A Dream Is Born
This IM journey began in October of 2012 as a dream. I had twice accomplished the Ironman distance, once in Clermont at The Great Floridian Triathlon in 2001 and again at Ironman Florida in 2002. Since that time much had transpired. Marriage… kids… job changes… and on and on. Outside of supporting a good friend of mine at Ironman Florida in 2006, I hadn’t even been to one of the races and hadn’t thought much about doing another one myself as I had come to grips with the fact that as long as I had young kids, doing a race of this magnitude simply wasn’t an option. There had been times where I had hoped to venture down to Ironman Florida to maybe volunteer and support others from the local area doing the race, but each November passed and I simply wasn’t present. My last endurance race of any distance was the Gulf Coast Half Ironman in 2005, so my endurance side was tucked far away, not to be seen for many years. But on Saturday October 13th 2012 that dream of doing an Ironman began to stir deep inside as I spent the entire day with my laptop stuck to my side as I watched and listened to the online streaming of the Ironman Championship race in Kona. I even recall driving my kids to a friend’s house, all while listening to the race online via my laptop that was using a portable MIFI device for Internet connectivity. As the day went along, I couldn’t help but think to myself “I am not too old for this”, “my kids are now old enough that I could actually train for one again”, “I would like to hear those words when I cross the finish line”, “Do I still have it in me?”… A DREAM was born…
Early Preparations & IMChoo Announced
Although I haven’t been very active in endurance races, I have continued to occasionally do some short distance sprint races over the years and have spent time at the gym doing strength training and cardio work. I spent some time in 2012 and early 2013 doing a great deal of P90X workouts. Tony Horton is the man BTW! 🙂 “Drink your water people”!! These workouts definitely helped me build a stronger core. Since my last long distance race in 2005 I had ditched the tri frame for a Trek 5200 carbon road bike. It had suited me well over the years when not competing in anything of any distance but after I got the fever and Ironman was on my mind, it had to go. I sold my Trek in February of 2013 and began saving. Like any triathlete, my attention turned to the goodies of the sport – new bike, new this, new that. I knew right away what kind of bike I would want if given the option… one that had sparked my attention many years earlier… the Cervelo P3. The best bike shop in town, Bike Link, just so happens to carry Cervelo, so by summer time I was in the shop taking a peak at what they had. The new Dura Ace model of the P3 had been released and it was quite a ride. A total frame makeover was included. Unfortunately, the Dura Ace model wasn’t an option due to the price, so I knew I would have to settle for the previous Ultegra model (component and frame differences). So I waited for the right time. Meanwhile, on August 15th, Ironman announced the inaugural Ironman Chattanooga race, which is only a short drive from Birmingham… Perfect!!
My friend and I instantly discussed the race and decided this would be our race. Several others from Team Magic were also interested, so we had a nice group committed to doing the race before registration opened up on September 4th, 2013 at 11:00AM CST. Talk about craziness. When registration opened, I had both a laptop (connected through a Verizon wireless connection) and a desktop (connected through our corporate network) that I used simultaneously to get registered as I knew it would go fast (Ironman had pre-sold a large number of slots to tri clubs prior to open registration). It went too fast and I didn’t get in. Bummer! However, I was determined to race, so I took the fundraiser route, which I have to say in hindsight, was far better and I would do it again in a heartbeat. More on that later on. All of my friends managed to get in also (most via open registration, some via tri club slots and one other via the fundraiser). We were all set. Now back to the bike.
Bike Link marked the Ultegra model down $1000 off in late September since it was the prior model and the new ones were arriving. My good friend who had also signed up for IMChoo was also interested in the P3, but really wanted the new model, so he elected to wait. I swung by the shop and got a quick fitting on the bike. After a 15-20 minute ride I was sold. Talk about a fast and fun bike! Bike Link did a great fitting and I began riding it in October.
I also had to find myself a new HR monitor. After some reading of various comparisons, I decided to go with the Garmin Forerunner 910xt which would give me HR monitoring, cadence, speed, elevation, average this, average that, etc. Bike Link once again came through for me and I got a great deal on the 910 just before Christmas and even used it a couple of times while on our trip out to Colorado over New Years.
30 Weeks of Training
After signing up I decided to go back and locate some of my old training logs and my race reports. I was shocked to see how little I trained for my prior two IM’s and my race times showed how little prepared I really was back then, but I was in my 20’s and being young actually does matter. My good friend had done Ironman Florida in 2006 and mentioned the training plan he used and that he would be using it again. I took a look at it and also considered the Training Peaks plan that came with being on the Team Challenge Fundraiser team. I chose to do the one out of ‘Be Iron Fit’ so that my friend and I could train together. He and I quickly updated a tracking spreadsheet that he had previously used – inserted new dates starting with the race date and working backwards 30 weeks, inserted my weight to determine HR zones and also made sure to record which weekends I would have Team Magic races to work. We were all set on the training plan. In the meantime I began doing some rides on my bike trainer and some short swims. Training would start the first week of March, so I wanted to keep things simple and not get too involved in training before that time so as to avoid burnout towards the end of training.
For the most part my training had me swimming 3 days per week, biking four days per week and running 5 days per week. I knew going in that I would be challenged to maintain that many sessions, so I expected to have a day or two each week where I failed to do everything needed. The first week of March finally came and we got our training underway. Some of the early bike training was done on my bike trainer indoors or on the spin bike due to the weather (I am not much on cold weather). My runs were mostly on the treadmill and swims were at Greystone Y. I posted most every week during my training and gave updates on how much training I got in and if anything significant happened that week (missed quite a few updates towards the end – sorry about that). For the most part training went well. I had a great group of friends who would join me on Wednesday’s each week for a ride. They were consistently there every week and I really enjoyed the time together. A much larger group would ride out from our usual starting place on Saturday mornings. We would have 20-30 riders on any given Saturday. That was so very important later into the summer when my rides were much longer. There were always folks there who were also training for IMChoo, so I always knew I would have someone to ride my longer rides with when we were in town. There were 3-4 times through the summer when we were at Lake Martin and I had to put in long solo rides. Those were tough rides, especially the 80 mile ride that ended in Ashland. I needed those rides and I knew it, but that didn’t make it any more interesting. Around week 23 or 24 I felt like the wheels fell off the bus. My motivation was gone and I didn’t want to do anything. The next few weeks would be challenging and I even dropped the ball on my updates to my site, eventually dropping a summary of my weeks out there to include the last 6-7 weeks. In hindsight I should have taken a week off at that point and just recovered mentally. I will be sure and keep that in mind next time around.
I did have some bike problems along the way. Early on my bike made a lot of noise out on the road and I had noticed the rear tire at times would scrub the frame. I took it in to Bike Link and after a day or so they were able to tell me that the frame was the issue and that Cervelo was shipping a new one out. That was nice I thought. A week or so later I took it back in and got the new frame. Two days later I dropped by to pick it up, but when they brought it out they told me the new frame had an issue and that they had already contacted Cervelo to replace this new one. They told me to ride it and they would let me know when the new one arrived. About three weeks later I dropped it off again on a Tuesday. On Friday my wife and I dropped back in to pick it up. Joe rolled one out from the back but it was the new style frame (not the older one that I had bought). He said “what do you think?”. My response was “is that my bike!!??”. I couldn’t believe it! Cervelo had replaced my older frame with a new model frame. The guys at Bike Link had swapped everything over and I basically had a new frame (and I paid much less for it ;-)). To say I was excited is putting it very lightly. I couldn’t wait to get this bad boy out on the road. The very next day I had planned to do a 100 miler and boy was this bike smooth and fast. I was really enjoying the ride until around mile 82 when my chain fell off. It got caught between the crank and the frame, so I had to take it in to have them correct the issue and install a chain guard to prevent this from occurring. After that point the bike has been spectacular and I absolutely love riding it. It was worth the wait all of those years.
For the most part my swimming came along fine just as I had planned. Swimming has always been my easier leg as I just enjoy it much more than biking or running. Most of my swims through the summer were at the Greystone Y in the early AM hours just before sunrise. I believe in all of my training this was the most special time, just being in that pool and seeing the sun rise and knowing I had already swam nearly 2 miles before some folks even rise. My bike rides were also great, but I did have some concerns towards the end as I had only gotten in two 100+ mile rides heading into the race. One was a group ride out from Oak Mountain in late August. We had ridden nearly to Pell City and back with some extra miles in the park to make the 100 miles. It was a hilly and hot ride but I had done a great job on hydration and really felt fine that afternoon and the following day. This further proved to me that my training was looking good as I rarely had bad muscle soreness, nor was I ever totally exhausted. My runs were what concerned me the most. My plan had me doing long runs on Sundays. Early on I stuck to the plan but towards the middle and end it got more challenging. I had to choose rest and recovery and spending time with family over doing a long run. When I did do one on Sundays it would typically be late on Sunday night, around 8 or 9PM. My last few runs were in our neighborhood where it was nice and hilly. I really needed that just before the race and it helped me mentally prepare. I had some 90-120 minute runs at the Junior College in Alexander City over the summer along with some long runs at Spain Park High School. These were my long runs and my longest was only two and a half hours in our neighborhood about 3-4 weeks out from the race. I knew the run would be what got me on race day, but I also knew that I was so much more prepared both physically and mentally this time around. Heading into taper time I knew I had done all I could and I had no regrets. My family had supported me the entire time. My youngest daughter, Caroline, had begun asking me 4-5 weeks away how much longer I had before I was done. She made it quite clear she was ready to spend more time with me and I was definitely ready to spend more time with them.
Days Leading Up To IMChoo
To avoid stress related to all of the activities and steps required leading up to race day, I developed a schedule to follow starting Friday morning and leading all the way through race day. It included date, time, activity and in some cases further details about the activity. Having this in place would mean that all I really needed to do was stick to my schedule and avoid all of the last minute ‘oh yeah, I forgot that’ moments. I also developed a list for each of my special needs and gear bags which coupled with the schedule really helped to eliminate a lot of pre-race stress.
I awoke Friday morning (T-minus 2 days and counting) around 6AM, eager to begin carrying out my well planned schedule. After rushing everyone (my usual task in the mornings), we were on our way to the school just after 7AM, but realized we couldn’t drop Campbell off at school until 7:30, so we had to wait for a bit in the parking lot. That had me a bit flustered as we were only starting the day and already we were off schedule. However, I knew I had enough cushion built into my schedule to make up for it. We left Birmingham and headed for Chattanooga. My cousin Callie had joined us for the trip and was tagging along with myself, Staci and Caroline. Campbell and my dad would be driving up on Saturday. We arrived in Chattanooga around 11:00AM EST and quickly got checked into the hotel, which was only about 9 blocks from the race site. After checking in we drove closer and parked in a deck that was only two blocks away and went directly to Ironman Village. You could just feel the excitement of this place. Folks were everywhere, vendors had their booths opened up and things were in full swing. It’s hard to explain the emotions and just pure energy this place generates, because right there in that moment, I was proud to have my family with me, proud that I had made it through training and it really began to hit me that I was about to do another Ironman and I was ready! I spent the next few hours getting signed in, picking up all of my gear (cool gear I might add) and browsing around the Village. The family tagged along and waited patiently as I did my thing and then we had a quick bite to eat. Things were moving all around us just outside of the Village as workers continued to work quickly to build out the finish line, transition area, bike in/out, run in/out, changing tent, swim out area, etc.
Everything went smooth and I even found time to try out a set of these guys. Talk about nice!
And since Little Debbie was the Title Sponsor for IMChoo, I had to have me one of these. 🙂
We spent a little time down by the river and then stayed for the 3:00PM athlete briefing. This lasted for maybe 25 minutes and about the only thing I really took away from it was the fact that this was going to be a REALLY FAST SWIM. Afterwards we all headed back to the room so that I could rest a little. I took time to place the race #’s on my helmet and bike as well as attach my bib to my race belt and begin preparing some of my equipment to go into the various bags. For dinner we decided to join some of my friends who were also racing on Sunday. They had prepared salad, lasagna and bread – perfect dinner that really hit the spot! We had a great time visiting and chatting about preparations for the race. Afterwards we headed back to the hotel and I was in bed by 9:00PM (right on schedule!) so that I could build upon the great sleep I had gotten the night before. Leading up to an Ironman, you begin working on getting more sleep the few days before the race as you typically cannot sleep well the night before due to nervousness.
I awoke on Saturday feeling very well rested after a good nine to ten hours of sleep. I took it easy and stayed in the hotel room while the others went down for breakfast. I walked over to the Marriot around 9:00AM for the Team Challenge Brunch. I met Shawn there and we hung out while we waited on things to get started. They treated us to a fantastic breakfast and I took advantage of it and ate a very large meal. Each meal from this point on would be much smaller. After eating, we heard from various people associated with Team Challenge. It was at this point when I realized how special it was to be a part of this fundraising effort. They presented awards to those who raised the most and even handed out a few IM Kona slots (talk about sweet!!). The fundraising team was the largest in IM history at 210 members and we raised over $1.3M (largest in IM history as well). The guy who individually raised the most was able to raise over $50k… how crazy is that!! One father (who was part of Team Challenge) spoke about his journey and his son Cooper. Cooper suffers from Crohn’s, so his dad spoke of their story and the challenges they have experienced. I would see his dad out on the course numerous times the following day. We wrapped the brunch up with a large group photo in our race kits. I haven’t yet been able to find the group photo online… :-(.
Shawn and I both left to finish preparations. I spent the next few hours preparing all of my bags – morning clothes bag, bike gear bag, run gear bag, bike special needs bag and run special needs bag – 5 bags in all. No worries. I already had it all planed out and documented what would go in each one… simple enough. I got my hydration ready and dropped it in the hotel refrigerator. I finished off bike prep and had everything ready within an hour or so, and that included a double and triple check of everything. One last thing to do before check-in… I needed to take the bike for a quick spin to do a final systems check. I hit the street and spent the next 15-20 minutes out on the downtown roads of Chattanooga along with some of my fellow athletes who were also out doing their final checks. I popped back into the hotel room, grabbed a snack and drink and then headed for the transition area to drop off my bike gear bag, run gear bag and bike. All went well and it may have taken a total of 15 minutes once there.
While packing my gear I had realized that my goggles had a very small slit in the silicon and I needed some new ones or I could possibly have problems the following morning. I grabbed a pair in IM village and made it back to the hotel, but once there I realized they didn’t fit as well as they should. Slight panic set in at that point. But.. my fantastic wife allowed me to rest in the hotel while she drove across the river to Fast Break (very friendly and happy bunch of folks, especially Dick Dillard… they took care of us). Staci came back with two different pair of goggles and one of them fit just right, so I was all good to go. My wife also dropped by a local restaurant on her way back and picked up some delicious pasta for me – not a heavy dish and not a very large portion, it was just right.
I remained in the hotel the remainder of the evening while my family went out to eat. I had all of my morning gear prepared and did a good deal of stretching before hopping in bed around 8:15. I did manage to sleep well that night despite the nervous energy I had built up inside me. I would imagine I got another 6-7 hours of sleep, which from what I have read, isn’t bad at all. Very thankful!!
It’s Go Time!
It’s 4:10AM on September 28th, 2014 and I shot out of bed… eager to rise… eager to GET THIS DONE!! 30 weeks of training now behind me for this one particular day in late September. Staci got up with me and we remained quiet while I got dressed and ate my breakfast (protein bar and a banana). I wasted no time beginning my trek down to transition with my special needs bags as this wasn’t the time to be running late. Staci remained at the hotel with the family and I would see them at a later time. As I walked along the sidewalk with many other racers, I was very relaxed and thinking about how blessed I was to be here. Many who had signed up for the race just 12 months earlier wouldn’t be racing on this day due to injuries. I was thankful! This is generally the time when nerves take over as there are racers everywhere and you can feel the nervousness in the air. However, I just wasn’t feeling at all nervous. I got body marked, dropped my hydration and nutrition off at my bike and then made my way through the transition area to drop my special needs bags off before meeting Shawn and Lynda. We hopped aboard a bus around 5:10AM and after arriving up the river at the swim start area, made our way to the end of the line. Racers had already lined up down the sidewalk that wrapped around and along the river. It was a bit chilly so I tried to keep my mind off the temperature and keep my nerves in check. It would be after 7:30AM before we were in the water, so we all sat around and chatted. It was a good time and it kept everyone calm, or at least it did for me. I downed a shot block about 45 minutes from race start to top things off energy wise. We began making our way up the sidewalk and as we got closer we heard the cannon go off for the pro athletes. It would only be a short little while at this point before we were in that river doing our thing. As we were turning to head down to the riverside, I heard my wife calling out. I turned to find her and Caroline right near the fencing, so I ran over and gave them both a big hug before rejoining Lynda and Shawn. At this point you could visibly see the nervousness on some faces and the excitement on others. Before I knew it, we were only feet from the pier. I had my goggles and swim cap on with watch prepared to hit the GO button.
Swim 2.4 Miles
And then we were off and swimming. As I jumped in I noticed how well apart everyone seemed in the water, so I knew this wasn’t going to be a rough swim due to ‘traffic’. The water felt great!! I could tell I was swimming in current but wasn’t aware how quickly I was moving just yet. I had a few situations where I had to readjust my angle due to the traffic, but I never got into a mess where folks were all on top of one another. Using my Garmin data from the race, you can see some of the points where I had to make adjustments.
I was in shock when I exited the water and realized I had swam a 51:25. Oh my gosh!!
I didn’t see any of my family as I made my way towards the transition area (bummer). I did hear a good friend of mine, John Hanna, yelling out my name as I ran up the ramp, so I turned and gave him a fist pump and yelled out loud as I ran up the ramp. The crowd cheered louder. 🙂 My transition wasn’t what I had hoped , but it was a time for me to collect myself and get prepared for the miles ahead. I ate a little before exiting the tent. Running in bike shoes for that distance wasn’t all that fun. You can totally wipe out trying to run in those things. I made my way to my bike and onto the road. Still no family. 😦
**Note: I realized after the race that a dead body was being pulled out of the Tennessee River around 8:30AM that morning just below the exit area of the swim. It wasn’t an athlete and at that time they had not identified the body.
Bike 116 Miles
I felt great leaving downtown and heading out onto the first loop of the course. I began settling into my routine of drinking every ten minutes and eating half of a honey stinger waffle every thirty minutes. There were a good number of spectators in the neighborhoods early on and it was great hearing them cheer. While out on the first loop I passed a fellow Team Magic member. I yelled out to her as I passed and we spent the next few miles passing one another. She stopped off at a rest stop before we hit the special needs bag area and I wouldn’t see her again until after the race. I had my Garmin set to give me split times every five miles and I was hitting 20+ mph fairly consistently, which had me worried. I had been averaging 18+ in my longer training sessions, so 20+ was frightening, but I really felt great, so it was confusing and worrisome. I remember telling myself over and over “I need to slow down or I am not going to make it to the end”.
I pulled into the special needs area and did a quick swap of bottles and grabbed my nutrition, packing it into my xlab pouch. It was a great pit stop and there were tons of spectators for several hundred yards up the street. I yelled and gave a fist pump in the air for several moments and the crowd would cheer louder. It was awesome and very motivating. I continued and made my way around to the start of the second loop and reminded myself to slow down as I was still averaging higher than expected.
I settled into my pace and remained with a few riders for probably 30+ miles as we passed one another repeatedly. There were occasional packs of drafters that would speed by, some of them probably 20+riders in size. Unfortunately you cannot prevent this from happening as there simply aren’t enough officials out on the course, especially for a course this long. In your mind you are thinking it would be nice to see these guys (and gals) get busted, but in reality many of them are never caught and their bike split is much faster than it should have been.
The last few miles heading into downtown seemed to be a constant uphill ride. However, Garmin says otherwise. Maybe it was just a head wind.
Either way, I was happy to be done with the bike leg and very happy with my time as I had only ridden one other ride this season of 100 miles. Training had paid off as I still felt great hopping off the bike and running into transition. I traded in my bike socks for some compression socks for the run, threw on my race belt, running shoes and hat and packed up my helmet and bike shoes. I sat next to the guy I had ridden with for many miles and exchanged encouragement before running out of transition. Still no family. 😦
Run 26.2 Miles
I ran out of transition with food packed in the back pocket of my suit and my hand-held water bottle which also had Advil and salt tablets packed in the small zip pocket. I dropped all of it out of the pocket of my suite within the first 50 feet of the tent and realized the pocket was not going to hold anything for me (uh oh, first mistake, I should have tested that before the race L). I quickly picked it up and decided for the time I needed to just hold it in one hand. Bummer! I began running and within a few steps heard a gentleman yell out “enjoy the journey!”. I thought to myself, “yes, this is a journey” and that phrase would echo through my mind for the next 26 miles. A few moments later as I made my way down the sidewalk I heard my family yelling out my name. This was the area I expected them to be as there were hundreds and hundreds of people gathered around the transition. You can see the excitement on my face as I hadn’t seen them for about 7 hours at this point. You can see my daughters’ arms stretched out as far as she could reach. They were all so very excited to see me and man did that motivate me even more. I was very proud to have them there to support me.
After hugging all of them and giving my wife a nice sweaty hug and kiss, I was off to the run. About 150 meters down Riverfront Parkway was the only real hill on the south side of the river to worry with and I had decided prior to the race that I would likely walk most of it to keep my heart rate in check. I ran about 2/3 of it before walking and then picked back up just before reaching the top. Spectators were everywhere at this point, just as I had expected. I settled into my pace for the first mile and into the first aid station where I finally pulled over for a quick pit stop (my only one for the entire race). I knew at this point that I had handled my nutrition and hydration well as I had not needed to stop nor felt any issues with my energy level or stomach cramps as in prior IM distance races. The next 6+ miles were mostly flat, covering the flat Riverwalk area, before heading back to Riverfront Parkway and crossing over Veterans Bridge. Approaching the bridge is really where the hills begin and they only get more challenging once across the bridge as the north side of the river is simply all hills. There was great spectator support heading up to the bridge and the first 100 or so meters of the bridge. Things got active again on the other side as the spectators were absolutely everywhere. The south side of the river appeared to be mostly businesses, while the north side appeared to be all residential. It was fantastic and unbelievable running on the hills. Yes, they were tough, but it seemed as though time flew at that point. Groups of spectators would be covering a street corner or completely covering a yard and music would be blasting from the homes. The one song that sticks out the most was of course Rocky – Eye of the Tiger!! People were so encouraging. I recall one stretch of road at the top of one of the hills that overlooked the river to the south side where I had been earlier. Overlooking the river, I could see a storm approaching in the distance. I knew I would be running in the rain shortly but that was of no concern as the weather had been pleasant the entire day. The north side of the run covered approximately 3+ miles before heading north and crossing back over Walnut Street Bridge where loop #2 would begin and based on my current pace, I could break 12 hours.
The busy street corners heading towards the bridge was pretty awesome and left me feeling motivated to push ahead. Crossing over Walnut Street Bridge was great, even the first time! It began raining as I ran across the bridge, but that didn’t dampen my spirits, nor the others racing around me. I thought for a while that I would see my family in this area, but no family to be found. Where were they!? I was mentally in the zone and concentrating on the road ahead. I made my way back onto the Riverwalk and began the long boring trek back out to the turnaround. It was again uneventful overall and I kept my mind on my mile splits, constantly moving forward and even fast walking whenever I had to walk. Running down the long road with nothing really around was mentally tough. Your body just tells you over and over to “just stop”. Spectators had placed some signs out on the run course to keep it humorous. I was cognizant enough at the time to read them and laugh, but now I can hardly remember what all they said. I know a good number of them were related to passing gas. LOL
I began feeling some cramps set in on my left leg, so I decided to give the chicken broth a try along with grapes and pretzels. I began alternating between them at the aid stations. I was still holding it together quite well as I walked through the aid station just before crossing over the bridge. A gentleman came up to me while in the aid station and asked if I was cramping. I indicated I was and he handed me a flask of salt. That was a winner!! I used it at each of the next 2-3 aid stations and the cramps subsided. The second round of hills on the north side of the river really did me in. My IT band really began aggravating me as I approached the first long hill. The pain was fairly significant, mainly when running downhill, so I ran/walked the uphill sections and walked down all of the remaining hills on the north side of the river. My mind was set on that 12 hour mark, but as the hills wore on me I began to realize I wasn’t going to make the 12 hour time. To be honest, this wasn’t upsetting at all as I was more than pleased with my overall race… but that didn’t mean I could slow up. The crowds were once again incredible and encouraging. The last 1.5 miles are almost a complete blur as they went by so very fast. I kept my pace steady as I turned one last time to cross over Walnut Street Bridge and as I approached the other side I heard a familiar voice call out to me. It was my good friend Marty and his wife Kim. Being over 5 hours into my run and not seeing my family, I was overwhelmed with excitement to see them. Marty is a big fella and pretty crazy at that so I ran with excitement and gave him a big hug. He didn’t care anything about the sweat. I told them to run quickly so I could see them at the finish line and I continued on my way. I made the quick left turn to head down the hill and then stopped long enough to take the black bike shorts off that I had forgotten about (I needed to look good at the finish line dressed in my Team Challenge kit). I also stuffed my hat into my shirt. My final 200+ yards was at a quicker pace. My mind blocked out the pain from the IT band and the cramps. The roads were lined with spectators on both sides and I could clearly hear “the voice of Ironman” Mike Reilly. I yelled loudly and gave the fist pump in the air as I ran down the final 50 or so yards and across the finish line. Wow… it was done!!! A thought came to my mind about the two prior races I had completed and how at the finish lines I had felt both exhausted and frustrated with my experience. I had told myself at that moment that I didn’t want to do another Ironman. That was so far from being the case this time around. I felt ALIVE!!
A volunteer took off my chip as another handed me my finisher medal, hat and shirt and I was quickly lead over to have a finisher photo made. My wife and kids met me there at the finish line and I quickly moved over and gave them sweaty hugs. I made my way through the food line as quickly as I could so I could get out into the open area and visit with my family. Marty and Kim also came over and visited with me for a few minutes before leaving. A short while later Shawn and Lynda crossed the finish line and we got group photos and chatted. I spent the next hour or so hanging out in the Team Challenge tent stuffing my face and being with my family. It was a great way to end the day… with the family that supported me for 30 straight weeks of training. Wow, how thankful!! How blessed to have made it through that many weeks without any serious injuries. I decided not to keep the family out until midnight to see the last finishers and instead we eventually made it back to the hotel room with all of my gear. My dad and uncle met us there and congratulated me on the race before we all turned in for the night. It took a while for me to finally fall asleep. I remember going over and over in my mind the JOURNEY that I had just experienced.
Overall I am extremely pleased with my results. I put in far more training and beat my old IM time by nearly two hours. That was nearly 12 years earlier on a different course with different conditions and I was even in my 20’s back then. Training went well with the exception of a couple of burn-out weeks. I could have done more running and that shows on my run splits. I missed most of my longer runs and my longest run heading into the race was only 15 miles, so I will count my blessings and take what I got given my training volume. I learned a great deal that I can improve upon next time around. Yes, there will be a next time, likely in 2016 once I have had a chance to rest and give some attention to my family. The one thing missing on race day was my mom. I have no doubt she would have been right there cheering me on every chance she had if she were still alive. She always believed in me and was my biggest supporter. Miss you mom!!
- Thank you to my wife Staci for putting up with me on the good and bad days. Thanks for immediately supporting me the moment I first began talking about doing another Ironman. Thanks for picking up the slack that I wasn’t covering while I trained.
- Thank you to my two daughters Campbell and Caroline for believing in their dad from the moment we discussed me possibly doing another Ironman that night at bedtime.
- Thank you to my great team at work for carrying the load when I wasn’t available at the office. Thanks for the encouraging words.
- Thank you to my training buddies… you know who you are… especially my riding group for coming out week after week and riding the long rides. It sure helped having folks there beside me mile after mile week after week.
- Thank you to my dad, uncle and cousin for making the trip to Chattanooga and being there.
- Thanks to all of those who donated to Team Challenge who helped me to raise $5,000 and make it to the starting line.
- Thank you to the guys over at Bike Link for putting up with me throughout my training. I must have made close to a dozen trips into the shop over that 30 week period, having things tuned and fixed and making a few additional purchases along the way.
|Swim Time: 51:25
||2.4 miles, 1:19/100m, 290 overall
|Transition 1: 7:34
||116 miles, 19.88mi/hour, 529 overall
|Transition 2: 8:22
||26.2 miles, 11:46/mile, 918 overall