There was not a lot of talking that morning as Karel likes to get into his zone on race day morning. I let Karel do his thing, which started with 2 cups French Press coffee (brought from home) and then a pre-race meal of a bowl of oatmeal and a glass of Infinit MUD mixed with cow's milk. He also took in 1/2 croissant with jam as we were heading out of the door. For the next 90 minutes, he sipped on a bottle of water mixed with Precision hydration 1500 and took in 1 enervit pre sport just before his swim warm-up.
Karel is not methodical with this pre race nutrition but this approach has never failed him. He simply eats what he wants and doesn't overthink it. After 8 Ironman finishes, he has yet to have a nutrition related issue before or on race day so we don't need to fix what's not broken.
Before we left the house, Karel did his typical routine of heading outside for a brief 10-15 min jog to help get his system going.
In total (including special needs)
Bike: 5 bottles of sport nutrition (3 bottles Levelen 5, strawberry citrus and 2 bottles INFINIT Trimarni base phase fuel). 1 Kits organic bar (~3/4 bar). 1 Enervit Cheerpack. Hot Shot.
Run: 5 flasks (2 x Levelen, 2 x EFS Pro cucumber melon, 1 Enervit Cheerpack). Hot Shot. Coke/Red bull/water from aid stations.
After the swim, Karel lapped his watch but didn't look at it as he wanted to forget about the swim and prepare his mind for the bike. Little did he know, at the time, that he had a huge PR of 1:01! I was so thrilled for him.
As Karel was swimming his second loop, I walked back to our house to rescue Campy (more like wake him up) as I waited for Karel and our other athletes (Chris, Michela, Heidi and Adam) to come by on the bike.
I gave Karel a big cheer as he flew by me. I then waited for the rest of the Trimarnis to come by before heading inside for some food and a little rest before heading out on my bike. Campy had the best seat in the house!
For the climb up into town, Karel had to self manage. Even though Karel isn't metric focused when he races, he could see that he was not pushing the watts that he was capable of holding. He just focused on taking good care of himself with his nutrition and making sure that he could deliver himself to the run. Without focusing on the next mile, he stayed present and rode an effort that was manageable to minimize the cramping. Needless to say, Karel could have gotten very upset and frustrated but he kept his cool and just trusted that he could still run off the bike.
When I saw Karel, I immediately told him that he was in 6th place so that he knew he was close to the top of his age group. I then proceeded to tell him that the guys in front of him did not look fresh. Even though we were only less than a mile into the course, I wanted to give Karel a little boost that he had the ability to run down a few guys to move up in his age group. The Ironman is very mental and even when you are not having the day that you hoped for, you can still do something amazing with the body so long as you believe in yourself and never stop doubting your abilities.
I had a great time tracking all of the athletes and the Ironman tracker app allowed me to follow all of the Trimarnis and know exactly where they were on the course.
With all of the excitement, I made sure to rest my legs a bit so that I could make it through the day because being an Ironman spectator is hard work!
Karel was in 4th place in his AG and battling with a lot of demons in his head and in his body. Although he could have been satisfied with 4th, I knew his European mindset would not be happy with 4th place as technically, 4th place is not "podium" per European standards. His legs were fatiguing with every step and his mind was telling him to shut it down and just lay in the grass and go to sleep. Karel let his thoughts rant through his brain until finally, he had no more negative thoughts and he simply became numb inside - he put one foot in front of the other and told himself that all the pain will be over when he got to the finish line. Quitting, stopping or slowing down was not an answer.
As Karel ran out of town for his second loop, he looked great on the downhill. A big part of me wanted to believe that he was just hurting from the hill because let's be honest, who ever feels good on an uphill?? After Karel passed by, I stuck close to the tracker and saw that somewhere on River Road, he was getting closer to the 3rd place male. I could see that Karel was not slowing down as the 3rd place male was slowing down. Karel said that when he saw the guy ahead of him stopping at an aid station and grabbing his quads, Karel felt a burst of energy, proudly pumped out his chest and ran by him as if he was just starting the run. Of course, Karel had nothing left inside of him but that simple pass gave him a tiny ounce of energy to keep digging deep to the finish.
Once Karel passed mile 20, his legs started to buckle. Karel was forced to walk as he no longer could get his mind to work with his body. Karel is no stranger to walking as he doesn't view it as failing so he walked the big hill into town (being passed by older women running by him - Karel made note to tell me this :) and finally managed to dig deep for the last 2 miles to the finish. Oh how cruel to run uphill, see the finish and then run out of town for 2 more miles! I saw Karel around mile 24 as I was cheering with Trimarni athletes Ariel and Stephanie and I gave him a huge cheer as I could tell he was suffering so much and he was so ready to get the pain overwith at the finish.
With this being the first time that Karel was in the medical tent, I wasn't sure what to think about the situation. Of course, my first thought was "I hope it isn't life threatening." I was standing with Ariel and Stephanie at the finish and told them to head back out on the course to cheer for the other athletes as I went to the athlete medical information booth just outside of the finish line area.
I was able to speak to one lady of the medical staff (who was so nice and attentive) as I waited outside of the transition area and after she checked on Karel (I had to give her his athlete number), she told me that he was not looking good and that he appeared to be dehydrated and he was not talking and he was unable to speak or open his eyes. For some reason, I was not freaking out. This is not like me as I am a very sensitive person and certainly, I care about Karel as he is my world. But for some reason, I felt in my heart that he was going to be ok.
As I sat outside of the transition area for a good 30+ minutes, waiting for the medical staff lady to give me more information, I was anxious to see Karel, to make sure that he was ok and to give him the news that he was 3rd in his AG. So long as his health wasn't compromised, I knew that he would be thrilled with his podium performance.
Eventually, after over an hour of waiting outside for Karel, the lady told me that he was not dehydrated and didn't need an IV (he only lost 3 lbs from pre/post race). She told me he was just exhausted and he was finally able to talk and drink some chicken broth. He was still unable to stand up on his own as his blood pressure was a little wonky and his quads were not working but finally, she let me inside of the transition area to see Karel. Although they typically do not allow this, she said that I had been waiting for long enough and perhaps by Karel seeing me, she thought that this may help Karel.
After 11 Ironman's, I have never been inside a medical tent before and have never had an IV after a race so I wasn't sure what to expect inside of the tent. There was a lot going on inside the tent (even though there were not a lot of athletes in the tent at that point) and I finally made my way to Karel, who was sipping chicken broth from a straw in a cup and laying on a cot, with about 5 volunteer medical staff around him. After talking to Karel for a good 10 minutes or so (this is 60+ minutes after he finished), he finally felt like he could try to stand up. It took 3 people to help Karel up as his quads were buckling under him but he was finally able to put weight on his legs and hobble his way out of the medical tent.
Karel and I would like to say thank you for reading this race report and for all of the cheers/support via email, text, phone and social media. We appreciate the support and we hope that we can continue to inspire you to work hard and to never stop believing in yourself.
As Karel always says, "the only bad race is the one that you don't learn anything from." Karel learned a lot from this race and even though he told me in the medical tent that he "never wants to do another Ironman again" because he thinks he is just too old for this sport, he is recovering a bit more every day and he once again has a fire inside his body to work hard to see what he is capable of achieving before the day comes when he can no longer do what he can do with his body.
-Run In - for helping us with all of our running needs
-New Wave Swim Buoy - for keeping us safe and seen in the open water
-Mg12 - for helping our muscles stay relaxed
-Clif Bar - for quality ingredients in quality sport nutrition
-Cheribundi - for providing a safe, natural and delicious way to reduce inflammation
-Veronica's Health Crunch - for the most delicious hand made crunch - ever!
-Infinit - for customizable sport nutrition
-Levelen - for helping us optimize our hydration needs through sweat testing
-Hot Shot - for keeping Karel cramp-free!
-Solestar - for maximum stability, better power transmission
-Boco Gear - for helping us race in style
-Canari - for the most comfortable, functional and stylish gear