, but I was hurting. It was sort of a shuffle/walk/jog/sashay thing I had going on. I’m a TERRIBLE sashayer. I get my bag and head inside the changing area and plop my sore backside down on a chair. There’s a nice volunteer helping me. What a treat.

I can’t find my CEP socks! (Mini-freak-out.) “Are these them in your shoes?” he says calmly. I was so out of it, I forgot that I had put them in my shoes to make things faster. Gee, that kind of backfired on me. I struggled a little to get the socks on, but I knew I wanted them for the run.

I stand up, put on my Fuel Belt, visor and sunglasses and run out.

My T2 time was 5:42. That’s pretty awful, but I was mentally out of it for a minute or two. That’s my excuse so zip it!

Once I start running out of the Transition area, I find myself quickly getting excited about the fact that I ONLY have a marathon left to run. I’m sure that’s a common feeling for Ironman veterans, but for me, it was very odd. For a split second, I think about what a daunting task it was when I ran my first marathon in 2009. I finished that NYC Marathon in 3:46, blowing up at Mile 20 with nasty hamstring cramps.

Now, almost two years later to the day, here I was starting my first Ironman marathon. My legs felt good. My nutrition was solid. I was ready to get after it. My run goal: beat that NYC marathon time! On top of that, I wanted to cross the finish line in under 10:30.

As I stride under the “Run Out” banner with renewed focus and determination, I look down at my right hand with the initials of my wife and kids written on it. I then look at my left hand and the words “Eat That Pain!” I was ready.

I make the turn East on South Thomas Drive and let out a quiet, barely audible “Let’s get it ON!”

Photo Credit: NL4S.com

To be continued…

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