Ultraman Race Report: Day 3
Each day at Ultraman felt like a huge success and the excitement was continuing to build. We were able to meet and get to know everyone more each day and there was a momentum from the previous days success. Finishing with a double marathon on the last day with some fatigue in the body and mind was as much an act of burning away anything we had left in us as it was the start of a celebration. Our 320 mile journey around the island was almost complete. We had no major mechanicals, no crashes, no injuries and we were learning everyday how to get better. And I was still feeling really, really good! After finishing in 3rd overall the first day I was happy to just finish the rest of the race. I had no expectations and just approached each day as another opportunity to discover something new and kept finding luck along the way. By the time we were standing in Hawi before the start of the run I remember thinking that I wish they had a 5 or 6 day triathlon stage race. However, after we finished the run it was very clear to me that anything that resembled “exercise” (or perhaps even movement) would be out of the question after pounding out over 50 miles on the Queen K.
I have been working on becoming a runner for the last year and it has had more of my focus than any other sport this season. After seeing some of the pictures of my posture from the race I know I still have a long way to go! . . .but I am excited about it and really do love running now. I feel like I have made the most progress at it but I am also well aware that I was not a true runner yet. As much as I could hit some harder efforts on the bike and recover I knew I was not there yet with running and 52.4 miles was MUCH than my body ever dreamed of running up to this point. An ultramarathon would have to be at my own pace and I had to be honest and humble with my start if I wanted to finish running. I had played it conservative in my first two Ironmans this year and was able to finish strong on the run. I cannot say the same for a few times in training and at the Xterra World Championships this year. The lesson was fresh in my mind. Day three would either start with me walking or end with me walking.
My goal for the run and pace was clear in my head. I would hold a run/walk strategy and if I got lucky I would still be in the top 10 overall when we finished the day. I grew confidence from people telling me I would be OK in going the distance but I had no intention of trying to keep pace with anyone. When we were all released to run I started with a nice brisk walk. Walking! That was the hardest part of the day for me mentally. I had to let everyone go and take a few deep breaths and tell myself it was better to get into my rhythm now because it is going to be a long day.
We had some cooler temps in the morning and a good deal of downhill in the first marathon but that was not necessarily a good thing when your quads need to carry you through yet another marathon afterward. As soon as we started getting around the first turn at Kwaihae the sun started coming up the fond memories of the Queen K heat returned to my mind. I kept on the fueling and hydration early and never changed my eating all day. Monique and Keevin would stop about every mile and give me water, Vitargo, some solid food (bar, potato, banana) and drench me in water. I got to mile ten feeling fresh and relaxed.
By about mile 16 I started catching people and I was still doing my power walking breaks every mile. At this point I started realizing I could keep my pace and I was doing everything I could to ensure I would be running the entire race. I also started to realize that there is only so much you can hold back because when your tired…your tired. As I moved through more and more people and and had to continue to check my watch for pace. The reality of my pace was that I was not running faster but that everyone else was already starting to slow. More focus went into keeping my own pace. The next ten miles did not come easy but I was now in a steady long run focus and I wanted to make sure I had a close split between my first and second marathon. Maybe not the smartest strategy looking back but this was a test for me to control my pace and err on the side of conservative (my second marathon ended up being about 8min slower).
My confidence stated to rise as I realized that I did not go out too fast and so far I was still feeling strong running. The next aid stop I had Keevin and Monique running back to me with some excited eyes. There were a few more runners up ahead and I was informed that one of them was Jonas and that he was walking. I had that same weird feeling that I got on day but this time I just put my head down and put one foot in front of the other. Jonas was not feeling it and I gave him a pat on the back, a word of encouragement and tried to keep a high cadence as I ran by him. The next aid stop I told Keevin and Monique that I did not want to hear any splits, where I was in the race or anything other than what I needed to finish the run. Unfortunately, they listened to me and I never got splits again for the rest of the day even when I was asking for them later.
Reaching the 30 mile mark I had passed a couple more people and had a thought along the lines of “holy crap, I just ran a marathon” and I kept plugging away. It was hot, it was hard and by now we were heading right into the middle of the lava fields. What I did not know is that most of the people were behind me now and I was going to run the rest of the way without seeing anyone else in the race. I had ran into third place behind Mike and Alexandre who were way out front. Getting messages from everyone during the race was pretty special and each mile had a unique tie into some good memories. I have wanted to run an ultra for a long time and this was the best way to get it done. The anticipation was now put into action and I was with friends. We had a view of the ocean the entire time over our right shoulder, I never had to carry a water bottle for more than a few steps at a time and I could yell at Monique and Keevin as much as I wanted and get zero backlash for it ;-)
I stopped to switch shoes at mile 35 and I started to focus on just getting to mile 45 at that point. “Ten miles is one lap around the back bay; just another easy training run”. Making it past the first marathon and feeling good was a big boost but I knew I would soon start counting down every mile. I had ran right into the gnar and did not even realize it. After talking with Keevin and Monique a few times when I was getting water I heard the sound of my own voice and it was strange. That man sounds tired! “Shut up and just kept running” I told myself and I had to expect to start feeling fatigue at some point.
Some of the things I was so worried about never became an issue. I kept eating solid food and pounding Vitargo at every mile. I never got to try my flat coke or soup broth and never needed more than my Vitargo rocket fuel. I figured if I was still putting away solid food I was going at the right easy pace. My feet never hurt the entire time, my quads felt great to the very last step and I never felt a limiter in my muscles (ten minutes after I stopped and the next day was another story). That pounding of pavement or twitch of cramps that I felt at the end of the Ironman marathons never came around. Keevin and Monique were ready to pace me but I just felt better holding my own rhythm. My pace stayed at about the same the entire day and I just started extending my walking breaks longer and longer. I started thinking about the training that Gordo had me doing to build durability and it was working. My “all day pace” was being put to the test and I got a kick at looking at my watch a few times and seeing over five hours of running ticking away. Now this…this is crazy.
The last few miles I started to let go of the power walking and just walked easy through the bottle hand offs with the team. Seeing the palm trees around the airport made me realize I was close and I stopped watching the miles. We were closing in on the hot lap around the island. The last few rollers on the Queen I was trying to draw some similarities between the Ironman course but I could not make the smallest comparison even while running down the same road. This was something very, very different. I still feel so lucky to be a part of it. We started working out some logistics so we could all run in the final mile or so together and Keevin went ahead to drop off the car and run back to Monique and I as we made the final right turn towards the airport.
It didn’t hit me then and two weeks later it still has not really sunk in…I am an Ultraman! Hard to wrap my head around the experience. We ran the final mile down the airport road that felt pretty challenging at the time but I was running the last mile and completing the journey with my wife and friends. Aloha!
In the race of things Mike set off at a blistering pace on the run and came from 3rd place after day two to take the win by over 20 minutes. He is a true gentleman, committed to ultraman and I am super stoked for him to be the World Champion. After I crossed the finish line I found out I was in third place for the run and second place overall but that Jonas had started running…and running fast. I managed to get in about 30 min ahead of him on the run but he rallied back to run in 2 minutes ahead of me in the overall for 2nd place. Jonas was struggling all day but he is a true champion and worked with his team to finish strong. It was an honor to participate and it added a lot of excitement for out team to be able to race with these guys.
|1||520||Mike Le Roux||M34||2:28:50||5:10:31||7:44:51||6:31:45||21:55:57|