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Ironman Florida - TriathlonFull Ironman

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Panama City, Florida
United States
Ironman USA
80F / 27C
Total Time = 12h 18m 23s
Overall Rank = 887/2058
Age Group = M40-44
Age Group Rank = 143/315
Pre-race routine:

The days leading up to the race, I was feeling terrible. My kids had been sick with a mild virus of some sort, causing lethargy, sore muscles and mild congestion. On Thursday, I felt like crap. I scrubbed my workouts for Friday and just rested.

On Friday, however, I did have to turn in my bike and the "Gear Bags" at the transition area. Unlike your traditional triathlon, you don't have a "transition area" at an IM. You do have a place to rack your bike, but all of your gear goes into separate bags which you fetch as you hit different points in the race. In order, they are:

Dry Clothes: Where you place your clothes that you wore to the race site. Once you change into the wetsuit, everything goes in here and is placed in a storage area to be retrieved after the race.

Swim to Bike: All of your T1 gear, including clothes, shoes, helmet, glasses, sunscreen, etc. I had placed all of my fluids and gels on the bike that morning. Upon exiting the swim, you find this bag, run into the changing tent and change for the bike. The volunteers pack your swim stuff into the bag for you when you leave.

Bike Special Needs: A bag you can retrieve at the bike halfway point. I put extra gel, a cliff bar, fluid bottles and a spare tire changing kit (just in case).

Bike to Run Gear Bag: This is anything you'll need for T2, to include running clothes, fluids, gels, shoes, etc. Again, you fetch this bag on your way into T2. All of your bike stuff gets packed in here as you leave for the run.

Special Needs Run Bag: A bag you can retrieve at the 13.1 mile point of the run. I had dry socks, clean shoes, more gel, fluids, and a vest since the temps were forecasted to drop. I forgot to put a pic of my kids in there as motivation for the run.

Now, I mention all of this for those of you who will be doing an IM in 2006. It is really a lot to think about, considering what it is you want to pack into each bag. I made sure that my nutritional needs were all in the bags since they were not providing the stuff I trained on (Crank Gels and Fluids).

Race Morning: Got up at 3:30am, had breakfast which consisted of a PBJ, some enduralytes, a Prevacid (for indigestion) and some Crank juice. I got to the race site at 5am and pumped up the tires. As usual, you could hear tires exploding about every 10 minutes or so. Each time, I just cringed thinking about the poor soul that had to change a tire before even getting started.

I lathered up with Body Glide and changed into the wetsuit, then dumped my "Dry Clothes" bag into the appropriate bin, to be retrieved later. One hour from the start, I ate a gel, sat down and said a prayer. I reflected upon the last 18 months. In June, 2005, I left the couch for a life of running, biking and swimming. What began with a few sprint distance triathlons had progressed into a full blown obsession. Here I was, at 43, attempting both my first Ironman and my first Marathon, all in the same day. I was nervous and excited.

My priorities for the day were:

1. Moderate my pace. I don't want to suffer today, I really want to enjoy the experience. I want to just immerse myself in my first Ironman and soak it all in. There will be future races for suffering and racing against the clock. Today was about using all that training to make the day as enjoyable as possible. That meant racing smart.

Swim: Go out easy and don't ever push it. Treat it, as much as possible, like an easy pool swim.
Bike: Go out very easy the first hour to let the HR settle at 130. Then ramp it up, but try to maintain an 18mph avg, keeping the HR very low.
Run: Begin with a first mile of 10:20 and moderate my pace down to 10 min miles. I would use the first loop (13.1 miles) as a barometer on how to run the second half).

After pondering all of this, I headed for the swim start. I ran into Renee, Jess (Tri Take Me Away) and Brett (Alpine87) on the beach. I got to the shore in time to watch the pro's start. That was awesome.

I found my family and had a chance to hug and kiss my children before heading to the water. Got wet, letting that layer of water warm up between the wetsuit and my skin. Swim cap on, goggles ready, it was time to go. The countdown began to race start and my heart was pounding.

  • 1h 06m 57s
  • 4224 yards
  • 01m 35s / 100 yards

It was a two loop course, in a rectangular shape. We swam out about a half mile, then left for .2 miles, then another left back towards the shore. We exited, ran back down towards the original starting point and did it again.

The swim is my favorite part of a triathlon. Like many people, my very first open-water swim included a huge panic attack. I got through it, but it wasn't fun. After that, I developed a real love for open water swimming and consistently placed in the top 10 of my AG. Today, it may have been the nerves or the excitement, but I felt like I was hyperventilating when we hit the water. I quickly got it under control and just began a nice easy stroke. That lasted for about 8 seconds.

The first loop was, by far, the most violent OW swim I've ever experienced. When the cannon went off, all 2000 of us ran from shore into the water. It was a spectacle. It was something to behold. However, the mood went from amazement to anger as things got rough. It seemed to be more of a marine fist fight than anything else. I was frequently kicked, elbowed, bumped, grabbed, and pushed. I got assertive very quickly and made sure any encroachment on my position was returned in kind.

As we approached the turn bouy, things got very rough. It was a crush of bodies trying to cut a corner and things slowed to a crawl. If you could keep going, it was an opportunity to pass some folks, which I did. But, passing usually meant bumping someone out of the way or crawling over them. I got to enjoy being both the crawler and the crawlee at various points in the race.

Coming up on the second bouy, I realized that I was expending an enormous amount of energy on just maintaining my position in the water. I was swimming an easy pace, but never had a clear lane in which to swim. There was no where to go. As I was exiting, I looked around at the people next to me and we were all smiling and shaking our heads. I guess I wasn't the only one. The guy right next to me was complaining about being hit by a jelly fish.

The second lap was much easier. The crowd had thinned out and it seemed less violent. I focused on just maintaining an easy, relaxed pace. I got out feeling great.
Transition 1
  • 06m 22s

This was a whole new experience. There were "peelers" to remove your wetsuit for you. Upon exiting, you laid on your back and they basically stripped off the wetsuit. Then, you ran through a shower and headed towards the changing tent. On the way, you had to find your T1 gear bag. Once in the tent, it was all about getting changed and packing everything back into the bag so it wouldn't get lost. An Ironman is a very crowded, frenetic environment. If you don't want to lose something, you really have to pay attention to where you place it. Anything valuable, like wetsuits and goggles, have to get packed back into your numbered gear bags or you'll never see it again.

The transitions take much longer than a normal triathlon due to all the gear bag crap. I must say I prefer the old "transition area" method much better.

My goal time for the swim and T1 was 1:30. When I looked at my watch as I left on the bike, it showed 1:15. I had 15 minutes in the bank.
  • 5h 53m 35s
  • 112 miles
  • 19.01 mile/hr

The course was a single loop out and back route. Panama City and the surrounding area is flat. But, what it lacks in altitude changes it made up for with wind and gusts. There was a tail wind for the first 20 miles or so, but then the rest of the race seemed to be in a constant headwind. It was very frustrating.

I kept the effort very low for the first hour, hoping the HR would settle down into the 130's. But, it never, ever got below 150. It really started to worry me, particularly when I considered how it might affect the run. But, after a few hours, I realized it just wasn't going to cooperate. So, I kept a moderate pace and kept the cadence to around 85rpm. The course was well marked and had aide stations about every 12 miles. I set my watch timer to beep every 40 minutes as a reminder to hit the gel and H2O. In between, I drank my Crank fluids. This strategy worked well to keep me hydrated and well fed.

I had my low point of the race from the 100 mile point to the bike finish. The return portion of the ride was along the beach, inbetween towering condo buildings. We rode into a very stiff headwind which was simply demoralizing. I was in a lot of pain, my butt, back and neck were really hurting. I'd kept a 19.5MPH average up till this point. On these last 12 miles, I was lucky to see 14-15mph. I let out just about every cuss word in the book those last few miles. That was awful.

I finished the bike in 5:53, well under my target of 6:30. I had another 36 minutes and change in the bank. My "B" goal of getting in under 14 hours was a lock and my "A" goal of a sub 13 hour finish was very likely.
Transition 2
  • 07m 12s

This took a little longer cause I wanted to put on some clean socks for the run. Again, I'm here to enjoy myself, not kill the clock. My feet were numb and I had to walk a bit to get them to work again.
  • 5h 04m 19s
  • 26.2 miles
  • 11m 37s  min/mile

Well, not only was this my first IM, but it was also my first Marathon. The longest I'd run in training was 20 miles. Today, I got through the first 3 before I stopped and walked through an aide station. From there, I walked every aide station except the last one.

I became familiar with the IM shuffle a few times during the race. I probably walked a total of 4 miles out of the 26. The rest of the time, I wavered between a jog and a run pace. I kept telling myself to enjoy this experience, it was the only time I'd ever run my first IM.

This was a great experience. It was a two loop course, which was cruel in the sense that you got to smell the finish line upon completing your first loop. However, at the 13.100001 mile mark, you then began your second loop around the track. I enjoyed the second loop much more. Each mile mark had two signs, one for the first loop and one for the second loop. It was much more enjoyable seeing those and knowing, for instance, that you were at the 18 mile point instead of the 5 mile mark.

By the time I had finished the first loop, my watch read 9:45. I knew now that I'd break my goal of 13 hours. I could walk the last loop if I wanted to. It allowed me to relax, but for the most part, I kept running. At the turn, I grabbed my special needs bag and changed into come clean shoes and dry socks.

The aide stations were great. On the second loop, I partook of the chicken broth which was awesome. It was a delicious change of pace from all that sugar I'd ingested all day.

At 15 mile mark, as it was getting dark, a solid black cat jetted right across the road in front of me. A startled spectator asked me if I was superstitious. I said, "Hell No!" and kept on running. Of course, I was much more careful after that point. There were points on the course where you couldn't see your feet it was so dark and I was very cautious as to where I was stepping. If I turned an ankle, my day would be finished.

This was a great time to people watch. There are so many different types of people out doing this race. There are the expected athletes who are thin and fit. But, then you also have all the other body types. Everyone out there is challenging themselves in one way or another and it was so cool to see it all unfolding during that run. Everyone was experiencing that joyous suffering.

I experienced my first encounter with the haleucinegenic effects of endorphins. As I left the 21 mile aide station, I think I began to haleucinate. It was like dreaming while I was running. I "woke up" upon hitting the next aide station. I couldn't remember anything about the last mile, nor could I remember what I had been thinking about. It was similar to when you "zone out" when driving, but felt more like I was dreaming. It was very strange. But, I felt great. The legs and body were incredibly tired, but my spirits were high.

At the 24 mile mark, I began to ponder the day. I thought about the swim, the transitions, the long bike ride, and the last few hours of running. I thought about all of the training and sacrifices that were made (by me and my family). I then thought about the impending finish line and what it was finally going to feel like to reach my goal. I had already beaten my time goals, now it was just about enjoying the next few minutes. About a quarter mile from the finish, I once again saw Renee and Jess. They were great and were just screaming with excitement as I went by! That was so cool.

I hit the turnaround mat for the last time, which was about 200 yards from the finish. Then, I heard it. I still couldn't see the finish line, but over the loudspeaker I heard, "and now approaching the finish is Karl Kiss from Marietta, Georgia!". I made the turn to run up the ramp towards the line. There was the crowd, the jumbotron, the lights and pandamonium. I made the final left turn down into the chute. It was my moment, that moment I'd dreamed about so many times. I high fived everyone I could. I screamed as loud as I could and pumped my fists in the air. God, it felt so good. There was no pain, only total and absolute exhiliration. At the tape, I turned around, faced the crowd, and just let out a big, loud "Yeah!". I then turned around and crossed the finish line of my first Ironman.

Oh, it was just so cool.
Post race
Warm down:

Are you kidding? I still haven't come down. I'm shaking as I write this, two days later. I found my family and just relished the moment. There is nothing like an IM event at the finish. Its just pure excitement.

I walked around in a state of disbelief that it was already over. I did everything I could do to drink in the moment. I'd finished, I was finally an Ironman. How cool is that? It still hasn't fully sunk in. But, it feels great to finally reach a goal that I'd chased for 12 months. What a blast! I'd recommend this to anyone.

I was thrilled with my time. I really thought I'd be somewhere between 13 and 14 hours. For my first IM, it was a real treat to beat my own expectations. I can see how, with a lot of training, I could be faster, particularly on the run. But, that will be something which will have to wait till '07 or beyond.

After packing up my bike and gear, we headed back to the hotel. I took a very long, hot shower (till the water ran cold). Then, we cracked open a bottle of 1995 Dom Perignon to celebrate my finish. That was a great glass of champagne.

Event comments:

Some pics from the race are in my album:

Last updated: 2005-03-08 12:00 AM
01:06:57 | 4224 yards | 01m 35s / 100yards
Age Group: 68/315
Overall: 465/2058
Performance: Good
Suit: Wetsuit Legal
Start type: Run Plus: Shot
Water temp: 72F / 22C Current: Medium
200M Perf. Remainder:
Breathing: Drafting:
Waves: Navigation:
Time: 06:22
Performance: Average
Cap removal: Good Helmet on/
Suit off:
Wetsuit stuck? Run with bike:
Jump on bike:
Getting up to speed:
05:53:35 | 112 miles | 19.01 mile/hr
Age Group: 155/315
Overall: 887/2058
Performance: Average
Wind: Strong with gusts
Road:   Cadence:
Turns: Cornering:
Gear changes: Hills:
Race pace: Drinks:
Time: 07:12
Riding w/ feet on shoes
Jumping off bike
Running with bike
Racking bike
Shoe and helmet removal
05:04:19 | 26.2 miles | 11m 37s  min/mile
Age Group: 166/315
Overall: 1084/2058
Performance: Below average
Keeping cool Drinking
Post race
Weight change: %
Mental exertion [1-5]
Physical exertion [1-5]
Good race?
Course challenge
Events on-time?
Lots of volunteers?
Plenty of drinks?
Post race activities:
Race evaluation [1-5]

2005-11-07 9:50 PM

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Marietta, Ga
Subject: Ironman Florida

2005-11-07 10:11 PM
in reply to: #280147

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Pittsburgh, my heart is in Glasgow
Subject: RE: Ironman Florida
I just cried reading your race report. Awesome, awesome, awesome. I can't wait till it's my turn.
2005-11-07 10:24 PM
in reply to: #280147

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Royersford, PA
Subject: RE: Ironman Florida
You are the man or should I say Ironman!!!! Great race report and thanks for the advice for those of us who hope to follow in your footsteps next year.
2005-11-07 10:25 PM
in reply to: #280147

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Fairport, NY
Subject: RE: Ironman Florida
Congratulations Ironman! Well done!
2005-11-07 10:47 PM
in reply to: #280147

Subject: ...
This user's post has been ignored.
2005-11-07 10:50 PM
in reply to: #280147

Subject: RE: Ironman Florida
Wow, great RR!!  What a great day you had out there.  All that consistent training led to that one perfect day.

2005-11-07 11:59 PM
in reply to: #280147

San mateo California
Subject: RE: Ironman Florida
Mr...  You are the man...   Great to meet you in FL...
You had an amazing race man...  great race report as well...   

see you in another IM event huh... maybe Nice?
2005-11-08 1:31 AM
in reply to: #280147

Granvile, Ohio
Subject: RE: Ironman Florida

Great report! Great pictures!  AWESOME Race!  Congratulations Ironman!

Just curious, what did your son's sign say?

2005-11-08 6:10 AM
in reply to: #280147

Plant City, FL
Subject: RE: Ironman Florida
Incredible race Karl!! You worked hard all year and earned that moment!!   Congratulations!!
2005-11-08 6:32 AM
in reply to: #280147

Williamston, Michigan
Subject: RE: Ironman Florida
WOOHOO great totally shattered all your goals and had a great injury free race...and youhad a great time too  Wind? welcome to FL...didn't we tell you this is the only place in the worl that the wind can be in your face on a loop the whole time!!!!  Congrats again _SMO
2005-11-08 6:38 AM
in reply to: #280147

Subject: RE: Ironman Florida
Way to go, Karl...uh, I mean IRONMAN!

2005-11-08 7:00 AM
in reply to: #280147

Hurst, Texas
Subject: RE: Ironman Florida
Fantastic race Karl.  I hope I can enjoy IMCDA half as much as you enjoyed this race!  Way to go Ironman! 
2005-11-08 8:09 AM
in reply to: #280147

Pensacola, Fl
Subject: RE: Ironman Florida

Karl Kiss........YOU are an IRONMAN!!!

Nice race, great race report, but your #1 priority is well said and I will try my best to remember that for my Ironman.  Just wish I could have been there with you like originally planned!  Great Job!!

2005-11-08 8:33 AM
in reply to: #280147

Marietta, GA
Subject: RE: Ironman Florida
That was an amazing race report - very inspiring! Congratulations on such a wonderful accomplishment and an incredible time. Way to go, Ironman!!
2005-11-08 8:39 AM
in reply to: #280147

Newbury Park, CA
Subject: RE: Ironman Florida
Congrats on a great race and even more on a very successful, and long, season.  I'm printing your report and sticking it with my other resources to get ready for IM CDA.
2005-11-08 8:47 AM
in reply to: #280147

Subject: RE: Ironman Florida
Congrats on a fantastic race, IRONMAN KARL! Great report too, brings back a lot of recent memories. There is nothing like your first one, glad you got to soak in all the wonderful atmosphere. Now call yourself an IRONMAN for the rest of your life...way too cool!!!

Edited by max 2005-11-08 8:47 AM

2005-11-08 9:01 AM
in reply to: #280147

acton, Ma
Subject: RE: Ironman Florida
Karl -- That was one of the best RR I've read (up there with Ovetta's HIM).  You trained smart and raced smart.  Will you do this race next year?
2005-11-08 9:10 AM
in reply to: #280147

Venture Industries,
Subject: RE: Ironman Florida
Great race! You have a right to be proud. Another great moment in Seminole History!!!!

No really, very amazing and a very insperational and informative race report. Way to go!
2005-11-08 9:12 AM
in reply to: #280147

Subject: RE: Ironman Florida

Awesome, awesome. What a great race, what a great race report!

So very cool. Well done!

2005-11-08 9:18 AM
in reply to: #280360

New City, New York
Subject: RE: Ironman Florida
Great Race and report. Congrats IRONMAN!
2005-11-08 9:57 AM
in reply to: #280147

Raleigh, North Carolina
Subject: RE: Ironman Florida

  I said, "Hell No!" and kept on running. Of course, I was much more careful after that point.
  ROFL!!!  So deadpan funny. 

I can only begin to imagine the sacrifice that you went through for all the training, aches, and pains.  You did it.  You're an IRONMAN.  You're an inspiration to us all.  Congratulations on such an incredible accomplishment!

2005-11-08 10:01 AM
in reply to: #280147

Extreme Veteran
Winston-Salem, NC
Subject: RE: Ironman Florida
Congratulations Ironman Karl! I followed your race on the web. Just a fantastic race! Your RR was excellent - you should be very proud! Keep the SMILE!!
2005-11-08 10:20 AM
in reply to: #280147

Broomfield, Colorado
Subject: RE: Ironman Florida
Karl, your race was amazing!  You totally rocked!  It must have been great to have your family with you also!  congratulations!
2005-11-08 10:25 AM
in reply to: #280147

Extreme Veteran
Cary, NC
Subject: RE: Ironman Florida
Wow, that was an amazing race (and a wonderful race report)--brought tears to my eyes man! Wow, I'll have to bookmark this badboy and come back to it over the next year of training.... Thanks for the inspiration!!
2005-11-08 10:46 AM
in reply to: #280147

Evergreen, Colorado
Subject: RE: Ironman Florida

Fabulous race and fabulous race report!  Gave me goose bumps, man!

CONGRATULATIONS!   You worked so hard and you truly truly earned this!  You are awesome!

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