This may be a pretty jumbled entry as there is so many things about the day that I just do not want to forget.
You can't start with just a race report - there are so many things about Ironman that makes it an unbelievable experience - especially IMLP as I've been told. The town is unbelievably supportive of the event. Many of the volunteers are towns people and folks from neighboring towns. I know this because I volunteered last year and the team captains for my aid station were folks from Saranac, a neighboring town. They were the team captains again this year.
The build up to the race is unbelievable. The town was pretty quiet on Wednesday when we got there, but the cars with bikes just kept piling in. You could barely walk the sidewalks on Friday and Saturday. Not only were there 3,000 racers, there were just as many volunteers. Add to that the families that the came in to cheer on their athletes - Wow!
I got up early Saturday to do my 20/20/20 workout. Went easy - figured this was just about getting loose. I felt unbelievably good on Saturday - better than I felt even Thursday and Friday. Anticipation or a taper timed to perfection? I actually managed to get a nap in Saturday which is good as Saturday night's sleep was not perfect - took a while to fall asleep and I woke up every hour fearful that my alarm clock was going to let me down. The final waking was five minutes before the alarm went off so I turned the alarm off as to not wake the rest of the family.
I went down to Dave's room at 4:45 for breakfast. Topped off the stores with eggs and potatoes. We walked down to the transition area together and checked on our gear and bikes just to triple and quadruple check everything.
Once we were satisfied that all our gear was in order, we dropped off our special needs bags (which it turns out neither of us needed). We then waited in a porta pottie line for what seemed to be forever and were starting to get quite anxious. As soon as we were done there we headed to the water (and for those of you thinking why didn't you just go in the water - well, when we started waiting in line they were not letting age groupers into the water yet).
As soon as we walked over the mat to get into the water an unbelievable charge coursed through my body - I can't explain it - maximum anticipation, nervous energy explosion, something. Dave wanted to wait onshore towards the right side - we weren't real close to the right side - so I started breast stroking towards the start flags - didn't want the swim time to the flags to get tagged onto my time.
I thought I found some open water to start the swim in, but as soon as the cannon went off it was mass chaos - legs and elbows everywhere. I was prepared for this - to panic would be a waste of energy. I just kept swimming and holding my line as best as I could. I actually had people swim over me a couple of times on the first half of the first lap. Again, no reason to panic - I just kept swimming. On the second half of the first lap I decided no more mister nice guy. I understand the bumping, but there is absolutely no reason to swim over someone - if you are that good of a swimmer (which I doubt they were), they should have started near the front. Anyone who tried to swim over me from that point on got kicked - I was fully o.k. with the bumping - did some of it myself, but I did not swim over anyone. O.K. enough ranting!
Finished the first lap and ran around to start the second lap. The crowd was unbelievable - people lined up in the water and along the chute cheering very loudly. It's unbelievable - they are cheering for everyone, not just their particular athlete, about brought me to tears.
I swam the second lap wide - the first half of the second lap I was still in traffic but it was no where as bad as the first lap. I somehow got even wider on the second half of the first lap and had to angle myself back into the lane. I do remember my geometry though - the shortest distance between two points is a straight line so I sited on the last buoy instead of the one I was closest to.
I was about three quarters of the way through the second lap and I got a little disoriented. The buoys seemed much larger than I remembered them so I thought that I had somehow swam in a circle out on the course and was starting the second half of the lap again. Luckily I heard the announcers voice and realized that I was just about done with the second lap - what a feeling of relief that was!!!
Running to T1 was unbelievable - people lined everywhere screaming encouragement.
T1 was not quite as awesome as I expected. I was told that they get your bike bag and bike for you. That may be true when you do not exit the water with the masses. It really did not add too much to get my own bag and the bike was on the way out anyway.
Mounting the bike was another mass chaos event. I usually swing my leg over the bike and basically mount it while running - there were people mounting from a standstill in the middle of the lane which was not very wide and others having verious other issues. I did manage to mount and start riding only to get held up at the bottom of the chute due to a sharp left turn. Luckily I am a good bike handler and did not need to unclip, but I had to literally do a track stand at one point while traffic was clearing.
Finally - off on the bike. As most people know this if my favorite part of triathlons. I felt really good, but remained disciplined for the entire ride. The first course of action was to get the HR down so I could start fueling. Not easy to do since you had to climb out of LP - but I remember what Max said - walk your F*&#ing bike if you have - get your HR down. So I soft pedalled until I was down to 135 and started fueling immediately. It was close enough to 1:30 that I decided to fuel at :30, :50 and :10. On the bike there were only a few things to keep in mind - fuel every 20 minutes, drink plenty of water, keep the HR at 135, and take advantage of as much free speed as possible.
It was wet the first time down the Keene hill, but I took some chances - did not go as fast as I would have if it was dry, but faster than I would have gone if it was a training ride. There was a little bit of wind, but it was not too bad.
Ariel passed me on the bike - we chatted for a couple of minutes and then off he went.
Coming into town for the first time was another awe inspiring moment. The hill leading to the turn into town was lined with people on both sides of the road shouting encouragement. It continued like this and even got crazier going into town - there was one section by the lake where people were actually in the road - I thought I was in the The Tour De France - it was crazy. Unfortunately it did not last long - out of town we went for our second loop.
The second time down Keene hill it was dry so I thought I would be able to get unbelievable speed on the hill - there was cross winds that were gusting and pretty strong. I was riding a disk so I got pushed around pretty good and was starting to loose control - I don't get nervous much on the bike, but I was nervous now - had to slow down as the front end of my bike was starting to shake - I still did pretty good on the descent - did more passing that I got passed - noticed that no one passing my had disk wheels. I still think the disk was a good idea because I was really moving on the flats and passed back everyone that passed me on the downhill and I was not even pedalling hard (had to keep the HR down).
I did not keep my bike splits, but I suspect I came close to even splitting it - I felt unbelievably strong on the bike - it was hard to stay discipled, but I kept reminding myself what was to follow the bike - had to stick to the plan. I tried relieving myself while riding, but it just would not happen - ended up stopping three times on the bike - the volunteers were unbelievable - they stocked my bike with water and gels while I was in the john.
The second trip through town was just as awe inspiring as the first trip. Got into transition and they grabbed my bike for me and I ran down my row and grabbed my run bag. I did not spend much time in transition as I was worried about losing my motivation. I changed my socks (there is nothing like dry socks!), put my shoes on, grabbed my water and off I went.
I skipped the first two aid stations as I had plenty of water and had a couple of gels with me. I forgot to mention - I was doing salt every hour and kept to this throughout the day. My first walk during the run was to get a salt tablet down - washed it down with water and off I went. I was still doing gels every 20 minutes and those were my walking breaks (initially). I was about eight miles into the run and was about to down a gel and I took one taste and knew it was not going down - coke would be the fuel for the rest of the run. Had a much better experience with the coke than I did at Patriot - probably because it was not hot. I fueled at the next two aid stations and then every other one after that - Oh yeah I was walking every aid station now, something I had planned to do from the start, but I felt pretty good to start with, So I skipped the first two as I mentioned above. I also walked the two big hills on the first lap as I had planned to do from the beginning.
Other than the walking mentioned above I pretty much ran the whole first loop. I started the second loop feeling pretty good (of course it's downhill coming out of town), but quickly started to run out of gas. I was running with Ariel at this point and we were employing a run walk strategy. At some point I was feeling pretty good and pulled away from Ariel - I should have stuck with him as he ended up passing me later. I caught up with Christina after I pulled away from Ariel and once again got caught and passed. Christina - you rock! So do you Ariel.
Dave Carbone passed me at some point during the run - if you said hello to me and I ignored you, I'm sorry - I was in my own little world at that point.
The second loop was painful - I had to keep on reminding myself to run again during my walking breaks. The little hills felt like monsters - I did not even remember these hills on the first loop.
I walked up the hill going into town - on the first loop I was able to start running once the steep portion was over - on the second loop I had to wait until the corner going up Lake Placid Road before I could start running again. I ran halfway up this hill and wanted to walk - I was within two miles of the finish - why couldn't I will myself on? I forced myself to run to the aid station and took on some more coke - the last fuel of the day - about 1.5 miles to go. I was fighting demons at this point - I could not get myself to run again - it was fairly flat - only slightly uphill, I finally convinced myself that I was being mentally weak and had to run it in the rest of the way. I did and I could feel the energy building as I came closer and closer to the finish. The Oval was unbelievable. I did not stop to walk as some people do, but I made sure to take in the sights - the crowds were unbelievable, the cheering was the loudest of the day, the announcer called out my name - "Martin Henry from Broad Brook CT, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN."
I would be a liar if said I did not shed a tear. It was not gushing, but there were deep emotions. I was a little disoriented at this point. All I wanted was to see my wife and daughter (they saw me finish!). They came to the gate and gave me a big hug. The first thing I said to them was "I want to do this again." My wife actually said o.k. - I think she finally gets it.
I walked out of the athlete area to see Dave Couture who had his best IM to date - cangratulations Dave! I knew you had it in you. So he asks me - where's your finisher shirt and hat? I said my what? He says go back in there and get them and don't forget to get your picture taken as well. Then I think he called me a novice - I am, that's why I followed you around like a puppy dog all week.
So in I went.
Carol and Alicia helped me get my gear and we walked up the room - I took a shower and - OH MY GOD, I was chafed! But it felt so good to be clean.
We went back down to watch Erica finish - my good friend Erica! I tried to run over to the finishing chute, but I could not run - so I shuffled over. Dan was there to greet his wife - he is very proud of you! Erica's first words to me were "I don't know why anyone would want to do this more than once." Be proud of yourself! This was an unbelievable accomplishment.
O.k., so what was my time you might want to know.
I have been reluctant to voice or publish my goals other then "to finish." Now it is time to come clean. I decided going into this that anything under 14:00 was acceptable and that there was an outside chance that I could hit 13:00 which would make me ecstatic. I split the difference - not too shabby.
I predicted 1:20 on the swim and 6:30 on the bike - hit those pretty much dead on. I really did not know if I would be able to put a decent marathon together since I have been all over the place on my marathon times. My best being about 4:20 and my worst about 5:05. I am not disappointed with 5:21 after what came before it, but I will endeavor to keep improving this area.
I know I will replay this event over and over in my head to determine what I could have done differently to get a better result - but I will not beat myself up - it will be a tool to use for future events.
I promised myself that I would not get caught up in the hoopla and rush the decision of whether or not to sign up for next year. That decision has been made for me (unless I want to pay for a foundation spot) as the event sold out in the first hour. There will be another IM for me in the future, it is just a matter of which one and when.
I'm taking a mental break for two weeks and then I am going to determine what the rest of my year looks like (other than Hartford Marathon) and start working on my schedule for next year. Maybe IM Arizona (does that one sell out in a day?).
To all that finished yesterday, Erica, Ariel, Christina, Dave Carbone, Dave Couture, Jay, Sue, Kim, Melanie - you are awesome!!
Pam, good luck in AZ- I will be following your progress!