Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Ironman World Championship 70.3 - The Run

Foster Grant Ironman 70.3 World Championship - 2009
Clearwater Beach, Florida
20091114 – The Run

Still able to wave to Mom at the mid way point of the run
Half way on the run
Sprinting to the Finish on fumesCollecting gear at the finish - unable to speakMini showerNothing left in the tank

Heading into transition I was careful to get off my before the dismount line. I then ran over the timing mat and through the entry archway with my bike. There was a team of Orange shirted volunteers waiting to take competitors bikes back to the racks. I had never been involved in a race that offered this special service, and it was nice. Having just giving my precious Cervelo P3 to a complete stranger I ran down the rows of transition run bags in search of #1144; the bags were lined up in perfect numeric order. I spotted my bag easily, grabbed it and ran into the transition tent. In the tent, I sat down then pulled my running shoes and cap out of the bag and put them on. I started to put my bike helmet into the empty bag but another volunteer stopped me saying that he would take care of it; so I got up and ran out of the tent. I may be using the tern ‘run’ a little too freely here as I was barely jogging, my body feeling the effect of having given so much on the bike.

As I exited the run transition I could now hear the cheering supporters who lined the course. I had decided to proudly wear my team Canada outfit from the World Duathlon Championships and it was a fantastic decision. Countless people shouted out “Go Canada!” as I jogged and then later ran by. Most of the competitors wore club uniforms or gear promoting their sponsors. I always made a point of trying to acknowledge people’s support with a wave or a head nod or when I got more tired, thumbs up or finger up; but not the middle one.

During the 1st few hundred meters of the run I began to worry that my body may not open up as I felt tight and exhausted. People were cheering while I was basically shuffling by, and it was only the start of the run; I had 21km’s to go. A few runners now ran by me including some that I had passed handily with 20 miles left on the bike course. This further demonstrated how much time can be gained by drafting; I should have been at least five minutes ahead of those people at this point not 30 seconds. Not only had these guys made up time but they were way fresher than I was which they demonstrated by running by me with relative ease. Fortunately my body began to loosen up and my pace picked up after about 500 meters.

The run course was a two loop journey from Clearwater Beach over a causeway down into Clearwater, through a downtown neighbourhood before returning back over the causeway into the transition area for a second lap. I kept myself in check holding back a little bit of energy for the final 25% of the run. The last time that I ran this distance I hit rock bottom with one quarter of the run left, so I was trying to guard against that this time. Unfortunately due to my exertion on the bike I knew that I was in much worse shape this time for around. Running up to the top of the causeway provided an excellent vantage point over the entire area; the highest point must have been 6-8 stories high. I did not think too much of the climb the first time over the bridge, but we had to cross it a total of four times and it would take its toll on me.

I took in water and Gatorade at every aid station; there were six (maybe 7) aid stations per lap. These energizing volunteers also handed out sponges soaked with cold water which I squeezed out all over my face and head. I followed the same hydration and nutrition plan that I had done for the Muskoka race. This was a poor plan as it felt much warmer here in Florida and I was surely losing much more fluids than I was taking in.

I was not the only one suffering out on the run course, I passed a lot of people even though I was not moving that fast. However, unlike the bike course where no one had ridden away from me, many people ran by. I did not have the strength to adjust my speed to any of my competitors and was just trying to maintain a pace and lessen the pain that I felt increasing with each step. I began thinking about something that I had read that stated the race winner will most likely be the runner with the quickest turnover. Instead of lengthening my gate I shortened it as this seemed to lessen the impact I felt as my feet hit the pavement.

By the time I hit the turn around point of the 1st lap marking one quarter of the way into the run, I began telling myself that I had come from far away to be here and that this would all be over soon so don’t give up. The second time up the causeway hurt a lot and I felt like the sun was burning a hole through the top of my head. By the time I crested the ramp I was so focused on the next step that it was difficult to think or react to anything else. I calmed myself a little bit on the top flat portion of the causeway before descending the other side. On the way down my quads screamed as gravity forced a bigger load onto them than they wanted to carry.

Heading back towards the end of the first loop, I could hear many people cheering and I tried to take as much energy from their encouragements as I could. With one lap to go I was completely depleted of energy but full of the will to see it through to the end and determined not to walk. My pace was continually eroding although I felt like I was giving a consistent effort. I felt incredibly hot and continued to douse myself at each aid station. The further along I got the more signals I received from my body to stop, most body parts from the waist down were aching especially my quads and calf muscles. Heading into the final 5 km’s I kept thinking about all of the support that I had received from my family and friends, most people told me to “Kick Ass!” and that is exactly what I wanted to do. With 1.5km’s to go I ignored my body completely spurred on to Kick Ass and increased my pace ultimately to a sprint for the final 150 meters.

As I crossed the finish line gasping for air I realized that I was in trouble. Volunteers were congratulation all of the finishers and handing out a ribbon, cap and towel. The finishers were being ushered away from the finish line and into the finishing area to make room for more people. I was handed water and asked if I was alright. I could not speak as I continued to gasp and rest my hands on my knees in a hunched over shape. I was asked several times if I needed to go to the medical tent and I just shook my head no. I was then asked if I needed to sit down, which suddenly sounded like a great Idea. I just started to sit on the pavement right there where they were handing out liquids and a couple of people steadied me and ushered me over to a chair. I stayed in that chair for 20 minutes pouring bottle after bottle of water over my head and drinking as much Gatorade as I could. I was unable to speak but or do much with my body for most of that time, although I was thinking clearly.

As it turns out I was dangerously dehydrated and I should have gone over top the medical tent for an IV to replenish my fluids. Instead, I gathered my strength after cooling down and then limped out of the finish area. I leaned on my step father as I slowly made my way down the boardwalk to the message tent to have someone work on my legs which hurt a lot. The message area was huge and there was a line of athletes waiting their turn; I took a number and waited my turn. It did not take long for my number to get called and I lay down on a table to get some treatment. After a few minutes of light message my legs began cramping painfully so I had to stop, apparently I was still too dehydrated to receive message.

I drank four more bottles of water and then limped over to the results board to find out what my times were and where I finished up. I was finished in 11th place out of 190 people in my age category. I left nothing out on the course so I had no regrets about where I had finished. I was sore and dehydrated but that would soon pass. It is now four days later and the process of writing about the events has helped me to get back down to reality after competing in such an exciting world class event. I hope to make the event part of my 2010 plan and will do so if I get some confirmation that the race organizers acknowledge the drafting problem and make some plan to improve the situation.

Thank you all for your support during this season it has meant a lot to me.

1 comment:

  1. If you can force you heart and nerve and sinew
    to serve your turn long after they are gone, and so hold on when there is nothing in you except the will which says to them; "HOLD ON!"

    R.Kipling 1895

    Great effort Bruce, superior will doesn't come from hours in the pool or a Cervelo P3 your born with it. So yet another thing to thank your parents for... :) Awesome write-up, look into that book deal.