No race is perfect, but 13 hours of racing gives you a lot of time to screw something up. Overall, I have to be happy that I didn’t have any mechanical failures or that the weather wasn’t worse. But the following definitely cost me significant time.
Unprepared for Non-Boiling Weather
Training through the entire summer in Texas trained me to deal with humidity and heat, and how to avoid dehydration and hyponatremia. The concern with Arizona is the lack of humidity, and the need to drink even though you aren’t visibly sweating. I am a “super sweater”, having nothing to do with cashmere or wool, but having to do with the fact that I can drink 100+ ounces of liquid and sweat it out over the course of a few hours. (I can’t help but shout out to Seth here, my teammate who knows what it’s like to be a human slip and slide.)
A lot of my teammates carry two bottles of nutrition, very heavy and dense, that will last them six hours, and then they drink water for hydration. My strategy was slightly different – I use 4 to 6 bottles, with less nutrition, but therefore giving me hydration without having to grab water bottles on the ride. This completely backfired in Arizona, because the cold temperatures and rain (my teeth were chattering on the first lap), and so I wasn’t sweating, but I couldn’t really decrease my liquid intake without decreasing my nutrition as well.
As a result, I stopped THREE times on the bike, while I am used to stopping zero times on 90 mile rides, even when taking in a ton of liquid. I had taken a lot of electrolytes so I thought that would help hold the water in, but no such luck.
The drama continued on the run, where I made two pit stops. I was NASCAR like in my speed in and out of the “facility”, but it still cost me time.
A more appropriate announcement when crossing the finish line would have been “Bryan Rollins, you are an Ironman… who used the port-a-potty five times. And you peed in your wetsuit.”
The run might have been easier for me since it was cool, and I run much better in moderate temps than heat, which isn’t that unusual. Next time: two bottles for nutrition, others for water.
On the run, I might as well as have carried an H.E.B. red shopping basket. Along with the basic necessities of race belt, tri-top, and tri-shorts, I was carrying a fuel belt with four bottles and Thermolytes tablets, a run shirt (often tied around my waist), an ear warmer / headband, and sunglasses. I think I was constantly carrying something in one of both hands, putting the shirt on when I got cold, taking it off when I got hot, doing the same thing with the headband, and finally pulling the sunglasses off and handing them to Dan the next time I saw him.
In my next distance race (likely a 70.3), I’m going to try to live off the course on the run (i.e. use everything in aid stations) rather than carry nutrition with me.
Also weather-related, I was freezing on the bike, and could have really used something on my chest over the tri-top. And, somehow I didn’t grab my Garmin wrist-band, so during the run I kept my Garmin in my tri-top pocket.
While it did not affect my race, this week has been “touch and go” because of a complete failure in lubrication. I’ve done a lot of swimming in my wetsuit, including several 2+ mile swims. And I’ve never used Body Glide around my neck like most triathletes, to prevent neck burns from the wetsuit rubbing. Well, this time I had a doozy – I thought I had pulled a muscle, it hurt so much on the bike. The next morning I had a nice burn mark on my neck. My only guess is that during the initial melee in the water, I was sighting a lot more than I should have.
I also forgot to put Chamois Butter on my bike shorts. At the end of the race, my Uncle asked me how I felt. “I feel like I just sat on my @#$% and my @#$% for six hours.” It’s not as quotable as a friend of mine who completed his first triathlon and immediately quipped “I need a cigarette,” but it’s not bad.
My first blister of the entire year came on the run, though I didn’t feel it while I was running. The night of the race, as I was going to bed, I felt a large chunk of under-toe skin fall off. Sure enough I was missing a layer the next morning.
All over my body this week I’ve been finding small scars and abrasions from the fuel belt, wetsuit, tri-top, tri-shorts, and even my running shoes. Death by a thousand chafes.
Finishing not Racing
I cannot truly call this a mistake, because it was clearly my plan to pace myself at a level of effort and not risk a failed finish. But the Ironman was not as taxing or as painful as many of the practice rides over 80, and the runs over 16 miles. Of course taper (the three weeks leading up to the race are much less intense) has a huge amount to do with that, as your body stores up energy and you’re racing on fresh muscles.
My heart rate stayed below 150 the entire run, and averaged around 140 for the bike. Both of those numbers are 10-15 points lower than my training heart rate. Again this may be due to the lack of hot weather, but I think I could have pushed myself harder at least by 5 points, which would have resulted in a faster run and bike.
Adding it all up
Given 15 minutes for bio breaks, 5 minutes for improved transition, and 20 minutes for pushing myself harder throughout the day, I believe I’m capable of a 12 hour Ironman on that course with that weather. Every Ironman is different on every day. I don’t think I could have finished Coeur d’Alene in Idaho last year, given the stories of my T3 teammates, of 40 degree weather, simply because my immune system would have been wiped out in the first two hours, and the rest of my system would have shut down. I don’t know how I’d survive in the 100 degree heat with 100 percent humidity of Ironman China.
I have no regrets at all, and I am not disappointed with my finish in any way, shape or form. I survived, was healthy at the end of the race, and got to share the moment with people who I love. What more could I ask for?