Thanks for being patient...at long last...here's the day...
The morning started at 3:15 with 3 bottles of boost (750 calories total) and a quick shower to wake up.
I had followed some really good advice and scheduled out the 24 hours leading up to the 7 am start, so was on autopilot following my plan. In creating my schedule for the morning, I spent a bit of time visualizing race morning, as well as the race itself – an exercise I find invaluable. The visualization and creating a plan for the morning was definitely paying off now.
A quick look in the mirror at the message I had left myself last night:
Slow is smooth…smooth is fast.
See how far your can push yourself. Be the man your dog and daughter think you are :)
Andrew Hariton, You are an ironman.
What a great way to set the tone for the day – Thanks for the idea Rich Strauss.
After a bit of coffee, I LIBERALLY used body glide, threw on my tri shorts and top, and checked the weather one last time. I couldn’t help smiling when I saw a low of 54, high of 75 with little wind expected: PERFECT
Lori and Mark (a friend of mine who made the trip down to watch me suffer for 14 hours) dropped me off at transition at around 5:15. Got body marked, tires pumped up, garmin on bike, gels on...uh oh – where are the gels...oh well...I can grab them at the aid stations....I spent the next 1/2 hour or so slowly sipping Gatorade and trying to stay calm.
With so much nervous energy around me, I was grateful to have my Ipod, and could ignore most of what was going on around me. Finally 6:30 came and I met Lori, Mark and my mom and headed down to the swim start. Had a gel, sipped some water, got my wetsuit on.
Paula Newby Fraser was wrapping up an interview right next to me, and I was able to get one last hint from someone who really knows what she’s talking about: “Treat the race as a very long training day with 2200 of your closest friends.” I can do that...
We were waiting for the pros to start and BOOM...the cannon went off with no warning and scared the shit out of us...10 more minutes...At this point I found myself completely nauseous...most likely from the unknown of the swim, being that I could barely swim 50 yds a year ago.
I remember going to my first swim practice, getting ready for an Olympic and the coach saying to do 200 as a warmup...a 200 WARMUP? For me that’s going to be my entire workout...Yet here I was only a year or so later doing a 2.4 mile ocean swim.
I put myself about 4 rows back, 20-30 yds outside from the buoys. In my mind, the best way to deal with a fear is to face it head on, so I intentionally put myself right in the middle of the washing machine...and I’m so glad I did – the swim was an absolute blast...
For all of the talk I’ve heard about the beatdown, it really wasn’t any worse than most of our local sprints. There was certainly some contact, but nowhere near as bad as I expected. Gotta love a wetsuit swim with 2200 people...you can really feel the draft pulling you along. I got to the first turn buoy and had to stop and tread water until I could dogpaddle around it. There were swimmers coming from all directions: inside, outside, straight...and no one could go anywhere...It was pretty funny being in the middle of it.
Things spread out a bit after the first turn, and I found a bit of open water. The other nice thing about the mass start is that there are always feet to follow, even for a slow swimmer like me. I enjoyed the swim in, finishing the first lap in 45 minutes – right on schedule. My “realistic” goal time for the swim was 1:45...anything under that and I’d be thrilled....so far so good....
I got out from the first lap, sipped some water, and headed back for lap two. I knew this lap would be slower with everyone so spread out now, and knew the 2:20 cutoff was no longer an issue, so simply focused on long clean strokes and staying on feet in front of me. The second lap went by quickly, and I was out of the water and to the strippers in 1:33, having used very little energy. PERFECT.
Everything’s relative. Although a 1:33 swim is slow by comparison, It was a GREAT swim for me...I was truly ecstatic getting out of the water.
A lot has to go right to make it to the finish line, most of which is out of my control (avoiding flat tires, nutrition issues – even though it’s been practiced dozens of times, crashes, etc), and it’s a VERY long day. To me, the day was already a total success having such a great swim, no matter what happened the rest of the day.
I took my time through T1 – Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.
I was out on the bike and settling in for the next 6 1/2 hours or so. I looked down for just a second to turn on my garmin and...WHAM...I hit a HUGE hole coming out of transition which sent me straight towards deep sand...I stayed upright after hitting the hole...not so much after my front tire hit the sand...I went down pretty hard on my left side, but no real damage done to the bike or to me...fix it and move on...I hope that's not a sign of things to come the rest of the day....
My plan for the bike was simple...setup a great run. I once again followed Rich Strauss’ advice and went incredibly easy for the 1st thirty miles to get my heart rate under control and start my nutrition. A ton of people went flying by me and it was hard to let them go, but I knew I’d see them later...I started sipping water with NUUN at 10 minute intervals, and after a 1/2 hour I started alternating perpetuemwith NUNN every ten minutes, adding in a gel every 45 minutes..
At thirty miles I started actually riding a bit, pushing my hr up into low zone 2, where I planned to keep it until mile 80-90. I rode steady for the next 50 miles or so, enjoying the high points and just maintaining through the low points of the emotional rollercoaster that I was warned about.
I stopped for just a few minutes at the bike special needs to stretch and enjoy a couple of uncrustables. It was nice having some solid food for the first time of the day. I got to the short out and back at mile 70 and was glad I had driven the course the day before. Having driven the course, I at least knew that the really rough road only lasted for a few miles. Along with the expected yellow thingies that fell out of aerobottles, I was a bit surprised to see more than a few bottle cages having gotten ripped off of bikes. I got to the turnaround and wouldn’t you know it, I got to enjoy a headwind along with the rough road for the next few miles….oh well…..no one said this would be easy.
At mile 80 I was still feeling really good, so pushed a bit harder on the bike, keeping my hr at the top of zone 2. No bonk was in sight thank God. My focus was still on having a great run. At this point I wanted nothing to do with gels or perpetuem anymore, but knew I needed to keep taking in calories if I wanted a good run, so I sucked it up and kept going with my nutrition plan.
I don’t remember the mileage, but two things cracked me up on the bike:
1. The pirate aid station – you guys were awesome.
2. Seeing the sign saying “Andy You Bitch You Slut You Whore.” A big thank you to the Southwest Texas Tri Club!! :)
I was SO happy to see the bridge at around mile 100, knowing that in just a few more miles I’d be off the bike and to my strongest part of the day...Making the turn onto Thomas Drive, it was great finally having the wind at my back for the next few miles...Thank god I had paced myself on the bike so well for the first 80 miles...since I’m still not a very strong cyclist, I definitely needed the energy I had saved up for dealing with the headwind the last 20-30 miles. I felt really bad for the woman who got a flat with only a few miles to go on the bike – what a tough blow mentally to get a flat SO close to being near the end….
I got off of the bike at just under 7 hours….about a 1/2 hour slower than expected...no worries since I picked up so much time on the swim. My goal of breaking 14 hours was still intact, as long as I didn’t blow up on the run. At this point I got a bit tearful, knowing that I was going to become an Ironman.
After a smooth T2, I felt REALLY good starting the run. My hr was incredibly low (zone 1) and my legs felt surprisingly good. I found out later that Lori saw me coming out of transition and remarked to a friend “OH SHIT – he’s going to do another one.”
A lot of people were walking already, and I started passing people instantly. I looked down and saw an 8:30 pace...too fast...gotta hold back for a while...I kept myself at a 9:30 – 10 minute pace for the first loop, running from aid station to aid station, which were about every mile. Speaking of the aid stations, the thought of Gatorade or gels was completely repulsive...so flat coke it was...
For the record, flat coke is the greatest thing ever, along with chicken broth!!!
The volunteers and crowd support was amazing. The triathlete girls gone wild ROCKED!!! I think everyone looked forward to going through that aid station on the way out and back.
The first loop was pretty uneventful, other than I was surprised at how many people I was passing. I grabbed a long sleeve shirt out of my bag at the turnaround and headed out for the second loop, wondering what awaited me at mile 20, where I hit a MASSIVE wall in both of the standalone marathons I had done.
I kept my pace consistent on the first part of the second loop, sticking with my plan of running aid station to aid station, and stopping for water, coke and chicken broth. I had some great conversations with people on the way. I definitely got a boost from seeing a lot of friends from the Hammerheads on the run course...everyone looked strong and like they were having good days.
I got to the turnaround still feeling good, with my hr still in zone 1, so picked up the pace just a little, still expecting to hit a wall, passing people the entire time…Miles 21...22...23...still no wall...little faster...24...no wall.
On more than one occasion I head some of the people out cheering for us say Holy Shit – he’s still RUNNING...what a great mental boost, since at this point virtually everyone around me was walking. I guess it proves the saying...it’s all about the bike.
At this point I could hear Mike Reilly’s voice just a couple miles away and new I was going to shatter my goal time of 14 hours...I passed under the arch right before the finish line and couldn’t believe the number of people cheering for me and all of the other athletes...it was absolutely electric!!
Coming through the finishers shoot I glanced up, saw 13:10 on the clock, and finally got to hear the words I had worked so hard for over the last couple of years:
Andrew Hariton from Jacksonville Florida, You Are an Ironman.
What an absolutely amazing feeling.
Stay tuned for LOTS more pictures and the post race report...
4 weeks ago