Ironman Maryland – The Fun and the Pain in the Butt
After doing pretty well at Ironman Brazil on very limited run volume, I wanted to give another Ironman a shot and see if I could improve on it. This is the inaugural year for Ironman Maryland with a late announcement, so it was still open and I didn’t have to spend a fortune getting there. Game on. My training actually went pretty well heading into it, and although I could still only run twice a week typically, I got in several long runs and was faster than I’ve been in a long, long time. I was excited to see what I could do, and thought that I could go under 9:30 as my ultimate goal.
First, it was great that my parents were able to come up. It was so much fun to see them and have them at the race. My sister-in-law, Katie, was amazing, letting us stay with her in Annapolis and then finding a friend’s house 20-minutes from the race the day before the Ironman and hanging out all weekend. And, of course, Monette was her typical awesome self, making everything easy and fun. Having them out on the course made it much more enjoyable!
The water temperature supposedly went down the day before the race making it wetsuit legal, which I was hoping it wouldn’t be, but that’s okay. I hate wearing a wetsuit, so decided against it, and according to Monette was one of extremely few who didn’t. But, it was definitely worth it. I felt really good on the swim, fast but easy. There was one guy who most people knew who smoked everyone in the water, but I stuck with the front pack behind him for most of it with one or two just ahead. It was probably the easiest swim I’ve ever had in a race like that, where it just clicked and felt great. Unfortunately, the swim was long! I wanted to go no slower than a 54, and probably did that for 2.4 miles, but my official time was 58 minutes. When you’re top 10 out of the water, you know that time is off. Several people who had done other Ironman races recently were 6+ minutes slower this time. Oh well, I didn’t know that until later, though, and got ready to ride.
The first half of the bike was FUN. I passed a couple of people right out of transition and then got into a groove. The road was flat and there was no wind … yet. I had no idea where I was, but I was COMPLETELY by myself and kept wondering where everyone was. One man was running along the course a little way into it and yelled out to me “you’re about 15 back”. Okay, 15th place, that’s pretty good and I can try to pick people off. The problem was that I’d come up on stretches where you can see really far ahead of you and I just never saw anyone! Were they all that far ahead? I was keeping it comfortable and probably averaged around 24 mph for the first loop. The wind picked up a bit around mile 45 or so probably, but I felt great.
It was around mile 40 when someone yelled out to me that I was in 2nd place OVERALL and the first guy was 10-minutes ahead!! WHAT?! WOW, that was a shock and I was pumped. And, that explained why I hadn’t seen anyone! t felt really, really good and couldn’t believe it. But, a lot can happen in an Ironman and, unfortunately, my day didn’t stay perfect.
Shortly after seeing my family at mile 58, I hit something and it knocked my sensor to my speedometer into my spokes. It caused me to jerk but I managed to avoid falling or having to stop. However, I did something to my glute and it was very painful. I had to slow down quite a bit because I just couldn’t push through like I normally do. To make matters worse, the wind really picked up – ugh! Bad timing. Also, I didn’t have any feedback in terms of speed or distance now, except for the signs every ten miles. Ten miles can seem to take pretty long when you’re in pain and have no other feedback!
I only had two other mishaps on the bike, though. I lost a full bottle of nutrition early into the ride when I bumped it on my leg and just lost the handle on it. I always plan to adapt to various situations on race day and easily accepted this and used the Perform they had on the course, even though I don’t really like it. Then, at mile 80, I had run out of fluid and was really thirsty for water. But, when I got to the aid station, they weren’t ready and all had their backs turned. When they finally heard me yelling for water, one guy ran out, but he handed me more Perform, which I really didn’t want at that point. I only fumed about that for a few minutes before moving on. Even still, though, I didn’t get passed until a guy came flying by me just after mile 80 and I amazingly still came off of the bike in 3rd overall! My ride time was a 4:47, even faster overall than Brazil, so I’ll take it. One thing that I hate, is that there was a pack of about 10 that had ridden together (Monette even got pictures), that wasn’t far behind. They save so much energy and it’s so much easier to run after that. Oh well, there’s nothing I can do about that, so I didn’t worry about it during the race.
I got a couple of oohs, though, as I almost fell when I tried to get off of my bike because my glute hurt so badly. I had to go to the bathroom, so jumped in the port-a-john as I tried to loosen up my glute and then went to change. My long-time friend Nigel Morgan was in the tent when I got there and he told me about the pack and that I got passed by about ten people while going to the bathroom! And, he was right. I went from 3rd to 13th by the the time I started the run.
The run started out painfully. I had to limp and run with my left leg almost straight for a while. I thought I was able to fake it okay, but my finishers pictures showed how much I was favoring my left leg as I was bent pretty dramatically every time I landed on it.
In case you think I’m exaggerating, check out the agonizing video of my attempt to start running out of the changing tent! (you may have to click the button in the top right corner)
But, amazingly, I was still able to hold a decent pace for the first four miles as I tried to run as normally as I could. However, it got to be a bit too much and I was forced to slow my tempo down. I stopped looking at my watch because I didn’t want to get frustrated if my pace slowed too much and wanted to trust going by feel. My second loop of three was rough. I just couldn’t get into a groove and felt flat, but my leg did loosen up. Then, oddly enough, around mile 17 I started to feel good. I started to run a bit faster and passed back several people that had passed me and I felt fluid and mostly fresh again for the last loop. It was good to see that my fitness was good enough to have that happen and reaffirming after really suffering since mile 58 on the bike. I had lost a lot of time through the middle of the run and figured it would be tough to break 10 hours, but hadn’t been keeping track and really didn’t know. I savored the last mile, taking in the crowd and high-fiving the kids on the road. Then, I was pleasantly surprised when I saw a 9:38 on the clock as I came into view of the finish line! After feeling so rough for such a long stretch, I was pretty darn happy with that.
I ended up 7th in my age-group and 29th overall, so I dropped a lot on the run with a 3:45 split, but I AM going to have a run that will surprise everyone at some point! There were only two slots for Kona in my age group so I didn’t get a chance to qualify this time, unfortunately. The competition is getting really fast! It was also fun having friends out there doing the race and seeing them on the course. Nigel killed it going 9:18, John Shilt was just a couple of minutes behind me, Teammate and TMS athlete Josh West was awesome and it was fun hearing him cheering on each lap, Brian Smith was great, too, and TMS athlete Ben Haithcock rocked his first Ironman coming in well under his goal time.
It’s a little bitter-sweet, as I had a lot more to give on the day but at the same time, I can’t complain and am definitely happy with the time and to finish another Ironman. I feel that I was in good shape coming into this one and am, amazingly, not even really sore the next morning – except for some major chaffing!
Thank you to everyone for your support, words of encouragement, and notes after the race. It means a lot and this stuff wouldn’t be half of much fun without all of you!