24 Hours of Triathlon- Mission Accomplished!

13 09 2007

Since last weekend’s 24 Hours of Triathlon (24 HOT), I’ve had hardly a moment to rest, and now I’m finally sitting down to share my thoughts on the experience from the comfort of my hotel room in Madison, Wisconsin. Tomorrow morning at 7 am, the cannon will sound over Lake Monona to signal the start of Ironman Wisconsin, and this time ’round I’ll be comfortably on shore supporting a few friends, and scouting the race for F4 IM MOO 08… our inaugural Ironman training program that will begin next March and culminate here a year from tomorrow. OK, now it’s Tuesday, Sept. 11, and I arrived back in Boulder at 3 am this morning after a whirlwind of a weekend. I need some rest!

On Saturday, September 1st at 8:00 am, together with nearly 100 other endurance athletes (aka marginally insane endurance junkies) I charged toward the Cherry Creek Reservoir for the first leg of our 24 hour adventure. Accompanying me on this journey would be ‘Team Manager’ Julie (JJ) Johnson, and “Director of Strategery, Food, and Beverage” Michael Kelly, and a number of others who would lend a much appreciated hand in one way or another.

JJ, Michael and I had been strategerizing for many weeks, and following our final meeting the Wednesday before, we felt confident in our plan to log 16 complete triathlons consisting each of an 800 meter swim, 9.4 mile ride, and 2.8 mile run. With this goal in mind, we hoped to be competitive for the Solo Class victory, but more importantly to tally as many miles as possible in order to make the most sizable contribution possible (based on $ per mile) to SAME Cafe in Denver, the non-profit labor of love run by friend’s Brad and Libby Birky in order to help feed the hungry.

The competition would likely come from Andrew Holton, last year’s 2nd place soloist who’d surely learn from his mistake of going out too fast then faltering during the critical night laps; Kyle Peter, a speedy young adventure racer but triathlon neophyte, who appeared ready for the endurance demands but would otherwise be somewhat of a wild card given his lack of swimming experience; Lake Placid, NY resident Shane Eversfield of Zendurance.net, who as the name would suggest, has significant experience with long, grueling events, but may lack the needed speed or altitude acclimatization to reach the podium; and lastly from Lance Panigutti of Boulder, a short-course pro triathlete, who’s also an F4 swim coach and a super nice guy. Common sense would dictate that he’d easily put up a big swim lap #, but may lack the stamina (not to mention the nutritional experience) to reach the nearly 200 bike miles and 50 on the run in order to equalize laps.

Race rules mandate the first three legs be done in swim, bike, run order, but thereafter may be done in any order, as long as they equalize at the end of the event. For example, 16 swims, 12 bikes, and 10 runs would only count as a score of “10”, and the other laps would be wasted. Further, there would be no swimming from 6:30 pm on Saturday until 6:30 am on Sunday, requiring that most if not all swim laps would need to be completed on Day 1, leaving the dark hours for catching up on bikes and runs.

Our plan called for 14 swim laps on the first day, broken up by a few run laps, then primarily a bike/ bike/ run sequence at night, which would allow for many rolling “breaks” when I could eat, drink, and gather some energy for the next run. I’d then use the short period of daylight on Day 2 to grab a couple more swims, and maybe another couple of bike/ run laps TBD.

We’d also agreed that, after signing off on our race plan, I would serve merely as the lab rabbit with the sole job of turning lap after lap, while Michael and JJ would make any necessary adjustments and supply me with an assorted and tasty array of snacks and drinks. On average I would aim to consume 250-300 calories and 40+ fl oz. pr hour, but was not concerned with the exact ingredients having visited the grocery store the day before with JJ and loaded up on enough “junk food” to supplement the Clif bars, Bloks, and Shots that would get me started.

With my fuel and hydration tanks fully loaded and my F4 Pit Crew putting the final touches on our base camp, I ran 50 feet into the water before diving toward the first turn buoy. The swim course was laid out to run along the shore line with 2 laps on a 400-meter out-n-back course. I felt smooth and easy as I rounded the far turn, and then was a bit confused as I lifted my head to spot the far buoy, only to see at least two more moving in the water, apparently being towed by boats for some unknown reason. While the leaders would unfortunately swim an extra 100 meters or so while chasing the phantom buoys, I was able to correct my line sooner and only swim an extra 50 meters before hitting the beach in about 15 minutes… right on schedule.

JJ met me as planned in the Transition Area with a towel and my bike gear, and soon enough I was on my way along the twisting roads within the park, that were mostly flat with only one tough climb coming toward the end. I rode comfortably and efficiently to the turnaround point, and then headed back toward the TA while drinking a full bottle of Amino Vital, and snacking on grapes and a Clif Shot. I arrived in a bit less than 27 minutes… a few minutes faster than planned, but the effort was just right… a good sign.

A quick change and off to get my first glimpse of the run course. The energy level was high as we passed each other along the out-n-back course with a slight incline on the way out to the aid station/ turnaround. It was nice to see F4 Denver Coach Carmen out there with a smile and a cup or two of water and Gatorade before heading back. My plan called for a 22-minute run, and I hit the TA in 21:43 having stayed solidly in Zone 1 the whole time.

Now the real fun would begin, as I wriggled my way into the wetsuit (not so easy when already sweaty), then headed back into the water for an Ironman distance swim, with only a jog to/ from the TA to break things up. I turned pretty consistent laps, drinking and eating as instructed in between, before heading back in to start off each new lap with a quick pee break… likely due to the amount of fluids I was consuming as well as the psychological ‘ritual’ that usually precedes the start of most of my triathlon swims.

Two runs would offer a small break before four more swims, then two more runs, then four more swims, then a planned 25-minute break to get down some real food. The runs were turned quite easily and I enjoyed seeing my fellow competitors on course, especially Shane from Zendurance, whose pit area was right next to ours and JJ had adopted him as much as he would accept the help. Although the lap times were still on schedule, I wasn’t feeling great during the break… especially my stomach, which felt bloated. Post break I headed out for a couple of bike laps, which went OK except for being unable to draw a deep breath… a likely combo of too much fluid sitting in my stomach and the bent over ‘aero’ position. Before hitting the water again for the last time on Day 1, I mentioned to Michael that we may need to back off on the fluids and calories as I didn’t feel that my body was absorbing them at a fast enough rate. He’d already discussed this with top sports nutritionist Bob Seebohar of Fuel4Mance, an F4 Resource Partner who was participating on a relay team, and he suggested backing off fluids but adding sodium. By the end of my next swim lap I was already feeling better, which came as a relief to me as well as JJ and Michael, who would’ve had to put up with my souring stomach for 16 more hoursJ

Things started to feel so good actually, that after my third of four planned swims I asked “permission” to do a fifth or sixth swim, in order to remove them from the next morning’s schedule, or perhaps in case we’d need to try for more than 16 total laps. I was granted one extra for a total of 15, which turned out to be all my arms could handle (7.5 miles!) in one day as my time slipped by a couple of minutes.

Following a short break when I enjoyed a bit of pasta and tomato sauce, I began a series of bike/ bike/ run segments that would hopefully see me equalizing with 15 swims come dawn, then… who knows. My stomach was no longer a problem, and I was churning lap after lap at nearly the exact pace we’d planned. It even became a game where JJ would give me a goal time to shoot for, and then I would do my best to hit that exact time… no faster… so slower. I trusted that JJ and Michael would factor in my lap performances, overall pace vs. plan, and the competition, and would limit my knowledge to 20-30 minute laps, which suited me just fine.


As night came, we had a small hiccup with our planned lighting systems, but with the help of all-star bike guru Ivy Koger, we hardly missed a beat… save the one turn I missed on my way back in from my first night lap, which cost me about 7 minutes. Fortunately, we had the lights shining brightly during one particular bike lap ‘round midnight, as a deer decided to join the race by crossing the road right in front of me while I was traveling at 20 mph. As luck would have it, likely due to my growing discomfort in the chamois region while in the aero position, I was sitting up with my hands resting on the brake levers and was able to apply them evasively so as to avoid Bambi by about 2 inches. Of course, no one was around to see it, but I’m still pretty sure it was real and not a fatigue induced hallucination.

At the start of my next run, F4 Denver Honcho Brian Klink asked if he could join me for a lap or two, to which I gladly obliged and was happy for the company. He took me through two laps and then handed off to Michael who would join me for much of the remaining run laps and to insure that I didn’t end up taking a 3-hour nap in the fields that skirted the run course… thanks guysJ

At some point in the middle of the night, we must’ve found the right combo of sodium, chocolate and Dr. Pepper, as I felt like Superman and told JJ and Michael to do the math and figure out what it would take for me to win the whole thing. Fortunately, before they could even access the needed info on my competitors, I came back down to earth and was content to merely resume our pre-scripted quest for 16 laps. Whatever place that would put me in at dawn was fine, and then I would do everything possible over the remaining 90 minutes to finish as high as possible. Of course, along with that came the real priority on the “day”, which was to go as far as possible to raise as much money as possible, and I was comforted every so often when I felt like quitting that I was indeed helping to feed hungry people with every mile that ticked by. Of course, those swim miles were so much harder than the others, so I hope the lucky beneficiaries of those particular efforts get to eat filet mignon and lobsterJ

At dawn I was still on schedule, but couldn’t seem to get a straight answer about my placing. It seemed that I’d need to get in 2 more runs, 1 more swim, and 1 more bike in order to get to 16 full triathlons, and as long as I started my last leg before 8:00 am, and then I’d be able to complete it whenever I came in. From a strategic standpoint therefore, it made more sense to save the bike for last, and I headed out for two final run laps. The 2nd to last was not good, as I barely turned 12 minute miles, but as I approached the TA and headed back out for my last run and miles 42-44.8, I started to pick things up and soon enough was running sub-9’s.

My last swim pretty much sucked. I didn’t like getting back into the wetsuit, and briefly considered skipping it as the water temp was plenty warm, but then I considered the importance of flotation as my stroke and kick would likely be pretty pathetic, and I was right. The 12 hour break did little to revive my sore shoulders, neck, and back, and I put on a pretty lousy display of swimming for whoever was on shore to watch at this hour. Boy was I glad I got that 15th lap in the day before!

I feebly threw a leg over the bike to head out for my final lap and miles 141- 150 at about 7:45 am, and as I headed out of the TA Michael informed me that there was likely another competitor hot on my heels. This was not great news as I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do anything about it, but I went out strong nonetheless and kept an eye in the rearview mirror. None passed over the final 32 minutes or so, and I was confident that I’d held my spot.

As luck would have it, 16 full laps were just enough to hold off my closest competition and I was proud and satisfied with 4th overall. Kyle the adventure race impressed with nearly 19 laps for 3rd place, and must’ve been a better swimmer than advertised. Lance the short-course pro amazed us all by biking and running strong throughout the night to tally just over 20 laps for 2nd place, and a late entry, Joe McDaniel won handily with just over 21 laps. Here are the complete results.

In the end, I don’t believe that we could’ve done any better when it comes to evaluating each of our primary goals. 16 laps looked good on paper, but required all I had in order to actually achieve, and 203.2 miles combined with the incredible generosity of nearly 50 who’d made a pledge per mile, resulted in almost $4,500 to be donated to SAME Café so that they’ll be able to continue their incredible mission of feeding the hungry in Denver. Many of us will enjoy a dinner at SAME Café on September 13th, at which time we’ll present Brad and Libby with the checks, as well as their official F4 Pit Crew jerseys.

Oh last but not least, here’s another stat from the day that is sure to make your stomach feel like mine did that first afternoon.


54oz Infinit Sports Drink

183oz Amino Vital

16oz GoFast

86oz Water

52oz Coke

48oz Dr. Pepper


1 Clif Shot

Approx 1/2 bag of M&Ms

About 5 Snickers

Half a bag of beef jerky

6 Red Vines

4 large pretzels

21 Thermolyte Salt Tabs

26 Salt Stick Salt Tabs

About 4 blocks

5 Oreos

2 Reese’s PB cups

2 pop tarts

20 grapes

10 chips

1 Bowl of pasta and red sauce

1 almond butter and jelly sandwich

1 bowl of Ramen noodles




3 responses

13 09 2007


14 09 2007


2 09 2008
Lance’s (almost) 24 Hours of Triathlon « FastForward Sports Blog

[…] (almost) 24 Hours of Triathlon 2 09 2008 In honor of the one year anniversary of my 24 Hours of Triathlon solo effort, here’s a great report from last year’s runner-up, and F4 Swim Coach Lance […]

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