This race report couldn't be started out right without a large THANK YOU to everyone who supported me and came to watch the race all the way from NY to FL for my first IRONMAN. I felt like I had a posse of people down there helping out however they could, an "iron-posse" if you will :) Also to everyone who sent me email wishes of luck and congratulations, thank you all. I know it is cliche, but I couldn't have done this without your support. Ok, enough of the mushy stuff... down to the race
Prerace ride from NY to FL
Dad and I departed from NY to FL on Monday of race week. We began driving and made it to NC to stay for the evening that night after about a 12 hour car ride. In the motel, I hopped on the trainer (yes, I brought it with me...) and spun on the BEAST and dad and I watched HEROES on TV - good program by the way. I spun for an hour and loosened up the legs from the car ride. We departed early the next morning and drove another monster day to finally be able to pull into Panama City Beach, Florida around 9pm that night. Being from the EST time zone, dad had a little trouble when we stopped for dinner at a burger joint on Halloween (Tuesday) and had apparently crossed the CST time zone and were the first ones at the restraunt for dinner (because for us it was 5pm and for them it was only 4pm...kind of a senior citizen type early bird dinner time)
Anyway, we get into a new hotel because the Top of the Gulf reservations I had didn't start until the next day. We sleep off the drive and I realize before hitting the bed that my "sit bones" or more frankly, my ass, REALLY hurts from the two monster days of driving down. We decide to walk around and try to find a bar to celebrate (but not too hard) being in PCB finally. Dad and I walked around for about 30 minutes to no avail and then finally went back to the room to retire for the evening. My butt still hurt though the walking helped.
Wednesday November 1, 2006
Dad and I are the only ones in PCB, FL right now. The weather is BEAUTIFUL and we check in to the Top of the Gulf Resort. I decide it would be best to see if we could pickup the packet today instead of standing in the massive lines later on once the thousands of triathletes get there. We walk out of the hotel and like 200 yards down the road to the expo. (Yes it was THAT close) I picked up my packet, weighed in at 154lbs. (That is 46lbs lighter than I was 2 years ago after graduating college...) and got some free schwag at the expo including 2 t-shirts and fig newtons and I actually swiped a clean white IMFL swim cap when the volunteer lady had turned around. I just wanted one without any marker on it. :) I realize I still need to swim and we headed to the ocean (out the back door of the hotel)
I strapped on the wetsuit and dad waited on the beach and I told him I would be back in about 30 minutes. It was about 3pm and the sun was setting and there really weren't too many other people swimming and after several minutes in the water and getting about 1/2 mile from shore out in the middle of the ocean around "feeding time" for sharks in a black wetsuit splashing on the surface of the water alone in the murky depths, I realized why everyone goes to the Gatorade morning swims instead of venturing out in the ocean alone... it was stupid and I realize it now and will never do that again. I was bobbing a half mile from shore in the ocean that day wondering why I watched Shark Week on the Discovery Channel the week before and thinking to myself, "If I get bumped by something, I am going to seriously freak out!!!" Luckily I made it back in one piece.
Thursday November 2nd, 2006
More friends arrive!! Rachel and Kelly show up in the afternoon and dad and I hit the Gatorade swim in the AM hours so I can splash around a bit more. I found that I tend to swim with my mouth open and was almost sick to my stomach when I ran up the beach practicing what it was going to be like to enter the second loop of the swim on Saturday. I had to remember to keep my mouth shut in order to not swallow a gallon of salt water.
After Rachel and Kelly arrived, I went to the expo and slapped a new pair of shoes on the beast. Zipp 606 wheels. Rented them from Race Day Wheels and they were nice :) I spun for a good 20 minutes on them and even in the headwinds they were fast! I was gettting a little more excited.
Friday, November 3rd, 2006
I had to rack my bike in transition and give all of my bags (special needs bike and run/ bike to run and swim to bike bags) to the transition area so they could organize them, problem was I had no idea what to put inside. After several lists, I finally figured out what I needed in every bag. I felt good about it. When racking my bike I took a look at the thousands of othe bikes in the TA and started to get a little jittery. This was finally going to happen, weird. I even managed to procure a volunteer IRON CREW t-shirt while racking my bike (don't ask, but I kind of stole it from a box of them as a keep sake). Sam came as well in the AM hours and we were almost all there.
In the PM, I almost forgot to shave down so I hopped in the tub at the hotel. I had been kind of embarassed because I had stubbly legs and was walking around in shorts at the expo next to seasoned triathlon vets who all had clean shaven legs. Normally I wouldn't be embarassed about having hair on my legs, but at Ironman, I guess priorities change. I was in the tub shaving my legs and arms when Phil arrived! I was done with one arm and I came out half shaven to hang for a little. It was great to see him and he is still my partner in crime for triathlon, just he is training to become a paratrooper in the air force right now, so can't race as much as I am. I would love to do an IM race with him someday and I really hope we get the chance. He is a champ.
RACE DAY - November 4th, 2006
I woke up at about 5am after not being able to sleep too well and had some food. I really don't remember what I had but since it was like 2 hours to race time, I wanted to keep it light. I've had problems before with eating too much before hand and not feeling to well during a race. I grabbed my wetsuit and goggles and cap and headed down to the beach. I pounded a Gatorade Endurance bottle about 20 mintes before the race to top the system off and watched the pro's start. I managed to say "good luck" to Amanda Lovato because I spotted Michael Lovato on the beach cheering her on. She looked at me funny because she had no idea who I was, but I smiled a lot. What a cool couple. It's so cool to see your hero's and pro's so close and doing the same thing you are doing. Neat. :)
THE SWIM - 1:01:51
The water was a churning and the temp was about 45 degrees F outside that morning. The cannon went off for us and I was in the middle of all of the "elbows and assholes" like Johnathan would say. I seriously started in the front row in the middle of everyone. I wanted to experience IM racing to the fullest. Afterall they say for ironman it's a "fight, bike, and run" and I wanted to be in the middle of it. It was choppy. I only got punched in the face once and it wasn't enough to move my goggles (thank goodness) because I had put my cap on over my goggle strap (good tip by the way) to keep them in place and prevent them from getting ripped off. It was physical for about the first 200 meters, but after that thinned out and I found some good feet to draft off of. I stood up at the sand bar for a minute and caught my breath and then dolphin dove back into the mix.
The first turn around the orange buoy and we were staring DIRECTLY into the sun. For the first time ever, I put my head down, did not sight and put my faith directly into the heels in front of me and thanked my lucky stars that they went the right way. It was too hard to see, let alone sight bouys into the sun. The vanilla Gu that I had stuffed up my sleeve was lost to the murky depths so I had no nutrition to take in on that small beach run thru the archway between swim laps. Oh well, one less thing to worry about. We turned shortly after that and headed back to the shore for the second lap. I checked my watch when I hit the beach and it read 29:xx and I knew I was on pace to go about an hour. I didn't get any water and I heard my name from the iron-posse as I ran by and gave a HUGE trademark-Travis smile. It was good to hear everyone and I dove back into the mix.
Lap two is fuzzy, other than me throwing up a little in my mouth from what I think was the salt water. My espophogus burned in the back of my throat from my stomach acid and it left me a burning sensation every time I ate or drank for the rest of the day. I hit the beach for the second time in 1:01:51 and quickly found a wetsuit stripper to yank off my legs and ran as fast as I could to T1.
T1 - 4:09
I hit the change tent after I was yelling "169" to the volunteers to grab my bag. They were so helpful and it definitely sped things up a bit. I dumped the bag, found a seat and began getting my stuff ready. I threw on the arm warmers because it was cold as hell outside and strapped on Excalibur and my bike shoes and was off.
The Bike - 5:24:40
It was cold...and windy...and boring. Which was good I guess, nothing exciting happened and this felt pretty easy comparitively. I began taking in my 750 calorie bottles of gatorade and carb-pro and washed it down with water just like you are supposed to after letting your stomach settle 20 minutes after the swim. This was going to be a long one, so I took it easy at first.
Florida is flat, I mean REALLY flat. The only hill on the entire course took about 1 minute to climb and I think it rose about 150 vertical feet. It was a bridge over a highway overpass I think. Really really easy. I was just really stoked to be on the bike (its all about the bike) and was enjoying being in my first Ironman, it was very cool. The only UNCOOL thing was all the drafting... I can hold my chin up and say truthfully that I did NOT draft at all during this race. (Not that I do in any other race, but there was so much drafting that it was incredible and I want it to be known that I had NO part in it) I was actually stuck in a gap for most of the ride. No one was near me and then out of the blue, a pack of like 20-30 people would blow by me and they seriously looked like they were in a freaking paceline. Just dispicable. Anyway, you had to make a serious effort NOT to draft and I figured I would see them later on the run anyway. (I saw about 6 guys huddled in the penalty tent as I rode by at mile 60 or so.)
The 750 calorie bottles of gatorade and carb-pro were going down ok. Each time I felt my stomach slosh and feel full, I slowed it down to zone one on the HR monitor in order to digest. This was a good plan and seemed to work, although the last few miles were shaky. There was a turn around at about 70 miles in and everyone got a chance to see who was in front/behind you. It was kind of nice and I knew I might be in the running for an age group placing, so I was checking race #'s on helmets to see if any were low and presumably in my age group. Each person that I passed or got passed by I made sure to check their calf to see what their age was from the bodymarking. :) I'm sneaky like that I know, but it kept my mind off the ride. I launched a water bottle from my x-lab flatwing at about mile 65 of the ride, right before I was about to take in some salt tabs, and had to wait until the next aide station to get more water. No big deal I guess.
Miles 80-95 were rougher than I thought. I don't think I did enough continuous long rides in my training. Like if I would go for a 100+ ride, I would ussually stop and visit someone for 20-30 minutes in the middle of my ride. Probably not the smartest idea, I'll know for next time. Well, I was standing out of the saddle and couldn't get my rythym down for those miles, I really had to work hard at keeping the MPH up and my heart rate down. Once we hit the overpass at mile 100 or so, I knew I was home free. Seeing that 105 miles mile marker was a good feeling. I undid the shoes and had a solid dismount before the line at mile 112. The legs didn't feel too rough because I think they were ready to run after all of my getting out of the saddle in the latter parts of this ride.
This was MUCH quicker than I thought. I had luckily packed an extra pair of socks in this bag for the run which was nice since mine were a little soaked after "nature called" several times on the bike. I changed socks and grabbed a premade 400 calorie bottle of gatorade and took it with me on the run. TriSports.com race hat and I was off. Almost. I hit the porta-potty and evacuated some liquid and noticed that my legs were shaking uncontrollabbly inside. I figured it was because they were tired, but I hoped I could get thru the marathon ahead. I had never run a marathon before this, so this was going to be interesting.
The Run - 3:58:01
I had planned to run with the water bottle full of 400 cals of gatorade and carb-pro to slow me down out of transition and it did JUST that. I was going about 8 minute -8:15 pace for the first several miles but just couldn't stomach it anymore. I had previously had problems with not being able to take in ANY nutrition during the run portion of longer races this year and was nervious because I knew I couldn't do that during an IM. My stomach sloshed for about the first 7 miles. I mean it was churning. I was trying to run at the bottom of zone one so I could digest whatever was in there, but it seemed to be going really slow. I dropped the bottle around the first turn around in the state park. I wasn't drinking it and I figured it would only slow me down more, so it got chucked to the side of the road at an aide station. I had half a cookie to try and soak up the sloshing, but that was so dry I almost choked on it. Mental note - cookies without liquid = no good. I choked on the crumbs for about a half mile.
There were friends EVERYWHERE on the course and I thank Rachel, Sam, Phil and Kelly for running all around and cheering your hearts out for me on the run. I really needed it that last loop. I was feeling good on the way back to complete my first loop and I found that grapes worked really well for nutrition. They were full of water, sugar and were a good food source for me. I know you are not supposed to try anything new on race day, but I had to go with what worked. I took in a single "Esspresso Love" double caffinated gel somewhere there too and that definitely picked me up a bit. I made it back to the half marathon point in 1:50 and was feeling ok. I saw my dad, who was cheering REALLY loudly and holding a sign that had a T- dot (like the IM M-dot) and read, "Travis, the G awaits" and I had no idea what that meant until after the race I got back to the hotel to find a 4 pack of my most favorite alcoholic beverage, Guinness. Thanks dad :)
The second loop was a little more trying, especially the last part. I have told people that the "wheels didn't fall off" until about mile 18-19. It was right before entering the park for the second time. I stopped at a porta potty and really just wanted to walk for the rest of the day. I was calculating what kind of splits I was doing and what might be possible and I realized that breaking 10 hours was no longer feasible which got me down a little bit. I knew I had to stay focused though. Previously I was walking the aide stations to give my legs some rest and now I was walking the aide stations, plus about 50 yards at a brisk pace before I began running. I was getting to each aide station in about 8-9 minutes but walking thru them really slowed down my marathon "pace".
I hit thru turn around in the state park somewhere after mile 19 and it was beginning to get dark. The real reason I wanted to finish in under 10 hours was to be able to have a finishers photo in the daylight, but turns out I was 30 minutes late...there's always next year, and I hear Ironman Lake Placid is light until about 7pm :) Anyway, as I was saying, my mood was getting down and I thought maybe it was low blood sugar and I tried to eat, but wasn't feeling like it. I seriously contemplated stopping. I don't know what the hell I was thinking but it sounded good right then. Luckily I thought of all the people who told me that they would be watching online and all of the emails and phone calls I had gotten and I dug a little deeper and found the strength to soldier on. I realized that I was doing about 10 minute per mile pace and the wheels were falling off. It hurt a lot for about the first time that day.
I thought to myself that if only the last 6-8 miles hurt, then thats not that bad at all. I had heard so many horror stories about IM racing and how it is 12 hours of pain and I guess I had built it up and put it on this HUGE pedestal in my mind. It honestly wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I was expecting much worse. Anyway, for the last 4 miles or so, I hooked up with this 28 year old dude named Dan (I think?) who was from DC and had raced the Timberman with me this year. Turns out in the rain at the Timberman, he fell off the bike, dislocated his shoulder and when he got up, popped it back in and finished the triathlon. He said saw the father and son duo of Team Hoyt in the race and he thought to himself, if that dad can haul around his son for IM's and half IM's, then I can finish this race. That's crazy man. So we chatted about a lot and he was running slightly faster than I was which helped drag me along towards the finish. Turns out he was on his first loop as I was nearing the finish.
I didn't even see mile markers 24 and 25. I was distracted by the conversation with my new friend from DC. Which was good. But we got closer and closer to transition and it snuck up on me until he said "dude, you're almost there, look" and pointed to the glow that was about 0.5 miles away that was the finishing area. I thanked him immensely for his conversation and headed to the split and took the "finish" route instead of the "2nd loop" which felt soooooooo good. I was beaming and the adrenaline REALLY kicked in as I entered the throngs of people. I zipped up the jersey, made sure I was presentable, realized there was no one around me and smiled HUGELY as I zig zagged back and forth in the finishing chute slapping as many hands as I could while hearing those sweet words, "Travis Earley, you are an IRONMAN!!!". The finishing clock read 10:31:22 and I was just overcome. Amazing.
This race was something that I seriously thought was a physical impossibility when I was younger watching IM Hawaii on TV. I thought no one was capable of doing a marathon after biking so long. Just an incredible feeling overwhelmed me. I was whisked away to take a finishers photo in which I looked REALLY stupid. Grinning ear to ear and clutching my medal and space blanket. I was taken to the massage tent and everyone was asking me what I wanted/needed and all I really wanted was to sit down, but I got Gatorade and chicken broth instead. I hugged my dad a lot, and everyone was there, it was really cool. I got a massage of my hamstrings and quads and upon standing up, I started shaking uncontrollably for the second time that day. It was near 50 degrees out and I was in wet clothes, so I changed into my dry finishers shirt and cap and they wrapped me in my space blanket and a few comforters and every volunteer that passed my shivering but smiling huddle, rubbed me on the back and asked if I was ok. I was ok, just cold as hell. I'll post some pictures later on.
We all went out for ice cream afterwards which was amazing and I iced the knees for a good 30 minutes before bed. I woke up the next morning feeling good, just slow to get up from a seated position. By Tuesday, my muscles were not sore and I felt like I could go for a 3 hour ride if I wanted...I didn't, but it was good to begin feeling fine. I was pleased with the result, even though my marathon was not under control. I would have loved to run the whole thing and not have to walk the aide stations. Next time. I was 6th in my age group and 211th overall of 2109 finishers. I JUST missed out on age group awards as they went to the top 5 in the age group (9:12/10:11/10:12/10:19/10:20) I was 10:31 and just missed out on those. The Kona roll down ceremony went like this, "male 18-24 age group, there was one slot available, it was taken. Moving on"
I have many other stories to tell, but this was long enough. Leave some comment love and I'll post more pics later on. Cheers.