Part 1: Pre-Race
It's 2am. I've finally gotten everything packed away and set up the way I want it for 5am when I'm supposed to be up. I know that I'll not get much sleep before the start of the Redman, but I always have problems sleeping the night before a race anyway. At least I'm spending the time being productive and not tossing and turning in bed, getting into that weird half-sleep coma where your mind won't completely shut off but your body has to rest all the same. I give everything one last look-over, check off my list, and then crawl into bed for a not-so-restful sleep.
It's 5am. My alarm is going off and I know I need to get up. I also know that if I hit snooze, it could be 10am before I open my eyes again and I'll have missed the race. Luckily, I set about three alarms - a habit I developed when I really really need to be up for something - and so by 5:30 I'm up and getting myself ready for the race. My wife, Carrie, gets up with me and starts to cook my breakfast. This year it's five eggs and some sausage. I've been doing a Ketogenic diet since February and I wanted to get my energy from the fat and protein of the meat and eggs, and not the quick energy from a carb-loaded breakfast bar (plus I threw up one of those 2 years ago after the swim and they've not been terribly appetizing since).
Carrie offers to help me put on my TriTats (my race numbers), but I tell her that I can handle it and to just finish breakfast. I get my tats on then into the kitchen, where Carrie has put my breakfast in a container and hands me it and a fork and a napkin. I thank her, reach in the fridge to grab my Powerade Zero's that I'll drink on the way to and at the race, then get dressed as I'm going over my list one final time. Everything looks good so I load up the car. Carrie has decided to go in the morning to see me off, but since I won't even be getting into the water until about 7:45am, a full two hours from now, she won't be riding with me nor following me. She grabs a quick pic of me, I kiss her, and I'm out the door.
It's 6:15am. I'm leaving the house a bit later than I want to, but experience has taught me that as long as I'm within the transition area by the time it closes, I won't have a problem getting everything ready. I finally arrive at Lake Hefner about 6:40am. I park then take the shuttle over to the race start area. As I enter, there's a guy checking wrist bands. He looks immediately familiar and I recognize him as the pastor at LifeChurch Yukon, Jeff Moore! We had talked triathlon before (he's a triathlete himself), but I didn't know he was volunteering for Redman. We chatted briefely, then I entered, set all my stuff down and started laying out my gear for the day. I go and get my timing chip then take my bike to the front of transition where there's a group from Schlegel Bicycles that are airing up tires and doing last-minute quick repairs on bikes. I get my tires properly inflated (it was a cold night and cold morning, so I didn't trust they'd retain the proper PSI), then re-racked my bike. I decided this year that I would put 100 calorie packs of almonds on my bike and eat them at each bike aid station on the way in addition to whatever else was available that fit within the confines of my Keto diet. As I was putting all that together, the guy next to me struck up a conversation. He mentioned that he recognized me from the Redman Facebook page, and we got to talking about triathlon and how we got started.
My nerves must have been getting to me, because I think I sat there and told him my whole weight-loss story starting back with my wreck in 2010. If you're out there reading this, I'm sorry man. In fact, I know I talked way too much because right when I was done he excused himself and walked off to go do something else and I didn't see him again until his group was called to get in the water. I then turned to the guy on the other side of me and he informed me that he heard my story as well as I started to tell it. I laughed, but even I could tell that I was getting annoying. He was a nice guy though and we wished each other good luck.
Transition was closing and I had to finish up. I was wearing a hoodie and sweatpants over my swimtrunks as it was about 50 degrees that morning. I found out that I had to get out of the bike area at 7:15 when the race started, so I reluctantly stripped down to my swimtrunks, goggles, and swim cap, then headed over to the swim start.
Part 2: The Swim
It's 7:10am. I'm freezing. I'm pacing around, but the choices for my feet are jagged and uncomfortable asphault or freezing dew covered grass. Emily Sutton from Newschannel 4, who is doing the full Aquabike (or perhaps it was a full relay?), sings the national anthem. She does a great job and everyone is pumped. The air is absolutely electric. A large crowd has gathered at the edge of the lake and everyone is ready for the race to start. Unlike the last two years, we actually had a lot of rain and so the lake is full and even high in some areas. The race is going to start off the boat ramp like it's supposed to, but this means that each wave of racers has to get in the water before they fire the gun for the race start. This has me worried because I don't have a wetsuit and if it's that cold in the air, I cannot imagine what the water will be like.
It's 7:15am. The first wave enters the water. The gun fires, and the 2013 Redman Triathlon has begun. I know that I have about 30 minutes before it's time for me to get in the water, so I continue to pace and try to stay warm while I look for Carrie. 10 minutes later, a large group of half-iron distance triathletes load into the chute to get ready to get into the water. I look over the crowd to see if I recognize anyone and sure enough, I see Steve Schlegel, owner of Schlegel Bicycles downtown. Two years ago, Steve was generous enough to give me a bike on permanent loan so long as I continued to ride it. I nearly broke that promise in 2012, but I buckled down in 2013 and rode the hell out of that bike as I got ready for Redman 2013. I gave him a high five and wished him luck. It was good to see a familiar face.
It's 7:30am. Carrie shows up and we hug over the fence separating the spectators from the triathletes. We talk for a minute and I explain to her the setup of the swim course. Two years ago, I really under-trained for the swim. It was completely on accident as I thought the pool I was using was a lot longer than what it really was. This year, I trained at the pool at OCCC so I knew that I was getting the right distances in. This also helped in knowing about exactly how long it would take me to complete the swim. One hour, thirty minutes was my guess and that's what I told Carrie. We hung out for a bit longer, and Jeff came over and we all chatted for a bit. Finally, my wave was called and it was time for me to get into the chute. I kiss Carrie for good luck, then head around to the boat ramp.
It's 7:45am. My heart is pounding out of my chest. It's do or die time. We are released to enter the water. I walk under the Redbull inflatable that marks the start of the Redman. I get closer to the water and I worry immensely that it's going to be so cold that it will be difficult to swim. My feet enter the water and...it's surprisingly warm. I get excited that it won't be too bad, then I get more excited when I look up to see my good friend and Redman Swim Director, Levi Graves. I didn't expect to see Levi at the start, as he was out in a boat two years ago. Hell, he was the one that pushed me to get back to shore and finish the swim. I gave him a big hug and I think he got a face full of armpit hair. Dude's short and I'm tall, what can I say? We chatted for a couple seconds when it was time to really get into the lake. My first thought was that it was just going to be warm in the shallow parts, but turns out the whole lake felt really warm. In actuality, I think the lake was somewhere around 75 degrees, but compared to the crisp 50 degree air, it felt awesome. A surge of confidence ran through me and then the gun fired. Go time.
The course was set up as a very long, very thin rectangle. I knew that on the leg going out we would be on the shallower side and the rules state that so long as you don't leave the water, you can stop, stand up, walk, really whatever you want and you're still considered "swimming" and legal. My plan was to stick somewhat close to shore so I could stop and get a breather when I needed to. That plan quickly fell through as I started swimming, because on the fly I decided it would be better to stick as close to the bouys as possible to not swim any more than I had to. When they fired the gun, I was still a good 150 yards from the bouy line that marked the right side of the course, so I started swimming at an angle to get as close to the bouys as possible.
After some time and effort, I finally reached the bouy line, then corrected course. One tough thing about going from a pool swim to an open water swim is that with a pool, you have boundaries on either side of you and a stopping place where you have to turn around. With an open water swim, you have none of that, plus you can't see because the water is so murky. In the pool, I would stop every 25 yards, and grab a quick rest and breath as I was turning around to go back to the other end of the pool. Sure, it may have only been a couple seconds, but those start to add up pretty quick. Out in the lake I had no such luxury so while I had swam the 1.2 miles plenty of times, I had never really strung together large chunks of the distance while swimming non-stop. About 300 yards in, I was starting to get winded. In my excitement, I started out too fast and didn't pace myself at all, no matter how hard I tried. I also had the weird problem of continually running into the small bouys. One time when I ran into one I got out of my swim position to try and manuver around it and as my feet went below the water, I hit solid ground. Elated, I stood up and took a huge breath. I pulled off my goggles, which at this point were fogging up pretty badly, and cleared them out. I was breathing pretty hard and decided to see how far I could walk. I took a few steps then I heard one of the lifeguards ask me if I was okay. I waved him off and said I was fine, just getting a breather. I walked a few more steps and could tell that if I kept it up I was going to burn out my legs, plus I wanted to swim as much of the swim course as possible.
As I was swimming and coming up to the big orange bouys that help guide swimmers around the course, I kept thinking they were the last one only to look up and see more further down the lake. I think a couple times I even questioned whether Levi properly measured out the course (he did). 86 laps in the pool doesn't really seem that far when you're doing it, but 1.2 miles is a hell of a long way in open water. Finally, I reached the last orange bouy and was able to make the turn home. I also knew that this meant there was no more shallow water and if I needed to stop now, I'd need to get the attention of one of the lifeguards for assistance. I rounded the other orange bouy and turned towards home. I had made it halfway relatively easy, but the problems were just about to start.
It's 8:30am. I have 6/10 of a mile left to swim. Knowing that I no longer have the relative safety of a shallower side of the lake coupled with my energy starting to dwindle, I begin to panic a bit. I tried to clear my mind and focus only on my swimming and not worry about it. I know that I've done the distance and can complete it, but even so there's doubt circling in the back of my mind. Anytime you swim, and especially when swimming in open water, you have spot your location every so many strokes. I hadn't moved too far past the first bouy on the return side of the course and already I was getting way off course. I should have been swimming straight and angling to my left but instead I started angling to the right. I stopped swimming and was treading water, trying to get by bearings and correct course when it hit me: a cramp. The cramp was in my right calf and I believe I cursed and told myself that this shouldn't be happening. I had eaten plenty and drank plenty of fluids and electrolytes before the start of the race. I paniced even more. I did my best to push it out of my mind and started swimming again. The kicking of my legs eventually got the cramp to subside and I was able to swim more normal again.
I kept moving down the course, trying to keep my mind clear and stay on course. After a while I spotted where I was and realized that once again I was swimming off to the right and away from the bouy line. I stopped again to tread water and correct course when the second cramp hit my right calf. This time I really paniced and had to call over a lifeguard. He paddled over in his canoe and threw me a pool noodle to grab onto. I must have been outwardly panicing because he offered me a second one when I was having trouble staying afloat.
"Everything okay?" He asked.
"Yeah, just need a breather," I lied in reply. I was freaking out a bit but I didn't want to say anything about that or my cramps and risk getting pulled out of the water. I took a few minutes to collect myself and clear out my goggles. When I felt like I had calmed down enough I thanked him and swam away. I started to notice that the sun was in my eyes to the left and if I looked towards it while underwater, the water in that direction was noticeably brighter than when I looked to the right. I decided that I could use the sun as a, well, guiding light to get me back to the bouy line. This worked and before I knew it, I was back on course.
As I continued to swim my mind wandered and I thought about the problems I was already having, namely the cramping which almost cost me the race in 2011. My family was supposed to come out later in the day to see me on the run course and I didn't want to let them down. I wanted them to be able to see me completing this race. I also didn't want to let down all the countless other people and friends and family that were rooting for me. The pressure I suddenly put on myself to finish caused me to panic, which caused me to stop, which brought back the right calf cramp for the third time. I started kicking my right leg but it felt dead. I was about 3/4 done with the swim and started to doubt I could finish. On top of all that, with my mind wandering I stopped paying attention to where the sun was and I once again drifted off course.
It was at this point I knew I had two options: I was either going to quit or I was going to clear my mind, focus on my strokes and where the sun was, and not think about anything else but that. If I couldn't finish then I couldn't finish, but I had to give myself a fighting chance. I knew that if I could get out of the water that I could finish the race. I started to swim again even though my right leg was more or less useless. I focused on my stroke - 1, 2, 3, 4/breathe...1, 2, 3, 4/breathe - and made sure that I always had the bright sun right in my face. I stopped trying to spot where I was, knowing that keeping the sun in my face would guide me home.
1, 2, 3, 4/breathe...1, 2, 3, 4/breathe
Out of nowhere, I heard someone yelling out my name. I knew immediately who it was. Jordan, a fraternity brother and good friend of mine was a lifeguard. I also knew that he was stationed towards the beginning of the course. I wanted to stop and acknowledge him but I knew that if I did I might cramp up again. I only heard about half of what he yelled at me because my head was underwater half the time. I could tell, though, that he was encouraging me along and telling me to not give up. Not long after, the sun disappeared. I knew this meant that I was behind one of the big orange bouys. I looked up to see where I was and was surprised to see that I was at the turn for home. Apparently by shutting off my mind and focusing on my stroke count and the sun moved me along further than I thought.
I made the turn back to shore. Jordan was still encouraging me even though I hadn't done so much as give him a wave or any other acknowledgement that I could even hear him. I swam past the start bouy and put my feet down. Nothing. Water. No land. I swam a little further and put my feet down. Nothing. Water. No land. Frustrated, I swam a bit more thinking that I really should be able to stand up at any moment. For a third time I put my feet down. Solid ground. I stood up and the water was up to my neck. I didn't care. I had made it around the course and only asked for help one time. It was a glorious feeling. I continued to walk forward and suddenly stubbed my toe. I had run into the boat ramp. I stepped up onto it and hurried towards shore. Jordan yelled out behind me and I was finally able to acknowledge him. We shouted back and forth for a minute and he congradulated me while I thanked him for all the encouragement even if I didn't say anything back while swimming. I continued up the ramp and Levi was there cheering. I ran up and have him a cold, wet hug. I then ran towards the swim chute and saw Carrie to my left. I smiled to her and she took a picture of me. I ran under the Redbull inflatable and across the timing mat: 1:32:36
Part 3: The Bike
It's 9:15am. I turned around and looked out over the lake. There were still swimmers coming in which was a great feeling as I was the very last person out of the lake in 2011. I walked back towards the transition area and Carrie followed me to where we first found each other. She gave me a huge hug and a kiss and told me how proud of me she was. I thanked her and told her where to find me after I had changed into my stuff for the bike.
I entered transition and grabbed my bag. I went to the changing tent and changed into my bike clothes. I also put sunscreen on, something I didn't so in 2011 that I came to regret. After I was changed I went out, put my stuff up, downed nearly a whole bottle of Powerade Zero, and started walking my bike to the start of the bike course. I saw my trainer Ryan Ellis and with a huge smile on his face congradulated me on finishing the swim and told me how proud of me he was. We talked briefly about my times and how I finished the swim in the exact amount of time I thought I would. He told me that he'd be out on the run course later and where to look for him. I thanked him and we parted ways. Next, I saw Carrie and hugged her again. She asked me what time I thought I'd be done and I told her I thought about 6pm. She said she'd be back then, she loved me, and wished me luck. I hugged her again, thanked her, and told her I would see her later in the day. I went to the start of the bike course, got on my bike, and took off.
Carrie was waiting for me and tried to get a picture of me on my bike. She got a great shot that was unfortuntely blocked by a volunteer. I waived to her as I passed and I was off. Out of the water and onto my bike, I was feeling great. My formerly cramping right calf was back to normal and my legs felt strong. I made it around the lake and to the first bike aid station. Due to my paranoia from all my cramping on the bike in the 2011 race, I decided that I would stop at every bike aid station and eat and drink. At this first bike aid station, I stopped and asked for a bottle of water. I was offered various foods and decided to have a banana for the added electrolytes and some quick energy. My plan was to have no (or very little) carbs throughout the race but Ryan and I talked about it a few days prior and decided that it wouldn't hurt to have some carbs, especially since I would burn right through them as I went through the race and it wouldn't hurt me. I ate the banana and my first bag of almonds. I finished the bottle of water and got another two bottles that I racked in my bike. I thanked the volunteers and got back on my bike.
Everything was smooth sailing for the next several miles. I knew where the next bike aid station was since I had ridden the course before I didn't have to worry too much about what lay ahead. I cruised up MacArthur and past Memorial road. I was beyond the blocked city streets and into the more dangerous but less-trafficed country roads. Things were going great until I got to about 164th street. It was at that point that it hit me. Something very unexpected. I had to pee. So. Bad. Apparently in my attempts to stay hydrated and stave off any cramps. I drank a lot more than I needed to. It wasn't bad so I kept pedling. I knew there were port-a-potties at the next bike aid station and if I could make it there I'd be fine. I kept pressing forward but with every 1/10 of a mile I had to pee even worse. Somewhere around where Danforth Ave. would be if Danforth ran through MacArthur, I seriously considered getting off and running into the trees to pee. I was so close to doing it, but I got paranoid that I would be seen and somehow disqualified for peeing on the course. I decided I'd keep riding and the next grouping of trees I saw, I'd stop. I was in that much pee-pain.
I got another mile and there was a large grouping of trees. I hadn't seen anyone in a while and no official race vehicles. I knew that I had to stop and that there was no way I'd make it to the bike aid station. I crested a hill and above the tree line I saw one of the greatest sights I saw on the course all day: the stadium lights for Deer Creek high school. I knew from the 2011 race that Deer Creek high school was the location of the bike aid station and it was dead ahead. I decided that I could make it after all and so ditched my plans to pee off the road in the trees. Deer Creek high school was about a mile away and I couldn't finish that mile fast enough. When I finally passed Covell Rd. and pulled into the bike aid station, I told the nearest volunteer to hold my bike. I jumped off and ran to the port-a-pottie. You ever have one of those pee's where you had to go so bad that you feel like a new person when you're done? That was this pee. I finished and cleaned my hands with some hand sanitizer. I came out, ate some almonds and drank another bottle of water. Once that was done I went back into the port-a-pottie and pee'd again. Seriously. I imagine the volunteer probably thought there was something wrong with me.
I reloaded my water on my bike, thanked the volunteer who helped me out, and took off once again. The next couple miles were uneventful. At Sorghum Mill Road some jerk in a big truck that was being held up by a police officer from crossing the road spun his tires right as I was coming through the intersection and scared me. Luckily I didn't lose control of my bike. I made it to Waterloo Rd. and excitedly made the turn west. I was feeling great and very positive about my body, my training, and the race thus far. At Morgan Rd. another wave of pee hit me. This was not as bad as the first one, but I still needed to go pretty badly. I couldn't recall where exactly the next bike aid station was, but I thought I could make it.
After a while longer, I pulled into bike aid station 3. I once again hopped off my bike and ran straight to the bathroom. When I was finished I came out and talked with some of the volunteers for a while while I ate another banana, some almonds, and this time had a Gatorade. I was only 2.5 miles from the turnaround. I thanked the volunteers and got back on my bike. As I was riding out to the turnaround, a guy in a motorcycle came flying by me. It startled me and irritated me a bit that he'd be going so fast. I got to the turnaround and made the turn back to the lake. I was still feeling really good but it had become a lot hotter. On the way back to the bike aid station the guy in the motorcycle came flying by again. As he did, I yelled out to him to slow down using a lot more colorful language. Of course he didn't hear me, but it made me feel better all the same. I made it back to the bike aid station and did the bathroom/eat/drink routine. I rested for a bit longer under a tent to try and cool down. When I felt like I was reenergized I got back on my bike. As I was pulling out, I looked to my right and there was the guy on the motocycle. I realized then that he was a race official and was checking out the course. Whoops.
It was at this point in the race in 2011 that I really started having cramping problems. Every inch past bike aid station 4 was an improvement on my race in 2011. I was a lot more concientious about what gear my bike was in. I had been having problems a couple weeks before the race with my gear shifter and had decided that I would put it in a semi-easy gear and use that for the whole race, only changing if I absolutely had to. At around Morgan Rd. I decided to try and play with my gears as the hills were starting to become tougher. I moved my gear around a bit and unfortunately the same problems arose. I ended up kicking my bike into a much tougher gear and was having a problem getting it out. I decided to just stay on that gear for a while but when I came up to and started climbing the next hill, I could feel my thighs tighten up and start acting like they were going to start cramping. I immediately fiddled with my gear settings until I got the bike to drop down to an easier gear then continued on.
I made it back to Waterloo and MacArthur and turned back south. As I write this I'm looking back at the course map for reference on what streets I was on and looking at the map, it honestly doesn't seem that far, but when you're tired those miles seem longer and the hills seem higher. Still, I was thrilled that I had made it this far and not had any serious issues, especially with my body. I took it easy, peddling up the hills and coasting down. I wasn't in it to win the race, so I wanted to make it as easy on myself as I could and not put myself into any danger. Eventually I made it back to bike aid station 5 (same as bike aid station 2). I stopped and again with my routine - bathroom/eat/drink. This time I sat under a tent where another triathlete was also resting. I recongnized her as someone I had passed in the water. She must have been tearing it up on the bike or was a lot faster through transition than I was because she was also a half-distance athlete and headed back to the lake. I could tell she was struggling a bit and so I offered her some advice. Mainly to drop to easier gears going up hills to save her legs and also that we were about 3/4 done with the bike. We ate and drank a bit longer then decided to get back on the road.
My new tri friend took off before me and made the immediate turn west down Covell. I followed a couple minutes later. She was doing great and stayed well ahead of me. I passed a spot between MacArthur and Rockwell where I thought I was going to give up in 2011. My cramps were so terrible that I could see the muscle moving under my bike shorts. That was my lowest point of the race in 2011 and so when I passed it with legs that felt great it gave me quite the burst of energy. I made it to Council and turned back south. I was still trailing but not by much. I eventually overtook my friend and told her she was doing great and to keep it up. I rode along, a few other triathletes passing me. It was early afternoon at this point and even though the high was only around 80 degrees, it was a very warm 80. I was starting to really get tired and knew that I should be coming up to a new bike aid station soon. My butt was starting to get pretty sore from sitting on the bike for around 4 hours at that point.
I passed 150th street and crested a hill when I saw the familiar white tents of another bike aid station. I was even more excited because I knew it was the last bike aid station before I got back to the lake and all the roads past that station were alot less hilly and easier to ride. I went up and down another hill then I was at bike aid station 6. I stopped once again - bathroom, food, water and Gatorade - and rested once again under a tent. My tri friend pulled in a few minutes later and we chatted some more. I assured her that after the fairly steep hill to go past Memorial and onto the bridge that went over the turnpike that everything smoothed out quite a bit. I decided to get back on my bike and go while she stayed behind to rest some more. I got back on my bike, water replinished in my bottle racks, and took off for the last 5 miles back to the lake.
I got back into Oklahoma City and once again, we had a blocked off bike lane. At this point in 2011 I was so late coming in that all the police that were controlling traffic had left and I had to navigate the last few miles of the course by stopping at stoplights. This time, the police presence was still there and it made it much easier to get through the city. I thanked every police officer and volunteer as I rode past. I made the turn back east on Britton Rd. I could see the lake when I was at the top of the hills. Nearly 56 miles and not a single problem with my legs. Two more miles, and I was riding through the intersection of MacArthur and Britton. I came up the hill to get onto the lake dam and almost didn't make it. That hill is very steep and I pumped as hard as I could. I did make it up, however, and stopped at the very last bike aid station on the bike course - bike aid station 1. Shockingly, I didn't need to use the bathroom this time so I just ate some food and drank a bit more. I didn't refill my water cages since I was just a quick ride around the dam to finish the bike leg of the race. When I was done, I thanked the volunteers and took off. I made the ride around the lake which was a bit cooler as there was a breeze. Finally, 56 miles and no cramps later, I rode across the finish line of the bike course. I predicted I'd finish the bike between 5 and 6 hours. My time? 5:32:37
Part 4: The Run
It's 3:30pm. I rack my bike and go to the changing tent to get out of my bike shorts. Once I'm changed I grab a bottle of water I had on my bike and walk out of transition and onto the run course. I'm now just 13.1 miles away from finishing the race. I walk as I finish the water bottle, then once I've finished it I attempt to jog. Surprisingly, I'm able to jog really well. In 2011 I jogged all of about 10 feet before my legs cramped up and I had to stop. Not this year. I was getting pretty tired but my legs felt good and I was able to switch off between jogging and walking.
I walked by an RV with a group of guys out front setting up a grill. I jokingly asked them for a rib and they said they weren't ready yet but to check back with them on my way back. I little further ahead, I came around a corner behind Louie's restaurant and there was Conquer Training and my trainer Ryan Ellis with his wife Andrea and other Conquer Training folks. They cheered for me and Ryan came over and gave me a big hug. We chatted for a bit about how the day had gone and I told him that I was feeling great and so were my legs. He was really excited for me and gave me some tips to get through the run. We took a picture then I was off again.
About half a mile later I came across my mom and two of her friends! It was great to see them. I stopped once again and hugged everyone. I was happy that I didn't give up during the swim earlier in the day and was able to see them and they were able to see me. We talked for a while and I told them that I was feeling great and my legs were in great shape. We eventually finished up and after taking a few pictures, I was once again off. I continued the walk/jog routine for about another mile. It was very hot and there was practically no shade on the course. My right little toe was also hurting and I was developing a blister - something that I had been having problems with on my long bike rides and that worsened as I continued on the run course. I came to a run aid station and I was crazy hungry. While I had done well enough eating and drinking on the bike, I had clearly been burning up all of the food that I had taken in. I grabbed part of a turkey sandwich and a few other things and started eating. It went down fast and my stomach immediately started feeling better.
Continuing on, the heat was really starting to get to me. I could tell that it was absolutely zapping my energy and even with a hat and wet sponge I was feeling the effects. At the next aid station I ate more food and got more water and Gatorade to drink. I knew that I was starting to get to a point where I wouldn't have any energy left so I completely ditched the little-to-no carb plan and just started eating what I could to try and give myself enough to get through. Moving on from that aid station I eventually made it to the halfway point of the run course. I stopped at the medical tent and had a seat. I told them that my toe was getting a blister and I needed something to try and ease the pain. They put a band-aid on my toe to try and help. As they were finishing me up, I saw my tri friend who I met on the bike. She walked by and we waved and encouraged one another. When the medic was finished, I went to stand up and I could tell that my legs were getting really tight. I knew that I didn't have much left in them. I continued back towards the turn-around of the run course, eating and drinking what I could along the way. I had more or less abandoned any attempts to run or even jog at this point and was more focused on walking as fast as I could.
I made it back to Louie's and saw Ryan again. He walked a couple hundred yards with me, talking about how I was feeling and encouraging me that I only had a little bit left. He told me the most important thing is to keep moving forward, but that I should move forward as fast as I could to get it over with faster. I thanked him and kept walking. I came back across the RV with the grill and asked about the ribs. They weren't ready yet. Continuing on, I could see the turnaround in the distance. In 2011 I was so late getting back on the bike that my wife, Carrie, had already been waiting a few hours by the time I got to the turnaround, but I didn't know if she would be at the race site yet as I was making pretty good time. I entered the chute and turned to the right to go to the turnaround. I passed the kid zone and saw my co-worker John Pitt who was running the kid zone with his wife. He gave me a high five and encouraged me forward. About 50 yards later, I heard someone cheering for me. I looked up to see my wife and my sister-in-law, April, standing at the fence and holding up signs!
It was great to see them and the signs they made were awesome. I gave them both big hugs and recapped my day up to that point. I told them when I started the run that I was feeling good but that the sun and they day in general had caught up to me and I was starting to really wear down. They offered their encouragement and told me to keep going. I went forward a little more and crossed the timing mat: 2:31:55 (lap 1)
It's 6pm. I walked back by Carrie and April and gave them hugs once again, told them I'd see them at the finish, and I was off once again. I exited the turnaround chute and got back on the course. I passed the RV grill guys again and they were just getting the meat on. I told them I wanted a rib when I got back and they laughed and said they would save one for me. I was moving slower now and even though the sun was getting lower in the sky it was still very warm. I made it to Louie's and once again saw Ryan. He asked me how it was going and I updated him. He encouraged me to try and jog as much as I could and to break up the remainder of the race into smaller pieces so it wasn't so mentally overwhelming. We walked for a bit, talking, then I told him to go ahead and go back to his tent and I'd see him on the way back.
I continued to move forward, eating and drinking what I could as I came up to various aid stations. My mind started messing with me the more my legs tightened and became sore. There's a reason why long-distance triathlon's are considered just as much mental as physical. When you're out there on the course all alone and all you have is a drained and sore body and no one to talk to, it's very easy to get up in your head and start arguing with yourself about whether you should just give up or at least sit down. In 2011 I had April with me to help stave that off but this year I was on my own and the negative "you can't do it" thoughts were pervasive. I jogged one last time about a 1/3 of the way through the course. I actually made it farther than I thought but once I stopped I knew that that would be it. I was done with doing anything but walking for the rest of the day.
The sun was slipping closer and closer to the horizon. I had predicted a finish between 8 and 10 hours but it was looking more and more like that wasn't going to happen. I then started thinking that perhaps I could beat the sunset. Afterall, I had started the run at 3:30. Surely it couldn't take me that long to finish 13.1 miles, right? I got to the turnaround at the halfway point in the course. My feet were hurting and my blister was getting worse. The muscles on the insides of my thighs were really aching and a couple times I could feel the twinge of a cramp coming on. I more or less stopped eating and only sipped what water I could. My stomach was feeling sloshy and I imagine it's because I drank too much water and yet I still felt thirsty. I plodded forward. I tried to turn my mind off and just concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other. It was slow going but fortunately I still had the wherewithal to recognize when I was going too slow and pick up my pace. With about 2 miles to go, I passed some benches overlooking the lake. I thought long and hard about stopping for a minute and having a seat to give my legs some rest. The temptation was unbelieveable but in the back of my mind I knew that if I did then I'd likely not get back up. Hard as it was, I passed the benches and kept moving.
My eyes glazed over and I was on autopilot. I stopped talking to other athletes or volunteers until I absolutely had to. I just made my body keep moving forward and tried not to think about anything else. Shockingly, this autopilot caused my legs to move faster and I ended up walking at a rather brisk pace. Another mile later I saw Ryan again. He and his wife, Andrea, started walking with me. The sun had now set and it was starting to get pretty dark. So much for beating the sunset, but it was still a great feeling because in 2011, it was full dark when I made it to the halfway point of the run so I was still killing my time from two years prior. We talked about the race and how I was feeling. A cart came by and gave me a glowstick so I could see where I was going. After a few hundred yards I told Ryan and Andrea that they could go back to their tent but they told me they were committed at that point and would walk with me to the finish. We passed the RV grill guys and they had kept their promise. They offered me a rib but I politely declined. As much as I absolutely love ribs I didn't feel like eating anything at that point.
The lights of the finish line were straight ahead. Ryan and Andrea broke off and told me that they would see me at the finish line and Ryan said he wanted to see me run across, not walk. A lot of the groups that had been set up and watching the race earlier in the day were now packed up and gone. The few that remained were very encouraging and cheered when I said it was my last lap. Finally, the chute to the finish was in front of me. I started into it and walked forward. A guy passed me. When I was about 20 feet from the finish line, I started running. After over 12 hours of swimming, biking, and running, I crossed myself and went across the timing mat and finish line. 2:38:31 (lap 2) / 5:10:26 (full run)
Part 5: Post Race
It's 8:30pm. My total time was 12:47:00. I beat my 2011 time by about 2 1/2 hours. I crossed the finish line and with the announcer reading my thank-you's, I gave my wife a huge hug. Everyone was cheeing and it was a great feeling. I then gave April a hug and moving down a little more, gave Ryan a hug. I thanked him for everything and he left to go back to the Conquer Training tent. Carrie and April came around and I told them I wanted to go to the medical tent to be looked over. I got my finisher's medal then went to the med tent. I informed them of some of the issues that I had had and that my legs were extremely tight. I asked them to just have someone give me a quick lookover and make sure I was okay to be released.
A phyisical therapist came over and had me sit in a chair. He took my vitals and asked some questions. When he was finished he cleared me to go home. My legs were so sore that I had a hard time standing up and needed help. I managed to stand up and suddenly everything around me was going gray. I could see my vision disappearing to pinpoints and all the sound around me was becoming muddled then quieter and quieter. The next thing I knew, I was sitting back down in the chair and had gobs of medical staff around me. Apparently when I stood up, my blood pressure changed enough that I more or less passed out and was grabbed just in time by a couple of the medical staff before I fell flat on my face.
I was moved to a gurney and had to lay with my legs above my head. Almost immediately I became fully aware of where I was and what was going on. They started an IV and covered me up with blankets because while the afternoon as hot, once the sun went down the evening cooled off quite rapidly. At one point, the race director David Wood came over to say hi and check on me. Earlier in the day before the start of the race, I saw his wife Peggy and she jokingly said the didn't want to see me in the medical tent this year like she did in 2011. I told her that I had trained a lot better and shouldn't end up in the medical tent. I then had to recant that statement to David and ask him to deliver an apology to his wife for me whom had left earlier in the day. While I was still laid back I explained the blister situation. The volunteer that was looking after me removed my shoe and sock and the physical therapist came over to look at my toe. He removed the bandaid and said there was no blister but the toe was really red. I never did end up developing a blister, but I think I do have a callus on that toe. After examining my foot, it was decided that I was rehydrated well enough that I could be sat up like normal. Fortunately, my blood wasn't like molasses and was able to properly move through by body so I ran no risk of passing out. My wife struck up a conversation with the guy next to me and she took this picture of us:
After about 2 hours in the medical tent and two liters of IV drip, I was released to go. My legs were still tight and it was a bit hard for me to stand up, but I managed and once I was on my feet, felt a lot better. As we were leaving the medical tent, Levi walked by and congradulated me on my finish.
Carrie, April, and I walked back to the transition area and I recovered my bike and my race bag. We had all parked at the medical complex across from Lake Hefner so we made the walk back over there. Once we were at the cars, we told April goodbye. I then told Carrie that I was really hungry and wanted to eat. She followed me home and I stopped at Whataburger and got a double cheeseburger. After the race that day, that burger tasted delicious and I devoured it, bun and all, then took a shower and absolutely crashed as soon as my head hit the pillow.
All-in-all it was a great race. I was really proud of myself for all the training I did and how I did it properly. I learned a lot in 2011 and that helped me immensely not just in the training but in the racing itself. I weighed about 30 pounds less for this race than I did in 2011 and that made a huge difference as well. After the 2011 Redman, I was fairly certain I wouldn't do it again. I don't know what got into me, but I'm so happy I decided to take it on again this year and I have a completely different attitude about it all this time around. I'm really looking forward to the race in 2014 which will be the 10th anniversary of Redman. Would I do a full? I'm honestly not sure. The amount of training required is just this side of insane, but then again I never thought I'd even do a half-iron distance triathlon. For now, I think I'll stick with the half and it's what I plan on doing in 2014. If it's something you've always thought about doing, I cannot encourage it enough. It will take you to your limits and challenge you in ways you never thought possible. It's amazing what the human body and the human spirit can accomplish. And it's an absolutely awesome feeling to be able to say: I AM A REDMAN!!
Part 6: Thank You's
While a triathlon is a individual sport, it takes a lot more people in support of your sport. So I want to extend a massive, huge, and heartfelt THANK YOU to the following groups and people that have lent their knowledge, support, love, and encouragement to help me get through the Redman again this year.
My wife, Carrie: She has been my biggest fan and supporter since I first made the decision to lose weight and turn my life around in 2010. She put up with my crazy hours training and dealt with my being late coming home when I started on ride or a swim later in the day than I meant to. She's always there at the finish line to take a picture and is the first person I look for when I finish a race. She showed up in the morning to see me start and came back to see me finish that night. That's love and dedication, and I love her for it.
My sister-in-law, April: April also gave up the better part of her Saturday to come see me at the race. She helped Carrie make some awesome signs and was very encouraging of me to finish the race and has generally been a very big supporter and cheerleader of my crazy endurance events.
My mom and her friends Beverly and Laura: This was the first race that my mom had made it out to and it was great to see her! They were very encouraging and I appreciate them taking the time to come out and see me, take pictures, and say hi!
Ryan Ellis: Ryan is the founder and owner of Conquer Training was my trainer for the Redman Triathlon. He imparted all of his knowledge about triathlons to me and once again helped me with a training plan. He has been a huge supporter of me from day one. I literally could have done none of what I did on Saturday without Ryan's help and I will be forever greatful to him for all that he did.
Steve Schlegel: Steve is the owner of Schlegel Bicycles at 9th & Broadway in downtown OKC. He didn't even know me when he first agreed to let me borrow a bike from his shop in 2011 so I could train for triathlons. Since then, we have talked several times and have become good friends. He was also kind enough to offer to let me keep the bike to continue my training as long as I'd like. I can't say enough about how awesome Steve is and I sincerely encourage you to check out his shop if you're interested in biking or triathlons or just want a bite to eat in their new Pelaton Wine Bar & Cafe. The people that work there also compete and volunteer in many of the races around town and their knowledge is invaluable.
David Wood: David is the race director for the Redman Triathlon. He was instrumental in allowing Clear Channel and myself be a part of this amazing event. I'm blessed to know him and am looking forward to seeing him at many more races around the city. I also want to shout out to his wife Peggy who ran the medical tent. She's an athlete herself and an awesome lady and so nice and encouraging.
John Pitt: John is one of our Account Executives. He helped get us set up to participate in Redman once again this year and was instrumental in having us out there. He's a great triathlete himself and I hope to see him out on the course again in the future!
Levi Graves: As I mentioned in the swim portion of this epic tale, Levi is a good friend and also the director of the swim portion of the race. He has always been behind me 100% and is a hell of a good guy. He practically saved me in 2011 and was a huge help again this year even if he did it all from the shore.
The volunteers: I've done enough races at this point to know that no matter how big or small the event, none of it happens without the help of all the amazing volunteers who give up a few hours, a day, or even weeks and months of their time to make these happen. I can't begin to say how grateful I am for all their help and encouragement on Saturday.
The athletes: Never before have I been around a more supportive group of people. Wheter it was us calming our nerves before the race started, giving thumbs up and encouragement on the bike, or calling out each other's names and telling each other good job on the run, the athlete's on Saturday were nothing short of amazing. I am in awe of each and every one of them for their accomplishments and thank them for their wonderful attitudes and encouragement throughout the race.
The medical staff: The medical staff was once again amazing. They were completely on top of everything and made sure that everyone was well taken care of both during and after the race.
Here's to looking forward to the 10th anniversary of Redman in 2014! See you out there!