Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Graham Finish(es) Strong

Instead of "Words for Wednesday," I thought I would bring you another source of inspiration.  My friend Graham, you remember Graham, entered the world of triathlon this summer.  His first event was a sprint distance at Tri Latta Triathlon on June 9.  This included a 750 meter open water swim, a 17 mile bike ride and 5K run.  This is important to know in order to help put what comes next into perspective.  About 3 months later, Graham, this crazy beast, entered and raced in the Finish Strong Half Iron Triathlon at Jordan Lake, North Carolina,on September 23, 2012.  The half iron distance is as follows:  1.2 mile open water swim.  56 mile bike ride.  13.1 mile run.

I asked Graham if he would share his adventure with seriously hope.  And, well, how could he say no?  Without further ado, I bring you Finish Strong Half Iron as raced and written by my good friend and training cohort!
as if setting up transition wasn't hard enough,
let's set it up in the dark!
After waking up early on race morning my mind started to go through its pre-race check list.  Everything was loaded in the car and I was ready to get to the race transition area and set up.  After getting to the race site I parked the car and started to unload my bike, it was still dark out so it made it challenging when attempting to check tire pressure.  I went over and picked up my packet since they didn’t have them available on Saturday at the pre-race meeting.  I took my bike, crate, towels, shoes, gloves, helmet, bike shirt and nutrition into the transition and racked my bike and laid out my stuff.  About 30 minutes before the race they announced that the water temp was 75 and wetsuits would be allowed – good thing I had my rental.  I put the suit on with about 10 minutes prior to the start and was ready to go.  Since it was a small race they put the men in group 1 and women in group 2.

The Swim 

No, Graham,
you can't come back
to shore....
I had my plan to swim straight and steady pace, not pushing too hard and try to focus on conservation of energy and hopefully avoid cramping in my calves which has happened a few times.  I would guess the first turn buoy was about 750m away and with a blink of an eye I seemed like I was making the turn, the little voice in my head said I think I am flying, that could not have been 15 to 20 minutes already.  After the turn I found my aim for the next turn and focused on my form and to stay relaxed.  After the second turn I realized that I am halfway done and heading back to shore, my voice went off again, telling me to relax and watch my form, at that point I realized that I had taken the second turn really wide and was about 75m wide of the site buoy – oops.  I again had to focus on staying calm.  Then I hit some waves from the side and surprised me some but was able to stay relaxed.  Other than swimming off course a little, I felt good.  Finally the last turn buoy, almost back to shore, focus on swimming straight, there just ahead is the boat launch and dock.  I kept my head down and really focused, then I decided I better check my direction again and just at the right time too – I was about 2 feet from swimming head first into the side of the dock, minor turn and another 20 feet until I could stand and run (ok, really walk) up the ramp.  After the ramp I headed towards transition and I saw Stephanie who came to help cheer me on and support.  I asked for the time and she said – under 29 minutes, I ran into transition and started to get changed for the bike.  After getting changed I asked again and she repeated “under 29” and I was shocked, the plan was to swim well and be in around 40 minutes.

The Bike

What I like to call
"Graham's bad ass bike pic"
The bike was the tail of two courses, 56 miles and basically the first 40 are about average minor hills turns and then the final 16 are brutal.  I don’t know the breakdown of my ride but the first 20 miles were good.  I hit the second water stop, which was supposed to be around 36 or 38 mile marker, and picked up extra water.  I continued to ride for what seemed to be another 30 to 45 minutes and I was expecting the 50 mile marker and saw the 40, ugh that took some steam out of me.  Oh and now this is where the bike starts to get challenging.  There were 3 long climbs and the first was near a cemetery and I thought to myself, when I fall off my bike and die from this hill they won’t have to move me very far to put me in the ground.  I pushed on only to find another equally challenging hill after having a minute or so to regain some focus and find some energy.  I knew the last hill was long – about a 3 mile climb and after getting through that I knew that I had conquered the bike and was almost ready to run.

The Run

Ok, normally I am a quiet person, I don’t talk to other runners, I just put one foot after the other and work on getting to the finish.  The run was anything but normal, I had to tell my body what to do and it talked back to me on many occasions.  I filled my fuel belt with water and I had 6 gels for the 13.1 run, ready, set, hyperventilate…ok, I have only gone 50 meters, that is not the right way to start a run.  Focus on calming down, it’s only a half marathon right?  After the breathing returned to normal, time to run to the first water stop, break down the run into lots of small goals.  I made it to the first water stop and refilled the two water bottles, I had been drinking some and pouring most on my head to keep my temperature down and avoid over heating which I have done in the past.  Next repeat previous goal, run to the next water stop and refuel, better take a gel while getting water too.  Ok, feeling good I hit the second water stop and feeling good, refueled and went on to the next stop.  At about the 2 mile mark I started to have pain in my left arch – I know that pain my brain responded – that is a nasty blister on my arch.  I haven’t ever had one there and it turned my run into a very painful walk run the remainder of the day.  I knew that I wouldn't let the blister stop me, I pushed on and hit the 3 mile mark when my right leg cramped from the top of my knee to groin, wow that hurt and I had taken a gel about 5 minutes prior, I decided that another gel was needed and started to walk again.  I pushed on, never stopping due to fear that my body would fall apart.  I hit the turn around and picked up my first wrist band and took another gel.  At this point I pushed myself to run a little and overall I found the run course a challenge.  Nothing too hard but it wasn’t a flat easy course that’s for sure.  Then I saw Stephanie, she was my support and she walked and talked and ran when I could.  I hit the 5th mile marker and I thought yay I am half way done!! Oh wait, no I am not – crap, this isn’t going to my plan.    After calming down and pushing through miles 5 to 8 I realized I hadn’t taken a gel in a while and went to the belt to realize I only had two left.  I came up with a plan to have them at the 9th and 11th mile markers and hope that my body didn’t get too mad.  So, I continue to run some and walk some, most of the walks were not by design or distance but due to my body cramping or reacting to still being on the course.  I felt muscles tweak, cramp, provide negative feedback to my brain from my hip, quad, calves and achillies both on the left and right side – basically my entire lower body.  I managed to keep upright and finally had about 300 meters to go when my left leg cramped really bad and caused me to hyperventilate again.  I almost fell.  I pushed through the cramp and focused on the breathing, one last turn and into the shoot.  Finally I crossed the line and then my lower body complained one last time and this time I couldn't remain on my feet and I fell, but at least I was already over the line.

I did it, I was now a HALF IRONMAN!

WOW!  Way to do battle, Graham!  Congratulations you Crazy Beast!  What you have accomplished is truly inspirational...and maybe a little crazy ;)

You can lay down now....

your work here is done!

1 comment:

Lee Larson said...


Proud of you man..that is awesome!