Erin and I are talking one night in bed... The conversation turns to big goals and dreams, and Ironman comes up. I tell her I think it'd be awesome to do Ironman, and this is her response: "You could do an Ironman. You have the determination and personality. I have no doubt that you could do it." Wow. She has no clue how much that means to me. My best friend and the person who knows me the most has full confidence in me!
I officially get the Ironman bug after my friend Wil Buchanan did Ironman St. George. He and his family have us over to dinner one night and Ironman dominates every conversation. I was pumped because he wasn't an elite athlete, just a normal guy like me. A few weeks after we talked, Erin and I went out to Coeur d'alene to watch it in person. That was all it took... the next day I signed up!
$640 later, no money left. Bring on the buyer's remorse. What did I just do?! I didn't even have a bike. So I started running and swimming a little and went about life as normal. My plan was to use my tax return and buy a bike.
We find out Erin is pregnant. I'm in school full time, commuting to Eastern. Oh, and I work full time. Oh, and I'm supposed to be training for this thing called Ironman. School and work trump Ironman training in the priority list, so training takes a break.
School is out, I run and swim a little in the month of December.
School starts again; training stops. I've logged about 200 miles of running, maybe 10 miles swimming, and ZERO on the bike. Ironman is 5 months away. I tell people I'm doing Ironman and they ask how training is going, what time I'm shooting for. I give them my stats and spout off, 'Oh, I'd like to break 13 hours', and their eyes get really big. They're not so secretly thinking, 'dude, you're crazy. You're never going to pull it off, these things take at least a full year of training'.
Tax return comes. I meet a guy who wants to sell his tri bike and gives me an awesome deal (who later turns out to be a wealth of knowledge on training... Thanks for all the advice, James!).
The bike is still sitting in my basement. The pedals aren't installed, its freezing outside, and the seat is wayyyy too high. I look for the quick release to lower it, but realize its not that easy. I desperately want to ride it, but the pedals look really weird. I have no idea how they work. Ironman is 4 months away. Crap.
I spend a ton of money getting the bike all set up, fit to me, and I'm off. I discover I LOVE CYCLING! Tell me again why I didn't start this earlier in life?
Baby is due in one month, Ironman is less than 3 months away, now school gets a bump down the priority list. Now its just work and TRAINING!
Simon is born, I try to not stop training. But its hard. By middle of the May I've used up almost all my vacation for the entire year and I still need more time to train. I've done ONE century ride and a handful of 50+ milers on the bike, but its not enough. I'm not ready.
Ohhhhh dang. 3 weeks to go. I do a half-ironman distance workout (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile ride, 13.1 mile run) and feel great. That's a good sign. ...2 weeks to go, and I'm not where I want to be. One week before race day my friend Rochelle Hopp comes with me on my second-ever open water swim. We go to Lake Coeur d'Alene and she paddles the kayak next to me. I swim 1.5 miles. The water temp is 55 degrees. ...Last week is taper week. One 5K run, one easy swim, and one easy ride. I do nothing for four days before the race.
June 24, 2012
3:30am Alarm goes off. I eat a bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats, yogurt, a banana, and an English muffin with jam. I grab my special needs bag and wetsuit and we drive to Coeur d'Alene.
5:00am Check my bike tires, drop off water bottles, check and double check my swim-to-bike transition bag and bike-to-run transition bag. Everything looks good. I'm nervous.
6:00am Erin watches as I put on my wetsuit. Its tight. My goggles are all scratched, so I put on Erin's pink Speedo pair. Awesome!
6:25am Pros start!
6:50am Family shows up to watch the start! I search frantically for Charlie because I get it in my head that I NEED to hold her and kiss her one last time! I'm so happy to see her and we get some good pre race pics.
6:58am I run to the front and middle of 2600 people against all advice. EVERYONE I talked to told me to wait back or go to the sides. ...but that's not my style. This is a race!
7:00am Gun goes off! I jump in the water in the front lines. Literally. I start swimming, but the cold water and my nerves are getting the better of me. I'm hyperventilating. 50 yards from shore and I still can't put my head down, I can't breath! I'm scared. This has never happened before. People are swimming over me and I'm getting beat up and I can't put my head down. Finally I get a few deep breaths and I'm beginning my stroke. Whew. First turnaround comes and I feel someone's fingers brush my leg and rip my timing chip off my ankle. Its long gone.
8:24am Swim is over in less than 90 minutes! I throw on my jersey and jump on my bike. Its on!
8:45am Bagpipes??? There's like a dozen guys playing bagpipes just before the Higgins point turnaround, and I'm laughing out loud. How awesome is that?? Best part of the day, hands down. Friggin bagpipes. Who would have thought.
9:00am I can't believe I'm doing this... This is amazing... What a rush!!! I have so much positive energy flowing through my body I'm literally smiling every pedal of the bike. Its still overcast but the day is beautiful. 2306 vertical feet of cycling never felt so easy. Seriously, I only remember the bike being a blast. This is way too much fun! Every person I talked to, every book I read, every quote I came across, all had the same advice... Enjoy the moment. Don't become too focused you lose sight of what you're doing. You're doing an Ironman! You've come so far! ...I relished every second. It was almost too much for me. Every time I thought of crossing the finish line and hugging Erin I'd start to cry. I was so enthusiastic, the atmosphere was electric.
I'm biking along and this guy with a nasty mustache is standing in a funny pose on his bike. I notice water pouring off his saddle and I almost say something to him about his water bottle leaking, until... I realize its urine. Really dude?? Apparently he was repeating my mantra, 'Its a race!' Later I saw another guy peeing, but he just looked so much cooler doing it. Maybe it was the nasty 'stache.
...about halfway through the bike I realize my pace is good. I'm averaging 17mph, exactly what I need to do a 6 1/2 hour bike. This means if I run a sub 5-hour marathon I can do this thing in under 13 hours! I'd consigned myself to 13.5, or even any time under 14 hours the month prior to the race. The halfway point on my bike is when I recommit myself to breaking 13 hrs. I can do this!
I eat everything. On the bike alone I consume 3 bottles of Perpetuem, 2 bottles of Gatorade, 3 bonk breaker energy bars, 1 banana, 1 peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and 2 packages of Clif bar blocks.
3:08pm I'm running. My transitions were fast. Some friends of mine told me to take my time through transitions, appreciate the break. ...um, not my style. This is a race! (I keep repeating that all day, I feel like Mr. Bean in Rat Race......... It's a race!)
No more solid foods now. I take one gel every 40 minutes, and drink water and Gatorade every aid station.
5:38pm I'm about halfway through my marathon. I haven't walked once. But I'm tired. Now I'm not smiling quite as big. Whenever I pass speakers blaring music I still pretend to be enthusiastic. I fist pump, I smile, I raise my hands, I even play air-guitar to Sweet Home Alabama. ...but its a little less sincere than before.
...My 3rd split is the slowest. I just climbed the biggest hill of the run for the last time. But I'm passing everyone. I'm the only one running! EVERYONE is walking up the hills. I mean everyone (I find out later that I move up 150 spots in the overall ranking during my run, which means I passed 150 people). I keep repeating, 'Don't stop running'. I was 100% determined to not walk.
Last split, about 6 miles to go. No more gels, no more Gatorade. Only Coke at every aid station. I'm happy to find out it works! (Another piece of advice I got from everyone: 'Don't experiment with nutrition on race day!' ...this whole thing was one big, fat experiment, are you crazy?? I'd never had Perpetuem before, never eaten a Bonk breaker, and certainly never drank Coke while running before today)...
I keep reworking the math. OK, 6 miles in 75 minutes, that's like 12+ pace, I can do this. OK, 5 miles in 50 minutes... OK, 3.2 miles in 32 minutes, this shouldn't be hard, a 5K race is less than 25 for me... Last mile! Then the volunteers start shouting, 'Last turn, then 8 blocks!' ...I only have 6.5 minutes!! Now I'm giving it everything I have. The final runway is lined with people, and its all downhill. I'm running fast, into the sunset, and I realize I'm going to make it. I still haven't walked a single step of the marathon. I see my family on the sides near the finish. I finally allow myself a genuine smile.
7:56pm I cross the finish line. I'm done. The huge Ironman banner reads 12:56:31.
8:05pm I get to hug Erin, and I cry in her shoulder. Erin believing in me meant everything.
That night, AFTER eating a Red Robin royal burger, a rookie magic milkshake and a few glasses of Coke, I weighed 159lbs. My high school weight! ...compared to my training weight of 165, and my normal weight for the last 5 years of 185. Sweet!
Total training miles:
ran 368 miles in 8 months
swam 30 miles in 8 months
biked 903 miles in 3.5 months
I had no coach, no club or no team. I put on road shoes and clipped into pedals for the first time in my life about 4 months before race day. In the months prior to race day, my max number of hours working out was 6-8 hours per week, compared to most people at least double, sometimes triple that. I had no business signing up for an Ironman as a full time student, working full time. But come on. Its kind of the ultimate, right? I desperately don't want to be 40 or 50 years old, regretting not doing cool stuff when my body could bounce back so easily. This was the perfect time to do it. Absolutely no regrets.
Whenever you mention Ironman, people laugh in a self-deprecating way and comment on one of the three disciplines that they 'could never' do. BAH! Its all mental. One of the most amazing experiences of my life. There will definitely be more. I'm hooked.