Friday, November 28, 2008

That Felt Good

A 6th Annual MUST Ministries Gobble Jog Race Report

Adventure on the dry seas...  How entertaining it is for me to keep you guys up to date on my very existence via Facebook :-)  I KNOW.  I'm speicial!  ROFL...  Wednesday evening, Dee Dee and I found ourselves childless. We thought.  Behhhh.  We'll go out and grab a quick bite and have a few drinks.  That way, we don't try REAL hard at the Gobble Jog on Thanksgiving.  Since Thursday was also Jimmy's birthday, we decided to go by a Walgreen's first to pick up a few things.

After getting some candles, flowers, and a birthday card, we returned to the car, only to find that the ignition was stuck.  What a pain in the arse!!  The key would not turn in the ignition.  A few blisters and curse words later, we abandoned all hope.  Lucky for us, we were a few hundred yards away from a little Italian place that we like.  We retired there to have dinner and wait for Jimmy to come back from the Hawk's game.

For local peeps, the Italian place is named Zucca's.  I got a Veal Parmigan the size of the plate.  That was the best I've had in a long time.  After a few too many drinks, we made it home and promptly passed out.  Dee Dee and I woke up around 7-ish in the morning with a hang over.  For a few minutes, we toyed with the idea of sleeping in, but I REALLY wanted to run, and our race, the 5K didn't start until 9:30 AM.  That's a great starting time by the way.

We managed to get dressed, pile into the car, and work our way down to the race site.  We used our head and totally avoided the race route, as the 10K was still in progress (it went off at 8 AM).  Packet pick up went smoothly.  Before we knew it, we were standing in the sun, waiting for the race to start.  It was a beautiful day.  The temperatures were around fifty degrees.  Perfect race day weather!

At 9:15 AM, the 1K race went off.  That was fun watching the kids get under way.  At 9:30, the gun went off and our race got underway.  It took me a good forty five seconds or so to cross the start line.  My official time would be a bit different from my Garmin time.  I really enjoyed the first mile of the race.  The first half mile or so is slightly down hill.  It makes for a nice start.  My goal was to find a comfortable not so hard pace I could maintain for 3.1 miles.

So, yea, the first mile was comfortable and fun.  I hit the mile marker at 8:42 on the Garmin, and I was happy with that.  My legs had been itching for a run for a while.  Now they were getting their chance.  My lungs and stomach weren't quite as happy, but they were along for the ride.  The second mile had some uphill to it, but that too was short before we were back to flat and downhill goodness.

During this second mile, I was passing a female runner when I heard someone say my name.  I was totally taken by surprise.  It was Mary Ruth, beautiful wife and compatriot of none other than local triathlete Richard.  I ran with Mary Ruth for a bit, including one rather steep up hill near the end of the second mile.  She helped me take my mind off of that!!  As the race course turned down hil again, I said good bye to Mary Ruth and kicked it up another notch.

After the left hand turn at Mile 2, its a straight shot back to the square in Marietta.  A good portion of this is downhill.  I took advantage of this to run faster.  As you approach the square, you switch to running slightly up hill.  At that point, you know you are almost finished.  Up ahead, I could see the finish line.  I tried to finish with a burst of speed, but my body just wasn't having it.  Nine minute miles was just going to have to do it for today.

Up ahead, I could see the race clock.  I had a brief moment of disappointment when I saw 28 on the clock, but it WAS fleeting.  This was a turkey trot, and I went harder than I really wanted to.  I crossed the finish line with an official time of 28 something.  My Garmin read 27:39, for an average pace of 8:52.  Dee Dee and I grabbed our t-shirts after the race and headed out.  We ran into Richard and Mary Ruth on the way to the car.  It was great seeing you guys again!!

When we got home, the boys were just stirring.  I made breakfast while Dee Dee began the process of preparing Thanksgiving dinner.  We had a great time last year at the Atlanta Marathon and Half Marathon, but a 9:30 AM 5K on Thanksgiving is more my speed, I think! 

I hope everyone had a great Turkey Day!!  Here's to a great weekend ahead!!

Wes

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!!  I hope that all of your travels are safe.  I hope that you find your friends and family in good health and spirits.  For all of you racing tomorrow, I hope you realize your goals.

I, personally, will return to racing tomorrow at the Gobble Jog in Marietta.  I am, as yet, undecided as to how exactly I am going to tackle this bad boy.  I'm just going to leave my goal at a personal worst, and go from there!!

My blessings on you and your family!!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Shaping Up

Last night, we decided to try something new.  I banished Mufasa to the bathroom where he could listen to his own snoring.  He still had the same bed.  Still the same room area.  Just one door between him and us.

Yea, he didn't like that too much.

At first, he whined at the bathroom door.  Of course, we got mad at him and put him in his crate.  When we shut the bathroom door, proceeded to bark like a maniac.

Did I mention I started my beer detox last night?  Yup.  After one whole week steady of four or more beers a night, last night I hit the cut off switch.  Mufasa was decidedly UNHELPFUL.

What did I do?  I banished him to the basement.  Yes.  This is where bad dogs go who forgot their crate training.  I then proceeded to sleep like crap for the rest of the night.  What if something happened to him?  What if the ants we've been getting inside the house found poor Mufasa in his crate?  What would he do?

The dreams were interesting.  I couldn't believe it was six-thirty when I woke up this morning.  I thought about going back to sleep for another hour, but the thought of being at work all day and all night was unappetizing.  I have to pack five days of work in over the next three days, if I want Friday off.

My race plans are shaping up for next year.  I'm thinking I'll do maybe four races, five tops.  Right now, I am eying the ING Marathon, Callaway Garden's Sprint Triathlon, and Augusta 70.3.  Of course, I haven't run this by the boss yet, and all things are subject to change, but I am happy with that initial assessment.

While in the shower this morning, Dee Dee went in search of Mufasa.  She found him sleeping with my youngest son.  That dog just has it too good...

Wes

Friday, November 21, 2008

Anything is Possible

It is almost incredible that it has been three weeks since Ironman Florida 2008. I have been thoroughly enjoying myself doing all those things I had little time for the last five months. Things like taking Matthew to school. Making breakfast. Cleaning up the house, spending some time with Dee Dee, etc, etc.

The only form of exercise I have been participating in has been running the pitch at Soccer tournaments. I did my first tournament the weekend after Ironman. My poor legs just weren't ready for that one. I did my second one last weekend. The legs felt decent. Unfortunately, my tournament this weekend did not have enough games to include me. So, no reffing this weekend!

But I am definitely feeling like my old self. I had the urge to take Bags out for a short ride yesterday. I was all suited up and ready to go, only to discover that the stem on the back tire was broken. It would have taken more effort than I was willing to give to locate the spare tire, change it, then get back out and ride, in the dark. I "bagged" it and decided to cook dinner instead :-)

I was asked the question on whether or not I got an Ironman tattoo. The quick answer is NO! I HATE tattoos. I believe the human body is beautiful in its external simplicity. A tattoo only serves to mar this beauty. I got this instead:

Tutto E Possible

Dee Dee actually surprised me with this the night before the race.  It wouldn't fit my ring finger, so I stuffed it in my feed bag for the bike.  I forgot to take it out and put in on, and the ring stayed there until I got home.  I was wearing it on my pinkie during one of my beer binges when it disappeared.  LOL...  Lucky for me, Dee Dee loves me and bought me a new one that fit.

If nothing else, Ironman teaches us that anything is possible.  I realized today, while driving in the car, that the marathon distance did not phase me one iota at Ironman.  I was so intently focused on getting it done, distance just did not matter.

I will remind myself of this when the alarm goes off tomorrow morning.  Anyting is possible, except maybe that group run at 8 AM in sub-30 degree temps :-)

Wes

P.S.  Just because you have a tat, it doesn't mean you are not still beautiful ;-)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Ironman Florida 2008: Marathon Halfway Point

Dear Mom:

Thank you so much for coming to Ironman Florida 2008 and supporting me. You have no idea how much it meant for me to have you there. Ironman is a grueling all day event, and every little thing, good and bad, is magnified 100 times. To see your smiling face at Alvin's Island on the run, and to know you were in the stands at the finish, means more to me than I could ever possibly put into words.

Thanks again to you and Bud for coming. You two are R-O-C-K I-N :-)

Wes

Monday, November 17, 2008

Ironman Florida 2008: Start of Second Run Loop

After two week ends of refereeing, my poor feet are hurting, and my legs are saying, "No more tournaments!!" LOL... They've had their fun. Now, there is work to be done!! I really had the urge to go for a run tonight, so it ain't all bad.

Here is a short video of me coming back from the turn around, starting part II of the marathon. You can really see how tired I am. Coach said to stop and make sure I kiss my wife and high five the kiddos. Yea, I'm good like that ;-)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Friday, November 14, 2008

Reflections of Iron

An Ironman Florida 2008 Race Report

T-minus 2

The family arrived in Panama City Beach around 10:30 PM local time. The arrival was almost anti-climatic. All the worries about finding the place to pick up our keys was worthless. We went right to it, paid our dues, then went right to it. I think we all were a little disappointed that the room was further away from the race site than we wanted, but it was too late to worry about that now. The condo itself is very nice, and the view is spectacular. We have really enjoyed our stay so far.

Since I missed my swim that day, I set the alarm for 8:30 AM Atlanta time (7:30 AM local). When the alarm clock went off, I was already half awake. My body is still tuned to "workout" time. It doesn't realize that race day is upon us. I allowed myself to lounge in bed for twenty minutes before rousting myself and getting ready. Dee Dee wanted to go with me. Together, we headed down to the race site for the Gatorade swim.

We found a place to park our car and walked down to the beach. We ran into a young lad that was walking on his heel on one foot. He had ripped a quarter size piece of skin off his foot. That will ruin your race day. We found the Gatorade swim behind the hotel. I donned my wet suit and made my way down to the water. It was cold. I decided to swim out to the first buoy as a warm up. I had NO intention of swimming of the full 1.2 miles, like others were doing.

Once I got used to it, the water was surprisingly good. Just past the sand bar, the water jumped from cold to warm. It was like swimming through a curtain. Just like that, ten degrees cooler. I made it out to the first buoy and turned around back to shore. That took me about 10 minutes. I checked with Dee Dee to see where Kelly was. She was on her way. I thought I would go ahead and get my swim in and decided to swim out to the second buoy this time. Swimming in the ocean was just so much fun. Visibility was about twenty-five feet. I admit. It got a little spooky when I couldn't see the bottom anymore.

After this second swim, Kelly made it to the race site. I had enough in me to swim to the buoy one more time with her before we had to leave. I was sure my kiddos were eating the condo by the time we made it back (they weren't). We rousted up the young'uns and headed over to the Waffle House for breakfast. Nothing like a fine southern breakfast after a swim.

We made a trip to Walmart to buy supplies for the condo, then it was back there for lunch. We then headed over to Venture Out to grab Kelly and make it to registration. I had the idea in my head that we could register on Friday, but we couldn't! I am so glad we didn't screw that up. Lucky for us, when we got there, there wasn't even a line. We were in and out in a jiffy.

Once we got back to the condo, yet again, I managed to put a call into coach. This is the first time I actually got to talk to her on the phone, and we had a great pre-race chat. She was at the dog park with Boss, and I could hear how windy it was in Illinois. It's always funny how she asks me if I'm ready, and I tell her that I have everything prepared. I laugh because I later realize she wants to know if I'm ready physically and mentally, but not to worry. I am more than ready.

We opted not to go to the athlete's dinner. I figured for forty dollars, what it would cost to feed the family, we could go somplace decent and get the kids what they wanted. We decided on Mello Mushroom and had some nice pizza and calzones for dinner. Later, we dropped the kids off at the condo before heading over to the Boardwalk (race site) for the mandatory athlete meeting.

We got there a bit early, and I was glad they did. They put on a presentation for the athletes, and Dee Dee and I were able to watch and listen to the whole thing in the hall way. By 7 PM, they let us all in for the meeting. Other than cut offs, there really wasn't anything new there.

By nine, nine-thirty, Dee Dee and I finally made it back to the condo. It was time to get the transition bags ready for the race. I had a pretty good idea what I wanted in each bag. I had even packed everything and picked up a few extras at Walmart. However, when you've had a long day, and there are five bags to pack, you kind of freak out a bit. I took my time. Looked at my lists. Reviewed my notes that coach had gave us, and plugged away until everything was in its proper place.

With bags packed and a full tummy, it was time to head to bed. T minus two days and counting.

T-minus 1

At the end of the longest day, here I sit at the table, in the condo. The bike is racked. The bags are in their places. The food is all prepared. I don't want to go to sleep. It just means tomorrow will get here that much more quickly. Yet I know. I need to sleep. And I will.

For those of you who want to track me tomorrow, my bib number is 1175.

I've missed a lot of my friends here. I honestly had no idea that doing an Ironman required so much logistics. Taking care of myself, my gear, and keeping my family busy and on an even keel. That too, my friends, is part of becoming Iron.

Tomorrow will come. Short of death or being pulled from the course, I will cross the finish line. If things are just rocking, I might come in before 13 hours. If things go well, I will come in before 14 hours. If things go as planned, 15 hours. If none of the above, then I'll be out on the course until someone makes me quit.

I don't mean to be all sappy and stuff, but I have really enjoyed the friendships I have made here. I've been a fairly happy fellow for quite a while, even it was my own little world. You guys have allowed me to broaden my horizons.

Tomorrow, we will blow them wide open.

See you on the other side of Iron.

The Swim

I don't have a hard time falling asleep the night before a big race. I have a hard time staying asleep. Club La Vella down the road had a Halloween Party, and a few of our fellow renters brought the party home with them. Lucky for me, the contigent of Honduran triathletes in the condo next door weren't nearly as nice as I was. They quickly put an end to the rowdy behavior. By 11:30 PM, I was back to sleep.

The room was dimly lit when I woke at 3 AM. Each lamp in the bedroom had dimmer switches. Dee Dee had left one on but turned it down as low as it would go. My mind was already in race mode. I debated getting up or trying to go back to sleep. The longer I lay there, the bigger the urge to get up. I woke with a start when the alarm clock went off at 4:20 AM. "Good!", I thought. Another hour or so sleep would do me just right. I pretty much jumped out of bed, got dressed, then rousted the family to get ready.

I had three primary objectives for the morning. One, feed myself. Two, prepare my bottles and nutrition. Three, get the family to the race on time. Everything went very smoothly. As we were getting ready to leave, Dee Dee called me into the den to show me their t-shirts. This was a surprise for me.


The front of the shirts said, "IronSherpa". Dee Dee had put these letters on the back herself. Have I told you guys that she is the best sherpa ever? and the kids as well!!

We grabbed all the gear and headed down to the race site. I expected a lot more people to be there early, but we still managed to score a parking spot on the side of the road near Alvin's Island. Exiting the car, we began the short walk to the Boardwalk. Along the way, I dropped off my special needs bags. I had had a hard time deciding what to put into my bags. In my bike bag, I put a spare tube two air canisters, a pack of crackers, and some sunscreen. My run bag had sunscreen and a change of socks.

The closer I got to transition, the louder the voices got.

Body marking! Body marking!

Volunteers had their hands in the air. Dee Dee told me to find Sarah. Dee Dee said, "Sarah didn't come all this way to let you get away without her body marking you!". It didn't take long. Sarah was body marking another triathlete as we walked up. I got a big hug, and Sarah proceeded to mark me up. She asked me if I wanted a smiley face, but I declined. I'm just not a smiley face kind of person. My thoughts turned to the triathlete killed by the shark in San Diego. If I wasn't going to put "Go Dave Go" on my arm, then I wasn't going to have a smiley face either.

Slowly, I made my way into the transition area and over to my bike. Everything appeared to be in order. I unpacked all my food and bottles and loaded up Aerowyn. As I set the aero bottle in place, I realized I had lost my straw. I started bitching and moaning about my stupidity. The triathlete next to me said, "That just sucks. If I had an extra one I would hand it right over to you!" I know he meant well, but it didn't help a whole hell of a lot. Part of the fun of racing is keeping yourself calm cool and collected. I found Dee Dee standing along the fence, outside of transition. I sent her off to get me a new straw and waited patiently with the kids. In short order, she was back, and my straw ordeal was over.

Aerowyn was ret to go. I set off to find my sister. Let me tell you about my crazy ass sister. She decided when she got pregnant that she wasn't going to do Ironman. At the last minute, she changed her mind. She had a baby three months ago. Ran in a marathon six weeks ago. Swam nada in the last year. Ditto on riding the bike. I was sure she was going to die. I found her as she made her way into transition and went with her to set up her bike. I helped her pump her tires. She didn't know how to do that either! LOL... Once she was finished, we sat in the grass and waited for start time to approach.

About a quarter after six, I began putting on my wet suit. I had the legs on and began pulling the suit up over my arms when I realized I still had my pants on. Doh!!! I had to take the wet suit off, strip down to my jammers, then repeat the process over again. I laughed, took deep breaths, and got it done. Kelly and I walked out of transition in our wet suits and met up with the family. My Mom and step-father were waiting for us at the entrance to transition. We hooked up with Dee Dee and the kids and made our way down to the beach.


I guess Kelly wasn't sure if she would be able to find me after my practice swim. I gave her a big hug before heading down to the water. I slipped in and did a little bit of swimming. I didn't really want to warm up. I just wanted to get used to the water and feel comfortable in my wet suit. It didn't take long for me to get that warm fuzzy feeling. I knew at that point, I was ready to go.

I managed to find the family again. We went through a round of pictures before making our way into the pen for the swim start. At 6:50 AM, the cannon went off and the pros hit the water. I watched this process with great interest as I am always interested in seeing the professionals. Now was the time to position myself for the swim start. I usually start wide right and to the back. I almost always find room this way. Unfortunately, the pen we were in had an end to it. That basically meant there was a lot of people the entire length. Kelly and I positioned ourselves just to the right of middle, behind the throng of people. We waited.

The clock continued to climb towards 7 AM. With a minute and a half to go, the goggles went on. It was game time. With a resounding boom, the cannon went off. Two thousand triathletes, over half of them first timers, waded into the Gulf of Mexico and started the swim.

The water was refreshingly cool. Between the shore and the sandbar, which was about fifty yards off shore, the water was about ten degrees colder. I waded/walked until the water got up to my waist. I then put my face into the water and started swimming.


Normally in my races, I try real hard to avoid the crowds. There was no avoiding it here. I am always scared of having the crap beat out of me during these swims. So far, I have successfully avoided this. For the first part of the swim, I found myself unable to swim at the pace I wanted to. This was probably a good thing. I kept on the heels of the swimmer in front of me, careful to avoid the kicking of his feet. When he popped his head up out of the water to breast stroke, that was my signal to stop. When space opened up around him/her, I went around them. I accepted the the jostling and soft blows from the side. This just kind of came with the territory. I felt the swimmers behind me touching my feet, and I was careful not to kick unless it was absolutely necessary.

As a group, we made our way down the course to the first turn buoy. I was hoping to find some open water to swim in, once we made the turn. The swimmers were really bunched up at the turn. Everybody had their heads out of the water, doing the breast stroke. I resisted the urge to bark like a seal. When I stuck my head up out of the water, my right leg was seized by a nasty cramp. I cursed. I knew that if I didn't address this immediately, I would suffer for it the rest of the day. I stretched the leg out and sent relaxing thoughts to the muscles. Whatever I did worked. The cramp went away and didn't bother me for the rest of the day.

The mass of swimmers pulled me along, and I found myself on the other side of the turn buoy with little effort. Suddenly, I was getting pounded left and right from the sides. I raised my head up out of the water and said, "This sux!" to a guy next to me. He agreed, and I angled right to the outside of the pack. In a space of ten seconds or so, I found some open water and was back to swimming.

The top of the box was heading directly into the rising sun. I followed the swimmers in front of me until I reached the second turn buoy. While still crowded, I was finally beginning to get into a rythm. After making the second turn, I again hoped that the crowds would thin out a bit, but it was not meant to be. The first lap was just plan crowded! I kept my head down and swam at the best place I possibly could. I didn't feel like I was working too hard. I certainly didn't want to burn myself out on the swim! Suddenly, the bottom appeared. I knew I was getting close. I swam until my hand touched the bottom, then climbed to my feet and exited the water.


Taking my goggles off, I glanced around to see if I could find Dee Dee. I did not see her. I crossed the timing mat and turned left back towards the water. Volunteers were there, handing out water to the swimmers. I grabbed a quick cup of water before re-entering the gulf. I waded out to about knee deep this time. Wading was seriously hurting my shins, and I didn't want to do anything to them that might affect the rest of my race.

The second lap seemed like it took longer, and in retrospect, it did. The clock on my first lap said forty five minutes. I was a little disappointed in that time, but I decided early that time didn't matter for this race. It wasn't until after my second lap that I realized they hadn't adjusted the clock for the pros yet. On this loop, I was able to sight off a charter boat out past the first buoy. Have I mentioned to you guys how much I love swimming? I have come such a long long way from the scared triathlete that dreaded the open water. I loved swimming in the gulf. The fact I was a half mile off shore meant nothing to me. I mean, I wouldn't want to do it by myself, but with two thousand of your closest friends, it rocked!!

Finally, finally, finally! Open water in which to swim. I set a comfortable pace, not as fast as South Carolina, but reasonable for me. I made my way across the top of the box and hung a left back towards the beach. Every once in a while, when I lifted my head up to sight, the waves would slap me in the face. I got a couple of mouth fulls of water this way, but I tried not to drink the gulf. I was trying to stay closer to the buoys this time, but I ended up about twenty yards on the inside. This didn't bother me too much, but I don't like swimming alone. I angled back towards the crowd. I saw a bunch of peeps already standing and wading up on shore. That just wasn't for me! I kept my head down and swam (again) until my hand touched the bottom. Then, I stood up and waded ashore.



The clock read 1:13 and some change. I let out a silent booyah!! My swim goal was 1:20:00, and I had blown that out of the water. With a big smile on my face, I headed up the walk way towards the wet suit strippers, ready, willing, and able to tackle the next segment of this amazing day.

The Bike

The walk up the pathway from the beach is a couple of hundred yards. After getting stripped of my wet suit, I made an assessment of my body. The back of my neck had a bit of chaffing. My arms were fatigued as expected, and my cramp had all but disappeared. Because I did not strip my own wet suit, I totally avoided the cramps I usually get in my calves. I was feeling very good, excited, ready to continue the day.

Right before you head into the tunnel, they put up a shower of fresh water. I paused there for a few tens of seconds to rinse the sand and salt water from my body. As I entered the tunnel, one of the amazing volunteers yelled out my number on a bullhorn. Last year, I was a volunteer at the swim to bike transition. There were a few athletes that were in such a hurry and down right snobbish to the volunteers. Yes! This WAS the exception rather than the rule. I opted not to be one of those athletes. I took my time. Walked over to where my bag was. Waited patiently for the volunteer to find it. Thanked him, then headed for the changing tent.

Did you know there were over 5000 volunteers for IM Florida?! They..were..amazing!

I wasn't quite prepared for what awaited me in the transition tent. It was wall to wall hard male bodies. I haven't been in touch with my gayness for a long time now, but just walking into the hot sweaty changing tent sent my ick factor shooting through the roof. I wandered into the middle of the tent and found an empty chair by a pole. (We'll let this one slide!) There was just so much stuff in my bike bag to put on. I dried off with my towel before slipping into my tri suit. This was followed by my helmet, heart rate monitor, gloves, and shoes. I packed all my swim stuff back into the bag and tied it up. I exited the tent and handed my bag to a volunteer. That was when I noticed my Road ID was stuck to the velcro on my shoe. At least I didn't lose it! I quickly put it into its proper place. A kind volunteer slathered me down with sunscreen, and another one brought me my bike. With a click clack of my riding shoes, I walked to the bike mounting line.

Sarah had found a great vantage point to see the riders leaving transition. I high fived her and proceeded to mount Aerowyn. The rider in front of me was having a hard time getting clipped in. I was very patient and didn't push her at all. Finally, she got clipped in and we were on our way. I saw Dee Dee and the family on the way out. They screamed and yelled at me, which I acknowledged with a wave.


The bike course for IM Florida leaves transition heading west on Front Beach Road. Where it dead ends into the Walmart, you make a left and head further west. When I left transition, I was still very hot from the swim. Because of this, I opted NOT to wear my arm warmers. The further I got into Panama City Beach, the colder I got and the more I regreted my decision. I've done some pretty cold rides on the Silver Comet Trail. I knew how to handle this. I gritted my teeth, sucked it up, and kept pedaling. I knew it would warm up eventually, but I ended up being a tad bit cold for the entire ride.

The route along the beach is flat and scenic. My first order of business was to get my heart rate under control. Given the flatness, I was surprised to see it up at the 150 mark. I went with that for the first five minutes or so. I knew my adrenaline was pumping and excitement was high. I kept my pace light and easy. By the time I turned onto Hwy 79 to the north, my HR had dropped into the 140s. Fifteen minutes into the ride I started my nutrition plan. I kicked off the timer on my watch, set to beep every thirty minutes, and downed a gel. I drank a little bit of Tiger from my aero bottle. Experience told me that when it was this cold, I did not need to drink heavily, or I would be peeing off the bike every twenty minutes!

By the time I hit the bridge over the bay, my heart rate had settled into high zone one and low zone 2, just where I wanted it for the first half of the ride. The view from the top of the bridge was spectacular. The sun was shining. The sky was blue. The bay looked so serene. I just ate that up. The route north was about 16 miles long. We had to travel along one stretch of road that was under construction. I was very impressed with the care the drivers showed towards the athletes. Bad things could have easily happened here. There was very little elevation change. Everything was either flat or very long and gentle. You hardly noticed it at all.

At the first aid station, I was contemplating stopping and going to the bathroom. When I saw the line, I declined and kept pedaling. The same thing happened at the second aid station. When we made the right turn onto Hwy 20, I decided I was stopping at the next aid station no matter how long the line was. At the third aid station, I handed my bike to a kind volunteer, waited into line, and relieved some pressure!! LOL... It didn't take too long, and it was totally worth it. I jumped back on my bike again and off I went. I really felt better having stretched my legs and relieved my bladder.

We stayed on Hwy 20 for about 27 miles. About half way through this part of the course, the wind began to pick up. It also just so happened that we came upon the only real hills for the day, not counting the bridge. Near the turn south onto Hwy 231, the race peeps had set up our special needs bags. I stopped there to put on more sunscreen. Aerowyn had been handling beautifully, and I had no need for the extra tube or canisters.


The turn onto Hwy 231 was so much fun!!! The first two to three miles was long, gradual, and downhill. I was flying. 231 is a four lane highway by the way. It was very fast and very smooth. We rode south for nine miles before making a right hand turn onto a country road. This was where the fun began. This road had cracks in it every ten yards or so. It was like riding on rail road tracks. There were bottles, sponges, air canisters, spare tires, and all kinds of other crap all over the road to prove it!! We spent about 10.5 miles on this crotch numbing joy ride before turning east on Hwy 388 towards the turn around. Not only was this section slightly up hill, but the wind was really blowing now. I teased a rider passing me if he could do something about this wind. He laughed and said he was was going to keep riding until he found out who was responsible.

The turn around looked oh so delicious. I made the turn and crossed the map with a beep. Some poor guy didn't get a beep and had to ride over it twice. With the wind at my back, it was now game on. Coach had talked to me about negative splitting the ride. Usually, when she says things like that, I'm a bit skeptical. I usually don't have the strength to or patience to do that. With the wind at my back and the flatness of the road ahead, I decided to kick it up a notch. My pace showed the effort. For the first 73 miles, I averaged 16.7 mph. For the remainder of my ride, I averaged 18.6 mph, almost two miles per hour faster. What I enjoyed most, however, was passing quite a few peeps who had passed me earlier in the day. That was a new experience for me, and I sucked it up!!!

Highway 388 was not much better than that ole country road. There were times when I swear the pavement was trying to eat my tires. I was now measuring my progress in tens of miles. I was so happy to see 80 and 90 miles click by. I knew once I got to mile marker 90, I was in the final stretch. I missed the 100 mile marker. I assume it was some where near the left hand turn back onto 79, which took us south back to Panama City Beach. By now, it was just me and a couple of other triathletes. I decided to not pass any more people and save my strength for the run. When I made the left onto Front Beach Road, the stiff wind in my face justified this decision. That was the longest six miles of my life. It wasn't like I hated being on the bike anymore. I just hated having to plow through that wind at this stage of the game.

A few families were out in front of their hotels along this part of the route. Despite being tired, I managed some smiles and a few waves. When I reached the first Waffle House, I could see the hotel at the corner of Thomas Drive in the distance. I knew the end was near. When I made the turn onto Thomas Drive, the crowds picked up and so did my determination to finish strong. I stayed aero and pedaled smartly, staying (legally) close to the athlete in front of me.

When I arrived back at transition, I saw Dee Dee and the family. I heard someone shout my name. I couldn't see who it was, but I smiled and acknowledged them with a wave. I dismounted, handed my bike to a volunteer and began the long walk to the changing tents. Along the way, I picked up my bike to run bag.

My legs had that familiar heaviness to them. If anything, I trained the bike really well. In my mind, I was just wondering if, for the first time ever, I had the strength to run 26.2 miles off a century plus ride.

There was only one way to find out....

The Run

The changing tent was much much quieter this go around. I probably looked like I just got off a four hour ride on a horse as I hobbled to the back left corner. I sat down for a second.

Sir? Would you like help with your bag?

This was much nicer than I was when I volunteered last year. In my enthusiasm to help, I usually just walked right up to an athlete and began dumping their stuff out all over the ground. Most of them were too tired to care.

Not right now, thank you! I'll let you know if I need your help.

I dumped my bag and proceeded to get nekkid. Dee Dee had mentioned to me that a girl last year had put a bottle of water and a wash cloth in her run bag. I did the same. It really was refreshing to get wiped down before changing into my running gear. During the bike, I was mulling important decisions over in my mind. You have a lot of time to think about stuff like that. Do I change? Do I wear my Fuel Belt? yada yada yada...

Given the temps for the day, I figured it might get a little chilly after dark. The Jaggad tri suit is wonderful, but it left my arms totally exposed to the elements. I put on my ING Half Mary shirt and the matching Mizuno running shorts. To this, I added my hat and sunglasses, followed by the race belt. As I walked out the door of the changing tent, I had a volunteer put more sunscreen on me. I think this is the first race in a long time where I did not end up red all over!

As I exited transition, I heard Dee Dee and the kids yelling at me along the fence line. I smiled and waved. It was just so wonderful having them there.


Out of transition, I made a right on Thomas Drive and ran down to the Alvin's Island. At the light there, we made another right, up by the hotels and back into the neighborhood. There were a lot of people here. They had set up tents and music players. It was very noisy! About half way down this three quarter mile stretch of the road was "The Girl Zone". Some chicas in skimpy outfits were motivating the runners, some of them with whips! LOL!! I watched one chica smack a runner on the butt as he went by and throught to myself, "If she does that to me, I'm going to keel over right there!".

So far, my legs were feeling pretty normal, post ride heavy. My goal for the run was to do 11-12 minute miles for the first 13.1 miles, then just kind of take it from there. I had nine hours to complete the race. I was pretty sure I could crawl the half marathon in nine hours. My intestines began to rumble as I made the left turn to cross over Front Beach Road. I pretty much figured my GI system would make its presence known. I just had no idea. By the time I reached the second aid station, I was ready for a pit stop.

Lucky for me, there was no waiting. It was decidedly at this point that I decided that wearing the Fuel Belt was a pain in the arse. I had to take off my race belt and my Fuel Belt, and the inside felt like a sauna. I was covered in sweat by the time I got done. The three mile run along the Grand Lagoon was very pleasant. One of the neighbors was having a party in his front yard.

Hey Wes! You wanna beer?

The spectators, almost to a person, were extremely supportive of us all. This guy, however, rubbed me the wrong way. I resisted the urge to smash him in the face. I know. That really is unlike me. I managed a weak smile and kept on trudging. After three miles, we crossed back over to the other side of Thomas Drive again. I was looking forward to heading into the park. My family has owned property in Venture Out since I was a wee lad. In all this time, I had NEVER stepped foot inside of St. Andrew's State Park. Plus, I hoped to see my father there.

I made a right back onto Thomas Drive after the short run behind the hotels. Right there in front of Venture Out, the signs started. I had a blast reading them as I ran by. Unfortunately, my father was no where to be seen. I was a bit disappointed, but he wasn't feeling well, having a nasty code. At the very end of the signs, I saw one with my name on it.

Go Iron Wes!!!

THAT perked up my spirits. Sarah had come down the night before and put the sign up. That was really special.

The run into the park was about 2.5 miles long. I had to stop again at the first aid station inside and go to the bathroom, again. Even with all the stops, I was still keeping to my goal of 11 to 12 minute miles. At the second aid station inside the park, I began looking forward to the turn around. I had been walking through every aid station thus far, drinking a cup of water and a cup of gatorade. I was trying to take a gel every thirty minutes, and for the most part, I did.

As my foot crossed the timing mat at the turn around, I thought, "Now my friends and coach will know where I am at." Yes, I was thinking about you guys. On the way back, between aid stations, was the Ford Motivation Station. Supporters could type in a motivating statement. As the athletes ran across the mat, it flashed on a huge screen. I looked up at the big sreen after crossing. I got nothing. I looked, and looked, and looked. Nothing. Disappointed, I continued my run. I knew Dee Dee had put something in there for me. I hoped it would show up the next time.

My father was there, waiting for me in front of Venture Out. I hugged him, and he said, go, go, go! Like I was racing or something. This made me smile. I got to my beautiful neice and her daddy before running again. At the turn (to run behind the hotels), I ran into Kelly. She was heading in the opposite direction. We screamed at each other. I couldn't believe she was still at it. I figured if she was going to DNF at any point, it would be shortly before the end of the bike, or shortly after the end of the bike. In her words,

Damn! You are way ahead of me!

Ummmm, yea! I like trained. You didn't!

I crossed back over Thomas Drive and into the neighborhoods. It was starting to get dark, and I was tired. To top it off, I had to make yet another bathroom stop. Curse my slow pace!! Somewhere along this back stretch of the course, I abandoned my running nutrition plan. I stuck with the water and gatorade. For nutrition, I began to pick and choose from the abundant fare at the aid stations, starting with bananas.

The walk breaks were becoming more frequent, and longer. I maded it to the mile stretch along the beach before I like totally gave in and just walked. I could see the Girl Zone up ahead. A man 10 years my senior ran up at that minute then stopped. He was doing the run/walk thing. I decided at this point, that I would join him. Together, we ran the mile to Alvin's Island. I'm not sure why, but at that point, I decided to cut one of my walk breaks short and took off without him. I guess I wanted to get to the turn around quickly.

Out of the corner of my eye, somebody came off the hill and accosted me on the run course.

Hey! Hey Wes! How ya doin?

Oh, hey! Yea! Hey! I'm doing OK...

I kept running. After a couple of feet, I looked back and realized that it was TJ! Woot! TJ and I had exchanged e-mails before the weekend. I had told him that I would be disappointed if I didn't get to see him. TJ made sure I wasn't disappointed.

Up ahead, I could hear Mike Reilly announcing each Ironman as they crossed the finish line. I was a bit peeved that the turn around went right up to the finish line. That was just no fun. I made the turn around and was very happy to have the first half of my run over. Right across the fence from the special needs bags, Dee Dee and the kids were waiting for me. I told the volunteer that I did not need my bag. The sun was going down. There was no use for either the sunscreen, dry socks, or crackers. I high fived Dee Dee and the kids. I then dumped my hat, sunglasses, and Fuel Belt on the ground for Dee Dee to pick up. This was OK and did not qualify as outside assistence.

Trying not to trip over the special needs bags, I made it back down to the road. TJ came off the hill again to see me on the way out.

How are you feeling?, he asked.

I'm in a lot of pain, I said, but nothing is broken. The stomach is fine. I'm ready to keep slugging it out.

Somehow, I managed to start running again. I decided that prudence was the better part of valor and switched to a run two minutes walk one minute cycle. Right before it got dark, I had to stop at the port-a-potty for the fourth and last time. This was getting so old!! Dee Dee thinks the salt water I swallowed may have had something to do with it. I don't know. I continued to keep my nutrition going. I drank at least something at every aid station. I snacked on grapes, bananas, cookies, and gels. When I got tired of gatorade, I tried chicken broth and coke. It wasn't entirely happy with the effect the sugar in the coke had on my body. I opted not to repeat that one.

My father had returned to his home in Venture Out. One of the lights in the state park was out. We were running in total darkness for a half a mile or so. I was really afraid of running up onto the back of someone. I had remained pretty consistent with the run two walk one cycle. Coach had asked me not to give myself an out. She said, "When you stop to walk, set a limit." The run/walk cycle fit into this perfectly. I did allow myself to walk through the aid stations, no matter what the time, and once in a while, two to three times, I allowed myself to walk through the run portion. Other than that, I stayed very consistent.

The glow from the lights marked my final turn around on this day. All I could think about was crossing over that mat and letting everyone out there know where I was at and indirectly how I was doing. On this approach to the turn around, I noticed a sign in the sand. It said, "Wes Rocks!" That got a big smile. I wasn't sure if that was for me or not, but it had my name on it, and I {hearted} it. Who ever put that sign out there, thanks a million!

The timing machine beeped satisfyingly the second and final time around. I crossed over the mat at the Ford Motivation Station, and this time, I was rewarded with my race number showing on the board. I can't remember the exact message that appeared. My memory is fuzzy. But it did say I was going to be an Ironman :-)

The return trip in the dark was surreal and quiet. The athletes were like ghosts moving through the darkness. I felt for the athletes that were on their way out. My memory of the Rocket City Marathon sustained me. I was in much better shape now than I was at a similar point at that time. I even managed to pick up my pace a little. The miles ticked off. I ran into Kelly again at almost exactly the same spot. I managed to scream and ham it up for her, tired though I was. At four miles, I could begin to taste it. The excitement was building. I wouldn't wait to see miles 24 and 25. I was knew I was in the final home stretch.

The Girl Zone was still active. Despite the chill, the chicas in thongs were still motivating tired athletes. I got several comments on how strong I looked. I guess more than a few peeps were impressed that I was still running. Many of the people inhabiting the tents near Alvin's Island had either gone home or headed for the finish line. One guy was blaring out rock music at an ear shattering decibel. I could have done without that, thank you very much!

There were three guys with a tent in the road at Alvin's Island. I had stopped to walk at this point, saving my strength for my final run. They ran up beside me, one on each side, yelling. The guy on the right asked me if this was my final loop. I told him that yes, it was my final loop.

Run!, he said. This is the best part of the race! You are gonna be an Ironman {screams}....

I was like,

Dude! You so need a tic-tac.... {smile}

With the finish line about half a mile a way, I broke into a lumbering gait. Up ahead of me, a blond athlete in blue was headed towards the finish. I looked over my shoulder to make sure no one was running up behind me. I wanted to come across the finish line by myself, even if I had to wait. There was nobody coming up behind me. It was getting lighter. The voice of Mike Reilly was getting louder.

I grimaced. The girl up ahead was running to slow. Now, I could see the throngs of people around the finisher's chute. It was all one big blur of faces and noise. I didn't even try to pick anybody out of the crowd. All I wanted to do was finish this thing up in style. Realizing the girl in front of me had plenty of distance left, I broke into a sprint and passed her. I was totally not concerned with beating her to the finish. It was all about the finish line picture. As I passed under the first arch, I heard a scream.

Go, Wes!!!

I looked to my left, and there was Lauren. I had known Lauren was going to be at the finish, and I had hoped she would be there when I came through. What was even more amazing to me was that I recognized her right away :-) Yea, that was cool. I waved to Lauren and turned my toughts back to the finish. I was so sure before the race that I would get all choked up and cry my way down the finisher's chute, but it didn't happen. Instead, I raised my arms, pumped my fists, and with my arms held high, I crossed the finish line. Mike Reilly said,

Wes Mc****, You are an Ironman!

I stopped about eight yards on the other side of the finish line, fully expecting a volunteer to come and collect me. It wasn't long before a man noticed me and came over and grabbed my arm.

How are you feeling?

I am feeling OK.

Do you need to go to the medical tent? No? OK. Walk this way. What size shirt do you wear? Medium! Medium please. This young lady will take your chip.

I need to go some where to die.

Don't die here. That would get kind of messy.

After taking care of the basics, he pointed me at the photographers at the finish line. My son, Jimmy found me, and we waited for Dee Dee and the rest of the gang to show up. When the family arrived, they all got big hugs, and Dee Dee the biggest of all. It took maybe five minutes or so to get my finish line photo taken, then it was off to take care of the necessities. Yea, I really had to pee.

Sarah and her friend came running up to find me. I had the blanket wrapped around me, but Sarah just wasn't going to do without a big hug either, and I obliged her :-) She was really excited, and I enjoyed seeing her and her friend from PTC Tri Club there at the finish. We chatted for a few seconds, but it started to get cold, and that of course, aggravated the situation. I reluctantly said good bye to Sarah and headed indoors, where it was warm, and there were toilets.

We then made our back outside. Dee Dee wanted to go get all of my gear by herself, but I insisted on helping her. She was so funny. She kept her arm around me, trying to keep me from falling. What she was really doing was throwing me off balance. LOL... I know she meant well. The volunteers at transition wouldn't let Matthew in, and he had to wait outside. After we gathered my stuff, we couldn't find Matthew anywhere. Just what we needed at the end of the day. We were walking around transition looking for him when my cell phone went off. He had walked down to Alvin's Island where Jimmy and Jessica were meeting us with the car. He was smart enough to ask some lady to call us on her cell phone. Gah!!!! On the way to collect Matthew, we ran into my Mom and step-father. Kelly finished about an hour behind me. I hear that she is mad I beat her. I hope we never do one of these together where she actually trains :-)

We made it back to the condo in one piece and got all the gear upstairs. I showered and hopped in the bed. Dee Dee ordered a pizza for us, while the kids went out for Wendy's or something like that. As I lay in bed, the pain from my legs was anything like I had ever experienced before. I took two Advil and managed to stay awake long enough to eat a couple of slices of pizza.

My eyes finally closed of their own accord. I fell asleep, one terribly sore, tired, but happy... Ironman.

The Aftermath

The deed is done. It's funny now looking back. I remember the conversation I had with myself while reading Iron Wil's web site. I would do some shorter races, maybe a half ironman, butI would NEVER do an Ironman. I just didn't think I had that in me. It was fun to watch the paradigm shift. Every race I did wetted my appetitite to go longer. The phrase, Anything is Possible took on a new meaning.

My body is healing, despite my best attempts to sabotage it with crap food and alcohol. Except for my time on the soccer pitch, I am taking a full thirty days off before starting up any new physical activity. After nearly two years my body and indeed my mind is craving some extended downtime. I have demanded so much of it, and it has given so much to me in return.

It's funny how I've been absorbing all of this. I have gone back multiple times to re-read the comments and facebook messages. Each and every time I smile. Truth is, I don't feel any different. Your body actually becomes Iron long before race day. The changes are in my mind, my spirit. I am an Ironman. I have new dreams, new ambitions, new horizons. That is something nobody will ever be able to change/take away from me.


What am I going to do next?

Starting December 1st (my birthday in case you want to send me something ;-), I am going to get ripped with the P90X DVDs. This was a present for me on Father's Day, and it has been languishing under my bed some place. I will execute this plan from December through the end of February. More than likely, I will find a few local races to run. My triathlon season next year will consist of short (sprint, Olympic), local, and fast. I will no longer race to cover the distance. I am going to race to go fast, see what I'm made of. It will be a different kind of year for me. Oh yea, and I may throw an Ultra in the mix there somewhere ;-)

It's been a great year. {group hug} I'm looking forward to cheering you all on to your goals next year.

Wes

P.S.  For some cool comments by some really cool people, check out the original posts!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Reflections of Iron: The Aftermath

The deed is done. It's funny now looking back. I remember the conversation I had with myself while reading Iron Wil's web site. I would do some shorter races, maybe a half ironman, butI would NEVER do an Ironman. I just didn't think I had that in me. It was fun to watch the paradigm shift. Every race I did wetted my appetitite to go longer. The phrase, Anything is Possible took on a new meaning.

My body is healing, despite my best attempts to sabotage it with crap food and alcohol. Except for my time on the soccer pitch, I am taking a full thirty days off before starting up any new physical activity. After nearly two years my body and indeed my mind is craving some extended downtime. I have demanded so much of it, and it has given so much to me in return.

It's funny how I've been absorbing all of this. I have gone back multiple times to re-read the comments and facebook messages. Each and every time I smile. Truth is, I don't feel any different. Your body actually becomes Iron long before race day. The changes are in my mind, my spirit. I am an Ironman. I have new dreams, new ambitions, new horizons. That is something nobody will ever be able to change/take away from me.


What am I going to do next?

Starting December 1st (my birthday in case you want to send me something ;-), I am going to get ripped with the P90X DVDs. This was a present for me on Father's Day, and it has been languishing under my bed some place. I will execute this plan from December through the end of February. More than likely, I will find a few local races to run. My triathlon season next year will consist of short (sprint, Olympic), local, and fast. I will no longer race to cover the distance. I am going to race to go fast, see what I'm made of. It will be a different kind of year for me. Oh yea, and I may throw an Ultra in the mix there somewhere ;-)

It's been a great year. {group hug} I'm looking forward to cheering you all on to your goals next year.

Wes

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Hug A Veteran Day

Yes, its that time of year again where we pay our respects to those men and women who have served, are serving, will serve, or made the ultimate sacrifice in the defense of freedom and liberty! If you haven't hugged a veteran today, get busy! There is no WAITING outside my door :-)

Things are neck and neck over at the Endurance Blog of the Year voting. If you haven't already done so, consider coming by and giving yours truly your vote. You get three votes!! Unfortunately, all three can't be fore me :-)

Wes

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Reflections of Iron: The Run

The changing tent was much much quieter this go around. I probably looked like I just got off a four hour ride on a horse as I hobbled to the back left corner. I sat down for a second.

Sir? Would you like help with your bag?

This was much nicer than I was when I volunteered last year. In my enthusiasm to help, I usually just walked right up to an athlete and began dumping their stuff out all over the ground. Most of them were too tired to care.

Not right now, thank you! I'll let you know if I need your help.

I dumped my bag and proceeded to get nekkid. Dee Dee had mentioned to me that a girl last year had put a bottle of water and a wash cloth in her run bag. I did the same. It really was refreshing to get wiped down before changing into my running gear. During the bike, I was mulling important decisions over in my mind. You have a lot of time to think about stuff like that. Do I change? Do I wear my Fuel Belt? yada yada yada...

Given the temps for the day, I figured it might get a little chilly after dark. The Jaggad tri suit is wonderful, but it left my arms totally exposed to the elements. I put on my ING Half Mary shirt and the matching Mizuno running shorts. To this, I added my hat and sunglasses, followed by the race belt. As I walked out the door of the changing tent, I had a volunteer put more sunscreen on me. I think this is the first race in a long time where I did not end up red all over!

As I exited transition, I heard Dee Dee and the kids yelling at me along the fence line. I smiled and waved. It was just so wonderful having them there.


Out of transition, I made a right on Thomas Drive and ran down to the Alvin's Island. At the light there, we made another right, up by the hotels and back into the neighborhood. There were a lot of people here. They had set up tents and music players. It was very noisy! About half way down this three quarter mile stretch of the road was "The Girl Zone". Some chicas in skimpy outfits were motivating the runners, some of them with whips! LOL!! I watched one chica smack a runner on the butt as he went by and throught to myself, "If she does that to me, I'm going to keel over right there!".

So far, my legs were feeling pretty normal, post ride heavy. My goal for the run was to do 11-12 minute miles for the first 13.1 miles, then just kind of take it from there. I had nine hours to complete the race. I was pretty sure I could crawl the half marathon in nine hours. My intestines began to rumble as I made the left turn to cross over Front Beach Road. I pretty much figured my GI system would make its presence known. I just had no idea. By the time I reached the second aid station, I was ready for a pit stop.

Lucky for me, there was no waiting. It was decidedly at this point that I decided that wearing the Fuel Belt was a pain in the arse. I had to take off my race belt and my Fuel Belt, and the inside felt like a sauna. I was covered in sweat by the time I got done. The three mile run along the Grand Lagoon was very pleasant. One of the neighbors was having a party in his front yard.

Hey Wes! You wanna beer?

The spectators, almost to a person, were extremely supportive of us all. This guy, however, rubbed me the wrong way. I resisted the urge to smash him in the face. I know. That really is unlike me. I managed a weak smile and kept on trudging. After three miles, we crossed back over to the other side of Thomas Drive again. I was looking forward to heading into the park. My family has owned property in Venture Out since I was a wee lad. In all this time, I had NEVER stepped foot inside of St. Andrew's State Park. Plus, I hoped to see my father there.

I made a right back onto Thomas Drive after the short run behind the hotels. Right there in front of Venture Out, the signs started. I had a blast reading them as I ran by. Unfortunately, my father was no where to be seen. I was a bit disappointed, but he wasn't feeling well, having a nasty code. At the very end of the signs, I saw one with my name on it.

Go Iron Wes!!!

THAT perked up my spirits. Sarah had come down the night before and put the sign up. That was really special.

The run into the park was about 2.5 miles long. I had to stop again at the first aid station inside and go to the bathroom, again. Even with all the stops, I was still keeping to my goal of 11 to 12 minute miles. At the second aid station inside the park, I began looking forward to the turn around. I had been walking through every aid station thus far, drinking a cup of water and a cup of gatorade. I was trying to take a gel every thirty minutes, and for the most part, I did.

As my foot crossed the timing mat at the turn around, I thought, "Now my friends and coach will know where I am at." Yes, I was thinking about you guys. On the way back, between aid stations, was the Ford Motivation Station. Supporters could type in a motivating statement. As the athletes ran across the mat, it flashed on a huge screen. I looked up at the big sreen after crossing. I got nothing. I looked, and looked, and looked. Nothing. Disappointed, I continued my run. I knew Dee Dee had put something in there for me. I hoped it would show up the next time.

My father was there, waiting for me in front of Venture Out. I hugged him, and he said, go, go, go! Like I was racing or something. This made me smile. I got to my beautiful neice and her daddy before running again. At the turn (to run behind the hotels), I ran into Kelly. She was heading in the opposite direction. We screamed at each other. I couldn't believe she was still at it. I figured if she was going to DNF at any point, it would be shortly before the end of the bike, or shortly after the end of the bike. In her words,

Damn! You are way ahead of me!

Ummmm, yea! I like trained. You didn't!

I crossed back over Thomas Drive and into the neighborhoods. It was starting to get dark, and I was tired. To top it off, I had to make yet another bathroom stop. Curse my slow pace!! Somewhere along this back stretch of the course, I abandoned my running nutrition plan. I stuck with the water and gatorade. For nutrition, I began to pick and choose from the abundant fare at the aid stations, starting with bananas.

The walk breaks were becoming more frequent, and longer. I maded it to the mile stretch along the beach before I like totally gave in and just walked. I could see the Girl Zone up ahead. A man 10 years my senior ran up at that minute then stopped. He was doing the run/walk thing. I decided at this point, that I would join him. Together, we ran the mile to Alvin's Island. I'm not sure why, but at that point, I decided to cut one of my walk breaks short and took off without him. I guess I wanted to get to the turn around quickly.

Out of the corner of my eye, somebody came off the hill and accosted me on the run course.

Hey! Hey Wes! How ya doin?

Oh, hey! Yea! Hey! I'm doing OK...

I kept running. After a couple of feet, I looked back and realized that it was TJ! Woot! TJ and I had exchanged e-mails before the weekend. I had told him that I would be disappointed if I didn't get to see him. TJ made sure I wasn't disappointed.

Up ahead, I could hear Mike Reilly announcing each Ironman as they crossed the finish line. I was a bit peeved that the turn around went right up to the finish line. That was just no fun. I made the turn around and was very happy to have the first half of my run over. Right across the fence from the special needs bags, Dee Dee and the kids were waiting for me. I told the volunteer that I did not need my bag. The sun was going down. There was no use for either the sunscreen, dry socks, or crackers. I high fived Dee Dee and the kids. I then dumped my hat, sunglasses, and Fuel Belt on the ground for Dee Dee to pick up. This was OK and did not qualify as outside assistence.

Trying not to trip over the special needs bags, I made it back down to the road. TJ came off the hill again to see me on the way out.

How are you feeling?, he asked.

I'm in a lot of pain, I said, but nothing is broken. The stomach is fine. I'm ready to keep slugging it out.

Somehow, I managed to start running again. I decided that prudence was the better part of valor and switched to a run two minutes walk one minute cycle. Right before it got dark, I had to stop at the port-a-potty for the fourth and last time. This was getting so old!! Dee Dee thinks the salt water I swallowed may have had something to do with it. I don't know. I continued to keep my nutrition going. I drank at least something at every aid station. I snacked on grapes, bananas, cookies, and gels. When I got tired of gatorade, I tried chicken broth and coke. It wasn't entirely happy with the effect the sugar in the coke had on my body. I opted not to repeat that one.

My father had returned to his home in Venture Out. One of the lights in the state park was out. We were running in total darkness for a half a mile or so. I was really afraid of running up onto the back of someone. I had remained pretty consistent with the run two walk one cycle. Coach had asked me not to give myself an out. She said, "When you stop to walk, set a limit." The run/walk cycle fit into this perfectly. I did allow myself to walk through the aid stations, no matter what the time, and once in a while, two to three times, I allowed myself to walk through the run portion. Other than that, I stayed very consistent.

The glow from the lights marked my final turn around on this day. All I could think about was crossing over that mat and letting everyone out there know where I was at and indirectly how I was doing. On this approach to the turn around, I noticed a sign in the sand. It said, "Wes Rocks!" That got a big smile. I wasn't sure if that was for me or not, but it had my name on it, and I {hearted} it. Who ever put that sign out there, thanks a million!

The timing machine beeped satisfyingly the second and final time around. I crossed over the mat at the Ford Motivation Station, and this time, I was rewarded with my race number showing on the board. I can't remember the exact message that appeared. My memory is fuzzy. But it did say I was going to be an Ironman :-)

The return trip in the dark was surreal and quiet. The athletes were like ghosts moving through the darkness. I felt for the athletes that were on their way out. My memory of the Rocket City Marathon sustained me. I was in much better shape now than I was at a similar point at that time. I even managed to pick up my pace a little. The miles ticked off. I ran into Kelly again at almost exactly the same spot. I managed to scream and ham it up for her, tired though I was. At four miles, I could begin to taste it. The excitement was building. I wouldn't wait to see miles 24 and 25. I was knew I was in the final home stretch.

The Girl Zone was still active. Despite the chill, the chicas in thongs were still motivating tired athletes. I got several comments on how strong I looked. I guess more than a few peeps were impressed that I was still running. Many of the people inhabiting the tents near Alvin's Island had either gone home or headed for the finish line. One guy was blaring out rock music at an ear shattering decibel. I could have done without that, thank you very much!

There were three guys with a tent in the road at Alvin's Island. I had stopped to walk at this point, saving my strength for my final run. They ran up beside me, one on each side, yelling. The guy on the right asked me if this was my final loop. I told him that yes, it was my final loop.

Run!, he said. This is the best part of the race! You are gonna be an Ironman {screams}....

I was like,

Dude! You so need a tic-tac.... {smile}

With the finish line about half a mile a way, I broke into a lumbering gait. Up ahead of me, a blond athlete in blue was headed towards the finish. I looked over my shoulder to make sure no one was running up behind me. I wanted to come across the finish line by myself, even if I had to wait. There was nobody coming up behind me. It was getting lighter. The voice of Mike Reilly was getting louder.

I grimaced. The girl up ahead was running to slow. Now, I could see the throngs of people around the finisher's chute. It was all one big blur of faces and noise. I didn't even try to pick anybody out of the crowd. All I wanted to do was finish this thing up in style. Realizing the girl in front of me had plenty of distance left, I broke into a sprint and passed her. I was totally not concerned with beating her to the finish. It was all about the finish line picture. As I passed under the first arch, I heard a scream.

Go, Wes!!!

I looked to my left, and there was Lauren. I had known Lauren was going to be at the finish, and I had hoped she would be there when I came through. What was even more amazing to me was that I recognized her right away :-) Yea, that was cool. I waved to Lauren and turned my toughts back to the finish. I was so sure before the race that I would get all choked up and cry my way down the finisher's chute, but it didn't happen. Instead, I raised my arms, pumped my fists, and with my arms held high, I crossed the finish line. Mike Reilly said,

Wes Mc****, You are an Ironman!

I stopped about eight yards on the other side of the finish line, fully expecting a volunteer to come and collect me. It wasn't long before a man noticed me and came over and grabbed my arm.

How are you feeling?

I am feeling OK.

Do you need to go to the medical tent? No? OK. Walk this way. What size shirt do you wear? Medium! Medium please. This young lady will take your chip.

I need to go some where to die.

Don't die here. That would get kind of messy.

After taking care of the basics, he pointed me at the photographers at the finish line. My son, Jimmy found me, and we waited for Dee Dee and the rest of the gang to show up. When the family arrived, they all got big hugs, and Dee Dee the biggest of all. It took maybe five minutes or so to get my finish line photo taken, then it was off to take care of the necessities. Yea, I really had to pee.

Sarah and her friend came running up to find me. I had the blanket wrapped around me, but Sarah just wasn't going to do without a big hug either, and I obliged her :-) She was really excited, and I enjoyed seeing her and her friend from PTC Tri Club there at the finish. We chatted for a few seconds, but it started to get cold, and that of course, aggravated the situation. I reluctantly said good bye to Sarah and headed indoors, where it was warm, and there were toilets.

We then made our back outside. Dee Dee wanted to go get all of my gear by herself, but I insisted on helping her. She was so funny. She kept her arm around me, trying to keep me from falling. What she was really doing was throwing me off balance. LOL... I know she meant well. The volunteers at transition wouldn't let Matthew in, and he had to wait outside. After we gathered my stuff, we couldn't find Matthew anywhere. Just what we needed at the end of the day. We were walking around transition looking for him when my cell phone went off. He had walked down to Alvin's Island where Jimmy and Jessica were meeting us with the car. He was smart enough to ask some lady to call us on her cell phone. Gah!!!! On the way to collect Matthew, we ran into my Mom and step-father. Kelly finished about an hour behind me. I hear that she is mad I beat her. I hope we never do one of these together where she actually trains :-)

We made it back to the condo in one piece and got all the gear upstairs. I showered and hopped in the bed. Dee Dee ordered a pizza for us, while the kids went out for Wendy's or something like that. As I lay in bed, the pain from my legs was anything like I had ever experienced before. I took two Advil and managed to stay awake long enough to eat a couple of slices of pizza.

My eyes finally closed of their own accord. I fell asleep, one terribly sore, tired, but happy... Ironman.

(Final installment, The Aftermath coming soon)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Reflections of Iron: The Bike

The walk up the pathway from the beach is a couple of hundred yards. After getting stripped of my wet suit, I made an assessment of my body. The back of my neck had a bit of chaffing. My arms were fatigued as expected, and my cramp had all but disappeared. Because I did not strip my own wet suit, I totally avoided the cramps I usually get in my calves. I was feeling very good, excited, ready to continue the day.

Right before you head into the tunnel, they put up a shower of fresh water. I paused there for a few tens of seconds to rinse the sand and salt water from my body. As I entered the tunnel, one of the amazing volunteers yelled out my number on a bullhorn. Last year, I was a volunteer at the swim to bike transition. There were a few athletes that were in such a hurry and down right snobbish to the volunteers. Yes! This WAS the exception rather than the rule. I opted not to be one of those athletes. I took my time. Walked over to where my bag was. Waited patiently for the volunteer to find it. Thanked him, then headed for the changing tent.

Did you know there were over 5000 volunteers for IM Florida?! They..were..amazing!

I wasn't quite prepared for what awaited me in the transition tent. It was wall to wall hard male bodies. I haven't been in touch with my gayness for a long time now, but just walking into the hot sweaty changing tent sent my ick factor shooting through the roof. I wandered into the middle of the tent and found an empty chair by a pole. (We'll let this one slide!) There was just so much stuff in my bike bag to put on. I dried off with my towel before slipping into my tri suit. This was followed by my helmet, heart rate monitor, gloves, and shoes. I packed all my swim stuff back into the bag and tied it up. I exited the tent and handed my bag to a volunteer. That was when I noticed my Road ID was stuck to the velcro on my shoe. At least I didn't lose it! I quickly put it into its proper place. A kind volunteer slathered me down with sunscreen, and another one brought me my bike. With a click clack of my riding shoes, I walked to the bike mounting line.

Sarah had found a great vantage point to see the riders leaving transition. I high fived her and proceeded to mount Aerowyn. The rider in front of me was having a hard time getting clipped in. I was very patient and didn't push her at all. Finally, she got clipped in and we were on our way. I saw Dee Dee and the family on the way out. They screamed and yelled at me, which I acknowledged with a wave.


The bike course for IM Florida leaves transition heading west on Front Beach Road. Where it dead ends into the Walmart, you make a left and head further west. When I left transition, I was still very hot from the swim. Because of this, I opted NOT to wear my arm warmers. The further I got into Panama City Beach, the colder I got and the more I regreted my decision. I've done some pretty cold rides on the Silver Comet Trail. I knew how to handle this. I gritted my teeth, sucked it up, and kept pedaling. I knew it would warm up eventually, but I ended up being a tad bit cold for the entire ride.

The route along the beach is flat and scenic. My first order of business was to get my heart rate under control. Given the flatness, I was surprised to see it up at the 150 mark. I went with that for the first five minutes or so. I knew my adrenaline was pumping and excitement was high. I kept my pace light and easy. By the time I turned onto Hwy 79 to the north, my HR had dropped into the 140s. Fifteen minutes into the ride I started my nutrition plan. I kicked off the timer on my watch, set to beep every thirty minutes, and downed a gel. I drank a little bit of Tiger from my aero bottle. Experience told me that when it was this cold, I did not need to drink heavily, or I would be peeing off the bike every twenty minutes!

By the time I hit the bridge over the bay, my heart rate had settled into high zone one and low zone 2, just where I wanted it for the first half of the ride. The view from the top of the bridge was spectacular. The sun was shining. The sky was blue. The bay looked so serene. I just ate that up. The route north was about 16 miles long. We had to travel along one stretch of road that was under construction. I was very impressed with the care the drivers showed towards the athletes. Bad things could have easily happened here. There was very little elevation change. Everything was either flat or very long and gentle. You hardly noticed it at all.

At the first aid station, I was contemplating stopping and going to the bathroom. When I saw the line, I declined and kept pedaling. The same thing happened at the second aid station. When we made the right turn onto Hwy 20, I decided I was stopping at the next aid station no matter how long the line was. At the third aid station, I handed my bike to a kind volunteer, waited into line, and relieved some pressure!! LOL... It didn't take too long, and it was totally worth it. I jumped back on my bike again and off I went. I really felt better having stretched my legs and relieved my bladder.

We stayed on Hwy 20 for about 27 miles. About half way through this part of the course, the wind began to pick up. It also just so happened that we came upon the only real hills for the day, not counting the bridge. Near the turn south onto Hwy 231, the race peeps had set up our special needs bags. I stopped there to put on more sunscreen. Aerowyn had been handling beautifully, and I had no need for the extra tube or canisters.


The turn onto Hwy 231 was so much fun!!! The first two to three miles was long, gradual, and downhill. I was flying. 231 is a four lane highway by the way. It was very fast and very smooth. We rode south for nine miles before making a right hand turn onto a country road. This was where the fun began. This road had cracks in it every ten yards or so. It was like riding on rail road tracks. There were bottles, sponges, air canisters, spare tires, and all kinds of other crap all over the road to prove it!! We spent about 10.5 miles on this crotch numbing joy ride before turning east on Hwy 388 towards the turn around. Not only was this section slightly up hill, but the wind was really blowing now. I teased a rider passing me if he could do something about this wind. He laughed and said he was was going to keep riding until he found out who was responsible.

The turn around looked oh so delicious. I made the turn and crossed the map with a beep. Some poor guy didn't get a beep and had to ride over it twice. With the wind at my back, it was now game on. Coach had talked to me about negative splitting the ride. Usually, when she says things like that, I'm a bit skeptical. I usually don't have the strength to or patience to do that. With the wind at my back and the flatness of the road ahead, I decided to kick it up a notch. My pace showed the effort. For the first 73 miles, I averaged 16.7 mph. For the remainder of my ride, I averaged 18.6 mph, almost two miles per hour faster. What I enjoyed most, however, was passing quite a few peeps who had passed me earlier in the day. That was a new experience for me, and I sucked it up!!!

Highway 388 was not much better than that ole country road. There were times when I swear the pavement was trying to eat my tires. I was now measuring my progress in tens of miles. I was so happy to see 80 and 90 miles click by. I knew once I got to mile marker 90, I was in the final stretch. I missed the 100 mile marker. I assume it was some where near the left hand turn back onto 79, which took us south back to Panama City Beach. By now, it was just me and a couple of other triathletes. I decided to not pass any more people and save my strength for the run. When I made the left onto Front Beach Road, the stiff wind in my face justified this decision. That was the longest six miles of my life. It wasn't like I hated being on the bike anymore. I just hated having to plow through that wind at this stage of the game.

A few families were out in front of their hotels along this part of the route. Despite being tired, I managed some smiles and a few waves. When I reached the first Waffle House, I could see the hotel at the corner of Thomas Drive in the distance. I knew the end was near. When I made the turn onto Thomas Drive, the crowds picked up and so did my determination to finish strong. I stayed aero and pedaled smartly, staying (legally) close to the athlete in front of me.

When I arrived back at transition, I saw Dee Dee and the family. I heard someone shout my name. I couldn't see who it was, but I smiled and acknowledged them with a wave. I dismounted, handed my bike to a volunteer and began the long walk to the changing tents. Along the way, I picked up my bike to run bag.

My legs had that familiar heaviness to them. If anything, I trained the bike really well. In my mind, I was just wondering if, for the first time ever, I had the strength to run 26.2 miles off a century plus ride.

There was only one way to find out....