Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Immediately following their 5-6 hour ride through 112 miles of Kentucky terrain, the Ironman athletes returned to the Bike Transition Area to quickly shake off their dead legs and begin the marathon run that would usher them to the finish line and the title of “Ironman”. It was a hot one…about 90 degrees. The humidity wasn’t horrible, but it was not ideal running weather, that’s for sure. The athletes did their best to combat the heat with sponges and other body cooling methods.
My husband’s body actually suffered from the heat the entire following day, so the marathon was certainly no walk in the park for these athletes. In fact, I went through and looked at all the finisher results and, from what I can tell, there were 786 athletes that did not finish the race…most of them fell out on the run. This guy was hurting pretty badly.
Just imagine how your body would feel after the effort put forth to not only swim 3,862 meters and ride a bike at full force for almost half a day. I have heard it described by many triathletes as feeling like your legs are Jell-O or trying to run through neck-high Jell-O. An average runner struggles to conquer a marathon, in and of itself, at some point in their lifetime. What kind of fitness does a person need to have to run 26.2 miles AFTER all of the above? It’s just mind-blowing. By rights, the human body should not be able to withstand this type of effort. The fact that ANYONE finishes this race is unbelievable. The fact that one of the professional athletes completed another Ironman race just 14 days before this is downright insane. Can you imagine the conditioning of that woman’s body to be able to recover in that way? I really can’t.
By the time we got to the run course, our friend’s husband, Joe, was already at Mile 7. Missed him again! He was just too speedy for us the entire day! We headed to the Finish Line to wait for the runners to start coming in. We got there around 3:00pm and waited. And waited.
Finally! In the distance, a runner appeared…headed toward the finish line! It was professional athlete, Patrick Evoe. He has placed 2nd in an Ironman before, but has never won. This was his shining moment. The crowd was elated. He had a final finish time of 8 hrs 42 mins 44 secs. Amazing.
A few more men came in, including some age groupers (a.k.a. regular folk…although, not really regular…more extraordinary than most is more like it). We were waiting for the 1st place woman and it turned out to be pro, Bree Wee. Her finish is just adorable. I didn’t want to include too many pics but you’ve gotta see these in succession! Precious!
Bree finished with a total time of 9 hrs 36 mins 27 secs. After that, several more athletes came in and we kept getting texts from Francie that Joe was nearing the end of the marathon. Mile 15. Mile 20. Mile 25. He’s on his way in! We couldn’t wait to see him for the first time that day!
Joe made it across the line, finishing in the top 5% of all the athletes. He also qualified for a spot in the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii! There were about 50 spots available, evenly spread out by age group. This is not Joe’s first time in Kona, but qualifying for Kona is ALWAYS a big deal! Now we will know TWO athletes in Kona!!! Guess who will be glued to the computer screen all day on October 13th??? Incidentally, Francie is competing in HER Ironman race next week in Madison, WI. How’s that for an awesome family?
We also got to witness something really special. One of the athletes that had just finished his Ironman got down on one knee and proposed to his girlfriend. Naturally, we took pictures. Such a joyous moment in an overall fantastic day.
Since we’d been standing and waiting at the finish line for hours, we were ready to find a restaurant to sit down and eat (it’s a full day of eating, with some athletics mixed in!) so we tried to get a patio seat on the finish line. But the restaurant was charging $100 for a seat outside! And that didn’t even include your food and drink! Ridiculous. So, we ate at Hard Rock Café. Then, watched for a few more hours as athletes began to pour in. We had to head home around 8pm, although the finish line was pumping all the way up to midnight. Our feet were just done for the day and I had to work the next morning bright and early. I tried to watch the final finishers online but my body was just finished and I fell asleep.
From what I can tell online, the very last finisher was 63 yr old, Tina Duda, with a total time of 16 hrs 57 mins 47 secs.
The story doesn’t end here, folks. In fact, I’d venture to say that the true impact of the day did not hit me until we spent some time hanging out in the area AFTER the finish line. THAT is where the true magic was…and that ended up being my favorite part of the entire day. You WILL want to hear about this in my next installment, Ironman Louisville: After the Finish/Thoughts on Ironman (Part 4 of 4).
*All photos copyrighted 2012: Scott Drichel Photography
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Hubby and I had to walk ½ mile from our parking garage to the start of the Ironman Sunday morning. This transition area was the first sign of Ironman on our trek to the swim start. It was my first moment of sheer awe in a day that would consistently challenge my perceptions of the human body's limits and the colossal power of an individual's will and determination.
After the murder of the 2.4 mile swim, athletes climbed out of the water and ran to a tent to change into their biking gear and prepare for the 112 mile ride in front of them. No doubt, they were concurrently changing clothes, maybe eating and drinking, putting on sunscreen, securing helmets - all in a matter of minutes.
Then, they had to run out and locate their bike, among thousands…and get it over to the Bike Start Line.
We were pretty close to the start, so we could see the athletes' bodies transition from the swim to the bike. Most of them were still wet from the swim and, as they rode by me, I could see the muscles in their arms still twitching from their 2.4 mile battle in the water.
We watched several of the athletes take off onto the bike course and then we had to get in our car and drive to the Bike Viewing Area, which we assumed would be nearby. But, it was actually a small town that was a half hour drive each way from the actual race start. Wow. As we drove, we noticed that we were in some hilly terrain and we felt sorry for the bikers. We also decided that, as they were going for a leisurely 5-6 hour bike ride, we might as well get our hash brown casserole on at Cracker Barrel. I mean, we hadn’t even had breakfast yet. We had been up for 5.5 hours and it was just 9:00am.
After breakfast, we got to the viewing area just as the athletes were beginning to pass in full force. This area was both Mile 40 and Mile 70 of their ride. We got there pretty early, so they were just coming up on Mile 40.
Those bikes were FLYING! So fast, so perfectly smooth, so beautiful. I must have watched hundreds go by and never tired of it. Have you ever seen a time trial bike? Those babies can cost upwards of $5,000. As we stood at the Transition Area earlier gazing at the thousands and thousands of bikes, I thought, "Can you IMAGINE how much money is in this little square of land? WOW!"
When you see it up close, hear the whir from its wheels, feel the wind as it whisks past you and see the athlete and the bike working together as one, there is something that happens to you. I jokingly thought to myself, “Leah, there are literally hundreds of perfectly formed, gorgeous bodies passing in front of you and you are lusting after their BIKES?!” I can’t explain myself. I just know what I felt and if feeling that way is a crime, then lock me up!
Look at them…
*Drool* Mmmm. Oh…sorry. OK, back to the race? Yeah. Sorry.
So, after watching for awhile, we walked around this little tiny town for a bit, looked in some shops, but we thought, “You know, this is going to go on for another 3-4 hours. Let’s go have lunch.” So we drove BACK the half hour to the actual race area/finish line and decided to scout out a restaurant for lunch. The funniest part is…I felt like we’d JUST had breakfast, even though several hours had passed. And, before the swim start, we heard a guy telling his friend, “It’s like a whole day of eating, with a little bit of athletics mixed in.” Well, at the time, I assumed he was talking about the athletes. But, at lunch, it hit me that he was talking about being a spectator! Ha! It is SO true! Because, in between legs of the race/finishes, what else IS there to do but eat and shop? Haha. Consequently, maxed out my credit card that day…but it was worth it.
We had lunch at a nice Irish pub. At the end of our meal, I received a text from my friend, Francie, telling me that her hubby, Joe, was off the bike and had just started the marathon. We originally went to watch Joe compete and cheer him on and we never once saw him until he crossed the finish line. Even then, we weren’t able to catch him and talk to him, but we did get some great pictures for Francie of him crossing the finish line.
Back to the biking portion of the race: many of the athletes were on their bikes for at least 5 hours…some, or most, would be on them longer. As we did with the swim, put yourself in an athlete’s place on the bike. You are bent over riding for over FIVE HOURS. You are sometimes riding in a pack at ridiculous speeds going downhill, where a collision could easily occur if you don’t communicate well or alert the other riders to your presence. There are fans at Mile 40 and Mile 70 that make you want to keep going. You catch a glimpse of your country’s flag. Pedal harder. But, gosh, you’re so tired. That swim just took it out of you. Eat something! Drink something! But do not get off of that bike! And, when you’re done with this…when you can finally stand upright again (assuming you CAN stand upright), you just have to run a measly little 26.2 miles to finally reach your goal of Ironman.
So, are you ready for a nice little jog in 93 degree Kentucky heat? I’ll cover that next in Ironman Louisville: 26.2 Mile Run (Part 3 of 4)
*All photos copyrighted 2012: Scott Drichel Photography
Monday, August 27, 2012
On Sunday, my husband and I had set our alarms for 3:30am, in order to arrive in Kentucky in time to catch the start of Ironman Louisville 2012 - the 6:50am Pro Swim Start. We knew we were in for a long day, but never could have predicted that we would walk away from that race completely worn down physically, but more alive in spirit than we’ve been in a long time.
As it turns out, we did make it just in time for the Pro Swim Start. This was less exciting than I imagined it would be, as there were only a few pro athletes, so it was really kind of a non-event. The real fun began at 7:00am when the age groupers lined up and began to start jumping into the river.
There were about 3,014 athletes in this race – from every U.S. state and 26 countries. They began to line up on two docks. The first group hit the water and athletes continued to jump in non-stop for the next 40 minutes! My first thought was, “How can SO MANY people complete this difficult of a race?!” Amazing!
I was also struck by the fact that you could find every type of person in the lineup: skinny, chubby, young, old, man, woman, lean, muscular, fancy wetsuit, normal swim trunks.
The swim course was set up to where the athletes jumped in and swam along a tree line (which was actually a small island in the river) and then swam all the way around the other side of the island. So, by the time we saw them coming around the other side of the island, they had already swam about 2 miles. Then, they had to keep swimming another 0.4 miles to the finish, where they would transition to their bikes. This would mean a swim of at least an hour for most of the athletes. The official cut-off for the swim was 2 hours 20 minutes.
Most of us know how difficult it is to swim laps in a pool. But, unless you happen to be an Ironman yourself, I doubt any of us has experienced a swim of this magnitude in a dark river (without clear lane markers) with 3,000 other flailing bodies around you – possibly kicking you in the face, running into you, elbowing you. I know that when I swim, I begin to feel a bit panicked when I’m not getting enough air and that leads to me losing my form very easily. Much like a good run, a good swim demands a calm demeanor and a relaxed body. How in the world do these athletes achieve that physical state of calm in this type of atmosphere? A break in form can lead to serious pain for the entire rest of the race!
And, aside from the body mechanics, how much mental torture is there knowing that, once you finish this never-ending swim, you will be required to bike for 112 miles AND run a marathon? How does a person mentally block all that out and focus on the task at hand…swimming for over an hour?
Think that’s impressive? Oh, my friends, you have not seen anything yet! Stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow: 112 Mile Bike.
*All photos copyrighted 2012: Scott Drichel Photography
Friday, August 24, 2012
This afternoon, I had swimming on my schedule. But, you guys, I just did not FEEL like going today. AT ALL. So, I said, "What's the big deal, Leah? One day of not swimming is not a big deal. Just skip it."
Well, that thought lasted for about one minute, because then I thought to myself, "Am I injured or overtired?" Well...no. "Is there some credible reason that I CAN'T do my swim workout today?" Grrr...no. "Haven't I done about a hundred runs that I didn't FEEL like doing, simply because I knew it was good for me? And wasn't that what got me in shape enough to finish a 7 mile run before this injury?" Well...yeah...but....fine, I'm going.
I did it again, folks. Swam 30 lengths in 30 minutes. Well, actually...in 28 minutes if you want to get TECHNICAL about it.
So, today I had the shocking realization that my half marathon is only 6 weeks away. I had a minor mental panic attack, thinking about the miles I've been missing this month.
But that was quelled a bit by the fact that I passed 1,000 fitness minutes today. I had set a personal goal for myself of 1,000 crosstraining minutes in August (and, you know, with no running...ALL my fitness minutes are technically crosstraining). I have 1,003 minutes now and have an entire week left!!!
So, I've set a brand new goal....1500 fitness minutes for August. One week left to get 500 more. This is fairly significant for me because the most fitness minutes I ever logged in a month was when I did the Spring Into Shape Bootcamp Challenge and that month I did 1200 minutes. What would it mean for me if I reached my all-time high for monthly fitness minutes in a month where I am injured? I don't think I can fully explain how much that would motivate me for my shortened half marathon training schedule.
By the time I finish with P/T and get back on the road, I will have about 4 weeks to train for a 13.1 mile race. My first 13.1 mile race ever. That's a daunting thought. But...my phsical therapist and I have discussed realistic expectations for the race and we both are in agreement that I will not be able to run the entire thing and I will walk quite a bit. Which is FINE. I prefer the Galloway run/walk method anyway. When I get the all clear to run, I'm going to experiment with 8 mins running/1 minute walking splits.
Frankly, I wonder if my 1500 minute goal is a bit too small? My husband and I are going to Louisville on Sunday to watch the Ironman race!!!
For those unaware, it is a 140.6 mile race - 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run. You might remember my book review of "The Competitor In Me" by Francie Van Wirkus? Her husband is actually racing on Sunday, so I thought I'd go have a watch and cheer him on! A few Bloomington athletes racing it too. Should be a ton of fun! I anticipate quite a bit of walking, though. It's a long day (maybe 12 hours) so it's conceivable I could hit 2000 fitness minutes this month!!!! That's INSANE!!!!
Bet you can't wait for Monday'a blog!
Thursday, August 23, 2012
So, my blogs have been rather down in the dumps and mysterious the past few days. I'm happy to say that I've begun to come out of the over-emotional fog a bit and am adjusting to the "new normal" of my life.
Although I've been a bit out of sorts the past few days, don't think I've been neglecting my health, skipping workouts, moping around and eating vats of fried oil. I mean, if I'm being honest, there have been a couple small food indiscretions...but nothing major.
I just realized today that I have been in the pool ALMOST every single day since I received my non-weight bearing treatment sentence from my ortho. Most of my time in the water has been deep water exercise classes (sometimes challenging, but other times not...but, I figure, at least it's SOMETHING). I have actually only done a real lap swim four times.
Today was my 4th time. Although I'm still having MAJOR issues with figuring out breathing (I swim the freestyle crawl), I have been pleased with my form and technique - especially considering I learned by watching a video on YouTube! I haven't had any soreness or strained muscles or anything. But...I just can't get the breathing pattern down, for the life of me! Ugh! And I still have to stop every 100 meters to catch my breath.
My biggest challenge has been to control my appetite after a swim. Man, my body is burning through the calories, but it takes every last bit of willpower for me not to eat continuously for the entire rest of the day and night. It's been ROUGH in that department...which is probably why I've seen no loss yet.
You might remember that I did 22 lengths (length of a sprint triathlon) in 26 minutes a week or so ago. As much as I try to slow down (so I can breathe better), I just can't get my body to slow down. I, personally, think that it's easier for me to just fly through two lengths because the faster I do it, the faster it will be over. Today, I was WAY ahead of schedule and I had really wanted to get a full 30 mins in the pool. So, I thought, "You know...I could make a little challenge for myself...30 lengths in 30 minutes and see if I could do it." It seemed impossible. That's 1500 meters and let's remember that I can barely breathe.
Well, I had just finished 28 and I was at 29 minutes. I thought, "Nah...there's no way I can do down and back in just one minute!" But then I thought, "Dammit, I'm doing this!" Fastest lap of my life and I was just about dead by the end but I DID IT! HA!
Frankly, I have no clue if this is "good form" for triathlon training. I probably ought to be more focused on swimming continually for 30 minutes and not stopping...and slowing down and breathing and such. But, I honestly don't care too much about all that right now. I have at least a year before I even sign up for a sprint triathlon. I still have to learn how to ride a bike again. And I want to run several half marathons (and maybe a full marathon) before I go for a sprint triathlon. I would hope that, if I keep up with the swimming for a whole year, it would get easier. I mean, you'd think, wouldn't you?
And crosstraining in the pool and on the bike can only be a good thing for a serious runner. It will certainly give my ankle the breaks it needs...and I hope to drop some weight and lessen the likelihood of re-injuring my ankle.
When I think about the fact that none of this would have ever come about if I wouldn't have suffered that ankle pain a month ago...it's kind of interesting.
I found that this happened with my really huge accident and injuries a couple years ago (5 broken bones on the right side of my body). I came out of that accident, 3 months later, with a renewed appreciation for my kids and the basic blessings of being able to walk and move my arm and take a shower. I actually felt, at times, that the accident was the best thing that ever happened to me. We were broker than broke...but I spent so much time with my little ones and really got to know them. It was priceless time that I never would have taken on my own.
This injury, though smaller in magnitude, seems to be having the same effect. It's less about my kids this time, and more about my own personal health and my ability to sustain my lifestyle of fitness, no matter what happens. The fact that I've been able to put in almost 1,000 fitness minutes without my exercise of choice (running) is extremely significant and a huge confidence booster for me.
And I can guarantee...if this injury had not occurred and taken me off my feet, I never, in a million years, would have even considered triathlons.
Funny how life works out sometimes. How have "negative" circumstances turned out for good in your life?
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