Sunday, May 8, 2011

Full Race Report - Ironman St George - No excuses, no regrets

Anyone that knows me even a little bit knows I love to talk about my races. I will try to get all the detail here so I can share the short version in person and if someone really wants to know they can check here for all the gory details.

From my short race report you know that I didn't qualify for Kona, sad, but I am still happy with the day. First order of business is my lists of thanks.

First, my thanks to God for the strength and ability to have trained as much as I had done with all my other duties as well as for the help on race day. It could have been a catastrophic day and I know the prayers and well wishes of everyone was heard as I was able to get through a really tough situation.

Second, my thanks to my family, it was absolutely thrilling to have my children all there to see me to do an Ironman, as well as my mom and Brien. They had seen other races but not Ironman and I loved having them all there to cheer me on. I also am grateful to Ken for his letter he gave me before I left Calgary. It meant a ton and his advice was really helpful for me on race day.

Third, thanks to my friends and colleagues for their support as I focused and trained for this race, and tolerating my near obsessive focus on Ironman. Without your support it would not have been possible and also in particular my boss, Lee.

Finally, thanks to my wife, Melanie who allowed me to gear up properly and shouldered a much larger burden at home while I trained and being willing to sacrifice the family funds for my preparation and for getting to St George. She knows what it takes for Ironman and she was there for me. Much love.

PS. Thanks to anyone else that I have missed that supported me along the way.

Ok now for the full report. No excuses and No regrets. Given what happened during the day I am totally at peace with how I trained, prepped and raced yesterday. Race morning preparations went off perfectly, I had a good 6 hour sleep and was quite ready the morning of the race, got in the water and did a warm-up and was really optimistic.

Swim started a little off as I went and made a last minute tweak to my goggles and ended up getting them partially on the outside of the cap so the first few hundred meters I needed to adjust them for leaking but I was able to realize what had happened and got it fixed. I thought the swim was going well, I was working it harder than I expected and was pretty satisfied with my pace until I got out and saw the clock. 1:09:42, I was in shock and disbelief as it was my slowest swim at Ironman ever, and well back of what I am capable of. Others around me were all on pace and Bernie was at 1:01 and change. I knew at that moment Kona was a really long shot giving up 8 minutes on my competitors and decided I just needed to keep to my race plan and see how the day panned out.

Transition 1 Swim-to-Bike was better than usual but I had planned it out well, except a needed bathroom break, not usual, and losing a sock from my bag. Kudos to the volunteer near me who offered up his sock so I could get going on the bike, talk about great help. As I got up we saw the other sock behind the chair so I quickly switched back. Even with all that I managed an under 6 minute transition, so was now 10 minutes off pace.

The bike started really well, I was patient and dialed back my heart rate pretty fast to where I needed it to be. I then started getting fluids and gu chew blocks in me for energy. Over the course of the bike leg I averaged about 3/4 a bottle an hour of fluids and 300 calories from gels etc. Bike heart rate by 30 km segments was 130, 130, 137, 124, 130, 138 and 129. The two spikes were the hills from Gunlock, the wall and out of Veyo up the hill. I was completely ok with that and I was willing to ride the top end of my range to keep a pace close to my goal. Passed my good friend Bernie mid way through the second loop just before the big climbs started. The descents into St George were very windy with head wind and cross wind and really buffeted me around. The arm coolers worked very well as I would continually get water on them to keep my temperature down. It was very very hot out there.

For me the real surprise was how many people I passed on the bike, usually on the bike I lose a LOT of places and all my training on the bike paid off as I moved up the field. Overall average of 30.8 km per hour for a 5:50 split. However, another 8 minutes off the pace I needed and I knew Kona was now officially out so just be smart.

Transition 2 Bike to Run went better than T1, another bathroom break (plus one I did on the bike so you could tell I had worked to keep my hydration up) and I was out pretty quick, left my sunglasses in T2 but that didn`t cost me too much. Under 4 minutes which was pretty good I thought.

Then the run, I started the run and legs felt fine but I realized how hot it had become. I shuffled along and couldn`t get the heart rate down and run at any sort of pace. Watched everyone flying by me on the run as I just plodded to keep from a blow up, which later I realized was inevitable. 10 minute mile paces through the heat and hills and the hottest part of the day where it was 33 C (92 ish F) at the finish line but hotter up on the bluffs on the course. On the way out the run I saw Bernie when I was about a mile and a half out and he was returning on the bike. It looked like I had about a 20 minute lead on him.

I ran and drank and used sponges at every station doing everything I could to stay hydrated and cool but it was a losing battle as I couldn`t get enough in. Ice in the cap, cold sponges in the trisuit, I was executing the perfect heat management routine but it wasn`t enough, and salt tabs periodically to help there as well. On the way back from the first turn I saw Bernie again and guestimated my lead to have gone up to about 22 minutes but I knew I was in trouble overall and on pace for about a 4:13 marathon. By 10 miles I realized the heart rate was mid to high 140s on average (almost 10 beats over what it should be off the bike for Ironman pace) and it was now spiking to 160, 170 and over 180. Not good so I decided I better watch health over racing hard since Kona was no longer on the line. I walked very briskly from mile 10 to mile 16, getting more water in me, completely soaking arm coolers, compression socks, trisuit to try and recover, but even walking I was 120 to 180 heart rate.

On the way out my second loop I saw Bernie coming in and he was now only about 9 minutes behind me, 13 minutes gained over 6 miles, I figured he would catch me at about 16 miles and I hoped I would have recovered enough to run or jog with him and finish together. After cresting the hill at 16 miles and not seeing him I decided to run the downhills regardless of the heart rate since it wasn`t controlled anyways and then walk the up hills. I found new life and actually started to feel better as the temperature dropped a bit as the sun started to set and the wind picked up more to cool me. Still dehydrated I was keeping the same management plan in place and returning back on the second loop I was surprised to see I now had a 30+ minute lead on Bernie. Cresting the hill on the way back I ran almost 100% of the final 4.5 miles and ended up with a faster second loop than first loop. Go figure. I had a hoot coming down main street and took my time to enjoy the finish. Final time 11:52, faster than IM Canada and IM California, slower than both Ironman Florida races.

Family were all there to greet me at the finish and cheer me in. My Ironman dream complete, just not quite how I expected. Given the cards I was dealt with I have no places where I can see what I would have done differently. Without knowing what happened on the swim I can`t fix that. An almost perfectly even bike ride at the right heart rate and managing the run the way I did I can`t think of any improvements.

The kids asked me if I would now start eating the off limits foods I had self imposed and if I would try to keep the same fitness levels. I thought a lot about that this morning as I lay in bed thinking about the race and the day and life. I have decided for now that I will probably not race anymore triathlons for a while until I feel the urge and if my knee fully recovers (by the way the knee held out great, used the knee brace for the second loop).

As for the no chocolate and no ice cream (plus other bad foods) thing I will celebrate the event with sharing an Oreo Blizzard from DQ with Aryana and while I might occasionally have some of the |banned| foods on a rare occasion I probably will mostly avoid them. For fitness I have come to really enjoy the bike and will use that as my main exercise and start commuting to and from work again by bike with a good ride on Saturdays and swim about 1 to 2 times a week to keep the swim shape up.

No excuses, No regrets!


Flora said...

Extremely impressive. Now enjoy your beautiful family!

Kacie Darden said...

Congrats!!! Tough day out there!

Laura Wheatley said...

Congrats!! I enjoyed all the course previews, as I hope to tackle that epic course one day. Great job in tough conditions, and enjoy your recovery :)

Karen Salmon said...

An incredible accomplishment. Congratulations Richard!!