Wednesday, May 05, 2010

2010 Ironman St George Race Report

The first 24 hours of this event left me rather disappointed and frustrated, but it's time to move on and make some lemonade out of the lemons!


Shortly after the pro's went off, they let the cattle into the water.  Having swam in the reservoir a few days prior, I knew that I needed to get in ASAP and get my face accustomed to the 59 degree water since Wednesday's outing left me with a few ice cream headaches (sans ice cream!).  I got in my warm up (while my face cooled down), and less than 5 minutes from the race start, there were only a few of us (~100) by the start buoy...

I wasn't planning on starting at the front since I don't deserve to be there, but with so few people, I figured why not.  Unfortunately, about 2 minutes before the start, a few hundred others rolled up, and I knew I was in a little over my head.

The first 1000m or so of the swim was chaotic as expected, but coupled with the elevation (~2,500ft), people, cold water, and a wetsuit I didn't wear enough (read: at all) in training, I was a little "flustered" at the get go.  My swim time of 1:04:19 is something I was actually happy with (but think that right now, I am capable of 1:02), but my performance in the water needs work.  While some people need open water practice, I need some open water practice with people since almost every time people got within a close vicinity of me (or I get close to them), I would pick my head up have a mild freak out, and lose momentum.  I need to learn to ignore and not get disturbed by them. The swim finish was as glorious as ever, and I quickly proceeded to T1.

As I was changing in the tent, someone asked if that seat was taken, and I said that it wasn't.  It turns out it was my buddy Marty Taylor (who qualified - again!) who I was literally living with (amongst others) that week and we were stoked to see each other!

I made the decision the day before the race to wear swim trunks and no jersey under my wetsuit rather than tri shorts and top since the air temp out of the water was to be 48 degrees, and I figured cycling with wet clothes and that temp wouldn't have made for a great start of the bike.  Although it took some time in T1 to change into my gear, I think it was well worth it.  I also threw on a vest, arm warmers and some gloves.

Marty and I left T1 at about the same time, and things were falling into place way better than I could have dreamed.  Marty, who is a damn strong cyclist but someone I thought I could hang with, passed me shortly after leaving T1.  With Marty being 6'0' 195 lbs and me being 5'7'' 147, I was sitting 7m back from him, easily enjoying some effects of legal drafting and pedaling easy as we started picking off the fishes.  I was thinking "Damn, I'm just gonna sit back here for the next 112 miles and let him pull me to T2.  Sweet!"

At about mile 25, there were other plans.


The tube in my front tire blew like I have never heard a tube blow before.  It sounded like the swim start cannon.  Hell, it blew 10 inches of tire off of the damn rim.  I quickly pulled off of the course, and told myself to remain calm, change the tire and to just get on my way.  I changed the tire quickly, and when I went to put the CO2 into the tube, it went into the atmosphere, not the tube, so I quickly closed it.


I unscrewed the valve extender to make sure the valve core was open, and it was.  I put the adapter back on the extender, and the same thing happened.

"ok, think this through, and remain calm" (as people started flying by)

I took the tire off again, took out the tube, and everything looked fine.  I put everything back together, and the CO2 still wouldn't go in.

"hhmm, this is odd.  maybe its the CO2 cartridge.  Yes, mr. race support guy, please call a tech"

I used my last CO2, and the same thing happened - the tube was simply not accepting CO2.  I obviously wasn't happy at this point, but remained calm.  10 minutes later, bike tech still hadn't showed up.  Long story short, a neighbor offered to grab his bike pump from a half mile away, and after he came back with it - it took me, him, and a police officer to pump the damn tire.  Can't accept outside support - whatever.  I have never seen a spare be so difficult!  We got it to 100psi, and I got on my way.  Apx downtime = 20-25 minutes.

I didn't let it bother me (much), since man is tested not when things are going well, but when he is faced with adversity.  Yes, it was unfortunate that I had a flat and was out for 25 minutes, but I wasn't going to let it ruin my day.

After I got on my bike, I got on it quickly.  Since hundreds of people just passed me, there literally was a line of cyclists for the next 20 miles.  So, I started picking them off rather quickly, as it’s easy to get some draft off of a 500 people all lined up.  Eventually the long line of people filtered out, and I went into no man's land.  This went on for about another 20 miles, then I came up to another large group of cyclists that was about 15 miles long.  Same thing - I started picking them off.  I was rolling!

One thing I have to say about this bike course: it is hands down the most beautiful ride I have ever done.  There were a MANY times where I caught myself just taking it all in.  Here are two pics that just don't do the justice:

Another thing worth mentioning: it wasn't as slow or challenging as people said, or as the profile shows. Don't get me wrong - it was challenging, but it was also fair. There were plenty of times where I was really moving - even on the back side of the course where people griped of chip seal.

I was using my new (used) 404’s, which I loved.  Once those things get up to speed, the sound they make is great.  I had been looking at 606’s and 808’s, but in the end, 404’s ended up being the best overall decision for me.  While there was some wind on the backside of the course, the 404’s were not squirrely at all in the cross winds.

At about mile 100, I had some additional woes where I couldn't keep my nutrition down.  Every time I took a swig of water, about 2 minutes later, a bunch of calories would come right up, and go right out.  I figured it was time to back off on calories, and just let it come up as it needed to since I didn't want to have issues on the run.  This had never happened to me in training, so it was a little odd.

I enjoyed the last descent into town, and made my way through T2 rather quickly.

My assessment of this run course is: one hilly, tough mofo.

I ran strong for the first half of the marathon - probably 1:40 - 1:45 for the hilliest course I could imagine.  The only split I have is a 7:30 pace through the first 6.5 miles, most of which are uphill.  At about mile 10, the same nutrition issue from the bike happened - I couldn't keep anything down.  I tried not to stress it since it was my body telling me it had enough calories (albeit, maybe a little concentrated).

Shortly after the halfway point, I was brought to a screeching halt.  My left knee was in some serious pain - a pain I had never felt before.  This wasn’t “I’m 128 miles into an Ironman pain”.  The best way to describe it was extreme tightness that didn’t want to let my knee do work.  I tried jogging a few times, but I could only last about 2 steps.  I stopped a few times to stretch my legs and hips, but nothing was working.  It was at this point, I realized my race was basically over, as I was now relegated to walking the next 12 or so miles.  I was definitely bummed, but I kept a decent attitude, and did the whole "make friends on the course" thing.  I made a lot of friends, since there was A LOT of people walking!

Few highlights:
  • I saw all my friends on the course at least once, and even Michelle, easily the happiest, most positive person out there
  • I met someone who recognized me because he has come across my blog (ok, I'm a nerd, but it was cool at the time)
  • I figured since the "race" was over, I might as well start on recovery, and proceeded to eat - a lot.  In fact, I grabbed everything at one aid station, then circled back, and got seconds on everything!  After the race, I had 6 slices of pizza and a sandwich. Damn.
My friends cheered me as I sucked it up across the finish line, and we all hung out for a few hours after wards.


I was obviously disappointed/frustrated with the bike, nutrition and knee issues, and continued to be so for the next 24 hours, but I knew I would come around.

Tuesday, I realized that this course was actually a confidence builder for me.  I went into this race thinking that if I executed well, I would have a good performance, but not completely confident.  After going through this, I have a much better idea on what I need to work on, that it can be worked on, but also what I could have done against other dudes in my AG.  Now, there are a lot of "if's" here, but
  • If I don't flat, I would probably ride 5:40ish, putting me in 4th place to start the run
  • If the above happened, I don't have knee issues, and my second half run is no more than 10% slower than the first half (based off of others times of similar abilities/times)... then I'm possibly battling my friend Nick Brown towards the end of the run, and Nick qualified for Kona.  I'm stoked for Nick (he was staying at our House for the week too), but I think it would have been awesome if there was a showdown towards the end.  Even if I'm coming up short, then I am not too far from being "in the mix".
Lots of if's, but a guy can dream, right?

Qualifying for Kona wasn’t a realistic goal of mine in this race, but I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about it.  Knowing what I know now … I just need to make the commitment... and execute better.  A fear I have is that I age up next year, and I am not sure I can compete with the fast guys in M3034.  I know a lot of what I need to do, which I plan on outlining (after discussing with Coach) at some point.

In the meantime, I'm putting a lot of energy towards recovery, and trying to get my knee right.  I've never had an injury, so this is very discouraging - especially when I can feel it by simply pushing my clutch in.   I will be seeing Dr. Runco on friday, and hopefully, he can get me rolling again... soon!

While some people might be discouraged from the above and never want to do one again (I did have those thoughts) – I want another shot.  Will it be at St George next year?  Doubtful.  But, I do have some unfinished business with the 140.6 distance…


jameson said...

way to keep in the perspective dude. i was screaming at you when you crossed the line but you were in "the zone"!

i hope the knee heals quickly. we have more mountains to ride.

Jeff said...

Nice RR homes. Bummer about the mechanical & knee issues. I think you're wrong about not executing, if not for some very poor luck you would've been right in the mix for a Kona slot. My money is on you learning from this...and in the long run you'll be smarter and more hungry for a break-through.

Shan said...

Nice work Denner!! You came away from the race with great perspective, more knowledge in the bank, and an understanding of what to work on in the future. I think all in all that's a pretty damn successful IM experience! That course looked gnarly but beautiful. One day I would like to tackle Silverman... :).

Hope all is well, and that you're getting the rest and recovery you deserve. Hope the knee starts behaving ASAP!

Slater Fletcher said...

This is a good RR dude! Even better is your attitude and your determination to FINISH! That was not an easy race and you overcame a lot to get to the finish line. Congratulations!

I am willing to swim with you anytime. I will drive down so we can practice our panic attacks in the water...just let me know when

Nick Brown said...

Dude, I would have been terrified if you ran up on me. ESPECIALLY if I knew I was just barely holding on to the last Kona slot w/o you and your ginormous calves in the mix. My anxiety may have boosted us into 2nd and 3rd.

This is a great race report man. Talk about ups and downs. You'll get your day, and when things do go well I'm pretty sure you'll be above "the mix".

Now go kick ass across America.

Xavi Garcia said...

Great job overall...despite of adversities!!

Cheersa froom Hong Kong!


Anonymous said...

good job on getting through it bro! hoping theknee heals quick!

Tawnee said...

You have an awesome attitude, and I bet your inner "caveman" is grumbling for a rematch!!! Curious to see which IM you'll take on next.

See ya around!

TRI-james said...

Nice report!

Rachel said...

Nice job despite the flat! Good work! It was great to see Michelle out there, all smiles!

Anonymous said...

It's great!!.............................................

Cusetri said...

great race ryan, and even better attitude!

some people hit the finish line and wonder, "what next?"

cleary you know, so go get it!

keep working hard.

Roo said...

"man is tested not when things are going well, but when he is faced with adversity"

That's what I'm talking about, buddy. Well done. Heal soon.

Trevor Howes said...

Debating my first Ironman and this was an awesome RR! Hope the injury is better and the running is going well!

Kacie Darden said...

Good report. I appreciate your putting it up. Tell me: what is the bike course really like? I know it's beautiful, but you said it wasn't so tough, right? The profile makes it look so hard that I was thinking that I would have to ride next year's race on a road bike. No? I hope that your knee is better.

Kacie Darden said...

Good report. I appreciate your putting it up. Tell me: what is the bike course really like? I know it's beautiful, but you said it wasn't so tough, right? The profile makes it look so hard that I was thinking that I would have to ride next year's race on a road bike. No? I hope that your knee is better.

Ryan Denner said...

Hi Kacie,

I hear what you are saying. I looked at the bike profile beforehand too, and thought it was going to be rough, and that a TT bike wouldn't be the best choice.

1. The course profile makes the course look way harder than it really is. The profile looks like you climb for 30+ miles each loop, but that is not the case. There are some stretches where you can really get some good speed going

2. My roomate (who qualified as well) used his road bike, and thought it was a horrible decision. Yes, it is a hilly course, but doesn't mean there aren't any flats. He was amazed at all the dudes that passed him on TT bikes on the flats (he ended up passing almost all of them on the run though since running is his strength).

Bottom line - go with the TT bike, train lots of hills, and enjoy a challenging, yet fair course.