6.28.2009

2009 IRONMAN 70.3 Buffalo Springs Lake

SWIM 1.2 MILES - BIKE 56 MILES - RUN 13.1 MILES


Finally...my first IRONMAN 70.3 event. 


My first and only IRONMAN event thus far.


Let's begin with the course map:

Swim Course: Rectangular Pattern (1.2 miles)


Bike Course: Out-and-Back (56 miles) -- This is a slightly modified bike course for the 2012 race.
Bike Elevation: Pretty Intense
Run Course: Out-and-Back (13.1 miles)

What was great about this race (other than it being my first IRONMAN 70.3) was that my Dad flew in town to accompany me and watch the race. I protested at first (triathlon is not the best spectator sport) but was ultimately glad to have the company, not only for the five hour drive from Dallas to Lubbock, but also for support before, during, and after the race event. 

SWIM: 1.2 miles
I was pretty nervous about the swim. Never before had I swam 1.2 miles consecutively, let alone in open water with a bunch of other bodies flailing about. When the whistle blew for my age group to dive in, I waited and let others take the lead. I was determined to remain calm and composed throughout the swim, maintaing a steady pace. Giving others a head start ended up working out really well. It enabled me to cruise along at my pace, never once coming into physical contact with another racer. After settling into my rhythm for the first 100 meters or so, I felt a great calm come over me. I was surprised at how relaxed and effortless the swim felt, and it remained that way throughout. Plus, swimming in a wetsuit always helps with buoyancy which was really nice (good thing the water temperature was wetsuit legal).

As I rounded the last turn on the swim course, I lifted my head and could see the swim finish in sight. I immediately felt this great surge of energy and determination, forcing me to quicken my pace a bit. Upon exiting the lake, I looked down at my watch as I unzipped my wetsuit and was shocked to see that I had exited in 45:28 (I was planning for upwards of 60 minutes). At the same moment, I both saw and heard my Dad just off the dock yell out, "Alright Mike, you're doing great - way ahead of your time. You can do this!" This gave me a tremendous burst of confidence as I headed into Transition #1.

TRANSITION #1
Per usual, I struggled to get my act together in transition (socks never greet a wet foot well). But, I wasn't exactly competing for first place so I was not too stressed about it. Also per usual, my bike was placed in the most inconvenient location in the entire transition area (not sure why that keeps happening). Anyway, my wetsuit was off and I was sporting my KiWAMi Tri Suit specifically dedicated to IRONMAN events and ready to get on with the bike. Exiting transition after 3:40, I received another motivation boost from my Dad.

BIKE: 56 miles
Only once before had I biked for such a distance, and that was at the Playtri Buffalo Springs Lake Triathlon Camp. So in other words, I was not super prepared to be in the saddle for that long...and wow was it long. Thankfully, I had the benefit of having ridden the exact same course previously during the camp, so I knew exactly what to expect and when. Still, some of the hills on this course are brutal. Plus, I was a bit gun shy in that during the camp on a steep uphill bike climb, I strained my right quadricep muscle (bubbled-up and crippled me causing me to fall off my bike in agony and left to die on the side of the road). Thus, I was worried it was going to happen again on one of the several steep and grueling hills.

The bike course is more of a mental game than a physical one. It just takes such a long time (particularly if you are slow like me), that half or more of the battle is just urging yourself to keep moving. With 100 meters to go before I reached the end of the bike course, I once again was greeted by words of encouragement from my Dad. Eventually, I rolled back into Transition #2 after 3:46:47 on the bike (yep, an average pace of just 14.8 mph). 

TRANSITION #2
I was thrilled to have the swim and bike behind me with the final leg ahead of me: the run. Hopping off the bike, I threw off my bike shoes and laced up my Newtons. Once again, it took me exactly 3:40 to make my way through transition.

RUN: 13.1 miles
Historically, the run has been my strongest event and the one I most looked forward to doing. However, this run turned out otherwise. About two miles into the run, I met the first substantial hill. Three-quarters of the way up this hill, it happened again: my right quadricep strained and I fell to the ground in agony. Honestly, I never had this properly diagnosed so I don't know what was going on. But basically, a terrible burning pain shot through my right quadricep muscle, causing the muscle itself to become deformed in appearance. This immediately crippled my leg such that I could not move it, hence the fall to the ground. After several minutes of writhing around in pain, the muscle eventually morphed back into its normal form. With that said, the muscle felt weakened and my mind was consumed with fear of it happening again. I remember lying on the ground thinking, "I have been training nonstop for this event for five months. I drove five hours to get here. I have been racing for five hours already. The swim and bike are already behind me. There is no way I am quitting now. I must finish this race on my own two feet."

Once the muscle spasm subsided, I rose to my feet and began to walk. For the next 11 miles, I alternated walking with a slight jog. I had no idea what kind of state my quadricep was in, so I just focused on putting one foot ahead of the other with the goal of crossing the finish line. Much to my surprise, the run ended up feeling even longer and more painful than the bike given my condition. With about 100 meters to go and the finish line in sight, I broke out into my trademark "empty the tank" run through the finish line where I literally crashed into my father's arms after 2:29:19 (11:24/mile). Honestly, I don't remember much after that. Apparently I blacked out and was placed in a stretcher in the medical tent where I received IV fluids. I just remember waking up with an IV in my arm, looking around to see that everyone was gone except for the volunteers cleaning up the medical tent, and the voice of someone saying, "You must go now." So with that, I left and such was the end of my first IRONMAN 70.3.

METRICS
Time: 7:08:56
Distance: 70.3 miles
Average Swim Pace: 2:21/100 meters
Average Run Pace: 11:24/mile
Average Bike Pace: 14.8 mph

SUMMARY
I trained hard for this event and followed a very detailed training plan throughout. Going into race weekend, I felt that I was in good shape to tackle the course. However, my quadricep injury from camp a month prior was definitely lurking in my mind. Unfortunately, the injury reared its ugly head and crippled my physical ability to compete. But, it did not cripple my spirit. If there is one thing I can takeaway from this event it's the power of an enduring and willing spirit. Even when the body is asking "Why?" and the mind has no answer, a willing spirit can propel you across the finish line no matter the obstacles.

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