Sunday, December 6, 2009

Ironman Race Report

Some days Diabetes sucks but November 22, 2009 was not one of those days. That day was proof and celebration of what is possible for those with diabetes. On race morning I was surprisingly calm. I got up at 3 am to eat so that when the race started I would not have insulin on board remaining from breakfast. I went back to bed and got up for good at 4:00am. I gathered up my things and was out the door by 4:30am. I was really excited but also started to get a little nervous as we approached Tempe.
I got into transition at 5am. I had to get body marked with my race number, air up my tires and check in my remaining race bags for pick-up during at mid point of the bike and run. At 6:30 it was time to start heading to the water. I put my wetsuit on and took one last pre-race blood sugar check - 164, pretty good for a race start. My teammates, Casey and Kevin, and I started walking towards the swim start. On the way we ran into 3 more teammates, Sean, Denise and Heather. It was neat taking the final few steps with some of my teammates. We shared final thoughts, compared blood sugars, and gave the last well wishes before we jumped into the chilly waters of Tempe Town Lake. It was 62 degrees and definitely took my breath away but I quickly acclimated to the cold temperature. It was still dark at this time and was really surreal. 2800 other triathletes all in the water ready to begin a long tough day. The crowds gathered around the banks of the lake and on the Mill Avenue Bridge above us. I stopped for just a second to take it all in. It was hard to believe that I was about to start my first Ironman. I'd thought about it more times than I could count over the last year and now it was hear. The MC pumped up the crowd and got one last roar out of them after the national anthem, and then without a count down or any warning...BAM!!! The cannon went off. I expected it to be rougher than it was swimming in such a large group but I was able to settle in and not get punched or kicked too much. It was definitely full contact but nothing I hadn't experienced before and to be honest I have gotten beat up much more in other races. It was pretty congested until we hit the turnaround and then it was smooth sailing back to the swim finish. I was shocked when I looked at my watch after climbing up the stairs out of the water...1 hour 13 minutes!!! Holy *$%# that is the fastest I have ever swam that distance in open water by 6 minutes. It was a great way to start the race.

I grabbed my transition bag and entered the tent. Two things I did not expect were that it was dark inside the transition tent and the ground was wet and muddy with dry grass clippings all over it. I tried to change without getting my socks wet or debris filled. Then it was out of the tent and onto the bike. I have ridden many many miles and many many hours on the Ironman Arizona course and right away I knew the wind was going to be a factor. It was dead in my face and fairly strong when going up hill. The course is an out and back. The majority of the way out is a slow gradual climb up the Beeline Highway. I told myself, "No problem, you knew it would be windy, if it wasn't, THAT would be a surprise." The first two loops of the three loop course went pretty much as scheduled. As I turned around to start my 3rd lap a sharp pain shot up my low back. Oh crap! I have been battling a tailbone/glute/lowback issue for the last 3-4 weeks and I had hoped it would not become a problem during the race. I struggled for a couple miles with my back spasming every time I got into the aero position, causing me to have to stand up and stretch. At one point I actually stopped, got off my bike, stretched and rested a little hoping the spasms would go away. This is the point where negative thoughts started to enter into my head. "What if it gets so bad I can't finish the bike?" I had two hours to go. "How am I going to be able to run once I get of the bike?” I needed to get trough this so I continued to move forward, stretched when I needed, and tried to keep the positive self talk up. "You can make it. It might be slow but you can make it.", "You've ridden this course so many times, its just around this corner, just get to the top of this hill, just coast to the bottom, your almost there, all flat from here on out, just keep moving, it's gonna be so nice to get off this bike, etc. etc. etc." About a mile or two before transition my teammate Kevin passed me on the bike. He slowed down a little bit and talked to me. "How you feelin'?" he said. Trying to look cool and put on a front I said "Not bad, how 'bout you?" He was honest and said "I'm hurtin’" I replied "yeah I'm hurtin' pretty bad too..." Finally, after over 2 hours and 45 minutes for the last loop I made it back. I was so happy to be off that bike. Just being on my feet made things seem manageable. I couldn't help but smile when I handed the bike off to the volunteer.
I walked slowly through transition and grabbed my gear bag. I sat down in a chair outside the doorway to the tent. I didn't want to change in that dark muddy mess again. I was in absolutely no rush. Survival mode had begun. Any best case scenario time goal was out of reach at this point. My only goal now was to manage the pain, my nutrition, and my energy.

As I sat there changing my shoes, hat, and sunglasses I started going through my game plan in my head. At first I thought “Maybe I should walk the first mile just to get my legs underneath me and make sure my back wasn’t going to spasm.” But then I had a second thought…"There are a couple hundred or maybe even a thousand people waiting on the other side of this tent. You don't want to walk out of transition; I'll just run/jog until I'm out of site." The fans strung out much longer along the sidewalk than I had expected, but that was ok. My next thought was "ok, your already running, just keep going to the first aid station and you can walk there." My plan going in the race was to walk the aid stations and run the rest. My new plan was to walk the aid stations and the two bigger hills on the first lap to stay conservative. I made it to the first aid station, fueled up and headed back off on the run. I was so happy to be running, I couldn't help but have a good time. I was surprised at what a good time I was having. I continued that strategy throughout the first lap and things were going well. Then came one last challenge...the dreaded blood sugar was going too low. Off the bike my blood sugar was 83 (Normal 80-120). At that time I thought perfect, right where I need to be. I followed my normal strategy of 1 gel every 30 minutes and thought I'd be fine. But about an hour into my run I checked again - 74. I turned my insulin pump down to 50% and started amping up the nutrition. I took a gel and Gatorade and sometimes a half piece of banana every mile at the aid stations. The second lap was going well and right around the 10 mile mark I checked my blood sugar again - 65. Oh well, no more insulin today. I unplugged my pump and amped up the nutrition even more. At every aid station from then on out it went Gatorade, water, coke, water, gel, water and then a piece of banana or pretzels. I was getting so tired of eating and my stomach was so full. I didn't think I could take anything else in but I knew I needed to keep my blood sugar up. In my special needs bag at mile 13, the halfway point, I had stashed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Boy did that come in handy. Finally at mile 18 I tested -104. I was over 100 for the first time since getting off the bike. At this point I was feeling great. Blood sugar was where it needed to be. My legs were tired but my spirits were high and my energy felt good too. As I approached the turn towards the finishing shoot I got choked up a little bit thinking about the long journey of the day and the challenges I had been able to overcome. In some ways it was a microcosm of the whole year leading up to today and all of the obstacles that come with training for something like this. I was quickly filled with joy as I turned the corner and ran into the finishers shoot. The energy and enthusiasm by the spectators was something I had never experienced before. At last, at 8:05pm, 13:05 race time I crossed the finish line and became an IRONMAN!

Highlights of Team Triabetes at Ironman AZ


  1. great race report and video David! we had such a great experience watching all of you -Congratulations again...

  2. Great video, David! Congratulations, Ironman!

  3. David, congratulations on finishing a tough goal. The finish shoot scenario happens to a lot of folks who sign up for epic events like this. I know the feeling. But it's all good man. Definately an experience to remember for a lifetime.

  4. Nice job David look foward to racing with you in Canada or Boise!


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