Monday, May 25, 2015

The Iron Journey

by Kandis Gibson

When I first got the idea to do a triathlon, my bucket list item was a half
Ironman.  The thought of doing a Full Ironman seemed ridiculous.  Well,
just the marathon part.  But after a few weeks of tri training, I started
thinking I might be selling myself short if I didn’t do a Full.  Then, in a
moment of weakness, I let a friend of mine talk me into registering for
Ironman Texas. Ugh.
In December 2014, I started working with Robert Clarence on some techniques to become stronger and more efficient on the bike. In January 2015, I met with Lloyd to work on some run techniques to address some form issues I was having. With my form corrected, I started my formal Ironman Training Program with Lloyd at the end of January. Lloyd warned me that training in the winter was going to be rough, but thankfully I had good bike support and Robert was always up for a ridiculous session on the trainer, even if he just turned on Sufferfest and talked to you while you suffered! Before I knew it, race week had arrived. I arrived in Houston on Wednesday night -Thursday was the last day for packet pick up and I didn’t want to take any chances with flight delays on Thursday morning. I also needed to change my bike tires. I was worried about racing in my old tires because they were really hard to get off (def do a tire changing clinic before your race). The bike shop didn’t get the new tires in time to change them before the race, so I had to have tri bike transport do it. I spent a lot of time weighing riding on new, untested tires. I knew I couldn’t change the old ones so I had to take my chances. I picked up my packet, swapped out the tires and headed to the Opening Banquet.
Lloyd called me Thursday night to talk me through the Ironman Gear Bag process. This allowed me time to pick up anything I might have forgotten (I’m looking at your aero bottle rubber bands) and to pick up anything I needed more of before gear check. I got my gear in my bags and got my last good night of sleep! Friday morning I got up and headed to the practice swim. Time flies the days before a race, but if you can do the practice swim, you should. I got all my nerves out that morning. I remembered that sometimes I start to fast and forget to exhale. I remembered just how many people are in the water with you on race day. And I remembered to focus on my form. I left the swim and headed to get my bike. The tires had held up through the night, so that was great. I had about a mile ride to the bike check, so I could test them out some more if necessary.
It had rained all the rain all week in Houston and the bike in was filled with mud. The forecast was calling for more rain on Friday, so I knew things would only get worse. The volunteers assured us they would have kiddie pools filled with water on race day so that we could rinse our feet after getting our bikes. We had to tape up our gear bags to keep them from getting wet before the race as well. After bike check, I grabbed some food and tried to kill some time until dinner. Lloyd, Kyle and I met up for an early dinner and went over the race plan again. At this point it occurred to me that I had nothing else to do. After spending 16 weeks training and pushing myself, the night before a race was super calm. I was in bed by 8, even though I didn’t really sleep. The morning of the race, I was up at 4:30. I dropped off my water bottles at my bike, then we walk down to the swim start and drop off the special needs bags. At this point there is nothing to do but take a bunch of selfies and wait for the swim to start. It’s emotional. I teared up during the singing of the National Anthem. I was sniffling as we lined up according to swim times. Kyle and I went over my race mantra – I’m a winner, I’m a champion, I’m the best of the best, I love myself! The race had a rolling start – basically, a steady stream of people entering the water for 25 minutes. It went a lot faster than I thought it would. Before I knew it, I was barefoot and entering the water. I heard Lloyd and the cowbell and we were off!!
*The Swim*
The swim was GREAT! I had gotten all my nerves out. I had a steady pace and I had some space. The course was a weird point to point – out and almost back to the starting point, then a sharp right into a canal for the last 800 meters. The out and back were great. The canal portion is cool because it’s only about 15 ft wide so sighting is easy. It’s not cool because several hundred swimmers enter it at once and you have to fight a bit to pass people. Kyle told me later that there were people swimming who looked like they were fighting the water and losing. I think I may have unintentionally interrupted a few of these fights the canal, but was able to get around them without serious injury. At this point Lloyd and Kyle were running alongside the canal cheering and ringing the cowbell, so I knew I had made it to the swim out.
The T1 tent was a bit of ways away from the water exit. I grabbed my gear, and ran to get my bike. Because of the mud, I was barefoot, holding my shoes and socks in my hands and carrying my bike. A nice volunteer held my bike as I rinsed my feet and put my shoes on, then started the ride. *The Bike* The first 60 miles of the bike were awesome. It was hot in Houston and the temperature was expected to hit 90 with about 100% humidity. I knew hydration would be key. I tried to drink every 10 minutes, eat a gel every 15 and take some endurolytes every 90 minutes. I also grabbed plain water every third aid station. At mile 65 though, things were getting rough. After passing Lloyd and Kyle, I hit a bump and lost the straw to my aero bottle. I had a Gatorade in my water bottle holder, though, so I wasn’t too worried. By now it was also 90degrees and the wind has picked up. Then it started to rain. The pavement has also gone from smooth highway surface to gravelly cobblestones. There was no more coasting. Robert and I had been on some brutal rides over the winter (and me and Lloyd) so I knew I just had to stay the course and things would smooth out.
Despite the slow going, I knew, barring a mechanical issue, I was going to finish the bike. The completion rate at the race dropped 5% this year, with many blaming the bike leg, so I was more than happy to coast into T2 and hand my bike off. *The Run*
I’ve spent a good portion of my training getting ready for the run. I’m not a runner and I don’t like running. I always forget to put on my compression tights (I did Luray with 1 on) and today was no different. Thankfully, my Chi Running clinic helped me get rid of the shin splints so I was good with some KT tape and sunscreen. I felt great the first mile of the 3 loop course. The run course was unbelievably spectator friendly (the app not so much). The local tri clubs set up tents, there were a few DJs, and spectators overflowed the outdoor seating areas. Lots of people calling your name and little kids putting their hands out for high fives.
About half of each loop was like that. The other half was running through residential neighborhoods and trails. Even though some residents came out, this section was brutal. I was ahead of the run cutoff by about 2hours, so I tried to pace myself as best as I could. The first two loops went by but coming up on mile 19, it hit me just how much EVERYTHING hurt. I saw people sitting down going through their special needs bags. I knew that Lloyd would kill me if I did that and I knew that I wouldn’t get back up if I sat down. I could feel my mood changing and I knew I was getting grumpy. I made a point to say hello to every athlete and volunteer I encountered, say an encouraging word and thank them for their encouragement. The course is super friendly to begin with, but forcing myself to do this helped me get in a better mood. Then, right before mile 24, I ran into Kyle and Lloyd. They had been bouncing around the course so I never knew where I’d see them, but I was so happy they were there to encourage me. They walked with me for a little bit, then turned around so they could make it to the finish line by the time I got there. Lloyd told me it was okay to walk, as long as I saved enough energy to run across the finish. The last mile was tough but I could feel the energy picking up closer I got to the end. I rang the “3rd Loop bell” at the last aid station and almost shed a tear when I got to the “Next Loop or Finish” sign and headed towards the finish line. Somehow, I mustered up enough energy to start running. The fences were holding the crowds back and people started shouting and cheering me on. I ran up the super long shoot and turned the corner to see…..another long shoot??? What in the entire hell?? I was so confused, I looked behind me. Did I run past the finish and miss it? Where are the damn catchers??? Shouldn’t someone be shouting my name? Apparently I still had to run the .2 in 26.2. Whatever. I had already started running, so I couldn’t stop now. I ran down the long shoot, rounded the corner to come up the other side and saw the red carpet. I think I slapped every hand out there. Then I heard Lloyd’s cowbell ringing up the way and knew this was it. Kandis Gibson…YOU. ARE. AN. IRONMAN.
P.S. Lloyd makes you run the morning after an Ironman. The level of guilt and fear that he uses to do this is cross between a Jewish mother and a doomsday prepper- if you run, you will be able to walk normal during the week. If you don’t, you will never be able to walk again and your legs will fall off. I don’t know if your legs will fall off if you don’t run, but I can confirm that you will be walking normally if you do run. For what it’s worth!
Diaa, Leanda Cave (Ironman & Ironman 70.3 Champion, Lloyd, Me and Kyle

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

My "First" Triathlon Report- Irongirl Columbia

By Gina S. Brown

I want to start this report off by saying that first of all I give all glory, honor and praise to the Trinity-Father, Son AND Holy Spirit for allowing me to be “alive” to write this report the day after my first “tri”. Secondly, it might make me cuss less while writing these thoughts. ….

Waiting for swim start
The thought of participating in my first “tri” was circumstantial. A year ago, I was swimming and running on the same day, then biking and running, etc. My BFF said to me, “Hey, you are doing tri training”…that thought had never occurred to me. I was just trying to “get it in….” exercise and stay in shape. Then a novel idea occurred…”hey, if I’m doing tri training, why not just participate in one”…. I should have prayed first to see “who” was giving me that idea. I can’t even blame that on The Lord…. because after yesterday, Jesus might have been saying…. ummm hummmm. “Yo black behind should have asked me first before trying to embark on such a feat”…. nevertheless it was again only “The Lord” that got me through.

Let me reflect and quickly share my journey. I took my first swimming classes as a teenager at the neighborhood pool. I can’t even tell you that they did any good, except that I wasn’t afraid of the water, I could go off of the high board, but I would HAVE to come up out of the water, and immediately flip on my back. I never learned how to properly breathe. Fast forward 20 years and 1 child later. While pregnant with my second child, I took swimming lessons yet again, learning how to stroke, but not breathe.  Fast-forward another 15 years later. While talking to India Medley who was preparing for her first tri, she suggested that I meet her coach. But I didn’t have the time or resources, so I pushed it off. Five years later while running with Karen Hayes (in 27 degree weather), she suggested that I meet her swimming coach-which was the same guy!!!

Swim Start
 So I met Lloyd Henry who is phenomenal (but has a very sharp tongue and smart mouth). Lloyd Henry is “no joke”. He pulls no punches and is the best freaking tri coach in the world! Lloyd is a Tri-Star who has done over 12 Iron Man tri’s all over the world. He knows what he is doing. I started taking swimming lessons with Lloyd, and lo and behold, I learned how to breathe!!!! I then took a sabbatical, worked on swimming and went back to Lloyd intermittently to work on strokes, distance, etc. When I finally told Lloyd that I wanted to do a tri he said “ok”. Now he KNEW what I could and could not do. I would have told me-“wait”, but he just said, “ok”. I then wanted to sign up for Iron Girl-2014. I don’t know what I was drinking or smoking that morning, but whatever it was, it must have been potent, because I had no fear whatsoever. I had my husband on one computer, Lloyd on another computer and I was on a computer, trying to get a slot. I finally got through! I should have known when I couldn’t get through the first time that Jesus might be trying to tell me something…. I even got my “run-wife” Sherrie Brown to sign up, but she had to bail later due to other obligations.
Swim Start

So Lloyd and I started training. What a feat! My travel schedule is always crazy because of work and other responsibilities, but Lloyd flipped times around, met me at unreal times (6am on his own personal swimming times), had me going to the pool at other times, gave me a training and workout plan, and texted me regularly to see what I was doing when I was on travel.  About 2 months out from the event, my travel schedule had been so heavy that I hadn’t had the time to appropriately train. I asked Lloyd to “reset” my training schedule. You would have thought that I said, “Mary wasn’t a virgin!”  Lloyd laid me out (via text) that he wasn’t resetting anything and that I needed to just “catch up”. At that point, I felt that I’d defer if I couldn’t catch up, but I wouldn’t tell Lloyd that I was going to defer until August 1. But I felt that I’d still do all the training if only to get in shape. Lloyd is the kind of coach that if you miss something, will track you down, so I knew if I didn’t want to answer 15,000 questions, I’d better show up.

Bike Start
So I worked hard. I swam even when I was on travel. I’d drive and find a pool…. But my hard work wasn’t hard enough. Lloyd was not worried about the running portions, but the biking and swimming needed work, and especially the swimming, as normally you don’t DIE when you bike, but you sure can when you swim. My regular sessions weren’t enough. I wasn’t getting it. Additionally Lloyd felt that while the distance was an issue, I still needed to learn to breathe on both sides. I’m thinking, “You are kidding me! I just learned how to breathe….” But I followed through.  At one point I was in the pool 4-5 times per week. Footnote…. I’m African American. My hair was NOT happy. It’s just starting to speak to me again…. but “it’s still angry and needs counseling….”

Anyway, that still wasn’t enough. Lloyd had me come in the morning at 6am and then some evenings as well. I was not feeling it…. but I did it. The biking he captured as well through the training plan and another coach. By the time August 1 came, I felt that if I deferred, he’d be so disappointed because he and so many others had invested so much time and energy in me. I didn’t have the nerve to quit at that point. So I lined up my insurance papers and decided to go for it. One additional thing that Lloyd did was to align me with a partner. Amy Bleich. Amy had done Iron Girl 7 times, and was use to swimming in the Chesapeake Bay. It was Amy who took me into open water, did biking bricks with me and just really emailed and encouraged me. Her help and support were invaluable.

Irongirl Finisher
Two days before the race, Lloyd called me to see how I was doing. At that point I had picked up my race packet and I was ready…or so I thought. The next night before the race, Lloyd called me again. I should have known something was wrong…”just checking on me”. Hindsight is 20/20. I’d have called me too knowing what I know now. I had racked my bike, and again, I was “ready”. HA!!!!  I had so many people praying for me…. to the point that the senior citizens from the prayer line were leaving me messages and one of them told me “I’m praying that you don’t embarrass me”…HA!

The morning of the race, Lloyd and Cherry were there as encourager’s. The rest of the “On Point Team “got there and got ready to roll. Amy had told me to get there super early, so I got there before 5am. Footnote: I’ m African American. 3:30am and Gina do not go together…” But I got there, set up my tri area as Lloyd had instructed and walked around with Amy. There were approximately 2000 of us there to participate. When it was time to go into the water, we placed our color-coded swim caps on and went out 2 by 2, like “The disciples”…. only we were to be eaten by wolves…

Amy & Gina
Amy stated that she’d go out with me, and we’d catch up later (footnote…we caught up at the “after party”)…The water temperature was 76.2 degrees. Lloyd said not to worry about that, because I’d be warm after the first 5 minutes. He also said that I’d panic the first 10 minutes but would calm down after that and find my rhythm. Well he was right about both; except I panicked probably the first 60 minutes of my 60-minute swim…no worries though.  He told me how to get on my back when I was panicked and then go back into the freestyle. I never got off of my back for any longer than 6 strokes. I did the entire race in an elementary backstroke! I could hear Lloyd screaming from the side with a freaking cowbell, but I couldn’t understand a word of it. The Lord sent me “Mike” who was a kayaker who stayed virtually beside me most of the entire race. When I was tired, I’d swim over to the Kayak, and if I could make it or talk (and yes I talked to Mike) then I d just keep moving.
Gina & Sherrie

Eventually I made it out of the water (THANK YOU JESUS!!!!) I had my husband, my “run wife” and the team cheering me on, as I transitioned to my bike. That was another experience, but I made it through those 16 miles as well. When I got back to do the run, I was just saying “Lord if you will just help me”…. eventually I saw Amy who was about 10 minutes in front of me on the run. That was great. Then I heard that wretched cow bell again, saw that florescent yellow “On Point” shirt and said, “oh no! Here he comes!” We were about a ¼ mile out…. and he’s running toward me, screaming, smiling and as I’m telling him what great coach he is, I’m also saying “I’m never doing this again”…. he said, run, smile for the photographer and beat the other teams’ girl who was running beside me”…. and that I did. My daughter, my girlfriend, and the others were there also to cheer me on. That was VERY helpful and really made the difference. None of my “On Point” team members left until I made it in. Belonging to a team really makes a difference.
OnPoint Fitness Team

While tri training can be expensive overall, it was worth every dime that I paid. The biggest question that everyone asks is, would I do it over again? Yep. I would. But I’ll be back in the saddle with Lloyd Henry working on those problem areas so that the next time, I’m an even better “Iron Girl”…

Gina Brown

Monday, March 31, 2014

Friday, December 13, 2013

IRONMAN Cozumel 2013 Race Report

By Ian Williams

In December of 2012, I made the decision to register for an Ironman triathlon to be held on the beautiful island of Cozumel on Sunday, December 1, 2013.  Most people would think that to be insane since I had only completed my first triathlon (Nations Triathlon) just three months prior.  However my coach, Lloyd Henry was very happy I decided to pull the trigger and locked myself into a race.  He then said we’d come up with a training plan starting late summer.  I remember saying to Lloyd, “Dude, that’s way too late.  I am going to need the entire year to train to cover 140.6 miles.”  I wanted to say to him, “You know 2.4 of those miles will be in the ocean with waves and changing currents right?”  But I trusted my coach to take me through the journey and from there began spending the winter months focusing only on my swim technique. 
During the late Spring and early Fall of 2013, I signed up for 2 additional Olympic distance triathlons to gain more experience with transitioning from one sport to the next and I formally started my training program in September.

Arrival in Cozumel
I left for Cozumel on Thanksgiving Day with the hope of getting there a few days early to relax and get my mind right for race day.  The journey seemed to take forever but I finally got to the resort and checked in.  There was a lot I needed to do like get tons of bottled water for hydration, pick up my bike from Tribike Transport and get my race packet at the expo.  Just before leaving for the expo, one of the guys from Endurance Sports Travel (EST) mentioned they may have already picked my bike up for me.  This would have been great news since it’d be one less thing to do in limited time, so he went to check and my baby was there in great condition from the two week journey.
The expo was great! There was Ironman merchandise all over the place but I refused to buy or wear any of it until I earned it, not even the “free” jacket I got at packet pickup.  Roxanne and Eboni, my Specathletes that came along were laughing at me but understood.
So on Friday I was sitting in an EST athlete’s meeting being held at the resort and saw a shuttle bus pull in just outside the doors.  I saw Lloyd, Marsha, Colin and Carla (my other Specathletes) get off the van so I left the meeting to go give them all a hug.  As I was greeting Lloyd, I saw a very familiar looking bike off to the side and was about to say, “Look Lloyd, someone else with a black and white Kuota bike”, then I noticed the OnPoint flag behind the seat.  So I looked at him in confusion and said, “You brought your bike???”  He then gave me this big grin and held up his wrist showing me his green Athlete’s band.  Needless to say how excited I was and gave him a few big hugs as we laughed about the surprise.

On Saturday Lloyd and I went to check our bikes in at T1, the energy was amazing.  We stopped to take some pictures, get body marked and then walk our way from the swim exit through the bike-bag pickup to the change tent on to where we’d get our bikes and finally exit T1 on race day.   We then left Transition to head back to the resort to eat, hydrate and rest up. 


Since arriving in Cozumel there had been strong winds and heavy downpours periodically that impacted every practice swim that was scheduled.  One of the locals said the storm had been lingering over Cozumel for the past four days but is expected to leave by the weekend.  I hadn’t realized the major impact to the race until the reports of the Mexican Port Authority not allowing boats to leave the dock, which means the race support team would not be able to set up the buoys for the swim portion.  This would mean a no swim Ironman.  Even though commonsense said, Ian this is about safety, my emotions were yelling, this is nuts!  You didn’t train all this time to fly to Cozumel and spend all that money to do a really long brick workout! 
Fortunately, Ironman and the Mexican Port Authority came to an agreement to move the swim start further north and make it a point to point instead.  Whew!
After hearing this news, we all went to eat our last meal for the evening at one of the fancier restaurants at the resort.  Colin and Carla were celebrating their wedding anniversary but decided to do so being Specathletes by supporting us for the race.
It was off to bed after dinner, but apparently not to sleep but to stare at the wall and ceiling until about 1:30AM. The alarm went off at 4:30AM, I leaped out of bed like it was on fire, put on my tri suit, placed my race morning clothes bag at the door and then proceeded to force feed myself breakfast.  Next we all met in the lobby, jumped on the shuttle and headed to the race.

The Swim (00:52:54)
I got to T1, checked on my bike to make sure all was working, filled up all four of my bottles, wiped off some of the night’s rain water from my bike and left to join the line for the swim-start shuttle.
After arriving at the new location, I did some last minute prepping and waited for what seemed like an eternity before it was time to get in the water.
Lloyd asked me if I was ready and we began making our way, slowly swimming out to what was literally a sea of humans dangling in the water.  The horn soon sounded indicating the start of the race and all I remember is Lloyd saying calmly, “That’s it, let’s go”. 
I began making my way through the crowd and very soon realized an Ironman mass swim start is really a warzone, there’s a lot of elbowing, punching, kicking and blocking.  I learned quickly after getting kicked in the right eye that I needed to be strategic in making my way through all the bodies.  I was able to get a rhythm going and trying to hold to my form and discovered the reason for all those multi-zippers during swim training. There were times during the swim when I felt as if I was slowing down, so I returned to the multi-zipper to reset my form and things felt right again immediately.
I looked at my watch a few times during the swim to make sure I was on track, I remembered seeing 38 minutes and thinking, well I still have quite a way to go.  The buoys were not marked or maybe I just couldn’t see any distance markers so I was basing my approximate speed on my watch time and my heart rate.  I soon was able to hear the sounds of people cheering and yelling indicating the swim exit was pretty close.  I saw the turn buoy not too far away, I darted in aggressively, fighting my way through all the arms and kicks to the steps out the water.  I was very excited to be out the water but I knew I still had a long day ahead.

The Bike (6:31:00)
I exited the change tent at T1 and hobbled in my bike shoes to my bike, quickly checked to make sure all my bottles were securely in place and then jogged with my bike to the bike mounting line.  I clipped my shoes in and began my way on loop one of three.  I found a gear that was comfortable, one that allowed me to have a high cadence then I got into my aero position and began cranking away.  After about 30 minutes, I figured even though I wasn’t hungry I should eat so I tried my best to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich I stuffed in the pocket of my tri top, sipped some hydration and began to enjoy the moment that I was actually racing in an Ironman triathlon.  It wasn’t too long into enjoying my moment that I was convinced I made a wrong turn into a wind tunnel.  All I can say is holy cow!  The winds on the beach side of the course are absolutely ridiculous and complete madness!  I cannot find the words to describe what it’s like riding through the winds that stretched that 13 mile part of the loop.  It just wears you out, the equivalent of climbing 13 miles of a steep incline without a break.  There is no aero position that can help you in that wind tunnel.  It could have been related to the storm what was passing through but it’s intense. 
I pushed and pushed and finally made it out.  I tried to quickly pick up the pace to make up the time lost during that part of the course but then I thought about the beating it’s going to put on me on the final loop.  I decided to put that out of my mind, remembering Lloyd’s advice during training to treat each workout independently and not base my current on what’s to come.  I followed my nutrition plan by making sure I was taking in fuel and hydration periodically.  I knew I had the potential to bonk based on my experiences during training so even when I didn’t feel hungry, I’d still take something in.
I soon started the second loop and made a friend; we rode together for quite some time and talked about everything.  After a while she picked up the pace from the 22mph we were already doing!  The good thing is it helped to push me, I’d pass her and she’d pass me (no, we weren’t drafting off each other), we did that for about 30 miles then I lost her somewhere.  I was truly enjoying the experience, our names and nationality were printed on our bibs so people would come by and say, “You’re doing a great job Ian, keep pushing buddy”, and I’d return the favor.  

As I got into town, the shouts of “Si se puede” and “Yes, you can do it” lined the course; kids put rocks in bottles and shook them hard.  I have never been to any race ever where folks were so happy to have athletes take over their space.
As I passed by the T2 area in town heading to start my third bike loop, I heard my name yelled out by Roxanne and Eboni. It didn’t sink in until I was about a half mile away that the voices sounded familiar.  I was in such a zone to attack the third loop and the wind tunnel.  I made my way around again and all I kept thinking is, “this is the third loop, give it all you have now so when you get slammed by the wind it averages out”. I rode and rode then started that section of the course again, I watched my speed drop and drop.  I tried everything from putting my chin on the handle bars and keeping my knees close to the top bar on my bike.  It was an effort to try in every way not to be a parachute.  This guy rode up next to me and said, “Good job Ian, it’s rough out here but we’re gonna do it”.  I asked him “how much further papa smurf?” he responded “no where close” we laughed together in our torture as he pulled away.  During that stretch of wind on the third loop, I passed two people about 5 miles apart laying on their backs, holding their chest.  The ambulances were heading in that direction.  I immediately began to closely monitor my heart rate and made sure I dropped it into HR zone 2.  I was soon done with that part of the course and pushing to make my way to the T2 area.  I soon heard the cheers of all my specathletes yelling and screaming as I pulled into the bike dismount area.  It makes such a difference when you have folks cheering for you out there, especially on a long day.  A volunteer took my bike to re-rack it, I grabbed my Run bag and I went into the change tent.  Another volunteer came over to lather me up with sunscreen and I shot out the tent with joy because I knew on that day I would be an Ironman. 

The Run (4:45:35)
The run is my complete joy. I absolutely love running and marathoning so as long as I didn’t do anything stupid that would risk a twisted ankle or pulled muscle, I’d be OK.  I started the run way too fast but quickly put that in check.  I have never ran a marathon that late in the day, especially after swimming and riding my legs off but I knew how to mentally and physically survive a long, hard run.  It was insanely hot.  I kept stuffing cold sponges in my tri top, putting ice under my hat and kept asking at the aid stations for “agua fria”.  Not too long after the skies opened up and there was a heavy downpour of rain that flooded the streets.  One guy running next to me shouted “Thank you God!”  I told him “I know the feeling”.  The run course was also three loops but these were out and back so you can see the other runners going in the opposite direction.  I tried to keep the pace nice and easy and tried my best to enjoy my first Ironman experience.  I slapped high fives, I stopped to sing and dance at one of the tents on the side of the road.  The singer jumped in front of me with his microphone and started to sing so I joined in and danced around.  He soon sent me on my way shouting, “You can do it Ian!!  USA, USA, USA”.
It was dark by now and the course seemed to be very quiet.  I think everyone was just worn out and wanted it to just be over.  Our socks and shoes were soaked from the flooded streets, I just kept dreaming about the long hot shower I’d take back in the room.  My specathletes were stationed at the loop turnaround point and each time as I approached them they’d start shouting and screaming, it’s such an amazing feeling.  They were battling the horrible weather to be out there, making sure I had enough fuel in the mental tank to make it back to them. 
Soon it was the final loop and it was 3 miles between me and the finish line.  I was spent close to mile 25.  Lloyd was on the opposite side and saw me, I shouted out to him “I ran out of gas!”  He started cheering me on, ran over to me and said with big smiles, “I want you to run past all of them, run past them all and go get your medal!”  I don’t know where the energy came from but I started running hard, it went from 8:23 min/mile to 7:45.  Someone on the side said to me, you’re only half a mile away.  All I kept thinking is I am only 800m, two laps on the track from being an Ironman.  At that point I just opened up what was left in the tank and ran hard, I could hear the loud cheers, then the bright lights and the carpet leading you in.  Then I heard the most amazing words over the loud speakers, “Ian Williams, You Are an IRONMAN!!!”

Post Race
I was making my way through the finisher’s chute when someone said to me, “Your medal sir”, another great feeling as he placed it around my neck.  The moment seemed so surreal.  This was the culmination of all the hard work and sacrifices. All my long days out there in the cold riding and running, early mornings and late nights at the pool, this makes it all worth it.

As I was walking by the massage tent, Roxanne strongly and firmly suggested I get the massage so I gave in and got in line.  The line moved rather quickly and was soon on the table getting all day’s buildup of lactic acid or whatever pushed out of my muscles.

I am an IRONMAN!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Race Report - Hagerstown duathlon #2

By Robert Clarence

Those who know me, know I was on a quest to win my age group in this race.  I raced this event earlier this year and came in second; that motivated me to enter the race with the goal of actually winning.  Normally I enter races with some sort of performance goal.  Not necessarily a PR, but a substantially improvement or a new technique aimed at improving my racing in the long run. Here is a progress report on how my training went as I tried to claim first place.

After racing the NYC triathlon in July I took a week off.  I was debating what to do with the remainder of the summer.  Work was crazy and I had a plethora of family responsibilities, so I knew I couldn't attempt anything too grandiose.  I thought maybe a 1/2 marathon or century,  but I decided I wouldn't undertake any event that would necessitate needing to train more than 2 hours at any time.  The week after NYC I got an email from the promoter who ran the Hagerstown duathlon series not to forget about the race coming later in the year.  I remembered liking the first event and thinking this event is short enough (2 mile run, 10 mile bike, 3.1 mile run) that I could train for it and not severely impact the rest of my life.  When I made the decision to try and win, however, this meant a lot more detailed work to get ready for the race.

When you are racing to win everything matters. All those thing that are normally overlooked must be scrutinized.  Old habits need to be evaluated and tweaked or perhaps thrown out completely.  Transitions need to actually be practiced!  Race nutrition must be honed to a science.  I even created a race day plan, documenting exactly what I should be doing right up until the race start. So I now find myself one week out from the race, here how its gone so far......

Week 0: Establish baselines before training starts.

So before I even started training for the race I did a few tests to see where I was and what I need to work on.  I determine my lactate threshold wattage on the bike and my lactate threshold pace on the run.  Next, I looked back at the race in which I came in second place.  The guy who won, finished in 1:15:55, he beat me by about 2 minutes.  So my first thought is, make 1:15:00 my goal in case that guy shows up again!  Right there I know I need to lose roughly 3 minutes off my time of 1:18:11.  So where can I get it?  Well I know I was not at my best on the bike when I did this race so I will try and recoup 2 minutes on the bike and another minute over the 5 miles of running (which is about 12 seconds per mile faster).  My transitions are generally pretty good but I figure with practice I can shave 10 seconds off each.  So that's my game plan going in.

Week 1 - 5 See my previous post here.

Week 6 -10

Work has been extremely busy so I had a lot of late night workouts.  Big thumbs up to @TheSufferfest for making my cycling training challenging.  If you have to get on the trainer for any length of time, have a Sufferfest video ready!

My running was really nothing but interval work.  I didn't have time to do many long runs but I made every run pretty intense.  I was doing my interval work at 7:05 to 7:15 pace, well below what I ran in the first race.  Training was brutal, but I could see the improvement, and despite a very harried last two weeks of training, I went in race ready.

The Race:

I got to the race early, set up my transition area and started warming up.  I was expecting rain for the race, but I was pleasantly surprised to find it reasonably dry and warm.  Since I was racing to win, I started scoping the people in my age group.  I started near the front of the pack so anyone running faster than me would have to run past me and I would see them.  The race director started the countdown and then we were off!  I noticed 1 guy in my age group immediately go to the front.  He was running F*CKIN#& FAST! I didn't want to let him get too far ahead but when I looked down at my Garmin I was running at a 6:44 per mile pace!  Way too fast!  I slowed down to a more reasonable 7:15 pace only to watch 3 more guys in my age group go by me!  Having never really raced a triathlon like this I made a decision that I would bank on my bike strength. I was not going to try and run these guys down only to blow up spectacularly.  I zipped through transition with just one mistake, I left one bike shoe on the wrong side of my bike, that probably cost me 5 seconds.  

The Bike:

I was riding my road bike in this race since that's what I had been training on.  I have a Colnago Flight TT bike but I had been having trouble getting comfortable on it lately so I went with comfort at the expense of aerodynamics.  I was moving quickly, but holding back just a bit as planned.  Problem was, apparently no one told those 4 other guys to hold back.  I watched as they pedaled away into the distance.  I was using my power meeting to measure my effort and it worked out perfectly.  At the end of the 10 miles my normalized power was dead on my lactate threshold power.  My coach would be proud!  I felt pretty good coming off the bike and zipped through transition in 1/2 a minute.  

Run #2:

Coming out of transition my legs felt  a bit heavy, but I knew from experience it takes me about 1/2 a mile for them to loosen up.  I expected to run somewhat slower than the first run and I lived up to my expectations.  I still felt strong and I felt even better as I passed a guy from my age group at the mile marker.  This got the adrenaline pumping and I picked up the pace to slightly under 8 minutes per mile.  I grabbed some water at the turn around and started trying to close on the nearest competitor I could see.  It was a woman who had passed me on the bike just before coming into transition.  I set my sites on running her down, but every time I closed just a little she would open up the gap back up ( I later found out I was chasing the woman who finished 3rd overall, yeah I didn't catch her).  She turned out to be a good rabbit and I ended up with a very respectable 25:02 for the 5k run.

At the end of the day I ended up fourth in my age group.  I can't complain though I annihilated my previous best time on the course.  I dropped almost 6 minutes since my race in April.  I ran over 30 seconds per mile better on each run and knocked 3 minutes of my bike as well as almost cutting my transitions in half.  I think this course suits me, so I look forward to returning next year.  Hope to see some you guys out there next year.

Keep training ......