But don't go punching unicorns.

Ironman Florida

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16 weeks of Ironman specific Training via Coach Troy Jacobson, on top of many races and months of base training before that. The training was done, I felt I did the necessary work and was going into the race feeling in my best shape ever. My goal for this race was to beat my 2011 Florida time of 11:07, second goal was sub 11:00, and then if things were going my way I thought I could do 10:45. My race plan was 1:10 swim, 5:15 Bike and 4:00 Marathon. I was part of the Ironman Executive Challenge; one Kona spot was up for grabs in my age group. There were two other guys that I knew were faster than me, so my goal was just to do my race plan and don’t worry about Kona. Also doing the race was my wife Katie Parr, her second Ironman, she was ready and in great shape as well. Katie had trained hard and was looking to go sub 12:00. Then there was my co-worker Mike Rose, doing his first Ironman.

We arrived Wednesday evening. Thursday morning Katie and I go for a practice swim in the ocean, it was very rough, about 30 minutes, feels ok, we then hit a 30 minute run. Back to the condo, I go down to have “Breakfast with the Pros” as part of the Executive Challenge Group. Jessica Jacobs, 2x Florida Ironman Champ, Max Longree Ironman Louisville Champion and Meredith Kessler 3x Ironman Winner. After that, Katie and I spent the rest of the day trying to relax, did a little shopping at the expo. That night was the Athlete Banquet; they brought up on stage a gal from Oakland, California who had lost 140 pounds. She saw Ironman World Championships on TV, she was 280 pounds, eating Doritos with cheese sauce, told herself enough and signed up for an Ironman and lost 140 pounds in the process. Then another guy named Darrel, who on a dare was doing both his first Ironman as well as his first Triathlon EVER! There is motivation all over the place!

Friday morning Katie, Mike and I do a short swim, and then Katie and I do a 30 minute bike followed by a 10 minute run for our last workout before the race tomorrow. It feels a little funny; legs are a little tired; doubts start creeping into my head. Why are my legs tired? Did I do enough training? How am I going to do 140.6? This is nuts! Stop it Joe, take a deep breath, follow your plan, do your race, it will all work out. I am more nervous about tomorrow than any other race. Your first Ironman you have no real expectations except to finish, your second one you want to beat your time, which I did by one hour and two minutes, the third one now has real expectations and that starts messing with my head. Need to calm down, wasting energy. I break my first rule, they tell you to never change your gear for the race, stick with what you used. I see a speed helmet I want, everyone tells me after race wheels, which I have, this is the next spot to gain some speed. $248, I justify it by telling myself I get 25% discount because I am part of the Executive Challenge. The race will be the first time I wear it. Next, I decide to use Katie’s sunglasses on race day, second piece of equipment I haven’t used before. What the heck are you doing? Katie and I check-in our bikes and transition bags. That’s it, you can’t change anything now. We each get a massage to try and relax the muscles. Following that we have some lunch, try to relax, the time is going by so freaking slow, tired of waiting, just want to start this thing, freaking out! That night we get take out from Olive Garden, great call because it’s a Zoo, everyone in the race and their family is in there, 90 minute wait! Thank goodness we went with Take Out. Time for bed,  I am tossing and turning all night long; I get up at 2:30am, make some oatmeal, get Katie up and do the same for her. We go back to bed. 5:00am we wake up, have breakfast, get our food together for our bike and Special Needs Bags and head down to transition. Load up our bikes with food (only taking water from the aide stations this time, carrying all my own Pacific Health Labs drink/food/gels the whole race) and bottles, fill the tires with air one last time and head back to the condo (its right at the starting line). Try to relax for the next 45 minutes before we had down to the start line. I am getting nervous just writing this. 6:25 we get our wetsuits on and head down to the VIP Tent with the Executive Challenge crew. Pros go off at 6:50, National Anthem follows that, I do a little warm up swim, I am nervous as hell. The ocean is rough, 2,800 athletes are now crowding the beach all eyeing the first turn buoy, I start wide right with Katie and Mike, hoping to stay away from the 1,000 first timers that will make it almost impossible to get to the first turn without expending a lot of energy. Waves are crashing hard on the beach, the cannon goes off at 7:00am, “BOOM”, mayhem, stay calm, stay wide right, nice and easy, it’s a long day. I make it to the first turn in pretty good shape, seas are rough but I was wide enough not to hit too much traffic. Make the next left turn around the buoy and start back to the beach, I hug the inside line, staying out of the mess to my right, again, nice and easy. I am drinking a lot of sea water because of the waves and then all of a sudden both my hamstrings lock up. What is that? Stay calm; it will go away, just nerves. I get to the beach, 1.2 Miles down, now for lap two. I drink some water and start lap two, less people in the way now, again rough seas, nice and easy. This time I stay tight to the left side, no problems, hit both buoy turns, heading back to the beach. The waves are beating you as you get closer to the beach, get out, get my wetsuit stripped, 1:15 swim time, two minutes slower than last year, damn. It’s ok; it’s a long day, no worries. Get through transition, onto the bike.

The bike can help make your day or blow it up. My race plan, hold 21.5mph at about 90rpms and finish at 5:15. Anything can happen on the bike; wind, flat, nutrition, heat, other riders, etc… I start out nice and easy, 20mph along the coast, a little cross wind, settle in the miles are ticking off. Head north and start taking in food and salt, I feel my hamstrings, but keeping them calmed down. I start playing games in my head now; just starting the Wine Country Century, have three loops to Del Valle and back, anything to break it up. I get a couple zingers in my hamstrings but work through it. Now doing 22/23mph about 90rpms, trying to just spin. There are packs everywhere, people drafting, many getting put in penalty tents, I try to stay clear, it takes a lot of energy to pass these packs but I did not want to risk a drafting penalty. I get to the turnaround, perfect, right on pace for 5:15, now again I think, I only have 56 miles left, it’s only the Big Kahuna ride. On my way back, it is now about 87’ heating up, energy is good, keep spinning, keep eating, keep drinking, it’s hard to eat but I keep forcing myself knowing I got a marathon after this 112 mile beast. I pass a few Ironman Executive Challenge guys, say hello and keep going. The headwind is now starting to pick up, keep spinning, mph drops a little. I hit mile 80 and now I just want off this bike! I start thinking its only now like a ride to Del Valle and back and I am done, just get to mile 100. I pass a guy with one leg; it took me 2.4 miles in the ocean and 90 miles on the bike before I pass him, amazing! When you hit mile 90 you are heading back toward the beach, now the wind is right in your face, people are blowing up right and left, I pass a gal who is crying. You can’t think about it, it messes with your head, this is your race not theirs. Keep going, stick your plan. At mile 100 you hit the bridge, a short, slow climb. I dial it back; don’t blow up, my hamstring locks up just as I get to the top of the climb. It will calm down, it will be ok, keep going, excruciating pain, don’t stop, and it finally goes away. Last 12 miles, just take it nice and easy, like a ride out to Wente I think to myself. Come in on the bike at 5:18, ok not bad 3mins off plan, into transition and out on the run.

I look at my watch and it says 1:47pm, we started at 7:00am and I know I need to finish at 5:45pm to get a 10:45, I think, wow, I am right there, I get a little emotional, keep it together, long way to go yet. This is when the race actually starts. My plan, is a 4 hour Marathon. I start out nice and easy, there are big crowds early in the Marathon and that can give you false energy, you will need that energy later, I don’t get caught up in it, stay the plan. I settle in on the first couple miles, no feeling of cramps, I keep taking in salt, Accel Gels and water. I am tired, my legs are tired, but this is Ironman and that just the way it is, you are ALWAYS tired. I see Max Longree, (one of the Pros I met at breakfast, he is not racing today) at mile two, he runs up with me, “How are you feeling?” I am tired Max, “Keep taking salt and gels, you need it you are a bigger guy, you need the calories to feed your muscles, don’t be afraid to take them in, you look great!” Thanks Max, he peels off. There is that guy with one leg again, I am amazed and think you are a “wus..” Joe, look at that guy. I see Jessica Jacobs, the 2x Ironman Florida Champion, she is walking, her body starting to shut down, she doesn’t finish. I see Katie, she yells, “I love you!” I try to say it back as we pass each other going the other way, not sure it really came out, she is looking good. It’s getting hotter. Again I start to play games with myself, every mile is hurting. Just get to the next aid station, just get to the turnaround at mile 6.5 (it’s a two loop course). I am at about mile 5 when I see Steve N from Executive Challenge going the other way, about two and a half miles ahead of me. I think, “man he is way ahead of me”, no worries, this is your race, stick to your plan. I see Mike Rose right after Steve, man he is killing it! I say “Hi”, he grunts. I get to the first turnaround at mile 6.5 feeling ok, now another 6.6 miles and I am half way I think to myself. I am not enjoying this; I am trying to go deep into my head thinking about my family, friends, co-workers, our company, looking for gratitude to help me through this. I tell myself, “I am never doing this again, this sucks!” Joe, don’t go there. You know how this works; you will have ups and downs, especially in the marathon. Just then I come out of it, feeling good again at mile 10, but with awareness,  think to myself there will be a few more downs, you are going to need to work through them, you can do it. Stop being a “wus….!” I keep telling myself. Now people are blowing up all over the place, its hot about 85’. This guy I go past throws up in his mouth and tries to swallow it, just the sound makes you want to gag, people on the side puking, laying down, you see it all. Again, you can’t let that mess with your head, it will if you let it. It goes like this, “See its hard, look at these people, its ok to stop for a little bit”, crap like that goes through your head, must stay focused on my plan. I get to mile 12 and I see Steve N from Executive Challenge coming the other way, he is walking. I think, “wow, I can catch him”, I get to mile 13.1, get my special needs bag to get more salt and Accel Gels, wave to the Exec Challenge boys Troy and Frankie and head back for the last lap. I catch Steve N at about mile 14 or 15, I think to myself “I am now in first, there is a spot to Kona right in my hands, start getting emotional!” Then I think, “you jackass Joe, there are 11 miles to go, stick with your plan, this is Ironman, ANYTHING can happen.” I now go to a different strategy to keep my pace, walk the aide station, and take in lots of water, then a good brisk pace to the next aide station. I do this the rest of the way and it saves my bacon. I see Mike Rose going the other way at Mile 18, he is looking strong, again just a grunt from him. I get to mile 20, ok, now only a 10K left; I can do that in my sleep. Mile 21 I hit one of those down cycles I was telling you about, I think “Joe, you knew this was coming, you can get through it, take it easy, and keep going.” Mile 22, ok only 4 more, hit mile 23, now I am thinking just a 5K, things are really hurting, my fingers and toes are tingly and I am thinking, “is my body shutting down, don’t do this now, come on you wus.. keep it together!” Just then I see a guy with an Executive Challenge jersey. What? I didn’t know he was in front of me? I see the “48” on his calf and know he is in my age group, its Steve C. I tell myself to pass with authority so that hopefully he doesn’t respond, because if he does I am not sure I have anything in the tank to respond back. I go past him, don’t look back, I don’t want him to think I know he is there, keep pushing hard for the next mile, hit mile 24, take a peek, he is not there, thank goodness! 2 miles to go, you can hear the roar of all the crowds now, the adrenaline kicks in, I can rest at the finish I think to myself, keep going. At mile 25 there are people everywhere cheering you on, it is crazy, you start to get emotional again, keep it together Joe. Mile 26 now, coming down the chute, see the finish, I hear the announcer say “here comes one of our Ironman Executive Challenge athletes, Joe Terry, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!” the clock says 10:49, a new PR, and a spot in Kona. I will take it! I get an XC welcome from Frankie and Troy. Katie comes in at 11:31, beating her time from last year by an hour and two minutes, 9th in her age group! She was amazing, so strong, she crushed her goal of sub 12 hours and executed her race plan. Mike Rose finished a blistering 10:22, and 12th in his age group in his first Ironman.

Katie and I went back, cleaned up and came back to the finish line to watch the last finishers come in before midnight. This experience is truly inspiring. The top finishing Pros were greeting the last finishers. We saw a gal who lost 140 pounds cross, crying her eyes out, come in at just over 16 hours, we saw Darrel who was doing not only his fist Ironman but his first Triathlon, finish at 16:30 something and handed him a beer. We saw a Firewomen come across in FULL GREAR with oxygen tank and we saw a 78 year old man finish at 16:45. The crowd was crazy, it was amazing, the spirit of Ironman!

The take a ways from this race for me were this; anything can happen in Ironman (Life/Business), it’s a long day, you must stay within your plan. There are so many ups and downs, much like life and business, you need to work through it, and stick to your goals, keeping to the plan and having the discipline that if you do the right things it will all work out on the other side. You must put in the time in order to do your best; there are no shortcuts in Ironman or life. If you don’t put in the training, map out your plan, execute on your plan, don’t expect to execute at a high level. There is inspiration everywhere around you and miracles happening every day. Last, it’s your journey, no one else’s; you must execute on your journey and not worry about comparing yourself to others. There is ALWAYS someone who is faster, more successful, has more money, better looking, nicer “stuff”, better job, more education, etc.. playing that compare game is a losing proposition with no sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. Your number one focus is to be better than you, that’s your goal as long as you are getting better than you, you will be unstoppable!

Special thanks to my wife Katie, my daughters Alexa and Kayla, Corporate Visions and our employees, Patricia, Quin, Gevan, Dan, Ralph, Paul and Barry, my mom and sister Tandra for taking care of our girls, our many friends for their support, Ironman Executive Challenge; Troy Ford and Frankie McDermond, Coach Troy Jacobson, Pacific Health Labs (Nutrition) and finally our health club, Club Sport of Pleasanton. I am so blessed, much love and gratitude, it takes a team, you are the best!

See you in Kona in October at the Ironman World Championships!

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