Completed my first Ironman and marathon this past Sunday, race report is below.
Transition setup, ready to go
Ready to go, trying to stay warm
Swim: 54:02 6th fastest split
Had a great swim. Didn't get off to the best start, Lake Erie has a very gradual slope and the first minute or so was spent navigating through less than waist deep water which I'm not real good at. Once the actual swimming started I had a lot of ground to make up but swam past a lot of people and got into one of the front groups. Once I was in my group I just relaxed and felt real good, had a lot of energy and positive spirits. The swim went by quick, pretty effortless, and I was out of the water in 6th position, a great start to a long day. Looked around coming out of the water and was right with all the strong cyclists, it was exactly where I needed to be. Then had some major bad luck going through T1. Went to grab my changing bag and it was missing. Spent about 30 seconds looking for it as it contained some of my nutrition for the bike but eventually lost patience and decided I had to try my luck with the nutrition they had on the course. After the race when I went back to retrieve my gear I figured out what had happened. My T1 bag was hanging right where it should have been but had someone else's wetsuit in it. Turns out one of the athletes who came out of the water in front of me grabbed my bag by mistake, didn't correct his mistake, and it cost me. I looked at the wetsuit to see whose it was and ironically, that morning there was a foreign pro who showed up to race with an illegal helmet. Officials wouldn't let him race with the helmet so I loaned him my road helmet so he could race. That same athlete was the one who took my bag. It only cost me about 30 seconds, but that 30 seconds was the difference between me starting the bike with a group who rode 4:36 and starting the bike all alone which is what happened.
Out of water in 6th position, great start to the day
Bike: 4:43:23 23.8mph 7th fastest split
On the bike and briefly entertained thoughts of time trialing my way up to the group I missed but decided not to and chill out. Having done my research on the course and weather I knew we were looking at a pretty significant headwind the entire last 30 miles of the ride and my entire strategy on the bike was to be strong those last 30 miles no matter what. So I just relaxed and tried to put the T1 snafu out of my mind, in fact I convinced myself that it was better that I missed the group so that I would ride my own pace and not be suckered into over-riding the first half. Checked the flags we passed by on the way out and confirmed that the winds were out of the west as predicted. The first 45 miles were quite enjoyable actually. I was pretty much alone the whole way, the pace was pretty easy and physically I felt great, could tell I was really clicking. Was getting anxious to pick the pace up but kept telling myself I had to hold back. Moved up one position and didn't know it at the time, but was riding in 5th for a good while. 45 miles is when the race really started for me, a big group of six guys rolled me up and, although my plan was to race my own race all day, when I dropped six positions within a minute I decided that I needed to go with this group because this is where the race was. The pace and effort definitely went up a notch but it didn't feel too hard. 65 miles in is when the pain of the day started and the first time I went through a bad phase. The pace felt too fast so I backed off and let my group go and relaxed until I felt better. The rest of the ride was pretty much spent alone for me although I would catch a few stragglers from the group in front. At 80 miles we made the turn to head back west towards Sandusky and pretty much the entire rest of the ride was into a steady 15mph headwind. I started pressing the pace a little at this point per my plan, wasn't quite as strong as I would have liked but was holding together pretty well. At 90 miles I was really feeling bad, lonely, and the wind was just crushing my spirit. I couldn't see any of my competitors and felt like I was losing so much time. I wasn't bonking, but could tell I definitely wasn't producing as much power as earlier. Rode the last 20 miles in sheer agony, not able to enjoy the experience at all, and couldn't stop questioning why so many people pay so much money to do this. I thought experiencing Ironman pain would be a fun, new experience and I was really looking forward to seeing what it was all about. But the pain wasn't fun at all, I was absolutely demoralized, never wanted to do this again. In all the types of endurance racing I've done this is the first time I've ever experienced pain that has gone beyond physical. Ironman pain is just as physically painful as anything else but what takes it to a different level is that it also reaches your spirit and soul. I felt like my soul had just been sucked out of me and I had no emotions or life left in me. There was no silver lining to this pain or light at the end of the tunnel, it was just sheer agony. As I got past 105 miles I couldn't even think of running a marathon, or even running at all. I remember passing through 110 miles and feeling so depressed that I still had a whole two miles left to ride. Hardly the mindset to take into a marathon. Finally reached T2 and didn't even do a flying dismount as I wasn't sure my legs would support me when I hit the pavement. Ran very slowly into the changing tent and saw a two pros who were in front of me sitting down, they quit after the bike. In fact turns out everyone was pretty much in the same boat those last 20 miles and a lot of people decided to call it a day. Getting my runners on in T2 the volunteers told me I was in sixth position which shocked me as I didn't think I was in the top 10. That was an instant boost to the confidence and really helped jump start me for my first marathon.
Starting my first marathon
Marathon: 3:11:54 12th fastest split
After the last 20 miles of the bike I had pretty much thrown away my goals for the marathon and just started running easy. I refused to look at my watch because I knew the pace was slow and just spent the first few miles recovering physically and mentally. Loosened up and was actually feeling pretty good, checked my watch at mile 4 and I had been holding 6:45 pace. Stopped for a 30s bathroom stop on the side of the road at mile 5 as the course was too crowded with people right in downtown Sandusky that I couldn't do my usual bathroom on the go trick. Then really felt good after that and got rolling, even clicking off miles 6-8 in 6:30 pace. Lost two positions in the first half but just focused on going my own pace and taking care of myself for the second half. At mile 11 I started having some slight GI discomfort and made a 90s port-a-john stop. Went through the half in 1:31 and within the first 3 miles of the second half my pace slowed by nearly a minute per mile despite no change in perceived effort. At first I thought the miles were off but they weren't. My mentality started slowly creeping south again and at mile 16 the thought of going 10 more miles was almost unbearable. Lost another position and then at mile 18 had to make another bathroom stop, for a full 2 minutes. In all I spent 4 minutes of my marathon in the port-a-john, normally not a big deal in an Ironman but in this case it would be. Started trying to project my finish time with 10k to go and knew I could be under 9 hours with 8min miles. Wasn't sure if I'd be able to manage that, 7:30 pace was becoming really difficult and in addition I was getting a really bad headache. Took some electrolyte pills and those seemed to help. Miles 20-23 seemed endless and the legs were so heavy, I couldn't believe I was only going 7:30 pace for how hard I was pushing. I thought about how bad I wanted to break 9, how long I had been going for and how little I had left but 4 miles still seemed so far. Through 23 miles, could see the Cedar Point roller coasters in the distance and knew that was the finish line, got a boost of confidence and clicked off 7min pace the last 5k. With one mile to go I could see another pro up the road and a while later I could see a second, but they were too far ahead. Crossed the line in 8:52, 9th place. 7th place was less than 2 minutes up so I can only wonder what could have been if it weren't for those bathroom stops. But that's racing.
Overall: 8:52:36 9th place
Had mixed feelings at the finish. Really happy to get under 9 hours in my first attempt and get through the whole thing with only small mistakes but dropping 3 places on the run really left a sour taste in my mouth about the whole day. Having had a few days to reflect on it I feel better about it now with each passing day. It feels great that when someone asks me my Ironman PR the first number out of my mouth will be "eight". On the whole I executed a pretty solid race, I slowed a bit at the end of the bike and the run but never had a complete bonk, never let my run slip below 7:30 pace. Nutrition wise I think I got it about right, held together the entire way and was in pretty good shape afterwards, avoided a visit to the med tent. If I could go back and reconstruct how I raced I think I would have gone 2-3 minutes slower the last 15 miles of the bike and hope that would make my marathon 8-10 minutes faster. I was really hurting at the end of the bike but kept pushing because I thought I needed to be strong riding into the wind but in hindsight I was not setting up to have a good marathon in doing so. I think I should have given in to the pain a little more and backed off the end of the bike. My run training probably went the best out of all my training and I'm sure I had a sub-3 marathon in me, but didn't quite execute correctly. As they say with Ironman racing, there's no such thing as a good bike followed by a bad run. If you run poorly then you did not execute the bike correctly. I also wonder if I may have been a little mentally weak the second half of the run because I went from 7:30 pace to 7:00 pace instantly with 5k to go and nothing changed other than realizing I had just 5k to the finish. It pains me to say that because I was already suffering so much, but maybe I need to learn to suffer more the second half. All in all a pretty good first outing, small adjustments can always be made but I avoided all the major pitfalls of the Ironman. Moving forward I think knowing exactly what to expect as far as the pain and suffering of Ironman racing will be the biggest asset that I take away from this into the next one. I've always thought that mental training was a bunch of garbage but I think you have to have a very sound mind to be a good Ironman racer because Ironman pain goes beyond physical and into your mind. I was pretty certain after the race that I was not doing another Ironman this year but now, four days later, I'm already entered in Ironman Florida on November 6. I find myself very intrigued by Ironman racing and the challenge of trying to put everything together/find the right balance. There's definitely a formula to success with 70.3 and olympic racing and once you figure out the formula it's pretty easy to replicate over and over. With Ironman racing, unless your name is Chrissy, I don't know if you can ever have it figured out.
I would also like to endorse the Rev 3 series and encourage everyone who reads this to consider including one or more of the races on your schedule for next year. I did two out of three Rev 3 races this year and can say that the organizers of this series have the best intentions of the sport at the forefront of their minds. I can't say that about the other major long course racing series. These races are organized and run as well as the other series, the venues are much more carefully chosen, and the series is centered around being family oriented. Did you know that on Saturday the entire Cedar Point Amusement Park was shut down and open to just the athletes and families? Every entered athlete was given two park passes and on Sunday the finish line was inside of the actual park just feet from some of the rides. If you're not trying to qualify Kona or Clearwater then why not save a lot of money and give yourself a better race experience at Rev 3? And don't tell me that the words "you are an Ironman" is worth the extra $200 in entry. Rev 3 is working with the intentions of bettering the sport of triathlon, that can't be said for certain other race series.
I would also like to give a shout out to the BretscherMultisport athletes who went 5 for 5 on the weekend with career races. Two conquered one of the most difficult 70.3courses on the series up in Muskoka Canada and one of those even managed to win his first overall age group 70.3 title claiming his first World Championship slot! He was 11th overall on the day including pros, a full 6 minutes ahead of the second place age grouper, and ahead of some of the pros! Another athlete raced his first olympic distance to cap off his first year as a triathlete. It's not too often that you put your best s-b-r performances together in the same race but he did just that. Another athlete made his full-Iron debut with me at Cedar Point as the culmination of a life altering decision to get in shape 3 years ago when he was 40 pounds heavier. The goal he made at the time was to finish an Ironman before the age of 40 and he didn't just finish, he finished under has top goal of 12 hours with an 11:44 and his sunglasses still on (before the sun set). Finally the gutsy performance on the day went to my athlete out at Ironman Wisconsin who was making her Ironman debut. Despite crashing her bike at mile 103 and a severely bruised rib she managed to negative split her ride. She brushed off getting medical attention in T2 in favor of her race, ran the entire marathon clutching her side with one arm and even negative split it as well. Finished in under her "A" goal of 13:30, in the top third of her age group, and claims she "can't wait to do it again". Great job to all!