Around 6:20 pm
I opened my eyes and the sickness in my stomach dissipated a tiny bit. I tried closing my eyes again and everything including my gut began spinning again. I rolled onto my side just in case I was going to throw up again, but I noticed that under the table which was between the beds, was where all the volunteers were storing their purses and backpacks. I didn’t really want to throw up in the tent anyways, so I forced my stomach to settle and I lied there motionless. The other patient in the tent was “e-bay.” He was sitting on his bed with a volunteer holding his hand trying to comfort him. I could tell he had been crying. It amazed me that 25 minutes earlier he had looked great when he passed me going up the hill. Now, he was a broken man. He had finished the swim and the bike, but three miles into the marathon, he had thrown in the towel.
The medic came in to check on me and see what I needed. He brought some Perform (PowerBar’s version of Gatorade) and some ice packs. I placed the icepack in my hat and put it on my head. At that point, the thing I wanted most, I was longing for it, was to be sitting back home in my bathroom on the step of my tub, where with a small lean forward of my body I can projectile vomit into my toilet. I was so messed up I wasn’t even dreaming of being healthy in a bed…I was dreaming of being sick next to my toilet.
“Charles,” the medic said for a second, or maybe third time.
Each athlete has to wear a bib number and on each bib it has their first name, rather than the name they go by.
“We have a shuttle on its way coming to pick him up,” he nodded towards e-bay. ” Do you want to get on it?”
“I don’t know,” I mumbled.
The medic’s partner poked his head into the tent and said that they had another down the road. I assumed it was “rock-sitter.”
“We’ll let you know when the shuttle gets here,” he said as he hustled out of the tent.
E-bay then asked me if I was on my first or second lap. I told him I was on my second. He encouraged me to skip the shuttle seeing as I only had 10 miles left. I could rest and still finish in time. I thought “That sounds great but I could also be dead or end up in the hospital.” This frightened me even more. All of a sudden I had a huge problem because when I signed up for this Ironman it was in 2010. I had a nightmare flashback to Thursday morning when I checked in to register. They gave me a copy of my information and asked me if everything was correct. I briefly skimmed it and it looked fine…but now on what could possibly be my death-bed, I realized that I had changed insurance coverage at the beginning of 2011. All I could think about was the incorrect information on my medical forms. The shuttle came, e-bay wished me luck and stumbled out. The medics and volunteers came in asking me if I needed to go as well…In my head I was so consumed with medical paperwork that I ignored them, so they left me laying there. The clock was still running, I wasn’t, but I was still officially in the race.
8:08 am – The Bike
It was fun starting out on the bike. It was flat leaving the reservoir area and I felt great and was going fast. The first 3 miles I was averaging over 22 mph and hit top speeds around 37 mph. Mile 5 was even better as I averaged 30 mph and then the first big hill popped up. For about 1.5 miles it is consistently up hill; I was still moving pretty well but my heart-rate was a little high. I started seeing a few people already on the side of the road with bike problems. Most of them looked like flats. I felt bad for them and thought “that is why you can’t get mad at people who can’t swim straight…karma will get you.” I then approached a short but steep incline, shifted to my easier gears and the chain kept shifting right off the rear cogs. “You gotta be kidding me,” I screamed in my head. Immediately people were asking if I was OK and if I needed help. I graciously waved them on and put my chain back in its place. I tried taking off but it can be very difficult to get going on an incline while trying to clip in your cycling shoes. After a few attempts I was finally able to get going and was now praying that there would be no more mechanical problems for the rest of the day.
The first section of the bike course goes from the reservoir to downtown St. George. It is about 23 miles and I did it at almost a 20 mph pace. I continuously checked my heart rate because I wanted to start the first half of the course in safety mode. It would be a long day and there is no reason to kill yourself on the bike. I kept drinking water, Gatorade, Perform (when my Gatorade ran out) and eating Shot Blocks every 15-20 minutes.
The second and third section of the bike course are about 45 mile loops, the exact same loop. Due to closed roads and the fact that cyclists travel a lot faster, it is difficult to get pictures of the bike course but the video from AtoZion captures it quite well. (The bike section is from the time code 4:00 – 6:00) It is a beautiful course and anytime you get tired of biking you can just look around and enjoy the scenery. The aid stations were incredible. Everyone would do their best to make sure you had what you needed. I love cruising through there and I would make eye contact and point at the person who had what I wanted, they would hold out the bottle of water or Perform, a banana or gel and I would grab it and be on my way. I only missed one bottle grab where the water hit my hand and went flying. I hope it didn’t hurt anyone. A couple of the aid stations put soccer and football goal posts by the dumpsters so that you could try to score a goal as you tossed your trash away. I tired to empty both a water and a Perform bottle before every aid station and then I would replenish both and grab an extra water to spray myself down. It worked great as my body was moving well and I wasn’t tiring out.
Before I made it to the big hills a guy passed me by. His whole right hip was messed up. His shorts were shredded and he had some nasty road rash. I could see his forearm and elbow and they were pretty bloody as well. About ten minutes later I passed him back up and noticed that his left side was torn up just the same. It had to have been pretty brutal to shred your shorts on both sides of your body. I never saw him again.
As you start the loop section of the bike the hills start coming into focus. You find yourself near the town of Gunlock and hit a bunch of rolling hills, but everything is up. And then as you leave Gunlock you hit a nasty hill. On the first lap my legs were quite fresh so it wasn’t too much of a problem…and then you hit what they call “The Wall.”
The wall is a steep switch back and when you are on the canyon floor and look up you can barely see the riders at the top of it. (The picture isn’t the best but it sort of gives you an idea). The worst part about The Wall is that the steepest part is at the top. I did quite well except my heart rate shot up real high but I was able to recover quickly. After The Wall you head to the town of Veyo and then one more big climb up to the top of a mountain. After that it was time to enjoy the downhill. It was here where I found myself going over 40 mph (on the first loop). I would get out of my aero position because I am kind of a wuss and don’t want to risk a high speed cycling accident. You have about 8-10 miles of downhill where it gives you time to recover.
Then it was time for the second loop. I found myself starting to lap some riders and felt awful because I knew there was no way they were going to make it. One guy was just sitting on the side of the road with his bike lying on the ground. The bike looked OK so I assumed he was waiting for the sag wagon. I should mention that while on the first loop I passed a couple of people that I thought there is no way in the world they could have beat me in the swim…they were huge, but it goes to prove that the right technique works, despite size.
The second time around Gunlock, The Wall and the Veyo mountain were definitely more difficult. I was getting more tired but still felt pretty good considering I had swam 2.4 miles and biked around 100 miles to this point. I realized that my bike time was going to be incredible compared to my goal. Heading back into St. George was nice because of the downhill but there was now a headwind which decreased my speed a ton…but I still thought I would average 18 mph by the time the bike leg was done.
As I was cruising towards town I realized that my armpit was hurting and that my back was hurting as well. I had been on my bike for more than six hours under a brutal sun with zero shade…so anywhere on my body where sunblock didn’t touch or clothes covered was going to be cooked. The armpit sore was a rash from the wetsuit hours earlier. I had forgotten to put Body Glide on my armpits and the wetsuit continuously rubbed it for an hour. It wasn’t bleeding but it stung. The sunblock gang had failed to put sunblock right up to my jersey and also on my hands…so after six hours they were beaming a nice red color. The pictures show half of my back (there is a matching burn on the other side as well), my hand and my arm where you can see the fingers of the sunblock crew and where they stopped.
I rode into Transition 2 absolutely ecstatic because of how well I was doing. I jumped off my bike and a helper grabbed it to go put it away. I ran through and grabbed my bag and headed towards the change tent. As I entered one of the helpers offered me a cold bottle of water, it was great, and then he followed me to my seat. I started taking off my bike stuff and he collected it up for me. I threw my running shoes on, restocked my Shot Blocks, kept drinking the cold water and then headed back out onto the run course. Right outside the tent there was another group of sun-blockers. I had yet to put my visor on and one of the guys yelled, “I got the head.” I am so grateful for him because at the end of the day, my head, face, nose, ears and neck were not sunburned at all. I looked to my right and saw Emily standing there cheering me on. I walked over and said a brief hello. She told me I was doing so awesome. I thanked her and headed off to the start of the run knowing that I had more than nine hours to do this thing before the cut-off. “Oh yeah…it’s in the bag and maybe I’ll be able to go under 13 hours,” I thought. “I am going to be an Ironman!”
Total Bike Time – 6:12:21 – better than my goal by almost 40 minutes and an 18.05 mph pace
I was in 396th place when I started the run
Transition 2 Time – 6:58 – 1:02 better than my goal