Ironman California 2001
This is the hardest race report I have ever had to write. No matter the excitement of what I accomplished on a personal level on May 19, 2001, it couldn’t ever offset the heavy heart that I had two hours after I finished my race. I carry with me the thought no matter what happens on the race course; great race, or horrible race, it’s only that; just a race. Losing a loved one or a friend takes greater precedence over any games that we play. It’s safe to say that those of us who knew Perry (PR), even for a short time, were touched by him. He had such an upbeat attitude. He told Mark and me on Thursday before the race that he was doing two races this year, IMCali and Kona. Not even a hint of doubt in his voice. I love that in a person. He wasn’t arrogant; he was confident and ready, period. Right before we all headed off into the transition area, I got a hug from Melanie, and Pam gave Mark a hug, I walked over to Perry and put my arm around him, and told him that he wasn’t being left out. I told him to have a great race, and that was the last time I saw him. I know he passed me at some point during the bike, I just don’t know when it was.
I am still feeling the heavy heart, so excuse this writing, as it won’t be exciting or upbeat. I’m just gonna tell the facts and then put this one away. Forget you, we will not Perry, I’ll always remember your cheery smile even at 5:30am race day when Mark was bitchin and moaning about the traffic. That was Perry, always trying to spread some sunshine, even on a cloudy day. God Bless and God Speed PR, we’ll meet again at the next transition area.
I was ready for this one, mentally and physically. I was sure of my running, confident of my biking, and locked in with my swimming. I was going 10:30 or bust. I made my way down the boat ramp and I ended up in the front of the swim (big mistake) instead of my usual ‘wide right and angle in’ strategy. The water was cold and I was trying to protect my right ankle, which I sprained about 12 days before the race. The people around me kept kicking it, which just annoyed me. The gun went off and I got kicked in the mouth before I took a stroke. I put my hand on my nose to see if there was blood, and there wasn’t any. If it was broken it wasn’t going to matter anyway, the race was on. I started swimming and I had someone on my ass (literally) for at least 500 yards. You know how you swim those 50 yard ‘heads up’ drills? Well I did that for 500 yards because I had no space to swim in. Anyway, I swam all over the place and got beat up pretty good. My arms felt like they weighed a ton, and I wanted to get out at about 1,000 yards. I pressed on and then at halfway, I almost did get out. I made the turn and soon after I felt a little better, got some breathing room, and got into a groove. I still wasn’t swimming straight, but at least I was in my own space. I finally beached hoping to be around 1:07 after that horrendous swim. My goal was 59:00 and when I saw 1:02 on my watch, I knew I was lucky to be that close to 1:00. Official swim time: 1:02.42. Official place: 343
Into T1 I ran, quickly peed, said ‘Hi’ to Dave Koons and onto my bike I went. The first few miles I was burping up seawater and settling my stomach down. After 20 miles or so, which was mostly uphill, I was averaging close to 21 and not going very hard at all. The hills were coming but I was ready. Up the first hill I went and passed a bunch of people. Same thing with hill number two and so on. I was feeling good, but still holding back. The flat stretch back to the beach had a little headwind, but I was maintaining 22 pretty easily. I knew the wind had to pick up the on second loop and it did. I went through the first loop in 2:43 or so. I waved to Pam and Melanie on the way through and onto the second loop I went. I struggled quite a bit from mile 62 through 79 or so. I had some bloating and started feeling a little nausea. The wind had picked up and I wasn’t riding as strong. I was trying to not lose more then 10 minutes the second loop and that is what I focused on. As the hills wore on me I started to slow, but it seemed like everyone around me did too. I was really just trying to survive. At about 91 miles I was still averaging a tad over 20MPH, and I felt great about that mentally. Physically, I wanted to get off the bike and call it a day. I wasn’t able to eat any more Hammergel and I thought that maybe I had too many calories on the bike. I was probably around 2,900 for the whole ride. Once I got to around 102 miles the last 10 miles were back toward the beach and into a headwind. On the first loop I was close to 22 on this stretch but on the second loop I was more like 18MPH, so I knew I had spent some energy on the bike. Hopefully, I left enough for the run.
Coming back into the transition area was fun. People were cheering and it was like the Tour De France (not that I know) but it was very motivating. I stepped off my bike, ran into the change tent and a nice volunteer dumped my bag out for me and put my shoes right in front of me. I grabbed my Hammergel, socks, and running shirt. I said, “I have everything” and he said, “Are you sure?” and I replied, “Yes, thanks”. I ran out onto the run. Official bike time: 5:39.55. Official place: 297. My second transition was 2:18. I was on the run course in a total time of 6:49.25. I was hoping with my run goal of 3:25, a 10:15 finish time was still possible.
Right out of the gate I felt great on the run. My legs were fresh and bouncy, like I hadn’t run in a week. This is quite the opposite feeling I had when I stepped off the bike and my knees buckled. Off I went and the crowd was huge and there was a tremendous surge of energy. I turned my cap backwards because the sky was cloudy and it wasn’t very hot. My glasses fell off and almost immediately I knew the nose-piece was going to fall off with it. A volunteer came running up to me (as I was in full stride) with the glasses and I told him I needed the nose piece. I took the glasses and put them on my head as I knew they were useless without the nose piece. Soon after I cleared the crowds I saw two familiar people running toward me. Stride for stride they came at me, and they even looked alike. It was the DeBooms. I see them often on the trails around Boulder and most mornings at Master’s swim workouts. Here they were leading the race tied for 1st. What a rush it was for me. I used that adrenaline to get me though the next few miles. At mile 4 I was running well under 7:15 pace and I knew it was going to be a good run for me. My goal was to go around 3:25ish and I thought on this flat course it was possible. Soon after 4 miles I saw Gordon. He ran up to me and told me to slow it down, save it for the end. It was great advice and I’m glad I listened because I don’t know what would have happened had I done otherwise. I was feeling real hot during those first few miles and I was conscious of getting down calories. I tried taking Gatorade at each aid station but my stomach wasn’t liking the taste of it too much. I stuck to the basics. Water and Coke. From mile 4 on all I drank was water and Coke. Nothing else. Not even a shot of gel, or gu or anything. Water and Coke. I passed through 6.55 miles in 50:45 or 7:44 pace. I was thinking it was going to be hard to hold this pace for another 18 miles but I was out to give it my best shot. I saw Gordon at the turn around and then I was passed for the first time on the run. It was Tim DeBoom. He had dropped his brother Tony and was heading toward the finish. A short while later at mile 7 for me and 20 for him, Tony DeBoom went by. He looked like he was hurting bit and I asked him if he needed a sponge or anything since I was on the inside closer to the aid station. He just shook his head no and waved his hand in sign that said “No thanks”. I kept moving right along knowing that I was slowing down a bit. When you are in that moment and there is nothing you can do about it, you have to accept it because really, you have asked more from your body then you ever really should. I hit the halfway point in 1:46.14 and I slowed down to 55:29 in miles 6.55 to13.1. The pace for those 6.55 miles was 8:28.
At the turnaround Tom had a pair of glasses for me and I think they saved my race. I was feeling hot with the sun beating down on me. (After a few miles of the run the sun was out in full force even though the temps stayed pretty cool.) I felt my face cooling almost immediately but I was starting to suffer and I was now saying aloud that I wouldn’t be doing another IM ever again. My good buddy from back home in RI was at the race (Johnny Blaze) and he was snapping pictures every time I ran by. He was looking for me to say something positive but I was all out of positive things to say. I just wanted this thing to end. I hit the 19.65 point in the run at 2:45. The pace was 9:00 per mile for the third leg. As I hit the turn around I reached that point in the race where it’s you against that little voice in your head that says, “Oh – you’ve done great up until now, don’t worry, if you walk you still had a great race”. I was tempted, but this is where you find out what you are made of. I caught an Austrian triathlete at the last turn around and he asked me what the total race time was. I replied that if we ran hard we could break 10:30. He said, ”Okay maybe” and took off like he was shot out of a cannon. I tried to hang on and my legs were just on fire. It probably wasn’t more then 7:45 pace but it felt like 5:30 pace. Well I hung on, drafting behind him until we reached mile 23. He slowed to walk while getting some water and I just kept heading toward the finish. It was my chance to drop this guy and I did. I passed by Mark going the other way at mile 24 and we high fived and he told me: “Go get it”. I did my best to finish strong. The crowd really kept me fired up the last few miles. Coming into the finish chute I could see the clock right at 10:30 and I was psyched! I had done it. The goal that I had written down on January 1 had come true. I finally had my best IM. I came across in 10:30:26. Official Run time: 3:41 Official Finishing Place: 197
When I stopped, I immediately felt a huge wave of emotion come over me. The tears wanted to flow so badly but I was so drained I couldn’t even do it. Mike Blair and Rob Wood from Inside Triathlon were patting me on the back as soon as I stopped and they made me feel like I had just won the race. They were awesome. I shuffled forward and I saw Mel just standing there beaming. She was so proud of me. I could see her glowing. She was the REAL trooper, watching for 10 plus hours. She also endured my pre-race crankiness the night before, got up with me at 4:30 the morning of the race and had to deal with me bouncing off the walls like it was Christmas day and I was 7 years old again. I owe her a lot, especially during the last few weeks when the doubts started creeping in and she kept on telling me, “You can do it” or she’d come home and say, “You are SOO ready for your race” – the woman is a walking motivational seminar! Thanks Mel!
I also want to thank my training partners that helped me reach this incredible goal. It all started on a cold night in December with Dan pushing me on the track week after week. It didn’t matter the weather, the guy showed up every week. Thanks, Danno. Also, thanks to Mark for pushing me on the bike week after week up the hills, down the hills, in the rain, sleet, and snow. Thanks, Mark. And ‘Thanks’ to all my other friends for their encouragement and positive thoughts. I couldn’t have done any of this without all the support everyone gave me. God Bless till next time. YO PR! YO!
Thanks for reading!