Saturday July 29, 2017
2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run
"Always keep moving forward in life"
Yvette and Fred Fields
Here is my report on my 9th Ironman Triathlon.
Dr. Fields and Snoopy
This one was a lot easier to get to than the others as it was my first Ironman in the US. Since it was in northern California, it was only a one hour and 20 minute flight up to Santa Rosa. At the airport, I was greeted by Snoopy and Charlie Brown, as Santa Rosa is the home of Charles Schulz, the creator of Peanuts. The both offered me encouragement on my race! Then it was driving into town, getting settled in and picking up my registration packet. The next two days was spent checking out the course and trying to relax.
RACE DAY MORNING
This race was a bit different than other races. The lake where we swam in, Lake Sonoma, is 40 miles from downtown. This is very unusual when it is usually right at the start or within a few miles of the transition area. So we had to report for buses leaving at 4 a.m. from the downtown area. This necessitated waking up around 2:30 so that I could have a proper breakfast. Then I had to drive down to the downtown area, park the car and walk over to where the buses were. Fortunately my bike and other gear was already at the lake. All I had with me was my nutrition and swimming gear. After that it was a one hour bus ride up to the lake, getting settled in by checking my bike, pumping the tires, filling the water bottles and loading the nutrition on the bike. Then it was time to head down to the lake front. The day before, the water had been very warm, but the morning of the race they determined that it was still wetsuit legal (below 76 degrees). Since everyone else was wearing a I decided to wear one even though I get very warm in it.
Swim Finish with his parents initials on his forearms
THE SWIM: 2.4 Miles
As we lined up to start to get in the water there were a few people without wetsuits. At that point, I thought maybe I should not have worn my wetsuit. Swimming is my best sport and the wetsuit does get restrictive in my arm swing, but I decided to keep it on anyway. As I entered the water I realized that the water was very warm. Since it was crowded, I stayed towards the outside of the swimmers because the fast swimmer group I was in can get very aggressive. Halfway through the first loop I realized I was getting too warm and I really didn't need the wetsuit. I made the unusual decision that when we ended the first lap I would take off the wetsuit. This first lap ended where you ran out on to the landing and back into the water. Usually this is at least 20, 30 or even 40 yards, but this time it was just a short little loop in and out of the water. As I came up onto the ramp I grabbed the leash that is attached to my zipper and pulled it down. Two race officials saw me doing this and asked I wanted help getting it off. This was a blessing. So I flopped down on the ground and they quickly pulled off the legs of my wetsuit (the hardest part to get off). Then I was back in the water. I lost a little time doing this but it was well worth it. The second lap went a lot better as I was not overheating. When you finished the swim there is a quarter-mile very steep hill that you must go up to get to your bicycle. They told people you cannot leave shoes or other foot gear down at the bottom. So most of us did not. But some people left shoes halfway up the hill. This was a violation of the rules but no one said anything. They did have some artificial grass type material down so that the road up was not too tough. But the hill is quite steep and many people, including myself, walked or fast walked most of the way so as not to exhaust ourselves for the bike ride. Quickly into the transition area, grab my gear, change in the tent and got onto my bike to begin the 112 mile ride.
Dr. Fields during the 112 mile bike ride
THE BIKE: 112 Miles
The bike had four thousand feet of climbing. I prepared for this so overall it was not too bad. It did start out with a small climb as we left the lake area. Then through some areas around wineries. Lots of wineries; at least 30 or more. It was not as scenic as other Ironman I have done because we did ride along a highway several times but pleasant when going by wineries.
Unfortunately, the roads were not in great shape. There are a lot of uneven areas as well as small little potholes. This was even more difficult as it was extremely sunny. When you would go through an area that was shaded you could not see the road since you were wearing dark sunglasses. This made for an uncomfortable ride. Right before we got to town, at about the 65-mile mark, I got a flat. I did not notice it at first but as my speed dropped and I was pushing even harder, I had to get off the bike and check. Sure enough, the tire was flat. And it was the back tire, which takes more to change. But to my surprise, as I dismounted, one of the repair vehicles that circles the bike course (there were three or four of them) pulled up right behind me. What luck! The mechanic grabbed his pump and had my tire changed, pumped up and ready to go in less than two minutes. Faster I could have ever have done it. And without greasy hands too!
So back on the bike, I finally got to town where we than had to ride two 17-mile loops. This was invigorating as the crowd was there. Unfortunately, on these loops, the road got even worse. They were areas that were so bumpy one of the following riders said he thought he lost a crown. We all laughed. Although they predicted it to be in the 90s, it only went to about 86 or 87 degrees. But it was very sunny with no wind and with minimal shade, so it did get warm. All in all, I had a good bike ride.
So, as we entered town on the last loop, the crowds were cheering. The race had bike handlers as one gets off your bike, which are people who take your bike and rack it for you. Unfortunately, the race being slightly disorganized, they racked the bikes right there and then had the change tents after that. That meant you had to run about 50 yards alongside the bike rack areas in your bike shoes. Most places have it the other way around. But either way, it is always nice to get off the bike after 112 miles. Then it was into T2 tent and change into running shoes, visor, down some nutrition and out for the 26.2 mile marathon run.
Dr. Fields during the 26.2 mile run
THE RUN: 26.2 Miles
As we left the change tent, there were lots of people yelling and screaming encouragement. This was a good thing. It was now very sunny and very warm outside. Most of the run was done along a dry riverbed. There were some crowds at the beginning but not many after that. There was some shade but not everywhere, so the sun took its toll. There were several times you had to go over a little bridge, cross over the river bed and then come back, so the run was entirely flat. During the run, I had some difficulties with my foot which had been a common occurrence for me lately. Fortunately, I could adjust my running gait and keep going. The first 8.8 miles (the first loop) was pretty good. On the second one the foot pain got stronger and I had to walk/run quite a bit. But, as always, I just kept moving forward. There were a lot of runners out there for support. And of course, I was supporting the others that we’re not doing well. Being with the other athletes gave me tremendous moral support and the will to not give up. The second loop was tough as it took place during the 11th and 13th hours of racing, so keeping ones mind occupied is imperative. Dealing with my foot pain plus the physical and mental exhaustion that one experiences in an Ironman is always a challenge. As I began the third loop, I knew that if I made it to the turnaround at 4.4 miles, I was home free. As I made the final turn to head back towards town I knew that no matter how tough things got I was going to make it.
Dr. Fields crossing the finish line I encouraged those that I passed as well as the ones that were only on their second loop. As I exited the riverbed area up onto the streets, I thought I only had less than a quarter mile to go, when in fact it was really over half a mile. Just then a guy ran up to me and said, “Hey Peter you're doing great”. I did not recognize him but I had my name on my running bib and thought he just saw that. He ran alongside of me and told me that his girlfriend was not far behind. He told me her name and that did not ring a bell either. It really didn’t matter as he was encouraging me, which was needed at that tme. He finally turned around to go back to meet her. As I ran off, the energy that he had given me would carry me the rest of the way. As I came down the final stretch I knew I was going to finish my 9th Ironman Triathlon. It was tough but Ironman are never easy. The exhilaration and enthusiasm of the crowd, and hearing the announcer say, ” Peter Fields, you are an Ironman!”, never gets old. Never.
As I came through the shoot and they took my pictures, I looked over and there was the young guy who I had seen as I exited the riverbed. As I approached him it dawned on me that he was the son of my best one friends, Dr Ira Schneider. I screamed with joy “Aaron Schneider!” We both laughed and embraced and I told him how appreciative I was for his encouragement.
These races are not only a physical challenge but also a mental challenge. With the difficulties with the wetsuit, the warm water, the uneven roads, the heat, the flat tire and my foot problems on the run, this was not an easy race. But again, I persevered.
I always keep a remembrance of my parents with me at all times in my race jersey pocket. When things would get bad, I would reach back and touch it and say thanks mom and dad for being with me. This kept me going through any difficulties I was having at the time. With all their struggles in their lives (fleeing near certain death in fascist Germany, emigrating to the US and more), they just kept moving forward and never looked back. They taught me over and over again, that no matter how tough things get in life just keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep going. They supported me no matter what I did as long as I had my heart and mind in it. On this day, and every day of my life, I knew they are with me all the way.
As I said after they passed “You are not dead, dead or only those that one forgets”. I will never forget them as they never forgot me. This, and all of my races, are dedicated in their honor. I therefore start each race with their initials marked on my forearms.
I want to thank you for taking the time to read this and for supporting me, whether on line, thinking about me or reading this.
Peter A. Fields, MD DC
The Athletic Doc® and 9X Ironman Triathlete