17 September 2010

Rev3 Cedar Point: Race Report

FRIDAY: Ah, Ironman. It lasts but a day, but my journey began back in January when I decided I was going to make it official and start training. Some might say that it was at this point that I had completely gone mad, as I embarked on a part-time job that I would never get paid for, spend countless hours away from family, sacrificing sleep, beers, good-humor, pork fat, ice cream and countless other 21st-century creature comforts. Not only that, but in my third season of triathlon, a lot of people suggested getting another year or two of HIM's in before I attempted the "Big Boy." Ignorance is bliss, isn't it?

I was pretty fired up all week for my trip out to Ohio to race Ironman. One of the things I was most worried about all year was getting sick days before the event—or worse—the  morning of Ironman. Although, I did not come down with anything as life-threatening ebola virus, I did start getting a terrible case of the sniffles, and a sore throat. I was really concerned how my energy level was going to be for the event, and how this might affect my performance. Perhaps it was the nerves, the endorphins, or the incredible amount of adrenaline pumping though my body all weekend, but once I hit Sandusky, Ohio, I forgot all about feeling under the weather.

The weeks leading up to Ironman were some of the busiest weeks of my life. I was trying to work in my last little bits of training all while starting a new job with new students, and new colleagues. I did not underestimate how difficult the transition was going to be, only how much time it was going to take  me to prep new classes and correct papers while I am worried about going out for a half hour run.

I booked my hotel online. I have learned that this can be one of the greatest moves one can make—as evidence of the hotel Alaina and I stayed at in New York City—or, dreadfully misleading from the pictures, as was the case with the Howard Johnson Express that I stayed at in Sandusky. First, let me just clarify one thing: when I saw the words "Express" in the description of the hotel, I assumed it was a Holiday Inn Express, and had absolutely no qualms about breaking out my credit card and booking a three day stay only miles from America's Roller Coast—Cedarpoint. Yes, I ignored the little part about it only being a two-star hotel, and the fact that it could have been at the center of a crime-laden neighborhood for all I knew. It was relatively inexpensive, and they had beds. Well, when I arrived at my room, it made my college dormitory room seem quite large. It was small—real small. I had a ton of gear and I brought both my triathlon and road bike out, which had to be stored in the room. (I get really paranoid about leaving my bike on the rack even at my own home.) The bathroom was a little larger than a thimble. I actually had to step to the left side against the wall to actually close the door—hysterical! Keep in mind, I booked this room for me and my two grown nephews. Yikes!

I got settled in, and drove up to the park to pick up my race packet. It was fairly empty; only a few athletes walking around. Most of them were gone, or on their way out as I was parking. It also took me about twenty minutes to find the actual right place to park. Packet pickup had been closed for about five minutes, but I gave the woman some sighs, and she felt sorry for me and grabbed my packet anyway. Since I never have run an iron distance event, I had no idea what to expect. I received five bags in my packet:

Morning Clothes, Swim to Bike Clothes, Bike to Run Clothes, Bike Special Needs, and Run Special Needs.  I did not have to use the Morning Clothes bag since both of my nephews accompanied me in the morning and took my clothes for me. One less bag I had to get nearly thirteen hours later.

I went back to my cubicle, er, hotel room shortly after this and got into bed. I had picked up a sub at the greatest supermarket in the world—Wegmans. on the way out to Ohio.  Now I was sitting in my room eating half of it and pounding Gatorade as if my life depended on it.

SATURDAY: I checked the schedule Friday evening and saw that the Saturday practice swim was from 7-9:00 a.m. So, I got up around 6:30 and went to The Cracker Barrel Restaurant for some pancakes. The pancakes were "eh" at best. I would seriously have to think about where to have my pre-race meal now. I drove all the way to the beach at the tail end of the amusement park, only to turn back around and head back to my hotel room because I had forgotten my swim cap. Ugh! I finally did get out there. The waves were dreadfully ginormous out on the beach that morning. I would say that the swells were probably a good four feet once you got out about four hundred yards or so. The race director planned for two courses depending on which way the wind was coming from the morning of the race. I was hoping it would be calmer than this. I headed out into the surf. I must admit, when I got about 500 yards out, I started to panic a little bit. I took a stroke with my left arm and there was NO water underneath me. Then my body just fell down the crest of the wave. I took about thirty seconds, did some breaststroke. I regained my composure and started back out again. After that incident, I was completely fine the rest of the way—actually enjoying the waves, and getting tossed around like a little kid. In fact, I did something in the water that I don't think I do very often when swimming. I smiled. When I got out of the water, I saw the Trakkers team  down on the beach asking athletes if they wanted to try some type of wetsuit glide, anti-chaffing thingy. I saw my blogger buddy Anne and took a picture with her on the beach.

Congratulations on an awesome race Anne!

After the swim, I went back to my hotel room, cleaned up a bit, washed out my wetsuit from all the sand, and laid back down in bed a bit more until the mandatory bike check in opened at 11:00 a.m. I actually did not arrive at the park until noon. I walked around the expo for a bit. I saw that there was a place to get massages. I signed up for a A.R.T., or active release massage. I get talking to my therapist, and find out that this cat went to the same undergraduate school that I did. What are the odds of that?! So, clearly, I had to get a picture taken with him. Thanks for the massage Chris!

I got my bike into transition around 1:00, right before the pro meeting. Right after the pro meeting, I introduced myself to pro, Jacqui Gordon and asked for a picture with her (I have clearly overcome my shyness.) I have to say, Jacqui is as cool in person as you ever hope a professional triathlete to be. She is down to Earth, personable, and willing to answer any questions you have about the sport.

My nephews rolled into town around 4:00. After checking into my enormous suite at the HoJo Express, we realized that we were all starving. So, we rode down the street to Perkins—a regional restaurant chain known for their breakfasts'—for my official pre-race dinner:

Ironman pre-race dinner: Four pancakes, three eggs over medium. home fries,  bacon, and dry rye toast. Any questions? Don't worry, I ate plenty of fruit that night. 

My nephews and I went back to the hotel, watched a little t.v. and were sleeping by 7:30 p.m. Yes, 7:30! Most times, before a triathlon, I get too amped up to sleep. I don't know if it was because I was a bit under the weather, or just still exhausted from my busy week and ride out, but I did not have ANY trouble falling asleep. In fact, this might have been the best I have ever slept before a triathlon—ever!

SUNDAY: We woke up around 4:15 a.m. The thought of eating anything, absolutely made me want to gag. However, I kept on drinking Gatorade all morning. I got my bags into the transition area. Everything was handled really nicely by the Rev3 volunteers; no chaos. I got body marked and put my water bottles on the bike. While at my bike filling up my tires, I noticed that my bike computer was not registering my speed. Pfffttttt!  Who needs to know their speed?  Okay... okay... I walked my bike over to the mechanics and had them take a look. My sensor had just dropped down. The mechanic repositioned it and screwed it on tightly. The bike was ready. I walked onto the beach and down to the swim start. It seemed like I was the only person on the beach that morning. Oh, because I was. A lot of athletes were staying in the hotel in the park, so they went back there and warmed up, got more sleep.... who knows? 
Representing New York and keeping warm before the swim start. 

THE SWIM: For all my anxiety all through training about the swim, this was by FAR the easiest part of my day. When I first got in the corral,  I did what I always do, and made my way unconsciously
towards the front, before realizing that I am not that fast of a swimmer, and there is a pretty decent chance that I might drown from everyone swimming over me. I took my time the first half mile, just finding my pace. I felt great. I wanted to push the tempo a little, but being my first Iron distance race, I decided to keep swimming steadily and save my energy for the long day ahead of me. When I got to the final buoy, there was a guy in a kayak standing up and letting everyone know that we had a half mile to go. I smiled, thinking to myself.... "Wow... I am about to complete an Ironman swim. Three years ago I couldn't swim at all."

T1: Pretty uneventful. I found my bag, and took off my wetsuit. I now understand why age-grouper T1 times for Ironman are usually much longer than their half splits. Luckily, there were a ton of great volunteers helping athletes with everything. Some young volunteer even put suntan lotion on my body before I headed out onto the bike. Well, everywhere except the small of my back, which resembled a crimson crustacean, and was burnt to a crisp after getting of my bike. 

THE BIKE: Awesomeness. I love biking. Going out, it took me a bit of time to find my tempo. After that, it felt as though I was passing everyone. I think I remember only being passed by about a dozen athletes on the bike. I think at least three or four were pros who caught me on my first lap while they were on their second. That's not too demoralizing. I watched my speed, and felt pretty good the whole way. The last part of the course found us heading west towards the park into a brutal headwind. I noticed that I started to slow don considerably here. I did stop for about a minute at mile 50 to grab my special needs bag. I took some more gels that I did not end up needing. I followed through with the nutrition plan that I had practiced all along on my long rides—approximately 300 calories every half hour by  means of gels/shotblox, and Gatorade. The most difficult part of my day was on the bike between miles 80-95. I looked down at my odometer and went ... "wow... I have to pedal 30 more miles..."  *SIGH* I called on my father to help me at various times throughout the race, and this was one of those times. I know he was out there with me. 

T2: It was here that I believe I made my first crucial Ironman error. The night before, I had debated whether or not I was going to wear my fuel belt. "Race like you train.... race like you train," had been my mantra all along. However, going into the run, I realized that the fuel belt was unnecessary, uncomfortable, and felt like it weighed a thousand pounds. Plus, I had forgotten to take out all the excessive nutrition from my bib when I started out my run. Midway through the first lap of the marathon, I dropped a Clif Bar, and some gels at an aid station and continued on. 

THE RUN: This is where I made my second, and probably more fatal error. My first couple of miles were decent on the run—not fast—but very comfortable. I felt a little warm, and because it was so breezy, I decided to unzip my bib and pull it down to my waist. Not good. You see, although I prefer not to wear a shirt from say... mid-May until October, the sun has way too much surface area to beat down on your body and fatigue the heck out of you. I realized this around mile 12 of the run. When I went back out for my second loop, I zipped up my bib and started pouring water over my body to stay cool. I had another problem on the run that I am not sure was due to the scorchingly obscene distance that I had to run, or the fact that my new shoes were just not built for this distance. I decided to go with a lighter New Balance trainer a couple of weeks before Ironman. My feet hurt pretty much from the onset, which is really strange for me. Usually, I do not have any sort of foot pain at all running. I will have to figure that one out.

THE FINISH: My goal all along was to finish in under 13 hours. When I was 5k out, I looked at my watch and thought "...am I going to be able to do this?" It is amazing how fast your legs will start  moving when you are trying to meet a goal. With a mile and a half left to go, I put the proverbial hammer down‚ (which had now been reduced to a mere rubber mallet.) Running the last eight hundred yards, I suddenly found energy in my legs that I had no idea was there. I ran through the finishing chute high- fiving everyone on the left side. I crossed the finish line and got my official finisher shirt—a shirt I shall wear with pride. 

CONCLUSION: I am happy with my Ironman debut. Sure, I wish that I could have actually run more of the marathon, but I know I trained as much as I could have with the time that I had. If I had my way, I would do an Ironman every year. If the wifey said "decide between running a handful of sprints and olympic distance events, or one Ironman a year, I would run Ironman. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE running Sprints, Olympics, and HIM's, but I have never run a race that was more fun, and gratifying than this. ALSO—I have a score to settle with the marathon. Now that I have run one of these puppies, I have gained a lot of experience. I know I can train smarter, and more efficiently, and take a big chunk of my time off my race next time around. Of course, I will not make any decision to run another Ironman until everyone in the family is on board again. 

Thanks for all of you said prayers, thought of me, 


SWIM: 1:24:57

T1: 4:35

BIKE: 5:50:49

T2: 5:50

RUN: 5:31:41

TOTAL: 12:57:53

Apparently, this is what my nephews think about as I am running Ironman:


Kelly said...

Great race report, Mark. I know I've said it a few times already, but CONGRATULATIONS!! I'm so proud of you (and just a tiny bit jealous).

BTW...now I know that you come by Olivieriness honestly...your nephews are brilliant.

KC (my 140 point 6 mile journey) said...

Wow Mark! Great job out there. What a great accomplishment. Your nephews made me laugh out loud with the lactating. Too funny! Can't wait to see which one 140.6 you pick next.

RockStarTri said...

Great report, great race and most of all, great accomplishment!

Well done.

Bethany + Ryan said...

wow! congratualtions!!!!! i can't wait to make my ironman debut but i still got a bit of a wait. GREAT job!! i loved reading your race report! congrats!


Great job Ironman.... Blogger Anne and I broke bread together at IMFL last year at my pasta party. Nice girl, and 12 20something?.... insane.

So, are you definitely hooked on this crazy sport???

Jeff - DangleTheCarrot said...

Awesome job Mark! Really enjoyed your race report! How would you rate the Rev3 experience?

martin briars said...

nice to read your Iron adventure !
i'm planning my first Iron next year (after on eyear of Olympic and 1 Half Iron events), so i take inspiration from your success !
best wishes

Kathleen said...

Congratulations on completing your first Ironman. What a huge accomplishment! The video that your nephews made was very funny. Good for them for being out there for you on that day.

Kristin (Triathlon Dreams) said...

Congrats on your finish!!! I thinK I laughed at least a half dozen times, especially at your nephews!!

Caratunk Girl said...

Love this race report - makes me want to go to that race! Congrats on an awesome job!

I was just going to ask about your Rev3 experience, and I see that is your next post, so I will read and comment there! :)

Again, great accomplishment!

Heather said...

Unbelievably awesome!! Great job.
Reading this was inspirational. Thanks for posting!1

Big Daddy Diesel said...

Great race report!! Congrats, well done

Ben said...

This is a terrific race report. My wife and I are doing our first IM at Rev3 Cedar Point next year. We did our first 70.3 this season, and next year will be my 3rd season so I'll be making a similar jump. I grew up not real far from CP so that's why we chose that race. Congrats and can't wait to hear about your next race!

Krista said...

Congrats!! All your hard work paid off!

tribirdie said...

Mark, I think you were right behind me at T2! My family told me that the announcer (as I was heading out on the run) was talking about how I was a mom of two and he thought that it was amazing when mom's were out there and someone yelled out, "well this guy is a dad of five!" The times seem to match up and how many tri dads of five can there be right? And now we are on the same team, how funny! Awesome race, way to get it done!! Congratulations! Looking forward to getting to know you in 2011! Go Team Trakkers!