Monday, November 23, 2009

DECA Iron Triathlon - Race Summary

Race Re-Cap 2009 DECA Iron Triathlon
November 9-19th

24 Miles swimming - 760 laps in the 25 meter pool
1112 miles biking – 930 laps on the bike loop
262 miles running – 220 loops on the run loop

Total time 141:28:26
5th Overall

Jan (wife and partial crew) and I arrived in Monterrey on Nov. 5th. There was a sense of anticipation and nervous energy as we met with all our friends, athletes, and crews from around the globe. It is a family atmosphere that makes these races so special. After the mandatory blood tests and final rule descriptions we all attended the grand opening ceremony hosted by the local media, (the BBC was filming as well) at a large hotel in Monterrey (downtown).

The opening ceremony included introduction of the athletes along with a huge buffet with mariachi bands. It was the last time for everyone to have fun and relax before the stress two days later with the beginning of the race.

The field was stacked including Matej (Slovenia), Pascal (France), Ference (Hungary) and Kari (Sweden) all looking to do well and secure enough points for the World Cup points championship. My goals were to: 1. Finish the race 2. Run well (second part of each marathon) as I know many would go out to fast and consistency would be my key race strategy.

We spent the day Sunday (day before the race) buying more food and supplies from the grocery store so we had everything possible and not have to waste time later while the race will under way. I was nervous for sure which is always a good sign for me.

Race Day!
We awoke to a nice sunny 65 degree morning and all the athletes met at the race transition area for body weight analysis and drop off urine samples. This process was completed every morning and after the race to provide a report for all athletes that illustrated the effect of fat loss, dehydration, and muscle mass and body weight. As a group we all rode to the University swimming pool. I felt like I had a rock in my stomach and tried to calm my nerves down! I was matched with Peter Cusick from London in my lane and it was finally game time as we all jumped in the water. Jorge gave us the signal to “go” and we were off on the start of this 10 day adventure.

As I expected, many racers went very hard on day one and I focused on holding back and staying within myself which was difficult but in the end became the perfect strategy for me.

There were the normal up’s and down’s each day from day 2-7 including unbelievable heat (95 degrees and over 100 in the direct sun), brutal warm water in the pool which was 87 degrees (imagine how hot it was wearing a wetsuit – felt like being in a sauna and made you nauseous). Every day, I told myself to focus on never getting off the bike– no matter what and how tough it would be. This strategy was huge for me as many racers would stop and take some time off the saddle to eat, recover, etc. I have been racing 24 years but don’t remember many races with the heat we had for those couple days. My goal each day was to stay consistent for the day in all the sport disciplines. It became difficult to hold back, and then all of a sudden many athletes started dropping out, dropping way back on the run and then the injuries started for many athletes. I continued to push the last ½ of each marathon and was able to put significant time on many of the athletes and my confidence continued to grow each day. I was experiencing was normal foot blisters and saddle sores, but nothing compares to some of the medical issues other’s were facing on a daily basis.

My second Super-Crew – Rick Freeman was instrumental in driving me to keep eating more and more food. My base food consisted of Hammer products and Perpeteum being the main fuel. However, throughout the bike, I ate pounds of Mexican beef, chicken, sandwiches, nutella and an assortment of “real” food for extra calories and taste. It worked to perfection and one item that became an ongoing joke between Rick and me was that on one loop I asked for Beef with Ice chips. As you can imagine, when he and all the crew heard that, there were plenty of “Did he say, beef with ice?” It was so hot and it tasted like heaven.

Day 8 – Day 9

These two days were especially tough mentally and physically as I had a fever, sweats, and bad cold. I did not get much sleep during these days as the fever occurred both evenings and felt horrible for the swim and bike disciplines. My goals changed and it was all about “holding it together” and get to Day 10 with the hope that I would feel better to finish strong on the run.

Day 10

It was hard to believe that we all (10 remaining athletes out of the 18 starters) were lining up for our last ride over to the pool. There was a ton of excitement in the air and we all discussed what it’s going to feel like when we would cross the finish line for the last time (but still had a full Ironman left!!). I took it steady all day and could not wait to get off the bike and onto the last discipline of running. I decided to run the whole marathon with no walking with the goal of finishing strong. I was still feeling under the weather, but the run went well and the final lap had arrived. Rick gave me the U.S.A. flag and of course a Pittsburgh Steelers terrible towel to wave as I came through the finish line. Rick had the song Renegade by Styx (huge Pgh. Steelers song) wired into the speakers and I saw the finish line. Emotionally, it was like no other race in my life. I sprinted (pulled my left hamstring at the finish line) and screamed all the way through the finish line. I was mobbed by all the other racers, crews, race volunteers, photographers, etc. and had beer squirted and poured over my head (of course it kept my tears hidden). I took a 16 oz can and chugged it in record time and it was amazing how wonderful it tasted at that point. Emotionally, I was exhausted and could not believe it was finally over. As everyone finished, it was the same emotions and joy and the family atmosphere was at its best.

We all waited at the finish line and partied with wine, rum, tequila, etc. to cheer on the remaining racers still on the marathon course. I will never forget the memories of the finish and celebrating with all the athletes. It was the race of my life and still pinch myself that I actually completed this massive race.

The best feeling occurred when several of the veteran DECA Ironman athletes told me that I was very mentally strong throughout the race and I am now “A DECA IRONMAN” and part of a very select group of athletes around the world. That’s when it sunk in!

I can’t thank all the support especially when I had a couple days between crew when Jan left and Rick arrived. Paetra (Kari’s wife) and Angela (Peter’s wife) were unbelievable and treated me like their own family – providing all the necessary food, supplies, etc.

A big congratulation to all the finishers and Ference for a tremendous race and overall IUTA Series winner!