Friday, September 22, 2006

Ironman Race Report - Post Race Wrap-up

I really need to put my race report to bed. I thought I was done but remembered many other things about after the race that I need to write about. I mean it's only been 8 weeks since Ironman USA. Perhaps the recent Ironman Wisconsin has rekindled memories of my race. I have also had some other questions from people that can be answered with my recap.

So we made it back to the condo after my race. I had talked with my coach about the race and we were both excited about the results. It was getting late in the day and everyone was hungry. We piled into my parents van and Tom's car and drove to Tail 'o the Pup for food. I had my finisher shirt, hat and medal with me to wear. If you remember, this restaurant was pretty cool with live music, picnic tables under a huge tent and a very relaxed atmosphere. My family all had their volunteer shirts on so we must have looked great.

As we sat down a woman at the table next to us asked me if I had just done the Ironman. I sat with her for a couple minutes answering her questions about the race. She was very excited about talking with a finisher and I didn't mind talking with her, but my family was eager to eat and talk with me about the race. I pulled myself away so we could order food. A little while later my sister-in-law, Becky, told me what Amanda had said while I was talking with this lady.......Amanda, "I think that lady is hitting on my dad!" We were probably close in age but I didn't feel she was hitting on me. She was excited about talking with a finisher. It was cute Amanda thought she was hitting on me.

We had a great time eating and recounting the days events. I enjoyed hearing about what happened for my family during their day, especially at the run aid station. Amanda and Becky picked up some hoola-hoops and Aimee and I posed for a picture in an Adirondack chair made of old snow skis. As we started to leave the restaurant, I stopped to congratulate another finisher eating dinner. What an awesome group to be a part of.

As we drove back to the condo it started to rain. I thought of the may athletes that were probably still on the course moving forward towards the finish line. I was glad to be done. At the condo we turned on the TV and found the local Adelphia feed from the finish line. It was now pouring rain at the Olympic Oval. The fans in the stands were still very up-beat and cheering for every single finisher. I saw some people finish that I had seen on the course, they must have had a bad day to finish so much later than I thought. All of my Cleveland friends had already finished, so I wasn't expecting to see anyone finish. I had a beer and everyone around me was starting to fall asleep. Becky had to get up early to drive to Albany for a flight back to Cleveland. Andrew and Amanda were going to leave early because they both had to work Monday night. Tom had to leave fairly early also to get home and pack for work in Houston.

Oh yeah, Becky had been working in New York City the week prior to the race. She flew to Albany, drove two hours to Lake Placid (on Saturday), worked the race on Sunday, got up 2:00AM Monday morning, drove two hours to Albany for an early flight back to Cleveland. She was back in Cleveland before we left Lake Placid. I am forever grateful for her efforts to be at my race.

I appreciated the efforts of everyone who came out to watch me race. I woke up early Monday morning, probably around 6:00Am. I had a lot on my mind because there was quite a bit to do before we left. I started to clean up the condo pulling down streamers and packing my stuff. Amanda and Andrew woke up, ate and left for home. Tom followed soon after that. I had a 9:00AM massage at the Horse Show Grounds so I left Aimee to do some more cleanup. At the grounds the registration line for IM USA 2007 was quite long. Little did I know the race would sell out in 90 minutes. I got my massage and was able to talk with Jen and Bethany, my new best friend massage therapists. I went back to the condo and picked up Aimee and the rest of our gear. We headed back to the grounds to see what else there was to do. The awards ceremony was slated for 11:00AM. We checked out the ASI booth and decided to wait until my pictures were available on-line, which was a very smart move. My parents had the back of my finishers medal engraved with my name and time. I also had a picture taken with Jen and Bethany, I love these two and they were a big part of my Ironman experience.

We parted ways with my parents and got in line for the award ceremony. I had my finisher shirt on so I could eat for free. Aimee checked about a ticket for her and it was $30. We decided that since they weren't serving filet mignon and lobster tails that it wasn't worth it. We bailed and left town. A quick stop at McDonald's for lunch was much better and cheaper. We were on the road around noon, heading for home.

We made our way through the cellular "dead zone", Adirondack Park. Once we got cell service I talked with Becky, TriSaraTops, Coach Angela and Tom.

Becky recounted some great stories about race day.

Sara was excited about my race.

Coach was telling me about other people and how awesome I did.

Tom was stuck in Rochester, NY with car trouble. His timing belt broke and he was at the auto shop. Problem was he needed to be in Houston the next day. Aimee and I detoured to pick up Tom and get him settled. We grabbed his mountain bike and a couple of bags then took him to a Holiday Inn where he could eat, rest and catch a flight to Houston. He flew back to Rochester at the end of the week to pickup his repaired car.

Except for my hips the car ride home wasn't too bad. At one rest stop I saw another IM finisher and told her congratulations, then I noticed her car license plate, IronChik. I saw that car earlier in the week. I also saw my friend Matt Luck from the Cleveland Tri Club. Matt was a first timer also and we were able to catchup and talk about our races. He had some stomach trouble, puked once and emptied his bowels in a porta-potty. He still finished around 13:30.

The rest of the trip home was uneventful, thank goodness. As we pulled into our drive I was greeted by two signs on the garage from my neighbor Kim. It put a big smile on my face.

Back home and my Ironman experience comes to a close, but the experience and images and memories will last forever along with the bragging rights.

Post race, especially with a 10+ hour drive home, you have a lot of time on your hands to think. Think about what happened before, during and after the race. What could have been better with the race? What is next? What am I feeling inside? So I close with these thoughts.

What could have been better with my race?
I know you are thinking that I am crazy posing that question. I can hear you in cyberspace yelling, "You finished your FIRST Ironman in 11:15:39 and you are wondering how it could have been better!!!!"

Sorry, it's the competitor in me. It's analyzing the day and finding where the weakness was and how I faltered.

Swim, I couldn't have asked for a more perfect swim. The time was 5-10 minutes faster than anticipated.

Bike, probably could have been a little faster and I wavered from my nutrition plan. I didn't recognize where I was lacking and I didn't set myself up for the run like I should have. Still, I was very happy with my bike.

Run....I wasn't sure what to expect here. I had never done a marathon before so I had no base time. I knew what I was capable of and Coach agreed with my goal time of 4 hours. So when I had a 4:04 marathon I was thrilled. But this is where the biggest improvement could have been made during my race. I wasn't setup for the run coming off the bike. I hadn't fueled enough on the bike. I didn't fuel up properly during the first half of the marathon (8:44/mile pace). The second half of the marathon was more of a struggle than I was expecting (9:56/mile pace). I ignored my HammerGel and only took food at the aid stations, (orange, watermelon, grapes, cola, water). I could feel my energy levels dropping. My HR was dropping and I couldn't get it back up. I knew I had to fuel the body but I really didn't have enough time to fuel the body enough for a stronger finish. I just hung on and knew I was going to finish.

About one week after Ironman I found an article written my Jennifer Hutchison. Jen is a nutritionist brought in by Coach Angela for the Cleveland Tri camp so I got to know her during the weekend. Her article was awesome, Attrition by Nutrition. The lack of fuel was affecting me mentally as I was starting to "tunnel" mentally. Maybe I was just focusing on finishing but I began to block out everything around me. I was keeping the rest of my energy to myself, probably a good thing. I was very much within myself. Even at the finish line I was not aware of the people lining the finish chute or the announcer. That is one part of my Ironman that I wish I was more aware of. The competitor in me was focused on the finish line and not the experience of finishing. I should have stopped to give Aimee a kiss. I should have stopped and looked into the crowds. I should have encouraged the crowds to yell and scream. A lot of "should haves" that I will try to remember next time. Next time? There will probably be a next time.

A sense of "eh"
Why do I feel this way? I just completed an Ironman triathlon. Swim/bike/run for 140.6 miles. Why do I shrug it off when someone compliments me about finishing? I think I have a hard time seeing it through the eyes of the "common" man, not that there is anything common about anyone. I've trained with or been coached by "Ironmen". Even the athletes in the Cleveland Tri Club inspire me with their speed, endurance, and determination. My efforts are sometimes minor compared to how other triathletes must train, live, compete. I will say that everyone puts their heart and sole into their sport.

I think my training prepared me so well for Ironman that the day was "easy". I didn't experience any stomach problems. No muscle problems. No mechanical problems. It was a perfect day to race. I was racing well within my limits and according to my race plan. I think my coach and I played it conservative since this was my first Ironman. I think back and realize that the challenge wasn't race day but the training leading up to race day. I remember having difficulty during my long rides and bricks that afforded me the experience during training to avoid mistakes on race day.

So post Ironman I found myself saying, "eh". Yeah it was a long day but I never had any doubts that I would finish. I'm extremely happy with my finish time and how I felt afterwards. But I think the challenge that I was expecting never arrived. Ironman Wisconsin has provided the missing piece to my Ironman Journey. Tracking my friends and reading race reports from the coldest Ironman in history has helped me understand and fill the void in my own IM journey. Like Frazz says in the sidebar, "Why not have trauma and suffering?" To find that personal place where you have to dig down deep and drag yourself up out from the bottom of a pit and will yourself to complete the task as hand. Has my Ironman Journey transformed into a personal journey to find my limits? I think so.

There will be more on this topic later. Let's lighten it up a bit........

Ironman Blues

It was Dante who asked me about post-IM Blues. Diane, my massage goddess, also asked me that question. Did you ever feel depressed after completing this huge undertaking? I think part of my answer is given above. I had also read enough articles to prepare me for post-race. On my sidebar I listed another half IM which is this weekend. I'm not doing that. But I am getting ready for the Baltimore Half Marathon on October 14th. I had this planned since the beginning of summer because Aimee is doing the full marathon. I figured with an awesome base beneath me, proper recovery and some good speed work prescribed by Coach I could whip out a pretty decent half.

During taper before IM USA I had also thought about my 2007 season. What was I going to do next summer? I knew I didn't want another Ironman. So at this point I am going back to sprints and olympic distances to work on my speed for a fall marathon in '07. I'm actually excited about next season. Aimee and I have also signed up to volunteer at IM USA. There will be alot of people from the Cleveland area going and I want to be able to cheer for them and see the race from a spectator side.

So there you go. Maybe I have generated more questions than answers about my Ironman Journey. I think it has become a journey bigger than I ever expected, but I am looking forward to the ride ahead and hope you want to come along. I'll be posting. Hope you enjoy what I have to write.

Game On


Joseph Vinciquerra said...

Awesome recount, with fantastic closure. Rest assured I'll be bouncing some things off of you in the upcoming year as I prepare for LP.

Thanks for the write-up, and great job!

Cliff said...


I am doing LP next year. Definitely will be looking forward on seeing you.

I don't think it is bad to see where you can improve. It is just a matter of balance. After all, we are always look for ways to push ourselves.

nancytoby said...

I'll be doing Balto half (plus a few extra miles) as my last long run before IMFL!! It's a fun event!

TriSaraTops said...

Funny how I am thinking many of the same things...!

Great was good to talk to you on that drive back! I was so proud of my IronBro. :)

JenC said...

Eric, reading this just makes me more excited to go back to Lake Placid in 2007 - this time as a competitor instead of a volunteer. I love that place! I'm glad you will be there on the course that day.

I used to think IM was the be all end all until watching Matt do 3 of his 6. He treats it as just another race. It's a huge accomplishment, but it is achievable with proper training. You've proved that, so has he and I plan to next year.

Congrats again! You are truly inspiring my friend.

Lana said...

Good post...I'm sure many people feel the same way. Be thankful for the lack of drama in your IM!!

triteacher said...

I agree with you - my actual IM race was "easy" compared to the hurdles I overcame while training. Nailing my nutrition alone was priceless. I ran my slowest ever marathon but it was the one in which I felt the best; thanks to the nutrition training I'd done, I never hit "the wall."