Thunder & Lightning? Sure. Iron-will Required?…….Welcome to Lake Placid
**DISCLAIMER** This is a post-race report – AND IT’S LONG – if you read to the end, you’ll know why.
The last time I sat down to write was April 13th. That was a long long time ago. In addition to the actual time – 90+ days ago – there were more than 1,900 miles logged on the bike, nearly 76,000 yards in the pool and 330+ miles of running…..and let’s be honest – that takes some time, so something has to give…..unfortunately, it was the blog this time, a conscious choice to put every spare minute into training and try to do it right.
HOWEVER, now that the race is over – and what a crazy race experience it was – I figure it’s only fair to share the story…..maybe there are a few that are interested, maybe it just feels good to “complete” the story….dunno, but it was wild.
First – it’s important to reiterate that I have a history with Ironman branded events…..not just a history of completing a few (which is of course satisfying), but sort of like a voodoo death-touch it seems – almost every single one I’ve done has had “issues” shortly after I raced them. It’s not all triathlons – in fact, besides the usual expectations – heat, tough-courses, roads that could probably use a fresh paving, etc – I don’t think there’s been any issues with non-IM-branded events, and I’m not sure if the World Triathlon Corp (owners of “Ironman” brand) have figured me out yet, but the trend is a little alarming:
1. Ironman St. George – 2011 – at the time, billed as the one of (maybe “the”) toughest course in the series, the swim was cold (57 deg I think) and the air was hot (north of 90 deg) in early May. When almost all training would be of the winter-indoor type and NJ weather would not allow other races prior, it was about the worst choice of courses possible for my third triathlon and first Ironman….but the scenery would be beautiful so why not go big right?
|Bike Course Profile|
Well, when you throw in a really tough 2-loop bike course up the side of a canyon followed by an equally tough 2-loop hill run through what is essentially desert, the creation is perfect conditions to set a record number of DNFs (“did not finish”) – happily I was not one. Although slower and more painful than I had imagined it would be, my 14:13 was respectable enough to keep me inspired to stay after the ultimate goal – Kona. However the fate of the St. George race was in jeopardy. The word on the course was out and athletes looked for something more sane in 2012 driving numbers down. Crazier weather struck and the 2012 race broke its own record for DNFs….by 2013 (maybe too tough at the full distance?) it was lowered to a 1/2 Ironman. In the grand scheme, I didn’t take immediate credit for the downfall of St. George (to be fair it’s a very popular 70.3).
2. Amica Ironman 70.3, Providence, RI – 2012 – The following year I set up a better plan – race a few times before doing the Ironman distance – novel concept. I’d get fit, race up the ladder (sprint, olympic, 1/2 Iron and then Iron) to really get fit……and fit I was. The swim was not good (shallow water & lots of seaweed + getting kicked in the face hard enough to dislodge goggles made it tough) and I was determined to make it back on the bike. Not to be this time……everyone crashes their bike once right? Well, unceremoniously…..mine was at a water-stop……the volunteer held onto the bottle a little longer than “typical”, pulled my front-wheel askew and off I flew. I eventually did feel badly (about my less than stoic response to crashing that way, think “raving”)…..but I went on to have a stronger run and, complete with blood running down my legs, finished that rather angry day in a solid 5:07 – despite losing some skin feeling much more “on-track” to meet my goal…..however Amica 70.3 was canned the following year. Maybe there’s a pattern here?
3. Aquadraat Ironman US Championship, NYC – 2012 – YES! An Ironman only an hour from home. Sure, the logistics would be messy and expensive and the layout of the course wouldn’t draw a ton of spectators…..but this would be close to home. It seemed so good in fact, I changed my registration for Lake Placid in 2012 (through a camp I attended) so I could do NYC…..but it wouldn’t be smooth: 3 days before the launch of this new and exciting (high-profile) “first Urban Ironman”, a massive sewage leak from Tarrytown, NY dumped somewhere around 1,000,000 gallons of raw sewage into the Hudson (just upstream from the swim) – making the less than perfect concept of swimming the Hudson even more gross. Miraculously (or for any other number of more conspiratorial potential reasons) – we were cleared to swim. For those of us not super strong in the swim the idea of a river swim with that much current, i.e. move your arms a lot while being whisked downstream to a record swim time sounded good….I gargled Listerine in transition, mostly for my own piece of mind, but, like I always am, I was happy to be on the bike…..until…..my nutrition bottle-cage broke off early in the ride and I bonked hard – by mile 90 on the bike my energy was depleted and my body was hurting which is no way to start a marathon, so I shuffled a lot (the great majority of the marathon) and completely wiped crossed the finish…..my 11:25 min time was a solid jump in the right direction….however still left me with a goal unmet……the race was cancelled the following year…..um, that’s 3 for 3.
4. Timberman, Gilford, NH – 2013 – Timberman is one of those “storied” races – a destination race where people come up to stay for a few days. GREAT NEWS! Not even my voodoo death-touch could break this great race: The water was clear, the weather was beautiful and besides being woefully underprepared (I just didn’t put the time in and paid the price in the currency of more “shuffle-run”) the event was smooth enough…..I finished in 5 hours and 34 min – more than 30 minutes slower than where I probably should’ve finished, but not totally out of line with my lack of training. Although I can only blame myself for not training to the standard I typically do – I was ecstatic that my curse appeared to be broken…..so I kept pursuing, volunteered at IM Lake Placid to get my EZPass registration and got re-inspired and registered for 2014 – and no cancelled races in my wake this time. Nice!
5. Lake Placid, NY – July 27, 2014 – After a solid 8-9 months of training and trying to do everything right I knew I would be at the starting line with the best fitness I’ve ever had, no annoying body issues and more race experience under my belt. I was finally getting consistently comfortable in the swim, my cycling had continued to improve and my running form was improving. On top of all that, I spent nearly 6 months teaching my body to eat more solid food on the bike and my brain to not push too hard early……however, with those lessons in place, I was also a LOT more realistic about my chance for qualifying – the more I looked into it, the more I realized how screamin’ FAST the guys at the top of my age group are and that I’m not yet one of “them”. I came to the conclusion that I would need to have an absolutely perfect race…..everything would have to go exactly right and maybe even a few things would need to go my way to pull it off…..(after attending the awards ceremony even that has changed….these guys are STUPID FAST….) so, if you want the short version….the goal is still unmet…..but that’s really where this year’s story begins.
PREPARATION – Swim, Bike, Run and PEOPLE
Training for an Ironman is a massive commitment. It takes hours, usually multiple, every single day. There are days off, but not as many as there should be, and if you have any other “little things” in life (like kids, a job, friends) or enjoy other things that take time (such as eating let’s say) it always feels like you’re losing time and trying to catch up. Of course having a few of all of those little things and enjoying such hobbies as eating – I relied on help……family, colleagues, friends & training partners.
Extended Family: I have no idea how many times a ride to or from a practice or an activity had to be arranged around “training”, but I know it was more than a few. I don’t know how many weekends had to be juggled so I could have a large block of time to do my thing….but I’d say many, if not most. I do know that play dates, meal times and even dog-sitting (during the race week) all had to be arranged and it was family to the rescue. Don’t ever let anyone say this is an individual sport.
Colleagues: Thankfully I work with folks who “get this stuff”…..all are accomplished in their chosen events and understand the commitment required. From the gentle “how’s it going?” conversations where they tolerated my rambling about the latest training victory or the “did you hear about?” conversations where they pointed me to better information and research on wringing more out of myself, it’s fantastic to be part of a supportive team. Everyone should be lucky enough to work with the kind of folks I do.
Friends: I don’t consider myself to be super well connected outside of professional relationships and family…..mostly because I put little to no effort into it (I’m the WORST here)…..but luckily, I have folks in my life who do. In addition to the casual conversations with people who I cross paths with regularly (mostly chasing kids) that usually end in some version of “you’re insane”, there were a few people who have known me for a while and were so encouraging. Everything from “I’m inspired, it’s amazing” to “why don’t you have a cheeseburger or something?” was just the kind of thing I needed, just when I needed it along the way. It culminated in texts, tweets and encouraging Facebook posts prior to race-day.
Training Partners: This is a new thing for me – because my schedule is so erratic I usually just train when I can……but a few years ago I was lucky enough to tag along with a group of runners who ran together over the winter. I was shocked how much I enjoyed it. The miles seemed to fly by and everyone worked together (push when you’re feeling good, let someone else do so when you’re not) which kept the pace consistent. Unfortunately this year, most of those guys were in different training phases and it wasn’t going to be….but I was lucky enough to hook up with another group and I can’t thank them enough. At least once per week, almost every week, I had someone there to push me past my limits and help me grow. Whether it was the weekly 10 miler or the misery of track workouts, I owe these folks a big debt of gratitude. I wish the race would have gone a little differently so I could show up with the strong run I had trained for…..but there is no doubt that without them, I could NEVER have rallied through the challenges that the day presented.
And then there’s the overlapping few….
There are people in my life that are family AND training partners AND coaches AND friends to lean on AND colleagues….and various other combinations. I consider myself incredibly lucky to have people like this in my life.
But that’s not all – there’s one person on my training team who was the backbone of this whole thing and that is my wife Lindsay. I honestly have no idea if I could’ve kept it together without her support. She supplied the food, sometimes 3 and 4 times per day and piles of energy bars in constant supply; She tolerated the endless supply of smelly clothes “drying” on the bathtub (eeew!); She juggled the world to buy me a few hours when I needed them; She shuffled kids EVERYWHERE most of the time without help…..part coach, part cheerleader, part confidence builder, part fuel consultant and with the exception of the now and again “this sport is stupid” sentiment, part triathlon ambassador (explaining to people that I’m indeed not insane) her part of the equation is at least as important as mine…..
WALKING IN THE DOOR
I got to Lake Placid several days early to get myself organized and make sure I could see the course, be rested by race day and get ready to give it everything. I immediately ran the middle portion of the run course. The hills were going to be a challenge, but nothing terrible – so I got some dinner and went to bed.
Thursday was the beginning of athlete check-in. I was up early to swim the course and was back and done prior to the 9A start so I figured I’d get there right away. I ran into one of the other 2 BC*AC athletes racing (Roy) and we set a time to meet up and ride the “back hills of the course” – the 11 mile stretch that is essentially climbing back to town. Thankfully, Roy’s recon of the section was “easier than I thought it would be”….so we figured we’d meet and ride. After missing the meet-up spot and finding myself climbing up the access road to Whiteface Mountain (in the car) I was really nervous that Roy was either making a joke and the climbing was ridiculous (and thus I was WAY underprepared) or I was lost……thankfully I was just lost……and although the cell service was really suspect, we did connect and ride the section. It would be challenging but definitely not terrible. It confirmed for me that my strategy of keep the bike easy and run hard was the way to go on this course. Roy & family was kind enough to invite me to dinner but with a high-speed chase and road closure due to fatalities (yes, in quiet Lake Placid, NY) I wound up having a dish at a little tucked away Italian place that was pricey but delicious.
Friday I was up early again to swim, this time with Chris (BC*AC’s 3rd of 3 to get to town). We swam the course and I felt solid…..we decided to ride the back side of the course again, but this time from the town “Jay” to get the full effect of the climbs. Again, it was challenging, but not impossible…..and I was feeling confident with my training and my race plan. I crossed paths with my youngest brother Greg and Jess his wife for some relaxing hanging out, saving a lost dog and a roof-top dinner overlooking the lake. I was feeling very relaxed and confident that if things went well I’d have a solid day. I was asleep early with the goal of getting up extra early to ready myself for race-day.
Saturday started at 430A and I got up and started to get my gear bags ready. There were many hours before check-in was required, but I figured since I was up I might as well – so I got up, got moving, checked in my gear bags and went back to put my feet up and wait….it’s a weird sensation for me having NOTHING to do…..but that’s what Saturday was….NOTHING. I read, I watched some TV and I relaxed. Heaven. Eventually 4P rolled around and I was able to check into the vacation house, my family would be getting into town shortly and all was well. I figured I’d hit the 530P “Ironman Blessing Mass” at the local church and get some carbs. I was SO impressed by the mass. The place was packed and they actually called all of the participants up on the altar and gave us a blessing. The congregation applauded and wished us well. An additional boost and I was thankful to have it. I grabbed some pasta from a local place, got back home to pack my final AM bags and said goodnight.
Sunday started with the alarm ringing at 3:15A and rolling out of bed to get moving. 3:15A never comes late….but definitely feels early. I slept pretty well all things considered – 5 solid hours – and as I started to get dressed I heard the rain. Not just any rain, but a downpour. So much so that I wasn’t sure it was rain. Lindsay (who, proving my point from earlier, was up ready to drive me to check-in) confirmed it was pouring….not exactly what you want on race day…..but you get what you get.
I got up and had some coffee and started eating. My brother-in-law Tony was also up and gave us the weather read out…..I had no idea at the time, how much that forecast would matter to me. After 1,000 or so calories of mostly carbs we headed toward town.
Transition was already buzzing when we got there (before 5A). Spirits were up and everyone was enjoying the anticipation of a great day and event. By then we knew it was going to be wet but we were hoping for the best. Special needs bags got dropped off, air was put into the tires, transition bags were checked and rechecked and we eventually had a nice group of 2500 or so lined up on the shore of Mirror Lake.
Before we knew it the pros were off and we were moving toward the start. I lined up with the 1:01 to 1:10 hour group figuring that I would be somewhere near the front/middle based on my training. That was before I realized how congested 2500 people packed into Mirror Lake was going to be.
To say the swim had a lot of bumping would be a fairly strong understatement. I always expect it in the beginning, but this was tight traffic the entire way. Instead of bumping in the beginning and at the turns, like most events this was a constant barrage of either getting whacked from the back, hitting the person in front of me or getting tapped on the side. I didn’t love it. I got out of the water (it’s a 2 loop course) and glanced at my watch – 2 minutes SLOWER than my “easy” loops on Thursday and Friday UGH! It is what it is – so I jumped back in and did it again…..and with even more bumping this time as we caught up to the back of the pack on the second loop I lost another few minutes. I was happy to be out of the water and moving toward the bike….however it was at that moment that the first thoughts of “not my day” crept into my head….but this was no problem, I was 100% committed to – “take the day as it comes and see where it shakes out” as my race plan. So I was happy, positive and totally fine – which, admittedly, is a very different line of thinking for me when things don’t seem to go according to plan…..
Running down the long lane toward transition is super exciting. The crowds always pump me up….but Lake Placid is WAY above and beyond what I’ve been used to. Cheering people EVERYWHERE. I tried to stay focused and find my bike-bag so I could get out on the road but between the excitement and the focus on transition I didn’t notice the looming weather…..big mistake.
IN THE SADDLE – AND FREEZING
As I handed the wind breaker and arm sleeves that I had left in my bike-bag in case of really foul weather (along w/wetsuit, etc) back to the volunteer and took off out of the changing tent putting my sunglasses on, I noticed how dark and foggy it was for the first time. “Maybe just the glasses” I thought…..I mounted the bike and made the turn from Lake Placid High School toward the bike course and watched the noticeably wet roads closely. As I picked up speed and felt the rain hitting me for the first time I realized it was raining harder than I had first noticed. In fact, it was really tough to see….which is not good b/c that meant no eye protection from wind, rain or other projectiles…..and then the lightning started.
Whoa – this was a new experience. Huge claps of thunder and now buckets of rain as we climbed the first few miles out of town. I took my sunglasses off, stuffed them in my shirt and reoriented myself with my race plan:
1. EASY on the bike (heart rate, cadence and muscular effort)
2. Get in the calories & fluids (as much as possible)
3. Be ready to run
After taking a long swig of my liquid calories, I looked at my heart rate and realized I needed to settle in a little bit and stay within my plan. I watched a few of the renegade-style riders crank hard up the hill and tried not to follow despite having a ton of energy to do so. As we got to the top of the hills and were ready for the “big descent” into the town of Keene a couple of thoughts started to creep into my mind….
1. The rain was intense and showed no signs of slowing or stopping
2. I had goosebumps and was starting to shiver
3. I didn’t entirely trust my ability to control the bike on a fast descent in the pouring rain
None of these were good things. Even though it was 50-60 degrees, being soaking wet and having a 25+ mph wind hitting you is a recipe for hypothermia and I knew it……..the shivering got worse, my upper body began to shake and my teeth began to chatter uncontrollably…..it was pretty awful. As I soon learned, it’s hard not to be negative in this situation – but I did what I could to stay focused on the task at hand: Stay upright, wheels on the road.
I have no idea how fast I took that descent – I’m not a timid rider and it wasn’t slow (at least 25-30 mph) – but I got to see first hand that there is a whole new level of fearlessness (or really stupidity) when it comes to cycling. There were riders who BOMBED the descent like it was 70 and sunny with dry roads. They flew past me like I was standing still and had to be going 45-50 mph in the pouring rain on freshly paved slick roads. WOW!
By the time I got to Keene (the bottom) I was shaking so hard that spectators were gawking as I rode by. I seriously contemplated bagging the race altogether……but knew I would regret it. I remembered Tony’s weather prediction and prayed that the rain would stop sooner rather than later. I tried to refocus and knew all the shaking was draining my energy quickly, so my focus would have to be on getting aggressive with the calories or pay for it later. I started eating and the miles began to click by…..shaking all the way.
By mile 30 – yes 30 (that’s 25-ish miles of uncontrolled shaking while riding in the rain) the rain had slowed nearly to a stop and I had generated enough body heat to start feeling like myself. The shivering eventually subsided and now, with 30 miles of hell behind me, I felt like I could start to ride. I put another 250 calories in and got to work.
BODY HEAT – FINALLY
It wasn’t long before the ascending started and it felt SO good to be pedaling like myself again. I was still committed to staying easy and within myself…..but I also knew that this was the section I had prepared for and I should start to pass some folks…..and I did. I got some comments like “you’re flying buddy…heh…heh” (the way other racers tell you “you’re going to hate this on the second loop, you better slow down”). It stuck with me some – since that’s my MO (burn up on the bike) – but I trusted my training and watched my heart rate closely…..and everything was fine….so I stayed steady.
I passed a good block of riders and started to catch up to some of the faster riders…..I could see the front of the pack on the turns, but I knew there was no way I was catching them without being complete toast on the run…..but figured I might close the gap a little on the second loop.
Getting to town was a great uplift – people cheered me up the “Three Bears” (notorious “last hills before town”) and were super positive “great cadence”, “you look so strong keep it up”, etc – It was awesome. I came through special needs and remounted to coast through town. I heard the loud yells of family and friends (there is NOTHING BETTER) and before I knew it was back on the course for the second loop.
The roads were dry enough to have some fun on the descent to Keene and the nutrition was right on schedule, so I was feeling positive. Besides the crazy weather, the second loop was almost a carbon-copy of the first: Steady and fast on the flats, nutrition (and now hydration) focus and climbing the back section without burning up. I continued to pass people and felt like I was gaining on the leaders…..
The sun was out now and I could feel that I was actually starting to sweat. Talk about your extremes. I got back to the “bears” and the crowds were still there cheering us up the last section. They were tougher than the first time, but not THAT much worse – so I knew things were still on schedule. If there was something I was immensely proud of it was that I got my entire nutrition plan done, on-time. This is a racing first for me……but I knew I was a little behind on hydrating…..I drank next to nothing during the shivering episode so I was at least a quart down…..I tried to force in another bottle and some salt and got most of the way through it…..so things were going well.
GET BUSY RUNNING
I made it to transition feeling really good (all things considered). My legs felt fine, my heart rate was in check and I had executed the bike just like I wanted to despite assuredly losing some time to the rain. No worries – I worked very hard on my run and I was prepared to have a great one…..
I left transition head held high, my family gave me a great boost and even got “announced” on the way by: “There goes Mike Eisenhart from Annandale, NJ”. I knew I could jet out of there, but I didn’t. I was all about race strategy this time….and that meant the first 6 should be easy.
Things went about according to plan….except I could feel my stomach more than I should…..shades of St. George….not ideal, but I was catching it early and was hanging in there. I kept the pace slow and grabbed some ice to hold onto. This would help keep my body heat down and make sure my stomach would keep processing….and it seemed to work. At the first turn (mile 5+) I took a Cliff-gel and kept moving. It was around then that I noticed my pace had slowed considerably – I was losing 1 minute per mile. It was sort of strange b/c I didn’t feel like I was laboring, I was just losing time. Within a mile I knew why. My stomach starting binding…..a surefire symptom that I had NOT hydrated as adequately as I thought.
Every carbohydrate needs enough water to process….without that water, there’s no way to clear the food through the gut and it just sits like a brick…..and it did…..for the next 5 miles. I started drinking as much as I could without risking a rebound to the other extreme (water-belly)…..by mile 10 things were resolving – but I had lost a good chunk of time. This was disheartening as this was the section I had intended to use as an “attack” and gain on the field…..race plan “A” was now off the table…..and plan “F” was taking shape…..
Plan “F” could stand for a lot – but to me, it’s “just Finish”……and that’s what the race became. It was a little unfortunate b/c I had high hopes for a strong run and a triumphant finish, but chasing hydration means minimizing calorie intake (to avoid gastric distress), so there’s really no way of pushing until the end without blowing up.
I got to town and faced the big uphill back to main street and I heard it……at various stages of life I’ve had various levels of respect for it – sometimes it was laughable – “yes, that’s my Dad”….other times it was teenage-disgust or embarrassment “not so loud Dad”….but not this time…..this time, when I heard the patented Tom Eisenhart yell (a little bit like “YeeeeeeeHaw” mixed with a modern day “wooohoo” with a volume that carries a long way) I was comforted and uplifted. I started choking up instantly knowing that I was getting to the final portion. Just like a great Dad should he encouraged me…..told me I was doing fine….and told me to relax……I heard my kids erupt a few yards later and I started to cry. I had wanted the race to go differently…..I had wanted things to go just right, but they weren’t. I pulled the hat way down and got back on the run, even if only for a short while…..
The run through town is fantastic – what a great supportive spectating group – so encouraging. They must’ve seen on my face the kind of day I was having b/c so many yelled “Go Mike”, “You got this”, “Keep going Mike”…..I thanked the folks who were supplying the music and told the folks at the turn that I loved them…..they laughed and I kept going.
On the second time by the special needs tent (even though I said no the first time) I knew I needed to get another shot of calories in. Running a marathon on 200-300 calories is just not enough, but I also knew the potential for more gastric issues. I decided bonking would be the worse of the two and I sucked down the second Cliff-shot. It went down about as well as it could and I took some water as well. I passed my fan-base once again to great uplifting fanfare and I was back out on the course for the final loop.
By mile 14 I was feeling the gut pain again and started to increase the hydration aggressively. I wasn’t sure it was the right move, but it was all that made sense. The carbs were causing gastric distress even though I knew I was depleted…..it had to by the hydration. About 4 miles later it was working and my stomach was clearing…..it was equally uplifting that I was darn-near the final turn (mile 18/19) and that I was heading home. Although not super fast I was stringing together longer stretches of running and I was starting to believe that I could get there. I walked the final hills but kept moving, even passing a few of the guys I had been cat & mousing all day…..and, even though I knew that at that same moment I would be close to finishing (if things had gone the way I hoped they would), it felt pretty good……plan “F” was working.
THE FINAL PUSH
As I made my way near town I had just about exhausted any fuel that I had and I knew it…..I was depleted and fading, but I also knew I had less than a 5K to the finish. I was able to just “let go” and (although I wasn’t) felt like I was flying. I got back to the steep upgrade and once again saw my family. I did the roller coaster of emotions and decided with about 2 miles, it was time to just finish strong – to get this thing over.
I tried to pick up some speed and run and it felt so good. People where encouraging and I was able to push a little bit. The stomach issues had mostly resolved and my legs felt OK. I was tired, but I got to the turn and was so glad to be heading toward the finish. 1 mile to go.
As I came down the hill I heard the encouraging words of the folks on the sides: “You look strong”, “finish strong Mike” – it was awesome…..and I was ready. As I entered the speed-skating arena I sort of floated toward the finish – my body was toast – my mind was spent – I had my eyes closed and just listened.
As I made the turn I heard “YEAH MIKE!” – It was Jess……I flashed a thumbs up and whatever smile I could muster. Then I heard Mike Reilly say “and here comes Mike Eisenhart, a Physical Therapist from Annandale, NJ……you are an Ironman”. I crossed the finish with hands held high…..a tough day, terrible conditions and a new PR.
My brother Greg who had been volunteering swooped in to catch me and help me find a seat. He and the other volunteer asked me how I felt……I simply said “I’m pretty tired….could I sit down over there”. They got my finisher’s swag and plopped me in a chair. It was fantastic.
After a failed attempt at soda and pizza that Greg was ordered (by Linds) to force feed me if necessary, I was able to get down a couple of cups of chicken broth and felt a ton better. Roy had finished by then and I congratulated him on a stellar race…..I gave a hug to my family and eventually moved toward the changing tent, knowing I had overcome one of the more grueling series of challenges I had faced, still made progress in the form of a new PR, but still not achieved my goal.
AFTER THE FINISH
I got back to the house and showered…..I had some steak (about the only meal I crave after Ironman) and got back to the race to cheer Chris in. By the time I found him he had already crossed and was looking upbeat. Like me, he had a tough day but battled through it for a solidly improved race time.
I got to bed and only briefly contemplated my next move – the move I had been dreading but knew I had to make…..my retirement.
ON THE SHELF…..
I didn’t meet my goal.
For guys like me, that’s about as hard a thing to say as there is. Not because the goal is more important than other things in life, but because we’re not lacking the effort……we’re putting the time in…..and we measure ourselves by the attainment of goals. I’m not complaining of course, the improvement I’ve made along the way is considerable. I had never done any competitive swimming or cycling 5 years ago (didn’t even own a bike and hadn’t been in the water to swim since I was a lifeguard in High School) and since that time I’ve gone from middle of the pack newbie to a top 8-12% competitor, depending on if you count the entire field or only those who finished, (this time number 240-ish of 2700 registered and +/- 2250 finishers).
Unfortunate as it may be, it’s simply not good enough, my goal requires a top 1-3% effort. After seeing the qualifier’s times, if I could keep my time for the next 30 years (yes 30), I would only-then win my age group…..ouch.
But despite getting older, I’ve beat my “best” each time I toed the line, something I’m proud of and something that tells me I’m figuring this thing out. I feel like I still haven’t had “my day” at this distance……but I have learned a ton and improved on those lessons learned. However I still know it’s time for me to move on for a while……it’s time for me to shift priorities – this time to my family.
In reality, my kids are working toward bigger and better goals and they need my support….140.6 training along with a busy life is just too much to ask from Lindsay. No doubt, the Ironman lifestyle is something I would recommend to just about anyone…..but sadly, it’s time for me to put it on the shelf.
This doesn’t mean I’m giving up on my goal…..I’m not…..but it does mean that I’m going to have to put it to the side for a while – maybe as many as 5-10 years. It hurts, but it’s the right thing to do……and so despite the regrets of not finding a way to push harder…..despite the “what-ifs” and “should’ve dones”…..I know it’s time to bow out.
LEAVING ON AN UP-NOTE
I took my bike back to town so I could swap out the wheels and since that was going to take an hour or so I stopped into the awards breakfast to see how things turned out. WHOA! The field was fast. The 5 age group qualifiers (i.e. top 5 in my age-group – top 2%) all completed the race in less than 9 hours……making my 10.5 hrs look pretty slow….so maybe I should train hard for the next 30 years and give it a go then? Don’t really know – but I do know that I’ll have to find a new challenge for a while.
The RED-iculous Effort is not over……but it will need to change.
Mike Eisenhart, PT