My Ironman Story – 2011 Ford Ironman Race Recap
Ford Florida Ironman 2011 Recap *Please note the majority of this recap was written months ago, and then writers block set in. So in a determined bulldog like grip, I have finally completed it and not changed much other then editing grammar, punctuation somewhat and adding pictures. These were my thoughts in November, December and thereafter and I stand by them all. This is the true story of Ironman Florida 2011 as told by a certified BAMF! Especially the Butt Butter portion.* ENJOY!It’s 1:30am on November 5, 2011 and I am awake…again. This time, I decide to have a Muscle Milk and a multivitamin and head back to bed for another hour of rest…hopefully. My eyes strain against the darkness of early morning and the exhaustion of willing myself to sleep. The red numbers bellow 3:45am and this time, I’m up for good. It is Race day and this day is a culmination of a journey that started 3 years ago or 10 months ago, or 3 days ago, depending on which perspective, story line or angle you view it from. This view is Race day only and so we return to me having a whole wheat bagel smothered in creamy natural peanut butter and a banana in the dim halogen lighting of our rental condo’s kitchen. The aura of the day has not yet sunk in quite yet and soon the beautiful Sherpa/Do It All With Grace, lady, Jonell joins me in my morning rituals as we prepare the bags, and I start to obsess that I have everything I need for this morning. Once I have stuffed all my bags with more “necessary” stuff then a family of triathletes could possibly use or a subject on an episode of Hoarders! We hoof it down to the vehicle and meet up with the rest of the crew. “Roughrider’s Mount Up!” Or something like that. Without much fanfare, we pile into the vehicles and head down to Club LaVela’s parking lot to unload and begin the 3/4 mile trek to transition and the area that will soon become a bustle of activity and eventually the finish line! I have literally been dreaming about my arm warmers being in the wrong bag, so with a snipers precision, I pull apart the running bag to make 100% sure that the arm warmers are not in there. Upon not finding any sign of them, I proceed to the bike transition bag to visually confirm receipt of those friggin arm warmers! SUCCESS! A trip to the bike racks to visit my other lovely lady, Kestrel Nikita and see how her fractured signs of experience are doing. She looks ready to roll and reveals nothing new, so I unload my bottles upon my trusty steed! I cannot help but notice some of the other bikes that have between 10-15 gels taped to the top bar. Interesting. The copious amount of gel festering in ones stomach seems like an unpleasant way to spend 5-7 hours on a bike. Just saying. Jonell & I find various members of our pack and merge back into the flow of people as we all make our way into the Panama City Boardwalk Resort lobby and cafeteria area. This area is packed solid with lines for the bathrooms (ironically the men’s bathroom line is 10 times as long as the women’s) and standing room only. So with about 15-20 minutes before 7am, some folks slither into their wetsuits while others, like myself, force themselves into them. We make our way down the boardwalk and onto the beach, where the air temperature of 50 degrees becomes a reality. Even more so, when you leave your flip flops behind and go bare feet on the icy beach sand. Soon the adrenaline has taken my mind off the cold weather and its time for one last “Good luck” kiss from my Sherpa! Time to join the neoprene clad masses! I mosey through the red inflatable arch which records your ankle chip and head to the far left portion of the swim start (inside the yellow directional buoys). This, I have been told, allows for a more peaceful and encumbered swim! Thanks Godfather! As I stand there in my sleeveless Xterra wetsuit flapping my arms like Michael Phelps and throwing in a couple of stretches to stay loose as the cold bite of the morning air works to tighten everything up, I notice Coach Jackie Miller who is so focused on imagining her swim that you could literally dance around her and make crazy faces and she wouldn’t even budge. She is dialed in and it helps to calm my heart rate and refocus on taking in the surroundings and shrinking the scene. What once felt like sheer chaos, now feels like just another swim. Just another triathlon. Just another day at the office. Its controllable and as comfortable as its going to get. My breathing is normal, my pulse is low-ish and my nerves are somewhat calm… its fantastic, its the training, the practice, the visualizing… all of it… makes for a confidence that the hard work is done and its time to go perform now. I imagine this is a similar connection for almost any achievement that takes hard work and practice to accomplish, whether its being an actor on stage, or an NFL quarterback in that you need repetition learning plays, executing those plays in practice and finally in games… It all comes back to the work you put in earlier. And so, I breathe out the anxiety and breathe in the confidence. Standing with my toes in cool wet sand, the waves struggle to reach me, but they eventually surge past and caress my sinking feet and retreat back to the beautiful and calm waters of the emerald gulf. The sunrise is to my left and brings phosphorescent shades of orange, yellow and reds as it helps to add another level of enjoyment to this gorgeous morning! Coach Eric Kahl is around us as Tony Welch and I complete our final stretches, inner monologues and positive affirmations to others nearby going through the same motions. There is an Ironman film crew right behind us as we gather as a group for one quick reminder, pep talk, motivating word and the moment is caught on camera. (3:49 sec mark) I take a walk into the water to try and relieve myself yet again and maybe add a little warmth to the wetsuit, but a race director yells for everyone to “GET OUT OF THE WATER!” as there are people still swimming and warming up. So no peeing for me as I walk back onto the beachhead. Then, like a grizzled veteran my calmness returns and I warm up my wetsuit just standing there on the beach! I love wetsuits. I do hear the announcer say “30 seconds until the start” and I just zone out and focus in on my breathing… Its so peaceful and I cannot wait to hear that cannon. “BOOM” the canon fires and before anyone has a moment to think, we all make our way into the emerald waters of the gulf… I start out with a few people right in my space and after a couple kicks and shoulder slaps, I decide to take my swim out a little more central on the course inside the directional buoys where its just me and a few other immensely intelligent souls! The swim is beautiful as the luminescent waters allow a clear picture of the gulf floor and give you a sense of assurance that you don’t find in murky lakes or cloudier ocean venues. This is extremely cool! And then I see them… Jellyfish… Big ass, round jellyfish with tentacles and pink innards. I like to imagine the jellyfish was more frightened by us then we were of it, because in reality, there wasn’t much I could do anyhow. When I swam over a jellyfish that was inches from me, I just let my arms glide over until I was passed and then continued to swim per the norm. In hindsight, maybe that full wetsuit would have been a good idea instead of the sleeveless! No worries at this point! From the moment I hit the first buoy, I was able to get my nerves and adrenaline under control and really zero in on gliding, pulling and trying to let my legs just drag behind me only coming to life now and again to pass a swimmer or avoid the usual criss-cross swimmer… You know. The poor bastards that are making this a 3 mile swim, by zig-zagging the entire course. Did they not practice swimming? I pity the fool. Before I know it, I can see the bottom again and before long I can feel the roar of the people and announcer on shore. 1.2 miles done! A quick jog on the shore to get some equilibrium back as the cold water can play tricks on your head! After running the horseshoe and turning back towards the gulf, the course has opened up quite a bit and I get to dolphin dive until my feet cannot touch the bottom anymore. Back to work. Bend that elbow. And Gliiiiiide. So smooth. Hey look, a school of stingrays about 20 feet below me! They look like a large light brown checkerboard pattern with the dark green background behind them, it is another beautiful moment from the Ironman. 1:11:36 – This is the time from my 2.4 mile swim. Not too shabby. From there it was up the boardwalk, through the hotel tunnel and into the Bike bag corral. We were handed our bag and made our way down a banner covered path to the building housing Transition 1. I head into a wonderfully warm room and once I turn right and come into the actual transition room… It is packed. Not a seat to be had. I place my stuff on top of bottled water boxes near the exit and get to changing into dry, warm bike clothes. I could have easily saved 10 minutes here, if I had cared, but I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t forgetting anything. at. all. About 20 minutes later, I dropped my bag into a large pile of white ironman bags and walked out into the cool morning air of Panama City once again. Once outside, running down a different banner coated path, I hear my number “1228” called out and soon enough my other special lady, Nikita the Kestrel is escorted to my side. I grab my trusty steed and proceed down another widened banner smothered path, lined with people 5 rows deep, to 112 miles of flat, windy asphalt goodness. The bike is usually one of my strongest disciplines, but lingering in the back of my mind was… “Marathon, Marathon, Marathon… You have to run a Marathon”, so I had to continually keep pulling back and trying to find a happy pace! The bike ride was mostly uneventful and as much as I tried to soak in the landscape and vista’s, it was just too damn cold for my South Florida butt! I had purchased a skull cap that I had to keep pulling down to cover my ears and my Zensah Arm Warmers which were money in the warmth bank. By far the best $16 I ever spent was on the Desoto toe caps which kept my little piggies much toastier then on the practice ride the day before where I lost feeling in my extremities in about 15 minutes. I knew that our support crew would be out on the course somewhere, giving us that little boost of adrenaline that comes with a prideful cheer, a witty sign just for you or seeing the smiling faces of friends, family and loved ones as you continue to grind away. No sign of the SRQ CRU through 56 miles, was starting to deplete the anticipation reserves a little bit. The third best pick me up of the day was a half size snickers bar waiting for me at the Special Needs Bag Station at mile 57. The slogan, “Snickers really satisfies” had never been truer then the special time we shared that afternoon. So after the delicious escape from reality, it was back to cycling down the bumpiest, slight downhill road in all of Panama City... and OH MY GAWD!, the wind is not in our face??? It’s actually at our back!! The key here was to enjoy it, because that would last for 20 miles or so, until the wind was once again in our face for the remainder of the bike course, but… the scenery improved and I really began to enjoy the ride. Now I must add, that the real reason the ride became a joy instead of just another 50+ miles of pedaling was I saw the SRQ CRU at around mile 62 and I could see them and they were yelling and jumping around… It was one of my favorite moments of the entire day!
I love that moment so much, I want to take it behind the middle school…Alright, a slight detour from all the good feelings and Kumbaya stuff… My crotch is killing me!!! I cannot rub, massage, smear, place, mash, caress, cram or Mr. Miyagi enough vasoline or chamois butter down my pants. I never thought I would look forward to the marathon portion of the Ironman, but by mile 100 of the bike ride, I am cursing all things spandex and trying to invent ways to better pad my giblets. Back to the ride! I actually talk to someone on mile 97 of the bike ride… we converse about the swim while riding and wish each other the best of luck! It was a nice distraction from the aforementioned annoyance and helps me to refocus on the open road views and the final 15 miles. Or so I thought! Wow, the final stretch of approximately 8 miles down the beachfront of Panama City and while most people would read that sentence and think… Oh, how beautiful that must have been… WRONG! The wind was ridiculous, so just slogging through those last miles while trying to keep a high cadence to ease up on the legs doing too much work before the run was most of my focus. On a side note, the water views were indeed, spectacular! I have switched to the little wheel on the bike for this stretch of road as I am just trying to keep my cadence around 90-100 while not exerting too much energy and in turn I am passing a slew of other potential Ironletes. I can see the large shipping vessels out in the Gulf as we pass numerous large condominium buildings on our right, which temporarily put us in the windy shade and make my ears colder then they already are… which in itself seems like a difficult thing to quantify, but take my word for it. My ears got tingly and numb! Finally, the home stretch of the bike course and its like riding down the Tour De France streets as the raucous crowd is right on top of you on both sides. It’s seriously cool and gets my pumped up for the upcoming dismount! Down the chute we go as volunteers warn us to dismount and as we do, another volunteer quickly takes our steeds from us and escorts them to the pasture to graze for the next 3 to 8 hours depending on where you fall in your marathon pace! Us riders turned runners, we have to escort ourselves down a channel of lurching metal partitioned chutes and railings to the infamous Transition warehouse. As I enter, expecting to come face to face with the same chaotic environment as before, I am instead, pleasantly surprised at a half full room. I am able to grab a seat (which feels like, DAAAAAAAAAAMMMMMMMNNNNNN) and unpack my Run Bag and start to disassemble my Bike facade and regroup a bit for the run. The volunteers in here are amazing and if you need anything they don’t wait for you to ask, they are offering help and supplies before your frozen and weary mind can even think of it. I do not need anything beyond another glob of vasoline. TMI? As I prepare to conquer the final 26.2 miles of this Ironman course, I return to my feet and take a last inventory before leaving the sanctuary of Transition. I am carrying a knee brace in case my IT band flares up and a headlamp as the sun sets at approx 5:30pm and I don’t think i will be all the way to the Special Needs section of the Run just yet. And so out the warehouse door I go stopping only to get slathered in suntan lotion and set my IPOD (Kidding! No Ipods allowed… all my songs are in my head). Following some competitors in front of me, we make our way to an armada of Port-O-Lets and I gracefully excuse myself. (Time goes By) And I return to the course now, beginning my run. Before I even have a chance to settle in, I come to a huge section of fans, family, friends, people of all kinds and seeing the Sarasota Storm tent up ahead I begin to look for Jonell and others… My eyes lock on her and I also see my Sister Danielle and her boyfriend Pat, who drove all the way up from Sarasota earlier this morning (8 hour trip) and returned back to Sarasota the next day! Just seeing them there and high-fiving them and hugging them meant the world to me and made the entire day and night seem like an easy blur. I didn’t quite realize early on, how helpful it was, to have loved ones support. I really just tried to keep my head down and slog away through all the training and monogamy of the miles by being a lone wolf, either by choice or the demands of life. But I could see, feel and taste the depth and sincerity of that appreciation now. The run course starts out with people lining the streets and we meander down the Gulf side of the main road getting cheered on by the fantastic people of Panama City, who come out of their homes, condos, apartments and line the streets with tents, signs, light shows, homemade water stops. It is a party within a goal! Awesomeness! There is a point, at approximately mile 3 where you find yourself in residential neighborhoods and you realize at that point that there is a lot of work to be done. The crowds are gone and its just you and your thoughts among a sea of other people who are all inside their own heads and can barely see you while they fight to overcome their inner voices and conquer their goals! A right turn, a left turn, a blur of homes and mailboxes, asphalt turns to poly-pebble to asphalt and another turn… Before you know it, you are at the entrance of the park and its a 2 mile loop of barren landscape and uneven roads (not too bad, but a definite pitch) with the occasional water station thrown in for the coyotes! The sun is hanging low in the Florida sky and the horizon looks to bring in cooler weather and darkness as soon as the sun will submit. I had set an original goal to make it through the park the first time before the sunset and alas, I reach the exit about 20 minutes before the sun is gone, so I am thrilled! Another Potty break! This cold weather is a blessing and a curse! I cannot fathom how cold I am, and I am thrilled I kept my arm sleeves on, but I also look forward to the 13.1 mile marker so I can grab all my warm clothes that I have waiting for me and layer up! Until then, I still have another 4 miles or so left to conquer. The sun is gone now, and the dusky night is filled with the sounds of people cheering, traffic, feet shuffling and the voices in my head working hard to stay focused on the words to “satellite” by the Dave Matthews Band and Till I Collapse by Eminem. The elation and adrenaline rush of seeing things for the first time (neighborhoods, the park, water stations, cheering signs and sections) is beginning to wear off and making it even worse is the creeping thought of how I am going to see these things again… not once but twice!! I have these moments of feeling impenetrable and my gait quickens, but my steel trap of mental lock down puts its foot on the throat of over exertion and gently reminds all moving parts to find their respective happy places again and maintain the Ironman Shuffle. So as the minutes drone on, and I am living on a diet of 2 cups of water and 1 cup of Power Ade at each mile marker and from time to time delving into my baggies of pills. There are all kinds of selection of goodies, in my fuel belt. From salt pills, to ibuprofen, to multivitamins, it all looks similar and tastes like nothing at this point, so bottoms up! I find myself nearing the halfway point of the run and trying to focus on the wonderful things, while the inevitable ‘other thoughts’ struggle to stay present in your tired mind … The training, the camaraderie, the journey, the friendships, the moments of the day, afternoon and evening of this race. The injuries, the missed training, the pain and agony, the mental stress, the frustration of working full-time, the costs involved, the second guessing, the idea of not completing the race. No matter how strong willed, or how battle tested you may be, the thought of being unsure is there, just waiting to spring out when you least want to hear it. Not too sound to cliché, but that’s when the tough, get up off the canvas and get back in the fight. Here it comes! As I come running…jogging…shuffling, into the halfway point of the Ironman’s marathon… 127.5 miles completed! My time is terrible, even for my usually slow pace, but with all the aches and pains and the IT band flare ups, it has been a struggle to just keep moving. Around mile 10 is when all my fears about the IT band’s, were realized and at the halfway point I grab the knee brace I had packed away, just in case they flared up. So that helps a bit. The biggest pick me up, by far was seeing the amazing Jonell and my wonderful Sister and her boyfriend Pat (who’s bad ass as well!) Just getting a loving hug from Mi Amor and high fives from Sis & Pat are food for my soul. 13.1 Miles remaining until goal accomplished! But first the goodie bag! Warm clothes, for the love of god! Panama City has been cold, even by northerner’s standards. With the fall of the sun around mile 6 of my run, the weather has taken a turn for the cooler. It has too be low 50’s heading to the high 40’s. Oh, how I want to finish this last portion reasonably quick, for the sake of my fingers, toes and nose. A word of the wise I had received from my coaches about Goodie Bag’s, was for the final stretch… Have your kids, wife or husband, relatives, boyfriend or girlfriend, whoever would have a great impact upon you, write a personal letter and pull it out and use it when you most need it. So I grabbed my nutrition, ear warmers and letter from Jonell and began my trek to personal glory. Seeing the same sights for the 3rd time and knowing a 4th time around lingers sometime in the future can be daunting, to say the least, but I just tried to sing in my head, soak in the amazing spectators and make it to the next nutrition stop. I also visualized the 4th time around as another short term goal. If all goes well and I get to see the same people and sights for the 4th time, then it’s a good thing!! Shuffle, Shuffle, Shuffle… Walk… Shuffle, Shuffle, Shuffle… Eventually I encounter the poly pebble neighborhood and this is around mile 16-17 and my IT bands hurt so bad, it’s almost to the point that its white noise or my body is just blocking out the aching pain… Just keep Moving Forward! 130.8 miles completed. And so it continues, the sound of heavy steps crashing down upon the sun battered asphalt. I set another short term goal of making it through the park, which will put me around 20 miles and leave me with just 6. So, to quote Jackie Gleason, “Away we go!” The park looks so different at night. It has this ominous feeling of desolation, while still providing flood lights and an occasional water stop, which are all much appreciated! I thought swimming, biking and running with 2,000+ plus people while not really talking to anyone was lonely, doing it in a park with minimal lighting and a thinned out group of warriors is the definition of solitary. At approximately Mile 19 of the marathon, I am having some real difficulties just plodding ahead, so its time for me to read the letter from Jonell. I pull it out of my back pocket and of course, I have perspired on it and the ink has run a bit!!! I can make out about 90% of it without too much difficulty and I comprehend all she tells me and the wonderful words she penned. I am in love with this woman. She just fills my heart. The words most definitely give my legs the energy they were missing and to clarify… I am not walking I am shuffling with small bouts of walking. I am aware of my time and I am well ahead of my pre-race approximations, so I fortunately have the luxury to walk the remainder of Ironman if I choose… But, we both know, that isn’t happening. I can rest, heal and walk tomorrow. Today, I shuffle… Like a IMFL BAMF! Accounting for the multiple port-a-potty stops, I am making halfway decent time with the shuffle/walk/jog/shuffle/walk program that I started at Mile 19. It isn’t pretty, but neither am I… Ok, ok. I am quite pretty. Thank you for noticing! I find myself exploding with joy and a bounce to my step that is practically climatic as I stumble across mile markers 22, 23 and 24. Soon I am mentally visualizing the finish line and my dance I have been contemplating doing for about three weeks. The Ray Lewis, pre-game dance. Here is a link. Before I get to Mile Marker 25, I can see the Sarasota Storm Tent that three times earlier when I passed by was crammed full of people. The temperature has dropped, most of our 17 Ironman BAMF’s have already finished and either departed to thaw out, get food or sleep and as I come up to the tent, I see one person peek their fleece covered body out and look in my direction. I raise my arms and scream out, YEAAAAAHHH!! It’s Nicole Chapman and upon us recognizing each other she yells and starts jumping all around causing enough celebration to bring some other fantastic people out of the tent. Eric Kahl, Jackie Miller who are our coaches and other supporters as well. We are all standing in the road jumping around in a big hug. What a special moment. Thank you all. Finally, they snap me out of my endorphin haze and tell me to go finish up the last leg. I can see the purple Ford Ironman Arch in the distance and the completion of an amazing goal that started over 10 months ago is just minutes away. I really want to finish strong and cross that finish line looking like I did at the starting line this morning, almost 15 hours ago. Upon turning the corner and heading into the final C – shaped turn to the finishing chute and Ironman finish line, I take a quick surmise my surroundings and realize that there is someone 100 yards in front of me and only 1 person 100 yards (and gaining) behind me. I decide after a few seconds of reflection to allow the person behind me to go ahead and safely get his moment and I would hang back and soak my moment in as well. I was afraid of us both finishing close enough that the announcer hurries through the infamous “______________, you, are an Ironman” pronouncement. So I pat this gentleman on the shoulder and tell him to go get his moment. There is no one behind me and its time to cross that line! I am still wrestling with the idea of doing a finish line dance… Will I do the Ray Lewis Dance??? RL Dance No. I realized that I might know the dance, but no one else probably would get it, and realistically, my quads and calves are shot. So I floated through the finishing chute with a smile on my face that stretched from Panama City back home to Sarasota. A few steps before the finish line, I stopped, leaned back and to the side and double pointed to the time clock, which read Timex Ironman and 14 hours, 57 minutes and change. Then, just like that, I stepped across the finish line and went from Mr. Sean Dreznin to Ironman Sean Dreznin. Here is my finishing video... You may notice the stop and double point to the arch! Just paying homage to the journey and completion of IM FL 140.6! The journey is one I will never forget and the race is also something I will always remember. Asked shortly thereafter if I would do another 140.6 Ironman, my resounding answer was, “No.” Simply because after doing two 70.3 Ironman races and one 140.6 and quite a few Olympic distance races and of course, Sprints, I have found a comfortable race distance in Olympics and the occasional 70.3. Maybe a nice local trip to Venice or Miami or Colorado to vacation…err, I mean race! Check That… Ask me again in 6 months! As for Ironman events, I have mixed emotions, which can be read here. I must give a shout out to my friends and the local triathlete’s who motivated me with surreal training regimens, awesome results, sound advice and the most important aspect, positive attitudes! Chris Juall, Eddie Wyatt, John Letourneau, Todd Stoltzfus, Tony Welch, David Begala, David Romine, Nicole Chapman, Tanya Marvin, Nicole Carson, Linda Steward, Thane Richmond, Jonathan Moore, Denise Branton, Jane Page, Pam Schueman, my triathlon doppelganger Mark Kowalski, Carl Knutsson, Marco Hintz, John Ambrozic III, Melissa Cram, Eric Kahl, Jackie Miller (and Scott Miller for his 1min for 1mile training program), Garry Battaglia and John Norris. A special note of gratitude goes to Jonell Romanus for constantly supporting me before, during and after the race, for at least 72 hours…Tee Hee! It will be my great pleasure to your Sherpa in 2013. “Here she is, locked and loaded!” A special Mahalo to John Norris for giving me this Tri-Fever and inspiring me to conquer and achieve by not taking any of my excuses and over-nighting me the Kona Championship DVD, asking me to watch it, and call him back that next day to give him an answer as to his offer of him paying Triathlons forward and paying for me to just show up and complete the 2008 Greater Cleveland Triathlon. Again, thank you John. You changed my life for the better in so many ways. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to repay you, but I do look forward to racing together someday soon. On that same note, it has been my extreme pleasure to be part of the Sarasota Storm Triathlon Group, which is one of the strongest and largest in the nation, notwithstanding is impressive as hell. Through this group, I have volunteered at some amazing races and had the pleasure to pay the gift of Triathlon’s forward to my fraternity brother and great friend, Derek Parlee, my sister Danielle who rocks and my dad, who I wish could’ve been there at the finish line. He is an amazing human being and I am beyond proud to be his son, except maybe when he tells his jokes… I kid… Mostly! When I originally started the journey which I didn’t at the time realize, would lead me to IM FL, I weighed 272 pounds. As of today I weigh 205 pounds and am so much healthier for it! So, to complete this recap, I am humble, proud and thankful for the journey, the friends, the success, the achievement of a goal that is special in its uniqueness and the ability to continue to pay the gift of triathlon forward. Mahalo, Ironman Sean ‘Kelevra’ Dreznin P.S. – I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I did, (finally) writing it! Below find some additional pictures I just couldn’t find a good fit to place in the above story. Please feel free to add your own pics and comments below!!