Long-Version Race Recap
Thursday morning we checked in and got our gear bags, swag, and race numbers. Being as I had been through the assembly line in St. George I felt pretty comfortable and understood the flow and beat Ryan through registration by a good 10 minutes. If only my race day went that well! Thursday afternoon Ryan and I took Miles for a drive so he could take his nap, so we decided to drive the bike course. I had previously decided I didn't want to ride or drive the course so I didn't dwell on the hills before riding them, but I don't think the preview really affected me for this race. We got to see all of the bike and run course and decided that while hilly, the gradients typically weren't too bad and we could do this!
On Friday morning we came back for another swim and it was slightly more choppy than Thursday. We did a couple short laps with about 50 other people to get used to swimming among other people which was a great confidence builder. Nikki and Lindsay volunteered at the Melanoma screening tent on Friday morning so Ryan and I hung out at the condo for most of the morning. We met the ladies at the expo at 1:00 and sat through our mandatory athlete meeting, which settled some of our nerves about gear bags, special needs bags, etc, but made us pretty nervous about the rest of the Ironman! Late Friday afternoon Ryan and I went for a short jog to loosen up our legs one last time. We ran just over two miles and my hamstring was really tightening up so I pulled the plug and told Ryan I was done and needed to stretch out. After a few stretches I realized that stretching was not helping and my marathon was beginning to look doomed. From this point forward, I was a pretty grumpy and an unhappy camper. I was going to be forced to walk the entire marathon after all that training. I was already mentally preparing myself for a long walk. Back at the condo I spent some serious time rolling the hamstring and IT band but I knew in my heart it was a last ditch effort and likely not going to work.
Saturday we worked pretty hard to lay low, but still went for a couple walks, checked our bikes in and overall tried to keep the nerves down. We were beginning to keep a close eye on the weather forecast and kept comparing it to current conditions and realized that it could be a windy, choppy swim the next morning. Friends and family were starting to roll into town which helped distract us, but also made us realize that THE DAY would soon be upon us. We had trained for this day for over a year and were really feeling under prepared. I kept thinking about the quote I had seen last year "This seemed like a good idea a year ago!" Saturday afternoon we walked around with friends from Bozeman and at dinner time Ryan and I left the group and headed back to the condo for our "last dinner" and an early night to bed.
Saturday night I actually fell asleep pretty quickly and easily, but woke at about 1 am. From 1 to 4 when our alarms went off I was up and down and slept pretty horribly. At 4 we both got up and ate our breakfast and then headed down to load our bikes with food and make last minute checks on our gear bags and drop off our special needs bags. We took a quick look at the lake and I was horrified, I was seeing pretty good white caps on the lake. Ryan and I headed back to the condo for a shower, a cup of coffee, and some quiet time prior to the race. At about 5:40 we headed back to the start line where we got our body markings, donned our wetsuits, kissed our spouses and headed to the beach. Fortunately the wind had died down a little with only the occasional white cap on the lake. I did a quick 2 minute swim to warm up and realized the lake was a little cooler than our previous swims, but still comfortable. Ryan and I stood together in the 1:15 to 1:30 group and at 6:40 the start gun fired! I looked at my watch when we went under the timing arch and it was said 6:50. Ryan and I got in the water and we were off!
The bike consists of two separate out-and-backs that you do twice. First you go-out-and back east of town along the lake and run, then out-and-back south of town. Then repeat. The east out-and-back went fast! I was rolling way faster than expected and was trying to not hammer. I think the slingshot effect was definitely making me go faster. The slingshot is when you get a few seconds of drafting another rider while passing them. When there is so many people on the course at the same time you are constantly getting some draft benefit even though you are passing within the rules.
Coming back through town I headed south for my first lap into the wind. I was really focused on riding solid and taking nutrition, but for some reason my mind couldn't keep track of the time and when I should be eating. My original plan was to eat (drink liquid food) every 15 minutes, but I kept blowing by the 15 minute mark, and then couldn't keep track of where I was. The first (steep) hill I got passed by quite a few people, but I kept telling myself to ease into it. I rode steady but light on my pedals. We topped the hill and headed down the backside, and then started up the long gradual climb to the turn around. This is where the wind was really felt and I seem to be a strong rider when the wind is blowing so I started working my way up through the people who had passed me. Before I knew it I was nearing the turn around and I started watching for Ryan. Surprisingly he was only about a mile ahead of me so apparently he backed off from his hammering. At the turn around the effect of the tail wind and the downhill was amazing. I was hitting 35-40 mph for extended periods of time, and was rolling up the few uphills at 20+ mph.
When Kyle left I had pretty much decided I was walking the rest of the marathon. Not 5 minutes later it rained a little and I got cold. By this time I was done with my pretzels and water and decided I better run a little to warm up. From there I was able to slowly jog between aid stations and then walk the aid station plus a little. On my way east I started watching for Ryan and watching my watch. Ryan might be on pace to break 12 hours and I knew he was running without a watch. When I saw Ryan he was at mile 22 and had about 40 minutes to break 12, and I told him so. I am not sure if the look on his face was surprise or pain at that point.
I jogged the last 100 yds or so listening for "Peter McCarthy, you are an Ironman!" I don't know whether it was the adrenaline rush, the crowd noise, or me wondering where Lindsay and Miles were, but I didn't hear it. Just after I crossed the line and the volunteer greeted me I heard "from Clancy, MT, ....used to weigh 279 pounds" so I know they were talking about me, but I didn't hear it. Anyway, I got my finisher medal, hat, and photo taken, got my blanket and then wandered around the athlete area for about an hour. When I did the St. George HIM I got pretty sick afterwards and thus Lindsay had given me strict instructions to go directly to the med tent or hang out until I was sure I didn't need the med tent. So over the course of an hour I got to chat with Kyle, Shawn, and TJ, and visited with family and friends through the fence. Finally I decided I would be okay and met my parents and Pat and Sandy outside the area and headed back to the condo.
At about 10:40 we headed down to the finish line to watch the last hour of the Ironman. While it was fun and energy filled, it was not nearly the high energy as the year before when the stands were packed. Regardless, it is so much fun and touching to watch those Ironman finishers in the last hour. I nearly cried watching it as I realized that this is what made me sign up for Ironman a year ago. Watching those people come down the chute within that last hour you realize you just have to give it a shot. Frenchy even said if he had been there a year ago with me he would have signed up too! After midnight we went and had a celebratory beer at one of the nearby bars and then called it a day. I went to sleep telling myself, I am an Ironman!
Ryan Buck, you are an awesome friend and great inspiration. It was awesome to get to spend time with you an participate in this Ironman together. I am so happy that you made your goal of under 12, totally awesome!
Also, it was really awesome to do the race with other athletes whom I now call friends from Helena. I especially want to thank Mark Copenhaver as you have been enthusiastically encouraging throughout the last year. Another great big thanks goes out to Peggy Stringer who has helped my swimming tremendously. 1-1/2 years ago I was barely swimming a lap in the pool and my swim times for the Ironman were a faster pace than my swim times for the Queen City Triathlon last summer.
Finally, thank you to my wife, my love, and my support, Lindsay. You are my rock and my inspiration. I could not have even attempted to become an Ironman if you hadn't been behind me pushing me to do this.
"Behind every IRONMAN is a spouse made of STEEL"