Back in L.A. to give the L.A. Marathon another shot. And…like last year, somebody it looks like it could be a wet one.
Well, as they say around here, “Take 2”
Back in L.A. to give the L.A. Marathon another shot. And…like last year, somebody it looks like it could be a wet one.
Well, as they say around here, “Take 2”
Well, it’s race week. One week from tomorrow (Sunday) I’ll be sliding into the water with 2500 of my closest friends to race Ironman Arizona. How am I expected to do? Well, I’m hoping to go sub-10, finish in the top 3 in my age group and qualify for Kona.
No, that’s not right.
Actually I’m hoping to not be found face down by the side of the course. My training since Ironman Texas has been amazing. Amazingly bad. I have a lot of excuses – work has been very busy, things at home taking priority, dog ate my homework…but ultimately what it comes down to is that I’ve struggled with my motivation. And the fact that we don’t have a dog. It’s just been very difficult to get myself out the door to train on a consistent basis and that’s nobody’s fault but mine.
“I’m not undertrained, I’m overtapered.”
As if to reward me for my mediocre (at best) training efforts a couple of weeks ago I caught a nasty cold. So just when I started to gain a little momentum and think about trying to get at least a little training in before race day I’ve been spending my days coughing up gook. I believe that’s the medical term for it.
So…time for some reality. What’s the Ironman Arizona plan knowing what I know about where I am now?
Well, I’m actually starting to feel somewhat better – just in time. I got on the bike trainer for a little bit today (after I moved the clothes that were hanging on it and blew the dust off the seat) (just kidding) (sort of kidding) and actually felt pretty good. It’s way too late to do any real training but I should be able to get some easy rides/runs in this week just to get the legs loose in advance of race day.
I have one enormous advantage and that is that I have very modest goals. Even if I were well-trained my “Big” goal was going to be going sub-16 hours. Not exactly a charge at the course record. My time at Ironman Texas was a 16:21:27 and that was on a sprained ankle, in the Houston heat and on a course that is reported to be tougher than the IM Arizona course (not that any Ironman course can be said to be “easy” exactly). So next week my goals are as follows:
So you’ve heard about the negatives, what’s in my favor?
So…what’s the plan?
Carrie and I are going to drive down to Phoenix on Friday morning. I’ll get checked in at the race area and do a short bike ride and run. Very short. That night is the Welcome Dinner and the mandatory athlete’s meeting both of which I plan to attend.
That night we’re staying with friends in Phoenix. Before bed at their house I’ll make sure I have all of my gear laid out and ready to go. Hopefully there won’t need to be any last-minute Sports Authority runs.
On Saturday morning there’s a practice swim at the race venue and I definitely need to do that because I’ve spent very very little time in my new wetsuit. So I’ll probably do an easy 30-45 minute swim on the course. Then another easy ride, on the course, and a short easy run. I’ll check Keira in at the bike check-in and then head over to the hotel (we’re staying at a hotel Saturday night so as not to disturb our friends) to get off my feet and rest up for Sunday.
Saturday evening I’ll get my sandwiches ready for the special needs bags and make sure my water bottles are ready with Spiz my preferred race drink.
We’ll head down to the swim start – unfortunately in separate cars (more on that soon) – I’ll make my last check on Keira in the bike transition, get my wetsuit on and try to relax. Naturally a Red Bull is part of my pre-race nutrition.
When it’s time to get into the water I’ll do my usual, linger and try to find a spot near the back. I’m a slow swimmer and don’t care to trade elbows with people. You speedsters go ahead, I’ll stay back here and find some clear water. If I’m lucky I’ll find some feet to follow – I did manage just a little bit of drafting at IM Texas – but if not that’s o.k.
Advantage: This will be a wetsuit swim and that should help me in several ways. First off wetsuits are just faster. Second one of my issues in the swim has always been nerves related to just not being a great swimmer. The buoyancy offered by the wetsuit should give me a lot more confidence. At IM Texas my swim was a disappointing 1:54:27. I’m hoping to be closer to 1:45 here, but anything faster than 1:54:27 is an improvement.
At Texas my T-1 was 7:55. Not terrible considering I did a full kit change. I can hopefully do as well here, though the wetsuit may slow me down just a bit. I’m hoping to be in the same neighborhood.
The bike is usually my strength but it’s also the part that concerns me the most this time. I just haven’t had enough saddle time and I’m not feeling very powerful (SNEEZE) at the moment. Still, this should be an easier bike course than Texas, depending upon the winds, so I’m hopeful that I can manage a decent ride. I did a 7:02:53 in Texas but was on a pace to do much better before fading badly during the difficult last 15 miles or so.
At IMAZ I’m going to try and keep it steady. It’s a 3-loop bike course, the roads should be a little better than Texas and it’s not hilly. I’m going to try and average 16MPH, which should bring me in right on 7 hours. A couple of minutes faster than IMTX.
The plan is to use the first lap to get a feel for the course and warm up. I’ll try to keep it right at 16-17MPH. For the second lap, I’ll have a better feel for where (and if) I can push a bit. I might sneak the speed up a bit, but I need to keep the effort pretty easy. Then the final lap is just the final 37.5 mile push for home and I’ll play that one by feel. (remembering that I have to run a marathon when I get off the bike)
My T-2 at Texas was terrible. 23:45. Yes, really. It was hot, I was really sucking gas after the last 15 miles of the ride and I sat there in the tent, taking in fluids, breathing and trying to get my core temperature down a bit. I did a full kit change (and will again) and finally staggered out of the tent and headed out on the run. I don’t expect to be 3:00 at IMAZ, but I think 10:00 is realistic. Even if I do 15:00 I’m still 8 minutes faster than IMTX.
I’ll have another Red Bull in my T-2 bag to get the run started.
At IMTX on a sprained ankle (did I mention that?) I limped to a 6:52:30 marathon. Better than I expected, to be honest. I ran a little bit of it, walked most of it. At IMAZ my ankle feels fine and while I don’t think I’ll go sub-5 on the run, I think I should be able to manage a much better run time.
My pace at IMTX was 15:44/mi. My goal at IMAZ is to try and keep my pace faster than 15:00. That shouldn’t be TOO tough, even in my “well-rested” condition. A 15:00 pace would bring me in at 6:33:16 which is almost 20 minutes faster than IMTX. Just that pace alone gets me almost to sub-16 if everything else goes only as well as it did at IMTX.
So…there we are. If I can go 1:45 on the swim, 8 minutes in T-1, 7 hours on the bike, 15 minutes in T-2, 6:33 on the run…that would be about a 15:41. I’d be THRILLED with that. So that leaves me about 19 minutes of “slop” time in case I’m a minute slow here or there.
Or maybe 16:59:59. That’ll be fun too.
Unfortunately my girl has to teach the next morning so unless I get a heckuva tailwind and actually finish in about 11 hours she won’t be able to stick around to the finish. (hence the two cars) So she’ll set off sometime fairly late and drive back up the hill to Flagstaff so she can get a few hours sleep before she has to teach her classes on Monday.
I’ll collect Keira and my bags and head back to the hotel. I’ll catch a bit of sleep, then in the mid-morning I’ll head back up the hill to Flagstaff myself.
I had sort of planned to do one 70.3 and one 140.6 per year going forward. At this point I’m seriously reevaluating that idea. I really need to sit down and figure out if I really have the motivation for that. I’m already registered for L.A. Marathon and I’m looking forward to that race. Be nice to just show up with some shoes and do a race that doesn’t last all day. Maybe I’ll go back to just doing marathon for a while. Or maybe I’ll do a 70.3 next year.
Right now I just don’t know. I’ll have to see how I feel coming out of IMAZ about whether I want to renew my pursuit of Ironman 140.6 or if I just want to step back and take some time off from Ironman for a while. Whatever it is needs to be fun. If I’m having to drag myself to training and dreading every mile of it that’s not really something I want to do. It’s not like I’m getting paid to do this. Maybe I’d rather spend my spring trail riding around Flagstaff with my wife instead of out hammering road bike workouts every weekend? We’ll see.
Dave Scott is my shepherd, I shall not bonk.
He makes me run through green pastures, he checketh my splits. He leads me to the first turn buoy, he restores my hydration.
He guides me through the transition area, to where I have left my bike. He leadeth me not to draft for that would be unrighteous (and a red card penalty).
And even though I run through the valley of the Energy Lab, I will fear no Macca; For he is already done with the interviews and back in his hotel room. Defizzed Coke and PowerGel, they comfort me.
You prepare an aid station before me, and fill it with volunteers.
You anoint my head with icy sponges; my paper cup overflows.
Surely K-Swiss and Zoot will follow me, all the races of my life, and I will dwell in the house of Mike Reilly forever.
Amen. ON YOUR LEFT!
I used to be a Republican.
Used to be. Why? It started with the disappointment that was George W. Bush. He showed up promising a humble foreign policy and a commitment to education and seemed like a refreshing change from the slick and slimy Clintons. Then he turned out to be a doofus being dragged around by his nose by a collection of vaguely sinister ideologues. After he left me teetering, the Tea Party & Palin finally pushed me over the edge.
Now I’m an independent.
I suppose it could be argued I was never truly a Republican because, unlike the stalwarts in either party, I never voted strict party lines. Did I tend to vote Republican? Yes, I suppose there was a statistical edge to the GOP in my votes, but I never hesitated to vote Democrat if I thought the Democrat was the better choice. And while I’m fiscally conservative I am socially liberal.
So I may have been a Republican by registration but I certainly gravitated more towards the middle in ideology.
Maybe it’s more accurate to say that I didn’t leave the Republican Party, the Republican Party left me. I’m still right where I always was, politically speaking, but the party has been dragged so far to the right by the Tea Party zealots that I suddenly find myself outside the tent.
Along with millions of others, I suspect. And unless the GOP can find somebody better than Gingrich or Bachmann to send up in 2012 I think it’ll be me and those millions of abandoned former moderate Republicans who end up putting Barack Obama back in the White House for another 4 years.
Can’t believe the oversight I made in my race report…
…I forgot to give the due credit to the many amazing volunteers at Ironman Texas. I tried to thank each and every one of them during the race, but let me say it again here…THANK YOU.
They truly were amazing, out there on their feet for hours, cheering, helping, staying very positive even into the wee hours. Every aid station was well-stocked, the transition areas were buzzing with helpful folks.
At the awards banquet on Sunday the volunteers got a standing ovation from the athletes – well deserved.
We really can’t do this sport without the volunteers so I was remiss in not thanking them, once again, in my race report.
As many of you know in late May Carrie and I travelled to Houston, Texas so that I could make my Ironman 140.6 debut at the inaugural Memorial Hermann Ironman Texas.
I have to admit that one of the things I was most looking forward to, if I could finish, was hearing Mike Reilly (“The Voice of Ironman”) welcome me to the finish line with his trademark phrase. “Ben Schorr…YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!” If only I could finish.
Of course I’d made the challenge a little bit harder by turning my ankle pretty badly about 10 days before the race. Well, taper settled. I spent much of those 10 days walking with a cane and hoping to recover enough to race. Either way…I was already committed to going to Houston so I figured worst case I’d show up and be an IronSherpa for my friends.
Getting to Houston was the first part of the battle. I didn’t want to pay $200 (shame on you U.S. Airways!) to take my bike on the plane so I put her in her bike box and shipped her via UPS to the Bike Barn in Champions. That turned out to be not as good a deal as I expected as it cost about $130 to UPS the bike there…still cheaper than the $200 to take her on the plane and this way I didn’t have to schlep her through the airport.
That done a few days later Carrie and I made our way down to Phoenix to catch our US Airways flight to Houston. The flight went smoothly and shortly after 1PM we were in Houston, Texas making our way to Avis to pick up our rented Ford F-150 crew cab.
[Click on any picture to enlarge it]
Let me say one thing now about the big brown Ford…I know they’re Ironman sponsors and you see their sort of cheesy ads all over the Kona coverage but…it’s really the PERFECT vehicle for Ironman racing. We got 4 bikes in the back without taking the wheels off and had PLENTY of room for other gear. We got 4 adult triathletes AND a driver in the front and everybody was comfortable. It had power, legroom…just all-around perfectly suited to the task.
From the airport we went directly to Deborah’s home.
A quick bit of background – as you probably know Carrie and I moved from Honolulu to Flagstaff last year. Well I still have a number of great triathlete friends in Honolulu and three of them (IronGene, SuperTrish and Diana who needs a slick and socially acceptable nickname) were coming to do Ironman Texas. Along with them was a friend of theirs (and new friend of mine) Nick. Nick’s actually from Spring, Texas and his mother Deborah still owns a big beautiful home here. She very graciously threw open her doors to our ragtag band of triathletes and hosted us for the week.
I’ve had impeccable luck with homestays for races. Last year I enjoyed my friend Chris’s great hospitality for Ironman 70.3 Austin. This time Deborah turned on the southern hospitality to host us for Ironman Texas. I’m very grateful for both of them (and we still have a guest room if any of you want to come visit Flagstaff or the Grand Canyon!)
For the first day or so we settled into the house, made a grocery run to stock up on what we’d need for the days before the race and the race itself and swung down to Bike Barn in Champions to pick up Keira.
I want to give a little love to the guys at Bike Barn. They did a great job putting Keira together, were friendly and helpful on the 2-3 trips we made to see them for last-minute supplies and even gave SuperTrish and Diana’s bikes quick tweaks pre-race for free. Bike Barn will definitely be my bike shop of choice if I ever need a bike shop in Houston again.
On Thursday morning we loaded the bikes into the F-150 and drove to The Woodlands to get an easy practice ride on the actual bike course. We got to where the expo is, parked, unloaded the bikes and set off…and it’s possible that we actually criss-crossed the actual bike course once or twice. Whatever it was there were two things that were readily apparent:
Well, whatever. We enjoyed a pretty good 40 minute or so ride and made it back to the truck in plenty of time. The others took off for a 20-minute easy run but I wasn’t going to tempt fate on my dodgy ankle. I’d run a few tentative steps outside Bike Barn the day before and was still questioning if I’d be able to run much on Saturday.
[Top Picture: IronGene waits for the light to turn green while Diana points out something. Bottom Picture: SuperTrish flashes her famous smile.]
[Left Picture: The bike entry/exit to the transition area. The racks are for the bikes, the tent in the distance is the changing tent. Right Picture: the swim exit on the canal. The apparatus you see along the shore to the right are steps to help us get out of the water. Somewhat disconcerting – the yellow sign you can see on the shore just beyond the steps cautions “No swimming!” Umm…o.k.]
I have to admit…I really like getting that blue wristband clipped on that identifies you as an Ironman competitor. Yes, it’s a little annoying and this time I remembered to put it on my left wrist since I wear my watch on the right, but at the same time…you feel like you’re part of a special club or something. Everywhere you go you see other athletes with their blue wristbands and you exchange a knowing glance. You’re all in this together.
That wristband stays put until after the race – you’re not allowed to remove it until post-race so the race officials know that you’re a competitor. Some people leave theirs on for weeks afterwards. I think I had mine cut off by Sunday afternoon.
The Expo at Ironman Texas is an outdoor affair under the tents. We got checked in, bought a few souvenirs (I had to get my traditional bike jersey) then headed back to the house for relaxation.
“Swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, run 26.2 miles, brag for the rest of your life.”
– Commander John Collins, pre-race instructions to the 15 entrants for the first Ironman.
After the dinner we headed home for what sleep we could get.
Friday morning they were letting us get in the water for a practice on the actual swim course. We weren’t allowed to swim the ENTIRE course – just as well, nobody wants to do 2.4 miles the day before the race – but we could at least get in the water and go a few hundred meters. Gene, Trish, Diana and I made our way down to the swim area to give it a go.
We checked our gear, waded down the boat ramp into the water and plunged in…
…to darkness. The water was a murky, muddy brown. It wasn’t terribly cold and it didn’t taste or smell particularly bad, but visibility was almost zero. When you were swimming you couldn’t see your hand on the pull.
The rest of the group made an 800 meter or so loop. I’m not super comfortable in the water so I just stroked easily back and forth between the boat ramp and one of the buoys, just getting comfortable, getting accustomed to the water, relaxing. I may have done 150-200 meters. It was plenty for me.
After we finished our swim we headed back up to the truck where Carrie was waiting and drove over to the transition area to check in our bikes. We got them to their appointed spots on the racks, gave them an affectionate pat goodbye (tell me I’m not the only one who does that?) and headed back to Deborah’s house to relax for the rest of the day. It was just after noon.
Back at the house we laid out our gear, prepared food for our special needs bags (peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on potato bread for me) and put our feet up. We spent most of the afternoon watching movies including “Caddyshack” and…one or two others I don’t remember anymore.
Finally around 8PM we straggled back to our rooms and lay down to try and sleep. I actually slept fairly well considering – usually the night before a race I’m too anxious/excited to really sleep much. But this night I’d say I got a pretty decent sleep all things considered.
Up and at ‘em. It was race morning and we wanted to be at the transition area to get set-up by 0530. We got dressed in our gear, nervously nibbled on whatever we were going to have for breakfast and headed out to the Big Brown Ford for the 20 minute drive to the Woodlands. I was sipping Spiz all morning and I had a large Red Bull that I sucked down about 45 minutes before the race start.
At this point I’d decided that the ankle felt good enough to swim. I decided I’d go ahead and start the race, do the swim and see how it felt when I came out of the water. If I felt like I could get on the bike then I’d get on the bike and see how it went. If I finished the bike I’d see how it felt in T2. If it felt like I could start the run I’d get on the course and see how far I could go. Hopefully it would be 140.6.
Once at transition we loaded our race nutrition onto our bicycles, turned in our bike and run bags, checked our tire pressure and then…wait…gotta check the bike again. O.K., let’s head ov…no, wait, gotta check the bike again. O.K., O.K….off to the swim start we went.
Unfortunately we had to walk from T2 to the swim start. A half mile or so that would become all-too-familiar to us since later the same trek would be on our run course and we’d pass it three more times.
Snafu #1 – Do you see my Garmin watch in my pictures? Nope…you won’t. I forgot it back at Deborah’s house. It was still on the charger. O.K., so I won’t be at the mercy of the cruel dictator of the watch. In some ways I think that turned out to be a GOOD thing.
Once at the swim start area the nerves were really firing. We got our numbers drawn on and waited in epic porta-potty lines until finally Mike Reilly, the voice of Ironman, called us down to the water’s edge to get ready for the start.
Suddenly this song comes on the loudspeakers and you know it’s game on…
Was I nervous? Well…maybe a little.
What the heck was I nervous about?
Oh. Yeah, that’s what.
The gun goes off and 2500 triathletes all started to swim towards the same distant buoy. An Ironman swim is a full-contact sport. You hit people, they hit you. You swim over people, they swim over you. Everything is allowed. Most of it is incidental contact but that doesn’t make you feel a lot better when you get kicked in the face.
TIP: I tend to start at the back and outside, where there’s less traffic. I’m a slow swimmer, so I let the faster swimmers take off and go ahead, and that way I find calmer water and fewer flying fists.
There I go…nice high-elbow recovery. Notice the lady above with the snorkel? I didn’t even know snorkels were legal. Didn’t see very many of them –maybe a couple – usually being used by people I was passing. I have to admit that I tend to take sort of a dim view of people who use a snorkel in an Ironman swim. Just feels wrong somehow. Oh well.
The swim course took us down the lake about 1600 meters, then around a couple of buoys and back down the other side of the lake about 1400 meters and finally we made a right turn into a canal for the last 800 meters or so. The 1600 meters going out felt o.k., I found a couple of guys in wetsuits to draft off for a while, though 100 meters or so from the turn they sort of broke up and fell behind. The 1400 meters coming back felt ENDLESS. I kept peeking my eyes up to see if the canal was coming any time soon. It wasn’t.
TIP: If you can find some feet to follow you can draft off them and it lets you go faster with less effort. Drafting is LEGAL in the swim segment of an Ironman and you can get a benefit even as far as 19 feet back. Be careful not to smack people’s feet or swim up the back of anybody though.
The lack of visibility presented a special challenge in the crowded waters…it was hard to tell if you were right alongside somebody or about to run into them. Since you could barely see to the end of your own arm it was pretty easy to find yourself suddenly in the middle of a pod of other swimmers and having to take some evasive action.
I got hit a couple of times, but nothing too dramatic.
(Yes, that’s me in the photo on the right)
The canal is pretty shallow – barely 4 feet deep – but the bottom was mucky and we were warned that there could be rebar or broken glass down there so I was reluctant to put my feet down. It was strangely comforting to know we could if we needed to though.
The biggest problem in the canal was the crowd. On a couple of occasions I had to pull up and tread water for a few moments because I found myself boxed in by slower swimmers (slower than ME?!?!). Finally I managed to find a way to get around them and press on.
Coming to the ladder exits I felt pretty o.k. about my swim. Wasn’t record breaking but I felt like I’d done what I came to do. Imagine my surprise to discover I’d swum a 1:55. Fully 10-15 minutes slower than I’d been hoping for. I’d allowed myself up to 2 hours for the swim but hadn’t really expected to cut it THAT close. Other friends who did the race said their swim was pretty slow too so I’m hoping it’s just a slow course and that the crowded canal accounts for my extra-sluggish time.
I cruised into T1, got changed into my bike kit, got a generous slathering of sunscreen (my arms aren’t normally that white) and took Keira out for a little spin in the Texas countryside.
I actually felt pretty good getting started on the bike. I was on-pace, the ankle felt o.k., it was a nice overcast morning so the heat wasn’t too high and I quickly settled in for a long cruise in the saddle. I had allowed myself 7 hours and 30 minutes for this segment in my race plan.
The ride takes you through some pretty nice sections of the Texas countryside. Most of it is on small roads past farms and ranches, with a nice stretch in the middle through the Sam Houston National Forest. There are aid stations every 10 miles where helpful volunteers run to pass you bottles of water or Ironman Perform.
Drafting is not allowed, but as you go you do tend to settle into mini-packs (at a legal distance, of course) with other athletes who are riding at around your same pace. Those little groups are great as you tend to chat a bit, swap wisecracks, give each other encouragement and just generally keep morale up.
“Hey, we’re doing an Ironman! How cool is that?”
It was nice to chat with John, Forrest and brother Vu (who had an unfortunate rear derailleur problem that he had to battle for nearly the entire ride)
Just past halfway was an aid station where they had our Bike Special Needs bags. I decided to stop and get my bag. Those peanut butter and jelly sandwiches sounded pretty good at that point and sure enough, they hit the spot. I ate one and stuck the other in the back pocket of my bike jersey for later. I also swapped out my water bottles – at this point nearly empty – for new bottles, preloaded with powdered Spiz.
TIP: You do *NOT* get your special needs bags back after the race is over. So don’t put anything in there you care about. I anticipate this and carried throwaway water bottles for the first half of the ride, putting my nicer ones in the bags so that I’d finish the ride with those on my bike.
To that point my ankle was holding up well, though around mile 75 I started to feel it a bit. Not so bad that I’d stop, but at the top of my pedal stroke on the right side I could feel it start to ache a little. I was glad for the Aleve I’d taken preemptively.
For the most part the road surface was pretty good. At a couple of places we were entering or exiting bridges and there was a bump to go over. You could always spot those places because a few yards past the bump would be a little field of debris from the cyclists who had come through and had their water bottles, nutrition, even sunglasses jarred loose and scattered to the roadway.
Around mile 85 though we hit a section that was really rough. It felt like somebody had just blacktopped over a gravel road without bothering to sweep off the gravel. It was a pretty unpleasant section to ride over, slow and rough – felt like it was going to rattle my sunglasses right off my face. And by now the sun was coming out… Needless to say I was starting to look forward to getting off the bike. The last 15-20 miles were a pretty tough slog for me.
Finally we got back to the Woodlands and were into the last few miles of the ride. I came across another rider who was by the side of the road and looking a bit unsteady. “You O.K.?” I called out as I rolled past. “No.” He replied. “I’ll send you some help” I called back as I rode on.
Half a mile further up there was a policeman stopping traffic at an intersection. I rode up to him, told him there was a fellow half a mile back who apparently needed help and he got on his radio to call it in. As I pushed on the officer thanked me and said that an ambulance was on its way to check on the fellow.
Finally we made the last turn and I could see the entrance to T2 ahead. I reached down, tugged loose the velcro straps holding my shoes closed, and pulled my feet out of my bike shoes, resting them on top of the shoes as I gently pedaled the last 50 yards or so to the dismount line.
When I arrived at the dismount line I hopped off Keira and walked towards the bike catchers, starting to gauge my ankle. I passed off the bike, unsnapped my helmet and started an easy trot through the grass towards the run bags and the changing tents. I decided I was o.k. to start the run, grabbed my bag and ducked into the tent.
Once in the tent I found an empty chair and proceeded to sit there for a few minutes just catching my breath and getting some fluids in. It had gotten hot. Eventually I struggled out of my bike kit and into run clothes – I had decided to make a full kit change in each transition in order to try and be more comfortable. I knew it was going to be a long, hot, day and I figured the extra few minutes changing clothes would be worth it. It was.
Eventually I got my run clothes on, scarfed down the second peanut butter and jelly sandwich from my bike bag, grabbed the Red Bull I’d stashed in my Bike-to-Run bag and headed out the door. Bike time…7:05. Not great, but well under what I’d allowed myself.
Coming out onto the run I was feeling pretty good. I knew I still had a big challenge ahead of me but I was glad to be back among the crowds for the three loop run and still on pace to have a chance to finish.
Here I am leaving T2. I’ve got my Red Bull in my hand and my pockets stuffed with sandwiches and pretzels. Spirits are pretty high at this point, though I can already tell that I won’t be able to run much of this race.
The run course is actually pretty nice. Through the neighborhoods, along a road past the swim start, more residential streets, down a wooded path, along side the lake for a bit, then another neighborhood before emerging back into the Woodlands Marketplace for a couple of miles along the canals, with cheering crowds much of the way. Then…a right turn out onto the loop and start it all over again. 3 laps.
Along the way you meet some pretty neat people.
Rodney is a teacher and high school volleyball coach from Texas who was doing his 3rd Ironman. Like me he was hobbled by an injury so he was forced to walk much of the race. We spent about 12 miles together mostly walking, occasionally challenging each other to jog for a little ways, mostly just chatting, swapping stories and enjoying the day.
Even though he had done two previous Ironman races Mike Reilly had never called him an Ironman.
Rodney was a lap ahead of me though so I was going to have to do the last lap on my own. Towards the end of his last lap (and my 2nd) we encountered Eric who was really struggling and not sure he could make it. We invited him to come along with us and for a little ways he did, but eventually he dropped back. I’m not sure what happened to Eric, but I checked the results later and, even though I never got his last name, I’m pretty sure he made it.
Coming down the last stretch Rodney and I wished each other luck and he set off down the finish chutes as I veered right to start my 3rd lap. I couldn’t hear it at the time but later Rodney confirmed…Mike Reilly called him an Ironman this time. Cool.
The 3rd lap is the loneliest lap. Not only was Rodney done but so were a lot of people. The first two laps you have a lot of company, but by the 3rd lap it’s dark and you’re out there more or less by yourself. Occasionally you pass another racer and the spectators and aid stations are still doing their best to rock but there’s a lot of time to get into your own head.
I passed the time, just trying to stay positive. I didn’t have a watch but I had a general idea of the time and I figured if I just maintained a steady pace I could make it. I walked mostly, ran a little.
When I got to the right turn where you enter the wooded path I saw something that almost stopped me dead in my tracks. I wish I’d had a camera. The woods were completely pitch black…but the race folks had taken multi-colored glow sticks, lit them up and laid them across the path about 18 inches apart. Looking into the woods all you could see was this incredible rainbow-colored path of phosphorescent lines winding and stretching into the distance. I’d never seen anything like it and it made me glad (momentarily) to be so slow on the day. If I’d finished with Rodney I’d never have seen that.
I ran (well, trotted) easily down the path, taking in the beauty of it, before emerging on the other end and going thru the lakeside aid station. From there I found myself gradually catching and passing a small stream of other athletes.
“Come on, we’re going to make it!” I’d say reassuringly as I passed.
“Mike’s been waiting all day to call our names. Let’s not keep him waiting!” I told a few.
Step by step our tired but merry little band of stragglers pressed on through the night. Each aid station felt familiar and marked another mile closer to our goal. Finally onto the canals you could HEAR the finish line party, still going strong. Music blaring, Mike Reilly on the PA system, crowds cheering. We’re almost there. Up the hill, past the transitions, one turn, past some crowds, then a left turn into the Marketplace the finish chutes.
The crowds are going nuts and I passed a woman who was laboring to jog it in. “Come on, let’s take it in!” I said with a pat on the shoulder as I passed. She smiled and held her pace.
At this point I have to admit…I wanted to finish alone. I wanted Mike to call my name and not just a bunch of people finishing together. A bit selfish maybe. I looked ahead and there wasn’t anybody else ahead of me to the finish line. The only person close behind was the lady I just passed and I picked up my pace a bit to add a little distance. She should get her own spotlight for her finish too I rationalized.
The finish line at Ironman is amazing. Lights, crowds, music…and over the loudspeaker as I approached I heard Mike Reilly say…
“He’s 42 years old, from Honolulu, Hawaii. BEN SCHORR! Congratulations…you’re an Ironman!”
Wow…what a feeling. 16:21:27.
It was an amazing experience. Going into the race I was quietly wondering if I’d made a mistake in already signing up for Ironman Arizona. I was worried that I might hate it – that the suffering on the course might be too much but that I was already committed to put myself through it all over again in November. By the finish line there was no thoughts of that. I loved it. Can’t wait for Ironman Arizona where I hope to go somewhat faster than the hobbling 16:21:27 I managed in Texas.
By the way…Gene, Trish, Diana and Nick all finished too. SuperTrish ended up blasting a 10:47:49 getting 3rd in her age group and qualifying for Kona. Diana rocked her first Ironman with a 13:35:42. IronGene battled the elements but still came up with an 11:28:24 and 30th in his age group (out of 140 finishers). Nick was right behind Diana with a 13:43:43.
What made the experience extra-special though was the love and support of my Team Hawaii friends Gene, Trish & Diana and new friend Nick. The camaraderie of Forrest, Vu, John, Eric and especially Rodney. The wonderful hospitality of Nick’s mom Deborah and the other folks in Spring and Woodlands, Texas. My family and friends across the globe who offered words of support and encouragement including Patricia, Meredith, Jana, Nicole, Michael, my parents Morris and Sharon, Brian and my BC Endurance crew back in Hawaii, Lora, Freddie, Erin, Hannah and the rest of the TnT gang in Flagstaff, Michael and the Red Rock Racing crew and many many others.
Most of all, of course, my beautiful wife Carrie who was the best IronSpouse a guy could ask for. Cheerful, loving and supportive every step of the way even though she had a ton of her own work to do. You’re amaZing sweetheart and I love you with every bit of me.
After losing a breast to cancer, women are now being told that they must allow a stranger to touch every inch of their bodies if they want to enter an airport in the U.S.
Last month when going through security at Los Angeles airport, I was told that because I have had a mastectomy that I now must have a full pat down before every flight.
I submitted the following two questions by e-mail to TSA.gov but received a broad generic response which completely ignored my questions.
1) I do not wear a prosthesis or have an implant so why does missing one breast mark me as suspicious?
2) I even offered to show the agents my scar but was told that this was not sufficient. Why does missing one breast require that every inch of my body be touched?
Knowing that I will be singled out & treated like a possible criminal before every flight now means the terrorists are succeeding in robbing us of our freedom & turning us against each other.
– Sharon Schorr
Public comments from Congress/legislators:
“There’s only two places citizens are subjected to this type of intrusive search — at airports and jails. I have not seen any empirical data that shows patting down anyone arbitrarily has made us safer. It’s simply for show.”
– Utah state Rep. Carl Wimmer
“Having traveled to Israel, I know what security is, and what we do at our airports is not security. Profiling should be a priority along with better screening of baggage. Innocent people need to stop being molested. If you were anybody but a federal employee designated to grope people, you would be arrested.”
– Washington state Sen. Val Stevens
Individual States with Airport Security legislation pending:
Alaska, Hawaii, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas. “This legislation would limit the TSA’s ability to conduct intrusive searches without probable cause; so that we can restore the important right of Americans who simply want to travel with both their security and their dignity intact.”
“It’s not a pat down. It’s a feel up. Current invasive airline screening affects everyone, in some way that they may not realize until they or a loved-one is invasively felt up at the airport. We need to ensure TSA understands that security is physical, emotional and medical. These invasive searches are not in the spirit of our Constitution. It’s time to restore freedoms we once took for granted.”
– Alaska state Rep. Sharon Cissna, (a breast cancer survivor who had a mastectomy)
“The only way to be truly safe would be to have people strip and conduct body-cavity searches. So it’s not fair that some people, especially those who have had surgery or traumatic medical experiences, are subjected to higher scrutiny. Are we really prepared to submit those people to this kind of indignity in the name of freedom? I would submit that this is the opposite of freedom. If we are so afraid that we are willing to submit people to this kind of indignity then we have already lost the war on terror.”
– Rep. Mike Doogan (Alaska Legislature)
“I believe these airport body scanners and the subsequent aggressive pat downs are grossly ineffective, intrusive, expensive, and unnecessary. We would do well to remember that for every specific tactic we target with a new, expensive, and often burdensome security apparatus, the terrorist’s tactics will change. Risks can be reduced for a given target, but not eliminated. If we strip searched every single passenger at every airport in the country, terrorists would target shopping malls, trains or movie theaters instead. Of course people will choose security over privacy — especially if you scare them first. It’s also true that those who would give up privacy for security are likely to end up with neither.”
– Consumer Federation of California, Education Foundation