Saturday, November 24, 2012

Ironman Arizona Race Report

For anything prior to the start see the pre-race report.

I never thought the Ironman swim start would be a relief but it was. The second that cannon went off I finally forgot about the cold water, put my head down and went.

Let the hitting, kicking and shoving begin. Having been mentally prepared for the worse made the whole thing easier. Think of all the idiot's you drive near in traffic; veering, cutting you off, almost getting accidents. Now picture those people swimming next to you; hitting, kicking and shoving; 2,900 of them to be exact. Quick video of what it looked like below.

The swim is an out and back course in Tempe Town Lake, along the river's side wall. I could see Jamie running along the side for about the first 3/4 of a mile. At some points I would feel I had an opening and had gotten away from people only to soon be consumed by more swimmers. It was hard to get in a real rhythm, not that my lack of swim background ever gets in a great rhythm. 

Just before the turn I got kicked pretty good in the face, jamming the left side of my goggle into my face. I debated for the next couple of minutes if I would stop to clear the water that got in. Once I decided the answer was no I forgot about the sloshing water near my eye.

There seemed to be no true "sighting" on the way out with the rising desert sun in full view at the end of Tempe Town Lake. After the turn everything was much more clear. I could feel my right leg cramp slightly, I stopped kicking all together for a 100 yards or so to relieve the compression from the wetsuit on the legs. I took full assessment of how I was feeling at this time and realized that today was going to be a good day. 

I made the final turn on my way to swim exit and got to the set of stairs to exit the water. I had to wait what was probably a minute for two gentlemen in front of me to get up on the stairs and out of the water. When I first stood up my left leg cramped again, a few longer strides and it went away. At this point I could see the race clock; 1:18.

Thank you Jamie for working with me on the swimming this last year. Without you I'd still be in Tempe Town Lake struggling for air. Another thank you Ben Lablonc who convinced me when we graduated college that it would be a good idea to start learning to swim.

Transition 1: Swim to Bike
Ironman uses wetsuit strippers, why anyone would volunteer for this blows my mind but Jamie made a good point that morning; "Don't let them pull the top off your wetsuit, they'll rip the omnipod off (insulin pump)". At that moment I had that very thought. I pulled the wetsuit down far enough below my lower back then let the wetsuit strippers pull the wetsuit off my legs as I sat on the ground. 

I got back up and started running, back to not knowing how the transition bags would work. I had two gels in my hand that I kept in my wetsuit for a potential low blood sugar. I saw a friend from Sergio's workout and after passing thought how I should have thrown them to him. Next person I knew, Lyndsay Riffe, got the gels. 

I grabbed my transition bag. Saw people sitting on the ground and did the same. A race employee didn't like this, "you can't change out here!". "I'm not getting undressed", I yelled back. She yelled it again and I yelled back the same thing. It was a stressful moment. This is what they get for not explaining transition.

I dumped out my belongings, first throwing on my vest I had loaded with food and my heat sleeves. I started to take my blood sugar and my first thought was; "I get one shot at this, if my fingers are too wet I'm not doing this a second time". It worked, 134, it was a happy moment to see that number. I took the syringe out of the case and gave myself the injection.

Cycling shoes and helmet on. Wetsuit in bag. Start running to bike. I don't remember how I grabbed the bike or handed off the bag but some how all of that happened.

Time: 9:04

For the recond, if you don't have diabetes (or some other issue) and you're transitions are slower than this, get it together.

The Arizona bike course is three loops, it's an out-and-back course that goes uphill on the way out and back down on the way in. As soon as I got out on the course I started eating. Honey soaked gluten-free waffles! Delicious.

The first loop was pretty uneventful. The course at this point was packed with riders. All 3,000 participants in small lanes of traffic. I heeded a friends advice from Sergio's workouts and kept the pace easy for the first twenty miles, there's no reason to push anything during a long day. While triathlon is suppose to be draft free, there was no help but riding in packs at this point. Course marshals were giving penalties to everyone.

After an hour I decided it was time to check if my blood sugar was in line. meter. I checked my pockets multiple times. No dice. I either dropped it or left it in my transition bag (next day when I looked through my bags I found I had left it in the swim-to-bike bag). I would have to rely on the continuous glucose monitor (which for those of you not familiar with diabetes, it isn't always the most accurate thing during exercise). Six hours, no testing.

I dropped my vest and cotton gloves near the end of the first lap. Getting the vest off was not easy but I'm really glad I had it during the chilly morning hours. It was also at this time that my stomach started to rumble. 

That bathroom break I felt when my wetsuit went on (see post about prior to the race) was starting to show its face. It was decision time. Stop for a seated bathroom break (if you know what I mean) or fight through it. I weighed the options in my mind and realized I wouldn't be able to keep eating comfortably if I didn't stop. 

After passing the cheering fans I stopped on the second lap at the first aid station, where Jamie and I volunteered last year. The fastest bathroom pit stop ever, three minutes according to my bike computer and I was back on my bike. 

At the end of the race, I'd come to want those three minutes back but it was needed. At least this wasn't "race induced" bathroom break, just a natural break for the body.

I started to hammer again and was up and back down the turn around. The headwind coming back down this time was a little stronger. I caught Blair on the bike around this point. I'm pretty proud of pranking her. I could tell it was the Insulindependence jersey so I yelled out "Get out of the way" (she was riding perfectly on the side like we all should be, not in anyone's way). She started looking around like crazy, so funny at the time. "Brennan! I was going to say, I wasn't in the middle of the lane". She would later pass me on the run while looking like a gazelle, myself a wounded shot elephant. She had an awesome race and I hope to convince her to another one some time.

I felt great the whole bike. I tried to hold back not knowing what the run would bring. I grabbed water at each aid station, taking the right amount of salt tablets and eating a lot. 

My continuous glucose monitor read great blood sugars the entire time and I had to trust it was correct. I will say I was happy when the bike was over, 112 miles is a long way. 

Time: 5:39:45

Transition 2: Bike to Run
Off the bike, grab the run gear bag and put on the shoes. Funny that both Peter and Blair had the same stories after the race. The volunteers are almost...too nice. Hovering. Do you need anything? I can help! Should I take this? Should I take that? No, no, it's okay. 

I put on my shoes, visor and heat shirt and ran with my gallon zip lock bag full of run items. 

Time: 2:44

I use that gallon bag to slow me down off the bike. I want to run slow to start and this helps. There's no reason to start sprinting off the bike when you have a marathon to run and you've just biked 112 miles. Yanking items out of the bag; watch on, new blood sugar tester in my pockets, new gels and a water bottle. Dropping the bag next to a cameraman and the run was on!

As soon as I had everything in my pockets I took my blood sugar while running. 141. No complaints there. My inner thighs were cramping a bit but it went away after the first two miles. I had downed a gel at the end of the bike so I waited to eat again. At this point I was consuming mainly Vega gels and coke at the aid stations.

The run was much more fan friendly than the bike course. It's essentially a figure-8 loop with everyone passing friends and family twice. Getting to see everyone and hearing people cheer your name really helps in those dark moments when things start to hurt and the mind asks how long a marathon truly is. Big thanks to Nate Heintzman for setting up the tent so my parents, Jamie, Jamie's Mom Ann, Felicia Gelsey, Tom Reiber and many others had a place to cheer us all on! Also big shout out to Blair's Dad, Dean, for all the awesome pictures.

The second time I saw the fan group on my way around I stopped and gave Jamie a kiss. I'm sure she was plenty embarrassed but it put a smile on my face.  

I felt great during the first ten miles, only ever slowing down to get water and coke down. Things started to unravel at that point, not terribly but it started. I took my blood sugar around this time and it was over 300. I don't know if the pod (insulin pump) was failing or I simply didn't have enough insulin going in me from my plan. I gave myself a very small dose via the insulin pump and after 30 minutes it hadn't come down so I used one of the syringes I had in my tri-shorts.

Somewhere between mile 14 and 15 I made myself throw up. I'm not sure what upset my stomach. It may have been partly the high blood sugar, my other guess is the orange I had around that time. Either way I felt better after things came back up. At this time I took three Tums. I didn't totally know how this would go over in my body but I felt great after (I owe this strategy to Greg Sexton, thank you Greg). Next long race I'll start taking the Tums right when the run starts. 

There's a lot of time to think out there. A lot of time to think about why you're doing this, what it means to you. I thought a lot about playing catch with Dad when I was a kid. How those games of catch lead to this moment. I thought about how happy I was for family to be at the race. It's those small thoughts that can get you through the race.

Starting the third loop felt good. The mind had temporary relief that it was near the end. I couldn't come up with many positive thoughts this last lap. Mile 18 on was like an atomic bomb going off in my body. What hurt the worse was my feet honestly, I don't know if I'd wear Newtons again, their "lugs" started to hurt pretty bad once running form broke down. The knees ached as well but nothing that would stop anyone. Truthfully, for being this far into my first Ironman I felt as good as I could have hoped.

I started running 3 minutes, walking 1. I figured I could do anything for three minutes. The walk pace was quicker than your mall walker but still not fast. I had broth at the aid stations this lap. Curiosity of Jeff Temple's Ironman Louisville blog post I knew when the stomach was failing this would help. 
Seeing the mile 25 sign was like seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I could hear the cheers of the finish line. Coming around that corner was one of the greatest feelings I've ever had. I slowed down a little and tried to take it in. I heard Jamie yelling, ran pass and then came back to grab her for kiss. This was what all those early mornings and long rides were for, this moment. Below is video taken by Jamie.

I crossed the line and was then grabbed by a volunteer. Passed through the shoot and got to see my family. Seeing the smile on Jamie's face and then my parents made everything worth it. Blood sugar at finish 161.

Run: 4:52:00
Total time: 12:02:29

If I could go back I wouldn't change anything. For my first Ironman the stomach issues were relativity minor thanks to the knowledge imparted on me from friends during Sergio's workouts. I had great blood sugars until the second half of the run and I have Cliff Scherb to thank for that. I finished very happy.

Crossing that line was the accomplishment of a lifetime and I hope to do more. I've gained many new friends through training, new experiences and learned a lot about myself and the way I want to live my life.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Prior to the cannon

 "You're living the dream bro! You're living the dream!"
-Volunteer on lap 2 of bike turn around

The quote above isn't made up, easily one of the highlights of the race. Two of my best friends, Skip and Marcus, always use the acronym; LTD for Living The Dream. Ironman definitely is living the dream. 

I'm lucky to be healthy enough to complete the race, lucky to have the family support system from Jamie to my Mom and Dad to Jamie's parents to my friends and co-workers; not to mention lucky enough to have the internal motivation to want to exercise. 

I know a lot of people don't have these things, I have plenty of reason to step back and realize that I am Living the Dream. Below is an example of this; a video made in Guatemala by my buddy Skip and his class.  

I want to thank everyone that sent me a text, gave me a call and sent video's to my phone or Jamie's prior to the start of the race. I can't believe the out pouring of support. I'm so grateful for everyone.

Leading up to the race
I could go on and on about the pre-race stress of filling the multiple transition bags, registering, going back to turn in those bags then turning in more special need bags on race morning. Long story short; those of you who know me know I'm high strung and easily excitable, getting everything ready for long transitions that I didn't particularly understand was probably the most stressful part of the weekend. It made the actual race starting feel like a relief. 

Two days prior to the race I was interviewed by World Triathlon Corporation (WTC). Triabetes, one of the clubs of Insulindependence, is an official club of USA-Triathlon, as such Peter, Blair and I were invited to their reception and I was asked to speak about "the metal pancreas" (their words, aka the insulin pump) I have on my body. Below is the interview.

Race Morning
Normally I fall asleep like a baby, even the night prior to a race, I start this weird breathing thing and I'm out. Not this night. I started thinking about the swim and the rest of the race as I lay in bed. I thought about everything leading up to the race. The training, my family that were there and how important it was to me. 

Then it was up early for the start, I awoke just prior to 4:00am. Blood sugar over night was perfect, flat line in the 80's, one of the rare times that Jamie and I probably slept with a similar blood glucose level. 

After the glucose reading was an insulin injection that I had set on the counter, I didn't even have to think about it. Near ten units of insulin by injection and 140 carbs of white rice and a banana. No taking a risk with the insulin pump not working, I wasn't going to let the "metal pancreas" fail now. I got dressed while I wait for the insulin to hit me then eat.

Jamie and I sat on the couch of the hotel as I ate the breakfast. Not much was said, the calm before the storm.

Murphy's law struck first when our secret parking lot was closed. Our fault. Jamie was driving so we turned around and made our way to normal parking lot. Road closed again. Fine, the race officials won this battle. I jumped out and Jamie went to find parking. Second mistake. No phone, no plan to meet up.

I went to transition and pumped my bike tires, put bottles on my bike and turned on the bike computer then went to drop off the special needs bags. Two quick bathroom breaks and a test of the blood sugar, 154.

I walked back through transition to see Sarah Reinertsen holding her prosthetic leg telling a volunteer how to hand it to her leaving the water. I definitely did a double take and we made eye contact, I'm sure she thought "what are you looking at". I'd probably feel bad about the situation had at least three people not given me the same look that day as I stuck a needle in my own leg.

As I left transition I walked back and forth looking for Jamie. As I was about to reach the point where I would just yell her name I saw Vic from Insulindependence, the Triabetes Club Manager. He let me borrow his phone to call her and we were able to meet up in what seemed like a panic. 

I'm glad I saw Vic as I spoke with him about what to do with my continuous glucose monitor and insulin pump. I went back to the transition bag area and threw the items in my bike-to-run bag.

Jamie and I then went to an open area (as if there are any with three thousand people and their closest family around) to start putting on my wet suit. As soon as my wetsuit wet on I could feel that I needed to go to the bathroom. Not the stand up and pee kind either. Too late, wet suit was on. My blood sugar was now 201, probably nerves on the rise. Half-unit of insulin in the thigh, a kiss for Jamie, hugged my parents and made my lonely way to the staging area. There was no going back now, this game was on.

When I got to the staging area I took my homemade gel of 25 grams, realized I would leave my favorite sandals to die next to this garbage can and waited. Everyone was starting to get in the water; goggles and cap on.

I made my way to the edge of the water, told the person behind me they better not jump on me and got in. Mistake. As soon as I got in the announcer started to describe the pro start, meaning I would be in the water over fifteen minutes before my start. This water was cold, very cold.

The pro men went, then the pro women then the national anthem. The cold water made all the nerves in my body go away. I wanted the race to start so bad so I could warm up. Mike Reilly (race announcer) gave his send off after the Mayor of Tempe or maybe it was Phoenix, I wasn't listening, it was too cold.

Then the cannon. BAM!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thursday getting to Ironman

"Come what may, all bad fortune is to be conquered by endurance."

Drove over to Tempe today, checking into Ironman tomorrow. Below is our quick video. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Training and life through a phone

Last long ride on the 101, taken by Blair.
I read an article the other night how the creator of Polaroid, Edwin Land, in the 1970's spoke about how we would one day always have a camera at the ready. He was a true visionary of his time and the era he spoke about is here. (Click here for article.) Thanks to Jamie, Blair and my iPhone I have pictures of everything great from this year leading up to Ironman. 

Grave Digger, obviously I won, taken by Blair

The pictures are what I'll have to remember some day. Of course I'll recall the race but what about the six months leading up to it? I won't remember the fatigue but I'll have that picture racing Grave Digger during a training ride

With one week to go the taper has taken over. Peter was right, I've gone crazy. Taper is terrible. I liked the fatigue better.  

More than the training over the last six months there are also the good times. Ironman takes a lot of sacrifice but I'm glad I never missed any of Nik's football games. Nik will be in Jamie's and my wedding next October as one of the groomsman. He has dated Jamie's sister Brooke for the last four years and we've had plenty of good times. His last home game for San Diego State was on Saturday. 

After that it was off to Jamie's Water Polo match. Something finally clicked for me with water polo watching this weekend. Maybe it's because I finally realized it's just ice hockey in slow motion. Either way, now that I can "swim", I still don't understand how people don't drown. During the Ironman swim, when I get hit I promise not to cry like the other teams goalie. 


Thursday, November 8, 2012

How complex is diabetes?

This is definitely not that of medical opinion. Mainly because I don't know anything about medicine. Only what I observe through my own body. Just attempt to follow.

Recently I've been having these high blood sugars at night. I can see it on my continuous glucose monitor as I sleep. My blood sugar creeps up and up and up. I've also noticed it during the day but that's harder to measure because there is always food on board or insulin on board.

At first, this perplexed me. "My workouts are hard, my training hours are long, how could the insulin be going into my system not be keeping my blood sugars down". At first I blamed it on my insulin pump. Then I blamed eating too much at night. Even with these high blood sugars I was never tired during the day.

Once I figured out it wasn't the pump and it wasn't food at night (because nothing had really changed in my eating habits other than being hungry all the time from long training). I started to think about how I wasn't as tired as I thought I should have been for this happening. I started to think about a lot of the nutrition articles I've read. How the body becomes more efficient with carbohydrates, insulin, food. Is this what was happening? Was my body simply better able to handle the training and use the carbohydrates more efficiently thus my same training insulin doses were to....low?

It was the opposite effect of everything in my mind. Train hard, insulin sensitivity goes up, use less insulin. 

It was almost hard to accept because this is why I love the training so much; the diabetes is so forgiving. I realized I had broken through a wall where my body is more efficient. I'm sure it happened slowly but the wall felt sudden.

As Cliff Scherb told me in an email when I consulted him, "it's a positive development, most likely it means that you are recovering well and topping off your glycogen stores appropriately from one workout to the next".

I made the crude drawing to the right. Basically as your fitness level goes up so does your insulin sensitivity. The red line is the wall I feel I broke through. This is the point where my basal (background insulin) needed to be increased because I was recovering so well that the extra insulin was needed again (much like a person not exercising would need more insulin than a person exercising).

This is almost the advantage of having diabetes (ya right, like there is one). Most people would have no idea their body was all of the sudden more efficient with the food. I, on the other hand, could literally see/feel this happening. 

Wow, I bet none of this makes any sense. And I don't know if it's anywhere near correct from a medical standpoint.

Let me sum it up in layman's terms; last Sunday I went for a 100 mile bike ride. After I didn't feel that tired. I didn't even have to lower my insulin ratio's the way I have in the past. I'm physically ready to do this Ironman. The end.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

What has become clear....

What has become clear over the past week is that Ironman Arizona is right around the corner. It still felt as though it was light years away until last Friday (October 26). It hit me like a piano falling from a 100 story building. It's here, the race is right around the corner. 

This is the last week of hard workouts. The last Tuesday pain cave trainer ride, the last Wednesday long swim and the last hard Thursday Sergio run. After this weekends long run and long ride the hay is in the barn and it's taper time. 

What has become clear to me is that I've put in the work. Now it's about getting to the race and finishing what I started a year ago. 

A year ago I told my Dad I wanted to do this to learn something about myself. I've learned so much and I haven't even heard the cannon go off. I even have a  of list of these thoughts written out. After the race I plan to share a few of those ideas on here. Maybe no one will read it but at least I won't forget. I know I'll learn more during the race and I plan to share some of those dark moments as well.

I'm told the race doesn't start until mile 80 of the bike and mile 18 of the run. What has become clear is I'm ready for those moments.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena