Pour yourself a drink. If you are impatient, please skip to race day.
An IronMan is a 140.6 mile triathlon. My journey to IronMan Maryland 2015 started with a shirt.
Yes this shirt:
August 2013 Tough Mudder New England.
At the time, I had no clue what an IronMan triathlon was but surely it sounded cool. Little did I know about a consecutive 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, 26.2 run, with wardrobe changes and somehow eating and drinking along the way. After training in Lake Placid for the 2014 NYC Olympic distance triathlon, I seriously thought about an IronMan. Why wait and do a half IronMan (like most smart people) when I could earn bragging rights immediately? I signed up for IronMan Maryland 2015 and my goal was to just finish. Some of my friends thought this was bogus, but I did not want to be arrogant on my first IronMan. There were too many variables, I had 2 big vacations planned abroad (< 5 months of training) and I was a terrible, inexperienced cyclist.
I did not receive the bad news until it was too late on October 1st. Unfortunately I could not rebook my lodging. I had to stay with my inlaws who live 1.5 hours away. I tried not to think about the reschedule date, but the event was rescheduled two weeks later.
I drove to Great Marsh Park and arrived around noon. There was parking down the street at IronMan village, but a line formed outside. It moved very slowly.
There was a line to get into the village.
I waited an hour and a half to check in. Volunteers were very friendly and apologized for the long wait. After I checked in, I had another line to collect my timing chip and athlete goody bag. Then the next side of the tent was the IronMan store. I wanted to buy some shirts and that wait was an hour long as well.
Like the doctor’s office… the line continues.
Once I was done, I posed next to the M-Dot.
In case no one believed me that I was in Cambridge.
After the waiting game, I walked to the 3pm athlete briefing. The emcee strongly suggested to buy Star Wars or Batman sweatshirts at Walmart as the initial layer (to toss after 15 miles on the bike and the weather warms up). Moreover, he strongly suggested full wardrobe changes during T1 to avoid hypothermia. I left and found a nearby Target and bought an inexpensive sweatshirt and gloves.
3pm Athlete Briefing
When I got home, I laid out the contents of the goody bag:
The goody bag was cool, but who wants dog food?
My helmet, timing chip, swim cap, race bib and stickers.
I drove to Great Marsh park and checked in my bike and gear bags. I arrived early and was in and out. I asked a few questions to the volunteers so I could get acquainted with the course and logistics of race day.
Mandatory gear and bike check in!
When I returned home to my inlaws, I ate a light meal and *tried* to go to bed around 9pm.
My attempt to sleep early was unsuccessful. I could not sleep. I heard the grandfather clock chime every 15 minutes and on the hour. Recipe for a long day.
I got up at 2:40am, which was before my alarm was set to go off. I immediately prepared two cinnamon raisin bagels with peanut butter and nutella and a cup of coffee. At 3:45am my inlaws, wife and I started the commute to Cambridge. Around 5:15am we arrived at Maces Lane Middle School and hopped on the shuttle to Great Marsh Park.
It’s 5:15 am. I’m not that kind of morning person!
In transition, I inspected my bike. I pumped my tires, checked gear bags and arranged nutrition. I had only one bottle and that was on my aero bars. Transition closed around 6:30am and I started wandering and looked for my family.
It was officially 63 degrees at swim start but it did not feel like it. It was windy. I walked around to keep warm.
Shortened swim? WTF?
The emcee announced that the swim was shortened to 1.2 miles to keep the athletes in a protected bay, rather than swimming out into the more open, choppy water. 10 minutes later the swim was modified to 1.9 miles. I was annoyed because I was prepared to swim the full course.
I seeded myself in the 1:20-1:30 group. After the singing of the national anthem the horn went off and the show began. I discarded my old Vibram Bikilas with almost no tread and inched closer to the swim start.
Swimming amongst crazy people
I stepped on the starting floor mat and started my Garmin watch. I stepped into the water. Once I got out of the starting swim corral, it was a dog fight: kicking, punching, leg and ass grabbing as swimmers jockeyed for position. There were a lot of pink caps (women) passing me.
How I felt during the swim…
Ego aside, I had to race my race and let them pass. I did not want to touch anyone or be touched in the water – but it happened. The water temperature was cool but the water was murky. With the altered course, I had to sight (looking up) a lot.
I felt nauseous after one loop. When that happens to me in the pool, I stop and take a break. All I could do here was continue to stroke slowly. Fortunately the nausea went away after 15 minutes. A few kind triathletes tried to swim over me and I got a kick in the head. Otherwise it was a decent swim.
I was relieved when I saw red buoy the second time. I was done.
How does my butt look?
SWIM TIME – 1:04:44 This was not bad for 1.9 miles and I self-seeded correctly.
T1 (Transition One)
As I emerged out of the water, my wife and sister-in-law cheered me on. I found two volunteers to strip off my wetsuit. I thanked them, grabbed my bike bag and moved to the changing tent.
Where are the wetsuit strippers?
It was crowded. It was like changing standing up in a congested subway car (standing room only) during NYC rush hour. It was so bad, dudes were changing outside the tent. I planned on a full wardrobe change. This part was uncomfortable but I changed and went to the porta potty before grabbing my bike and marching out.
She’s racked and ready.
T1 TIME – 0:15:16 This was what I expected since the tent was overcrowded.
The bike started out really well. Because I had no water bottles (only my aerobars bottle) I had to stop at the first aid station around mile 15. I stopped and picked up two orange gatorades and went on my merry way. The flat course was fast for what seemed like the first 20 miles.
It was all smiles in the beginning.
“On your left! On your left! On your left!”
That could have been my theme song… It could have played on the radio every hour all day. Many cyclists on their tribikes passed me. It got old quickly. Every 30 minutes I popped a rice cake or a banana bread bite into my mouth and washed it down with orange Gatorade. Not-so-yummy.
One thing I worried about was the 5-bike-length drafting rule. It may have been only me. There were so many draft packs or cyclists riding very close together (cheaters!). These cyclists were faster than me but I did not see these fools get caught.
Hello head wind. My speed was crawling as a I continued to pedal. I hoped it would pass…
The bike was tough with ever changing wind direction and speed. I am no meteorologist but the wind came from the north west and the tough gust brought me to crawling speeds during most of the race.
My aero bottle had no cap (must have fallen off) so every bump meant splish-splash-orange-gatorade on my bike handlebars and bento box. Yay stickiness!
At mile 45 I stopped at the aid station, picked up Gatorade and got rid of my $8 Target sweatshirt. It was getting hot out here.
I’m feeling the wind but not loving it.
I made the first bike cutoff with time to spare. There were feelings of relief but I had another 56 miles to go. I was not looking forward to another loop in headwind. In loop two, I decided to stop for every aid station so I could give my back and legs a short break.
Up to mile 70, I was by myself, feeling lonely. My lower back hurt. I wished I could push harder but the wind had other plans.
My back needed a break from aero.
Mile 85. I planned on finishing the bike in under 8 hours. I started calculating outloud the rate of speed that I would need in order to finish. I was sure I sounded like a Common Core math problem. I did not figure the answer on the bike and kept pedaling.
Mile 100. YES! Only 12 to go. I had completed 3 century rides before this race and I knew it was almost over.
The last aid station was about mile 102. No more gatorade bottles. Now it was time to push. For a few miles I started to pass cyclists, some on nice bikes. Ego boost!
Around mile 111, I saw Joe, Agnes, my wife and mother in law. They cheered and I was so happy to see them.
Time to dismount my bike. Two down!
BIKE TIME – 7:38:48
T2 (Transition Two)
I dismounted my bike and walked it to the rack. My legs were cooked. I grabbed my run bag and headed into the tent. This time it was empty. I took my time and opted for another full wardrobe change. I waited for the porta potty then started jogging out for the run.
T2 TIME – 0:19:31
Shame on me, I spent too much time here socializing.
I told myself many times that if I finished the bike, then the race was over.
My arrogance was ready to be humbled. Although it was still light out, it was cold and windy. I was wearing a few layers, arm warmers and I was still cold. I started the initial run at the slowest steady pace I thought was possible. I felt ok.
I just passed an athlete with 78 marked on his calf. 78 years old? Must keep going…
I walked through the aid station at mile 4. I could not believe it. The IronMan buffet was awesome! Chips, pretzels, cookies… fat boy in heaven. I resisted temptation and ate the rest of my gummies. I ran two more miles and my legs wanted to give up.
It was mile six and I had 20+ to go. The last time I felt this crummy was around mile 22 of the 2013 Chicago marathon. The mind was willing but my body was weak. Hello wall. We meet again. It was going to be a death march. Or a DNF (Did Not Finish). I decided to continue running as best I could and walk only through the aid stations.
Around mile 8, I saw my family. It was dark outside. I knew they were cold. I was too. I felt terrible but if I stopped I may just collapse.
I think I’m dying. Seriously.
With my family out of sight, I walked at mile 9. I was a little relieved when I made it to the half marathon mark.
The problem with the 2.5 loop run course was that you heard “You are an IronMan” several times while you were NOWHERE near finishing. It was depressing, really, every time I heard it.
Discontent at mile 10, mile 20 and mile 25…
I was in trouble. Negativity sank in. Why did I think this was a good idea? I walked a lot. I stopped at every aid station and accepted all offers for chicken stock. And a few pretzels. I might have grabbed a potato chip. Ok a handful of chips.
Around mile 24, I walked with an athlete.
“So what are you going to do with all your free time once this is over?”
“I got the NYC marathon in 2 weeks.”
I explained the unlucky scheduling problem I had. I wished him luck and started the jog again. It was very dark now and some areas were barely lit. I was happy to see the last turn around point. With a few miles left, I tried cola and red bull. Blech. Other triathletes swore by them. Only the chicken stock helped.
Mile 25. I kept hearing the phrase. Ugh.
I was getting closer. There were plenty of drunk revelers cheering, happy to see me jog the final leg.
Oh my. I saw the finish corral. For the third time.
It was empty. A lot of athletes have finished the race and went home. I saw a few guys wearing finisher’s medals, banging on the corral walls, cheering me on. I pointed at them and smiled.
And I heard my name…
PETER KIM YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!
Woooooo! Wait, where’s Mike Reilly? =(
Thank goodness, it was over.
RUN TIME – 6:09:52 As I crossed the finish line, a nice lady gave me a side hug and asked me how I was doing. I was delirious (she was holding me up). She gave me a finisher shirt, hat and sent me to have my picture taken.
IronMan Maryland – Total Time: 15:28:11
My swim time was good. My bike time could have been better. My run was egregious. I bonked at mile 6 and walked way too much for a marathon. I did not train enough. My transitions and nutrition plan also needed improvement. Regardless of my first world problems, I was blessed. I finished injury free!
It is official!
I did not see familiar faces in the finish corrals, so I quickly got changed into street clothes. I found my friends, grabbed a slice of pizza then regrouped with my family.
My girls drove all the way to see me then went home!
I am pizza rat!
We had to walk back to Transition to check out my bike and morning clothes/bike/run bags. And finally drove 1.5 hours home. Overtime was tough.
NormaTec MVP Compression Boots are the bees knees.
Although the result was a success, the journey made this really special for me.
I will not sell my medal on ebay. I will not sell my medal on ebay. I will not sell my medal on ebay.
If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes just as many to groom an IronMan triathlete. There are many people to thank for my completion of this event. Thank you to Brit and Todd. It started with you with Tough Mudder, skydiving and the bright idea that we should do a triathlon together.
I did not apply enough body glide and rewarded myself with a nice wetsuit rash.
Thank you to my coaches Agnies and Sam for the tri camps in Lake Placid. I transformed from a guy trying to finish the NYC Tri, to a guy wanting to complete an IronMan. Sorry I did not pee on the bike. Thank you to Polish Princess, Justyna. Not only is she an accomplished IronMan finisher, she gave me plenty of encouragement and advice when I had doubts in myself.
Thank you to my onsite support team in Cambridge: Jacob, Ruth, Joe, Agnes, Kim and Tracy. I know how cold it was and I realize you all suffered to support me. Seeing your faces for even a few seconds did wonders!
Surprise when I came home.
Thank you to my running team, the NY Instarunners
. I am proud to be a member of this running family.
1st day back at work.
Thank you to my wife Suzanna. Behind every great man is a great woman and she is no exception (extremely supportive)!
Me and the president of my fan club.
Thank you to my friends who texted, emailed, facebook or instagram messaged me! Thank you to those who showed up to my surprise party. It was almost waterworks.
Surprise Party Celebration!
Completing an IronMan was rewarding in a way that defies the 140.6 mile description. Thank you for reading my experience (sufferfest) of IronMan Maryland 2015! May you feel inspired to complete one! I already signed up for another (Ironman Lake Placid 2016)!
I donated platelets. So should you!