||Sunday, September 7, 2008
||Triathlon - Ironman
||Male 30 - 34
|Age Group Place:
Twenty-two days ago, I completed my 11th Ironman distance triathlon in Madison, Wisconsin. Going back through the previous 10, I can depict how each gave me a vast sense of accomplishment, regardless of how the race unfolded.
#1 was #1. Getting to the finish was all that mattered
#2 ability to battle illness and an uncooperative gut. The first thing I did at the finish was cry
#3 was revenge after a disappointing #2
#4 gave me confidence that I could go faster with proper and more specific training
#5 my first encounter with the “front” of the race
#6 a breakthrough - I went under 10 hours
#7 Kona - I got there.
#8 during a year “off” and still being satisfied with result
#9 going sub 10hrs at #6 was no fluke
#10 the ‘W’ - Chesapeakeman champion
At Ironman Wisconsin, I had a good race, and in comparing finishing times, it was my 3rd best. I got to the finish line; to many, that is great in itself. I didn’t crumble in front of my sister and brother in-law, who drove up from Iowa with their 5 month old baby to watch the race and experience their first
Ironman as spectators. For 22 days, I’ve been hyper-analyzing this race to find that huge sense of accomplishment, and it’s been somewhat of a struggle.
I think Wisconsin is stamped “good” but not “great” because, for the first time in a number of races, I did not exceed or meet my expectations. Having expectations is dangerous; I’ve learned that being a father. Maybe they should be called “hopes”. But if you only hope to perform at a certain level, it would be easier to fail. Expecting a great performance meant confidence in my training and preparation.
I expected to get a ticket to Hawaii. That was a mistake. Not qualifying added a component of failure to my race that didn’t necessarily need to be there.However, in the end, I'm glad I didn't get it. Its better that qualifying for Kona will always be something I need to work my ass off for, rather than a pick-your-qualifier-and-bring-a-check process - it'll be more rewarding that way. After picking up two slots and turning them down in consecutive months last year, I became slightly overconfident.
I went into this race feeling great. 9-2-9 has been the combination on my locker lock since setting a PR of 9:32 at Chesapeakeman. While I did reserve some space for not knowing the course, I felt confident in my preparation and I worried that setting a soft time goal would not allow me to dig to the depths I had yet to explore.
Most of my training this year was done on my own. I woke up earlier on the weekends than the week days to get training completed and back home to the family. I often woke up the birds on ride mornings. In hindsight, there was probably too much solo training in my build. I got comfortable riding at a certain effort without anyone to push me out of my comfort zone. At the time, I was convinced that all the solo miles were beneficial in building mental strength and would prove priceless come race day.
Margie (my mother) was the winner of the “drive Brady to the race” award. During the dark, 15-minute ride around the Beltline, she said a prayer, asking for a safe race with no mechanicals or injuries – that was comforting.
I calmly went through the process of dropping off my bags, putting bottles on the bike, checking the tires, and made my way down to the lake.
This was a great swim for me. It was not my best swim time, but close and certainly the best I’ve felt throughout the swim leg of an Ironman. With your standard 2000+ starters, I was able to find some room to swim after only 300 meters. Rounding the turn buoy for loop 1, I checked in right at 29:45. Breaking the hour mark would’ve been a sweet start to the day, but I knew I had the 150 meters to swim back to shore after completing the 2nd loop. I stuck with the same pack as we navigated the course the second time around. Out in just under 1:03.
Exiting the water was a relief; running up to transition was not. The transition run takes you up (and around) a helix to the upper level a conference center. My pulse spiked as my heart worked overtime to get enough blood and oxygen into the legs to keep moving up the helix.
I felt fantastic on the bike, and I liked the course. With a good mix of turns, rollers, and short climbs, it really kept things from getting stale. Forthose familiar with the Columbia triathlon bike course, I would say that Wisconsin is like doing 4 x Columbia. I flip-flopped often with others who would
descend and climb faster, but lose ground on the flats. My strongest efforts seem to show over steady terrain of flats and low-grade ups and downs.
I experienced two minor mechanicals (same thing both times). While descending and picking up speed, I shifted down into my highest gear and my cranks just stopped - I couldn’t pedal forward or backward. They were stuck, because my rear derailleur shifted my chain beyond the highest gear and jammed it between
the seat stay (part of the frame) and the cassette (the gears). I had to kill my momentum, dismount, and dislodge the jammed chain (fearful of it breaking in the process). About 15 minutes after that, I unintentionally did the same thing during another descent with the same result: stop, dismount, fix chain, and
go. I was very mindful not to shift into that gear for the remainder of the ride.
I incorrectly estimated my bike time twice (another example of not meeting expectations!). At one point, I felt I had a good shot at 5:10. Through the final 10 miles, things started to get rough. The winds picked up and my tempo fell off pace. I adjusted the time estimate to a 5:15 worst case. Low and behold, with roughly a mile to go 5:15 rolls over on the bike computer. Those final few miles stung deeply and drug on way longer than I anticipated.
I ran the first 3 miles at a 7:10 pace, not feeling great but thinking I'd eventually feel better after the running legs came around. After clocking those first 3 miles, I decided not to check mile splits any longer – fearful of the negative feedback it may provide.
Running steady to mile 8, I checked the watch and was right on an hour.
I thought, “Two more 8-mile sections in an hour each. You can do it”.
I caught one age grouper (PowerBar guy) that looked to be on his way to fadeville. Shortly after passing, I felt the immediate need to stop for a nature break. Here’s how that went:
- Open portajon door
- Stand there doing nothing
- Tic-toc, tic-toc … “what the …?.”
It was an eternity before I was finally able to get things flowing.
When I exited, I was now about 100 yards behind PowerBar guy I had passed shortly before. I caught him again and we ran together for a few miles.
State Street was a section of the run to feed off the energy of the screaming crowd. It was at the end of State Street where I’d pass by Deidre, Kyle, Blake, Margie (my mom), Allyson (Deidre’s sister) and Doug (Allyson’s husband, just back from Beijing as part of the USA freestyle wrestling team). A quick point, smile, and slap to Kyle’s hand before the buzz of seeing family and screaming fans had vanished. I was really happy that Allyson and Doug made the trip to watch me compete. It meant a lot and I’m glad they got to see first hand why I’m driven to train hard and make the sacrifices I do.
Memories start to get fuzzy after that. The feelings and emotions you go through seem hard to recount immediately after they’re gone - and more so when trying to write about them almost a month later.
I sucked down a couple gels, thinking my caloric energy may be low. I seldom had stretches of feeling like I was able to push my effort and pick up the pace, before soon dropping back to something slower. I lost touch with PowerBar - he seemed to have the energy to pick things up, while I did not. He finished 7th
and took the final qualifying slot in our age group. In the final couple miles, I was passed by at least two more age groupers, not having the energy or strength to respond – that was disappointing. This is where I expected (there’s that word) to be able to dig to unknown depths; quite possibly, I was already there.
I didn’t get *everything* I wanted out of the day, but it was solid and satisfying nonetheless. And really, getting to the finish line is great in itself.
Had I gone 9:29 in Wisconsin, I simply would adjust my locker combo to 9-2-5 and repeat the process. Maybe next time.