Live Your Dreams – Ironman Racine
Training for longer duration triathlon events takes a good deal of time and effort. There were 4:30 am morning swims and evening and weekend training in preparation for what would be my major 2012 event, the Racine Ironman 70.3.
To paraphrase St Thomas Aquinas: To those who understand, no explanation is necessary. To those who do not, no explanation is possible. I’m particularly grateful to my wife who’s been so supportive in the process. I also could not have accomplished this without the Experience Triathlon team and in particular Coach Joe and Team Dietitian, Laurie Schubert. The journey began in January. After completing a couple Chicago Marathons and a few sprint tri’s, I set my sights on the Chicago Olympic distance and began individual swim training with Joe. That was huge. Two months later I asked Joe if it was crazy to tackle a half Ironman. His response: “Anything is possible, right?” and we got to work with twice daily workouts. Unfortunately, after tackling a few group rides I suffered from extreme nausea off the bike and into the run. Laurie developed a hydration and nutrition plan that appeared to work. I wouldn’t know for certain until race day. The other concern was chronic foot pain, to the extent I went to my sports M.D. and begged for a shot of cortisone, which, for good reasons, he wouldn’t administer. There was nothing left to be done and anything else, such as the weather, was out of my control.
After attending several ET Open Water Swim Clinics at Centennial Beach and a longer swim in Lake Michigan, I approached the starting line much more relaxed than I expected. Joe reminded me to trust the training and I recalibrated my goals from targeting event times to enjoying the race. Since this was my first Half Ironman, no matter the outcome, I would have a personal record in all three events. Even better, I’d be racing with my son Dan, an experienced Ironman. The swim started uneventfully. I began to follow another athlete at the same steady pace which worked well until I discovered we were past the buoys heading toward shore. I got back on course and vowed to increase my sighting. Before long, I was running on the sand and saw the ET team cheering. I felt terrific.
It wasn’t hot yet but the heat index would end up at 100 degrees creating a much higher than normal amount of Did Not Finish (DNF) athletes at 7%. I decided from the outset not to put all my energy into the bike. Since I was in the fourth wave (I have three grandsons!) there were quite a few bikes that passed and finally my son whizzed by at mile 22. Soon after, at mile 28 a policeman was metering traffic when one anxious driver accelerated against the officer’s instructions at the same time I entered the intersection. There was screeching of car tires, and I swerved to the right as the officer began yelling at the top of his lungs at the driver. Close call. The bicyclist behind asked if I was OK and I assured her that I felt fine. I really did. Laurie’s hydration and nutrition plan were working. Time for another water bottle at mile 35. I was supposed to drop a fizzy electrolyte tab into water but that required two hands and I didn’t want to stop. Aha! What if I was to drop the tablet in my mouth? Not one of my better ideas. Some things are better left to dissolve in a 20 oz bottle as I burped for the next three miles.
Back into transition for the run. Although a little wobbly, I was surprised that I was feeling good. The plan worked! No nausea. I maintained a reasonable pace for the first three miles, then the heat starting getting the best of me. Fortunately, this was the best organized event in which I’ve participated. There were ice cold sponges at almost every station and most had fruit, pretzels, drinks, and something new: ice! I took a cup and threw some down the front and back of my singlet. Great stuff. I reasoned that, if some is good more is better, so at the next station I put a lot more ice down the front. It sort of melted together and somehow, while repositioning, the ice went down inside the front of my shorts. Yow! That’s refreshing! I passed by my son going in the opposite direction. Although my pace was slower than expected it was steady as I motored on to mile 6. There was the ET team cheering me on. What a tremendous boost. I suddenly realized I was on my way to accomplishing my goal. Like many want-to-be triathletes, I watched hours of Ironman highlights. While this was only 70.3, I was in my first Ironman WTC event. I grinned and waved as I passed by our ET tent.
There’s been much written about the “runner’s high,” a state of mild euphoria when endorphins kick in during extended distances. It doesn’t exist. Not for me anyway. After a marathon, the only high I feel is when I stop running. Maybe it’s because we started the day at 3:30 am or the heat. Possibly both conspired to rob me of my legs at mile 9. Although it felt like struggling though quicksand, spectators cheered us on and I moved with all the grace of the Tin Man in slow motion.
I stayed focused on the event: Folks spraying us with water and encouraging us, kids that wanted to slap hands and a sign that reminded me: “You don’t have to do this… You get to do this!” I picked up my pace until I could see the crowds and hear the announcer at the finish. One more time I passed by the Experience Triathlon tent with cheering teammates and slapped hands with all of them. After completing the race an hour earlier, Dan was there too cheering me as well. There’s nothing quite like coming down the chute to the finish. Mission accomplished! Anything is possible.
“Live more than your neighbors.
Unleash yourself upon the world and go places, go now.
…..Understand that this is not a dress rehearsal; this is it, your life.
Face your fears and live your dreams.
Take it all in, yes, every chance you get.
I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and truly like the company you keep. We only go around once. There’s really no time to be afraid. So stop. Try something you’ve never tried. Teach it. Do it. Risk it.” Jon “Blazeman” Blais