Sunday, November 6, 2011

Ironman Florida Race Report

I have been thinking about this race every single day since I signed up last year, and it did not disappoint.  Wow, what an experience!  I will absolutely be doing another one of these.  If all you want to know are the numbers, here you go:

Jason Hand

140138Tallahassee FL USAAttorney

TOTAL SWIM2.4 mi. (1:07:19)1:46/100m45291

BIKE SPLIT 1: 55 mi55 mi (3:20:31)16.46 mi/h
BIKE SPLIT 2: 95 mi40 mi (2:08:28)18.68 mi/h
BIKE SPLIT 3: 112 mi17 mi (54:12)18.82 mi/h
TOTAL BIKE112 mi (6:23:11)17.54 mi/h1280230

RUN SPLIT 1: 5.75 mi5.75 mi (56:52)9:53/mi
RUN SPLIT 2: 13.1 mi7.35 mi (1:28:14)12:00/mi
RUN SPLIT 3: 18.4 mi5.3 mi (1:07:28)12:43/mi
RUN SPLIT 4: 26.2 mi7.8 mi (2:05:24)16:04/mi
TOTAL RUN26.2 mi (5:37:58)12:53/mi1580264

So in my age group, I was 264 of 356, for men 1285 of 1810, overall 1580 of 2xxx.  If you want to know more than the sheer results, enjoy:


Everyone kept asking me if I was nervous.  In truth, I was not.  With all the training I had been doing (and with blowing up on the bike at Ironman August 70.3), I knew my limits and knew that if I raced within my limitations, I would be just fine (well, barring my achilles tendon exploding).  Slow, but fine.

For a first Ironman, I wanted to enjoy the experience.  I know I previously had hoped of turning in a smoking time, but I was 20 pounds over my race goal and fighting off a sprained ankle from May (thanks Marci Gray, you really helped with that -- the exercises, advice, and general understanding/support from a fellow triathlete) and bum hip from the hit-n-run a month ago, so that was a non-issue.

The guys at Revolutions Triathlon Coaching did a good job of getting me in shape to finish with a respectable time w/o injuring me in the process -- that is no small feat since I had to DNS the last two marathons I signed up for (that aqua jogging is the shit).  Thanks, Colin, Jeff, and Chuck, you guys rock.  Special shout out to Annie Bowman, who helped with my swim technique and really helped with my mental swim attitude.  Feel the water, I am a swimmer!

The night before the race, a bunch of Tallahassee participants, volunteers and crowd support enjoyed a nice dinner at the Sunset Inn.  There were so many people there I can't name them all.  Even Sissy came by and decided to stay there instead of crashing with mom and dad down the road.  George Palmer cooked some low country boil (soooo gooood), and everybody else brought a dish, etc.  Good times were had by all.  But, before you know it, it was that time.  Off to bed we all went.  Michelle Beitelman had told that it would be difficult to sleep, and that was pretty accurate.  I got a couple of hours sleep til 10:30, and then another good couple hours until 1:30.  Then I just dozed off and on until 3.  My alarm was set for 4, but I knew that just lying in bed was no fun, so I went ahead and got up.  Coffee, whole-grain waffles, almond butter and honey.  Yum.

Finally, 5AM rolls around and I headed outside to get body marked by David Knight.  Excellent penmanship, by the way.  Then I hitched a ride with Beitle to Alvin's Island, dropped off my special needs bags, and headed to transition.

Bike was still there, tires ok.  I just squeezed then.  Lots of people were borrowing bike pumps or standing in line for the mechanic.  I had rented race wheels the day before, and since they felt pretty firm, didn't bother checking them.  So they could have been 80 psi or 110, no clue.  I didn't want to stress out being in line to check the pressure, so just rolled the dice and assume they were ok (plus I heard a couple of tires pop while getting pumped up).  So I walked around some and scoped the place out, then goofed off until time to put the wetsuit on.  Ate some Cliff Shot Blocks b/c I was feeling a bit hungry again.  Man it was pretty chilly, especially with the wind.  Got my wetsuit on and headed down to the beach.

Was wearing socks, cotton gloves and a watch cap.  Sand was cold, even with socks, but the socks helped (thanks for that tip Sandy Holt).  So headed out into the water. It felt so good, I just hung out there as long as I could.  Had some spectators to boot.

Finally it was time for the pros to start.  I headed back on the beach, and went through the "gate" to register my chip for the timing mats.  Swim start is something to behold.  Best way I can describe it is to go to youtube and watch and here  Yup, that is pretty accurate.

Water was flat as a pancake.  Was happy, yet wished it had been as rough as it had been the previous few days -- nothing like a tough swim to start the day.  Oh well.  I posted up on the far, far left (thanks again Sandy).  It was crowded, but not bad.  Cannon went off.

I swam inside the buoys until I hit the turn.  Clean water, no issues at all.  Starting at the turn (which some people cut the corner, jerks), it got crazy.  Everybody bunched up.  Yup, washing machine.  Finally made the turn at the second buoy, back to the beach.  The crowd opened up again and I found some good feed to follow.  I was on the outside of the buoys this time, but a little outside of the crowd.  Not bad.  During this stretch I noticed some water had gotten in my right goggle.  I meant to clean it out at the beach, but forgot and it was irritated all day, adding in the sweat, salt, wiping my eyes, etc.  (i.e., yup, I have pink eye again after another race).  Back to the story -- hit the beach, ran through the gate, and back in the water.

Going out the second time, I was in the middle of a huge pack of swimmers.  I could swim, but had to really pay attention.  I think we were really moving, b/c it seemed like we made it to the turn in no time at all.  Back side was crowded as usual.  Hit the turn back to the beach.  I looked over and was about 50 yards outside of the buoys.  There was nobody around me.  I was so far outside, I had to dodge the kayaks.  But it looked like I was on a straight line for the swim exit so no worries, just enjoy the clean water.  Long strokes, rotate, follow through.  Repeat.

Finally made it out of the water, hit the strippers (wasn't planning on using them but they were yelling so much and so fierce that I did) through the shower and into transition.  No idea what my time was.  I wasn't wearing a watch and forgot to glance at the race clock (however the 1:07 was about 5-10 minutes faster than I expected, woohoo!).

Note -- I had to lie in the sand for the strippers, and had sand all over me.  The showers helped a touch, and I toweled off in transition, but I had sand in all my body crevices all day.  Really.  Thankfully, I had Chamois Butt'r in T1, and spare creams in T2 and both special needs bags (thanks again Sandy, that really, really, saved my day).  I used that stuff every chance I got.  I read somewhere on Slowtwitch and didn't forget -- eat first, lube second.

Crowded, but not the madhouse I expected.  I should have known that it was a signal that I had put in a good swim.  Before the race I had made a decision to swim in some trunks under my wetsuit, and then change into my one piece (dry) race suit in T1.  Took some time but I think the dry garmets helped with the cold.  I mean it was about 50 degrees outside with 12-15 mph winds.  Put on my compression calf sleeves, cycling socks, a underarmour heat gear compression long sleeve shirt and some cotton gloves, to go with my helmet and cycling shoes.

Ran out, a volunteer helped me with my bike and away I went.  I came to the mount line and saw the race clock at 1:27:xx, and thought, crap either my swim was slow or I was in transition for about 20 minutes (yes, I forgot that the clock started with the pros and we were 10 minutes later).  Oh well, I'll figure it out later.  Did a flying mount on the bike.  Fun times.

Bike --

Bike setup was minimalistic.  One horizontal bottle holder on the aerobars, and a small tool/tire kit under my seat.  Nothing else.  I rented some 808 clinchers (next time may do a disc).  Ride went pretty much what I expected.  Kept my hr under 135 as much as possible (my average hr ended up being 134, so mission accomplished), especially on the way out.  On the way back, particularly past mile 80, I opened it up some.

One bad thing -- my right hip started acting up about mile 5.  That has never happened before.  I have had pain down my leg (after the hit-n-run) around mile 70 and so, but this was different.  First the joint, then the muscle/tendon connecting to the knee on my outer thigh.  I fought it off as long as I could, then took a Tylenol.  Helped a little, but not much.

At one point in the first 20 miles on the bike, my garmin posted something about my hr being in resting mode, and I tried to hit the enter button to get rid of the blirb, but hit stop by mistake.  It was x minutes later I realized what happened and restarted the watch.  Took me to the next marker to realize my garmin had been turned off for exactly 2 miles.  So be careful what you do, don't try anything new on race day (cotton gloves) and pay attention to the details.

The first 60 miles, I was passed by hundreds of riders (I passed 4.  Really. I counted).  I wanted to go with them so badly but knew that either they were going to burn themselves out or if not, they were simply faster than me and I shouldn't compete with them.  I did this exact ride Oct 8, same cold weather, similar winds (10-15 steady, gusts up to 25, all out of the NE), and knew what to expect.  Man I am so glad I did that ride, or I would have chased after them and blown up during the race.

So I let them go and, quoting Chuck Kemeny, said "I'll be seeing you later."  There were large packs of riders passing me the first 60 miles, lots of drafting penalties at the first penalty tent.  I laughed at them when I went by.  I really wish IM would police the bike course more though.  With these conditions, the wind makes any penalty worth the risk.  Next time, I may do that.  Just draft all day until I get hit with a penalty and accept it as part of the race.  It would save a bunch of time and energy.  I think a lot of people had that attitude, and there may be something to it.  But then again, this race is about me, what I can do against the clock, not how I compare to punks who don't follow the rules.  So, if I'm doing this, I'm doing it the right way.

Nutrition on the bike was sip perform every few minutes (got a new bottle every aid station), grab powerbar bars if available or bananas if not.  Hose off the handlebars with water (then throw down the water by the last ditch sign) b/c the bars kept getting so sticky.  Stay away from gels, even though I had 2 at the first aid station b/c there were no bars.  Yuck, yuck, yuck.  I ate more bananas than bars b/c nobody would admit to having any bars.  Just like Ironman Augusta 70.3.  I'm getting a little fed up with WTC in that regard.  If you say you are going to have bars on the bike course, then freaking have volunteers freaking holding bars.  I was continually yelling "bars, bars, bars" on the course and only got a couple all day.

Hit the bumpy road into Youngstown.  It is still bumpy.  I still need to write IMFL, WTC, and Bay County and rip them new ones for picking that damn road.  I pretty much sang to myself most of the road about how badly the road sucked.  Won't tell you the lyrics, they were pretty profane/profound.  Some girl passed me and sang along with me.  Cracked me up.

Hit the special needs area.  Stopped and grabbed my bag, took a leak behind a tree (everyone was doing it). Had previously tried, but couldn't pee on the bike.  And didn't want to deal with wind chill.  Took off my UA shirt and gloves, slammed down a red bull, put a pack of gu chomps under my leg band (race suit had no pockets), and carried some peanut M&M's with me (which that damn bumpy road mad me lose most of the bag) and hit the road.  Finally turned off the bumpy road.  Aaahhh, my ass thanks me for that.  If you want to know what that road feels like, take a phone book and put it up against your boys then have someone hit the book a dozen or so times with a softball bat.  That will give you a good idea.

On the turn on 20, and the rest of the way back, we had a tailwind.  I tried to take advantage of it, but not push too hard just yet.  It was still early in the game, and as George Palmer says "The race starts at mile 80."  Was only passed by 20-25 riders after that though.  Finally started passing people a few at first, then in droves.  I realized that the race really does start at mile 80, b/c you could almost see the wall as the people who went out too hard on the bike started hitting it around that point.

Remainder of the ride was more of the same, except front beach road was into the wind, and fighting the wind tunnels around the big hotels sucked bad.  I just watched my hr and tried to keep it as low as possible b/c I knew that transitioning to the run would jack it up 15 or so bpm.  Beitle passed me about this time, she was hauling.  The only Tally triathlete I saw on the bike.  Finally hit T2.

Overall, I was happy with my time.  Was expecting the bike to be 6:30-7, and it came in at 6:23, so that was good.  I could have gone faster, but would have risked not having the juice to do/finish the run.  Plus after blowing up on the bike at Augusta 70.3, I deliberately took it a little easy -- probably too easy but I was gun-shy.  Still I was executing "the plan."

I did my trademark flying dismount.  Flawlessly.  Until I looked up and saw four guidos lined up all the way across the road at the dismount line.  They all stopped in the same spot and unclipped.  There was no way through.  So I had to come to a screeching halt.  I literally stood still behind them for 15 seconds.  Started tapping my feet in "that way" and looking at the pretend watch on my wrist.  A volunteer got the hint and ran over and grabbed my bike and I cut through the guidos.  I really do hate people who don't think and are not considerate about others around them.  It isn't that hard.

Grabbed my bag, swapped out socks, visor for helmet, a little bag for my run belt, another red bull and away I went.

Run --

I was actually feeling really good coming out of T2.  A little tired, but energetic, legs felt ok, hip/leg notwithstanding.  Add to that the crowd -- the crowd the first mile was absolutely incredible.  The energy was awesome.  Saw my parents and Sissy.  Ran by Sunset Inn and gave high fives to everybody.  You guys were incredible, gave me so much energy and made me smile.  Really saved my butt later in the run.

The first 10k of the run went really well.  I was smoking (for me), yet running at a comfortable pace.  Grabbed ice at every aid station and put it in the front and back of my jersey.  Even though the day was cool/cold, I needed that to keep my core temp and hr down.  Ran through the park.  It was nice, a little warm, but nice.

The second 10k I slowed down some.  It didn't feel like I was running slower, but I started walking the aid stations and had to stop a few times to stretch.  My left hamstring and right achilles tendon was acting up.  Not bad, but I could tell that if I did nothing it would get worse.  So I would stretch when it hurt and took 2 tylenol.  It was about this time I realized I drank too much coke/water the first 10k, and not enough foods.  My stomach was starting to hurt/cramp.  So I eased up on the coke/water, and looked for some food.  The sight of gels/bars made me want to puke.  So I would eat a banana, maybe a orange slice and took a salt pill.  Tried pretzels/cookie, but that didn't work either.

Towards the end of that second 10k, I was starting to fall apart mentally, but luckily that was about the time I hit Sunset Inn and the Tally crowd fired me up again.  Then saw mom, dad, Eric, Christie and Sissy right before the turnaround.  Hit the turnaround and grabbed my special needs bag.  Swapped socks (put on thorlos thick socks).  That was a mistake, b/c the extra thickness was pushing up on my left big toe.  May loose it, not sure.  I didn't realize this until after the race.  Grabbed another red bull.

The third 10k was pretty good (well painful, but good).  Got to see my family and Sunset Inn crowd again.  Those scantily clad women after Sunset Inn cracked me up.  Especially catwoman.  My time slowed down a bit, and my hr was in the mid 140s instead of mid 150s, but I didn't mind.  So grateful to the volunteers at the aid stations and the police who stopped traffic.  It hurt to stop running.  Walking was more painful than running by that point.  It was starting to get dark, so I took off my sunglasess.  Running in the dark at IMFL is quite an experience.  You must try it.  Cruising along at a comfortable pace, walking the aid stations.  Getting warm chicken broth.  That was nice, but my stomach wasn't quite ready for it yet.  I wanted coke and water so badly, but my stomach was just not ready for liquids yet.  Took another salt pill.

Hit the park, crossed the timing mat, aid station and ran into Jamie Harris.  We ran together, walked, etc.  It was really nice to have a fried to talk with.  I probably could have kept pushing, but what would that have accomplished -- trying to break 13 hrs?  Nah, that wasn't important.  This race was the reward for a long, hard journey.  I wanted to enjoy it and finish it with my friends.   Especially for the first time experience.  It made that last 10k +2 so much more enjoyable.  I was finally able to start drinking water/coke again around mile 21-22 (whew!).  We cheered on the other racers (well Jamie cheered them on and I would try to say something -- she is so energetic and positive, really a joy to train/race with).   We picked it up and ran the last 2.2 in.  That was nice, we sucked it up and HTFU.  Saw the gang at Sunset Inn again.  All I could do was smile.

That last mile was probably the toughest.  Leaving Sunset Inn, heading to the last aid station, the crowds diminished.  Just wanting it to be over.  It seemed to take forever, but I knew that was my mind playing tricks on me.  Turning the corner and seeing Alvin's Island in the distance and knowing we still had to run all the way past there and turn another corner... uggh.  Saw Sandy and Charlie and gang somewhere around there, and that was a nice surprise.  Coming down the finisher's chute, seeing the crowds, my family, hearing them call my name, incredible.  I told Jamie to go ahead and take the lead, I'd follow in behind her.  Didn't want to ruin her finisher's picture by having my fat ass in the picture.

That last little bit, I felt no pain, just euphoria mixed with exhaustion.  I know the announcer said my name, but I barely heard him.


Afterwards, a volunteer helped me, gave me a medal, tinfoil wrap, hat and shirt, I got a pix, ate a slice of pizza and grabbed my bike, run bag, bike bag, and morning bag, even talked my way into my run special needs bag (never was able, even the next day, to find my bike special needs bag).  Met up with the family and we all walked back.  Dropped off the family at thier hotel and then I finished walking the .5 mile to Sunset Inn.  That walk sucked. Took a warm bath, put on compression socks and tights (which I wore for the next 24 hours), took 2 tylenol and went to bed.  Body hurt too much to sleep well.  Had pain in spots I didn't know existed.  Took more Tylenol at 3am.  Loved every second of it.  My body's way of saying that I accomplished something today.

So I call this race a push.  I didn't best the race, but the race didn't best me either.  At the end of the day, we were both standing, with a bit more respect for the other.  Honestly, for my first time at a 140.6 distance race, I am thrilled.  This was everything I had imagined, hoped and dreamed for the past year, and then some.  During the race, I realized that the race was the prize, the reward for the long hard training, all the blood sweat and tears.

Next day, I got up (slowly) and made my way down to the finisher's line for a jacket.  Had to wait 1.5 hours to get in the store, but got the last xl I think.  One thing that bugs me.  How could Ironman Florida run out of men's large jackets?  I mean really?  They had tons of small and medium and xxl, but no large and only one or 2 xls.  I managed to try on a sample large (you could order one and it be here in 8 weeks), and confirmed that xl fit me better, but if I went thought all that shit the day before, paid $575 (plus tax) to do it, and then another $139 for the jacket, Ironman Florida damn well better have a jacket waiting for me.  I would have lost my shit if I had to wait 2 months for a jacket.  Really, I'd be in jail right now.

Note -- during the run and for a time post-race, a triathlete's mental/emotional state is pretty f'd up.  No governor to speak of, no strength to control what comes out of the mouth or restrain that animalistic id.  Prone to emotional, irrational outbursts.  Or maybe that's just me.

Returned my race wheel rentals, ate breakfast, enjoyed the day.  Missed the award ceremony b/c I thought it was in the evening, not at noon.  Whoops.  Gotta read the event schedule.

In closing, I will definitely be doing this again.  Give me 2 years.  One year to get down to race weight, and one year to train.  And I will give this distance all I have.

Thanks again to everybody -- my family, wife, friends, training partners, coaches, GWTC, supporters, co-workers, etc. -- thanks all for putting up with me, living with me, supporting me, cheering me on, and allowing me the indulgence (if not selfishness) of experiencing this wonderful, incredible journey.

Jason "Ironman" Hand