I have been a slacker this summer. Not with my training, no, that has been going well. With my blog! I have done several races since Chatt70.3 and I did nothing to mention them here. I apologize for that, but here I am to talk about my latest adventure.
This was my 2nd attempt at the full 140.6 distance. I completed IM Louisville in the fall of 2014. I got the green light to do another in 2016. My training started 5 weeks prior to the 70.3 event in the city that I posted about back in May. Through the summer my workouts had their ups and downs. The last 2 big build weeks were very good, though. I hit my highest miles, highest durations and felt good through the long bricks. I went into my taper/peak period with a very good plan. I was going to be ready to dominate this race to the best of my ability.
Race week had come upon us and I was hitting my taper/peak numbers exactly where I was wanting to me. The wife and I headed down to Tennessee on Thursday afternoon. Friday was spent sight-seeing in Chattanooga to enjoy ourselves a bit. October 1st will be our 5th anniversary so this was kind of our getaway. Somehow I don’t feel like it did the moment justice but we both had fun. We went up to the top of Lookout Mountain and saw the civil war memorial there and got a great view of Chattanooga.
Saturday started out with an easy bike ride of the run course. I stayed on the flat side of the river. I drove Barton Ave the evening before and didn’t want to take my bike over there. It was fairly hilly. I came back to the hotel and put on shoes and ran a couple miles. Afterwards, I got my bike ready and realized that I wasn’t able to shift into my big ring on the crankset! Crap, I don’t have tools to adjust the derailleur. I only brought allen wrenches. I came to the conclusion that I would have to let the onsite bike tech take a look at it. When we got to the Ironman village the bike techs were scrambling around like crazy! I asked if they could look at it and after a couple minutes of hee-hawing one of the techs grabbed my bike and put it on a stand. He made a few adjustments to the limit screws on the front derailleur and had it shifting better than ever! I thanked the guy. He smiled, winked and said that the wheelset I was using was topnotch! Thanks ENVE! I then racked my bike and my bike/run bags. I had a good spot on transition. Nearer to the exit/entrance than most.
Fast forward to the morning of the race. I’ll say I got about 5 hours of sleep the night before. It was very spotty, though. I keep myself up at night worrying about the swim starts. I had a banana, a couple pieces of bread that I dipped into a hazelnut spread, and filled up a water bottle with a serving of Infinit Jet Fuel for some calories and caffeine while in the wait line. I got to transition around 5:15am and was out by 5:30am. I had turned my computer on and let it sync to my power meter and cadence sensor. I saw it do it! Me, my wife and my friend Doug all loaded into a bus and we went to the swim start line. There, my friend Chuck had been holding a spot for our little group. We could see the starting arch we were so close! Billie was there, Robert, Chuck too. Shortly after Jim joined us and a couple guys he knew that were racing too. We sat there for almost 2 hours waiting. Just waiting….
It got close to 7:30. The pros had just started so we were getting ready and the line was filing out to the pontoon to jump in. By this point we were right under the Ironman arch and could see the pontoon. We got together for a group photo and our canon went off around 7:26am. Time to make some PRs!
I’ll use this spot to fill you in on what I had hoped for on this day. I knew the swim was with the current the whole way so I knew I was going to PR this leg. I had a mediocre swim of 1:20 at Louisville so I was figuring I would swim maybe 1:15. I had a longshot goal of getting to 1:10 but wasn’t trying to over do it. After talking to Chuck and seeing his swim time from last year I started thinking I could go faster. Using Best Bike Split I calculated out a bike time of around 6:11 with very favorable winds like we were supposed to have. I said a 6:30 would be ok but my best goal was a 6:12. And then on the run, I was hoping my run training I had been doing over the last couple years would benefit me and help me reach my goal. My soft goal was to run 4:30 but I really wanted to get under 4:00. After seeing the heat for the day I knew that was most likely not gonna happen. Back to 4:30. Overall, I wanted to reach a 12:30 time. With a good race I think I would be capable of breaking 11s, but 12:30 is what I wanted to beat.
On to the swim. The swim is so lonely. You can’t talk to anyone. You can’t smile at anybody. You’re just there in your head taking each stroke one at a time. Thankfully the buoys were easy to spot. I took an alright line and most importantly avoided congestion! My goggles never leaked or fogged up. I only had a couple touches with other people. And some guys fingers coming up from under me and poking me in the belly. How does that happen?! I didn’t know how many buoys there were but I figured when they changed from yellow to orange that that must be the halfway point. After going under the 3 bridges I turned around the final red buoy and headed to the exit ladders. It didn’t feel painfully long. In fact, I was sort of enjoying it! *gasp* After climbing out I looked down at my watch before hitting the lap button and saw 1:07. 1:07!!! I smiled and pumped my fist running down the concrete walk. Yank the goggles and cap off and pulled my Blueseventy PZ3TX swim skin down to my waist. The ramp up to transition was STEEP! I didn’t remember that from the 70.3. I shifted from a walk back to a run a couple times.
After grabbing my bike bag I went into the changing tent and let a nice volunteer dump the contents of the bag out and get my shoes ready. I put my socks on and heard a familiar voice, “Hey buddy!” “Oh hey, Jim!” I had beat him out of the water! That was a first. I put my chamois cream on, shoes and helmet and rolled my arm sleeves on and trotted out the tent. I had the sunscreen volunteers spray me down. Ouch, little burn on the front of my neck from my skin. As I ran to my bike I looked over and saw Jim running to his. I yelled across transitions, “Hey Jim, you better slow down!” I then grabbed my bike off the rack and as I rounded the corner there was Jim coming to meet me and making an attempt to cut me off! All in good fun of course so for the final 30-40yds we were in a race pushing our bikes to the mount line. He beat me and was off fairly quickly. It was a good thing to have a little fun in such a long race!
As soon as I got on my bike I realized my power meter wasn’t synced! This has been a reoccurring trend in my races this year. I know I sync’d it in my setup that morning. Anyways, I figured I would just use my watch to make do. The power numbers on my watch were being just as stupid. I’m pedaling away and only seeing 60watts on my watch, then 200w and down to 0. WTF. After about 15 minutes I decided to turn my computer off and back on and it instantly found my power meter and cadence sensor. Jeez! So, no big deal and I could deal with that. The ride was going well. I wasn’t quite up to my goal avg power yet and my NP was a little high but those would equalize as I settled down into the ride. Dang it! Popped my chain off shifting up to the big ring. My fault I believe. Threw it back on in about 10 seconds. Again! Around mile 50 I dropped it going into the little ring. Ugh, another sticking point of paying attention what rear gear I am in! I didn’t drop it again after that. At mile 52 was special needs. I made a new nutrition bottle and went on my way. As I started lap 2 I noticed something. It was hot. And now I could feel it. I had recently started making the decision of grabbing 2 water bottles at each aid station instead of 1 like I normally do. Did I start too late? By mile 70 it occurred to me that I haven’t had to pee yet. Yeah, I started too late. I began drinking as much as I could. I was feeling fairly blah at this point. My nutrition had gotten warm and half the water at the aid stations were warm bottles too. This wasn’t sitting too well in my stomach. Around into Chickamauga again and I am really feeling some dehydration. This was about mile 90 and I can no longer hit my power numbers. On the last highway leading back into town 60-90watts was the norm. Luckily the wind was behind me and pushing a little bit to give me a decent mph still. I knew the first lap was real good (about 3:05 at the halfway mark) but the second lap remained to be seen. Those last 30 were painfully slow and painfull as well. I had started to develop a cramp in my right hamstring that when I kept my leg in its most upright position and tried to move my foot in the bike shoe I would temporarily seize up and I would have to pedal and stretch it out. In town I couldn’t hold myself in aero any longer, nor did I have the strength to hold the bullhorns. I was done! I rolled into T2 with a frown and a distant look on my face. Even my wife could tell by this point that I was hurting. I slowly dismounted so that I wouldn’t seize up my leg. My bike split was 6:23 so it was still well within my goals but what did that matter at this point? I gave my bike catcher my bike and took my bike shoes off. I then proceeded to walk to get my run bag. There was no running in me…
I came into the changing tent and sat down in a chair. I put my bag on the ground and just sunk back into a seat. I was completely out of steam. My head was spinning. I sat there for what seemed like minutes and minutes without moving. A volunteer had dumped my bag for me and got me water. I had one shoe on and wasn’t moving. Several volunteers asked me if I was alright and just laughed at them and said, “Yeah, I think so. I’m just gonna sit here for a minute.” I saw guys come running in and out to take on the rest of their days. I felt jealous they still had so much energy. I saw other guys with the same look on their face as me. Just out of it. I tried to do math in my tired head. What would it take to walk a marathon? 8 hours? Could I even walk once I got outside? I came to the conclusion that I could walk the whole thing and still finish in time. I mustered up some strength and finally put my other shoe on and stood up to walk out. Blah, this doesn’t feel good. As I walked out I made myself go to the restroom and it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be to pee. I think I was catching back up with my fluids but the damage had already been done to my body.
I came down the run exit shoot and saw Meggan smiling and waving at me, but after one look at me that quickly turned to concern. I wasn’t doing well. My feet ached. Each step hurt and I still wasn’t totally in the moment from my dehydration. She asked me what I wanted to do as she walked beside me. I turned to the grass and say I just wanna lay down. So I plopped down onto an embankment and laid there. I don’t know how long it was. Maybe 5 minutes. I sat back up and said I gotta try to see if I can walk this stupid thing. If I can get walking then I can finish it. I will be fine. She walked with me for the first mile and a half or two. She was still pretty worried about me but I assured her I was going to be fine walking at this pace. Around mile 2.5 I found another guy walking and we chit-chatted for a while and stayed together til about mile 12 when he started running and I just couldn’t yet. We tried a few other times and my stomach was still in knots. My legs were ready to slow trot but my stomach was so full and upset. I got to the point where I couldn’t even drink water anymore. I switched to potato chips, pretzels, coke, chicken broth. I tried everything! Yes, even the silly BASE salts didn’t save me.
The walk was long. I ran a few other times on the second loop. I was just getting tired of walking and after 10-15 seconds I could find a stride and feel good for a minute and then my heart rate would go up and I would get cramps in my lungs and I was forced to walk again. The 2nd time up Barton Ave heading home a familiar voice came from behind. Doug said, “Hey what are you doing?” Or something similar. I think he was surprised to have caught me. I couldn’t keep up with his walking pace. This was his first IM and looked poised to finish. Good for him. His first…..crap, I can’t let him beat me! Haha, I needed something to spur me on, right??? So at the top of Barton I started running the downhill, I ran to the aid station and walked to grab something. Heck I don’t even remember now and I started running again. Probably about 1.5 mile from the end. And I didn’t stop! I caught back up with Doug as we made the left turn to go on the pedestrian bridge. He made a comment about not letting me go and started running himself. We ran over the bridge, encouraging each other and got lots of compliments as we ran to the finish. As we turned to head down the hill I started to seperate from Doug so I slowed down to keep him beside me. I didn’t want him to walk at this point. I didn’t know where he was mentally or physically but I had made up my mind that I would let him cross the line in front of me whether I had to push him across or he ran over it. Just before the shoot I saw my wife and I went over and gave her a quick kiss. I looked back to the finish and was hearing the announcer yell out, “Doug Burkmire you are an Ironman” (Yes he said it Doug cause I was listening to see if he said it was your first). I looked behind me to see if anyone was sprinting in. I had the floor to myself. I was thankful at this point. It took me 7 God-forsaken hours to walk this marathon but damnit was I proud of myself for not quitting. I was able to do it and if I would have quit at T2 I would have never known if I had the power or not. I would have convinced myself it was right but now finishing I know the real truth. I AM tough. I CAN do this. I DO belong here. I AM an Ironman.