IM Brazil: Race Report!

Race morning! I gather up the stuff I need for the day and head down to grab the shuttle over to transition. I take a chance and throw my cellphone and digital camera in my bag because I like to take pictures before and after the race. Also, Scott asks me to call his wife after the race as she is worried about him collapsing, as he did in a previous ironman race. I say sure although I hope he does not collapse – it’s never fun to watch anyone go into that spaghetti body, zonked out, overextended state.
I get to transition early and I find out everything is very sequenced. You get in to the body marking line where they put numbers on you and check your bike. They put the bike number on your bike for you, which is very different from other races where you put it on yourself. After that, I take my bike in to get it racked. Then I am ready to deal with my nutrition but I think that I should go to my race bags and put my run fluids in there first. So I go over there and do that, but then I find out I can’t go back to my bike because it is sequenced; you can’t go back to redo something once you get into the next area! They make me get out of the transition area and walk all the way around to where body marking was and I go in again! Now I prepare my bike fluids, and I get a EST guy to pump my tires and I’m all set. I see Scott and Keish walk in so I hang out with them as they get their bikes ready. As I’m doing that, the lights go out. Seems like Floripa’s power grid isn’t strong enough to support an Ironman race!
Given that start time is drawing near, we rush into the changing tent to put on our wetsuits…in pitch dark. The power hasn’t come back on yet! But we manage, put our pre-swim bags back on the racks, then rush out to the beach to a cloudy morning. At least it’s not cold, maybe 60s but the clouds are an ominous sign from several days of incredible weather.
The swim course is pretty well marked and there are two sections with a bit of running on the beach in between. The buoys are thankfully very tall, and on the beach there are these two powerbar hot air balloons which mark where we get out between swim legs, and where we get out of the swim at swim finish.
I line up with Keish and the gun goes off and we race into the water. Little did we know that there was a strong current sweeping us to the left, which didn’t register to me until my friends told me about it later. It was why the pros were all standing on the beach WAY to the right. Plus, we missed Ken Glah’s pre-swim briefing (he went out for a swim at 6am to test the current). So constantly I am swimming a few strokes and look up only find I’m constantly course correcting…because the current is constantly sweeping me to the left! I hit the run on the beach between swim legs and it’s slow because there is a row of people just kind of meandering out of the water. I think it must have cost me 2-3 minutes on the swim. I go back out and on the way back I am almost swept into this yacht parked on the side of the course. I was very annoyed that this yacht was sitting there and afraid I would be hit by it. Later I find out there are some rocks that the yacht was helping to block us from hitting. Hmmm. OK better now.
I hit the swim finish at about 1:20 and run up the ramp, pulling the wetsuit down to my waist. I find a volunteer, drop on my butt on the ground, and she whips my wetsuit off via my legs in one skilled motion. I grab it and run into transition. Inside, I grab my T1 bag and go into the changing area. I towel off and find Scott already in the changing area! Man he swam fast! I towel off and change into my bike stuff, take a leak, and then jog to get my bike, and then I’m off.
I felt pretty good going out there. The first loop went really well, coming in at about 2:58 or so. Lots of flat riding on this course and ability to go very fast in aero position. But off and on I feel discomfort at being in aero position for so long periods of time. Sometimes it bugs me, and other times I feel no discomfort at all. The bike course is mostly flat, maybe 80-90% riding in aero position. There are some hills but they are very gradual and not bad at all. I roll back into Jurere and near the start of the second loop is the special needs station. I get there, but they are not ready with my bag. I sit there about 2 minutes waiting for them to get my 2 water bottles in there. It was at this time I realize the value of resting in the middle of an Ironman. One year, Natascha Badmann was at IM Kona and she got a penalty which caused her to sit in the penalty box for 5 minutes. When you’re in there, you can recover and drink a bit. She emerged from the penalty box more rested and went on to win that year, chasing down the leaders despite having a 5 minute penalty! After I take off from the special needs station, I realize that I feel pretty good and my legs got 2 minutes of recovery. Cool!
The second loop started out well. I was able to maintain my pace for about 2/3 of the second loop, but in the last third was starting to get tired. While I was out there for the second loop, it started drizzling. Oh man, I thought. That would really suck if it rained the rest of the day. I pedaled faster to at least get in before it starts raining. Luckily, it only drizzled and stopped once I made my way back to Jurere. I came in around 6:13 or so (time on the site is ride time plus T1 and T2 at 6:26).
My nutrition on the bike consisted of GU gels, Saltstick salt capsules, Sportlegs capsules and my own fluids. Given that it was a very cool day, I only needed my own bottles and took the occasional sip from water or gatorade out on the course. Usually on hot days, I am drinking a lot more and take on a lot of bottles out there. But not today. The Sportlegs capsules worked great; I did not feel any burn in my legs at all!
Lots of drafting on the course and people just zoned out while riding. I was riding behind a pack who refused to break up. I think they all knew each other and were drafting the whole way. I dropped back to avoid a penalty and sure enough a ref came by, but I was amazed that he didn’t give a penalty. He just motioned them to spread out and moved on. Man! I heard later that some people did get penalties; I guess you had to have been unlucky enough to get the wrong ref. It almost made me want to risk drafting. The other annoying thing were people that were zoned out and riding left. You’re supposed to let people pass on the left or risk a blocking penalty. Some of them would ride a bit faster, then slow down. You let them pass and then they slow down in front of you! Geez.
I also felt for the slower bikers. On my second loop, the aid stations were starting to run out of stuff. Not good. At the last aid station before coming into transition, I grabbed the cool Powerbar water bottle which had IM Brazil printed on it and tossed one of my own. Gotta get souvenirs!
All in all, very happy with my bike at 6:13.
I get to T2 and hand off my bike, jog over to the changing tent where I grab my T2 bag and go to change. I go out there but feel very slow. I am patient as I know it usually takes about 10 minutes to get my running legs back. But today it took almost 30 minutes. Also when I hit the series of 3 aggressive hills on the first run loop, my left hamstring/upper calf starts to really hurt. It was bothering me a little on the bike, as I have been training a change in my pedal stroke to drop the heel and engage my hams and glutes more on the downstroke. It helps to not wipe out my quads, which have cramped up on the run due to them being wiped out from the bike. But today, for some reason they became sore. It didn’t bother me on the run until I got to the hills.
There are 3 hills in succession. All 3 are pretty aggressive, but the middle one is only 30 meters long but it must be at least 45 degrees from the horizontal. No way to run up that at all. And in my condition, I could not even run up the other 3.
I go out very conservative on the first loop to save some energy for the second half, so I walk up all 3 hills which still aggravates my left hamstring/upper half. When I finally get off the hills and back into town, Scott passes me and tells me later that I really didn’t have a happy look on my face. Definitely not!
That is, until I saw Hillary Biscay (pro-triathlete) pass me on her last loop on the other side. She was doing the famous Ironman shuffle and moving pretty fast. At Ironman Austria last year, I saw another woman do that there and it saved my run in that race. I should have thought of it for this year! So I give it go. Quickly my left hamstring/upper calf pain subsides and I’m moving pretty fast now. I definitely plan on training it now and want to train myself to turnover my legs faster.
Keish tells me later about the Ironman shuffle and how he trains it especially after a long training bike ride. Sometimes, you just can’t run with a normal stride during Ironman espcially after a hard bike leg. Your muscles are so tired and you can’t extend your stride very easily at all. You have to train it when you’re dead tired so you can get used to high turnover when you’re in a depleted state. Hmmm…something I may try when I get back home.
By now I’m entering the second half of the race, which consists of pretty flat sections of two loops of 10.5 km a piece. I feel pretty good and keep it moving.
My nutrition on the run was supposed to be only PowerGel Double Latte gels. But before the race, I decided that this was a risky thing as the high caffeine concentration might give me stomach upset. And I was right. So after the bike, I grabbed two unused Gu gels and used those two first on the run. I was drinking Coke freely, and swishing my mouth out with water to get the stickiness of Coke out of my mouth. I would walk through each aid station for recovery, but also not slosh fluid all over myself in attempt to drink while running. Then I start using the PowerGels. I discovered that these Double Latte gels being washed down with Coke (also caffeinated) was not a good thing! My stomach instantly felt worse, so on the next station I threw down some water and I felt better. From then on, I reduced the frequency of Double Latte to about once an hour instead of every 45 minutes, wash it down with water and not Coke, and only use Coke when I wasn’t downing it with PowerGel. That worked much better. Still I was taking Sportlegs every 3 hours, and a salt capsule about every 20-30 minutes. But man, that Double Latte stuff really works. The caffeine just keeps you going and keeps you alert the whole way!
I am ecstatic when I see the 36 km marker and just count down the kms. I try to pick it up when I hit 40 km but just can’t quite do it. I hit the finisher chute and make it in just under 12:40 at 12:39 and I’m very happy about that!
As soon as I get in, my body starts immediately cooling down. I grab a finisher’s shirt, my medal, and go looking for food. But man it’s cold at night. I start to shiver and go looking for a silver space blanket. I finally find one which is great because it works very well in retaining heat and I don’t want to risk hypothermia. I am supposed to wait for Scott to come in as I’m supposed to call his wife to tell her he is OK but I realize that I am still shivering and better go change. So I wait about 20 minutes there and then leave to the changing tent to get my stuff.
The exit process is also sequenced. You can’t go in and out of transition either! I was intending on changing and then going back to see Scott come in. No dice. I get my bags, change in to dry clothes which was much warmer, go to get my bike and then I’m out. At this point, I have my bike and can’t go back to watch the finishers. Instead I walk over to the hospital house set up by EST.
Ken really thought this through. He rented a house right on the run course so friends and family have someplace to hang out, food and drinks, a bathroom, etc. Afterwards, racers can go over there for a quick shower and a place to put their stuff. I head there and take a freakin’ freezing shower as the hot water is gone. When I get downstairs, Keish and Scott are there! Had I waited about another 25 minutes in the finisher’s area, I would have seen them come in. Apparently they linked up while out there and came in together. We grab some food and catch up, and I’m secretly glad I don’t have to walk back out there as my legs are super stiff from the race!
What an amazing guy Keish. He goes into the race with a bum rib suffered from a bike accident only a few weeks ago. He contemplates quitting about 4 times but continues each time, despite feeling cramps through his legs through the swim and bike. He rides non-aero on the bike the whole way, because it aggravates his ribs. What a stud. He makes it to the end and racks up another finisher’s medal. A natural Ironman!
Scott did extremely well. His goal was to race an Ironman whenever he jumped to the next age group. And being a busy guy plus family man, he didn’t train all that much. Still his time was fantastic for a guy whose last Iron distance race was 5 years ago.
We watch other EST finishers straggle in to the hospitality house. Everyone looks pretty elated. A few people look awful as they come in. Such is Ironman. Sometimes racers push their bodies to the limit and it wrecks them. But they are Ironman. Nuff said.
After getting some food, we head back to our hotel. On the way to the shuttle, the lights flicker out on the street and go out again. The power grid must really be taxed tonite! We get back to the hotel and I am too amped to go to sleep. Besides, my race clothes smell like crap! I wash all my race clothes, rinse my wetsuit, take some Tylenol and more Sportlegs tablets to reduce lactic by-product buildup. I hop into my bathtub and dump ice in there for an ice bath to help my legs recover. I write notes for this race report. Scott calls his wife to assure her he didn’t collapse after the race. I email some more, drink some Endurox recovery drink and hit the sack. It’s just another day at Ironman…

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