Monday, October 29, 2012

"It's all About the Run" - Beach 2 Battleship IM Race Report - Larry "HML" Bowers

It’s All About the Run

The Prep

Lots of it. Many hours and miles of it.  Gallons of Perpeteum of it.  Straddling three seasons – spring, summer and fall.  Before the sun rises and after the sun sets – odd hours all throughout the week.  Hats off to Rob for being the unpaid coach and to Shawn for being the training partner on at least 50% of the program.  The other 50% is solo mainly due to the whacky hours and locations that you must train in.  Dedication is key here.  An understanding and supportive family is also essential. 

Lesson Learned – Start early and have a plan.  Stay focused.

The Drive to the B2B Full IM

I chose to take the back way through Edenton NC because the ole 20 yr old Taurus would not have enjoyed the 80 mph cruises on I-95.  Took about 4.5 hrs to arrive in Wilmington NC.  Nice rural drive the entire way.  Saw lots of cotton fields, something I have not seen since my USAF days in west Texas.

Lesson Learned – None actually.  Choose the routing that works best for you.

The Day before the B2B Full IM

I arrive about 130PM and finally hook up with Shawn at the convention center.  It is Friday and he is drinking a beer already (just kidding).  We both quickly learn that there is a lot of stuff to do and in various places.  I read all the pre-race material so I knew what to expect but I was still a bit overwhelmed with the huge “to do” list facing both of us:

-        Check in and packet pick up.

-        T1 bag prep and drop off.

-        Mandatory athlete briefing (12, 2 or 5PM).

-        T2 bag prep and bike drop off 10 miles away in Wrightsville Beach.

-        Hotel check in.

-        Dinner.

-        Supposedly rest and to bed early.  Yeah sure.

It was unseasonably warm but at least dry.  The ride to Wrightsville Beach should have been quick but turned into a big traffic jam because the beach bridge was being worked on and down to one lane.  By the end of the day, I was truly toasted, hungry and thirsty.  The opposite of well rested and raring to go.  I did attend the athlete dinner (for $1) and saw a repeat of the briefing at 5PM.  Dinner was catered by the convention center and it was very good.  I was so darn hungry I had two helpings of everything – the opposite of my nutrition plan … but I was very hungry after an exhausting day.  I did eat healthy though.  Shawn had his family to take care and I had to check into the hotel (we were very near one another down town).  I think I got to bed at about 8PM (to toss and turn) and I had the typical 3 alarms set.  I stressed a bit thinking I may have forgotten something critical in my T bags.  Nothing to do about it now, just go to bed and hope for the best.

Lesson Learned – This is not a two night event.  Highly advise you stay three nights (Thr nite is nite one) to ensure you start the check in process early Friday AM.  Otherwise, get ready to burn a lot of energy and nerves on the day before the race, which is not a good idea.  BTW – I thought I would drive home solo after this event on the same day. Rob was nice but the implied message from him in advance was “You are out of your mind and you must have a death wish.”  He was right.  A Saturday night stay over is NOT an option.

The Swim

Shawn and I meet up in front of the Hilton at 505AM Saturday and board what we believe is the warmest bus (no way would we board an open air trolley).  We made a good choice.  We arrive at T1 and Wrightsville Beach about 530AM.  I go check my bike and reorganize a few things in my prestaged T1 bag and at the bike.  I deflate all the air in every other bike tire on my rack (just kidding).  I go for body marking and enjoy plenty time alone in the porta john in the pitch black.  Temp lights are burning bright throughout the T1 area, otherwise its dang dark out.  At about 6AM, Shawn and I board a trolley to take us to the swim start.  People are huddled against the wall near a parking lot at the beach start.  Folks are wearing their disposable shirts, shoes, socks, etc.   What you leave on the beach goes into the dumpster after the start.  I suggest we stay in the low wind area until about 15 minutes before the race.  Shawn pulls out a flask of whiskey to swig and stay warm (just kidding).  We then head down to the beach which was a longer walk then I expected.  I drink my watered down portion of two servings of Hammer Gel for breakfast.  I toss the flask on the beach with other items destined for the dumpster.  My first Hammer supplements went down about an hour ago.  We arrive about 5 minutes before the start.  Opps, my mistake.  We are at the back of the pack and they have everyone corralled into about a 50 foot wide starting gate on the beach.  Why?  I thought they would give us at least 200 feet of beach front to mass start.  This bites, we are at the back and it cost us at least 1 minute (from when the horn went off until we hit the water).  Unlike here in Hampton Roads (walk / swim the first or last 200 yards), there was an immediate drop off within 10 feet of hitting water.  Cool.  I can swim, let’s go.  There was nothing remarkable about the swim other than running into other swimmers as expected.  Saw the sunrise which was neat.  Also was kicked in the face a few times and almost lost my goggles.  I missed a turn buoy toward the end and went far (that bites) and then I overshot the finish.  I was just warming up and some 54 minutes later, I was done.  The swim, as expected and announced, would be super-fast because it was in a channel with the incoming tide.  Typically, I would have been in the water at least 1.5 hrs for a 2.4 mile swim.  I sort of backed up and then headed to the dock which I almost missed.  Up I climb onto the dock and I then look for the biggest wet suit stripper I could find.  I settled for the first available, a lady, she was good.  Wet suit off and in hand I blast off for a 300 to 400 yard run across what I knew would hurt … road surfaces.  I go for a side walk to avoid totally destroying my feet on the asphalt road.  I side swipe some bushes to stay on the relatively smooth sidewalk.  I somewhat slow down through the fresh water shower and then think “Why do I need this?  I am gonna stink and sweat all day long.  Let’s go!”  I arrive in the changing tent and dump my T1 bag that I grabbed before I entered the tent.  Not much in it because I am wearing what I will be wearing all day long (a Hammer tri suit – my STC tri suit is to tight and cuts me in to many places).  Stuff my T1 bag with my wet suit, cap and goggles and then floor it out the tent as I toss the T1 bag to the volunteers.  Socks, shoes, head liner, helmet and glasses – that is all I need to get on the bike.  Then I forget that I have about 7 Hammer Nutrition pills in my mouth (T1 dosing) that I took in the changing tent.  I tasted some powder in my mouth and almost had a Rob experience of having one of them turn completely into powder before I got to swig some water from my bike.  My fault.  I forgot to drink water upon arriving at the bike first.  I drink water and climb on the bike, all the pills go down and off I go.

Lesson Learned – Bring disposable warm clothing if you know it will be cold before the swim.  We were lucky.  It was cool but not cold like in previous years.

Lesson Learned – Get to the beach starting area at least 15 minutes before the start time even though this means you will be standing and burning some energy.

Lesson Learned – Blow through the fresh water shower.  Not worth it and it was low pressure anyway with too many bodies standing under it.

The Bike

Been there and done it.  I was ready for it.  112 miles, I can handle that.  In about 5.5 hrs it will be done, just be careful and don’t do anything stupid.  Watch out for the two grated steel bridges.  It was exhilarating to get on the bike after getting up so early (445AM) and swimming 2.4 miles.  I was cruising rather fast heading out of town because it was (1) exciting, (2) I had a tail wind and (3) lots of race fans were cheering us on.  Within 5 miles I dialed it back to a sustainable pace of 24 mph (just kidding, much lower than that).  Overall, the roads were very good to excellent with the exception of one 10 or so mile stretch (bone shaking).  I loved the opportunity to ride on a closed down interstate (about 12 miles of it).  Felt like a king on that portion.  I had my 6 hr bottle of frozen Hammer Perpeteum with me and it worked great.  Merely took in water every 1 to 1.5 hrs.  For a diversion, I consumed two Hammer Gels from an aid station but that was all.  I also dosed hourly with Hammer supplements (anti fatique caps, endurolytes and endurance aminos).  Blew by the bike’s special needs stop halfway and almost took out two riders that stopped on the side of the road to get their bags.  I did not understand the purpose of the special needs bags because we were instructed to not put anything valuable in it because the bags would all be tossed at the end of the race.  So short of placing a some perishable food item in the bag, what is its purpose?  I surprise myself and never stop to pee though I feel the urge about mile 80.  As expected, it takes me a longggggggggg time to warm up.  I feel like crap at mile 35 but much better at mile 80, go figure.  By mile 95 to 100 I pick up the pace out of excitement mostly.  I trade places with woman 2 and 3 during the last 20 miles.  I beat them both on the bike and almost run with one of them most of the way on the run … the other one (no 2 woman) passes me at mile 8 on the run and then kicks my butt for the rest of the run.  Neither of them choke on the marathon like I did.  We are warned about the last mile, a steel bridge which will have a 3 foot wide rubber mat across it.  Go slow and stay on it.  That I do.  But holy cow, what a scary process.  It was very unstable and plywood sheets would have been a better choice.  If you fell off your bike onto the metal bridge there is no way you would get back up.  You would be hamburger.  They definitely need to change the bridge crossing material next time.  I enter T2 and roll the bike to bike handler with instructions “take care of her, she has been good to me!” and they comply with a “yes sir!”  I then follow the maze around the convention center to the men’s changing area.  I almost take out 5 male teenage volunteers that were a bit too slow in front of me.  It is a 3 foot wide path and someone needs to move so I yell at them and they scatter … I feel better.  I also had to blow by several other guys (I think from the Half) that were just to slow in the maze.  I find my T2 bag and get into the changing area.  I don’t have a need to change but I do pee alas.  And that was the only time I did that during the entire 11 hr process, wow.  I put fresh socks on and shoe up.  Grab my hat, different sunglasses and my trusty sweat rag that I hand carry.  Off I go out of the convention center and into throngs of well-wishers and fans.  And oh, I carry my T2 bag with my bike gear (helmet, socks, glasses and sweat band) out the front door.

Lesson Learned – Don’t get complacent on the bike.  112 miles is a long way and 5.5 hrs is a long time but it take less than 1 second to veer off the road the ruin your day.  I came close to it at least twice.

Lesson Learned – Slow down at the aid stations and yell to volunteers in advance what you need/want.  They were great but I had one lady running after me to hand me something.


The Run

OK, this is when the term “humbling” comes abruptly to mind.  Within the first 3 miles I was waiting to “get my legs.”  A term meaning a successful transition from endurance riding to endurance running.  Well, I did not feel that transition take place but instead I felt a lot of overall body fatique.  At that point, I knew this was gonna hurt.  I checked my pace and it was too fast (8 min/mi).  So I dialed it back, so I thought.  By the first turn around point (8 miles) I was just barely above 8 min/mi.  You bonehead, slow down, you can NOT sustain this rate.  By mile 13 my stop at the aid station was a bit more extended then it should have been.  Not a good sign.  I, like everyone else, merely pushed on.  Initially I thought aid stations every mile for the run was way overkill.  Well, guess what, half way through the run and I was craving every aid station because I could not drink that much at each stop and would be thirsty by time the next aid stations hits.  I see Shawn coming in on loop one as I am heading out of loop one.  I yell and I think we high five (or maybe I chose to retain that energy).  He has a big smile on his face and is eating a slice of pizza (just kidding on the pizza).  The second time, Shawn sees me and yells.  He has a smile still and I am grimacing just wanting to finish this dang event.  He has a daiquiri this time, with a lime (just kidding).  The run course was great as it was shaded most of the way and went around a neighborhood lake and historic downtown.  Nice setting.  It was a repeat course which was great because on the second loop you knew what you were facing.  However, there was a very tough hill leaving the historic area (should have been stairs in the middle of that road) and lots of rolling hills throughout.  The messed up cobblestones downtown were scary also.  It is easy to snap an ankle when you are exhausted.  So what the heck happened on the run?  Well, by mile 20 the lights went out, almost literally.  Actually, they were flickering a few miles before that.  And you won’t believe this but Dr. Hammer had GI issues toward the end of the run.  Mentally I was toast and I veered off my nutrition plan.  Man, that orange slice looks good, so I ate it.  5 minutes later I regretted it.  10 minutes later, I ate another one with the same results.  I am out of my mind.  I can barely eat any Hammer Gel (and that was my nutrition plan for the run).  What is going on?  My body wanted to shut down essentially, the fatique was enormous.  But was I weak because I was not eating or was I weak because I started eating the wrong thing?  Who knows?  All I knew was that I was not having a good stomach day and that was a first for me.  I now know what Rob goes through.  And then I get the chills which I think is because of fatique and not enough hydration.  But I am taking water (and sometimes Heed) at every aid station, but not peeing.  I am craving ice now also.  So now I know what Chuck goes through also.  Fortunately, I am taking my hourly Hammer supplements though – at least I could get those down.  Otherwise, what a mess.  So essentially, by mile 20 I am officially toast and my goal of hitting a 330 to 345 hr marathon is merely a dream.  Now what do I do, go cry or find a taxi back to downtown (with no cash though)?  I see a lot of walking wounded and I soon join their ranks.  But I only walk when I arrive at an aid station.  Hey, that is at least one mental win.  Still, I must have totaled at least 20 minutes of walking …. that sucks!   This is not how this was to end.  I am in mile 134 of a 140 mile race and I am now blowing light filaments left and right.  Woman 3 passed me about 30 minutes ago and she appeared slow but she was NOT walking.  Anyway, I am humbled and I push on.  I see the mile marker signs go by and surprisingly I keep going despite EVERYTHING hurting.  Even my arms where in pain and felt like lead.  That was a sign to me that some internal lights were truly going out.  I was trying to avoid adulations in the road surface because they even hurt.  And I knew the last 2 miles of this course was UP hill.  Yikes.  Surprisingly, by mile 24, I get PO’d enough to apparently cook up some will power that allows me to pick up a decent nonstop pace to bring it home.  My average pace for the last 6 miles was 12 min/mile.  Wow!  That is what walking will do for your pace.  Personally, I thought I should have been pulled from the course for poor performance.  I slowly jogged down death man’s hill (so I call it) on the last curve before you hit the cobblestones and head to the chute about 800 yards away.  The fans and spectators are great.  There was a live band way back in the neighborhood loop and lots of inspirational signs on everything (it’s not sweat, its liquid awesomeness).  You could be lying on the ground in a coma and they would say “looking good, keep it up.”  About 200 yards before the chute is the turnaround for the second lap.  The officials have no clue if I am on my first or second lap and I clearly indicate to them (with a waving hand/finger) that I am going to the LEFT and toward the chute and NOT to the right for one more lap.  Now that felt good.  I mustered up enough energy to wave my hand and clearly indicate my intended path for the next 200 yards.  I arrive through the chute and say amen. Actually I made the sign of the cross about 100 feet from the chute and then said amen.  DONE.  Not the time I wanted or thought I would get but I was DONE.  And then the blood pressure did exactly what I thought it would do, almost drop to zero.  Got a bit dizzy and found a chair to sit in.  Tried to stand up about 5 minutes later and almost saw the ground real close.  What a drain on the ole body.  A nice volunteer insisted on walking me back to the hotel about 2 blocks away.  I staggered back and was thrilled to be DONE.  The hot shower and Hammer Recoverite both felt great.  I checked my cell phone and saw all the texts and messages from my STC family.  It made me feel GREAT.  You guys stayed with Shawn and me all day long and we truly appreciated it.  I wish I could have seen the messages during the event (Shawn followed them on the run).  An hour or so later and with more stable legs, I then went back out to the finish line to join the party and look for Shawn.

Lesson Learned – Never underestimate the difficulty of the run portion of a full IM.  Everything leading up to it is merely a warm up, in my opinion.

Lesson Learned – Never divert from your nutrition plan, despite signals coming from your body.  Assuming your nutrition plan is sound and rock solid.

Lesson Learned – When the lights go out, just keep flipping the switch even if the bulb seems 100% burned out.  It now becomes a matter of mind over body.  Really.

Lesson Learned – Always be there for a friend.  One day you will greatly appreciate the returned favor.

The Day After

I go to bed about 1030PM on Saturday night and surprisingly can’t sleep very well. I am up at 430AM, hungry, eager to get to the nice breakfast that is waiting for me in the Hilton.  I could not eat much after the race and the food was disappointing (some fresh fruit, all types of unhealthy snacks, chicken broth and plain pizza again … man, I complain about pizza for a post race food constantly and SetUp Events apparently does not care or want to listen to me … if I am gonna eat a slab of saturated fat, at least make it a supreme with a ton of vegetables and meat protein on it).  In retrospect, I don’t know if I could have eaten much if the food would have been better anyway.  I can eat a lot after a Half, but this Full really whacked my system, top and bottom.  I do go back to bed and get up at 730AM and have a great meal at the Hilton.  Had a free breakfast guest coupon for someone else but no one was there for it.  Gave my two Starbucks Coffee coupons to Shawn for his wife (a Starbucks fan).  I meet up with Shawn at 915AM at the convention center to pick up our T bags and bikes.  We exchange a few stories and say farewell.  I load up the car and head back to Chesapeake feeling sore but otherwise feeling great.  The race results were not on the B2B web yet so I decided to blow off the brunch (paid a $1 for) and awards ceremony on the battleship.  Plus, I could leave a few hours earlier by avoiding this.  I had no clue that I placed 2nd in my AG until Sunday night about 15 minutes before I saw Jerry’s email stating the same.  Wow.  You got to be kidding.  Guess there was a lot of walking wounded out there and that leveled the playing field.

But keep in mind, that Rob is still the King of the B2B.  In 08 he completed it in 10:46 vs my 10:54.  His swam 3 minutes faster than I, our T1’s were almost identical, he biked 3 minutes faster than I, his T2 was about 3 minutes faster (how did you do that?) and our runs were painfully dismal and almost identical.  Go Rob go!

Lesson Learn – Never underestimate your ranking.  When you hurt and want to toss in the towel, chances are that everyone else feels the same way.

Lesson Learn – Savor the day after.  It is indeed nice!


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