Monday, November 30, 2009

On Second Thought

I intended to go into a lengthy review of John & my Ironman experiences. I spent a couple of hours doing a draft over the weekend but only got through the days leading up to the event. The narrative was overly long and really only meaningful to John & me. Thus, I've decided to scrap the long narrative in favor of just going through some bullet points of the overall event. Here goes:

1. Nutrition was the hardest thing to get right for the Ironman. Neither of us had to worry too much about this issue prior to this distance. For half ironman events, we simply took some goos, electrolyte tablets, maybe a Cliff Bar and a sports drink. For the Ironman, we were inundated with other people's and book's advice as to try to consume a load of calories during the bike course. The main result of this force feeding for me was to shut my stomach down completely during the run. I had a hard time even drinking water. The best I could make out was to mix the chicken broth from the aid stations with water and try to get my stomach to accept this mixture. I think I would have been better served taking a lot fewer calories and still having the ability to take in fluids during the run. Live and learn.

2. Man were we nervous. As first timers at this distance, there is nothing to compare it to from our past experiences. We figured we had to double our half ironman times and add an hour. This makes one pretty nervous and keyed up during the days leading up to the event. But, there is really no way to prepare for that first time other than doing it. It made for fun banter between the two of us with an undercurrent of hostility. Nothing serious mind you. After the event, all was forgiven and we were buddies again.

3. The mass swim start is insane! A first time for me. I'm used to 20 t0 30 person waves of swimmers. I found myself smack dab in the middle of 2800 swimmers in the open water. John was lucky to have had a little panic and swam off to the far right side of the large group and hug the seawall giving other swimmers only 3 side to hit him. The first five minutes of the swim, I wondering if I'm going to be drown by this extremely self-centered mob. I'm shocked no one gets knocked out and drowns. After the first 5 minutes, things spread out and settle down, but its a wild 5 minutes.

4. The volunteers at these events are by far the best in any sporting event I've ever participated in. They not only help you out of your wet suit in a kind and efficient manner, but the volunteers in the changing tents are like having your personal butler. "Let me wipe your feet for you and help you get on your socks." I haven't had this much help getting dressed since I was 4 years old. The volunteers at the aid stations were quick to get you what you wanted and cheerful and encouraging. This feature was much appreciated on the 2nd and 3rd laps of the marathon run. I was so pleased with these folks that I high fives them all on my last loop, thanked them and told them I wasn't coming back, but I really appreciated everything they had done for me. What can I say about the volunteer giving out metals. My wife Salome was there to greet me and put the metal around my neck. You can ask for more personal attention than that. Thanks for volunteering Salome. And thanks to all the volunteers for going above and beyond the call of duty to give great service.

5. Pain is a funny thing, but not "ha ha" funny. I wondered whether the pain and discomfort of such a long event would be worse than my worst marathon. Not so much. It turns out that the pain and discomfort don't get worse, it just keeps at about the same as any marathon. You just have to endure the pain and discomfort longer. I guess that's why they are call endurance events. Of course the same can not be said for gastro-intestinal issues. I've never dealt with such a tricky situation as when my digestive track decided it didn't like going 14 hours shut down. I guess that is the main difference between these really long events and marathons and half ironman events.

6. It really helps to have a good training buddy to train for and get through these events. I guess you could do the training and go through the event solo, but that would be a lot harder and less fun. Thanks John for all of your time and mutual support in getting ready and training for this event. We saw each other for the first time on the third lap of the bike course and ended up in T2 at the same time. It felt good to know your buddy was hanging in there and that our game plan was working.

7. There is nothing like going down that final shoot high fiving all the people going absolutely nuts in support of your finish. To hear Mike Reilly call our your name and say "You are an Ironman" is just amazing. If that doesn't bring a tear of joy to your eye, nothing will. It makes all of the struggle of the last miles well worth it. What a blast!

8. It was great to have so many friends and family following us live on the internet the whole day that we were doing this event. When I first crossed mats in the run, I thought about the verification that every runner did the full course without cutting corners. As I continued on, I realized that this was also a signal out to friends and family that we were still out there plugging away. It lifted my spirits knowing you all were tracking us. To hear from some of you that you saw our crossing the finish line live on the net was really amazing.

9. It was also great to get all of your calls, e-mails and Facebook posting congratulating us on our achievement. Thank you all from the bottom of our hearts for your good wishes and encouragement along the way. It meant a lot to both of us. Of course, knowing you were all aware of what we were doing also kept our feet to the training fire and kept us going on the course when things got tough. When you have so many people to answer to, you are not giving up. At the end of the event, John bestowed a new nickname on me: "Iron Will." Well, I am the first to acknowledge that the will is forged by the love and support of those who care about us. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

10. To quot one last song: "What a long strange trip its been!" I thought that running the Disney Marathon for my 50th birthday was my gift to myself. It was only in completing this event that pretty much covered my entire 50th year that I realize the Ironman was my gift to myself. I figured turning 50, I didn't want to wait another year before attempting this monster feat. In completing it, I now realize that training and completion of the ironman was the best gift I could have given myself. I'm probably in the best shape of my life from all this training. You can't give yourself a better gift than that.

Well, that about sums it up for me. "Iron John" may want to chime in with his thoughts and feelings about the Ironman. John's blog handle was "Half Iron John (for now)." Be sure to change that to "Iron John" buddy. I started this blog out of a mutual obligation to buddy Wayne Crayton who was to do his Trampathon abroad in Europe where he would run 3 marathons in six weeks as he toured Western Europe. As you may know, Wayne's plans got pushed back a year due to his cardio surgery, but he is recovered and his Trampathon plans for the Spring of 2009 just got rolled forward to the Spring of 2010. Salome & I will join Wayne as well as several other friends in Paris in April to run the Paris Marathon. It will be his second of the three, the other 2 being Rome in March and Madrid in late April/early May. Well buddy, it looked like your commitment to the blogosphere would end first. You just never know how it works out until it plays out. Keep up the good work. I expect full and entertaining reports from Europe.

Me, I've enjoyed doing this blog the last 12 months, but it is like writing a weekly or semi-weekly newspaper column. You've got to think about something to write and try to make it entertaining. I hope I've informed and entertained you guys with these postings. I don't know if I'll keep it up. My schedule of events for next year is already filling up. I wanted to make sure there was life after the Ironman. John took a different tactic of not scheduling any events until after the Ironman was over. I'm sure that John will end up doing plenty if history is any indicator of the future. The guy is busier than I've ever been, a better athlete (at least at distances over the half marathon), and ends up doing more with his free time than I could hope to do. He just may be the guy that they patterned those Dos Equis beer commercials on. Its either him or our buddy Roger. In any event, our schedules will most likely diverge in the coming year. Thus, if I do continue the blogging, I may need to go solo and think up a new name.

Enjoy the holiday season. I know I will. I only plan to do maintenance and recovery workouts until the new year. I think I've earned the rest. Stay thirsty my friends.

1 comment:

EuroWayne said...

Yes, what an amazing trip (year) it has been for you Bill. We already visited over the phone....that was a good thing because it was confirmation that you and John were alive. How proud you and John look in the posted photos...hooray! I hope I can smile as much as you when I finish my European marathons. Opa! Enjoy the holidays and hoist a hot buttered rum for me!