Ironman California, Camp Pendleton, USA. May 19th, 2001
It may seem strange but I didn’t initially write a story about this race either, although it was my best Ironman then (and still is to this day). Maybe it is easier for me to write a story about a day which is not my best…believe me this one was and it sometimes amazes me (especially my marathon split). This again was my fight to break the 12 hour barrier and also to lay the ghosts of last year’s performance to rest…I had something to prove on this course.
I set Personal Bests in the swim bike and run…going 1hr 18 in the swim, sub 6hrs on the bike (5hrs 57 mins) and an incredible 4hrs 21mins for the marathon which all combined to get me under the 12 hour barrier in 11 hrs 54 mins and 33 seconds. I was in ‘The Zone’ on this day and working all the time towards building a small reserve of time to get under 12 hours.
I woke up on race day with a sore throat (one of our guys had a cold!) hmmmm scary and not good.
The swim was alright though kinda busy for a lap, I had people in front of me the whole first lap and it was almost impossible to move position (which no doubt helped me stay in some sort of draft) but I was warmer (66 degrees) than last year (58 degrees) and a quick glance at my watch read 36 mins at turn round for lap 2 so I was relieved I was in the right zone. I worked steady and knew I was slightly ahead of schedule. A 1:18 for me ROCKED!
I still had a sore throat on the bike, but my heart rate didn’t look too bad. I felt good tearing past people. Climbed the hills in my 21 sprocket compared to 23 last year (thanks JAK!!). Weather was cool and overcast. First lap 2:50 and on target. Lap 2 my legs were sore and I tried to keep working but my heart rate was pretty low. When I felt bad I looked at my 2 thumbnails I had painted, 1 for each Ironman finish and said, you’ve done this before, quit, wingeing. Staying aero was hard but I recovered a litttle when we hit the hills, which seemed to help my legs. The last 12 miles into the wind was tough but I managed to stay aero for most of it, still chasing the elusive sub 6 hr bike split. I knew I had worked and 5:57 was cool and still on target, though I was losing any contingency I would have liked going into the run.
Coming off the bike I’d like to say I felt good but my legs were somewhere else ;-). I knew I would have to run a 4:29 marathon to break 12 hours (14 mins faster than ever before). I had no idea what I could do but I knew it wouldn’t be fast, so I just told myself to wait and see what transpired. I set off at what I hoped was round about 4:30 (hours of course!) pace deciding to try and save time early on by walking at only every second aid station and running the others. I tried to eat a few pretzels as I knew that as usual I couldn’t eat gels. I made turn round of lap 1 in an hour and was pleased but still unsure of what lay ahead. End of first lap I picked up my food bag and chomped down my Pringles and went through the lap in 2:03. So now it was laid out, I knew I had to run a 2:23 second half but I didn’t think I’d be able to do it….I would give it my best though. I still couldn’t eat so I decided that I could afford to walk for a minute at each aid station this lap. I tried chicken soup but it wasn’t right this time, so I moved to iced cola. I skipped 2 aid stations as I drank my leppin squeezy stuff from my fuel belt. My heel was sore, my knee was sore, I was hurting, but I knew it was there for the taking, so on I went. No kidding, at least every half mile, someone shouted ‘IronScot’ which when you are 6,000 miles from home is just so awesome. I forget my turn round time but I was starting to calculate that 11 min miles would bring me home, but I told myself, no walking unless it’s an aid station or you’ve lost it. It was hurting like the last 6 miles of my sub 3 hr marathons but I knew I had to keep going. The run was a memorable experience with my friends from ‘The Page’ calling out my name ‘IronScot’ every few hundred yards, stopping at around mile 15 to high-five with Richard Rice’s (aka Young and Slow) wife. 4 miles to go, I could still make it. Coming up to 25 miles I walked for nearly 2 mins as I knew I had a couple of mins buffer and I would run from here on in. At mile 25 I met with another of our group… Staff Sergeant Rod Nesmith…a Marine, based on the Camp. We exchanged greetings and, still worried about breaking 12 hours, I asked Rod if he thought we would make it…..’Sure, you got it!’ he replied. I knew then, that it was going to work out. The unbelievable tragedy to the story of my meeting with Rod is that he was tragically killed in a helicopter crash the next year whilst on a training exercise with the Marines. I will not forget my encounter with Rod. It was hard hard hard to start to run again……and then I was there, I could hear it, salvation, the finish line, I SPRINTED down that chute safe in the knowledge that it was mine, sub 12 hours and I pointed to the clock as I came home. My friends caught me, hugged me and gave me my t-shirt and medal.
I had raced an Ironman, I had not walked outside an aid staion, I was proud. It was sweet.
These were my finest hours: 11 hours 54 minutes 33 seconds.