Wednesday, September 10, 2008

IMC Race Report

2008 Ironman Canada
Race Report


This race, my ninth triathlon of the 2008 season and 73rd of my career, was contested on August 24th, 2008, exactly 6 weeks after I completed IM Austria. I was racing both in the M50-54 AG and the CEO division. The latter represented my best chance for snagging a Kona slot—which was my pre-race goal. I figured I’d need an 11:30 or so to do so.

After about 10 days of recovery post IM Austria I was able to get in three pretty solid training weeks. I felt reasonably good and had a couple of 120+ mile rides and 18-mile runs. I then tapered for two weeks or so. Although I felt reasonably good it was hard to tell how fit I was with the IM Austria taper/recovery and then the IMC taper.

I flew to Vancouver on Tuesday of race week. I arrived late and drove about an hour east of Vancouver where I crashed for the night. Up early on Wednesday I arrived in Penticton around 9:30 and checked into the Penticton Lake Lodge right at the race site. I spent several hours getting unpacked and putting together my overly complicated BMC TT01—the latter task was quite frustrating but ultimately accomplished.

I drove the bike course and went for a run and settled in for race week. I was solo for the first time at an IM and as a result I spent a lot of the time quietly lying around. I did have a number of events associated with the CEO Challenges group and through them met Bryan Rhodes and Jasper Blake (the 2006 IMC winner). On Friday I did the Underpants Run, which was a lot of fun. I completed several rides, runs and swims and on Saturday checked my bike in—I was locked and loaded.

The weather and forecasts leading up to race day were all over the place. It had been very hot, in fact reaching over 100 degrees the week before the race. Race day however was predicted to be mild and generally overcast with increasing wind and then rain as the day progressed. I was hopeful the later would hold off until I had descended out of the mountains and was out on the run course—the challenges of IMAUS’ rainy bike ride were still fresh in my memory.

On race morning, I was up at 3:30 courtesy of a pre-arranged phone call from Judy who was back in NYC moving Kara into her new dorm at NYU. I did my usual breakfast thing and went down to check my bike and pump-up the tires. It was about 60 degrees with a mostly clear sky. I took advantage of the proximity of my hotel and went back to my room and rested quietly until about 6:20 when I donned my wetsuit and went down to join the festivities.

The Swim

After getting zipped up I proceeded down to the water’s edge. With no one there to root for me I was all business. I jumped in and did a few warm-up pulls. I felt pretty good. The pros started at 6:45 and I moved way over to the far left (away from the buoy line) to avoid both the rocks on the right and some of the early moshpit of the swim. Pete Reid was tasked with firing the starting cannon, which was pretty cool. Pete had told me before the race he was adopting me and that he would be my number one fan during the race—two claims which did not pan out.

Finally at 7am the cannon sounded and I was off for yet another IM—my 6th in 45 months. Pre-race jitters quickly disappear for me in the IM swim, as I get very focused on tactical race management. I was intent on avoiding problems and at the same time quickly finding a good group to draft off. I was pretty successful at this and soon settled into a nice rhythm. Every now and then I’d get whacked or I’d lose my draft feet but I’d quickly adjust and the swim was generally without drama. Par for an IM swim.

The swim at IMC is a fresh water swim in Okanagan Lake—a beautiful body of water situated in a valley between mountain ridges near Penticton. It was very reminiscent of the Worther See where we swam for IMAUS. Two permanent buoys mark the swim course so it was accurate and the distances to the turn buoys was known. IMC features a one-lap swim that is basically a big isosceles triangle.

As I swam out to the first turn buoy I became aware of some chop and guessed that the wind was already picking up. The wind was into us and on my non-breathing side so it wasn’t that much of a nuisance.

I knew that the first leg was 1612 meters long, which is about 42% of the 3862-meter swim. My target was 30 minutes which I knew would put me on a 72 swim pace and I figured with a little slow-down towards the end I’d likely end up in the 73-74 minute range which was fine with me. I hit the turn and glanced at my watch and saw 29:55 and felt really good about the race so far!

The second leg was a short 450-meter jaunt to the second turn buoy where we would head for home. It was very congested here as the wide dispersed field at the start (at least 100 meters) had now compressed to just 5-10 meters. There was a lot of bumping and some nimrod decided he needed to swim over me on his way to a 70+ minute swim. I wasn’t phased but kept plugging along. I hit the second turn and pointed for transition, which was 1800 meters away.

We spread out again and there was little drama the rest of the way. I think I did a reasonable job of drafting and swimming straight although I clearly needed to make several mid-course adjustments to tweak my line. I was very aware of a surprising amount of fatigue as we approached and passed the one-hour mark of the swim. I was more tired than I should have been and I could tell I was slowly down. Maybe my swim fitness was off with all the give and take before and after IMAUS. I wasn’t that bothered by this development, as I knew my swim would be good enough to put me into contention.

I hit the beach at 76:22 with an average HR of 151 bpm. While the former led to momentary disappointment, the latter was pretty much on target—152 being my target for an IM swim. This was my 3rd fastest IM split behind IMFL07 (66 minutes) and IMAUS08 (74 minutes)—so not a bad outcome, but definitely a few minutes slower than I expected. Oh well—I was immediately focused on executing a quick and precise transition.

Competitively I was 70th (out of 172) in my AG, which was at the 60 %-tile. Overall I was 1097th out of 2063—which put me slightly behind the median swimmer. These stats tell me I had an off swim day.

On the CEO front, things were more interesting. There were two slots available for the 11 of us competing in this race within a race. The first went to the outright winner and the 2nd, to the person who finished best relative to their AG. Since, I was the 2nd oldest of this group, the latter slot was a distinct advantage for me. As it turned out, I was the 7th fastest CEO (although we were tightly bunched) but relative to my AG I was in 3rd after the swim). Here is how the top CEO’s stacked up after the swim:

1. Downs 68:34 71.1 %-tile
2. Vandaele +2:44 55.8
3. Palowitch +5:43 61.7
4. Rebus +7:03 43.2
5. Herkelman +7:11 25.3
6. Ceci +7:29 40.4
7. Christofferson +7:50 59.9
8. Kelley +11:11 40.4
So, while I was almost 8 minutes down to Downs, I was just a few seconds out of 2nd when the age adjustments were made (you can see how the much younger Vandaele and Herkleman were especially hurt with the age adjustments). I, of-course, knew none of this and was busy hurrying through my transition.

Transition One

I immediately ran past a lot of people coming out of the water. I hit the deck and the strippers had my wetsuit off in no time. I found my bag and elected to avoid the changing tent and just sat down and morphed from swimmer to cyclist very quickly. I jammed my stuff back into a bag, handed it off to a volunteer and ran pretty quickly to my bike, which given my bib number (80) was racked close to the bike start. I grabbed my bike and crossed the mount line. I heard Pete yell; “Go RC” and I looked over and saw him and I waved. I hopped on and I was off.

I had a very good transition. I clocked it at 4:14 (158 average HR) but my official T1 was 3:27. This easily my best IM T1. I had the 13th fastest T1 in my AG (93 %-tile). I was also the 3rd fastest CEO through T1 and was able to pass 3 of my competitors and move into 4th overall. I was now in 2nd with the age adjustment:

1. Downs 68:34
2. Vandaele +3:14
3. Rebus +6:36
4. Christofferson +7:49
5. Herklemen +8:15
6. Palowitch +8:25
7. Ceci +9:23
8. Kelley +13:21

The Bike

I started the bike confident in my ability to make up time on the rest of the field, as it is my strongest of the three disciplines. I was very respectful of the difficulty of the course and planned to ride the first section pretty conservatively to save myself for the difficult climbs that are a feature of the latter portion of this bike course. The IMC bike is a one-loop affair with anywhere from 3-10 significant climbs (depending on how you define significant) and a total net climb of about 8000 feet. I anticipated this to be the toughest of my IM bikes and wanted to carefully meter my energy output.

The first section, through town and out along Skaha Lake, tracks the run course and is pretty flat. However just before the hills of the run course, the bike veers sharply left onto McLean Creek Road, which features a pretty steep (above 10% grade) climb of about a mile or so. I was cruising up this hill, careful to keep my power in the 260-280 watt range when Herkleman, Palowitch and Ceci all came flying by me. This was surprising and unsettling as I considered myself to be a stronger rider than any of them. I consoled myself by concluding they were pushing too hard up this early hill and that they would pay for it later.

As I reached the top of the climb I had a great deal of difficulty shifting from my 39 back up to my 53 front chain ring. I had to play with both derailleurs simultaneously to get it to jump. My front shifter was pegged all the way back and I had a strong feeling that this was going to be a big issue for me down the road. I was worried that when I shifted down again I wouldn’t be able to then get the chain to jump back to the big ring. I tried to put it out of my head and also tried to avoid shifting down as long as I could.

I was playing tag with Herkleman and Palowitch letting them out-climb me and then moving past them on the descents as I tried to even out my power curve. Even in the “flattish” first section to Osoyos there are quite a few up and downs and that combined with a strong headwind (15-20 mph) soon created the need for me to downshift—right before mile 20 on the bike. As I reached the top of this hill the moment of truth arrived and I tried to get the front derailleur to move the chain to the big ring for several minutes but it just would not go.

Bummer! While this is far from the worse thing that could happen on an IM bike, make no mistake this was a serious issue for me. I had over 90 miles to ride with most of the climbing and descending ahead of me. I first thought: there goes my race--I’m hosed. But pretty quickly I settled down and tried to figure out what to do about it. I knew that I could likely fix the problem with the right size Allen wrench (which I didn’t have and couldn’t legally get from my competitors or people along the road). I knew how to fix the problem and it really was just a 30 second cable adjustment that would probably do the trick.

I asked folks around me what they thought I should do and the consensus was to flag down one of the marshals on the motorcycles and see if I could get legal help. I knew there were several “tech” cars out on the course where I could get the problem fixed. (As an aside, I did ask several race marshals and none of them could help me and I did not see the techies until almost 100 miles into the bike when it was way to late). One fellow suggested I reach down and change it by hand while I was riding—but to be careful because it was possible I could get my fingers caught in the chain or spokes with somewhat negative consequences. I decided to reject this approach.

Since I had driven the course I had a pretty good mental image of what was ahead of me and I decided to try to ride as long as I could in the ring I was in and then when warranted, I’d dismount and change it by hand. Hop back on and ride it as long as I could before I had to change it again. I could change from big to small ring by shifting but had to use my hand to go from small to big.

I had to spend the next 15 miles or so to the bottom of Richter in my small chain ring as there were quite a few short climbs and I didn’t want to fry my legs pushing too big a gear. Many times I spun out and had to coast where normally I would have hammered it down a descent. Because of this I lost my advantage relative to the other CEOs and soon fell further and further behind them. This did not brighten my spirits but I decided I would just deal with it and not worry about them. I needed to focus all of my energy on making it through the bike and avoiding a DNF if I could. Every now and then I’d try the front shifter again but it was basically useless extra weight on my bike now. I passed Rebus, which was a bit of good news for the home team.

I finally reached the bottom of Richter, which is a moderate (6% or so—some places a little steeper) seven mile climb that gains a little over 1200 feet in elevation. I was in the right gear and focused my mind on a steady 250-260 watt climb. I soon caught Herklemen and Palowitch and my spirits rose as I thought I could work around the derailleur problem if I was smart about it.

We crossed the 42.5-mile checkpoint and here is how the CEO competition stacked up:

1. Vandaele 3:20:39
2. Downs +3:53
3. Ceci +4:28
4. Christofferson +9:36
5. Palowitch +10:30
6. Herklemen +10:33
7. Rebus +15:42
8. Kelley +18:43

Had I known this I would have been very encouraged. Despite my problems I was hanging in there and was now probably in the lead after the age adjustment. Of course, I had no idea and was too consumed with the challenges at hand to think about it.

Richter, despite its reputation, was not too great of a challenge. Soon, however, I found myself on the long descent after the pass. I elected to not dismount and change the ring because I knew Richter was soon to be followed by the “Seven Bitches” a series of demanding rollers where I would need my small ring to climb over them. I resigned myself to being over-geared for much of the next 15-20 miles.

It was frustrating to coast down the descent and have countless cyclists cruise past me including Palowitch and Herklemen. This frustration was periodically interspersed with terror as my speeds would jump up above 40 mph and I tried to control my speed with wind braking.

I was soon into the “Bitches” and this was by far the most frustrating part for me. Rollers are a real strength for me—I ride on them all the time in Delaware and it was here that I had planned to bring my effort up and put a move on my competitors. I wanted to hammer the descents and then drive up the early part of the climbs to conserve my kinetic energy. I was unable to do this stuck in my small ring and I felt like I was losing 30+ seconds on every roller. I was counting the rollers trying to figure out when to get off and shift back.

I tried to push the envelope a bit by getting very low on the descents and pushing my butt out behind my seat to maximize my descending speed. At one point this very nearly got out of hand as I realized I was going much too fast—I glanced down at my speedo and saw 48.6 mph and just about freaked out. There were strong crosswinds and with my deep rims I’d catch a solid sideways push every now and then. (As an aside, my BMC was rock solid on this whole ride—well excepting the derailleur). I backed off from then on—it just wasn’t worth it—at that speed my triathlon days would be over if I went down.

I should digress a bit at this point. I’ve focused in my commentary on my gearing problems because that was basically all that I was really thinking about during this time. But another, and ultimately bigger, problem had developed. The forecasted rain had not come and the sun was shining and it actually was quite warm out on the bike course—it reached 85 degrees. This combined with a very strong wind—now 25+ mph in places was creating the potential for dehydration. I thought I was doing a good job of hydrating but apparently I was falling further and further behind the hydration curve. Either I wasn’t drinking enough or I wasn’t absorbing enough into my body to keep up with my sweat rate. I had to pee three times during the bike so at the time I thought I was doing a good job, but as we shall see, I was not.

I finally got through the rollers and approached the infamous “out-and-back”, a 15-mile, relatively flat section that is universally despised by people racing this course. I, however, was very eager to get here, as I was able to hop off my bike and change back over to my big ring for the first time in 50 miles. While, I would have liked to drop down 6-8 times over the next 15 miles I just left it in the big ring and tried to make up for lost time.

I still felt good and pushed it hard in this section—perhaps too hard. I was encouraged when I re-passed Herklemen and Palowitch and thought that I might be able to catch one or two of the others as I had now figured out I was in 4th, but within striking distance. I was in attack mode again and after the nightmare of the last 2+ hours it felt great.

After the out and back to Cawston you return to route 3A and head to the bottom of the Yellow Lake/Twin Lake climb. I got off my bike several times in this section to change my chain ring. A couple of times I would do so only to have to shift again as I wasn’t as familiar with the course as I would have liked. This was frustrating and on top of that my hands were covered in grease. Herklemen passed me again and my spirits sagged a bit. I was now aware that it was very warm and that I was dehydrated. The cold calculus in my brain told me that I might be in for a rather tough time come the marathon. I could see storm clouds on the horizion but figured they would not come into play until I hit the run.

I pushed up the big Yellow Lake climb. This is quite long (you’re more or less climbing for about 15 miles) but not nearly as steep (except in a couple of sections) as Richter. I could now clearly feel the fatigue in my legs and I just wanted to get through the bike and find out if I had anything left for the run. The Ironman has a way of stripping you down to your bear essentials and it was certainly having its way with me today.

I hit Yellow Lake (which by the way is green) and stayed in my small ring because I knew there was one last steep pitch up to Twin Lake. At the top I jumped off yet again and changed the chain and started my descent. I noticed pretty quickly that something was wrong as I was spinning out at 25 mph. WTF? I looked down and saw the chain had jumped back down to the small ring. Since I was at the top of about a 12-mile descent I had to brake and come to a stop (with people flying by me at 40+ mph) and do the job again—this time successfully. It was one of those days but I was thankful to avoid any collisions during this maneuver.

I rode pretty well on the descent but since I was fatigued I was reasonably conservative—no sense risking crashing now--I figured most of the damage was already done. I wasn’t able to drink as much as I would have liked either as I felt it more important to have both of my hands engaged in avoiding a 40+ mph crash. I was distinctly dehydrated now and I knew (unfortunately) what that meant.

Finally I was down out of the mountains and cruised down Main Street to the bike finish. It was a difficult, challenging ride but I took some satisfaction in knowing I had persevered and made it to T2. I completed the bike in 5:43:29, which worked out to be 19.6 mph on average. I averaged 185 watts, which is 15-30 below my target—probably a function of all the coasting I did. My HR averaged 143bpm, which was also below my target of 152. This was my 4th fastest IM bike split, but was my fastest on the three hilly courses I’ve done (Wisconsin, Austria and Canada).

Competitively, I had the 30th fastest bike split in my AG (versus 7th at IMFL and I felt I was in better bike shape for this race). Overall I had the 473rd fastest bike split, which is very disappointing (but understandable given my problems). The CEO race was now very interesting and I had moved into the lead for the age-adjusted slot:

1. Ceci 6:47:55 80.4 %
2. Downs +5:20 75.0
3. Vandaele +9:42 72.8
4. Herkelmen +11:44 58.2
5. Christofferson +16:15 81.4
6. Palowitch +18:30 76.1
7. Kelley +41:12 58.3
8. Rebus +44:08 42.5

As I was rolling into town I saw Ceci and figured I was probably about 15 minutes or so down. I didn’t see any of the other CEOs, as the early part of the run course is different than the end of the bike course. I also knew that with an elapsed time of 7:04, if I were to run a 4:30 or so, perhaps even slower I would snag the second Kona spot. Palowitch, Downs and Ceci all had to beat me by 45 minutes or so to outplace me relative to my AG. Vandaele by over an hour and the only way Herkelmen was going to get a slot was to win it outright (he’s 32 years old). I was vaguely aware of this as I dismounted but mostly I was concerned about being dehydrated and whether or not I’d be able to run well.

Transition Two

I did pretty well in T2—not as strong as T1 but I held my own. I had it at 3:31 with an average HR of 132 but officially it was 3:27—the exact same as my T1! This was right in the mix of the CEOs and the race standings were unchanged as we started the run:

1. Ceci 6:50:09
2. Downs +7:45
3. Vandaele +10:24
4. Herkelmen +12:32
5. Christofferson +17:28
6. Palowitch +24:31
7. Kelley +44:22
8. Rebus +45:35

As I started the run, I knew that I would find out pretty soon if any of this mattered.

The Run

My plan for the IMC marathon was to open up with a first mile in the 9:00-9:30 range. At IMAUS I went out to fast on my way to a 2:01 half-marathon split. I thought this was too hard given my run fitness and thought if everything was going well I’d be better off with a 2:05-2:08 half-marathon.

The early part of the IMC run is flat and features an out and back along Lakeshore Drive hard on the shores of Okanagan Lake. The course then joins the early part of the bike course heading out of town on Main Street and then along the shores of Skaha Lake. Just past where the bike course veers off to McLean Creek Road, the run course continues along the lake through Skaha Estates to the turn around at Okanagan Falls. This last section—about 8 miles in total is an extremely difficult run section. There are plenty of big and steep climbs from mile 9 to about mile 17. This is certainly the most difficult IM run course I’ve seen, and in-fact one of the hardest run courses I’ve raced on through all my races down through the years. The course is very scenic and the crowds typically great, especially over the last 4 miles of the out and back course.

After leaving transition and running along the lake I’m aware of a lot of fatigue in my legs. It’s hard to tell if this is transition related or more endemic. I try to be conservative in the first mile but am disappointed when my first split is 9:42 (147 bpm HR). I drink as much as I can stomach at the excellently stocked aid station and try to keep at it hoping my legs will return.

However, things do not get better and my second mile comes in just under 11 minutes. Its becoming increasingly evident to me that I’m in a fair amount of trouble and that my marathon is going to be a real challenge. I decide that I need to not worry about my competitors and instead focus on finding a sustainable “survivable” pace. I elect to begin mixing walking and running even at this early stage. The skies have grown more overcast and ominous and wind has picked up considerably. It’s clear the storm front is finally about to arrive. I am worried about how this run will go, even at my greatly reduced intensity.

Miles 3-5 go by in 12:19, 13:54 and 11:30 respectively. I’m able to get my average HR down to around 130 by mixing walking and running. However, whenever I run my HR spikes into the 150s/160s. I’m FRIED. The dehydration, the bike effort, IMAUS, and who knows what else has left me in no shape to do a marathon. I’m very calm about it but I know the next few hours will be grim. I see Bryan Rhodes grind by on his way to his first IMC win. I call out to him and he acknowledges this with a cross between a smile and a grimace. He looks in a lot of pain.

Out on the shores of Skaha Lake there are whitecaps as the wind is sustainably above 20 mph and dead into our faces. The sky has turned an angry dark grey and it’s starting to rain pretty hard now. I sense that my core body temperature is dropping and I’m growing increasingly concerned about hypothermia given my slow pace. I know I have a long sleeve in my special needs bag at the turnaround. I hope I can get there soon enough.

Miles 6-10 are more of the same: 12:12, 13:07, 13:02, 13:18, 11:52. My HR has settled into the mid 120s, which is all the intensity I can deal with. I try to drink as much as I can but ironically, I feel dehydrated but cold and not thirsty. Mile 11 is real nasty with a particularly long and steep hill. I struggle through a 15:34 mile and almost everyone in the race is walking up this hill. I’m passed by a couple of the CEO competitors and I know my Hawaii dream is long gone. It is not difficult to let go. I tell myself to just hang in there, get to the finish line and then I can take a break from the IM scene for a while—a break that I see I clearly need.

I see Herklemen on his way back to the finish and the CEO win and estimate that he is around an hour ahead of me. Soon the others follow. My 12th and 13th miles are 11:25 and 13:29 and I hit the half-marathon split at 2:46:08. My elapsed time is now 9:53:45. I calculate that I have to “run” 14-minute miles or so to break 13 hours. I sure don’t want to go over 13 but I sense this may not be in my control.

I grab my special needs bag and put on my long sleeve shirt. It’s raining pretty hard and this helps. I try to eat a candy bar that I had put in the bag and almost throw up. It’s clear my body is rebelling. The next six miles are some of the toughest I’ve ever faced. My mile splits are: 13:53, 15:26, 14:40, 15:25, 16:02 and 17:04. My HR has fallen into the low 100s as I struggle to just keep a decent pace while I walk. I keep running some each mile but this is little more than a shuffle.

My 20th mile is 16:29 and I know I’ve fallen way behind a 13 hour pace. I guess I have to run sub 13s and even this seems like a difficult task. The storm has now blown through and while the rain is now just a drizzle, the wind has flipped 180 degrees and it is still bellowing strongly in our faces—great! 20 mph headwinds the whole way on an out and back! I actually chuckle about this. As an aside, I did all sorts of things to amuse myself and manage the struggle like creating a list of my top 20 songs of all time (Stairway to Heaven, Suite Judy Blue Eyes, Sounds of Silence….). I also try to talk to other competitors and all of the volunteers (who are amazing—the best I’ve ever seen!) and this helps.

Well, with just a 10k to get through and the tough part of the course behind me, I decide to try to go a little faster at one point during my 21st mile. Low and behold I run a 13:51. As pathetic as that sounds I am encouraged because it seems like my body has caught up with its hydration deficit. I decide to run most of the 22nd mile and I post an 11:26. My HR spikes a couple of times into the 150s so I know I’m still fried but I begin to think I might be able to rally and maybe just squeak in under 13 hours. I toss my long sleeve and I’m back in business.

On Main Street now and benefiting from the growing crowds my spirits begin to rise. My 23rd mile is only 13:44 but it had several up-hill sections. I “push” my 24th mile and do an 11:41. I run the math and I know if I stay on it I can break 13 hours. I get that end of an IM feeling where I know I will make it and that despite all the struggling and the failed expectations I’m about to finish something I’ll always remember and be proud of.

Mile 25 flashes by in 11:45 and I’m running down Lakeshore and I can see the finish ahead. The street is densely packed—in some places 3-4 deep. My heart and feet lift and I’m running pretty well now—certainly the best I have in 5 hours. I have the finishing chute to myself and Riley calls out my name and gives me the “You are an Ironman” thing—which this time I clearly hear (it’s always been a blur before). I break the tape at 12:56:40 with a 5:49:03 marathon (which objectively is horrible and comparatively is slower than my bike). Ted Kennedy from CEO Challenges throws a very cool medal around my neck.

A couple of volunteers grab me and ask me how I’m doing. I tell them I’m fine—not to worry about me. They ask me what I want to do and I tell them I want to go to the hotel. They ask me if I want my finisher picture taken first and this seems to appeal to me and we begin to walk there and all of a sudden everything spins and they catch me as I begin to collapse. I almost lose consciousness and they support me as I bend over and get my head below my heart. They ask me again if I’m OK and I assure them that I am and that my blood pressure is probably just a little low since I’ve stopped moving.

I’m beginning to shake pretty hard as it’s windy and rainy and I just have my trisuit on (and I’ve been at it for 13 hours) so I decide to forgo the picture. I tell my helpers I’m just going to go to my hotel and I take 2-3 strides in that direction and it’s lights out again—I fall into a fence and they catch me again. I’m aware of what’s happening and I assure them I’m ok but they are no longer listening to me and they get a couple of other people to help and it’s off to the medical tent for me. This is a first time experience for me.

I run into the “triage” doctor first and after a lot of skeptical questioning I am put into the “Walking Wounded” group, which means I get to avoid the cots and IVs crowd. I spend about 45 minutes or so there with a very friendly MD. My blood pressure is indeed very low—80/55 and she keep me there until it rises back up to low normal. As I sit there, my calf muscles are dancing and rippling under my skin as my neuromuscular system has gone a little haywire. She finally concludes that I am suffering from nothing worse than an unhealthy obsession and I am pronounced free to go.

As I exit the tent into the night I realize that I am very cold and that I need to get to my hotel room as soon as possible. Since I’m by myself I also have to claim all of my gear by midnight but I decide that can wait until after a nice warm shower. By the time I reach the hotel lobby I am shaking very hard and attracting more than a few stares. The elevator ride to the 2nd floor and the long walk down the hallway seem interminable but I finally make it. I grab my key that I had hid this morning in the fire extinguisher door and I’m in my room. I head straight into the bathroom and crank on the shower. I’m shaking very hard now and as I bend over to get my socks and shoes off first one and then both of my calves go into violent cramps. I fall to the bathroom floor and am unable to straighten my legs and stand up for quite some time. At least 4-5 minutes. This is just great. Here I am writhing on the floor, freezing just 2 feet from a nice warm shower and I can’t get there.

I really focus on getting my legs straight and finally do. I carefully climb into the shower with all of my race gear still on and relief begins to come. I stay in the shower for at least 15 minutes and I begin to warm-up. I strip down and leave my clothes at the bottom of the shower. When I’m done I quickly head to the bedroom where I have some warm clothes which I put on as I’m beginning to shake again. I climb into bed and go completely under the covers and shiver and shake for another 15 minutes or so. Finally I gain control of my body temperature. The worst has passed.

The rest of the evening was far less dramatic. I called home and to Anders to let them know I was alive. I went back downstairs and got my bike and all the other stuff. I made it back to my room and tried to eat a hamburger and drink some beer—not much luck at either and finally crashed after watching the final finishers on local TV.

Post Race

I felt a lot better the next morning and joined the CEOs for an awards breakfast. I new I wasn’t in the top 2 CEO spots for a Kona slot and I had agreed with Judy that morning that even if one rolled to me I would turn it down. My body (and my family) needed a break—three IMs in 13 weeks would be just too much—especially when one of them was Hawaii.

Ted told me I was in the 4th slot. Herkelmen turned his slot down (baby on the way) and I realized that if one of the other guys turned their slot down it would roll to me. I said to myself,”Oh no—how can I turn this down?” However, I was spared the agony of this decision when the next two guys took their slots. Who knows what might have happened down that other path….

Bryan Rhodes and Desiree Ficker presented me with an awesome 50+ champion trophy (never has so much been given for so little!). I said goodbye to my new friends and over the next 36 hours packed up, drove to Vancouver and flew home.

I’ve decided to take a triathlon break for the rest of 2008. I need it physically and even more so mentally. This regroup and recharge period will pay dividends in 2009. This fall my athletic focus will be on running as fast as I can in a 5k. I’m going to focus mostly on running for the next 4-5 months and see if I can’t reclaim some of the running speed I enjoyed in my younger days.

I plan on focusing on smaller and shorter triathlons in 2009—kind of a get back to my roots thing. I’ll not race an IM in 2009 and instead race a lot more times in these fun races. It will be great to reconnect with the local triathlon community and rekindle some old competitive rivalries. The training required to support this is different and far less time consuming (though still challenging) and I hope after a successful sprint season in 2009, I can once again return and see if I can take another crack at the Ironman and maybe even Kona. Until then, I’ll enjoy the IM vacation!

Peace be,