High Cliff Half Ironman 2009 – Larry Shultz
I just thought I’d drop you a note and let you know how things are going.
I got in touch with a woman in Pennsylvania last spring because she was having panic attacks while in the water. I emailed her and told her of my asthma issues and how I fight them.
We emailed each other on a regular basis until her triathlon. I had assured her everything would be fine. I didn’t hear from her for a week after ward. So I e-mailed her and she told me she didn’t think she would ever do another tri.
It seems she was kicked in the face during the swim. There was blood and everything. She did however finish.
I didn’t hear from her until spring when she emails me and tells me she is mentoring about 20 other woman for this same tri. ( woman only tri ).
She asks if I would mind if she emailed me occasionally and asked questions and what not.
There is also a woman In my Open water swim classes that has started to email me for support. It seems her and her sister have signed up for ironman Wisconsin this yr.
Two of my sisters have also signed up for their first triathlon.
I have since finished an ironman so now I guess I am someone. At least someone that has issues like them. someone they knew before becoming a super hero.
Plus the woman in Pennsylvania tells me she is up to over 40 woman, and the RD of the race has given her free entry in exchange for sending other woman her way.
So it seems I am in the mentoring business.
All of this because an old man had a dream.
I’m sending this for two reasons.
First, because without your guidance I may not be were I am and therefore these woman would not be where they are.
It all, really comes back to you.
We thank you for giving us this gift.
Beside the other events I’ve done this yr. I completed my first half Ironman two weeks ago.
I send out race reports and just things I think of during my long training days to the group.
I thought you might like to read my race report from the Badger state games High Cliff half Ironman .
Like I’ve said before, I’m not fast. But I am no longer sitting on the couch pitying myself because of my asthma.
I hope everything is going well for you,
It’s not about finding your limits.
It’s about finding out what lies just beyond them.”
It was a good day, It was a bad day. I laughed, I cried.
I didn’t really cry, but I think I wanted too. I got to High cliff state park, the site of the Badger state games ½ ironman, about 2 hrs early. This meant my wife had to get up around 2:30 am in order to go with me. She volunteered to drive and let me sleep. She’s a trooper that way. She did well. I would keep looking at the speedometer; I was going 100 mph in the passenger seat so no matter how fast she was driving it wasn’t fast enough. I wanted to get there… Now.
Once we got there I settled down a little. I got my body marked and jogged back to the truck trying to get loosened up a little.
I unloaded my bike and put the water bottles on and filled the aero bottle. That’s the one that sits in front between my aero bars. Once my bike was ready I grabbed my transition bag and headed to the transition area.
I had a pretty good spot. On the outside row next to a tree. It should be easy to find.
I laid out my shoes and helmet and decided I’d walk to the beach to see the lake.
Too my surprise, even though it was calm, there were waves. Pretty good sized wave’s.
I could see the “rescue “ boat’s heading out. They were bobbing in the waves. Damn.
With about ½ hr to go I put my wetsuit on and went for a swim. I swam into the waves. I swam parallel to the waves and then with the waves. I didn’t do well. It didn’t matter which way I went at them I was uncomfortable and having a hard time breathing.
They announced it was time to start and we had to get out of the water. I came to the realization that I may not finish this one. Hell, I might not even get started. I was in wave 4 so I didn’t have to wait long to find out how bad it was going to be. I took off from the rear of the pack. I swam slow and deliberate. This swim was going to be about survival. I heard them release the next wave. I waited for the fast guys to swallow me up. It didn’t take long. I was having a hard time breathing and they went by me like they were in a sprint. My though was to keep going no matter what. I didn’t want to stop and see how big the waves really were. I could feel them as they beat me around. Afterward I heard people say the felt sick from all the motion.
I would look up to sight the next buoy, only to see the next wave. I would take a quick breath and stick my head back in the water as the wave crashed over me. My whole body would rock with the motion. I would come up again for another look. I actually had to lift my body out of the water in order to see the next buoy.
I was holding a tight line on the inside. Anyone going by me had to go to the outside. I would occasionally feel someone on the inside, but I was the one going by them. I swam from buoy to buoy. Each time I passed one it was another victory. I finally rounded the buoy that was the furthest out, the one that meant I was now going to be swimming parallel to shore, and parallel to the waves. I felt this was the make it or break it point. I can breathe off both sides, but when I get winded my go to side is off my left shoulder. The waves were coming from that side. I decided I would first try to roll enough to get a clean breath off the left, if that didn’t work I would have to go to the right. I’m much slower when I breathe off the right, and like I said, when I’m winded….well, I tried not to think about it.
It was like a roller coaster; my body would ride up the wave and then drop down between them. Sort of like being in a hammock, only no where near as comfortable. I had to try to time my sighting and breathing so I was at the top of the wave when I could look for the next buoy. It was no use following anyone. When ever I did that I would see the next buoy and we would both be heading off course. I figured if I was going to go off course it would be because I couldn’t swim straight. I decided, Hell I’ve been doing this long enough that I wanted to make my own mistakes. During swim class I do pretty well by myself. When I sight, and don’t see a buoy I trust myself that I am going in the right direction. I am usually right, or at least close.
It was now getting pretty congested. I was running into people, they were running into me. It was very crowded all of the sudden. I wouldn’t allow myself to stop. I know if I stopped and looked around it wouldn’t be good. I didn’t want to see the waves; I didn’t want to see how many swimmers were hanging on the boats. I saw a lot of heads bobbing in the water. They had stopped. I couldn’t do that. I was afraid I’d panic and wave for a recue boat. I thought as long as I kept going I’d make it. I was into it too far to fail now.
I finally went past the last buoy and headed towards shore. It was still tough because the waves were coming from behind. Mentally it was better but physically it was like laying in that hammock again, only sideways.
I was much more at ease and even picked up the pace a little. Once my hand hit the sandy bottom I stood up. That was enough, I was done. I had survived. That’s really what that swim was. A swim for survival.
I was still about 40 yards from shore . I was walking in waist deep water. My time didn’t matter. I was walking and my swim was over for the day. As I reached the shore I had already stripped my wet suit to my waist. I turned around to look. I was glad I hadn’t stopped and looked earlier. The waves had gotten bigger, even some white caps. I turned and started walking to my transition area. I was smiling. Hell, I was done. I could have sat down and called it a day. Forget the medal. I was out of the water. The same water I figured I would be plucked out of somewhere within the first 100 yards. I felt no matter what happens the rest of the day, I was a winner.
1.2 mile swim…..43 minutes 51 sec
I took my time in T1. I knew it would be a long ride. The sun was up and it was starting to get hot. I had only ridden 40 miles as my longest ride to date. I now needed, and would get 56.
T-1…….3 Min. 5 Sec.
The start of the bike route took us up High cliff pass. It’s about a ¾ mile road leading to the top of the cliffs. From the way it looked I expected it to be worse. Riding up it was easy.
I reached the top, got up some speed, tucked into the aero position and headed out of the park. The ride was in the country. From the top of the cliff you could see for miles, I looked around and enjoyed the ride. About 10 miles in I was passing a guy, who was passing a guy. They were talking about the wind. They said how at least it would be at our back coming in.
I was thinking, “It’s never at your back “.
My plan for the bike was to push it pretty hard. At least for the first 50 miles, then I would spin an easy gear and see how my legs felt during the run. I knew how they would feel, but I wanted to know how bad.
At about mile 15 I caught one of my swim mates. She’s a younger woman, a school teacher. She was doing her first ½ IM. She’s a much better swimmer then I am. We chatted a little and she confided that the swim was all about survival for her as well. She however got out in 35 minutes. She said she couldn’t wait to start the run, Then she could walk. I reminded her that on the bike, she could coast. I told her I’d see her at the finish and off I went. I continued to tell myself I wanted to push.
The country side was beautiful, it was a great day to be on the bike. I was being passed by some fast folks, but I was passing a lot more people then where passing me. They said it was a flat course, they lied. It wasn’t as hilly as the ironman course, but it wasn’t flat either. I rolled into T-2 in what I considered a decent time. I was a little afraid to swing my leg over ol’ paint and put my feet on the ground. I wasn’t sure if they’d hold up. My quads had been burning for a while now. It was new territory for me. I got to the dismount line and stepped off the bike. My legs were wobbly. Good thing I decided I’d get off and walk, not run.
56 mile bike…..3 Hrs. 1 min. 17 sec….18.8 mph aver.
As I readied myself for the run I was wondering how long my legs would feel this way.
I opted for no socks, as I often do, tied my shoes, and off I ran.
T-2…..2 Min 52 sec
The run started on the grass in the beach area. Probably the flattest part of the run course.
They had us run in about ¼ mile circle and then up High cliff pass . This time the hill was worse then it looked, my quads immediately let me know there would be no running up the hill. There were others walking up it as well. Some brave soles tried to ran up, I figured I’d see them eventually. I’m sure the fast guys ran up it and never stopped. But there were no fast guys left. They were long gone. I tried one more time to run somewhere in the middle of the hill. After a few strides I had to stop and try to stretch out the tightness in my legs. I walked the rest of the way up. At the top we took a right turn into the woods. Did I mention that this was a trail run? It was. The run was also billed as “flat”. It wasn’t. It was a trail run in a state park called High cliff. What part of that did I not understand?
At about the 2.5 mile mark of the run my right quad rebelled and I had to stop to try again to stretch. It wasn’t happening. It was cramped and pain full. I started to walk, or limp would be a more accurate term. I figured I may have to limp the next 10.5 miles to the finish.
I was starting to understand why you can’t push the bike hard and expect a decent run.
Around mile 3, at the aide station I decided to try to plod and see if my legs would hold up. I was jogging, or plodding about as fast as I dared. Both quads were letting me know that one false move and I would be walking again. I decided, once again that my time was no longer important, like the swim, this was going to be about survival. I walked the inclines and took my time at the water stops. I had plenty of sodium in my bike mix and was even drinking gator aide at every stop during the run. But my legs weren’t convinced. By now it was hot, and humid. In the woods there was no wind, no breeze. At every aide station I would take one gator aide and two waters. One to wash down the gator aide, and one to dump on me.
I was one of the walking wounded. Only I wasn’t walking. I talked with more then a few people who were content to walk it in.
At about mile 8 of the run I met another swim mate. He was done, we tried to jog and he had to stop. We talked about how our muscles had cramped, he conceded that his weren’t as bad as mine and that he had just taken some electrolytes and was hoping to get well soon. He offered me some. Who was I to refuse. We walked into the next aide station where I downed the extra sodium and told him thanks. I told him I was going to plod forward and see if I could get this thing done. He told me he was going to walk it in.
Over the next mile I did my share of walking. Coming into the mile 10 aide station I looked at my watch. If I could finish the next 3 miles in 40 minutes I could still finish under my goal time. My finish time meant something again. That’s the same scenario I had at Ironman. I could do 12 minute miles, walk for a minute at each aide station and that would leave me with 1 minute to finish the last 1/10 of a mile. Of course that meant my watch had to be synchronized with the race time. Which I’m sure it wasn’t. I figured it was best to try to keep running. I walked a lot more then I wanted too. But eventually I got to the top of high cliff pass. This is great I thought. I had to come up it to start the run, but now I get to run ¾ of a mile down hill to the finish. As I started down the hill I realized how wrong I was. Running downhill was murder on my quads. By this time I was done walking, I also was not going to look at my watch anymore. It no longer mattered. I was going as fast as I could. No matter how fast or slow that was, it was all I had left. I was going downhill, which was better then going up hill, so I kept jogging. I could see the finish line, I could hear the cheers. I was going to make it. If I fell down right now I told myself I could crawl the last couple of hundred yards. As I came down the finishers shoot and they announced my name I threw my arms into the air. I hadn’t won, not even close. But it wasn’t about winning or losing. On this day, it was about survival, and I had survived.
13.1 Mile run 2 hrs 26 Min. 23 sec…..11 min 10 sec aver.
70.3 miles and my first ½ ironman. 6 hrs 17 Min 56 Sec.
Race day temperature 92* F
Looking back this may have been one of my proudest moments. I say one of because no matter how easy an ironman is, and no matter how hard a ½ Ironman is, there can be no comparison.
I finished a swim that I was sure I would have to be rescued from. My wife told me of swimmers who swam less then a couple hundred yards and turned and swam to shore. Their day was done. The swim on this day could have easily claimed one more person…me. However it did not.
I went on to ride my fastest bike split ever, in any event. I now know I can push the bike harder, just not as hard as I did on this day.
As for the run, again, it was about survival, quitting was never an option. I had pushed myself hard enough on the bike to handicap myself for the run. I learned a valuable lesson. One that I had read about. One that I knew. I am now closer to knowing what my limit on the bike is. On this day I went past it. Without going as fast as I did I still would have no idea where that point is. Even with my legs paying the price of my research, I was able to finish by running it in. I could have easily walked with the others. But, that would not have told me what I want to know about myself.
Like my sig line suggests.
It’s not about finding your limits.
It’s about finding out what lies just beyond them.”
Yesterday I ventured past my limits. And survived to tell about it. I am now more confident in my swimming. I also know I can ride the bike fast for an extended period of time.
Plus I can stumble my way 13.1 miles to the finish afterwards.
It was a good day to die, But a better day to be alive
There were 538 people registered for the ½ ironman
There were 339 men registered
There were 32 men that either did not start or did not come out of the water under their own power
There were 12 other men that did not finish
There were 30 men in my age group. I finished 20th among them.
There were 51 Men 50 yrs old or older.