||Saturday, November 8, 2003
||Panama City Beach, FL
||Triathlon - Ironman
||Male 35 - 39
||160 / 1904
|Age Group Place:
||26 / 341
The Summary of Numbers:
Start Weather 7AM: Clear, 63F, Wind N-10mph, 90% humidity
Finish Weather 5PM: Clear, 75F, Wind N-7mph, 69% humidity
Max Temp: 82F @ 2PM / Max Wind: N-13 @ 8AM /
Max RH: 90% @ 7AM / Min RH: 56% @ 2PM
Water Temp: 75F
(Very good weather for November!)
Swim 58:38 AG 16th OA 97th
(First Lap - 27:18, Second Lap - 31:20)
Bike 4:57:15 AG 13th OA 82nd
Run 3:52:51 AG 54th OA 307th
(First Qtr – 51:18, Second Qtr - 58:17, Third Qtr - 1:03:27,
Fourth Qtr - 59:51)
Gross Total 9:55:08
Official Total 9:59:08 AG 26th OA 158th
This was my second Ironman and the atmosphere in Florida compared to my first (IM California 2000) was rather low-key. M-Dot events have certainly changed in this regard over the past three years. The Carbo Dinner & Awards Dinner were fun times, but the exposition and associated events were a little less "exciting" than I expected them to be. However, everything from the weekend was very well organized. No complaints were heard about the race organization and there were tons of praise heaped upon the volunteers and race staff.
Conditions prior to race day were quite warm, close to record heat, although a slight cooling was expected for race day. The Gatorade morning swims were a joke…Gatorade's participation was pretty much to put their name on a "swim at your own risk" sign. The swim buoys were not laid out until the afternoon prior to race day. Those who did get into the water were greeted by a significant number of jellyfish.
The only change to the "course" this year is in the transition area. The "changing tents" were actually inside the ballroom of the hotel, as was the rooms for the gear bags. The medical tent was in the transition area, and depending on where your bike was parked, you could have ended up running through the medical
tent to pick up your bike at T1.
For myself, I had a stated goal of trying to qualify for Kona.
Historically for 35-year-olds, a time of around 9:54:00 in Florida will get you a slot. So, I was aiming for a 9:50:00, just to be safe. I figured that it was doable given my training and performances this season, but my previous Ironman (an 11:18:36) wasn't exactly a vote of encouragement.
I did get quite a few comments about my bib number, #135. Some folks asked me how I got it (I asked for it specifically) and/or whether or not I was a professional. The story about the bib number is worth a separate comment elsewhere.
Compared to the wavy water that prevailed most of the week, it was nearly glassy flat at zero hour. Pros and AGs were in separate pens on the beach, and with the calm water, the pros were started in the water. It's a two-lap swim with a short beach run between laps.
I seeded myself about 2-3 bodies behind the shoreline near the
inside. With 2000 swimmers, I expected to be crushed by bodies but was instead delighted to break out into clear water immediately. A great sign for a great day to come.
Soon enough, I was able to merge paths with the professionals and rode the fast current behind a wall of blockers. I usually shun company during the swim and trust my own navigation, but given the flat water and the volume of bodies, getting into the main draft was the right move. The tough parts of the swim came on the cross and return legs, where the north (onshore) wind was making a few waves that you had to fight. I was hoping to be near the 57-minute range, so I was pleased to come out of the water within a minute of that…unscathed by bodily contact from other swimmers and jellyfish.
The goal here was for a five-hour bike, to start off relatively
easily and then build speed over time.
Early on, though, things didn't look so good. A five-hour bike
ride means an average speed of 22.4mph, and I reached the 20-mile sign a few seconds over an hour. Yes, there were headwinds, but I was getting a bit worried that I was opening up the ride too conservatively. The course turns eastward around 23 miles, negating the wind and giving me a chance to build up some speed. Just about the 25/30 mile point, I was overtaken by a pack of about nine riders. I ended up getting to spend the remainder of the ride with most of them as they stuck together like glue and swallowed me up whenever I tried to break free from them. I try very hard to go out of my way to ride legally, but sometimes its impossible to do so if you get trapped in a pack like that. It didn't help that my bright yellow bicycle stood out.
My mind is racing fast through all of this…between trying to
remember to eat, drink, take salt tables, as well as keeping one eye on the watch/HRM and another on my riding entourage. Heading eastward, I began to gain some time so that I reached half-way around 2:31. The north winds were relatively light and the fast pavement on most of the roads helped keep the speeds growing. By 70 miles, I was under my 5-hour pace for the first time. Around 80/85, I had again broken free of the Gang of Nine, only to have four of them catch me and make a break ahead. It wasn't worth chasing them down and I was able to stay with and/or in front of the remainder of the Gang through to the bike finish. At one point, someone along the road yelled out to one of the Gang (who was in my AG) that he was "seventh". So, I made it through the bike in the position that I expected to be…around six hours into the race and inside the Kona window.
I'm not a great runner, but I had confidence that I could do the
3:40/3:45 that I needed to get me under 9:50. The run started out well, but that would soon change. The first sign of danger lurked when I stopped at the portajohn at mile 2 (In my excitement, I forgot to stop and pee at T2). Not much was coming out, and it took a ton of effort to try to get any sort of flow. I pressed on feeling O.K. in the legs, but my stomach was tight. I started looking out for my AG competition approaching the first turnaround, and it appeared that I made the turn in 10th. My room for error had lessened and I discovered shortly that 15th place was only four minutes in trail. Soon, the quads were beginning to tire as well. My pace quickly degraded and after another unsuccessful pit stop at
mile 10, realized that my Hawaiian dreams were likely going to be unfulfilled today. I kept on going, though, since I was still headed towards a decent time and that anything could still happen in front of me.
My tight stomach wasn't getting any better. At mile 11, I started using cola, and it gave me an immediate boost. I made it to the second turnaround struggling but still hopeful.
At some point, I started walking through aid stations, giving my
quads a recharge and a chance for my stomach to loosen up. Often, once I started running again, I'd fart out some gas but the stomach would stay tight. I was now meshed in with runners on their first loop, mentally feeling a little better but slowing down even more. Another pit stop at mile 16 again failed to relieve the bowel pressure. I made it to the third turnaround with no real Kona hope but a sub-10hr time still in play.
Good fortune came after the ensuing aid station, when I let out a loud, head-turning series of farts. I didn't feel instantly
better, but much of the stomach pressure was dissipated in the act. I continued to walk through the next couple of aid stations for the recharge, but was starting to get leery of putting more stuff back into my stomach. After mile 23, I decided to take a chance (at the risk of bonking) and try to run through the remaining aid stations. That strategy worked and I finished with quite a bit of speed and energy. It was well enough to get me under 10-hours, even with an undeserved drafting penalty. (About a third of the Gang also got
Really, the only thing missing from this race for me was the fairy-tale ending in Hawaii. I couldn't be more thrilled with a
sub-10hr Ironman time.
If you are considering IMF2004, sign up immediately. By the start of the Awards Dinner, the race already had 1900 entrants.