Thursday, August 20, 2009

My Big Pig Tale

By John Johnson

Brief recap –this was my first half Ironman distance tri and I was brutalized, but finished in 6.06:16, just missing my goal of a sub-six hour effort.

Long version, or lessons and impressions……..

Timed perfectly at the start of the race a storm front came through Palo. Temp was in the low 60’s, wind at 25+ mph and heavy rain. Prior to the start they announced the water temp was 76 – wetsuit legal. Hmmm, my wetsuit is at home! Surely the water temp in late August will be above the legal limit I thought! Lesson #1 – come prepared for every type of weather – bring the wetsuit Johnny!!

Entering the water we swam perpendicular to the wind which was coming from our right on the first leg. Hmmm, I can really only breath on my right. Tough to inhale water and it tastes terrible! Lesson #2 – practice bilateral breathing! After the first leg and a hard right turn I finally got into a rhythm and was comfortable, but slow, the rest of the swim. Considering I had never swam a mile I was thrilled with my new personal best distance.

Into a washed out T-1 to find my shoes, socks, everything full of water and a heavy rain still falling. I had made a last minute decision to use a different pair of shorts for the race, the ones without a chamois but more comfortable for the run. But I was looking forward to the ride – my best event. I had even stolen Madi’s HED wheels – I have no shame. The ride was brutal – continued high wind and heavy rain. I thought of Dave Delperdan and laughed out loud as I was wishing I had arm warmers, and leg warmers for that matter, and I knew Dave would have been prepared. See lesson #1.

During the ride I was able to make up some time from my swim. I was cold, I was wet and 56 miles without a chamois was not as bad as I thought it might be but I won’t do it again. Lesson #3 – don’t be modest with the Body Glide! Put it everywhere and put on a lot!

I entered T-2 to find, you got it, wet running shoes, wet cap and my stuff blown all over. Where is my bottle of energy drink for the run?!?!? Everything had blown all over! Lesson #4 – if windy keep your stuff in your bag dummy! Oh well, I knew they had food at the water stops. After a quick stop at the Porta-john I was on my way.

Legs felt good, really good. I was surprised. I hit mile 1 way too fast and had to remind myself it was a long run and to slow down and keep my heart rate under control. I ran past the first water stop. Lesson #5 – drink whenever you get the chance!

I made it to the halfway point and started back. I was under my time plan and knew I would beat 6 hours. Mile 7 and the first twinge of knee pain. Mile 8 – now a LOT of knee pain. Heart rate is climbing and I am slowing down. Mile 9 and it was getting hard to run. Mile 10 water stop must have been moved! Why would they move a water stop in the middle of the race? Based upon my time I should be there! That makes no sense! Hmmm – see Lesson #5. I finally reach the mile 10 water stop and feel like I have been drinking….a lot of alcohol. I’m having a hard time running in a straight line. I start thinking about my water intake during the ride and run and realize I am way, way below my planned intake of 20 – 24 ounces an hour. The cool weather fooled me into not thinking about drinking. I grab one water for my head and two to drink, and I drink them all as I walk away. I start shuffling towards mile 11. Yes, I said shuffling! It was the most I could manage at that point as this is where the long up hill section starts. At mile 11 I repeat with extra water and a Hammer gel and start shuffling home. More water at mile 12 and I can see the finish area. I suddenly realize I am not going to beat 6 hours but can’t believe I ran / shuffled that dang slow. Lesson #6 – “Run Forest, run!” You can’t do too much run training for an event like this and I need to do more, much more.

The final mile was made easier by numerous yelling spectators and many cowbells. I realized I was going to finish and that was my real goal. I managed a moderate run to the finish and was rewarded by Team Johnson yelling for Dad.

Will I do another half Ironman? You bet! I still have to beat 6 hours and if I pay attention to what I learned in this race I can accomplish that goal.

Keep racing!


Josh Damm said...

Great recap. I'm signed up for the 1/2 Ironman in Kansas next summer and it's fun to get some tips prior to the beginning of my training.

Congrats on the finish!

TomZ said...

Thanks for the story and lessons John! I see myself competing in triathlons some day (hopefully not for many years) so it's fun to hear about people's first experiences.
And Tim - great job at the IA Crit Champs! That's really cool. Glad the BBBQ was a success as well.