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Race Result

Racer: Mike Guzek
Race: Great Floridian Iron-Distance
Date: Saturday, October 20, 2001
Location: Clermont, FL
Race Type: Triathlon - Ironman
Age Group: Male 25 - 29
Time: 12:18:33
Overall Place: 128
Age Group Place: 1

Race Report:

I decided around June that I wanted to do an ironman. The decision forced me to log nearly 3000 miles on the bike, 500 miles running and over 100 miles in the pool. My training hours ballooned to over 20 hours per week and if I was not training I was thinking about training and if I was not thinking about training I was thinking about race day. Not much else mattered and I had past the point of training to finish, I was training to do well and my life reflected that…..stacks of unread mail, dirty clothes everywhere, a perpetual “tri” smell to my car and friends who wondered if I had moved or changed email address because they had not heard from me in so long. I gave up a lot to train for this and so did those around me. (Many thanks to you all). So was I nervous before my race? You bet. There was a lot on the line.

Pre Race
Maarten and I posed for a final picture and headed towards the water. In the water I made some small talk, swam a few hundred yards and just waited for the whole thing to get started. This may have been one of the hardest parts of the race. I had been waiting for months to get here and here I was. And as I listened to the singing of the Star Spangled Banner the seconds ticked away like hours.

The Swim
As she finished singing, there was an eerie calm and people just were just looking around waiting for some official start. We just started walking out, no one sure if the race had started. We were all looking around until the guy next me, shrugged his shoulders and dove in, and at that moment the race began. Everyone just raced ahead. I was lucky enough that my walk ahead had gotten me clear of most of the pack and I knew that as a good swimmer I could be clear of most of the chaos. I was partially right. By walking out so far, for about the first hundred yards I was out front…...actually, I was IN the front. Knowing I would not finish that way I braced myself for the inevitable swimmers that would be literally be climbing on my back shortly. There was some arm wrestling for about the first half-mile and then things cleared up. I managed to stay on some feet for a while which helps because I tend to go left to right when I swim and this kept me straight, but after a few minutes I lost him. The thing on the swim part of the triathlon is that it is almost impossible to figure out where you are relative to everyone else and nearly as difficult to find out how your time is until you are done. This course had two 1.2 mile laps so at least there was a time check point halfway to see how you were doing….I came out around 26:30…not too bad, right where I wanted to be.

I figured I could do around 55 min for the swim but I basically wanted to be out in under and hour. Second lap was uneventful and I just tried to concentrate on the next part of the race. As I got closer to the beach I started getting really really excited. The race was REALLY about to begin when I got on the bike. As I emerged from the water the clock had me at 57 minutes….little bit higher than I was shooting for, but I knew I was top 20 or so out of the water and more importantly I had survived and was feeling great.

Transition 1
The T1 transition was one to forget. “strippers” had removed my wetsuit on the run up, and volunteers handed me my transition bag with all my gear in it. I ran into the tent and dumped my gear across the grass…..socks on, race belt on, gloves on, shoes on, shades on……BOOM!! Here I go out the tent. Toss my bag in the “Done” pile and get my bike. I am running out and a volunteer yells “You Need Your Helmet!” WHAT!?!? How did I forget my helmet!!!?? Son of a B!@#$!! Re-rack the bike, run back to the tent, to find my bag was gone. I am grabbing volunteers (pretty aggressively at this point) and yelling at them “WHERE IS MY BAG?” Finally someone found it and I grabbed the helmet and took off. That whole episode which seemed like days took about 3 minutes and got me off on the wrong foot, but nevertheless got me out of the transition area at 1:03 and I was now working on my goal of a 6 hour bike split.

About a quarter mile into it my buddy Maarten comes whizzing by. “You all right?” he says, concerned that he passed me so soon. We both knew he would zip past me on the bike but it was supposed to happen at mile 20….or 40 even, but the transition had made it happen at mile 1! “Yeah,” I responded in a pretty dejected tone and he was gone. I would not see him again until the run, when our fortunes were reversed. Another training partner, Jim aka Buelito comes zipping by too. Man, mile one and everyone is blowing past me, this will be a long day. The first 6 miles is a nice flat ride around the lake we swam in, and then it heads out into the country. As we left the lake there was a nasty straight up hill. This set the tone early on. The first 40 miles of this course are pretty rough......tough hills and some even tougher pavement. As a big guy hills are good or bad depending on you look at it…good at the top, bad at the bottom. Gravity really works for you on the way down, but destroys you on the way up. You don’t see 200 pound Tour De France riders for that very reason. So, as expected, a steady convoy seemed to fly by me as I negotiated the first hill. I really suffered early on and 25th place from the swim had dropped to about 70th in the less than 20 miles. All I could think about were my two training buddies who I had ridden some tough rides with over the summer, dropping me like it was nothing and everyone else here who was flying by as well…..I panicked a little as I felt like many of my goals and expectations were disappearing right in front of me. This was not supposed to happen, I had trained to hard to sputter like this…….


I started thinking back to all the advice I had gotten during training……be ready to reassess your goals during the race….when disaster strikes, deal with it and refocus…..run YOUR race, don’t worry about everyone else……so I relaxed….I put everyone else out of my head and tried to just stay focused on my race and my nutrition and hydration. Right about this time there was a nice little 10-15 mile hiatus from the hills. The course flattens out until about mile 40 where there is a King Kong hill, Sugarloaf. On the flats, weight is less of and issue, and I remember thinking when I drove the course the day before that when it gets flat, you attack. And I did. I passed a guy….hey, that was fun…then I passed another…..and another….whoh….I was doing good….I was feeling good!….this is getting fun. I wanted to average between 19- 20 mph (that would get me in under 6 hours) over the course and when I was feeling crappy I was at 18.5, I looked down at my computer and I am cruising at about 24 mph and my average is up to 19.1. I am cooking!! Passing more people. Holy cow I am back to 58th place!!

Right about now, I started feeling really good. The race was fun, I had gotten myself together after a slow start.
Going up that big hill, Sugarloaf I felt great. One guy passed me (which was much better than the convoys passing me on the other hills). Like I said, when you go up, you have to go down and big guys like to go down so I flew past 3 people on the back side of the mountain. I continued to cruise to the special needs station at mile 62ish. On the way in I saw Jim (who flew passed me at mile 1) pulling out so I knew I had battled back.

Left the special needs area for the back half of the course which is much flatter. At this point I was averaging 19.6 mph and made it up to as high as 46th place. I nearly pulled over to call someone about my good fortune!! Then.…disaster strikes!!

This is not happening….

It was mile 75 or so, and I look down and my rear brake had come loose from my frame and was now dangling by the brake cable clicking my spokes as my rear wheel turned. This can’t be happening. I pulled over. Not only did I have no rear brake, but now the dangling brake made it impossible to ride as it would lodge in the wheel. I had no idea what to do. I had tools, but no screw to put the brake back. I could not cut the cable and there was no where to put the brake to get it out of the way. I just look at the sky and yelled. I grew more frustrated with each WHIZ from bikers that were zipping past me. Bikers I had battled so hard to pass. Finally I managed to wedge the brake under the seat. So, now I road with no rear brake and the brake itself digging into the back of my left thigh every time I pedaled down. This was not going to work for very long. After about 10 miles I found a mechanic on the course that could at least tape the brake to the frame to get it out of the way. Now I just had no rear brake. At mile 92 I finally found a mechanic who could replace it. These guys were great. It took about 6-7 minutes to fix, but I did get a chance to rest. I hadn’t eaten any food all day -- only drinks -- and I tried to take in a Pay Day candy bar which had been a go to pick me up in training.…I could not hold it down. One bite and I nearly lost it right there. Food was just not going to work today. They got the brake on and I was off to finish the hardest 20 miles of my life.


I was beat at this point both mentally and physically. My once personally impressive average had dropped to about 19.2 and I was literally counting down the 10th of a mile as they passed. Every time I tried to get out of the saddle – cramps. I never get cramps, but I had them today and they were brutal. As long as I sat, I was ok. Everyone I passed or that passed me was in bad shape, we all were in survival mode now. We weren’t racing anymore. . With about 8 miles to go I finished the last of my energy drink. I was out of calories and only had a little water. I thought there was another aid station and there was not. This was turning into a major miscalculation. I started to get light headed and was looking for another competitor who could possibly lend me a gel or a few swigs of a drink to get me home. I was getting worried and I was not doing too good. But as I looked around I realized that we were back in town…..as a matter of fact we were back to the transition area. My computer was 4 miles off…..we were done….I was done…..I made it…..how did I do it…..this was the greatest miscalculation of my life…..I will never view accurate calculations again!!! A final look at the computer as I dismount……19.0 mph, time 5 hours 46 minutes! I did it! I hit my goal! I was in 73rd place!

Transition 2
Whereas T-1 resembled the floor of the NYSE, T- 2 resembled the recovery ward of a hospital. I hobbled into the tent and saw some people just sitting there slowly chewing on pretzels with a blank stare, others are puking in the corner, still others are doing nothing. I slowly slipped on my running shoes and drank some fluids and tried to get my head back together. I was running a serious calorie deficit and I had not used the bathroom yet so I was likely not hydrated enough either. And there was also the issue of cramps. As I slowly left the tent for the marathon….man…this is nuts just to write…as I left the tent for the marathon the announcer announced my name and I waved and gingerly jogged out of the transition. This was going to be interesting.

I went into the race hoping for a 1 hour swim a 6 hour bike and a 4 hour marathon. I had made the first 2 but I knew the run was the toughest part for me. And I was pretty beat down so this was going too tough, but I had at least gotten myself on target this far. About a half mile into my run my left hamstring locked up in a vicious cramp. As I jolted back my other hamstring locked up too. Uh oh, this aint good. There I was standing there, bent over at the waist….just standing there not sure what to do. A spectator was nice enough to help me up. He told me to lay on the ground, he then stretch me out….he gave me some words of wisdom and sent me on my way. Had he not been there, I might still be standing there in the middle of the run course in eyeshot of the transition area, bent at the waist looking very confused. Over the next couple miles I battled cramps in a run, walk, stand, sit and stretch progression. This was brutal. I never cramped….ever, but here I was. This kind of race is not like any other training day. This is full throttle physically, mentally, and emotionally. You give it all, and when you really do give it your all you are going get some unexpected bumps in the road. This was one of those bumps. Gradually the cramps came under control, but I was still seeing stars and trying to get calories…all the eating and drinking made it hard to run though and I was feeling full and pretty queasy after all the sugary gels and sports drinks. By mile 4 I was getting a bit of a running rhythm together and felt a little better than I did early on. The cramps subsided a bit and my energy level was slightly above “absolutely wasted.” By this point a 4 hour marathon was totally out of the question….this is where you do a little goal reassessment. Now, it's about finishing….there is heart, dedication desire etc, but right now and over the next few hours, I am here to finish. Whatever emotions I want to lean on to get it done, doesn’t matter, just finish.

The Lake

I saw Jim on the run at a turn around point, he was about 2 miles or so ahead of me….he is a pretty strong runner so I figured that was as close as I would be to him. Found out later he had 3 flats on the bike course….at least I am not only guy with problems!! At mile 6, the course comes back to the lake were we swam and we go around the lake 3 times. As I headed around the lake, I felt crappy, but I was stable. About mile 11 I saw someone ahead of me…..it was none other than my buddy Maarten!! The guy who blew passed me on the bike. He knew going in his run was likely going to be a walk because of the some injuries he had before the race. His race was really the bike leg and he tore it up placing 30th overall. But just like me, that push had taken its toll on him and he was pretty beat. We walked together for a half-mile and then we started to run together.

Mile 12 of the run. For a few miles Maarten and I ran together. We are both dealing with cramps and stomach problems.
We stayed together a few miles, but then I inched past him and he faded somewhere behind me. The next lap was pretty numbing. My biggest issue was being on the verge of puking the whole time. All day I just ate gels and sports drinks and I was pretty d$#@ tired of them by this point. I made lots of friends on the second lap and headed out for my last lap. 7 more miles and I was an ironman. I battled a few more cramps and got about a quarter of the way around who comes up from behind…..Maarten. He battled back. The two of us pumped each other up the rest of the way. “OK Guz, from this cone to that next light pole we run….” “All right Maarten, to the next mail box we run…” “the blue one?” “no the red one on the other side” “oh, ok…” we ran in 50 yards segments and started passing people. By this point it was dark. What a day. 3 miles to go. Let’s do this man!! 2 miles!! 1 mile!!! “Maarten we are going to do this!!” We talked about how we would finish….me first? Him first? Sprint it out?? In the end, we decided to finish arm in arm. We had trained together, drove the bike course together, and set expectations together. I picked him up when he was ready to walk the whole run course. He picked me up when I was ready to walk the last lap. As we came down the shoot, I was somehow not tired. Maarten had to tell me to slow down several times because I was running up on the guy coming down the finishing shoot in front of us. Not too cool to mess up some else’s finishing photo by jumping around the background like an idiot. So we ran the last 30 feet together crossing the line at 12:18:33!! My 4-hour marathon had become 5:18 and I was absolutely fine with that. I just became and ironman.

Post Race
After the race I got a message and tried to take in some fluids. I called my folks and was having problems getting my head together. Melanie made the good recommendation to hit the medical tent. I spend an hour or so in there wrapped up in blankets trying to get fluids and sodium. They were bringing in a steady flow of people and several left on stretchers. It was somewhat terrifying to see but also somewhat inspiring. This aint easy, and when they brought in the lady who had passed out and was throwing up on herself it really hit home….this is nuts, absolutely nuts.

I Did It
When the results came out I learned that I won the 29 and under Clydesdale division and I had place 128th over all of the males. During the race I remember thinking that I might never do another ironman race. As I sit her now I am already wondering if I could do 3 next year. This really is nuts. Another thing I remember running through my headed during the race. No matter what respect you ever had for someone who has done this, it likely is not enough – especially for those who finish in the back of the pack. After leaving the medical tent I went home, took a shower and talked about the race. Finally about 12:00 I decided to call it a night. As I looked at my watch I realized that there were still people on the course. I had been done for nearly 5 hours and there were still people out there!! There are not enough superlatives to describe those people. Someone told me once…..”what will they call the last place finisher at your race?” “uh, not sure what?”

“…an ironman”.

Many thanks to everyone who helped out at all along with the way with words of wisdom, encouragement, or support. Thanks to all those I trained with and pushed me to push myself. Thanks to Maarten for bringing me strong into the finish. And finally a big thanks to my girlfriend Melanie who is just as much of an ironwoman as I am an ironman. She put up with a lot and was a huge part of my success.