Sunday morning we were up early and were able to find pretty good parking. Ironman is super well organized and we didn't have much problem getting our gear together and getting body-marked. The port-a-potty lines were humongous but we expected that and got in and out in plenty of time. Before we knew it we were all lined up with the masses getting ready to jump in the water.
Swimming from the entry point to the start
Swim - We jumped in to the water a few minutes before the start and had to swim up to the start area. It was pretty congested and I had read so much conflicting information about where to line up that in the end I just swam up near the middle and probably 8-10 rows back. My goggles never fog, but they decided to fog up completely on race day. So, I really couldn't see much of anything once we got going. I just tried to follow the splashing in front of me. There were people all around me most of the way out. I never really saw a buoy at all until the turn buoy. On the way back I ended up way to the right of everyone else. I knew it probably wasn't ideal but I enjoyed the little serenity I got out there. It's really a long ways to swim, especially when you haven't really trained for the distance. I felt OK but it just seemed like we were out there forever. I had to wait for a bit to get up the stairs because it was crowded. Then, I didn't have the strength to pull myself up without some help! I had a person or two yell at me for holding up the line but there was nothing I could do about it. I looked at my watch at the top of the stairs and was surprised at how slow I was - 1:24. My slowest IM swim by a long ways. Oh well. Glad that was over. It seemed like a long day already. After the swim I was 255th in my age group (40-44) and 1471st overall (right smack in the middle of the field).
Bike - I got through transition pretty quickly and on to the bike. The course is about 19 miles out, with a 4 mile small hill at the end and then returning on the same route. Then repeat this loop 2 more times. The loops make it pretty easy to break up the course in to manageable sections. Cycling is my strongest discipline so the first 19 miles was just passing people the entire time. I probably passed about 500 people (no exaggeration) on the first leg. We we crested the hill and came back there was a tailwind so it was very fast. At some point on the way back I saw John going the other way. I thought I'd see him many more times with all the out-and-backs but that wasn't the case. At the end of the first lap I had an average speed over 23mph, but was riding easily so all was good. I saw my mom and her friend for a split second at the turn around. Somewhere in the early part of the 2nd lap I actually got caught from behind by a big fast looking guy. I stayed with him the entire outbound leg. It was a nice mental break to have someone else dictate the pace, even if I didn't get any physical benefit from it. At the turn-around I was expecting a nice tailwind again but the wind had changed and I think we might have actually had a bit of a headwind this time. There were 3 or 4 other people that tried to latch on to the fast guy after the turn-around and because of drafting rules it made it a little difficult to stay close to him. He got a gap and it didn't seem like a smart move to chase him down so I was once again by myself for the rest of the 2nd lap. On the 3rd lap I found myself going about the same speed as another guy. Not sure if I caught him or he caught me but we seemed pretty compatible so I let him set the pace for most of the 3rd lap. With about 10 miles to go I realized that I had a good shot at going sub 5 on the bike so I left that guy behind to try to accomplish that. In the end, I did a 4:58 and change for a 22.5mph average. And, I was still feeling quite good. After the bike, I moved up to 63rd in my age group and 325th overall (passed 1146 people on the bike!).
Finishing up the bike ride
Run - I was looking forward to using the bathroom in T2, but all of the port-a-potties were full! So, I had to stop in the first half mile of the run. As is always the case, the legs take some time to get used to running. And, my HR was way too high so I had to ease up. I passed the fast cyclist guy in the first half-mile and I could tell he was in for a VERY long day. By mile 2 I was feeling pretty horrible. I couldn't get my heartrate down and I felt like I was losing energy so from that point on I walked through every aid station (every mile) and ate and drank something. There were times when I still felt horrible but all-in-all I felt like this was something I could sustain. I started feeling good just before the mile 7 aid station so I decided to run through that one. Big mistake. Soon after I started feeling miserable again so I went back to my plan. You can see my walking breaks here:
The course is 2 loops and I was able to see John as I was finishing up my 2nd loop (he was 4 miles in to his first loop and looking good). At mile 17, I looked at my watch and was at 9:25. My IM PR was 10:55. I had 90 minutes to do 9 miles. Oh man. Do-able, but just barely. I kept up with my strategy and was just slightly behind my needed pace at mile 23. At this point, it started to get dark which gave me some new energy for some reason. I gave it everything I had and skipped the last couple of walking breaks. The last mile seemed to drag on forever and it was dark enough that I couldn't see my watch anymore. I was so happy to round that last corner and see that I had made it! 10:53:44. A new PR by about 90 seconds! I ended up 69th in my age group, and 365th overall.
I got a little dizzy after the race and had to sit down for awhile. The awesome volunteers stayed with me and picked up my medal, shirt and hat for me. Once I got some salt in me I started feeling better.
I continued to feel pretty miserable the rest of the day, but was able to meet up with all of our supporters and see John finish strongly a short time later.
Ironman #7 complete. Not feeling the need to do another one any time soon, but I'm sure I'll be back at some point. For now, my focus has turned to the Boston marathon (my first) in April.