Wednesday, October 2, 2013

2013 Ironman Lake Tahoe Triathlon Race Recap - 9/22/13

It's been over a week post-race and the full report is long overdue...

But I don't want to bore you with details like what I ate, minute-by-minute description of the event, when i ate, what I ate, when I peed, when I poo'd or when I felt like dieing.

Instead, I'll take a look back at my preview "goals", address them and give you some high and low points of each section.

Precurser

Let me start off by saying, if you're not overly prepared for an Ironman race and any conditions that could come up on race day, you're not doing it right.

Lake Tahoe had:
2.4 miles of swimming in a clear lake at altitude - it could be 2 to 3 foot waves, windy, cold, sun in your face, snowing, raining... so be ready to tackle anything that comes your way.  Don't be defeated before you even step to the start line.  You are a DNF waiting to happen.

112 miles of 7500+ of elevation gain at altitude - on top of just riding 112 miles, it had 2 major climbs that we had to ride twice.  Be ready for cold, sun, heat, altitude, rain, snow and wind.

26.2 miles of running at altitude - the elevation profile was pretty tame, but after the bike course, if you didn't play your cards right, it will be a long 26.2 miles in sun, cold, dark, could be rain, snow, wind and maybe even bears.

Like a boyscout, I brought every piece of gear I thought I would need.  Cold weather, hot weather, rain, snow, wind... Tahoe could throw anything at you in an instant. Be ready.  I stocked up on throw-away bike clothes, planned special needs bags on the run for sunset and fast dropping temperatures... and so much more that I cannot even recall.  I was mentally ready for a 15 to 16 hour day on the course and determined that I will keep trudging on unless I was cramping, missed a cutoff or made to leave by the med staff.

Here are some other posts for the event:
Preview
Good and Bad Part 1
Good and Bad Part 2
Prelim Recap
Ironman Lake Tahoe Event Review

START

Let me say, having a condo within 10 minutes of walking to the start was awesome.  It was great waltzing in and having enough time to find out a spoke had busted on my rear wheel over night and getting to the bike tech for a new rear wheel.  More about the results of that on the bike section, but it pays to be OC to air your tires up one more time and have a tech notice a spoke just flopping around.  I knew something didn't sound right, but from freezing over night, I thought maybe some ice was in the wheel.  No... it was the nipple for the spoke flopping in the wheel.

Crisis averted.

After that, it was all port-a-potty stops, chillin in the visitor center in the heat and wearing my wetsuit from the moment I left the condo to getting into the water.

I was not interested in a "warm-up" swim.  The water was low 60's while the air was 30.  It was cold.  I hate being cold.  I wore swim jammers, full wetsuit, neoprene swim cap, race swim cap, ear plugs, swim booties and I was still freezing.  No need to be WET and COLD.

I did enjoy the rolling start as they corral you up and make you run under the start arch and enter the water.  A lot less contact (I assume, first IM) and you get going at your own pace.

SWIM : goal was 1:10, reality was 1:22:08

12 minutes over for my first guess at my first IM.  Not bad.  I hadn't accounted for how much sighting I would be doing over 2.4 miles of swimming.

So, while defending yourself against the onslaught of swimmers hitting, kicking, grabbing, going under and over you, I was sighting every 6 strokes in the sun and fog.  My lower back started to get taxed and my legs were getting somewhat crampy being cold and being unusually used on the swim to support sighting and fighting.

 Even with all of my gear, my hands were still ice and I was SOOOOOO cold.  So many times I found myself wishing I was done with the swim or at home in bed.  It was just a mental test to keep flapping my arms in the water to keep making progress.  Celebrate each buoy that I passed and not focus on where I was in the 2.4 miles.

Speaking of... rumor has it one buoy got lose and we swam a little extra.  No big deal, but some got 2.7 miles instead of 2.4.  Oh no, 0.3 more miles!  GASP!  ;)

T1 : 26:13

Yes, I spent 26 minutes in T1.

I knew I wanted to change ALL CLOTHING.  Riding a bike at 30 degrees in wet clothes is not a smart idea.  Well, the other 2700 triathletes had the same idea.  The changing tent was a mad house.  Naked men clamoring to get their clothes on EVERYWHERE.  I had to take about 10 minutes just to walk into the tent and find an open area.  After waiting 5 more minutes, a seat opened up.  10 more minutes and I was changed.  I've never experienced anything like that.

The tent was heated, but it was coming down in parts from people flailing everywhere.  It's been a long time being so cold.  I could not stop shaking, even after all my bike gear was on.

BIKE : goal was maybe 6:30ish, reality was 7:40:29 - 14.59 mph average.

Take what your goals are about riding 112 miles in an IM and just throw them out the window for this course.  The climbs in Northstar and the highway after that were insane.  Nothing in Kansas or Missouri compares.  3 to 5 miles of constant climbing, not just uphill. Out of your seat, mashing the pedals, breaks to stretch... I have never seen or heard of so many accomplished triathletes so broken after a bike leg.  Some people got to T2 and just quit.  They had nothing left.

So there I am in two pairs of socks, toe warmers with the air activated hand warmers in each toe warmer, under armour stretch underwear, tri shorts, biking shorts, tri top, sleeveless vest, arm warmers, biking jacket, bondi band under the helmet and heavy duty gloves on my hands.

They did offer a clothing drop for the excess gear when you got warmed up, but the only warm parts were the climbs and everything else was cold.  The high was around 60, and I kept EVERYTHING on but the gloves for the 112 miles.  You can't make this stuff up.

After hearing the war stories, I was pretty happy with my time.  I intended to go out steady and leave something for the run... and I did, but it took everything I had to get past the 4 major climbs.  I spun when I could, I coasted when I could, I stopped for bathroom and food breaks... it was survival after mile 35.

Items of note, the rear wheel replacement made it through the 112 miles, but it was a lower gearing than my race wheel which felt AWFUL on the climbs.  Normally I would have had an easier gear left, but the gearing left me with nothing.  Race saved, run legs demolished.

That left me with severe groin cramps at mile 70 starting round two of the climbs.  I hit a little climbing section at Truckee and bam, they hit.  I had to get off the bike, stretch, walk it off and hit the GATORLYTES (review coming) and bananas.  I had a little more downhill until the sever climbs started to get something in for the cramps.  Normally I have issues with excessive heat, but the shear amount of elevation gain had taxed my system to the limits.  Luckily I got it under control and pressed on to get to T2.

RUN : goal was around 4 hours, reality was 4:49:11 - 11:02 min/mile pace

Like I said, with this bike course, time goals go out of the window.

I knew I had ample time to complete the race, and in reality I felt pretty darn good considering wanting to quit at the last bike climb.  I had enough mojo to muster 8 min/mile for the first 6 miles, and then the wheels fell off.  Well, GI distress kicked in anyways.  That bloated and sloshing feeling kicked in.  Oh gas, my old friend.  My gut decided it was time to stop processing liquids (I only ate some PB at T2 and no other solids after that on the run).  It sloshed, it felt horrible and it was not helping my time.

Now, instead of pressing on and maybe heaving along the run path like a few others I saw, I opted to walk it off.  Take it down a notch, run 0.5, walk 0.1, which got me to the run special needs, my gloves and emergency mountain dew.

Oh yes, that nasty crap health nuts tell you causes cancer was my saving grace.

My hand were starting to freeze as dusk settled in, so I stretigically placed some awesome gloves in the SN bag and guzzled down my bottle of MD.

After walking a mile, burping up some gas and deposting some liquids at a few port-a-potties, I was moving at a brisk pace and feeling pretty good.

I passed a LOT of people walking or just slumping along.  You would be amazed at what a simple tweak can do to keep you going.  The run-walk I had going carried me through 13 more miles to the finish line.

FINISH : goal was 12 to 14 hours, reality was 14:25:02.

Ya, I might have made sub 14 with a quicker T1 and pushing harder on the run.  Lots of what-ifs and lessons out there.  The constant was that bike course.  It was a killer for this Kansas boy.  There was nothing I could have done, and even the best laid plans in gearing was thwarted by a busted spoke.  Maybe a compact crank, but who has the money and time?  Not me.


But, I was not racing for a Kona spot out there.  I was racing to finish and finish upright.

I recall some of the finish experience, but I was so inundated with the catcher, pictures, food, heated massage tent that I lost focus of trying to find my wife.

The finish line is pretty overwhelming, and it wasn't even that crowded.  It was a blur, and I recall most of it, but if anything was going on outside of the 1 foot circle around me, I had no idea.  The resort could have been on fire and if the volunteer didn't tell me, I would have missed it.

Looking back, it was a great experience minus the climbing on the bike.  I'm not good at climbing to begin with and it was straight carnage out there.

So much could have derailed me, but I pressed on through busted gear, cramps and GI issues to prove that if you break your goals down into itty bitty chunks, nothing is insurmountable.

Special thanks to...

My wife, Emily.  She had to grin and bear it more than her fair share as we muddled through what Ironman training looked like with work, kids and life.  Love you.

My family, Mom and Mother-In-Law.  When Emily wasn't able to overcompensate for my selfishness and training, they picked up the slack.

Thanks to Kokua Multisport for the guidance, TK Muscle Therapy for keeping me whole and Maximized Living in Olathe for keeping my spine right!


Bring on Ironman Chattanooga 2014!

I have sent out the challenge to friends and family to match my time per dollar to kick off fundraising for IM Chattanooga, Ride to Give and Mended Little Hearts. Please consider donating $14.25 to the cause to get me going and spread the word.


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