A good friend of mine has had the desire to complete an ironman triathlon. He has done several Xterra tri’s and a few road tri’s. I always thought an ironman was totally stupid. It consists of a swim 2 miles or more, a century bike ride (100 miles) and a marathon run. Now you know why I thought this was dumb. After completing a 100K trail running race earlier this year, I was open to the idea of an ironman but immediately shot that idea down. This summer the ironman wannabe and I signed up for the Cane Creek sprint tri sponsored by the Jimmie Johnson Foundation. Upon signing up for this tri I saw that the foundation put out a fitness challenge for the month of October. The challenge consisted of accumulating a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and a 26.2 mile run and you had the whole month of October to get these totals. I thought to myself we could do this in a day! I kept this quiet and didn’t tell anyone. A couple of days later Jim, the ironman wannabe, threw out the idea of doing this in a day fishing for a reaction. He presented it that the two of us plus Pete could do this. I honestly though Pete would vehemently shoot this idea down so I said sure why not? Well, against my better judgement Pete accepted and now we were pretty much committed. Things got real once Jim signed us up and the training commenced. October 22nd was chosen as the date, Rivermen Brewery hosted the transition zone and afterparty, so the event was dubbed as the Rivermen 140.
So October 22nd came very quickly. I was confident in the swim and the biking for I trained very well for these two facets of the challenge. The run was a different story. One of my achilles tendons flared up during the summer and it pretty much shut my running down. On race day, I was hoping that it wouldn’t flare up and if I could just get through it I could stay off it a much as I needed to afterwards. I was also ready to shut it down if it became that bad, for an achilles is definitely something that I didn’t want to rupture. It is now 6:50am, the sun is about to rise, as I call out 10 minutes until race time. We stand in front of the American Flag as the National Anthem is being played on the external speakers.
As soon as my watch struck 7am we waded out into the dark water from the night sky of the Catawba and made our way south. I was a little weirded out with the dark water for I have never swam in these conditions with minimal light. After calming the mind and not taking off too fast I finally got into a rhythm. I could see the moon when taking breaths, and when looking up to sight I saw the most beautiful sight of the morning sky meeting the water on the horizon.
We finished the 2.5 mile swim in 1.5 hours and took out just past the marina opposite from the USNWC. We fist pumped each other for a great swim and headed to get the bikes off the van and transition into the ride. Just before 9am we were on the bikes and rolling down the road. The bike course consisted of a 27 mile loop where we stopped for hydration and nutrition at Rivermen Brewery. It took us six miles to get on the loop, we then proceeded to complete 4 laps and rode until we hit 112 miles on the GPS.
At 4:30pm we pulled into Rivermen on the fourth lap completing the 112 mile bike ride to the cheers of some running friends ready to pace us on the run. The bike ride went better than expected.
After getting my problematic achilles tendon taped up, compression sleeves on, and more nutrition we took of for the marathon run just before 5pm. The marathon run consisted of 5 five mile loops around Belmont and running the extra mileage at the end to reach the 26.2 mark.
The first lap felt great, Pete and I had a good 8min pace where we walked and waited for others to catch up so we could get the directions of the turns.
I felt my achilles a little bit but it loosened up and was non existent by mile 10. What wasn’t non existent was the jello legs that began to set in. Lap 3 consisted of a lot of walking and when I did run the pace slowed to a 11-12 mile pace. Debra Jean Goodnight Dandro passed me on this lap. I found some humor in this. I came into transition and grabbed more water, Gu, and immediately walked back out onto the course. Lap 4 consisted of more running but at a 12min pace and I still got passed by Debra Jean. She even waited on me at the end. My legs were shot and I had thoughts of walking the last lap. I would have still easily made the 17 hour goal walking the whole last lap.
I came into transition, took another GU along with 800mg of ibuprofen and I started to walk back out on the last lap. Everyone else was in front of me walking and waiting on me. We got to the top of the hill on main street and I started to trot again. As I passed everyone in front of me I decided to pick up the pace. I figured what the heck, it is the last lap and lets put it all out on the line plus I wanted to hurry up and get this run over with. Running about a 7:30 pace I made it to the next hill. Walking to the top of the hill I ran a 7 min pace to the next hill. After a couple of more sprints with the assistance of Jamie Frade, I was at mile 3.5. I have not felt this good running in a very long time. This was the best part of the whole race for me. Pete maintained this pace with me but we had a good lead on Jim so we were awarded with a long walk so he could catch up and we could finish this challenge together. We finally regrouped at mile 5 and had 1.2 miles left to complete the challenge. We back tracked a bit and once we hit our point we turned around and made the last push for the finish line at the brewery. Our pacers peeled off and Jim, Pete, and I picked it up and finished the race strong. We turned the corner to a roar of cheers and flashes for all of our family and friends that came out to support and cheers us on. I have completed and made the podium in several races in the past but this was the best medal I have ever received!
So the Jimmie Johnson Virtual Triathlon Endurance Challenge was most definitely that. It pushed each one of us and we all had our own obstacles to overcome. I believe it meant different things to each one of us. For me it was the mindset that that achilles was okay and that it would stay that way. This is the idea that you can accomplish anything if you have the mindset, will, and desire to do so. I hope this inspires someone else who wanted to accomplish something to go out and do the same. Regardless, I hope you enjoy read this blog. Here are some of the memorable quotes from the day: “The fun and games are over now, things are about to get real”; Where is my phone? I am defriending Dandro from my Facebook!”; “Deb, quit passing me; you are making me look bad!”
I would like to thank everyone that came out and supported the highs and lows that were endured. I am grateful for each and every one of you and it made the day extra special for each one of us. I would like to especially thank Debra Jean, Angie Greenwell, Katie Wirth, and David George who stuck it out with us most of the day safety kayaking in the freezing cold, setting up the transition zone, medical attention, and running the show. Huge thanks to Pat for letting us use his wonderful facility and I hope everyone enjoyed the beer. It was definitely priced right. Jim, this race was the best….. Thank you for all the hard work you put into organizing this event. Jim and Pete, there are not two other people that I would have wanted to do this challenge with. Pete, thanks for committing or I would have never done it.
A few final thoughts: So we completed the 2.5 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26.2 mile run in just over 15 hours. These are ironman distances and we made it under the 17 hour cutoff time. Are we ironman? That is debatable. Now I have several friends and coaches that compete in ironman sanctioned events. They definitely work very hard and it is a great achievement that is earned and I don’t want to take anything away from them, but there is definitely one thing for certain….. WE ARE RIVERMEN!!!!!!
So what’s next? Canyoneering in Zion National Park and Mountain biking in Moab. Stay tuned!