IMLT – Race Report Part 5 – Epilogue

I HAD a plan to raise $10,000 for some awesome organizations by Sept. 22, 2013 – the day I RACED in Ironman Lake Tahoe. Thanks to you, we’ve reached both of those goals. I am now officially an Ironman, and we raised $11,052!

This is the last in a 5-part race report series for the inaugural edition of Ironman Lake Tahoe. So far I’ve posted the Prologue, Swim, Bike, and Run. We’ve now reached the Epilogue.

Sorry about the delay between parts 4 and 5. Some work exercises and a project around the house kind of consumed my free time this past week. In case you need a reminder, go back and read the Run post again…

Ironman Lake Tahoe 2013 – Race Report Part 5 – Epilogue

So. There you have it.

My first 140.6. With all kinds of strange twists. Extremely high winds, pounding rain, and SNOW the day before the race. Bitter cold morning temperatures on the swim and bike. The Roman bathhouse debacle of T1. The wicked flip of a bike crash. A bonk of epic proportions on the run. And a very surprising theme song that motivated me throughout the day.

Eye of the tiger… fighter… I am a champion… you’re gonna hear me ROAR…

And, at the end of it all, I walked away an IRONMAN.

And there it is. The glory pose. Soak it all in...

And there it is. The glory pose. Soak it all in…

Immediately after the flailing, furious blast toward finish line I was greeted by a volunteer who wrapped a space blanket around me. That last finishing burst not only looked strange and awkward, but it took an unexpectedly intense explosion of energy and oxygen to do that… and I was winded and having a tough time catching my breath. The volunteer was wicked awesome and shepherded me through the process. Another volunteer took my timing chip while another handed me the official 2013 Ironman Lake Tahoe FINISHER’S cap and t-shirt. My volunteer angel stayed with me to make sure I was fine until I saw Lauren, Papa Jeff, Suzanne, Kris, and Robin hustling over. I thanked my volunteer – have I said enough how awesome she is??? – and ran over to give the family hugs and show off my war wounds. Somewhere in the midst of this I recall myself saying the words, “OK, I’ve checked that off the bucket list… I’m going back to 70.3’s!”

Of course, I am a choco milk ‘Refuel’ fan, and needed a little post-race replenishment. Lo and behold, there were two people standing behind giant barrels filled with the stuff. I grabbed myself a bottle and started chugging away, and then headed straight for the medic tent to get my wounds tended to – if the race broke me, they were going to fix me. A really awesome volunteer medic made sure I was cleaned up, antibacterialized, and bandaged up!

Do you see a trend here? Everywhere I went: AWESOME volunteers. EVERYWHERE. We then made our way down to the bag and bike reclamation areas to get my gear, then headed back through an eerily dark parking lot toward my rig to head to the condo and celebrate. The parking lot was pitch black, and we were walking along between cars toward the back of the lot, when out of nowhere I found myself bent over a concrete barrier, hanging in mid air. I was shocked. The wind was knocked out of me. And my right knee – pretty much the only part on my body that wasn’t injured from the crashes earlier in the day or three weeks ag0 – took a really hard knock. It took me a few minutes to gather myself and gain my bearings… we threw my gear (and Kris) in the back of the Q5, the bike on the roof, and headed out.

After a quick drop-off of Kris and Robin, along with their navigator PJ, back at their car (way back at the Squaw Valley turn off at the highway – they hiked the 2+ miles to the finishing area) we headed back to the condo. And guzzled fancy beer. And drank fancy wine. And devoured (slowly – I am a methodical eater) a fantastic dinner featuring a giant steak. And stayed up late and chatted. And soaked in the email, text, and Facebook love and did my best to write you all back and thank you individually. And drank some more. Yes, I went for a triathlon of a different sort after the Ironman: beer, wine, AND whiskey. I am relentless. Adrenaline is a powerful, powerful thing.

It wasn’t really until the next morning when I woke up, surprisingly enervated and less sore than I had anticipated (the bike crash and concrete wall injuries were the worst, by far) did it sink in. Yeah. I did that. I seriously did that. I am a freaking Ironman!

I had established a set of goals coming into the race. An unrealistically fast goal should everything work out perfectly: 1o hours. A more realistic goal given the altitude, weather, and ‘uncertainty’ adjustments: 12 hours. How did I do against those goals?

Swim: 1:19:32. This was better than my optimistic prediction of 1:20:00, and certainly far better than my realistic prediction of 1:30:00. I came out of the water 1022 of 2751 overall, 205 of 463 in my age group. Not bad considering how poorly the first 1/2 mile of the swim went.

T1: 0:20:33. Not at all what I was expecting. Nobody expected the changing tent fiasco to go down like that. Far worse than the 5 minute optimistic, 8 minute realistic targets I’d established.

Bike: 6:11:45. Smack dab in the heart of my predicted times of 5:30:00 optimistic and 6:30:00 realistic. This included stoppage time for two restroom breaks of about a minute each, and about 5 minutes for that gnarly bike crash. I had the 181st fastest bike split of the day (well within the top 10%), moving me up to 310th overall and 55th in my age group. Yep… in 112 miles of biking I had passed 712 people. That is pretty crazy. And it felt like it – I was always whizzing by somebody on their left all day long.

T2: 0:04:52. A bit slower than my projected times of 2 minutes optimistic, and 3 minutes realistic. If I didn’t have road rash to check out, and the extra layers of cold weather gear to remove, a 2 to 3 minute time was well within reach.

Run: 4:10:09. By FAR my slowest marathon ever. And boy did I implode. But it wasn’t too much slower than my range of projections at 3:00:00 optimistic and 3:50:00 pessimistic. But, somehow, I still made up some ground even with that abysmal showing on the run. I apparently passed 62 more people on the run. A surprising 287th fastest run on the day.

Total: 12:06:51. Far short of my optimistic 10 hour finishing time… but right in line with my 12 hour realistic target. 248th overall and 42nd in my age group. I placed in the top 10%!

There was a lot to learn with this being my first full Ironman distance race. 140.6 is quite a bit different than 70.3, that is for certain. Immediately after the race I felt that I was now done with this distance – I’d proven that I could do it, do it well, but the toll was too great. That didn’t last long, though. Later that night the demons had settled in… “What if my swim didn’t start off so horribly? What if T1 had gone differently? What if I had better cold weather gear for the start of the bike? What if I hadn’t crashed? What if I pushed myself a little harder on the bike? What if I hadn’t bonked on the run? What if I modified my training a bit to address the bike-to-run fatigue?”

In the days that followed the race, much was made of the race statistics at the triathlon websites and blogs. A whole slew of people that started didn’t make the finish line. So many people, in fact, that folks started saying that the Lake Tahoe course was the toughest Ironman course ever. I’m not convinced that is 100% accurate – not having raced the other courses I can’t make an accurate assessment of their relative difficulty. But what I can say is the T1 debacle added unnecessary time to many people – I know one guy who was pulled off the bike course because he missed the intermediate cutoff window by 2 minutes… partially due to getting stuck in the T1 changing tent for 40 (yes 40!) minutes. He was a victim of circumstance. There were many such victims of circumstance on this first year of the race course. I am confident that they will iron out these concerns in future races.

I also feel that year 1 of this race drew participants that weren’t really prepared for the course – in the excitement of the race announcement, many people rushed to register without understanding what was up with the course. I will freely admit that I was one of them – I was ignorant of the elevation, of the difficulty of the bike course, and of the potential for inclement weather conditions. Future participants will be much more aware, and I assure you that DNF rates in the future will be far less… as the race will attract a different mix of athletes aware of and prepared for the idiosyncrasies of this difficult event.

Two weeks later…

I feel great. The body feels a bit fatigued, but STRONG. The crash wounds and knocked up knee from the parking lot incident are mostly healed. I’m back into training already – Ragnar Trail Relay Vail Lake is coming up soon. Trail running is a completely different beast from long-distance triathlon, that is for certain, so I need to log in some quality miles on the trails.

I’ve also been mapping out my race calendar for next year. I’m already registered for Ironman 70.3 St George. A Ragnar Relay or two; perhaps even go for another Boston Marathon qualification time and an attempt to break 3 hours. Why not? Unfortunately, I’ve missed out on the Oceanside 70.3 registration (drat!), but Ironman 70.3 Lake Stevens is looking promising… with at least a few more in the sprint/Olympic/70.3 distances to add to the list. Oh, yeah, and maybe even another 140.6.

Yep. I think I might want to give it another go. And crush my previous time.

I’m a little surprised I feel that way so soon. I walked away satisfied and grateful to finish Ironman Lake Tahoe. But the fire burns in my belly to race it better. The same fire that’s bringing me back to St George.

So… we’ll see…

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One Response to IMLT – Race Report Part 5 – Epilogue

  1. Suzanne Oram says:

    “….so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory or defeat.”

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