Upset. Embarrassed. Annoyed. Frustrated.
These are just a couple of words I would use to describe how I felt before, during, and after the race this weekend. So if you are expecting words of encouragement or hope, or an "I'll be back to get 'em again" - you can probably stop reading.
But, since I do try to keep some balance, I will say that at least one of us had a great day. GREAT day. Alyssa swam 1:05 and some change, just a few ticks slower than what she swam at Louisville, and then rode a 5:45 - which included ten minutes on the side of the road when she flatted on lap 2! She was 6th in her 25-29 age group out of the water, and still in 6th off the bike. She then did what can only be summed up as some SERIOUS work on the run. FASTEST run split in her age group, 3:47. While I (and she would concur) would say her open marathon PR is "soft" at 3:31, to run that close to your open time off the bike like that is insane. It helped her finish at 10:45:51, which was a 50 minute PR over her Wisco 2010 time.
MORE significantly, she finished 2nd in the age group, which means she qualified for KONA. And, even cooler than that - she ran third place down HARD in the last mile to do it. If that's not a champion, I don't know what is. She was still many minutes down with 10k to go, but just kept hunting, and was 20 seconds down inside the last mile. Boom. Awesome. So that meant yesterday morning we got to walk down so she could pay $775 to get to go to Hawaii next year. She also got some really cool news this morning while we were in the shuttle back to the airport, but she'll tell you that in a couple of days...
I will also take the opportunity to thank a few people for their efforts:
My parents made the trip out. My dad came out last year, and had so much fun that he just had to come back. He managed to drag my mom out, as she's never seen an IM. As I've always said, if you've ever met my dad, you know that there is not a human being in the world as enthusiastic and energetic to cheer - not just for me, but for everyone on the course, people he doesn't know. They even came back for the midnight finish, and when a few people were straggling in after midnight, and therefore not "official" finishers, he was the one encouraging people in the stands to cheer them in.
Mike Zero came out, even though he wasn't racing. Now, in fairness, I would probably go out to Tempe for this race every year myself. Particularly when ASU is playing Arizona and you have tickets. But, like the friend he is, he made himself available for assistance all weekend, and was hugely supportive on the course - running around from place to place faster than I was (which wasn't hard).
Clairebear came down from Flagstaff to watch, which was nice of her. She did it last year, and obviously Mike did it two years ago, so we have a nice little history of IMAZ in our little family. Claire is a tough little cookie, and I really appreciated her coming down for basically the day just to watch and cheer.
My cousin Matt came out again. Matt came out last year after my dad mentioned we were going to be out there (he lives there) and even though I hadn't seen him in, like twenty years, he was such a great fan. It was great to see him again, and he was on top of shit after the race, picking up my gear bags and bike and bringing them back to the hotel. Thanks Matt!
My buddy Eric Marenburg (a proud and loyal Terp) drove out on Saturday from San Diego with his buddy Tom (who I've run with before while out in SD). Their friend John was competing as well, and they took the 6 hour journey on Saturday just to watch, and then split after the race on Sunday. Tom got some great pics, which I'll put up at some point. They were great out on course though, and were tremendously helpful when I was not feeling it.
And of course all the people back here that were following, and sent supportive messages before/after the race. That doesn't mean that all of them were smart, like asking if I was "happy with the result" (ha, sorry OJ), but I guess we all struggle to find the right thing to say to someone when they've had a shitty day.
Quick 2010 recap: I swam 1:02:21, rode 5:32, ran 3:57 = 10:40. Again, cool at the time, first one, trained for a few months after the two knee surgeries, neat. I have been riding well this year and felt like 5-5:10 was going to be a good target, and 3:20-3:30 a good target for the run. Cutting 40 minutes off my time would get me under 10, that would have been cool. 9:45 should have been a realistic target. Here's what actually happened:
Swim: 1:01:27. During the swim, I was pretty proud of myself. When we got to the start, the crowd to get into the water was insane, and I was worried that at the pace the group was moving, we wouldn't get in the water by the time the cannon went off. We ran through the bikes and came in from the side. I don't think most of the people realize that you have to swim about 100m to the actual start "line". The water, which had felt so cold the day before, was not as bad. It really must have to do with the air temp, because that has been the case each year I've done this swim: freezing on Saturday, not bad on Sunday. Water temp was 61, by the way. I get in the water, pee in the wetsuit, get to the start, and within two minutes, the cannon goes off.
In the last two years I've had some trouble with spiking HR, fogged goggles, and it's cost me some time. This year I was much more calm, and my goggs were not a prob, although I did get pushed out to the right a bit and scraped my hand along the bottom of one of the boat ramps in the first quarter mile. The start was very aggressive, I was getting pretty annoyed. I swam a little out to the right so I avoided it, but I also didn't have any feet to draft off of, so I was doing the work on my own. I felt comfortable, and had a good rhythm going. But geez if it doesn't feel like the longest swim ever. Finally got to the turnaround and headed back in, and it seemed quite choppy. I guess it was some surface chop from the wind, but everytime I breathed to my right I was getting a mouthful of that disgusting water.
There were two or three instances where I would swim up on someone and then it was like they tried to match my pace, but were swimming RIGHT next to me and hitting me - for absolutely no reason. Like, move over man. I think it may have been the same guy in two of the instances, separated by about 15 or 20 minutes of the swim, which would be real weird. But wouldn't surprise me. I noticed fewer and fewer caps on the way in, and felt good about where I was coming out. Then I looked at my watch and my first thought was "really??" I'll take the improvement from last year, but all things considered, with no stops to clear goggles, it's probably a push. Still, it had me out of the water in 186th (as opposed to 226th last year maybe?) and 20th in the age group.
T1 - 3:45. This is an improvement from last year, but only by about 40 seconds. I guess over such a short time, that's pretty decent. I certainly don't think I could have ran any faster - I was blazing through to get my bag. Despite them yelling my number, the volunteer was just standing there in my row, so I found my bag myself. Cool, thanks. Ran over to the tent, where again nobody helped. So I got my jersey on, put on the helmet, glasses, and shoes, and was on my way.
Suggestion for IM: acquire bike racks that are taller. All of the dudes on my rack have large bikes. The racks are small. They wound up racking my bike handlebars first, and it was basically locked in between other bikes. Took a second or two to get it free, and then was out onto the bike.
Bike: 5:19:25. And this is where my day started going wrong. There weren't many people around, I passed a few people, started taking my calories. Which, for those counting at home, consisted of: 600 calorie bottle of CarboPro in the aerobars, and an 800 calorie concoction of EFS liquid shot Vanilla (600cal worth) + 2 scoops of EFS Orange (200cal) and water. That was 1400. I figured with a 5 hour ride I would have 2000 or so calories available to me, so I brought 3 Honey Stinger Waffles as comfort food (160cal each, so 1980 total). Note: these calories, except for the Waffles, are vile to me. I seriously think I'm struggling with the sugars. At the first water stop, a few miles in, I took a water bottle and threw it in the middle pocket of my jersey. Boom. Felt good about the setup.
As we headed up toward the mountains on the Beeline Hwy, we had a bit of a headwind. Seeing the pros flying down the road on their first return confirmed, so as soon as we hit the turnaround, PACHEWW (as Alyssa might say). Flying. With no computer, I have no idea how fast we were going, but it was fast. There were a couple of bigger guys around me at this point, and it was getting very frustrating. On the way out, they had sat behind me, in what I'm sure was a not-quite-legal distance. At some points they would try to pass, but they would slow down so much going up the hills, that I would pass them back. On the downhill, the one guy just flew by. Towards the end of the first lap I ate one of the Waffles, and decided it was not a great snack for the day. Just a little too dry for me. It also didn't help that my little sickness that I picked up was making swallowing a challenge.
First lap was 1:38. Think that averages out to be 22.8 or something miles per hour, and I thought about it putting me around 4:55 pace. Perfect. If the winds stayed that way, I could count on a headwind out and then a nice tailwind back, and I felt like I would slow down a little bit from that, so come in around 5. Excellent.
But then something happened. There was simply no more power in the engine room. I didn't feel bad, I just could no longer generate power. The headwind started to shift to a crosswind, and by the time we turned around on the second loop, it was a headwind. Not cool. That lap was predictably slower, around 1:44 or 1:45 or something. Alright, not too bad, if I can just keep that pace, I'll still finish up okay, it'll be just under 5:10. Not a great day, but fine.
Z and Claire were hanging out on Rio Salado, but out from the crowds, and I just shook my head as I went by. It was not my day. I turned around, completely unexcited to have another loop to do, and tried to brace for another 37ish miles. The winds were really picking up now, and it's the worst feeling when you are riding like shit and you are out of the saddle pedaling downhill and going nowhere. I was hydrated (I had peed 5 times on the bike, a serious amount of urine was in my left shoe) and wasn't cramping up like I had at Louisville, but I just couldn't ride any faster.
Dejected, I crawled into T2 after a 1:56 third loop. Sure, I had ridden 13 minutes faster than I did last year at AZ, but it was still 5 minutes slower than what I thought was my worst possible day at Louisville. Fuck. I am not looking forward to this marathon.
T2 - 3:36. Again, a little bit faster than last year, I went to the bathroom real quick and did a full costume change into running shorts and a singlet. Again, a botched bag handoff. They didn't hear my number right, so I had to get it myself.
Run: 4:23:doesitevenmatter. You know you're in for a long day when...your first mile is 7:26. Last year I ran 6:45s for the first three. That was too quick, I learned that, but on Sunday, that 7:26 was my fastest mile, and it was as fast as I could move my legs. I kept thinking I would start feeling better, and that this was a good thing, that I wasn't going out fast. I had left transition so I thought if I can just run 8s, I'll get under 10 hours. Even if I just run 9s, I'll go faster than I did last year. But I couldn't even do that.
I'm running over 8 minute pace in the first few miles, can't eat anything, can't move my legs. What can you even do at that point? I got real excited just before mile 3 when the Ford Motivation Station was playing LMFAO "I'm Sexy and I Know it" - I wished I had been racing in the neon green speedo at that point. I saw everyone on the bridge and just said I was going to be out there for a while. I kept moving forward, and then I decided I would try to go to the bathroom just prior to the Curry Rd hill. It seemed to help my stomach, but not my legs. I still was "running", but I wasn't going fast.
I even tried to mix it up, where I'd see if I could run fast, but I was just moving in slow motion. I was more than bummed, but I wasn't in a bad place like I was at Louisville. I literally just could not go any faster. My day got really sad as Alyssa FLEW by me, after we crested the Curry Rd hill for the third time. I wished I could have just run it in with her, but I had nothing in me, and obviously she was on good legs and just had to go.
It's a really hard thing to see people run by you all day. I mean, EVERYONE was going by me. Old people, chubby girls, didn't matter. Someone posted a picture of me on FB and I commented that I am the fastest-looking 6 hour marathoner in the world.
I finally made it to the finish, it was dark. Alyssa had been done for a few minutes, and was in the med tent. That's where champions go. People like me stroll across the line (actually, I did the Snake Hill Bandit move) in 10:51:45. We take our mylar blanket, don't allow the volunteer to put the medal over our head, instead opting to take it in our hands and walk off. Grab our shirt and hat, and then go into the tent where the food is. We eat a couple slices of pizza, drink some chocolate milk, and sit down and wonder what the fuck just happened.
Most people show improvement when they do these things. Most people get faster when they work harder. Apparently, I operate differently, because I've managed to disimprove by 11 minutes over the course of the year. The two biggest races I've had this year have been the two biggest failures. At least I can do that right. Go big or go home, no?
The Infinite Sadness
I started to cringe when I thought about how much time, money, and energy I've wasted this year to have these performances. If I want to be an 11 hour ironman, I may as well not even train. If you were to ask me if it was worth it, all the sacrifices, the time, the weekends, losing the summer, being so absent that people forget you even exist, I would say: Absolutely not. I wonder, why do I keep doing it? I haven't been enjoying it, and I'm not good at it. Normally, even after a bad performance, you still can feel like you came away with something. I came away with a $2000 weekend in Tempe, Arizona.
I also don't understand why my body hates me so much that I get sick upon arriving in these Ironman towns. I didn't feel as bad as I did at Louisville, but my legs didn't get the memo. Even there I managed a 5:14 bike split even after my dehydrated body started seizing up. And, I ran low 7s for the first few miles. Something was obviously not right on Sunday, and I'll probably never know what it was.
With so many question marks, I'll never pinpoint the one thing, shoot, it's actually probably a lot more than one thing, that I'm doing wrong. I really thought I had it down this time, but once again, someone somewhere is laughing an evil laugh at my demise.
I wish I could just be happy with finishing these things, and I do realize that finishing isn't always a given: Jordan Rapp DNFd early, and a few other pros dropped. But Eneko Llanos one-upped Ronnie Schildknecht's IMFL time from a few weeks ago, setting the fastest NA IM time ever. 3 women broke 9 hours. Tim O'Donnell ran a 3:45 marathon. People suffer in these things. What I wouldn't give to suffer and go fast.
What's worse, I don't even feel like I was out there Sunday. We got back today. My feet feel fine, my legs feel fine. I still feel sick, but my body generally doesn't have the effects that accompany doing a big race. That's probably because I walk my marathons. Last year I was in pain for a week. I happily avoided signing up for next year's race. I'm all for streaks, and I would even still contemplate going out there, but I can't do it again. I need a break from the course, I need a break from ironmans. Maybe even a break from triathlons for a while. Maybe even all racing.
What I felt the worst about was being the rain on Alyssa's parade. She had the best day of her life and probably all she wanted to do was celebrate, and I was just a Gloomy Gus. The situation was magnified by just how great her day was and just how terrible mine was. Had I had just a normal bad day, I don't think it would have been so bad, but mine was a colossal, epic, mountainous failure.
The Morning After
Ironman people love lines. I think it's a very white thing. There was a HUGE line to buy official Ironman shit. There was an even HUGER line for registration. Seriously, huge. I bet there were only 100 slots left to hit Active later in the day, because the race sold out in ten minutes online for 2012.
We went to Awards, obviously, as Alyssa picked up 2nd place and her Kona slot. Awards was alright, I liked Louisville's setup, and food, better. I was pretty amazed to see the results of my age group, 30-34 once again proving it's quite challenging. I thought on a best day scenario I could go 9:30. Last year, I think 6th was 9:35 and I think there were 6 slots to Kona. This year's top 5:
9:00, 9:02, 9:02, 9:06, 9:15.
Holy shit. Only 5 slots, our age group was relatively small this year (there were 9 in either 40-44 or 45-49, those groups were huge).
This year there were 65 slots to Kona. Next year, just 50. Yep. Since they keep adding races, but the number of people they're logistically able to allow into Kona remains the same, they are going to just cut slots from the races. That sucks. Looks like my next best shot is in about 10 years, maybe. It's going to be the trend for races from now on.
So I've got some things to ponder and contemplate, and figure out what I want to do down the road.
Just as I was feeling sorry for myself after the race, we went back to the finish line just after 11pm. This is my favorite part of the day, and even though we were quite tired, we were committed to being there until the last person crossed. With 12 minutes left, they announced that the last finisher was abuot a half mile out, so we thought we'd only be seeing one or two more people - but then this wave of folks came through. It was incredible. One particularly banged up old guy was literally being carried by two other competitors. I've never seen anything like it.
Now it's 16:58 and more people are coming...we couldn't believe it. And then more! 16:59. One minute to go. One person is coming in and it looks for sure like they are the last one. But then, around the corner, a person is coming, but they are struggling. Mike Reilly sprints over, and while I'm sure it's not really kosher, it's 16:59:40 and you know what, this lady is doing it, so he grabs her, and starts to briskly escort her towards the finish. She crosses at 16:59:59 - I shit you not. I started to well up, I thought for sure I was going to start bawling. That's what it's all about. The will to do it. I will always take for granted my ability to do things, but it was just a year and a half ago that I was lying on the road outside Shadow Lake Village all sorts of fucked up, and thought there was no way I'd be able to do it again.
We arrived back in Baltimore today to a deluge. Fitting. Hard to believe it's Thanksgiving week. My sense of time is a little skewed from just a few days out in Mountain Time. I'll post later about the rest of the trip, and our time in Tempe - it was actually a nice little visit. Just wasn't a good race.
I've got the beat, I just need the words.