Friday, January 2, 2009

My First Ironman: Ironman CDA 08

2.4 mi swim, 112 mi bike, 26.2 mi run

Coeur d’Alene, ID

June 22,2008

“Bruce Richter, you are an Ironman!!!!!” Pretty cool to hear those words, though I have to be honest……I didn’t. I was a little caught up in the moment.

Got the shirt. Got the finisher medal.

It all started well enough – a beautiful drive north from Boise to Coeur d’Alene was a great way to take my mind off the pain of the race to come. In fact, it must have worked really well, because I don’t recall ever experiencing the typical pre-race jitters. The lack of these varmints though is most probably a result of sticking to THE PLAN. A tough pill to swallow, THE PLAN was to enjoy my first Ironman, not race it. Let the swim be the swim, take it easy on the bike (blasphemy!), and hope there’s enough left in the tank to enjoy the marathon. In other words, I fully planned for this to be a learning event, and well, basically to go ahead and get schooled as a newbie.

THE PLAN was never really in jeopardy, although I will admit that 2 days before the event as I took in the flavor of downtown CDA amongst the other triathletes in town, I found myself sizing myself up against the others. They were everywhere with their veins popping out under last year’s Ironman Somewhere Bruce Hasn’t Been shirts……and I really wanted to beat them all. Those couple days hanging out in CDA before the race were starting to wear me down a bit. I just wanted to toe the start line and get this thing underway.

The night before the race, I woke up from a surprisingly deep sleep to hear the wind howling and rain hitting the hotel window. Just a passing storm but I still worried about my poor Cervelo P3C racked up in the exposed transition area without even a food bowl or water. By race morning, we had the makings of a perfect day for an Ironman. Temps were to be in the mid-70’s and the water was ready to welcome us with a “balmy” 59.5 degrees. Neoprene caps were recommended, and the ban on neoprene booties was lifted due to the water temperatures. I thought I’d do without. But before I get to how race day unfolded, I gotta give a shout out to the cast of characters that supported the act of idiocy that was to be my first Ironman.

Me and Desiree Ficker (IM Kona 2nd Place 2006)

I have to say, my support team was about as good as it gets. My parents were there as well as my sister Cindy and her family. What an amazing team I had representing the Tricredibles of NC in Claire, Emily, and Lizz (from henceforth, I’ll put a spin on a popular moniker and call these three Clemilizz). From the “Team Bruce” shirts to the chalked streets (that I actually paid attention to for once!), the beer at the finish line and the carrying of my sweaty gear, Clemilizz is a class act that will get you noticed in the crowd that races and watches the Ironman. Don’t invite them to your next Ironman if you want to race in anonymity.

There was one other there giving me support and I bet you thought I was forgetting. My good friend, Carl Bonner, once told me you can’t do an Ironman on your own. (Wise words from a man that gets turned on by hearing his daughter ask me what color panties I’m wearing everyday.) In my case, it takes an amazing wife to make something like this happen, and even though they gave me the finisher medal, Angie is more of an Ironman than I’ll ever be. This was a true team effort.

Claire, Emily, Lizz, and Angie in their Team Bruce shirts.

As long as they walked in order, folks seemed to get it.

An original work of art from the artist formerly known as Claire. (Shirts designed and made by Lizz by the way)

So, with the aforementioned support crew in proper position, a whole lot of training mileage and receipts behind me, I toed that Ironman line on the beach of Lake Coeur d’Alene. The swim plan was to start on the side, way off the popular line to the buoys and attempt to cut across the slower swimmers and miraculously find myself in clean water where I wouldn’t be trading left hooks and jabs with the masses……of which there were over 2000 by the way. I started well to the right of the crowd, but still in the mix and about 3 people back with my feet already in the frigid water. The moment that gun went off I regretted my choice of position. I was getting beat up and was inadvertently returning the favor. There was no way around it. To make matters worse, my goggles were leaking, and in that crowd there was no way to stop for fear of being run over. How the lifeguards, of which there are many, can possibly save you in that craziness would have to be proven to me. It was just downright dangerous and I wanted out of it.

That’s me 1037th from the left if you care to count.

I veered outside for cleaner water realizing I was heading for a longer swim. I still never got out of that crowd on the two laps in the water, and my feet were pretty much numb….but I was alive and Merle III (that’s the P3C) was getting antsy. What a welcome feeling to stand on dry land after that lunacy.

The baldy has left the water.

Transition from swim to bike was a little bit of an experience. People yelling in all directions, fetch your bag of bike gear, run into the tent, still people yelling at you, sit down and gear up…..what a well organized mess this thing was!

Passing the hot tub woosies in T1.

It had been a while since I had been on my bike, since Merle III arrived in CDA a good week before I did. I missed it. I hated to have to pedal slow (in many cases, not at all) but I had to stick to THE PLAN. I didn’t get very far into the ride before my old nemesis came a-callin’…….I hadn’t mastered the Pissing on the Fly Trick. Only this time, the other end wanted to come out and play too. Okay, it’s not like I’m out here in a rush anyway I thought, so I ducked into a Porta John.

Happy to be cycling again.

That Korean space shuttle wasn’t positioned very well, by the way. It was on a rather steep shoulder, and I felt if I leaned back at all the whole thing was gonna tumble down the hill and leave me covered in blue and brown ick. Some things have a way of working out though.

I eased through that bike course as much as I could. I wasn’t thrilled to be passed so often by so many. But the hills at least weren’t bad. One particular German guy seemed to want to make sure I didn’t leave him on the bike. Every downhill he’d whiz by me only to get dropped on the next climb. I was tempted to get the handoff from a particular fan that was handing out cups of beer from his driveway. Even without that beer, I think I stopped to pee another 2 or 3 times. Yeah, stopped. As odd as it sounds, I SO wanted to pee myself just so I could roar by my friends and family and shout out my accomplishment but I guess years of figuring out how to hold it all in for fear of getting a spanking was not easily undone.

To make matters worse, I passed a chick on the way in from the second bike loop who – as if she knew my dilemma and just wanted to rub it in – hollered out to me, “I just figured out how to pee myself on the bike!” Whoopee for you and I hope it stings.

Blowing Angie a kiss.

There really was an awful lot of drafting out there. I hope they’re proud of themselves for sucking wheel. I knew I was riding my own ride, but I was startled to be approached by a race referee on a motorcycle only to hear him say, “Boy, you sure do have an awesome fan club! They’re everywhere!” Thanks family and Clemilizz!

Off the bike, I was not happy to find my running shoes and socks completely soaked from last night’s rain. But the running legs were fresh. I ran through town amongst cheers for the Tricredibles and people yelling my name as if I was someone special. That is some pretty motivating stuff. Clemelizz had done a spectacular job of chalking the streets.

Claire’s best side.

Usually so in the zone I don’t notice these kinds of things, I have to say I caught every sign and every piece of chalk art the girls put out there for me……and it was great!

Is that Adolph on the sidelines?!?

At about mile 8 I passed a volunteer in a feeding zone offering a paper plate full of Vaseline. I barely had finished the thought of wondering who would bother with that crap when I felt a blister on the pad of my left foot pop. Hmmm, I guess I better see him on the way back. He was nice enough to let me brace myself using his shoulder as I peeled off my sweaty shoe and sock. I plunged my hand in his plate of goo and slathered it on my foot. Then I took what was left on my hand and ran it across my chapped lips for good measure. Unfortunately, whoever used the Vaseline before me left a pubic hair in it that had inadvertently found its way to my upper lip. Oh well, there’s no shame in Ironman. I secretly hoped it was Desiree Ficker’s, but I’m pretty sure it belonged to the fat German guy from the bike leg.

On my way into town on the first run lap, I got passed by 2nd place overall Heather Gollnick following her protective mountain bike way-paver. I said something along the lines of “way to go Heather” as I reveled in the fact that she couldn’t tell I was looking at her butt. She asked, “Can you…….pant, pant……see a……pant, pant……mountain bike like this one behind me?” Normally when I hear tired competitors ask me something while they’re breathing really hard I like to say, “What?” just to make them struggle to ask again, but THE PLAN did not dictate playing head games……..especially with a woman that was 2 hours ahead of me clearly making me her “beyotch.” I told her honestly, “no.” I like to think I played a small hand in her second place finish that day. (aw come on, give me a little taste of glory, will ya?)

At one particular feed station that had a duck theme for some reason, they were playing that Crazy Frog song. I spent the rest of the marathon singing to myself ,”DING ding ding DING DING!” over and over again. Not my favorite song, but I find that a run always goes better when I have some sort of beat to sing to myself.

My legs started to feel tired around mile 17, but I was happy that I didn’t feel the need to walk. I did walk briskly through the last few feed stations, but once I had fueled up I was up and running again. I remember thinking as I finished the last 5 miles by the lake that I would miss this view and all it took to get here, and I vowed to enjoy every step of the way back to town.

With the finish line in sight!

I won’t say I didn’t have any pain in my legs as I watched that finish line draw closer on the home stretch, but it’s hard to notice when the streets are lined with thousands of people cheering you on. I was gaining on a couple folks down that stretch, but thought it’d be better to maintain the gap, let them have their finish line moment of glory, and maybe get a chance to have mine. Unfortunately, two geeks came flying by me in the finishing chute and stole my glory (I know their race numbers and will look out for them next time!). But I didn’t care, after 1:11:14 in the swim, 6:07:30 on the bike, and 3:58:23 on the run (11:24:38 total) I was now an Ironman!!!!

Family and friends were all there to high five me. I was glad to be done, and I know they were too. I was fully aware that it was there dinner time and I had made them all get up in the middle of the night to sit and cheer me on for nearly 12 hours. Ironman is pretty much an act of selfishness and I was eager for things to be normal again. Besides it was Claire’s birthday and we had a cake to eat!

It ain’t gold but it’s close!

I’ve met a lot of great people in this sport and I love the family that I’ve developed in triathlon. So I gotta give props to my coach. I never really planned to hire one, but somehow it seemed right……and I wouldn’t change a thing. Coach Lance Leo was spot on in all his training plans and advice, is a great friend, and an inspiring athlete himself. As I told Lance before the race, I could have done this thing without him, but if that Bruce had shown up at this race this Bruce would have owned him.

The Richter’s in Tricred Red. L to R: Nephew Sean, Niece Annie, Bruce, Daddy Ron, Sister Cindy, Mommy Ruth, Bro in Law Mark, Nephew Drew, and Wife Angie.

Angie, Claire, Bruce, Bruce’s beer, Lizz, and Emily.

I can understand how some people do their first Ironman and are satisfied with that, but not me. I can’t wait to do another one, and this wasn’t a thought that needed to grow on me in these couple days after Ironman Coeur d’Alene. I’d have told you that the moment I crossed that finish line. I am frothing at the mouth to train hard for another, toe that line hungry, and race it firing on all cylinders. That is…..if my wonderful wife will let me!

IronAngie and IronBruce.


OBX Marathon 08

OK, here’s the play by play.

I guess I’m happy enough that I PR’d, but it could have gone better! I had a horrible taper, missing all my usual preferred easy taper workouts and confidence builders, work was a fiasco last week standing all day on some new projects, and I even messed up my shoulder Friday doing some repetitive motion stuff. All sad excuses, but as a wannabe athlete it’s important to preface a story about your failures with a list of circumstances that don’t include the fact that you just plain old suck. So, by Friday night I was talking about not even running the marathon til Angie basically told me to tuck the string in and do it.

I woke up Sunday morning to a horribly sore shoulder – I couldn’t swing it in a running fashion any further aft than the plane of my torso. Not good. Plus, I had the “squirts.”

I told myself I would run at my target 3:15 goal marathon pace (even though I wasn’t sure I could even do it that fast), which is 7:30/mi, and if I gave out somewhere on the course early and had to quit then I could live with that. I set out with the GPS Forerunner to monitor pace and was clipping along a little fast at a 7:12ish pace for the first 5 miles. Too fast but it felt good, and the thought of banking some time early was rather appealing. Angie was there at mile 5 and I had told her that that would be the first chance to communicate to her that this 3:15 thing was actually doable. I gave her the thumbs up.

At mile 10 you enter the Nags Head Woods trail – where they have a very popular and tough 5k every year. This section tears you up mentally cuz it ruins your rhythm, it’s undulating and soft packed, and the last mile of it is on new mulch and the terrain is like running over a bmx course. I had prepared myself to lose major time in here and come out a little off the targeted 7:30 average pace. But I came out of those woods holding on at 7:27 average for the now 13 miles of running at that point.

It took about a half mile to regain my rhythm but I was doing well. At mile 18 I saw Angie again, the GPS said my average was now 7:29, and I could tell I was slowing down. I motioned for her to run with me for a sec and I told her 3:15 was out and I was now looking for a 3:20. She told me to stay positive. I picked up the pace and passed about 5 guys that had dropped me in the wood section. Clearly the hurting was affecting all of us.

At mile 20 – as you know, the halfway point – the wheels came off. I was still on target for a 3:15 marathon with the GPS saying my average was a 7:31 pace though. I was unglued and staring at the tall bridge that takes you back west onto Roanoke Island and the town of Manteo. My first year here, I walked that bridge. My second year, I ran up it like it was nothing. I questioned whether I could run it this time. I did, by looking straight down so as not to see how much of it was still ahead of me. I was running 8:30’s, then 9:00’s, then even slower. On the long straightaway into Manteo, I stopped to walk a few steps. Both legs buckled a la Paula Newbie Frazier and I went dizzy for just a sec. Whoa. It was hot, and my heart rate was racing. Walk to that 24 mi sign and then you can start running again.

I was now merely jogging and suffering miserably. I was however aware that the shoulder had not bothered me since I started the run 24 miles ago. I fixed it! The perfect cure to an ailment. Just run a marathon!

I ran by some spectator friends of Angie’s and mumbled “not feeling so swift” and they later told Angie I looked really pale. I saw Angie with about .25 miles to go and didn’t have the strength to smile or wave or anything. I distinctly remember clenching my teeth in pain at that point.

I crossed the line at 3:25:21, an 11 minute PR, and bent over in pain. A volunteer put her arms around me and before she could even ask I said, “I’m alright.” She said, “I know, but this is my job and let’s walk together.” She would not let me go, and helped me get the finisher medal on, the chip strap off, some water, and over to the food tent. I let a peanut butter sandwich hang in my mouth and sat on the asphalt for a while.

I had a thought during the grueling marathon leg of my Ironman earlier this year: if, when I did this fall marathon, I thought for once that doing “just a” marathon was tough or that it hurt I would personally kick my own butt. I have to admit, lately I’ve had the perception that after an Ironman, there isn’t much to a plain old marathon. That’s all wrong. A marathon still requires a badass chunk of respect to take on.

Oh yeah, and the shoulder pain came back immediately. I think I had forgotten that pain when other pains started in other regions of the body.