About IMRoycer81

Richmond, Virginia, United States
Thanks for visiting! I'm a civil litigator at KPMLaw. I attended Cornell where I swam IM and Breastroke. In 2007 I filled the void of swimming retirement with triathlon. In my first tri I thought, "holy sh*t this is painful" and "when can I do it again?" Things escalated quickly and my first half was Augusta 2009 and my first full was Louisville 2011. Since 2007 I've been chasing my dream of qualifying for Kona. Prior to September 2017 this blog focused on attempts (and failures) to achieve an elusive KQ. I got the monkey off my back in my 10th Ironman at Chattanooga. There is still much room to improve and I look forward to putting in the work to become a consistent podium finisher. In 2018 I have the privilege of racing for Team Every Man Jack and look forward to learning from a great group of guys while giving back to the triathlon community. I couldn't do any of this without my amazing family. They lift me up. I am lucky to train in a fantastic triathlon town with inspirational athletes. My job, training, and daughter keep me busy, but I update as often as I can. I'm always willing to share the knowledge I've picked up along the way. Thanks for reading!

Friday, September 29, 2017

Ironman Chattanooga Race Report: KQ and a Dream Come True

Ironman Chattanooga Race Report
(Sub-title: How I got to be the skinniest I've ever been in my adult life, achieved 
a lifelong dream, and then put on 15 pounds in 4 days)
Total Time: 9:38:13 
Placing: 3rd M35-39, 10th OA male, 14th OA including Pro Women
Splits: Swim- 43:05/Bike- 5:15:08/Run 3:33:08

Apologies in advance if you are about to read this grizzly bear of a blog post, but as Sher-Pa always says, "if you are gonna be a bear, be a grizzly".  So.... beg your pardon as I take the liberty of mauling the sh*t out of some internet server space with a leisurely stroll through the mind of a nut job (me) on what was one of the most memorable days of my life!  Last Sunday, I was fortunate to qualify for the 2018 Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii.  This was my first KQ after years coming up short...Lucky Number 9 Baby!!!!  It was a remarkable, bittersweet, emotional, and ultimately rewarding 48 hours made possible only by hard work and sacrifices of many friends and family.  That being said, this blog needs to start with a big island size helping of gratitude. (for those of you who want to skip the sappy stuff, scroll down, I won't judge you... okay maybe I will, but just a little)

The Thank Yous
I have sooooooo many people to thank for helping me achieve this dream.  I cannot begin to express how humbled I have been since Sunday.  The sheer volume of people who have sent me a text, or called, or sent a Facebook message is overwhelming.  I seriously can't keep up or keep my phone charged from all the buzzing!  I promise to respond to every single person individually even if its just with a simple thank you.  For each and every one of you that have taken the time to reach out to me, I thank you, I appreciate you, I am humbled by your thoughts, and I carried your positive energy with me throughout the day of the race.  My village is so much bigger than I imagined....Now for the specifics

Britt and Sloanie:  Thank you for being the two loves of my life and the ones who enable me to chase this dream.  Britt has put up with so much of crazy over the last ten years that it is a miracle we are still married.  When she married me she didn't know she was also marrying Ironman, and I'm pretty sure she is not into threesomes (if you are... you got some splainin to do).  Nonetheless, she has supported me, propped me up when I was down, and allowed me the freedom to work late nights and train long hours to make this a reality.  Most of you are my Facebook friends so you know how much I like to shout from the rooftops about my love for this spectacular woman and I'm going to do it again right here....I love you more today than ever before and I still can't believe I was so fortunate that you walked across the pool deck and forever into my life back in 2002.  To my beautiful Sloanie, I hope that I am setting a good example for you and teaching you the value of hard work, sacrifice and dedication.  You are my best accomplishment and I'm lucky and proud to be your Daddy....just stop calling me Danny.....I'm dad, capiche?

Mom and Dad:  Thank you for molding me into the tunnel visioned, thick headed, maniac I am today.  There are no two greater parents on planet earth, shit, there are no two greater people on planet earth.  If I can be 1/10th as good a parent to Sloane as you have been to me she will be a lucky girl.  When I think of you both three words immediately come to mind: love, selflessness, sacrifice.  Whatever anyone needs you are always there.  You are heroes to me and my daily inspiration to live up to your ideals and the way in which you have chosen to live.  I love you both so much!

Jackie, Bobby, Lummy, and Ricky:  Where do I begin....its not great enough that I have the most loving and supportive sisters in the world, but I was also fortunate that they have impeccable taste in spouses and brought RD and Bobby W into our lives.  Each and every one of you has contributed to this journey with the most precious gifts of all....your time and your love.  You guys pump me up when I'm down, chase me all over the country to races, and even train with me....how did I get so lucky?!?!?  Although I'm not so good at communicating it, I hope you all know how much I love and appreciate you.  Special thanks to Jacko who ran around that course like a maniac on Sunday.  When things looked bleak you kept my head in the game.  You got me there, I could not have done it alone.

Jeanna:  What can I say?  You have been my coach and mentor since I was 8 years old.  You have been there for nearly every significant athletic and life accomplishment since that time.  You really are my good luck charm.  You were there for my first league records, then state records, then junior cuts, then graduations, then wedding, the birth of Sloanie, and now my KQ.  You were in just the right spots on that course and when I needed you most you lit my fuse the last two miles of the run.  You are and always will be an official Royce to me!

Trey: I am not a guy with a lot of close friends.  In fact I consider myself fortunate to have a small handful of really special people in my life.  You are easily one of the best people I have ever met and one of the single most motivational people on planet earth.  I am so fortunate that we became buddies and I consider you one of my best friends in the world.  You motivate me, train me, and believe in me when I don't believe in myself.  Even though you weren't physically there, you were with me out on that course.  At Mile 24 Jeanna yelled "Trey said to turn your hat around, get nasty and stop screwing around".  That's exactly what I did and that energy carried me home. You are the best.  Thank you.

David, Grace and Cameron: One of the greatest gifts this sport has given me is the opportunity to meet you and to meet Cameron through you.  Though I never met her in life, I feel like I have gotten to know her through you guys.  It has been a special honor to race on behalf of SpeakUp and in her honor.  Cameron helped carried me home on Sunday and gave me one of the most memorable moments of my life.  At mile 17 of the marathon things were starting to go South when I ran up on David.  I had told him before the race that I would see him on the course and get a hug.  The timing could not have been more perfect.  I ran up beside Dave and put my arm around him and asked him if he could let me borrow Cam for the next hour to help me reach my dream.  Without skipping a beat Dave said yes, took off his fight, finish, faith bracelet, handed it to me and yelled words of encouragement.  That boost and Cameron's presence ultimately got me where I needed to go.  When my legs were so fried I could barely walk and I needed 15 more minutes of effort it must have come from Cameron and my family because there was no physical explanation to make that possible.  Thank you Gallaghers, and thank you Cameron.

There are so many other people to thank and I wanted to make sure I give some special recognition to them as well.  You all have helped get me here in your own special way and I want to make sure you all know how thankful I am for each of you to be in my life.  Thanks to Amy DeBeer, Giani Manieri, Eric Limkemann, Dan Szajta, Graham Sheppard, Chris Berney, Moose Herring, Jeff Tunstall, Rob Green, PJ Gallagher, Justin Moyer, Jason Angel, Lindsay Wohlford, Jeremy Galo, Shay Moore, Ed Boyle, John Hessian, Amy Ford, Jay Peluso, Clint Kronenberger, the Deckert family, and so many others.  I am sure there are so many more to thank but my brain is fried and I will make sure each of you knows how thankful I am in the days and weeks that follows.....now for the reason that you started reading this thing....the actual race report!

I trained harder than ever this year.  I put in more hours, more miles and more quality sessions.  I also hired a nutrition coach and completely overhauled my diet.  With the help of Stronger U and Jeremy Galo I lost a significant amount of weight and toed the line about 12-15 pounds less than prior races.  The weight loss really improved my overall health and ability to produce quality sessions day in and day out. The weight loss took place over a 10 week period and although the biggest losses were on the front end, I lost on average about a pound per week.  I find dieting so much harder than training, but I learned some valuable lessons: 1) whether I eat good or eat bad I am always hungry in Ironman mode (so I might as well eat well and be lean), 2) there is a difference between being hungry and being properly fueled, 3) I'm an idiot for not doing this sooner! and 4) I vastly underestimated how much weight impacts running pace and ability.

The greatest area of improvement was in my running.  The combination of light weight and daily consistency had me running 30-40 seconds faster per mile on virtually every run.  However, despite phenomenal training I had yet to have a good race this year.  A string of bad luck prevented me from showcasing fitness at any of my prior races.  At Raleigh 70.3 I had two flats.  I tried to redeem myself at Muncie 70.3 and crashed in one of the aid stations on the bike.  That resulted in me shearing off my aero bars and riding the last 25 miles on the drops.  Needless to say I was anxious to put the bad mojo behind me and have a great day.

I arrived in Chattanooga with my dad on Thursday and we got settled in and got my last few tune up workouts in.  The days leading up to the race were low key and I felt more relaxed than usual.  I spent those days focused on my nutrition and keeping my weight as low possible with smart nutrition choices (as if I'm not neurotic enough, I know travel with a scale).  I was totally paranoid about ballooning my weight as training volume dropped to nothing.  Dad and I hung out a lot and tried to keep things mellow and low stress.  My sister Jackie arrived on Friday night and it was nice to spend some time with her.  Everything in the lead up went smooth....bike was running perfectly and bag drop was quick and easy.  Miraculously I continued to drop weight and weighed in at 173.9 on the day before the race (previously I had raced between 185-190).  My wife, daughter and mother arrived at dinner time the night before the race.  Britt and Sloanie were staying with a family friend so I only got to spend a short amount of time with them at dinner.  I was definitely missing them in the days prior to the race and wish I could have had them around earlier/more.  As usual my wife was a champion and planned everything to maximize my performance.  Sloanie is a great traveler but does not sleep well in hotel rooms.  Britt's travel plans were perfectly planned to allow me to maximize my sleep and rest.

Up to this point everything was shaping up to be fantastic until about 10:00 pm on pre-race eve.  I was laying in bed trying to sleep when my sister got a phone call from my mother in law.  She was at home watching our dog and when she went to let him out she found he had unexpectedly passed away.  This came as a total shock because Brady seemed to be in good health and had not shown any signs that something was wrong.  In fact he seemed totally fine that morning when Britt left for Chattanooga.  That night was rough, and after a good cry, I had no choice but to compartmentalize the loss and do my best to focus on the task at hand.  It was hard not to think that my bad luck streak was continuing and that maybe this just wasn't my year.  I slept very little that night but did my best to push down my sadness.  Britt and I have had Brady since before we were married and he was gentle dog with a sweet disposition.  He was with us in our first apartment, our first house, the birth of Sloanie and the move to our forever home.  I regret not being able to be there for him in his final moments, and coming home to an empty house has been painful.  Every night I get off the couch and say "come on Brades" only to realize that he is not laying under my feet like usual.  So Brady, my hope for you is that the doggy after life is filled with precocious little girls dropping scraps food on the floor just like home.  Rest in peace my sweet Brady boy.

Race Morning and Swim
Swim Split: 43:05, 1:06/100m
For obvious reasons I did not sleep at all the night before the race.  I was in a state of semi-consciousness all night and was awake for good at about 2:30 am.  My plan was to head down to transition at about 4:15.  I had planned to get up earlier than normal due to a new nutrition plan so it ended up working out fine.  Following the advice of the core diet and my buddy Dan Szajta, I started my nutrition with a jar of unsweetened applesauce.  It is nothing but pure carbs and no fat/protein.  It also acts as a natural laxative to clean out the pipes.  I downed the bottle and then let a little time pass before I ate the rest of my breakfast consisting of two packages of blueberry oatmeal, a vanilla powerbar and two slices of Dave's Raisin the Roof Bread with honey and jam.  All of these foods were specifically selected for carbohydrate content with limited protein and fat.  I washed all this down with a bottle of gatorade endurance.  At 4:15 a buddy of mine from home, Justin Gravatt (who also raced and had a great day) gave me a ride down to transition.  Dad and Jacko rode their bikes and met me there.  I took my time in transition, checked my bags, got my bike ready, turned on my garmin, calibrated my Quarq, and got on the bus for the ride down to swim start.  I was very casual and not in a rush to be at the front of the swim line.

Down at swim start I was fortunate to make a new friend in line, Tim Shea, who was kind enough to share a blanket as a seat and we got to know each other for the next two hours.  It was nice to have some casual conversation with a new friend and have my dad and sister there as well.  Tim and his wife were also kind enough to actually come to the awards ceremony once he checked the results and found out I had likely gotten a KQ.  (Tim also had a great day by the way,  Congrats Tim!).  As race start ticked closer I took in the last of my pre-race nutrition including a honey stinger waffle and bottle of gatorade endurance.  As the time ticked away and I begin to get suited up for the swim my emotions started welling up.  This usually happens right before the race as I think of all my loved ones who turned their lives upside down to let me chase my dreams.  The feelings were intensified by the loss of my Brady boy.  Soon the line was moving and before I knew it I was running towards the dock and the water.  I got in the water about 18 minutes after the race began and as far as I could tell was about halfway back in line.

The swim was wet suit optional and I wore my blue seventy swim skin.  I elected to keep the sleeves of my speed suit pulled down and I was glad I made that choice.  As a former full time swimmer, I hate restriction on my shoulders and the choice made the swim much more comfortable and efficient.  The water was a really nice temperature and the current was moving fast.  The swim is really wide and it was easy to find open water.  I think my lines were pretty good and I kept zig zagging to a minimum.  There were a few spots were I got a little wonky but I will give myself a B+.  I really enjoy the Chattanooga swim as it is wide, fast and relatively easy to sight off of the bridges above the water.  Unfortunately the current aided swim does not play to my strengths as a strong swimmer and minimizes my typical swim advantage.  Nonetheless, I enjoyed the swim and got out of the water fresh and ready to ride.  After the race I learned that I had the fastest swim in my age group and the second fastest swim among the amateurs.  I had planned on a 45 minutes swim and was thrilled when I glanced at my watch to find I had banked a few extra minutes.

I am usually a bumbling idiot in transition but my transition was surprisingly good.  I started stripping the swim skin as I ran toward the change tent.  I got the skin down to my waist and got my Wattie speed suit pulled up by the time I entered the tent.  A quick change and I was off to the races.  I got clipped in and got ready for a 116 mile ride with a few thousand like minded people.

5:15:03 (including 12:03 of stoppage time due to a flat)
Avg Speed- 21.33 mph, Avg Moving Speed- 22.8 mph
Avg Power- 225, Norm Power- 229, VI- 1.02
Avg HR- 133
This year I went back to the basics with my bike training and incorporated a much higher volume approach.  I focused on intense intervals during the week and virtually every weekend made sure to ride long and run off the bike.  The last few years I deluded myself by thinking I could substitute intensity for volume and while that approach may work for some, for me personally it just doesn't work as well.  In order for me to build really deep fitness I need to ride long frequently and that is exactly what I did.  I've ridden as many miles through September as I did all of last year.  Going into race day I had big time confidence in my bike fitness.

I had two major themes to focus on during the ride: nutrition and riding conservatively.  I had done several 5 hour rides above 240 watts and my plan was to ride at about 225-230 on race day.  I figured this would be fast but still leave me ready to run well and maximize the progress I had made in my run training.  From a nutrition standpoint the plan was to live predominantly off course.  The plan was to get as close to drinking 9 bottles of Endurance as possible which would have taken care of all of my calorie and sodium requirements.  However, I knew at some point I may begin to get over hydrated and was prepared to back down on the liquids and get my calories with powerbars, clif shots and s-caps for sodium.  The initial plan was to drink about 1.75 bottles per hour and I was able to hold this pace for the first few hours.  However, eventually I was so hydrated that I was peeing as soon as I was drinking.  At that point I slowed down on the liquids and added in a few solid foods.  Fortunately, I have a pretty strong gut and the solids didn't cause any upset or distress.  In fact, the powerbars were freaking delicious and a nice change of pace.  Ultimately I ended up consuming far more calories than in the past (a very good thing), a ton of sodium (a very good thing), and felt comfortable and full of energy as the ride was winding down (an excellent thing).  By the end of the ride I consumed about 6-7 bottles of Endurance, two powerbars, and two sleeves of clif shots.  I consumed about 2000 calories and 8000 mg of sodium by the time was ready to run.  From a nutrition standpoint I was very pleased with execution.

The Chattanooga bike course breaks down quite nicely from mental standpoint.  It basically consists of an 11 mile out, two 47 mile loops and then the final 11 miles back into town.  My plan was to settle in the first 11 miles get my nutrition in and then ride the first loop at 225.  If I was feeling good I would push the pace and increase my wattage to 230 on loop two before heading back home.  The bike started perfectly.  I was pushing 225 and flying through the course.  My nutrition was going down easily and I felt great.  Everything was according to plan.  By the time I reached the turn at the far end of the loop only one rider had passed me and I was riding strong and comfortable.  As I made the turn on the backside of the loop I noticed that the ass end of my bike started feeling a little squirrely.  I immediately pulled over and realized that my back tire was flat.  The string of expletives that came out of my mouth must have broken some kind of decency record.  First I was angry, then I was dejected, then I got resolved. I contemplated throwing my damn bike into the cow pasture and spending the rest of the day with the livestock.  As I stood by the side of the road I was in a complete panic.  My bad luck was continuing and I was beside myself...first Brady now this....WTF!!!!  I started changing the tire, screwed up, and blew out the first tube and canister.  This left me with only one more of each so I took extra care on the second otherwise my day would have been over.  Between the mishap and the slow re-change I spent 12 minutes on the side of the road per my garmin file (plus the time slowing down and getting back up to speed).  When I got back on the bike I was in a mental hole.  I thought my day was over and was debating whether I should even continue.  After a ten minute pity party I shook it off and decided that I needed to ride my race and on such a long day anything could happen.  From that point forward the rest of the ride became a math problem.  As I finished the first loop I realized that my pacing was still strong and I could still ride the same split as I rode in 2014.  That bike split put me squarely in the mix, and if I could duplicate it I still had hope.  I'm not sure why I have had such bad luck with tubes this year.  I ride latex with sealant and I am very careful during installation.  I am beginning to think I am doing something wrong and I am going to be riding latex in my training wheels for the next few weeks to figure out if I am making some type of error in the install.  I think it is just a string of really bad luck but who knows.....

The hardest part of the last 80 miles was continuing to ride smart and not attempting to gain all the time back in one chunk by riding too hard.  Instead I rode to plan and upon feeling good at the turn I pushed my power up to 230 on loop two.  The rest of the ride went smooth and fast.  No one passed me the rest of the day and I focused on eating and drinking and riding my wattage.  I got into a zone and locked in.  I was able to re-set my mind and get my head back in the game.  I had worked too long and hard for this opportunity and I was not going to give up on it.  Thankfully the rest of the ride was uneventful and the replacement tube held.  The last 11 miles I took it easy and dialed back the wattage.  I started stretching a bit and got ready to run.  Fortunately the home stretch is fast and I was able to keep my speed up without having to ride quite so hard.

Going into the race I thought I could ride around 5:05 and possibly 5:00.  It turns out I was exactly right and had I not flatted I probably would have been in the 5:02 to 5:03 range.  The bike split was a testament to making smart choices with my equipment and position.  Even with a flat I rode the same bike split as 2014 on the same wattage.  That means I have found at least 12 minutes of free speed over the last few years!!!!! Awesome!!!!!  (don't tell my bank account.... because it turns out that "free" is expensive). Pulling back into transition my family was along the barriers and gave me a much needed jolt.  Again my transition was surprisingly smooth and I was able to pull my one piece kit down to my waist by the time I hit the change tent.  Once inside I changed quickly into my Speakup tri top, changed my socks, put on my hat and glasses and grabbed my gel flask.  I got out of there in good time feeling good and ready to rock.

3:33:08- 8:08/mile
Avg HR- 140
The run plan was simple.  Keep my heart rate capped at 145 and power capped at 350 on loop one.  On loop two my heart rate cap increased to 155 and my power cap remained the same.  The idea was to break the run into 4 segments.  Two flat sections and two hilly sections.  The idea was to run the flats easy/smooth and really focus on smart and efficient running during the deathly hills on the other side of the river.  I knew the race doesn't truly begin until the last hour and my mission was to be racing when I hit the hills at mile 20.  My dream was to run in the low 3:20's but I knew that historically a 3:30 would keep me in contention.  From a nutrition standpoint I had a 600 calorie gel flask that I was going to use in the early stages.  I finished that within the first 90 minutes and was supplementing with endurance at every aid station.  I waited to start drinking coke until mile 10 because I wanted to preserve the caffeine boost as long as possible.  From mile 10 forward I was drinking as much endurance and coke as I could get down.  I was also taking base salts at every opportunity.

The run started perfectly and I felt fantastic.  Despite 90 degree temps I was lucky with cloud cover on loop one.  I also never really felt hot.  I attribute this to racing lean.  My family was amazing and I never went more than 2-3 miles without seeing a family member on course.  I got through the first flat section on fire with heart rate on target and pacing in the upper 7:30's.  My pace naturally dropped through the first hilly section but I felt good coming back across the river.  I got through the half marathon in 1:40....I was directly on target and excited.  For the first time in my Ironman career I felt like I was running to win as opposed to running to avoid people catching me.  There was almost no one passing me, and upon reflection, I think I've finally started to crack the run code.  Although this was my best run split by far, I still have room to improve and am really close to a major breakthrough.  Confidence is a scary thing, and I am starting to build it.

From miles 13-18 I started to feel the damage in my quads caused from the hard downhill running from loop one.  I began to realize at some point I was going to pay for the hills so I turned up the pace and ran as hard as I could on the second flat section within my heart rate cap.  I was trying to bank as much time as possible in the event things went south (which they ultimately did).  Things were going well but I was starting to hurt with each passing mile.  I ran well through mile 20 and continued to tick off splits in the upper 7:40s.  At mile 17ish I saw Dave Gallagher and gave him a hug.  I told him I needed him to let me borrow Cameron to help me achieve my dream.  Without skipping a beat he handed me her bracelet and said she was with me.  This gave me wings and is one of the greatest Ironman moments I will ever have.  As I reflect, it is a moment I will never forget and one which brings tears to my eyes every time I think about it (Thank you again Dave, Grace, and Cameron for your generosity).  During this time period I was taking in as much base salt as possible in the hopes that I could stave off cramping and leg failure.

At mile 20 the wheels fell off instantly.  I went from a 7:45 mile to a 9:30 and my quads and hamstrings were severely cramping.  A dream became a nightmare in a span of 10 minutes.  Suddenly I was incapable of running more than a few minutes at a time and my pace while running had slowed to a crawl.  I was throwing everything in my mouth to try and stop the cramping...coke, gatorade, gels, hotshots, base....nothing was working.  In hindsight I honestly don't know what I could have done to prevent this.  I ran more, ran faster, lost weight, ran hills....everything.  I think the only way to truly prepare for the onslaught on your quads is to run downhill very hard and very frequently.  Perhaps if I ever go back to Chattanooga I will head to Church Hill and do more extreme downhill running.  I know there were few deficiencies in my strength or fitness but perhaps I was lacking in that one specific skill.

Just before the turn onto the bridge I saw my sister on the steep climb before crossing the river.  She yelled words of encouragement and told me I was in 4th place.  She implored me not to give up.  For the next few miles I was in Ironman hell.  I could barely run, I was cramping and my mindset went to shit.  Instead of racing the last 10K I thought about how I failed again.  I worked so hard to come up short.  I had negative tunnel vision and all I could think about was how I failed.  I thought there is no way I could put myself through this again.  I can't keep torturing myself day in and day out just to fail so close to the finish line, I can't feel this pain, I can't feel this disappointment.....Just make it stop......those next miles were a blur of pain and negativity.

The truth is you never know what is going on outside of yourself during the last miles of a race and while cliche, its never over until its over.  Its hard to see that when all you feel is soul crushing pain. I credit my family for pulling me through that darkness and to the finish line to my first KQ.  I limped through the hilly section and as I climbed back up Barton Road my dad was at the top of the hill (oddly enough the uphills were a relief because the downhill sections were making me cramp).  At the top of the hill dad told me, "I know the pain is unimaginable, I know you want to quit, but you can't.  You are in fourth and you are only behind third by four seconds.  I need you to dig deep.  If I can beat cancer you can run".....Damn dad, pulling out the cancer card is cold....but it was just what I needed to wake up my soul.  He was absolutely right...  Despite limping along for 3+ miles I was still in the mix.  It was like he flipped a switch inside of me and I started to run as hard as I could and hoped my legs wouldn't seize.  Dad would ride his bike to each intersection and yell words of encouragement....Don't give up, you can't give up.....just keep fighting....and I did.  I have some vague recollection of yelling to him about not quitting and not letting him down, but honestly its all a blur.

When I got to the last footbridge a mile out from the finish Jeanna was there, just like she has been my whole life.  She yelled the right thing at the right moment.  She said, "Trey told me you need to turn your hat backwards and get nasty.  Stop screwing around."  It was like she lit my shoes on fire.  I turned my hat backwards and ran until I couldn't see anything except the three feet right in front of my face.  Those last 10-15 minutes are a blur.  I have no explanation as to why my legs didn't seize or cramp.  As far as I can tell there is no physiological reason as to why that should have been possible.  All I can surmise is that it came from outside of me.  My family and Cameron kept my legs going when my body and mind could not.  They sustained me when I needed it most.  I ran to the finish like a madman, grunting with every step.  The photos are funny because they look like I am smiling but in reality it is extreme grimace face.  I got across the finish line and collapsed into the arms of the volunteers.  They took me to medical and my hands, fingers, nose, cheeks and tongue were tingling.  I had no idea how I finished or what place I was in.

About ten minutes later my buddy Chris came around the rear of the finish area and told me I had done it.  I finished third by nearly a minute and there was no-one left on course that could sneak in ahead of me.  I immediately lost control of my emotions and the floodgates opened.  Years of work had culminated to this moment.  I had done it.  I had gotten top three at an Ironman.  I was in a total state of disbelief, blissfully happy, overwhelmed, and emotionally spent.  My whole family was there at the finish line to celebrate that moment with me and I am so thankful for that.  I will never forget those moments and being able to celebrate with Britt and Sloanie right there.  It honestly didn't feel real and it still doesn't as the days go by. I keep waiting for an email from Ironman telling me that there was some mistake and that I actually got 4th or 5th.  In fact, despite historically having three slots in our age group I refused to believe it until Ironman announced it officially and took my money to claim the slot...well they did, and they did, and now I have the registration confirmation to prove it.

Post Race
That night I spent most of the night eating mellow mushroom and watching the finish line.  My favorite moments at every Ironman are watching the midnight finishers.  There is nothing more inspirational than those folks who have been grinding for 17 hours.  Truly amazing!!!  I didn't sleep a wink that night in anticipation of the awards ceremony.  The following morning I went to awards and saw the slot allocation posted on the wall.  3 slots....it was real....I did it!!!!  The awards ceremony and slot allocation was amazing and my feelings can best be summed up in this video.  This race represented the realization of a dream I have been chasing for years.  On many occasions I nearly gave up.  However, all those failures made this all the more sweet.

Thank you all for taking the time to read this and thank you to everyone that made it possible.  Dreams can come true if you are willing to work tirelessly, and never give up, even when it seems impossible.  The ability to train and race in this sport is a gift and I am thankful for everyone that enables me to pursue it....Now a few more days of rest and then I begin preparing for Ironman Florida.  Now that the pressure is off, I am ready to have some fun and see what I can do on a flat course.  Time to take the run up even one more notch!!!!

Oh....and about the 15 lbs....I have no idea what the hell is going on inside of my body but apparently my body is at war with itself.  I somehow managed to put on 15 pounds within 72 hours of the race....Holy inflammation and water retention!  A small price to pay for the fight my body gave me....so thanks body.... you do you for a few more days but you are on the clock.  I'm going to be calling you out real soon to get back to business.

Fight, Finish, Faith


  1. Danny,
    Wow, great report. Congratulations on the KQ, you really put the work in and deserve it.

    I actually leave for Kona tomorrow. It will be my first Kona, and my 3rd IM race having qualified last fall at IM Maryland. I am actually an American diplomat living Tallinn, Estonia. Somewhat new to the full distance, I really owe qualifying to my coach (Marko Albert, veteran pro usually first out (or with the group) of the water in Kona) and our training club (Villu who won your division and was first male overall is a training partner) as I never thought toeing the line in Kona was realistic. It is really a great set up over here (50m pool, dryland conditioning, spring training camps in Spain, etc.), except long winters.

    So my tour in Estonia is almost over, and I have identified Richmond as a potential location I could move to raise my family. I have 3 boys and a wife who is a multiple IM finisher (not kona yet!). I would love to get your take on the Ironman livability of Richmond? I realize there are pro's and con's to every city, but being someone with similar likes and goals as myself, do you consider the environment conducive to getting in swim, long bikes (safely) and local races/teams?

    Again, I really admired your post. Enjoy your build for next year. Having a whole year to train for 1 day was awesome, and I was really lucky to make it thru it, leaving no doubt that I did everything I was asked to do to attempt to perform in Kona. Yes, I am worried about the heat, and we won't know the effect it will have on me till Oct 14th, but the goal is to dial back the bike watts (closer to 200) with the plan to run in the 3:20's. Looks good on paper, but thats why people like you and I love this sport. Got to get it done on race day.

    Sorry for the lengthy note and I look forward to hearing from you.

    Chris Rohde

    1. Chris:

      Thanks for your comments. Good luck at Kona, Im sure you will do fantastic. Villu had a fantastic race. Please tell him I said congratulations. Richmond is a pretty amazing place and I really love it. We have mild winters, but the summers are long, hot and humid. We also have the benefit of having the James River right through the middle of the city. Endless open water opportunities with limited critters that can hurt you. I swim almost exclusively in the River from May to October. The tri community here is also outstanding and super supportive. We have limited traffic, low cost of living, and the City continues to grow and expand in terms of culture and social opportunities. Im biased but I think Richmond will be a great choice. If you end up here please don't hesitate to get in touch. We have an awesome group and I would love one more training partner. Cheers and good luck in Kona!

    2. Thanks Danny. You have help validate a few others in the Richmond area that have similar views on Richmond. I think the city may be a good fit. Again, way to go, and MAYBE I will see you in Kona next year. I am torn between selling my bike or re-loading to go faster. This sport can really make your head spin. Take care.

  2. Danny, Didn't someone tell you that when you can see your ribs you'll be ready? Amazing! I admire your self discipline and am VERY proud of you! Good luck and God Speed! Love, Uncle E

    1. Thanks Unce E. Someone told once told me that once your family thinks you are sick and you need an intervention then you are ready....I was certainly ready. Love you

  3. Danny,

    Congratulations on your amazing feat! What an inspirational read. I'm so glad I took the time to read it!

    I am a Chattanooga resident and followed the race. I am 53 years old and only recently started doing tri's. Only shorter distances so far, but am registered for Chatt 70.3 May '18.

    I am a veteran and got very sick a few years back. I ballooned to 330 lbs! We'll, I'm better now! Down to 182 and I am loving life right now! I can't wait until May!

    Your blog was such an inspiration to me! Please keep working and sharing! You never know who you are touching and in what ways.

    Mark Whitt

  4. Danny,

    Thanks for sharing this! I found it very inspirational!

    I am a 53 year old veteran (USAF) and recently started doing shorter distance tri's. I live in Chattanooga and followed the race! Your effort was gargantuan!

    Several years ago, I got very sick and ballooned up to 330 lbs! Now, I've dropped to a comfy 182!

    I'm already signed up for Chatt 70.3 in May '18. I'm nervous, but working hard!

    Thanks for sharing your journey! It meant a lot to me and I will remember some of your comments as I train.

    Good luck at Kona and please keep sharing! You never know who you might touch or how.

    1. Mark,

      Thank you for your comments and thank you for your service. Congratulations on overcoming your illness and getting back to fighting shape. You will do great just remember to train for those hills. Thank you for your kindness and I hope to run into you at a race at some point.


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  6. Danny,
    Thanks for the detailed race report.. I have followed your pursuit of a KQ from afar and really psyched that you got it. Congrats! The same day you were racing to KQ I was making my comeback from back surgery in Augusta. I was hoping to break 5 hours but the conditions were a lot more challenging than I was ready for... Had to settle for a PR. As I read thro you report one thing I would like to pick your brain on further is on nutrition. That is going to be my focus for next year. Congrats on Kona... I will be tracking and cheering you on.

    1. Aravind. Glad to see you are back on track. Pun intended. I love Augusta. It was my first half. Glad to see you were able to get a PR after a some a strenuous health ordeal. Happy to answer any questions about my nutrition.

      Best of luck and I look forward to chatting more.

  7. Congratulations on reaching your dream, Danny. I enjoyed reading every word of your blog and look forward to following your Kona results during the race and reading your race report after. Wishing you all the best!!!

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words. I wish you the best as well. Thanks for reading!