Ironman Arizona 2012 is the last triathlon of the season and I went out with a BANG. This race report came very close to being the shortest race report for an Ironman race but fortunately (or unfortunately for you) I have a lot more to say since there was and ending that I can speak of. In case you don’t want to go through the process of reading every word just jump to the bike section and you can read why this was very close to being a short post. If you care to read it all than let’s jump right in together:
Thursday: On Thursday I flew into Phoenix ahead of Karen because she had to work. From the airport I drove straight to the expo to go through the athlete check-in and get all of that over with before heading up to Emily’s house. Emily was kind enough to allow Karen and I to stay at her house during this race weekend and I am so grateful to her for doing so. We picked up dinner and then I headed back to the airport to pick up Karen and prepare for a rather easy Friday.
Friday: Lots of nothing going on. Did the rounds of the expo for Karen to see and spent the day off of my feet as much as possible. Friday night is the big dinner night for a race on Sunday and I ate and ate and ate. Felt good though.
Saturday: Headed down to the transition area early so that Karen could begin her 22 mile run since she has the Dallas Marathon coming up. At first I was going to go to sleep in the car and then do the practice swim and a quick 30 minute bike and 30 minute run. I was antsy so I figured I would ride and run then swim. Thankfully I did as I realized as I was heading to the swim that I did not bring my bike and run gear bags and they had to be checked in that day. After getting that all done we headed to the tattoo parlor to talk to the artist about sketching out the tattoo (I will be getting it today so stay tuned for pictures.)
Sunday: Race day. It all starts with a 3:30am wake up followed soon by a cup of coffee, a bowl of granola and toast with peanut butter, banana and honey. Gather up whatever I need for morning clothes and into the car we went. Off to the race site at 4:44am (a node to Emily) and we got down to transition after fighting with the GPS for a few minutes. Walking down to the race site I had a calm come over me. Maybe it was experience or just that I knew I was ready but either way there were no butterflies.
I got all my gear checked over and then put my nutrition on my bike along with pumping up my tires. Body marked and porto-potty time. After that I ran into Troy and Michelle and what a terrific sight. We all stayed with each other until it was time to jump in the lake, and here the race report begins:
Swim: Michelle and I jumped in the lake together with about 7 minutes to go before the cannon. We found a surfboard and hung onto it. While handing on I dropped my face into the water several times and kept kicking to keep my body warm. The water temp was 64* and while I made it much colder in my mind before jumping in the temperatures still ran a chill down my spine.
With about 1 minute to go until the start I told Michelle that we needed to start swimming so that we were moving and would be able to just go without stopping. As we were swimming the cannon went off and we said our good lucks and went. The start at IMAZ is not as crazy as I expected. I sighted on every stroke to start to make sure I wasn’t swimming on top of people and to also help me find a line. After the first 200 meters I found an opening and went. I was not touched after that, nor did I touch anybody. That is until the first turn buoy, then second turn buoy which are very close together. People warned about the sun as you would be swimming into it but I never had any issues on this section of the swim.
After the second turn I had smooth sailing and picked up the pace. I was settling into a groove when the leg cramps started to hit. My calf muscles would get very cramped and I had to swim while flexing my feet. It was after the 4th or 5th cramp that I decided to kick just a bit more to keep my legs from tightening up again. Then before I knew it I saw the last turn buoy and was headed toward the stairs. When I got to the stairs my legs were a bit fatigued and I almost slipped climbing the stairs and that is when the lady in front of me went down. Feeling so bad for her I just stepped over her and kept on moving. Found the wetsuit strippers and off to grab my bag and into the changing tent.
T1: I pride myself on getting through the transition areas quickly, but this time I decided to bake cookies or so it would seem. A 12 minute transition in T1. What is this all about? Well, let me tell you. Being afraid of being cold I took some toe warmers and hand warmers from Emily that had to be opened. I changed out of the shorts I swam in and into a dry pair. I put on a top (swam without one) then applied sunscreen and arm sleeves. Put on race bib, shoes, gloves and helmet and I finally got out of that tent.
Bike: Ironman Arizona is a 3 loop bike course with each loop consisting of 37 or so miles. I got on my bike at the mount line and started going. I held back a bit because I wanted to make sure that I could feel my legs and not over exert myself because I was cold. After finally settling I began my plan to hydrate and get the calories in. The plan was to drink my prepared drink every 15 minutes, a HoneyStinger every two hours and EFS every 1.5 hours. In between I would take water off the course from every aid station. I would drink what I could and chuck the bottle before getting out of the aid station area.
At the first aid station, which is about 13 miles into the race, is where the race nearly ended. I slowed down behind another rider as he reached for a water bottle. As soon as he grabbed it I grabbed mine. He dropped his, and then a Gatorade bottle dropped from some place and he went down. With only one hand on the bike and no place to go I went down over top of him and hit the ground with a huge thud. I could feel the air leaving my lungs and then my head smack down hard on the ground and then the sliding began. I stayed down for a moment and then stood up and a few volunteers helped me.
One woman told me I was ok and that I had no swelling and the bike looked ok. I was gathering my thoughts when I thought of not being able to continue and this so soon into the race. I thought of the sacrifice that Karen had put in to get me here. I then started smacking my saddle and cursing. After feeling bad for myself I did a body check (check) and a head check (check) and then a bike check (check) and started to go. Before even the first peddle stroke I noticed that while my bike was pointing forward the wheel was pointing to the left. That is when I really thought my race was over. I asked the volunteer helping me if there was a bike aid around and he found there was one at the end of the aid station. I walked my bike down there not knowing what to think. The mechanic put it up on the bike holder and made some adjustments and told me the bike was perfect that I could keep racing.
I got on the bike and with a lot of hesitation and trepidation I began going. This section is where the 3% grade is but we were also facing a headwind. With my body still wracked and the elements against me I had the slowest splits of my day at this point. When I reached the turn around I was pissed and said it was time to ride. I started hammering and noticed that I was riding at 30 mph (thank you tailwind.) I got to the turn around to start Loop 2 in about an hour and finished Loop 1 in 2h6m. My goal was to do a 5:50 bike split and doing the math I knew I would need to kill the 2nd and 3rd laps but I did not want to hurt my run so while I was aggressive I did not blow all my energy. My left hip was feeling good and other than the cut on my shoulder I thought I was ok. That was until my right hip started throbbing and the top of my right foot started to hurt.
When Lap 3 started I just wanted it over with and pedaled. This time there were no incidents or issues but I really wanted to be off my bike and running.
T2: More like it. I ran down my row, yelled out my number and as I got there the guy was picking up the bag and I told him to throw it. I caught it in full stride and ran to the tent. Just like in Texas I did not go into the tent and sat down on a chair outside and put on my visor, running shoes and grabbed the bottle of EFS. Off I was in a swift 1:51.
Run: 3 loop course but the miles seemed to be further apart than I remember a mile being. The course is a mixture of cement and gravel. There are a lot of turns and I think this caused the miles to be further away than other 3 loop courses I have run or trained on. When I started running I noticed my pace was down in the 8:00/mi and I wanted to pull back and get my HR under control which I did. I slowed down and started the hydration plan. Every aid station I would take water from and every other aid station I would walk for 10 seconds. I did this through the first two aid stations but I felt great at the 4th aid station and did not stop to walk.
I started to feel really full and though I needed to use the toilet. I went into the bathroom (yes, not the porto as there were bathrooms on the course) and nothing happened so I got out and got ready to get going again. I managed to make it to Mile 10 before I wanted to walk the aid stations. At this point my left hip was throbbing and my shoulder hurt so bad I could hardly keep my left arm pumping during the run. The pain was almost unbearable but I started to do math calculations in my head.
When I reached mile 13 my watch was beeping so much that I just turned it off and decided to just run. I knew that to get in under 12 hours I needed to run a 2 hour half-marathon and that became the goal. With every passing mile I would multiply the remaining miles by 10 minutes (assuming I was running 10:00/mi pace but I really had no clue) and made sure that I was always under 12 hours. When I hit the 17 mile marker I told myself it was only 15k to do, then again at mile 20 (only 10k to go) and finally at mile 23 before I could get my thoughts out another athlete yelled: only 5k to go until I am an Ironman. That got me fired up and I picked up the pace. I was really hurting here but knew that I did not have far to go.
As I got closer to the end I could feel the electricity in the air. As I made the turn toward the finisher’s chute Susan Lacke ran up on me and I had no idea who it was but I got pissed because I was thinking: What a$$hole is going to sprint past me to get to the finisher’s line. When I saw Susan’s face I could have cried. All the pain was now leaving my body and I only had a few hundred yards to go. I crossed the finish line and could not lift either arm, legs in total shut down mode and my brain completely fried from trying to motivate my body to keep moving forward. After the catcher held me for a few moments I started walking and found Richard who helped me through the chute and over to Karen.
I hugged her and told her I was in so much pain. More pain then I ever thought I could endure. My hip was screaming mad, my shoulder was not happy and the soft area on my head started pulsing. I never noticed the major road rash on my calf or shoulder area, let alone the skin ripped off my elbow until this morning’s shower when it all screamed at me.
Through it all I never lost sight of my goal…..to honor my father. I did not hit the 11:18 but I think he would be proud of me for not quitting. He would be proud of me for proving that anything can be done if you put your mind to it. He would be proud that when I finished I did not bitch and moan about my time but instead accepted what the day gave me.
For that I am the proudest. I fought the good fight on the course and when it was all said and done I set a PR in the process. Finishing my second Ironman this year in 11:53 will be remembered for the time but for me it will always be remembered for not quitting even when the going got tough.
Thank you to everybody for reading and for your support. At different times on the course I channeled you and you helped m get to the finish line. I can never repay for your help.