Sunday, June 28, 2009

Impossible is nothing - Ironman CDA Race Report

First off, I want to say thank you everyone for the kind words; the encouragement and the support. I thought of you guys so much out there.

Also a big thank you to the people of CDA. The people on the course, the volunteers and so many spectators who cheered us all on (for hours, in my case).

Not to make this into a Hollywood acceptance speech; but thanks also to Stef and RBR along with her gaggle of friends. Stef rushed to support me when I lost my wetsuit the DAY BEFORE the race! She was quick with a kind word and advice. Once RBR found out, you would have thought I called in the national guard! Within seconds she was calling the expo, contacting the local sport stores. Within minutes she had mobilized her friends and had wetsuits lined up waiting for me. I seriously think that within 30 minutes, she had 2-3 suits waiting in different sizes and shapes!! Somewhere there is a politician looking for her mobilization skills!

Finally, I need to say a HUGE thank you to my wife, who stood outside in the rain and the cold cheering me on. She was there to support me when I was thrilled to be racing and when I was miserable and done racing. She stood out there and took care of a 3 week old child (who stayed properly bundled up and was warm and toasty the whole time). I may be an Ironman, but she has earned new levels of spectathlete-ism. There are not enough words to say how grateful I am.

I've been sitting on this race report for a while. I have had complete novels of this rolling around since the race was midway done, but every version was the epitome of a bitter ungrateful brat! I was in a bad place mentally and the only thing that would have come out of me was bitterness, bile and BS.

You deserve better than that. I deserve better than that! So I've waited. I am not sure I'm ready to be fully mature yet, but I can try. I know that in 2 months from now this will be stupid; in 1 year it'll be meaningless and in 5 years this will all be forgotten. My IM experience will have only been a brief paragraph in the novel of my life. Why stress??

Which brings me to my point. I did it! I am a Ironman!! It may not have been pretty but I got it done. I conquered the impossible! Which what my original goal was. When I started this IM adventure, I sought to prove that anything is possible. If I can do it, then anyone can.

Before, during and now afterwards I would hear people say they could never do an Ironman. They put Ironman at some great high pedestal. Unreachable except by those god like men. Only those blessed with natural talent and washboard abs could do an Ironman.

Well, I am here to tell you that I don't have natural talent and I sure as heck don't have washboard abs, but I got it done. I can't run 8 min/miles, but I got it done. My body may have failed me at mile 50 on the bike, but I got it done.

And I wasn't the only one. We had a huge amount of people do this for the first time, and they got it done.

We have proved that nothing is impossible. My dear friend RBR had trouble out there but and was not allowed to finish, but never once did she think that the distance is too much or that it was impossible to do. She was ready, her body was ready. She can do the distance, she knows that she can do the impossible.

And you can too.

I started the whole experience with a wild roller coaster of emotions that never ended.

As I said before, the day before the race, I lost my suit. I had gone out for a test swim and was letting the suit air dry on the car. I had finished packing my Transition bags and we headed off to drop of the bike/bags at the expo.

It wasn't until we had done all that and driven half the course when I realized that the wetsuit was still drying on the top of the truck. Correction it had been on the top of the truck now however, it was probably somewhere in the middle of the road lost somewhere between home, the expo and here(the middle of nowhere).

After a frantic search retracing all my steps, desperately looking through all my gear and praying that somebody somewhere had it, all to no avail, I gave up. I considered my options: I could go buy another suit ($300+ of money I didn't have); I could go suitless or I could quit.

I decided that I would go suitless. It was only when I had convinced myself that I was manly to go without a suit and not suicidal (And believe me it took a long time to convince myself), it was only after I had convinced myself that I was manly that I got the call that somebody had found my wetsuit! Crap! So much for being the tough guy. I almost cried when I got my suit in my sweaty little hands. Sweet salvation!

The next morning, with wetsuit firmly donned, I greeted the shores of CDA along with 2200 of my closest friends.

I didn't know what to expect, I had heard to avoid the washing machine cycle, you should line up way to left or way to the right, but it looked like I wasn't the only one who had heard that. The middle was virtually empty while everyone flocked to the sides. I placed myself 7 rows back and in the middle and waited for the countdown to begin.

Over the loud speaker I heard Eminem's one chance.

Suddenly the mood all changed for me.

"If you had one chance..."

BOOM! The cannon goes off! No warning, no preparing. We are just off.

The first few hundred yards fly by, however the rest of swim doesn't. I never ran into the fist and kicks that are legendary for these types of mass swims. I definitely found a lot of rubber-clad bodies to bump off of/in to/go around. But I never got punched.

Now the waves on the other hand…They showed no mercy. I was slapped; mashed and slammed seven ways from Sunday! Each time I found a set of feet to follow, the waves would split us in two.

By the time I hit the second loop, I had lost any sense of direction. I gave up looking at the far buoy and simply followed the feet in front of me. Each buoy was the last one for me and by the time I hit the shore, I was as surprised as I was relieved!

Swim: 1:39:08

I am not sure what happened to my mind, but I was completely unprepared for the wetsuit strippers. I walked up to them like I was a zombie (which may not be too far from the truth). Once I finally got my wetsuit off, it was fumbling around in the transition tents. BTW a little bit of helpful advice, the doors to the tents don’t close, so if you plan to strip naked, you may not want to stand in the middle of the doorway. HELLO WORLD!!

T1: 6:58

Once I hit the bike, I was pleased to find how familiar the course was. The time on the computrainer was very helpful. However it doesn’t really help you out with the hills. Not so much the intensity of the hills but rather the psychological effect. Nothing is as depressing as seeing the hills looming in front of you. Seeming endless.

But I behaved. I sat down for most of the hills. This was a two loop adventure and I planned on hammering the second loop.

And I would have…had not my IT band acted up on mile 50 of the first loop.

I was infuriated! My IT had not hurt in more than 6 months. Since that time I had done 10 centuries, 4 marathons, and countless bricks. And never once in those 1000’s of miles did my IT band even hint at hurting.

So there I was, 50 miles out and my race was about to go down the tubes. On the second loop, my bike average started slowly slipping away. By the time the hills hit, I had already lost all the people I had ridden the first loop with. Now it was a whole new bunch of people that I played leap fog with. On all the hills, I would power through, passing people without an issue, but on the downhill, they’d all fly by me. Now, I am not the lightest guy in the field. I carry a certain amount of momentum, so when realized how easy I was getting passed, I knew something was up. It seemed to get worse on the way into town. By then it was all downhill or flat and all my new friends seemed fit to take off and leave me high and dry. My second loop was a full hour slower than my first! OUCH!

Bike: 7:40:26

Back in the transition tent, it was a different environment. Coming in from the swim, it was a mad house. People everywhere, it was nearly impossible to get a volunteer. This time it was totally different. It was a nice quiet environment. The volunteers rushed to everyone who walked through the door. We were taken care of. We were treated like royalty.

T2: 4:43

Once I stepped off the bike, I knew it was over for me. I could no longer bend my right leg. I was now faced with running a marathon with only one leg. Yippee!!

It actually started off not too bad. Even though I was hobbling, I was able to keep a pretty nice pace. Unfortunately that wore off as about the same time the awe of being on the final stage of an Ironman did.

After that it was nothing but tottering at a snails pace for me. As I slowly made my way through the 26 miles of CDA, I realized a few things. One, the people of CDA really do like the Ironman. I am not sure that I would like it in my town. We are a big pain in the butt for people. We close their roads, we pee on their yards, we make lots of noise and stay out really late at night. It must be like having 2200 frat boys hold a convention in your town. But despite all this, the people really like us. They are out in the front yards cheering us on. They hand out bottles of water, and food. They play loud music and scream encouragement to us (of course, they ‘might’ be drunk at that moment). They truly support us.

Second, I realize that at an Ironman you don’t have to be a great runner to be a good marathoner. I was slow, god awfully slow, but I still finished with a lot of people behind me. And had I been able to hold the pace I was planning on, I would have finished ahead of a lot more. Let’s be honest, we triathletes suck at running. But that’s OK. We know it, we are OK with it. And the best thing is, at Ironman, you are accepted and welcomed because of it.

Run: 6:18:37

As I ran down the finisher shoot, I stopped and took a deep breath. The finisher shoot is something magical and it should be taken with joy. Prior to this, in fact almost the entire back end of the second loop, I was in a bad mood. Not just bad but down right wicked. I hated the run, I hated my knees, and I hated pretty much everything. I was unhappy with way the day had unfolded for me and I had crawled deep down into myself to escape the reality. It was a dark day.

But nearing the finish, I realized that this was it, maybe it wasn’t the Ironman that I had wanted, but it was the Ironman I had. All I could do was accept the reality. Was I bitter? Did I want revenge? Was I still pissed off? Hell yeah! But there was nothing now that I could do.

Total time: 15:49:50

All through the race, the officials had said “You only have control of one thing today. Your attitude. Make it the best you can”. And they were right; in the end I had control of nothing. Not the weather, not my body, near the end I didn’t even have control of my emotion (every time I heard/saw ‘happy fathers day’ I would well up with tears and wish I could be home holding my son). In the end, the only thing I had control was my attitude.

One year prior, the though of doing an Ironman seemed impossible. I could never swim that far. I could never bike that far within that limit of time. I could never run a marathon after riding for 112 miles.

I have done the impossible. Impossible is nothing. With time, with training, the human body can do the impossible. I am living proof.

If I can do this, you can too. You can do the impossible. You can make the improbable, probable.

You can do it. All it takes is everything you have. Every inch of you. They’ll be times of hell and times of thrill. But when it is over with, you’ll be a new person.

You’ll be an Ironman!


Bootchez said...

My, my, I just stumbled across your blog and this is the first post I've read. What a nice bit of writing, and a meaningful race. Nice.

Julie said...

I seem to have lost control of my emotions too. What a great report and great race, even if it wasn't what you had hoped.

You make me think it is possible!

Maryland Girl aka Michelle said...

Great report! I tell people all the time that if they create the mind set and train they too can accomplish the goals they set. I applaud your wife too to hang out in the crappy weather with a 3 week old. That is true love and dedication!

Team Brazo said...

Major Congrat! You are an IRONMAN. It has been a pleasure to follow your progress and following you on race day via Athlete tracker. I knew you'd get it done - you did all the work.



Borsch said...


Thanks for the honest straight up recap...I'd be pretty cynical if my day didn't go as planned.

Either way you got it go kiss your wife and hold your little baby!

SWTrigal said...

You know Izaac I think you are amazing and know what an accomplishment this is. We triathletes do suck at running as you read in my recent race report! And running/walking a marathon with pain is the hardest! But whatever..we keep on doing it because it challenges us and takes us places we would never go mentally and spiritually! did it! Now rest and enjoy that baby..

Stef0115 said...

You really nailed this report dude. You nailed it!

You nailed the race too, no matter what happened that you didn't want or plan to happen out there . . . who cares you are an Ironman!

It's not every day that we get to watch our friends cross the line and become Ironman. So many people were sleeping or eating junk food when you hit the water.

Hang out with triathletes and read tons of blogs and our perception becomes skewed. We start to think that what we do is an every day normal thing.

It's not.

You are exceptional! You were before and now you are in a different, more profound way. You are a new DAD and an IRONMAN.

I am so proud of you!!!!! Celebrate YOU and your awesome family!!!

rocketpants said...

Congrats!! Awesome, awesome job! What a day. So sorry to hear that your IT acted up. That is so frustrating...but you made it. And now you can relax and enjoy being a dad. :-)

Any helpful tips/hints at the IMCDA course, please send my way. Seems i'll be there next year. ;-)

ShirleyPerly said...

Great race report and awesome race effort!!!

I remember Paula Newby-Fraser saying at an IM camp the same thing about what you can control and what you can't, and staying within yourself. And the more I read IM race reports, the more I think it's true. It's really not about going the distance on race day or how fast you do so. It's about the person you become in training for one and no matter what happens on race day, no one can take that away.

Congrats on your achievement and your new baby. I'm so glad you were all able to spend Father's Day together!

Anonymous said...

Dude!! I've haven't been good about keeping up with blogs since I'm no longer blogging...but I knew you were doing CDA and thought about you. This is my favorite IM race report ever. I love your honesty and perspective on things. It inspires me greatly!!! You have come so far and and worked your butt off for this - and you did awesome. Congratulations, and Happy (belated) Father's Day. What a fine example of a dad you are :-)

KayVee said...

I think I cried a little. But what a story you can tell your son, and he will be so proud of his dad. You are an Ironman!

Rachel said...

Congrats, Ironman! That's awesome. Very inspiring. I had lots of friends do it. Hilly and cold. The end sounded miserable. Way to tough it out. So now, the obvious...which one are you doing next?

richvans said...

Congrats on finishing. I stumbled across the line about 2 minutes ahead of you. Ate too much on the bike and walked the last 23 miles so I know your pain - and joy! I wouldn't have made it without my sherpa's - all Ironmen owe their sherpa's for without them we would never cross the line. I'm still working on my race report but have video up.


Anniversary Moments said...

inspiring. truly inspiring! congratulations IRONMAN!

S. Baboo said...

In my seven IM finishes I have had two that were really bad days and that makes the rest all the sweeter. I have a race shirt from the Odessa Tumbleweed Triathlon, a little sprint in the middle of the west Texas desert in a town famous for its football that says "If triathlon was easy it would be called football."

Really what more can you say? Despite being achievable it is extremely difficult. Oh, I also catch a lot of crap from friends for this stance but believe me not EVERYONE can do an Ironman. From a physical standpoint probably most everyone can do one given enough training but IM is really all about drive and determination. It’s all about dragging your butt out of bed or off the couch when you desperately want to just remain immobile. Some people say it is incredibly selfish and self indulgent but I think not. For me it is more about grabbing life by the throat and giving it a good shake. Being and Ironman doesn’t place me above anyone, rather it reawakens me to my own humanity, my own frailty and so it is truly with gratitude in my heart that I engage these beasts.

Congratulations Ironman…human.

RBR said...

I was there when you came in and you STILL made me cry with your report!

Beautifully written and beautifully done.

I have to say that I thought of you and your amazing wife everytime I saw those Father's Day signs too. That poor child will probably hear this story, every Father's day for the rest of his life. He was such a trooper. Granted all he had to do was sleep in his warm snuggy and get fed, but he took everything in stride like a true Rowe!

Kelly deserves a podium level medal for Iron-spectator. Seriously, they should have those.

I have to say that during my swim one of my recurring thoughts (I had a lot of time to think, you know) was THANK FREAKING GOD Izaac has a wetsuit in this shit!!

You had such an awesome swim time and IMO an awesome race time. I know it wasn't exactly what you wanted, but you did it. A REALLY good friend that is REALLY smart told me that perserverance when others would quit is what an ironman is made of.

You, my friend, are a true Ironman.

Dave said...

Congrats Izaac! What a great day it was.

If you're going to be around our area, we'd definitely love to meet up!