Monday, August 4, 2014

Ironman Boulder 2014 Race Report....

Ok, here it is, my Ironman Boulder 2014 race report.

It's my 12th Ironman and going into this one I knew it would be my last as I decided to retire from Ironman Racing.

As always I don't make you wait for my times. I finished in 14:57:04. The breakdowns

2.4 mile swim - 1:44:29
112 mile bike - 6:07:29
26.2 mile run - 6:48:29
Total - 14:57:04

My time was a far cry from my Kona qualifying time of 10:20 only 4 years ago at Ironman Lake Placid. In fact in the last 7 years I've done 9 Ironman and 2 of my races were in the 10 hour marks and the other 7 were in the 11 hour marks. My only disappointment on my time was I wished it was in the 15 hour mark, that would have given me Ironmans I've done over the years in the 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15 hours. Now I just have 2 Ironmans in the 14 hour mark. Bummer.

So here's the report....

First off I want to say Ironman Boulder is the most organized and well run race on the planet. What even makes it more amazing is that this is the first time ever they have had an Ironman. This race went off flawlessly.

From the bus pick up in the morning to take you down to the reservoir the the finish line. Amazing. My prediction is that aside from Kona this will be the most sought after race. The swim, bike and run courses are great. The aid station support, unbelievable. The crowds, huge. Lots of big time cheering all along the run course.

You can definitely tell that Boulder is all about age group and pro athletes training here and they obviously used their knowledge about races they've been too and what they liked and didn't like and just knocked it out of the park. If you could script the perfectly organized race it's the Boulder Ironman.

I'm so glad I did this race...even though I barely lived to tell about it.

I woke up at 4:30 am. I can tell you I really didn't want to get out of bed. On Thursday I had only 5 hours of sleep, Friday 4 hours of sleep and last night another 5 hours. I was not well rested and even worse I flew to Boise for a special work event and spent 7 hours on my feet at the Boise Hawks game and earlier in the day I thought it would be a good idea to go for my last 10 km training run in 95 F heat.

In hindsight it's apparent I was destined for a poor race.

We drove from Toronto and it was 3 days of eating road trip junk food and sitting in a car. Then it was arrive Wednesday night late. Thursday morning register, then do a 10 km run and 1 hour bike, then get 5 hours of sleep, up at 6 am to catch a flight to Boise, run 10 km in Boise in the heat, then Stand in the heat for 7 hours at the Boise Hawks game, get back to the hotel and get to bed a 1 am and get up 4 hours later at 5 am to catch a flight back to Denver.

Arrive in Denver, immediately get my bike and gear from the hotel. I'm pass exhaustion right now. Get down to the reservoir to drop off my bike, then to the school to drop off my run gear, then to have a lunch meal and get back to the hotel around 1 pm.

At this point I can't even bend my knees without pain from all the standing. I mentally am toast from no sleep. I try to do what I can and lie in bed and try to recover as at 4:30 am the next morning I'm up to do hopefully my 12th and final Ironman.

You have no idea how scared I was about my legs. Just getting up out of bed to go to the bathroom was a shuffle. The side of my Achilles was hurting as well.

I did manage to get about a 90 minute power nap in and then spent the rest of the night in the bed watching TV. I feel sorry for Alice, she has nothing to do. Being an Ironman Spouse is no fun the days leading up to the race. It's all about rest and recovery, at least most times.

I knew things were not good when I my sleep consisted of my having cold sweats all night. My pillow was soaked. I think it was from the over indulgence of Carbs of IHOP food and a Pizza.

So the alarm goes off at 4:30 am. I drag myself out of bed. Have my shower, get ready and really don't want to do this.

I catch the bus from the Hotel to the School, then the school to the reservoir. On the bus ride to the water I sit beside a volunteer who is doing motorcycle duty and responsible to follow the top pro's and report back to Ironman live. Very cool gig.

I ask her about the bike course because I course I never look at the maps or read the race kit stuff. I normally just show up and follow the arrows. I asked her if it was hard, she said not to bad, rolling hills, although there is this one climb that is hard with switchbacks. Yikes. I'm not the best climber. The hills I'm okay with. I asked her if the pavement was good, she said yes. That was an understatement, the roads are awesome.

In the transition I get all my water bottles ready, I didn't read the map or know where to go so I did a lot of unnecessary walking, I'd say at least 1.5 miles of walking that could have been prevented.

It was a rolling start swim. Which means everyone lines up according to the swim finish time they predict. I did the 1:15 - :130.  As I was standing in line I had to go pee really bad. So I started slowly and watched as the pee exited my wet suit through the leg. It's kind of cool to see the pee dripping down your ankle and foot. It was the first time I've done that. Normally I pee in my wetsuit in the water.

I was so proud of my peeing that I decided to open it up. Only problem was I didn't realize I had a hole in my wetsuit in the groin area. So I open it up and out comes a regular pee stream right out the front of my wetsuit. Once guy turns around and looks at this and it's pouring out. DOH.

Now before people get all freaked out about the peeing. I noticed one thing. I wasn't the only one. In fact by the time the swim started the pavement was completely wet. It looked like everyone was peeing their wetsuits. It was something I really have never noticed in the past. I thought it was water. Not the case. For future, if you are walking down to the swim in a rolling start and the ground is wet you are walking in pee.

As the swim gun went off and we were walking down to the water I started getting a little emotional knowing this will be my last one. I caught myself and told myself to save it for the finish.

I got into the water, I was concerned about the cold and it causing panic attacks. So I slipped into the water and acclimatized before starting to swim.

No word of a lie within the first 20 meters I had a major panic attack and when I say major, I mean MAJOR. The first thing that got me thinking about it was Simon Cross mentioning in his race he had a panic attack.

What's weird is I never used to have panic attacks and it's something since Utah in 2011 that I fight.

This panic attack was different. Normally I can get myself out of it within a 100 meters or 5 minutes. This one I couldn't. I couldn't swim more than 10 strokes and I'd be taking in water. The water seemed choppy to me and I was not able to breath without taking it in.

My chest felt constricted. I kept going. I tried breast stroking with my head about the water, I tried back stroking. I couldn't stop hyperventilating. I was beyond scared. Many times I'd look over to the people on the kayaks or boats and wonder if I should just pack it in and flag them down.

I looked into the water and really sincerely felt this was my day to die. That I was going to drown. I remember thinking that drowning is not a bad way to die apparently. It's very peaceful. I can't explain how panicked I was.

I still tried to move forward by any means. At one point I couldn't breath that I thought maybe my wetsuit was to tight from the extra pounds I put on so in the water I undid my wetsuit top and pulled it down to my waste. Thankfully I have a sleeveless wetsuit and can do this without drowning.

Now I had my wetsuit pulled down to my waist and I still had trouble breathing. I was so close to quiting. I couldn't imagine myself finishing. I had all types of thoughts going through my mind.

I kept thinking that old people and people that can't swim very well do this. If you have to dog paddle just do that. It sounds good but trust me I was reaching. I thought about when my son Reid had a similar experience in his first and last triathlon. He had never swam in a lake and although he was a good swimmer it panicked him and he had to get out. I remember yelling from shore to Suck it up or something to that effect. I know it was a dick move.

So here I am thinking about this and I started yelling at myself and I really got a flavour for what Reid when through. Me yelling at myself wasn't working. I remember thinking that I could just bail and the race would be over and I'd have the perfect excuse for quitting, that I felt I was going to die.

I then got to think about what would happen next if I quit. It's not like they would shuttle me back to the hotel. I'd have to sit on shore and watch all the other athletes finish, right up to the last one. Then there would be a delay, then someone might have to drive me to my hotel. I wouldn't be able to get my bike until later. Then I'd be watching all the athletes running by and thinking that I wished I was out there and I'd be filled with regret.

Thats' when I realized I need to keep trying. I knew it was mental. I tried to close my eyes and pre tend I was at the local pool swimming. Didn't work. What amazed me too was that I had been swimming regularly for me. It was not physical problems.

I knew I had to get out of my head. I knew I had to play a game to distract so I came up with one. Think of all the things you regret doing in your life. I went through as much and as far back as I remember. It started to work. I was able to swim more than 10 strokes. My breathing started to relax. Then I started to think of all the things that has been really great in my life and all sorts of other questions like that.

To put all this in perspective. I panicked for 1400 meters. The entire first length of the Triangular swim. The reason I know is the swim course was so well marked with buoys that I could count. The swim was so well marked it was a dream. Not that it mattered my sighting was so bad that all I did was swim off course. Many a time I hit a boat and realized I was way off course. I think it was because I was so into my head to distract myself from panicking that I didn't look up.

About half way through the swim I got my rhythm back and felt comfortable in the water. My breathing was normal and I was swimming like I do at the pool. I was now pretty certain I knew I was going to finish. With that said that finish line couldn't come fast enough.

As I was swimming I was thinking I just want to get on the bike. Many people don't realize that triathlons can be a life and death sport. You could drown. I was surprised the amount of banging into each other from the back of the pack, especially on a rolling start. It wasn't hugely bad, it was just there, I didn't expect it.

I finally made it to the swim exit and walked up the ramp. The first order of business was to get the bottom of my wetsuit off. I figured it would be easy since the top was off the entire time I was swimming. The wet suit strippers had a tough time. Two of them, a guy and girl, were pulling and I thought they were going to take my tri shorts with them. Even mentioned it and the women said hold them and they yanked. Again, It thought was this my 15 lb weight gain?

The transition was slow. I didn't care I was there to finish. I got all dressed up for the bike and was out on the road. The first part of the bike seemed up hill and my time wasn't that good. I started to feel the panic attack tightness in my chest again. I was thinking "on the bike?" How can this been. It wasn't long or severe but it was there.

Mentally I was bummed because I really didn't want a bike ride over 6 hours. My training rides have been so slow I figured that was going to happen. Mind you after I put my racing wheels on before I left home I had some great rides.

It turns out I did manage to have a respectable ride, for the first 90 miles I averaged 18. 7 mph / 30.3 kph. I was pretty happy with that as in the beginning of the ride I realized that now that I'm out of the water I have wheels, I could just turn around and ride my bike back to the hotel.

Those first 20 miles weren't easy on my mentally. I wanted to quit. I knew if I just kept riding I'd be too far gone to quit and would be lost so trying to quit would be a waste of time. Then after 10 miles the course started getting some downhills and my average speed went from 24 kph to 30 kph, it was a mental boost I needed.

The bike course was awesome. There was lots of turns and it was so well marked and manned that even a blind man could not have gotten lost. I kid you not. The roads are so smooth and I rarely saw anyone flat.

I only had two minor episodes on the bike. The first was I mishandled my water bottle and dropped it.  Which sucked because it was hot and it was fuel I needed the next aid station was 20 miles away. Also thank goodness know one was behind me and the next closest person was far back enough away they could swerve from the water bottle.

Thank goodness no one was behind me. The second was the heat. The last 30 miles was brutal. I heard it was 93 F out and someone mentioned after the race they have a thermometer on their bike and it was registering 102 F on the road. I believe it. This ride to me was hotter than the ride in Kona. Near the end of the ride I saw one guy and a buddy under a tree and it looked like one guy had heat stroke.

As always on bike, those last 12 miles you just want to get off the bike. Your butt is sore, your neck is sore and every hill that comes up you dread and you just want to get off the bike onto the run.

On the bike I did pass a lot of people. One thing I noticed is when you are at the back of the pack there is no marshals for drafting. I also noticed that aside from only one guy, no one drafted at all.

I got to the bike finish and the first thing they said to all the athletes was "walk" your bike to the bike drop off. Of course you could run if you wanted to. No one did. Myself included. I was now getting spent. I did try to run a bit and my legs were super flat.

There was a pleasant surprise when I went to pick up my run gear. There was a lot of bags not yet picked up. It was a big difference from when I got out of the water. When I got out of the water about 90% of all the bikes were gone. I was one of the slowest swimmers. I made up a lot of ground on the bike.

The minute I got off the bike I realized I have a major problem. The back of my arms were so badly chaffed that I could not swing my arms. I didn't know if I'd be able to run the pain was so great. All I could think about was getting some Vaseline and seeing if that would work to relieve the pain. It was excruciating.

As I was putting it on I was wondering if it was my Doctors without Borders Jersey. I'd never worn it before. The guy looked and said it' looks like just skin on skin. First thing I thought about is "how fat a I now?"

It worked. I could swing my arms. I still loaded up with more Vaseline and put it in globs around my next to use for future if I needed it. I didn't get them to put more sunscreen on me. I did that out of the water onto the bike and my neck was raw from the swim and my jersey rubbing on my next that when the put the sunscreen on it stung like they were putting peroxide on it. I didn't want to go through that pain again and I knew much of the run course was shaded.

I started the run and reflect back to what I've accomplished so far. I managed to get out of the water. I managed to get off the bike in a respectable time. Now the Ironman begins. The ironman in my mind starts on the run. If you are lucky you will run the first 13.1 miles and if you are really lucky you will run the entire distance.

For the first 3 miles I was able to shuffle run. I knew my legs had nothing in them. I was hoping I'd be able to shuffle run until 13.1 miles. That was not going to be the case. My legs were just trashed. Again, the lead up to the race and no recovery it was to be expected.

The crowds along the run route were amazing. I've never seen so many and they are enthusiastic. I've never been cheered on so much. I usually get a lot of cheering with the Captains hat on, this race was off the chain cheering. When I say there was a lot of people I mean there was a lot of people.

What is really cool about Boulder is they have trails that run all through the city. You are running on these park like trails all along the river. It's surreal in a way. In one way you see Boulder as a city with streets and yet you get into the trail system and it's like this oasis within a city. It's a different reality.

After about 10 km I knew my legs were toast.

The one benefit of being part of the best organized Ironman is they had coke at mile 3. Yes, that's right, mile three, you didn't have to wait for it. The aid stations had everything. Banana's, grapes, oranges, chips, pretzels, coke, ice water, perform, and chicken broth. And I had it all. As much as a "death march" as it was it was also a smorgasbord.

I can't express how hard this run was. Not because of the terrain, but the mental side. When you realize that you have only done about 6 miles and you can't run and the only way you are going to finish is by walking near 20 miles it draws on you mentally. 20 miles is a long way. I've never walked 20 miles before.

At this point all sorts of stuff is going through your head. You want to quit. It's a two loop course so you can just drop out after the first 13 miles. Our hotel is right on the race course and I could just slip into the hotel. It reminded me of the story of my buddy Jamie who did Ironman New Zealand and his course was on the route and he went into his hotel, had a shower, a nap and then got back on the course to finish. I was thinking maybe I could do that. My only fear was once I stop moving I wouldn't be able to start moving.

I thought about ways that people could cheat by having someone run for me. Or giving someone my timing chip and have them put it along side theirs. Of course I wasn't going to cheat but those thoughts go through your mind.

There was not a single thing that got me through the run. There was a number. The crowd really helped. I was walking and they were cheering on with support.

I will say about this race that I've never seen so many people walking in my life. Right from the start of the run people were walking, on mass. I think it was probably 60 % running, 40% walking. The only thing I can think of is it was a combination of the heat and the altitude. It is mile high.

Other games I played was thinking that I need to finish this is my 12th and final. I also thought back to China where I had to drop out at the 13.1 mark. In that case it was medical and my kidneys were shutting down from the food poisoning I had 36 hours earlier but it stills stung to quit. Since that race I played it in my mind time and time again, what if I just would have walked would I have finished without damage.

Then there was Rodney who hadn't yet contributed to my Doctors without Borders fundraising campaign who said he would donate some when I got out of the swim, then off the bike and double it all if I finished.

The Doctors without Borders support too helped. As I was on the bike I had one guy say that I was supporting a great cause and we talked briefly about the doctor that came down with Ebola and may die and he was part of that group.

I thought of my friend John Swaine who did an Ironman after a long layoff and I think his time was 15 or 16 hours. I could only imagine the suffering he went through and still managed to finish.

I finished the first 13 miles in about 3 hours and that was running about 5 or 6 miles. I calculated that I had at least another 3.5 hours if I just managed to walk. When you think that you've already been out there 3 hours and now you have another 3.5 hours it wears on you mentally.

My next thought was about the early settlers. They walked across the country. I'm sure they were tired and kept going. They would probably look back at us and say "In my day we didn't have those fancy light weight runners and aid stations every mile, we walked with boots and pulled wagons and were lucky to find a watering whole".

I thought of my dream the other night which I saw as me overcoming adversity and winning. I didn't want to have a repeat of China. I wanted to beat it.

There was thoughts about "this is Ironman". I've finished in 10 hours and I can tell you the real Ironman are the ones that finish in the dark. The mental fortitude to finish when you are totally hurting and all you can do is walk is well beyond the mental fortitude to race and be motivated by your finishing time. I looked at my watch after my first 13 mile lap and thought I'm normally finished by now.

I used to look at the people starting there first lap as I was finishing my second and thinking I felt sorry for them and I was so glad that wasn't me just starting. Well today I looked in the mirror, it was me.

There was also this rather large girl that motivated me. She was about 6 foot and all of about 220 lbs. She actually finished a head of me but every time I saw her in front of me it inspired me to finish. She wasn't not going to finish.

Along the way I saw Sonja a blogger buddy and we did Kona together. She maintained it and has done Kona 4 more times. We had a hug and she walked along side us.

Yes, US. Probably the best way to finish an Ironman death march is to find an Ironman Buddy. Someone else that is walking and in major pain and walk and talk along side them. The talking takes your mind out of the darkness in my mind.

I had two Iron buddies on today's death march. The first was Jason for about mile 7 - 8 and the next was Brian Wrabbit from I would say mile 10 on. By the end of the walk you have nothing much more to talk about or learn about each other. For the last 2 miles walking in the pitch dark it was just about finishing and that our legs hurt.

My legs were beyond hurting. From about mile 6 my heels hurt. It was a reason I couldn't even shuffle. The pounding on my heels was terrible. My feet also felt like they were on fire. Near mile 22 I could feel they were blistering up. It was painful. Even having a friend to talk to it's painful.

All the way until probably mile 25 I still didn't know if finishing was going to happen. I knew I would. I didn't know if I'd sit down and relax and then start up. Brian kept me going.

As we got near the finish I left Brian and started running. He couldn't he had major GI issues and many would have quit. I told him that this being my last I wanted to have that special moment and hopefully start crying like a baby.

My first ever Ironman I had the most awesome cry coming across that finish line. Since then I've chased having that same feeling and this race I figured I could get the same. I started to but the crowds were so big that I got too self conscious and didn't want to be crying in public. It if wasn't dark out and I was wearing my sunglasses I probably would have.

I did know that by finishing this race the Ironman couldn't pull me back for a redemption race. If I had not finished I would have probably been motivated to come back and beat this race for one last time. Instead I beat it proudly.

In many respects I'm more proud of this race than I am of any others, including qualifying for and racing Kona. I truly experienced what being an Ironman is. It's not about just finishing the distance it's about finishing it in the face of misfortune and having the Iron Will to never quit.

More so now than ever I truly feel like an Ironman. It took me 12 Ironmans to do so but finishing this one in the face of all the obstacles and not being fully prepared makes it all the more sweeter.

As I was coming down the last 100 meters the crowds were amazing. I went to the side and high fived every one's hand. Maybe 100 hands or more. I was thinking this is my last finishers chute, make it good.

As I got near the end, within 5 feet from the end, I saw Alice. She had tears in her eyes. I stopped and give her a big kiss, I think a couple. She was so emotional. It was as much and emotional moment for her as it was for me. She was just able to cry in public. It was a special moment.

I then crossed the finish line and instead of my customary arms in the air. I stopped, got down on my knees and kissed the ground. My last Ironman was now in the books. I can proudly say I've done 12 Ironmans and I have NO regrets about my last one and the slow time. If anything I'm most proud of it because it was so hard and I somehow managed to get through it.

After the race I got my medal and shirt. The girls says she got me a large, even though I ordered a medium and I said, no I want the medium, I plan on losing weight, lets not lower the bar.

The finish area was well done. It wasn't like other Ironman's were you have the race organization police that don't allow people to walk places. Boulder group had just the perfect blend. Not to strict but perfect enough to keep everything in order.

Alice had her bike and we needed to pick up mine at the school, about half a mile or more away. More walking, er, shuffling. It doesn't end. A lot of people don't realize that after an Ironman you just don't go home. You have to pick up your bike and your gear and then find a way to get back to your hotel. You're not allowed to pick stuff up in the morning. It's cruel.

I got my stuff and luckily my legs were okay to ride the bike. I had my gear bags wrapped around my neck and Alice and I rode back to the hotel just over a mile away. Then I shuffled up to the room at an incredibly slow pace.

I don't how but I did my last and final bathroom race report and I think I held it together pretty well.

After I was done the pain set in. My legs had sunburn in a spot. The soles of my feet were blistered. The heal of my foot was cut from the rubbing. My arms were fully chaffed. I jumped in the shower and all I could do was scream in pain. The words were "AH, AH, AH, AH".

Then I got out and as normal you get the chills. No matter how hot is its you start chilling up. I jumped under the covers, pulled up to my chin and was shaking with chills.

The hotel restaurant was closed. So we found a local place to deliver a hamburger. I was craving a hamburger. By the time they arrived we had fallen asleep and woke up, ate it and then it was tough for me to fall asleep. The sleep after an Ironman is never a good one. Contrary to what people think. You are burning up and tossing and turning and sore.

All and all it was a good day. As I write this it's the following morning and I'm so glad I finished. I have no unresolved issues. I beat the course. My Ironman spirit is not only intact it's now permanently tattooed in my mind. After 12 Ironmans and a tough one like last nights I have a lifetime membership to the Ironman club. I don't have to do anymore to renew my membership.

Now I'm on to the next phase of my life. I'm looking forward to spending more time with Alice. I think it will be cool being about to hang out on a Saturday and Sunday and not have to do a long bike or a long run. We actually may have some weekends that are now enjoyed.

I can't tell you how much support I've gotten from Alice. She's put up with a lot of my Ironman stuff. Even on the course and during my dark moments I was thinking "what did I do to deserve marrying her?" She's the most kind and loving person and has been supportive of me and all my craziness.

I can hardly wait to see what happens next our lives.

I loved Ironman. I left on my terms. With no regrets.

P.S. If you'd like to donate on my behalf to Doctors without Borders please click here.


  1. Man, what a race !
    Well done !

    Still think you're no retiring... you still hava plenty of time to do ironman again, you are far from the 60's hahahah. Not even 70.3 ?

    Congratulations ! Enjoy the retirement :-D

  2. Atta a boy! Great story, now put on your big boy shorts and sign up for IM Muskoka Aug 2015

    PS: its not "waste" its waist

  3. Awesome! Love the three pics of you grabbing Alice, then kissing her, the the beeming smile afterward, just awesome.

  4. We saw you in mile 23 and 25. We were cheering "Go Brian Payne" and you looked confused that we knew your full name. Congrats on the finish and the retirement. And way to go Alice! Being an Iron Wife is challenging and rewarding.

  5. Thanks for all the props all. And spelling lesson haha.

    Amy, I remember that moment. I asked the guy I was walking with "how did they know my last name?" haha. How did you know my last name?