Ironman 140.6 Cambridge, Maryland: October 1st, 2016.
I was fortunate to be able to attend Ironman 140.6 Cambridge, Maryland early this October. This was my second full Ironman race and I wanted to share my experience. Matt, Mark, and I left on our new adventure Thursday around lunchtime. We got a later start than we had hoped but it all worked out. We had a nice drive and each took turns behind the wheel. We made a quick stop for a light snack and I had some french fries from Wendy’s that gave me an upset stomach. I decided not to experiment with those again. We stopped for dinner at Olive Garden and I got gluten free pasta which was very good. We drove from Charlotte to Salisbury, Maryland and arrived around 12:30 am. We checked into the hotel and unpacked our stuff. We were all quite tired and ready to go to bed shortly after we arrived. I was getting more excited about the race but slightly concerned that the weather would not hold up since the weather app had indicated there would be terrible weather the whole weekend. I figured there’s nothing I can do about it so I decided to just see what happened and not stress over it.
On Friday we woke up and got ready slowly then headed over to the expo at Marsh Park. This was next to the Choptank River where the swim was going to be held on Saturday. We finally found a parking space and headed over to the expo. I was able to check in and got some really cool gear that they gave all the athletes. I was impressed with the stuff they gave us. I also got a really cool long-sleeved Ironman shirt that had every racers name that was in the race that day. We took the opportunity to go over and look at the water conditions while we were there. To tell you the truth it looked pretty rough. The waves were high and the swimmers that were in the water seemed like they were struggling somewhat to go in the direction they were headed. I figured that I would be able to finish the swim, but was concerned about getting through it in the time allowed. Everyone at the expo seemed really stressed and focused on the race. More so than other events I have been to. There was almost an element of fear and worry in the air. There was very little music, and not much excitement or talking going on. I was there with Matt and Mark and we were determined to have a good time. We were joking around and taking pictures and enjoying the experience. After we got the bike checked in and everything we needed in the drop bags we decided to go have dinner at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. I wanted to eat early so that I could get back to the room and get plenty of rest. Mark and I decided to go to a seafood restaurant and had a great dinner on the water. There was a $25 food voucher in the athletes’ gift bag which we were happy to use. Matt is on a special diet and did not eat with us. I got a salad with some shrimp and water. After dinner, we went to a Walmart near our room to get some additional rain gear since the weather looked like it was going to be an issue the next day. While we were there I found a shark suit costume for sale. I thought it would be really funny to wear it to the start of the swim the next day as a big joke and try to get people to lighten up. I debated whether to get it but I went ahead and did it. We were laughing about it all night and took some pictures. If nothing else we got plenty of laughs out of it.
Then we headed back to the room. I took a shower and got all my gear ready for the next day. I took a half of a Unisom so that I could get some good rest. It worked well and I was asleep by 8 PM. I knew this was going to be a challenging race but I was really looking forward to it. I had done the training and was feeling confident in my abilities.
The swim start was supposed to be 6:50 am. I woke up at 4:30 am and had some breakfast. I didn’t have to get anything together because it was all ready. Matt, Mark and I then got in the car and headed to Marsh Park. I did wear my shark costume and we just laughed the whole way there about it. Everyone again was nervous and focused on this race. No smiling or music. They didn’t have much lighting so it was very dark and the rain had come down all night so we were all schlepping through mud to get to the swim start area. As I walked through the racers area two ladies saw my costume and started laughing. I started laughing with them and told them that I was happy that somebody was having a good morning besides me. I went and checked on my bike which seemed fine then got ready for my swim.
Shortly before the start of the race officials called a 30-minute delay due to the weather and water conditions. They were hoping that it would calm down for the swimmers to be able to safely do the 2.4 miles. The waves were very high and the wind was ridiculous. I was a little concerned also but figured it was out of my hands. They did something very smart to see if it was safe for us all to get into the water. They used a piece of equipment to simulate a swimmer and then told two kayakers to go and help this person and get to them. The two kayakers were having a hard time staying upright and could not get to the piece of equipment. After this drill, they decided to cancel the swim portion of the race because the conditions were just too dangerous. A lot of people were disappointed but most of us were relieved. It was a dangerous situation and I knew there would have been a lot of emergencies and possible drownings if we had all gotten into the water. After they canceled the swim a good bit of people quit and left the race. That never entered my mind because we were there, it was paid for, and still a great experience to go through.
After they called off the swim we had a little bit of time before we were able to get on our bikes and start the race. They decided to let us start in order by our race number. My number was 682 and I waited about an hour before I could cross the starting line. I had plenty of time to change into my bike gear, have a snack, get some more pictures, chat with a coworker that was also doing the race, and hang out with my boys. This was a nice way to start the day and the race. I was anxious and excited to get on the bike but appreciated having the extra time to be fully prepared and ready.
I figured that since we couldn’t swim I was going to really try to push hard on the bike. There had been a lot of rain and flooding was an issue. Since the flooding was so high in certain areas they did have to shorten the bike course from 112 miles to 104 miles. I decided that I was going to attempt to make this my fastest century ride to date. I started the race and got into a quick cadence. I pretty much maintained that fast pace throughout the whole race. The wind was a factor but I just pushed through it. I got extra water at the aid stations as I rode past them. I had some snacks on my bike and was able to get a few calories while riding. I should have eaten more but it was just enough to sustain what I needed to do. I kept up on water and didn’t fall behind on hydration. I needed to stop and go to the bathroom but I didn’t want to mess up my time so I just pushed through it til the end. Before I got to the end of the bike ride my quads were exhausted! My legs have never hurt so badly and ached like that. Also, I had gotten a pretty bad cramp in my right quad at one point but just kept riding. As I approached the end of the race where we had to get off the bike, I became concerned that I would not be able to get off the bike and stand. My legs hurt so much I thought I would just fall over when I tried to stand. I came to a very slow stop and carefully put one leg down at a time. I didn’t fall over so that made me happy. After a minute I was able to swing my right leg over the bike and take it to the bike area where we had to rack our own bikes. Then I slowly made it to the women’s changing area to change my clothes for the run. I had a nice snack and got to use the restroom then set out to tackle the marathon. I did not know what my bike time was but I knew it was a pretty good time. I found out later that I rode 104 miles in exactly 6 hours and 3 minutes. That’s a pretty good PR for me and I was very happy. That’s about a 17.3 miles per hour average.
The run portion of the race went pretty well. As soon as I was able to feel my legs and move properly I got into a nice, steady cruise control pace. I chatted with another athlete for a few miles and then went back to focusing on my own race. Matt and Mark had gone to visit Matt’s Dad and grandparents while I was doing the race. I was really happy that they went to do that because his grandmother is in poor health. He needs to take every opportunity to visit with her and I’m glad he went to see them. They had a good time and came back to the race to see the end. They ended up meeting me around mile 18. Shortly after this time, it started pouring rain in addition to the tide coming in from the river. When the tide rose it caused major flooding of the running route at multiple sections. We were marching through calf high water for a good part of the race. Towards the end of the race, it was dark and raining pretty hard. I was looking forward to being done and getting warm. Matt and Mark were there as I crossed the finish line. I was very happy to be done and have another IronMan completed, minus the swim. We wanted to stay there and support the rest of the runners coming in but I was getting too cold quickly. We ended up taking some quick pictures and then headed back to our room.
On our way back we stopped and got some Chipotle for dinner. I took a hot bath and ate my dinner and started to relax while we all had a great conversation about the race.
Overall the race went very well. I had such a great time and really enjoyed the whole experience. There were a few things that could have been a little bit better. I believe the lighting could have been a lot better. They needed to have more lights on the running path and at the swim start. Also, I think there could have been more music or entertainment throughout the race. Especially in the morning when people are so nervous, it would’ve been nice to have some exciting music to calm everyone’s nerves. They did have music but it wasn’t until just before they canceled the swim. I also think that the run course was a little bit confusing. It was a three loop course but you had to backtrack in a lot of areas. I know that there are challenges with getting roads closed and neighborhood access but if they can work on a little bit easier of a course that would be nice. Maybe a larger loop around the whole neighborhood area, if that could be possible. There were a lot of volunteers there that were absolutely wonderful! Many of them had great things to say and were so positive. There were lots of kids that were excited and wanted to be a part of the event which was nice to see. The community really came together to support the racers and that was awesome.
There was one racer there that made a big impression on everyone. He was a little person and his name was John Young. He did a great job and finished the race. He is known as “the hammer”. He was an inspiration to see and I saw him a few times on the running course. I gave him encouraging words and admired his hard work and effort. His family was there to support him and it was so sweet.
After the race and the next day, I was more tired than sore. I didn’t sleep much on Saturday night and was wide awake by 3:30 in the morning. I just played on Facebook and relaxed until the boys woke up. I was able to get a great 4-hour nap on the drive home Sunday. We stopped for lunch at a Mexican restaurant and after we ate I passed out in the back seat and slept most of the way back to Charlotte. We had fun talking about the race and the upcoming election as we drove home (before I went to sleep).
I had planned to focus on running races for 2017 but after doing this event I was itching to do one more Ironman. It’s a good event that forces me to cross train when normally I would not focus on that as much. That’s important for me because if I had it my way, I would not do any swimming and minimal bike riding. I ended up signing up for the Chattanooga full Iron Man in September 2017. So, another Ironman is on the calendar for next year 🙂