Well, as most know at this point the race did not go particularly well. I'm going to stick to just the facts about the race itself and leave most of my feelings about how the race went out of it. Stuff happens. I could go the ultra-emo route and say that everything happens for a reason but that's not usually my style. So, first "Ironman" went a little something like this:
We all woke up at 4am and Scott, Heather, and Carrie went down to the start area to grab a spot in line while John and I went for a little jog to wake up the body a little bit. I actually felt pretty good running around but it was fairly hot outside and very humid which was a little disturbing. We got back to the room and started eating breakfast around 4:20-4:30 and then just sat around until making our way to transition to meet Fletch and then walked briskly towards swim start. I was sweating pretty good as we walked and that was also a little disturbing. Last year it was absolutely fuh-reezing at the start of the race (freezing as in 50-60 degrees) as I stood around getting ready to cheer on the dudes. This year, not so much. We got in our speedsuits and ended up hopping in the water around 7:10.
Swim - 1:01:30 (15th AG)
I jumped in right behind Behme off the first dock and started swimming. I had decided I was going to try and stay to the right as long as possible because it looked like there were not nearly as many people to try and swim around and that proved to be a [mostly] correct strategy. There was very little contact all the way to the turnaround out in the river and I felt extremely comfortable the entire way. There was some slight bottle-necking at the turnaround but once around it the crowds were thinning out a bit as I was making my way up to some of those "faster" swimmers. Since we didn't start far behind the first AG-ers there weren't too many "slow" swimmers in front of me at this point. The way back in felt like it took a pretty good long while; I'd sight on the bridge pillars and they seemed to crawl towards me. I had a weird feeling in my right foot like it was going numb and I'm not really sure what that was all about but it didn't seem to affect my kicking (or lack thereof, I really don't kick at all...) so I put it out of my mind. Really not much to report on the swim. I peed just before getting in and just before getting out (interestingly enough, those were the only times I peed all day...bad news) right before I climbed onto the stairs. I took my time going up the stairs and used all the help the volunteers could give me since I didn't want to hit the metal stairs in any wrong way. Looked at the clock and saw 1:09:xx and was a little surprised but then I realized the TT start was messing with my head and looked down at my watch to see 1:01:xx and was super pleased. I had set my high end goal as 1:10 and I knew there was some current out there today so 1:01 was awesome considering how easily I felt that I swam.
T1 - 3:45
Jogged into the change tent, which was conveniently mostly empty at this point in the day and set about taking off all my swim stuff. The volunteer that helped me was super, super awesome and took everything out of my bag while I hopped around taking off my swim skin, cap and goggles. He opened up my sunglasses case and took those out, opened up my shoes and handed me my flasks and salts and wished me luck. I ran out and grabbed my bike and made my way to the mount line. Not much time wasted here...
Bike - 6:38:44 (108th AG)
Headed out onto the bike and kept telling myself in my head to take it easy. I knew that considering the temperatures today I'd need to be fresh(er) for the run since it would be so hot. I rode along River Road at a very, very reasonable pace and was even passed by a girl on a road bike with clip-ons... I kept it reigned in and paced with a guy in the 35-39 AG who I later found out won his AG with a great race... All the way out to the turnaround I felt great and saw Fletch just before the aid station and ended up passing him just after getting some water. I hadn't known how far ahead he was (he jumped in the water right after me) so it was good to see him. Shortly past the out and back I saw Behme coming up towards the turnaround so I shouted at him and hoped he would catch us so we could tag-team the bike course together (legally, for all of you pessimistic speculators out there that have no idea what you're talking about...you know who you are). I stayed around the same 35-39 guy and coming out of the out/back caught up to the Wongstar (Jocelyn Wong), who gets way too much grief on slowtwitch for being a bad swimmer but she was really gutting it out when I was around her on the bike.
As my "buddy" and I made our way toward Lagrange I kept taking hits from my flasks (although I had lost one at the crappy bridge at the bottom of the hill on the out/back so there went 100 calories or so) and salt pills every thirty or so minutes. My 310xt told me that through Lagrange I had been averaging about 22.5 mph but I knew that number was slightly inflated due to the flat first 10 plus miles and my goal average was going to be about 21.5-21.7 so I expected that 22.5 to come down a bit as we hit the narrow section in the farm-land. I felt comfortable and well under control going up those hills and back to the "main" road but I had lost my riding buddy as he killed it up a couple of those hills; I wasn't willing to do that. All the way back down 42 there was almost nobody else around me and I just kept pounding it out and sticking to my plan. I actually tried to turn early to start my second lap (I guess I was TOO in the zone ha!) and the police/spectators quickly re-directed me. Oh well, there went my plan to take a shortcut and have a sizzling bike split!
Once I got to the real turn for lap 2 I realized it was going to be a LOT more hectic as there were TONS of people riding all over the place. The amount of blocking and drafting was ridiculous. I'm sure most of it wasn't intentional but still, I was getting a little pissed off at points. Not so much drafting but the blocking was really getting to me (there was so much more of it!). So I was a little amped up as I made my way towards special needs to grab my bag and the goodies inside. Unfortunately, my coke that was in there was insanely hot (not unexpected but still unpleasant) and pretty gross. As I drank a little of it Fletch re-passed me and yelled excitedly, which was awesome because I hadn't seen him since passing him and it was great to see that he was riding strong. I was feeling a little zapped at that point so it was good to have some motivation. We passed Hillary Biscay (hot) as we went through Lagrange and made our way to the left turn onto the skinny farm roads.
Fletch was a good ways in front of me at this point (maybe 50 meters) and there were a ton of people on this road. At the second, longer hill I was overtaking Fletch rapidly as he was passing someone on the right and as he was getting passed on his left but the guy on the left had been "passing" for a good long while. I seized an opportunity an went around the guy and was going back over to the right when I hit a good sized piece of gravel and launched over the front of my bike and hit my right side pretty good. Unfortunately I was right on front of Fletch at that point and he ran into me and then fell onto me. Somehow nobody else was involved in the crash. As we both got back up to assess the damage I felt worse than I have ever felt about anything I can recently think about; not only did I totally screw my race up I also managed to screw up my teammates race. What are the odds? My brakes were locked up on my rear wheel and I had no tools to loosen them and messing with the barrel adjuster proved to be futile. Fletch's seatpost on his P3 snapped off so his bike was also un-rideable. I was fairly cut up on my shoulder/elbow/forearm/knee and my helmet had taken some decent damage. Needless to say, I was pretty crushed; both mentally and physically.
Fletch and I stood there for a while and someone on a motorcycle told us that support would get to us in a while. After about a while (I don't really know how long) some local guys rode up and told us that we should walk down to the bottom of the hill and there were some guys down there to help. We made our way down the hill and the guys worked on my bike a little bit and the brakes loosened up and I put my handlebars/shifter back in the right position (they were pointing straight down) and with Fletch's encouragement got back on the bike. I felt ok for about 10 minutes then stopped at the next aid station to get a little medical help and they cleaned up my shoulder a little bit and I continued on my way. I started to feel pretty horrible. I had been standing around and not eating/drinking in the 90+ degree heat for around 1.5 hrs and was now attempting to ride my bike another 37 miles. I was both mentally and physically out of the race. It's honestly a completely different ball game being in the "back end" of things; people were just surviving for the most part. Tons of athletes stopped at aid stations or stopped on the side of the road just sitting in the shade.
It's amazing how different your perspectives are when you've convinced yourself that you're at the "pointy end" of the race. For me my race was over at this point. I was no where near the position I wanted to be in and feeling sorry for myself while these people were just focused on getting it done. They didn't care how long it took or how miserable they felt...they were focused on finishing. I had never really appreciated that before.
At one point just past the out/back section both of my hamstrings locked up completely and I had to pull over while gritting my teeth at how incredibly painful that experience was to essentially fall off my bike and try to stretch them so that I could at least finish my bike ride. At this point I was going to DNF in T2. There was no point - in my head - in trying to continue this misery. My body was rebelling against me for not eating or drinking hardly anything in the past 3 hours (I was trying to drink a bunch at aid stations after continuing but it's tough to catch up).
So with that mindset I made my way back down River Run Rd at about 18 mph and came into T2 totally and completely exhausted; both mentally and physically.
T2 - 11:06
I grabbed my bag and sat down in the change tent to think for a little bit. I had walked all the way down the sidewalk, through the bag area and into the tent with no intention or desire of continuing. I put on my shoes and hat but took out all my flasks and salts to put them in the bag and handed it to a volunteer. Once out I walked to the "medical" tent and asked them to patch up my shoulder and elbow/forearm. That was painful... The lady asked someone behind me if he needed help and I turned around to see that it was Fletch. He had apparently ridden the rest of the way on a borrowed spectators' 10 speed Trek and his shoes (in aero helmet no less) and was getting ready to go out for the run. I had no idea how he had any desire to do that but I told him I'd run with him for a bit...
Run - DNF (made it to mile 14 and the end of lap 1 before pulling the plug), roughly 4 hours worth of run/walk
Well, I ran about a mile with Fletch to the first aid station where I walked and he ran and then only saw him when we were going opposite directions. I got across the bridge, turned around and stopped at the porta potty for my first pee since the swim (among other business taken care of...), a fact that surprised me when I thought about it. I walked from that porta potty to about the mile 2 mark where I saw a couple of fellow Charlotteans - one whom I knew and the other who I knew of - that were going through some rough patches (she was racing, he was spectating) and talked to them for a while. I asked if he knew where some of my buddies were as I was going to make it out to them and then pull the plug and he said he had no idea. So with that knowledge I started running again but soon cramped in my quad (not really the quad but the muscle that's just above your knee on the inside) and had to stop and stretch then walk. This process repeated itself until I saw Carrie, Scott and Heather and I told them I didn't want to do this anymore but they yelled at me and guilted me into running again. So I essentially repeated the run a bit, cramp, stop and stretch, walk, run again etc strategy until I got to the turnaround (walking through every aid station) before the run stretches became so brief before I'd start cramping in that same muscle that I just started walking. I then walked the entire way back. It took...FOREVER. At about mile 11-12 I started cramping a bit when I was walking (same muscle) so I had to stop and stretch...from WALKING. I've definitely never had that happen before. So as opposed to drawing this out I just walked from there to the turnaround for another lap and stepped off the course. I walked among the crowds to the finish line and handed my chip to a chip taker-offer. Race over.
Some things I learned:
1) People's capacity to suffer is amazing. ESPECIALLY women. I've never seen the "back end" of an Ironman before and I was amazed at how people were chugging along. I don't care if you finish in 9 or 16 hours...it's tough work. I think it's actually harder the longer you're out there; a fact I never really appreciated before.
2) Don't take things for granted. I took it for granted that I'd finish.
3) 3000 bib numbers is too many. Especially when the bike course is 2 loops and 2-3 miles of road are single lane country roads with gravel on both sides.
4) What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. I think I'm mentally tougher after this debacle, although only time will tell.
5) People love to talk. Especially when you have a bad race.