Sunday, May 14, 2006

See Will Tri - Wildflower Half Ironman Triathlon

My first half ironman triathlon. In brief, it was awesome. I finished strong, I'm really happy with my time and as much of a cliche as this is, most importantly I had fun.

  • Overall - 818th out of 1768 athletes
  • Overall men - 707 out of 1264
  • My division (Male 30-34) - 136 out of 224
  • Total time - 6 hrs 15 min 7 seconds
  • Swim 1.2 miles - 34:39
  • Transition Swim->Bike - 5:01
  • Bike 56 miles - 3:22:34
  • Transition Bike->Run 3:08
  • Run 13.1 miles -2:09:45
  • Number of showers taken in 48 hours - 0
The Long
The below recap is LOOOOOOOOOOOOONG. I'm writing most of this on a flight to New Jersey so I have some time to write. I don't expect many people to read it all (hell..I couldn't even get through re-reading it after I posted it), but scroll down and see some pics as well.

Morning Prep
We camped over at Lake San Antonio on Friday night. A lot of my friends think this must have sucked because I wouldn't get a good nights rest. In fact, it was the total opposite. Camping makes you go to bed early (pretty much once it gets dark) and I slept solid from about 9:30 till 5:30 am.

At 5:30 I lied in my sleeping bag just thinking about the upcoming race. Surprisingly, I wasn't that nervous. Sure my stomach felt a bit queasy, but I didn't quite want to barf like the morning of my Alcatraz tri.

Camping with Merrill and the other people in SF Tri Club (my AWESOME tri club) actually had a calming effect on me. Everyone was pretty chill in the morning and no one was freaking out. When I prep for events by myself in the morning, my head goes a little crazy and I get a little neurotic. Not so this morning.

I ate a couple of peanut butter bagels, bananas and some coffee and I felt pretty great. Refreshed, energized and ready to go. Only one thing left to do. And that was to crap.

*too much info ahead*

Taking a shit has to be about the most important thing before an endurance sport. When you are going to be doing something for 6+ hours, not carrying around a pound of bio-waste in your gut and intestines is a good thing. I INTENTIONALLY didn't crap the night before to make sure I could poop in the morning.

As I walked over to the bathroom I was actually nervous. No joke. The following thoughts ran through my head:
"Do I have a crap in me?"
"OMG, what if I can't shit"
"Please God, loosen my stool and let me push it out"
I'm not even joking. My walk to the bathroom was the most nervous I felt all morning. I sit on the surprisingly clean campsite toilet and try and poop. *plip* *plop*. I get up to wipe my ass and what do I see? Two fucking raisin sized pieces of shit.

"That's it?" I actually say out loud in the bathroom.

F@CK. I ate 2 giant plates of pasta, 2 bagels, 4 eggs, ham and toast the previous day. How can that only result in the losing entry in a rabbit shitting contest?

I begin to feel scared for the first time all morning.

As I begin to walk back in pooping-shame back to the camp site I begin going over some of my mental mantras that will get me through the day. "THINK POSITIVE". I force myself to laugh about it and tell myself
"Shitting 2 raisins is better then nothing. That will probably shave a minute off your bike".
*end of too much info*

I get all my gear ready and like everyone is paranoid that I have forgotten something. But I'm confident that I have everything: wetsuit, cycling shoes, running shoes, runners cap, body glide, advil, power bars, gels, sunblock. I'm set!!

Merrill and I jump on our bikes and make our way down to the transition area.

On our way down, miracles of miracles happen. A rumbling stirs. And my prayers are answered. I need to poop again!

*start of too much info*
I stop off at a port-o-potty (which again is..oddly spotless) and I must have lost a pound.

I walk out in victory and think: "Maybe the key to a successfully pre-race crap is to wear your helmet" (which I was).
*end of too much info*

We get to the transition area and I get all my stuff set up. I feel good about my transition area considering that this is my first tri of the year and I haven't practiced transitions at all.

(Transition area - sea of racked bikes - Lake San Antonio in the background)

I mentally tell myself:
When you come back here after the swim, take your time. You're going to be doing this for the next 6 hrs, spending an extra 30 seconds in transition to make sure you have everything is not going to kill you.
Merrill comes over to my transition area and he forgot his body glide (body glide is like a deodarant stick, but you rub it on all the parts of your body that may chaffe - it helps prevent things like bleeding nipples, wet suit rash, thigh chaffing, etc).

"Can I use some of your body glide?" asks Merrill innocently
" need to warn you" I begin to say. "Actually, never mind, here you go"
"Um. What? Tell me" stammers Merrill, already painfully aware of what I'm about to say
"Well, that has been used very liberally on my inner thighs and balls already. And even well applied to that spot between my asshole and balls".

Merrill grimaces, but when faced with wet suit rash or the prospect of what is effectively me tea bagging most of his body, he takes the virtual tea bag. Merrill groans extra painfully when he applies the body glide to his neck.

The Swim - 1.2 miles - 34 min 39 seconds
I am waiting near the swimming area for my heat to start. It's pretty cool because I get to see the pros take off and come out of the water. I also see Nalin and Monica who made the trek down just to come and watch. You guys are awesome.

My heat - real men wear PINK!

Watching the pros come out of the water

Monica and Nalin did a great job taking pics!

I feel good. Swimming is my strongest leg. I begin to tell myself another one of my mantras:
"Swim hard, sight well, don't panic, and have fun".
I use a lot of these mantras to get me through the day. More later.

I started in the last Male 30-34 year old heat (damn it..I'm still 29). With pink swim cap on (eveyone in the same heat is given a matching cap), I jumped in the water waiting for my heat to start. I pee in my suit for good luck and warmth and I'm off!

Warming up and peeing in my suit before starting

The swim start was great. There were not that many people in my heat and it was not a chaotic mess at all. I immediately get to the edge and I don't feel anyone kicking or clawing me. I'm lined up aiming for the first buoy and my swim stroke feels good.

And we're off!!

About 5 minutes into it, I think: "Why isn't anyone trying to kick me?". I take a quick peak and realize I'm already slightly off course! What the hell? How did that happen? I look at the buoy and think I'm lined up straight for it. But everyone is to my right and there aren't many people around me. "Don't panic".

I shake it off and just start making my way for the first buoy and I get back into the mass of swimmers. The first turn feels good and I feel like I'm close to the front of the pink cap heat. Actually, I have no idea if I am. But I tell myself:
You are kicking ass, you are out ahead of these other swimmers. Nalin and Monica are going to be amazed when they see you are one of the first pink caps out of the water.
That little motivational pep talk keeps me going strong. I even begin to see some yellow caps from the swimmers in the heat before me (started 5 minutes earlier). I feel even more confident and pick up my stroke.

I think I get a little caught up in telling myself what a swimming stud I am and I realize I'm a little off course again. I'm inside the buoy line and I need to correct. "DON'T PANIC". I correct myself, but I'm a little mad that the voice in my head was too busy telling me how great I was and not reminding me to keep sighting (sighting is when you look up every few strokes to make sure you don't go off course).

I make the last turn for the final stretch back to shore and I'm feeling good. Then it happens. The first green cap passes me. This is first guy I notice who started 5 minutes after me (in the 35-40 year old heat) and has caught up to me and is now passing me! I try drafting off this obviously faster swimmer and he smokes past me. I have no hope in keeping up. I need to pull out another one of my mantras (that I was actually very pre parred to use on the bike, but not so much on the swim): "IGNORE IT WHEN PEOPLE PASS YOU, JUST RACE YOUR RACE".

That mantra calms me down a bit and I swim hard for the finish.

I swim all the way until my hand hits the ground and I launch out of the water. I feel great! The arms are a little tired, but I feel pumped. I hear the cheer of the crowd and as I peel off my wet suit to show my SF Tri Club racing jersey, I hear "Go SF Tri!" from some of the other athletes.

Coming out of the water

Stripping off my wet suit - you can see my SF Tri Club jersey on underneath

Transition 1 - Swim to Bike - 5 min 1 sec
This is the first tri I have done where I wore my tri shorts and tri top under my wet suit. The first few I did, I just went commando and put on my clothes at the transitions. Not only does this slow your transition time, during Escape from the Rock I think a good 50 or so spectators got a good view of my junk (it was COLD WATER!) as my towel fell off.

The transition goes well and I'm on my bike pretty quickly. The only thing I forgot to pack was some advil. But I didn't really feel the need for it on the bike anyway.

The Bike - 56 miles - 3 hrs 22 min
Biking is by FAR my worst event. I haven't been cycling very long and I just don't know what my body is and isn't capable of on the bike. But I have my game plan in place and I just tell myself some more mantras:
I'm hoping for just finishing the bike in under 4 hours. This is ridiculously slow, but that's my goal. I want to make sure I save enough leg strength for the run.

I start my ride around 9:40 am.

The 56 mile bike course

My nutrition plan is simple and I stay on track with it:
  • Drink every 10 minutes
  • Eat a power gel 10 minutes after each hour (10:10, 11:10, 12:10, etc)
  • Eat a whole power bar at 40 minutes after each hour (10:40, 11:40, etc).
I end up eating and drinking a lot and it worked great. I had energy the entire ride and I never cramped up or bonked. I ended up eating 4 whole power bars, 4 gels, a banana and probably 4 bottles of Gatorade on the ride. I didn't even need to pee once on the bike!

The bike felt really good. I let people pass and I kept on what was probably a 17 mph pace. Not fast, but I was happy with it. I remember reaching the 1/2 way point and thinking: "I feel great, 1/2 way done and I feel fresh and energized".

I keep cycling, literally having hundreds of people pass me. On the entire bike course, I probably only passed about 10 people. I was fully prepared for this to happen, so I just don't care. I feel good and I'm just hoping to finish without a flat.

At about mile 41, we hit Nasty Grade. It's the "famous" part of the bike long course. It's about a 2-3 mile stretch where you climb about 1000 feet. I calm myself down and just power up it. I actually manage to pass a few people on the ascent and I continue to feel good.

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Check out the climb at Mile 41

After I made it up the grade, I was pumped. I knew the bike was mostly downhill from here . My main concern right now was: "Don't kill yourself or get a flat".

I whip down the hill of Nasty Grade and almost hit 50 mph. Frightening. Someone actually took a very ugly spill going down the hill and I felt for the guy and wished he was ok.

I start pumping my way towards the end of the bike and I realize that I am going to finish the bike in about 3 hrs and 30 minutes. I'm ecstatic. I never thought I would finish that quickly and I begin to think "Wow, I might break 6 hours and 30 minutes".

Yes...I was flexing for the camera. :)

Going into Wildflower, my main goal was just to finish. I also would have been happy with finishing in under 7 hours. My streeeeeeeeetch goal was to break 6 hours and 30 minutes. When I finished the swim and bike in about 4 hrs and 5 minutes, I realized I was probably going to hit my stretch goal!

Transition 2 - Bike to Run - 3 min 8 seconds
Transition #2 was pretty simple. Rack my bike, get off my cycling shoes, put on the running shoes, drink, eat a gel, eat a banana, apply sunblock, pop some advil, pack some gels for the run, throw on my hat and start running (I forgot to put my running # on!)

As I said in a previous post, I haven't run in 2 weeks becomes of shin pain. So I was a little nervous about how my legs might hold up. But they felt GREAT! I didn't even have that jelloy feeling of switching from cycling to running.

My legs felt fresh and my body felt energized, even after 4 hours of activity.

The Run - 13.1 miles - 2 hrs 9 min
I'm running out of the transition area and I see Nalin taking my picture. It totally lifted my spirits. I also see Monica and I give her a high five and I think I had a banana in my hand at the time. Sorry Mon :)

Yo Nalin!! I feel pumped!

I've run a couple of races in about 8 min/mile paces before. But I knew not to try and push it that hard for this run course. It's very hilly and my legs weren't in top shape. I told myself just to run at whatever I was comfortable with. And this turned out to be about 9.5-10 min miles.

The first few miles of the run are normally the worst for me. It's when your legs are just getting used to running instead of cycling and there is normally a lot of discomfort. However, my legs felt great! They felt better then they have in months and I felt extremely lucky. I couldn't help but to run with a smile on. There is no doubt in my mind that I am going to finish this race. And that was a great feeling.

Me in all my spandex glory - I swear, I hate the fact that my top is a belly shirt. For's a LARGE!! I don't know why they make them like that...

At about mile 2 I stop to piss. I have probably finished drinking 72 oz of fluids in the last 4+ hours but I have not pissed once. I brace myself for what I know is going to be a painful piss.

OK, I don't know the science behind this, but whenever I go on long rides and don't pee, that first pee I take after a couple of hours screams with pain. Is my urethra dehydrate and the warm-flow of urine is a shock to it? I don't know. Doctors?

We hit some pretty rough trail hills on the run. My plan was to just keep running, even on the hills. I try running up one of the hills and realize I'm barely moving. I see people around me doing the same. Lots of arm swinging and leg moving, but we are moving at a craaawwwwwwwl. So I figured I might as well just walk up the steep hills and use the opportunity to stretch my legs.

Running the hilly trails

I think this was a great plan, because I wasn't really that much slower then the people "running" up the hills. I was a bit afraid I would lose any momentum I had and just want to keep walking, but that wasn't the case.

My nutrition plan was to eat a gel about every 40 minutes and drink Gatorade at every mile. I stuck to the plan and again I remained cramp and bonk free. Oddly, sticking to my nutrition plan is one of the things I'm proudest of this weekend.

I kept expecting to hit the wall during my run. I felt that during my first SF 1/2 marathon around mile 10. The last 3 miles were incredibly painful. I felt that during the Vancouver Marathon. My legs were in a ton of pain the last 2 miles.

But it never came. I just kept on running.

I felt like Forrest Gump. "Run Will Run" I could almost hear Jenny saying in my head.

I hit the 7 mile mark, where I was definitely expecting to feel bad. But I didn't! I only had 6 miles left. I told myself: "You run 6 miles all the time. This is just another 6 mile training run."

I look at my watch. Oh my god. If my math is right, I am going to break 6 hrs and 30 minutes! In fact, i might even hit 6:15! It's weird. When I realized this, I think I might have even slowed down a bit. I knew I was about to beat all my goals, so I told myself just to keep a steady pace, enjoy the scenery, smile and thank all the volunteers and great spectators shouting words of encouragement to me and not push it.

As I started running through the campgrounds with all the campers, triathletes and other people cheering I feel amazing. I'm smiling, my arms are pumping in the air and I literally feel the best I have running in months. No real pain or discomfort. Just a big fat stupid grin on my face. Special thanks to the amazing SF Tri Club group who cheered me on loudly as I raced by our camp site. More cowbell!!

I reached mile 12, and with only a downhill mile left, I'm not just grinning. I'm all out smiling. I have a huge shit-eating-teeth-bearing smile on. Patented rectangle smile and all.

I'm running into the chute before the finish and I see and hear a bunch of SF Tri Club people cheering me on. It feels amazing. I don't even really bother sprinting to the finish line like I normally do. I continue to just run my pace and enjoy the experience. The cheers, the sun, the crowd and the announcer: "And crossing the finish line, William Young from San Francisco".

I finish. I'm a 1/2 Ironman. Months of training, fear, doubt, angst are behind me.

I jump up and click my heels at the finish and I'm done (I think I got more air then I did at Alcatraz).

My Best Matrix imitation

I hi-five a bunch of my other Tri Club members who finished before me. They all look great and I'm happy to share my accomplishment with them.

I also see Nalin and Monica at the finish. These 2 were amazing. They drove all this way, spent the night at a hotel on Friday night just to see me race. They probably saw me a total of 4 times for about 2 minutes total. But the smiles on their faces when I finished meant the world to me. Thanks again guys. You're the best. I have much love for you both

I finished the race with no cramping and no real pain. I'm obviously tired, but I continue to feel great. I saw a lot of people cross the finish line and just collapse. Or at least completely cramp up and need to be assisted to the medical tent.

5% of me wishes I picked up my running pace to about 9 min/mile and finished the race about 10 minutes faster. But 95% of me is glad I raced the way I did and enjoyed every moment of it.

My good friend and training partner Merrill finished in 6:13:40. He beat me by just over a minute. This is pretty amazing considering we started at different times and never saw each other once. So it was not like we were pacing off each other and he just sprinted past me in the end.

As we recounted our races, we realized how he was able to beat me. Merrill pissed multiple times while riding. Literally. He didn't even whip it out. Just pissed in his shorts while riding. Barely slowing down. Merrill has a 9 year old kids bladder and he pee'd 4-5 times on the bike. If he stopped to pee each time, that would have probably added 2 minutes to his time and I would have beaten him. Hahahaha. Great job Merrill. We did awesome. Good luck at Lake Placid for your first Ironman.

Even as I write this 4 days later, I still feel euphoric about the whole experience. It was amazing and something I will always remember.

I don't really know what is next. Maybe Vineman. Or Escape from the Rock again. Or surf more. Or hit the gym more and put on some weight. Whatever. It doesn't matter right now. I'll figure it out.

Shout Outs
I wanted to really thank the many people who have supported me leading up to the tri.

SF Tri Club - You guys are the best. The training weekend at Lake San Antonio we had gave me all new levels of confidence, and the long weekend ride/run bricks did as well. Janelle and Richard going a couple of days early to set up ALL of our tents was even more amazing.

Merrill - my most regular training partner. Our emails on "I ran 8 miles yesterday, what did you do?" were a great constant motivator.

Nalin and Monica - again..thank you.

And all my friends who encouraged me along the way or checked in on me after the race: Schaubnuts, Aileen, Tushman, Eva, Alice, Doug T, Pat, Erica, Brandee, Vanessa, Shannph, Evan, Nik, Aaron, Lisa (thanks for an AWESOME pre-race care package), Grace, Elena (who even while chillin in India remembered to email me the day after to see how i did), V, Jason E, Doug, Sarah, Lynda and I'm sure a few other.

To my family..who didn't call or write before the race, and still has not called or emailed to see how I did...oh well. I'm too happy to be bitter.

Woo hoo! One 1/2 Ironman in the bag. Ironman Canada next year?


At 3:01 PM, May 14, 2006, Anonymous Lisa said...

Awesome job Will. Very proud of you!

At 1:57 AM, May 15, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

WHAT UP RIPPED BICEPS?! When did you get those arms?

I read 85% of the post. Mostly the too much info bits.

Congratulations again! Not least for your awesome bowel movements. I was inspired.

At 1:59 AM, May 15, 2006, Anonymous V said...

That was me, BTW. If you couldn't tell from the bowel comments.

At 5:24 AM, May 15, 2006, Blogger Merrill said...

Ironman Canada 2007 - I am there!

At 7:48 AM, May 15, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unbeleivable. Who would have thought this skinny video playing, pizza eating star trek fan would have come so far in such a short time. We love you Willy. You da man!

At 9:13 AM, May 15, 2006, Blogger EMOB said...

Congrats Will - that's a huge achievement! I have to say I enjoyed this post even more than your drinking marathon posts!!! :)

At 9:28 AM, May 15, 2006, Blogger whatupwilly said...

Thanks everyone! You are all awesome...especially V, for commenting on my biceps. Honestly..every time I saw a camera guy..i flexed. :)


At 5:34 PM, May 15, 2006, Blogger Van said...

I am SO PROUD OF YOU. it's so awesome to see it all in photos! Tell us in advance where the next one is. I want to watch.

At 5:36 PM, May 15, 2006, Blogger Egan said...

Great work man. That's fantastic you completed it and did an awesome time. I'm doing IM Canada this year so you don't have to.

At 7:36 AM, May 17, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice Job Man! That sounds like hell! And you survived!

At 1:03 AM, May 18, 2006, Blogger simonma168 said...

Willy, a totally inspirational story. When I run my 2 miles and I feel like my body wants to quit, I'll remember that where I stopped - you haven't even begun yet.

At 1:02 PM, May 18, 2006, Blogger H said...

This is so weird to me that I am so pround of you ... a complete stranger ... but I have been following your blog for a couple months and am so inspired. I am training for a sprint tri here in Calgary ... so I loved the details ... scared me a little but am sooo impressed. Congratulations!

At 10:44 PM, May 18, 2006, Blogger whatupwilly said...

Thanks H! Good luck on your sprint tri...looking forward to reading about it on your blog.

At 11:53 AM, June 23, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi. What an inspiring story. I just found your blog. Reading everything I can as I prepare for full season of sprinters in Seattle. I'm even considering Phuket, Thailand in December. Funny stories interesting things to read and Wildflower is something to reach for.

At 4:36 PM, November 19, 2006, Anonymous Mauricio said...

Hey, I am going to do my first Half-Ironman next year and this blog was great. One of my worries about the race is of the "too-much-info type" so your post clears things up a lot, HA!


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