Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Yet Another Lesson Learned: IMKY Race Report

I would like to start off my report by thanking the City of Louisville and La Grange Kentucky, as well as all the smaller towns and the counties through which the race passed. Louisville and the surrounding area is an amazing place to hold an Ironman. Their roads are in fantastic shape for the most part, the scenery is excellent, the people are enthusiastic and friendly and really, I didn’t think the Ohio River was all that bad.

The race began with the altered swim course and time-trial swim start. While I actually like the mass start of an Ironman I also really enjoyed this time trial start and I’m wondering if Ironman will decide to maintain this as a tradition for this race. The thing I liked about it is the excitement of people diving in one after another rapid fire. I don’t know how the athletes at the rear of the like felt about the experience being as I was probably the 20 or 30th person in the water.

When it was my turn to hit the water I ran over the mat and jumped in feet first and started swimming moderately easy. While swimming in the protected waters between Towhead Island and the rivers bank I didn’t notice any current and was able to draft quite a lot. The only problem I seemed to have was either running up on people or being dropped by the person I was drafting. The front of the pack was a strange mixture of fairly slow swimmers and very fast swimmers. I did see the GEEKGRL as I passed within maybe 5 yards of where she was swimming. She was hugging the banks of Towhead Island partly under the cover of overhanging trees trying to stay out of the way of the faster and more aggressive swimmers.

When I rounded the top of the island I could spy the turn buoys further up river and decided to start swimming a bit harder. Even in the open waters the current was not terribly noticeable and the river was fairly clam. After rounding the furthest buoy I headed into the home stretch, which is the longest part of the course. Despite it being longer I figured there was probably at least a little current so I still stuck with my plan of increasing speed to my half-iron pace and just dug in and went for the finish line. I don’t think I had any real problems with navigation, maybe got off course a couple times but since you were able to see so many of the marker buoys down river it was easy to simply aim for one much further on and not have to make very big corrections. When I finally reached the exit ladders I turned in and headed for transition. I checked my watch and was very happy to see that my swim time was 1:12:57, and IM swim PR for me and while whatever current there may have been would have helped the lack of a wetsuit was a hindrance so I think it all evened out. Besides I was 574th in the swim, a higher standing that I have previously achieved.

From the first day I saw the transition area setup I knew for a fact that I would not meet my goal of 8 minute transitions. The place was huge as in all IM events but this one was also very long. IMAZ has a huge transition area but it is somehow more compact. In any case I felt good getting onto the bike and made it out of transition in 8:41.

Once out on the bike I stuck to my HR plan almost exactly as I had said I would. Sticking to the plan was a bit difficult because I was being passed continuously, something which I hate. I was literally passed at least once every couple seconds for the first 15 miles and then the passing slowed a bit but I did not pass a single person until about mile 40. I just kept telling myself that if I could just hold back I would begin to pass people later in the bike, maybe by mile 70, maybe 80, maybe 90 but I knew that it would happen. I jumped into the small ring quickly heading up the hills and almost never left my saddle. I am actually amazed to see my average pace was as good as it was given all the hills. The hills were not as I imagined they would be where you could pretty much fly down one with momentum left to make it up the other side instead they were long and each and every one required climbing. Still, I was feeling good and enjoying myself and I was also sticking to my nutrition plan, which was also going very well.

At mile 65 or so there was the special needs stop and I had placed my bottle refills in my special needs bag. This is were things began to go wrong. I stopped at the special needs stop to get my stuff and discovered that there was no water at the stop with which to mix my carbopro. I did have a little water left in a Gatorade bottle that I had recently gotten so I thought I would be ok but then I turned around to get my bottles from my flatwing and discovered that one was missing so I had too little water and two few bottles. I went ahead and mixed what I could but it turned out to be too thick and sweet and it was 10 miles until I could get any more water. I headed back out on the bike course and just kept trying to stick to taking in the calories and fluids and I was eating Tums pretty regularly in order to keep my stomach calm.

Somewhere around mile 75 I was still feeling good and still in zone 2 to 3 and I started passing people fairly often and the hills were still not bothering me though I started to notice a pain in my left foot that I did not understand but it hurt like hell. I just did the best I could to put it out of my mind and continue forward. At some point around mile 90 I began to wear down. I think it could have been the fact that I was not able to take in as much nutrition or because I was starting to succumb to the heat but I was feeling weaker and could only hold on until the run. I began getting passed again between mile 95 and the end of the bike and I kept feeling more and more sick.

By the time I hit T2 I was not feeling well and I forgot to grab the Tums from my bento box. I grabbed my run gear, including my accelerade and accelerade powder mix and headed out. I began running easy and my legs felt pretty good but the accelerade powder in the back of my jersey was bouncing all over the place and the bag had somehow gotten a hole in it an powder was flying out all over. In addition to that I found that I could not drink my accelerade without feeling sick so now my nutrition plan for the run was down the tubes and all I could do to calm my stomach upset was to walk. I started taking ice and ice water to try and get some fluids but there was only so much I could tolerate and that was not enough to remain hydrated. I probably walked about 2 miles before I decided that I really needed to come up with a different plan so I decided to run one minute and walk one minute. This worked pretty well for a little while but it was so hot and the area where I was at the time had no shade and running made me feel even more sick so I went back to walking and sponging myself off with ice cold wet sponges.

Soon enough I was cooler but my shoes and socks were soaked so I knew I had to stop with the sponges but the problem is that nothing dries in that humidity so my shoes pretty much remained wet and my feet became tender and then I started developing blisters so there I was at about mile 6 feeling sick, unable to take in very much nutrition and with blisters developing on the bottom of my feet.

Now at this point I was still heading out on my first venture onto the long out and back that comprised the loop and across the street I saw a guy who was heading back in presumably to complete his first loop suddenly veer off the course and grab on to the lower branch of a tree and hang by his arms and then he just dropped to the ground like a sack of potatoes and curled up in a ball rolling on the grass. A woman who was also racing went over to him and asked if he was ok and asked if he wanted some endurolytes because what had happened is that he developed a severe cramp in his right calf muscle. He took the endurolytes and she moved on but then he spit them out and kept rolling around on the ground. I crossed the street to see if I could help and noticed he didn’t have anything to drink the endurolytes with so I gave him my water bottle and picked up the endurolytes and gave them back to him and he swallowed it all down. I also helped rub out his calf a little and the knot soon went away. He sat up and started so massage his leg some more and I figured he would be fine for now so I headed back to the other side of the street and was back on my way actually feeling much better for having helped someone so I started in to an easy jog that became a run that became feeling sick that became a walk. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.

While walking I started to wonder about how the GEEKGRL was doing and knew it was very close to the bike cutoff time. I had hit the turn around and was headed back to the half-mary point near the finish line and I kept looking at my watch more and more wondering where the GEEKGRL was at. The further I went the more I didn’t see her the more worried I became then I started seeing fellow Outlaws heading back for their second loop and nobody had seen her which had me fairly convinced that she had indeed not made the bike cutoff. I suddenly didn’t care any more. I didn’t give a damn about the race I just wanted to go find the GEEKGRL and see how she was doing. I told fellow Outlaw “Bones”, “I don’t want this if Misty isn’t going to finish.” I knew at that point that I could finish but I felt selfish and I just wanted to know how the GEEKGRL was doing.

This slump had a tremendous impact on my morale, my pace and my stomach. My morale was in the dumps, my pace was a whopping 22 minutes per mile and my stomach was eating itself alive. I probably walked for 3 or 4 miles like that when suddenly out of nowhere I saw the GEEKGRL running towards me! I was elated! I ran over to her and hugged her and gave her a kiss and she asked me what was wrong and I was too choked up to say anything except “I’m just so happy to see you” and that was it…I went my way and she went hers.

I felt so energized that I began an easy jog which became a run which became sickness which became a walk but this time I felt positive and up beat. Oh, I was worn out. I felt sick to my stomach, my right foot had two huge blisters and my left foot had one smaller one and they both were very tender but I was ready to go, ready to walk it on in for the last 16 or so miles. Nothing else of interest really happened. I shambled along trying to hydrate and get whatever nutrition I could. I saw many people stop and sit down on the side of the road and just stare at the ground. I saw people walking in a daze and the ambulances seemed ever present running up and down the street pulling people from the course. It was a hot hard day but I eventually made it to the finish line and went to get a good seat to wait for the GEEKGRL to cross the line, which she did nearly two hours later.

I’m really at a loss as to what to say about my stomach issues. I had what I thought was an excellent plan and ultimately it failed. Every step of the plan worked perfectly during training and it completely fell apart on race day. I do think that I must learn to use the nutrition that is available to me on the race course if I am doing an Ironman. For a half iron I can make it through the bike and about half way through the run on my own nutrition but in an Ironman I can only make it about 1/3 of the way into the bike and then things start to go wrong. So, I suppose for IMCDA I will be training with nothing but Gatorade Endurance Formula, Power Gels, Power Bars, water and bananas. It sucks because I don’t think these are the best products on the market but they are the Ironman sponsors and that is what is available.

So, on to the next event.


  1. Nice job, way to hang in there. Nutrition is by far the hardest thing for me and I am not doing anything to the magnitude of IM. You did the best that you could under the circumstances and finished. Way to go. (Nice RR as well.)

  2. Way to keep at it!

    From what I can tell from reading reports from you and others, Ironman is as much about perservering dealing with the unexpected as anything else.

  3. That sucks about your nutrition going awry. It can happen to anyone, though.

  4. Aww first GG's post and now yours have made me cry.
    Although it wasn't apositive day for you I bet you can remeber when the thought of finishing an IM was an impossible dream and now you can crank them out with a feral stomach. Well done SB and thanks for being so inspiring

  5. congratulations. you and your wife did super. good luck on your next indeavor.

    gotta run, pat

  6. Tough day but you and GeekGirl were tougher! I was telling my trainer tonight about her and damn if I didn't tear up! It was great to see you guys and I look forward to seeing you at SOMA.

  7. BP-Hope that is ok I call you that. In the past few months you have given me (and the masses who read your blog) endless hours of peeking a little bit into yourself and what makes you tick. I have learned so much from you about triathlons and multi sport and the proper way to train, the nutrition and the physics behind it, and most importantly how to be a caring human being. Helping and caring about others when they are down shows your true character. It is obvious by reading the last part of your post that you learned something from this experience that will help you next time. I am extremely grateful that you have shared with us your thoughts, feelings and experiences. I have learned a lot and with my IM experience looming in the future, it is great to have someone willing to give up information. GeekGrl did great too and having a wife into multisport like I do, I think I will feel the same way the night before we attempt what you have succeeded at. I look forward to our meeting. Fortitudine Vincimus--yeah, you got it dude.

  8. Yes, thank you for sharing all this with us.

    (I too was working out at the gym with my trainer this evening and telling him about Geekgirl's blog and watching her finish online and that I am going to do an Iron-distance race in 2010! The whole thing is very strange to him as he is NOT an endurance-sport-type fellow...)

  9. You manage to keep it going under tremendously difficult circumstances. I can't tell you how impressive that is.

    But the Absolute Best Thing about the Inaugural IMKY is that you and the GeekGirl did it out there on course together, with your folks and MiniBaboo there, too.

  10. OK, Mike says if I cry reading any more of IM race reports he's taking my laptop away, so I guess I have to read your stuff when he's not looking....
    Great report. You are the picture of perseverance, an inspiration to me not only in all things multisport, but as a truly caring, wonderful person. Thank you so much for sharing a piece of your spirit with us.

  11. Thanks for the report.

    Glad you were able to help tree-hanger out!

  12. gees, sweetness...it seems you were miserable for this one, at least towards the end of the bike and onward. Way to stick it out! I'm happy for both you and Misty - Di and I've been thinking about you since our race was over on Sunday! So where are you racing next weekend? Congradulations to both of you!!!!!!!

  13. Way to go, Brian. It was great to keep track of you through the race.

    Even with its issues, Ironmanlive for IMKY was great, with splits showing every 4 miles on the run, which made it easy to keep track of you. It was great to see that you were still making forward progress.


  14. Excellent report. Pirate and I were watching you and Misty for hours and I did see you come in and I did see her come in and it was all such a thrill. Thanks for sharing your journey.

  15. Congratulations ... doesn't sound like much fun (sounded like a nightmare actually) but must have been fantastic to finish and then to see the GeekGirl finish.

  16. I was watching your run time splits the whole day. Sounded like a tough day, but both of you pushed thru and made it, woohoo..

    Yeah, that nutrition thing is a beast in itself to understand.. That's IM for ya.

    Congrats again to the Iron couple.

  17. Duane said it best. You guys DEFINE TOUGH.
    Mr. Tea and I kept wondering how you were holding up during the race given that Misty was behind you. I'm so glad to hear that you DID see each other.

    What an incredible race report.

  18. Congrats to the both of you!!!!

    I can barely get Mrs. Clyde to a 5K, much less a IM w/me. (But then again she whoops my a$$ in wakeboarding, so it's even).

    I have to agree with you, nutrition is by far the hardest thing for me to figure out as well, maybe one day we'll get it down.

  19. Wow what a race.. you just a tuff Clyds, hands down. So glad you and Geekgirl finished it out.

    and nutrition, what can you say.. not like you thought that would happen, its Ironman..
    and I agree, some of the gels, power bars are not the best but its whats there. I have already started using it.


  20. amazing story! i live in louisville & was there to watch...am completely inspired by you all & all of your stories ... thanks for sharing and congratulations!

  21. You kept going and finished, therefore you did great. Sounds like it was a long day, but the good thing is that you learned lessons that will help you out in the future.

    Keep up the great work.

  22. Way to hang in there big guy. I followed you and the geek girl all the way on IM live.


  23. Congratulations on gutting out a tough day.

    The part of your race report where you finally met up with Misty put a lump in my throat.

  24. Anonymous12:27 AM

    Congrats... sorry to hear about the nutrition thing but way to go on overcomming that.