Sunday, August 19, 2007

Greater Cleveland Triathlon (Keep...Moving.....Foreward)

Thanks to E-Speed for the pic!!


Heading out of T2 I thought it would take me a mile or 2 to gain my running legs. After that point, my plan was to hold back for at least a couple more miles. Based on how I felt, I was planning to either pick it up between mile 3 and 4, or mile 6 and 7. My friends, there was no "picking it up."

The run course consisted of 2 loops on the road, with the mid-August sun directly overhead. It was hot, probably around 90 degrees, and it was humid. I felt like the sun was zapping all the remaining energy I had. As I approached mile 3 I began to grow concerned as I was feeling worse and worse. My feet hurt. My thighs hurt. I felt bloated. Instead of feeling better after a couple of miles I was feeling worse.

My plan was to run the entire course, other than the aid stations, where I would walk/eat/drink to my hearts content. Judging by the way I felt at mile 3 and realizing there was going to be no such thing as regaining my legs, I wondered if I'd have to do some walking out on the course. I didn't like that idea one bit. Luckily, by mile 4 my feet and legs began to feel uncomfortable, rather than painful. Also to my advantage, the sky had become overcast and no longer were we running in direct sunlight. The slight bit of shade offered by the clouds was probably the single biggest factor that kept the little man in my head, who was saying "this is too much, stop running now," to a whisper (as opposed to shouting) throughout the middle of the run.

By this time in the race my mind was pretty numb. I was having trouble thinking about the specifics of my nutrition plan. For whatever reason, I no longer wanted to consider if it was time for a shot of GU, or a drink of gatorade. All of my thoughts were coming stride by stride. Every time my foot hit the ground I knew I was one step closer to the finish. Each foot strike meant one less foot strike that I had to endure. Miles 4 through 9 were passed this way. I would anticipate with dismay my foot hitting the ground, only to grow happy for a brief second after I picked it up knowing I had taken one more stride. The happiness was always short lived as my other foot was about to make contact with the pavement. I had moved from feeling like I was downright fading fast into sufferville, to maintaining a tolerable state of discomfort that I knew was coming closer to the finish line with each step. Then at mile 9 the discomfort grew worse.

Foot Pain. Burning and tenderness on the balls of both feet.

Leg pain. It was as if I could feel each and every muscle fiber in both legs, from my knee to my hips. Each and every fiber seemed to send me a warning, every time my foot hit the ground, that it would be in my best interest to stop. This warning.....the sensation that I felt in my legs is hard to describe. It is something like the "steady" burn that is felt climbing a hill on the bike....or sprinting with all you've got for a hundred meters, or those last couple of reps of a hard set in the weight room. Except, it was not a dull sustaining sensation. It was sharp, fast, and intense; and it coincided with my foot hitting the ground, so I knew when it was coming.....and my decision to run was the cause.

Just as my nice little state of discomfort was being quickly replaced by suffering, I inquired at the next aid station about fruit. They had bananas and oranges on hand, and since neither water, gatorade, nor GU seemed to be stopping my tumble down the tubes, I went for an orange slice. And another. And another. And another. For fear of adding stomach distress into the mix I quit eating oranges before I had went through the entire bag. Those oranges were hands down the most delicious food I have ever had in my 31 years on this great planet. They were so good they got me to mile 10 just thinking about their flavor.

Around mile 10, as the sweet taste of oranges began to fade from memory, I was passed by a woman who was just trucking along towards the finish. I knew that there had more than likely been a few women who beat me to the finish line.....with time to spare, but something in my brain was triggered to not let this young lady blow right by me. After traveling a mile or so down the road, I thanked her for pacing me in. We hit mile 12, and the sun came back out from behind the clouds. It immediately began to wear me down again.

With a little under a mile to go to the finish, my stomach went south. Maybe it was the oranges, maybe the sun, maybe I need to tweak my nutrition plan (which never included oranges...or gatorade) but I had 2 options as I approached the finish line. Run to the finish....and maybe see what exactly is in someones stomach who has been living on energy gel and sportsdrink for half a day; or walk. So I walked, for the first time that I was not at an aid station. It was all of, maybe, 75 yards, but I was indeed, walking. Off went the woman who paced me over the last 5K or so. I didn't want to throw up on her....i figured I'd just let her beat me. At this point, I at least knew that I'd cross the finish line in under 6 hours.

After my stomach settled, I began to run towards the finish. I thought I'd get a burst of energy knowing that I was done, but I did not. Right before the finish line I took one last sip of water and even the idea of being done with this damn run couldn't get me moving fast.

As I ran the final few yards of the race, I heard a familiar voice begin to yell, "Brandon!!! You just did a half-ironman!" Then I saw Treetop and Julia off to the side of the course and I knew a cold beer was in my future.....and my race was over.

13.1 Mile Run time: 2:08:12
9:48/ mile pace

Final Time: 5:41:43
45th out of 99 Overall
8th out of 18 in my Age Group

Despite the fact that I could get nothing going on the run, I am quite happy with the result. If I would have layed off a bit on the bike, might I have made up some time on the run? Maybe. If I would have a better taper plan, might I have felt better on the run? Quite likely. Could I have trained a little differently. Absolutely. Would changes in my training improved my time? Probably. I suppose a late season half next year will help me to answer these questions. One thing is for certain....I need to increase my running mileage.

After the race, my support crew drove me home and then we proceeded to stop at the winking lizard where I ate a giant burger......I think they called it the pounder (sorry vegan peeps and poor cow), accompanied by a delicious white Ale. I picked up a pint of Ben & Jerry's Everything But The...on the way home....and I slept. Soundly.

I would never have embarked on the journey to complete this race if I would not have been able to follow so many folks IM journeys through the tri club and here in the blogsphere. All of you inspiring people know who you are. Thank You!! And a big congratulations to Charlie, who finished Ironman UK today, his first IM, in 14:35:25. He had a HUGE negative split on the run. Impressive!

Maybe some day.........


GP said...

You're quite the fighter and you finished a killer race. Especially with that beaming sun. You're truly an all-star, and I think the cow you ate after the race was pleased to go to a true champion ;-)

Veg*Triathlete said...

Wow - way to battle through the pain & heat. This epic race report is awesome, by the way. It's so well written we really get to follow you along through the experience.

JenC said...

Well, you kept your distress to yourself, because you were always smiling when I saw you. That heat/sun was brutal - it was tough enough volunteering in it; I definitely felt for you. Great job on your first half!

Julia said...


It was an amazing day and I was glad to be part of it.

You deserve all the glory of the day. Great Job!

Matt Collister said...

Think about one step at a time... That's often what it comes down to. Great race!

Veg*Triathlete said...

I got caught up on some of your earlier blog posts... now I see why you know so much about the foot/ankle injury! Thanks for all the feedback. Glad you're having such a great race season after a rough winter.

Charlie said...

Congrats. You had a great race.

Em said...

You are an inspiration! I love how far you have come in the past 2 years! Amazing!
Wish I could have been there to cheer you on! Great job!