Completing my first Iron man has been a goal of mine for the last 9 months. I went into it with high expectations and set goals for myself to achieve on the way. After a hectic start to the summer training regimen I finally got in the amount of training I had planned in the last six weeks leading up to Ironman Louisville.
On race morning I lined up behind about 2200 people at the swim start. I figured it was more valuable to make sure everything in the transition area was the way I wanted it on race morning so I tended to that as oppose to standing in line at 5:00 am.
I had planned on swimming the 2.4 miles in 1:00:00, I felt that this would be an achievable goal, maybe a little bit of a higher expectation but seeing as how I had been battling elbow bursitis for the entire summer and was only able to swim one to two days a week for the last six weeks I felt it was a substantial enough goal. I never knew what my time was getting out of the water until after the race, but getting out of the water I felt fresh and like I had taken it easy. The current might have had something to do with it but hey that is part of the race right. In the end my time was a 1:01:?? not too shabby.
I jogged through the transition area, no idea what my split was, I put my bike gear on which had gotten poured on with rain the night before and my bike gear bag was a quarter full of water. This would mean that all of my home made rice bars (a take off on Alan Lim’s rice bars) were now soaked and real soft and squishy. I retrieved my bike and set off on my way with the expectation of taking it easy until about mile 80.
At the start of the bike I was crushing 21 mph and had to keep reminding myself to slow down and take it easy. The thing was, it felt so easy and I just couldn’t seem to go slower. At about 30 minutes I realized that I had not eaten or drank at the transition area as I had planned. I then tried to catch up on the plan by drinking and eating a little extra. This was the first time I got to eat one of my rice bars all day and it was disgusting. I don’t know if it was because they got left in the trunk of the car when I was doing race check in and the car was being unpacked, the rain, or sitting on the Great Lawn from 4 pm to 8:30 am, or a combination of them all. It tasted like sour bread dough and a hit of spoiled milk, my stomach was not happy. So I bailed on the bars. Luckily I had made a bottle of super concentrated Hammer Heed and Sustained energy that had about 1000 calories in it, and a super concentrated bottle of Heed which had about 500 calories. So these reserve bottles became my nutrition for the race as my dietary restrictions would not allow me to eat the food provided.
I was churning out the miles and felt great doing it. I felt relaxed, calm and like I wasn’t even working, but I was still hitting the 20 mph range quite often. Around mile 75 the sun came out and the temperature spiked from 80 to 96 and high humidity. I don’t do well with heat and the New York summer had been a great one for training being a cool 75 for most of the time. At mile 90 I hit a wall, my hands started cramping, my back locked up and I lost all energy. I thought it was hydration so I started drinking more of the heed and water at which point I realized I had lost track of how many bottles of water I had drank throughout the day.
At this point I had one goal, get to the transition area.
When I got there my hamstrings were cramping and when I tried to put my running shoes on my back, hands, quads, hips, hamstrings and calves started to lock up. After a few minutes I was able to get out of the changing tent and got maced with sun screen, so now I was cramping and blind. When I left the transition area I was at 7 hours. I had completed the bike in about 5:46:00, a whole lot faster than I had planned.
About a mile and a half into the run I stopped breathing, no matter how hard I pulled in no air would enter my lungs. As a result I was forced to stop and walk. This caused me to realize my vision was all wonky and I couldn’t see straight, but I could breath again so I started jogging again. Ten steps later it happened again, this time my whole body was pins and needles, I couldn’t see, I started blacking out and tried to sit down but the ground was too far away so with hands on knees I started dry heaving, vision pulsing with my heart beat I made the decision not to try to fight it for another 25 miles. I found a race official and dropped out.
My blood pressure was 70/50, temp was 95.2 and my hr was 70. I had depleted my body so much that it had decided to shut down, it couldn’t even maintain proper temperature. After several cups of chicken broth and an hour in the med tent with 12 people fawning over me I shuffled out under my own power. I found an over pass sat down on the side walk and went to sleep/passed out. Some time later I came to with a crowd of people over me, an older guy said he had called the EMT’s and that I would be ok. After convincing the EMT I was fine I went back to the curb.
Ill be honest, I might have cried a little. Not tears streaming down my face, but definitely had some fluid build up in my eyes. Maybe if I hadn’t been so dehydrated. I was so mad at myself for dropping out of the race, something I had never done before, I was disgusted. I knew however that I had made the right decision.
I went for it, I didn’t want to just finish, I aimed for the clouds and got stuck in the tree tops, but at least I tried and I gave it my best. As athletes that is all we can do, put ourselves out there time and time again, push to that fine line between failure and greatness. Sometimes we fall off the edge, but without failure how will you ever know what you truly capable of at that point in time. Embrace the suck, embrace failure, make it your training partner and your friend.