I’ll be the first to admit it, I entered the race on Sunday with high hopes. My training had been going very well – I’ve been swimming faster than ever, I’ve had some very solid bike rides, and my run has been as usual. As I stood on the steps next to the dock on Sunday morning, I was by no means nervous… in fact, I was very excited. This was the first full distance that I felt ready to attack from the beginning rather than slowly pace myself. It certainly also helped that Ironman was giving me so much attention with my fundraiser that I practically had cameras on me all day to keep the pressure going!
As the swimmers started entering, I just sat off to the side. I was stretching, waiting, small-talking with a few spectators who were very quick and upfront to tell me their own personal cancer stories, and just soaking in the entire event. I was visited by several friends, and then Eric Atnip, the race director told me it was time. They had setup to have a camera guy follow me into the water filming the whole start. I figured why not – so I did a cannon-ball into the water. That should have at least struck up a few laughs.
My race started off very well. I knew the current was strong, and given that my agenda for the day was to pass as many athletes as possible – I pushed hard in the swim. I stayed way right when swimming upstream, very close to the shore to take advantage of the slower current. When we hit the turnaround, I swung way to the right again to swim as close to the middle of the river as the Coast guard would allow me, again to take advantage of the current. I felt good in the swim, and when I climbed out of the water, I was shocked that I had just swam 50 minutes! Then I hit the first batch of heavy traffic – the mens changing tent. I’ve never actually entered the changing tent and there be nowhere to sit. I ran to the corner and quickly changed (I bet I passed 100+ in the tent alone), and as soon as I exited, the camera crews were waiting for me. I ran to my bike and as I turned the corner to my rack I heard, “Go Dr. Feddock!” I turned my head and couldn’t believe what I saw… One of my patients, named Cameron, whom I am currently treating, was standing at the fence with his entire family cheering me on. I knew he wanted to come, and I am so grateful that Ironman donated VIP bracelets to he and his family, but I never thought he would be there for the entirety of the event.
The camera guys followed me out of transition, and I started out on the 112 mile bike. Similar to the swim, I wanted to try and get past as many athletes as I could early. There is a choke point on the bike course where you have to do an out and back on a 2 lane road 17 miles in. I pushed hard those first 20 miles to get out and pass as many as I could. Somehow, it worked, and by the time I made it back from the turn around, I had already passed half of the field. The camera guys pulled along side of me at mile 30, and even they were shocked at how fast I had made it to single file in the bike leg. We joked that I had already caught about 1500 people, but I kept pressing.
I have a power meter on my bike which tells me instantaneously how much work I am doing. I generally try to maintain a constant effort. The only problem on race day, is that my power meter quit working accurately. My goal on race day was to maintain 250 watts. My numbers just kept going up. I panicked at about mile 50 as I thought I had cooked myself since my average at this point was 304 (that’s the power I can hold that for about 90 minutes). But the numbers kept going up, and then when I started easily pushing over 600 watts (that’s the kind of power the Tour de France guys put out for about 15-20 minutes when attacking some of the large mountains), I knew the computer unit was no longer working. By mile 70, the head unit shut off, so I had to ride the rest of the bike course by feel. The goals of an Ironman bike are a little different as a normal bike race. You want to ride as steady as possible, and not put out any efforts where you are really working too hard. I tried to regulate this by feel, but frequently, it is still easy to over do it. Regardless, the ride seemed to go well. I have never made it back to the second transition in under 6 hours, and in all honesty, my thoughts at that point were that I was going to break 9 hours on the day. I thought too soon.
The run started off as usual. I felt fine, tried to hold back, but still was running 6:30-6:40 miles. My goal before the race was to start out running 7:00 flat. Regardless, I felt fine – until mile 5. I’ve run in hot weather before, but the humidity was a different story. Before I hit the the first turnaround, my quads and legs were already feeling trashed. My wife, Shannon, was in the race, she kicked it at mile 2, waited for me to pass, high-fived me, and then dropped out – resorting to the air conditioning of our hotel room before returning to spectate. I wished I could have done that, but I had too much riding on this race. I kept telling myself that I didn’t need to stop, but by the time I hit mile 8, I was cramping up so bad that I had to start walking in order to get out the charlie-horses. I took so much salt, soda, water, gels, etc. that they were making me sick, but nothing really made me feel better. It was so humid that when you splashed water on your face – it felt refreshing, but then 30 seconds later you regretted it because it seemed like it raised your local humidity even more. Then on the second lap, I was becoming so dehydrated that when I threw water on my face, I could feel myself slowing down and I’d black out for a few seconds. At this point, the run became purely survival mode.
If it wasn’t for all the friends and family who had come out to support me, I might have very well walked the entire second lap. My family, my parents, my sister’s family, many coworkers and friends, my patients Cameron and his family, another patient Erica and her family, everyone seemed to take over the course. Everywhere I looked I felt like I was seeing Ironcology shirts. The ladies from the Markey foundation put up a tent 2 blocks from the finish. At the final transition, which is manned by the Bluegrass Triathlon Club, I had so many friends screaming for me, and my friend Brian on a megaphone yelling for me to not stop and summoning me to finish in under 10 hours. My wife ran to mile 24 to make sure I didn’t stop at the final aid stations, and for me, the best moment was when I turned the corner at the end of the 1st lap, my 6 year old son, Asher, jumped on the course and ran the length of the block with me… I wish he could have stayed with me the whole second lap. It was a struggle, and the slowest Ironman marathon I have run yet (3:52), but I still finished in under 10 hours, and passed 1,977 of the 2,095 athletes. I was greeted at the finish line by Cameron, his brother and father, and Asher very quickly joined. All the Ironcology folks were there and it was truly remarkable how many people have not only supported me by making donations, but have totally gotten behind me and supported what I am trying to do. I felt like a failure for running so slow, but nobody honestly seemed to care, as they were more impressed that I simply completed the thing, much less that it took me almost 4 hours to complete the marathon.
As I have already said before, when I initially conceived the idea of this fundraiser, I had big goals, but small expectations. I honestly thought the best I could bring in would be about $15,000-20,000. Between the flat donations I have received through this website and the pledges that people put up for the actual race, I have raised over $54,000 in a span of 3 months. Needless to say, I will be continuing this venture. The original and most logical plans would have been to qualify and go to World Championships in Kona, Hawaii, but I again made the mistake of thinking my 7th place would not garner a Kona slot so I skipped the roll down ceremony in an effort to come back home and walk Asher to school. I got the text message at 11:14 on Monday morning from one of my fellow Big Sexy Racing teammates saying they just called my name… So, Shannon and I have been perusing the Ironman schedule to figure out the next race for Ironcology – Cozumel in November seems quite enticing – flat as a pancake! And I am also signed up for the Tri For Sight local sprint triathlon in 10 days despite the fact that it still hurts incredibly to walk up and down steps…
Here is the Official Race Day video created by Ironman. I was very blessed to receive so much attention, which again shows me how many people seemed inspired by Ironcology.