I should probably start by saying my previous "long course" experiences were things I would rather not remember. About 1.5 years ago I decided I would try my first Ironman in Arizona. I got sick, felt terrible all day and finished the race but in a disappointing time. I later figured out that finishing your first Ironman is really all that matters. I followed that with an attempt a Louisville later that year and was diagnosed with Diverticulitis (Infection of the large intestine)two days before and dropped out of the race. Florida presented a mental and a physical challenge for me; my goal for IMFL was simple, race a solid, yet conservative race and learn as much as I can from it. More importantly though, make sure to enjoy the day and what it brings. Not everyone can do Ironmans, so I should consider myself lucky to have the time, ability and desire to tackle something like this. I also felt a responsibility to my friends, and training partners for supporting me, but most of all to my wife who has supported me 110% in this endeavor and picked up my slack in all the other areas. Delane, your the BEST!
IMFL started with the long drive down, roughly 12-13 hours for Delane and I. We arrived and stayed with Blake and Danna, Stephanie, and Blake's mother. Danna found accommodations that were outstanding, right on the beach, very nice place for a great price, thanks to her dad's business ties in the area. We all arrived safe and sound sometime that evening, got some needed rest and planned our early morning swim and registration. The swim was calm but a little chilly when you first got in. Like in my open water training swims, I just tucked in behind Tony for a nice swim out to the turn buoy and back. Everything felt great. We all headed out to get registered and spent the day organizing our stuff for the race, we also took a little bike ride. The following day we decided one last very short swim would be good, it was a little rougher but nothing to really talk about, I swam out to the second buoy and enjoyed the nice ride back in on the waves. I spent the rest of the day mostly with my feet up resting trying not to be nervous and finally checking in my bike and bags later that day. Later that night, Danna's dad came by as well as Tony's dad and two sisters. We had a lot of laughs and a good time. Just great people and a good time. Heading to bed I took a couple of Advil PM to help me try to get a little sleep, not sure how much it helped or how much I slept, but I felt fine the next morning.
Race morning, got up early, got down some calories and headed to the race site. Not much to do, but sit around and wait. I hate this part! Getting my wetsuit on and taking some pics in the lobby of the hotel, Bri stops by to wish me luck " I think that was her". Sorry Bri, I was a little distracted at the time with everything. Head down to the swim start and Tony and I line up to the left and near the front. We had planned on swimming inside the buoys up until the turn. We saw people do this last year when we were down to watch and sign up for the race. This seemed like a good strategy then, so we figured we would try it out. BANG! Here we go, wow I forgot just how much of a washing machine this turns into. I had gotten used to the local races, getting bumped or slapped around a bit but nothing like this and it last about 3/4 of the first lap. I came in after the first lap and the announcer called my name and said "fast swim today" 31 minutes. Yikes, I am not a 1:02 swimmer, I went too hard, but to be honest it did not feel hard, but I backed off anyway, no need to blow my race in the swim. Second lap is much cleaner, just found two guys feet to sit on all the way around and ended up finishing the swim in 1:06. OK I will take that, good swim for me. I headed to T-1 and for some reason could not get my act together. I was joking about it later that day, saying I broke out my little hibachi grill and fired up some breakfast. To be honest I have no idea what I was doing in there for 8 and a half minutes. Out on the bike I go and my plan was on my handle bars (Quit laughing Nas!) on their were my heart rate zones and where I should be per mile. I was also using perceived effort. A head wind going out and I needed to keep it VERY easy to begin with, so that is what I did for about 5-10 miles. One of the marshals came by on his moped and we chatted for about 10 minutes. How you feeling? You cold? I was a little chilly but not bad. Settle in for a long 112 mile bike. People are pretty much passing me right and left in the first few miles then after that I settled into around a 20mph pace and just held that. Pretty uneventful after that, somewhat boring out there, spoke to a few people. Blake then rolled up and pinched me on the ass. Nice... that has to be Blake. Hmmmmm, I guess I am rolling along kinda slow if he caught me out of the swim? Oh well, I am sticking to my plan, Blake pulls ahead and I see him just a little ahead of me for the next 50+ miles. As we reached the half way point the wind changes in our favor and a lot of people were absolutely flying. I certainly picked up the pace but still stayed in my heart rate zones. Later on, back into the wind and down some nasty, bumpy roads. Mile 75 and the wind is at our back and it is time to run some people down. I cranked up a little wattage and started rolling. The last 30+ miles I had to have passed 200 or more people including Blake, who I returned the favor to by pinching him on the ass as I went by, he nearly jumped off his seat. NICE :) Gotcha! I was somewhat surprised, many of them looked very tired and the wind was at our back, guess they went out too hard. Turned the corner to head home the last 6 miles down Front Beach Street, our condo was right there and Delane, Danna and Blake's Mom were all right there cheering us on. VERY COOL! Back into the wind and just before that my Garmin GPS gave up on me, but Amie let me borrow hers for the run so it was fine since I figured mine would run out of battery on the bike. I rolled into T-2 with about a 5:20 bike split, not bad, 21 average, pretty comfortable, could have went harder, but I have a long way to run. My nutrition on the bike was flawless, I figured I should try to get somewhere around 1800 calories in on the bike and I believe I ended up with 1750. Into T-2 and Blake is right there with me, we sit by each other and change, I gave him some of my spray sunscreen and out we go. Blake just ahead, I stopped or slowed down to make sure my Garmin or as Amie calls it, "her little red devil" would sync up. Bingo, all synced, quick check at HR and everything is nice and low Zone 2. I look up and Blake is cranking along, A couple minutes for the Gramin to get our pace and I see Blake is running way too fast. I speed up to catch him and tell him to slow down. Blake, you are running 7:50 pace... Slow down. He said his Garmin would not sync, he slows, I passed him and tried to settle into what felt comfortable. My right foot was numb from the bike and stayed that way for 4-5 miles believe it or not. The first 5 miles just did not feel right, I kept thinking what is wrong, I got some nutrition and finally everything seemed to smooth out around mile 5-6. I am in the park and running to the turn around, something about this part of the run I just hated, don't ask me what it was, I just hated this part of the run for some reason. I am running better now, stopping every other aid station, just enough to get down nutrition. I alternated between gels I had on me and water or Gatorade. I saw Dave Larson somewhere on the first lap and I moved over to high five Dave (Go Dave! I know he is trying for a Kona slot and he sure deserves one!)Coming back I see Brett and Stephanie both looking strong as well. My run continues up and back into the crowds of cheering fans, always nice to hear those people calling out your name, it really does help. I see Tony's family and Delane and Danna also cheering as I go by. Feeling pretty good at the turn around now. One more lap and I am done. Stayed on my same plan, not really worried about pace, just checking out my hear rate every once in a while and trying to stay on my nutrition plan. Back into the scary park! What is the deal with this park? I just hate this damn road. Back out of the park and I am at about mile 19. Not far to go now, but too early for the coke. I had never hit the coke before in a race but Dave and others told me they swear by it, so I am going to give it a try but not until mile 22. My blood sugar spikes real easy and then I crash really bad. Mile 22 comes and I finally get on the coke. Yum, pretty tasty stuff. Amazing how good something different taste after eating gels all day. Mile 23, yes I will have two cups of cola please. Mile 24, oh yea another cup please. 2 miles to go, just don't cramp, I didn't feel like I was near a cramp but I had salt all over me and I cramped in the last mile at Timberman earlier this year. However, I have been taking some endurolytes and gatorade and it is not that hot so I think I am fine. Mile 25, Oh I am so done now, pick up the pace and finish strong. I have been running by everyone the last 5-6 miles, everyone is walking or running very slow, this is great, this is exactly what I wanted to do. I start thinking what my time could be and I think maybe 10:45, I will take that, however I get to the finish shoot and look at the clock to see 10:32, very nice! 10:32 and some change. I cross the line and felt great about my race. I knew I did what I came to do in Florida. Damn Ironman! Take that! Now where is the real food and the beer! Hugs and pictures all around. Tony finished just 8 minutes in front of me and we are both happy with our finish. Stephanie crosses a little later in 11:02 and Brett in 11:04 I think. Then we wait for our soon to be new Ironman Blake, who crosses in 11:28. The growling geckos did quite well out there today and everyone was happy with their results. I later hear from Denise that Dave crossed in 9:53 with a 9th place in age group and will need to hope for a roll down slot. We head back to sit in the hot tub, talk about our race and enjoy some cold beer and lasagna.
So what is next? Already singed up for the inaugural Cozumel Ironman 2009. I have some renewed confidence and will be ready to train again after a little R&R
See you out soon!