I did Ironman St. George last weekend. Going into the race I felt pretty good. My training was not as consistent as it had been for previous Ironman races but I trained hard for this race. I averaged about 20 hours a week of training for the last month going into the race. I began to ramp up my training back in January.
Let me start off by saying if you were even thinking about doing this race I would personally NOT suggest it. It was one of the hardest Ironman courses I have done. Most people who have done several Ironman events said the same thing. The water temperature was in the mid 50's. Air temp in the morning was in the 40's. The winds were blowing and the high for the day was in the 70's. You will have enormous hills to climb all day on the bike and run! So if that doesn't scare you away from this race then you are as crazy as I am. For the first time in an Ironman I had to change clothes for each leg of the race because of the weather. I usually will race in what clothes I swim in. In this race the cold weather did not make that an option for me. I actually rode the bike in gloves, tights, bike shorts, tri top, tri shirt (long sleeve), jacket, and toe covers. Even with all that I did not stop shivering on the bike until mile 20. The swim chilled me to the bone and almost killed me. I am really not exaggerating! I have never had problems cramping in any race or in training. I was not dehydrated when starting this race either so the cramping had to be from the cold water. The last thing I would ever think would happen to me would be cramping in the swim. This just goes to show you that you never know what can happen. You can train perfect and be sidelined by some crazy scenario. We started the swim and it was chaos from the start. Ironman swims are crazy from the beginning. In most cases people spread out in the swim after about 15 minutes. This did not happen at all in this race. There were people on top of people the entire time. As I was fighting my way through the thousands of people I could feel my legs wanting to cramp. I kept trying to shake it off and keep going. It progressively got worse the longer I was in the water. Finally I could see we were headed into shore. At about 200 meters from shore my legs completely locked up. Hundreds of people slashing around me rushing toward shore and I couldn't move my legs. I also could not touch yet so I was clawing my way and not going anywhere. It was at this point I thought I may drown. I kept trying to get to where I could see the bottom of the reservoir. Finally I could put my hands down but keep in mind my legs were not working so I couldn't walk. Two volunteers pulled me out of the water and held me up. They asked if I wanted to go to the medical tent and I immediately said no and tried to walk away. I finally got some use of my legs but my right calf was still hurting from the cramping. I limped my way to the changing tent. The women that was helping me change must have thought that I was nuts for going on. I was shaking from the cold so bad I couldn't talk or zip my jacket. I guess about 20 people in my age group finished the swim and did not continue. I did not want to be one of them. If that experience was not bad enough I still had 112 miles to ride in the wind. The weather report was calling for light winds in the morning and moderate winds in the afternoon. It was more like moderate in the morning and major winds in the afternoon. Damn the weather forecasters! I remember riding a hill at one point and a huge dust storm came blowing by me almost blowing me off my bike. My bike time was 1 hour and 10 minutes slower than my fastest Ironman bike time. Not only that but I could feel my calf tightening up all day on the bike. I was really concerned that I would not make it through the run. Finally I got off the bike and was headed out to run the marathon. It seemed like forever but I managed to grind it out and finish. The feeling of finishing something like that is amazing. I wanted to quit so many times throughout the day. I was so amazed to see all types of people doing this. At one point I saw a guy who crashed on his bike, broke his collar bone and was running the marathon determined to finish! We met a 70 year old man on the bus in the morning and he was doing his first Ironman! It is a very amazing experience that produces every kind of emotion imaginable. I had extreme highs and lows on Saturday. I had unforgettable experiences. I did something most people can't imagine doing. I wanted to scream for joy and cry in pain all in the same minute. I was so proud and so disappointed with myself at the same time. If anyone thinks they can't do something, think again because I am sure you can do anything you put your mind to. Maybe an Ironman is not your challenge. It may be a 5K, 10K, Marathon or sprint triathlon. Whatever it is you can do it if you just believe in yourself!
I had several friends that did this race as their first Ironman. All of them had great races and experienced the same type of emotions I have described. Crossing the finish they were blurry eyed and very emotional! Congratulations to everyone who took on the challenge Saturday!