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May 24, 2007

2007 Florida 70.3

My cell phone rang at 2 AM. Who the heck was calling me 3 hours before I was supposed to wake up for my first half Ironman. It was Nunu. There was a problem with my Dad. He was sick and there was something wrong with his heart. Mom had told him not to call me but he did it anyway because I needed to know. I'm glad he did. Mom got on the phone and told me to stay put and not get on the road at this time of the morning with her granddaughters. She said the were going to do a catheter and determine if he needed open heart surgery. She would call me as soon as she had news. By this time, Karen had woken up and come into the living room. I was sleeping on the murphy bed that night so I wouldn't wake everyone up as I got ready for the race. I explained the situation to Karen. I remember laying there trying to take it all in and not being able to go back to sleep. I think between 2 AM and 4:30 AM I got 15 minutes of sleep. The phone rang again at 4:30. Again it was Nunu. They had put a stint in Dad's artery and he had been stabilized. Again, Mom got on the phone and told me to do the race and then come home. So I was going to do the race, but would I be able to do it?

I stayed in the bed for the next 20 minutes with my mind racing. Finally, I got up and started eating breakfast and getting ready. I ate a Clif Bar, a yogurt, and drank some Gatorade. I ran out the door to meet Kevin Cofran's friends in front of their cabin. They were giving me a ride to the race start. I hopped on the back of the cart with Tony. Robert was driving and Jay was up front with him. We started chatting and then Tony asked me how my night was. Bad question. I didn't want to unload on new friends, but I needed to get it out. They were really great. I appreciate the support those guys gave me before the race. It really helped me get through a lot and get ready for the race. Robert dropped us off and was going to circle back around in 15 minutes to pick up our bags. When I got to my bike and started setting up, I realized my aero-bottle was back at the cabin. I finished getting ready and ran back to meet Robert. When he arrived, I explained the situation and asked him if he would give me a ride to my cabin to get the bottle. He gave me the keys to the cart instead because Jay had not yet arrived and told me to go get it while he waited for Jay. I scurried home and got the bottle and used the bathroom one last time. What a relief!

The waves were spaced pretty well, going off every 4 minutes. Our wave was announced and we gathered on the beach in the starting area. As always, I stayed near the back and when the gun went off I walked into the water. I think I'm getting comfortable enough that I might run into the water one of these days. I started swimming, and breathing every stroke. The first couple of hundred meters are always the toughest until I get in a rhythmn. Finally, I found myself in an open space and started swimming faster. I never had an anxiety attack and felt great throughout the swim. I did find myself off track on several occasions and worked my way closer to the buoys. The turns were a bit hairy and I got clocked in the left eye by some clown as I turned to breathe. Fortunately it didn't knock off my goggles. I remember thinking I was really moving and then looking at my watch and realizing maybe I wasn't going as fast as I thought. I did feel better earlier this week when quite a few people posted on Slowtwitch that the course seemed long. Someone even posted the swim split times of the top pros, and they were about 2 minutes slower than last year. Swim time was a bit over 44 minutes, with the goal being somewhere between 38 and 40 minutes.

Out of the water I ran and headed for T1. Not everyone was in the mood to run and there was quite a bit of congestion on the path. I sprinted, ducked and weaved my way to my bike. When I got there, Karen, Emily, Maggie and Pete were at the edge of the transition area and started yelling for me. The adrenaline was really pumping. The mount line for he bike was down another path, and then you had to push your bike through some deep sand. Not ideal, but I clipped in very quickly and took off. T1 took 3:46.

FL_HIM_BikeThe start of the ride was uneventful, but my heart rate was up around 150 and I couldn't get it down. I think it was up for the first part of the bike because of the excitement, and then later on because it was taking a bit of effort to fight the headwind. I was maintaining my 21 mph pace, and was doing my best to avoid drafting. Not a lot of people passed me, but the ones that did were really moving on very fancy bikes. I encountered quite a few packs of people. It didn't seem like they were trying to avoid drafting. The course really was uneventful, which is a good thing. Based on what Drew Johnson told me, I didn't take a spare tube. If I had a flat, my race was over. There were a couple of trying times on the course in terms of cars. One was on County Road 545 when a car and some motorcycles were nearly forcing people off the road, and another was on 535 before we turned onto Reams Road when there were a bunch of cars in the lane and no shoulder to ride on. The problem on 535 was especially troubling because there was nowhere to go and some of the cyclicts were riding down the center of the road. Towards the end of the bike leg, a guy came up behind me and asked me what 'RRB' was for. I told him it was my Dad and he had just had a heart attack. He yelled "God bless!" and kept going. The emotions were pumping again. As I entered Fort Wilderness again, my stomach started feeling funny. I didn't like the feeling at all. I remember dismounting and having to push the bike through that thick sand again. Grrrr. Total time for the bike was 2:41:31, a little slower than I wanted, but not too bad.

I ran into T2, but not quite as fast as I ran into T1. Again, Karen and the girls were there along with Pete. I racked the bike, slipped on my running shoes and ran to the fence real quick to kiss the girls and get an update on Dad. Karen said she had spoken to Mom, and Dad was stable and OK. What a relief! Time for the run. T2 took 2:13.

FL_HIM_RunMy stomach was really starting to act up, and my legs were feeling wobbly. Shortly into the run, I saw a girl holding a poster that said "Put me in your race report." There you go. (By the way, I just Googled that with no returns. I must be the only one.) Shortly before the first mile, I saw the Cofran clan and their friends. They gave me a huge shout-out that helped immensely. At the aid station just after a mile, I peed at the aid station to see if it would help settle my stomach. Not really. I downed quite a bit of ice water on the run, and would put ice in the bottle of HEED I was carrying. In the past, if I drank as much water at an aid station as I was in this race, my stomach would start sloshing. It never felt like that in this race. Did I become dehydrated on the bike? I couldn't force myself to down a gel, in fear of an explosive eruption. In retrospect, I wish I had dared my stomach to puke by taking a gel. Instead, I resigned myself to a slow, post-bonk trudge. The second lap seemed to be one of my strongest laps, but I think I might have taken Coke at a couple of stations. I can't believe I was dumb enough to think I could run a half-marathon at the end of a Half Ironman without taking more fuel than a bottle of HEED. Then again, I think I completed the first two parts of the race on a lot of emotion and had so much on my mind, I neglected to think rationally as my body ran out of juice.

I finally dragged across the finish line. I saw everyone lining the chute and yelling for me. I made it under 6-hours. Unfortunately, I didn't meet my goals for the race. I might have been able to make the stretch goal of 5:30, but the 5:45 should have been easily attainable. The "run" took me 2:26:00. Ouch!

It certainly was a learning experience. I found Peter King and Kevin Cofran and told them this was the hardest thing I have ever done. At the time I couldn't imagine doing another one. Now I'm ready to avenge this poor performance.

Heart Rate Graphs:
Bike
FL_HIM_Bike_HR

Run
FL_HIM_Run_HR

UPDATE: For posterity, even though I have them via my Garmin, I wanted to save the course maps. Here they are:
Bike course
Run course
Transition area

Comments

Marshall,

Great race recap. With everything that was going on with your dad, this was truly a race of endurance. Physically, mentally, emotionally. And you endured it. Congratulations on your first Half Ironman. You should be very proud. I'm dreaming of accomplishing the same one day. Thanks for the inspiration.

Best regards,
Mark

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