Heath Thurston at Ironman St. George
Well this was my 7th Ironman that I have done. And luckily now I am on the better side of finishes to DNF’s (did not finish). Although I hate to not finish a race, each one of them has taught me how to be able to finish the next one better. I just finished the audio book of “Open,” the autobiography of Andre Agassi. It is an amazing book, and I highly highly recommend it to anyone. He talks a lot about his disappointments and defeats and how hard it is to loose. But when he finally wins Wimbledon or one of those really big matches he talks about how winning feels. He says that winning doesn’t feel nearly as good as how bad loosing feels. He also talks about how when you win you won’t learn anything from that because everything went right so you only focus on the feeling of the win. When you loose or fall apart you have a tendency to really look into yourself and what or how the match or race went and you have to learn from it to move on and to not let the same thing happen again.
All of this was really came to me while racing Ironman St. George. I was coming off of my last IM Florida with a DNF, so I had definitely learned a lot from that one and was ready to do really well in St George. I had trained and trained hard for this race and specifically for this course. I rode the bike course so many times over the last 6 months and also the run course, I think I knew every single crack and pot hole on that course and could probably ride it blind folded. The one thing I have learned about Ironman though is you can’t get comfortable with confidence and think that you will breeze through it and that nothing will go wrong, cause when you think that way you will definitely have something go wrong.
Needless to say I was ready physically. And luckily mentally I have gotten a lot better. I heard one time that IM is 95% mental and 5% physical, which I truly believe. Lucky for me the week of Ironman my mental state really turned for the better and I was able to make a 180-degree switch in the way I thought about going into this race which I knew was going to really help me on the day. I had some high expectations for myself in terms of times and finishing places. I had hoped and planned my training around doing a 47-50 min swim which went according to plan then had hoped to bike a 5 hour which I was just barely off of. then hopefully get off the bike and run a 3-3:15 marathon which would have put me hopefully in the top 5 or top 10 and would have been my fastest IM and my best placing.
The swim started great as I am at one with the water from my life as a swimmer. But unfortunately I had missed catching the lead pack at the start so I ended up doing what happens most of the time and swam the whole swim on my own. I just couldn’t bridge the gap up to the pack so I was content with staying where I was so I stayed comfortable and swam it in. I did my usual Butterfly for my wife at the end of the swim as my signiture and homage to her. But the other thing I had planned on doing differently was to come out of the water and run straight to Mahogani which she was volunteering as a wetsuit stripper and pick her up and kiss her. It worked perfectly and was awesome, plus the crowd and announcer Mike Riley loved it, it also made the St George spectrum Paper.
As I got through T1 I was feeling great and was ready to ride. For the ride I decided to try something different as well which was to wear ear plugs to block the rush and noise of the wind. This was probably my favorite thing I have come across to do while racing. It worked great and I felt effortless while riding not hearing the wind it really felt like there was absolutely no wind the whole time actually. My Fezzari T5 was awesome. The guys at Fezzari did an excellent job on the new frame. The only problem I had was the back tightening up. Before that I had a couple of other minor set backs that I had to deal with. 1st was the aero drink I had for my calories ended up breaking out of the bracket and so I had to stop at the first aid station and get it taped into my aerobars (there went my aerodynamics lol). Then I had some sort of big bug fly right into my mouth I though it may be a bee which may have stung me still not sure really. Then when I got to my special needs my bottle of calories that I needed for the second half of the bike was still fozen in the bottle so I had to chuck it away. Then I was reverted to using everything in the aid stations for calories. My body dealt with it ok but my stomach had some distress which caused some vomiting on the second loop coming down from Veyo. By this point though that was the least of my worries cause of my back pain was so bad by now that I felt like I was having trouble even pedaling my bike. Luckily most of the rest of the bike was mostly downhill. I got to the start of the loop again and saw Mahogani which I immediately stopped for some advice and comfort. I told her about the back pain which she promptly said in only a Mahogani way, keep going and stretch in T2. So I rode down to T2 and was barely able to get my leg over my top bar and got off my bike but could not stand straight up due to the back spasms and pain. So I hobbled into the T2 tent and was trying to sit and rest but my back just continued to spasm and lock up so I was quickly put onto the pavement to try to keep it straight and relax it. The volunteers were amazing with trying to help me stretch and even doing some massage. By this point Mahogani had booked it down the Diagonal and into T2 to see if she could help. I took in more salt and some Ibuprofen and after a sweet little 30 minutes or so my back was somewhat loose enough to at least start hobbling a walk through the marathon to finish.
By this point I Knew that my time and place where out of the question and my goals for this race were gone. But I could still finish and try to finish as strong as possible. I was actually surprised how quickly I was able to start to run and especially how fast I was able to run. This is one of the things that truly always amazes me about the human body and what we can do if we really choose and want to. The run was really hot and hard to get through still but with so many friends and family out there to cheer it was all worth it.
In the end I am so so grateful for all my friends and family that are always helping me without question and are always there no matter what, in defeat or in triumph. I definitely know and feel that this was a huge triumph for me. I learned so much about racing and more so about myself out there on Saturday. I also wanted to thank all my sponsors that help me get to where I am and do so much for me cause with out them I couldn’t do it all. So thanks Fezzari Bicycles, PowerTri, Xterra wetsuits, Xtreme Endurance, DUB nutrition, Rokit Fuel cereal, Aqua Hydrate.
Also a big shout out to people that did amazing out there, Spencer Woolsten man he is amazing and did awesome pushing to try and win the age group ranks. Nate Baldwin that was able to finally get through his Ironman way to go stud. But mostly all of my athletes that did awesome out there and all finished a very tough day. Devan Tandy, Chris Shurian, Brad Mertz, Missy Payne, Blake Josephson, Blake Nuttal, Anne Heiner, TJ Young, and Joe Morton. They all did great and it really helped me to keep going to see them out there as well.
Till next time, which I hope the stars and moon align so I can finally put the race of my dreams together, but until then I will keep training hard and keep trying to get where I want to be in this sport.