The Ironman Taper

One of my virtual friends, Mike Valdez, tagged me yesterday in this amazing Facebook post. I don’t know who wrote it but it is perfect. It is everything we go through during the taper…. during the race day. Since so many people asked me about it, I thought I would post it here… I think it applies to all of us… any distance. Remember “YOU WILL DO THIS!” Next week we toe the line with over 2000 of our closest friends at Ironman Texas. Good luck and know at the end you will hear, “YOU ARE AN IRONMAN” – Donna

Remembering Kona...

The Taper…….. Unknown author

Right now you are about to enter the taper. Perhaps you’ve been at this a few months, perhaps you’ve been at this a few years. For some of you this is your first IM, for others, a long-overdue welcome back to a race that few can match.

You’ve been following your schedule to the letter. You’ve been piling on the mileage, piling up the laundry, and getting a set of tan lines that will take until next year to erase. Long rides were followed by long runs, which both were preceded by long swims, all of which were followed by recovery naps that were longer than you slept for any given night during college.

You ran in the snow.
You rode in the rain.
You ran in the heat.
You ran in the cold.

You went out when others stayed home.

You rode the trainer when others pulled the covers over their heads.

You have survived the Darwinian progression that is an Ironman summer, and now the hardest days are behind you. Like a climber in the Tour de France coming over the summit of the penultimate climb on an alpine stage, you’ve already covered so much ground…there’s just one more climb to go. You shift up, you take a drink, you zip up the jersey; the descent lies before you…and it will be a fast one.

Time that used to be filled with never-ending work will now be filling with silent muscles, taking their final, well-earned rest. While this taper is something your body desperately needs, your mind cast off to the background for so very long, will start to speak to you.

It won’t be pretty.

It will bring up thoughts of doubt, pain, hunger, thirst, failure, and loss. It will give you reasons why you aren’t ready. It will try and make one last stand to stop you, because your brain doesn’t know what the body already does. Your body knows the truth:

You are ready.

Your brain won’t believe it. It will use the taper to convince you that this is foolish – that there is too much that can go wrong.

You are ready.

Finishing an Ironman is never an accident. It’s the result of dedication, focus, hard work, and belief that all the long runs in January, long rides in April, and long swims every damn weekend will be worth it. It comes from getting on the bike, day in, day out. It comes from long, solo runs. From that first long run where you wondered, “How will I ever be ready?” to the last long run where you smiled to yourself with one mile to go…knowing that you’d found the answer.

It is worth it. Now that you’re at the taper, you know it will be worth it. The workload becomes less. The body winds up and prepares, and you just need to quiet your worried mind. Not easy, but you can do it.

You are ready.

You will walk into the water with 2000 other wide-open sets of eyes. You will look upon the sea of humanity, and know that you belong. You’ll feel the chill of the water crawl into your wetsuit, and shiver like everyone else, but smile because the day you have waited for so VERY long is finally here.

You will tear up in your goggles. Everyone does.
The helicopters will roar overhead.
The splashing will surround you.
You’ll stop thinking about Ironman, because you’re now racing one.

The swim will be long – it’s long for everyone, but you’ll make it. You’ll watch as the shoreline grows and grows, and soon you’ll hear the end. You’ll come up the beach and head for the wetsuit strippers. Three people will get that sucker off before you know what happening, then you’ll head for the bike.

The voices, the cowbells, and the curb-to-curb chalk giving you a hero’s sendoff can’t wipe the smile off your face.

You’ll settle down to your race. The crowds will spread out on the road. You’ll soon be on your bike, eating your food on your schedule, controlling your Ironman.

You’ll start to feel that morning sun turn to afternoon sun. It’s warmer now. Maybe it’s hot. Maybe you’re not feeling so good now. You’ll keep riding. You’ll keep drinking. You’ll keep moving. After all, this is just a long training day with valet parking and catering, right?
You’ll put on your game face, fighting the urge to feel down as you ride for what seems like hours. You reach special needs, fuel up, and head out.

By now it’ll be hot. You’ll be tired. Doubts will fight for your focus. Everyone struggles here. You’ve been on that bike for a few hours, and stopping would be nice, but you won’t – not here. Not today.

You’ll grind the false flats to the climb. You’ll know you’re almost there. You’ll fight for every inch of road. The crowd will come back to you here. Let their energy push you. Let them see your eyes. Smile when they cheer for you – your body will get just that little bit lighter.

Grind.
Fight.
Suffer.
Persevere.

You’ll plunge down the road, swooping from corner to corner, chaining together the turns, tucking on the straights, letting your legs recover for the run to come – soon! You’ll roll back – you’ll see people running out. You’ll think to yourself, “Wasn’t I just here?” The noise
will grow. The chalk dust will hang in the air – you’re back, with only 26.2 miles to go. You’ll relax a little bit, knowing that even if you get a flat tire or something breaks here, you can run the damn bike into T2.

You’ll roll into transition. 100 volunteers will fight for your bike. You’ll give it up and not look back. You’ll have your bag handed to you, and into the tent you’ll go. You’ll change. You’ll load up your pockets, and open the door to the last long run of your Ironman summer – the one that counts.

You’ll take that first step of a thousand…and you’ll smile. You’ll know that the bike won’t let you down now – the race is down to your own two feet. The same crowd that cheered for you in the shadows of the morning will cheer for you in the brilliant sunshine of a summer Sunday. High-five people on the way out. Smile. Enjoy it. This is what you’ve worked for all year long.

That first mile will feel great. So will the second. By mile 3, you probably won’t feel so good.

That’s okay. You knew it couldn’t all be that easy. You’ll settle down just like you did on the bike, and get down to your pace. You’ll see the leaders coming back the other way. Some will look great – some won’t. You might feel great, you might not. No matter how you feel, don’t panic – this is the part of the day where whatever you’re feeling, you can be sure it won’t last.

You’ll keep moving. You’ll keep drinking. You’ll keep eating. Maybe you’ll be right on plan – maybe you won’t. If you’re ahead of schedule, don’t worry – believe. If you’re behind, don’t panic – roll with it. Everyone comes up with a brilliant race plan for Ironman, and then everyone has to deal with the reality that planning for something like Ironman is like trying to land a man on the moon. By remote control. Blindfolded.

How you react to the changes in your plan will dictate your day. Don’t waste energy worrying about things – just do what you have to when you have to, and keep moving. Keep eating. Keep drinking. Just don’t sit down – don’t EVER sit down.

You’ll make it to the halfway point. You’ll load up on special needs. Some of what you packed will look good, some won’t. Eat what looks good, toss the rest. Keep moving. Start looking for people you know. Cheer for people you don’t. You’re headed in – they’re not. They want to be where you are, just like you wanted to be when you saw all those fast people headed into town. Share some energy – you’ll get it right back.

Run if you can.
Walk if you have to.
Just keep moving.

The miles will drag on. The brilliant sunshine will yawn. You’ll be coming up to those aid stations fully alive with people, music, and chicken soup. TAKE THE SOUP. Keep moving.
You’ll soon only have a few miles to go. You’ll start to believe that you’re going to make it. You’ll start to imagine how good it’s going to feel when you get there. Let those feelings drive you on. When your legs just don’t want to move anymore, think about what it’s going to be like when someone catches you…and puts a medal over your head… all you have to do is get there.

You’ll start to hear the people in town. People you can’t see in the twilight will cheer for you. They’ll call out your name. Smile and thank them. They were there when you left on the bike, and when you came back, and when you left on the run, and now when you’ve come back.

You’ll enter town. You’ll start to realize that the day is almost over. You’ll be exhausted, wiped out, barely able to run a 10-minute mile (if you’re lucky), but you’ll ask yourself, “Where did the whole day go?” You’ll be standing on the edge of two feelings – the desire to finally stop, and the desire to take these last moments and make them last as long as possible.

You’ll hit mile 25. Your Ironman will have 1.2 miles – just 2KM left in it.
You’ll run. You’ll find your legs. You’ll fly. You won’t know how, but you will run. The lights will grow brighter, brighter, and brighter. Soon you’ll be able to hear the music again. This time, it’ll be for keeps.

Soon they’ll see you. Soon, everyone will see you. You’ll run towards the lights, between the fences, and into the night sun made just for you.

They’ll say your name.
You’ll keep running.
Nothing will hurt.

The moment will be yours – for one moment, the entire world will be looking at you and only you.

You’ll break the tape at the finish line, 140.6 miles after starting your journey. The flash will go off.

You’ll stop. You’ll finally stop. Your legs will wobble their last, and suddenly…be capable of nothing more.

Someone will catch you.
You’ll lean into them.

It will suddenly hit you.
YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!

You are ready.
You are ready.

Ironman Florida Race Report

I haven’t written in a while and thought hmmm, maybe a guest post would be a good idea to get me jump started again. One of my teammates, Tim Talbot, from Venom Multisport Racing (based in New Orleans) recently FINISHED HIS FIRST IRONMAN!! Whoohoo! What an accomplishment! Well, he wrote a race report for Ironman Florida and I asked him if I could post it for him since he’s e-mailing it out to everyone (I know he has a lot of time post IM training but not that much! lol) – he agreed and here it is! Enjoy!

“The temperatures the week before the race were extremely unpredictable since Hurricane Sandy had just passed through. The forecasts were all over the place in terms of temperature. I decided to pack all my warm weather and cold weather gear so I would be prepared for anything. Since this would be the biggest endurance race of my life, I figured I would start getting anxious or nervous as the days got closer to race day. However, I was not nervous at all.

Me and some friends agreed to caravan to PCB. We arrived on Thursday around noon and headed straight to athlete check in. There were no lines and the volunteers were extremely friendly as usual. I saw some other friends in the registration tent and shared some hugs and well wishes. So now I was all checked in, still no nervous jitters. Hmmm.

Friday morning I got up early and went for a really short swim with some friends, some friends from New Orleans and some from Florida that I met while standing in line to register last year. It was great to see them again. After our swim, we went for a short bike ride to make sure everything was working correctly. When we were out on the bike, I noticed the pancake breakfast was being served outside, so we pulled in, got some pancakes and ate on the curb. (We weren’t the only ones doing this) After breakfast I packed my transition and special needs bags. I drafted a checklist weeks before and even checked them off as I put them in the bags, but for some reason I had the urge to continuously check them. I was starting to feel like I had OCD as many times as I dumped everything out and checked to make sure I had everything. After that, I headed down to drop off my bike and transition bags.

Friends from NOLA & FL READY TO GET THEIR SWIM ON

I was sharing a condo with my friend/cousin-in-law. His family arrived shortly after we dropped off our bikes. They did not eat lunch on the way in so he left with them to grab some lunch. Since my family wasn’t due to arrive until later in the day, I was left in the condo for a few hours alone. I used this time, not to sleep, but just to clear my head and get myself mentally ready for the day I had ahead of me. I really needed that time. Still, not nervous.

When my family arrived, my daughters were dying to go swim. I took them down to the pool so they could play for a little while before we ate dinner. I was so happy they were going witness their daddy accomplish this huge goal. Granted, the youngest (Alaina) had no clue what I was doing, but I think my oldest (Madison) had some idea of what I was doing.

We had a nice spaghetti and lasagna dinner with all of our families on Friday night. It was nice to see everyone there to support us. (There were 3 people in my family participating in the race.)

Race morning I was up at 4AM to start eating. I had two bananas, a half of a bagel, and a bottle of Gatorade. I looked out to the beach that morning from the balcony and I couldn’t see the surf, but I could hear it. All I could think about was the rough waters I swam in back in May for the 70.3 on the same course. (6-8’ seas) I didn’t let it bother me, I had survived once and I would do it again if needed. It was also much warmer than I would have liked it to be, but at least it wasn’t freezing. At 5:00 we headed down to transition, still not nervous.

As with most triathlons, the volunteers are awesome. I got body marked and headed right into transition. Since all of my “stuff” was put in my transition bag the day before, there really wasn’t anything to set up in the morning. All I had to do was put all my nutrition on my bike and fill my aero bottle. I had arranged a meeting spot on the Boardwalk for my family to meet me since they weren’t walking down as early. After I had everything set up, I headed to our rendezvous spot. My wife and kids were there along with my parents and my cousin-in-laws family. We took pictures gave kisses and hugs then headed to the beach. I’m still calm as can be.

When I got to the beach, I noticed the surf wasn’t nearly as bad as the race in May. I was happy with that. The time seemed to be flying by. Before I knew it the male pros were heading out for their swim. Ironman had brought in a female from one of the armed services to sing the national anthem, I think she was in the Airforce. She sang it beautifully. I always get emotional when I hear our Anthem, but it when it is sung so beautifully from a someone in the service, it has way more meaning than listening to recorded version without the lyrics. They asked us to start moving toward the water after the anthem was done. I was really getting excited at this point. I saw some friends on the beach. We traded hugs and well wishes as we made our way towards the water’s edge. At this point, I figured since I never did get nervous, it wouldn’t happen. I guess subconsciously I knew I was well prepared. Or just dumb!

TIM WITH HIS SUPPORT TEAM

When the canon blew, it’s a giant mass of 2500+ people running into the water. My plan was to just keep swimming and don’t stop unless something happened. I didn’t want to get run over by everyone behind me. It turned out to be exactly what I was expecting; every man for himself. I tried to stay away from the feet of other athletes since I like my teeth. I did get kicked, grabbed, and punched several times, but it is best to stay calm and keep moving. That type of stuff doesn’t make me nervous in the water, so it was no big deal. The turns on the swim were pretty brutal, but still nothing I didn’t expect. I had worn a cheap Timex watch just to keep track of my total time. Well, it is now at the bottom of the gulf. Someone’s hand hit it on the first turn. Oh well, hopefully that would be the only thing that would try to ruin my day. I certainly could have thought of worse things to happen in that washing machine of people. As I ran down the beach heading to do my next lap, I saw my family cheering as I went by. It was awesome! I wasn’t able to get into a good swim zone until after the second turn on the second loop. I managed to find “clean” water in that section and stay away from people for the most part. As I neared the beach, I could hear the crowd and the announcer. I had done it. I survived 2.4 miles of Ironman Florida. A friend of mine, and ironman, said that at some point during the three events I need to just look around and think, “I am doing Ironman Florida!” When I was coming out the water, that thought was the first thing that came to mind. I blew past wetsuit peeling to avoid getting sand where I didn’t want it even though some friends and family had volunteered to peel suits. I gave them a quick wave and headed straight to transition.

In T1, the volunteers were awesome. They opened my bag and laid everything out and handed things to me as I needed them. Then, I was off for a little bike ride.

I was warned by several people to take it easy on the bike out. I did, and I think 150 people passed me within the first 20 miles. I immediately got into my nutrition plan. I really think that is what made the time go by quickly. After about 30 miles I was starting to wonder why I didn’t need to pee. Everyone says you should pee at least twice on the bike or you will be dehydrated for the marathon. Miles 50-60 were terrible. The road was so rough there were water bottles, tool kits, nutrition, etc that had fallen off of bikes. I did stop around mile 57 to make myself pee. It didn’t seem like very much compared to the amount of liquid I was taking in. When I finally got back on smooth road, the headwinds started picking up. I really wanted to start hammering it since I slowed on the bumpy road, but I was letting my heart rate dictate how fast I went. I felt like I was being conservative, but I really didn’t want to walk the marathon. I started passing people around mile 85. I wonder if those were the people that blew past me in the earlier part of the ride. At mile 98 there is a decent size bridge to cross. From the bridge back to transition, I bet I passed 100 people. I was feeling great, but no doubt, I was ready to get off the bike. And, I was still concerned that I had only peed one time.

The volunteers in T2 were just as awesome as T1, laying all my stuff out and handing it to me as I needed it. Heck, he even sprayed sunscreen on for me. I tried not to think that I was about to go run 26.2 miles. Since the course was two loops, I decided to break it up in my mind to 4-10Ks.

Right as I come out of transition, I see my wife and kids. I give kisses to all of them. Words cannot describe the emotions.

KISSES TO TIM’S FAMILY

As I run off I want to cry, but I learn quickly that it is impossible for me to cry and run. Go figure. I felt pretty good for the first couple miles then I started feeling bloated. After about 5 miles I figured out it was just gas. Once that came out (Not everything about triathlon is glamorous.) I started feeling much better and in the words of Forrest Gump, “I just kept running.” I walked through every aid station to get water to drink and pour on my head to help keep cool. I had started running at the hottest part of the day. It had to be at least 85 degrees. After stopping to pee, 4 or 5 times and I realized I wasn’t in danger of dehydration so I started bypassing some of the aid stations on my second loop of the marathon. I was warned by several people that mile 18 was the worst part of the marathon of an ironman. I was anticipating that point. I saw the mile marker and felt great. Maybe it would be mile 19 for me. Nope. Maybe 20. Nope. At this point it was all mental. It seem like I was the only one running out there. Everyone else was walking.  I was determined to run the second loop faster than the first. So I was pushing as hard as my legs would carry me. I saw lots of friends on the run course and the spectator support in some areas was just plain out awesome.

When I made the turn back onto the street Alvin’s Island is on, I could see the lights and hear the crowd and announcer. The emotion came back and still couldn’t cry. I put my hands on my head and looked to the sky and thought, I did it! I kept pushing. When I got to the area where the special needs bags are, there are two directions to run. One way is to go back for another loop, the other; to finish. When the crowd saw me head for the finisher chute, they went crazy. Cue emotions. Several friends that have completed an ironman have told me to enjoy the chute, don’t sprint through it. So I slowed down and started giving high fives. It was truly awesome. I couldn’t really see past the finish line since they have such bright lights for the pictures. A friend and training partner had volunteered and he greeted me at the finish line. His exuberance was priceless. I then saw my family coming to greet me. Cue emotions again.

I did it. I am an Ironman. I still get emotional when I think about it and even did while writing this. I managed to run the second loop of the marathon 7 minutes faster than the first. I am very pleased with my time and I will definitely do another iron distance race again.

TIM, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!

I loved seeing everyone out there that I had trained with one time or another throughout my journey. It is a bond we will have for a lifetime.

When I arrived back to the room, my wife had warned me that she blew up my Facebook page. She wasn’t lying. All day she had posted my progress. The support and encouragement from everyone was astounding.

When I arrived home, my sister, brother-in-law, and their kids had come to my house and decorated my front door with balloons and M-dots. Love it. Cue emotions………”

CONGRATS TIM!! YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!!