Transition closed at 6.00am.
Athletes started lining up to start the swim at 6.20am.
As it would have been an absolute mess to start everyone at once, we did a ‘rolling start’ where they let two athletes enter the water every two seconds.
And if you don’t want to be drowned by the uber-fast swimmers, do what I did, and hang back a little bit.
I entered the water with a few friends at 6.33am.
The swim started at the Old Orchard Beach pier in open ocean. When we checked out the water a couple of days before it was a lot colder and there was a bit of a current going on.
But on race morning, it was perfect! The water was warmer than expected (hovering around 60F).
The swim took me 44 mins from start to finish (to cover 1.2 miles).
Apart from right hand getting frozen in the position like Jim Carey’s “the claw”, getting kicked in the side and someone grabbing my feet, the swim was fantastic.
Overall I was stoked. I’m usually the one who has a panic attack in the dark open water.
Clearly, training pays off.
You leave the water on the beach about 600m down from where you started and had to run that distance to the transition zone to grab your bike.
The goal when stripping your wetsuit off is to leave as much sand on the beach as possible. The last thing you want is to get sand in your bike shorts before a 56-mile ride.
[How? Easy, you’ll swim with your bike shorts to cut down the transition time]
At this point it’s a little after 7am, I’m soaked, and now need to run to my bike.
Transition 1 (T1) lasted 8 minutes for me and I used the time to throw on some sunscreen, eat 1/2 a banana, put on my shoes, and go.
Coach forbade me from eating that banana on T1 because it was wasting time. So in my stubbornness, I was going to show him that I could have a quick transition AND eat that whole damn banana.
So I ate 1/2 the banana, stuffed the other half in my bento box and went. After 200 ft on the bike course, the banana fell off my bike.
Shit. Oh well! I knew they’d have some on the course.
Now, there I was on the bike. The only reference I had to a half Ironman distance ride is when I raced Muskoka last year.
That was a difficult course to start with. The bike took me 4.5 hours last year as it was literally up and down huge hills.
This year was virtually flat with three medium sized hills. A piece of cake.
Actually, it was funny hearing some of the cyclists complaining mid hill saying things like “I’m done with hills!” as the intensity of the course is relative to what you’d already done.
While the distance was difficult — the intensity of the bike ride wasn’t.
I ended the bike at 3h 25 mins this year.
It’s so important to check your bike and train at a long distance before you race. Not only for physical training, but it’s important to gauge nutrition and how your body responds.
At mile 25 is when things started to hurt.
Pretty sure I pulled a groin muscle and had excruciating hip flexor and shoulder pain until I was done the ride.
However, these aren’t things that hurt during day-to-day life. These are things that will start to hurt at the intense stress on those parts of the body.
After an assessment, opportunities for improvement are a better bike fit for Ironman-level distances.
I didn’t know that your bike fit can really screw with your performance on long rides. Noted for next time.
At mile 35 that’s when I test myself mentally. Cycling is one of the hardest things mentally for me to do at distance.
It’s so monotonous and feels endless.
[I’m the person that loves short and efficient workouts because you get it done quickly. The cycling workouts are anything but]
So how do I get through a bike ride that takes hours? I play a game with myself.
Part of the nutrition on the course are Clif Bloks.They are really tasty candy sugar cube thingys (aka. energy chews).
In this race, I started taking one every 5 miles after I hit the 10-mile mark.
So for every 5 miles I completed, I got a reward.
[If you’re wondering why I took so many energy chews, it was to maintain my energy during endurance to constantly fuel or else I’d hit a wall]
So finally, the bike ends, I cycled into transition zone, got off my bike and nearly fell over.
My body had been locked in one position for hours and I now had to force it to run — something it did not want to do.
So here I am, hobbling back to my station, I ditch my bike, and start the run.
As a seasoned triathlete, I know from past performance that I need to take the first 1-2 miles to normalize my legs.
The last leg of the 70.3 Ironman was a 13.1-mile run. Now, I knew I was safe for times as I had destroyed my PR on the bike ride and didn’t pay attention to my overall race time.
Side note: I wasn’t aware that there was an 8h 30 minute cutoff time for the half. For the full Ironman, I’m definitely breaking down my swim, bike, and run, for “do or die” times so I know when I’m in a dangerous zone for not qualifying (or not finishing in their cutoff time of 17 hours).
The run was nice. Most of it was in the shade running through the Maine trails. One of my favorite things about the bike and run are the locals that sit on their lawn chairs egging us on.
I was pleasantly surprised by the run — there was a hydration station every mile! They had all the flat coke, Gatorade, salt chews, and bananas you could want!
By the run, your body is exhausted and you’re literally fueled by sugar.
While I was approx 1.5 hours from the finish line I caught sight of David Roher, my Ironman coach, not 100m away from me.
All I could think was “please don’t speed up”.
I started running faster to catch up to him.
First thing he says “where did you come from!”.
After a few minutes he asks me a very serious question.
Do I want to finish with him or ahead of him.
Part of me wanted the gloating rights by beating the coach, but I thought it’d be a huge honor to finish with him.
So that’s what I did.
Trust me, it’s not him. Also, trust me when I say… Don’t ask him if he’s ever been asked that.
Anyways, back to the run.
What got me through the run was the mentality “one mile at a time”. I broke the 2hr + run into small increments so I could mentally control myself.
It’s so easy to get overwhelmed with the 70.3 miles of distance you’ll cover over 6-8 hours… You’ve got to have a system to be able to keep going.
Keep in mind, these races aren’t all about physical stamina — a massive chunk of it is mental grit.
I guess that’s why I’m doing this — it’s making me a better entrepreneur.
Tackling something like an Ironman is insane — but so are many other things you want in life.
So many of us get stuck by how big something is. The trick is to literally break it down into manageable chunks you can gradually eat until you’ve eaten the whole pie!
One. thing. at. a. time.
Now that I smashed my PR for the 70.3 (completing this race in 1.5 hours less than Muskoka last year), I say BRING it to Ironman Florida.
I now have 9.5 weeks (until Nov 4th) to train for a 140.6 full distance Ironman.
IRONMAN, BABY <3
PS. Why the EF am I doing this? I want to prove to myself that I can do something I once thought was IMPOSSIBLE for me.
PPS. The 70.3 Ironman is half the distance of the full 140.6 Ironman and is called that because of the distance you cover in the race.