January 23, 2018

Ironman St. George

Ironman St. GeorgeThis race report was written on Tuesday May 4th, 3 days after IMSG. Before I describe the race, I would like to talk about the build-up, because it seems like the build-up should give one an indication about performance expectations. This is only my 3rd IM, the previous two being at IMAZ in April 07 and 08. In April 07 I had a decent race given it was my first attempt and finished 4th in the M55-59 AG. In April 08 I felt better prepared, but DNF’d after pulling the plug after 8 miles in the run. My excuse for bailing was the heat and wind, which put me in a very dehydrated state. When IMSG developed the course looked interesting and the event was relatively close to my home in Southern California. I thought this would be a good year to do another IM in preparation of next year when I age up. In other words, I really did not have any great expectations this year, but wanted to go through another IM training cycle and gain the experience of racing another IM. I did a 20-week IM build-up and, unlike most buildups, was able to hit all of the key workouts and, more importantly, managed to avoid any major injuries and sicknesses. I spent a long weekend training in SG about 6 weeks before the race. I knew the course was going to be challenging so I did more hill training on the bike and run than usual, including a bike ride about 5 weeks (coinciding with my last 7 hr ride) out from the race that included 14,000 feet of climbing over 114 miles. I used this ride to practice pacing and nutrition. I thought the build-up and preparation was excellent going into the race. I don’t really like to set time goals, especially on a tough course, but one of my co-workers caught me at a weak moment and managed to get numbers out of me. So reluctantly, this is what I told him: Swim – 1:05: Bike 6:00; Run: 4:15. We’ll see how these numbers compare to actual numbers.

The Swim

I don’t like cold water. Apparently, a bunch of people hated cold water even more than I did. I got in the water about 10 minutes before the start and looked around and saw hundreds of folks still up on the shore (it was a deep water start). I went straight to the front of the start, wide right. My goal was to find flat water and angle into the first buoy, which appeared to be about 800 meters down the reservoir. By the time the gun went off things started getting a little crowded up front, but I got a good start and to my surprise found flat water pretty quick. Things got a little congested at the first buoy and then opened up again. I never really felt like I was swimming hard–maybe at 80-85% max effort. I had been working on more of a “wind mill” type open water stroke and this seemed to feel pretty good. About 500 meters from the exit I started getting cramps in my left lower leg and right calf. The cramps never really got so bad that I had to stop, but they forced me to hold back my effort a bit. I got to the exit ramp and heard Mike Reilly say to the group exiting “nice job 1:02″. I peeled the top of my DeSoto 2-piece suit off before crossing the timing mat. The peeler took off my wetsuit bottom and as I was laying down for that, my right calf went into spasm. I had to lie there a minute or so until the spasm subsided and then continue into the T1 changing tent. My official swim time was 1:03. I was 118th out of 1915 people that started the swim. My T1 time was slow as put on makeshift arm warmers and a light jacket. I later found out it took me over 8 minutes in T1.

The Bike

My goal was to ride conservatively, knowing the run was going to be tough. For the first 20 miles I had to work on my calf that had gone into spasm. That took some of my focus off cycling, but I knew I had to stretch the calf to get the muscle to release. The first 22 miles or so were from the reservoir to town, where we began two 40+ mile loops. The bike course is challenging, but beautiful. I rode very much within my aerobic zone, rarely exceeding my MAHR even on the many hills. I did not have any major glitches on the bike except losing one of my two bottles of nutrition on a bump, which I did not discover until much later. Luckily I had placed extra nutrition in my bike special needs bag, so I was OK nutrition wise. I made 3 other pits stops to pee (gotta learn how to pee on the fly). In my AG, I am typically out of the water in the lead or near the lead, so I have a pretty good feel for where I am in the race. At mile 40 or so the eventual AG winner passes me on the bike (multi-time Kona AG champion) and then a couple of miles later the guy that ends up finishing 2nd passes me (another Kona AG winner). At this point I feel as if I am in pretty good company. I don’t chase either of these guys as they pass me. I just ride my race. I did not know at this point that some uber swimmer and decent cyclist was also up the road. So at this point I am sitting in 4th place. At mile 70 I passed the eventual winner. I had met this guy (Greg Taylor) a couple days earlier at the swim practice. As I passed him, I asked him if he was OK. He replied “yeah, I’m OK, it’s gonna be a long day out here”. I kind of knew what he was talking about at the time, but his words really came into focus a few hours later on the run. Well, at about mile 80 GT passes me again, so I am back into 4th position. The next time I see GT it is on the run. So I rode comfortably. As later discovered I think I rode too comfortably as my avg HR was way too low for a course like this. My bike split was ~6:30, more than 30 minutes over my predicted time. Do not make predictions. :)

The “Run”

You notice the quotes around “run”? They are there for a reason. My “run” was as much of a “walk” as it was a “run”. What happened? My run training was spot on. I had been running comfortable 8:45 to 8:30 mile pace in my long training runs (which included a 30 second walk breaks every mile) on rolly terrain. I figured on this course I would be slower, perhaps in the 9:15 per mile range. I really had decent legs coming out of T2, although I had developed a little patellar tendonitis on the bike. For the first 2 miles, which are up a 2-3% grade, I ran between aid stations. I think the first big hill up Red Hills Parkway came between miles 2 and 3, which I walked. I managed to “run” most of the first lap, except the steeper hills and the aid stations. At this point I did not even feel like I was in a race. So many people were walking, carrying on conversations, as if they were taking a walk in the park. I would catch glimpses of the two guys that I knew where ahead of me and actually ended passing the uber swimmer, so for a while I had slipped, surprisingly, into 3rd place. On the second loop, which I mostly walked (not proudly), a guy in my AG ran by me like a gazelle. I watched in amazement. This guy ended up running himself into 3rd place and Kona slot, finished at 59 yo with a 3:58 run split on a tough course. At mile 22 or so another guy in my AG passed and I had to watch him go. So, I really did not know exactly where I was place, but figured somewhere between 5th and 6th place. Other than not being able to run, I felt pretty good, the stomach was fine and I did have any cramping, etc. I managed to run the last 3 miles relatively strong, primarily because it was downhill into the finish. There were many times during this run where I hated IM, but despite the disappointing run performance I pulled it together enough to cross the line. My “run” split was something like 4:47. I know, that really sucks. You are correct. My total time was 12:34 and I ended up 6th in my AG.

The Rolldown

I was initially planning to go to roll down, but I figured with only 2 slots (the typical allocation for M55-59) there was no chance the slots would roll down to 6th. I woke up at 6 AM on Sunday, felt great, and asked my wife if she wanted to pack up and hightail it back to Orange County. So we packed up, had breakfast with some race buddies and hit the road by 10 AM. One of my buddies (Jeff Rhodes—read the inspirational story about Jeff at www. ironman.com) stayed for the awards and found out that my AG had 3 slots and that two of the top three guys had passed because they either had slots already or had no interest in Kona. This meant the slots would rolldown to at least 5th place. Jeff tried calling me, but due to poor reception I did not get his voicemail until 10:50 and rolldown started at 11 AM. His voice mail message said “where in the hell are you, you have the possibility of getting a roll down slot”. Well, at this point I was 35 minutes out of town. To make a long story short, the 5th place guy took the last slot, which I am so happy about.

The Takeaway

IM is hard. It is tough to find the right balance between effort and restraint. In my case, the 5th place guy beat me by 8 min. I know for sure I left 8+ minutes out there on the bike course by riding too conservatively. I left 4 minutes out there in T1. An 8 min T1 is ridiculously slow. Could I have run any faster on that day? I don’t think so. But with the bike and T1 better executed I would have been perhaps writing “My Kona Story” instead this race report. But, at the end of the day it wasn’t meant to be and I’m OK with that. I have been blessed with incredibly good health, a great family, wonderful friends and training partners, and a good job. At the end of day that is better than Kona any day. Does that mean I’ve given up my KQ? Hell no, next year I race as a 60 year old and the Lord willing I will toe the line again and if Kona is in my cards hope to make it.

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