Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Half Ironman

This spring my buddy Charlie signed up for a Half Ironman triathlon.  He asked me to join him, but I was hesitant.  I had done Sprint Tris, but the Half Ironman is a 1.2mile swim, 56 mile bike and 13.1 mile run. Being I had never even ran a half marathon this was quite a step up.  I went back and forth and then one day I was sitting at my computer and just thought the hell with it and signed up .  Twenty weeks later I crossed the finish line at the Ironman 70.3 miles in Racine.  The following is a recap of my race last weekend.

We arrived in Racine on Saturday for the Sunday race.  We had to get registered and our bikes checked into transition by 5pm.   We drove to the lakefront area where everything was located and I was immediately in awe of the size of the transition area.  The largest tri I had done up until then had had roughly 1000 participants.  This race would have over 2200 people in it.  Some recon was going to have to be done to find the most efficient routes in and out of the transition area.   We then headed on to the registration at the expo center.  The Ironman branded races are more expensive, but you see where the money goes.  Everything was done well, from registration, to support staff, on through the race.  Just great.  After registration we hopped in Lake Michigan and took a quick swim to accustom ourselves with the temperature and waves.  At this point the waves were roughly 2ft.  A little bigger than I was used to, but doable.  We then headed out to dinner and home to bed.

Sunday morning came quickly.  The alarm went off at 4am, but I really had been in and out of sleep since 2.  We arrived at the lakefront and the transition area was abuzz.  I headed in and got my stuff setup.  At this point my nerves are on overdrive and I'm ready to go. 

Swim.. We walked the mile from the transition to the swim start and I stared in disbelief at the size of the waves.  The two foot waves in Lake Michigan the day before had increased to between 3 and 4ft overnight.  Very intimidating, but weather conditions are a part of these races that you have to overcome.  This was just one more obstacle.   We were in the 18th wave, so we got to spend an hour watching the previous waves go off and see people start congregating at the buoys and grabbing on to support staff out as they were unable to deal with the waves.  This was a bit unnerving, however that is part of the challenge.  Wave 18 is called to check in.  We head over and then march through to the swim start.    Head to the waters edge and the horn sounds.  The first 200yds are directly into the break.  Very difficult.  Got to the turn and then it was a mile parallel to the shore.  Still difficult, but I really found a rhythm.  Got pushed off course a couple of times but was able to navigate back before missing any buoys.  I was swimming strong and relaxed and began seeing the caps of people who went off in the waves before us, which felt great.  Got to the turn back into shore and my thoughts were alright now I have the waves with me, should go faster.  Well that didn't happen.  Would get a rise when the waves went up and then dropped and the feeling of being pushed back with the break.   I felt like I was in a washing machine.  Swam as far in as I could.  Then had about 30-40 yrds of wading up to the beach.  Had a goal of 38 minutes and finished in 36:19.  

Bike-  The bike started out alright.  There is a rather steep hill right at the beginning and I had already adjusted my chain to a gear where I would be able easily pedal up the hill.  Many others did not and were walking their bikes up the hill.  Advantage Swanson, hehehe.   However as I rode away from the top of the hill, some issues arose.  I looked down at my Garmin Bike Computer.  Hmmm,  that can't be right, I'm definitely going faster than 5 mph.  My computer had shit the bed on me.  Disadvantage Swanson!  The GPS on the computer was so screwed up, that at mile 40 of the bike it had shown that I had only ridden 5 miles.  The lack of a computer was a bit of a pain in the ass. After training with this thing for the past 3 months and having a strategy in terms of speed and cadence for the race, I now would be going on feel.  But, that's part of these races.  Things happen and you adapt.  The course was a bumpy one and I worried about flatting for a good portion of the race.  I kept telling myself to just deal with it if it happened, but the constant jarring served as a reminder. The constant jarring also did not help my full bladder.  One of the things I had been told was that you're going to have to pee at some point in the race if you are properly hydrating.  When this happens you just have to "let it fly."   Well after drinking a good portion of Lake Michigan on the swim, coupled with my hydration plan the urge to "let it fly" had presented itself.  My problem was that there was no flying, just alot of backing up.  No matter how hard I tried to take a leak, I could get no movement.  I blame this on potty training kids the last four years.  All those times of getting upset at my blessed children for having accidents, it was now subconsciously prohibiting me from peeing myself.   Talk about a backfire.  Even with the broken computer, the bumpy road and full bladder, I felt strong.  This in conjunction with starting in one of the later waves, led to me passing alot of people, which always feels good and pushes me harder.   I ended up finishing in 2:40, 5 min ahead of my goal.

Run-  The run is where I'm strongest and I was happy as hell to get my sore ass off the bike and onto this section of the race.  My inability to "let if fly" had resulted in an extremely full bladder and finally at Mile 1 I said enough and hit a port-a-potty.  My gosh, what a relief.  It probably took me a full minute to get everything out and  I would have been a very effective tool for dealing with a wild fire if I had been standing in a helicopter.  I hopped out of the port a potty and away I went.
Miles 1-3:  I feel great.  My pace is roughly 7:40, right where I want to be.  I'm feeling strong and relaxed.  I got this
Mile 4:  Hmm, my left foot is beginning to become quite sore.  My pace has slowed to 8:00.  No problem, just hold it here.  
Mile 5:  Ugh, my foot is real sore and so are my hips.  My pace has slowed to 8:15/mile.  I know, I'll just walk a tad bit of this hydration station.  That should get me back on track.  
Mile 6:  What have I gotten myself into here?...  You got this!  Stop being such a wuss!..... What have I gotten myself into?..... You got this!  Stop being such a wuss!  This is the ping pong battle currently ongoing in my head.  
Mile 6.5:  Hey there's Lisa.  I give her two thumbs up.  I am lying. 
Mile 7:  Ughh...a hill.  The hell with it I'm walking this thing.  I am also now walking through the entire hydration station.     
Mile 8:  Hey there's Charlie straight ahead.  
Mile 8.5:  I catch up to Charlie, he's in worse shape than me.  I'm happy,  misery loves company.
Mile 9:  Charlie and I are now jogging between the hydration stations (every mile) and then walking through the hydration station.
Mile 10:  I'm beginning to feel a second wind come on.  The lady at this hydration station offers some flat Coke.  "Caffeine" she says.  That sounds wonderful.  I drink it.  I'm ready to go again.  Charlie is not.  
Miles 10-12:  Charlie and I run together.  He's having a tough go.  Cramping real bad.  I stick with him, offering words of encouragement.  We are now running between aid stations and walking at the aid station.  
Mile 12:  One mile to go.  Thank the Lord.  I tell Charlie that I'm going to finish strong and take off.  A half a mile later, I begin to hear the sounds of the PA announcer.  Another wave of energy hits me and I pick up the pace.  I come around a corner and am greeted with the finish line.  200yrds, both sides lined with thousands of screaming, cowbell-ringing people.  I pickup the pace more, until I hear "Dirk Swanson, LaCrosse"  and I cross the finish line.  I finished the half marathon in 1:58.  Eight minutes behind my goal. My total time was, 5:20:24.  Goal was 5:20.  Funny how those things work out.   

All in all, I was very happy with my performance and happy I did it.  The feeling of euphoria as I approached and crossed the finish line was unreal.  Months of training and 5+ hours of racing all captured in that moment.

1 comment:

Julie said...

It's Derek. Awesome recap. Thanks for sharing. And thanks to your wife to let you do it so you could share.