Friday, December 31, 2010

IMWA: Lessons Learned

Alright, last post about the Ironman and then I'll shut the heck up. Here are my thoughts and lessons learned from this epic adventure.
  • I don't think I'd change a thing about the swim.
  • I should push harder on the bike. There's no reason I can't go faster. There are people out there finishing in 4.5 hours. There's no reason why I can't be that quick. Part of me thinks I spent so much time in "base" mode this year that I forgot how to "race." That's partially a good thing, because you're not actually supposed to "race" much of a 112-mile time trial... but I think next time, I need to target 160 bpm (or higher) instead of 150 (or lower). Just need to stop being lazy!
  • Somehow, I'm going to have to successfully train for a triathlon without injuring myself during a training run and screwing up that entire facet of the race. Maybe 2011'll be the year?
  • I don't think I'll ever actually feel comfortable riding on a disc wheel during a 112-mile time trial.
  • Slightly less swimming, much more running. More intervals on the bike.
  • I really liked all of my equipment choices. Everything clicked into place. If I had to change something, it'd be my shoes. I'd like to run in something lighter next time.
  • My race day nutrition choices worked out perfectly well too. PRO bar with breakfast. Perpetuem in the tank, Roctane, First Endurance gel and a traditional Power Bar in the bento box. Nothing but gel, flat coke, gatorade and water during the run.
  • I should get more massages more often.
  • As boring as that Paleo diet can be some times, I like the nutritional guidance it provides. I also like knowing that I'm not completely dependent on pasta for fuel.
  • Blogging about this whole process has been incredibly... therapeutic? And super interesting. It really helps me to spell out my thoughts, plans and sensations. And this'll be such a cool thing to show my kids some day.
  • Coaching myself was a challenge, but I don't know if I have the energy to do that again. 2011 might be the year I cave in and let someone else plan my training sessions for me.
The day after the race, Kristine and I attended the awards ceremony and celebration dinner. The race organizers put on a spectacular event and brought the top five finishers from every age group up on stage. They started with the youngsters and moved up and up. When they were calling guys up onto the stage who were almost forty years older than me - and who had bettered my time by an hour! - I just couldn't get over it. Here were guys more than twice my age, still spry and fit enough to pack in 140.6 and still have enough left over to hop up onto a podium the next day. Amazing.

I hope that's me some day. Seeing those guys get up there, seeing their times, their splits - it made me realize something: 10 hours and seven minutes is good (it's damn good!), but man, I can do better. If those guys can do better, then damn it all, so can I. So my final thought - the thought that's been at the top of my mind since that Monday night - is this:

I want to do another one!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

IMWA: Thank-You's

I promise, I'm almost done. One more after this and then I'll shut up!

It took a full week before I was able to comfortably walk up and down stairs and another week before I could even toy with the idea of running again. I say "toy with," because it's now been over three weeks and that's about as far as I've gotten. Getting back into the routine's going to be uncomfortable, but I think I'll continue to put it off for at least a few more days. The easy availability of junkfood around Christmas time is too hard to pass up!

Anyway, I need to take a few dozen words to say some thank-you's. There are a lot of people out there that I really couldn't have done this thing without. 

My family. I wouldn't be here without their support, not just this year, but through all the years. I have the best parents ever and the two sweetest sisters the world has ever seen. Knowing that so many of my aunts and uncles stayed up to follow me on race day - stayed up until 5 in the morning! - warms my heart.

Alex. I seriously don't think I would've even signed up for this had you not agreed to it back in March and seriously considered scrapping the whole thing in July. Even though you were forced to sit this one out, your support never wavered. Everyone should be lucky enough to have a friend like you. This adventure didn't work out; time to start planning the next one.

Bret. Alex. Keith. Vitaly. The three Mikes. And anyone else who got up with me super early on a Saturday morning for an unpleasant, Sergeant Valko-style ride. And the rest of Mission Cycling, too. You folks are why I even bother getting on my bike. You make pushing pedals worth while.

David. Dude, you might be the most crotchety lane-mate I've ever had, but thanks for pushing me in the pool all these months.

Allison, Alexa, Sarah, Morten and the rest of the Online Help team. It's kind of hard to get things accomplished with someone who's training six hours a day, but you bent over backwards to help me make it work.

Brian. Also known in this blog's comments as "Dinner with Dexter," Brian, you're probably one of the nicest, zaniest, most supportive, most enjoyable people to be around, especially in a quiet office amidst six months of grueling training.

Sonia and Mark. (Owen and James, too!) Thanks for welcoming me into your home in Perth. Thanks Bret, for putting me in touch with them.

Last, but certainly not least, Kristine. You got sucked into this mid-way through and never blinked twice. A trip to Australia's a big deal on it's own, and a trip to Australia to watch and support me during a ten hour race, plus nurse me back to health afterward... that's almost saintly. (Putting up with a perpetually exhausted, always-training, basically fun-free boyfriend for a few months beforehand was pretty amazing, too.)

I think everyone else out there owes you a special thanks as well - for the great mid-race coverage and incredible pictures!

...and to ANYONE else who's followed along, cheered me on, put up with my whining, my schedule, my tiredness, my diet, trained with me, coached me, advised me contributed to this crazy feat in any small way (you know who you are), thanks to you, too. This was a team effort. We did it.

Monday, December 27, 2010

IMWA: The Aftermath

Smiling through the pain!

Immediately after I crossed the line, a volunteer was reaching out to me to help guide me to the recovery area - only I didn't realize that and thought she was trying to give me a high five. She wasn't, but I gave her one anyway.

I couldn't believe I was done.

Another volunteer draped a finisher's towel around my shoulders and together they started to walk down from the finishing deck and back to the bag check and food tent. I tried to tell them that I was fine, that I could still walk, but they weren't having it. "We have to do this for everyone that crosses the line," they said. "You could be fine now, but a minute from now, you could fall flat on your face!"

Probably true.

Someone handed me a Pepsi, a banana and a finisher's medal. The volunteers congratulated me one more time and then I was released to grab my belongings and put together a plate of food on my own. I was all smiles and adrenaline.

By the time I got to the food tent, my legs were starting to shut down. I was shuffling. I managed to hobble over to a table and bend - stiffly! - into a chair. Another kind volunteer brought me a plate of pasta and fruit salad, which I picked over. I was starving, but after all of those gels and sports drinks, my stomach was not in any condition to digest real food. I picked over the food a bit and hobbled out of the tent into the receiving area where Kristine and Weilun were waiting.

Random kid asked me if I won. I did not win.

When I found them, I flopped down on the ground - literally too sore to move. After a long while, I started to get cold (and wanted to be out of my salt-stained tri-suit), so we gathered my belongings and set out on the most difficult part of the entire day: the eight block walk back to our chalet.

In dire need of a Reese's peanut butter cup.

Waiting outside the finisher's tent for that long was a mistake; it gave my body time to stiffen up, and stiffen up it did. My legs were buckling every few minutes. If Kristine hadn't been there for me to lean on as I shuffle-stepped my way home, I would not have made it. 

During the month-long lead-up to the race, I had pictured rewarding myself with a massive, pasta-and-beer victory feast. We had even gone out the day before to buy all of the necessary ingredients. Unfortunately, my inability to eat stuck with me through the night. We (well, mainly Kristine) slaved away in the kitchen, hoping my appetite would turn around by the time dinner was ready - but I couldn't really handle more than a few bites before collapsing. I was so tired I couldn't even eat.

The next morning, I woke up and promptly ate all of the pasta we had cooked, plus a normals-sized egg-and-fruit breakfast.

I would be remiss, though, if I didn't mention just how sore I was that next morning. Oh. My. God. I woke up and almost killed myself trying to make it fifteen feet from the bedroom to the bathroom. My legs simply refused to bend - or support the weight of my body. I could not move around the apartment without crawling along a wall. Even the smallest step was a gulp-inducing challenge. Getting in and out of the car was next-to-impossible.

Check out that sun burn!

We eventually went to pick my bike and transition gear and I was disappointed to see that most of the other competitors were walking around just fine. Sure, there were a few out there stepping gingerly, but I  think I was the only one in legitimate need of a wheelchair. I think that's what trying to run a marathon (after biking 112 miles) with little or no marathon training will do to you!

That evening, we attended the event awards ceremony and then packed our belongings into our (surprisingly nice) rental car for a week-long road trip along the southwestern coastline. It was at least a week before I could walk without hobbling and probably a full two weeks before the soreness faded completely. Ouch.


Sunday, December 26, 2010

IMWA: The Second Transition, the Run and the Finish

Immediately after crossing under the bike-finish marquee, I dismounted and handed my bike to one of the volunteers there for re-racking and sprinted toward the transition area. Someone handed me my bike-to-run bag on the way; I dumped it out immediately, threw on my running shoes, grabbed my hat and continued on.

All smiles at the beginning of the run.

The 42.2 kilometer run course was broken down into four mostly out-and-back laps on a pancake-flat, paved footpath along the beach. Each lap started and ended tantalizingly close to the finish line, where you could hear Mike Reilly announcing other competitor's names as they crossed the line. At the end of each lap, volunteers would hand you a wristband to mark your progress. The first three were black. The last one was orange, and once you had that orange wristband, the volunteer along the final straightaway would let you veer left, onto the final 100-meter finishing chute.

This is what the wristbands looked like. You start with zero.

The fans along the course were really great; many of them had brought out boomboxes or stereos and were playing music. The Final Countdown. Eye of the Tiger. Someone was even playing Rage Against the Machine. I unconsciously ran faster whenever I was within earshot.

Staying strong?

I actually felt pretty darn good on the first lap despite having 112 miles in my legs already. I eased into a rhythm, settling in at around an 8:15/mile pace and cruised through every aid station, just grabbing a cup of water or flat cola from one of the volunteers as I passed. On the second lap, I started to flag slightly - the sun was blazing and the pathway was starting to heat up. Recognizing the beginnings of a fade, I forced myself to walk portions of each aid station. Still, I felt okay and was keeping close to my target pace of mid- to low eights.

Things changed on the third lap.

After the posterior tibial tendonitis flare-up in September, I stopped running for five weeks. After that, I started running short, easy runs of no more than three miles at a time. In the final two months before the Ironman, I averaged ten miles running per week. My longest run after mid-September was 5.5 miles. As much as I hate running, I don't recommend you try a marathon on that kind of training program. By the start of Lap #3, my legs were already as stiff and sore as if I had spent the entire previous day doing lunges and squats.

I began bargaining with myself and rewarding myself for running with walking breaks from the start of each aid station to the end. The third lap bled into the fourth and it was all I could do to keep my legs moving. Each time I paused to walk, it was a mental battle to convince my brain to make my body run again. I was in so much pain. I felt like my legs were going to crack and crumble apart with every pounding step.

Walking through aid stations became the norm.

Passing the 5K-to-go sign should have felt like a moral victory; instead it felt like a death sentence. Three miles? That was going to take me at least half an hour at the pace I was running... and I could hardly fathom another thirty minutes of that agony.

4K to go. Right foot, left foot. Pain. Right foot, left foot. Pain.

3K to go. Right foot. Pain. Left foot. Pain.

2K to go, I had to stop and walk. I could faintly hear sounds from the finish line. I started counting, and when I got to sixty, I grit my teeth and started running again. This was it.

1K to go. I knew if I slowed down to walk I'd never be able to make myself start running again, so I completely skipped the final aid station. I got to the section where wristbands were being handed out, making sure they could see the three black ones I'd already earned and grabbing the fourth and final.

500 meters to go. Pain. I passed the bike transition area for the last time, then turned on to Queen Street.

200 meters to go. So much pain. I could see the split for the finishing chute ahead. I raised my arm to show the volunteer there the orange band. He nodded and motioned me left, into the final straightaway.

100 meters to go. Agony. I could see the elevated finish line. I could hear Mike Reilly. He was saying something about California.


50 meters to go. My legs wanted to give out. I started to roar. Literally. I'd never roared before; there's a first time for everything. Mike was calling my name, but I couldn't hear it. I clenched my fists and roared myself up to the finish line and stomped across with all of my might. (There's a video here!) Finish time: 10 hours, 7 minutes and 52 seconds.


Friday, December 24, 2010

IMWA: The First Transition, the Bike

Ripping my arms free of my wetsuit, I crested a slight rise and sprinted toward the changing area where I had checked my transition bags and bike the night before. Volunteers asked me for my bib number, frantically pulling my bag from the rack once they located it and running with me into the enclosed changing tent. I had them dump the contents on the ground while I removed the wetsuit from my legs. Still dripping wet and sputtering, I yanked on socks, shoved on bike shoes and jumped up and out of the tent to find my bike.

Running my bike to the mount line

Tossing my helmet on, I grabbed my bike from off the rack, brought it to the mount-line and was off. Two and a half frantic minutes led to the beginning of more than five hours' worth of quiet ones. The swim is a loud event  - the white noise of the ocean, of the splashing of your stroke and the water in your ears. The transition is louder - the cheers of the crowd, of the volunteers. Once you're on your bike, especially when you're one of just ten or fifteen others on-course, all sound melts away. Once you're on your bike and you're more than a mile from transition, there's nothing but you, your bike and the wind.

Tucked and aero

My plan on the bike was very similar to my plan on the swim: cruise. Ride at a steady rate that is sustainable for five and a half or six hours. I settled in to my aero position, began regularly sipping from my powder-mix-filled* drink tank, and began to turn the pedals over at a pace that kept my heart rate as close to 150 bpm (the upper threshold of zone 2?) as I could manage. From then on, it was just a matter of passing the time.

Speaking of passing, the bad thing about coming out of the water in front of the whole field is that you wind up being passed by every single cyclist who is faster than you. Guys were blazing by me at light speed, left and right. It would have been demoralizing had I let myself care. Some people just know how to ride a bike.

Approaching the end of a lap

My first and second lap felt nearly identical. The wind was fairly calm save for one section leading back into town, but otherwise, the flat course seemed to blend into one long, boring chunk of time. I started slipping a bit on the third lap - my back started to hurt and my heart rate kept dipping into the 140s. I didn't fight it much: I was already ahead of my projected pace and I still had a marathon to run. Conservation was still the name of the game. There was one little rise on the course and I'd use that as my excuse to get out of the saddle and "climb" - which felt great. I found myself wishing for hills; I think I'd place much higher (relative to others) on a course with some real elevation gain.

Rounding a roundabout on my way to another lap

The course itself, as mentioned before, was almost entirely flat. The pavement was decent, the route was okay, the scenery wasn't spectacular. For a few miles each lap, we rode along the shores of Geographe Bay. For another few miles, we rode through the karri-tree heart of Tuart forest. It was three laps of 60 kilometers, starting and ending just meters from the bike-to-run transition area.

The 180-degree turn-arounds were not fun; I don't like trying to turn my time-trial bike that sharply, especially on those wind-sail wheels. Aid stations were worse: because people in Australia ride (and drive) on the left-hand side of the road, I had to grab all of my water/gatorade bottles with my left hand -- not something I'd practiced! The result? A lot of very slow passes through aid stations. At least I didn't have to stop.

Nutrition on the bike was basically perfect, I think. I packed one bar and four gels and managed to spread them out well across the duration of the ride, consuming the bar around mile 30 and nothing but gel for the remainder of the day. I never ran out of fluid and managed to stay hydrated throughout.

It was a good ride. I wish I had something more interesting to say about it, but seriously, all I did was lay on my extensions and pedal evenly for five and a half hours, all while staring dully at my Garmin's heart rate and power readouts!

To the finish!

The end of the last lap felt pretty good - my back was screaming, but I knew I was coming in on a pace faster than I had hoped for. Cutting out of the final roundabout and down to the bike finish marquee (rather than pulling the full 180 and heading back out for another lap) was great - I was ready to be off that bike and see what my legs had left for the run: my first marathon.

My final time on the bike was 5:20'ish for an average of just under 21 miles per hour over the full 112-mile distance.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

IMWA: The Start, the Swim

Competitors approach the starting line

The weather that morning was perfect. With our start scheduled for 5:45, the sun had only just risen in a nearly cloudless sky. The water was calm, the flies were still sleeping, and the wind was barely whispering. It was a beautiful day for a triathlon.

The walk down to the water, through the throngs of other competitors, was inspiring in a lot of ways. Here were 1,400 people just like me, who had bled and sweat and sacrificed the same as me for months leading up to this morning, ready to bleed and sweat and sacrifice just a little bit more. The air was electric. Everyone was ready. Everyone was itching to start.

I confess to having been nervous during the bike check and while pulling on my wetsuit, but once the zipper on my back had been zipped, all anxiety vanished. If there's one place in this world where I am completely comfortable, it's in the water - and that's exactly where I was headed. Before an Ironman, there's no psyche-up, no power song, no revving of engines - that's all energy you need to save for ten hours down the line. Nope, the goal at the start of an Ironman is to come as close to serenity as is humanly possible.

Just like the night before, I had no jitters, no nervousness. I knew I had done what it takes to finish the race - I knew only a matter of hours stood between me and that finish line. I knew that it was going to hurt, but I have felt pain before and knew that I could handle whatever the course would dish out. All I could do was stake out my spot on the start line and turn around to enjoy the atmosphere surrounding me.

Having fun.

The announcers banter over the loudspeaker. The lapping of waves against the jetty, against hundreds of wetsuit-clad bodies. The light-hearted chatter of the competitors around me and the strange, bleating caw of Australian seagulls. Scattered applause from the gathered crowd. Another round, this time stronger... and then, a gun is fired.

And they're off!

The starting gun actually caught me off guard, but my position along the starting line gave me some open water to stretch out and start to find my stroke. The plan was to try to latch on to a group of faster swimmers, but ultimately cruise and swim my own race. A handful of guys shot out front quickly - separately, too, not as a pack - and I knew I would pay in the end if I tried to keep up. I settled in and waited for the first group to overtake me and settled in behind them. Drafting on the bike in a triathlon's not legal, but drafting on the swim? It's all good.

The group I wound up swimming with was actually going a little bit slower than I would've liked. The person up front obviously had no idea how to sight an open water swim - the pack kept zig-zagging across the water every time the leader course-corrected. But swimming on someone's feet, and swimming a little slower than you hope to go, is a good way to save a lot of energy. Could I have gone around them, gone out solo? Sure. But less than an hour into a long day, I didn't want to make any stupid mistakes. In my head, I kept repeating the same thing over and over again: "Cruise, Andrew. Just cruise."

The water was calm save for a few small swells out toward the end of the jetty, clear and comfortable at just under 70 degrees. It was such an easy course - keep the jetty on your left shoulder until it ends, swim left around the tip to the other side, and then keep it on your left shoulder again until you get to shore. 3.8 kilometers.

Three-quarters of the way through the swim (3 kilometers or so), the group started to break apart. People were attacking out, or trying to. At this point, I was fed up with whoever was leading the pack anyway - a thousand yards is something I can definitely manage on my own. With a bit of effort, I came up alongside the leader and then came around him with 200 meters to go. I wasn't sure how well-placed I was - I couldn't see anyone in the water in front of me - but I sure as hell wasn't going to come out of the water one someone else's feet if I could help it. I popped out and lurched into a run just ahead of several of the other guys in the pack.

Time to run!

I started fumbling with my wetsuit zipper as I ran, ripping the sleeves down just as I crossed under the marquee with a time of 49:30 - the first American, second in my age group and twelfth out of the water overall.

Trying to rip my wetsuit apart

For reference, this is what the water looked like ten minutes later. Glad I swam as fast as I did - I wouldn't have enjoyed being in the midst of this red-cap soup!


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

IMWA: The Morning Of

When's the last time you set your alarm for 3:30 in the morning?

When mine sounded, I leaped - leaped! - from bed and into jeans and a t-shirt. The plan was to walk down to the start/transition area (15 minutes away), check in, get marked, and then walk back to the chalet to suit up, eat breakfast and use a real toilet. I was foiled, though - apparently you need to show up with your timing chip already strapped to your leg, and mine was still on my shelf back in the chalet. Despite my protests, I was turned away. I ran - ran - home and had to adjust my morning routine on the fly.

Earliest picture ever taken
When I got back, Kristine was already up scrambling eggs and Russell was re-heating his leftover gnocchi. You know how they say never to change anything on race-day? I took that to heart. My pre-race breakfast consisted of the same darn thing I've eaten for breakfast before every big ride over the past six months: four eggs, half a can of diced pineapple, two glasses of orange juice and a meal bar. Again, not the most carb-heavy cuisine, but hey - that's how I roll!

After slamming down breakfast, it was time to suit up and head back over to transition for one final, pre-race check of the bike. After topping off the tires, situating my on-bike nutrition and calibrating my Garmin, I was ready to start sliding into my wetsuit.

Setting up the bike

Wetsuit Step #1 - Bodyglide (in transition)

Wetsuit Step #2 - Legs (halfway to start line)

Wetsuit Step #3 - Arms (fifty meters from start line)

The process was a bit stressful - at one point, I realized I had left a bar in one of my pockets and had to pull the suit back down to my waist to remove it - but didn't take long. Once suited up, it was time to head down to the beach on the east side of the jetty with the start of my first Ironman triathlon just minutes away.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

IMWA: The Day Before

You're less than twenty-four hours from the biggest race of your life. You've completed all of your important training runs, rides and swims. You're trying your best to rest and reset. There are only a few things left to do.

Groom. At this point, I hadn't shaved in weeks (and hadn't cut my hair in months), so in keeping with my typical swimmer's pre-race tradition, I spent some quality time with my razor (and the barber's clippers).

Shave and a haircut, two bits. (Before)

If I had been at home, it would have been easy - I have my own set of clippers there and a buzz is pretty simple to do on your own - but I wasn't. We found the oldest, most authentic-looking barber shop in town. If I'm paying for a haircut, I figured, I might as well have them do something I couldn't do myself. Besides, how many times in your life do you get to go into the shop and say something to the barber as crazy as, "Give me a mohawk?"

Prep. Streamlined, I took to giving my bike a final once-over and packing my transition bags.  You pack two bags - one for the first transition and another for the second - and check them in the night before the race. As you're coming into transition, volunteers will pull your transition bag and hand it to you as you enter the changing area. As you can imagine, it's kind of important that you pack everything you will actually need during transition, and pack it all into the correct bag.

Check-in, like a monkey ready to be shot into space. (After)

Pray. It was the night before the biggest race of my life... but it was also a Saturday night, and on Saturday nights, I go to church. Needless to say, I had a lot to pray for (and a lot to be thankful for).

Eat. There's not much more important than you're pre-race meal, and much to the disbelief of Russ, the other competitor sharing the chalet, mine wasn't much of a departure from my usual dinner. Kristine helped me assemble a massive, hearty salad - greens, broccoli, some avocado, chicken, dried cranberries and diced apples. It contrasted greatly with Russell's more traditional carbo-load meal of gnocchi and eggs.

Sleep. Bike and bags checked, stomach full, gear laid out for the morning and a ridiculous 3:30 AM wake-up on tap meant an early bedtime. I wasn't sure I'd be able to sleep, but honestly, I didn't have those nervous jitters that used to keep me awake before big swim meets. In fact, I had no nerves at all. I slept like a baby.

Transition bags, neatly racked and organized for tomorrow's race

Sunday, December 19, 2010


Skirting the Southern Ocean
I know, I know - it's been two weeks since the race without even a hint of a race report. As previously mentioned, I've been "busy" relaxing. Kristine and I hopped in the car and left Busselton last Tuesday and spent several days exploring Western Australia's wine country, coastlines and national parks. It has been incredible.

We then spent a few days in Perth, the most remote city of over a million people in the world. Highlights? The enormous (and absolutely stunning) Kings Park, and a great Thai dinner with new friends Sonia and Mark in their suburban home. More on all of this later.

Relaxation aside, there have been two significant changes in my behavior since the Ironman. I've learned to let myself sleep - not sleep in, per se, but sleep a lot. Western Australia is a sleepy region; the people there follow the sun. Most towns were shuttered up as soon as the sun went down, and most people seemed to rise early in the morning as the sun's coming back up. I really enjoyed that; when you're on vacation in a place where there's no nightlife, you don't feel pressured to try to participate in it. You can safely crawl into bed with a book and doze off before the clock strikes nine.

The other big change has been diet. Oh man. Leading up to the race, that Paleo diet really turned eating into a boring exercise, but since... I have been consumed more delicious (and probably terrible-for-me) food in the past two weeks than ever in my life. I'm like a bottomless pit of consumption. It's awesome. Not at all sustainable, but hell, I'm on vacation.

Mmm, breakfast.
Anyway, it's Monday morning and I'm in Sydney. I'm mentally drafting my race report(s), but I don't fly home until Wednesday and can't promise any of them will start to trickle out before I'm back on U.S. soil. I have just a few more days of official vacation time and I want to make sure I spend them on the beach and not hunched over my little netbook.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Crossing the Line

I highly recommend watching the full-on, HD version here:

Monday, December 6, 2010

Ironman? Check!

I'm not dead! As many of you know, I crossed the line on Sunday just ten hours and seven minutes after the shotgun start on the shores of Geographe Bay. It was a long day. It was a hard day. One-hundred and forty (point-six!) miles later, I heard the call that just about every triathlete dreams of: "You are an Ironman!"

I did it.

I don't think I've ever really roared before, but by hell, when they opened up that finishing chute for me, I was roaring all the way to the line. Every muscle fiber in my body burned, but once I saw that marquee just fifty meters away, my vision went red, I clenched my teeth and my fists and stomped all the way through with all the might I could muster.

I did it.

My legs are more sore than I could have ever imagined. I can barely walk; yesterday, just getting to the bathroom from the bed was almost as much a challenge as the last leg of the race had been the day before. Note to any aspiring Ironmen or Ironwomen out there: I do not advise attempting to run a marathon having run only one run longer than five miles in the three-month lead-up to the race.

I did it.

Nine months of hard work paid off. I felt great on the swim (I could have gone harder). I felt great on the bike (I should have gone harder). I felt good for the first half of the run. I felt like a dead man on the last half of the run - not because I was too tired, but because I was already so sore, blistered and stiff. I almost broke 10 hours in my first Ironman, and I think I can do better. After attending the awards ceremony yesterday and seeing 60 year-olds post times better than mine by over an hour, I know I can do better.

But all that really matters right now is this:

I did it.

I have a lot to write - expect a massive, three-part race report to trickle out some time over the next few weeks - but internet access out here is hard to come by, and I have a vacation to attend to. Thanks to every one of you who followed along with me on Sunday - you were with me every step of the way. I love you all.

Wheeling into transition on Saturday afternoon

Calm before the storm

Coming out of the water

Powering through the last lap on the bike

Feeling good on the first lap of the run

Roaring through the finish

Kristine and I, with my hard-earned hardware

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Tomorrow's the Big Day

The past few days have been just what they needed to be: chill. Kristine arrived on Thursday (yay!), along with flatmates Russell (who's about to tackle his seventh Ironman!) and Weilun. This little chalet is so packed to the gills with bikes and bike paraphernalia that it's almost hard to move around without knocking over an expensive piece of carbon.

This is the life.

Kristine and I took a break from Busselton yesterday to do some actual sightseeing. We saw (and hiked around) a lighthouse that's perched on what seems to be the end of the world, spotted a humpback whale or two swimming off the coast and stumbled upon a huge, craggy, wind-whipped rock called Sugarloaf. On the way back, we took an exploratory left turn and found a little, deserted piece of paradise called Meelup beach. The picture's worth more words than I can type here.

My own private beach

One thing I feel the need to mention about Western Australia (WA): the flies are ridiculous. They don't bite, but they are incessant, buzzing around your face, ears, landing on your back. It's unpleasant. The locals seem used to them, but I can barely walk outside without continuously swatting every which way in  a vain attempt to keep the flies at bay. 

The flies were especially bad during the lighthouse hike. Yuck.

Want to know the best thing about Sugarloaf Rock and Meelup beach? They were blessedly fly-free.

Anyway, this is just about it: twelve hours from now, I'll be shrugging into my wetsuit and taking to the beach for the start of Ironman Western Australia. I spent most of the day preparing my transition bags, doing some last-minute wrench-work on my bike and otherwise fretting about the finer details of tomorrow's race. After all that, I think I'm ready.

Kristine will be snapping photos and posting real-time updates via my Twitter account, and I believe you can track my progress online at (I'm bib #196!)

See you all on the other side!

Final tune-up
PS - I've received a lot of supportive, encouraging emails over the past few days. I really appreciate every single one of them! I promise I'll respond to you as soon as I have a nice, quiet place with reliable internet... this sketchy McDonald's just doesn't cut it!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Goal Time(s)

After previewing the course yesterday and again this morning, I think I'm ready to make some rough estimates and performance predictions.

The Swim
The Busselton Jetty is almost 2 kilometers long and looking out to the end of it from the shore makes you realize just how far I've got to swim on Sunday. I've been in the water a few times out here, and thus far, I haven't bothered with a wetsuit. The temperature's a solid, comfortable 70-degrees and current's not an issue unless the wind's blowing. The water's mostly clear and relatively shallow - it's seems to be between 5 and 10 feet deep no matter how far from the beach you swim - making this open water swim feel a lot more like a pool swim.

I should be a bit faster with the wetsuit on (go buoyancy, go!) and I'll be aiming for between 50 and 53 minutes.

The Ride
Friends of mine hoping for scorched earth on the bike leg may be disappointed; in two pre-rides of the course, I've barely been able to maintain a 20 mile-per-hour average. I think it's the cross-wind. If I can hold that pace for the full 112 miles, I'm looking at a 5h36 split on the bike, though I'd factor in +/- ten minutes. As mentioned before, there are three laps of the course, each with four 180-degree turn-arounds. The longest straightaway's on Tuart Drive - probably five or eight miles each way. The final five miles of each lap won't be pleasant unless the wind dies down - they're exposed and going in the exact wrong direction.

The Run
This is still my biggest question-mark. The course itself is incredibly flat and follows the coastline perfectly. There are four out-and-back laps on a paved path. If it's not super hot or super windy, I think I can finish the marathon leg in under 4 hours.

Total Time
Barring any unforeseen issues (mechanical or biological), I'm pretty sure I can finish this race in under 11 hours - probably closer to 10h30. Worst case (1hr swim, 6hr bike, 4.5hr run) would bring me in at 11h30. Absolute best case (.75hr swim, 5.25hr bike, 3.5hr run) would bring me in at 9h30 (which would be ridiculously awesome, but probably isn't likely).

We'll find out on Sunday, won't we?