It was indeed a long day! I finished in 13:48 and Julie just minutes back in 13:55.
I have lots of thoughts on the whole event and Durdam took a ton of photos but it will take some time to get them online.
The Ironman distance is definitely not a casual affair and absent the very solid 6 months of training, it would have been a world of hurt. That said there is also a huge difference between training to complete the distance (what we did) and training to compete at the distance (which entails about a 2x time commitment, tough unless you are jobless).
Here is my best stab at a chronology. The day started at 2am followed by 2 more hours of fitfull "sleep" before heading out to the final checkin. It was dark and serene, quiet with just the glow of big overhead outdoor lights. The swim started at sunrise with about 1200 thrashing arms and legs. I started at the way back and was so calm that I forgot to secure my goggles so it took me about 2 minutes before I pushed past the starting line. The entire swim was great, the water was warm, it was easy. I finished in 1:10 and honestly could have taken another lap around.
The bike was a different story — two 56 mile loops. The first lap was cool with no wind, pedaling at a 95 cadence, feeling great. The aforementioned veggie dog switch didn’t pan out. I gagged on the first one and made due with power bars and bananas. My first lap was a controlled 2:55. Dancing in my pedals I found myself hitting mile 70 holding the same pace with what should have been 30 miles of flat runout. Then the fun started.
An aside (back to the complete/compete business). Our furthest bike ride was about 95 miles, so I knew caution would be the better part of valor and that things would have to go very smoothly to put together a surprisingly good bike ride. The moment I saw that seemingly unfolding, everything changed. Suddenly there was a stiff wind heading out to the final turn around. MPH started slipping a bit but I was still motivated and very excited to have a tail wind on the way back. Not so! After the turn, I discovered it was a worse headwind heading back for the final 25 miles. The PA announcer was lamenting our fate to crowds back in Taupo and it was particularly cruel because if you were fast enough (like Cameron Brown who set the course record), the conditions early on were nearly ideal. Those caught a level or two back reaped the whirlwind. Honestly, I was practically in tears on the final climb at the injustice. Even at full descent speed back into town it was hard to get above 14mph (for the first 75 miles I was averaging better than 19mph).
Unfortunately for me (and Julie, who had even more time in the wind), the effort those last couple of hours ensured that the rest of the day would be, well, a challenge.
In the second transition, I managed to misplace my Gu bottle and spent about 20 minutes before heading out for the final marathon. Thanks to Jon’s "keep picking them up and putting them down" mantra it wasn’t all that terrible. The motivation to push it waxed and waned but I kept plugging along, consuming more cola in one day than I have in the last 3 years.
The crowds and townspeople were unbelievable. This is a world-class event in organization and participation and incredibly inspiring. I got to watch sunset over the lake on my final 10k and took in the entire experience, encouraging other participants, laughing with the volunteers. My finish was never in doubt.
On the last lap of the run I saw Ken Glah (a former winner of many Ironman races) walking toward me putting together his own 13 hour effort with a 7 hour marathon and caught a glimpse of why many people do enjoy this ultradistance, very much for its personal nature.
The family was extraordinary, seemingly at every turn offering advice and taking photos.
The finish was a thrill, an incredible gauntlet of cheers and noise and lights. Partially to appease my aching feet and partially for showmanship, I ditched my shoes and socks for the final 200m grass run up and did my best impesonation of Gebrselassie, glance left, glance right and sprint to the line. My barefooted finish line photo is quite amusing.
Julie was closing in on me the whole run and was just minutes behind.
Today, I am pretty tired, but not really sore. Of course that discounts two words (butt and nipples) which you aren’t usually found with a third (raw).
If anyone out there is reading this, thanks for your support and patience 😉