Monday, August 13, 2007


We did it! Lauren and I both finished the ironman triathlon with a time of 13:05. Considering my goal was 15 hours, I was pretty stoked. The swim took place in a frigid lake in rural British Columbia. The setting was comical: the head lifeguard was obviously recovering from a hang-over as he helplessly tried to prepare the race on time and the swim/bike transition took place in an Indian campround full of families. The lifeguard failed miserably in his effort, and we plunged into the water almost an hour delayed. We both felt strong in the swim, however, with Lauren leaving the water in 3rd place overall and me a little ways behind in 5th place.

The bike is the achilles heel of my triathlons. This, in one sense, is unfortunate because the bike is the most important leg of the race. If I kick your butt in the swim, I gain a few minutes. If you kick my butt in the bike, you can gain an hour or more in a race of this distance. So, as far as being competitive goes, my race is over when the bike begins. I don't really mind, though. This race, for the overwhelming majority of competitors, is about challenging yourself and the relationship amongst the athletes is definitely friendly.

My goal for the bike was between 7 and 8 hours. We took 8 hours to ride 112 miles during the STP the month before, but that included long breaks and I felt there was a possibility of improving upon that time. I finished in 6:50, so I beat my optimistic goal by over ten minutes. That I finished the bike at all was lucky. At mile 34 my rear tire blew out and I didn't bring any tools for repair. A superstar triathlete from San Diego eventually rode by and gave me a spare tube. Also, some local farmers saw that I needed help and talked with the volunteers down the road to arrange some assistance. Overall, I lost about 20 minutes during the ordeal, but since I had already resigned myself to the fact my race was over, I was very appreciative just to get back in the race. About an hour back into ride, I saw Lauren up ahead. I had told her to go ahead and try for her best time, but she, as always, was thinking of me and decided to wait for me and finish the race together.

The run in an ironman triathlon, as you might already be aware, is a marathon. I had completed one a few years earlier so I knew I could go this distance. Also, Lauren and I had been running fairly consistently through the summer, so I felt physically prepared. The transition from the bike to the run is a major topic of conversation amongst triathletes. Many believe you must create muscle-memory to train your legs to go from the biking motion to running. I have always thought "screw it", my legs will deal with it on game day. And, in this instance, it wasn't a major factor. We transitioned into the run with about a 10 minute turnaround of preparation. The course was relatively flat, with a couple steep hills and two long slopers. I felt strong until around mile 20. Then I started thinking "okay, I am pretty much done". About mile 23 my body was screaming to stop and each step was a challenge. My goal for the run was between 5 hours and 5:30. We finished in 4:50. If I was a stronger cyclist, I think I could improve upon this time significantly, but my legs were in such disrepair that I think I mustered about all I could give. Overall, really happy to have completed this race: I have had this on the life-goals list for awhile. Will I ever do another one? No.

One of the blessings for us during this race was having my mom and my sister's family there to support us. It was a small race and they definitely brought some enthusiasm for us that helped along the way. How can you not get pumped when your 3 year-old nephew is rooting for you?
For anyone considering doing an ironman triathlon I have thought of a few things I learned along the way. Here they are:

1. Nutrition is important. Eating complex carbs and protien are essential for your conditioning. In addition, it is worthwhile to look into supplements. We settled in on drinking a protien shake and a "recovery" drink after each workout. Also, we both loved Hammer's "Perpetuem" multi-hour drink for our longer days. It supplies the energy and electrolytes you need without having to eat multiple goos and popping pills.

2. Bike at least 1000 miles. We biked around 1200 miles before this race and I definitely didn't feel overtrained in the bike category. Others will say it is important to train at certain heart-rates or power-outputs, and they are right. However, for the bare bones approach, make sure you get a thousand under your belt and you will be fine.

3. Try to find a 50 meter pool to train in. The extra distance (the standard length is 25 yards) will give you more endurance and it provides opportunities to practice sighting. The best option would be to train in a lake if you have access. Also, get good goggles. My favorite are the Kaiman's from Aquasphere.

4. Get your running shoes from a professional dealership. My joints and knees don't really hurt on my runs and I am convinced it is because I bought a great shoe that is designed for people with slight pronation. Before you buy your shoe, make sure the employee has watched you run a short distance and is matching your particular stride with the right range of shoes. If he looks at you strange when you ask about this, it means you are in the wrong store. The best place I know of is Jock n' Jills at Greenlake in Seattle, WA.

5. Go watch a triathlon in the area. They are mellow. Most people feel intimated by these races, but the reality is they are comprised of a group of middle-aged people just trying to get in shape. There is absolutely no pressure to perform "well". So, just get out there and do it.

Another highlight of this month was going to Las Vegas to visit Lauren's family. I had met her brother Tyler before, who scores points for being Sigma Chi as well as being a nice guy, but had never met the rest of her family before. We had a really nice time in a beautiful home they rented in the burbs. Her family is very gregarious and diverse in their interests. In this photo is Tyler, Lisa, Paul, Alison, Lauren, and Travis. Travis goes to school in Dallas, so we are looking forward to seeing him more often after we move to New Orleans. Lauren and I are hoping to some day have a get together where both our families get to know each other, but for now that is on the back burner.


Anonymous said...

Congratulations Nels & Lauren!


Mirjam & Rob

Sydney - Australia

Unknown said...

I enjoyed reading about your race. I have purchased a great pair of shoes for my running. I have great goggles, and a crappy bike. No i just need to do it. NIKE

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