I came into my first official Ironman event with a solid 2 months of training albeit, lacking some bike miles. I was a little tired from training but mostly I needed things to go well on the bike to have a great race. Here is what transpired:
The swim went smooth for me. I didn’t feel great or even strong, but I finished 5th and in good company with plenty of energy left for the days trials…or so I thought.
I have to laugh at the comedy of errors that took place during the first few mile of my bike ride. It was not funny at the time, at first bemused and perplexed as to what was wrong. I was agitated and losing focus on the race at hand. My helmet kept dropping over my eyes and I felt like a 5 year learning to ride a bike with his dad’s helmet on. I barely noticed the road, preoccupied with a situation keeping me from getting in the zone. Under the duress of the situation I stayed in contact with the lead chase group while putting my shoes on. Then, I turned my attention to this oversized helmet issue. I was like a blind man using his hands to feel the face of his lover. Why was my helmet so damn loose? I had my hand back under my helmet feeling around when I hit a bump and the sponge popped out of my water bottle (the sponge keeps the liquid from splashing out). Now, I was faraway from the race, my entire drinking plan had just been severely compromised. I was befuddled, had I been in a fight my opponent would have easily sized me up and knocked me out. I was slow to react. Wondering back to the agitation of riding with a super-sized helmet I began feeling around behind my head and let the realization sink in that the strap was broken. There would be no resolution to my floppy helmet problem other than adjusting often to keep my view of the road. I wanted to toss it into a field to be rid of the distraction, but this would have disqualified me. I had never ridden the course and I wondered how dangerous it would be with the defective helmet. One, it was obstructing my view and two, it would do my head little good if I wrecked.
Hence, the following equation took shape: broken helmet^2 + no sponge in water bottle * agitation = dehydration.
Of course, I knew nothing of this equation at the time. Even though the liquid in my water bottle was sloshing and splashing all over me and my bike, there was still some in there. However, when I leaned down to suck from the straw, (my preferred aero position) my helmet would inexplicably, cover my eyes and view of the road. No worries, I had 2 other water bottles. I took my first sip from one and then promptly dropped it while putting it back with out looking down too much (oversized helmet obstructing my sight). ARRRRRGH. I was frenzied. I urged myself, like one would a horse, to calm down. Take some deep breathes and relax. It helped a little but I wondered for a moment, if I could or should continue racing. I was around mile 6 of the 56 mile bike.
I didn’t truly get used to or comfortable with my situation until around mile 20. I was very careful to grab Gatorade at the aid stations, taking off the cap and then pouring it into my defective water bottle; trying to gulp it down before most of it splashed out. I did grab 4 Gatorade bottles but who knows how much I drank, much of the liquid never made it to my stomach. I settled in and rode OK from miles 20 to 50. But the exaggerated state of my psyche used up some valuable and irreplaceable energy, the last 6 miles were rough as I cruised back to T2 hoping for better luck in my run.
To my surprise, I had some running legs and it felt good to be off the bike. My energy level was high and after finishing the first of 2 laps I thought a negative split was possible. I actually felt like a runner.
Alas, I was doomed from getting behind on my fluid intake during the bike. I was raiding the aid stations on the run, grabbing 3 and 4 drinks at each one. This may have bought me some time, but by mile 11 my pace slowed considerably and my body went into survival mode. I was fantasizing about finishing and my slowing pace kept that realization at bay for a grueling long time. With less than a ¼ mile to go I was passed by another pro, who had been hunting me down. I was an easy kill and had no response, being in survival mode I just wanted to finish. Finally, I was done. Relief!
Wait a sec. I’m not recovering. Matter of fact, I am feeling worse. I felt as though I was still racing. My HR wasn’t coming down, I was losing all coordination and cramping up. I went to the med tent. They laid me down. They said I was severely dehydrated. I was skeptical at first, having felt like I drank so much during the run. It took a while to understand that I got way behind my fluid intake during the bike. Two hours later; after lots of fluids and 2 bags of IV’s which took over 10 needle pricks before they got a vein (I had minimal blood flow in my extremities making it hard to find a vein and when they did it collapsed) I stood up and finally had to pee.
Initially, I was disappointed with my results, but after further reflection I am excited and satisfied. I’ll be more prepared for the next race and it will go smoother. It was a good test and I’ll be more resilient for having the experience.
Ford IRONMAN 70.3 California, Oceanside results: