What happened in Canada was well documented. After coming up short there, I decided that I would not give up on my dream of becoming an Ironman in 2014, so I registered to try it again at Ironman Maryland on September 20, 2014, two days after my 42nd birthday. I finally got to hear the words that everyone who attempts an Ironman wants to hear. You are and Ironman! Yes indeed, I am an Ironman. This post will take you through the days leading up to the event as well as the blow-by-blow on the day itself.
Just to put the picture in the frame on what this journey has looked like for me, I want to share some statistics with you:Total Weeks of Training: 53 Total Swim Miles: 68.41 Total Bike Miles: 3279.89 Total Run Miles: 554.11 Total Miles: 3902.41
That breaks down to just under 75 miles a week. It was a long journey and I did my best to make the most of every mile. I made tons of friends along the way and learned a whole lot. Whatever the outcome in Maryland, there is so much that I got from this year that cannot be taken away, so I went there loose and ready to give it my all and that is exactly what I did.
Stephanie and I boarded a US Air Flight from DFW to Philadelphia early the morning of my birthday, Thursday, September 18. We landed at around 1PM and my parents were waiting for us at baggage claim so that we can make the two-hour drive down to Cambridge, Maryland which is a great town on the coast where the Choptank River meets the Chesapeake Bay. After a stop at Gino’s for a Philly Cheese Steak, we made our way down to Cambridge.
We arrived in Cambridge at around 4pm and went directly to the Ironman Village to check things out and get checked in. Right away, I felt comfortable. In my element. It was a different feeling than the one that I had at Ironman Canada. It was a better feeling. The nervousness was mostly non-existent. We almost immediately ran into my friend Mike Ripley and his wife Dianna at the Ironman Village. They had traveled in from their home state of Alaska the day before. Mike also had a tough day at Ironman Canada and was in Maryland for redemption as well. We would spend much of the weekend together it turned out, which was just fine with me. We got checked in (I got my bib, backpack, and gear bags), we made plans with the Ripley’s for the next day and we headed off to the hotel to check in there before we would go get a good dinner and come back to try to get a good night’s sleep.
Friday morning after coffee and a quick trip to Wal-Mart for a few things I packed up my gear bags to get them ready for check in, which would take place later that day. The plan was to meet the Ripley’s and for Mike and I to go for a quick swim to get a feel for the water, then a quick spin on the bikes to make sure that everything was in good working order. It’s a good thing that we did because Mike, being from Alaska, had never had the opportunity to swim in water this warm or in a short-sleeved wetsuit before and I had an issue getting my power meter to work, which both got resolved without a hitch. After a short swim, bike and run, Mike and I took a last look through our bags and went to check in our gear. At the last moment, I decided that I would take my battery for my shifters off of my bike to charge overnight and I would plug it back in when I got to transition the next morning. I tell you this specific point because it is important to the story later on. We left transition and after a quick bite at a cool local spot, we headed back to the hotel where I ended up falling asleep for a nap watching Stephanie make the coolest signs ever seen at an Ironman event. One of them even had LED lights on it. I woke up after a couple of hours and got up to take one last pass at my morning clothes, bike and run special needs bags and to get my final things in order before I would try to lay down for a decent night’s sleep, which didn’t happen. Pretty typical.
4:00 am came pretty early, but I actually woke up without the alarm. I had met with a really skilled dietitian since I had nutrition issues in Canada and she wrote me a great plan for Maryland. It would include a double dose of my usual race morning fare… Eggo waffles with peanut butter and banana. This time, four of them. The Ripley’s picked us up and we rode into the race site together. Mike and I made it to transition a little later than we expected, but we had plenty of time. We slid right past the body marking volunteers to our transition spots which were really close to one another on adjacent racks. I went to work getting the bottles filled and nutrition set. I checked tire pressure and it was good to go. I did one last pass at my area before I headed over to drop off my shoes to my run bag. Everything looked pretty good, except for one thing. Do you know what it is? Wait for it, it’s coming. Mike did me a favor and grabbed my things for the swim and for bag drop off and we started over to the water. After a pit stop, it was time to go. I kissed Stephanie, gave that Mrs. Ripley a hug and headed over to meet Mike at the swim start.
The swim start was a self-seeded rolling start. I’ve done waves before, but this was different in that you basically hopped in where you wanted to based on your planned time and took the march into the water. It worked really well in my opinion. Mike and I were between the 1:30 and 1:45 group. The swim in Maryland is a two loop course. After a short swim out to the first turn, we hit the first long stretch. It was into the current, but not a strong one. It was just enough to slow you down and to feel it. Especially for those of us that don’t float as efficiently as others. It would be good to be able to tell you exactly how long that stretch is but for the second Ironman in a row, my Garmin Fenix 2 crapped out and I lost all my data from the race. As an aside, I am completely over that watch. I am going to the Garmin 920XT, the latest in the successful and mostly bulletproof line of triathlon specific wrist gear from Garmin. I digress. Now back to the swim. At the second turn the staff had boats setup to make sure that we didn’t spend more time swimming up river. That was nice of them. What I didn’t like was that the boats being so close really made the smell and taste of boat fuel prominent. We take a right and head back toward shore and the third turn buoy. After a couple of buoys we took another right toward the swim start/finish. It was shortly after this turn that my 1.2 mile alarm went off. Seemed like this was going to be a long swim. It ended up being very long. When I stepped out of the water, my Garmin was quickly approaching 3 miles. I didn’t believe that it was that long, but I knew it was longer than the advertised 2.4. Needless to say, GPS technology has not been perfected in the water. However long the swim, it didn’t matter. I swam exactly as I planned. Steady and easy. Keep moving. That was the plan. The race wasn’t going to be finished in the water so my plan was to get out with my tanks on FULL. I was successful. I got out of the water feeling great. I immediately saw Stephanie holding up a sign and going nuts cheering. It was AWESOME. Even if the sign was upside down. I was right behind Mike getting out of the water and heard the announcer say his name. It was pretty shallow for the last 100 meters of the swim, so I stood up and walked my way out and into T1.
As I made my way out of the water and passed the wetsuit strippers I had two goals for transition 1. Be efficient and get my heart rate lowered and stable. I did that. It took me almost 7 minutes, but I was out of the changing tent, and into my bike gear. As I turn toward where my bike was racked, I see Stephanie again. Laid a quick sweaty, salt water kiss on her and headed out. At the mount line, the camera man is there and asked how I was feeling. I answered and told him that I felt great. I then gave him a “float, hammer, and jog” comment and I got on the bike and started the 112 miles. My comment ended up on the Ironman Maryland video that Ironman posted the next day. I make an appearance at around 4:08 in the video.
I started off the bike as I usually do, with a pretty high cadence and low power output to get my blood flowing through the leg muscles to prepare them for the ride ahead. At about a half mile into the ride, I was ready to turn up the effort a little bit. I hit my shifter button on my DI2 shifters and nothing happened. The first thing that popped into my head after WTF was that I didn’t have the battery all the way in. That’s when it hit me… I left the battery in my morning clothes bag. I immediately started to go through what my options were. I turned around to head back to transition thinking I could retrieve the battery from the bag and get back out on the course only losing a few minutes. That option died when I realized that my morning clothes bag was on a Ryder truck toward the finish line area. There would be no battery retrieval for me. I immediately turned around and started to ride. It was the only option at that point. I was in a decent gear. I would have liked to be able to push a little harder on the bike. I felt going into the race that this was a sub-6 hour course for me. Pancake flat all the way through. Without more gear options, it wouldn’t be. I was riding with one gear. The positive reframe from that… no thinking about shifting and because I was in a relatively easy gear, I would be well under my normalized power goal of 21o watts. I don’t know many people who have ridden an entire Ironman bike course on a fixed gear triathlon bike. You probably didn’t know many of them either. Well, now you know one. Me. I finished the bike in 6 hours 14 minutes and 55 seconds averaging just shy of 18 miles per hour with a normalized power of around 150 watts. I learned one very key lesson on that bike ride that are permanently etched into my memory. When you feel like you need more chamois cream and you have more chamois cream, stop and put more chamois cream on. If you don’t know what chamois cream is, I’ll answer in the most PG way that I can. Chamois cream, in my case a product called Dznuts Pro, provides comfort to your most private of areas on long bike rides. I got to see Stephanie and Dianna at the end of the first loop and then again at the end of the bike leg as I came into transition 2.
My plan for transition 2 was pretty much the same as transition 1. To be efficient and to keep my heart rate in check for the run. I have been dealing with some patella tendonitis in my right knee for a while. It really flares up on the bike, which it did on this day. I spent some time in T2 trying to do some poor man’s ART on it to get it to agree with me a bit more. That took me a few extra minutes in T2, but I had some extra time having had a decent bike leg. The goal was finish. Time wasn’t close to my primary concern. I had my target time in my head, but it wasn’t the objective. Taking extra time to get loose was a good idea. I came out of T2 and headed out to run. Stephanie was right there just like she had been all day. She got a spot right at Run Out. I stopped and talked with her for a bit. She gave me more words of encouragement and a kiss and sent me on my way.
The run in Maryland is a three loop course. It’s flat like the bike course is. By now it was as warm is it would get all day. It was around 85 degrees which felt warm, but nothing I wasn’t used to as it had been really hot throughout the summer, even in Canada. My plan was to go out very easy for the first mile or so. I did that. I felt pretty good running for the first 3 miles or so. My legs were tired but not sore. My feet actually started to hurt before anything else. I made it to the aid station where my Gatorade teammates Brian and Doug were working. It was so great to see them. Doug flew out from Vegas to support me in the race. We had raced Oceanside 70.3, the Boston Marathon, and Ironman Canada together. We have shared some pretty amazing moments and It meant a lot that Doug would take extra time away from his new wife Stephanie to be there for me. Thanks Doug! Back to the run….As I headed into mile 4, the pain in my feet started to take its toll. It was at this point that I decided to start to change my run strategy from run/jog to the aid stations, walk them, then get back to run/jog to running 3/4 of a mile and then walking 1/4 mile and the aid stations. I did this for a couple of miles, then I hit a bit of a low point energy wise and I started to walk. I walked for almost 2 miles straight. Stephanie and Dianna were all over the run course. Every time I saw them, I got a push. Knowing Mike was on the run course with me gave me a lift too. We were doing it. We just had to get the rest of the run done. At some point Mike caught me on the run. I don’t recall what mile it was but it was sometime toward the middle or end of the second of the three loops. I think we were lucky because he caught me at a point when I was walking with Stephanie and Dianna back toward transition 2 from the far side of the run course. We chatted for a bit and then he decided to start running again. I waited a bit longer to try to get the sandwich that Doug and Stephanie gave me at the aid station to settle down in my stomach. I ended up taking off a couple of minutes later. Knowing he was now in front of me was good for me mentally as well because I knew he was going to do a run/walk kind of strategy all the way back in. I just tried to stay with him and I did for a while. I bonked pretty hard at around mile 15 and made the decision to take in some cola at the next aid station at around mile 16. My plan was to try to wait until 18, but I just couldn’t wait. All I can say is that cola at the end of an Ironman is the most amazing stuff on earth. The effect of a shot of cola was amazing. Instant energy. I was able to run most of the remainder of the run. I walked the aid stations, where I continued my new nutrition plan of cola with a water chaser through the remainder of the run. I made it through the park area where transition was setup and made the left turn toward the finish at around mile 23 and there was Doug on a bike that Brian let him borrow. He rode next to me the rest of the way. It was awesome. He took some cool pictures and videos of us out there. One time he turned on video and asked how I felt, I was trying to be funny and my response was a quick and sharp, “like shit”. We laughed a bit and he encouraged me. He told me how proud he was of me and how happy he was to be there. What’s great is that he meant it. As I made the last right turn up toward the town of Cambridge, which is about a mile and a half from the finish, I saw Dad and my step mom Diane and Dad was going nuts. He actually started running beside me. I had to tell him to stop before he hurt himself. He told me he loved me and was so proud of me. That got to me a bunch. I always tells me that, but it never had that kind of effect on me like it did then. Probably because I hadn’t seen my Dad run like that since we went to shoot hoops one day when he lived on Staten Island. It was awesome. Doug continued to ride with me up to the left turn closest to the turn around. I had been there twice before. This time was different because I instead of turning right at the turn around to head out to another loop, I was going to turn left toward the finish. What I noticed from being there twice before was that every time an athlete turned left toward the finish the crowd went nuts for that person. I had decided when I turned that corner that I would take a stutter step right like I was heading out for another loop and make a quick move left to see if I could get a laugh or two. I did that and they did laugh. It felt awesome. They were so loud. All those people. They had no clue who I was but here it is 10pm on a Saturday night in some small town in Maryland and these people were cheering. For me. Awesome. I loved that. That carried me down the street toward the finish. I made a deal with a volunteer by the church at the end of my first loop on the run that I would give him a big high-five on my way to the finish when I was done. He encouraged me all five times that I saw him that day. There he was when I had less than a mile left. I stopped and give him a high-five and thanked him. I told him he really helped me that day. He did. For me, it takes those positive outside influences to keep me going. I had so many of those that day. I had Stephanie. I had Mike and Dianna. I had Dad and Diane. I had Doug. I had Brian. They were all there. I had the kids on my mind. I had my brother and his kids on my mind. I had coach Raul and the crew at TriShop in my mind. I had my DFW Tri Club crew on my mind. I had all my friend at home that wished me well and that I knew were tracking me. I had the #vivnation that were wearing out the keyboards on their phones asking Stephanie how I was doing. I had my friend Scott Barghaan on my mind, who is one of the most positive people I know and who is fighting cancer with a freaking smile on his face. If he could do that, I could do this. I had all those great volunteers that cheered and wished me well. Everyone was a part of it. It sounds like bullshit, but if you know me, you know that I am emotionally driven. I feed off of others. You all pushed me through. I crossed the finish at Ironman Maryland at 10:17pm in 15 hours, 5 minutes, and 12 seconds. I crossed the finish and said to myself, “I can’t believe that I did it!”. I turned back and looked back up the finishing chute to take that in one last time. I hadn’t been that satisfied in a very long time. I goal I set back in 2010 was finally achieved. It was a long journey with lots of ups and downs. I proved so much to myself that day and earned something that nobody could take away from me.
I cannot thank everyone that helped me get to this goal. I can’t list you all separately, but I have to list off a few people.
My coach Raul Cardenas got me here. He talked me through many tough times on this journey. He handled me very well coming off of Canada. He did what all good coaches do. He didn’t let me make any decisions too quickly after that race. We worked together to get there and there is no way that I could have gotten here without him.
My dad, Julius T. Jimenez. He’s one awesome Pop. He chased me all over North America this year. He was in Boston. He was in Canada. He was in Maryland. Sharing these moments with Dad was as special to me as any of the finishes were. Having he and Dianne in Maryland was incredible. Simply incredible!
To Stephanie. Stephanie is the most positive person I have ever been close to in my life. I didn’t know what a positive reframe was before I met Stephanie. She sees the good in everything. I am a stronger, better man with her. She’s stronger than me in so many ways and is such an inspiration to me.
To my kids, Austin and Allie. They were in Canada and when things didn’t go well for me they were so supportive and so proud of me for what I did do that day. I am so proud of the people they are growing up to be.
Hey MeeMaw…. I’ll work at getting faster for next time! 😉0