Friday, September 09, 2011
Edward is an Ironman!
Today I am an Ironman. I owe thanks for that title to Fast Forward Sports and the team of coaches; Scott Fliegelman, Michael Kelly, Anna Carvill, and Philip Mazza. With their support and leadership I was able to have a successful journey. I was well prepared to handle whatever challenges would come my way, and a few did.
My Ironman took me 14:50 to complete, well above my goal of 13:30. The swim went fine and took about as long as I expected (1:35). I am not a fast swimmer but I am able to keep going.
The bike started fine. In fact it was hard the first 30 minutes to keep myself reigned in. I felt good and I was flying. Eventually I settled down to where I wanted to be. At the top of Richter pass I thought to myself “That’s it?”. It was nothing different than what we had practiced. Yellow Lake at mile 80 was a bit more of a challenge, but not overly so. By then I was getting tired of being on the bike as well as a bit physically tired.
For some reason near the top of Yellow Lake I started to feel a bit of a sharp pain on the inside of my right knee as I pushed down on the pedal, something I have never experienced before. I estimate there was about 45 minutes to go. Luckily this last stretch was mostly downhill. I ended up bringing my power output down about 30 watts and favoring my left leg a bit more to push when I had to. Periodically I would still feel the twinge of pain. I finished the bike portion in the time I roughly expected (6:54).
And then there was the run.
From the start the run was a problem. I could only run a short time before there was a very sharp pain on the outside of my right knee. It is a pain I am familiar with although I have not experienced in many years. It was a pain due to my Iliotibial Band (IT Band) being inflamed.
Of course the pain was a bit of a let down, but I was bound and determined to not let it get the best of me. I used the tools that I had been given by my coaches as well as a few years of experience and figured out a way to manage it all the way to the finish.
I began by walking for 10 minutes, hoping this would relieve the pain. I even took a break to stretch my leg, but that made little if no difference. It was hard to walk at this time not because of the knee, but because of all the spectators cheering you on. In fact I generally had no trouble walking. It was only while running that the pain would gradually appear. It started out fine and built up over the short time. I stopped when it got rather acute.
I had already planned to do the marathon on a run/walk interval, but I had to adjust my plan because of the knee. It took me a while to figure out what exactly to do. Initially the run/walk was somewhat haphazard, but over time I found a rhythm. I could do short runs, and then I would walk to give it a break. I did not want to push too much, knowing I had 26.2 miles to cover. At least walking did not bother my knee and so I was walking as fast as I could, head up, powering on.
While trying to problem solve I remember a race from a few years ago where I was having IT band issues, but I was able to run well enough to complete a 5K without much trouble. Oddly enough it was better when I ran faster than slower, so I gave that a try. Sure enough I was able to run for 2 minutes of so before the pain became fairly sharp, so that became my new plan. Fast runs (5-10k pace) with longer walks.
As I continued to problem solve I began to follow a rhythm that match what my original goal was, to average a 10:30 to 11:00 minute/mile pace. I would run 8 minute/miles for about 2 minutes, then walk until the average for the lap matched my pace. That worked well for awhile.
And then I started to hit the hills on the back end.
Going downhill ended up not being too difficult. I was able to get the speed I wanted easily enough. Going uphill proved to be a challenge. Even at a fast pace the pain returned rather quickly. Sometimes even walking caused some of the pain. I ended up walking quite a bit of the back end because of the hills.
It took awhile to reach the 13 mile mark, but eventually it came. I had roughly calculated my pace and relayed to my friend Ken as he passed the other way that if he has a chance he should tell my wife I am doing well, but just having some knee trouble. I did not want her to worry that I was not meeting my estimate. I really was feeling great and roaring to run, but my knee limited my ability.
On the way back the first mileage marker I remember seeing was 17. By then the hills were starting to end and I was able to get back on a rhythm of sorts. Still short runs with long fast walks, but I was making progress. At one point I even remembered getting a little emotional knowing I was going to finish. I had found a way to manage what the day had thrown at me. I would be an Ironman.
I stopped at two aide stations, looking for an Ace bandage. Neither had one. Later I saw an ambulance at one of the aide stations and asked them. Sure enough they did, and they wrapped my knee. After running on it for a bit and not getting any relief, I redid it only tighter. Then a bit later I redid it again. It was too tight. Unfortunately it really did not provide any relief.
Getting back into town my concern turned toward how I would finish. I did not want to have to walk across the finish line, so I was careful not to push too hard. I still did my run/walk, but being tired my average time with each one did increase.
The final stretch required me to turn left, head down the street, make a U-turn, then head back perhaps 1/2 a mile. Along this stretch I passed people who were walking and I believe they were never going to run. There was even a group of 5 people walking together. I was determined to keep pushing on and doing what I could.
After the U-turn I took a walk break, but this time I counted 10 steps out load walking as fast as I could, then I ran until the pain returned. I repeated this process two more times. With the final run I picked up the speed and knew there was no more walking. I ran fast and let the crowd and emotion pull me in. I have no recollection of me knee during this stretch. Just pure joy and elation that I was going to finish. I was teary eyed over the last 200 feet. It was a moving experience.
The final time on the run was 5:53. My average pace was 13:29.
Post race I sat down with the F4 team and got something to eat and drink. Now my knee was really complaining and I had a very hard time getting up. At least as I walked it eased up. The next day it was also hard to walk around, mostly because of the knee. By the second day it was already improving.
Looking back on the race I am very pleased with my results. I did what I had to in order to get through it. It was not the run I hoped for, but it was the run I could do. There is only one thing I would change; my first transition was 15 minutes and the second was 11. They sure did not feel that long. What was I doing? I intentionally took my time with each, not wanting to miss something critical. I dumped out my transition bag each time and went through the items. I did a change of my shirt as well. Still, 15 minutes? Well, that is why I call this a “race practice”. We learn from each one, and now that I understand the process much better there are a number of things I would do differently about my transitions. Hopefully I can easily cut them in half.
As for the rest of the race, I think I managed it properly, nutrition and pacing. I don’t think I would change much there. Perhaps little tweaks.
Will there be another Ironman in my future? I hope so. I am ready to try again next year, but I will be giving my wife Brenda a break. This was more stressful on her than it was on me. Perhaps every two to three years I will do one, with her permission of course. We will see.
As for my experience it was nothing short of amazing. I don’t know how you can describe it any other way. I have never been so emotional over a race. Hearing that 13% of the men in my age group did not finish helps me to understand how much of a challenge this really is. On the other hand I learned that this race is very doable if you are properly trained.
Our coaches told us we would be better prepared for the race than the majority of the people, and I can see that. People were passing me hard on the uphills, but I was comfortable and in control. I think they were wearing themselves out. On the run people were plodding along, head down, but not me. I was feeling strong and ready to run. I had the proper nutrition, the proper hydration, the proper pacing, in order to complete the journey.
My wife gave me a book before the race that contains Ironman race stories. They are inspiring, but yet reading a few of them I got the impression that people were not really prepared for the journey. One person wrote about waking up on race morning, feeling like she was in a prison and had a feeling of dread. I had no such feeling. I knew I was ready.
I was truly overjoyed by the experience. It was something amazing that I will never forget. I had the confidence and the training to get through my day, no matter what the day would bring. It was that training and what we practiced that helped me figure out a solution. I was not going to be walking with my head down as I saw many people do. I was bound to find a way and I did.
Today I am an Ironman. I consider it my greatest athletic achievement yet.