The Journey

The journey is more important than the destination.

Several years ago a friend of mine asked me if I would do the Fairlee Triathlon in Vermont. After training for three months, feeling like I was going to drown in the swim, feeling nauseus on the run, I crossed the finished line and was hooked.This led to my triathlon journey.

Please consider supporting my latest effort to raise money for Bretton Woods Adaptive through the Janus Charity Challenge at Ironman Lake Placid this July. Check out the Links I Like section of the blog or explore the BWA Fundraiser links.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Ironman Lake Placid Race Report: Run

You may have already read the end result of my run. But, I wanted to cover in more detail the time leading up to the pre-mature end and if you'd like to read the details, they were posted the day after the race.

For how the race ended, I felt surprising good on the start of the run. Once I got off the bike I walked briskly to the transition area. I had just ridden 112 miles, and yes the legs were fatigued, but it definitely felt like all the long rides and hill training I had done for the past 7 months had paid off. The idea of running a marathon was still a little daunting, but seemed very possible. And, I finished in about 20 minutes faster than my goal time. This gave me some extra fluff time on the run to try and reach my time goal of breaking 13 hours.

Transition went smoothly and I was in and out much quicker than my 2006 race. I remember thinking that this gives me an extra few minutes to do the marathon and still make my goal time.

One of the best moments of the race was heading out of the transition tent for the run. Just after exiting the transition tent I saw Amy and Connor. I hadn't seen them for over 6 1/2 hours so it was a nice emotional boost for me. As soon as you leave the tent there are spectators everywhere lining the streets. It's like this for the first 3 or 4 miles of the race which makes it hard not to go out too fast because of the adrenaline, but I stayed conservative and tried to just keep a steady pace.

Once you pass the crowd lined streets of the first several miles there is an out-and-back section after a left hand turn onto River Road, which as the name suggests, spends most of the time following alongside the Ausable River. It's a winding road and as my buddy Paul puts it, you kind of feel like your in Groundhog Day. After a while, every bend you go around looks the same as the other and your not quite sure when you'll get back.

I still felt pretty good heading out for the first time on River Road. Though this section of the course becomes mentally challenging. It's flat for the most part, however, except for the aid stations there are virtually no spectators and for me its when the demons start to come out which started at about mile 10 of the run.

I didn't quite understand why I was starting to feel a little mentally beat down. Of course I felt physically beat up, but I had been training for seven months and had put several 15 - 20 mile runs in the training log, most were after a four to six hour bike ride the previous day.

At about mile 11, the first loop back through town begins which is about 3 miles total. I went through some ups and downs during this time but mostly I began to feel myself sliding to a place I was beginning to get nervous about.

In two previous races, a half Ironman and after my 2006 Ironman Lake Placid finish, I ended up once in the hospital and once in the medical tent after passing out at the finish line. Both times dehydration was the culprit. I remember the feeling I had at both races before passing out and shades of that same feeling were creeping in - only halfway through the marathon. Not a great sign. The feeling is hard to explain but it's a groggy feeling where I go through waves of dizzyness and loss of focus.

I'm a pretty heavy sweater and as a result try to stay topped up on my hydration. I didn't think about it at the time (though I've been obsessing about it ever since the race), but even though I pee'd a couple of times on the bike, I hadn't kept close track of how much I was drinking. For a humid and warm day I should have been taking in about 24 - 30 oz of water per hour. Honestly, I don't know how much water I had during that 6 1/2 hour ride. I remember finishing my first two 24 oz bottles in the first 3 hours, which already put me behind. After that, I was using the 20 oz bottles they gave us on course and I'm sure I didn't go through as many as I should have.

And so, after what I remember being my last relatively good section at about mile 14 to 15 of the run, things started to go down hill rapidly. On the run I generally can't take in as much water as I can on the bike. I was shooting for 24 oz per hour but was no where near this. The worse I felt the harder it was to taken in both nutrition and hydration. After mile 15 I can't even recall what I took in for either calories or hydration. Again, not a great sign.

The rest of the race is pretty foggy. One of the last clear memories is seeing one of the GSTC support crew at the 21 mile marker. I remember he suggested that I try jogging 100 yards and walking 100 yards and I told him I was done running. I was completely out of gas.

The rest of the story has already been told here.

I'm incredibly grateful for the support of friends and family prior to race day, on race day and since race day. I've been humbled by the comments of support by my familiy plus new and old friends which has helped put the whole experience into perspective. Without this support, I have to admit that it would be significantly harder to deal with.

Most people who really know me would describe me as a pretty low key guy who doesn't let a lot of things bother me. For the most part I've always had the attitude that what's done is done - let's move on with the situation as it stands and deal with it. Intellectually, that is the easy part, however the challenging part is accepting that logic emotionally. This DNF experience has been tough. Whereas I could normally be pretty disciplined about accepting situations for what they were and moving on, for some reason in this situation, my discipline has been really tested.

Besides asking myself what I could have done differently, the biggest question I'm asking myself is did I give up too easily? Many friends have told me how inspired they were just to see me do the training and make it as far as I did. I'm truly grateful for that and don't want to come across the wrong way. To most, getting pulled off the course by EMT's after 135 miles can be defined as not giving up too easily. My intent here is not to sound tough or somehow inflate my ego. Nevertheless, I'm constantly asking myself that question - could I have gotten up off the bumper of that ambulance and gutted it out to the end. Not knowing the answer really bothers me sometimes.

I'm so thankful to the many friends that have reminded me of my own words that I use as the intro to my blog - "The journey is more important than the destination". The interpretation I'm trying to emotionally solidify for myself from the experience: I learned more about how deep I can go physically, physiologically, mentally and emotionally on July 26th, 2009. Use that experience and apply it to every other part of my life. I know, in time, this is the meaning that will stick.

The rest of the long weekend ended on a high note at the awards banquet the next day as a result of the Janus Charity Challenge. More on that soon....


Anonymous said...

Hey Dave,

It's Nate Armstrong and I just wanted to chime in after reading some of the blogs. I didn't realize until a few days before race day that you were racing this year. I was on an extended vacation and did not make it to LP for the first time in years.

First of all let me tell you that I am proud of what you did this year. A DNF is tough and something I have never completely felt but your story portrays a vivid picture. I know that the experience is really tearing you up inside.

The emotions that come with Ironman are inevitable from start to finish and you took quite a ride. For having been in the finish chute with you at Mooseman and seeing the look in your eyes before a similar episode I can only imagine the magnitude of your most recent experience.

So before I go on too long, I offer some potential comforting words. You mention a line that you are looking for, and when you may be crossing it, and let me assure you that you are no where near it. You have just competed in and previously finished the MOST DIFFICULT athletic single day event on earth. Your "line" is out of sight. The pain, accomplishments, challenges that Amy and Connor see you go through are tough on them at times, and while they may seem overwhelming to you, they are what make them love you that much. These things I speak from experience. The emotions you feel during the IM are a culmination of time spent training and knowing that you are taking away time from family, but have all built up to this one day and your entire family is there to support you. That is a beautiful thing Dave!

I feel like I am rambling a bit but I want to encourage you to keep going. This is a lifelong adventure. Don;t walk away from something that has defined you for at least the last 5 years. I know that the lessons you learned this year are tough, but it has helped to shape you and in turn will strengthen the bonds with your family.

Take some time off and relax. You deserve it. Have fun a at few races and relish the opportunity you have to do what you love. I hope you are feeling a little better as I know that time heals a lot of hurt. But at the same time don;t forget wht happened in LP, as disappointment can be a great motivator.

Take care pal. Say hello to the family.


David Criswell said...

Nate, awesome to hear from you. I was wondering if I would see you up in LP this year.

Thanks for the great perspective - I've missed seeing you out on course lately. Some of the toughest races I've been through, you've been out there also.

Please keep in touch.