Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Post Ironman

July 29, 2009 -

I thought in the fifth and final installment of my Ironman race recap it would be important to detail the fall of an Ironman....the post race recovery and ongoing celebration. It always amazes me how quickly you can go from endurance race shape to struggling to crank out a short workout.

I was advised to take a minimum of a full two weeks off after Ironman for ample recovery. Being that is is the peak of summer, this was a perfect time to relax and relish in my Ironman honeymoon. Only problem was I immediately entered into a busy travel schedule. After a few days in Northern Idaho after the race we headed home where I enjoyed one day back before heading to Anaheim, CA for four days. The next week I was in Kona, HI for four days and the week after that I was in San Diego, CA for three days. I followed that up with one more two-day trip to Portland, OR.

Needless to say it has been a month of eating out, not working out and enjoying the sun. It was two full weeks before I did my first workout, which was an 20 minute bike and 20 minute run at the gym with some situps and pushups too. I was sore like crazy for a couple days after....weird right? After another five days off I did another gym workout similar to the first one but did not get the soreness this time. So in three weeks those were my two workouts.

It was at this three week mark when I started to just feel gross and the workouts commenced. Without another race on the horizon I started to feel this post Ironman let down, like I didn't know what to do now. Best thing to do...register for another race to keep my butt in check. So I did. I'll be racing the Lake Stevens 70.3 on August 16th.

Recently I've hit a 30 mile bike ride, a few 5 mile runs, an 8 mile run, a couple weight sessions at the gym, a 2,000 and 2200 in the pool and 30 minutes swimming in the lake. I have been back to four days a week training the last two weeks and and feeling like I'm coming back and will be adequately ready for Lake Stevens in a few weeks. I have a three hour bike tomorrow and will be doing a couple 25 mile bike/6 mile run bricks.

As far as Ironman itself goes...I said the entire time I was training that Ironman for me would be one and done and then I could just go to being competitive at 70.3. But what can I say....I'm an addict. I can definitely see doing more. Maybe one every three years or so??? We'll see. Ultimately I have the feeling like I will have to race Kona someday to really feel whole, but getting there is an issue I will have to figure out somehow because I don't see myself qualifying in my age group any time soon.

It's good to be back though, training regularly and looking forward to another event. I think with my personality type I always have to have an event lurking out there on the horizon to keep me happy, excited and constantly pushing least that's what I tell myself.

I also thought it fitting to post some photos of my race support crew. My wife, her two sisters, her parents, my kids and a splattering of friends moved around the crowds, braved the cold rain and wind and made sure they caught me at every opportunity. I thank-you.

For this post Ironman blog, that is still one of the things I was most thankful for and really amazed by. Good work team.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Ironman - The Run

July 27, 2009 -

And I was off. Heading out of transition and just feeling giddy to not only be this far along, entering the last leg of my Ironman, but also just to be off that damn bike. Right out of the gate, I was feeling surprisingly solid. Surprising I guess, because I had no clue as to how my legs would react to a marathon after the first two legs. I did some long runs and some long bikes in training, but did nothing close to testing the actual feeling of a marathon after a 2.4 mile swim and a 112 mile bike.

As I headed up the path, through the mobbing crowd all nudging and wiggling just to catch a glimpse of their athlete, I found my own family. This was great because it was my first time that I was able to actually hug, thank, and check in. I stopped briefly to handout hugs and high fives. After a couple words, I continued on to really start my run. I headed out on the path along the trees and lake. It turns out, this first little jaunt was just a dog-leg that quickly looped back after a couple miles to really head through town and out along the lake.

It was a two-loop course that was pretty flat outside of one hill. The weather was constantly declining. The wind was picking up even more than on the bike and the drippy droppies were starting to rain down. Status check: I was good. My goal was to run 9 minute miles for as long as I could and to absolutely make sure I ran at least half of the marathon without stopping.

I had heard lots of horror stories about eating on the run so I tried my best to jam in all the food on the bike as my plan was to only consume powertabs. I ran through all the aid stations downing a quick water and a gatorade and kept popping a couple powertabs every 20 minutes. All in all it was mile 14 and I was still feeling pretty solid. I had ran the whole way so far and arrived at my special needs bag...yes! I restocked on powertabs and grabbed my energy drink. I ran and drained the energy drink and kept on trucking; heading back through town and out on the lake again to finish the second loop. The rain was starting to pick up and blow sideways and it was getting pretty chilly, but I didn't care....I had to keep moving.

I made it all the way to mile 16 before I started to incorporate walking into my plan. I started walking through the aid stations before picking it back up again. I also started incorporating cola into my fluid intake at each aid station.

Around mile 18 I even tried some chicken broth but it was luke warm and pretty gnarly tasting. I could definitely feel around mile 18 that I was slowing down and running lower on juice, and walking a little more each time I stopped, but still mentally strong. There was this turnaround out on the lake that was about a half-mile or so long hill. I ran it on the first loop, but there was no way the second time around so I speedily walked up it and the picked up the pace again on the way down.

I made it to mile 22 (so close) before the wheels really started to come off. It was funny, because my body was done, but I always had a strong mind about me. It was at mile 22 where I pretty much walked a half mile then ran a half mile for each of the last four miles.

But then it seemed just at the race had was ending. I found myself back in town winding my way through the neighborhood streets, wet, cold, tired and fired up! The cheers from the house parties were motivating along with all the stereos blasting a different genre of music from each party.

Then....I heard that volunteer say, "one more turn and you'll see the finish line!" I got a chill in my spine. It was from that moment on that I could not feel pain, I was not tired or sore and I suddenly had an abundance of energy. I rounded that last corner and found myself on that downtown street crowded with cheering supporters and I could hear the music and announcer at the finish line. I looked ahead and I COULD SEE THE FINISH!!!

That last 400 yards into the finish could only be related to some sort of out of body experience. It was so crazy, I was trying to soak it all up and take it all in, but I was so excited, I was just spazzing out and suddenly my wheels turned on and I found myself running and spazzing. I can only imagine what I must have looked like, but I didn't care. I couldn't figure out how to express all this excitement and sudden rush of adrenaline.

I made it down the street and then hit the finishing chute. It was about 20 yards cuddled in between sets of bleachers full of screaming fans. At this point I was full spaz. Yelling, cheering, throwing up my arms, jumping....I did it all. all my glory....I crossed that finish line to the echo of the announcer saying those words I imagined hearing over and over again for the last six months...."Josh Clark, you are and Ironman!"

I was an Ironman....yes....sweet success!

RUN SPLIT 1: 7.47 mi 7.47 mi (1:09:24) 9:17/mi
RUN SPLIT 2: 21.75 mi 14.28 mi (2:21:09) 9:53/mi
RUN SPLIT 3: 26.2 mi 4.25 mi (1:02:54) 14:48/mi
TOTAL RUN 26.2 mi. (4:33:27) 10:26/mile 1165 164

(I was shooting for a 4:30 marathon, so I was happy about this time. You can really see my time drop off in the last four miles.)

As soon as I crossed the line, my "catcher" was waiting there for me, only I didn't need any catching. She handed me a gatorade, my finisher shirt and medal and a warm foil blanket. Then I was whisked over to take my finisher picture, still not really touching base with reality. Then I saw my wife and daughter and sister-in-law. Somehow they had worked their way into the finish area to show me some love and congratulate was great!

I made my way through the finisher area and inhaled some pizza, probably the most delicious thing I had ever tasted at that point and then back out to transition to gather up all the gear.

I met up with the family to hear their stories of the day, moving from point to point, braving the crowds and weather to see me and cheer on other friends we knew in the race. I packed up the car with my gear and we were out.

My Ironman journed had seemingly ended just as quickly as it began and I was now an Ironman. Somehow already feeling different...changed. Feeling that tasks were not ever going to seem quite so big again.

1:24:45 - 6:48:44 - 4:33:27 - 13:05:57 - 1165 - 164

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Ironaman - The Bike

July 14, 2009 -

I made my way through the labyrinth of bikes and finally descended upon the felt b-12. Loaded up with three water bottles stacked with Gatorade Endurance and ready to go. After a very long and relaxing transition (almost like a day at the spa with all the time I took), I was recovered and ready to get on the bike. I grabbed the bike and started to run down the isle toward the exit as my banana sticking half in and half out of my jersey flew out and went bouncing on the embarrassing. One of the volunteers swooped in mysteriously, grabbed it for me and handed it over. He also mentioned to me that he had pumped up my front tire that morning. Uh-oh...I had already pumped it up again when I got to transition...problem lurking?

Whatever, couldn't think about that now, I was ready to go go go and nothing was going to stop me from getting out of that transition area and starting leg two of my Ironman journey. As I ran my bike down the grass path through the racks...there I saw my wife Shelly and her sister Jill at the fence cheering and snapping photos. It was an instant pick me up and a great way to start the ride. I zoomed over and said hi, kissed the wifey through the fence and headed out the chute to finally mount up and ride. I was no more than 50 yards out of the start and just getting situated when another group of friends cheered for me. A mixture of pals from college, some that lived there and others that just came out to support (thank-you), were braving the weather and the crowds to come out and make sure through loud cheers that I knew I had their support too.

After that I set out to start the 112 mile haul.

Things were going well for the most part. I was trying to find my pace and place. I didn't really know what the course had in store, nor what I should be trying to pace at to ensure that I had enough juice for the marathon. What I decided was to deal with the bike now, deal with the run later. So I took off and just tried to ride hard when I could and slow down when I needed to. I would have been happy to hit an 18 mph overall for the course....but I also didn't know what that course would have in store for me.

I was feeling great and just cruising along, trying to get into my zone...and then around mile 26 or so I started climbing this hill. It was the first real hill of the course. About halfway up the hill and in my easiest started getting harder? Then harder, then harder like I was continually gearing up. bike eventually just stopped. It was like on a spin bike where you gear up and gear up until it doesn't spin anymore. I quickly clicked out before tipping out and immediately started to assess the problem.... as bikes just kept zooming past me.

I got out my bike tool and tried to loosen up the brake cables. I hopped back on the bike only to find I hadn’t done anything. After 10 or so minutes of tinkering and starting to freak out as I couldn’t find the problem and hundreds of people kept flying by....a bike tech car came. He determined my wheel was off balance. It appears that there are two small screws that come out of the mouth of the prongs where your back tire goes in. These screws can be adjusted in and out to balance and control the distance of the wheel from the frame based on your tire size. Funny thing, I had no idea they even existed. After the bike tech determines the problem he realized he didn’t have an allen wrench small enough to adjust them so he just worked it out a little with some other tool and put the tire back on. I tried again to go and it was still rubbing. Now I was really tweaking. So this MacGyver bike tech pulls the wheel back off, grabs a little pebble from the road and jams it in there in front of the screw and clamps the wheel lock down over it....problem solved. After somewhere between 20 and 25 minutes, I was back on the road.

I was riding in the balance of trying not to overdo it and trying to get back to where I was. I kept telling myself that 25 minutes in the course of the whole day was not a big deal, but I couldn’t help but be discouraged. The bike was a two loop course where I found it was a lot hillier course than I anticipated. Nothing too bad, but definitely a consistent amount of hills for the last 15 miles of the loop.

Around mile 61 they had the special needs bags. My number was shouted down the road to a volunteer who met me with my bag as I stopped. He immediately opened up a sandwich and cracked my energy drink for me. I dumped the drink in my aero bottle and ate about half the sandwich in one bite as I thanked the man and started up again. I wasn’t more than a mile down the road when I saw a row of portos and realized it was a good time for a pee. I stopped and a volunteer grabbed my bike for me as I did my thing. He was also waiting for me when I got out. I mounted up and made it a couple hundred yards and realized I had a flat...bah! I changed the tire, but couldn’t fill it up as my CO2 cartridge nozzle was jammed stuck into the screw that attaches it to my seat cage, so I couldn’t attach a cartridge. I had to flag another volunteer to find me a bike pump. All in all, probably another 10 minutes lost with this flat.

Finally, I was on the bike again. I was cruising and feeling pretty good, especially with the food fuel. I made it another 17 miles before....boom...another stinking flat. I got the tire off, changed out the tube, and just before I was pushing the tire back over the rim a bike tech cruised up on his moped, and took over the operation. He put it back together, filled it up and put the wheel back on. I also had him get that screw piece out of my CO2 nozzle. This flat was about five minutes.

I was on my way again and cruising pretty good, but the wind really started picking up and whipping and the hills seemed to grow harder and more never ending than the first loop. My lower back, neck/shoulders and ass were all getting sore. I ate my last sandwich at 92 miles and kept cranking. At mile 100 I felt this sense of accomplishment like I had done it, I was there......but I was wrong. That last 12 miles seemed to be the toughest and longest of the bike.

I was watching my odometer, trying to focus on anything but my sore rear and just keep cranking one after the other. Finally, after well surpassing my time goal, three peanut butter and honey sandwiches, four GU’s, one pack of power tabs, four bottles of Gatorade Endurance, one Energy Drink and two waters....I was done. I had completed the 112 mile bike of my Ironman....with a huge grin/grimace on my face as I dismounted and tried to teach my legs how to walk again. My butt was so sore, I was stoked to start running because I was just so thrilled to be off that bike.

BIKE SPLIT 1: 34 mi 34 mi. (2:08:11) 15.91 mph
BIKE SPLIT 2: 90 mi 56 mi. (3:22:57) 16.56 mph
BIKE SPLIT 3: 112 mi 22 mi. (1:17:36) 17.01 mph

TOTAL BIKE: 112 mi 112 mi. (6:48:44) 16.44 mph

(My goal was to hit between 6 and 6:30, I missed that by a bunch, but also figured I lost around 30 minutes with flats and the wheel balance thing.)

A couple other notable things on the bike - first, were the partiers. There were so many spectators out on their lawns having Ironman parties. Some trashy and boozy and some young and fun. Everything from loud stereos to a live band, to cowbells and megaphones and a few keggers. The local contingent support was pretty funny and often times put a smile on my face.

The second, was my support crew. My wife and kids, her two sisters and parents came out to support as well as a few clusters of friends from the area that I went to college with. They way they moved from point to point around that course and planned it all out so they could see me at such precise times was amazing and motivating as you fly by can catch the cheers and a glimpse of your true fans. However, as you are flying on the bike it is definitely quick; both you and them gotta be on the ball to catch each other because it is kind of a blur. Most times I heard the screams as I was passing and had to look back with a wave.

As I got off the bike, a volunteer grabbed my bike to escort it back to it’s place on the racks and I headed to meet up with another volunteer who got me my run transition bag. I made my way into the men’s changing tent where, once again, I took my time. I dried off, put on fresh socks and running shoes, peed, put on the visor and my shades and headed back out.

T2 Time: 7:38 - (I was going for 10 minutes or less, so I was cool with this.)

Two down and one to go. I headed out of the men’s changing tent and through the Ironman blow-up archway to start my 26.2 Ironman run. At then end of this I would be an Ironman. I was so curious to find out what would happen on the run. How fast I could go for how long? How much would I run, how much would I walk? The run was really the only part of Ironman that I just could not predict what would happen because I had no clue how my legs would hold up after those first two events.

So, I head out, through the crowds, onto the course and began my marathon.

To be continued......

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Ironman - The Swim

July 12, 2009 -

I had a rough idea...but really no clue what to expect for the 2.4 mile, 2200 person mass start swim for Ironman Coeur d' Alene. Although I have been getting faster and more confident with every triathlon swim start, I still have remained fairly timid with my approach. Usually starting in the the middle to back of the pack hoping to avoid the bulk of the kicking and clawing cluster.

I think my ignorance as to what happens at the Ironman mass start worked in my favor as I just kinda moseyed my way up toward the front rather than slipping to the back of the pack. Not that I thought I was the fastest, but I just thought I was gonna go for it. I could either get trampled at the front and leave all the slower people there, or get trampled at the back and have to fight crawling over the slower people. I guess it was the confidence that I wasn't the slowest person anymore, and I had a place somewhere up there in the middle/front.

Then.....the cannon.....BOOM!

"And the 2009 Ironman Coeur d' Alene is underway!"

It was the only time I would stand next to Yukon for the rest of the race. We ran into the water and took an awkward diving plunge in, trying to avoid the mass around us....but as I quickly found out...there was no avoiding it.

For at leas the first 100 yards there was no real recognizable stroke of swimming. If there was, it was a this bobbing, head out of water freestyle. The only goal was to move forward and try to find some space to swim freely because if I could just do that, I would be fast, I could finish in my goal time. But there was no opportunity for this, for me, at this point in the swim. There were people everywhere, kicking, clawing, swimming in diagonal lanes across you, stopping and was chaos.

It was at this moment when I learned the real trick to triathlon swimming. It's not sticking in the back of the pack, it's not timidly swimming your way along and it is definitely not stopping every time someone claws at you, reorganizing yourself and starting again. In this race, there was no opportunity to do that. The real trick, in this mass start race, with 2200 athletes all trying to swim in the same place you are, is to swim aggressive. Not to fight against the people swimming around you per se, but to fight for your swim. To not let people grab your feet and ankles but rather to give big kicks to shy others away. To not let people into your swimming space by using big aggressive strokes to let them know that it's your space.

I learned as I practiced this that the people that swim this way through the crowds are the ones who get to swim the race they practiced for. Everyone else has to swim timidly and shyly letting everyone else by until they get to swim last. I was a lion out there fighting through all the lambs clobbering back, kicking big and trying to do what I had practiced so long to do...swim my 2.4 miles in Ironman.

The swim was a two loop swim and the first loop was pretty much a struggle for most of the loop. I used a ton of energy trying to fight off all the people knocking. I got a heel in my calf turning in to a charlie horse and an elbow to the goggles jamming them into my eye socket. That was about the worst of the contact, the rest was just a lot of grabbing and small kicks.

The first turn turned into this crazy bottleneck where all the swimmers who were 50 yards wide converged on the turn where it became a standstill. Hundreds of swimmers stuck in a traffic jam trying to kick and swim, but so jammed in there was no room to kick or swim. It was the only point on the swim where I felt a little nervous at the chaos. Eventually, I got around it and on the way back on the first loop, it opened up a little and we were with the choppy waves so it was a quick trip back to shore.

First loop: 39:43 (I was shooting for 40, so happy about that)

After a quick 10 yard jog out of the water and over the timing mat, I plunged back in for loop two. The second loop was nice the field had cleared out enough to get a swimming lane, however the drawback was that there were not as many swimmers to break up the chop. It was a windy morning, which meant the chop was active out there. That leg out to the first turn was taxing; the waves kept coming. You would catch one wave at the top of your stroke breaking your power coming down, and sometimes you would catch one wave at the bottom killing the opportunity for a full stroke. Eventually, I got some sort of cadence to it, but I could tell this leg was slower.

Fortunately, this next turn was only half the bottleneck as the first time so I was able to pretty much swim right around it and the next one, and head back into shore. I was getting tired, but had a clear swimming lane and was going with the waves so I just had to get back to shore. I could feel myself slowing down although I still had plenty of strength to power to that beautiful Ironman arch on the shore that was slowly getting closer with every stroke...and then....I was there. I had just finished the 2.4 mile, 2200 person mass start, choppy water swim of my first Ironman.

Second Loop: 45:02 (I was shooting for 40 here too, so I could see a definite decline)

Overall Swim 2.4 miles: 1:24:45

I walk/jogged out of the water passed hundreds of cheering fans through a gradually narrowing shoot into the transition area. Immediately, two women approached asking if I would like help with my wetsuit and I was all for it. I had already committed to taking full advantage of all the help the Ironman volunteers had to offer. First, the arms and then on the ground while the ladies yanked the legs off. They handed me my wetsuit and I ran toward the transition bags where I encountered the next volunteers. They asked what my number was and upon hearing, ran to my bike transition bag handing it to me and off into the men's changing tent I went.

I had decided in my plans that I would really take my time during the transitions to adequately prepare for each leg because I was sure that the few extra minutes preparing in transition would not have any damaging effect on my overall finish and I was more interested in being comfortable and prepared, than I was in being quick on transition.

I dried off, threw on the socks and bike shoes. Ate a goo, peed, strapped on the helmet, threw on the shades, stuffed my jersey with a peanut butter and honey sandwich and a pack of power tabs and headed out of the tent leaving my bag stuffed with my wetsuit, goggles, swim cap and towel for another volunteer to take back to its rightful place.

Outside I encountered yet another set of volunteers waiting to grease me up and slather me down with sunscreen. Rather than take that offer however, I quietly stood aside and applied my trusted spray-on sunscreen and face lotion. From there, I headed over and stuffed the sunscreen into my run transition back and then....finally....after the eternally long transition...I headed to my bike.

T1 Time: 11:23 (I was shooting for 10 mins or under so this was pretty slow)

After winding my way through the maze of slowly disappearing bikes, I found mine and prepared to set out on the next leg of my Ironman journey....the 112 mile bike.

To be continued.....

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Pre Ironman

July 9th, 2009 -

Pre Ironman. The day/night before the race was intense. It was a brilliant mix of nerves, calm, questions and anxiousness. Was I doing too much, or not enough? Was I eating the right food to deliver the fuel I needed the next day? Had I prepared everything in the transitions bags that I would need? Had I made an adequate race nutrition plan? Whatever, what was done was done and I had this calm confidence that I didn’t want to listen to as I couldn’t fool myself into believing that I may actually be prepared for this race.

I was in bed by 9:30p that night and up at 4a race morning. This gave me about an hour and a half that morning to prepare by stretching, having some Gatorade, eating up, and making sure to evacuate the systems....if you know what I mean. I had a muscle milk and a banana smothered in peanut butter when I first got up. After that I stretched and drank two cups of coffee. I made a bowl of oatmeal and took it with me to eat in the car on the way to the race along with some more Gatorade. We were at transition a little before six and got one good pee in first thing before we headed in. I went to my bike to toss in the water bottles and check the tires, one of which was low and I refilled.

From there it was on to the beach to watch the pro start at 6:25. As the crowds started to build, the nerves started to build and the weather started to get windy, I headed into the changing tent, peed again, slipped on the wetsuit and headed back to the beach to prepare for my own start. I would like to say that I was nervous or freaked out a little bit because it felt that way, but it wasn’t that exactly. It was more a curiosity of the unknown. After all, until you have participated in a 2200 person mass swim start....a curiosity of the unknown is exactly what you should have. I hopped in the lake to pee one more time and met up with Yukon. We just stood there, mostly in silence, sometimes cracking a nervous joke, but mostly quietly watching out over the windy choppy waters of Lake Coeur d’Alene wondering what would this day hold in store.

I heard the announcer chime in over the loud speakers saying “at the end of this day you will be an Ironman”. A motivating comment at the time, but also one that would continue to motivate me throughout the entire day as I repeated it over and over in my head during the hardest moments.

Then....the 2.4 mile swim start.

To be continued....