I Remember…

As I said awhile back, one of the things for which I want to use my blog is a sort of journal. I want to be able to go back and read what I was thinking back then. It seems to help me both see how far I have gone and at times helps me refocus on what I have thought was important. So this post is pure journal. It’s mostly for me. If you get bored with it, drop out.

I have found myself drifting off to moments during my Ironman race a couple of weeks back. I want to get those things down before they pass.

I remember…..

Trying to stay calm between the time I got up, 3:30 AM, and the time the race started, 7:00. I sat by the fire and read my Bible in the open courtyard of our hotel. There was a breeze blowing in the trees, and I wondered if that was a sign of what the day would be like as wind and bike do not often mesh well. I tried to tell myself that I was glad I didn’t have one of the those cool Zipp rear disc $1500 wheels because the wind would make those hard to ride. I was comforting myself. Of course I want one.

Getting some coffee on the walk down to Transition to get set up. Feeling calm and yet vigilant. The darkness felt like a blanket of comfort.

A very active Transition area. People, music, volunteers. Alot of spectators up on the bridges and around the perimeter of Transition. It felt good to be part of the reason all those people were there to watch. I found Karmen, Jack, and Jace looking from the bridge and was able to talk with them prior to the start. They were holding up the signs they made for me.

Finding Bill Martin and arranging to start the swim together. Bill said he had to run back to the car. It seemed like an odd thing to say 30 min before the race of our lives started. Why, I thought.

Standing in line to drain my parts. 10 minute wait. Did it twice.

Putting on my wesuit, meeting up with Bill, crossing the timing mat leading to the lake. The timing mats chirp when an athlete crosses and with all of crossing in mass, it was like a flock of birds. It was a 10 foot drop to jump into the lake. I probably went 10 feet under too, and it suprised me the lake was that deep. I’m a little freaked in open water by what may be under me, but I had none of that. The water was mirky enough that I couldn’t even see my hand when my arm was down in the water in front of me. So any lake monsters could not likely see me.

Floating (a tri wetsuit provides enough buoyancy to keep you floating without treading water much – a great energy saver) out to where I wanted to position myself. 2,500 other athletes in the lake getting ready to swim. Chilly water. Everybody talking and excited. Bill and I congratulating each other on just being there and all the work we had done to get there.

Excited to be finally racing after a year of preparation.

Feeling really relaxed and strong about 30 minutes into the swim and being glad that I had practiced in the lake for 3 days prior to race day. It felt familiar.

Some old dude bumped into me on the right. I think I then bumped him back which made him a bit testy. His next move was to shove me with his forearm. We both popped up after the fracas and I glared him down, for about 1.54 seconds. Then I just swam faster than him.

Feeling surprised that the pack did not thin out more. I was battling the bump and grind the entire way. But on the corners (the course was a long skinny rectangle) as everybody bunched up trying to take the tangent, there was enough of a flow of water that I did not have to work to propel myself at all around the corners. I just went with the flow. It was kind of cool. I made a mental note to try and do more drafting in the water next time.

Feeling really good about swimming a pretty straight line which has been a challenge for me in open water swims prior.

Feeling good about my form. Rolling from side to side. Sighting every 10 strokes or so. Reaching long out in front. Keeping my form despite the chaos around me. Feeling completely relaxed instead of tense.

Not feeling dizzy when I got out of the water. I sometimes feel dizzy for 10 seconds or so, but there was none. My sinuses also did not hurt. Sometimes after swimming for 75 minutes, my sinuses ache from my goggles. Not this time.

Climbing the stairs, having my wetsuit peeled off, running to the changing tent seems like a blur. I wish I had noticed it more. The Martins yelled out to me while running to get my T1 bag.

Not feeling tired after the swim. I felt strong.

Winding up through the crowd on my bike as I was leaving T1. Everyone cheering. My nametag had my last name on it so everyone was calling me “Lewis.”

Eating Lorna Doones on the bike. I tried to eat about 5-6 per hour. They seem to be the kindest on my stomach. The gels and bars don’t digest well. I love Lorna Doones so using them is like a little treat.

Realizing in that first 2 miles that it was breezy and wondering what that would mean out on the reservation in the desert.

Fear. At the first aide station I took a new Gatorade bottle and saw that it was the Endurance Formula, more concentrated than the regular stuff with which I trained. I have made the mistake of changing stuff on race day that you did not train with and it went bad. I scrambled to figure out what I would do to make this a non-issue.

Peace. I decided to take in more water than I had planned to thin out the Endurance Formula.

Hell. Once out on the reservation, the wind was hellacious. Enough dirt was in the air to feel it in my teeth. Had to drop to the small chain ring once the 10 mile long hill started.

Excited. Even though about 12-14 mph was all I felt I could manage on the way out in order to conserve for later in the day, I realized the ride back into town was going to be like flying as I saw the first pro’s zoom by.

Flying. About a mile after turning around when my speedometer read 30 mph I actually laughed out loud. It was awesome. It was like flying. Going 30 + mph on a bike is a powerful experience. It can be deadly too, but it is powerful. I loved it.

Strategizing. On that first loop back into town I broke the remaining bike portion down into 4 smaller segments. 2 hell segments on the way out and 2 heaven segments on the way back.

Ridiculous. As the first male pro’s and then female pro’s lapped me, I really did say to myself how ridiculous it was that they could perform at that level. Ridiculous.

Crazy. As I realized pro’s were lapping me, I thought how crazy it is that I am out here on the same course at the same race at the same time as the pro’s in my sport. In what other sport can you do that? (I’m sure there are some.)

Peace again. At the turn around on the second loop, I realized I was at the half way mark, 56 miles. The first half had been 2 of the uphill headwind segments and one downhill fly. The second half was going to being 2 downhill fly’s and one uphill headwind. So effort-wise, I was over half way done with the bike.

Defeated. The wind died down a bit as I made that last turn around on the third lap so I wasn’t getting as much help getting back into town.

Fortunate. There were a lot of mechanical failures and several crashes. I had no problems of that nature. I even saw a few people get hauled off in ambulances.

Confused. In the middle of my second lap, one of the officials rode slowly by me on his motorcycle. He looked at me and said my name and something else that I couldn’t understand. It almost looked as if he gave me the up and down, you know, the judging the coolness of your set-up kind of up and down. Then I wondered if he was giving me a penalty. A card is supposed to be shown to you if you are penalized. Then you are supposed to stop at the next penalty tent for your time penalty, 4 minutes for a red card (drafting) and just a stop and sign the register for a yellow card (anything else). He did not show me a card so I spent the next 20 miles thinking about what I was going to do as the penalty tent approached. I did not want to be DQ’d so I deciced to stop and inquire. My butt needed a separation from my seat anyway. There was another rider at the tent when I stopped. He said the ref showed him a card very definitely and basically told him to his face to get to the penalty tent. Well that cleared it up. That did not happen to me. Maybe the ref was just admiring my performance. The whole stop took 20 seconds but gave me a ton in the way of peace of mind. And my butt was happier.

Aching. My neck and butt just ached by about 80 miles into the ride. It was impossible to get comfortable. I saw a guy coming back into town resting his elbow on his aerobar pad with his arm bent up to rest his chin on his hand. I decided to try it. I did help a bit, but made my steering unstable enough as to feel like it was an unproductive positioning. I only did it for brief, 30 second, intervals.

Familiar. With about 15 miles left on the bike I began to realize my stomach was shutting down, that I felt dizzy, that I felt weak, that my mouth was dry, and that I wasn’t sweating. This has happened to me in every single endurance race I have competed although it has gotten better each time. I was determined to avoid it this time, but there it was.

Defeated. Knowing I still had a marathon to run, I wondered how I was going to get it done. I needed to just sit down and figure this out.

Tired. I took my time in T2, sitting and changing slowly and trying to regain something. I cooled down. The sickness did not leave.

Determined. I was not going to quit. I went to get sunscreen put on, and the gal lubing me up noticed I was about to fall over and sent me to the medical tent.

Blank. There was about an hour period where I felt like I would not reach my goal that I had worked for for such a long time. I was numb as I stepped into the medical tent. But they were really nice to me and had a positive attitude about themselves. They very quickly told me my sodium was low and starting me sucking on some chicken broth which in about 20 minutes led me to feeling……

Better. I felt better. Karmen and the boys were standing outside the fence watching me while I was in the medical area. I stood up and felt good and motioned to them that I was going out on the run. I wondered at the time if Karmen was wishing I would just stop. She had some fear all along that I would hurt myself doing this, and I wondered if she was worried.

Walking over the timing mat to the run feeling stronger than I had an hour prior thinking that if I had to, I could still get the marathon done by the time cut-offs even if I walked it all. I decided to set a brisk walking pace to try and continue to recover.

Chicken broth. All the aide stations had chicken broth. Some of it was too weak. Some too strong. Some too cold. Some too hot. Some was perfect. I took it at almost every opportunity along with some Gatorade or water. Later on I started to take orange slices too. Tried the Coke but it was too sweet for me.

I was able to walk a 4 mph pace for the first 3 miles. Then I felt sick again. I wondered if I would make it again. It was at this point that the route crossed back over the bridge above Tempe Town Lake and near the transition area. As more and more people lined the route and called me “Lewis” I began to feel stronger. “Go Lewis.” “You’re doing great, Lewis.” “Keep it up Lewis.” It really did help. I had chills.

Seeing Karmen and my boys. I cried the first time I passed them. Not sure why. I don’t think they know that I cried. I was still walking and felt a little bit of failure and disappointment for that. Maybe there was a tear for that as they were seeing that defeat. But I think it was mostly feeling humbled that they were out there for me, in the heat, dirty, hungry, crowded, and probably bored some of the time. But they endured all that for me. How lucky I am to have them. That is why I cried. And that is why I stayed in the race.

Bill. About 2 miles later, Bill caught up to me. He was feeling as lousy as I had been. I was feeling much stronger by this point, 5 miles in. My stomach was emptying. I was sweating again. My mouth was not so dry. The dizziness was gone. So I nursed Bill back by getting him on the chicken juice. He spit it out the first time. I made him down it from then on. By about mile 7 we were both feeling pretty strong and started to run.

Sunset. We were heading back west now along the lake. The sun was setting. It was getting cooler. We both knew that now for certain, we were going to finish. The time cutoffs were not even going to be a factor. It felt peaceful to now be sure that I could get to the end. I still had about 18 miles to go, but I felt strong even though tiredness was setting in. I felt some chills again.

Darkness. That familiar blanket that comforted me in the morning as I was walking down to Transition was back. I love darkness. It does feel like a blanket. I warms me. I comforts me. It is peace to me. Now it was back, helping me finish. I love darkness.

Burning in my feet. I was so certain that I was developing a couple of nastly blisters. There were hot spots on the balls of both feet. I even thought that I felt them pop. I didn’t want to sit down and examine them for fear of not being able to get back up. Just needed to keep going. When I finally sat down after the race and took off my shoes and socks, no blister. Not a one. Amazing.

Energized. As I started that last lap and looked up where I would soon be finishing, I felt chills again and I felt energized. I actually was able to pick up the pace. By this time I was alone, and I felt like that is the way it should be. Triathlon is an idividual sport, and finishing it alone was the right way to do it. I ran harder and felt strong. The dark pushed me. The chicken juice fueled me. Maybe I need to get a pet chicken and name him Ironman (or Ironchicken).

Loving it. I had never been more tired in my life, but I loved the feeling. I loved pushing myself that far. I loved almost not making it and then coming back. Not giving up. As I ran the last lap, alone, I thought of those things. Again coming back over the lake to pass Transition one more time on the last half loop before I would finish, there were Karmen and my boys. Jack and Jace came out on the path a bit. I ate an orange slice and drank some Gatorade. Karmen asked if I was going to make it. I told her to meet me at the finish. Only 4 miles left.

Flying again. Those last four miles seemed to fly by. I ran them harder. Still stopped to drink the chicken juice. It was my savior. But got right back to running hard. I thanked a lot of the volunteers that were working the course, for picking up our trash. They seemed glad to do it. They were a bunch of awesome people. 

Stink. For some odd reason (actually there is a park in Tempe that the run course crossed multiple times) in the middle of Tempe there is a coral for horses, stinky horses. It was wonderful to get a mouthful of that each of the six times I ran by.

Laughing. At mile 23 the first gal at the aide station asked me if there was anything I needed. I asked if she really meant anything because I would really like some potato chips. She was actually willing to try and get me some. I thanked her just for that, the willingness. She said someone earlier had gotten a hot dog. I laughed.

The mile 24 aide station had music playing. The last time I passed it, AC DC’s TNT was playing. There is no better music to fill you with energy than AC DC. It is just raw rock. Chills again. Began picking up the pace.

The mile 25 aide station had some sort of cheerleading squad that had obviously volunteered to work the race. By this time I was running about an 8 minute mile which is not blazing by any means, but after all that I had done, I felt that it was blazing. With just a mile left, I figured I could pass on the chicken juice. So I ran through the aide station. This must have psyched up the cheerleaders because the started some little cheer. I can’t remember what it was. Maybe it had the words proud, cocky, and Kawasaki in it. Not sure.

“That is a strong pace, Lewis.” I think 8 different people along that last mile told me those exact words. I thought it funny that they all said it exactly the same.

Passing. I passed quite a few people in that last 8 mile lap. After getting passed for the 6 miles that I walked, it felt good to run most of the last 20 miles and do a little passing myself.

The turn. To finish, you had to turn off the loop and run a bit of a hill to the street where the finish chute was. I turned up that hill and just felt wildly excited. Tired and about ready to drop, but wild. I passed another 10 people in the 0.2 miles up that hill. I couldn’t understand why they were going slow. We are almost there. Pick it up.

As I turned down the finishing chute, it was about 100 yards to the finish line. Jack stepped out to run that last 100 yards with me. It was 10:30 PM and the stands were still full of people. I think there were 1,000 people at least in the stands and many more milling around. Jack did not want to hold my hand which I thought was funny. He and I passed a couple more people just before we crossed the line. I raised my hands in the air and gave a fist. I was done. A nice girl in a blue shirt, one of the finish line workers, grabbed my arm to steady me. She put a space blanket on me so I wouldn’t cool down too quickly. She gave me a finisher’s medal. Someone else gave me a finisher’s shirt and hat. A little Spanish looking man took the timing chip from my ankle. Then I heard Karmen call my name. She and Jace were now there. It was done. She cried.

I later learned, as we ate room service cheeseburgers and fries, sitting on the bed in the hotel talking, how grueling the day had been for the three of them. They had wanted so bad to support me at every possible moment that they had not really left the Transition area much. So they had eaten little. Jack and Jace had found some dirt to play in at one point and their hair was just filled with sandy particles. Jace at one point had fallen asleep in the gutter along the curb of the street. So they endured a lot, and they stuck it out, and they were there to support me. I am humbled. And I am honored to be loved in such a way.

Sorry for the length. Thanks for reading.

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2 responses to “I Remember…

  1. We absolutely enjoyed EVERY minute of it! I’ve never experienced anything like it. The atmosphere is amazing and encouraging. To see these people (as crazy as they all are) in pain and yet, NOT QUITTING, is inspiring. The BEST part is to have someone I know and love doing it. I am/was so proud of you. I know the boys are, too.

    It will definitely be a highlight for our family to look back on for years to come.
    Can’t wait til ’09!

  2. That was great, Doug. I loved the little details … some of which I hadn’t heard before. Great stuff.

    I don’t think you told me Jack ran that last little bit with you. That’s cool… good thing I’m typing. Can’t talk.

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