The 2014 Boulder Ironman was my second Ironman triathlon. I trained quite a bit for it and the whole experience was amazing. The first question I get from a lot of people is: "Are you going to do another one?" My answer since I finished Boulder has been: "Absolutely". But why? Here is my answer: I usually feel 3 different ways every time I finish a race.
1. Satisfied with my effort, race went according to plan or better. For that particular race I couldn't have done anything to go faster and I'm content with my result...as an example 70.3 Panama
2. Satisfied with my effort, but had technical problems that prevented me from finishing where I should have been. Still I would be happy with my effort and how my body responded...as an example 70.3 Boulder 2014 and Oktoberfest Triathlon 2013
3. Happy that I finished, completely frustrated with my body for shutting down on me, even though I followed my nutrition and effort plan...as an example Boulder Ironman 2014, 70.3 Boulder 2013 & Louisville Ironman 2012.
After Boulder I am even more confused and frustrated as I have no idea what I have to change to not feel the way I felt during the last 26.2 miles, but more on that later. So the answer would be, because I know I can be better! But for now let me start from the beginning on how the day unfolded.
If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter you know how much I train. Training for an Ironman requires a lot of time, commitment and sacrifices. Especially time away from the family. I tried to train very early in the mornings or late at night in order to spend time with them, but sometimes it takes Saturdays and Sundays away, no matter how early you start. Your training buddies become like your family, you end up spending so much time with them.
After the training comes race preparation and for this race I was very nervous. I don't remember ever being so nervous for a race, not that I felt nervous all the time but I had trouble sleeping 3 nights before the race, if you ask my wife I never have trouble sleeping. Once my head hits the pillow I'm usually out. It wasn't like that the last 3 nights, I knew I had prepared for the Ironman but there was something that was always bothering me, I just couldn't pinpoint was it was. To this point I still don't know why I had trouble sleeping. A possible reason was that I had been without my TT (time trial) bike for 1 month and I finally got it back, from the shop, the week before the race. I tried to be on the bike as much as I could, without going hard or spending too much time at once, but my work travel schedule had me flying to Miami Thursday and Friday before the IM, so it limited the time quite a bit. At first I thought going away was going to hurt, but I was able to get out of the excitement and madness that was going on in Boulder. So I actually think it helped clear my mind. Although I didn't sleep well at the hotel either.
Race morning I woke up at 3:45am on my own, didn't need the alarm. I looked down at my legs and my calves were twitching a little. I thought it was a little odd, but never thought this was going to affect my race. I went downstairs, got some breakfast, started hydrating with electrolyte drinks. By 4:10am Christelle (my wife) and both Emma (almost 3 year old) and Sophie (16 month old) were all in the car driving to Boulder High School. We got there at 4:25am and I went directly to put a frozen water bottle of Infinit (my nutrition) in my Run bag, which you have access to the morning of the race. Then we waited in line to get on a school bus for about 15 minutes, this bus took us to the Boulder Reservoir. Emma was so excited to get on the bus, she really enjoyed the ride, on the other hand Sophie was not very happy. She was exhausted and was crying a little during the ride. Pictures to the right ->
When we arrived at the reservoir, I went directly to place my water bottles on my bike and made sure the bike was ready. Then I waited in line for the bathroom for about 30 minutes. When I got out it was 6:10am the professional triathletes started at 6:20am and I still had to put my wetsuit on, give my bag to Christelle and go to the swim start (400 meters away). That's when I started to get really nervous as it usually takes me a solid 15 minutes to put my wetsuit on, because I don't want to rip it so I am very careful. Before the first gun went off at 6:20am I had only managed to get half of the wetsuit on (to my waist), so I ran to where Chris was, handed her my bag, gave her a kiss and ran to the swim start, this ended up being my warm up.
I was trying to get in line for the swim start, when I heard the second gun go off (6:25am), at that point I started putting the sleeves of the wetsuit on. I should have worn a sleeveless suit as the water was 74 degrees, but I didn't, so this added a little to the anticipation that I wasn't going to be ready by the time the first group went off. Luckily I was able to put it on in time and moved my way all the way to the front. I had no idea what type of swimmers were at the Ironman but I wanted to make sure that if they were faster than me, they would have to pass me and not the other way around.
T2 Run Bags
T1Bike Rack, ready with hydration
For the first 100 meters I kicked a lot trying to get away from the main group, then I lowered my intensity to where I was supposed to be. The swim is 2.4 miles and you swim almost one third of the way before making the first turn. For the first 1000 meters or so, I was swimming right next to a guy with a white cap on, which means he is an AWA (All World Athlete). He kept me swimming pretty straight I think. I could also feel someone touching my feet a lot during this time, I think we were a group of about 6 people all bunched up together. About 50 meters before the turn my cramping nightmare started, I felt a cramp on my left calf. I immediately flexed my foot, to stretch my calf and obviously slowed down significantly. When the cramp went away I was surprised to see that the AWA guy was just a half a body length in front of me and whoever was on my feet was coming around and trying to pass from the other side. As soon as we got to the turn I decided to let him go by me, I had no idea why I had cramped but I was just trying to rule out the possibility that it was because he had been all over my lower legs. As soon as he passed me I got on his feet, I now I was swimming so much easier, drafting made it so much better. I should have let someone lead from the start, another thing I learned. Almost getting to the second and last turn we passed a big group of pro women. They noticed us passing them, so they got right on my feet, I felt hands again. They tried to hang on with us, but I only felt her touch my feet twice and then nothing for the rest of the swim. We turned, I looked up and I had 2 guys in front of me, about 4 in a small group right next to me. I figured there was nobody behind me as I didn't feel anyone touching my feet.
Swimming almost 4KM feels like it will never end, I remember seeing buoy after buoy and thinking "are we swimming forwards or backwards?". It just didn't seem like we were advancing. Since I was so close to the guy in front of me I decided that I wasn't really going to sight, he seemed to know where he was going to I trusted him to know where he was going. There was a moment when I really felt like we were never going to finish though, it was at this point I decided to look up and I finally saw the swim exit sign, I figured I had about 500 meters to go. Everyone started to pick up the pace as if the competition would end at the swim, I picked it up just a little but since I was drafting my effort didn't really increase much. For the last 50 meters I stretched my stroke out, I didn't want to come out of the water in a big pack so I slowed down a little. When I came out I could see all 4 guys that were in front and they were all walking. I felt good so I ran, slowly, but I was running up the ramp.
112 Miles on the Bike
You want to talk about frustration? I think you can't get more frustrated than I was on the bike. I got passed in total by about 60 people on the bike. The exact opposite to Boulder 70.3, where I didn't get passed and it was me doing the passing as I was so far back. If you ask me, passing is so much better than getting passed, even if you pass a very slow person on a tricycle. Other than that the bike didn't have any other surprises, my legs were tight when I first started on the bike, but as it went on they relaxed and I was able to get my heart rate down to where it was supposed to be. Even though I got passed a lot, I think I enjoyed the bike portion the most.
I was surprised at the amount of people that were out cheering, even in the far east end of the course, where there is absolutely nothing. It was much better than when I rode the course during training for sure. Once I got on HWY 52 I knew it's the home stretch, but the last 15 miles, it's mainly up hill. And since during the hills is where I got passed the most I felt that at this point half of 60 athletes, that I talked about before, passed me. I realize that if I'm first out of T1 there is nobody to pass, except the pros, but I would like to get passed by less people. Or at least be able to pass some of the people back, that had passed me at the beginning. This is one area that I know I can improve on.
Before the last turn into T2 I heard and saw Christelle, I was so excited she was there, I hadn't seen anyone that I knew for 5:20 hours. It was a great feeling, so much so that I forgot to un-velcro my shoes, I had time to only take one foot out of the shoe and the other one was still in the shoe by the time I got to the dismount area. I unclipped my right foot, took the shoe off and ran with one shoe clipped in and the other in my hand. When I handed my bike to the volunteer I reached out to the other side to unclip the remaining shoe, I figured I would never see the shoe again if I had left it clipped on.
The most painful marathon
I was still in a significant amount of pain but I could run. As soon as I would go by all the crowds, the course started to incline, this is when my cramps started to come back. After your legs have gone into that type of spasm, when they cramp again, the cramps not as strong or painful so I managed to run with my legs cramped until I would get to the aid stations. I would then use that time to pour water on me and try to have my legs relax a little. Once the pain would go away, I would start running again. This was a repeating cycle until mile 14 at the exact same aid station where I had initially gotten the bad cramps. This time I got them on both my quads, hamstring and both my calves. Again, I spent probably 3-4 minutes at that aid station not really moving because I simply couldn't. Once the pain went down, I started running again, but this time the cramps would always come back before the aid stations, so I found myself stopping in between aid stations, which I had told myself I would not do, the pain and spasms where simply too strong. I even got a salt container, from some guys that were handing it out, and was inhaling salt, but at it didn't help at all. This kept going until mile 20, as soon as I passed the chip sensor a video of Christelle and the two girls played on a big screen Newton had put up. The video was probably 7 seconds long, but it helped me get through the pain, it also reminded me that I have only 6 miles left. You can see the video here.
I saw so many people I knew through the run, they really help me get through the pain. They made me think of something else, instead of trying to figure out how much longer it would take for the next aid station.
After about 5 minutes, once the pain had gone away. The only thing I could think of was: "When can I do the next full Ironman." I was so frustrated that I had cramped and that I really don't know how to remedy this problem. I will continue to look for the answer until I find a solution!
I want to thank my wife of course for the huge effort she made to be in so many different places to see me. I am so lucky to have such an amazing wife, she is the most understanding and supportive wife I could have asked for. I want to thank my coach Eric Kenny from EK Endurance coaching, who has taught me so much in these 15 months we've worked together. I had over 1 hour PR from my last IM. I have dropped more than 30 minutes in the 70.3 Ironman races I have done, he is a game changer. I want to thank all of my teammates, they were such an inspiration throughout this whole process, especially Kenny Withrow, who not only killed his Ironman going a 9:38, second in his age group, 17th overall, but he also qualified for Kona. I'm very lucky to be able to train with him, he gives me something to aspire to. I want to thank everyone that came out and cheered not only for me but for all the athletes, without you many more people would not finish, probably including myself and last but not least to all the volunteers who are countless hours in the sun just wanting to make someone's race less painful and help them through the day. THANK YOU!
I am supper happy to say that I made two different websites out of 2500 athletes:
Slowtwitch swim picture Link
I am in the first picture. Timothy Carlson took the best picture of me on the swim, well actually diving into the swim.
Lavamagazine bike picture link
Scroll all the way down to the last picture. Jay Prasuhn took this great picture, I am not in focus but it's still an amazing shot.
I can't wait until the next IM. See you in a less than a month for 70.3 World Championships in Mont Tremblant, Canada!