I keep re-writing this race report. I've tried every day since the race to get this done, but it ends up being much like the race was.....a bloody mess. I think this one is going to stick. First off, I feel incredibly blessed. The support I have received from the local tri community, my friends near and far, family, Jenny, Sophia, and even 8 month old Andrew...as Jack Nicholson said it so well..."you (all) make me want to be a better man." IM Texas was SUPPOSED to be an all out attack for my best Ironman---Ironman 4.0 as I called it. The training leading into the race was near perfect, my test Olympic Tri two weeks out was the same (PR of 2:05:10), even though I was sick with a cold with congestion in the chest that would carry into IM Texas. I trained almost completely alone for 16 weeks---solo 120 mile rides, 2h30m runs...completely alone, hitting the zones, the paces, the recovery, the nutrition. Outside of work and home life, I was a hermit. The result of this sacrifice: I expected A LOT. I wasn't chasing a trip to Kona, I was chasing a top ten amateur result (beating Patrick Schuster in 40-44 is not in my engine...). Kona of course would come with that "top 10", and I was more looking forward to sharing Kona with Jenny, Sophia, and Andrew than the race itself, as they missed Kona 2011 because Andrew was born 2 weeks prior. So I was counting my chickens before they hatched, but I had complete faith in myself that I was going to make these goals a reality. I was so confident (I don't know why I am putting this out there...), that we decided Jenny and the kids would stay home to save money for Kona---one of the bigger mistakes I've made. Little did I know what IM Texas would become...
I've heard it so many times: Ironman racing is about managing the things that can go wrong. Nutrition, hydration, mechanical, flat tire, penalties...I felt prepared for most of these (mechanicals notwithstanding). I had booked this adventure through Endurance Sports Travel...awesome company, people...highly recommended! I flew into George Bush Intercontinental on the Wednesday before the race to give me some time to get used to the humidity (AZ has been hotter than Texas), the 2 hour time change, and get some final prep work in. Bill Jones and I ended up hanging out wednesday and thursday....Bill, it was a great time! We did some easy SBR workouts, including a swim at the Conroe Natatorium---a very nice 50 M pool about 2 miles from the race epicenter. I was feeling fishlike in the water, aero and stealth-ish on the bike, and the my leg turnover on the quick runs was fast, light, and easy. Again the taper was absolutely perfect, even with the cold I had been nursing---Chris, you are a triathlon God ;-) Bill and I were relaxed, joked around a bit, drove the entire bike course and were almost in disbelief with how fast it looked (of course in a car that is easy to say, but there was also no wind when we drove it). Friday checkin came and went (skipped the pre-game swim in the lake....coach didn't want us to get sick from the water....GOOD CALL!!!). I met up with Darren who is also an AIMPer (and is racing 3 IM's in 6 weeks!!! (Texas, CDA, and Austria/Switzerland, can't remember which one). An hour spin over the first and last 10 miles of the bike course confirmed what Bill and I had thought....FAST! I felt like i was on the Autobahn, just spinning EZ at 20+ mph with the WHOOSH of the disc humming in my ears. So...friday night I settled in feeling perfect...with a huge very bland early dinner.
As a side note, The Woodlands surprised me...a wonderful community with all sorts of great activities, restaurants, and a very open community for us IM people to come in and take over their town---thumbs were up everywhere I turned. If you are thinking about IM Texas...I highly recommend it. The conditions are tough, for spectators it is ideal (except for the high heat/humidity, which is one of the reasons Jenny and the kids stayed home...), and the course is awesome, which I'll get to in the report. So, if you are thinking about it, book it, you will really enjoy racing there. I was a skeptic, but I'd be back if it fit the schedule down the road.
Race morning, I was up at 3:30am----slept well, wasn't nervous, ate breakfast, took a hot shower, and relaxed a bit before jumping in the transport to transition. I had my concerns at this point---I felt like I didn't have the fire I've had in the past. IMAZ 2010 and Kona 2011...pretty hard not to be excited at your first IM start and I would think at any Kona start you'd be dead to not be juiced to be there, athlete or spectator. I felt more like I was going to work (no offense) than about to fulfill a dream. I started having thoughts of "no kidding! this is 4 Ironmans in 19 months!" (Bryan/Ritch, you don't ned to state the obvious ;-). All the same, I was ready for battle---I would argue that anyone about to head into war is giddy with excitement. Maybe I was just so focused that the excitement was replaced with determination.
I made a few mistakes in my pre-race prep, like forgetting to take my First Endurance Pre Race caps (how the hell could I forget those!!!). Trivial things nonetheless. I was more concerned about getting in the water early enough to position myself in the front/center of the non-wetsuit wave. A final high five to Bill, a small leap, and I was in the crappy Lake Woodlands (for real, it was brown as bull shit). I got to my spot easily, wished Caroline Gregory a great race (fellow AIMPer), and before I knew it, the canon fires...
Swim: 58:48...9th division...67th overall
My goal for the swim: go hard the first ~300 yards to get clear (worked at IMAZ both times), settle in to a solid pace, find a group, then decide whether to hammer the canal section or hold place. The swim start was rougher than I expected---300 yards in and I was getting sandwiched and hit from all sides. The swim start was narrow, and maybe I was a bit too complacent with my start speed...OR, the competition is getting fiercer. It was a battle (although swimming was not the issue, just the clutter) for the first 500, then guys started to drop, and by the time we made the first left turn (maybe 1500 in), it was decently clear. I was completely alone as I hit the second turn buoy, and it was looking like I had missed the second pack, which was 25+ yards ahead at the mid way point. There was another small group to my left, and as they pulled up on me, I jumped in and continued with them into the canal...this group of 6 or so was a stellar pack. It was almost like a draft line on the bike, with the head swimmer pulling off every 100 yards or so...everyone knew their role, and everyone obeyed the "rules." I swam with them for about 500 yards, then started to cut into the canal a bit earlier than they wanted to as my goal was to hug the shoreline on the right as much as I could, which ended up being the perfect line to take. The "pod" ended up following suit, and we funneled into the 15 meter-wide canal--awesome way to end an IM swim. I had noticed a guy with some tattoos in the group, and when we hit the steps to end the swim, I heard Mike Rielly say, "and all the way from Kailua Kona, Jano Soto!" What am I, chopped liver? Well, I think he is well known in the triathlon world ;-) He was one of my "marks" on the day as I knew he would be in the mix (he finished 11th, but it looks like his marathon led to his fall from the top 5 as he got off the bike close to the eventual 3rd and 4th place 40-44 men).
|don't worry, it's not an obsession, just a mark ;-)|
Quick and easy...next time start towards the bike while putting your helmet on! Swimskin off, shoes on, cliff bar into jersey pocket, helmet on...go! Even then, I passed 2 guys in 40-44 in T1, and was sitting in 7th to start the bike.
Bike: 5:27:47...23rd in 40-44....168th overall
Jumped onto the bike, heard a few GO ERIK!! yells (Dana and co, I think that was you at the bike mount line...I heard you!!! First good sign: not a lot of people on the course...and Jano Soto was immediately in front of me, sitting 6th. The goal on the bike was to take it easier the first 40+ miles (210-220 watts) to save myself for the ride back to town, including 40+ miles into a decent head/cross wind. So I just sat there...about 10m behind Jano as we hauled in bikers, and had a couple other guys join us all the same. The pace was decently fast, and the effort was easy; I was fully aerobic and I thought..."perfect, just sit here and let it come to you, don't force ANYTHING." We had passed a couple more 40-44 guys in the first 5 miles, which means we were sitting about 4th-5th in the AG...ugh. I figured if someone blew by that I would consider going with them as it felt soo easy, but that never happened. I took a couple turns in the front, and would then drop to the back of our line, feeling like I was barely working. We kept passing bikers, and no one was passing us...again perfect! As we approached the first aid station, I took inventory of my "stuff," and decided I didn't need to grab anything (what the #$%#% was I thinking!! Always grab a new cold water at the very least!). Chris told us to stay cold as long as possible, even if it meant feeling chilly---why didn't I listen??? My bottle of water was 3/4 full, so I guess I was thinking mile 20 aid for a new one. At the same time, I was in the back of the group, so I sat up and let them get their aid. With us moving slower, and thus a bit bunched up, I turned my attention to the other guys as they jockeyed with their hands full. A little swerve from one, a small reaction from another, and my front end goes haywire. I am suddenly out of the saddle having a "Matrix" moment...my quads are up against my bars, hands out front of the wheels. My hands had slipped off the front of the bars, and my momentum carried me forward---I hit a "sinkhole like" depression in the road, that I definitely felt, but never saw. The "OH SHIT" moment came (that moment when you realize there's nothing you can do to correct, and down you go), and here I am, slamming onto my left hip an elbow, followed by a 10 yard slide grinding holes in my knee and elbow the worst, but also leading to some decent road rash on my ankle, knee, hip, back, shoulder, and hand (thankfully just the right hand).
Immediately I was in total shock...WHAT JUST HAPPENED? I was laying on the ground with my right shoe still clipped in---I think that saved me from going straight over the handle bars like I did in 2010 when I broke my clavicle. Almost immediately, a support vehicle was there to help. While I took inventory of the blood all over the left side of my body, these two guys jumped into action repairing my bike---front wheel was 45 degrees skewed off line, but all else seemed okay. Looking back at this 3 minutes of horror, I can see it so clearly it haunts me. I remember the panic I felt, the disbelief of what had just happened; this was my version of dropping the baton in the 4 x 100 relay for the Gold Medal in the Olympics. How could this happen I thought? What the heck were you thinking Erik! I could go on and on and on with all of the thoughts that popped in my head all at once...I had just ruined all the work I had done to get there with a stupid lapse in attention. So if you can't tell, I am still not over it. Quitting was not even in my vocabulary at this point---I jumped back on, and fired away down the road...no longer in that "comfortable" 210-220 W range. It took a few miles to regain my sanity---I wasn't racing with an HRM, but that data would be "fun" to look at for sure. 10 minutes later, I needed water...lots of it (go figure). My right hand was basically dripping blood from my fingers, as was my elbow and knee. Everything felt numb--I was in shock for sure. I finally took a good look at my elbow, and by this point it was also swelling up and too hard to diagnose as it had shredded skin all around its borders. The support guys assured me that I didn't need medical attention at that point, so I just simply went with it..after all, it wasn't hurting...yet.
As time passed it actually seemed like I was holding my own---I was feeling like I still had a chance at pulling this one out. Right after the crash I decided to just dig my elbow into the aero pad, and it was okay, but by the time I hit mile 40, the shock and numbness were wearing off, and the pain to my elbow and hip started to take over my day. My left IT band was not working, and my normal pedal stroke was aggravating with every turn. My left elbow was now pulsating with pain, and I could only handle 30 seconds in the aeros before it was too much for me to handle. My race...was over. I had no choice but to sit up and ride. I constantly surveyed my conditions---wrist, hand and fingers on the elbow-mashed side were ok. Left hip continued to keep me from pedaling with any more than 50-75% effort. Right hand was luckily torn up in spots that were not in contact with the bar (4 road rash sites along the medial side of my palm and up along my thumb. Left knee road rash wasn't big, but it was ground down to what felt like that little bone protrusion on the side of your knee. I kept thinking---"Thank God you are wearing RED!!!" But really, it would have been cool in a sick and twisted kind of way to have been in a white kit..but then I would have fainted for sure (#skiddish!).
I became content with becoming a middle of the packer, as that's where I was quickly heading. Highlight of the bike was watching a pack of 30+ guys and 2 girls (who were high in the women's AG race) sail by, most of them sitting up, having a chat, riding 2-3 abreast, with at most a 5 foot gap in between. Great job guys...you all suck. Even better---the marshall that pulled up on them, slowed down, then just kept going---honestly, I just have nothing to say. This was not the only incident, and there were 2 more where the Marshall just rode by blatant drafters..and some of this was earlier where these guys were all in the hunt for Kona slots...I give up.
So back to me, because this is what this blog is about ;-))) The final 40ish miles were just brutal...I was getting slaughtered, even by the AG women while I sat up and took the 40 miles of "very decent" headwind in the chest versus hiding from the wind in the aero bars. I was fairly insane at this point and chuckled a few dozen times as I recalled what I had said at least 10 times in the 2 days leading up to the race..."all these guys buy TT bikes, aero helmets, deep dish wheels and discs, yet they ride "up" for most of the race versus in the aeros." THAT WAS ME!!!! By the time I made it back to the streets of The Woodlands, I was done..I just couldn't handle the crash issues any more. The entire left side of my body was destroyed pretty much, I had just ridden 100 miles AFTER crashing, and my mind was not in a healthy place. I kept fighting and fighting, but had convinced myself that there was no way I could mentally handle running a marathon in this condition after biking 100 miles with it. I was a cortisol factory.
But I did stay in the game through all of this...my nutrition and hydration plan staying intact, except for the lack of aid over the last 20+ miles of the bike (where was the mile 90 aid station???). I remember riding into the T2 chute thinking "how do I quit?" "what do I do, just walk into transition and stop?" If Chris would have been on the fence in T2, I would have never left. I aimlessly followed the volunteers directing me to my Run Bag. I saw Dana Jones and told her what had happened and that I was not going to run...told the same thing to Grant Harrell. But into the T2 tent I went with my Run Bag in my arms. I sat down, put my socks and shoes on, grabbed my visor and Oakleys, and put my little baggie of salt tabs and Pre Race into my back pocket as well as a 5 Hour Energy for a late run B12 boost. I was out of it...am I going to run???? Like I said before, I didn't know how to do anything other than keep going. Falk had passed me in T2 (fellow AIMPer), which told me I was still in decent shape...so I exited T2 and wandered onto the run course...am I going to do this? 2 minutes later Chris and Steve Fried were there to assess and I gave him the news. His response: run a lap (8.4 miles) at least. So I again settled in with pain and kept moving---that about sums up the pace---moving. Matt Russell blew by me (lapping me)...I still felt like I had no clue what I was doing out there. Am I still racing? Do I push this hip? Do I quit after one loop? Do I just walk the entire thing? Aid stations became buffet tables (ah Steve Fuller...just for you). At least I'm going to enjoy the snacks along the way if this is what its going to be. I would jog a bit, but the hip would tell me who was boss, and I'd be walking a minute later. I don't remember feeling hot at all, but it was 95 degrees and humid...if you can't tell, I was pretty much lost...
At about mile 6, the breaking point came...all I can say is thank you Dana Jones and the rest of the Jones team. I came around a bend and there they were---Bills support crew...all in orange, and cheering me on as if I was Bill. It reminded me of Kona when I was having issues on Alii, and there was my family in their Orange shirts as well. This is hard for me to write...I completely lost it, and I still lose it just thinking about that moment. I had been alone for 6 hours dealing with this crash and the pain that came with it...I needed to just let everything out that I was keeping in...so sorry to Dana and the kids, as I probably scared the crap out of them. I stopped, bent over, put my hands on my knees, and started sobbing uncontrollably. Thinking about it now, I think it was mostly the pain, but also the disappointment in what had happened that just became too much for me to keep in anymore. I was so done being done, I was just ...done (JD, for you). Dana called Jenny for me, I told her what happened, and asked Dana to post something so that the people tracking me weren't worried that I was in bonkland or headed to medical because of the heat illness. I know it wasn't the best trip for Jenny and the kids to be on due to the heat, but I was so pissed that I made that choice for them not to come...I never needed Jenny more than at that moment, but I would have scared them to death all the same. For that 5 minutes, my race was over...but, I had gone this far, and I wanted that medal. I know someday I will look at that thing and chuckle...I imagine it will become a symbol of determination in our house. So after my on-course one-actor soap opera, I moved on...I still have 20 miles to go. I managed to actually put some decent miles together in the middle stages, but as I hit the high teens, my hip screamed "no more." I was relegated to walking 90% of the final lap (a nice 12:41/mile pace) completing 8.6 miles in a blistering 1:48:51...almost slower than the first 13 miles in Kona where I ended up walking 50% with cramps (wimp). To compare this to my goal for the day...it was 1:0x per lap (8.6 miles). As I finished this thing up, Chris was there to greet me in the last mile...when I saw him, I couldn't say a word. I just gave him a high five, put my head down and shuffled along---no words or encouragement was needed. It's as if he knew that nothing could be said that would fit the day for me. I think he by knows by now what makes me tick. But with that, the pains went away as I hit the final turn towards the finish. It was almost like nothing had happened, I could suddenly run...I was high 5ing with my road-rashed hand (sorry people, you had your hand out...). I had been visualizing about the finish line the entire run---kind of like when you are on a long road trip heading home, and all you want to see is your turnoff, your street sign, and then, your driveway. What would I do? Would I lose it again? Would I just walk across the line with a smirk on my face? Well, the atmosphere of that finishing area, it was hard not to be excited and happy even though inside I was shelled more than I ever have been in my life...with the high 5's came 2 hands raised over my head as I crossed the line. After 3 great races keeping a sub 10 streak intact, I had conquered the "bad race" going 69 minutes slower than my previous worst time, on a day that I thought I would set PRs across the board SBR and overall time. The experience of this Ironman will go down as a complete failure in my book (don't try to convince me otherwise), but at the very least, I got that medal, gave it to Sophia on the way home, and will be certain that she knows what her papa went through to get it. IM Texas.....CHECK! Moving on....
CONGRATULATIONS??? Eff you!
If you ever want to see the results broken down to every little detail possible, here's a link to the enhanced results page on Slowtwitch...perfect for the nit picker like me Enhanced Results
It's now 5 days since IM Texas. Here are my takeaways from the race:
Pre Race: write down the game plan, to a "T" and carry it with you...I always forget, and it would be nice to not have to use brainpower to try and remember what I should be doing/taking/eating/drinking in the final hours before the race.
Swim: I think I have the IM swim figured out...BUT it would be good to work on the start speed a bit more...get a faster start!
T1: The top of the food chain in the AG IM race is becoming so competitive that these seconds are starting to count. 9:32 took 3rd in 40-44, and 9:38 took 6th...and there were 6 slots for Kona for us. Looking at the comparison of 6th place 40-44 transitions to 7th place 40-44 transitions, 6th place guy was 2:28 faster through T1 and T2, and beat the 7th place guy by 3:08 in final time. If they were equal in transition time, the gap was down to 40 seconds...point proven.
|Look at how close 4 through 7 are...and Schuster: Go Pro ;-)|
Bike: I have nothing to say here...I am an idiot...focus!!! I was feeling great on the bike. I know I was strong enough to get through the bike, and into my running shoes feeling strong for a great marathon while holding a good pace to keep me in the AG podium race, if not better. I ended up with a 5:27 bike split, riding non-aero at 20-30 watts lower than my goal wattage, and I gave up the last 20 miles of the ride. Three negatives plus 5 minutes of stoppage due to the crash, and I bet I would have biked a 5:0x, possibly slipping into a 4:59...BUT I just don't know because I ruined that opportunity. The hardest part of this is building this engine and not knowing what it was capable of (talking about myself in the third person...great...). The day after the race, I felt like I didn't even workout on Sunday---or, I felt like I did a long base ride at 190 watts. Hardly the effort I was planning on...
Run: I would have had to run a sub 3:30 marathon (8:00/mi pace)...and I felt like I had that in me, easy. I was going in thinking 3:15 (7:30 pace), but somewhere in that range of 3:15 and 3:30 would have been just fine. Woulda...coulda...shoulda....again, I ruined that chance to see what I could do with the pain of the late miles of the marathon. I will never know...