‘Ironman shuffle’ is the key to surviving this race
Stars and Stripes June 26, 2007
Ben Cipperley calls it the “Ironman shuffle.”
You use it when your legs threaten mutiny after swimming 2.4 miles and biking 112 miles. You use it during the race’s last leg — a 26-mile marathon run — when you’re on your own last legs, Cipperley said.
To keep from giving up on the grueling Ironman experience, the Yokosuka-based Navy lieutenant used the shuffle and other strategies to finish the endurance race June 17 on Fukue Island near Nagasaki, he said.
“My watch broke at the swim start. … Then my bike computer flew off when I hit a bump around mile 92. … Then I completely self-destructed about 5K into the run and just couldn’t make my legs turn over. I had to walk about 1K and then I gradually made it back to a shuffle and a run, but it definitely freaked me out.”
Cipperley, 30, finished the ordeal in 11 hours and 54 minutes, he said in a phone interview Tuesday.
His friend, Yokosuka resident Luke Nelson, 29, placed fourth in his age group with a time of 10 hours and 12 minutes.
More than 800 people raced Sunday from 23 different countries in Japan’s only officially sanctioned Ironman event, they said.
Nelson is a self-professed Ironman addict and this weekend was his fifth race, he said.
“Once you get the bug, you’re hooked,” he said. But racing in Japan is different — right down to the drinks on the course, the Navy spouse said.
“We’re used to seeing Gatorade and Powerbars at the race, but here they had a unique drink called ‘CCD,’ which was completely different from anything we had before,” Nelson said of an energy beverage made by Japan’s Glico Company.
But going native is an important part of preparing for Ironman, they said.
The two stayed with a host family during the duration of the stay to acclimate to the food and Nagasaki’s warmer temperatures, Cipperley said.
They also explored the course pre-race to get the “lay of the land,” he explained.
But the exploration was preceded by many months of training and sacrifice to get ready for race day.
Cipperley and Nelson decided to train together after a conversation the neighbors shared in the Yokosuka housing tower they live in.
Training started ramping up in December while they spent hours running, biking and swimming indoors.
They trained outside as soon as the weather turned warmer, Cipperley said.
Unfortunately, training extends not only to exercise but also to what you eat, Nelson said.
“You crave different things once you say that you can’t have them,” Nelson said.
Now that he is done, he plans to reward himself with french fries, ice cream and “quality time” with his wife, Nelson said.
And Cipperley said that he may have caught the Ironman addiction, as finishing one was “incredible.”
“The last two kilometers led to Goto Castle, and you could see the lights and hear the music as you got near the drawbridge,” Cipperley said.
“You go through the finisher’s chute, and the announcer calls your name and, all of the sudden, nothing hurts anymore.”
Stars and Stripes’ Paul Newell contributed to this report.