On race morning I got up early, as you'd expect. Fortunately I'd gotten about 7 hours sleep. I'd need it! I checked the weather on-line as I drank some coffee while Susan made me a smoothie and some breakfast. I finished off a half-bottle of Gatorade I'd been working on the night before as well.
|Breakfast on race morning|
|Run Special Needs Bags boxes|
|Bike Special Needs Bag boxes|
|Richard, Chip, and Neil|
|The swim start|
|Athletes exit the water|
I was on my bike and ready for the bike course. It was still cool but my heart was pumping and I didn't feel as cold as I thought I would. The long line of cyclists pedaled west past the hotels and condos toward the open roads along the pine forests to the north. The local authorities, race director, and volunteers had traffic all situated so, while vehicle traffic was impacted, I felt safe on the course. I think I was the only athlete wearing a mirror mounted on my sunglasses. I've gotten used to wearing it and I know it makes me better aware of what's going on around me. Chad lead me (that's code for paced me, not drafting) through most of the bike course. That wasn't my intent when I woke up that morning, but that's what happened. He's younger and a much stronger cyclist than I. I was having a good day so I just tried to keep up. I saw Chip and Richard on the bike course but we didn't get to ride together.
|Chad coming in after the bike segment|
|Neil coming in after the bike segment|
|Chip coming in after the bike segment|
I eased into a descent run pace. I hadn't eaten much in the past 7 hours and hoped that I hadn't made a big mistake. The crowd lined the run course for much of the first mile or two. Occasionally, I'd see a volunteer on a bike escorting a pro triathlete on the course. I was just getting started with my 4 hour marathon run as they were nearing the end of their day. I ran pretty well during the first half of the run. The distance after the turn-around back to park was the hardest. I stopped running several times to walk through the water stations and ate a gel, an orange slice, drank some Gatorade, water, and flat Coke. Chad passed me somewhere on the run course. Later I passed him. I remember saying to him something like "follow me" thinking that we'd be able to spur each other on. I ran about another 100 yards to the next water station and started walking again.
As Chad and I made our last loop through St. Andrews park I asked Chad if we were on schedule for a sub-11 hour Ironman. He didn't know. He did know that he was having some stomach issues. Earlier I had one incident where I thought I might throw up. I had a second incident where I thought I was having stomach cramps. Both of these incidents passed as quickly as they came.
I ran on toward the finish. As I passed each mile marker I did some quick math in my foggy head. Six miles at 10 miles per hour would only take me 60 minutes. If I could do it at a 9 minute per mile pace then I'd be done in only 54 minutes. If this was a 10K race it might only take me 40 minutes. Then I'd reach the next mile marker and start the process all over again. Five miles at... Four miles... Three miles... Two miles... As I crossed Thomas Drive onto Surf Drive the crowd started to grow. I was a mile and a half from the finish line and the street was lined with cheering spectators. This is the best part of the race. You know you're gonna finish and the crowd helps lift you up. I did my best to pick up the pace. There was plenty of pain but none of it was so great that I wanted to walk. As I neared Joan Avenue I saw Chad's wife Tamara. We had only met for the first time on Wednesday morning when Susan and I picked up Chad at their home. She yelled out some encouraging words. Tamara and some of my cycling buddies from McDonough had done the same over an hour ago when I was still trying to find my legs near the turn-around.
It's seems funny to hear someone you don't know yell out "Go Neil". I know Tamara or at least I know her husband. With my name on my bib I heard my name a lot, most of the time from cheering spectators. Sometimes I heard "Go # 2479", but I know the thought was there!
I ran on to Thomas Drive then made the left turn at Alvin's Island onto S. Thomas Drive. As I ran down the chute I heard Susan call out my name. She took a few quick pictures as I passed.
|2011 Ironman Florida finisher's medal|
|2011 Ironman Florida finisher's cap|
|2011 Ironman Florida finisher's t-shirt|
I should also report that Chad, Chip, Richard, Ken, and Sean, a firefighter friend, had some great results. For all of us, except Chip, this was our first Ironman so just finishing would have been quite an achievement.
|(Click to Enlarge)|
Chad - Estimated finish time: 11: 06 - Actual finish time: 11:05:03
Neil - Estimated finish time: 11:26 - Actual finish time: 10:49:25
Richard - Estimated finish time: 12:25 - Actual finish time: 12:36:07
Chip - Estimated finish time: 12:26 - Actual finish time: 12:36:07
Ken - Estimated finish time: 13:33 - Actual finish time: 15:27:05
Richard and Chip crossed over the finish line together. I didn't estimate Sean's time. He finished in 13:39:04.
So, how did I like my first Ironman? It was tough. I'm glad I did it and I'm glad it's over. All the physical training and the mental prep really takes a toll. I'll have to wait and see if I'll do another one. I promised Susan that I won't do another full distance triathlon for at least a year. On the flip side, Susan wants me to help her train for her first sprint triathlon in the spring. I'll fulfil the duties as chief Sherpa.
Did I finish the race unscathed? Almost! I got a nice blister on my right foot and had a slight bout of gross hematuria, blod in the urine.
Lastly, I'd like to thank my family and friends for helping me through this journey. I'd like to also thank my co-workers, my training partners and their families, and all the volunteers that helped keep me safe. Most of all I'd like to thank my wife Susan for putting up with all my time away from home spent training and all the things that just didn't get done around the house.
|2011 Ironman Florida|