Thursday, October 16, 2014

IM Boulder Naked Race Report

I tried to get this race update on here as soon after IM Boulder, but life just wouldn't allow that to happen. I hope that I haven't lost everyone, but sometimes we all need time to recharge. This time it has just taken longer than normal. It probably would have been even longer, but I was blessed with a couple of opportunities to talk to groups about why their health should be important. That always seems to bring me back to putting my life back out here. 

I actually am glad that it happened this way, because it has taken me this long to really process what it has meant to complete my first IM. Preparing and completing and Ironman is enough to complely deplete all of you, but along with that Susan and I were struggling with some opportunities that would mean we would be moving our family to somewhere completely new. It happens everyday with families, but it was a very serious discussion that made us really evaluate our life. I never anticipated how emotional it was going to be for me to get through this race, but then you add the stress of making a life changing decision. The reality is that all of this did me in.

Most of this post was written right after IM Boulder for my coach, TIm Key. The comments that are in blue are what I have added to it. So I hope even if you might never be interested in an IM race, stick around. I would say that IM is as close to seeing an entire lifetime of emotions happen in one day. You will see and feel your highest, but not until you have gone through some of your lowest points. Then it seems to happen all over again and again and again. Below is my best attempt of describing what it was like going through my first IM. I hope you enjoy, and if not please come back I will be up to the same old nonsense soon enough. 

Before we begin I didn't actually race naked regardless of the title to this blog, but I did decide to go without electronics (except my bike computer). I didn't want to know my HR in case the altitude was making it act goofy. I was under the belief that I knew how my body should feel, and it would tell me how far I could push it.


Morning Before Swim:

A few days before I stayed good and hydrated so I was feeling good on that point. I woke up around 3:30 and fixed 2 bagels. I tried to have PB on both but it was growing in my mouth so I really just had a little on the 2 bagels. Then I mixed a GU electrolyte drink to sip on for the morning. I sipped on this until the start of the swim. 

As I mentioned earlier I was going out without a watch or HR monitor. Not that big of a deal for the swim, but it would have some ramifications for me later in the day. I also didn't want to worry about my splits, and instead wanted to focus on finishing. Besides just finishing I knew my run has been developing over the last couple of years, and I was really hoping that if I made it to the run I would feel like running.

I really didn't feel nervous about the day until I was standing in the very slow port-a-potty line (or the port-a-pooper, as Allie would call it), and I was starting to think that I wouldn't get there in time for the start of the race. I really was giving that horrible time to think too much about what I was about to undertake. 

The swim was set up as rolling start. Which means they had signs up with approximate swim times, and you were to self seed yourself. Taking the advice of Tim and my friend Jerred I decided to slide in with the group at the front of the race.This seemed like a great idea at the time :)


I decided to start with the first swim group even if it was a little above what I can swim. When the cannon went off I was in the middle of this group. Things were good for the first few minutes, until I was halfway through the first leg of the swim. I suddenly had a bad side cramp that I knew was my diaphragm seizing. I don't think that I was swimming harder than I am accustomed, but I think that my pace combined with the altitude caused this. It was bad enough that I was having a very difficult time swimming at all. I knew enough that if I slowed my pace and slowed my breathing that my diaphragm should release. I made the first turn and it started to feel some better. I just tried to stay steady and keep my breathing every 3rd stroke, but I don't think that I was going near my usual pace. Then after making the next turn I finally started to realize it was releasing slowly, and it was getting much better. I started to stretch out my stroke some to see if that helped, but I kept my breathing at every 3. 

Throughout the swim I was in a crowd, but it was not too hard on me. Except once on the last leg when I got elbowed in the jaw. It brought me out the water, but I was able to get back in my rhythm quickly. Even with all of this in mind I was surprised to see that my swim was still within what I anticipated.

Susan and Jerred said that when they saw me I looked like I was not doing well, and of course they didn't know the tough time I had on the swim. I can say it now, but I was in enough pain at the time that it was a very real concern that I would not finish the swim. As bad as I looked coming out of the water I was really elated to just be done.


Coming out of the water I could feel that I had cramped bad enough that my side was actually sore to the touch. I tried to stretch it some, but it was just going to be part of my day. Looking back at the pics today I see the pain on my face from the swim. I really only remember being excited to be finished swimming! It was a fair distance to the change tent, and I walked part of this then started a slow jog. This made me feel better, and I was able to keep calm throughout the change. I was really focusing on not rushing, and not getting my breathing out of sorts again. I tried to jog in my bike shoes to my bike, but since my bike was at the very end of transition I had to take it a little easier. 

Thanks to Dr. Jaime Cooper and Coach Tim for giving me a lot of things to work on as far as nutrition goes. This was really the first race I have ever done that I really thought about what nutrition I was taking in to race. I know now how much of a difference a race can be if you get your nutrition right.


The night before I had packed enough gu chomps, gels, and salt sticks caps to make it to my special needs. I didn't memorize my nutrition plan or print it out, but instead I knew I had packed what I needed for the first half so I instead kept to a set pattern. I knew that I needed to be taking in either 2-3 gu chomps or a gel every 20 minutes along with 1-3 salt stick caps. The first hour I took in only 4 salt caps, because I was afraid of starting off too strong and getting GI distress early. I also made a decision the night before to add a water bottle on the front of my bike in case I needed more water. I know the golden rule is to not do something new the day of the race, but I was really worried that I was not going to have enough water between aid stations. Starting on my bike I had an insulated water bottle frozen with Gu Roctane, and the other two bottles with water.

This turned out to be a very wise gamble since I sweat like a circus freak!  

As soon as I was out of the park I took in my first gu chomp, but did not take in any salt stick caps until the next :20. My plan for the bike was to just manage the inclines, and pick up as much speed as I could on the declines. I would have added picking up speed on the flat sections, but I am pretty sure that I didn't ride on anything that was not either up or down. I knew that I was going to have a lot of people pass me on the bike, but I felt that if I just stayed steady on the bike I might be able to run and feel descent.

I stayed pretty consistent on my schedule of eating/salt every :20 minutes. What I didn't anticipate was that my Gu Roctane bottle stayed partially frozen for the whole first half. This did make it difficult to drink that bottle, but it helped keep me with a cold drink all day. Since it was frozen it made it important that I had that extra bottle. The aid stations were every 15 miles so I ended up taking in Gu chomps for most of the eating times, and then I always took in a gel at every aid station then took the time to fill up all water bottles. I wanted to make sure I was drinking enough water to offset the salt stick caps. Everything was very repetitive for the rest of the day, so I won't go into everything play by play.  

Coming into special needs I had used all of my salt stick caps and everything else except one gel. I had the amount down just right, and I felt good at this point and had good energy. I added some of the jerky (I am thinking of marketing it as Keebler Racing Jerky) to my bag plus a stinger waffle ( we hadn't talked about this, but I knew I could handle it and I wanted an alternative if the jerky didn't work out), more chomps, gels, more salt stick caps, and another frozen bottle of Gu Roctane. I hadn't tried the jerky out before this race (yes I know that was #2 on risky behavior for the day), but I thought that if it didn't taste good I would just throw it away.

Let me first say that the jerky was the absolute bomb!!! It hit the spot and provided me that lift in spirit that I needed. Also, the insulated bottle with Gu Roctane was actually still partially frozen. I couldn't believe it! Also, it was great to have a cold drink for several more miles. The only thing that worried me was that I didn't put in enough salt stick caps to fill the holder back up. I was worried that this might mean I would be out of salt for the end of the bike.

The rest of the bike was really uneventful I kept waiting to feel my energy or fatigue set in, but I really never felt like it happened. I actually was able to really power through some areas and pass several people.  I did start rationing my salt stick caps the last hour, and finished right on track. The last 2 hours on 2 of my eating sessions I did eat some more of the jerky and the stinger waffle. Luckily I never felt like I was having GI issues during the bike, and was really able to keep a nice consistent pace. 

I thought that it would be hard for me having all of these folks pass me on the bike, but I just kept in mind that it would be a long day for everyone. If I had any goal for the day besides finishing it was being able to feel good for the run, and at the point that I was coming off the bike I was feeling good and ready to be off the damn bike!!


This was an stupid long run with the bike after the dismount. I stayed in my bike shoes, but after running in them for part of it I decided to take them off to be more comfortable. This was a great idea until I hit black matts on a bridge, and then it went from bad to worse when I got on the black school track. It was hot as the sun and I could feel my feet starting to blister nearly right off. They did have some cardboard down, but when I got to my bag a guys started yelling at me to put on my shoes. I did as quick as possible, and that probably saved me. I sat in the changing tent and took my time getting my breath while putting on my run stuff. This probably could of been faster, but I was glad I took my time to catch my breath.  

I can't emphasis how crazy hot that track was barefoot. Other than that I was really surprised that I didn't feel bad at all. The other thing that I must note here is that the level of unabashed nudity was a little surprising, but then again who really cares after that long on your bike. 


Going out on the run I took a bottle with Gu Roctane, gels, and salt stick caps. I had decided that I would get chomps and Gu Gels on the course. I can not express how good I felt when I started running. I was expecting for my legs to feel like hunks of wood, but thankfully I felt great! I was actually a little apprehensive with this for the first few miles. I would get to the aid stations and take in water and walk some. Then take off again. One thing that I was not thinking about when I decided to not take a watch was that I would not know when to take in nutrition. So I decided that I would take in a gel the first aid station, and then take in salt stick caps the next aid station. Then I would keep repeating this pattern though the race. 

Told you the watch thing would come back to haunt me, but one thing I learned from this day was that you have to adapt. This really didn't work out to bad for me, and I was still glad to not know what my heart rate was during some parts of the race.

I was able to stay consistent and felt really good for the whole first loop. My legs felt strong and my energy/spirit never seemed to drop off. When I was able to get to the end of the first loop  there was so many people and a few familiar faces that I was really able to run strong. I was feeling so good that at one point I was smiling when I heard someone say that I looked like I was actually enjoying it! That could not have been more true.

Reading this part again still makes me smile! Nothing feels better then to be pushing your limits and enjoying it.

 I had known when I came off the bike that if I felt good I should try to see if I could run back some of the spots that I had lost on the bike. My very loose plan was to survive the race, but I also felt that if I saved enough I might be able to run back a few of the spots I lost on the bike.

Getting special needs on the run was a little goofy. You could either get it on the 10th miles or at the 12th mile. I accidentally grabbed it on the 10th, but didn't open it and waited until the 12th to get into it. I did put in more power bar gels, jerky, another Gu Roctane bottle, and salt stick tabs. I had gone through all of my salt stick tabs on the first round, and at this point I was feeling good with no GI distress of any sort. During the first loop I did not ever feel like I could eat the chomps, and stayed with the gels. Considering this I didn't even try the jerky and just replenished the salt stick tabs and the power bar gels. My stomach really felt good so I decided to not worry about the stomach meds. Looking back I probably should have taken them in case of any issues, but thankfully nothing major happened.

Turns out Susan was arguing with the head bag drop dude about whether or not I had touched my bag or not, and if I should be taking out anything from it. Needless to say the guy didn't say anything else to me.

I kept the same pattern that I had on the first loop of alternating gels and salt stick caps per aid station. I was only walking the space of the stations through the 16th mile. I did take in a couple of times during this phase some coke. I could tell that my energy was fading a little, but I still felt strong when I was running. One thing that I was surprised to see was how many people were puking on the run. This started getting me a little nervous and I kept waiting for that feeling to hit me. In my limited experience I have hit my marathon wall around the 16th mile, and I had it so ingrained in my mind that when I got to mile 16 I just starting walking more. Looking back I can't really tell you if that was just me or my body really telling me to do that.

Somewhere around the backside of the 2nd loop I had to act like I wasn't walking when I ran into and got to meet Craig Alexander. I also was able to get to meet and talk to one of the most inspirational athletes I have ever seen during the race Fireman Rob. This is one of the greatest things about this sport is that pros and amateurs alike compete right along side each other.

One thing that I did notice is that somewhere in the last 4-5 miles. Near the end I was getting nervous about stomach issues arising so I started cutting my salt sticks down to one every other aid station. It probably is good to note here that I did pee 3 times after the start of the run. So hydration was spot on! I would say that I was able to keep my pace better when I got back in the crowd, but the last 2 miles it was harder to hold it for the whole space between aid stations. I also got to the point that the last 2-3 miles I could not make myself take in gels anymore. I tried to drink some Gatorade and Coke, but I finally could only take in water. 

I did walk some before the last turn to the finish, but as soon as I turned it all seemed to go away. So many of you guys had told me that would happen, but it was so weird to be so down, and then for it to instantly disappear. 

Still the weirdest feeling in the world was for all of the pain to just go away that when I started to run up the finish shoot. It really helped seeing part of the Keebler Crew right before I finished, and then getting to see all of the crew at the end. The added bonus not only having family and friends there, but all of the folks from lubbock racing and spectating. We have all been seeing each other for years at races, and they really helped me understand how special it was to finally decide to race an IM and finish. Susan and I felt really welcomed into a great new racing family! Thanks everyone from the FlatOut Tri Club!!

Post Race:
I was extremely nauseous after the race, but I did try some chocolate milk after a few minutes after and that seemed to help. Then later I was able to eat a piece of pizza. We ended up having pizza that night with a couple of beers. The days following I have been constantly hungry. I know that I raced hard and had nothing left, but I was surprised and happy to not be totally hobbled for days. 

An Ironman is really a family affair. The athlete might do the training, but it takes all of the family and friends to get them to the finish line. My first IM could not have been in a more perfect place than Boulder, and yes it is one of the most beautiful places in the world that any endurance athlete would want to live. With that being said the main reason it was perfect was having those people surrounding you that are always there to pick you up and keep you going no matter what.

I can not ever put into words how much I was moved by the support and love from so many people during this last year of training for this race. Especially the Keebler Boulder Crew! It goes without saying that the largest amount of thanks needs to go to Susan and the girls for being so understanding during those long training days.

All the day's Gu food laid out.

Bike Drop off and then a hundred mile walk back to you car.

The girl's getting some extra cash for travel expenses.

The Keebler Crew! Need I say more.

Bike drop off. I think that I was actually scared s**tless at this point.

I'm the painful looking splash somewhere out there.

The one and only documented sighting of Mr. Hurst spectating a race. I am glad to say this will not be seen again :)

Heading out and trying to decide if I was still in pain.

This was the high point of the bike seeing a lot of the folks from Lubbock. It was great! Photo courtesy of Jon Mark Bernal

Near the end and all the bad magically going away. Hell my feet aren't even touching the ground :)

Here's Jerred giving me that last bit of encouragement to make it to the finish. After all the years of training, racing, and more than a few beers together this really meant a lot to me.

I started this blog and mission to help others, and this is the rock that it was built on.

At the end of the day sometimes you just need a cold river to heal your wounds.

Until next time,