Sunday, August 20, 2006

Ironman Race Report - Race Day (Run/Finish)

I couldn’t believe I was finally on the run. I knew I had been racing for at least 7 hours but wasn’t sure. On the bike I never looked at my watch except to check my heart rate. I had turned my bike computer down so I wouldn’t be looking at it all the time. I usually checked for my cadence. On the bike I never looked at speed, mileage or time. I raced by perception, checking my HR and exerting myself based upon how I felt. I was going to do the same on the run.

So I leave the transition area at the Olympic Oval and head out onto the streets of Lake Placid. All of the streets are closed off to traffic. Around the Oval the spectators are behind the metal fencing along the streets. After about 100 yards the fencing is gone but the streets are still empty except for the cheering fans lining the streets. Here I am practically by myself with only a couple other runners around me and you hear thunder-sticks, cow bells, whistles and people rooting you on. The streets were covered in chalk with race numbers, names and words of encouragement.

I felt great starting the run. They say there is an aid station almost every mile on the run course. When I approached the first aid station I figured I had gone a mile so I looked at my watch to see what pace I was at. My watch read somewhere around 7:15. I knew that wasn’t right, it better not be right, or else I was going to crash and burn during the marathon. Later, it came to me that I was actually reading the total watch time. Yup, 7:15 starting the marathon was about right. I thought to myself, as long as I don’t blow up I can have a great race today. That was the last time I looked at my watch for time. As on the bike, I only looked at my watch for heart rate information. I never hit the split button to determine my pace or anything. I think it really paid off because I had no concept of time. I just ran towards the finish line.

When I did check my heart rate I was exactly where I wanted it to be, around 146. This is what Coach and I agreed upon in my race plan. On my fuel belt I had two bottles of water, a flask with HammerGel, a pouch with my tube of Endurolytes and some Clif Blocks. I was feeling good and had a great pace going, probably around 8:30/mile. At the aid stations I was taking water and some food like oranges. The day was also starting to get hot so sponges were in order. I would grab several sponges to use. One often went under my running hat and another between the shoulder blades under the jersey.

After a couple of aid stations I noticed a bad burning sensation near my right pectoral. I looked down and saw a nasty rub mark from my tri top. I didn’t notice it on the bike at all but it must have come from the swim. The way my tri top and wetsuit rubbed must have been bad during the swim. Being in the aero position I never noticed it. Now on the run with the up and down motion I was noticing it much more. I tried to more the seam away from the area. We would just have to see it if would get worse or not.

After turning onto Riverview Road at the Olympic Ski jumps was this guy with his Olympic Gold medal from 1960 summer games. I don’t remember his name but the sign said, Touch a Gold Medal for Luck. I did more than touch the medal; I grabbed it for a moment. This thing was huge. Larger than the palm of my hand, my fingers curled over the top. The road was very cool and Aimee was already out on the course with her bike. She was there to cheer me on and take some pictures. At the next aid station there was some watermelon that was awesome. It tasted so good. I also saw some Vaseline on the last table as I passed it by. I should have taken some right then for my rub mark but for some reason I didn’t want to turn back. I figured there would be some at the next aid station.

Janus had also setup inspiration alley. All of the big signs people made at the Janus tent were placed along the side of the road. Ford had also setup a big trailer with speakers and a DJ. He was calling out peoples names and telling everyone they looked strong. There was also an inflatable arch hooked up to a water truck. There were misters in the archway. As you ran through you were sprayed with a fine mist of water. Further up the course near the turn around I saw Coach Hodska and his sidekick Baker. They were riding their bikes the opposite way. I yelled at them both. Baker yelled out an encouraging, “Way to go Andy Gibb”. He must have a fixation with the Bee Gees and their youngest brother.

Most of this out and back was not very eventful. At one aid station I made a pit stop, yes I actually used the port-a-potty. Aimee saw me and tried to take a picture of me coming out. She was going to tell Angela that I used a bathroom. It was too early to try peeing while running, wet shoes for 19 miles is not fun. As I approached the Ford Inspiration Zone there were timing mats on the road. The computer picked up your number then flashed you name on a big display panel with a message. Aimee told me later that you could have a personal message entered for your athlete. It was very cool seeing it. As I passed the DJ we slapped hands and I felt my first significant rush of emotion. I was maybe 10 miles into the race and I knew I was going to finish. But I had to keep myself under control since there was still a lot of racing to do. I pulled myself back to the moment and regained my focus…….mile….at…..a….time.

Coming off Riverview Road and heading back to town there is an uphill. This first uphill I managed to run and still keep my heart rate where it needed to be. People were still all over the place. At one aid station someone had a Mr. Potato Head in the middle of the road. It was holding a sign that said, “Go Virg”. Each time I passed that spot Mr. Potato Head was facing the direction Virg was coming from. Aimee even got a picture of him.

Getting closer to town there is the Degree of Difficulty Hill. Angela had told me that I was to walk the hill no matter what. Keep the HR low, don’t go through the roof, recover quickly and start running again. I grabbed two waters from the aid station before the hill and drank while power walking the hill. At the top of the hill where we turn towards the Oval was a group of people with a megaphone cheering people on. They wanted me to run but I knew my plan called for me to walk. I didn’t let them persuade me to run.

After I made the turn I started running again and made my way to Lake Placid Drive. This out and back was probably 2 miles total. The aid station on this road was also where my family was volunteering. The run special needs bags were lined up and I knew where to go for my bag. I grabbed a new tube of Endurolytes, two water bottles and a second flask of HammerGel. As I approached the aid station I could see my mom and dad doing some cleanup picking up paper cups and trash. On the opposite side of the road I saw my sis-in-law Becky jumping around like a mad woman yelling my name. All I could think of was, “Why is she over there? She is supposed to be at the aid station.” She took some pictures of me then ran along the side of the road behind me while yelling. She is a trip. I saw Amanda handing out GU and I was out to the turn-around. On the way back through the aid station I saw Andrew and my father-in-law in the line of volunteers. I was glad to see everyone helping out. After the aid station I saw Jim Berbee pass me. I wasn’t sure where I had passed him but I yelled out some encouragement and kept going.

Approaching the Oval you can turn left or right. Left takes you back onto the course for lap #2. Right takes you to the Oval for the finish. I would be taking the right turn in about 2 hours. I still felt good as I began my second loop. I think I started to feel a loss of energy as I turned onto Riverview Road. I touched the gold medal again then had to use the port-a-potty. Two potties and one was occupied, at least I thought so until I opened a door and there was a guy standing there. I let go of the door and decided to step between the two potties and pee right there. I leaned against the one potty and relieved myself. I had to kind of jerk myself upright away from the potty to get going again. I knew at that point my energy levels were starting to drop. I also watched my heart rate begin to drop. Coach Angela had always said, “HR high stop eating, HR low feed the body.” I had watched my HR drop from 146 to 140 to 135 to 130. I knew it was too late now to fuel up, so I just put whatever I could into my body to survive the second loop. I was hydrating and taking the Endurolytes just fine, so no dehydration. I started to drink cola at the aid stations and still eat the fruit available. The pretzels, cookies and Fig Newtons were too dry for me to eat. It was during the second loop that Linda Misencik ran up to me on her first loop of the marathon. It was good to see a familiar face. We ran a little bit together until she pulled ahead of me. I used her to pull me along for part of the run.

I kept seeing Aimee and Coach Hodska on the course, always offering encouraging words and bits of advice. Aimee could tell I was starting to fade. The lack of energy was taking a toll on me mentally. I found myself becoming more focused inwardly. I was either zoning out or zoning in, depends upon how you look at it. I was zoning in on moving forward and keeping myself hydrated. I was zoning out all of the external factors that didn’t matter anymore. I ignored the DJ at the Inspiration Zone, that could have been lost energy. I tried not to think of the finish, more lost energy as the emotions tried to surface whenever I did think of the finish. I knew I was going to finish, I just wanted to finish strong.

At one aid station they finally had some chicken broth heated up. I took some and it tasted good. I could feel the positive affect it had about 15 minutes later. At the last aid station on Riverview Road I knew there was some watermelon. I wanted that watermelon real bad. As I went through the aid station I didn’t see the watermelon. At the last table I looked across the road and saw the volunteer with the bowl of watermelon. I walked across the street for that watermelon. It was a wonderful treat that tasted so good.

Turning off Riverview Road I walked the hill that I ran before. There was no way I was going to run it. I tried to pick up my pace a little since I knew I was getting closer to town. My speed didn’t improve that much. At I approached the final hill into town I grabbed a water and cola from the aid station. I was going to drink them as I powerwalked up the hill. The same group of people where there cheering us on. After the aid station I saw a sign along the road that my family had made. That late in the race it was a very welcome sign. As I continued on Lake Placid Drive I saw Linda ahead of me. I slowly pulled myself to her and passed her at the turn around point. She made some comment to me and I began to run a little stronger. The adrenaline was starting to kick in as I knew my finish line was not far away. As I approached the left/right junction I was paying attention to who was in front of me. I was going right this time to the finish. Where were the two people in front of me going? One went left and one went right. As we entered the Oval I tried to stay away from the guy in front of me. I wanted to spaced apart for the big finish. Family and kids were lined up along the fencing waiting to join their mom/dad/husband/wife for the final push to the finish line. At the top of the Oval I heard Aimee call out my name and I pointed to her, that is where my finishing video starts and my tunnel vision begins.

The guy in front of me… I too close to him? Will we finish enough apart? Then I hear, “……and Eric Gibb, from Avon, Ohio, both first time finishers” then silence. It was only me and the finish line. I raised my arms in victory as I crossed the finish line of Ironman USA in 11:15:39. I am an Ironman. Two ladies were at my side immediately. A medal was draped around my neck and I walked away from the finish line. All of a sudden Barry Horpsted, the ART guy, was right there to congratulate me. I was just happy to see a familiar face. I suddenly became very quiet as a huge emotional rush swelled through my body. Barry asked if I was okay and I just told him it was emotions. Then the lady on my right said there were some people calling for me. Right at the finish line, between the video truck and the fencing was Andrew, Amanda and Becky. I walked over to them, gave them a big hug and started to cry. I could finally release the emotions inside. I told them I loved them and was escorted away by my two finish line catchers. I was handed my finishers bag and had my picture taken. They walked with me to make sure I was going to be okay. They didn’t leave my side until I reached the food area and were sure I was going to be okay. I grabbed some pizza and cola but only took one bite. I couldn’t eat. I looked around at the other people sitting at the tables and was saddened. I didn’t know anyone. I had no one to share my Ironman victory with. I left the food tent and went to get a post race massage. Once I got to my table I saw my new friend Jen, the volunteer coordinator. She was busy but said that she would be over soon. It was just great to see another familiar face. The massage therapist working on me was great because we talked about the race and how I was feeling. Then I saw Bethany head out to pick up the transition bags for the guy next to me. When she returned I asked her to get my bags also. I explained that the bags were right outside the entrance to the massage tent. She was the greatest and got my bags for me. We chatted for a little bit. Jen finally made it over to check on me. We also talked until my massage was done.

I grabbed my bags and started to figure out how I was going to get out of the oval. I headed towards the finish line when Barry came up to me. Aimee had spotted him and asked him to find me. No one knew where I was and wanted to make sure I wasn’t in the medical section. Barry made it his mission to find me for my family. I walked with him over to my family and thanked him once again, I was with the people I wanted to celebrate with. My dad and Andrew helped me get my bike out of transition and we left the Oval to head back to the condo. At the condo, they had decorated the inside with signs, streamers and balloons. Yes, I was an Ironman.

PS....the race may be done my my journal continues. Post race commentary will be posted as well.


Sascha said...

Fantastic! That made me all weepy! Reminds me of my very first endurance event ever and how I wanted to cry when I was done. You did an awesome job and have so much to be proud of! And to be grateful for in that large support network all around you.

Hak said...


Again congratulations! A great write-up and an even better story. Thanks for sharing.


TriSaraTops said...

Awesome! Wonderful report. I hope I can be as detailed in mine in a few weeks...! :) Can't wait to hear the rest.

Cliff said...

gret report Eric.

Bolder said...

great race. great reports!

you are an IRONMAN!!

thanks for sharing, i'm going to loop back and read them again when my final ironman prep looms near.

p.s. that was a HARD course, i'm glad i'm doing Florida!

Mrs. Tri Eric Tri said...

Honestly as good as these race reports are, absolutely nothing was better than actually being there in person to witness the entire event.

It was awesome to watch an everyday athlete with a full time job, a wife and kids have the race of his life. From start to finish was nothing but perfection.

I am VERY proud of my husband, and continue to brag about his accomplishment each and every chance I get.

Lloyd said...

Eric, that was awesome. I imagine you must feel like Superman, eh? The part where you're 10 miles into the run and knowing you were going to finish...its a testament to your training, your fitness, and obviously, your racing. Thanks for sharing the HR strat. It works.

Congrats and recover well. I hope raise my glass to you sometime soon.

qcmier said...

I'm getting goosebumps reading this. Great Job!!!

E-Speed said...

wow Eric. You captured the run so well here. I was crying with you at the finish. Great job!

Jodi said...

Amazing race report! Your story will be so helpful to many of us that have an Ironman in our future. Thank you!

You are an Ironman!

(I'll bet that never gets old)


trifrog said...

Delayed congratulations, but well-intentioned procrastinatory blogging.

See you at GLE.