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Ironman Lake Tahoe – How the crap did I do 30 of these?

Ironman Lake Tahoe – How the crap did I do 30 of these?


Lake Tahoe Ironman 2013

This was a very strange race for me.  I had plenty of time to think.  I did a few ‘firsts’ this Ironman, and with as many Ironman races as I have completed I thought all of the firsts had been done.  I realized that there is ALWAYS something to learn no matter how experienced we are, or how fast we go.

First – Was warmer in the water than outside the water.
First – Wore full bike gear including leg warmers and cycling jacket.
First – Walked the entire marathon and finished with my head up!

Had this race taken place on Saturday they would have cancelled the swim, and most likely, the race as there was snow on the road and various portions of the bike course.  Most likely they would have done the race on Sunday as a 70.3 like they did with the New Zealand Ironman in 2012 due to inclement weather.  Lucky for us, the race was on Sunday and the thermometer that morning read a stellar 35 degrees. There was an awesome mist rising off of the water as the water temp was warmer than the air, and the spectators and athletes were freezing waiting for the race to start.

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I kissed Sunny and my very loyal and very freezing daughters before heading to the swim start.  The coldest part was waiting in the swim chute on the freezing cold sand.  Many of the athletes (myself included) wore socks that we were willing to take off and abandon just moments before the swim start.  With the new ‘rolling start’ I positioned myself almost front right side in the corral.  After the national anthem, the gun was fired and we were off.  My emotions were a mix of excitement at being back at the start-line of an Ironman, and also massive disappointment knowing I was not in physical shape nor health to compete at the level I usually do.

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Rewind back to the final weeks of 2012 just after I completed my 30th Ironman of the year…I felt good and mostly recovered, but DEEP down I was torn up and not one hundred percent.  I rushed the process as I wanted so badly to get my speed back and into racing form.  I started to push in order to get ready for the St George 70.3 race in May.  I felt decent, and although I raced well I was still unhappy with my progress. Unfortunately, I had already loaded up my race season thinking I would be recovered and feeling strong.  The opposite happened, and my body deteriorated and worsened as I continued to push harder.  I should have taken several months off before increasing my speed and intensity.

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Fast forward to the weeks leading up to the race.  My ab, hip flexor, and groin were to the point where coughing hurt and running was very painful.  However, we had everything all planned out, and the kids were excited to go. Also, my ASEA sponsor had pulled many strings to get me into the race, so I wasn’t about to squander the opportunity to go and ‘preview’ the course.  I knew going into the race there would be a high likely hood that I would be walking my first ever Ironman marathon.

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Ok back to the race. Where was I? Oh, yes the freezing sand on my feet just before the swim start.  I removed my socks only 5 seconds before the gun fired.  I took off running and high stepped my way till the water was deep enough to dolphin dive and start swimming.  The water was not swim-able until about 100 or more meters from the shore– most likely my fastest 100 meters of the day.  I settled in and was pleasantly surprised with how nice and warm the water was.  The water temp was 63 degrees and was the perfect temperature for swimming.  Luckily, with the rolling start there was no chaos in the water, and I was able to settle down and do a nice warm-up for the 2.4 miles of swimming that lay ahead.  There was only one problem: no one could see the buoys, and many of us had a hard time knowing where we were supposed to be swimming.  This played a big role in many of the athlete’s unusually slow swim times.  My Garmin had the swim clocked (the way I swam) at just over 4400 meters meaning I swam an additional 500 meters.  At this distance I averaged 1:40 /100 meters which I am pretty happy about.  The swim was a two loops, and upon completion of the first lap the water was shallow enough to walk. I took this opportunity to run along the shoreline with the water height just above my waist.  I was able to run as fast as many of the swimmers around me.  It was a good opportunity to regroup and get ready for the second loop.  The water was clear, and by the middle of the second loop the sun had come up and the mist had lifted.  My last 500 meters went super smooth, and I was happy with my pace.Screen Shot 2013-09-25 at 5.27.25 PM


It was a quick run out of the water and through the chute, and there was so much congestion that I never saw my girls who patiently waited for me at the swim finish.  I grabbed my bag and entered the T1 tent, or should I say the ZOO tent.  I have never been in a transition tent with so many athletes in it.  Normally, athletes are in and out and rushing all over the place, but not today with the colder temps. Athletes were taking off all of their wet items and putting on layers of gear in an attempt to stay warm on the bike ride.  Every single seat was taken, and even most of the standing room was occupied.  I walked all the way through the commotion and ended up changing just outside the tent.  I kept my tri shorts on, and put my bike shorts on overtop, threw on full leg warmers, a bike jersey, cycling jacket, booties, and gloves.  I was all set for a warmer ride.  The few extra minutes it took me to put on all this gear was well worth it.

I headed out onto the bike and HOLY CRAP my face was freezing! Oh, and my feet were still frozen from standing in the icy cold sand.  From miles 5-25.5 I averaged just under 22 MPH and remember thinking;

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‘This course isn’t gonna be hard at all. I can do these rollers all day long.  I will just pop up over the 2.5 mile hill and try to keep my average up – easy day!”Screen Shot 2013-09-25 at 1.35.00 PM

Well, the real climbing started at mile 40 and kicked you in the face all the way ‘til mile 50!  Without knowing the course I had no idea when the climbing would end.  At around mile 45 I was tired, had heavy legs, and started to question why I was out there.  I was cold, injured, and not in condition to be competitive.  I kept thinking about quitting, and despite doing 30 IM’s last year I wasn’t sure I was going to find it inside me to finish this one out.  As many of you know, I have 5 kids and, more often than not, kid’s bop of some kind is playing in the car.  For some reason the song ‘gum drops’ came into my head and I started signing it over and over again……

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“If all of the rain drops were lemon drops and gum drops, oh what a rain it would.  I’d stand outside with my mouth open wide signing ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah……” BOOM Shoot me in the head right now.

I FINALLY summited the last climb before screaming down the mountain back towards king’s beach.  I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to do all that again.  It was at this moment that I remembered my day last year with Dayton in Arizona.  The thought came into my head:

‘Dayton can’t ride a bike and you get to ride your bike’

This helped push me through the next section of hard miles.  By mile 65 I could finally feel my left foot again.  I stayed on my NEW nutrition plan and slowly I started to come around.  About half way through the climbs on the second loop I started to feel really good.  I looked down at mile 82 and was finally in a rhythm.  It took this long to kick off the rust from almost a year away from racing Ironman.  I thought I was going to feel like death the entire day, but what did I expect with no training for 6 weeks and a very injured ab, hip flexor, and groin?

The final stages of the bike were rolling but now into a headwind.  I was still feeling great and cut through the wind to wrap up the final miles of the 112 mile ride.

I rolled into transition decidedly unexcited about what was about to happen.  Knowing my current level of fitness and physical health there was a huge probability that I would be walking the majority of the marathon.  I had joked with many of my athletes that I would easily break 12 hours in this race, but looking down at my watch I noticed my current race time was 7 hours and 58 minutes. There was no way I was going to break 12 today.  This was one of the hardest bike courses I have ever done, and honestly the only race I can think of that was tougher was the 200km ride I did in France through the Pyrenees.  This transition tent was just as bizarre as T1, but for different reasons.  Athletes were just sitting on the chairs almost motionless.  I went through my entire transition and the guy beside me didn’t move, still in his bike shoes.  I think he was contemplating whether or not he wanted to run after that ride.

Here’s some interesting stats I found on the race totting the seconds highest ever DNF in Ironman history – no wonder so many athletes were sitting lifeless in the transition tent –

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Not really thinking ahead I just threw on my running shoes and sleeveless top (total routine).  I was so accustomed to doing sub 12hour Ironman races that it didn’t dawn on me that when the sun goes down the temperature goes down with it.  I headed out onto the run course and just felt like starting out with a walk.  There was an aid station pretty quick, and I made a stop.  Chips, pretzels, grapes, and coke all went down the hatch – and tasted so good!  I started running and didn’t have much pain.  The air temp was perfect, and I thought maybe, just maybe I would be able to run slow and get this thing done is a reasonable amount of time.  Reality set in at about mile six when the pain started to mount, and it became decision time. Should I run through the pain and possibly add weeks or months onto my recovery time OR add several hours (5) to your day and minimize the damage?  I quickly made the decision to stop running and walk the remaining 20 plus miles of the marathon.  I can see how quitting or not finishing is appealing, and that would have been super easy.  But this cowboy doesn’t quit.  There was still time on the clock and I had able, walking legs.  So I walked…and walked, and walked.Screen Shot 2013-09-25 at 4.16.58 PM

The course layout was such that the turn around on lap 1 and the turn around on lap 2 were different.  Normally, they run you around and you end up back at transition for the half-way mark at 13.1miles.  But not in Tahoe! Once back at transition you had covered 17 miles.  After waiting all day in the cold and sitting in traffic for 3 hours the girls thought they had missed me coming through at mile 13.  When in reality I was still walking and had 4 miles to go ‘till I got back to transition to head out for my last 9 miles.  At mile 9.5 I asked a volunteer at an aid station if I could borrow her phone to text Sunny and give her an update.  I told her that I was hurting pretty bad and that I was walking.  I said it was going to be a long night, and she could leave if she wanted.  I requested for my hoodie and my daughter’s angry bird hat.  Not expecting a response, I handed the phone back to the volunteer and continued my walk into the night.  At the far turn around of the run I stopped and marveled that some people were STILL on their bikes.  Right then, a dog escaped from this young boy who tried to hold him back.  The dog pulled the boy into the street and BAM.  This poor cyclist who was just about to wrap up the toughest ride she had most likely ever done nailed this kid and went flying into the street.  The boy stood up and limped back over to the curb and the woman lay lifeless in the street.  I felt bad as this unfortunate incident suddenly ended her day.  SO much effort and sacrifice goes into a day like this it was heart breaking to see this happen.  I walked away thinking how grateful I was to be still moving forward toward the finish line.

Sunny and the girls waited and waited expecting me at 13 miles…. which was really 17.  At around 15 miles they were handing out silver blankets.  I was elated to take the space blanket as I was chilled to the bone by this point.  The temp was around 40 degrees and dropping.  I walked through the turn-around at transition, and didn’t see Sunny or any of the girls.  When my times posted online through 13 miles they figured they had missed me, and Sunny took the girls to our friend’s to take them home.  I was devastated hoping for some warm faces and warm clothes.  I rounded the turn around with only my blanket and disappointment.  I felt awful that my biggest fans waited all day to cheer me on with their smiles and cowbells and they never got to see me ;(  Walking through the dark I allowed myself to shed a few tears as no one would be able to see.

A good portion of the run course was on a path down by the river.  It was beautiful in the day and pitch black in the dark.  On my way back out they were handing out headlights for safety- glow sticks weren’t going to cut it in Tahoe.  Once down on the path it was an amazing sight.  One big long line of headlights bobbing up and down in the night.  I have never walked a marathon in an Ironman before and have never seen first-hand the masses out here fighting to finish their Ironman.  I could have easily quit. I could have easily notched my first DNF, but I would have missed seeing all these people fighting for their finish.

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One of the biggest take aways on the day was proper training and proper preparation for an Ironman.  What do you think gives out first in an Ironman?

1- Cardio
2- Muscular Endurance/Strength
3- Heart and Guts (what are you really made of)
4- Mental (quitting or giving up)

The answer, in my opinion, is #2: muscular endurance.  In an Ironman your legs will fatigue and get heavy long before your heart and lungs (cardio or #1) gives way.  All workouts in Ironman training are key, but if you miss your weight sessions and your low end high intensity work you will be in trouble.  Ironman racing is very different than half-ironman races, and practically a different sport than sprint and Olympic distance triathlons.

I thought it was amazing and generous of many athletes to offer me their additional layers of clothing.  I must have looked colder than I thought!  I rounded the final corner of my very long walk and saw Sunny right before the finish chute.  I walked up to her and said; “I’m sorry I took so long.”   She gave me a kiss, and I ran through the finish!  This was one of my worst Ironman finishes, but also one of my favorites.  I would love to return to Lake Tahoe and take another crack at this course, but healthy and prepared next time.


A huge thank you to Bill, Jackie, Scott and ASEA for making this day possible.  As always none of this would be possible without my incredible wife, Sunny Jo Mamma and my biggest fans Lucy, Lily, Daisy, Dolly, and Quinn.  20% of the field didn’t make the finish line making it the second highest DNF in Ironman history only behind the now famous 2012 Ironman St George.  I am happy to say that I have finished the 2 hardest Ironman races to date in Ironman history.  And just FYI neither of these course hold a candle to the test in Altriman in Les Angles France.  I don’t take for granted for one second the incredible support system I have around me and how grateful I am that I get to do what I do for a living.  I am blessed and very happy.  But for now my season is over… let the healing begin.


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#21 A world Record Race at The Canadian

#21 A world Record Race at The Canadian

The Canadian – A World Record Falls

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Done and in the books!

Being on a tight budget, I booked the cheapest flight.  This doesn’t always mean the most direct flight.  I bounced around the US before landing in Montreal for my record breaking race #21.  The race this weekend boasts of a fast and flat course. Unfortunately, the race in the Louisville had heat that beat me up just 6 days earlier.  I arrived early in evening.  Everything this weekend was fairly close to the race site, so I didn’t rent a car.  I grabbed the shuttle to the hotel.  Huge thanks to InsideOut Development for booking my hotel and setting up all the amazing media attention I received on this weekend, where a record falls.

I settled into my hotel and was starving!!  Without a car, I walked over to a local pub hopefully for some good eats.  I picked a very delicious rice curry dish.  Once back at the hotel, I received my media schedule prepared for me by Jacques from InsideOut… this guy is on the ball and was instrumental in the planning of this weekend.  I built my bike and hit the pillow.

I woke up early and met Rick, who is a local coach and retired fast guy.  He took me and dropped me off at the CTV studios for a live spot on the morning show.  I went inside, checked in and waited for my turn on live TV.  My piece lasted only about 5 minutes, but I think I did a good job.  I remained calm and I don’t think I stuttered that much – ha ha.  There was nothing I was going to do about looking so tired, so I just smiled the whole time.  Rick returned to the studio and took me back to the hotel.  He drove up to the hotel and I jumped out and went into the lobby…. two steps inside the door, I realized that this was not my hotel.  I ran back outside in hopes of catching Rick before he drove away.  I ran down the drive waiving my hands, but he didn’t see me.  I went back inside and started to think how I could get to my hotel… realizing I didn’t know the name of my hotel, or where I currently was… hmmmm.  This is a sure sign I have done too much travel in too short of a time.  I called Rick and of course he didn’t answer.  I pulled out of my pocket a room key… a room key with an address on it – YES!  I took it to the front desk and asked how far away my hotel was; luckily the answer was a 15 min walk straight down the road.    I headed out for a walk, which would most likely be good for my legs.  The only bad part was it started to rain ;(

I made it back to the RIGHT hotel and had just enough time to get on my bike and ride it  (yep it’s still raining) down to the race site for my next interview with the news.  I thought we were just going to interview, but they wanted shots of me biking and running.  The rain had let up for the interview portion and run footage, but as soon as I got on the bike the skies opened again.  We still got the shots they needed and I ended up soaking wet!

Media Day!

Media Day!

After the interview, I hung out for a bit at the race site, got all checked in and met Olivier. He happened to be my next ride to Rogers, where I would be doing my next live TV spot.  We had time for a quick bite to eat and grabbed some sandwiches before heading to the interview.  Rogers went just like the morning show.  There was a host, a couch, me and some cameras in our faces.  Lots of fun and I think I did a good job again.  Most places ask the same questions, so this is getting easier and easier.  Olivier took me back to the race site, where I waited for the race meeting to take place.  Usually I do not go to the race meetings, but this event had so many different events and distances going on at the same time that I thought things could get confusing.  It was the strangest pre-race meeting I have ever been to… the race director walked us around all over the place taking us down to the water, back to transition, to the exit and so on.  There was no question what to do after this meeting.  I met a really cool guy at the meeting named Anthony.  We ended up joking around and having as good of a time you can have at a very long race meeting.  I ended up asking him for a ride to my hotel and turns out he likes food…so we went out for dinner.  Anthony is a police officer and loves triathlon.  Turns out he is doing the Mont Tremblant race next year and is looking for a coach.  The dude treats me to dinner, gives me a ride to my hotel and hires me as his coach.  Now that was a great night!

Done and in the books

Dinner with Anthony!

Race morning was super casual.  Rick came back and picked me up race morning.  I have to tell ya, these guys in Montreal are awesome and know how to treat a guest athlete.  The Canadian is a fun event with almost every imaginable distance happening on the same day.  Aquabikes, Duathlons, Sprint, Olympic, Half Ironman, Full Ironman, Half marathon, Full marathon and every variation of each.  The full Iron athletes would go off first with the other distances going off all day long at different times.  It was very unique.  The race course was multiple loops of the same course.  Great for spectators and only a little boring for us athletes.

I felt good and was excited to cross the finish line of this race.  I didn’t think I had it in me to win this race and would be happy with a top 10 finish in the small field.  My main objective is to just cross the line!  Once I crossed this finish line, the pressure would be off… no other race would matter as far as the record was concerned… no one would be able to take that away from me.  Now accomplishing my goal of 30 events is a different story.  The tough part will be staying focused on the bigger goal and keeping my mentally sharp through the last 10 races.

The swim gun went off and I swam really comfortable.  The water wasn’t cold and not too murky.  With the smaller swim field, it is easy to find clear space in the water and I didn’t have to fight many other athletes.  We started the race with the Iron triathlon distance athletes and the Iron duathlon athletes (these guys would only be doing the swim and the bike).  The swim was a two loop course. I am never with the lead group of swimmers, so I just settled into my own pace.  By the second lap, a few swimmers seemed to like my pace and settled in on my feet.  I didn’t mind and hoped they had a good draft.  I ended up swimming a 1:17, which wasn’t that great of a time for me, but I did just swim easy and comfortable knowing that Ironman racing is a long day and my goal was to just cross the finish line.

Easy Swim!  Sunny gives me a hard time about the cycle bibs.

Easy Swim! Sunny gives me a hard time about the cycle bibs.

I jumped on my bike and just tried to settle into a pace.  This course was FLAT and had the potential to be very fast.  I had to be careful to not push the pace.  The road surface was great, which makes it a little harder to hold back on the speed. I held back really monitoring my HR and power.  This course was unique, in the fact that it was 12 loops on the bike of a 15 kilometer stretch.  This gave you lots of opportunity to see where the other athletes were and allowed spectators (if you had any there) to see their athletes a lot.  Which is really great cause Ironman racing is not super spectator friendly… this turned it more into a race track scenario.  I thought I was going to dread the ride and be bored out of my mind, but I actually really liked it.  The other interesting part of this race was the influx of athletes and energy change when they would dump the sprint, Olympic and other distances onto the course throughout the day.  We all had different colored bib numbers on, so you could tell who you were racing against.  The Sprint and Olympic guys would blow by you on the bike and I tried to feed off of their energy… it was hard not to want to go with them.  It also felt really good when I would pass the shorter distance guys knowing I had been riding for a few hours and had a long day still ahead of me.  The 15 k stretch of road will fill up and empty out all throughout our 112 mile ride.  There was an announcer at the far end that would announce your distance and lap every time you turned around.  When they announced us Iron guys, the crowd would cheer a little louder.

Tongue out.

Tongue out.

I went back and forth with this one rider for most of the last 20 miles of the race.  We would swap back and forth for the lead of the race.  A camera crew came into the picture with about 10 miles to go and when there is a camera present I seem to get an extra boost of energy.  I settle in and busted out a really fast last lap gapping the second place rider by a little more than 5 minutes.  I ended covering the 112 mile in 5:17:15, which was one of my fastest splits on the year.  I had the Iron Distance lead in my 21st Ironman of the year, the world record race.  “Could this be happening?” I thought.  I sure hope he wasn’t a runner, cause once I hit the run at this stage of the year, I only have one speed.  It is one speed, not because I am limited by my cardio, but rather my muscular fatigue.  The muscle will only fire so much and I don’t want to risk injury so close to my big picture goal of 30 completed races.

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I headed out on the run and felt ok, not great but ok.  The run course was also many loops on a short out and backs section.  The course was set up to do 8 loops.  The finish line was set up in a stadium on a track.  After each loop, we would run the 100 meter straight away and then loop back out.  Again the announcer would call out your name and what lap you were on.  During our race the same thing started to happen on the run course.  There would be surges of people from a 10k race, a half marathon and a full marathon.  This was a fun element to our race and added much needed energy out there.  I ran back and forth, back and forth and more back and forth maintaining a steady pace and THE LEAD.  I could see my 5 min lead slowly getting smaller at each turn around and on the 7th lap just before the far turn around, we were side by side.  My lead was gone and I just let him go.  I kept my same pace and finish the race in second place, missing out on the title by 3:45 seconds.  Looking back, I regret not going with him on the run.  I am not sure what I was thinking….  A win on my 21st race of the year and I didn’t even try, come on man!!  I was happy with my finish and posted a total time of 10:49:48 which is GREAT at this stage of the year… I know I could have made a good push for the win and didn’t.  Opportunity lost.  I am not saying I would have won, but now we will never know.

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The race directors and InsideOut Development handed me a special award.  It stated the new world record and presented it to me upon finishing the race.  They had a bouquet of winners roses to go along with it.  The media was there to capture the finish and do a quick interview of the accomplishment.

Thanks Guys!  You made today special.

Thanks Guys! You made today special.

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I was pumped.  I did it.  I crossed that line of my 21st race of the year, setting the new Guinness mark for the most Official Iron Distance races completed in a year!

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