People celebrate turning 60 in many ways – a big trip, a family vacation, a spa day, a party with all their friends and family, a new car. The ways to celebrate are endless!!!! Me? I thought, why not try for a second Ironman?
Yep. Why not swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and run 26.2 miles all in the same day? Crazy? Sure. Read more.
Why Ironman Part Deux?
Honestly, I’m not sure. The easiest answer is because I am turning 60 and an ironman is a challenge I want to conquer again. To prove I still can.
After completing Ironman Arizona in 2012, a group of us tossed around the idea and landed on a goal of an ironman in 2016 – Team 2016. But time and life took over, and for most people, it was simply too much of a commitment at the wrong time. So early last year, I canned the idea.
To my surprise, by mid-2015, some members of Team 2016 moved from a maybe to “I’m in.” Bob was dead set against another ironman – he threatened me with divorce given my level of obsession in 2012. But he eased up.
Still, I had put on weight and we were slated to spend the summer in Montana in 2016. I would have to lose weight and I’d have to train alone. There were a lot of hurdles to overcome.
When the day came around to register, I signed up for Ironman Chattanooga, but I decided to wait and see how things went training-wise before really committing. I also concluded I would keep the whole thing to myself, since I really didn’t know if I’d be able to go through with it.
Montana Summer – Not Southern Summer
Summer in Montana was fantastic! I was able to have a great summer and check off some bucket list items. I rode my bike in Ride Idaho, a week long tour of southwest Idaho into Jackson, Wyoming. I rode my bike up Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park. We traveled all over Montana and parts of Idaho and Wyoming.
And I was able to get in my training. A public 50 meter pool in Missoula was perfect for swimming. I biked and ran most of my prescribed workouts.
But the rides and runs were nowhere near as hot, hilly and humid as Chattanooga would be. And inexplicably, despite losing weight, I was getting slower and slower at biking! The go / no go decision would wait for one final century ride when I returned to Atlanta.
That ride in Atlanta did not go well. I was very slow, and it wasn’t a sunny, hot or humid day. And Ironman Chattanooga is special – instead of the “normal” 112 mile bike, Chattanooga is 116 miles. Add to that, about a month before the race, it was announced that the time cut-off for each racer would be 16h:15m. Not the “normal” 17 hours. So I had to cover more miles in less time, while I was slower and less conditioned for the race.
What to Do With the Secret Ironman Plan?
I decided that Ironman North Carolina would be a better race for me. Flatter, cooler, no extra miles and a full 17 hours. So I secured a spot.
That left me with a decision about what to do about Ironman Chattanooga. Why not use it as training day and try to complete the swim and bike? Great plan – I would only try the run if I had a surprisingly good day on the swim and bike.
Up to this point, I had done what no human being has ever done before. I trained all summer for an ironman and did not talk about it. Nope. Not a single post to Facebook. Not a single friend knew. BOB DID NOT KNOW. I didn’t talk to anyone when I had a great workout or a bad one. I didn’t complain one minute about training. I didn’t talk about ironman at all (except texts and e-mails with coach Vader.)
But a week before Chattanooga, it was time to come out of the closet since people would see me there!
Ironman Chattanooga 2016 – Heat Index from Hell
Everyone who trains with me knows. I don’t do well in the heat. I mean, I really don’t do well in heat. And as Ironman Chattanooga approached, the predicted temps rose. And rose. And rose.
Race day dawned clear and warm. There is not much more exciting than standing at the start line of an Ironman race. I was relaxed and had a great swim for me.
Then I was off to the bike. The route is a lollipop – a stick you ride out, twice around the pop, and ride the stick back to town. The first pop was good. I wasn’t fast, but I was hydrating and feeling fine. As I rounded the second lap of the pop, the temps rose to 97, the heat index over 100. I stopped at every aid station for water to pour on my head and in my bottles. Between water stops, the drinks in my bottles were as hot as your morning coffee. My fluid consumption plummeted.
I passed people everywhere, laying on the ground, off their bikes. Ambulances drove by with athletes inside. Sag wagons passed filled with bikes. The last 2/3rds of the pop, the water stops were out of cold water. Ugh. No relief.
At 102 miles on the bike, my feet are on fire, and I’m losing steam. I stop to take a sports gel, and immediately feel like I will faint and throw up. I sit on the ground to see if I can recover. I felt better after 5 minutes or so, but I knew I would not finish the bike in time to have a good chance of finishing the run. So I called it a wrap, and sat on the side of the road with a woman who was crying. I tried to help her feel better. Soon enough, I was joined by more people, who made this little pity party fun.
Ironman Chattanooga By the Numbers
The final numbers for Ironman Chattanooga 2016 showed that over 25% of those who started the race did not finish – the 2nd highest DNF (did not finish) rate of any ironman in history. Of women in the age groups over 60, less than 1/3rd finished within the time limits.
Would I have finished if I didn’t have the “fallback” of Ironman North Carolina? I don’t know. I do know it would have been the hardest thing I have ever done. My hat is off to everyone who toed the line that day, whether they finished or not. It was brutal and you are all rock stars in my book! And for those who did well – you are AMAZING!
On To Ironman North Carolina
After Chattanooga, I felt good. While there was more training to do to stay in shape, I was confident that I was trained and ready. Read my next post to learn how our best laid plans can totally unravel in the time it takes to make the wrong step.
Ironman for Good
I’ll be participating in Ironman North Carolina to benefit The Children’s Tumor Foundation.
1 in every 3000 children are affected by neurofibromatosis (NF). NF causes tumors to grow on nerves throughout the body and can lead to blindness, bone abnormalities, cancer, deafness, disfigurement, learning disabilities, and excruciating and disabling pain. NF is under-recognized and underdiagnosed yet affects more people than cystic fibrosis, Duchenne muscular dystrophy and Huntington’s disease combined. The Children’s Tumor Foundation funds critical research to find treatments for NF.
You can help in the fight against NF by making a donation.