IM CHOO official time: 12:17:17!
How does one go from a 16:07 to 12:17 in 135 days? One word.. Nutrition. It’s all about the bleeping nutrition!
Coming off of Texas in May I was pretty deflated from messing up my nutrition again. This happened in Louisville as well in August. I had trained hard through the winter. I did plenty of swimming, enough biking, and a ton of running. I took off most of June from training to give myself a mental break. I did a little bit of group exercises classes with Kate (Something I mentioned here… Why IMCHOO Will Be Different! ). I was also nursing a sore back from walking so much on the concrete.
My training for the summer was fairly standard for IM events but I did a bit more running. I spent a good amount of time on the bike in July but by August I wasn’t riding as much. I did enough swimming to get by but not enough to feel like I was going to be strong in the water. What I did was run a lot. I was running about 5-6 days a week. I wanted to stick with my strength. I felt with my legs being in the best shape of my life it would help me on the bike and then give me enough to survive the run.
In August I did a 1/2 Ironman, Timberman, in New Hampshire. Riding up with my friend Aziz from my house to NH we talked about so many things. I really learned a ton from him. He put me on track to have a good race there and set me up for the fall races. I will describe this in more detail when I talk about nutrition.
When I left home on Wednesday the 24th I weighed 168 pounds. The next few days leading up to the race I put on about 3-4 pounds. I probably weighed about 172 on race day and was a bit bloated. Which was okay. I only did one run the day before as well as a swim in the afternoon. I did test out my bike in a parking lot. I wanted to lube it up and make sure the bike computer was working.
Also leading up to race day I talked to my friend Todd. He is very good at keeping things in perspective. He has been through this before several times and knows what needs to be done.
In Chattanooga I did walk a lot more than I did when I was in Texas and Louisville. I think on Thursday through Saturday I walked at least 5 miles each day. My legs by Saturday were a bit tight and I should have brought an extra pair of sneakers and not wore my flip flops so much. This didn’t effect my race but I already have this on my list for Texas 2015.
On Wednesday evening I got into my hotel about midnight. Got some sleep and woke up about 7 AM for work. I spent most of the day working and then went to check-in at Athletes Village at about noon. As I said on my Facebook status if you don’t get chills when you walk in there it’s time to hang it up. I went to lunch with some friends from my Ironman Singles group on Facebook.
On Thursday afternoon I finished up work and then took the 1.5 mile walk to meet up with more Singles for dinner. I met a few people and I ended up hanging out with a guy named Greg B. for the rest of the weekend. As we were grabbing dinner we talked it up with a family. A 6 X Ironman named Brett, his wife V (2013 Louisville), and their son James, who was 20 and competing in his first Ironman. (Note: I saw him on the course 2-3 times and he finished strongly). While Greg and I were talking to the family Brett gave us some tips. He recommended Campbell’s soup.
All Ironman competitors are always looking for tips. We know it’s hard work but what are they doing differently than I am doing? Most of us are just trying to improve and finish. We’re not racing against anyone. So when Brett told us about Campbell’s Chicken Noodle soup it made total sense. This is because of the high sodium and you’re getting actual food in you. He had a can in a few transition bags. Greg and I looked at each other and said we have to do that.
On Friday I woke up and worked most of the day. I did head to an Endurance Nation talk with my friend Catherine and Greg. It lasted about 90 minutes and they talked about all different things. The biggest tip they gave was don’t do anything until Mile 18 of the run. Meaning just stay within yourself. Don’t put it in the water, bike or the first 17 miles of the run. I followed this pretty well.
On Friday afternoon my parent’s flew in and I headed back to Athlete’s Village with them. they picked up their VIP passes and I showed them around a bit of where the bike/run transition would be.
On Friday evening we had the welcome banquet dinner. About 15 of us from the Ironman Singles group sat together at a few tables. This was the first time I went. I think it’s mostly because I had friends to go with and wanted to get this experience. From now on I will go to the banquet. I met so many people. The ceremony was wonderful. They showed a video of the history of Ironman. They also showed inspirational videos of people who would be competing in the event. I also got my picture taken with Mike Reilly.
Saturday morning was really a day of relaxing and doing a small bit of exercise. I believe in running the day before a race. I do 2 miles and then a one mile walk to reflect. I checked my bike in after my run and also did the practice swim. The talk was the swim would be fast because of the current. I swam 400 yards in just over 5 minutes. Normally I swim 500 yards in about 10 minutes. They said they would slow down the water but it would still be fast. I thought I would end up with about a 1:15 – 1:20 swim time but wasn’t making any assumptions.
After the swim practice I caught up with Greg. I helped him check his bike in and we grabbed some food. After that I went to my room and relaxed for a bit. I had Chicken Parm for lunch and dinner on Saturday. It felt filling and was exactly what I was looking for. I was back in my room for the night about 6. I fell asleep about 10 or 10:30 PM. Just before I went to bed I did have one bottle of Ensure Plus.
Sunday Race Day.
My alarm went off at 3:20 Am. I got out of bed at 3:30. My plan was to drink 3 bottles of Ensure plus (over 300 calories each), Oatmeal, & a protein shake. I drank 2 bottles, a small amount of Oatmeal, and the protein shake. Next time I need to eat the oatmeal sooner. I basically ran out of time. I showered and ate whatever food I could finish in time before I left.
My parents came by at 4:40. We got to transition about 5. I filled up my tires, put on my water bottles, and gave them my special needs bags. We then got bussed to the start line 2.4 miles up river.
My nutrition plan
I planned to have 2 bottles on my bike of Hammer Perpetuem. I had two more in my bike special needs that I would get at mile 51ish. I would have one bottle for the first hour. then another about 90 minutes in. In between that time I would have the on-course nutrition as well as about one bar/ GU per hour. I really think in the two previous Ironmen that I over did it then I went back the other way. It was a complete seesaw. So I paced myself on the food plan. With my morning nutrition much more solid than the previous two I would be getting out of the water still in the plus.
I always put more than I need in my special needs bags. For the bike I had a ton of extra bars and a spare tube/ C02 cartridge. I also put in a Campbell’s soup to both the bike and run special needs bag. My run transition bag had a bottle of Ensure and Campbell’s soup. I drank/ate both of them. I had a few GU’s in there as well. In both my transition bags I had Hammer endurance tablets. I would take two every hour starting immediately after I got out of the water. I also had potato chips with salt as a way to just get some junk food in me.
We ended up getting in line for the swim about 5:40. We weren’t going to be hitting the water until about 7:40. So we stayed in line for 2 hours. It went by really fast. My parents were there. We chatted with other athletes. I had about another 1/2 a power bar. I did talk to Rory about 20 minutes before I went in the water. We just chatted for a few minutes about what was about to happen. The age groupers started going in at 7:30. I ended up in the water about 7:38.
I tend to be fairly relaxed before the start of a race like this. It’s a long day, a lot happens, and getting all worked up isn’t going to help me out. I do run through things in my head that need to happen. Meaning I think of food intake, I think of transition, and being very careful.
Since this was a time trial start you’re only in the water surrounded by say 20 people. I knew I would be caught because I am a slower swimmer and wasn’t going to catch many swimmers. After about 5 minutes or so I like to look at my watch quick as I am swimming. I saw it was going to be a quick swim. I thought early on I would break 1:10. The buoy’s are numbered. The first half are Yellow and the last half are Orange. The day before the race I looked to see what the last number was. It was number 9. This really helps mentally because you can’t always see the end.
The first mile flew by. I have learned to never stop swimming. I just keep going even if I get tired. Stopping doesn’t get you there any faster. Near the last buoy you see the T2 big red buoy for everyone to go around. As I was about to get out of the water I slipped and pulled my left calf muscle pretty bad. I limped through transition. I was pretty annoyed that this happened. Time: 1:04:05
I took my time putting on my bike kit but I am much quicker than I have been in the past. I had my food already in my back pockets. I used the restroom and got suntan lotion put all over me. (This is a must in these events). I decided to test my calf so I ran from suntan location through the start of the bike. Time: 8:32
Everyone talked about how hard the bike course was coming into this event. Several people posted on the IM Choo facebook page that it was a hilly course. I kept hearing rolling hills. If you live in New England, specifically in northeastern CT, where I have ridden well over 10,000 miles, we have rolling hills. Overall the course did have some hills but even the ‘hardest’ one wasn’t anything that tough. Any ‘A’ rider (I am a B to a B+) would never need to be in the little ring. I felt the course was very fair for an Ironman. The course was 4 miles longer because they couldn’t find a way to reduce it to the standard 112 miles. With the swim so much down river it made this fair overall.
My Garmin 910X triathlon watch wasn’t picking up a GPS signal so after about 10 minutes I turned it off and back on again to just set it to the bike setting. I have a Garmin 500 on my bike and I prefer that for the bike rider anyway. That worked this time right off the bat. In my two previous Ironam I rode to my heart rate. I always kept it under 140 BPM. For this race I didn’t care about my heart rate. I decided I was going to push it as much as I could. I was only concerned about my food and liquid intake.
I saw a ton of flat tires out on the course. I never felt the roads were in that bad of condition compared to other rides that I have done. Where I saw most of the flat tires was on Hog Jowl road. I later learned it was because people threw down tacks. I didn’t see any out there and I was near the ‘front’. I say this because I got into the water early and in bike transition I had to be one of the first 500 or so people on the bike course.
At the bike special needs station around mile 51ish I got off and used the bathroom quick. I reloaded my two Hammer bottles and had a bottle of Campbell’s soup. This soup really perked me up. I saw my parents. I threw them my extra tube/ CO2. Special needs bags aren’t returned. For these types of events (70.3 & 140.6) I always carry two tubes on my bike.
The second loop started around mile 60ish. I knew I was going to be a bit slower on lap two but I held on as best as I could. The fatigue started to hit me about mile 80. My legs were fine but I was just itching to get off the bike. I am very good about breaking down mileage. So I kept thinking about just getting to mile 100 then I was home free. At mile 101 I used the restroom really quick. This was the best decision I could make. I realized sure I was getting tired but I just needed to get off the bike for a few minutes. I will remember to do this again next time. Time: 6:22:05
- Course Elevation: 3,200 feet (all measured in feet below)
- The Flattest century Elevation: 3,500 (held in Fall River, MA in September)
- Ironman Louisville Elevation: 5,243
- Ironman Texas Elevation: 2,600
My moving average was 18.4 MPH. The average with stops: 17.6 MPH
I saw my parents right as I was getting off the bike and had a quick talk. My calf wasn’t healed. It was still tight. But it wasn’t going to effect my run. I got into the tent and drank an Ensure. Took off my bike shorts, put on new socks, my visor, and my glasses. I loaded up my back pockets with some gels, Hammer tablets, and salt. I carried my Campbell’s Soup out with me and drank it. Time: 5:54
I wanted to make sure I had the proper nutrition in me. So instead of running right away I finished almost all of the soup. This is truly vital. I also took two more tablets before I started.
I started running about two minutes into the mile. I also think I was able to get rid of the lactic acid in my legs because they felt strong right away. For the first 6 miles I was averaging sub 10 minute miles. I wasn’t pushing it and my heart rate was very low.
When doing just a marathon people talk about hitting the wall at around mile 18-20ish. At Ironman this can happen at anytime. For me I hit the wall at about mile 7ish. For my other two Ironmen I hit the wall around the same place. This time I fought through it. I came up an aid station and asked for Salt. A guy from Base Performance gave me his product. It’s literately salt in a capsule. This guy saved my race. He gave me advice and I listened. I wanted to gag at first but it worked. Miles 8 and 9 were a bit slow for me as I was trying to recover. I saw my parents around here and they saw I was struggling. I gave them my visor and sunglasses. My head was swollen and the visor didn’t fit without it hurting my head. I only walked most of mile 9. This was a nasty hill and I was recovering. It was also raining at this point.
Ironman Marathon logistics:
For those that haven’t done a marathon at Ironman it’s VERY different than a standard individual marathon. At Ironman it’s usually a two loop course (Texas is three). We have water stops at EVERY mile. In a standard marathon you either have them after every two or three miles. At Ironman you have water, Perform (electrolyte), Sponges, Ice, Food (grapes, chips, oranges, & Pretzels), & Broth. Broth is for the second loop I believe but this is at EVERY MILE. As a novice you are taught to WALK through EVERY water stop. So what ever mile I was averaging you can subtract 30-60 seconds per mile. For me at each stop I get two new sponges and put them on my shoulders under my shirt. I have them dump a cup of ice down the back of my jersey. This helps to keep me cool. I also have a few oranges and a little perform. I was still taking my Hammer tablets every hour. I was also taking in salt just about every water stop.
By mile 10 I was recovered and really felt myself getting stronger. My legs were never an issue all day. They were strong. It was making sure I had enough food in me. At the 1/2 way point, the second loop. I got my special needs bag. I walked for the next two minutes. I drank another bottle of Ensure and decided to carry my Campbell’s soup. The plan was to drink this at about mile 18-2o if my felt sick again.
After mile 15 I only ran 3 miles at a pace of over 10 minutes. Every other mile was a sub 10. If I didn’t walk through the water stops all of my miles after 15 would have been under 10 minutes. I caught up with my friend Greg and we ran together for about 2 miles. It would have been nice to run together the whole rest of the race because he and I did 9:30 and 9:55 together.
I really felt in ‘The Zone’ after mile 15. My plan was working. Running is my strongest discipline and I wanted to prove it. I DID!!! On mile 24 you have this 2-3 tier climb. Since I had run it a few hours earlier I knew what I had to do. I wasn’t going to walk it. I was going to shorten my stride and attack. While climbing it I heard a song on from Survivor that was blaring in their front yard. I am pretty sure it’s Burning Heart. It’s fitting because I trained a lot on the treadmill listening to that album. Once I got over the nasty hills of mile 24 I could feel it. I was hitting a down hill and wasn’t going to slow down. At mile 25 we cross this wooden bridge, Elvis gave a high five, and I was getting pretty excited. The fans were out. As I was coming into the shoot I took out my Camp Calumet banner and was holding it. I remember turning around, jumping up and down, and celebrating. Enjoying the moment. Then Mike Reilly said… “William Smith, You Are an Ironman!” No better words to hear in this sport! He also said.. “You’re one very happy Ironman!” Run: 4:36:41 10:33 average per mile.
I ran a negative split marathon at Ironman. What that means is my last 13.1 miles was faster than my first 13.1 miles. 2:24 for the first half and a 2:12 for the second half.
This run was the HARDEST marathon I have ever run. And not just because it’s a marathon at Ironman. The elevation for this course was tougher than any course I have been on.
- Course Elevation: 1,300 feet (all measured in feet below)
- Ironman Texas Elevation: 286
- Ironman Louisville Elevation: 282
- Hartford Marathon Elevation: 722 (This course is considered to be hilly)
- Stu’s 30K Elevation: 1,100 (This overall has harder hills but it’s a good comparison)
Final Official Time : 12:17:17!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I finished in the 50th% in my age group. The toughest age in Ironman. Overall I was in 1,005th place out of about 2,400 finishers. As my friend Kate said “That’s how you compete!!!!” The monkey is off my back.
I went to medical immediately to get my calves iced. They wrapped them and as I was about to leave I got sick and threw up. They carried me into the medical tent to get me an IV. This was the best decision I made. They gave me one bag and I felt great afterward. Some people wonder how can I fall apart so quickly. Part of this is mental. I was out there for over 12 hours trying to stay focused and taking care of myself. Here I was about 15 minutes after finished without having anymore food in me. This was longest I went without food since bike. My body was just done.
My mother got me a milkshake and I got back to my room about one hour after finishing. I showered and turned on my phone at about 10 PM. I was in just complete shock with all the messages I received. Thank you to everyone for following me. It means the world. Like I said in my dedication I may be doing Ironman but so many of you got me here. I especially want to thank Evan and my parents for keeping all of you updated.
Other random thoughts:
This was my third Ironman in 13 months. My biking legs were the weakest of all three even though I did better by a lot than the other two. However, my running legs were the strongest they have ever been. I think for the most part triathlon bikes are overrated until you get to a certain point or if it’s a very flat course. IM Choo is not a flat course and you aren’t on the aero bars that much. I understand you are more forward on the bike and that it may save your legs but if you aren’t in the aero bars you aren’t saving much time. Just my two cents. I think a road bike with aero bars makes the most sense on a course like this because it’s a much more stable bike. I saw 90-95% tri-bikes.
Salt is a must at these long distance races. I didn’t have enough in Louisville and Texas. I won’t make that mistake again. I need to either wear a hat on the run course or need a visor that is adjustable. My IM Texas visor was so tight on me I couldn’t wear it.
It’s honestly hard to think when you’re out there. You’re so tired and you really have to program your brain. Stuff starts to happen at around mile 80. The brain really stops working. I spend a lot of my time repeating things in my head so I can remember it easier. What goes through my head during the day? For me it’s just breaking down the distance as much as I could. It focusing on the task at hand and the next few miles.
Things to remember for my next Ironman:
- Buy Salt from Base Performance.
- Bring an extra pair of sneakers for walking around.
- Bring extra t-shirts. I only like to wear them a few hours at a time leading up to race day.
- I need either a hat or an adjustable visor.
- Walk coming out of the run to get in some last minute food.
- Don’t shave upper part of legs day before the race. Needs to be about 3-4 days out. Just where bathing suit is.
- Carry another soup for the first part of the run. I want to have two in the T2 bag. Then another soup in my run special needs bag. Have one at mile one, seven, thirteen, and mile 18-20ish.
How to improve:
I know finishing an Ironman with hitting my nutrition doesn’t make me an expert and I know it can easily happen again to me. I know I still have a lot of goals and my nutrition still needs improvement. For me to break twelve hours I need a few more long bike rides of over 80 miles. I am not doing enough of them. I think this year I hesitated because of having breathing issues which we have learned is the lack of nutrition. I spent most of my time biking under 60 miles and only a few rides above it.
I know I can break four hours for a marathon at Ironman. Part of the plan may be to only walk every other water stop. For those water stops where I am running through I will be sure to still grab some Perform and Ice but at a much quicker pace.
Where do I go from here? What are my ‘new’ goals?
When I started out training for Ironman in 2012 my goal was to break 12 hours. I now can see that in site without much of a difference in my training. My new goal is to someday break 11 hours. I want to get my bike down to a sub 5:30 and break 4:00 on the marathon. For the marathon, part of it is having the guts to run a bit faster. I don’t quite trust my nutrition yet but as I do more of these events It will become more natural. I still think I am a few Ironmen away from breaking 12 but with the right training I know sub 11 will be possible.
Thanks for reading. If you have any questions let me know..
Bill this is one of the best race reports I have ever read. Every single sentence had me. You have a wealth of educational information to share in this report. I am marking this so I can come back to it when I am preparing for my first full IM. Thank you for sharing such a beautiful experience!!
Gina Smith, IMS
Thank you so much. I really can write a ton more on this weekend and I am tempted to. This is really a great sport and the people are wonderful.
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