June 11, 2006; Eagleman Ironman 70.3
â€œ[The swim] wasnâ€™t very pleasant,â€? said Eagleman Winner Chris Legh. â€œYou were bobbing around like a cork. It lived up to its reputation.â€?
I only got about 5 hours of sleep, as I couldnâ€™t relax on Saturday night. I assumed this would happen, so I managed to get a solid 9 hours the night before. Woke up, took a quick shower, stretched. Drank a protein shake (250 calories) and Â½ cup of coffee. Attempted to eat a bagel, but my stomach couldnâ€™t handle it, as the butterflies were too much. (I didnâ€™t know it then, but this would be the demise of my race.)
We got to the race site around 5:30; my wave was supposed to start @ 7:30. We racked our bikes the night before, so that was one less thing to worry about. My spot was close to the end so Jen was able to stand there and help me out. Pumped up my tires, and started laying out my stuff. By this time, there was no sugar coating the weather: the wind was whipping 20+ mph. It wasnâ€™t really gusty; just a constant wind. The temps were also low; around 55 degrees, so it was tough to warm up. However, I went out for a 15 minute light run, and broke a sweat, so I felt good.
As I was leaving the transition area for my run, I walked by Natascha Badmann warming up on her CAT Cheetah bike on the trainer. What other sport in the world can you compete on the same course, at the same time, as the reigning world champion?? Absolutely amazing.
I got back from my run, and headed over to the long bathroom line. It was good b/c I was able to stand in line; listen to my I-pod and relax. As I walked back thru transition, they got our attention to sing the national anthem; the butterflies that were in my stomach, just multiplied!!
I started thinking about getting ready for the swim; at this point, they announced that we have 10 minutes to leave the transition area. That sucked, b/c my wave was still 40 minutes away. But it could have been worse, as I saw athletes still walking in!! I put on my wetsuit, and found Jen. She was on my phone talking to my parents. They, along with Jenâ€™s mom & step-Dad had just arrived. That was cool, as I was able to talk to them.
We walked over to the water to watch the pros start. They waded in; then the gun went off. There were still 4 more waves before me; but I just hung out with my family. Within about 20 minutes, they called our wave to â€œstand on deck.â€? I already had my wetsuit on and just slowly walked over to the entrance. No need to hurry, as there was still plenty of time to get my position.
They announced that the first swimmer was out of the water, and you could see him run by. Pretty cool to see the pro race being run right in front of me.
Swim: 1.2 miles; Time 35:01; Pace 1:50/100m; Rank 208
They started the Red group; got Purple in the water, and told us to start making our way to the beach. I said good-bye to everyone, and rubbed Jenâ€™s belly (sheâ€™s 4 Â½ months pregnant), and they started herding us into the gates across the mats. Once I heard that beep, I knew it was time. I got to the edge of the water; crouched down, and quoted my favorite line from â€œWall Streetâ€?: right before Bud Fox walks into Gordon Geckoâ€™s office for the first time, he says â€œLife comes down to a few moments; this is one of them.â€? I asked God (& whoever else was watching me up there) to give me the support to finish in one piece, and walked into the water.
They told us to wade out to the start of the swim which was about 100 yards from shore. There was still no need to get into a good position; however, I made sure to stay to the left side as it was a counter-clockwise swim. I took some strokes out trying to warm up a little and just tried to relax. The funny part was that there wasnâ€™t an official in the water, so the 50 guys ahead of me just kept walking; and we just followed. No one wanted to stop walking, and joked that we can probably trim about Â¼ mile off the swim. Eventually, we all stopped as they announced 90 seconds to race. Thatâ€™s when goosebumps went up & down my entire body. All of us started clapping and screamingâ€¦all my hard work over the past year came down to this one moment. It was only 1 year ago that I bought my first bike & did my first sprint, and here I was, getting ready to race for 5+ hours in my first Â½ Ironman!!!
We were counted down, and then heard â€œGO!!!â€? I started pretty fast to get into a good position, and then slowed it down after about 100 yards. I had 2 goals: 1) get a good position by staying to the left, and 2) donâ€™t get kicked too hard. Not too bad; couple punches and kicks; nothing to stop me for more than Â½ a second. I had a good rhythm going for about 500 yards, then the Choptank River lived up to itâ€™s name. The farther out we got, the worse it was. It was not like swimming in LI Sound back home in CT; there, you have waves that you can swim over or against, depending on the direction; but you could get a feel for when theyâ€™d hit. The Choptank was like a freakinâ€™ washing machine; no waves; just constant chop.
I continued sighting every 5-10 strokes; but between the sun dead ahead, and the chop, it was really interesting. I lost a lot of swimmers as they were all headed in different directions, and it was tough to see someone even as close as 5 feet away between the waves. I did go off course a little, as I didnâ€™t see the last buoy; I was sighting the big sail boat that was the tip of the turn. Someone on a body board got me back on course, and I was doing OK. I felt like the ship from â€œThe Perfect Stormâ€?; youâ€™d get to the top of a wave, then crash down, and take in a mouth full of water.
As I made the turn at the buoy towards the boat, I started catching swimmers from the Purple wave. About 100 yards further toward the boat, I started to catch some swimmers from the Red wave. It was at this point that I saw a swimmer holding onto the ladder of the sail boat. He was done.
I knew I was more than half way there, and started to sight land. This didnâ€™t make it any easier, as the chop was worse. I have no idea if there was a current. At this point, I knew I just had to continue to relax, and just swim at my pace. I did hang with someone from my wave for about 500 yards, and drafted off him for a while. We were passing a lot of people and caught up with some swimmers from the White wave, then the Black wave. I let him go, as I wanted to concentrate on what I needed to do to get ready for T1. I saw the last buoy, and knew there was a quick left turn into the boat ramp to exit the water. We had swam a little off course towards the right, so I sighted a landmark that would get me at a great angle to hit the ramp dead straight. As I started my swim for the ramp, the guy I drafted on had started swimming back out right; we hit shoulders, and started jockeying for position. He was going right; I was going left. I knew I was going the correct way, so I stopped, and let him swim in front of me in the wrong direction, and I continued toward the ramp.
I started seeing people stand up, and swam a little further before I tested the depth. I could feel the bottom, and started to dolphin in. However, the water was still too deep, so I swam in some more; then dolphined in again until I came to a volunteer who was telling us to pick up our feet so we didnâ€™t trip over the mat at the bottom of the boat ramp. Iâ€™m sure some people didnâ€™t hear him; as the boat ramp wasnâ€™t flush to the sand, so who knows what could have happened. Iâ€™m sure many a toe were gashed at that point.
I got onto land, took off my goggles, and started jogging up the ramp. I heard my name, and looked on the left to see my family. Very cool. Up ahead was a guy with a hose, so I ran through that; then ran toward the photographerâ€¦smile ;-). Reached for my zipper, popped up the Velcro, and presto, my QR wetsuit opened upâ€¦awesome. Got my bearings and jogged across the parking lot into transition.
Took a hard left down the row, then looked for my rack, took a hard right, and headed to my bike. Paul was over there asking me how I felt. I donâ€™t remember what I said, if anythingâ€¦sat on my a$$, pulled off my wetsuit, put on my socks, then my shoes. Someone was trying to get by and politely (wow!!) asked me to watch out; I moved, then told him to kick-a$$. Stood up, took off my cap, put on my helmet, glasses, and loaded my top with powerbars, grabbed my bike, and started moving toward the exit. I heard, then saw my family, and waved at them and smiled as I mounted my bike and took off.
Bike: 56 miles; Time 2:53:59; Pace 19.31 mph; Rank 501
My goal was to take the first 10 miles out nice & easy to spin out the legs, and donâ€™t eat or drink either. I took in some water to get the salt out of my mouth (however, the salt water in my stomach would have to stay there). I read different articles and everyone said the same thing â€œtake the first 5-10 miles out easy; there would be plenty of course to hammer.â€? I stood by that, and the goal was starting at mile 10 to take in a GU; and every 10 miles after that, up to mile 50. (I taped them to my bike so I could see how many I had left, and I knew when there was 1 left, I was almost home). I would also eat a PowerBar at mile 15, then every 10 miles up to mile 45. The last GU at mile 50 would allow my stomach to recover for the run. In between I would take in plenty of water & Gatorade. I wanted to go through 3 bottles of each. This strategy worked great on my training rides, however, it wasnâ€™t race tested as this was my first Â½.
Stuck to my strategy for the first 10 miles of going easy to spin the legs. I let people pass me, as I knew I had to stick to my game plan. Mile 10 started my nutrition with my first GU. That went fine; mile 15 was fine with the Powerbar; chased both with water, and took in Accelerade (I had that in my water bottle) until I would hit the first aid station for Gatorade.
To say this course was flat would be the understatement of the year. Where I live, â€œflatâ€? means rolling hills thrown in between some bigger hills. MD is pancake flat; however, the wind would be a huge factor. I was cruising along at a good pace: 20-21 mph. Passing some people; getting passed by some. It was cool to look at the different bikes, and to see the ages of people (marked on our calves). I got smoked by a few 20 year olds; every now and then a 40+ would pass me. (That made me feel good, as I want to be doing this for a few more yearsâ€¦)
Around mile 15 or so, we got our first taste of the wind. There were no gusts; just constant wind. However, we would catch a nice tail wind at points as well. Everything was going well; staying on track with my nutrition & fluids; got off the bike around mile 15 to peeâ€¦ahhhhhh. Then at mile 35 I got down about Â¾ of a Powerbar; and that was it. My stomach was in knots. This is where my nutrition fell apart. I managed to get down another GU at mile 40. Thatâ€™s when we hit a dead head-wind. For the last 15 miles, I/we would be pushing at only about 17-18 mph. No one was doing much passing; we were all just trying to get to the end. A bunch of us had formed a huge group as no one was pulling too far ahead. However, the guy in front of me got penalized for drafting off the guy in front of him. At mile 45, I went for another Powerbar, but couldnâ€™t even get down a bite. My stomach was toast. I knew I had to continue with the fluids, so I stocked up with Gatorade & water at the last stop, and prepared for the last 10 miles.
My strategy was to spin my legs the last 5-10 miles, but with the headwind, I couldnâ€™t do much. You had to work really hard just to get above 18 mph. The only saving grace was that at this point there was a huge pack of racers who were all feeling the same way. I did manage to get down my last GU at mile 50. Looking down and seeing no more GUâ€™s made me so happy; I knew there was only about 5 miles left. At this point we were going down the same road as the runners. This also meant more spectators to cheer us on. Very cool. I wanted to hammer in to get off the bike, but knew I should just spin in to get the legs going. I started visualizing my transition, and knew I had to pee ASAP!!! As I rounded the turn, there was my family cheering me on; I flashed a smile and headed for transition.
I dismounted off the bike, and then ran toward my spot. I found my row, but spaced on where my stuff was as I didnâ€™t see my bike (duh, thatâ€™s b/c I was running with it!!) Once I saw my bag, I put my bike on the rack; thatâ€™s when the bike next to mine fell over. Idiot didnâ€™t rack his bike; he just laid it against the rack!! Now, part of me just wanted to leave it there, but I knew the tri-godâ€™s would be watching, so I took the time to pick up his bike, and properly rack it; then I went through my routine of taking off my helmet, putting on my sneakers, then my race belt. Emptied my back pocket and was off. Hereâ€™s where I believe I was rewarded with good Karma for picking up & racking that guyâ€™s bike. I donâ€™t wear a watch until the run. So I put my watch in my sneaker so I donâ€™t forget it, and then put it on as Iâ€™m leaving T2. Well the bike falling made me so crazy, that I didnâ€™t pull my watch out of my sneaker. It must have fallen out, but somehow, the Velcro caught my lace, and was attached to my sneaker, but I didnâ€™t even see it. I took about 5 strides, and then it flew off right in front of me. I quickly stopped, picked it up, smiled, then put it on & took off.
Run: 13.1 miles; Time 1:59:48; Pace 9:08/mile; Rank 586
As I was running out of T2, there was my family againâ€¦too cool. I waved (I think), and took off. My legs felt great, maybe too good at the beginning, as my biggest problem would be taking it out too fast. Sure enough, at mile 1, I was at 7:30â€¦too fast. I needed to be around 8:30. So I slowed it down, and did a quick body check. First things first; I had to pee. After that, it was time to start thinking about nutrition, as I hadnâ€™t taken in any major calories since the last Powerbar at mile 35 on the bike. I knew the 2 GUâ€™s werenâ€™t going to cut it, but my stomach was still a mess.
Around mile 3, I got into a nice groove for the next 2 miles. Around mile 5, I started taking in a banana at the aid stations. My stomach was feeling better; however, I felt my calves starting to cramp. The run was an out & back, and the best sound of the day was the beep as we ran over the mat at the Â½ way mark. The course to this point was slightly uphill into a slight headwind; nothing major, but it was great to know that on the way back it would be downhill with a tail wind. I continued eating as much as a banana as possible at each station, and chasing that with Gatorade. The cramps never got any worse, but at around mile 9, I hit the wall I had read so often about. I really donâ€™t remember what happened between miles 9-12, as my legs were in pain, and my stomach was a mess; but I knew that once I hit the last aid station, I had to regroup, and make sure I ran into the finish. I had to no idea what my overall time was, and knew I was off my Â½ marathon goal of 1:48; but at this point I still had a chance to break 2 hours. I walked the last station, took in fluids, and started a pretty weak jog. At this point, the streets were lined with fans telling us we were almost there. Two signs that stood out: â€œWinning is just finishingâ€? and â€œOne more mile, and youâ€™re done!â€? My final motivation was seeing a finisher walking to his car with his finisherâ€™s medal and a beer! I laughed, and knew this was it.
As I rounded the turn, I saw my familyâ€¦all I could do was smile. No point to sprint it in (donâ€™t know if I could have, even if I wanted to); I wanted to savor the moment; this is what I worked so hard for. It had been less than one year since the tri-bug bit me, and with only 2 sprints under my belt, I felt like I had accomplished a lot by finishing this race. As I ran down the shoot, I took it all in. There were 2 little girls high-fiving all the finishers. I heard my name announced as I crossed the mat. I walked through the shoot, as a volunteer put his arm around me, and had a very in-depth conversation with me; apparently to make sure I was lucid. He gave me some Gatorade, and put the medal around my neck. At the end of the shoot, was my father-in-law Paul. He asked me how I felt (I think), and we walked over to meet Jen, my Mom, Dad, & mother-in-law.
My goal for the day was to break 5 Â½ hours; I was 5 minutes off. I felt good on the swim, considering the conditions; although it was windy, I was going great on the bike & felt good, until my nutrition failed; unfortunately, that carried into the run, as I never felt good; I was never able to get into a nice rhythm and my splits were all over the place. But considering it was my first Â½ Ironman and had competed in only 2 other triâ€™s (both sprints), I am happy with my outcome. I learned a lot about myself that day. I learned that with a lot of hard work, and some perseverance, you can do anything. I know that I couldnâ€™t have done it without some key people in my life: my wife Jen, my parents & in-laws. I also learned the value of nutrition!!! Iâ€™m excited and relieved that itâ€™s done. The relief is I now know what to expect for my next Â½, and someday a full Ironman. Until then, Iâ€™m taking a few days off to eat some solid foods, and drink that beer I had my eye on at the last Â¼ mileâ€¦.
NAME JASON MACALUSO
BIB NUMBER 1028
STATE/COUNTRY MADISON CT USA
SWIM BIKE RUN OVERALL FINISH POSITION
35:01 2:53:59 1:59:48 5:35:39 586/1,561