1.2 mile swim, 60 mile bicycle ride, 13.1 mile run
I awoke at 4 am this past Friday thought to myself “I am ready to do another long triathlon.” It had been 9 months since my open heart bypass surgery and I was feeling great. Each morning for the past few weeks I would wake up, ride my bicycle to the local YMCA, run 3-4 miles, swim, then ride my bike home. I felt I was getting stronger and my endurance had been improving, so I felt I was ready for a bigger challenge – a half IRONMAN triathlon.
What is a half IRONMAN Triathlon? Well, a full IRONMAN is 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and then a full marathon. Yea, that is serious mileage. I knew I wasn’t up to that level yet but 18 months prior, before surgery, I had completed a half IRONMAN and felt I was ready to repeat that effort. I knew the run would be the most challenging part, since my legs would be very tired and fatigued from the cycling.
One minor problem. Nobody was holding a triathlon at 4 am on a Friday morning. That was just a minor problem. Like last time, I decided to just do one on my own!
First we swim
Our local YMCA at Mitch Park opens at 5 am for swimming, so grabbed my swimming gear at hit the pool right as they open. A half IRONMAN consists of a 1.2 mile swim, a 56 mile bicycle ride and then a half marathon worth of running. I knew I was pretty slow at everything so I needed to get started early. Not to mention it was early August and it would be getting HOT by the time I was ready to run.
I got started in the pool early, but a lightning storm closed the pool after only 450 yards of swimming. Darn. My plans were already looking like a plate of scrambled eggs.
The next part of my triathlon was cycling, but I didn’t want to ride my bicycle outdoors in a thunder – and lighting – storm. So while the pool was closed I jumped on the indoor cycling trainer at the YMCA. I have put many miles on this Keiser stationary bicycle during cold weather.
Once the pool reopened I went to finish my swim. I had to swim a total of 2,150 yards to reach my goal of a 1.2 mile swim. That is 86 lengths of the Mitch Park YMCA pool, which was configured today for 25 yards laps. (It can be configured for 50 meter laps but this is generally only done for large swim meets.)
Next we ride
Once done with my swim I went home to get my bicycle and finish my ride. Well, sort of. My plan was to do my ride and run at OKC’s Hefner Lake. It is a 10 mile flat course around the lake and one of my favorite rides and runs. I had left my bike at home since it is fairly expensive and I didn’t want to tempt anyone to grab it out of the back of my truck. So I ran home to get my bike and lo and behold, I had to do the morning dishes.
I grabbed my bike and my running gear and made it out to Lake Hefner. It was windy and starting to get really hot as I jumped on my bike for my first of two laps. Less than 2 miles into my ride a bicycle friend David Copeland saw my and tagged along for the ride. It was nice riding and talking during my first lap. I had to pedal a lot harder than I planned to keep up with David, who slowed his pedaling down so that I could keep up. Glad he wasn’t going full-bore or I would have been left behind.
I still haven’t gotten my cycling strength back after my long hospital stay and recovery. I have a power meter on my bicycle and pre-surgery I was regularly averaging around 200 watts for an hour long ride. Now post-surgery I am doing good to average 120 watts for a long ride. And I knew I needed to save my legs for the upcoming run, which is always the hardest part of a triathlon for me. So David was gracious. He pushed me but not nearly as hard as he could have. I worked up a good sweat and the conversation during our ride made the time pass quickly.
The second lap was on my own since David had already put in 40 miles and had other commitments that morning. I ended up with 60 miles total even though a half Ironman only requires 56 miles of cycling.
Now we run
My original plan was to leave my bicycle at my local bike shop Cycle One near Lake Hefner while I did the run. I sure didn’t want someone walking off with my nice road bike.
But the heat had me changing my plans. It was 90+ degrees and very windy by the time I started my run. I knew it was going to be tough running 13.1 miles in the heat, and if I started my run around Lake Hefner there would be nowhere to stop and rest and get out of the heat for a bit. By now I was getting pretty fatigued and knew from experience the 13.1 mile run was going to be tough – tougher for me than the 26.2 mile OKC Marathon.
So I changed the plan. Again. Hey, it is my triathlon, I can change the rules however I want, right? I decided to do the run back home in Edmond. I have a nice 4.3 mile course that I often run that is not too hilly. It has a few hills but they are gradual ups and downs, which I can handle without much problem.
I decided to drop my bike at home before I went for my run so that I wouldn’t have to worry about it getting swiped. One the way back to Edmond, Kay called and asked if I could pick up some real estate signs. Uh, sure. Picking up real estate signs is just what we do during T2 transition, right?
After some food and liquids, I started my run. It was about 2:30 in the afternoon on a hot, windy summer day in August. Great timing, right? After my first 4.2 mile lap I just had to take a break and get hydrated and some air conditioning. Either that or pass out from heat stroke.
After a 30 minute break I started on my next 4.2 mile lap. I had to walk some of this lap. My legs were getting pretty fatigued and the heat was really taking a toll on my body. Things were getting really difficult by now. I was determined to finish and knew I just had to keep putting one foot in front of the other, running when I could and walking when I needed to take a break.
After another break for A/C and food/liquids I invited Kay to join me on my last 4.7 mile run. We did this one at Mitch Park, which she prefers, rather than my normal route. I was able to run about 50% of this route and had to walk about 50% since by now I was getting pretty fatigued.
I finally finished my triathlon late that evening before dark. Man I was tired. I started at 5 am with a 1.2 mile swim, then 60 miles on the bike and finished by tacking on a 13.1 mile run. Afterwards I was tired but satisfied. No medals, no people cheering other than my lovely wife. I nice shower to cool off afterwards. I felt surprisingly good and was back working out the next day and by the second day afterwards I was back to my normal ride, run then swim.
What it means
I should write some type of poetic meaning for my triathlon. But that would be kind of wanky. To me anyway. My goal is just not to die. I am not ready to die. My cardiologist asked me about 3 years ago “We are doing everything we can to save your life. Are YOU doing everything YOU can to save YOUR life?” My answer back then was “No”. Now I can say “yes, I am busting my butt trying to stay alive. You gotta up your game doc.”