November 25, 2012
2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run
After finishing this race last year, I was back again to try and beat my time of 2011 time of 14 hrs. 4 mins and 7 sec. And with much pride, I am happy to announce that I did; finishing in 13hrs, 50 mins and 27sec.
A physical and mental challenge like no other. And although I had trained countless hours to get my body physically prepared, the day was all about staying mentally focused. If your mind got the better of you, the day would be over.
My day began at 4am, when I awoke to have breakfast. After getting to the transition area and re-checking my bike several times, I was ready to go. I then went down to the beach to begin the race with over 2300 swimmers (1700+ men and almost 600 women) from over 42 countries.
It was a beautiful day; air temp about 74 degrees, clear skies and not a cloud in sight. Now, after all the months of training, my journey was about to begin.
The water was a bit choppy and there was a strong current too. This did not bother me as swimming is my best event. After one last gel, I lined up with the others and then jumped off the pier into the ocean. One has to jump about 7-10 feet off the pier into the water. I positioned myself in a good spot up front and along the shore. The current would be flowing against us for the first 800 meters, so it was best to be close to the shore where the current is less. After treading water for 10 minutes or so, the horn went off. I go pretty fast at first to get away from the crowd. Due to the chop, I altered my stroke a bit to clear this. This brings ones arms slightly closer to the boy and I did develop a bit of an underarm chafe but this was soon forgotten. Once we turned around the first buoy, the current was with us and I let the current work with me for the next mile or so. The water was clear and you could see schools of fish swimming around as well as the scuba lifeguards, positioned on the bottom about 30 feet down. When I got to the final turn, the current was against me again, so I had to work a bit harder. There was no balloon or marker marking the pier so I just followed the crowd and sighted off the lifeguard paddlers and boats. Overall I was about 8 minutes slower than last year (one hour and nine minutes this year) but still felt pretty good. Later I was to learn that most people were 15 to 30 minutes slower than last year. In Ironman races (avg. participants about 2300), there is usually about 10-15 who do not make the 2 hrs. and 20 minute swim cutoff time. This year there was over 240! Very disappointing for them as they take your timing chip away as you exit the water. Some chose to do the race anyway; this was unofficial of course.
As I exited the water, I ran quickly into the change tent (T1). I was determined to cut down my transition time this year – big time. I had opted to wear a Tri Suit under the speed suit (like in the Olympics) I swim in. This meant I did not have to change into separate clothing for the bike and run since the Tri suit is a two piece suit that one can ride and run in.
Once inside, I quickly stripped the speed suit off, put on my helmet and bike shoes and was off to get my bike. You did not have to re-apply sunscreen as they had helpers in the change tent lathering your shoulders and upper arms (the exposed areas) with sunscreen. This was a big help.
The first loop (it is a three lop ride) on the bike went well as there was not a lot of wind when we got to the back of the island. I also had changed my nutrition from last year and did not have the dreaded stomach problems that many triathletes have on the bike. The second loop, the winds really picked up. It was a tough 15-18 mile section with 15-20 mile an hour wind hitting you broad side. I did develop some left foot pain which happened sometimes when I ride over 70 miles. I wear a special bike shoe orthotics that keeps me from having right foot pain after I run and after riding. This had happened last year. So I removed my left orthotic. But shortly thereafter the right foot also bothered me so I removed that orthotic too. This essentially eliminated the pain. At mile 62 there is a special needs station where one leaves anything that they might want. Last year I rested there a bit but this year just grabbed what I needed from my bag and kept going. The third lap the wind got even more brutal and we were all slugging it out on the backside of the island. As I turned to head back into town at the 100 mile maker I went to slip the orthotics back in as it prevents me from having foot pain on the post ride run. The left one had fallen out of my bike jersey pocket but at least I had the right one. All in all I rode 12 minutes faster than last year.
Back into town, I got off the bike at the bike to run transition area (T2). I quickly changed; again much quicker than last year and headed off to run the marathon. My legs were a bit heavy but somehow I was running well. This was especially good since I had a hamstring problem earlier in the year and had been running a lot in deep water instead of the land for my training. The heaviness quickly went away within the first mile and all was going good. I had only slight right hamstring discomfort and no real pain.
We do approximately 4. 4 miles out and back for an 8.8 mile loop (three times). On the way back to town on the first loop, the foot pain (left and right) started to appear. I did take a Celebrex at 4am and another one on the third loop of the bike. When I got to town after 8.8 miles, I asked my good friend Angela (she was my aid throughout the race- and a great one at that) to go find ibuprofen (it works on a different pathway than Celebrex). When I got to the second turn around to head back to town (13.1 miles) my hamstring kicked in – big time. It was painful to run but I kept going. I changed my gait (made it an even shorter stride). There were plenty of people walking by then but I just dealt with it. I know there was medic tent at about 15 miles. I pulled in and asked for ice. They ace wrapped my upper thigh with lots of ice. This seemed to reduce the pain but I still was running slightly slower (the first 13.1miles had me on a 5+ hr. marathon pace – much better than the 5:35 of last year). As I entered town, Angela was there and handed me the ibuprofen. I took it and within minutes I was feeling quite good. Prior to this I had calculated my time and distance and knew that I could break 14 hrs. – and maybe by 30 minutes. The hamstring pain started to return about 19 miles. I got the leg wrapped with more ice again on the way out to the 4.8 final turn around. Before the last turn around I was forced to walk and run. This is something that I had never done before (walk that is), but the pain was pretty high. At the last three mile marker I got even more ice for my hamstring and decided to walk more than run. Soon thereafter I could not continue a run/walk pace due to pain but figured if I walked fast (walking was painful but not severe) I would break 14 hrs. So at that point I walked a 14-15 mile pace (off my Garmin wrist computer), which is still pretty fast. There were plenty of walkers and I was passing them. I had to save whatever run I had left in me for last few hundred meters up to the finish (no way was I going to walk that!). This is right in the middle of the park and all lite up with hundreds (if not more) of people yelling and screaming. So as I got close, I began to run (pain is temporary; finishing is forever!) the last hundred meters to the finish line where I heard the announcer say, once again, “Peter Fields, you are an Ironman!“
My time was13:50, not the 13:30 I might have had without the hamstring issue.
But I did end up breaking the 14 hr. barrier (last year’s time of 14:04), which I had set out to do. Mission accomplished.
As I always say, age is mind over matter; if you don’t mind- it does not matter!
Immediately after crossing the finish line, after getting a big hug from Angela. I then went into the medical tent and to get a one liter IV bag of fluid (as a former ER doc I know what to say to get it done without waiting). Everyone is dehydrated to some point and this was much needed. Then off to get a post-race massage and some food. Unfortunately, caffeine gels kept me going during the last part of the run and my stomach did not really want any food. But it was nice just to sit down. Then cheered on the last finishers who are those are trying to make the 17 hr. cut-off at midnight. After collecting my gear and bike, I finally headed back to the hotel and got to bed at 2am. Not much success with that after being very jacked up all day, so the next day was to a big recovery and sleep day.
Thank you for allowing me to share this with you and for taking the
time to read it. I want to thank everyone that offered me support and
wishes. I am very grateful to each and every one of you.
Peter A. Fields, MD DC
The Athletic Doc® and Ironman Finisher