I was a mess. I had a good face on, of course, but I really wanted to finish. It was nine months of training weekends, physical therapy, and a life transformation, all for one event. Most of my family couldn’t make it for financial reasons. My dad couldn’t come because his brain cancer had reared its head the week prior, barring him from flying. The girlfriend I had at the beginning of training had recently been lost. I told a supportive ex that I couldn’t have her come cheer.
There was a lot going on in my head, but loudest of all was this:
I feel sorry for whoever tries to take me off the course.
Having the SoCal Collective crew there kept me sane. Training with Coach Paul Ruggiero and Team Square One made it possible.
Swim: 2.4 miles, 1:21:38
Perfect water conditions, 20 teammates in the water, and a few miles of getting punched in the face. The gun went off and things got nuts.
IMWI was by far the most fun I’ve had in the water. Ever. Before drafting practice the previous week, mass swim starts were heart-pounding melees. Now it was a game of tag that I was determined to win. At some point this song entered my head, and it stuck there.
I lost count of how many times I got punched/kicked/elbowed in the face, but I was grinning the whole time. Are you kidding me? Throw ‘bows all you want, I’m doing an Ironman. I exited right behind Coach Pete and Danielle Perkel. Danielle and I got to run up the parking structure into T1 together, which was a great experience to share. I’m very, very happy with the swim.
T1: 10:39. The transition areas were HUGE. Run off the ramp. Up a parking structure spiral. Through the conference center. Across the parking structure. Down another spiral. Good grief. The volunteers were awesome though.
Bike: 112 miles, 7:05:04, avg 15.81 mph
The bike course started strangely, with my front derailleur not working for the first 20 miles or so. I got a bike tech to jam it free for me, and I was set after that. While the hills were much smaller than the PCH canyon runs we had in training, the course never really let up. Every 30 seconds I was deciding whether to be in the big ring or the small ring. The constant choices kept me occupied and I ended up behind on my nutrition. The power bar liquid they had was garbage as well.
Perhaps the most memorable part of the bike was the crowd support on the hills. They were short enough that they were pedestrian accessible, and the masses of spectators made the whole experience a lot more fun. There were some great signs, including:
” Smile if you peed yourself “
” I can’t believe you PAID to do this “
…and a few more serious ones like:
” We aren’t measured by what we start. We are measured by what we finish. “
On the second loop I tried to keep it light, chatting with the costumed bystanders on the way through. I’m not going to publish what was said.
I kept my heart rate below 155 for most of the ride, but between miles 80 and 100 I started to lose focus. My pre-mixed bottles were hot and I couldn’t choke them down. I started to fade a bit and noticed my legs starting to cramp a little. This is obvious by the difference in my bike splits, which went from 16.27 mph (conservative with annoying tech stops) to 14.39mph (pretty flipping slow). I decided to take the last 16 miles easy and really spin my legs out to prepare for the run. Luckily it was mostly downhill and I crept back up above 18 mph.
T2: 9:22 – Another long transition, and I managed to beg some salt pills on the way out. I knew it was about to hurt.
Run: 26.2 miles, 5:35:24, 12:48/mi
You can hardly call that a run, really. I felt loose at the start but knew my legs were about to lock up. Nothing like an 8 hour warmup before your first marathon.
Miles 1-6 were quite nice actually. I paid attention to my stomach and tried to not eat too much, wary of all the warnings I had in training.
So take it easy.
Having all the SoCal teammates on the run made a huge difference. The mental battles were hard, including a constant internal dialog that went something like this:
” Go faster, Jones. ”
” If I push too much I’m going to bonk and maybe even DQ.”
” Okay I’m running to that light pole. Wow this hurts. ”
” Yeah to the light pole. Then walk for 50 steps ”
” okay ”
” That was 51 steps, son. ”
” Okay I’m running for 100 steps or until my legs seize up again”
” Cool. Sweep. Heels up. Breathe. Sweep. Heels up. Breathe.”
” Wow that girl is cute. High 5 for the midwest. ”
” What step number is that? ”
” I dunno. Somewhere around 300. ”
” Cool. I’m a badass. ”
” That chick in front of me has ’47’ on her calf.”
” damn. ”
” What if I don’t finish? ”
” You’re going to finish. ”
” I’m going to finish. ”
” Go faster, you’re wimping out. ”
At around mile 15 I caught up to Andrew Grant, whose IT band kept him from bending his right knee. I decided to walk with him. I told myself it was a team thing, but it was mostly because I was destroyed. We walked for 5 or 6 miles and talked. I love that guy. I started to feel a little better. I wanted to finish with him, but suddenly felt like I needed to push. I knew I wasn’t going to get under 14 hours, but it wasn’t about the time anymore. It was about crossing the finish line with nothing left in the tank. It was about getting the full dose.
With a half mile left, Chris Herrera found me and jogged me in. He reminded me to take it all in, to remember what it looked like, what it sounded like. I’m really glad he did that.
My last mile pace was ridiculously fast. Okay it was probably super slow. But it felt fast. The chute was glowing, there were people everywhere, and I got a little amped up. I had been wondering what this would feel like for a long time. I had made the same decision thousands of times – I’m going to cross that line and silence my inner critic for a time. I didn’t even hear the announcer say “you are an ironman.” I don’t care that I didn’t slow down. I had something left and poured it all out.