Ironman Brasil Race Report

It's the day after Ironman Brasil and I am quite tired. Yesterday was a good race, not a great race, but it was just what I needed heading into 2013. I definitely learned a few things, solved some problems and gave myself a few things to work on during the year.

The preparation for this race was great. Weekly runs well over 23miles, many rides over 115mi and a few tests here and there, as well as a 20k run race in 1:08 to make sure my top end was in good shape. I had a little set back about two weeks before with a pulled hamstring, but with a little TLC, it healed up quickly. 

The trip down was LONG...almost 24hrs if you include the bus rides. Once here I got settled in the midst of the Brazilian culture. Petr V. Hillary Biscay and Haley Chura were my neighbors and we hung together the majority of the week. I've gotten to know all three of them pretty well and have become friends. I always feel that the destination Ironman races are what really bring people together because there isn't a lot else to focus on besides the race and who is around you.

Race morning dawned and the weather was great. No wind, 63* and pretty clear. I took care of my pre-race work and headed down to the water for a warm-up. I got in about 10-15minutes of easy swimming (mostly in the dark) ending with a few builds.  They then pulled us out of the water about 20minutes before the start so they can line us up.

I was very anxious about this swim because the pro's start in the water standing still and the age groupers (AG's) start on the beach and have a downhill run in behind the pro's. The distance separating the two groups is about 20m. 

The horn sounded and I went out pretty strong, but controlled. I got clear of most of the pro's, besides the few who were off the front. At about the 300m mark, the fast AG's start making their way through.  By about the 500 or 600m mark, they start to fade. As that happened, I picked a group of red caps up ahead and swam up to them. From that point on, I just worked with them, knowing that we were moving, but not exactly sure how fast. As soon as I made it into T1, I knew I was in good company when I saw Amanda Stevens and Keegan Williams.

Once out on the bike I decided to ride strong to the first turn around to see how things were looking. The day before the race, I accidentally stripped out an aerobar bolt and as a result I had to lower my front end a little less than the width of my finger nail. At the time I consulted with a few who thought it would be ok and that I wouldn't notice much of a difference. For the most part, they were right, except I was definitely already at my limit and it showed in the form of some lower power numbers.  The only upside is that I had to be more aerodynamic, right?!?! That's what I told myself anyway.

At the first turn-around, we were 3:55 off the lead with only about 4 or 5 others between us.  Things were looking good.  I rolled along, trading pulls with the eventual 4th place finisher, Mario De Elias. Edwardo Sturla made it up to the group and he went straight to the front per usual. For the next 60km, nothing changed. The 3 of us were at the front 95% of the time and about 5-6 other athletes were mixed in behind us.

At the second turn-around, we were more than 10minutes off the lead and had lost 7minutes in about 30 miles!! There was nothing we could do, but a note to myself for the future is that the leader here in Brazil typically gets a 3 motorcycle escort, preceded by 2 SUV's....bottom line is that to win, you typically need to be THAT athlete.

A few other local rule highlights included the fact that there was essentially no marshaling on the bike; there was a pullout at 120km with 5 race officials chilling out next to a guard rail with the moto's parked. Not sure what that was about. There was also a bit of local support with vehicles handing nutrition to some of the riders in our group. As this all happened I just told myself there was nothing I could do and focused forward.

I definitely had some low points on the bike... first at about 80 miles I slid to the back of the group and almost got dropped heading into the tunnel, then again at mile 92 when I did get dropped on the first of 2 short climbs.  I was the only one in the small chain ring I think. Both times I just kept my head, rode within myself and suffered my way through the low point. Each time after a few miles, I came good again and made my way back up to the front of the group.

At mile 100, the group started to split and I thought that perhaps we could make a break heading into the final few miles. However, my legs had other ideas. I was content right where I was at.  Then just to make sure I was paying attention, a black lab ran across the highway and nearly took me out. After that, I was definitely ready to run.

Once onto the run, I started in 6th and eventually made my way up to 5th. I was feeling confident and controlled that a run of 250-252 was in the cards. This course is a tough one for the first half with several hills that are over 20% grade and though they aren't long, they do bite.  I took it easy through this section and got through it just fine. Coming into the end of big loop (21km), I found a good rhythm and knew the toughest part was behind me. All I had to do was run 2x10km flat loops at 7min per mile and I would just sneak under that 8:30 mark (This was my target for the race).  

As I got to about mile 14, it was starting to get warm and I needed to get some pick me up if I was going to stay on pace. I grabbed special needs and was taking in everything I could at each aid stations...gel, salt, coke and sports drink, all washed down with water.  The pace was hanging on, but just barely... 6:56, 6:55, 6:57.  I reached 27km and could see 3rd and 4th fading fast, but also saw Mario DE had regained his legs and was running quite well, a few km later he came by again and I was back in 6th, 7:02, 7:07, then right at the 30km mark, Petr V came roaring past with a few words of encouragement...I was sliding backwards, but was determined to keep pushing, as I knew I had a PR in the bag.  

Onto the last loop I rolled along without my pain at all in the legs, I just couldn't get myself to run any faster. I passed the last out and back and could see everyone struggling, the only problem was that so was I. The only person close who wasn't hurting, just happened to now be in the 8th spot. 7:35, 7:47, this was not going well. I got to the 41km mark, only to realize that we had more than 1km to run. The course was long due to a last minute change, which meant an extra 4minutes of running for me. As I rounded the last corner, there was nothing I could do but watch 7th slip away as I was passed.

As much as it was hard to watch 7th slip away so close to the finish, it was overridden with a sense of accomplishment that I haven't felt since 2010.  I FINALLY hung tough at an Ironman that wasn't going ideal outside of Wisconsin and came away with a new PR of 8:38. Keep in mind that this has been 11 years in the making. Was it a perfect race, not even close, but was it what I needed? It was exactly what I needed.  I swam well, I didn't fall apart on the bike and I kept my head in the game when I knew things weren't going well. All these things will serve me very well on the day when everything comes together for that great performance!

A huge thank you to everyone who has supported me throughout my years and who has continued to believe in me. Trek Bicycles and the Madison Stores have been high on that list, as well as Peak Performance Massage, as well as my family. They have always supported and never doubted. Also thanks to PowerBar for keeping me stocked.  I need it on days when I go through 30-35 gels, like I did yesterday.

Now it's time for an early season break for a few weeks. The goal is to lose some fitness, gain some weight, focus on a few other things and catch up with friends and family. My next race is TBA, but I won't be racing an Ironman again until September!

Thanks for reading, I appreciate all the support that I receive from each one of you.


Branden Nall said…
AWESOME JOB AND CONGRATS ON THE PR, BLAKE! Thanks for the update and keeping it real! Have a refreshing break and eat some chocolate chip cookies for me! HERE IS TO SEPTEMBER!!

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