Sunday, October 28, 2012

Journey Complete! (or has it really just begun)


It's over.
(These are Blake's own words and thoughts from his race).
 I recently finished the Austin "Longhorn" half Ironman, and what an experience! A journey that I will never forget.  Not only the excitement and atmosphere around race day, but also all the hours of early morning training put in to get to the point of being able to complete such an event.
 I drove up to Austin a day before the family, to do all the early check-in/paperwork/transition bag packing - so when they got there we could just relax and take in the city and scene.  Even on Friday (two days before the race) the atmosphere was amazing.  I checked in, prepped my transition bags, and then just tried to relax and stay off my feet.  I even went to dinner by myself (which felt a little odd sitting in a Pappadeaux's booth all by my lonesome) and a movie (Taken 2, which was nowhere near as good as the original).
  
Jamie, the kids, and Mike and Gayla (Jamie's parents) drove up to Austin on Saturday and we met up Saturday afternoon.  I was able to show them around the course and the transition areas, so we could put a game plan together for them on race day.  Saturday night we relaxed and took Sam to see the new Halloween kid movie "Hotel Transylvania". 
 
Jamie and I filled up on Denny's pancakes...then it was off to bed! Sunday was race day. I had read a lot about not being able to sleep the night before, but I had no problem sleeping.
 
Pre Race:
Sunday morning was cold.  I was at Lake Decker around 5:30 and the weather was in the mid 40's. Jamie and the crew showed up around 8:30, just before my wave started swimming.
 After all my meticulous planning during training about eating (consuming the same things, at the same time), my day-of pre-race meal fell apart.  I couldn't find any bananas, so my meal consisted of a PB&H sandwich, granola bar, and Gatorade.

Everybody was just trying to stay warm while checking their bikes, pumping their tires, and making any last minute tweaks (I pumped my tires, but made no bike adjustments - figured what I trained with was good enough, why adjust anything to a position I had not trained on).
  
While pumping my back tire, I noticed a thorn in my tire! I couldn't believe my bad fortune (almost like a bad omen to throw me off of my pre-race prep plan).  At least I noticed it before the race so I had time to fix it, better yet, I noticed the bike wasn't even mine!  In that moment, I truly felt sorry for the athlete whose bike it was (and tried to wait around until he showed, but never saw him). At the same time a since of relief and calm came back over me - whew! Back to my planned pre-race routine.  Once I was done, the sun started to come up over Decker Lake, the sunrise just added to the surreal atmosphere.  Everything officially started with our National Anthem, which was a perfect way to end the pre-race events - and to start what would be an unforgettable day.

Swim: 1.2 miles
It was a wave start.  Every 5 minutes a group of people started (broken apart by age and first letter of last name).  My wave started second to last at 8:40 AM.  The professionals started at 7:20 AM, so I had some time to relax and mentally prepare. It was pretty neat to see the pros start, and since I started so late, I was able to see them (and some others) finish their swim and go through transition, they were very impressive.
 


My swim went well.  I had never swam in "open" water or with a wetsuit.  All my training had been in a pool.  The water was actually warm.  When I started my swim the weather was in the high 40's/low 50's, but the water was 72 degrees, so it felt really good getting into the water (coming out was a different story).  Luckily the race course marking buoys were to our left, and since I breathe off my left side, it made "sighting" pretty easy for me.  Some of the swimmers ended up completely off course, and a lot of them zig-zagged back and forth trying to swim, then sight.  But for me, sighting was just part of my natural breathing during swimming - four strokes, breathe/sight.  Seeing anything under water was impossible, so there was a lot of bumping and swimming over other swimmers for the first 400 meters.


I finished the swim in about 40 minutes, which is the fastest I have completed the 1.2 mile distance, so I was very pleased with my swim (during training, I was consistently around 42-44 min).  My transition from swim to bike was slow (actually both of my transition times were slow, but that was planned - being my fist triathlon/ironman I did not want to forget or mess something up, so I was continually telling myself in transitions to slow down, and make sure I had everything).
Bike: 56 miles

  My constant fear on the bike was that I was going to get a flat (or two).  Luckily the week before the race, I actually had two flats on my normal bike ride, so I had real experience changing a flat, but it takes me way too long (but I packed two spare tubes just in case).  The course had a lot of hills.  Houston does not have very many hills, almost none at all, so my training wasn't really on anything too hilly.  The ride was beautiful though, and it was fun taking in the scenery, or at least it was a decent distraction from the pain each hill was continually causing.  The biggest concern for me on the bike was making sure I was taking in enough nutrition, since the bike is where the majority of one's calories are replenished.  Since the weather was cool, I had to make sure I still consumed calories (Gatorade, GU gels, Cliff bars) at the same intervals/times I had trained at, even though my body didn't necessarily feel as though it needed it.



I finished my bike ride in about 3 hours and 22 minutes.  That was 22 minutes slower than I had anticipated, and that I had routinely achieved during my training rides. Pretty sure the hills played a factor in that, but I was relieved nothing mechanically went wrong with my bike, so I wasn't too upset about the time.  I was more excited I had completed two of the three disciplines, and now I was on to my favorite of the three disciplines (the run).

Remember what I mentioned about wanting to take transitions slow?  Well, the bike to run (T2) was a perfect case in point.  I ran to my rack number to rack my bike, and there was already a bike racked on my number! That threw me off a bit.  But, I found room and racked my bike anyways.  Then, I opened "my" bag...ugh! That bag didn't have my stuff!  Now my mind is racing, and I look at the bike rack number again "1975" - then I look at my body marking, um yeah, I was "1957," oops!  What a rookie mistake! But, that actually relaxed me a bit as I laughed at myself all the way out of the transition area.

 Run: 13.1 miles

 
The run was a loop that was a little shorter than 4.4 miles, which we obviously had to complete 3 times.  Wouldn't you know it, the run course had hills too.
My target time was to run 9 min 30 sec miles (which would put my run time hopefully just under 2 hours).  I also have a small confession to make.  Before the race, I still had not actually run a full 13.1 miles since my freshman year in college.  
 
My training consisted of long runs on Monday mornings, but always around 8-10 miles.  My Wednesday training runs were short and faster (4 miles at 7 min pace).  Then on Saturday, after my regular 50-56 mile bike ride, I would run (which is usually referred to as a "brick" workout), but never ran over 8 miles (usually between 4-8 miles). I am pretty sure my "base" distance could have used a little help - and it showed, especially with the hills on the run course.
 
I finished my run in about 2 hours 18 min.  That was 18 minutes slower than I had targeted.  The first 4.4 miles (1st loop) I was right at my target time of 9 min 30 sec miles, and everything felt great.  The second loop, I started to tighten up, and ended running it in about 10 min 30 sec.  Then the last 4.4 miles, the final loop, crushed me.  Didn't fully cramp up, but could feel the muscles twitching and getting really tight, so backed off and ended finishing the final loop in about 11 min 30 sec pace.

The Finish:
 
 My total time ended up being 6 hr 37 min.  I loved every aspect of the whole event.  I am not a very emotional person, but when I crossed the finish line, all the early morning hours I had put into training instantly flashed through my mind, and now realizing the journey and goal was complete, I nearly completely lost it.  It was such a feeling of accomplishment, and a feeling/experience that can never be fully explained - but has to be felt.
 

Special Thanks:

 To Jamie and my kids who endured the non-stop talk about running, swimming, biking, and all things Ironman for the past 3 months.


Jamie's parents for coming up to Austin to support me, and help Jamie with the kids, plus the hotel and food they picked up for us.

Ryan Reed for riding with me in the early hours each Saturday morning, and being my personal bike coach for the last 3 months - which was no small feat, since the last time I actually remember riding a bike is from my home to elementary school on a red diamondback dirt bike!
And finally, my family, who text and emailed the entire duration of my Ironman trying to track and follow me all day.  It was nice to see all the text and emails of support (even though I had no idea the mass following Jamie had created while I was actually competing) - my family was truly raised right, and my family is as close as any family could hope to be.  Thanks for the love and support.

Click below to view official Ironman stats and photos. 
Blake is bib #1957.


Huh? What is this? Future Ironman?

No comments: