Family Alive

Brian, Kristine, Analise, and Josiah Toone

From the mouth of the Ironman

6th November 2006

During our date night tonight, I interviewed Brian about his Ironman experience.  Here’s the transcript!

Why did you decide to do an Ironman triathlon?
I met this guy (you know who you are…), and he said it was such an awesome experience.  As he described it, I got really excited about it and wanted to do it myself.  For the record, this guy has done 3 Ironmans. 

What were you thinking on the start line?
I didn’t know what to expect.  I was very cold standing on the beach.  But I was thinking more about all those people (2200) in front of me blocking my view of the ocean.  I couldn’t even see the pros start.  But I did see them having to jump over the waves after they got out into the water a ways.  The water had been much calmer when we swam on Friday.  And I said to Ben, "This is not going to be like yesterday."

What was the swim like?
The cannon went off, the mass of people moved towards the water like cattle.  The water was much warmer than the air and I made it over the first waves without problem.  You could just jump over them or stand on the sand bar and they’d crash below you.  The sandbar (making it about 3 feet deep) went out a ways so everyone was just running through the water for that distance.  When we finally started to swim, there were so many people right in front of you you couldn’t really swim, so I just doggy-paddled. 

Tell me more about the swim.  What were the waves like when you were farther out?

The waves were coming from the side, which made for very interesting swimming once we could actually swim.  Sometimes you would lift your head up just a fraction and your head would already be out of the water because the wave had gone out from underneath you.  Other times you would lift your head up expecting to breath and instead you’d still be under the water and you’d take a big mouthful of salt water.  Even on the way out during the first lap, i was feeling somewhat nauseated and feeling like I could easily get disoriented.  You could feel yourself ride up and over the waves.  When we made it out to the turn around buoy, there was a huge backlog of people trying to make the turn because the turn was directly into the sun and directly into the waves, and it was hard to get started again. 

What was it like swmiming with that many people? 
Very frustrating.  Even when things started to spread out a little bit, you would catch a group or someone and I wasn’t sure even how to go around people.  Other times, you’d be swimming and someone would grab your foot and the next thing you know, they’d be swimming over your back or your leg.  You feel bad about kicking, so you have to stop and let them go.  Then you’re frustrated when they slow you down.  It’s also frustrating to be concentrating yourself on not running into people but to continually have people swimming into you. 

How did it feel to come out of the water finishing the first lap and have to go back in? 

I was relieved to have made it through one lap.  And I had to stop for water to try to get the salt taste out of my mouth.  I had to wait in line for water.  But I was ready to get back in, expecting it to go a lot better the second lap.  It wasn’t much better though.  Still having to wait on people, and getting swam into by people.  I got stung by a jellyfish on the top of my foot shortly after starting the second lap.  I saw 2 others (very pretty!) swimming a few feet below the surface. 
The hardest part about the 2nd lap was that we were a little more spread out so you couldn’t just rely on the mass of people to know which direction to go.  This meant you had to look up and see the buoys regularly.  I would look up and each buoy seemed so far away.  But then you’d swim just a little bit, and it would seem a lot closer.  After passing one buoy, though, you’d look up and see the next one and it seemed so far away again.  With 10 buoys to pass, it was disheartening.  I did wonder if I could actually make it. 

What did it feel like to get stung by a jellyfish? 
Like a little bee sting on the top of my foot. 

Did you see any sharks?
No, but I did see a school of fish at the end of the 2nd lap. 

How did you feel after the swim? 
Extremely glad it was over.  But I didn’t have much time to be relieved because within 100 feet of getting out of the water, there were hundreds of volunteers lined up to strip off your wetsuit.  I had to lay flat on my back for two of the volunteers to pull it off of me.   I started to cramp up and was worried that I wouldn’t be able to get up. 

Was it cold out of the water? 
No, not yet.  Right after they took the wetsuit off, I had nothing on but my swim shorts and I was holding a cold wetsuit as I started to run up the beach.  Then I ran through a shower area to rinse the sand off.  This was immediately followed by a breezeway in the shade between 2 buildings with a tremendous wind blowing.  That’s where I got really cold. 

By the time I got my transition bag with my bike clothes and made it into the tent, I was shaking uncontrollably.  I couldn’t open my bag.  One of the other racers took pity on my and said, "Let me do it for you."  Even once it was open, there were so many people and it was so wet.  You’re trying desperately to keep your dry clothes dry.  I got my shorts and jersy on and ran out of the tent barefoot because i didn’t want to get my socks wet.  I ran all the way to my bike barefoot, still with a lot of sand on my feet.  Volunteers were ready to hand me my bike, while I tried to get the sand off my feet and get my socks and shoes on. 

Did you ever get all the sand off your feet?

Not until halfway through the run,at which point I changed into a dry pair of socks from my special needs bag that was waiting just after the halfway point. 

How was the bike? 

Was it the highlight of your Ironman experience?

Anything else you’d care to share?
I passed a lot of people, that was very motivating.  I tried to spin pretty fast, especially into the headwind, which was about a 40 mile stretch of the course.  I knew if I could just make it to the point where the course turns back toward the start/finish, there would be a good tailwind.  I believe I averaged between 25 and 28mph for a stretch of about 20 miles. 

How did it feel to get off the bike and know you had a marathon ahead of you?
I wanted to get back on the bike and ride those measly 26.2 miles in about an hour.  I knew that it was going to be painful

What were some of your thoughts during the marathon?
I wasn’t sure where exactly the mile markers were.  We were told that the aid stations were at the mile markers.  So when I reached the first aid station, I thought I had done the first mile pretty quickly and easily.  When I reached the 2nd aid station, still without having seen any mile markers, I thought maybe this was mile 2 and this marathon was passing really quickly.  After running for what seemed like a few more minutes, I could see what looked like a mile marker, and I thought perhaps that was mile 3.  But as I got closer, I realized it was mile number 1, and I think I started to cry.  I was fighting back tears at different points throughout the whole day. 

Did the marathon get any better?

Nope, not really.  I could not believe how long each mile seemed. 

What did you eat all day?  That’s a lot of physical activity without stopping for lunch. 

I ate maybe 3 Powerbars, 2 Powergels, at least 10 Gu gels (though 1 or 2 leaked onto me and the bike and my jersey pocket), bananas, pretzels, chicken broth (during the run).  I drank a lot of Gatorade, coke and water throughout the day.

What did you think about all day?
All different things.  I was just trying to survive the swim.  I thought about my family and everyone cheering me on.  I thought alot about the other racers and their families cheering them on.  There were people all over the course with signs for their racer.  I ran behind a guy for probably 5 miles, and during that time, I was so focused on trying to keep up with him.  I also lost my sunglasses during a transition, so I had my eyes almost closed during the run, just looking at this guys jersey, which had the Ironman Florida logo on it. 

On the first lap of the run, I was still thinking I could maybe break 11 hours.  But by the start of the 2nd lap (just over 13 miles), I knew that I couldn’t keep that pace up so there was no hope of making my original time goal.  But I was ok with that.  I quickly realized even finishing was going to be a huge effort.  I knew I was going to be able to finish, and I was very happy with the thought of just making it to the finish line. I was able to keep running all the way until just past where Kristine and my parents were cheering in between mile 13 and 14. After that, I started to shuffle pretty slowly. Then by the aid station at mile 15, I knew that I was going to have to walk for a long time. I walked for the next 10 miles. It wasn’t until someone ran up behind me just before mile 25 and decided to walk with me that I found out that it was possible I could still break 12 hours. I didn’t have a watch on and there were no clocks on the course except for the start/finish area. It was dark by this point, and it seemed like the sun had set hours ago.  This guy who came up behind me told me that it was only 6:39PM, so I had 21 minutes to make it to the finish line to break 12 hours.  This motivated me enough to break into a slow trot, which I was able to maintain all the way to the finish. 

What was it like to finish?

It was incredible to run through all the crowds of cheering people.  When I made it to Kristine, I could see my dad was boosting Analise over the fence so I could carry her with me to the finish line.  She seemed light as a feather as we flew up the finish ramp and across the line. 

Will you ever do another Ironman?

Yes, but I’d like to focus on cycling for the next few years.  

5 Responses to “From the mouth of the Ironman”

  1. Dena Koehn Says:

    What a great accomplishment! You should be proud!

  2. Corrie Says:

    Brian, that is so awesome!! We are really proud of you.

    By the way, I think the “previous/next” links at the top and bottoms of the page are referencing a deleted or invalid post for 11/6 Ironman Photos.

  3. Brian Toone Says:

    Thanks Corrie. I’ve fixed the link. I was very, very happy to finish even though the time was about an hour slower than what I had been shooting for.

  4. Jennifer Lehfeldt Says:

    Congrats Brian, and thanks for the interview! I feel like we were there!

  5. Robyn Sjostrom Says:

    Way to go Brian! We’re proud of you!

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