Sunday, August 14, 2011

Ironman Lake Stevens 70.3

Pal Sean signed us up for this race 10 months ago.

Tip: never sign up for arduous activities while relaxing on the beach in Hawaii, as Sean was. But it sounded like a good idea at the time.

As with any Campbell event, this one was filled with screw-ups. Like the water bottles and Accelerade I left behind, 7 hours away. I was frantically working thru my checklist before departure while Zoe was dancing and singing around the house. Finally I asked her for 3 minutes of quiet so I could concentrate on the list.

It would have been more helpful if I had actually put those water bottles on the list in the first place. Oh well, easily replaceable on the fly. The main items were the bike, bike shoes, and wetsuit. Everything else is minor, sort of.

Drive to Seattle, meet Sean in Everett: he drove 14 hrs from his home in SF, and had pre-booked a massage to work out the stiffness. Smart.

We went over to Lake Stevens for  packet pickup; this was my first 'Ironman' brand event, and it was clearly a polished show. Very well organized. Then we rode our bikes over the run course; Sean noted the hill at 5 and 10 miles, figuring that people would be starting the run too hard and putting themselves in the hurt locker on the incline.

Sean gave me some electrolyte replacement mix to try; not wanted to experiment during the race, I drank the stuff on our recon ride. Then I got massively sick; had nothing to do with the half-pound of bacon I had for breakfast. Post-script: Sean, I found your stuff in my car afterward. Seems I used some other drink mix, not yours. No harm, no foul.

Bike course recon: the hill profile looked challenging but not brutal, with the hardest climbs appearing to be in the first 15 miles and repeated on the second lap. We're driving along, and the road is climbing, but it's really nothing dramatic. We're getting pumped, the profile I found was from MapMyRide, and we figured someone used a weak GPS to get inaccurate data. Sweet.

I'm driving along, looking at the (flat) landscape and congratulating ourselves on picking the right race, when Sean says...

 "Oh crap."

I look up. And up, and up. "Hey, it's really steep," I say, "but at least it's long."

Then we come to another couple of rollers that will cause more problems. New strategy; Don't empty it all on the second lap; those hills will sap the legs prior tot the run, and we both want to finish strong.

Now we head over to my home stay; volunteers offered to take in wayward triathletes as a hospitality gesture. Since we were staying 40 miles south in Seattle and the race begins at 0630, it made sense to stay nearby. Kim, my host, is an avid runner and a heckuva good cook. That pasta hit the spot.

What we noticed as we drove up was the cacophony from across the street. Seems that dad and son are both drummers, using their garage as a studio. Of course they are. Sean and I look at each other and burst out laughing. How could this not be happening?

Race day; we're setting up at 0530. 1200 or so competitors, and the area is very well laid-out.

Then it's time to swim. The buoys are all roped together and the anchors are connected by a rope about 5 feet down. It's the perfect runway to follow, and everyone is fighting for position above the rope for 1.2 miles. I make the turn at halfway, and somehow do a 270 degree turn around the buoy, not a 90. Then it's back on track, and I'm actually picking people off on the back nine. Jeez, I feel like a real swimmer!

Swim Goal        Actual        Improvement over last year
    38:00            39:46                    5:00

Top half of my age group on the swim. That has NEVER happened before. Thanks much, Coach Bob and Coach Marti.

On the bike, I pick up a red card infraction. Really? For drafting? On an uphill? I need to speak to my attorney.

We were right. The rollers are leg-zappers. It hurts.

Bike Goal        Actual        Improvement over last year
   3:25               3:20                   35 min

Michelle, those Honey Stinger bars you sold me were really good. No bonk, no stomach problems. Thanks! And no problems with the mounting/dismounting with shoes on the pedals; I was afraid of taking a header. 4 minutes total in transitions, much faster than last year.

The run started a bit too fast, so I pulled it back and settled in. Sean was flying when we passed in opposite directions at his 5 mile point, looking good. Then I see him at about 9 miles, walking and white as a ghost and not sweating. He thinks he might have to drop out; now I know it's serious, because he never does that. Later he said he probably didn't eat enough. So hard to get it right. When I saw my wife and family, I told them to give him a big shout-out; hopefully that will help.

Sean, at left, hanging tough and gutting it out

On the sidewalk, I see Kim from our local tri club; her husband Frank is competing. She spots me and gives the verbal equivalent of much cowbell. Kim, thanks, I needed the boost. And I'm glad your voice carries!

Meanwhile, during the run I drink about 20 oz. of flat coke and plenty of disgusting coffee-flavored gels that just happen to have lots of caffeine. I'm worried about upsetting my stomach, but I'm more worried about running out of gas.

It starts to hurt. I reconsider my idea of ever trying a full Ironman, but I'm sure I'll change my mind in a week or so.

One mile at a time. When I can't see out that far, I try to get thru the next half-mile, then 100 yards, then 10 steps. Wash, rinse, repeat. Hey Bretagne, remember my constant leg cramps last year? This time, nothing. Just a few hammy twitches, but no work stoppage.

There's a guy with a prosthetic leg.  And a woman with no forearm. How the hell did she swim? Suddenly, I don't hurt so much anymore.

Down the last hill. Gather myself. Look fore and aft; plenty of room between me and the next runners, so I do what comes naturally. Speed up, fist in the air, a hootin' and a hollerin'.
My Tim Robbins/Shawshank imitation

Of course, there's an uphill at the end. Thanks a lot, Mr. Race Director.

Run Goal    Actual     Improvement over last year
   2:00           2:02                32 min

Overall: 59th in age group out of 98. Last yr, I was 38 out of 39. And my overall time dropped 78 minutes.  I'll take it.

Dinner included a vodka martini, as if I'll need help sleeping.

Game, set, match. Later that night, it hurts. Bad. Or good.

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