|Do I look Nervous? Maybe sleepy... lol|
Almost immediately behind us, my father pulls into the lot. Syncronized arrival, even he thought to get here early to get a spot too. Yup, my dad drove all the way down from Canada to come watch my first Ironman. How cool is that?
So we all board the bus together and I goto the back of it. I prefer the back, I dont want to be near any other athletes. I prefer to be alone, not socialize before a race. I need to focus on myself and what I am doing.
|Paul on the Left getting dressed|
So over to the transition bags it was a tight squeeze. Row 3 - easy to remember 23 is Jordan, 3 is the second number. I couldn't walk down row 3 though, too many athletes blocking the way. I was taken back by the number of people that blocked the rows because they must have thought they were the only ones on the face of the earth and we'll just wait for them to do a final check on their gear. There was enough room to let people by, but they simply didn't. Eventually I just plowed my way down the row. Idiots. No time for Canadian pleasantries, I need to get my bags ready!
We were right against the shore and for some reason I figured when the time comes I will just enter the water right then and there, rather than walking all the way around to the beach.
That was dumb. Luckily the announcer reminded us we HAD to enter the water over the timing mat to check-in. Wow, I can't believe I forgot that! That woke me up, I started moving more and warming up and focusing on the task at hand.
We make our way over to the entrance. I kiss my wife goodbye. I take note of every touch, every smell, every flutter of my heart as this is what is waiting for me at the finish line. This will be what drives me to go on in the hottest, toughest parts of the day. Getting back to her.
Down the swim chute, nobody is talking. Athletes stretching and standing there looking out into the lake. They are not looking at the lake though.
My mask is so incredibly clear! I cleaned them out with soap and water the other day and it's like wearing a brand new swim mask! I'm surprised at how clear the water is. The bottom is RIGHT THERE! This is a surpsised because I pre-swam the lake only with no wetsuit and no mask. The water was perfect!
I found myself surrounded with non-wetsuit swimmers. Those are the ones looking for podium or Kona so I completely felt out of place. I was comfortable passing a couple but knew that I would likely pay for it on the second loop.
It's like somebody slammed my head between two Clangs.
|Saturday Pre Flight Test|
Onto the bike and we're into an immediate downhill through side streets. I'm surprised at the number of people lining the sides of the roads here - we're going by so fast there is not much to see. Athletes are not rushing to pass, we're taking several sharp corners. I don't know this section, I never pre-rode it so I dont know where I am going
Long downhill and I'm on fire. I begin to pull on our sprint pack and give out a notable 'woohoo!!' as I put distance on them. Seriously, I didn't pedal once and I've dropped all but almost a couple of them. My quads are getting tired from holding me up, I keep shifting to distribute the load and absorb the big bumps.
We go ripping into Keene and on the left is an army of ambulances all lined up at the bottom of the hill. It looks like they are expecting carnage on that downhill! Scary.
There is no feed zone in Keene, I really expected one but oh well it's time to settle into a rythm as this will be the only flat of the race course.
I'm surprised by the endless referees going by. Handing out yellow and red cards like they are trying to meet some kind of super-quota. Every penalty given out was justified though, I seen alot of them and the ref was right every time. Some athletes didn't know what to do when they got carded. Amazing how many people do not read the athlete manual or listen at the mandatory meeting. They probably didn't even show.
I put back my first big dose of gel. I like feed stations on out and backs, makes it easier to time nutrition. I dilute the gel with a helping of water at the aid station. One of the many lessons learned this year was to dilute the gel in my stomach with water, its the only way I can take them. I have learned so many lessons this year, so much experience. I can't help but pat myself on the back just before heading up the steepest climb of the course.
Big up, lots of spinning. Few pass but those that do I check out there gearing to see what it is they are doing. I learn from others, its interesting. I'm surprised to see spectators cheering on this part of the course, there is a good looking chick on the side of the road with a shirt that says "single and supportive" HAHA! Thats cute, I would imagine there were alot of guys that stopped and gave her their phone number that day lol!
The feed zone in Wilmington was one of these parties, with a DJ and all. There was a couple guys in skimpy speedos dancing umm provacatively so I shot them with my water bottle when they danced my direction lol. They enjoyed that all too much, I think it turned them on. That wasn't the response I was looking for lol *shudder* haha!
He passes by me and I keep him in sight. I easily catch him on the hills but struggle to comfortably hold his pace on the flats. He's not screaming fast but very strong and steady. I hang with him a bit and watch and learn from his gearing, power, technique. I finally get to see a mentor in the wild and I make sure I learn something from him this day.
In this moment of neverending crowds and cheering - this right here made it all worth while. You can see it on a video but you have to experience it for yourself to understand. Wow. Just wow.
I finally had confirmation that I was in front of him, but by only a couple of kilometers at most. I had nothing to hold him off, I was just happy to be moving forward. By the time Wilmington arrived he had caught me - way quicker than I expected on the out and back. Ouch, either he's going really fast or I am going really slow. It's pretty clear, I'm going very very slow. He made the pass and that was the lowest point of the race. I've read that there are highs and lows over the long Ironman day but for me I've been waiting patiently to bounce back from this low yet instead it just gets lower and lower and now I'm in a deep dark place.
My metaphoric wheels on my wagon have been wobbling for the past couple of hours and now those wheels have come completely off. I saluted Rodney as he blew by me like I stood still and that was it. My headache consumed me, I was broken. I pulled off at the next aid station to take a pee break and get my head looked at. I pee'd sitting down to save my legs. It was hot in there and that was a good thing, had it been even the slightest comfortable I may not have gotten back up. I wanted advil or tylenol or just something to make this headache go away but I've read that there are dangers to mixing advil with exercise, especially if you allow yourself to get dehydrated. I didn't take anything. I got on that bike and took off before I could get looked at.
The thought of quitting never once crossed my mind. Slowing down, resting - absolutely!
2) Run Entire Marathon minus aid stations
3) Finish ahead of friends
4) Give. It. Everything. I. Have.
5) Finish under 16:59:59
I got passed by a million people. The more people that passed me, the better I felt. This is it - this is what I have to do to nail my most important goal of the day. I am sticking to the plan and the more I have to swallow my pride and let these people go, then so be it. I'm a cyclist. That is my strength, yet on this day I'm being the biggest wussy there is out on the course. A necessary sacrifice. I took comfort in this, my headache slowly, and I mean slowly, started to subside.
Actually I almost left without my sunglasses. The volunteer reminded me and got them out of the bag for me. He said alot of people made that mistake, he's my saviour! Wow!
I stopped at a water table on the way out and chugged a tall glass of cold stuff. After I drank it I remembered I was about to run. I hope it doesnt slosh! oops! haha!
I really did drag my but out of transition, but I would find afterwards that my transition time was actually not bad compared to everyone else.
The first aid station finally arrives, I gulp 4 waters and I get my first little walk in. The plan is to walk every feed station as short as possible and walk up the couple of steep hills to save myself. This first station was on a hill so I nailed two walks into one - excellent! I grabbed my first ice sponge ever! The sponges are soaked in ice water and I stuff one on each side of my visor. The cold water constantly drips down over my neck and back and it chills me in the summer heat. The cold against my head is refreshing.
Once on the flats I'm holding a great pace, 5:30min/km and I'm very pleased. This is exactly what I was aiming for. The pace varied by 10 seconds and felt comfortable. I'm surprised how good this feels, just minutes ago I was falling apart on the bike and now I feel like I've started fresh on a whole other discipline. I put the bike behind me, I concentrate on maintaining my run. It's a long day and the big question is can I continue to run the ENTIRE Marathon?
That chick cheering for me gives me wings. Ugghhh. I give up. So I just rolled with this going over and over in my head for the entire race. Remind me never to pack a Red Bull in my Special Needs bag again.
So I passed a tent earlier that I thought was a feed station but it wasn't. It was a chicken broth station! Oh yummy, I'd like to try! It wasn't open yet so I'll just have to wait until my next lap which is coming up soon. I get to the big hill just before town by the ski jumps, this is a walker for sure. The first real one, I talk long strides and power-walk my way up it. The long strides help stretch out my hamstrings that quivered a moment ago on the flat. Once at the top I shorten my stride a bit to save my hammys. The cheering crowd is back again, I absorb the energy from the crowd and now its getting real. I grab another gel to hold me over for the final bit of the lap, I also keep an eye out for photographers. I want to remove my sponges in my hat before they snap the photo :)
I run the final bit into town and hit the IGA uphill. I had decided before the race even started that if I am to stand a chance at running the entire marathon, I will have to swallow my pride and walk this hill. That was really tough to do. People shouting and cheering for you to run, but it wasn't going to happen. I could run. I felt fine, but I still have a long ways to go and to do this hill again. I stick to the plan, power walk up and there is a DJ with a megaphone haggling me. He starts screaming at me and asks me if I'm gonna let the bouncy lady next to me pass me like that?! I was more annoyed than embarassed. Its easy for him to taunt people while sitting his fat ass down on that lawn chair. Whatever, I stayed steady and true to the plan. Towards the top a spectator got up and went out of his way to come up beside me. He told me that I am doing the right thing, walk strong on this hill and I will be able to run the entire thing. He said I am doing it right. Wow. That was an amazing moment - I thanked him. He gets it. That was exactly what I needed to hear. When I got to the top I ramped back up to my steady pace and felt great!
Now I'm frantically looking for my wife. I need to deliver this letter. Now I dont care about my pace, I'm looking everywhere and there is just so many people I'm getting worried. I make the turn and pass the brewery. This hill is not steep enough to walk, not shallow enough to ignore. With all those people around I just keep running at an albeit slower pace than the flats. I pass up the offer on using my Special Needs bag. No need for electrolyte tablet, blister tape or red bull. I pass by a guy playing guitar on a stage at the front of his house. There are some kids and a familly singing Karaoke and a couple of old guys in lawn chairs drinking beers on the side of the road. The support is amazing lol.
After the turn around I'm looking at each and every face I pass. This will be my only opportunity to complete my mission, after this I won't see her again until the finish line. I MUST get this letter to her. The Olympic Oval gets closer and closer yet still no wife. Now I'm dreading the obvious. I think I've missed her, my heart sinks, I'm mortified! I thought they were supposed to be on this side, I looked everywhere but it's just so hard to make out faces quick enough. I'm feeling really bad as I make the turn at the Oval to start the second half of the Marathon which will take me out of town again, away from her.
Wings. No. No wings. A frickin' jet engine on my back and I set the throttle to 'Kill Mode'. My first mission is complete and I'm a happy man. My second mission, redemption. I envision my conquest at Welland, the exact same scenario has played out here just double the gap and double the race distance. I'm now hunting my rival. The guy that destroyed me at Muskoka, the guy that showed me what is possible if you follow a structured Training Plan and stick to it. A lesson in humility that has fueled my training machine for the past 40 weeks. This is my chance to be extraordinary.
Nothing changes. I maintain the same pace I've been doing all along. The only difference now is my renewed sense of believing I can do this. I still walk the next aid station, I still take in the planned gel. Once out of town and back on the flats I find myself looking down the road to try to catch a glimpse of him. I don't look too long though, the attempt is distracting. I go back to gazing at the road directly in front of me and focus on the immediate task at hand. Anticipation is my kryptonite.
JOHN PROC FROM BRANTFORD, ONTARIO - FIRST TIMER JOHN - YOU ARE AN IRONMAN