I walk under the arches and start my way down the boat ramp. Once last check on my Garmin, goggles down, deep breath.... Back/spine don't fail me now......I say Nokk three times to keep the Demons at bay and I walk into the water. The Drive for Five has begun.
A much different start than IM Cabo, where my back was killing me before I even began the swim. I picked my favorite inside line on the cones and began swimming. Boulder 2016 is underway for me. My 3rd Boulder IM in the 3 years of the races existence. The Drive for Five Ironman finishes attempt #2 since the dismal day in Mexico a few 10 months ago. A long journey to get here over those 10 months. More a mental battle than anything else really. I mean, there is the physical component to being injured and unable to perform and to do. There is the aspect of gaining close to 20 pounds since the injury occurred and your mind watching the weight go one and your body morph into something you've never seen before. Having the patience to allow the healing to take it's course. The daily watching of your teammates and others around you excel while you're trying to just find happiness out of riding pain free on your bike for an hour or to train two days in a row. The roller coaster of emotion being able to have a great ride for 3 hours on a Saturday afternoon only to not be able to swim for 30 minutes pain free a few days later and then sit out of the pool for the following 10 weeks. I never truly got deeply depressed. I was unhappy. Many times.
But I am blessed in soo many ways in my life and am humbled daily by all that goes on around me. How dare I complain or sink so low when I have it so good. So what if my back and spine hurts. I am fortunate that they work, aren't I? Boo Hoo poor me, I can't ride my bike for 2 hours or more than 2 days in a row without pain. I can barely "run" for more than 30 minutes without having to stop and walk. I am fortunate that I can walk or am even able to get on a bike and peddle it right?? So yeah it did take a little to overcome some obstacles with my injury to get me to the starting line but here I am for my 6th time trying to finish #5. Doing what I love, in my home town, surrounded by thousands of people just like me. Many who have overcome insurmountable obstacles to get here. So for me, I just have this nagging back issue and a great game plan to manage my spine so that I can take on this Ironman for as long as I can......and I swim.
I , once again wonder why I didn't take notice as to how many buoys are out there before the turn and how many back to shore. I'm not sure how many times I've said that to myself in a race. So if you are reading these words.....next time you are aware that I am racing, remind me to count the buoys before I get into the water. Oh well. I look for another swimmer that is going my pace or a touch faster so I could tag along for the ride. No such luck. I do notice someone swimming completely sideways as they just swam over my body. I keep swimming but take a peak to make sure I am on course. I am. I wonder if that is what I am like when I typically swim about 2.7 miles in an Ironman race. This fine gentleman literally crossed my path at least 4 more times before I exited the reservoir. I few times while swimming I tried to stretch out my back while not collecting too much drag to slow me down to a crawl. I was worried about my stamina and how would I do. I had only swam over 2 miles once in the last 10 months. A few weeks back I did a BAM Bare Bones 2 mile swim and did it in my usual 2.25 mile fashion. I felt ok with that swim but not sure if I would have felt ok with following that up with an 112 mile bike and then a marathon after wards. I made sure prior to the race that I was well nourished. I believed that my nutrition would play the biggest role it ever had during an ironman race for me. I could not get that wrong. I could not suffer any set backs if I was to keep those demons away. I needed my nutrition to lift me up and not be a detractor for me. I hydrated more than I normally do prior to the race. I figured if I took in too much, I could just leave a trail behind me in the water. I knew when I came out of the water, I did not want to be dehydrated and try to play catch up on the bike. All in all, I felt like I had a decent rhythm. I did not feel fast but I felt consistent and that was important to me. I felt a slight tightness in my back but no real pain. I felt like I was spotting pretty well, especially for me and I felt my buddy swim over my legs one more time.
|What 20 extra pounds looks like stuffed into a wet suit.|
As I made my way towards shore, I went through my mental check list. Do I go on or do I call it a day? Do I head back home to Arvada for breakfast and a nice Sunday afternoon with Jessica and celebrate my swim with a tall Captain & Ginger? Do I sit in the saddle and take Bella out for a spin? Let me get to my feet and see how I feel with all the weight on my spine and we'll go from there. I got out of the water and a volunteer immediately unzipped my wetsuit. I thought that was awesome as that had never been done to me before. I made sure I stopped the swim on my Garmin and set it to Transition 1. I looked up and saw the crowds and heard the cowbells and I was happy. Fist pumping for more cowbell.
Two strippers immediately removed my wet suit and off for my gear bag I went. I packed differently than I had ever done in an ironman race. I didn't pack for speed in the TA but for comfort in the race. This was part of my race management/strategy. To feel as good as I could, as long as I could. I wasn't worried about seconds but about how many miles I could last. I didn't have a full tri kit on under my wetsuit as I normally do but just a swim suit. This way I could put warm dry clothes on after wards. I gathered my bag and stayed outside the changing tent. I went under a tree and sat down. I hydrated and ingested liquid calories. After a few minutes of just being, I then went into child's pose to stretch out my back, then into pigeon pose for each hip. I sat and gathered myself. I took out a towel and dried myself down. I put on my 303 Cycling shirt instead of a tri top to increase skin coverage to prevent possible sun burn and to allow me to store more food & drink in my shirt pockets. I put on all my gear and then went into the craziness of the changing tent to change out of my swim trunk and into a pair of cycling shorts. Again, deviating from my normal tri shorts, cycling shorts have a thicker pad in the crotch. Staying with the theme of going for comfort in this race and in the saddle I wanted my crotch to be as comfortable as long as it could be. The most I had ridden in the last 10 months was 3hrs and 23 minutes. A great day around Carter Lake a few weeks prior. I knew if my back held out, I would be with Bella for double that time today and most than likely a fair bit more.
I left the changing tent and made my way to a line of volunteers smearing Bull Frog sunscreen on to those athletes that desired. More hugs and kisses as Susan was one of those volunteers. It was great to see her there and brought a huge smile to my face and heart. I kept my shoes off as I had a fairly decent distance to go to get to where Bella was. Right by the bike exit. I hobbled my way across the bike staging area and ran into Dana. Yep, more hugs and kisses. I have to think she must have thought I was delirious as I could not find Bella. It was odd because I went right to were she was but I couldn't see her. I think she was playing with me and hiding. I told Dana my number and should promptly pointed Bella out to me, about 2 feet away from where I was standing. We took some pictures. She was shooting a video and I was about to hop on my bike and then realized it would probably be best if I put my shoes on first. Seriously, I felt like a newbie. Dana held my bike while I put on my shoes. Another hug and kiss goodbye and away I went. All in all I spent a little over 16 minutes in T1. 16:36 to be exact. It prompted my buddy Ken to ask me later if I fell asleep in T1. So far so good. No sight of the Demons. Back is stiff but no pain. I'm working my way towards 1 millions kisses and hugs on the day. I now have a date with my Bella.