It was 4:45 AM on race day and somehow I got one of the best night’s sleep of my life.
My wife Shira and I went to bed at 8:30 PM, and for the first time before a race I didn’t keep waking up throughout the night. I have been getting very good sleep recently, and this is mostly because a few months ago I began taking Natural Calm Magnesium, which I talked about a couple of weeks ago.
The first thing I did when I woke up on race day was put my Zoot tri suit on as well as my t-shirt and sweatpants. My goal was to stay as relaxed as possible throughout the day, so being comfortable for the race was important.
For breakfast I ate 4 hard-boiled eggs, a Perfect Bar, energy chunks from Whole Foods, and drank a Gatorade. I brought another Perfect Bar with me as well as a pre-workout drink called Push from Stronger, Faster, Healthier.
My dad took me to the race at 5:00 AM for body markings and to check on my bike. I froze 2 bottles of Gatorade the night before so they’d be refreshingly cold on the bike (this hurts me later), and put those in the cup holders. I also made sure to turn my GPS tracker on, which was in my bike bag, so it would be one less thing to think about in transition.
At 5:30 AM, I was shuttled in a school bus 2.5 miles up the riverfront to get in line for the swim start. At this point I was still undecided about wearing a wetsuit as the people on the bus said no, but the people in transition were saying yes.
When I got in line for the start of the race I ended up talking to two very nice gentlemen doing the race who were both Kona qualifiers and said “wear the wetsuit.” They knew I did not have a goal of going to Kona, and since the water temperature was 77.1 not below 76.1, wearing a wetsuit would disqualify me from Kona qualifying. They said, “If you’re not going to Kona you might as well wear the wetsuit and go faster and save your energy.”Well, they sold me and thankfully I wore my new full-length wetsuit.
At 7:20 AM, the gun went off and they sent the professionals in the water to go first. At 7:30 AM they began sending the 2800 age group competitors who chose not wear wetsuits in. By about 7:52 AM, all of the non-wetsuit athletes were in the water and I could finally see the dock where I would jump off to begin the race. The past 18 months of training was culminating in this one moment, and I knew I was about to begin a day of 12-14 hours of working out. At 7:54 AM I jumped in the water and began my swim downstream for 2.5 miles to Ross’Landing, where I would transition onto my bike.
The swim course was amazing and rarely did I run into anyone as the spacing was perfect. Only about halfway through the swim did I begin catching up to the non-wetsuit racers and at a couple points the congestion built up, but it would spread out pretty fast. I finished the swim with a great time of 1:04:53, which put me in the top 32% of all racers.
I decided that I was going to change into a completely new outfit for the bike, so my transition time was 7:37.
I doused my legs up with magnesium lotion, took 8 amino acids, and loaded up my ‘area’with chamois cream to prevent as much chaffing as possible.
I started the bike feeling amazing and my bike was moving faster after an awesome tune-up at Atlanta Cycling. They got me a new chain and drivetrain, which was essentially giving me a new bike as my old one was completely worn and beginning to rust. The first 30 miles I was warming up and averaging a 16.48 mph pace. I was feeling great at this time, drinking my Gatorades, eating my Perfect Bars, and taking in nutrition from the aid stations. For the next 20 miles I was going even faster, averaging 19.2 mph and feeling amazing in my legs and body.
As I got to my bike special needs around mile 55 I was feeling really good, and then there was mile 60.
At roughly mile 60, my stomach completely gave out and gave me some of the worst pains I have ever experienced. By this point I knew I screwed up my whole nutrition plan by taking in too much Gatorade and eating too many crappy bars. My pace dropped to an average of 13.5 mph for the next 60 miles as my legs felt fine, but peddling fast would hurt my stomach.
For those final 60 miles of the bike I only drank water and even had another racer let me borrow 2 Tums, which barely did anything. All I could think about was getting off the bike and onto the run so I could get this gut issue to go away.
Finally, after 116 miles of biking, I reached the end and was moving towards the second transition with the same stomach pains as mile 60 on the bike.
Once again I changed my outfit completely and it took me roughly 5:04 to get out of transition and onto the marathon.
The first few miles were the roughest with my stomach pains as my first 3.6 miles I only averaged 12:29/mile paces, which was extremely slow for me. I began drinking coke and eating oranges on the run, and slowly my stomach pain began calming down. The next 3 miles I was able to get to a 11:24/mile, then dropped to 11:11/mile. The run was great with all of the people along the sidelines, especially around Barton. I don’t know if people understand how much it helps to have them on the sidelines, but sometimes it’s the comments complete strangers say that motivate me the most.
As I saw the mile 24 sign I could feel the energy and knew how close I was to accomplishing this bucket list item. By now, I could hear the announcer telling people “You are an Ironman,”and this helped to bring my pace down to a 10:35/mile, which was my best 3-mile split the whole race.
The final mile is one of my favorites because this is when my mind starts thinking about all the sacrifices I made for so long. I began thinking about my family and how supportive they have been by giving me the freedom to train. I thought about my daughter and how much training I had to do which meant that I missed so many nights she went to bed. I thought about my employees and how so many times I had to sneak out early to train before dark while they were still there doing work and picking up my weight. That final stretch is the most emotional and everything that every triathlete lives for.
I finished the race with a time of 14:02, which was an hour over my goal time, but I was still proud to have finished and stayed mentally focused throughout the gut pains.
Thanks again to everyone for all the love and support. For now, my bike has been retired for a pretty long time.