By Mike Leubeck
About 2 years ago I was laying in a hospital bed with a fractured pelvis, the result of a crash on my bike during what would have been my longest bike ride to date, 31 miles. I was 5 months away from my first 70.3 in Augusta. Sometime during the drug induced euphoria I was feeling, I thought it would great to do a full IM race. Wait, I cant really swim, I just crashed my bike, is that really a good idea?
The only good from that crash is I came to meet Matt Cole with Podium Multisport. Someone from that ride gave me this brochure on Blue Bikes. I called them and they told me about Matt, that he would find the right bike for me. I met Matt and although at the time I was still limping, he set me up with the perfect bike. I went on to Augusta and finished the race in just over 6 hours, met Matt after and was cheering on everyone. What did he tell me, “you should have gone harder, you have way too much energy!” I was just happy I could do it. Matt suggested IMFL, and also Maria Thrash who taught me how to swim. Later he told me about Casey Hannan, who taught me how to train. Seven months later, I arrive in Panama City Beach, FL. Having competed in a red flag swim at Gulf Coast, I felt I was ready for a calm ocean swim, little did I know.
I arrived 5 days early, got settled in, and took in all the excitement of an IM event. As race day neared, I started to become anxious. Could I do this, was I ready, what the hell was I thinking? The days leading to the race gave me time for some ocean swims, trouble was, the ocean was not cooperating. Not as bad as Gulf Coast, but this is not what I had in mind. 4’ swells once you got through the breakers would mean a difficult swim for me. Its got to be nice on race day right, it always is at IMFL, so they tell me. Race day, lets get this done. It was dark, but I could see whitecaps, not a good sign. Waited until about 20 min before the swim start and walked out to face my biggest challenge. Oh boy, not going to be a nice calm swim by any means. I could see others were nervous, only 950+ first timers so what would one expect? Allen told me to get to the right side, the current would take me to the first buoy. I moved over and to the front, if they wanted to pass me, they will have to go over me. I got in waist deep and waited. Waves were knocking everyone back a few feet. Almost everyone was back, way back, I mean way back. The cannon goes off and I said, this is real, time to swim. Crazy first 200m, but once I got going, it was on. I have to admit, you can not practice a swim like this. I was hit, kicked, slapped and grabbed, but I was not stopping. Made the first loop and came out of the water. Okay, that was not that bad, lets do it one more time. This time the waves were a little bigger, but they did not seem to bother me that much. I stayed close to the buoys this time and continued to keep my head down. Finally got out of the water at 1:19. Are you kidding me, I will take that anytime. Off to T1 where it appears that I had breakfast it took so long.
Bike: On my bike, my Parlee, now I am ready. Coach said to take it easy at first, and I did. Wow, did a lot of people pass me. The bike was perfect, the roads were long and boring, but I was just glad to be on my bike. I kept thinking about what Casey told me, “the run course is littered with great bike splits” I knew I would see many of these people again. All was well on the bike, except I had to get off 5 times to use the bathroom. In all my training I never had to go more than once. I have no idea what happened. It was a warm day, about 80 with only sunshine for the entire ride. The last 15 miles felt as good as the first 15, I could have ridden 20 more. About now Matt would be saying “you should have ridden harder!” Off the bike and into T2, which was better but clearly not impressive. Ended up with a 6:05 bike and felt great for the run.
Now, time to run a marathon. I have done 10 marathons, an ultra marathon, but never after a 2.4 swim and 112 bike. Keep in mind, I am 57 years old, not exactly in the prime of my athletic life. Warm and sunny, not exactly what I was looking for, so I tried to keep my HR down. I was determined not to walk, or as Matt and Casey would say, “relentless forward progress.” I had a huge support crew out there, over 20 people came to cheer me and my friends on. It was great to see them on the run course. I was still feeling great after the first loop. Only 13 more miles to go. I am not going to walk, nope, I refuse to walk. I was not at a marathon PR pace, but I was running. 6 miles to go, in about an hour, I will be an Ironman!! My last 3 run splits were negative numbers, I was getting faster! I could see the finish line, my pace was increasing, I was flying up to the finish line. The crowd was going crazy, I was loving every minute. Mike Luebeck, you, are, an IRONMAN!!! I did it, seriously, this old guy finished his first IM in 13:03, 39th in my AG, and felt on top of the world. It was the greatest experience ever. I learned so much, and had so much fun, I am back to try it again in 2013!