We picked up Emma from gymnastics at 6 Wednesday evening and hit the road to get about 4 hours driving in and arrived in Brunswick, GA for the night. After a good nights sleep we hit the road about 8 Thursday morning heading to Wilmington/Wrightsville Beach. Since check-in for the hotel was 4 pm we decided to stop by packet pickup first before heading to the hotel. Packet pickup was at the convention center in downtown Wilmington and as we exited for downtown we saw the Battleship North Carolina, the finish for the race.
Packet pickup went smooth as we were one of the first there. Nice canvas boat bag with the B2B logo filled with some nice 'goodies'. Also picked up a B2B bike jersey, fleece jacket and hat. Of course this guaranteed I'd finish the race because there is no way I could wear any of it without finishing.
After packet pickup we went to the hotel on the shores of the Atlantic ocean on Wrightsville Beach. Very nice hotel with a beautiful view of the ocean. My parents arrived about an hour later and we all went out to eat at Giorgios which was fantastic!! I had a large order of linguine with marinara which was great(and huge). Between all of us we still had probably 3 full portions left when we were done, which would become our lunch on Friday.
Got back to the hotel and just relaxed before an early bedtime. Another good night sleep and I started filling all my bags for the race in the morning. We had 6 bags we had to fill. Prerace bag, post race bag, swim to bike bag, bike to run bag, bike special needs bag and run special needs bag. It was quite nerve wracking making sure I had everything in each bag and the correct bag. I must have gone over them 3-4 times before I was satisfied.
We all went back downtown to the convention center for a mandatory athlete prerace meeting at 12 where they went over what to expect on race day with logistics and the course and answer all questions. They did a good job of answering any questions I had and we were out of there about 12:45. Came back to the hotel and sat around by the indoor and outdoor pools while the kids swam. At about 3:00 Hunter and I took my bike and bags to the bike transition which was only about 5 minutes away. Put all my bags in the correct bins and racked my bike. Around 5 we went out to eat at Ruby Tuesday. I had some excellent grilled shrimp and pasta. After that, we drove around looking for a neighborhood for the kids to trick or treat. I dropped Beth, my mom and kids off to trick or treat and took my dad back to the hotel. Then I drove back to pick everyone up. Got back to the hotel about 8:45 and despite the kids being full of sugar from their candy, everyone was ready for bed.
I didn't fall asleep right away, which I figured would happen. But I did fall asleep by 11 or so and slept pretty well until 4 am. I stayed there until 5 and got up to get ready. It was nice having very little to take to the race with most everything already in my 'bags'. I had my wetsuit, goggles and a few things to put on my bike. I had 2 water bottles with Perpetuem for the bike and 1 to drink before the race along with 2 Clifbars and a banana. Because the hotel was one of the host hotels, they had a shuttle to the swim finish/bike start. I got there and setup my nutrition on my bike and then about 5:45 jumped on a shuttle to the swim start up the beach. Got there and just sat around. About 6:15 I checked my 'pre event' bag which I had used to transport bottles, gels, my bike computer and some clothes in. I realized to my horror my bike computer was still in it!! I knew it wouldn't survive the swim and I needed it for the bike. After not having a bike computer for Steelhead last year I knew I needed it. So I jumped on one of the shuttles heading back to transition. As soon as we got there they were announcing last call for the shuttles heading to the beach!!! I sprinted to my bike, put the computer on and sprinted back to catch the last shuttle!!! Whew!!
Got back to the swim start and they started sending us down to the beach. I took off my sweatshirt and sweatpants and put everything in my 'pre event bag' which we would get back at the finish. Pulled up my wetsuit the rest of the way and made my way to the start about 6:50. At this point, it was 35 degrees out and 65 degrees in the water. It was quite a site to see 500 people shivering from both cold and nerves. Start time was supposed to be 7:00 but because of sunrise, they delayed it 12 minutes. At this point all I wanted to do was get in the water and get going already!!! After the national anthem and a short prayer, they announced 1 minute to start. 30 seconds......10 seconds....and then the gun went off. It was a mass of bodies entering the water. Most races I've done with a beach start goes from zero depth and gradually gets deeper were you can wade into the water for a while. Because they dredge the waterway so close to the shore, it went from zero depth to over my head in about 4 steps. So much for getting used to the 65 degree water!!
A few years ago I did an Olympic distance race in Clermont Florida when it was about 45 outside and the water was chilly(not 65 but chilly) and I thought I had a panic attact as I could not swim because I couldn't breath between strokes. I almost quit that race and even started swimming back to the start backstroke before finally getting used to the rush of cold water into my wetsuit and was able to continue and finish the race. Looking back, that was invaluable experience, because the exact same thing happened. I tried to swim but each time I turned to breathe, I was unable to inhale. So I stopped, 'doggy paddled' for about a minute or so and caught my breath. It was a quick 100 meters or so out to the first buoy before heading right and with the incoming tide.
What a tide it was!! I didn't actually feel it pushing us but between buoys, it seemed like we were covering ground very quickly. In my minds eye, I thought once we made the turn into the marina, we were just about done with the swim. But as we turned into the marina, I heard one of the safely kayaks tell someone else it was just under a mile to go. I thought(and hoped) I had misheard them. But he was pretty close to correct, we still had a ways to swim. At this point, the tide wasn't pushing as much but I still felt good and relatively strong. As I looked up to sight I saw swimmers getting out of the water and felt energized. My stroke was a little more fluid as I realized I was just about done. The water exit was up several ladders on a dock. I made my way to the closest ladder and began to exit. As I pulled myself up the ladder, it hit me. Not sure what 'it' was but I got lightheaded and felt unsteady. I had to actually stand on the ladder a few seconds to get my balance. It didn't last long but was a little disconcerting. Anyway, I jumped out of the water and walked over to the 'strippers' to have them pull my wetsuit off. Then I was off 300 yards to the changing tent which had my swim to bike bag. As I rounded the corner to the changing tent I saw Beth and she cheered me on and took some pictures. I yelled my time to her but honestly don't remember much, I was still pretty disoriented. Got my bag from one of the hundreds of great volunteers and started changing into my bike gear. But my feet and hands were frozen. So much so I could hardly feel anything and my hand coordination was terrible. It took me 10-12 minutes to do what should have taken me about 5. But I finally got out of the tent with my bike shorts, jersey, arm warmers, vest, shoes and bike gloves on. Found my bike and was off. Officially was 1:13.22 on the swim and 13:14 in T1.
It had not warmed up much while we were in the water and was probably in the mid 40's when I started the bike. It took me 10 miles of blowing on my hands for them to warm up and then another 5-10 miles for me to be able to feel my feet. By 15 miles my bladder was full and I was very uncomfortable in the aero position so I stopped at the first water stop at mile 24 to use the porta john. I was amazed when a volunteer got in line right before me and cost me another 2 minutes or so. But once I was done and back on the bike I felt much better and settled into a good steady pace. I was very cautious not to push it and each time I saw my heartrate going up I would back off, knowing I had a marathon to run yet. The course itself was mostly flat and uneventful. At mile 60 I stopped at the special needs stop and got a can of coke and a snickers charged bar, which gave me some good energy. Refilled my water bottles with Perpetuem and was off. By mile 70, the small 4-6 mph breeze was at our backs as we started the straight 42 mile shot back to the battleship. My speed picked up a bit but my knees were really starting to bother me the last 20 miles or so. I just tried to keep a steady pace as we approached T2 but just before the transition, we hit a large bridge/overpass, probably the highest point of the day. I took it easy getting up and starting seeing runners on both sides. I thought to myself, what a terrible way to start the run!!
Got into T2, another volunteer took my bike and helmet and I grabbed my T2 bag and changed into running shoes, shorts, and t shirt and my visor. I was off on the marathon!! Official time, 7:06.20 on the bike and 6:25 in T2. I didn't get a chance to see my family at T2 because they got stuck in line for the water taxi for over an hour. I was disappointed but knew they would be there later, which was more important. On the positive side, I was able to get into and out of T2 very quickly.
From the first step of the run, I felt much better than I anticipated. I was going slow, but I planned on that. I figured running further slow was better than not running as long but running faster. I was able to push through the first 10 miles feeling pretty good. I would walk all the water stops plus about 50 feet but my goal was to keep moving. Stopping would not get me closer so I kept moving forward. I was able to average under 12 minute miles for the first 10 which was my goal. The last 3 miles of the first lap, I started adding some 50 foot walks in between water stops but was good about not letting them last too long. The last 1.5 miles of the first lap contained a climb up a large bridge. I walked most the way up the bridge and then ran into the turn around. It was very difficult when the volunteer asked if I was finishing or on my first lap. Even though I had run the first 1/2 about how I wanted to, I was just about done and realized I would be walking the last 13.1 miles. I saw Beth, the kids and my parents and stopped and talked to them. Told them I was going to have to walk but I was going to finish. They promised to be there no matter how late I came, which really helped to get me going.
So I head back out on the 2nd lap with another Coke and snickers charged bar. I finished the bar but only about half the Coke and dumped it. Luckily, I started walking with another guy about my age, married with 3 kids. We had a lot in common and he is the reason I finished when I did. We walked and talked together from the 13.1 mile mark until just after 20 miles. I was slowly falling behind but he had gotten me through 7 miles walking about as fast as we could. We were averaging about 17 minute miles. They seemed to take 30 minutes each but my legs felt like I was running sub 6 minute miles. Everything except my eyes hurt at this point. But other than a few seconds at aid stations to get water, Coke, pretzels, chicken broth, etc, I never stopped moving forward the last 13.1 miles. I realized I was going to hurt so I might as well move.
As the last bridge came into view I looked at my watch. OK, I was going to be close to 15 hours, my goal. But it was going to be very close and I couldn't let that happen!! At about 24.5 miles I did what I thought would be impossible, I ran!! Well, few people over the age of 2 would call what I did then running, but it was faster than walking, barely. I ran/shuffled until the beginning of the bridge. I decided I would walk to the crest of the bridge and then 'run' down to the finish. Just over the crest was mile marker 25. I hit and looked at my watch. I had run a 16:08 mile, but at least it was a little faster. I started 'running' again down the bridge and didn't feel horrible. I ran until the incline onto the 'off ramp' to the battleship, which I walked and started running again at the top. I could hear the crowds and see the lights. Nothing was going to stop me now. I felt better, stronger and picked up what seemed a pretty good pace. I passed a few people(which I hadn't done in over 15 miles). I hit mile 26 with a 13:30 split for the last mile!!! I was 'flying'. I saw Beth, I saw my parents, and my kids started running behind me. I felt NOTHING in the way of pain the last 100 yards. What 2 miles ago seemed impossible was happening, I was sprinting and feeling great!! I crossed that finish line completely spent.
I remember crossing the finish line of my first marathon and crying with joy. I thought I would do the same for the ironman but I was just so exhausted, I only wanted 2 things. A hot shower and a bed. My incredible wife had retrieved my bike and bags and gone to get the car. While I love her immensely, I'm not sure I've loved her more than the moment she told me we could leave immediately. I got my medal, my finishers shirt(which I haven't stopped wearing since I put it on:) a cup of Recoverite and 2 pieces of pizza. The van was 100 feet away and after what seemed like a 15 minute walk I was in and ready to leave. Official run time, 6:12.57. Official overall time: 14:52.15. Goal accomplished. Dreamed realized.
Chris Janus - You ARE an Ironman.