Friday, November 30, 2012

Ironman Florida Race Report

Pre Swim- I ate 2 banana nut muffins and sipped on some Gatorade consuming 800 calories.
Swim – Goal = 1:20, Actual = 1:27
As soon as I saw the water I knew it was going to be a long day. Not only were the 85 degree race day temps going to eat at me since I’ve been training in 50 degree temps, but the waves and swells in the water were huge. Some of the larger swells were easily 3-4 feet and from a guy who isn’t a good swimmer….. that’s nuts! The cannon went off and 2800 of my closest friends and I headed out to the 2.4 mile swim. People were timid to get into the water, as was I. The waves were crashing like an ocean not like the Gulf of Mexico. Once I got past the breakers I started swimming but every time I went to sight I couldn’t see the buoys or any boats or anything, just a bunch of swim caps all over the place. I was getting punched and kicked all over the place. It took me about 500 yards to get used to the swells. I was starting to be able to time my sights at the top of the swells so I could see the buoys. I finally made the first turn and felt like I really kicked somebody hard, not to mention I heard the grunt. I turned around and saw the guy treading water. I said “did I get you?” He said “yeah, you kicked me in my jewels.” I apologized and he said “it’s okay,” and we both went on our way. After the first lap we had to walk under a timing mat. There was a huge backup because volunteers were pouring water from gallon jugs into our mouths to rinse out the horrid salt water. On the second loop I started to feel some pain on my neck and on my sides. I had no clue what was going on. I was timing my sights decently and just taking it slow and steady knowing my good swim time was gone as soon as the waves started building up, but this weird burning on my sides….. what? My throat was burning because of the salt water as I finally made the turn for the homestretch. I couldn’t see the buoys so I sighted off of a large hotel that I knew was close to the swim exit. My sides were really hurting at this point. I get to the breakers and took 2 back strokes to figure out when the next wave was coming, I timed it perfect to body surf the wave in at an awesome speed, plowing me into the person in front of me. It was awesome!!! From what I heard they were pulling people out of the water in boat loads because of the large swells. I only had my goggles kicked off once, and other than all the people I had to help push out of my way it wasn’t a terrible swim for me giving the conditions. When I got my wet suit off I saw the cuts on the sides of my body. Everybody had them. I think the salt or sand from the stirred up water got caught in the cut offs of our wetsuits and slowly after lots of repetitions ripped the skin right off our bodies. (That first shower after the race burned like none other!!)
Transition 1 – this took forever, my Garmin registered that I ran .7 of a mile during transition. That’s a lot of running in bare feet or bike shoes. As soon as I finished the swim they had wetsuit strippers rip our wetsuits off. We simply sat on the ground, lifted our feet and they ripped them off. Then after I got in my cycling gear I ran to the volunteers that applied huge amounts of sun screen on us. My arms were covered in white.
Bike – Goal = 6:20 hrs, Actual = 6:30
I felt great at the start of the bike holding 18-21 mph with ease depending on the traffic thanks to a great tail wind. I got my nutrition down with ease as my stomach was cooperating today. Of course my I would have a good stomach day on a day that I basically threw my time goal out the window before the start. The first 50 miles went great then we hit a road that felt like cobble stones.  This really messed with my stomach but I survived and made it through. I knew if I didn’t have to pee by mile 70 I would be in trouble with dehydration so when I had to pee by mile 60 I was excited. I kept riding and kept taking in nutrition. The climbs on the course are really short. There is one category 4 climb, but other than that it’s pretty flat. Not EagleMan flat, but still pretty flat. When I hit mile 70 I felt the beginnings of a LONG day in the head winds. The headwinds ate me up, spit me out and ate me all over again. BRUTAL was the word. A good cyclist would do well in these winds, but my strength is the run.  Most of the pro’s were having the same issue so I didn’t feel too bad about it. I was struggling on some flats to even hold 15 mph. I fought my way through with a mile to go to T2 when I guy went to pass me and nailed me on the side of my bike. My foot unclipped and luckily we both stayed up right. Unfortunately, I saw other people on the course that didn’t have the same luck. There were plenty of bleeding bodies and ripped jerseys. I later found out that 3 spokes on my front tire snapped in half from the collision.
Bike nutrition- 3 water bottles to squirt over my body,
1 water bottle with Endurolytes Fizz
4 scoops of perpetuam in a bottle 400 calories
2 cliff bars 540 calories
1 honey stinger waffle 160 calories
4 bottles of ironman perform 1120 calories
5 gels 500 calories
1 Gu Chomp  90 calories
1 bottle with 2 scoops of HEED and 1 endurolytes fizz 200 calories
Endurolytes 2 per hour
Total calories = 463 calories per hour
T2- I wasn’t feeling that great off the bike. The sun and wind really beat me up but I still felt better than I did at ChesapeakeMan. I knew that after a couple miles I would have my running legs and I would be fine. I drank some chicken soup, put  my running gear on and went out for a short run.
Run- Goal= 4 hrs, Actual 4:27
The run course was populated by tons of people congregated along the road. Huge tents were set up with kegs and TV’s and people in costume.  It was like being at a concert. Since we had our names on our bibs everybody would root you on by name. One party area had a giant board with the college football scores on them. Another had a TV with the football game on it. Such a fun time. I took things mile by mile making sure I drank a ton and kept cool. I put sponges under my jersey to keep my body temp from rising and dumped water over my polka dot hat. My legs were tired but not too beaten up. Because I’m not a strong swimmer and haven’t really trained in heat I knew my time goals were gone so I concentrated on having a good time. I wanted to literally have the best time out there. I kept drinking the chicken broth for sodium and eating gels and bananas on a routine basis. Everything was going down well. No stomach issues!!! I got to the state park and realized my next lap through was going to be dark, but that would be fun. I got back to the start/turn around/13.1 miles in to see my family. I threw them my sun glasses, unfortunately nobody caught them. I got to my special needs bags and pulled out by defizzled Mountain Dew and cookies. I tossed the cookies to the curb but kept the Dew. Mountain Dew was huge for getting me through the JFK50. I kept eating and drinking and saying hi to all of the runners. I saw Danny Serpico from Rip It Events and said hello to him. He was wearing the same AFC tri top that I was. I saw Mirinda Carfrae, Suzy Serpico and a few of the other women pro’s finish up as well. After that, things started to get dark pretty fast. I kept motoring on with one foot in front of the other, legs beat up and screaming at me. I then saw a woman standing in the middle of the road whipping all the runners in the butt. It was catwoman! A few minutes later I finally made it to the finishers chute. I tried to not smile like a kid on Christmas but I couldn’t hold it in. This was awesome! I feel great and I had an absolute blast! I crossed the line to hear “From Baltimore, Maryland Brent Scheitlin…. YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!!! Such a fantastic thing to hear. It made me realize all the time spent training was worth it. Just for those few words. The catcher grabbed me and handed me a water asking if I was okay. He got my finishers shirt and cap and held on to them until he realized I wouldn’t need medical attention (Unfortunately a lot of other athletes did) What a great race, I recommend it to anybody.

During the run portion I finally realized why I do these long events. Yeah, I’d like to be faster at shorter races, but it’s the pain that those shorter races don’t give. The shorter races hurt my lungs more than my body. In 5K’s and such you basically run in an anaerobic state to where you are almost struggling to breath and wondering how long you can keep this up before you crash. In Ultra Marathon’s and Ironman event’s your legs are screaming at you. That pain feels awesome!! I’m addicted to it. There was a part of the run where I wanted to speed up to see how much I really could hurt myself but I backed off when I thought of how I wanted to go wine tasting and such with my family the next day. I didn’t want to be stuck laying down in my condo because I can’t walk. Another thought that crept in my mind was how lucky I am to be able to do these things. Not only to have the fitness to get through it, but to have the wife to deal with it with very little complaint and the family to help me through it. I literally can’t wait to hurt this bad again!!

Of course Ironman is known for its great signs that spectators hold up. Here are some of the funny ones that made me laugh as I ran or biked by them.
“Smile if you pee’d in your wetsuit today”
“Never trust a fart in an Ironman”
“Smile if you pee’d on your bike.”
“Honey Badger doesn’t give a sh!t”
“Alabama s@cks” (Their football team had a game that night)
“Honey, I’m pregnant”
“I don’t do triathlons, I do a triathlete”
“I do the cooking, my husband does the IRONing”
On the bike course at around mile 70 a sign said “Is your junk numb yet?”
“It’s supposed to hurt, It’s IRONMAN!!”
“How are those toe nails”
At the turnaround of the bike course there was a sign that said “I bet you had your bike back”

Friday, September 14, 2012

Delaware DiamondMan 70.3 Half Iron Triathlon

I was pretty excited for the DiamondMan 70.3 triathlon. I really wanted to see where my fitness was in regards to Ironman Florida in 9 weeks. I had a little phantom pain where I had some hamstring tendonitis earlier in the year, but other than that I was hydrated, fueled and ready to go. I also wanted to get closer to dialing in my nutrition for Florida.
Breakfast: All eaten as soon as I woke up at 3:00am.
Banana Nut Muffin = 540 calories
Chocolate Chip Cliff Bar = 240 calories
Breakfast total = 780 calories
I also sipped on a 32 oz Gatorade which contained 320 calories and ate a banana before the swim start which added another 100 calories.
All in all - before the race - I consumed 1200 calories which I was pretty happy with. My goal was 800 for breakfast so I was right on track.

Pre Race – After emptying the stomach I went for  a short 2-3 min jog to try to raise my heart rate and to warm up as it was a pretty chilly morning in Bear, Delaware. Fran and I walked the ½ mile trek down to the water and walked in the muddy ponds edge. The air temperature was around 63 degrees at the time, the water temperature was an awesome 77.5 degrees so it was nice to warm before the race. I did my customary pee in the water and I was ready to go. (yes for some reason I always have to pee as soon as my toes hit the water. Never stand next to me at the start of a triathlon)

Swim – The swim was a little bumpy in the beginning. I got tagged by a wicked right hand to the head. It put a smile on my face as I was excited to be back racing. I concentrated on finding some feet to draft off of for the first half as I was one of around 5 people not wearing a wet suit. The warm water temperatures scare me from wearing a wet suit. Especially after the carnage I witnessed at EagleMan. (Glad I didn’t wear one there. DNF’s were abundant because of the dehydrating effect of wearing a wetsuit in warm water) After making the swim turn around the sun was rising up directly in our faces. I picked a group to draft off of and sailed on my way to the beach. Swim time = 38:07 (Goal was 37:XX) I’ll take it! 85th swim. About normal for me, in around the 50% tile.

Transition 1 – I ran the ½ mile from the swim exit to T1 fairly quickly but slow enough to lower my heart rate. Nothing excited happened in T1. I saw Fran coming in to T1 so I waited for him so I could say hi and wish him luck the rest of the way.

Bike – I was excited for the bike mainly to test out my bike nutrition. I also have a horrible pedal stroke that I’ve really been working on making better so I was interested to see how the race would go with concentrating on a more powerful pedal stroke. I went out and right away hit speeds of over 21 mph without pushing at all. I was a little scared to keep that speed as I wanted to save room for the run. I decided to hold it as long as there was a tail wind. The bike was like any normal triathlon for me. The huge guys would pass by me and in my mind I would think about how I would catch them on the run. I passed by the slower cyclists that were better than me in the water while trying to keep my speeds at a reasonable rate. I tried to drink as much as I did at EagleMan, but it was hard. The temperatures were cooler so I decided to go by feel. I ate my nutrition according to my new feeding strategy and tried to keep things smooth. Nothing exciting happened on the bike besides the top of my aero drink falling into the aero bottle when we hit some road that was carved up and ready to be paved. I put my hand on top of my aero drink to keep my nutrition from flying out until I got to freshly paved road again. I decided my new plan of attack would be to fill up my bottle halfway so I wouldn’t be bathing in sticky HEED or Gatorade for the next couple of hours on the bike. There were some tiny climbs where it felt nice to get out of the saddle, but the course was mainly flat with a few spots of tailwinds and headwinds. The bike ended up being short at around 52 miles or so.
Bike split = 2:34:45 Avg Speed = 20.4 mph.  51st bike split in the field. I was happy with my bike split as my legs felt ok and my goal was to average 20 mph and keep the HR between 135-150 beats per minute.
Bike Nutrition consisted of:
2 bottles of HEED double scooped = 400 calories
1 bottle of water
1 Chocolate Chip Cliff Bar = 240 calories
1 Honey Stinger Waffle = 160 calories
2 shots of Banana Hammer Gel = 200 calories
Total of 1000 calories. I was shooting for 400 calories an hour So I was right on!

Transition 2- I attacked transition 2 as fast as I could and was able to get out in 58 seconds. By far my fastest T2. 19th fastest T2 in the field. Doesn’t mean much, but it does mean my mind was with me which was good, I guess.

Run – I looked at my watch and saw 3:40 and new if I ran a PR half marathon I could go sub 5 hours. I knew I had a  PR half in my legs because I only ran 1 half marathon race before and that was a 1:41 back in 2010. I went at the run to push it and try to find the pain cave late in the run. Not to toot my own horn as I’m not a fast runner by any means, but I passed by a lot of the larger cyclists that passed me on the bike. It must be hard to be a 6 foot tall triathlete at 190 lbs or so. I was racing at 5 foot 10 and 157 lbs (my Ironman Florida goal race weight). I imagine lugging around 23 extra lbs is tough. After I got to mile 2 I realized this run course was on trails. I didn’t know that coming in, if I did I would have brought my trail shoes. Being that I was wearing my Newton Gravity’s I was sliding all around in the mud. Some spots of the run course even had up to 6 inches of water and mud you had to navigate through. I pushed on the run taking in Gels every 3 miles or so, and Gatorade and Water to taste. I had a nice side stitch cramp in my right side brewing so I pulled a salt stick out and starting sucking on it. I read to do this in a Mark Allen article so figured I’d give it a try. As soon as the salt capsule broke I spit it out as it was disgusting. It worked because the side stitch went away but then a new one formed almost immediately on the left side of my rib cage. I poked my fingers underneath my ribs and tried to massage out the cramp. During this time I just focused on holding on to my pace for dear life. The side stitch eventually went away and after navigating through mud slick after mud slick I found myself with a chance at running a 1:37 half which would have been a PR and gotten me under 5 hours for the race. At mile 10 I got a new cramp right in the middle of my gut. This one was a nasty one. I lowered my race belt and unzipped my jersey which alleviated a little of the pressure but it was still hampering my stride. I was literally gritting my teeth trying to bear through it. After a few miles of fighting the cramp I was nervous the run course was going to be long. I was on mile 12 and knew the finish was more than 1.1 miles away. I decided to not even look at my watch as there was nothing I could do and just hold my pace as my legs didn’t have any kick left in them. I pulled off the main course towards the finishing stretch and ran under the finishers banner in a time of 5:02:53. I ran the 13.7 mile course in 1:41:06 at a 7:25 per mile pace. Good for the 8th fastest run split of the day! My actual 13.1 mile time was  1:37:24 so I would have had a half marathon PR, however, you have to play by the rules of the course, and I guess a longer run made up for the shorter bike. That and the long ½ T1 run in bare feet.
Run Nutrition:
4 Hammer Gel’s = 400 calories total on run.
Total race calories = 1400 calories
I ended up finishing 2nd in my Age Group and 19th overall. The best part about the race was they had a box of Hammer Gel’s out at the post race feed area. Nobody was taking any for the next hour or so, so I ended up coming home with over 20 Hammer Gel’s!!! Awesome. That will fuel me for the next few weeks while training for Ironman Florida. Nine weeks till race day and this was just the race to get my confidence up for IMFL. Of course a full Ironman is completely different than a half ironman. It’s kind of like the difference between running a 5K and running a half marathon. Except nutrition pays a pivotal role. There is no way to tell what your stomach will allow you to do after 9 hours of racing. Anyway, bring on November and bring on Ironman Florida! I’m excited to re-enter the Pain Cave!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

JFK50 Mile Race Report

The morning started off early at 3:15. I got my breakfast muffin down along with a banana and some Gatorade. I felt great and was really excited for the day. I got to my parents house and away we went to Boonsboro. When we arrived I put my Perpetuam bottle together and went in to the pre-race meeting. I changed into my running clothes and got myself all ready. I threw my gaitors on my shoes stuffed my pockets with Gels, fruit snacks, snickers mini bars and away we went.
            We walked to the start line which is about a 1000 yard walk. Everybody was cold but I felt great, race nerves seem to do that to me on a regular basis. We passed the lawyers office where the sign said it was 31 degrees….. perfect! I had just enough time to walk up to the start with the other 1200 starters, tell my wife I love her and then the gun went off.

Away we went, 1200 people at a fun strolling pace. After the first mile I literally felt like I could do this forever. At mile 1 we started going up, and when I say up, I mean up. We hit the Appalachian trail and continued our ascent to the clouds.  Only a few people were running at this point. When running an ultra marathon you have to walk the up hills or you will be toast by mile 20 and your day will be ruined. So up we went, 1200 feet in 4 miles. That’s 12 football fields if you were going straight up. We were at an 8-12% gradient so it seemed like it took forever. Once it started going downhill the fun trail work started. Within a quarter mile I heard a yell. Around 30 seconds later I saw a guy on the side of the trail with blood pouring out of his knees. The rocks were everywhere and unforgiving. People were dropping and twisting ankles but we all kept motoring on – it was a blood bath.
            At the 6 mile mark is where I saw the worst injury. It was really quiet on the trail, all you heard was the sound of twigs breaking and people breathing – then a thud. I knew it was bad, when I caught up to the scene I saw a women rolling over to her front. She was crying and barely moving. I knew her day was done and felt awful. This lady has been training for 6 months for this race and it was over 6 miles into it and not to mention the hours she is about to spend at the hospital fixing her broken body. The Appalachian Trail does that to people. It eats you up, chews you and spits you back out, and if you can keep going, you will feel it later on in the race. Lord knows I had my fair share of close calls – at least 25-30 ankle twists.

I guess all those ankle strengthening exercises were worth it. When I saw this sign I knew I was close to Weverton Cliffs and knew I would soon be seeing my crew. That always puts a good thought in your mind.
            15 miles in I finally got to see my crew. My wife, parents, brother (who ran JFK in 2010), my sister (who is the best runner in the family), Tony, Josh and Ashley. Seeing your crew is fantastic, it's such a high. Once I found them I took a seat in a chair and took my trail shoes off and threw on my road shoes. I changed my shirt and took my ear warmers off and threw on my hat. I also had an extremely hot cup of soup. It was needed though. (See the ChesapeakeMan 2011 race report for details). I needed the sodium. After a few mins Tony and I left as he was going to pace me for the next 12 miles. The good news is the Appalachian Trail part was done. The bad news is I would be staring at the same scenery on the C&O Canal for the next 27 miles. A marathon of this…..
...and yes there were cyclists on the canal telling me when I had to move when I was in there way. I guess they didn’t know there was a race going on and we have already ran 20 miles at that point. I was holding in my anger but I noticed my temper was starting to get short.
Tony and I were ticking off miles with ease. We started a 15 min run, 2 min walk interval. Once again, if you try to run the whole thing, you will burn out by mile 40 and will be walking the entire last 10 miles or won't finish. Trust me. At mile 20 we passed a bunch of marines. They were starting their walk interval. One of the Marines told the Marines behind him to ignore Tony and I as we ran past them because we (Tony and I) will burn out and they (The Marines) would pass us later on in the race…… Challenge Accepted!
I was feeling good and sticking to my nutrition until mile 23, this is when a girl and 2 guys ran up right behind Tony and I and fed off us for a mile. It literally sucked the energy right out of me. It was breaking me with every step. They wouldn’t pass us even when we slowed down. I don’t know what it was, but I was going to a bad mental place here. Doubt started creeping into my mind. Eventually I ran behind Tony and forced them to pass. I started feeling a little bit better but then it got hard to eat.
            We met up with my crew again at mile 27. Here my wife forced me to change my socks (which I wrote down exactly like that on my itinerary “Force me to change my socks at mile 27, I don’t want blisters"). When I took off my sock I saw my heinous toes. Two of my toenails had large blood blisters underneath. One of them was definitely going to fall off eventually. (I’m proud to say it’s still on my foot … but barely)  I also drank some soup and re-stocked my water bottle at the aid station. My dad wanted a picture so he had us all look his way, little did they all know that I swore I was going to pass out right then and there. I managed to stare at one place on the picnic table and talk to them – faking it that I was okay. I knew I had to erase the doubt so I was eager to get started running. I also knew the pass out feeling was all in my head and would go away. I felt the same way at ChesapeakeMan and I survived that, so I knew this was just par for the course.  
My brother was going to pace me for the next 10 or so miles which was fantastic since he ran the JFK50 Miler last year. He knew exactly how to pace me. He knew exactly what to say and how to say it to me. I was irritable at this point. I already ran a marathon and knew I still had over 20 miles to go. I took an Uncrustable with me but could only manage to get down 1 bite of it before tossing it on the ground. These miles seemed to tick by fast. My brother was so encouraging. He would tell me that I was breaking one of the marine guys who had sped up past his marine buddies. He also told me I was doing great, and looked okay. At mile 33 he told me this was the point where all the miles were new. This was the farthest I have ever ran before. I was feeling pretty decent at this point, the bad minutes were equal to the good ones, however my body was going through something wierd where I couldnt tell if I was hot, cold or comfortable- temperature wise. It was like I couldnt feel my temperature. This worried me for a few miles but when away after my left hamstring started hurting and became all I could think about. It was literally a mental roller coaster and I was prepared for that. We got to the aid station which was decorated like the north pole and I grabbed some M&M’s. Santa was even at this aid station along with his elves. Santa passed my water bottle to his elf who filled up some new water for me. I then looked to my right and saw a guy grabbing a cup of coke, I looked up at his face and saw there was a huge gash in the middle of his forehead with dried blood dripping all the way down his face.

He was covered but he seemed happy. In fact, I’d say he was probably in a better mental place than I was and he took a hard fall in the first 15 miles. That guy is a trooper. When we left the aid station my back was starting to seize up on me so I had to have my brother carry my water for me. I felt awful for having to do this because he didn’t make me carry his water for him last year, but I think it saved my race. My brother is a lot stronger person than I am mentally. He seemed to take things so much easier than I did at JFK – unless he was faking it like I did. We finished up at mile 38. At the aid station I saw some Mountain Dew and drank it waiting to see what it would do to me. It was the most delicious thing I have ever had.
            We all grew mustaches for Movember which was a campaign to raise awareness for prostate cancer. My sister was going to pace me for the next 8 miles. It was so neat when I got to see her come out with a painted on moustache, it put a smile on my face and whenever I felt bad during the next 8 miles it was nice looking over and seeing a stupid moustache on her face.

 After mile 42 my sister and I left the C&O Canal and entered the last 8 miles on the roads to the finish line. These roads were super hilly. Lots of walking up the up hills which I didn’t mind - I loved the break. My sister was a great pacer, I asked her if she would ever do JFK and she said “NO”. I believe her. When you are doing it, it’s not the most fun thing in the world, but it certainly is a blast. How that makes sense, I don’t know.
At mile 44 we ran past a girl who was crying uncontrollably as she was running. I wanted to say something to her to try and boost her spirits but couldn’t get anything out. My sister usually would have said something to somebody in that place but she had her hands full with me. A few days later I went online and stumbled upon that woman's race report - so she did finish the race, and only 10 mins behind me (not that I had a fast time or anything). Good for her! My sister and I ended our run at mile 46. 4 miles left!
            We got to the aid station and I sat in my comfortable chair. I was so excited, I knew I would finish the race but I didn’t want to go out and run because I hated those rolling hills. Tony told me I had 45 mins to do the 4 miles and I would finish sub 10 hours. I didn’t care. I could have cared less what my time would have been. I was relaxing and comfortable and I was okay with that. Eventually Josh and I strolled off for the last 4 miles. We talked about training and running and it was nice and relaxing although it seemed like it took forever. I was done with these rolling hills. My legs and feet were screaming at me. Every step hurt all over. The bottoms of my feet felt like BBQ, my quads and hamstrings were sore to the touch. I love the pain. That’s the one thing I can deal with. I might not be strong mentally, I might cast a ton of doubt upon myself, but when having to face pain, I will always win. I love it. It’s what makes me feel alive and makes me know that I’m doing something pretty special.
We went through a traffic light and had about ½ a mile left. Josh and I shook hands and he took off to the side as pacers aren’t allowed to run through the finishing chute.

There was a lady around 10 yards in front of me so I slowed down so she could finish the race alone and really soak up her memories of the day. Then it was my turn. The crowd was cheering me on and I couldn’t help but smile. I made it! My stride may have been broken and I haven’t been able to eat anything for the last 10 miles but I made it somehow. Then with 20 yards left I heard the crowd cheering some more, I knew what was happening. I was getting ready to cross the finish line when a women and a man raced to the finish line and crossed the line exactly 1 second before me. She celebrated by waving her hands to the side just as the race photographer was taking my pictures. Bam… a hand in my face for my finishing picture at my first ultra marathon. She walked up to me and congratulated me and wanted to shake my hand. Keep in mind my temper was super short at this point so I jumped at the chance to yell at her for ruining my racing picture. "I just ran over 10 hours and I wont get to see myself crossing the line. Thanks!" I was pissed. I told her I wouldn’t shake her hand. Now I know she ran a long time today too, but in JFK you can apply for permission to start the race 2 hours before the general field. Normally people have 12 hours to finish, if you apply for the 2 extra hours, you get 14 hours and you start at 5am rather than 7am. So she was 2 hours behind me and ruined my picture. No wonder she had the energy to sprint to the line. I was infuriated. I explained to her that in ironman events and ultra marathons that unless you are going for the win or a qualifying time you don’t do what she did. You let people finish by themselves. It’s an unspoken rule when it comes to ultra marathons and Ironman’s. Maybe I was a little mean, but it wasn’t right. Anyway, they gave me my medal and I went and found my crew and my wife and gave her a celebratory kiss. My body was done, my mind was done, but I was elated. And those Marines.... I saw them finish 10 minutes after me. That was a victory in itself. Challenge won! So 10 hours and 7 mins after starting I finished! And that felt great.
            It’s amazing what the human body is capable of. In only a year and a half I went from struggling to run a single 10 min mile to running a 50 mile ultra marathon. I just completed something that less than 0.01% of the US population has done. However, I believe anybody is capable of completing such a feat. All you need is to do the training and tell yourself that you will finish. If you do that, you will finish. The human mind and body are so strong and it honestly saddens me that some people go through life never knowing what they can accomplish. They never know how strong they really are and they never test themselves. Some people say they would never want to run that far. I thought the same thing. But I love being in the best shape of my life, and I love testing my mind and body. And being able to accomplish these goals with your family and close friends is something that could never be put into words.

.... and for the post race toe picture! Yes, some of those nails are going to end up falling off.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

ChesapeakeMan Race Report

Many people asked me what it's like to compete in an IronMan distance race. There is nothing easy about completeing 140.6 miles without stopping. It's also hard to train for 3 sports at the same time. On the busiest weeks I would log over 20 hours of training. I would wake up at 5:00am to go swim, go to work, then come home and go for a bike ride, get back home and go for a run. Once the run was over I would get back home and take a shower, eat dinner and go right to bed. Just to do it all again the next day. It takes a special wife to be able to deal with your husband being gone for that long. All of that training is necessary, though. It's a long race. You start out the race swimming 2.4 miles in the Choptank River. You then go on a 112 mile bike ride through the windy marshlands of Cambridge. You then run a full 26.2 mile marathon on a lonely stretch of Egypt Road. This race report will help you get an inside look at the race and the rollercoaster ride of emotions it brought on to me.
Pre Race:
I woke up at 3:51 for race day praying it wasn’t going to monsoon. I checked the weather forecast on my phone and it said 20% showers all day with clouds. Perfect weather if you ask me. I ate my giant blueberry muffin and my banana, grabbed all of my gear bags and headed off to T2. I dropped of my run gear bag and my run special needs bag and bike special needs bag. I jumped on the shuttle bus and it took us to T1 where I dropped of my bike bag, pumped up my tires and met up with my family who just showed up at the race. We hung out and talked and before I know it I was putting my wet suit on and covering my body with Vaseline. I needed to get out one more pee so I walked into the dark shrubs near the water. When I was walking back I ended up stepping in a large pile of dog crap with my bare feet. This was quite disgusting; luckily I was going to be swimming in less than 10 minutes. What a shitty way to start off the day. (pun intended)
The Swim:
I started in the back of the mass start for personal reasons. (Since this is a race report I’ll go in to gross detail. When I get nervous before races, I pee a ton. This race was no difference. I had to pee again. I knew I could pee in the water behind everybody else so I started in the back) .The gun went off and away we went. I no longer felt the freezing cold water as I was now in race mode with an empty bladder.  It was a fairly violent start. People were kicking and punching… a normal triathlon swim start. 200 meters in I took a left arm to the face which knocked my goggles off my eyes. I stopped to fix them and got back in my groove. We passed the back end of the rectangle shaped course, so I assumed I was around 1000 meters in. Here the water was extra choppy and that’s when I felt a piece of seaweed brush against my arm. This was different seaweed - it hurt. Around 100 meters further I hit another piece of painful seaweed. I was thinking maybe all the rain stirred up the bottom of the Choptank River. I went another 50 meters and hit something squishy with my left hand. It was then that I realized I was getting stung by jellyfish. I think the next 3-4 stings made me realize the faster I swam, the faster I would get out of this war zone. I stopped sighting every 5 strokes. I found a good swimmer and swam next to him, sighting every 20 strokes. He was on my breathing side so I only had to breathe and glance over at him to see if I was swimming straight. He eventually swim past me and I swam in his draft for a couple of hundred meters before he left me for good. I finished the first loop in 37 mins. I was happy with that time. I was thinking I’d be closer to 45 mins. I went out to start the second loop when I took a nice jelly fish stink to the right arm pit. The pain in the other stings was now a dull sensation but the new ones always freaked me out. They always hit me when I least expected them. The second loop went about the same as the first; however, I think I swallowed around a gallon of sea water. One guy grabbed my left leg in the choppy water. I was able to shake him off but when he did it again I kicked up really hard with my right leg and got him good. Not sure if I hit face, arm or chest, but my leg wasn’t grabbed anymore. I swam to the swim exit and my feet hit ground. I stood up and realized my equilibrium was all over the place. People were falling around me like college kids leaving a bar.  The 2.4 mile swim was finally over in 1 hour 16 mins. My goal was 1:30.

Transition 1:
They gave me the wrong bike gear bag at first so I put it on the ground and started to yell my number. Eventually a guy got my bag and handed it to me. I thanked him, told him to have a great day and ran to the changing tent. All the seats were filled so I sat on the ground and threw my bike stuff on and ran out of the tent towards my bike. My dad asked how I felt. I told him I felt great except for all the jellyfish stings. I put my sunglasses on when I realized they were broken. I threw my one week old Oakley’s to the ground and off I went for the 112 mile bike course.
The Bike:
The first 10 miles were uneventful. I ate an Uncrustable and drank some Hammer Nutrition Heed and Perpetuam. At the 12 mile mark we had to make a loop, I didn’t know it was a quick circle and almost ran off the road because the flag waving volunteer wasn’t waving his flag in the direction I was supposed to go. He was just looking at me as if I had 6 heads or something.  I made the turn and headed towards the long 50 mile loop. For the first 30 miles I concentrated on nutrition. Every 15 mins I would take a nice drink of Perpetuam followed by Heed followed by water. On every 30 minute mark I would take a shot of Hammer Gel and on the hour I would eat fruit snacks, an uncrustable or a cliff bar. I took in some endurolytes every hour as well. I new I was hydrated because I had to make a few bathroom breaks. These were eventful because there weren’t many Port-A-Potty’s set up. With all the rain the mosquitoes were everywhere, and they were pissed and smelled blood right away. I’m sure the sight of me jogging around in cycling shoes while I was peeing was a funny sight. Only a few of the bastards got me. One resilient one made it a solid 3 miles on my shoulder before I knew he was there. When I squished him it left a blood stain on my brand new AFC tri top. Next I ran into a 3-5 mile stretch of rough road. It felt like we were on cobblestones. My over hydrated bladder took a beating and this stretch of rough road made me have to pee like none other. They told us we would encounter a 1 ½ mile stretch of road that had water on it. I was expecting this so when I got to it I expected a few puddles. Little did I know it was 4-5 inches of water. I quickly dropped to an easier gear and pushed through the swamp. My feet were literally under the water at the bottom of my pedal stroke. My feet were soaked, but it was kind of fun. Something new to take my mind off the monotony of the long bike ride. Around 5 miles later fellow Adventures For the Cure teammate Tony Glorioso (he was doing the Skipjack race that covered over 70 miles total) was passing me on the bike. We talked a bit about the swim and the water on the roads. This ended up hurting him because he came in second place in his age group by only 53 seconds. It may have hurt him, but it helped me. It’s always nice running into people you know when your mind starts to haunt you with what you still have to do in the race.) I sang every song I could think of to myself and finally made it to the special needs bag drop area at mile 65. Here my parents were waiting for me along with my brother. My brother had a sign that read “Go Brent, Don’t Die.”
 It made me laugh as I reached out for my bag. I stuffed my bento box and ran to the Port-A-Potty. My mom held my bike while I was in there, my dad was updating the race status on his facebook page. Kind of funny seeing my dad do that. I jumped on my bike and my dad told me only 45 miles left. I kindly reminded him it was actually 47 miles. I started riding again, eating and drinking according to my schedule. At the 80 mile mark everything started hurting. My butt, my legs, my neck, my triceps, everything. I was also really bored. I swore to myself at this point that I would never do another full Ironman distance race and I would never ride this stupid bike again. This second loop was the exact same as the first, however, the water on the road was a little deeper because of the high tide. After getting through the swamp I finished my bike ride. I averaged 17.1 mph. I was hoping for 17.2-17.8 so I was happy with that. I didn’t want to hammer it too hard on the bike because I didn’t want to wreck my legs for the run. My 112 mile bike journey was finally over. In around 6 hours 30 minutes.
Transition 2:
I waited a second at the dismount area before somebody grabbed my bike. They handed me my run gear bag and I ran into the changing tent. This time there were seats in the transition area. Everybody in there was moaning and taking their time, as was I. It had already been a long day and now we had to “run” a marathon. I changed my socks and shoes grabbed a banana and off I went for a 26.2 mile war.

The Run:
I actually felt good coming into the run. I was hydrated and I left some room in my legs to run. My super goal was to run a 4 hour marathon but had no clue if that was possible after 114.4 miles of swimming and cycling. I went out at an 8:45 pace and felt great stopping at the first aid station for Gatorade and water. This aid station was nice because they were blasting loud music. It allowed me to escape the distance that was in front of me. I drank at the next two aid stations and made it to the 4.5 mile turn around where I took a shot of Hammer Gel. This one didn’t get down that easily, but I choked it down after a little fight. The turn around was neat. There was a party set up and the actual turn around point was a cooler where the people were storing their beer. They were blasting music as well and rooting us on. The ladies were dressed up as peacocks and giving out hugs to any runners that needed one. I got more Gatorade and water and headed back to the high school. I made it to the run start area and was feeling good getting ready to start lap 2 of my 3 lap 26.2 mile trek. I saw my family and told them I was feeling well. I stopped for a quick Port-A-Potty break and went on my way. Mile 11 hit and I felt great!! Mile 11.5 hit and I thought I was dying!!! My stomach started cramping like none other. I have never felt a stomach cramp that bad. And they wouldn’t go away. I refused to stop so I made it my goal to at least run to the next rest stop and get down some liquids. I was angry because my legs felt fine, my stomach just refused to allow me to keep my pace. I made it to the next couple of aid stations and started drinking more water and Gatorade. I took down some endurolytes and started running again. Nothing changed. My stomach was still killing me. I started getting worried that my whole race was going to implode. I knew I ate fine on the bike and was well hydrated going into the run. I’ve run open marathons before and only drank every 2 miles and that was enough for them. Here I am drinking every mile but now I’m hurting like none other. At the turn around (13.5 mile mark) I grabbed some potato chips and started eating them. Nothing. I drank and drank and drank. Nothing. At mile 15 I started getting worried. I was getting dizzy and it looked like the clouds were moving really really fast. Maybe they were? I was able to choke down 100 calories worth of fruit snacks but still couldn’t get any relief. I tried drinking some Pepsi because I remember my grandmother giving it to me when I was sick as a child. It went down fine and I felt better while I was walking, but when I started running again the cramps were there and even worse. I was actually scared to see my family to begin the 3rd loop because I didn’t want them to see me in such a bad place. They could probably only see me for a half mile stretch, but I was scared I couldn’t even jog that long. Before I made it to the turnaround a guy coming up behind me asked what lap I was on. I told him I was on lap 2, he said he was on lap 3. He asked me how I felt. I told him about my stomach. He said that I should try eating the soup at aid station 2 and 4. He said his stomach was killing him and he ate it and felt great afterwards. He wished me luck and ran to his finish. I got to see him run down the finishing chute as I made the turn to see my family and begin my last 8 mile lap. When I saw my family they asked me how I was. I told them my stomach was in a bad bad place. They told me afterwards that they could tell I wasn’t feeling well. I lost my stride and was struggling to hold onto 10-11 minute miles. I made the turn and got out of their site and started to walk. I hated walking.

This was the first race I have ever done where I walked. Every step felt like somebody was punching my quads, but I didn’t mind that pain. I was expecting it and I’ve felt that pain before in marathons. This stomach thing was new and it hurt. I saw the aid station about a mile and a half in the distance and forced myself to run to it. I ran as close to the side of the road as possible hoping that if I passed out I would land in the grass to the side of me. I was hoping I could wake up after a soft landing and finish the race. Yes, your mind set is that crazy during races like this. You are willing to do anything to make it to the finish. I made it to the aid station and got some soup and coke. The soup tasted great but when I started running I was still hurting. I went to the Port-A-Potty to force myself to pee to see what color my urine was to try and tell if I was dehydrated. It looked like I pee’d orange juice. At this point I was scared. I was dizzy and dehydrated. I walked the next ¼ mile passing by a group of people in green shirts rooting us on. They told me to keep on marching forward. I listened but it hurt. I was in a melt down. I got to the next aid station and got some more hot soup and cola. I walked for around a minute to make sure it went down. I started jogging and felt absolutely fantastic. What the heck just happened? It was like somebody flipped a switch and turned my body back on. It was the weirdest thing I have ever felt my body go through. I was shocked. I started picking up the pace to a 9:00 pace and felt great. It was like I was a new person. I pushed my run to an 8:30 pace and still felt great. I was scared to push any further because I didn’t want to bonk out. The soup had saved my life. All I wanted to do was thank the guy who told me to eat it. He saved my day and my sub 13 hour goal was still in tact if I could hold on. I ran around the far turn around for the last time. I slapped the peacock’s high five and told them to play me some Lil’ Wayne to run out too. They didn’t have it so I settled for soup and went on my way. At that point another guy caught up to me. We ran together for the last 4 miles talking about the pain that we were going through.  It was amazing to see what the human body is capable of going through and pulling itself out of. We were walking with our drinks in hand at the last aid station. We finished our cups and threw them to the ground. He started to run and  I told him to go ahead planning on finishing a few seconds after him so he could cross the line by himself and live it up running up the finishing chute. I forced myself at this point to walk the next tenth of a mile. A few tears crawled out of my eyes and I told myself to take this moment in. All the training, the fight to get to this point – I’m going to do it! I though about my brother. I went to watch him do Ironman Louisville last year and after he passed out on the bike, he got up and finished the bike portion. He started the run but then had to pull out. It broke my heart having to see him pull out. He wanted it so bad. All I wanted to do was finish the 140.6 distance for him and get revenge on it. I knew at that time I was going to do it. At that time it was just getting dark, I couldn’t see my footing, but I didn’t care. I could have broken my foot stepping in a pot hole but it didn’t matter. I knew I could crawl to the finish at this point and that made me happy. As I was turning for the home stretch a race official on a motorcycle asked if I was finishing. I told him yes and he congratulated me and rode on. I’m guessing he was handing out glow sticks to the people that were going to be there for a while. I ran down the stretch and the hundreds of people at the finish line were cheering for me. It was an amazing rush of energy. I saw the finish line and heard the announcer announce my name. I crossed at 12:44:44. The announcer gave me a high five. He seemed genuinely excited for me. They handed me some Gatorade, put the medal around my neck and handed me my finisher’s shirt. The guy ran the final 4 miles with came by and we shook hands congratulations each other.I saw my family walking over and my dad came and shook my hand and told me I did a good job. I’ll remember that for the rest of my life. I looked for my mom but she was no where to be found. My brother told me she was scared to death when she saw me start my last lap. She was like a statue, no emotion, no movement. I turned around and saw her on the phone with my sister, smiling. She gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek and handed me the phone. My sister congratulated me as did the guy I ran with for the last 4 miles. I was literally in shock. Not at the fact that I finished such a long race, but the fact that I felt so good physically. After pulling myself out of that dark hole, I felt I could have ran another 10 miles without any problems at all. My body literally felt amazing at this point. It was the strangest thing.
Many people say I’m crazy for doing this race. I knew I would hit a point where my body would break down and I would have to will myself to the finish. That’s the reason I signed up for the race. Many people go through life never knowing how strong their bodies are. They never take themselves to the brink, crumbling from the pain and then see their bodies pull them out of it. It was an amazing thing for me to witness. During races like this there are 3 things racing it. Your heart is racing it, your body is racing it and your mind is racing it. Your mind will constantly be telling you that you are hurting and that you should stop. Your body will tell you through pain and injury that you need to stop. It’s up to your heart to ignore your mind and body and push forward when you don’t even know if there is an end in sight. When you are at the brink of crashing, literally blacking out, but yet, you push forward ignoring your mind and body, it’s that time that you realize what you are capable of. It’s at that point when you realize what it’s like to be alive….. to be an ironman.