My First Ironman. “its better to undertrain than to overtrain”
Watching TV can definitely rot your brain. Clint and I were watching the Ironman and thought, “Geez, I wonder if I could do that” So we decided to go ahead and sign up. We had never done a triathlon before, didn’t own a bike, and swimming was limited to playing sharks and minnows. We did have some running ability since we ran cross country and track in high school (we were both 18 at the time).
So first thing first. We needed to do a triathlon to see what is like. Luckily a race called the “My First Triathlon” was coming up. A grueling race of 200m swim, 6 mile bike, 2 mile run was coming up. This will be our Ironman tune-up. What did I learn from this race….several things.
1. I can’t swim very well. I can swim it just takes some time.
2. I need to get a bike (I borrowed an old beat up POS)
3. Triathlons are really fun
So we had a little less than a year to train for the California Ironman. For swimming I joined a local gym and would swim laps for 30 minutes 3-4 times a week. For the bike I went and bought a cool Trek 1000, and there wasn’t an ounce of carbon fiber on that enitre bike. Just 25 lbs of cool aluminum.
Training consisted of 50-100 miles a week of biking, 30 miles a week of running, and 3 miles a week of swimming. My long workouts consisted of an 80 mile bike ride, a 14 mile run, and 1.5 mile swim. Perhaps not the best Ironman leadup.
2 weeks out from the race
I decided it was time to taper. How did I taper you might ask…road trip was the answer. Clint was already in California so another friend of mine volunteered to drive out to San Diego with me. On our way out we would hit up the Grand Canyon, lots of camping, hiking, and an overall good time. So for the 2 weeks leading up to the Ironman I did absolutely no swimming or biking, but I did go on the occasional run through the Arizona desert.
We left for Cali taking a nice round about route going through Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and Utah. On the way out to the race we hit a border station in amd I guess to young guys driving around we must have looked a little suspicious. So naturally they pulled us out of the car and had the dogs take a gander through our car. It didn’t bother at all, but my friend was getting nervous. APPARENTLY in the glove box he had some pharaphanelia left. Luckily nothing to get the dogs suspicious, but we decided its best to ditch such things for the remainder of the trip. PHEW. The next stop was to head to the Grand Canyon to do some hiking and camping. The Grand Canyon is definitely grand. We hiked down and back up which was my Ironman training for the day. After some camping we headed to the Hoover Dam and drove through Vegas. Great views and good times. The taper continues.
Finally we made it to San Diego a few days before the big day and enjoyed the expo. If you havent been to an Ironman Expo or similiarly large event it’s a pretty cool scene. During the expo and packet pickup we got a booklet of all the Ionman races and course profiles. We flipped through it and saw one with a killer bike course. Lots of climbing, more than the others….I said to clint “this one sucks” we then realize that its Ironman California. We chuckled at that one.
The swim was a 2 loop course in 64 degree California water. All 2400 of us lined up in the water and treaded water for 10 minutes. Then BOOM! the cannon goes off. My good friend Clint looks over to me and says something along the lines of “good luck, here we go” just as he swings his arm to make his first swim stroke he smacks me across the face messing up my goggles. He looks back and says “sorry” then takes off swimming. He contest that it was purely accidental, but I have my doubts. So there I am putting on my goggles as 2400 people try to swim around me. I get them on and take off….take off is a strong word. It was take 5 strokes then stop fror the crowd, take 5 more, stop, 5 more, stop, you get the idea. After about a mile I finally stop getting punched and kicked and can settle into a nice rhythm. A good hour and 18 minutes go by and I am done! Hurray. I climb out of the water and I must have looked like death because 3 volunteers asked me if I was okay. I was, just a little cold and wet. Perfectly normal for swimming in california waters.
The bike. What can I say but I was definitely not prepared for the bike. 112 miles is really long. I mean its really really long whe your longest ride was an 80 mile ride. Over the years I must have blocked out a lot of the bike memeories. I do recall on the bike course I was cresting one of the climbs and a marine was standing on the top yelling “ Dead guy at the bottom, slow down”. “Uh what?” was my reaction as I pedaled on down. Sure enough there was an ambulance with a sheet pulled over someone. That incident kept me alert for the rest of the ride. Apparently he lost control and went head first into the gaurdrail. Terrible accident. As I was ending the ride I saw the end of the bike in sight. I actually felt like I was tearing up because I was SO HAPPY the bike was over. All I had left was to run a marathon. Thank God. A good 6 and a half hours in the saddle.
When I started the marathon I was over joyed. I took off running feeling revived and full of life. Mile 1 was in 7:15, mile 2: 7:30, mile 3: 8:30, mile 4: 9:30. Suddnely I felt not so full of life. I pressed on though. They had great buffet stations every mile so I focused on trotting along to the next station where I would stop and get something to eat. The run was nice and flat which was an immense change of scenery. The entire second half of the marathon I saw people sitting on the street crubs cheering me on and thinking, I really want to sit down. I have never wanted to sit down that much in my entire life. The curb was calling to me. But sit down I did not. I kept on trucking along at my awful pace thinking about that great tasting potato soup at each mile. Let me digress on the potato soup. It was amazing. I still have dreams about its warm goodness touching my lips. Just one time in your life go and deplete yourself of all the salt in your body, getting really tired, a little bit cold, and drink some warm potato soup. ….I cant stop thinking about it. Okay so I keep trucking along and am coming down to the final miles and am thinking this is a great experience. I came into the final finish after 4 hours and 40 minutes of running and even though it was late and it took just under 14 hoursto complete the whole kit and kaboodle I felt proud of what I accomplished, though next time I will train properly. I crossed the finish line, was handed a medal, shirt, and a foil thingy, I think my picture was taken too. Its all a blur. I quickly looked around and found what I had been searching for – a curb. I sat. I smiled and was happy to say I am an Ironman.
I also got my name mentioned in the local newpaper as the youngest competitor. I won $20 from my cross country coach who said I wouldnt make it out of the swim. I didnt die as I think both of my parents feared. Boy, when you are 18 you do all kinds of crazy stuff.