Showing posts with label Ironman. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ironman. Show all posts

The Wussification of Ironman

I haven't written much lately. The training is going well, but the SD 100 is approaching too fast.

I had some friends race Ironman St. George a couple weekends ago. One didn't make the swim cut-off and the others that finished talked about what a hard race it was and their times reflected it, finishing an hour or two slower than I'm sure they would have on a faster course, or in better conditions. Ironman has had trouble with the conditions of St. George in the past...rain, heavy winds, heat, cold. I guess St. George in May is just unpredictable. It's a tough course, too. The bike course is one of the most difficult among Ironman-branded races, and the run, which was changed this year to an easier 3-loop course, used to be difficult as well. It's a tough race, worthy of the "Iron" name, or at least it was before the WTC decided that this year was the last year of Ironman St. George. Next year it will be a 70.3 (Half Ironman), and if that doesn't sell out, they will probably scrap the race all together.

Wait, isn't Ironman supposed to be hard? Wasn't the initial draw of Kona to test your mental and physical limits against the course, against trained and hardened competition, against the winds, the humidity, the heat and whatever nature decided to throw at you on race day?

You hear a lot of talk about fast courses, or great PR courses, and I really have no interest in doing one of these. If I'm going to do another Ironman, it would be something like St. George, or Silverman Triathlon in Nevada. Unfortunately, neither of these races exist anymore, probably due to the shift in the triathlon market from tough and gritty to shaved, carbonized, and fashionable. I have way more respect for someone who tried IM St. George and failed to make it out of the swim on time due to the wind and waves than for someone who threw down a fast time on a flat, multi-looped course. Is there anything worse than an Ironman race with a multi-looped marathon around city streets in the hopes of avoiding a steep grade or a remote area outside of town?

I get that Ironman is a brand run by a for profit corporation, and that they are doing what is best for their bottom line, but they will not be making any more money off of me. I'll stick to the races where 30-40 percent of the people will drop, and where I know I will have to train my ass off and fight some internal demons just in order to finish.

Ironman Cozumel

I don't like to linger on the past, and  I usually have to sign up for an event past the current event I am training for to not stress too much about the current event.  It's a coping mechanism and I'm sure I could work it all out in therapy, but who has the time for that?

What I remember most about the Ironman is the training leading up to it.  I did a number of 100+ mile solo bike rides to get stronger on the bike.  Most of these rides were solo and I tried to pick routes without too much traffic, so I could zone out.  I kept my running volume down to about 30 miles/week and most of this was done in conjunction with other workouts, so it didn't feel like I was running very much.  I did spend a lot of time in the pool and I think that helped on race day.

This was the inaugural Ironman in Cozumel and I worried that it would be a cluster because it was their first IM and my first IM, but everything was smooth.  The organizers did a great job of organizing the pre and post-event  meetings and logistics.

My wife and 8-year old daughter accompanied me to Cozumel.  When we arrived in Cancun, the winds were howling and on the ferry ride from Playa del Carmen to Cozumel, the swell was making everyone sick, including my daughter, who held it in until we docked in Cozumel and were trying to get off the close, but at least there were handy garbage cans every few aisles.

Race morning was beautiful, a little overcast and windy, but the swell had died down completely for the swim.  I jumped in the crystal-clear water and had to hold on to an overhanging sign on the dock to avoid getting swept back.  The current was crazy, but I followed the advice from some locals and swam close to the shore.  We swam over the reef and I did see some marine life, but I think the 2,000 swimmers scared most of it away.  I found someone with a similar pace and stuck to their feet.  I didn't notice much of a head-current, but when we headed back the other direction, I noticed a very strong current that helped me to a fast (for me) swim.  I came in at 59 minutes, which was much faster than I anticipated, and I got out of the water feeling great.

The bike was flat, desolate and windy for the most part.  There was a small section in town that was a little technical and the crowds made it a lot of fun.  There was quite a headwind on the bike and I was going much slower than I had in previous races and training.  At certain points of the race I was leaning into the wind to avoid getting pushed off the road.  It was a 3-loop course which made it mentally tough knowing that I would have to struggle through the difficult sections multiple times.  I came in at 6:06, which was slower than I planned on, but I was happy with the time considering the conditions.

The run was the struggle.  I love running and I consider it my strength out of the 3 sports, but I have realized that triathlon running is a different beast.  There wasn't much I could do to prepare myself for a marathon run after a 2.4 mile swim and 112 mile bike.  You can't train that type of distance.  I tried to take it really slow, hoping to run a 4 hour marathon.  I was on pace through about eight miles, and that is when the self-negotiations came in.  First, I decided to walk the aid stations, then I would walk a few meters beyond the aid stations, then I decided to walk the aid stations and take a walk break after every five minutes of running.  The run was flat, concrete, three out and back loops, and humid.  My ideal conditions are hilly, trail, and dry, so it wasn't the perfect match, but I struggled through it.  The crowd support in the town of Cozumel was amazing.  Hotel workers, families, policemen, shopkeepers, and vacationers lined the streets and cheered us on.  It did help quite a bit because you can't walk when some policeman is telling you to get moving.  I completed the run in 4:33.  Not as fast as I had planned, but it was a definite learning experience for the next one.

It was great having my wife and daughter on the course.  I am not going to lie and say I was stone-faced at the finish and it was no big deal.  It was a humbling experience to complete an Ironman and when I finished, I didn't think about the day and the accomplishment, I thought about the months and hours of training and my family's sacrifice and the seemingly endless laps in the pool and the self-doubt after completing a long ride and not really being able to walk, let alone run, afterwards, and the times I felt like throwing up all of the sportsenergyhoneysugarygucliffcrap that I had to take in just to remain coherent.  I definitely want to do another one, but it will be a couple of years and I think I will choose something a little closer to home.  Right now, I am enjoying the trails again.

Resting the legs.

Finally, I can call myself an "atlhete."

My beautiful girl.

Still smiling, but it was early in the run.

This is what tired looks like.

The caffeine finally kicked in (2 hrs after the finish).

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