2003 Great Floridian Ironman -- Clermont, FL
October 23, 2003 2.4 mile swim / 112 mile bike / 26.2 mile run

Goals for race day? Very easy swim, VERY easy bike, and save everything for the run. Try to cruise through the run without walking. With a grand total of 45 minutes of swim training since Ironman USA, and no bike rides over 75 miles since then, that seemed the prudent approach. Having run a 50 mile trail ultra-run in Montana exactly two weeks before GFT was the big unknown. Would my legs hold up after running 50 miles two weeks earlier.

The morning was great. Perfect parking spot right at the finish line, not to hot, cold or windy before the swim, my race number 3 looked SO much better on my arm than those 3 and 4 digit numbers we usually have. Everything was in order, no stress. The singing of the National Anthem brought a flock of white birds flying around overhead as if on queue, couldn’t have been staged any better. It would be a good day.


The swim was calm, no feelings of being in a washing machine, no kicks in the face. Very uneventful, which is all I wanted. I swam my own pace, kept it very conservative, kept my heartrate under control, and came out of the water in 1:14, feeling very good.


On to the bike, my mantra was easy, easy, easy, save it for the run. No pressure on my legs. Before my Oct 11, 50 miler, I'd never run 50 miles, and knew my whole body had not felt right since, I have been very, very tired since that run. I had no idea what to expect on the run. A buddy passed me about mile 35 with a hearty "Go Roadies"(The club I ride with often, and I was wearing my Roadies jersey). Good luck and kick ass man, I"m saving it for the run, I thought. Then Old guys started passing me, "that's ok, 26 miles of running still to go”. Old ladies started passing me, "I don’t care, I'm not racing them, I've got 26 miles to run". Fat, Old guys started passing me, "stick with your plan Dave, easy, easy, easy", thankfully, we hit the first pass of Buckhill and Sugarloaf before the Fat, Old ladies caught me, I put a little distance between us that stretch. After Sugarloaf, I felt good, very relaxed, but wasn’t liking the heat and the wind. The 'cold front'we'd been promised mid-week, never materialized at all, and we were having a normal mid 80's sunny day at that point, not brutal hot, but certainly not a cool, nice race day. Some cloud cover helped eventually, but still, I was sweating much more than I wanted to be to have to start a marathon. I know I can't replace fluids that fast, no matter how much I drink. The second issue, the wind, it wasn't horrible, I wouldn’t even say it was difficult, but it sure was different. I live at Sugarloaf, and that area is part of my weekly training, I've ridden the 'new' loop of the course on several occasions, and the wind, when it’s blowing is always 'fair'. You get tough headwind up 19, great tailwind down 561/Buckhill, the cross winds seem not to be a problem. I've even explained to my wife how I liked the loop because it’s so unusual to have a course where it seems you get as much benefit from the wind as you do trouble. Well, not GFT day, a wind from the East was different than what I'd trained in, and it seemed like one of those 'normal' rides where you have 90% head/cross wind, 10% tailwind. The headwind directly up Sugarloaf made that section a nice challenge. 2nd loop, more of the same, I maintained about the same pace and stayed comfortable, but reeled in many of those who went out too fast. I hit Sugarloaf and pass no less than 5 people walking their bikes to the top. Pretty amazing for a state with 'no hills', to have 'Iron'athletes getting off their bikes and walking.

Coming in on the bike, the cheers of "Go Roadies" rose up from the Orange Cycle run station as my jersey was spotted. Most cheers I heard all day! Thanks to all!

The run started just as I hoped, I relaxed, ran easy, a few people passed me running faster, mostly I passed people walking and running slower. I felt really good. I should have no problem keeping this going for 'only' 20 some more miles. That feeling still prevailed at mile 9 or 10, when a friend of mine, Manny comes by on a bike. We chat a little, I tell him how good I’m feeling, should have no problem keeping going with this slow run pace. Mile 11 and 12 come and go, almost halfway, still cruising. 13, almost there. Two weeks ago, at mile 36 of my run, with 14 miles to go, I was feeling good, and picked up the pace to pass 6 other runners before the finish. I KNOW I can run 13 more miles. Mile 14, I don't feel NEARLY as good I had at 13. Mile 15, I'm toast. I can't run. My legs have done all they are going to do. The bottoms of my feet feel like they are bruised and pounded to pulp. My legs feel like dead wood. I walk some, I run some. I walk a lot more, I run a little. I still have to finish that loop around the lake, then do it again. I HATE the 3 loop course. The last thing I want to do at mile 19-21 of the marathon of an Ironman is to come within ½ mile of my car, which leads to my air-conditioner, and a cold beer, and a double Wendy’s cheeseburger, and my hot-tub, and my bed. I press on, see a friend that I stop and chat with a few minutes near waterfront park. That helps. I go back to running a few yards, walking a few yards, running a few yards, walking a few yards. Funny at some point I don't mind it anymore, I’m at peace with it. I'm going as hard as I can. My legs are exhausted, my body is tired, I'm not quitting, and I'm going as fast as I can go. That’s the Ironman in a nutshell right there.

YOU ARE AN IRONMAN! Soon those are the chants you hear as you turn right off the trail, and head to the finish downtown. You always think about quitting in a tough race, and when you get to the finish, you’re always glad you didn't. There's no finish line like the finish line of an Iron distance triathlon. This 14:09 is my slowest Ironman to date, but I know I pushed myself to the finish as hard as my 11:50 fastest. I followed the race plan, and did everything I knew to do, I didn’t screw up, and I didn’t give up, and to me that’s the essence of long distance triathlon.