just a quick recap of the events that went down at wilmington, nc for the 2011 Beach2Battleship Ironman...err I mean Iron distance triathlon. (dont wanna get sued by the WTU)
First thing. I have to recognize my wife Jamie for all the patience and putting up with my absences during the 37 weeks of training, the seven weeks of training with a newborn, and then the quest to North Carolina with little Emma. She's the real deal...ironwife and ironmom. I also want to thank my sister for joining us at the race. it's always fun to share an experience with other folks!
- We arrived when it was nice.
- Race day was cold and windy.
- The water was the warmest part of the day and the swim was fast. Focusing on the buoy ahead made the swim much easier.
- The bike was cold. Everybody endured headwinds for the first 75 miles and light rain for about 30 miles of that. This made the going a bit tough. I focused on a nice and easy cadence and pace while constantly hydrating and fueling for the run.
- Breaking the marathon into smaller segments makes the run manageable. Focusing on running cycles four minutes and walking a minute made this run go by a lot faster.
- The family and the fans on the course made the run fun
- running down the chute to the finish line felt awesome. All the work paid off when they say, "Put your hands together for #79, from Omaha, Nebraska, James Peters!"
- and then its over. ahh rest!
long version: here goes...
So, this is the first time that Jamie and I have ever traveled with an infant and yea, for a 12-pound seven-week old, we needed somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 pounds of gear to get this kid out the door. car seat carrier, base, stroller, changes of clothes, diapers, gate check bags, diaper bags, carry on bags...yaowza! Everything except the kitchen sink fit inside the 'Bru. The day was early and there was plenty of time for hiccups...
Hiccup number one. My dad was nice enough to drive us to the airport because we dont pay for parking. After unloading, we hugged, said our goodbyes when my dad says, "Say, we're gonna be out of town when you guys get back...Who's gonna pick you up?" Jamie and I looked at each other..."Uhh, umm...Well, we'll figure that one out" Jamie gives me the look when we get inside the airport. I'm like, "Sorry, I didn't put those two together....We'll figure it out."
This is the point where I explain that Jamie has a planner-type personality. Type-A. She plans for 100% of the contingencies. Me? I'm an 80/20 guy...not laid-back laid-back, just laid-back. I have a good idea of how things will work out and then deal with the surprises that come along the way.
Hiccup number two...I gotta say that this kid was a great way to make friends with the ticket counter agents. We chatted with the ladies at check-in and they thought Emma was just adorable. All three agents took a peek at our little traveler. We check our bags without issue and passed through TSA insecurity when Im pulled aside and hear, "Sir, these items cannot go on the plane." Four items are laid out on the table...A pedal wrench chain whip combo, chamois cream, a pair of pliers, and a long pair of scissors.
The supervisor says he'll allow the scissors and pliers, but the wrench and chamois cream have to be thrown away or put in our checked bags. I totally forgot about TSA insecurity when I packed my carry-on...but I was a little surprised the sharp-ended objects were allowed on the plane but the wrench and chamois cream were contraband. Did they think the wrench could loosen the bolts on the cockpit door? or better yet, disallowing the cream would prevent myself from lubing up and squeezing through a door opening and get into the cockpit. Jamie looks at me and is like WTH...I walk back to the Delta spot and reacquaint myself with the ticket lady. Debbie remembers my name and retrieves my bag...She's like "You have that suitcase, right? The black one about this size?" she's motioning with her hands and smiling...airline humor. I give her a little better description and she brings the bag right out. I secure the prohibited cream and deadly 15 mm chain whip wrench, say thank you and make my way back through TSA insecurity.
Thank you Delta for preboarding. The additional time to get settled really makes a difference. Thankfully, the take offs and landings were not an issue today. Little Emma was a trooper and slept through both flights and the ride from the airport. phew!
We arrived in the Wilmington/Wrightsville Beach area later in the afternoon. Sunny skies. 75 degrees. a perfect conditions. Our hotel room looked across the waterway and faced the USS North Carolina. The battleship served as the backdrop to the race finish. After unpacking our stuff we stretched our legs and checked out downtown Wilmington.
The downtown area had a good vibe to it, sort of a larger version of the Old Market, but with more hipsters. Many folks were walking around, taking in a drink, and generally enjoying the late afternoon/early evening. The WB was filming One Tree Hill near our hotel. This accounted the large aggregation of tennie boppers. We grabbed some food and walked it back to the hotel.
|USS North Carolina|
Thursday was a walk through. I prepped my items and then picked up my bike. Jamie and I chatted up a few of the other racers at the shop and then met up with Steve and Sharron for a quick ride. Steve is 1/3 of the Tri-Bros. Sharron is Steve's better half. The Tri-Bro name was born while we worked and trained together. The short 10 mile ride was just to survey how everything on the bike felt. Afterward we drove over to the swim start and took in a half hour swim. The wetsuit made the 70 degree water feel alright. When we got back, Chad, the other 1/3 of the tri-bros arrived. Steve and Chad grabbed some food, Jamie and I headed to the airport to pick up my sister, Sandy.
|Jamie and Emma at Wrightsville, Beach|
I have heard that it's not the night before the race, but the night before the night before the big race is when you try to get your best sleep. Thursday night sleep was perfect. A solid nine hours. Emma slept well, too!
Friday was a day of rest and final preparations. First order of the day was breakfast. Jamie, Emma and I walked Front Street in search of some greasy breakfast. We found the Dixie Cafe. Think Louie M's or Lisa's Radial Cafe but with grits and BLTs with fried green tomatoes. Great biscuits and gravy. Good stuff.
After breakfast it was off to the pre-race meeting. I grabbed a chair with some folks and listened to war stories about xyz Ironman. After learning this would be my first Ironman, the folks I sat with said I was in for a treat. I kinda smiled, raised my eyebrows, and was like, "well, we'll see what happens." Alot of the folks I met would say to me, "are you nervous?" My response was "I dont know. Am I supposed to be?" I was pretty tranquil throughout the event and the events leading up to the event. When you think about it, this is the easy part. The hard part was finding time for over the course of 37 weeks to fit in 15-22 hours of training each week. The hard part was getting up at o'dark thirty and riding your bike two hours before work. The hard part was getting your ass handed to you on Wednesday nights rides by guys who all they do is ride bikes really really fast. So, yea, I wasn't too nervous. The hard part was done. I was more excited to strap on my wetsuit/helmet/running shoes and get to the finish line.
Racer check-in was easy...The volunteers were quick, organized, and helpful. We grab our stuff and headed back to the hotel to pack my transition bags. With two transition sites, this event required some planning. There was your pre/post race bag, swim-to-bike bag, bike special needs bag, bike-to-run bag, and your run special needs bag. Nothing special, just white garbage bags with your race number written on the side. Each bag required a different colored label that was provided.
|Bike Check In|
|A Little Chain Love Goes a Long Ways|
|Number 79 In Your Program...Number 1 In Your Heart|
|Just a Little Bike Envy Here...|
It was chilly during check-in and only going to get colder with the steady breeze.(joy) On the way to dinner, Sandy suggested grabbing a hoodie and some slippers at Target. A lot of these races require a lot of standing around before things get underway, so keeping warm with a cheap hoodie was a great suggestion. Because the transition area was near, but not exactly next to the water, we needed to run about 400 yards over pavement to reach the first transition area. Steve said that your feet would be cold enough that you wouldn't feel anything. But I have some tender feet and it'd be my luck to stub my toe or catch some gravel and hurt my chances of finishing. Sandy's suggestion to buy slippers was spot on. We grab some dinner after check-in and talk a little about the big day, little Emma, Ma and Pa, and stuff that wasn't race related. I didn't think I was nervous, but Sandy said I wasn't my chatty self.
Friday night sleep didn't happen. I was in bed by 9 but slept maybe a total of three hours.
Race Day. Was. Amazing.
My race day game plan was simple:
- Focus on the task at hand
- Don't drown. Sight ever 10 or 12 strokes and get into a rhythm.
- Hydrate on the bike. Take a drink every 15 minutes
- Fuel for the run on the bike. Take some perpetutum and electrolytes every 30 minutes
- Tranquilo on the bike. Don't hammer it and save something for the run
- Run every four minutes and then walk one minute
- Take some water whenever possible.
- Hand out free high fives and atta-boys
- Have some fun out there
We arrived at T1 for final preparations and body marking. The tire pressure looked good and the nutrition supplements were secured on the bike. Body marking was a little uncomfortable for one reason. You strip out of your wetsuit so some stranger can squat inches from your junk to mark your thighs and calves with a sharpie. Yea, that's always gonna be awkward.
Everything is ready. Let's do this. I hop on the trolley to the race start...and wait...in the cold wind. Sandy's Target hoodie suggestion kept out the cold and wind during the hour and a half wait at race start.
More and more folks began to occupy the trolley drop off point. There was talk about how things would go today, how many ironmans folks have done, how some folks never trained in cold weather, others how this is their first open water swim. A nice buzz in the air. Then folks started to migrate to the starting line. During the 200 yard walk through cold sand some guy sang the Star Wars "Imperial March" which got a lot of chuckles.
I had lost track of Steve and Chad after body marking, but they come out of nowhere right before getting in the water and were like, "You ready to do this, Young Gun!" They had already taken their warmup swim and were excited to hop back in the water. We congratulated each other for getting to the starting line, wished each other good luck, and promised to see each other at the finish line.
After singing the Star-Spangled Banner, race director Jeremy Davis gave us some final words while "Eye of the Tiger" and other motivational-get-you-pumped-up songs played on their stereo. He said there were nearly 1000 volunteers out there to make our experience possible and that this would be one of those days you will remember for the rest of your life. His final words were, "Have fun out there! Smile and we'll see you at the finish line!"
Folks funneled through the starting gate to Eminem's "Lose Yourself" blasted. The water felt great. Steve was somewhere ahead on the left when Chad and I entered on the left side of the mass. I wanted to swim with Chad for a while and then follow some fast feet to the finish line. I lost sight of him after a minute because, well, everybody looks the same in their black wetsuit and blue swimcap. There is always a bit of trepidation during the swim start...I think its something to do with the number and the level of swimmers around you, not seeing the bottom of what you are swimming in, and the fact that you really are on your own during this leg of the even. There were some sea kayaks out there, but swimming is one of those things that requires exertion even if you want to rest. During training I was able to get in a few open water swims to get more used to that initial anxiety in open water. What takes more practice getting used to is that feeling when folks swim so damn close to you. There were some collisions followed by a "whoops" or "sorry"...and then there times where folks swam over you or when you swam over them. That's just the nature of the swim I guess.
The ideal open water swim is point to point while sighting every dozen or so strokes. Sighting is a skill where the swimmer focuses on some large object in the distance and gauges their distance from the object to to hopefully swim in a straight line. So that whole shortest distance between two points thing...yea, that' wasn't me. I zig zagged. Coast to coast, baby! Like a blind manatee. When nobody was near me, I knew that I strayed from the pack and headed back towards the mass.
|Iron Distance and JP's Iron Distance Swim|
The strategy during the swim was to take a peek at where I was going ever 10 strokes. Having some sort of game plan helped because the stroke counting developed a calming rhythm. I swam this distance twice in the pool at the College of St Mary and it wasn't pretty. There was some cramping and a few nanas in the lane next to you doing water aerobics. There were no nanas, but we were in wetsuits, in salt water and with a tide. The running joke between the Tri-Bros was that the swim would practically take care of itself. The 10-stroke counting worked well. The buoys were coming and going, pretty soon I saw the water tower and then the dock before letting out an "aww hell yea!" a couple hundred yards from where we would exit. Seeing the swim finish pushed a surge of energy through my arms and legs. I motored to the docks where some nice volunteer helped me out of the water and another helped me out of the wetsuit. Those wetsuit strippers were aggressive. No kidding. If you weren't holding onto the back bench when they pulled that wetsuit off you, they'd pull you off the bench pretty quickly. Out of the water and out of the wetsuit, I found my Target slippers and headed to T1. Looking at the time I was like, "huh?" A 50 minute swim was better than I could have done in the pool. the tide offered a helpful push.
T1 was okay. I grabbed my stuff, put on my PCL kit and headed towards the bike. The one regret I have with the bike is that I did not bring my thermal bibs. This time of the year you gotta pack everything. The forecast earlier in the week predicted race day temps in the 60s. They were off around 20 degrees. Today's bike would be 45 and windy with a light mist for part of the 112 miles. The long sleeve fleece that I did bring made all the difference. I hop on the bike, wave at Sandy, Jamie, and little Emma, and then start cranking out the miles.
As it would turn out, the 70 degree water would end up being the warmest part of the day.
The rollout through town was okay, some guy passed me right out of the gate was just hammering it....I thought it was awfully early to be spinning in that chain ring, and wished the guy good luck. My plan rolling out of town was to take it easy the first half hour to get my legs used to riding before getting into my race pace. I also needed to get some fluid in me before getting down to bidness. The biggest problem during training was keeping fluid levels up. I think the strategy to start off a little slower than usual, make sure everything felt good, to hydrate/recover from the swim, and fuel for the run worked well.
Any gain produced from the fast swim was lost during the bike. The wind was angry that day, my friends. Like an old, angry and belligerent protester. In your face at all times. The wind. never. stopped. My goal was to maintain a 19mph pace during the entire ride. The 15-20mph blowing in your face the first 75 miles adjusted that expectation to 16-17mph. Even in the aero position, the wind prevented progress.
The bike course was pancake flat and the pace was subdued by the wind and light mist. Lots of folks dont go out to ride in weather like this, but these are the days you wanna go out and train. As Rafal would say, "Dude, these are character building rides!" Race day was similar to the Bacon Ride we did earlier in the year. Bacon, gravel, winds, cold temps, and rain is what was served. Today was the same, but on roadies and no bacon. The wind and cold temps made this a challenge, so all i did was focus on each mile and thought about all types of stuff as the miles ticked away. I thought about people like, Jamie, Emma, the fam, and things like what i was gonna plant in the garden next spring, projects around the house, etc...And you had a ton of time to think about this stuff. Because riding side by side was considered drafting and most folks barely said a word during a pass. You were out there all by your lonesome.
The folks at the aid stations were a relief. Some volunteers really got into it and dressed in costumes and had some tunes playing to liven up the time they spent aiding the athletes. I learned pretty quickly though to not spend much time at the aid station because hopping back on the bike wasn't fun. After you got off the bike, you would continue to sweat, but getting back on the bike meant facing that wind again with some sweaty clothes. The first few minutes on the bike after every stop was spent shivering.
Around mile 60 a course marshall passed me on his motorcycle and slowed a bit while his buddy behind typed something into a keypad. I kinda looked at the guy ahead of me and thought that I prolly was going to be penalized for drafting or something. It turns out I did get penalized for not clearing the draft zone soon enough. oh well.
The bike dragged on. The pace and speed were constant, but the wind was tiring and my shoulders were hurting from riding in the tuck position for hours. Two things that broke me out of this slump was some text spray painted on the asphalt. The first note said "Caution Ahead," I didn't know what to think. Then I saw the caution notice again with an arrow pointing to the side of the road..."Caution!!! Gigantic Chicken Crossing Ahead." No joke, on the side of the road at the apron of some guy's driveway was a large chicken statue. Think of a five foot tall rooster on a three foot base. This was no ordinary lawn jockey, this was a massive Cock. That made me smile! The next pick-me-up was a few more miles down the road where some guy had spray painted a guitar on the pavement with a note stating "Pedal Faster!...I Hear Banjos!"
Both messages provided comic relief from the headwinds. Some blue skies came out around mile 50 and 60, but it was mostly cloudy the until the last 10 miles. Mile 75 had to be the best part of the ride. The wind was finally at your back during the home stretch to Wilmington on 421. Wind blowing in your face and whipping in your ears wears on you...but after making that right turn, my spirits were lifted and things got real quiet. All you heard was the hum of your tires on the smooth asphalt. Heck yea! For the next 40 miles, the pace jumped from 17 to 23 mph
I spent the last 20 miles finishing up the food and water I carried. Nutrition will be one of the things I mix up next time around because I was getting sick of the taste of Perpetutum and granola bars. The Hammer products worked great, but the constant chewing of the cafe-latte-flavored horse pills became an effort. The bike ride into town was perfect, the temps were getting a little warmer and all you had to do was go for a run and the day would be over. I was now looking forward to the run and thought to myself, "Hey, all i have to do is go for a short run and then I can have some guilt-free beer." At the final aid station before T2, another big guy came right up behind me as i was getting up to speed. The Iron Turk was just chuggin along! He smiled and said, "Well whadda ya know Yungun! How goes it, 79!" We chatted a bit and rolled into T2 together.
|The Support Crew|
On the way into T2, Jamie, Emma, and Sandy were right there with their sign and cameras ready. What a relief to see some friendly faces!
I took my time at transition. My goal was to be out of there in eight minutes. That turned into 20. There was no hurry. I had nothing to prove. Chad entered the changing tent while I was taping my foot and we decided to run the first mile together. That didn't happen. We jogged just the first quarter mile before I told the Prince of the Pavement to go ahead. Chad's strength is running. He's done six or seven marathons and his stride is smooth. I have to admit that I have a man crush for his smooth stride. Chad really doesn't run, he just glides. For me, running is a chore, for Chad, he makes it look easy.
The marathon course is one loop repeated twice. The strategy to finish this was to break the run into manageable segments. I convinced myself that all I was doing at was a few three- or four-mile runs. I then broke that down further into intervals of running for four minutes and walking for one minute. This worked well and I was near my goal of doing the half in 2.5 hours. After the first lap, I changed shirts and grabbed my beanie cap and gloves to keep warm. The sun was going down and the temp was dropping Running when you are cold isn't fun. Trying to do the other half under 2.5 hours was going to take some effort. The body felt good, but walking felt great....On the way out I spotted some fans drinking and they offered some Michelob Ultra. I stopped, but declined thinking that I dont want to introduce anything into the bod while still having to run another 13 miles. I'll asked them to leave an unopened one next to the generator and I'll grab it on the way back.
My sister has done the NYC marathon a few times. When we went to see her run her first one, it was around Halloween. So there were some folks running in costume. At this race there was only one guy dressed up for the occasion. He competed as red devil. "Aw, Hell Yea!" is what I said to him as he passed me in red makeup and horns with a cape and pitchfork. Like the banjo note and big huckin chicken, this added some fun to the race.
There were a few stressful parts of the run. At mile seven there was a dog on the loose. This wasn't your friendly lab or retriever that I would have loved to have met. No. This was a pit bull. Running the course without a leash and no owner in sight. I am not a fan of pit bulls on facebook or in real life. Some people like them. I don't. This other Clydesdale and I froze. I thought, "oh shit, this could ruin our day." before saying "Who let that bitch out!" as i tiptoed away from the dog.
Excitement started to build around mile 18. I had only run 18 miles once in training. My body was a little tired, but I felt great! Instead of the usual banana and Heed/water combination at the aid station, I switched to some chicken broth. The warm broth's saltiness hit the spot! Mile 19, 20, 21, 22 just ticked by. I did experience just a slight bit of cramping around mile 20 and mile 25, but a little walking, some electrolytes, and stretching subdued the cramping. By mile 23 I caught up with Steve. We talked and walked for a bit, but I think he wanted to spend the last few running and talking with his daughter.
Mile 25 had two challenging bridge climbs. My feet were starting to hurt, so I took my time on the ascension. On the final bridge I noticed a few runners coming towards me. These folks were starting their second lap. I have a lot of respect for those folks starting their second lap. It's gotta be tough to see all those folks so close to the finish when you are 13 miles from the end. It takes courage to keep going when there are fewer and fewer folks on the course cheering you on.
The final mile. I smiled and thought, alright, what a way to finish my last run of the year. As I was coming into the finish area, I looked for the place the folks who had offered an Ultra and it was there. Nice and cold. I cracked it open and had a few sips before winding through the final chute to the finish line. "Aww right!"
I grabbed a bit of food, headed to the transition area and collected all my transition bags before hopping on the water taxi. Thankfully our hotel room was next to the taxi shore station. It was time to wash up before heading up to Steve's room for a post race celebration and beer.
|Post Race Pizza and Beer|
The feeling of getting to the starting line after a long season of training was rewarding. The feeling of sharing the race experience with the folks you trained with after the race was even better. The post race beer shared with the tri-bros was worth the wait of the self-imposed dry spell.
Surprisingly, my body did not hurt as bad as I thought it would. The quads hurt a bit walking down the stairs, but it was more soreness than pain. My shoulders ached a bit when picking up Emma's carrier, but that was about it. This feeling was shared with all of the Tri-Bros...I think the post race non-stiffness had a lot to do with the level of training that we all underwent.
So I think that about covers it.
Final thoughts...Well, doing an Ironman is possible. it's a bit of a chore at times, but what worked for me is to break the training and into many many short term goals. If you start to worry about doing all three, then the task gets overwhelming, but short term goals and a positive attitude make seeing progress possible. Then, getting to the starting line is completely possible and just a matter of time.
Here are some things that worked for me
- Patience: Don’t sign up for an Ironman tomorrow, if you haven’t already completed a half ironman. It can be done, but you’ll be so much happier if you have patience and work up to the distance over time. Do some other less costly races and races where you are in motion for hours at a time.
- Partners in Crime: Find some folks who like to swim, ride, or run. I joined Master's swimming a few years ago and realized how much I need to improve. This was especially true when nana would lap you and you would have to stop every few sets to catch your breath. Finding some guys to ride with really pushes you too. The PCL and some guys from Omaha do a lot of gravel grinders that really push you mentally and help you improve. And they are all pretty nice folks to ride with who want to have fun and get a good workout.
- Dedication: There is a lot of training and it will become a grind. Especially when it gets towards the end of the day and you haven't finished your workout...dedicate some time everyday to working out and stick to your training schedule. If you pay the price during the long training period, race day will be the fun part!
- Will: You have to want it. If you dont want it, then you are not committed and no the training plan will really prepare you. If you don't have the will to tough it out when things start to get hard, you are wasting your time. When you have that fire in your belly and the will to put in the work that it takes, then it's time to register.
wow, that was really long...
The little Cheerleader...Isnt she cute