The reward for that hard work was that last week I got to toe the line with the best in the sport in the event that put triathlon on the map. I got to toe the line with world champions and Olympians who had won medals and world championships before I even knew the sport of triathlon existed. Needless to say it was validation of how far I have come. It was validation of how hard I worked to get there. Although you can fake a lot of things in life, you can't fake the slow-but-steady growth I have achieved year-after-year. That growth came with more hours dedicated to the sport than I think anyone realizes - even myself.
|Mural with the name of each participant in it.|
I'm by no means done racing, but after qualifying, the Ironman World Championship was to be my dessert for the year. I was realistic with my expectations knowing that my swim weakness was going to make for a tough day where safety is often found in numbers. This being my first year as a pro, I lowered my own expectations a bit further. With that being said I had set a goal to be in the top 40 and proudly I came in 39th. The time was only a few minutes faster than my time as an age-grouper, but it was a completely different ballgame racing out of the pro wave than it was as an age-grouper. Here is a recap of my week and race at the 2013 Ironman World Championship
|At airport with homestay Paul and Katie|
The first order of business was to head down to Kona to get in a swim and cool off. Then it was off to pick up my bike from Tri Bike Transport. I have still managed to avoid flying with a bike box and I can't imagine myself traveling with my bike considering I bring everything and the kitchen sink with me. 2XU was kind enough to give me ride back home to my homestay (by the airport) where I got to bond with Katie and Paul.
Katie and Paul were a couple that had just moved to Hawaii earlier in the year from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, where they were very involved with Ironman. To say the least, I can't speak enough about how passionate Paul and Katie are about Ironman. For the triathletes out there, you can't truly understand how hard some volunteers work. Paul and Katie are everywhere as a volunteers and if you were there then I'm sure you were blessed with their humor and helpfulness throughout the week. And there efforts existed outside of race week too. In fact they got up every day since October 1st and worked straight thru and past the race. Race day included a 23 hour effort from 2am to 1am the next morning.
As for the pre-race work, well my race day acclimation was going well in regards to heat and humidity. I was having no problem adjusting to Kona time, and I was sleeping well. Built up fatigue was being shed and I felt as strong as ever on the swim, bike, and run. I was ready to race.
|Fueling before the race at the Farmer's Market in Kona|
Katie and Paul were up and long gone before my 4:15am wake-up. At 4:25am my dad and sister, who came over to spectate and support me, picked me up and I was down in Kona by 4:40am. I headed over to the transition to get my bike ready. The pro field had a secure area and everything was pretty calm. I had everything pumped and ready to go early and that gave me plenty of time to gather my thoughts before the start of the race. I got my swim skin on and a brand new pair of Aquasphere Cayenne goggles and was in the water by 6:15am for the pro start.
|Left-overs from a Sea Urchin at Dig Me Beach, Kailua-Kona|
Shortly there after I left the tire and set my sights on the feet I wanted to swim on. Before I knew it, the paddle boards circling in front of us to keep us at bay, had turned parallel and the gun fired.
|Somewhere in the middle|
When Chris Legh came by I opted to hop on his feet and continued to the turnaround boat in the middle of the ocean.We rounded the half-way point to shore, and then proceeded to take the final turn buoy on the right instead of just keeping it on our right. I knew we didn't need to go the extra distance but Chris being the legend he is, I was more than ok to follow his lead and I had already set my mind on letting Chris dictate the first part of the bike anyway.
|Heading out of transition|
As Chris and I rolled on the Queen-K, Ben Cotter came by and now he would dictate the pace as I enjoyed being the third wheel. We started to reel in some of the guys from the 2nd pack including Ian Mikelson who had swam about 6 minutes faster but clearly wasn't feeling great.
A couple of times Chris let the gap open up to levels I was uncomfortable with and I did the required surging to close the gap. Each time Chris took me up on my offer to close the gap.
As we headed out to Kawaihea, little did I know that my dad and sister were racing on the side roads to meet me there. My dad is very talented in getting to places to spectate, but what I didn't know is that my dad had slipped in the shower earlier that morning and he had a growing hematoma that landed him in the ER and they missed the swim. They just made it out Kaiwaheahe to see and cheer me on, but I wouldn't find out about the ER trip until after the race.
At Kawaihea Chris let a sizeable gap open up that he left me to close. I was beginning to think that Chris was doing this purposefully so that would be the last gap I would allow to open in the first place. Although in a three person train, spaced 12 meters apart, the best position is always the last position, I would now be the second man. Climbing up to Hawi we picked up my former roomate from Portugal, Pedro Gomes, but I also picked up a sensation that something might be wrong. It was the out of the saddle climbing up to Hawi that I first noticed my front tire getting a little spongy. It wasn't concerning but something to keep an eye on.
At Hawi we reached the turn around and my sister captured the above video. On the descent of Hawi normally the cross winds are fierce and can be down right terrifying. I was beginning to realize that I surely had a slow flat and was losing air more quickly as the pressure was on the front wheel. It was also at this point that Ben Cotter and Chris Legh had enough and Pedro Gomes forged ahead as I started to ride much more conservatively. I kept my eye out for a support vehicle and shifted the weight rearward to keep as much weight off the front as I could. Thankfully there was no cross-wind to speak of and handing was never an issue.
|No cross winds on race day but trees can look like this in Hawi|
As luck would have it, I was down to no more than 20-30 psi, when I spotted a tech service van ahead of me. I waived at them frantically and they got the message. By the time they stopped and ran the wheel to me I already had my wheel off. However I was beginning to realize that luck was no longer on my side. I was replacing an incredibly aero wheel and tire with a Vittoria Diamante training tire on a box-section, non-aero rim. I cringed that the tube inside must be a thick butyl tube and when they slammed the skewer shut they left it in the vertical position. I didn't have the heart to say thanks but no thanks, nor did I truly understand how much additional drag the wheel was going to create.
During the change I was passed by 3 pro males - the last of which was Chris Legh. I got back on the old steed and immediately set sights on catching back up to him. I figured I would catch back up to Chris Legh, tuck in, wait for the next best rider coming from behind and go with him. I knew that rider was Matt Russell and at the turnaround he was roughly 4 minutes back and had to be rolling by shortly.
I put in a bit of surge to catch back up to Chris. I was surprised at how much effort it was taking to catch back up to someone who had clearly cracked 15 miles earlier, but I was committed. In retrospect if I wanted to have the best race possible at that point then I should have stayed right there with Chris, but I didn't. Instead, when Matt Russell came by I decided to go with him, and that is where the situation got a little out of hand. I was on a kamikaze mission with Russell, but I was enjoying the hurt locker.
At some point I wised up and knew that there would be no way I could stick with Russell until the end of the ride. I opted to let Russell ride away and shifted my focus to catching two guys who I passed earlier before the flat. Once I caught them I would step off the gas and recover. The problem was the power it took to ride with them was still to great. I rode with them for all of 15 seconds before dropping off the back.
I had totally cracked at that point and I would spend the next 15 minutes recovering. Ironically, it was this part of the course where I needed the power the most. There was a ferocious headwind and there was no where to hide on the barren Queen-K. All I could do was to reflect on the situation - I had gone from so severely underbiking, to so severely overbiking, to completely cracking, but spirits were still high.
I was convinced the next person that would catch me would be the lead women, but to my surprise Ben Cotter, Chris Legh, and a few more guys were holding off the women and I was right back where I started. The effort was no longer easy, but I was committed to sticking with the group and I rolled into T2 with them.
|Running tall down Ali'i - It wouldn't last|
Running in Ironman always seems to catch up with you, and especially so on the Big Island of Hawaii with the heat and humidity. For those that have never raced at Kona, the first ten miles go up and down Ali'i drive. Although the road might not be lined 10 deep like the Chicago marathon, there is a constant flow of people providing support and encouraging you to dig deeper and run faster. One of those people is none other than Chrissie Wellington, and if you are not careful it is easy to get carried away and run too fast. But I ran controlled and overall I felt pretty good.
After a few miles of running, the urge to go to the bathroom came up, and I detoured into the porta-john. When I emerged I was greeted by the lead female pro Rachel Joyce. We would hit the turnaround at 5 miles and ran nearly all the way back into town together. It was good motivation with the added benefit that mom got to see me if she had tuned into the live broadcast back home.
On to the second part of the run course, up Palani and out on the Queen-K I went. I was still feeling pretty good, however, after a few miles on the Queen-K things started to catch up with me. I still won't know if it was the period of severe overbiking or maybe running up the infamous Palani hill too fast. Either way I was done. My stride was completely wrecked, my body was cramping bad, and I knew I was in for a long second half of the marathon. I could feel my skin burning and I was in search of some much needed sunscreen. A reminder that if I come back that I need to bring something for the shoulders.
In to the infamous Energy Lab I went and I saw Luke Bell and Pete Jacobs walking, and Dirk Bockel was not far behind. Clearly it was not their day either. Despite the short appearance of the Energy Lab, it never seems to go quick and it is where so many dreams have crumbled over the years. I was determined not to let it break my spirit. After what seemed like forever I got out of the energy lab and back on to the Queen-K. Only 10K to go and the quickest way home was simply to run home, albeit slowly.
|Running thru the infamous Energy Lab, |
known for not what it gives but what it takes.
Body is broken but the mind is still strong
As always the Ironman finish was an emotional experience. I saw Jayme and Jesse from 2XU out there. Jayme has stuck by my side from way back in my amateur days and it was nice to have someone who understands the progress I have made and it was nice to have my dessert as I crossed the line as the 39th pro in a time of 9:28:02.
|Getting Lei'd at the finish in Kona|
|My Dad and Sister and Akaka Falls|
Before leaving the Big Island I had one last day to explore Hawaii by mountain bike. It ended up being a solo day but I visited the farmers market one last time and explored some of the more obscure beaches of the area. It was at one of those beaches where I came across four fresh young coconuts that were dangling down on a broken branch. After harvesting the coconuts I learned how to get at the coconut and enjoy it without any additional tools outside of what was provided by nature. It was nice to put those survival skills to work for a change.
|Enjoying the pick, the processing, and eating of fresh young coconuts|
Overall it was a great trip and an unforgettable experience. I definitely have to thank some people for helping out. Without their support my experience would have not been the same.
Katie and Paul Burke - for opening up your home to me and loving me like I was one of your own.
All the volunteers - Ironman would never be possible without the countless number of volunteers who take time from their busy lives in order to help put on this great event.
My dad and sister - for taking on the challenge of traveling to Hawaii to support and spectate what is arguably harder than the event itself.
2XU - for your wetsuits, compression gear, trisuits and everyday training gear that rocks!! Thanks for your support since my days as an age-grouper. We have come along way since then.
Trisports - for all the great tri gear you carry and for providing it in the most earth sustainable way. You can always help support me as an athlete by using coupon code "TGERLACH" at checkout to save 15%. You can also use it in the retail store Tucson. Just mention the code to the cashier.
Atomic - for your endless pursuit of all the "free speed" I can get on the bike. Your specially coated chainrings, cassettes, and chain, along with wheel bearings upgrade and special derailleur pulleys give me that extra special advantage over my competitors. You to can get some "free speed" and save 10% in the process by using coupon code "TG-10" at Atomic.
Tri Bike Transport - For eliminating the hassle of taking my bike, wheels, and all my tools to Kona for me. I can't imagine lugging all that around the airport.
Cobb Saddles - for allowing me to stay aero and keep my bum comfortable for nearly 5 hours on the bike.
Powerbar - for getting me to and thru races with your fantastic nutrition products!!
Rudy Project - for protecting my head and my eyes, while keep me aero out there on the bike.
Proactive PT - for keeping me injury free with Gua Sha and massage work. I would have never made it to the start line healthy without your help.
Steve Schwartz - for your continued support of my training, racing, and overall well-being. If you need a great Realtor in Madison, WI please consider Steve.
Nick Morales of TriJuice and Herbert Krabel of Slowtwitch - for capturing all the excitement that comes with an Ironman.
My competitors, for challenging me and giving me the drive to get out of bed every morning and work towards being the best athlete I can be. Without you I would never be the athlete I am today.