The question went from ‘Can I’ to ‘How did I’ to ‘What’s Next’ for Eric Carder.
The answer was the Sept. 11 Ironman Wisconsin in Madison, Wis. Carder, a 32-year-old East Gull Lake resident, covered the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run in 12:07.58 and was 103rd overall. It was his first Ironman and he’s hoping it won’t be his last.
“I’ve had a couple of weeks since the race to reflect back on the training I did for almost a year,” said Carder. “My goal next year is to leave the Ironman distance alone for a year and go back in two years and shoot to make the USA World Team. I would have to qualify for Nationals, which are in Vermont.
“I’d really like to set my sights for qualifying for the Worlds in 2013.”
Carder called the start of his first Ironman emotional. One of 2,800 athletes to race into the open water, he called the swim portion more about survival than racing.
“It was a mass start and it was like a punching match because you’re getting kicked in the face and you’re doing the same to other people,” Carder said. “It’s a very amazing and rewarding experience when you get out of the water.”
Carder said he was half scared before the race, but once it started his training took. The former Brainerd Warrior cross country and track and field athlete called the bike portion a roller coaster ride.
“The Madison bike route was solid hills,” he said. “It is one of the most grueling bike courses on the Ironman circuit, but it’s fun. I was sitting on a bike for six hours and it was fun. I know that sounds strange, but it’s a very good venue with great fan support. They have a few, big, long hills, kind of like the Tour De France. People are cheering you and pulling you up the hill. They had bands playing. It was fun to be part of.”
After graduating from Brainerd High School in 1997, Carder competed for the cross country and indoor and outdoor track and field teams at North Dakota State University. However, after he stepped off his bike, Carder was about to tackle his first marathon.
The weather was in the mid-80s. Other athletes were dropping out because of cramps and stress.
“I raced a conservative run out there,” Carder said. “Essentially, it was all mental for much of the race, until about eight to 10 blocks or about a half-mile out. At that point I knew I was going to finish with a respectable time. At the half-mile point I had a permanent smile on my face and the pain went away. It definitely brought a tear to my eye.
“To be done and realize I set aside a year of training and making sacrifices it did mean something to me. My parents were huge supporters of me. To see them waiting at the finish was very emotional.”
Carder registered for the Wisconsin Ironman last year. He started specific training for the September event in May. A six-year triathlon veteran, he gradually became more competitive over that time and finished a half Ironman two years ago in Calgary.
He lost six weeks of training to a leg injury in late June, but said he had been setting the base for this type of event two or three years ago. What really helped was Carder’s involvement in the Brainerd Multisport and Running Group.
“In looking back I would do more running miles,” Carder said. “It’s just across the board. I felt really good during the race. My run, I could knock off some time. It’s just a balance between the swim, bike and run. It’s definitely a challenge to work 50 hours a week and training 15 to 18 hours a week. It’s easier for me because I’m a bachelor so I’m just working and training.
“Being in the Multisport group definitely helped me train for this. I had a lot of six- or seven-hour workouts during the weekends and I was able to get some other members to join me on the longer bike rides. That was a huge help for me. That’s what you need to do an Ironman.”
During the race, Carder lost 6.5 pounds. He estimates he used between 10,000 and 11,000 calories. He ate three Snickers bars and drank three bottles of Gatorade per hour during the bike portion. That’s where he hoped to restore most of his calories leading up to the marathon.
“People often ask me, ‘How can you race something for 12 hours,’” Carder said. “Simply, it becomes a mind game. I raced one mile at a time. I never thought about the next mile until I was in it. At times I found my mind wandering, especially when the pain started to set in around the 10-hour mark.
“I can say that I raced the race knowing the pain would eventually be there. I tried to race a smart, conservative race to let the pain come to me instead of racing hard where I was in search for it. Eventually, the pain starts in your legs and by the end, it’s almost like it’s in your bones.”
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5856.