My First Half Ironman

By Kevin Milward

Kevin Milward 2I finished my first 1/2 ironman triathlon on 06/29/08.  It was a grueling & amazing experience.  My quest started back in November when one of my buddies (Steve V) suggested doing this crazy event.  I laughed at him.  I had only completed sprint triathlons (more on that later).  I had been running with another buddy to prepare for the Lincoln half marathon, as I had only done 2 half marathons at that point.

When Halfwits group runs started, I thought more seriously about the 1/2 ironman.  Scott Harry and I did some long runs together and discussed the 1/2 ironman a bit more.  Scott was on board, but I was not.  Scott and Steve found several triathlon training guides, but they all said that you should have at least a couple Olympic distance tri’s under your belt before attempting a 1/2 ironman.  As I said, I only had a couple of sprints on my resume; it seemed like a big jump to 1/2 ironman… I just was not sure that I could commit to the intense training.  After weeks of cajoling from Steve and getting the final approval from my wife and daughters, I finally agreed to be part of the insanity. 

We settled on some training guidelines.  Saturday and Sunday’s would be for long rides and long runs — together.  We would do the long workouts together to push each other and enjoy the camaraderie.  Well, you know what they say about best laid plans…

To make a long story short, I think that I rode once with Scott and maybe 6 times with Steve.  Scott and Steve rode together about 3 times.  So much for our plans!  We did stick to our weekly goals in total.  Our plan called for 3 swims, 3 rides and 3 runs with 1 off-day.  If we could do more, we would.  But, cramming 9+ workouts into 6 days was difficult to do.

I work fulltime, coach my daughter’s soccer team, volunteer at church, have 2 kids involved in several different activities, and my wife has a job that requires her to travel out of town, so it was often a juggling act to fit all these things in and still have time to eat and sleep!  My family was great and understanding.

The 3 to 4 hour rides basically sucked – they were monotonous to do by myself and it was just so hard to find the time to do them.  It didn’t help that we had such a rainy spring!  Some of these rides turned into bricks -a run after the ride.  I would get my workouts before work, at lunch, or after work (during dinner).  I could go on and on about the intensity of the training, but I’ll stop here.  I definitely felt guilty because of the time spent away from my family.

The date drew close – it felt good to be tapering, but I was definitely getting a bit anxious and nervous.  After all this work, I really wanted to hit my goals and not end up as a DNF.  The day before the event arrived I put my bike on my car and started loading up.  As I was packing, an M-80 sounding explosion went off.  Yep, my front tire blew – talk about additional stress!  We were leaving in 2 hours.  I can change a tire, but I would need another tube anyway so I went to BikeTek for the quick repair.  Steve S took care of me right away and double checked the other tire for me.

Steve and I rode to Effingham together.  Scott was going over with Jay W (another sucker that we brought in late).  Steve and I decided to get our packets and drive the bike course.  Everyone that we had talked to had said the course was flat…but none of them had ever done it.  After driving about 5 miles we saw some rollers, steep, but they were rollers.  Then we drove a few more miles and there were hills…what the heck?  It turned out that there were many hills.  Most of these, we would have to do twice.

The bike course was out 20, back 8, out 8 and back 20.  As we went to dinner with Scott and Jay and informed them about the hills, they laughed.  Both of them actually thought that we were joking – but that was not something that we would ever joke about at that point!

Race day came and we got there about an hour and a half prior to the start.  We all got setup and relaxed.  The water temp was 78, we could wear wetsuits.  I had brought my wetsuit, which had been used exactly once at the Nelson center with the SUSA and Masters swimmers giving me funny looks.  I could get it off quickly…it was the getting on that is fun.

As we started to get last minute instructions, the director was interrupted by a volunteer.  The race would be delayed by a few minutes because the water rescue team would be late.  They were responding to a near drowning.  Geez….hopefully not a sign of how the day was to go.

Congrats Kevin!We finally started and the swim was tough.  It was 2 loops with 112 in the wave.  I was kicked; punched, run over…of course I did the same!  Nothing was intentional.  1.2 miles down, 69.1 to go.  I took my time in the transition area.  I just wanted to finish this race.

My bike is a low-end Scott.  Steve and Jay’s are used Cannondale’s.  Scott has some tri bike, but a basic one.  90%+ of the others had disk wheels, aero helmets, etc.  It was a little intimidating to say the least, to see all of the expensive equipment.  Biking is my weakest, but the first 6 were great.  I was doing 19.5 mph.  Then the hills started coming.  Think Himalayas, well maybe I exaggerate, but definitely like Petersburg.  Going down one hill, I was doing 36-37 mph without really pedaling.  There were other hills like that.  Some of the downhills were nice, but there were sharp turns after the hill ended – definitely had to be careful not to wipe out.  Oh well.

As I approached 26 miles, I saw Scott on the side of the road.  Scott had a flat and had forgotten to pack his stuff.  I stopped and gave him my stuff.  A violation, but who cares?  I was not going to let Scott DNF. 

The biking continued – I would get to a flat part, but I could not go any faster because there would be a 15-20 mph head-wind.  The wind was brutal that day, especially on the bike.  As mile 45 approached, my mind was wandering.  As a rider slowly passed me with a very nice bike, all I could do was chuckle and think, “man, his swim must have sucked”.  I finished the ride and got off the bike and almost fell over.  My left knee had buckled.  I limped into the transition area and changed into running shoes.  I sat an extra minute and rubbed my knee.  As I started to run, the pain went away.

The run was an out 3.3, back 3.3, out 3.3 and back 3.2.  There were stupid hills on this as well.  The original course was having work done it, so the course changed 2 days earlier. 

I was hoping to run at 9 minute pace.  I went out at 8:30 pace for the first 2 miles – which was much too fast.  After the first 2 miles I had to walk, I couldn’t get a good breathe in.  This was how the run went.  I would run 2 miles and then walk.  I do not remember miles 7-11.  I was so done.  Scott, who estimates that he lost 18-20 minutes with the flat, passed me around mile 5.  I finally caught up Steve at 8-9 miles (I think).  Steve was experiencing the same run/walk symptoms that I was having.

The finish was not emotional at all…I was just relieved to be done.  My original goal was somewhere between 6 and 6 1/2 hours.  6:15 was my realistic goal.  I was hoping for a 45 minute swim, 3:20 bike and a 2 hour run with 10 minutes of transition built in.  My finish time was 6:15.  38 minute swim, 3:15 ride, but a 2:15 run and 7 minutes of TT.  The slow run was a bummer, but the bike ride and wind had killed me.

The entire process was fun and hard at the same time.  I do feel honored and humbled that I did finish the race and now belong to a special club of few people that can say that they completed a 1/2 ironman.  Without my family and training partners, I would not have been able to pull this off.  Not sure if I will do another 1/2, but I know that I can do it now. – Kevin Milward

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