Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Race day...

I'll try not to make this to long but you all know how much I love to talk! I first have to thank a few people. First to my mother, father and sister for coming down from CT and supporting me during this race. It meant the world to me that they were there and shared this experience with me. They were busy on Saturday as they followed me around the course, took all the pics and videos and Tracy was texting people back in Charlotte with my split times and results. Of course I have to thank my coach for getting me to where I was on race day. I started this journey in March of this year as a runner and then decided I wanted to do an ironman in my first season so she had her work cut out for her. Thanks so much Nicole!!! (anyone needing a coach- http://www.one2tri.net/ ) Without you I would never have finished the race and certainly not finished so strongly. As Nicole got me physically ready for the race the next thanks go to Bob and Melissa at Inside Out Sports. They have put up all year with all of my impulsive purchases and my constant need for new toys. They made sure I had everything I needed for the race (and then some!!!), from all my gear to a finely tuned bike with some sweet race wheels. Thanks Bob and Melissa (and of course everyone else there).

Now before I start with race morning lets back up to Friday. On Friday Mom, Dad, Tracy and I drove up to the race site so I could get in a practice swim in the lake. People told me that the water was black, like dark tea, but I didn't really believe it until I was swimming in it. You seriously can't see more then 12 inches in front of your face. It is clean water but is dark from the tannic (sp?) acid from the Cypress trees around the lakes. Once you get past the fact that the water is so dark it really was a beautiful lake. After the swim the family was such good sports and wanted to drive the 112 mile bike course with me. Tracy drove so I could study the course turn by turn and pothole to pothole. It took us 3 1/2 hours to drive the course. I've done my fair share of 100+ mile bike rides this year but to sit in a car and drive it was scary. It seemed like such a long way. What did I sign up for? After we drove the bike course we had a great little picnic lunch under some trees at the race expo and checked in and racked Terry (Terry is my bike, I named her after Terry the pterodactyl from Pee Wee's Playhouse). After we listened to the pre-race meeting we made our way back to the rental house and I started to pack. I packed, re-packed, packed again and then re-packed again. This took hours as I was more anxious and nervous then I ever had been in my life.

Lets just start from the time my eyes shot open on Saturday morning...I woke up about 3:15am and layed in bed for a few minutes on the verge of a nervous breakdown. 7 months of training have all led up to this one day and it was finally here. I got up and had a cup of coffee and some breakfast. After taking a long hot shower I made sure that everything was in the correct bags and loaded up the car. Tracy had accidentially closed the seatbelt in the door on Friday night after she and Mom hit the happy hour at the local Chillis. As a result of buy one get one free margaritas the car lights stayed on all night. I paniced for a second and prayed that the car would start...it did...whew. We left the house at 5:30am and started the 30 minute drive up the race site. It was dark and foggy out and humid beyond belief. We found a good parking spot and walked down so I could get body marked and weighed. My official weight on race morning was 152...I haven't weighed that much in months. I think their scale was off! After I put my bike and run gear bags in the correct locations I geared up the bike. I placed all the water bottles and food on the bike, checked the tires, put on the computer and took the plastic bag off the seat. Then the rain started. We were 30 minutes from the start of the race and it started pouring and the winds were blowing something fierce. We found shelter under a tent and watched as the body marking line kept getting longer and longer and people were getting soaked. I overheard someone say that the official water temp was 77 degrees, the race was wetsuit legal. I don't know where in the lake they found it to be 77 since it was 82 about 18 hours before and was in the low 90's all day on Friday. I know for sure that there is no way the temp had dropped 5 degrees overnight. I wasn't going to wear my wetsuit for fear of overheating but at 7:15am as it was pouring down rain Dad suggested I wear it. Thank goodness I listened to him.

The gun went off at 7:35am, five minutes late, and everyone started into the water. The mass start of all 300+ of us wasn't that bad. I cried as I walked into the water from the beach, partly out of excitement and partly out of anxiety and fear. It took a few hundred meters for me to find my own space and luckily I only got kicked and punched a few times, although I did do my share of kicking and punching in the first few hundred meters as well. After the swim opened up it was great. It was really choppy thanks to the pouring rain and heavy winds but with the wetsuit on I just glided across the chops and was able to find a rhythm. I did the first 1.2 mile loop in 39 minutes and then grabbed some gatorade and headed back into the water for loop #2. I did this loop in about the same time and made it out of the water in 1:22. It was right on the money with what I thought I could do so I was happy and felt great. I ran up the beach, had my wetsuit stripped off of me and then headed into the changing tent with my bike gear bag.

I emerged a few minutes later (T1 time was 8:46) and got the bike to begin the ride. The two pieces of advice that everyone gave me before I left for Florida were to go easy on the bike and to enjoy the whole race experience by living in the moment and not worry what lie ahead. So I did just that. The first 2 hours of the bike I just spun in my little chain ring and conserved my energy (this proved to be a huge asset later in the race so that advice was right on). At mile 24 we come to Sugarloaf Mountain. It honestly was a piece of cake. Now it was a 14% grade but it was only about 1/3 of a mile long. People were walking their bikes up it but thanks to some of the mountain rides I did this summer I made it up the hill easily. I was feeling great as I got to the top and saw the family there cheering for me. Another 2 hours went by and at mile 61 there was the family again and then again at mile 83. It was so great to keep seeing them throughout the day and it made all the difference. At about mile 45 I started to speed up on the bike and from that point until the last mile I only got passed by one person. I went slow enough that I never worked to hard but fast enough to keep increasing my average speed every hour. I got back to the transition area and had finished the bike in 6:13. My average speed was 18mph. Not bad at all but more importantly I felt great and my legs still felt fresh.

I grabbed my run gear bag and headed into the changing tent again. 7 minutes and 22 seconds later I started out on the run course. There was the family cheering me on. I did some high fives with the fam and then started the marathon. My first mile split was 8:01 and I knew I had to slow down as I had more then 25 more miles to go. I quickly found a good tempo and loved the beginning of the run. The first 13 miles went by so quickly and I made it through the first half of the run in 2:01. I still felt good and only walked through the aid stations to get some fluid and the occassional iced oatmeal cookie. At one aid station this cute little girl was handing out Pop-Ice. That was the greatest thing I have ever had in my life. It was full of sugar and cold...it was overcast but it was still hot and humid being that we were in FL. The run was going good and I was keeping a good pace. I started to notice that more people were walking as the sun was sinking lower in the sky. When I finished my first lap around the lake (at mile 11) I could see the finish line and noticed that the clock said 9:41:00, this meant that if I could finish 15 miles in a little over 2 hours I would finish this race around the 12 hour mark. I didn't have a specific time goal in mind since this was my first ironman but I was hoping to finish it between 13 and 14 hours. To be almost 2 hours faster then I thought I would be was so great and I got a second wind. I finished my second lap around the lake and at mile 19 things started to get painful. I had just passed by the family one last time before starting my third and final lap around the lake. I had just over 7 miles to run. I got to mile 20 and was really starting to hurt but I was still on pace to finish around the 12 hour mark, this is what kept me running. I still only walked through the aid stations and the more people I noticed were walking the more I wanted to keep on running. When I got to mile 23 which was the backside of the lake it was dark out. The sun had set and I saw the most beautiful thing. People were walking in unison in the dark and all you could hear was feet and all you could see if the reflection from their sneakers. I kept jogging along (the best I could at this point) and at mile 25 I got to the Mad Dog aid station. This woman dressed as a fairy said, "Will we be seeing you again honey" and I said no and that this was my final lap. She then yelled at the top of her lungs, "Finisher!" and everyone at the aid station went nuts...people started yelling "Go Kevin" and "Finisher". People were clapping and banging cow bells. I grabbed a sponge and cleaned the salt off my face and arms (to look good for the finish line photo!) and picked up my pace. Total exhaustion set in but I got my third wind. All I could hear in my head were people yelling "Finisher". I thought I was going to cry but I didn't and could see the lights just up ahead where the finish line was. I ran that last mile in 8 minutes, it was great and all the pain went away. It was just like people say, I went completely numb and just kicked it into a new gear and ran. I crossed the finish line in 12:06:16. I was shocked. I did it! I was an ironman! There was the family at the finish line to see me cross. It was the best day of my life and I am so glad that mom, dad and Tracy were there to share it with me.

I didn't cry like I thought I would, probably because I was to exhausted to cry. It really is the most bizarre feeling to stop moving after 140.6 miles of racing. You are beyond tired and beyond hungry but the last thing you want to do is to sit down and the thought of food is just the last thing you want. I walked around for a little bit, got all my gear from the transition area, rinsed off in an outdoor shower, almost puked, and then finally could stomach eating an energy bar. Tracy drove us back to the rental house where we realized that I had burned my back (see the photos) severly. Note to self- put sunscreen in both your run and bike gear bags but more importantly- USE IT! I had a beer, a bowl of cereal and some yogurt and couldn't sleep...but I was an ironman and that is all that mattered!

Sunday morning we got up and went to a breakfast buffet at the Golden Corral...I had been dreaming of that all week. I had some breakfast meat and life was good! We soaked in the hot tub and pool and just laid around on Sunday and then I dropped the family off at the airport. As soon as I drove away I had the emotional reaction I thought I would when I finsihed the race...I started to cry. I cried the whole way back to the house. The reality of my accomplishment was starting to set in. Thanks Mom, Dad and Tracy for being there for me. I love you for that and am glad I could share my day with you.

Ok so that was a little longer then I thought it would be put I guess I had a story to tell. I hope you enjoyed it and also the pics. My Dad and sister did such a good job with the photos. I took 2 days off from training but was in the pool swimming again this morning. 8 months to go until Idaho...lets start this all over again!

For those who want the results see below:

Overall place -59th out of 300 finishers
I placed 10th in my age group
Overall time 12:06:16.35
Swim time 1:22:04
T1 8:46
Bike time 6:13:53 avg speed 18.0
T2 7:22
Run time 4:14:14 Avg pace 9:43 (I had the 34th fastest marathon time overall!!!)

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