Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Ironman Florida 2015 (aka Time to Put Up or Shut Up)

Well, it's been five months since IMFL, and life has kept me busy; but I really did want to come back and tell my IMFL 2015 story. I will borrow heavily from my report made to my coach and advisor which was written not long after the race. As I left off in a previous report, IMTX 2015 did not as well as hoped and I had higher hopes for IMFL.

The previous weekend, indeed the entire week, had been such a whirlwind that I don't know where to begin. Let's start with early race morning....

I woke about 3:15 am and started pre-race morning preparation, to include breakfast and electrolytes.  Even after breakfast I would continue to take in calories and electrolytes slowly in liquid form until about 15 minutes before the start. I also took some salt stick capsules around that time as well.

The swim didn't look good with 8 foot or more waves at the start and rolling waves in the middle areas that affected me, too. It seemed I was almost always close to people and making adjustments around them. I tried not to use too much energy just to counter other people and tried to concentrate on stroke and my line. My first lap was 41:40 and I was happy with that. I had more trouble with people in the second loop and tried to not let it bother me. After the last turn I picked up my pace a bit and worked on going hard for the last 3/4 of the final straightaway back to the shore. I stumbled a bit getting out of the water and took in some ocean water. As I made my way to the wetsuit strippers I was starting to cough, heave and puke enough that they offered to call medical but I passed on the offer. As an ironic twist of events, an old training partner and I were coming out of the water together on the last loop. :-) Loop 2 time was 47:59 and the total swim time was 1:29:39, which is my fastest IM swim.

Given how I felt, I went a little slow through T-1 and hoped to right myself, as I really did not want my race to end that early. I got my bag, found a seat, got prepared, peed and got my bike and got going. T-1 time was 12:48. Slower than I would have liked but I am glad I took the time to settle myself out.

I started the bike with the main goal being to FOLLOW THE PLAN, with a specific heart rate goal +/-2 beats. That proved to be tough for the first 15-20 minutes. As I recall, it was somewhere in that 15-20 minute range before I ever got my heart rate down to even the +2 beats over that target. I kept things on the easier effort side and eventually my heart rate began to come down. For the next 5-10 minutes, my heart rate also seemed to climb easier but then seemed to settle down. Around this time my stomach seemed to be settling out, too. Over the first 5 miles split, of actual data, my avg speed was 17.7 mph (felt slower) and Avg HR was 9 beats high. After that whenever my heart rate went over the range, I made the effort to let it come down through some form of easier effort. That easier effort might have been shifting to an easier gear, pedaling a bit slower or coasting depending on circumstances. As the miles went on I realized I got stronger, and the miles kept coming and going. I had my Garmin on a screen only showing heart rate and total time for the bike, so I didn't know my speed or total mileage, with the exception of seeing the mile markers each 10 miles and mentally doing the math to divide that against the time. The middle third of the course had some interesting hills and I kept noticing I was passing far more people than passed me. When I came to special needs area I felt I was fully on plan and comfortable and I just moved to the left a bit and blew through the area (safely). I got some moderate rain around miles 65-75 but that as all I saw of the rain.  As the ride continued I worked had to stay on my mantra of "Stay Positive", "HR Avg", "Nutrition Plan" and repeat. I saw several fellow OutRival Racing team riders out there and gave them each a supportive word as I passed them. Generally, I slightly negative split the bike course. I think there was a bit of a tailwind between miles 80-95/100 range but there was a good headwind and some crosswinds the last 12 miles. I did captured 5 mile split data for the bike. It seems that miles 85-100 were my fastest 5 mile sets at 20.4, 20.6 and 20.2 mph, each at Avg HR at the bottom of my goal range. In the last 12 miles, I did slow a bit to work on keeping my heart rate down. I averaged around 17.1 mph over that period with and a slightly high heart rate over that period. I thought I was slower than I really was and just had trouble moving my heart rate slower other than when I coasted to lower it. Overall, my bike split was 6:02:55, and I did have to use some self control to not push the later miles just to keep it under 6 hours for the sake of being under 6 hours. This was easily my fastest bike in any IM.
I suppose I can best sum up my riding as saying that I successfully avoided being my own worst enemy by following the plan.

As I came through T-2, I worked to be a bit faster through transition than before. I also noted that I got off the bike feeling ready to run, which was amazing. As everyone else was walking around I was trotting through transition and trying to get out and run! T-2 time was 9:23.

The 2 loop run became a tale of two separate stories. Lap 1 was almost according to plan. I got a banana in transition and I followed nutrition plan pretty much on target through mile 9-10 range. After that I started to have a hard time with gels and stopped those while trying to take extra Gatorade Endurance. In that first lap, I only walked at aid stations or just after as I finished taking in nutrition. In the midst of the 14th mile I hit a dark point where I thought I couldn't run anymore. I resigned myself to needing to walk a mile to reset myself and go from there. After walking 3/10 of a mile I felt I should run and I ran to the next aid station. After that point I would walk the first 2/10 to 3/10 of each mile in addition to aid stations. That slowed my time but also kept me running longer than I thought I could. I felt like I was balancing on the blade of a knife but was able to find a balancing point. Knowing what my time was, I have to admit I knew where I was relative to my PR,  I also knew I could slow even more than I did and still PR but I wanted more than just barely getting a PR at this point.  Starting at mile 18-20 I started taking chicken broth for extra nutrition and at mile 22 I started taking Coke for extra sugar. For much of the back half of the run I felt like my mouth was drying and kept drinking water. Around mile 18 I felt that my fingers were slightly swelling, which usually indicates too much water too me, so I adjusted accordingly. I do feel like this was my best IM run from any of my 5 IM races, in addition to it being my fastest IM run by a few minutes over the 2012 time. The run time was 5:32:46.

Overall, this was a PR for me at 13:27:31, beating out my 13:41:06 from 2012 IMTX, and was also nearly 2 hours 20 minutes of improvement over last May's time of 15:46:27.

This race turned out to be a great success and I am glad I followed through after the way IMTX 2015 turned out. This race has also inspired me to look forward to my next IM goal of breaking 13 hours in 2017--something which I would have considered unbelievable after my first IM but I now think is very much possible.

Thanks for reading!

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