I generally prefer to do my race reports very soon after a race, as I find that the memories are freshly imprinted in my mind and I am able to best express them. Unfortunately, my busy schedule has pushed back this post, but I’m confident that I won’t be forgetting this race anytime soon!
See my previous post here for the lead up to the race. As soon as the race began, all of the Pro men began their dolphin diving as the water got deeper and deeper. I had lined up to the left of the field and there was a lot of shuffling around as guys were transitioning from diving to actual swimming to head out onto the course. After things had sorted out a bit I found myself swimming next to Matt Russell and I was feeling smooth and fresh. A much better start than I had in Victoria the prior month. After a few whacks to the face, I remembered that Matt likes to swing wide so I dropped back to avoid any goggle incidents. I soon found the size 13 feet of Sam Long (don’t ask how I know) and tucked in to form the tail of a line of Pro Men.
Honestly, the rest of the swim was pretty uneventful as I stayed put right there having what felt like the easiest swim of my life in a race situation. I am still fairly conservative when it comes to racing in the beginning of an Ironman, but I’m now gaining the confidence to potentially push the swim harder than I have been. The second lap of the swim was slightly more eventful navigating the age-group athletes that were now on the course, but not too bad. As the group rounded the last turn buoy leading into the T1 chute, I picked up the pace and passed about 5 guys to enter T1 in the lead of our small group. I had learned my lesson from Victoria of not being the last guy out in a pack!
I went through T1 in decent time and came out just ahead of this group having no idea of my overall placement. As I got going I soon realized that there were going to be some fireworks on the bike as that group contained some extremely fast cyclists. First I was passed by Sam Long. Then Nathan Killam. Then Matt Russell came by after a couple minutes asking how far back we were from the other pack. Everything felt great but the power to stay with these guys was definitely higher than had been planned. After a couple more miles another guy came speeding by with a motorbike riding only a few feet away pointing a camera right at him. I soon realized this was ex-pro cyclist Andrew Talansky who I would not be trying to chase down!
From that point on, the idea of playing “tactics” was pretty much gone, and I tried to focus on riding strong and limiting any damage I may have done by riding hard in the first 5-10 miles. The strategy of this course was pretty simple for me. The steeper the uphill, the harder you push. The steeper the downhill, the more aero you get. This would get a bit more difficult on laps 2 and 3 of the bike as we joined with the age-group athletes now on the course and passing was frequently an annoying issue to deal with. Especially as fatigue set in during the final lap and the power and focus were steadily fading.
The other main focus of the ride was nailing my nutrition and hydration plan. I had 5 bottles prepared (2 in Special Needs) with Team Kattouf Sustain and electrolytes mixed together, as well as 2 flasks of maple syrup to sip on. This equated to about 500 calories/hour including getting as much additional water on board as I could feasibly handle as the temps got higher and higher. This is one part of the race that I think went very well for me. I definitely lost time switching bottles so frequently, but I’m confident that a lot more time would have been lost had I not made sure this part of my race was on point. I ended up peeing once on the bike for anyone interested and actually rolled into T2 wishing I had a gone second time!
While I had hit my nutrition and hydration goals well on the bike, I was definitely tight and fatigued from a hard 112 miles of riding. Making my way into the changing tent I feel like I took forever to get my shoes on and was definitely a bit loopy wondering how I was about to attempt a marathon. I eventually got going though and I wish I could say that I started out strong and ready to roll. But I felt absolutely terrible. It took me a bit to even realize that my watch wasn’t going and everything in my body felt fatigued and super tight. I had decided to start the run carrying a water bottle, but it felt more like a brick. I was crushing myself just to stay below an 8 minute/mile.
After a couple miles while on a hilly gravel section of the course, I realized a bathroom stop was inevitable. I quickly jumped into a port-a-john and did my business. Upon looking at my watch I realized that this was almost the exact moment in Alaska during the run where I had severe GI issues which was very concerning.
Luckily, I was out relatively quickly only losing 1-2 minutes and began running again. Only now, everything felt great! Seriously. That was all it took. I continued running down the gravel path and everything felt loose and downright fresh. I’ve never had such a turnaround in a workout or a race. Low 6 minute/mile pace felt easy and there were only 2 things to slow me down. Stopping at literally every aid station to drink at least 2 cups of water, and the fear of the second half of the marathon.
My mind then turned to my placement. I knew I was somewhat close to the top 10 as I was able to sort of count athletes on some out-and-back sections, but it was difficult with 70.3 athletes also being on the course. I did know that Pedro Gomes was not far behind me and that many athletes up the road would soon be blowing up with the heat now peaking into the 90’s with many exposed sections of hilly running. I continued to focus on my plan and continued to feel good heading into my second of 2 laps. I picked up a new flask of maple syrup from my Special Needs bag and got to work. The race was now becoming one of attrition. Who could hold up long enough to the finish? While my aid station stops were definitely costing me a good chunk of time, I was still managing a decent pace between them and everybody else was looking rough.
At the 20-mile mark I realized that it was potentially possible to close on the next couple guys depending how much ground I could gain. I was still feeling halfway decent somehow, but I began getting calf cramps every time I attempted to increase the pace. I was able to close the gap down a good chunk, but ran out of time to catch the guys ahead of me. I came down the finishing chute super ecstatic to actually be finishing a long course race feeling STRONG and in the top-10! Thus earning my first paycheck from Ironman!
After getting some (actually a lot) of good food and sleep after the race it was time to come home. Flights were once again less than ideal between driving and minimal sleep, but I made it home in one piece and am back to work at the hospital. Training has been very light since the race to allow full recovery, but things have been bouncing back very well. I’m very excited to get the next block of training started leading into a busy Fall of racing at Augusta 70.3, IRONMAN Louisville, and IRONMAN Arizona! Thanks for reading and hope to only keep improving!