Sunday, June 10, 2018

Ironman Number 22

I did it!

On 3 June 2018, Sunday, I crossed the finishing-line of the Ironman Philippines in 14:30. It was a terribly hard day at the office, yet it was one of my sweetest moments. I completed my 22nd Ironman race: 3.8km swim, 180km ride, and marathon (42.2km).

It was a straight-forward race for me: Arrive on Thursday, race on Sunday, and depart on Tuesday. I did not have adequate preparation, working on time-crunched sessions positioned before work, after work, or on my off-days. With sub-optimal training conditions, I knew I would finish with a struggle, even do the 'Walk of Shame' during the marathon.
I had a satisfying swim, with a few moments trapped between desperate and panicky swimmers. I survived these assaults and onslaughts, thanks to 14 years of open-water experience and wisdom. I faced a mild current on the way out, and enjoyed the push on my return segment of the 2-loop swim. I emerged in 1:38, which was on-target. I felt fresh, not panting, and enjoyed my cup of water. I ran up the long transition. With human obstacles lined up along the narrow row of bike-racks, I wore my shoes at the Mount-Line.
The ride occurred on the hottest part of the day, with temperatures feeling like 40 degrees Celcius. A short burst of torrential rainfall made riding risky, however provided respite from the engulfing heat. The rolling course sapped my legs on the second loop, however conservative pacing deflected premature fatigue. Lots of congregating riders at the aid-stations was annoying, yet I empathised with those attempting their virgin race. I sipped on my Hammer Nutrition 'Perpeteum' every 30 minutes, chased with water. It pays to lose time at the front-end so as to earn time on the back-end of the ride. I arrived in T2 in about 6:45. Not a quick time at all, however considering the challenging bike-course conditions it was all good. I had no punctures, sat stable, had no gut issues, and completed it safely.

I wore my running-gear at my transition-rack. I put on the compulsory race-belt on, after wearing my shoes and cap. I ensured I carried my Hammer Nutrition electrolytes and sports gels. Then I was off on my final discipline.
And disciplined I was not, after 10 km. That was where my wheels fell off, became squared, and I made compromises. As reminded by multiple-Ironman champion Belinda Granger, I got into some 'dark places' early in the marathon. I walked for about 20km, electing to finish my race, rather than risk heat disorder. I either drank or took a 'cold shower' from each of the generously-placed aid-stations. Each turnaround point was cruel, especially the one headed into town. It had more twist and turns than an season of 'Lost'. I was only too glad too walk-jog the last 10km, thanks to a few buddies who were hauling butt like I was. And, my Garmin watch went to sleep at the 30km mark. I was running (walking, too) 'blind', and by intuition.

On crossing the line, with applied etiquette - I let the guy in front who was prancing/dancing enthusiastically go ahead - I was greeted by Craig 'Crowie' Alexander, who crowned me with the finisher's medal. I thanked him gratefully. How often do you get a 3-time Ironman World Champion wear a medal around your neck? Adjacent to him was 6-time world champion Dave Scott who shook my extended hand and he said to me: 'Go rest your feet!'

Why do 22 Ironman triathlons? It was not my original goal (from 2006). One race became, multiplied through time and experience, ambition, and personal challenge. Each 226km triathlon meant slightly different things. This one defined me for my ability to get things done, stay committed to a goal, and refine my competitive attitude. It also tested my resilience, on how I bounced back from disappointing results and outcomes, fighting an aging body, and wanting to excel in an elusive and complex sport.

Will I do Ironman number 23? It would be likely. However, this is a matter for another day, as I have two half-Ironman events to complete and the Chicago Marathon. Time to recover fully, recuperate, and reset my brain. A 226km field examination saps the brain of its sanity and willpower. So, more easy days ahead before preparing for more intense sessions and new strategies.


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