In the beginning was the race plan, and it was good. It lasted half the race, which is unusual for me! I had a lot of stomach upset with gels and gatorade at Tahoe Half, but I'd been training with Chocolate Brownie Cliff Bars and Perpetuum without difficulty, so my nutrition plan was one bar and one bottle per hour on the bike, then switch to bananas and whatever else was available at aid stations for the run. My goal was an easy 1:15-1:20 swim, a 160-watt bike leg (6:30 to 7:00), and a 4-hour marathon. With time for transitions and flat tires and Murphy, I had reasonable hope for a sub-13 total time.

I was a nervous wreck before the start: warm shivering, quadruple-checking everything, and generally fidgeting like an idiot. Then I hit the water, and it was like a switch went off if my head. This was what I had trained for: something in my head said "Ahh..." and I became completely calm and relaxed. Which is good, because 2500 people in the Russian River is a madhouse; basically a 2.4-mile-long game of water polo with no ball or referee.

Starts for this race were self-seeded by predicted swim time. I'm not a strong swimmer and I know full well that any energy spent shaving 5 minutes off the swim split would be better spent shaving 10 minutes off the run, so I started with the 1:20 wave. I took it very easy on the swim. Usually I set my swim pace to "medium" on a half-iron race and finish in 35-36 minutes, so I figured "easy" would comfortably put me in at 1:20. My perceived-effort calibration got screwed up this spring, though. I blame Greg Watkins: a couple months ago he introduced me to his "round the clock fifties" workout. I won't go into details other than to say that drowning is an attractive alternative, but the net result of repeated applications of this workout is that I spent the entire swim leisurely swimming around people and came out of the water at 1:12 with a pulse rate still below 100.

I fully understood that I had no chance of getting podium for my age group, so every time someone passed me on the bike I just took a breath and checked my power output. I wasn't racing them, I was racing the 13-hour clock. Things went as planned, until mile 45 when the top screw on my right-side bottle cage came out. The cage/bottle proceeded to flop around and cause trouble, so I pulled the bottle out, drank it, and threw the bottle away at the next aid station. This fluid intake was not on schedule, now my stomach was sloshy. I had another bottle of Perpetuum in my special-needs bag at mile 52, so I refilled my remaining bottles and sloshed out onto lap 2. The screw that came out is part of one fastener-set, so I knew that the left bottle would probably go soon also. I drank as much as I could stand from that bottle, and had managed half of it before it failed and I had to ditch the second bottle. One bottle left, 40 miles to go, still sloshy. Not ideal! At the final aid station I knew I'd need more fluids than I had, so I grabbed a gatorade and tried just holding it while riding. This didn't work well, and with 12 to go I had a quarter-bottle of perpetuum in my homemade aerobar sippy-bottle and 2/3 bottle gatorade, so I decided to ditch the sippy-bottle. That's when I discovered the bracket holding the sippy-bottle was broken and barely holding on. It wouldn't hold the gatorade bottle, I couldn't put the sippy-bottle back in. Uff-da. I ditched the gatorade, put the sippy-bottle down the front of my kit with the hose out the top and finished the ride thirsty.

My normalized power for the ride was 161 W. Perfect, on plan! (Other than being thirsty.) My time for the ride was 6:03. Wait, what? 6:03! I'm starting the run at 7:25, that means if I do my 4-hour marathon, I'll finish in under 11:30! So I started off at my planned 9-minute pace --- and reality promptly whacked me upside the head. I wasn't sore yet, I wasn't particularly tired, but my legs just wouldn't move that fast. I kept trying to go faster, but nothing happened. And my stomach had gone from sloshy to crampy. I couldn't drink enough to rehydrate without sloshing and wanting to puke, only enough to maintain my level of thirstiness. So that's what I did.

Nice thing about endurance races: if you keep going forward, they end eventually. At mile 13 I figured out that I could still break 12 hours if I maintained 11-minute miles. That goal lasted until the leg cramp hit at mile 19, so I turned my Garmin watch around so I couldn't see my pace anymore and felt much better. I finished the run in 4:44:40, my worst marathon (and second-best marathon) ever.

Total time: 12:11:31. That's in the top 20% of people fit enough to think racing an Ironman is a good idea, I'm ok with that! It's also much better than I had hoped, and I'm happy with it despite my disappointing run. My quads are a bit stiff today, but not bad. Ironman doesn't suck as much as I expected. Once the kids leave for college and training time is easier to find, I might do another one.

Much gratitude to Greg Watkins for the swim workouts and long rides, Josh Rowe, Brian Oppy, and David Brookes for the morning rides, and all the CTC members --especially Joanne Gilchrist-- for inspiration and encouragement. Most of all, thanks to Kristi Ayars for her support (and patience) while I trained for this crazy thing.