First Look — Ironman Maryland and The Drug of Choice
Yesterday there was a race. I was a part of it — for a while. And then I wasn’t; I became a participant because I was no longer vying for the front. At that point, I was learning, struggling, pushing and focused on getting to the finish line without a failure. All the while I was having a grand time. It was joyous even. If I have a drug of choice, I’m quite sure it is some cocktail of endorphins.
The failures come in many forms. It could be a weak stomach that drive participants to spend untold minutes in port a potties half full of solar baked excrement and vomit. Blisters that bring excruciating pain with every step. Cramps and dizziness brought on by dehydration or other nutrition imbalances. Mechanical failures on the bike end the day for some unfortunate people. Others find the prospect of an open water swim in murky, brackish water is much better than the actual experience. It is so much better that they don’t finish the swim unprepared for the foreign environment and the unforgiving toll of swimming without a break for more than an hour, for more than two hours. The list goes on and on. Failure has many faces and all of us who tackle 140.6 miles at a time do what we can to avoid it. But it always lingers. Nonetheless, when you are avoiding failure there is plenty of time and space to find beauty and to be amazed. At an Ironman, I imagine it is hard to look around and not be amazed.
Ironman bought the struggling Chesapeakeman property early this summer, rebranded it and in doing so expanded the registration list ten-fold. They brought in the branding, scale and overall oomph and in doing so turned the whole town of Cambridge, Maryland into a race village. People watched the race from Victorian homes, cheered from the cabs of their pickups and thanked us for coming to visit. Generosity and hospitality can amaze and the day was full of both.
I raced through the swim and the first portion of the bike. Then I hid a bad patch. I’m not sure how bad — I’ll look at the numbers and data later. I worked through it. I know that in such a long day the bad patches are sure to come and it is best to keep at it and wait for the pendulum to swing back. I was patient and then I raced again. The last ten to 15 miles of the bike were really solid. I caught people. I rode two guys off my wheel and hammered down back country roads. At which point, it became time to run, which I did, for about three or four miles.
This is where my story transforms from racing participating. More on that in another post.
A first review of the day shows that I swam very well, but not as fast as I thought I would. I caught a draft for nearly a 1,000 meters. I came out with the sixth fastest time on the day (or fifth or seventh, the results site has had some variability) and the fastest in my age group with more than two minutes back to the second place male 40-44. I rode hard; I was smart most of the time and on balance the errors were outweighed by the good decisions. I ran with what I had. It was neither pretty nor a disaster but it was all of what I had to give.
The day was hot. I saw deer, an amazing bald eagle, other birds including a heron and some sort of seagull shaped small squeaky thing. As I finished the last third of the second loop on the bike, I gave encouragement to 29 out of 30 consecutive people who I passed — 28 of whom were on their first loop and most of whom smiled in response. One lady didn’t get anything from me because I was drinking at the time. Thinking up a good thing to say as I locked in on my next “capture target” was helpful to keep my mind off my hips and legs. Hopefully it helped them too.
I finished 15th in my group, 66th overall with splits of 58:12, 5:00:22 and 4:00:45. The total time of 10:05:16 is a personal best time by about 28 minutes. However, as is typical of these adventures, the numbers only begin to tell the story. I’ll look at the splits, the power numbers, the heart rate and share as many of the little moments of the day as I can recall. The best parts are always the little moments, never the numbers.
I’ll leave you with one of the little bits. As I crossed the finish line, I was hoping that Dana and the tribe might see me from home on the computer. I came right up to the line, squatted down and planted both hands and proceeded to do a forward roll. It was a shock to the volunteer catchers who could only laugh at my awkward ass tumbling into the air. It was a big hit at home with the fan base.
More than 24 hours after I finished, my head is still spinning, spinning full of endorphins.