Saturday, September 11, 2010

Ironman Kentucky - the most painful of posts

This post starts with a most painful revelation - I just found out today that I qualified for Hawaii at Ironman Kentucky on August 28th as a roll down qualifier. The painful part of the news is that I felt so letdown by my result that I couldn't bear to go to the roll down to see all the qualifiers get their spots knowing full well that there wasn't a chance in hell that I'd get a spot. I was wrong and I feel physically sick as I write this.

It seems that some of you still weren't aware that I sneaked off to Kentucky to try a last ditch qualifying effort so I shall tell the story and give an account of the race - which by the way I thoroughly enjoyed and haven't regretted doing for one moment - it was a secret adventure and I loved it.

I couple of weeks before the ITU Worlds I felt that my calf tear would at least be repaired enough to get me through the race. At which point I suddenly started thinking "What if?". What if I could get a Foundation entry to IMKY and use the ITU race as a training springboard to get fit enough to qualify for Kona? If I trained throughout my holiday then maybe...

A lot of ifs and maybes but there was a seed of an idea and a basis of a plan. I contacted the race organisers and explained my situation and that I couldn't commit until after the ITU Champs. They said Foundation spots (You have to pay an extra USD600+ for them and this extra goes to local charities or community projects) were 55% sold and if they didn't sell out they'd close entries anyway 2 weeks before the race.

I got my office to explore tickets to Kentucky from the UK and whether my return flight to Malaysia could be changed. Accommodation was sourced and now all I needed was to be injury free past the ITU Long Distance race; Or so I thought. A few days before the race I checked the Louisville, Kentucky Ironman website and to my horror ALL ENTRIES WERE CLOSED.

I started writing desperate emails begging for a place. Unlike other full Ironmans the guys in Kentucky replied in a very timely manner and did not entirely close the door on me as I'd expected. They basically said finish your race and then let us know and we'll see what we can do.

To cut a long story short I came out of the ITU race with a wonderful but painful experience and most importantly injury free (sort of). I got my entry to IMKY, albeit an expensive Foundation slot but I was in and very grateful. Shilpa wasn't entirely happy but was resigned to the fact that I have to get this out of my system, I on the other hand committed to training as much as I could around the family holiday and minimising the disruption as much as I could.

Over the next few weeks,in between, beer, wine, pizzas and ice-cream and while holidaying/travelling in Germany, Belgium, France (Paris & the Alpes) and the UK (my parents place in the Midlands & the Waymans in the South)I managed to get some training in of sorts including runs of 34k, 30k & 24k, one long ride of 180k plus swims of 3k, 4k and an open water wetsuit swim in Dover harbour. Lots of other moderate swims, bikes and runs too but these were the crucial long ones.

We had an awesome holiday and all too soon it was time for Shilpa and the boys to head back to Malaysia and the next day I flew to Louisville, Kentucky via New York for a date with my destiny (or so I hoped). Immediately, I loved the atmosphere, everyone polite and friendly, a mix of the hospitality of the South and the directness of the North.

There were almost 3000 participants and 494 in my age-group alone. I was a little taken aback but I knew that there were unlikely to be 10 people in my age-group that could beat me if I put together a solid race. Having said that it was now clear that it was going to be a hot race - my Nemesis had followed me here once again. DENIAL kept my confidence high.

On Friday I registered, checked out the expo and then went for a 40-50k ride to check out the course and the bike. I got lost and found myself in the middle of nowhere when my front derailleur cable snapped...Nooooooooo! Oh well, I still had a day to fix it but amazingly as luck would have it I was 200m from a bike shop - the chances of that AND finding it were probably 10 million to 1. I fixed the cable myself (cool guy in the shop let me use the tools, I service my own bike, no one else to blame then), in fact it was only the outer cable housing that needed replacing. A fiddly job but one I know well and USD5.30 later I was riding back to the hotel with a very good feeling about Louisville.

A quick change and then to the pasta party and briefing. It was a great atmosphere and a very civilised pasta party with plenty of top quality food for 3000 people and very reasonable queues.

I was at this point that I found out that it was a non-wetsuit swim - so much for my Dover harbour dip. Never mind, I had my speedsuit and it was still legal until the end of September.

Saturday started with a swim in the Ohio river, a quick jaunt on the bike and then dropping the bike and bags off before an early night to bed.

Once again I was impressed how efficiently they processed almost 3000 athletes. there was literally no lining up for numbering and the portaloo lines were very reasonably and once I got into a portaloo I didn't want to kill myself. (At Ironman China people were literally vomiting as they entered and left the portaloos with excrement overflowing out of the doors - not pleasant and sadly no exaggeration in my description).

Like China the swim was a time trial start with 6 athletes going off every 2 seconds. A last minute poo was more important to me than starting early so once done I started heading towards the back of the line. After about a kilometres I laughed out loud at how long the line to start the swim was. Little did I know at that point that I was only halfway to the back. Once the gun went it took over 40 minutes to get everyone into the water. Different from the usual mad start but a very cool way of doing it if you ask me.

I loved the swim and it turned out to be quite good for me time-wise for a non-wetsuit swim. I came out without having been beaten up and feeling a lot fresher that at the ITU Champs plus I felt that I'd been consistent from start to finish rather than struggling over the last kilometre - those dreary sessions at the Oak Park Recreation Centre's 25m pool with all those 'orrible kids had paid dividends.

SWIM TIME 1:11:30

Pretty good I thought although I was a bit distraught to find my speedsuit zip had come open during the swim - can't have made much difference though but annoyed with myself that I hadn't locked it down properly before the start.

T1 TIME 4:21

Now it was time to rock and roll. Having gone out too hard in Ironman China I was very aware of the numbers and keeping my heart rate down to around 130bpm from the off and cadence around 84.

Things were going well and it was a constant stream of bikes I passed for the entire bike ride. No one passed me but I guess I did start near the back of the swim. The course was just beautiful, rolling hills like the MEX hwy in KL but a constant headwind (all the time it seemed) and of course hot. It was a dry heat so very different from Malaysia and one that as I found in Alpe d'Huez LC Triathlon it's easy to get dehydrated without realising it as the sweat simply disappears so there are few visual prompts that fluid is escaping from your body at a rapid rate of knots.

My disciplined approach to heart rate and experience of other dry, hot races helped me minimize dehydration but even so it wasn't enough. At about halfway I sensed the power failing in my legs an soon after I couldn't keep my heart rate at 130 anymore it was dropping as was my power. The last 15k of the bike were probably the longest of my life (just about everyone I spoke to said the same thing too). I think the combination of the hills, dry heat and wind took their toll on most people out there. I was satisfied with my bike time and together with my swim and transition knew I was competing for a Kona spot...and then I got off my bike...

BIKE TIME 5:15:21

My bike was taken away and I was hobbling along in my cycling shoes feeling very unstable. My right ankle which hadn't responded to treatment over the last 2 months was totally shot so I decided to walk through transition and revisit the race once on the run. Getting changed should have been a quick affair but it wasn't, I was spent and couldn't believe just how hot it was, AGAIN! Soon enough though I was on my way.

T2 TIME 7:43

I walked out of T2, got doshed up with sunblock and then started a gentle jog. My heart rate went through the roof and I was forced to walk within a few hundred metres. Never mind I thought, we're still in contention, build up to it and then get into a rhythm that'll carry me through to the end. At mile two I realised that it was never going to happen, I'd walked most of it and I was breathing heavily even just walking. By mile 4 I'd given up any idea of qualifying and reverted to plan B (actually this was part of plan A and straight out of the Bryan Payne Ironman manual - enjoy the race WHATEVER). I had been enjoying it and I still was. I had a job to do and I didn't come all this way to go home without some good memories and a smile on my face.

After about 2 hours of walking I was starting to get quite delirious, I was spinning out and in desperate pain. People ahead of me were lying down under trees which was so tempting - it seemed the sensible thing to do, sleep for three hours and then finish before the cut off in 16hrs+, the medal was the same after all! What stopped me was that every time someone lay down I felt compelled to make sure they were OK and just resting rather than needing medical assistance - I knew others would do this too and if I was trying to sleep then these kind Samaritans would have driven me potty.

For a period of about 2 hours I was spinning out and close to collapsing mid stride, every 10-12 seconds I had to blink and refocus on something (usually a different piece of tarmac).I kept telling myself I was fleeing from Nanking and the Japanese were coming, if I lay down to rest or collapsed then I was a dead man. Somehow it worked and when I was about 3km from the finish I ran to the end with a huge grimace/smile on my face. YOU ARE AND IRONMAN the commentator shouted, I've heard that 16 times before and it rang a little hollow today, YOU ARE A SURVIVOR would have been more like it.

RUN TIME 5:58:06

I saw the Wongstar (Jocelyn Wong - Journeyman Pro, Team Bike Boutique), she wore her trademark smile, this was her 17th Ironman too and she'd done Malaysia and China as I had but she was also doing all of the USA races as well so she's got IM Wisconsin to do next in a couple of weeks (not to mention all the others she'd already done this year). If you ever need cheering up then you don't even need to talk to this lady, just look at her smile, it's always there and totally infectious. Made me grin as I was lead off for my 2 litres of IV drips.

TOTAL TIME 12:37:02

I woke up the next morning not feeling great but not feeling too bad physically but even though I genuinely enjoyed the race and knew that I'd made the right decision to come I was desperately disappointed not to be going home with the nightmare scenario of having to train for Kona and the Ironman World Championships in a few weeks time.

It was a long shot coming here, off the back of two serious injuries (one which I still had), not enough training and a 4 week family holiday, not to mention the ITU Long Distance Champs a few weeks before. Had the weather been 5 degrees cooler I have little doubt that I would have been in the top nine and qualified on my own merits or at the very least been so close that I'd have got a roll down spot. As it was I was 111th in my age-group, I completed but hadn't competed and this realisation and disappointment kept me away from the Kona awards and the roll down. I just couldn't bring myself to witness others getting their coveted spots yet again knowing that I'd not even been close this time.

Don't get me wrong though, I'm not selfish in cheering on other's success in fact I love to and I was there later front and centre at the awards ceremony to cheer and applaud the category winners and the Pros.

As it turned out, had I gone to the roll down I would have been going to Hawaii after all. The last spot ended up rolling down to 130th place in my age-group. I felt sick to the core when I saw that today. Shilpa, to make me feel better suggested that I wouldn't have felt good qualifying that way and to some extent she is right. However, I felt I'd done enough at IMMY (Langkawi, Malaysia), I'd qualified there in every age-group except my own, I was 9th amateur overall but 5th in my age-group with 10hours 15 in awful conditions. The irony of missing out there and being gifted a place here would have cancelled each other out but instead...

Well let me tell you what is INSTEAD. Today, I'm hurting but tomorrow begins a new campaign for 2011, I'll be meaner, leaner, more focused, smarter, probably not fitter (that would be difficult) more race hardened (i.e. more & longer hot brick runs after long, hot bikes) than I was before Langkawi. I shall take the frustration and the anger and channel it into SUCCESS for next year - I have spent my life doing this so this will be no different. One thing that I will also ensure though is that IT WILL BE FUN (thanks for that Bryan, sometimes we need someone to constantly remind us of why we do what we do in life).

Check out Bryan's Blog - Training Payne. Bryan and I did Ironman China together. He recently qualified for Kona at Ironman Lake Placid and is now desperately trying to get rested enough and trained enough for Hawaii. Bryan has done 3 Ironmans this year while smoking more cigars than you can shake a stick at and consuming more beer (albeit "light" beer) than Oktoberfest.


sofiantriathlete said...

Gosh Simon, what a secret.
Well done anyway

Brybrarobry said...

Great post. Sorry to hear about the roll down. Who would have thunk, 130th wow. It looked like one of the toughest fields in any race this year. I think Shilpa is right, you wouldn't have worn it proudly. Make no mistake, YOU DESERVE TO BE IN KONA THIS YEAR and I have no doubt you'll be there soon. 2011 may be a better year to do it with Lance there. I think you have a great shot at IMLP next year. I make fun a lot, but I truly know you are an elite age grouper of our sport, on any given day, you can blow the best of the best away. I loved reading you're post and how you struggled and kept going and finished with a strong positive attitude, or at least as strong as you could have. I can tell you one thing, I WILL DRAW FROM THIS POST when the time comes. You're efforts in KY were not for not. I have nothing but respect for what you did in tough conditions and trying to make it to Kona right up until the end. I agree, if the weather was cooler, I wouldn't have been surprised with a top 10.

Anyways, your still the man and "it wasn't meant to be this year" and I hope it's next year so I can live viscarsly through your kona journey.

Don't beat yourself up my brother. Please don't, you have no need to. AND please, if anyone is going to beat up on you, let it be me. It brings such joy to me beating on you. hahaha.

I'll give you 24 more hours of grace, where you can continue to "suck your thumb" and then it's time to quit being such a baby. When you qualify, it's going to be on terms you'll be most proud of.


Your Canadian brother that is going to beat your ass at beer drinking next year and you will not make your flight to Texas if it's the day following. You may want to give yourself a recovery day. hahaha


Brybrarobry said...

Oh, and look at the bright side, at least you didn't break the photographers camera when he took you're picture. hahaha


Bob said...

Hey Simon, my name is Bob and I became aware of you through Bryan's Blog. I was also at Louisville and I wish I would of got a chance to meet you. I guess in away i did. I started the swim about 30 minutes after the gun so you would of passed me somewhere on the swim or shortly somewhere at the beginning of the bike. I know I did take notice of those racers in my age group who did pass me on the bike. I know you have the goods to qualify for Kona and do believe you'll get there next year. Maybe as I commented on Bryan's Blog I'll get to meet you at some other Ironman. Goodluck to yea. Bob.

Simon said...

Hey Sofian, can't believe you were up so early. Thanks for the run on Sunday, I really enjoyed it and it really motivated me running with you particularly the last 5k, they hurt a lot. It blew my mind that you then went and did more - huge respect and well done.

Bryan, I can't begin to tell you how much your comments meant to me. I don't dwell on such things, I just use them as ammunition to get better but understandably I think, there was some real pain. First off by failing to race well and second off failing to turn up to the roll down. So the key is how quickly to get over the pain and turn it into something useful - your words achieved 98% of that goal instantaneously. Thanks Bro.

Hey Bob, sorry we didn't meet in Louisville but yes we MUST at the next one we both do. I'm signed up for Lake Placid next year and also will probably do China and Malaysia (if Malaysia is on). At the very least keep in touch via Bryan's blog - it'll be interesting to see how he reports his second beer drinking defeat at my hands next year. hahaha.

Matty O said...

GREAT write up. Truly amazing that you were able to push through. I remember the conditions that day were as hot as hell... probably felt like Hell with all the bodies on the ground too haha.

Keep your head up man. If this race did anything for you it was to plant a seed. That seed will always be there and you will always draw from it when you need to dig. All it will take is one thought of that race and you will be firing on all cylinders!

You had a very commendable race.

As for Bryan's affliction to "light beer"... that is my beer of choice at home. When I go out though... game on :) I want to volunteer at IMLP next year to meet everyone in person. Would love to have a beer with you after you finish!

Keep up the good work!

timbo said...

Hi Simon
still following your holy triathlon quest ..

glad you haven't got "mamil" syndrome, which afflect the mentally middle aged unstable guy.

middle aged man in lycra:

best, fondue baby
timbo x

Simon said...

Hey M, Thanks for the boost and yes it is another seed I have planted - I'll have a meadow soon hahahaha. As for the beer at IMLP I must admit I'm a little worried, the lightweight they call @brybrarobry drinks light beer yet even he takes the piss out of American beer. Mind you I seem to remember we can get Guinness in the US so maybe that'll be the official PFG IMLP beverage of choice!! Now that will scare the heebyjeebies out of Bryan.

Hey T, yes the quest continues. As for being a Mamil I'm afraid I'm guilty of that one. In fact I posted the BBC article a few weeks ago - very funny but very true.

jantel said...

Hey Simon,

Geez , that sucks !
But 3 Ironman's in 7 months takes a severe toll on the body even for a pro.
I reckon that even if you had collected your slot you would not be able to race to your potential in Kona and hence your enjoyment of the week there would be jeopardised.

Wee done on maintaining such a positive outlook though. From an outside perspective you have obviously learned what your body responds to in training and after 17 IM's , how to execute a race to balance each discipline to optimze the final outcome....this is seriously valuable experience.

If I were you I would focus on 100% healing of injuries whilst perhaps focusing on swimming ,maintaiining bike if possible and perhaps water-running until you are healed.

This enormous build you have achieved will surely give you a new plateau and base to work off of enabling the next major build to push you to even higher levels.

I , unfortunately did not heed my own advise two yaers ago and am still attempting to get back to my former ability. I feel very fragile as compared to invincible prior.

No doubt your body requires some solid recuperation , but will respond equally as well when you resume your next build and tackle your next qualifying run.
Look forward to seeing you qualify mate :)

Great write up and well done on hanging in there on the run in IMKY.


Simon said...

Thanks T,

Good advice re the recovery and I took 5 days off last week - does that count? haha

As for Hawaii, for me it has always been the qualifying, when I get there I only intend to enjoy it rather than race it. Maybe when i get there again I'll aim to push a bit but first I want to get this monkey off my back.

Anyway, next year it'll be.

jantel said...

Yea , I know what you mean. I got a lottery slot in 2005 and raced there as my second IM.
Fortunately , I had a solid undertanding of the history of the sport , who was who and had watched 91-2004 dvd's roughly 30 times each , so I was able to seriously appreciate my good fortune.
On the other hand , it has created a desire to revisit upon official qualification which I have yet to even come close.
Some have kindly advised to re-enter the lottery , but we know that would be greedy and the joy of racing there would be greatly diluted. Sort of like being given a hot chick for your 16th b'day , no thrill of the hunt :)
I think you will definitely qualify when you get to the 45-49 AG which I am in as of Jan. 2011 , considering you are already at qualifying level at 40-44.
Hopefully I can get my sorry ass healthy enough to do well at some HIM's in the near future and then start focusing on longer events.
Hope to be chasing you down on the run in the future :) But don't hold your breath , it won't be soon !

Rest well mate !


yipwt said...

Didn't even knew you were shooting it in

Leave some time for injuries to heal, then you'll be stronger next year.

All the best.

JohnP said...

130? Insane. Who would have thunk!?

I'm not one to sugar coat this one, cuz that sucks on a scale of biblical proportions that you missed it. :(

On the other hand you sound like me - take that energy and channel it into next year. You'll have your slot, it sounds like you've earned it.

Maybe I'll see you in IMLP with Payne?

The Fitness Guru said...

I was there. You really have to have been there to understand the heat!!

I'm following your blog now. I have three if you want to follow:


Simon said...

Hey John, looking forward to IMLP already and exposing Bryan for the pussy beer drinking fraud he really is hahaha

Hey Rick,
Yes it was hot but amazingly it was the coolest Ironman I did out of the three this year with IMMY at 40C being the hottest. Hopefully I'll bump into you at an Ironman in the future.