Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Ironman 70.3 Racine. The Day I Overcame Obesity!!

Lets just start with this....This is going to be long.  I mean get a cup of coffee and cancel plans for the evening long.  This was the biggest and greatest event of my life.  2 Years ago I had to grocery shop with a little rascal and on Sunday July 15th I competed in an Ironman event.  So if you don't like long blogs, feel free to look at the pretty pictures and move on:)  I have learned a lot this year with triathlon, I won't tell you all of them because that is a whole blog in and of itself.  However I have now done every size except for a 140.6...maybe someday.  With everyone I was a little nervous and a bit scared.  I can tell you this, it was all the unknown.  After I do it, I know what to expect, and the fear falls away.  Going into a 70.3 I was going nuts.  On the Saturday 1 week before my race, I ran my last long run before my taper.  In total I did 11 miles, mainly because I ran too far and I should have turned around sooner to head back home.  That's the problem with training with time, not miles.  Anyways, the next day I was practically crippled with knee pain.  I literally thought I was going to have to pull myself out of the race.  After 6 ice baths, by Wednesday I was 100%.  I have had to accept that while I run with a minimalist style, I am no minimalist in long distances.  My Nike Free's are not as wonderful as I thought they were.  So they are now being retired to fancy house slippers and I am switching to a more neutral shoe.  

Another problem I had was nervous stomach.  This is a forum for honesty, so let me be honest....the whole week I had massive diarrhea.  I was eating great, so I knew it was just the way the nervous was coming out. That's a part of life, so I dealt with it:)  My wife and I decided to make the trip up on Friday instead of going Saturday like most people.  I wanted to get checked in and just look over the battle ground before Saturday.  I already knew that it would be nuts that Saturday with everyone from my team checking in and getting ready for the race, that there was just no time.  So we made the move up, I put my bike on the back of the Jeep and we started up around 3pm.  Then the first snafu happened.  A thunderstorm cell came though, stopping traffic on the interstate and worse of all drowning my bike!!  Shelia was going to be so mad at me for leaving her out there.  We got to the hotel and I knew I was going to have to clean her up, she got a lot of debris from the overspray on her and worse yet, my expensive ISM Adamo seat had been pooped on by some bird.  We got checked in to the room at the Raddison and I loved it.  It was right on the water.  a 10 minute walk to the south was the Ironman Expo and check in.  A mile to the north, was the race.  All the other hotels were 20 minutes away, cheaper, but 20 minutes away.  After getting settled in to the room we all walked to the expo to get my packet a shop.  That was quite the event, signing wavers, standing in line, getting my wrist band, then my shirt and my backpack.  As a quick side note, the shoebag backpacks they give out are awesome!  Perfect for taking your swim stuff to the pool....moving on:)  The next morning after breakfast we jumped in the jeep and headed down to the beach so I could test the water.  During my quiet time I had already walked down there, but now I needed to get in the water with the wetsuit.  The water was cool, but nice.  I was six thousand times more comfortable than Pleasant Prairie in the wetsuit and with swimming.  I swam with other racers for around an hour, just swimming a couple hundred yards, then breaking for conversation.  After that we went back to the room changed, then I headed to check my bike in with my friend Christine and her awesome family.  I had a great spot, right next to swim in and run out, like 15 steps... that's awesome!  After that we had a meeting with our team, put on by Adam Zucco and Scott Iott with Training Bible.  These guys are veterans of this race, In fact Scott came in 10th overall this year...pretty sweet:)  They taught us a few tips about the coarse and best of all taught us a little trick about taking our wetsuit off in the water....I will talk about that later.  That night I relaxed and went to bed early.  

Pre Race Nutrition:

I'm really going to spare you.  I ate well all week, proper hydration...blah blah blah.  The morning of, I had to switch out my usual routine.  No coffee, because there was no Starbucks, and no oatmeal, there was no microwave.  I did a Blueberry bagel with cream cheese and a Cliff Bar.  As well as sipping on my UR DRIVEN the whole time.

Race Morning:

Alarm went off at 4am and I was up and going.  I sweat so bad the night before, I needed to start up on DRIVEN immedietly.  I got dressed and headed for the door.  My wife drove me and dropped me off, so that was nice that I didn't have to walk an extra mile:)  Setting up transition was simple, I kind of chuckled to myself with how many people were over thinking it.  I layed out the T-Mat, put my bike shoes out and fully opened, running shoes next to them with socks rolled up, visor on top, sunscreen next to the shoes.  Helmet and glasses on the aero bars, fill my DRIVEN into my Speedfil.  The only thing I did different was that in my Transition bag I put a gallon ziplock bag filled with ice.  I set my Fuel Belt on top of that and I also had a 16oz water bottle with a cool lime Refreshers Via loaded in it for the run.  I just layed the flap of the bag on top of it all and I was done.  I found my friend Suzanne and we started off on the mile long beach walk to the start.  Now I want to say this....I will forever be thankful for Suzanne.  I had never met her before that morning.  She had been added to a Facebook group for my Tri Team, and she is not actually a part of the team. This was her first tri season too and she was nervous like me.  We walked down the beach getting to know each other and then helped each other into our wet suits.  Then we took a little warmup swim, and close to 7 they told us to get out.  Apparently that was just a suggestion though, since we were the only ones that got out:)  About 20 minutes after the pros started, that's when I encountered my first issue.  I was getting nauseous and wanted to puke.  I knew my wetsuit was cooking me and I was worried.  Suzanne noticed everyone else was still sitting in the water, so we moved back in.  My wave was the last one and I still had an hour to start.  Within 5 minutes of getting in the water I was feeling 100% again and that was a relief.  At 8am I wished Suzanne luck and she went and got ready for her wave to start.  As she began I cheered her on and prayed for her, then sat in the water by myself praying hardcore for me.

Swim : 1.2miles Time: 52.01

I placed myself in the back right corner on the swim, and I have never been more grateful.  When they said go, everyone was pushing and clawing to get in the water.  I ran to the swim comfortably and dove in when the water got just above the knees.  My swim was consistent and deliberate.  I was amazingly comfortable in the water and it was awesome.  I even drafted a guy for awhile till he caught on and started weaving to the point he got tired and called for a kayak.  I was amazed how many people I saw clinging onto kayaks.  The water was so clear and calm, I kept thinking, could it be ill training?  I mean I literally never felt like I needed a break.  The swim is a straight line and I knew once the buoys changed from yellow to orange, I was to the halfway point.  So halfway through I glanced at the Garmin and saw that I was at like 22 minutes...I was in good shape.  I made the turn toward the beach at 45 minutes and swam till my arms scooped up a handful of sand, that way I wouldn't run through the water much.  When I stood up I waited till I got to ankle deep water and took off the rest of my wetsuit.  This is where the trick comes in.  It was already in the mid 80's at the point I got out of the water.  There was a long quarter of a mile hike to the entrance of transition.  By then my wetsuit would be dry and the wetsuit strippers were right outside transition.  There is nothing as more difficult that taking off a dry wetsuit.  It came off like butter in the water and everyone that ran by me with their wetsuit on was still in transition when I was beginning my bike.

T1: 7:39  

My key here was to take it quick, but steady.  I did not want to expend energy.  I got in and toweled off the feet and arms while slipping into my bike shoes. Then sprayed myself with a healthy dose of sunscreen, put on the glasses and helmet and I'm off.  Now for a moment look up at the picture above and you can see the Bike out.  The worse hill on the whole course is at the very beginning.  So needless to say it was a treat, but I clipped right in and started the climb.

Bike: 56 Miles. Time: 3:22:28

The Bike was HOT!!  It was mainly farmland and no shade except maybe a 1 mile stretch of road.  At first I started off strong.  I was in the back of the pack and wanted to make up for lost time.  Mainly that 8 hour cutoff was scaring me and I wanted as much time as I could for the run.  So for the first 15 miles I was good, maybe 20 miles and hour, strong efforts considering the coarse is a gradual uphill for most of the first half.  The worst part of the whole bike was the broccoli fields.  You know that smell when someone is steaming broccoli?  Well Imagine that times 1 million in the 95 degree heat!  I was gagging it was so bad.  My nutrition on the bike was simple.  My Speedfill is 40 ounces.  I had 5 scoops of DRIVEN in it, that's about 580 calories...Good, but not enough.  I had put on a center tube bag and had 4 Chocolate Honey Stinger Waffles in it.  My strategy was every 11 miles to eat one....I needed 1 more..bummer.  I also had 2-24 ounce water bottles in the rear.  Next year I will leave those behind and just use what is on the coarse at the aid stations.I drank them, but they got hot and really the aid station bottle were good enough and always cold.  I did take a water bottle at the last 2 aid stations.  The first one I just grabbed it on the fly and drank some then showered myself through the Aquavent on my Lazer helmet....that thing is awesome and well worth the investment.  The last aid station I completely stopped.  It was at mile 50 and I needed a break.  I took in 1 bottle and bathed myself with another one.  I was hot and tired.  The guy helping me was nice enough to run and get me a bonk breaker bar, so that was nice to get in some more calories.  Now it is important to mention this.  Consistency on the bike is so key. Someone once told me, "Don't chase the Stink, make the Stink come to you."  That was so true on this race.  I let 3 people pass me on the bike.  Within 15 miles I passed all 3.  After mile 40, the only phrase in my vocabulary was, "On Your Left!"  I passed maybe 30 or more people the last 16 miles.  People that were just too pooped to ride hard.  I had slowed down to maybe 17 miles an hour myself, but I still had it in the tank.  some of these people were dead.  I later found out 400 people DNFed and 3/4 were during or after the bike.  With a few more miles left you start riding beside the runners, and I knew it was going to be hell.  3/4 of everyone was walking.  It was hot and the sun was baking humans for dinner.  I came down the hill and saw my friend, Guy and my 3 beautiful girls cheering for me and I moved into T2.

T2: 5.50

I was tired, like walking Zombie tired.  My plan was, rack the bike, then go to the porta potty and have a moment, then come back and get the rest of my gear on....That changed with the help of God.  About halfway back to my rack I heard a thunderous voice...no not God, I'm not Moses.  It was my friend Scott Iott.  I mentioned him before, the stud that finished 10th overall, better than a few of the pros.  His race was already over.  In fact he had changed his clothes and was walking back in to pick up his bike. He was screaming at me like a football coach, I won't repeat him....but it was basically the best mid game pep talk...EVER!!  I went and racked my bike and was starting to walk to the bathroom when he basically told me that I would not be doing that and instead I would be getting my booty on the coarse....NOW!!  I am saying this now, because it is important to know, that had I done my course of action, I would have had over 15 minutes in transition.  This pep talked saved my race!  So helmet off, socks, shoes, VERY VERY VERY cold fuel belt Starbucks Refresher, and I'm off.    

Run: 13.1 Miles. Time:3:24.34

The run was brutal.  It was HOT HOT HOT, with a little bit of HOT thrown in for fun.  At the point I started the heat index was in the hundreds.  All the nutrition in the world can't save you from it.  I needed more DRIVEN than what I had on the belt.  I tried to run, but I would go back and forth.  Run a bit, then walk a bit.  There was only 1 serious hill on the run and I had to do it twice, so I walked it every time.  I saw some friends in the run, but we were all too hot to talk.  Every aid station consisted of 3 to 4 cups of ice down the tri suit, sponges, 2 to 3 cups of water, and move on.  I realized after mile 4, I had a major problem.  My Achilles was cramping, causing my feet to curl up in a ball in my shoe.  The only way I could move was to walk and let it calm down while stretching it by pushing my toes straight up.  After a mile I could run for maybe half a mile, then do it all over again while I walked.  The coarse is roughly a 5k, then turn around and come all the way within a hundred yards of the finish, then go all the way back.  When I got back towards the finish I saw my family, did high 5's, and then was very lonely on the way back.  The first 10k there are a lot of people on the coarse, the last 10, the people were staggered every quarter mile.  After 7 miles I was officially on "E"  There was nothing left in the tank.  I was going to walk the rest of the race.  I finally resorted to drinking Perform at the aid stations, since my fuel belt was empty....man that is some nasty junk.  If you haven't drank it, think about urine with fruit punch...I'm being dead serious...plus it didn't help they weren't keeping it cold.  Now I am going to hit you with the spiritual stuff...sorry, but I am head over heals in love with Jesus and I would not have done this race without him, let alone finish.  About 2 miles before the turn around, I started thinking...there are no timing mats, I could turn around right now and no one would know.  I clearly heard God say, "If you did that, you are right, no one would ever know, but you would live your life knowing you didn't finish what you started."  I struggled with the thought to turn around literally up to within 10 feet of the official turn around.  The moment I was able to legally turn around a started to cry.  I was going to do this, no excuses anymore.  I wish I could say though the battle was over, but something else needed to happen.  I was walking at a pace of 20 minutes per mile.  From the actual time I knew that I would finish 10 minutes after the cutoff.  I had nothing left, I cramped immedietly when I would try to run.  So did the only thing I could think of....Worship.  I didn't have any songs I could formulate a thought into words, so at the top of my lungs for a half a mile I just started screaming, "HOLY, HOLY, HOLY ARE YOU MY GOD!!  WORTHY OF ALL HONOR AND PRAISE MY KING...MY FRIEND!!!"  Over and over and over again.  People walking the other way would just stare at me, one gave me a high five.  The medical cart followed me for awhile...pretty sure they thought I was delusional:)  Then I stopped and began to pray...here is what I said. "God, we began this battle 2 years ago, and you told me that this was my battle, one that you had to let me do on my own.  You have cheered me on, coached me through the battle with obesity and addiction, and I have been set free.  If there is one thing that I have learned through this, its that I cannot and WILL NOT do it without you.  I know that I will not finish this race and end this battle unless I run.  I cannot run without you.  I need supernatural strength right now.  You promised when your children call on you, you will answer.  I need more God, and I need it now!"  Then like out of a Rocky movie, it started.  I felt a cool breeze and my legs were a bit lighter.  I started to run....and running I did.  It hurt, but I could handle the pain.  I ran through the last 2 aid stations towards the finish.  I could hear the music, I could hear the announcer...I saw my time and I knew I was going to finish.  Then I saw my friends Dale and Carla and their son Nathan.  Carla is my coach too and I would not have been able to do this without her.  Dale is the CEO of UR and DRIVEN has fueled me tremendously through this. So it was great to see them, then they started running with me, which meant even more.  Then we got to the point where I saw my family and they all let me enter the finish line coral by myself.  I was overwhelmed...I have no way of expressing the emotions.  I saw myself in that little rascal, I heard the kids laughing at me because of how fat I was, I felt the pain and the shame of obesity.  When my foot hit the finish line...all went silent.  It wasn't about finishing a race....It was about standing on top of a mountain that I had battled my whole life.  I beat Obesity on July 15, 2012 in Racine, Wisconsin. I finished 7:28 under the cutoff time.  

Finish Time: 7:52:32


  1. Very neat blog. I know most of the characters in the story, and they're all great people to have on your side in a journey like that. I have know Suzanne since high school. In an hour together she could have said over 1,560,000 words to you at her pace! Very nice story though. Great job, that course is tough.

  2. I re-read his story just now and saw Mark's comment; you guys kill me...yeah, I don't give anyone time to be nervous - I just keep talking!!! Actually Chris appeared very calm so that had a good effect on me!