I’m going to make this pretty short as
- I’m really busy
- I’ve done so many of these that lots of aspects are very similar
- I’ve left this till 6 days later and my memory is failing 🙂
I’ll focus on some of the key features of the IRONMAN. This was my third and final IRONMAN of 2019 and overall it was a great experience. Every IRONMAN has something special to remember it by and this one will be jelly fish but I’ll get to that!
I read a quote just before this trip. “When you think you’re done you’re only 40% done”. I think it’s from the Navy Seals and I love that and I reminded myself of that quote throughout the run! It really speaks to powering on and is similar to another quote I have on my wall, “the mind will quit a thousand times before the body ever will”. Just keep going!
I flew in to Baltimore Washington International Airport from Dallas which is about a 90 minute drive to Cambridge which is where the IRONMAN is held. I flew in Wednesday afternoon to have plenty of time before the Saturday race since final day of registration is Thursday. I decided to try Budget to rent a car who true to their name had run out of cars and so I had to wait nearly an hour along with 50 other people to actually get the car I had booked.
I typically try and stay walking distance from the start/finish but there were no hotels that close. Instead I stayed at Cambridge Comfort Inn and Suites (which was clean and did the job) which was a few miles drive away. Some people rented houses which were walking distance. Prior to arriving I had heard lots of talk of parking problems and while they did close off the streets close to the start, there was lots of parking a few minutes walk away and really was not an issue in the days leading up to the event. For the actual day of the IRONMAN you could buy a parking pass for the actual transition area if you were quick enough (there were 200 of them) which I got and was awesome!
Registration was uneventful and well organized as always. One of the things you hear about Maryland is how great the community and volunteers are and they were not exaggerating. There were signs everywhere welcoming the IRONMAN and everyone was just so friendly. It was great. During check-in you got a hand made card from a kid at the local school which was very special.
Eating choices were fairly limited in Cambridge, especially for a picky eater like me. I therefore made the drive to Easton which was about 20 minutes and had more mainstream restaurants (like Olive Garden and Panera Bread, I’m so brave in my food choices). I had Olive Garden for lunch on Thursday and Friday and pizza for dinner both nights (yay Dominos delivery). That being said Cambridge was a lovely town, lots of little stores that embraced IRONMAN and I picked up a few cool things including a little mason jar with sand from where we swam!
I also walked the one mile between the athlete village (and finish line) and the swim/bike (T1/T2) transition at the newly named Gerry Boyle Park (after the race organizer who sadly passed this year). My bike had just arrived and went and looked at the water where the second thing, aside from parking, people had talked about, the Jelly Fish. It had been very hot with little rain, perfect conditions for Jelly Fish. As I looked in the water my only thought was “oh crap”. There were so many.
There was so much talk about this on the Facebook groups. I wasn’t super worried though. I am a slow swimmer so I figured everyone else would have moved them out the way by the time I get there and I would also cover my arms (sleeveless wetsuit), face and feet in Vaseline. As I would learn on Saturday morning, I was wrong not to worry.
Friday I went and checked in my bike, run bag and bike bag. It was very fast and I literally did nothing all day. I sat in my room and watched Have I Got News for You on YouTube. Before bed I put on my TriTats ready for the big next day. I slept really well Wednesday and Thursday night which was great. Even Friday I didn’t wake up till about 2am so got nearly 6 hours sleep so felt well rested.
I woke up and ate my protein shake, apple sauce and bagel. I headed out about 3:50 and got to the parking area at 4am which opened at 4:30 for a 5:00 transition open time. I’m a nut, what can I say. I always get to places early. At Canada by the time I got out the water I was nearly wetting myself I needed to pee so bad so this year my plan was to stop mostly drinking 3 hours before start. For the next 90 minutes I had a small bottle of electrolyte water which I stopped drinking 90 minutes before the start which is when I also ate a Gu. 30 minutes before swim start I drink my 5 hour energy. I only had to queue and use the port-a-potty once which was lucky as they were a cluster. There were 20 for about 2000 people. If people were complaining about one thing it was this. I’d never seen such a small amount of toilets for an IRONMAN.
The IRONMAN started about 6:40 and as usual was a self-seeded rolling start. I put myself at the back of 1:20 to 1:30 group which is about right for me. Because of all the Vaseline I couldn’t see very well and my goggles were tinted and a bit foggy anyway and it was dark. The sum of this was I couldn’t see and had a hell of a time sighting the buoys during the swim but that was the least of my worries as it would turn out.
The swim is two loops with the second loop a different turn point to come into the shore. Nearly as soon as the swim started people were more aggressive than usual and there was more contact in this swim than in all 14 of my other IRONMAN swims put together. I got kicked and punched in the face more times than I can count, sometimes pretty hard. I think people were basically freaking out because of the jelly fish. Which were BADDDD.
It wasn’t long into the swim when I felt the tentacles over my arm and they stung me. Again and again and again. A few times I think they actually got stuck on me and were with me along my arm for some strokes. I read you shouldn’t try to pull them off so I let them along for the ride as they continued to sting me. The stings hurt but really were not that bad. My face and feet never got stung, just my arms and hands which must have been about 50 times. All I could think was Monica from Friends, “damn all the jelly fish”. I think I was “lucky”. I heard of people that started vomiting after being stung and had to be pulled from the race 😦
There was also a current at times which you had to fight against to stay straight which combined with the difficulty sighting made it tricky at times and added to the overall stress of the swim. I kept pretty straight though. I actually forgot to keep going straight on the second loop initially until someone reminded me!
I exited the swim in 1:30:06 which was pretty fast considering it was a literal beating. As you got out the wetsuit strippers quickly helped you out the wetsuit and they then sprayed you with vinegar to help with the stings. I could feel them and would continue to as my arms were basically just solid red and bumpy for the first hour of the bike but after that they really didn’t bother me much.
On to the bike and what can I say, it was flattttttt. My bike computer was never outside -2 to 10 for the altitude. It was just continuous riding which for me is fine. That’s how I train, constant power and I did pretty good on the bike, 5:43:35. There was some wind at certain stages but really wasn’t a big deal. My one complaint is the aid stations were few and far between. I typically always change my Gatorade at every aid station and it never gets empty. It did on this course. It wasn’t even very hot and there was good cloud cover so I wasn’t drinking a lot, they just had really spaced out aid stations which considering its a 2 loop bike course I really didn’t understand. My average power was 183 watts which was fine as I was taking it fairly steady, saving for the run as my training going into this had not been great since IRONMAN Canada two months before. Basically you just need to train for constant work. There was no variation, no rest for your legs as you go down a hill as there aren’t any hills. With that said it went pretty quick and the scenery was nice.
After another transition (which included racking your own bike which was a first for me but understand in a small community its hard to get enough volunteers and not a big deal) it was time for the run. It was warming up and the clouds were disappearing. The course is 2.5 loops and there were lots of times there was no cover. Also there was lots of black concrete to run on which just radiated the heat back at you. You did start to feel the heat but once again it was super flat so at least you were not battling hills! Thankfully there were lots of aid stations, at most a mile between them. I think the heat really got to people, I saw a lot of people passed out on the side of the road or throwing up. Overall there was a 10% DNF (did not finish) for those that actually started which is high for Maryland. There was amazing crowd support, especially near the finish which you went past 6 times (as each loop when past it twice).
I did a steady 2 minute run, 2 minute walk for the entire marathon coming in at 5:23:29 for a total time of 12:58:09 which I was happy with. I came in the top third overall for the event and the top half of my age group.
At the end you got your medal, hat, finisher t-shirt and flag. They had tacos at the end (which I passed on) and I picked up my morning clothes bag (which they had transported from transition). However your bike and transition bags were still a mile away at transition which I then slowly walked to carrying my morning clothes bag (I would have preferred they had left it at transition 🙂 ). I got my bike and bags, dropped off my bike at TriBike (who were right there) and walked about 50 yards to the car where I just sat for a moment before driving back to my hotel.
I drank a protein shake, ate a candy bar but couldn’t face eating pizza yet. As usual I completely failed to sleep so just watched TV. At midnight I was able to eat my pizza and sleep for about an hour. At 5:45 I headed to the athlete village to get inline at the store for its 7:00 open where I bought my sports finisher tech t-shirt and polo shirt then headed home.
I would definitely recommend this IRONMAN. It’s comparatively easy compared to other events because it’s so flat. Even with the jelly fish the swim really was not that bad and the community and people are just awesome!
That’s number 15 done.
Next year I have 5 including two that are on back-to-back weekends (Texas and St George) and the world championship in Kona thanks to the Legacy program. I’ll also be doing the inaugural Tulsa IRONMAN and Mont-Tremblant. Why 5? Because Kona is on 10-10-2020. By doing 4 before Kona that will make it my 20th 🙂 10-10-2020 20th 😉