2017 Ironman Maryland Race Report

2017 Ironman Maryland Finisher Certificate

In 2015, I traveled to Cambridge, Maryland to race Ironman Maryland. Along the drive to the race venue I discovered that the race was cancelled due to Hurrican Joaquin. Instead of deferring my entry to the same race a few weeks later I decided to race Ironman Florida. That year I ran my first sub-4 hour Ironman marathon. In 2016 I raced Ironman Louisville  and again broke the 4 hour Ironman marathon barrier.

As I trained for Ironman Maryland my focus was to run a 3:50 marathon. I had gone from 3:59 to 3:56 and felt that I could drop another 6 minutes. I would have to run 8:50 miles on average and I knew that I could do just that. Not only that but I also focused on breaking the 20mph barrier for 112 miles at the Ironman distance. I had been close at Ironman Chattanooga in 2014 and Ironman Florida in 2015 so breaking it and being able to run 3:50 was my focus for 17 weeks.

Every week that passed, my confidence continued to grow. I was also doing a lot of training in the open water that I was confident that I could race between 1:20 and 1:25 without feeling over exteneded in the water. The training and the data was lining up for the attempt at a sub-11 hour Ironman.

As we landed at the house in Maryland I started to do the math on how I would get to sub-11 and I kept landing at 10:56. I went over the numbers repeatedly and kept landing in that spot. I felt prepared to race to that time. This would be a 26 minute improvement on IMLOU but I felt my training and the course put me in a position to succeed.

As we walked to transition I visualized a 1:17 swim, 5:35 bike and 3:52 run. I gave myself 12 minutes for transitions and thought that was more than enough.

Bike loaded with nutrition and a bit of foreshadowing happened. I knew I had a bottle that may leak and put that into the right rear bottle cage so that it wouldn't leak and it would be the third bottle I grabbed. I did this because if it did leak I would have time to pick up Gatorade on the course.

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Waiting in line I overheard a woman saying to an athlete that the swim would workout fine and giving her confidence. I took it upon myself to let her know the swim was going to be ok and if the stress hit just turn over and backstroke until she composed herself. I also told her that there were areas of the swim course that you could just stand and that helped to calm her down.

I gave Erik a hug and a high-five and told him he had this. Michelle and I walked through the area together chatting and laughing. I gave her a hug and told her that she had this. We waived at Karen and Erin and it was now go time. As I entered the water I took three steps and then said screw it and dove in so I could start swimming. Others were walking to the first buoy but I wanted to get going.

The double loop swim with 1,000 athletes should be contact free but I wound up touching more people at this race then at IMLOU, IMFL and IMChoo combined. 

The water was rough at moments but nothing impossible. I dealt with leaky goggles for the first half of the swim and mostly because I could not get a good suction. I had put aquaphore on my cheeks to help the sea nettles slide off but that just caused the goggles to slide. Eventually I just smashed them onto my face and that did the trick.

With the two loops there were always feet to draft off of. After I made the last left turn I found a set of bubbles and the pace felt comfortable and fast. I would tap the women in front of me every 3rd or 4th stroke. When I did the bubbled multiplied 10x but that just helped pull me along even faster. I did not intend to tap her feet but that happened and before I knew it we were making the left turn toward the finish of the swim.

As I exited the swim I looked at my watch and saw 1:24. I was ok with that time but knew I had to make up 7 minutes. I figured that if I raced to a 5:30 bike split I would pick up 5 minutes there and still had the transition buffer.

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The bike course is fun. It is also two loops with the stick of the 'lollipop' component being through some neighborhood streets but you could still ride hard. I took the opportunity in that area to stand up coming out of turns because I knew I would be down in aero all ride. Once out into the loop area we faced a headwind/crosswind but I was managing 15:10-15:30 splits for 5 miles Intervals. Once we turned north we got a tailwind and my splits dropped to low 14's and even into the 13 minute area.

The miles were ticking by fast and I saw the signs for a no pass zone and knew that we were coming up on the finish of the first loop. My NP was at 147w which was a good spot considering my IM watts is 151w and with this being flat I was riding right were I wanted to be and at a speed that was going to get me to the 20 mph goal.

As I was finishing loop one I tried to drink from the leaky bottle and I would end up wearing more than I drank. I finally gave up at the aid station around mile 50 and took Gatorade Endurance on-board. As I was grabbing the bottle another cyclist almost turned into me and I had a flashback to Ironman Arizona in 2012 when I had a bike accident at the aid station because another cyclist cut me off without looking.

Once out of the aid station and back into the lollipop looop I went to drinkin 2 bottles per hour while playing leap frog with two other athletes. We were moving really strong until I hit Mile 60. It was at this point where the headwind/crosswind picked up. I told myself to go for it and ride like my buddy Goat. Backstory: I have chased Goat throughout all of North Texas for 6 years. He is a super strong cyclist and it has always been my mission to ride like him. Unfortunately, Goat has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and was not at this race. The first time in 4 Ironman events that I have not raced with him. I decied then that whatever happened on the run I was going to ride my bike like Goat.

The three of us played leapfrog and I was going hard. At one point one guy dropped back and could not keep up. The second guy and I went back and forth and then I heard the motorbike. Since I was in front I knew that I was not going to get a penalty but the lump in my throat still showed up. I was riding strong and did not want a penalty to throw me off. As the motorbike got louder the other athlete passed me and then got right in front of me. The referree took out the sheet of paper and was writing things down as he was passing me. He then told the athlete in front of me that he was getting a penalty. At that moment I let out a sigh of relief. The motorcycle went forward and I wound up passing the other athlete not much after that. That was the last time I would see him on the bike course.

Around mile 80 the other athlete caught me and said to me, as he passed, that we were almost done. I told him we survived the headwind portion and should be good to go. I would not see him the rest of the bike race. I kept pushing the pedals and kept seeing my splits in the low 14s. I was riding around 22-23 mph and my legs were not overly fatigued. Even with going faster than normal I kept making sure that I was consuming liquids.

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Normally I drink 4 bottles of EFS with a cadence of two in hour one, water in hour two, EFS in hour three and water in hour four. GE would not be consumed until the final hour and only one or 1.5 bottles.

This race I wound up consuming 4 bottles. I had noticed I had salt stains and had not urinated after three hours. My solution was to keep drinking Gatorade figuring I was dehydrated but I never urinated during the 5:30 bike ride.

At mile 109 I figured that I had a chance to get onto the run by 2pm. By doing this I would put myself into position to run 3:52-3:53 and break 11 hours by 4 minutes. Even a 3:56 repeat would have me breaking 11 hours.

After finishing the second loop and noticing that my power was slightly below IM watts I figured I was setup for a good day on the run course and would eventually urinate while running.

At the mount line I looked around for the bike catcher but there are none at this race and ran to what I thought was my bike rack area, racked my bike and ran to the T2 bag area.

Grabbed my bag and put my shoes and hat on outside the tent while a volunteer told me I had to go inside the tent. I told him no a few times and finally said: I am not going in there because it is too hot and nothing I am doing warrants me being inside the tent (plus a few other choice words that made him laugh.) He finally stopped insisting and we chatted while I was gettin ready because I told him the only way I go into the tent is to go out of the tent. I dropped my bag off and started running.

The first mile I felt good and had a pace of 8:27. I felt I was in a good position and then mile 2 was 8:57 and I knew I was in trouble. By mile three I had to stop to use the bathroom. Then again at mile 6 and the walking began and was longer each time. I used the porto again around mile 10 and figured today was not going to be my run day with splits in the 10s.

I realized that I had not peed yet on the run and figured a trip to the med tent would await me at the finish but my legs were still functioning and I did not have chills or a headache. I was not nauseous and thus kept marching on.

I made a pact that I would run until I was not able to and then would take a one minute walk break. This turned into running aid station to aid station and taking the one minute walk break after the aid station.

Around mile 13 I saw my wife and broke down because the side stitches were too much to handle. I was upset that the day I had the ability to execute had slipped away and she told me to keep moving no matter what. She told me that I was half-way done and that gave me a pep in my step.

I saw Erik and Michelle on the course and seeing them gave me confidence to run. It was a great feeling to see familiar faces out there. I even saw Christy Kennedy on the course a couple of times. The first time we walked and chatted/comiserated for a minute. The second time she gave me a huge high five and smile and that also gave me confidence that I could finish this race strong.

When I saw Karen again she said that I only had a mile to go and was proud of me. It was just after that when I saw our friend, Erin, and she gave me a hug and told me how proud of me she was. I told her I was going to destroy a bathroom when I was done and off I went.

I ran with purpose and when I rounded the turn-around at RAR Brewing I smiled. I smiled so big it hurt. I smiled because despite the issues I was going to be finishing around 11:30 which was still a very good effort.

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I smiled because I knew I was racing for and in my heart with my buddy Goat. I smiled because I knew that my friends, Michelle and Erik, would be finishing their first Ironman. I coached them and trained with them all summer to lead to this moment.

I smiled because I knew then that I have the ability to break 11 hours at an Ironman and that day would soon arrive.

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Jason Bahamundi

About the Author:

I grew up in New York and lived there for 34 years until I got divorced and moved 1600 miles to my new home in Texas.  I love New York and miss it but that does not mean that Texas hasn’t been great to me because it has.  It was here that I discovered endurance sports and specifically the sport of triathlon.  Triathlon has given me new life through all the challenges it presents.  I no longer look at life the same way and I can say that is in part due to my endeavor into this sport.

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