Friday, October 31, 2014

Ironman Boulder: Some Words I Wrote About A Race That Happened

Here we are...almost 3 months after the fact. It's been hard to sit down and write this. Partly it is because I've been really busy, and partly because I haven't been busy in any way shape or form. heard me. I definitely went through some post-race blues. I didn't even buy groceries until I had been home for almost two weeks. Don't ask me what I ate because I'm not entirely sure myself...though there did seem to be quite a few Papa John's boxes in my recycling bin during that time.

It happened after Coeur d'Alene and it happened after Florida...both for entirely different reasons, but all the same, it happened this time as well. For the first month or so I was just kind of floating along and feeling a bit directionless. Maybe it was having to come back to real life after two weeks off in La La Land, or as some people refer to it, "Colorado". In any was a stop and start attempt at returning to normalcy in the Loental Household.

Heh...that sounds funny to say. I bought a house, you guys. And I also now live with Farley the dog, AKA "the mortal enemy of venetian blinds".

September started picking up with more regular, focused running and an entirely new outlook on racing. October was more of that, but faster. Way freaking faster. But that's not what I'm here to talk about right now.

Anyways, the race went fantastically. Let me tell you about it.


I spent a week and a half in Silverthorne, Colorado with Sherrie Klover and her absolutely delightful family. I felt like an adopted grandson in her parents' beautiful mountain cabin, and I gleefully sucked the thin air and ate sumptuous meals in preparation for my 2nd crack at a sub-12 hour Ironman. Sherrie and I got in some easy workouts, did a little whitewater rafting, and even snuck in a sprint triathlon at almost 9000 ft. elevation. It went pretty well.

Looking about twice as badass as I actually felt at the moment.

We drove down to Boulder for race weekend, picked up packets, checked into our hotel, and met up with Larry Long, my roommate for the weekend(and a legend in his own right). A few easy runs and a ride to test out our race wheels were all that was left to do besides bum around town with Sherrie, Larry, Del, and Jess. Before I knew it, I had shipped Isabella off to transition and I had a whole bunch of transition bags and drop bags packed and primed for the Big Day.

Isabella got some special shoes for the dance.

Basking in the glory of Larry and Sherrie.

Let's skip to the good stuff now, shall we?

Race Morning

Up super early, drive to Boulder, hop on shuttle bus to the reservoir, make last minute additions to transition bags, apply sunscreen, put wetsuit on, wander around looking for people I know, eventually find them, line up for the swim start, and quietly contemplate All Of The Things.

That about covers it. I find that the more times I do something, the fewer paragraphs I am able to write about it. Maybe that's a good thing, but I'm expecting this to be not nearly as long as my previous tales of adventure in Ironman Land. We'll see how THAT turns out.

The Swim

I've never started an Ironman without this dude by my side.

After seeing Delaware off and wishing him luck, I moved towards the water. The one-loop 2.4 mile swim would begin with a progressive start. Everybody would seed themselves according to their expected finish time and then all gradually enter the water after crossing a timing mat. I was hoping for a 1:10 swim and put myself right in the middle between the 1:00 and 1:15 signs.

The pros hit the water, we waited for a bit, and then the age groupers started. The long mass of swimmers slowly inched forward as those at the front dashed into the water to begin their sub-hour swim splits. Buncha' assholes if you ask me(besides Larry Long, of course...he swam a 59:29 and he's one of the nicest humans on the planet).

I finally reached the water's edge and once I was waist deep, I dove in and started swimming. I thought because of the new starting format that it wouldn't be quite so rough in the beginning...perhaps I'd have a little more room to swim. And I thought wrong.

Once more unto the breach...

It was still super crowded and super pummel-y. I wasn't quite getting worked over like a mass start because it was actually a little bit worse. Rather than being surrounded by a mixture of people I had to swim over and people who were swimming over me, this time it was 100% people swimming over me. So either I had seeded myself too far forward, or a bunch of people were starting off way too fast.

"Fools!", I thought to myself. I would never be so reckless or make such a rookie mistake as to go out too fast on my swim, ESPECIALLY at altitude. 

I went out too fast on my swim.

Within minutes I was struggling. And what's more, I was starting to freak out a bit. Let's take a moment here to remind everybody that I've had my share of lousy triathlon swims, but up until this point, I've only freaked out during one of them. My first. Back in June 2009 at Kansas 70.3, I hit the water with my swim wave having minimal open water experience, and absolutely zero experience swimming in a large angry mob.

And now here I was, a seasoned triathlon veteran of 5 years, and my thoughts are preoccupied with the idea that I might drown? I was out of breath, gasping for air, and doing whatever I could to maintain forward movement to prevent the "fast" swimmers(who were basically exactly as fast as me) from trampling me.

I managed to keep my shit together through that first 15 minutes, but I was all over the place mentally and physically. Couldn't sight worth a damn, kept missing to the left of the buoys that we were meant to stay right of. I wanted desperately to get to the outside where there was plenty of room and where the livin' was easy, but I kept getting corralled back to the inside, and subsequently ending up to the left of the buoy...again. They aren't strict at all about this rule until you hit the turn buoy, where they had kayakers stopping swimmers and turning them back around to make the corner legally. Luckily, I made it around the correct side of that one.

The water was quite a bit choppier out at the corner than I had remembered it being when I started, but luckily the pack did begin to thin out once I made the turn. I finally had room to swim . I knew that the buoys changed color at the halfway mark and I wondered about time as I approached this point. Somewhere between the two buoys that were different colors, I checked my watch. With a swim split goal of 1:10, I'd need to be at 35 minutes or less to be "on pace". I don't remember exactly, but I knew I was over because 36:00 and change had elapsed. What this meant was that I would have to negative-split the 2nd half in order to hit my time. Both of my previous Ironman swims had gone excellently, but I'd never negative-splitted one. So far, I would not have characterized this swim as having gone "excellently".

The only thing left to do was to just keep swimming the way I had trained. By this time, my breathing was mostly under control and I was soon also able to breath the way I had trained, alternating 4 strokes and 2 strokes between breaths. I made the turn, swam hard, occasionally checked my watch, and eventually I passed the last buoy before the swim exit. Honestly, in the grand scheme of things, a minute or two over my goal wouldn't affect anything, but as a matter of pride and doing what I set out to do, 1:10 mattered. I hammered it with only minutes to spare. My fingers hit solid ground and I popped up onto my feet. My watch read exactly 1:10, but no longer displayed seconds. Hot damn! Close enough!

I was pleased...I think...

After the race, my official swim split had come in at 1:09:35. Hot damn! HOT DAMN! Ironman swim PR, down from 1:16:07 in 2012! Negative split! And I only thought about drowning for 20 percent of it, an increase of approximately 20 percent compared to previous Ironman efforts.


I ran into transition with a big cheesy grin on my face, like I tend to do when things are going well. I took my sweet ass time too. I had budgeted 20 minutes for my transitions that day, so I was in no hurry. Wanted to make sure I had everything I needed, ate everything I needed to eat, and got thoroughly slathered with sunscreen by a volunteer. I accomplished 2 out of 3 of those goals...and that ain't bad, so I've been told.

After nearly 10 minutes in transition, I was trotting across the mount line when I suddenly hear the One And Only Stephen Alan Gore cheering like a crazy person! For the record, this man had recently been diagnosed with testicular cancer, and since he was now unable to race with us, without a moment's hesitation, he came out to cheer us on anyways. He has since had surgery to remove the bad stuff and I'm happy to announce he is cancer free!!! After a high-five or a hug, or likely both, I mounted my bicycle and headed down the road to begin what I hoped would be a 112 mile bike ride that lasted less than 6 hours!
Excited to ride!

The first leg of the bike route for this race was familiar to me, as it followed the first part of the Boulder 70.3 bike course, traveling north along the west side of the reservoir through rolling hills. We had ridden this portion of the course on Friday and I spun easy to get my legs warmed up. The first real test was after the first aid station, an out and back that went down a steep hill and then came straight back up it. I kept a high cadence and an easy gear and tried my hardest not to look at my speed. The highlight of this tough climb was passing Delaware on his way out. Always great to see a familiar face!

To be honest, I was kinda bummed because Delaware had been fighting some nagging injuries lately, and the epic race between friends looked like it wasn't in the cards this time. He definitely wasn't racing at 100% today, whereas I felt in top form. Maybe next time...

Workin' the hill...

I crested the hill, hung a right turn, and settled in for the remainder of the ride. I had already dealt with the toughest climb on the course, and the rest of the ride was mostly rollers, which I was used to from riding in Kansas! The primary goal was not to overly exert myself at any point in the ride. The winds were really light and I felt awesome! I was averaging 19-20 mph and just having myself a blast! Thoughts of karma earned and karma owed kept creeping into my head. Anytime things are going well, I am constantly afraid that perhaps I've received more than my fair share and that surely I'll be blessed with a flat tire to even out the balance of the universe. Luckily, so far everything appeared to be holding together. Isabella was taking in all of the horsepower I could deliver and she was propelling me forward like she was supposed to. Those thoughts stayed in the back of my mind for the entire ride, but I luckily had no mechanical issues!

Cruising and crushing
I was in such a great zone athletically, but I was also in such a tremendous mood. Tons of people had come out to spectate, which helped the mojo. Lots of major intersections had major cheering sections established...some 50 to 100 people strong. Waving signs, clanking cowbells, hooting, hollering, stamping, stomping, and jumping. I drew so much energy from these people that I always felt obliged to holler back thanks at the very least. On a few occasions, I pulled out one of my favorite moves which I haven't attempted to name until now. I'm calling it "Ride 'Em Cowboy"? Basically, as I cruise past, I make a motion like I'm whipping my "horse" to run faster, all the while yelling, "Heeyaa! Heeyaa!" Apparently, serious cyclists out in Boulder never do such silly things, because I always always got HUGE laughs and cheers for this move.

Speaking of the Boulder cyclists...another thing I loved about this race was that there were TONS of people on the roads who were simply out on their normal Sunday morning ride. The fact that an Ironman happened to be taking place on their normal route really didn't faze them at all. They said hello, and good luck, and for the most part were polite and smiling! Gotta love that kind of community.

Speaking of the crowds again...I really have to say that the Boulder Ironman had hands down the best spectators of any triathlon I've ever done, both in terms of numbers and of enthusiasm. These folks really really knew how to motivate and support athletes, and that would become OH so crucial to me personally once I got to the run. (Fooooreshaadooowwwwiiiiiing....DUN DUN DUN!!!)

My ride continued. I was hitting my splits. I was taking in my water, electrolytes, and nutrition on schedule. I was riding conservatively, spinning fast and easy and staying in the saddle on hills. I was feeling great.

And I was farting. A lot.

I don't know where it came from, but I had a seemingly unlimited supply of gastric fumes emanating from my person...perhaps from an alternate dimension? All I know is that early in my ride, I was full of it, and once it finally started releasing, it didn't stop. I farted consistently and in large quantities for the entirety of my ride, and for at least half of my run. Occasionally, I'd have a big one which felt like it might be more than advertised and that might require a stop at a porta-john. Inevitably though, before I would reach an aid station to stop and duke it out, I would have called its bluff as it vanished into thin air.

You're welcome.

Just as it was at Ironman Florida, I was once again disappointed by my Special Needs experience. I slowed as I approached the station where my numbered bag would be. I looked for somebody to be hopefully holding it and ready to hand it to me, hold my bike, and be my slave for the next few minutes. Nobody was there. I mean, there were people there, but nobody was free to help me. So I stopped, unclipped completely, laid my bike down and walked over to where my bag was, grabbed it from the pile, and walked back to my bike. I ate, refilled stuff, clipped back in, and headed down the road. I'm starting to accept the fact that maybe the folks at Ironman Coeur d'Alene are really just that awesome at what they do.

I had surpassed the halfway mark of a bike ride that seemed to be going splendidly. I don't remember exactly when it happened, or even when I noticed it, but at some point I look down and I suddenly realized I had a passenger. A ladybug had landed on my left hand and began to crawl around. After a few minutes, I saw that it had chosen a spot just behind my glove which was sheltered from the air rapidly moving past it. I remembered hearing somewhere that ladybugs were good luck or something like that, so I decided my visitor could stay as long as it liked. And I'm fairly certain I was approaching 100 miles by the time it decided it had better things to do and took off to go be lucky in some other place.

You always remember the little things. This one definitely stuck with me for some reason.

Zoom zoom

I was enjoying my ride immensely, but I was definitely ready to be done biking. As the course approached the finish in Boulder, there was a brief but intense section of 3 consecutive steep climbs. Apparently some of the locals call them the "Three Bitches". I had to giggle to myself because the REAL "Three Bitches" belong to WyCo, no doubt about it.

Anyways, I was still sticking to my plan of avoiding overexertion and staying in the saddle whenever possible. As I started up the first and worst of the three climbs, I shifted way down and increased my cadence significantly. It really felt like I was crawling, but everybody else was out of their saddle, mashing a bigger gear, and oddly enough, getting passed by a guy from Kansas named Danny! And that asshole was barely working!

A spectator who seemed like he might be a coach who was out to cheer on his athletes had this to say as I rode past where he was standing, "Yes. YES! THAT'S how you ride these hills...great job!"

Who knew I was a good cyclist?

The final 10 miles coming into town had lots of downhills and lots of turns as we wound our way back towards the high school where T2 was set up. I relaxed a bit, satisfied in the knowledge that I was finally getting the sub-6 bike split that I wanted in Florida two years ago. And I hadn't killed myself to get it done either. I turned onto Arapahoe and blazed towards the dismount line, immediately noticing the increased density of enthusiastic cheering spectators.

I thought to myself how awesome this run was going to be!

My final bike time was 5:56:28 at an average speed of 18.85 mph. Absolutely perfectly planned and executed! My previous best bike split was 6:09:29, so that was some serious improvement!

An interesting sidenote regarding my ride...I didn't pee once on the bike. Before all of the lessons I learned about hydration during last year's many ultramarathons, I used to be incredibly concerned about peeing enough times on the bike, as an indication of my hydration status. Well, I didn't pee at all, and it didn't end up being a problem. I didn't even get my usual "old man bladder" sensation,

I saw Jess cheering as I dismounted and began a modest trot down a sidewalk, across a bridge, into the high school stadium, and onto the track. A volunteer grabbed my bike to go rerack it for me and I ran down the row of transition bags, eyes peeled for the blue ribbons I had taped to mine to allow for easy spotting. I saw it, grabbed it, and jogged into the transition tent.

Once again, I was in no hurry. I was within my budgeted timeframes for every portion of the race so far, and assuming I took less than 10 minutes getting ready for my run, all I would need was a 4:30 marathon and I would finally get my sub-12 finish!

The Run

After a quick stop at the sunscreen station, I blasted out onto the run course and was immediately met by perhaps the largest, loudest, and most enthusiastic crowd of triathlon spectators I had ever seen. And this was Mile 1. I hung a right turn and was energized by the presence of people lining both sides of the Boulder Creek trail, all waving signs, clanging cowbells, and screaming their heads off! These people knew what they were doing. They say Boulder is the triathlon capital of the world, since many of the elite racers choose to live and train here. I might also suggest that it is the triathlon-watching capital of the world, because these people were pros at making me run fast.

Maybe I'd have been better off taking it easy to start? plan was to set my watch to display overall race time instead of all those other things that I usually pay attention to like run time, pace, or heart rate(sorta). The idea, like at the WyCo 20 miler, was that I would run by feel and not force my body to assume a pace that it was not capable of delivering. So really I was just running and feeling good. Sure, my legs were giving me the big fat "WTF?" but that is to be expected after nearly 8 hours of physical exertion. I did have my watch set to bleep at me every mile and I allowed myself the curiosity satisfying privilege of glancing to see what that mile split was, but the important thing was that I would not be micromanaging my pace in real time.
Totally not edited to make my muscles look
better. Nope. Not at all. Who does that?
So you can imagine my delight when my first mile chirped off and 9:30 had elapsed...including the sunscreen stop! I was thrilled that the pace my body had dictated was plenty fast to tick off a 4:30 marathon. But like many things that seem too good to be true...alas....let's not get ahead of ourselves.

My 2nd mile felt equally fantastic. In my mind, I was about to utterly destroy this run. Nothing could stop me. I high-fived every gorram person within reach and I powered forward. At the conclusion of that mile, my watch informed me that I had slowed to a 10:30. Still no worries, that was my target pace, everything was settling in and the crowds were still great!

This continued for the first 5 or 6 miles. I was rocking and rolling down the path at or below my intended pace, getting great energy from the spectators, and really just having myself a blast! I even stopped to pee and everything seemed fine! The initial forecasts calling for highs in the 70's ended up being slightly inaccurate, with the temperatures eventually reaching the upper 80's. This peak in temperature was happening riiiight

Thankfully, the majority of the run course is well-shaded, but approaching mile 6, the shade disappears as the course enters a long gradual uphill towards an overpass. And not surprisingly, the crowds of spectators didn't seem interested in hanging out on that part of the course. As I broke into the clearing and my eyes saw what lay ahead of me, in a single instant my spirit was crushed and my body failed me. Under the unrelenting sun, I suddenly felt very hot and exhausted.

I walked.

"Deflated" is probably the appropriate word to use here. I made a few attempts to get the legs to turn over, but they were short and desperate efforts. I hiked over the hill. Once I reached the downhill, I was able to jog again, but I could tell that my mojo had absolutely left me. I was more or less aware at that moment that 12 hours was not going to happen today. It was disappointing, but I was still more or less enjoying myself. In my mind, nothing had really "gone wrong" and I wasn't beating myself up over anything. Today I just didn't have the legs I needed to accomplish my goal. Maybe it was the heat, maybe I hadn't trained enough. was too good of a day to ponder the "what ifs".

I approached the next aid station. They had a gong. I wasn't sure why, but then again, there didn't seem to be any compelling reason to question such a thing. As I trotted up, I grabbed the mallet and BWOOOONNNNNGGG gave it a mighty whack. As the aid station workers looked up, I assumed my very best Kung Fu Fighter preparatory stance with some ninja-esque arm motions for a good flourish. This was met with smiles and cheers. Got a few high-fives as well for my troubles.

FACT: Every aid station needs a gong.

So yeah...I was still having a good time, but DAMN it was a hot one. The part of the course I was on was one of three out-and-backs on the course, which meant I'd have to suffer over that hill again...and yet again and again later on because it was a two-loop course. I did my best to keep fueling myself, stay on top of electrolytes, and keep cool. I kept ice in my hat, and several times I just would dump ice wherever...down the shirt, down the shorts. It all felt good.

I made friends with other runners. Strangers pumped each other up and urged each other onwards. It became apparent that I was not the only person struggling out there. Basically everybody had a rough day due to the heat. Even among the pros, only a couple people finished under 9 hours.

Beginning to suffer

Coming through mile 8, I knew the course would go back through Spectator Heaven, which I very much was looking forward to. I understood fully that all of that energy and love translates into fuel which moves my body faster. As the people once again began to increase in density and enthusiasm, I worked the crowds for optimum motivational output. More high-fives, more Hulk Hogan-style "I can't hear you" ear cupping...

You this.

...and definitely a whole lot of gesturing for more cheering, more volume, and more LOVE as my freshly energized body came whipping past these fantastic spectators! I still was slower than my target pace, but these few miles coming back through were noticeably faster with much less walking than I had been mustering out in No Man's Land.

Spotting Alan in the crowd! Instant turbo boost!
In the midst of all the fanatical cheering from all of these amazing and unfamiliar people, I heard a familiar heard THE voice. The unmistakable voice of the One And Only Stephen Alan Gore. "ALRIGHT DANNY! KILL THE BEAR!" Again, there's not much I could say which could really put into words how uplifting this man's presence and spirit are. He's got nut cancer. And he's out here cheering for us. And seeing him in that moment may or may not have brought on a short bout of "Grown Man Ugly Cry".

After the 3rd out-and-back section, I approached the halfway mark of the run. I decided to flip the screen on my Garmin to show all the nitty-gritty details once more. The whole "run by feel" experiment hadn't really done me any favors so far, and with all the new energy I had gotten from the crowds, I thought maybe I might be able to salvage my run after all. My overall average pace hadn't dropped too was around 11:00 or 11:30... and if I could somehow settle in and maintain a decent pace I might be able to slowly claw back some of the time I had lost on the first loop. With that in mind, I began my second loop with renewed focus and resolve.

Giving Up

And that lasted about a mile...I was able to eke out a 10:19 and then the exhaustion came right back. All the focus and determination in the world wasn't going to overrule the simple fact that my body could not maintain that pace. And my overall average began to drop even more. Not only was there no way I was going to break 12 hours, now I wasn't even sure if I would be able to PR. That was a much bigger disappointment, given how much I had trained this year. I would be lying if I said that realization didn't take some of the wind out of my sails. I was still trying to have fun, but I was really starting to not feel so great.

Just hanging on at this point...

I began to feel that familiar sort of drunk and woozy that I get from low sodium, so I grabbed handfuls of potato chips and other salty snacks whenever I could. My stomach wasn't feeling great, but it was doing me a solid and holding everything down. The next 7 miles were characterized by pretty slow running with frequent walk breaks...each mile coming in at 13 or 14 minutes, and as my despair hit rock bottom, mile 21 clocked in over 15 minutes.

It was around this point in my race that I was blessed with the vision of more familiar faces. Race Brain can be a funny thing, and sometimes your Race Brain tells you "Hey, those people look like the people who are Matt and Emily Royal." And then the people who look like Matt and Emily Royal say hi to you, almost as if they were, in fact, Matt and Emily Royal.


I was in piss poor shape, physically and mentally defeated, and those assholes still had the nerve to tell me how great I looked. They gave me some pump-up words, pats on the back, and also took a picture of me. The only reason I know that photo took place is because I eventually saw the photo in question and verified that it was indeed myself depicted, because I sure as hell didn't remember it happening.

Clearly not coherent enough to understand
what a "thumbs up" signifies.

Un-Giving Up

It wasn't long after seeing the Royal Couple that I once again saw Jess. She had been mostly following Delaware's progress that day, but I was fortunate enough to have been able to benefit from her motivational presence a couple times, and none of them would be more important than this particular moment.

It has been almost three months, but I'm pretty sure I still remember exactly how the conversation went.

"Alright Danny! How are you feeling?"

"Not so great. I don't think I'm going to be able to PR today."

"Why not?"

"Well, I've got 5 miles left and only an hour left to do it in."

"How many times have you run 5 miles in an hour?"

"Well, I'm moving really slowly and I feel awf-"

"HOW MANY TIMES have you run 5 miles in an hour?!?!?"

"Um...lots. Lots of times."

"Ok. So you know you can do it. If you want a PR you're gonna have to work for it. Now get your ass moving."

Or something along those lines...exact wording being secondary to the fact that whatever words she used, they were the exact words I needed to hear at that moment. My brain did some quick and probably inaccurate math and figured that I would have to maintain a 12:00/mile pace in order to eclipse my previous PR of 12:46. And that pace hurt a considerable amount, but Jess lit the fire and I shifted into overdrive.

It's amazing what a little belief in oneself can do. After getting that much needed kick in the pants, I was filled with a renewed focus and determination. Sure everything still hurt like hell, but it is always easier to suffer if you truly believe there is a reward to be had. In my case, a possible new PR earned under brutal race conditions.

At some point in the first mile of my renewed effort, I somehow ended up running stride for stride with a girl. As it often happens in races like this, we ended up engaged in some smalltalk. As it also often happens, she was holding a good pace and it seemed like a good idea to stick with her for bit. I was amazed at how great her form looked and how fresh she seemed. I asked if she'd pull me along for a few miles because I would benefit greatly from holding that pace until I reached Spectator Heaven, which I firmly believed would provide me with the energy to carry me through the homestretch. She agreed.

We talked about...something...perhaps if I had written this 3 months ago like I was supposed to, I might have remembered that conversation, but I can assure you it wasn't anything groundbreaking. Typical small talk between racers. Or so I thought.

As we reach the threshold of Spectator Heaven, she says to me, "Well, have a great race!" and makes a left turn off of the race course.


It was at this point that I realized she had no race bib on, wasn't body marked, and really...upon further assessment, did not look in any way, shape, or form like she had been doing a triathlon all day long. I then remembered that thing about Boulder that I noticed out on the bike course. This is an active town and regardless of some silly little race going on, people were gonna be out doing their regular rides and runs. Such was the case with this girl. The run course was NOT closed to non-race traffic and I had just gotten some free pacing from somebody who was just out for their Sunday afternoon workout. So that was nice!

I entered the gauntlet of rabid enthusiasm. Both sides of the path were packed 3 to 4 deep with people, all cheering. All screaming. The air was alive with incendiary energy. The spent legs turned over quicker. The previously limp running form tightened up. The gasping lungs ignored their hunger for oxygen. Every moment down this stretch was pure ecstasy and agony. I high-fived everybody. I asked for more. They gave me twice what I asked for, and then they gave some more.

With only a couple miles remaining, I was holding pace thanks to the wonderful energy of these amazing people! I got another high-five and words of encouragement from The One And Only Stephen Alan Gore, and I pressed onward towards the final out-and-back. I stormed up that hill, made the turnaround, glanced at the watch, and was finally reassured. It was going to happen. After all the doubt I had felt the past 2-3 hours, and because of the most epic of pep talks from my best friend's wife...I was almost certainly going to PR.

I passed The One And Only Stephen Alan Gore a final time before I made the turnoff towards the finish. Unlike the previous time when I had a brief attack of happy gratitude tears, this time I more or less completely lost my shit. With any luck I probably just looked like I was really suffering and gritting my teeth, or whatever. But I was straight up sobbing. That's the power of a race like this. It puts you on your ass physically, mentally, and emotionally, and then it picks you right back up by reminding you of what truly matters.

I wiped away the tears and then let out a loud whoop as I reached the "Finish Line This Way/2nd Loop This Way" sign. A right turn towards the finish line, somehow looping around and around ending up on a street for a block, then a left turn towards the intersection with Pearl Street where the finish line was. I remember seeing this final stretch the day before. It was uphill. Seemed cruel to me.

I didn't even notice.

Once I entered the block and a half long finishing chute, it was pure adrenaline and joy powering my muscles. Slapping fives on the right side, then over to the left side, and then back again. Screaming and fist pumping the whole way. Once again, I completely failed to hear the announcer say my name and "You are an Ironman". Didn't care. I had put together a fantastic race, despite not hitting my overall time goal.

Pretty ok moment, if you ask me.

I slowed as I arrived at the finish line and absorbed the moment while I walked across it. My final run time was 5:13:27 at a blistering average pace of 11:57 min/mile. My best ever swim split, my best ever bike split, and my worst EVER run split had all magically combined to leave me with a finish time of 12:37:16...a PR by just over 9 minutes. My previous best was 12:46:26 from Ironman Florida...a MUCH easier course under MUCH better conditions.

I'll take it!

Following my finish, I did my usual routine where I stumble around the finisher's area, get my picture taken, grab a bunch of food which I fail to eat,  hit my inhaler to prevent a post-race asthma attack, and then go ahead and have an asthma attack anyways because Fuck My Lungs.

At this point, I really am out of ideas. For whatever reason, no matter what I try, about 30 minutes after finishing a long hard race, my airways decide to have a complete conniption. I basically was loitering around the entrance of the med tent in anticipation of this, and sure enough when I started wheezing I didn't have to walk far. They took good care of me, but the time I spent in the med tent totally prevented me from watching Larry Long and Sherrie Klover finish. This also complicated life because Larry had my phone in his car and was my ride back to the hotel.

After recovering from the med tent...basically my 4th triathlon discipline at this point...I stumbled around the finish line area, unsure of what to do. I didn't know where anybody was and I was also literally about to crap my pants. And THEN I saw Delaware come down the finishing chute. I was able to get his attention and cheer as he went by. I then hobbled as quickly as I could to a porta-john, did some awful business, and then returned to the finisher's area in the hopes that I'd be able to find Delaware again in the chaotic crowds. I found him, we eventually met up with Jess and Alan, retrieved things, bikes, bags, and all that other stuff. I still had no clue how to get in touch with Sherrie and Larry, so my only idea was to head back to Larry's car and hope for the best.

Luckily, it worked. He was there. He had found my cellphone in the car and had attempted to call Delaware to locate me, but seeing as how he's actually listed under his real name on my phone, that made it quite a difficult thing to figure out how to do. He was not successful in reaching anybody relevant, but he did somehow manage to butt dial my ex in the process. Lots of laughs there. Whatever, we were reconnected and able to head back to the hotel.

Larry and Sherrie had both finished strong, so I was thrilled to hear that. Larry's nagging injuries had slowed his run considerably and Sherrie experienced some unhappiness with her tummy, but they both fought through and got the job done.

Despite a disappointing result, I still think I raced to my absolute potential and came away with an impressive new PR! The real moral of the story, however, is this.

Never ever again ever will I ever EVER entrust race volunteers with sunscreen application. Ever.

HOLY BALLSACK I was burned in just a handful of very select spots. About an inch wide strip on my thighs and two very impressive crescents on my shoulder blades. The following morning, I was stiff and sore, but within a few days of returning home, my muscles were more or less hunky dory. That fucking sunburn hurt for almost two weeks.

Had I written this in a timely fashion, this is the part where I'd be telling you about what my plans are moving forward. Goals and training strategies for the upcoming fall trail racing season.

Well...I didn't write this in a timely manner, and the things I was going to talk about have already happened. So I'm going to tell you what I wanted to do at the time.

I wanted to get fast. Really freaking fast. Fast enough, not to PR...but to race. And not in the sense of "I'm doing a race, therefore I am racing." but in the sense of "I want to win this fucking race."

Getting 3rd in the WyCo 20 miler without really trying to was the proverbial blood in the water. Just a taste of that kind of success was enough to get me excited about being competitive, and more importantly, the belief that I was capable of such madness was now present in my thoughts. My goal for the fall was to try to win a race. The fact that people like Grant Holmes and Ricky Hacker exist was not lost on me.

My goal wasn't to win a race. It was to TRY to do it. Yoda probably would disapprove of such an approach, but fuck that. There is always a try. Half of the shit I've done as an athlete was just deciding I was going to try something and regardless of the outcome, I'd be satisfied that I gave it a shot. I've been incredibly lucky that with few exceptions, my Try has always ended up being a Do.

Whatever, Yoda. In the Fall of 2014, I kicked fucking ass. Stay tuned, I might just be blogging about that in the near future. Might also talk about some upcoming ultras and some renewed bro-on-bro rivalry.

Thanks for reading and for your patience.