Post-ultra recovery: resting or... pushing? - After running ultras for 10 years and having logged 42,000 miles since I moved to the US, I wish I had the assurance of elite runner and coach David Roche ...
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
This was to be my first full Ironman race. I didn't really know what to expect but was hoping for a finish. As my training friend Tim had done IM Florida in a sub-12 hour time, I decided that I also wouldn't mind finishing sub-12. However, as I told a friend, anything under 17 hours was to be icing on the cake for me.
I arrived in Panama City on Wednesday, 3 days before the race. Unfortunately, my bike didn't arrive until Thursday due to the large number of bikes to be loaded in the small commuter planes flying into Panama City. Although this added a bit of stress, I must say that Delta Airlines was fantastic in keeping me informed and driving my bike to my hotel room. Once I got it, I spent an hour putting it together and testing it out. Then, I headed down to the beach for a dip. I only did about 1/2 a mile, but the water was great. During the swim I saw a couple of sting rays floating under me. The sand was white and like talcum powder. After the swim, I decided to do a 2 mile jog to stay loose.
Then I went to the registration. This was run like clockwork. I went in, got my gear, weighed in, picked up my goodies and was out in under 15 minutes. Since it was my first Ironman, I decided to do something that I haven't done for any other race - I ordered race photos. I then moved over to the athletes' village. This was nice. The Ironman Store was full of every IM logo'ed item you could think of. From gift soaps to t-shirts- to key rings - to mouse pads, they had it all. And I bought it all :) I also stopped at the Seal Mask booth. I love the SealMask swim goggles that I have, but the more I trained, the more they seemed to leak. I believe that this was due to my face actually losing fat and this caused some gaps around my temples/goggle junction. Anyway, SealMask reps worked with me and GAVE me a pair of SealMask Juniors to use. These are great and I recommend them if you have a narrow face and/or leakage problems.
The next morning, I went down to the Gatorade/Seal Mask swim practice. I rode my bike there from the hotel (only about 2-3 miles away). Seal Mask reps were very nice and watched my bike while I did the swim. I did the swim without a wetsuit and still the water was great. No stingrays, but I did see some large schools of small fish.
After the swim, I went back over to the village and spent a few more bucks. I figured the more I invested in IM Florida goodies before the race, the more incentive I had to actually finish the race :)
Then I attended the pre-race meeting. This was interesting as IM North America had a video where they actually walked the viewers through the course. I saw another local triathlete, Troy, at this meeting. Afterwards, I rode back to the hotel and did a final check on my bike. I then prepared my transition bags which needed to be checked in (along with the bike) that afternoon. I put my race number on a belt, cycling gear in my swim-to-bike bag along with a water bottle with some fresh water and a Bodyglide (to help prevent any chafing like happened to me at the Half-Vineman). In the Bike-to-Run, I placed my Fuel Belt (with my race number on it) and a hat from my sponsors. On my bike, I had Ultima in the aerobottle, RedBull in one water bottle (I left the other cage empty to save weight as I knew there would be plenty of liquids on the course). On the bike I taped 4 GU packets and two cut-up PowerBars on my frame. Finally, I hung my small bottle of Thermatabs from my aerobottle straw. I checked in all the stuff and hitched a ride back to the hotel.
That night, I ate a bunch of fruit, bread, peanut butter and some powerbars while I watched a movie on tv. I hit the sack at 10:00 and fell asleep by 11:00.
Race morning, the alarm went off at 5:00 am. I showered and did a final pre-race shave of my legs and scalp ... to cut down on drag you know :) Then, I prepared my Special Needs bags while I watched Gilligans Island on TV. In my Bike Special Needs, I stuck a wad of peanut butter and jelly in a baggie and some Gu. In the Run special need bag, I stuck my white DooRag, a old UnderDog t-shirt and a small water bottle full of Red Bull.
I grabbed this stuff and all my swim gear and went off to the race. The shuttle was slow to appear at the hotel and a couple of triathletes from Maine offered to let me jump in their cab. I accepted and a few minutes later I was checking in my special needs bags at the start.
After a quick change into my wetsuit, I put on my BreathRite strip and headed down to the water. This year, for the first time, the pro's actually started about 30 minutes before us mortals. So I did a short 5 minute swim and then watched the pro's start their second lap. (IM Florida is a 2 lap course with a 20 foot beach run between the two). I watched Spencer Smith and Alec Rukosuev lead the swim, with JoAnne Zieger and Michelle Deasy right behind them.
After that, we all lined up for the Star Spangled Banner. Then we waited for the cannon. I did a quick prayer and then we were off!
During the first lap, I managed to stay really close to the buoy line. The pack was thick, but I never received any face hits. I did catch a few on my head and shoulders, but overall it wasn't too bad. (After the race, I was speaking with Troy and we both experienced a similar thing. While it is common for people to hit the feet of the person in front of them, neither of us could understand why some people would actually grab our ankles during the swim! My swim was not that fast where anyone would want me to tow them!). During the swim, the water was flat and warm - especially for someone like me who trained a lot in the San Francisco Bay. Although, at times, the diesel fumes from the boats were a bit thick, all-in-all, the swim was great.
I was very relaxed and never was breathing really hard. I exited the water and expected the clock to say around 40 minutes (for example, my Half-Vineman swim was 42 minutes). Instead, it was 33 minutes and some change! (Officially, I clocked a 34 minute first lap). WOW! That was great. Now on to lap two. Again, the whole swim went great. I found some feet to draft and exited that lap in 38 minutes and some change. Total swim: 1:13. I'll take it.
I ran up the beach where two people had me lie down where they pulled my wetsuit off. I grabbed it and ran through the showers. In T1, it was so crowded, I decided to get dressed outside the tent. As I was wearing my same De Soto race outfit for the whole race, modesty wasn't a problem. I pulled on my socks, shoes, gloves, glasses and helmet and tossed my wetsuit bag to a volunteer. Then I jogged to my bike and was off. Total T1 was 4 minutes and some change.
On the bike course, I started cranking and was feeling good. I wanted to average around 20 mph and felt confident that I may be able to even do somewhere around 21mph to 22mph as this was fine during training rides.
As I went out along the beach, I started passing a few people here and there. Every now and then, cyclists would pass me and I felt like trying to go with them. But I told myself, "Hold back. All you want to do is finish!" So, I kept my 20 to 22 mph pace. In the beginning of the bike, I sipped some water and Ultima, but avoided any solid foods. Around mile 15, I was feeling really good and started munching on a PowerBar and a Gu. My plan was to have 1/3 a PowerBar and 1 Gu packet every 15 miles, along with as much Ultima or Gatorade as I wanted. I also took 1 ThermaTab tablet every 30 miles.
I continued at the pace and was feeling really good. I came to the Special Needs stop and decided that I was doing fine and passed on my PB&J. I kept rolling along. Around mile 50, we turned south onto a road that had a surface which was smooth as silk. This was really great as the last 25 miles was on a slightly bumpy road. I kicked up the pace a bit and averaged around 25 mph for the next 10 miles. Then, at mile 60, all the sudden the bottom fell out.
To this day, I don't know what happened. I had done many training rides at the same paces - or faster - on the same fuel. I was hydrated, well fed, etc. But, it didn't matter, I began to drag my butt. I fell off the pace to 18 mph through mile 70 where I decided to take a rest. I stopped at a port-a-john and, after using it, stretched my legs and got back on the saddle (it was a bit warm so I kept my race top down). I started again, but my legs still felt dead. For the next 20 miles, I stopped about 4-6 times to take a breather. My pace had fallen to 14 to 16 mph. This was going to be a long day, I thought, as I knew I still had 30 miles of cycling plus a marathon ahead of me.
Then, at mile 90, I was resting again at an aid station. A volunteer asked me if I would like some water or Gatorade. I thanked him but declined - I had been drinking enough. Then he asked if I wanted a soda. I had read about someone who got a second wind from Pepsi during a marathon, so even though I had never tried it before, I asked for a Pepsi. He came back with a Diet Pepsi, a 7-Up and an orange soda. I opted for the orange soda as it had the sugar and the caffeine. I drank half the can and within a few minutes started feeling better. I poured the rest into my aero bottle and took off. I swear, Minute Maid must put steroids in their sodas, because I averaged 21 mph from mile 90 through the end! I wish I had tried it at mile 60, but oh well, I was feeling good again. I was at mile 100 when someone came alongside and mentioned that I should pull my top back on as I would be penalized. I didn't know of this rule, but thanked him and put it back on (I found out afterwards, its actually a DQ offense!)
I pulled into T2 at 6:01. That was about 30 to 45 minutes slower than I had hoped, but again - "I'm just here to finish." A volunteer took my bike and I grabbed my Bike-to-Run bag. I pulled on my hat and changed shoes. I don't know why, but I decided to forgo my Fuel Belt. I think I decided that there was plenty of water and Gu on the route, so why carry the extra weight. So I left it and headed off. Total T2 around 4 minutes.
I started running and felt GREAT!!!! My legs were as fresh as if I had just started working out. I did a lot of bricks in training and I think it really paid off...that and the orange soda :) My first miles went like this: 6:58; 6:39; 7:05; 7:15; 8:53 (I took a bathroom stop at that mile); 7:06; 7:30; 7:43; 8:01. I knew going into this race that I would eventually have to jog/walk. My main goal was to hold off until mile 10 to do this. During the early run, I was feeling so good I thought that I might make it to mile 13 or even 15. But shortly after mile 11, I decided that I would do some walking. Again, my goal was to finish.
At mile 12, I saw Troy nearing me. He was going back out on his second loop. I was walking at this stage. We exchanged high-5's and he told me "Just keep running." I mentioned that I had melted down on the bike, and then we were past each other. I took his advice and started jogging again. I went through the half marathon turn-around in 1:42. It was a bit slower than I had hoped, but at this point I realized something: I was going to finish! I knew for a fact, no matter what happened, I would finish this race.
I then stopped at my special needs bag and pulled on my t-shirt and grabbed my doo-rag. I put my hat back into the bag and grabbed the water bottle of Red Bull and started running again. I made it to mile 15 and decided to walk again. I continued with this walk-jog through mile 19.5 (this was the turnaround on the loop). I then walked back to mile 20 where I decided to rest. I grabbed cup of Pepsi and looked at my watch. Great! All I needed to do was run a sub 70 minute 10K and I could break my 12 hour goal.
I headed off again. The Pepsi seemed to kick in. Between mile 20 and 23, I jogged/ran at nice pace without stopping. At mile 23, I took a 30 second walk rest and then started running again. It was nice and dark now, and some runners were starting to carry the green glow wands. I was feeling good and headed to the finish.
At mile 25.5 or so, I peeled off my UnderDog t-shirt and tossed it aside - it wasn't the finish line look I was aiming for :) I picked up the pace and cruised to the finish line. As I rounded the last corner I had the biggest grin on my face and the crowd was screaming. I started pumping my fist and headed toward the finish. The person in front of me "broke" the banner. I guess I was too close to allow the finish line people to pick it up, so I crossed without a banner - but I didn't care. I thrust both fists into the air. I had done it! I had finished my first Ironman! Total time: 11 hours, 26 minutes and some change.
After the race, I came across Troy. We chatted for a bit. Then, I headed off. I had an early morning flight, so I still had to collect my bags and get back to the hotel to pack and break down my bike. But, I began to feel a bit queesy. So I headed to the massage tent and got a great massage from the volunteers.
Then, I WALKED back to my hotel with my bike and bags. I packed my stuff and headed out for a bite to eat.
The next day, I expected to wake up and be hardly able to walk. But I got out of bed and could walk with no pain whatsoever. I had done 1/2 marathons and felt worse the day after. I don't know if it was the slower pace or the massage or what, but I felt good. Tired - but good. I'm already looking forward to my next Ironman: IM Canada 2002!