Friday, March 2, 2012

Double Trouble

So I did a double Ironman last weekend.  I swam 4.8 miles, biked 224 miles and ran 52.4 miles.  Blah blah blah, yada yada yada.  I know you're tired of hearing about all this crazy crap I do, so I will spare you the long drawn out play by play race report.  I did it.  It hurt.  Enough about me.  Moving on.  But what I do want to tell you about is my totally bad ass girlfriend Dani who did the same thing, and did it in style.

I've always known Dani was one tough ass woman.  Throw in a huge dose of stubbornness, unbelievable amount of determination and you have the epitome  of "Can do anything".  Sure it's kind of a big deal for someone to complete a double Ironman, but this isn't really the point I'm making.  Dani has been plagued with some crazy injuries ever since she completed her cross state bike record last Dec.  Her right arm had such bad tendinitis that you could feel and hear it actually creak when she moved it.  This kept her swim training from ever getting up to the distance she wanted and kept her from doing a lot of her strength training that she loves to do.  Then let's throw in some achilles tendinitis to keep her run distances down below what you would normally want to do for half marathon training, much less for a double marathon.  Top that off with a slowly but steadily worsening hernia to make bike training days cut way short due to the pain and you pretty much have a complete formula for being seriously under trained.  All this being said, she still stayed smart in training and never just "trained through" the pain. 

My kind of hot biker chick.

Fast forward to race day.  Her coach laid out a race plan for her with zones and heart rates and effort levels with NO time goals.  Emphasis on no time goals because my stubborn ass still can't seem to get this idea through my thick head.  She executed the plan to a T and was absolutely amazing.  I was so proud of her every time I saw her riding strong but staying reserved and keeping a perfect even pace.  She let the guys go by her at the beginning of the bike portion while keeping her ego under control.  By the end she was catching up to those same guys (including me!) who obviously did not pace themselves anywhere near as perfectly as she did.  During the run, she looked great and was consistently making forward progress with no signs of letting up.  I could tell she was hurting.  I could tell she was tired.  At one point, she had to sit down and do some blister care and when I saw her toes I thought "Wow! How is she not limping like crazy?"  The longer the race went on, the more proud I became of her at every passing (the run was an out and back 30 times so I got to see her no less than 58 times out on course).  If I was one of those guys who teared up, cried or got emotional due to being happy and proud, I would've left gallons of tears out there on the course.  But I have personally never understood crying when you're happy.  So I just smiled til it hurt and then smiled some more.  I was ear to ear teeth when she had just one lap to go and was on pins and needles waiting for her to cross the line and fall into my arms.  It's really hard to put into words just how proud I am.  Not just for finishing a double Ironman, which is in itself plenty to be proud of, but for doing it while over coming so much adversity in training and during the race.  To come out, race her plan, dig as deep as humanly possible and to finish it in style under the circumstances was extraordinary.  This really goes to show that you really can do anything you put your mind to.

Still looking great the second day.

She ended up with second place female and forth place overall.  I was second place male and second overall.  Which means we got some pretty cool matching awards.  This was the coolest part of the race for me because I'm OCD which meant we could put the awards on the mantel and have perfect symmetry.  The women really kicked ass at this race.  First and second place were males followed by females in third, forth and fifth place and all within an hour of each other.  Great job to our friend Kacie for a strong race, third place female and fifth overall finish. I loved seeing her out on the course and was super impressed with her positive attitude and unwavering determination.  Simply amazing.  And as always the biggest thanks go out to our crews, including Kacie's.  There really would be no way we could make it through these things without your undying, selfless support.  Jill, Emily, Keith and all of Kacie's crew, YOU GUYS ROCK!!!  And if I didn't make it clear enough, Dani I am SO DAMN PROUD OF YOU!!!

That guy on the left looks pretty proud.

"The highest reward for a man's toll is not what he gets from it, but what he becomes by it."

Monday, January 9, 2012

I shaved my legs for this?

First off, a HUGE THANKS for everyone's support and encouragement both with the Humble Heroes charity drive and also during the race.  It means a lot to me to have so many people excited to follow my adventure.  I've even been told by a few friends that I was being followed by several people who don't even know me.  I've also been told that I inspired a few people to take on their own challenges or begin a workout routine.  This is HUGE to me and is truly what its all about.  So thank you for the support and thank you for sharing my adventure with other people.  It really does mean so much to me.

The story of this race could be almost endless if I typed all the details and attempted to tell you all the good and bad things that happened.  However, I don't want to bore you to tears so I will give a shortened version of the adventure with a few videos and pictures.  Feel free to corner me and make me tell you more details when you see me though.  You deserve it for all the encouragement you gave to help me get through the low spots.  And trust me, in 49 hours, there were plenty.

We started the morning with a 7.2 mile swim in Ala Moana State Park in Honolulu.  It is a protected lagoon beach with what we thought would be not much current.  It was out and back 5 times and then a partial out and back on the sixth.  On the way out there was a tail wind.  Yes Im still talking about the swim.  The wind was a huge factor in this race starting with the swim.  Easy out but on the way back, the small chop was relentless.  I concentrated very hard on not swallowing water, but with half the swim being done into a head wind, it was inevitable that I would swallow somewhere in the neighborhood of 3 gallons of salt water.  We will revisit this small fact later.

The bike consisted of a ride around the island of Oahu for a total of 105 miles and then on to Lagoon Dr for a total of 80 laps on a 2.8 mile out and back and then a short ride through town back to Ala Moana for the second transition.  The ride around the island was gorgeous.  The wind was not.  The wind had "died down" according to locals.  Well I have never ridden in such windy conditions in a race in my life.  Im 180ish pounds and it was pushing me around like a rag doll.  My friend Kellie was actually pushed into a guard rail and off her bike.  You can hear the wind in the video below and see me zig zag back and forth.  I  promise that is not bad bike handling skills or an effort to make the hill a bit less steep.  That is me literally fighting the wind.

The worst was on the climb called Pineapple hill, a five mile steady climb in the middle of the island.  The wind barreled down the hill in a full head wind for the entire climb.  I was wishing for just one more easy gear by the end of it.  But it wasn't there.  The top was not very comforting since I was looking at the same wind in my face going down hill.

It seemed to never let up and give me a break after this climb and it was with great relief that I finally turned onto Lagoon Dr for my 80 loops.  That is until I turned around for the first time.  There it was again.  A dead head wind coming off the water on this flat loop.  12-14 mph ride on the way out with effort and 28-30 on the way back with almost no effort.  This may sound good to some, but if you do the math, its a lot longer riding the same distance into the head wind and a lot less headed back with the tail wind.  After only a few laps my stomach decided that I had swallowed too much sea water and decided to mount a revolution.  The first one came on fast and was not pretty.  It ended up on my handle bars, aero pads, my right arm and right leg.  Rut Roh Raggy.  This is not good.  I began all the tricks I know to settle the stomach while still trying to maintain forward progress.  I'll save you the details, but from Dani's crew log she showed that the ride, puke, ride some more routine went on for about 10 hours.  As you can imagine, this put me WAY behind in my nutrition.  Cramps came and went, muscles stopped working all together and dehydration and Rhabdo became the topic of all conversations.  I was moving so slow on my loops that I just had to laugh.  One of the things that became very comical to me (mind you Im over 24 hours of no sleep by now) was that I shaved my arms and legs strictly for aerodynamics on the bike.  I kept saying to myself "I shaved my legs for this?" and then giggling like a school girl.  This was so funny to me because at the speed I was going, I could've had a gorilla suit on and it would not have slowed me down anymore.  But somehow or another I started holding stuff in and getting some energy back.  Just in time to go for a little jog.  Kinda.

Feeling better, but who's puke
is that behind me?
The run started off from where the swim start was and worked its way out of town and up over Diamond Head Crater which would be the only true climb on the run, once on the way out and once headed in to the finish.  There were then 7 out and back loops at 9.2 miles each.  I ran/walked but mostly walked the first 20 miles.  This helped me to try to catch back up on nutrition and fluids and I was taking leaks pretty regular again and with a much better color.  This was important at this point since I had spent all night revisiting everything I ate and drank.  I was holding everything down and feeling much better.  Jason Lester and Dani took turns run/walking with me.  This was very important later in the run as the second night of sleep depravation kicked in and I was beyond tired.  There are no words to describe just how tired and low energy I was at certain points of the second night, so here is a picture I think sums it up nicely.

Pole. Pillow. Same thing.
Well I made it through the night and as of the start of the race, I was still in first place.  Kellie was slowly catching me on the run and I knew it but I didn't know how close she was actually getting.  Every time I passed her, she was looking like she had just started a 5 mile training run.  She looked so fresh!  How the hell was she still running the WHOLE DAMN THING??  So with 8 miles to go, I passed her going the opposite direction for the last time.  She was headed out to finish her last out and back and would then be right behind me on the way in.  Damn.  Time for whatever I had left to try and hold her off.  How did this happen?  How in the hell do you race for 48 hours and then still have a flipping sprint to the finish?  I ran about 7.8 of the last 8 miles.  Including up Diamond Head Crater, that "only hill" on the run course I mentioned earlier.  This is the most pain I have ever been in.  When I tell you I was digging as deep as I possibly could, it is still a gross understatement.  I was buried in myself so far that Dani said I was grunting and cussing with every step.  Joggers were turning around staring at me.  Tourists were stopped and pointing and talking about me.  All of this is Dani's recollections and I'm just taking her word for it, because I remember nothing but pain.  My left hip was a red hot poker with every step.  Both feet were so far numb that the numbness was numb.  That's the only way I can describe it.  My biceps were hot coals from pumping so hard.  The back of my neck was agonizing with every lurch forward and I thought any second something would tear back there and my head would just flop forward like a scene from "Weekend at Bernie's".  I could go on for days but I'm sure you get the point.  It freaking hurt.

When I got to the finish line the first time, I actually had to go around the 1.8 mile loop of the park one more time due to a milage discrepancy from the beginning of my run.  I was the first one out on the run the day before and the volunteers hadn't had time to get in place yet.  I turned around at the wrong park on the first out and back.  When we realized this I talked it over with the race director and he had me add the milage on at the end to get the total and correct milage.  I was fine with that because no way did I want to do all this work and then not actually complete exactly what I set out to do: 421.8 miles.  I was half way around the park, paranoid looking over my shoulder and having Dani reassure me that she could not see Kellie yet when we heard cheering across the park.  I knew in my mind that it was Kellie finishing.  That was it.  That was when I ran out of every and anything in my body that was still burning as fuel.  I'm pretty sure that at that point it was literally sheer determination fueling my muscles.  So I limped my way in the rest of the way, mustered a run for the last 50 yards and raised my hands over my head.  I was done.  I am an Epicman!  Wow what a rush.  Now can I please go to bed?  I wanted to stick around and cheer on the other competitors but I just didn't have it in me.  My brain was stew.  My body was convulsing in pain.  And my energy was the same as the race.  Finished.  So 49 hours and 10 min.  Second place overall and first place male.  Not too shabby for being as sick as I was and I can rack another epic race finish up to sheer determination where most people would probably have DNFed.

Dani was a one woman wrecking crew.  If I was in debt to her before this race for all her selfless crewing, it is ten fold now.  She was with me from start to finish for all 49 hours.  Bless her heart, when she did have a chance to sleep she was so worried over me getting sick that she was unable to get much. All the other crews had at least two and up to five members total helping their athlete.  I admit that I underestimated the hell out of this race from a crew standpoint.  Thank goodness the race staff were so great and the volunteers were always eager to help Dani out.  Even the race director Jason Lester took on the run section and helped her crew me to the finish.  They both did a ton of suffering on my account to help me complete my goal and I am forever in debt to them.  Thanks to all the race staff and volunteers.  A truly unbelievable job they all did for us.

I've said it before but it has never rang more true for me than in this adventure:

"It matters not how far or fast you go, but how deep you dig to get there"