Ironman Arizona

It only feels like yesterday that I signed up for Ironman Arizona. Though, it was really 4 weeks ago now. I felt the most confident about racing that distance than I ever had prior. In my last post, I said, “Call me naive, call me an unrelenting optimist, but I’m ready to race!” Maybe I’m naive, maybe I’m an unrelenting optimist, because there might have been a disconnect between what my mind thought was possible and what my body deemed possible. Is that confidence a bad thing? Absolutely not. I like the quote, “Your attitude determines your altitude.” That explains my head being in the clouds so often.

Regardless of the expectations I set upon myself, I came to Arizona to see where my baseline level of fitness was at now.

The Wet Part:

Without fore-warning, a canon went off and it was on. I set-up closer to shore than the crowded buoy line, so I had clean water from the get-go. Not having to swim over anyone or be swum over is a nice way to start an Ironman. Not before long though, I fell into one of the packs. Though, I still had plenty of room to stretch out, relax, and focus on my stroke. In retrospect, I might have been too relaxed, because I came out a couple minutes slower than what I know I’m capable of. I’m terrible at writing swims recaps…

Personal Assistants, Part I:

Ironman transitions are awesome. There are tons of volunteers and being that Pros make up such a small percentage of the participants, we get a really good volunteer to athlete ratio; one grabbed my bag, one tore off my wetsuit, and another cleaned the lens of my sunglasses. Talk about service!

The Windy Part:

Being that I like to make unfounded expectations, I figured a 4:50 bike split was easily within grasp. I looked at it as three ~1:37 splits. The first lap was kinda lonely, but I’m good with alone time, so all was well; I was also right about on pace for a 4:50. More people joined the party on the second lap, but I still had space. However, I was now 5-minutes over my unfounded lap pace. Even more people joined the party on the third lap and I didn’t even bother riding to the far right side of the road. As the fatigue set in, I tacked on an additional 8-minutes. I also started struggling to get in the bars I had brought with. Regardless, I was in good spirits and couldn’t wait to get going on the run.

On a side note, I don’t recall many happenings on the bike, but someone did crash at an aid station right in front of me. It was on the third lap, so I was sticking to the far left side of the lane, when all of a sudden, some guy went over his handlebars. Riding to the far left was to my benefit, as I had to swerve hard to the left to avoid his skidding bike. I drew a picture so you all could visualize what I saw.

Diagram of a crash in front of me at the 2013 Ironman Arizona

The Arrows Show My Escape Path

Personal Assistants, Part II:

There was no way T2 was going to be a blazing fast transition for three reasons: 1) I rocked toe socks and those just don’t go on quickly. 2) I really really really had to pee! While it would have been nice to go on the bike, there were far too many people around and I’m a timid tinkler. And 3) a “Personal Assistant” rubbed sunscreen on my shoulders and neck making me feel like a lycra-clad king.

The WTF Part:

After relieving myself, I felt awesome! My stride felt effortless and I was clipping along to plan: go out quick in the first two miles and then settle in to 6:30 to 6:45-ish miles. Approaching mile 6, I was getting hungry, but couldn’t stomach the idea of another energy bar, no matter how pure and close to real food it was. Instead, I tried grapes and a banana. Then the downward spiral began.

From mile 6 to 7, my pace slowed. Same scenario from 7 to 8 and 8 and 9. However, I was still making decent headway, just not at the pace I thought I was capable of. Needing calories, I resorted to trying PowerBar Perform, but it was cloyingly sweet and I spit it out immediately. Instead, I relied on water and attempted to nibble on bananas and pretzels. However, I couldn’t get the food down; I just wanted to throw up. I had a baby food pouch in my special needs bag and was able to get in all 100 calories of that. Ironically, it was banana-blueberry puree.

The second lap was all-around awful. My legs felt heavy and I felt like I had nothing left – probably because I had depleted my energy stores and was basically running on empty. I continually felt like I had to throw up and actually stopped near a support team member to talk, but was immediately pushed on without even being able to utter a word.

From then on, my only goal was to make acceptable forward progress; I put my head down and moved my legs. Walking was not an option, because that would have meant more miserable time out on course. I remember very little of the second lap, but approaching the last aid station, I heard the “Joy to the World” tune, but the lyrics I recalled weren’t the traditional lyrics. You might be familiar with the one I recalled:

“Joy to the world, the bitch is dead
We barbecued her head
What happened to her body?
We flushed it down the potty… “

That tune replayed in my head a couple times – don’t judge me – until a volunteer said, “Only .8 of a mile to go!” I snapped out of that weird place and slogged on to the finish.

When I saw my support team after, I felt I had let them down and got a little emotional, even in spite of recognizing the race as a baseline test. I really thought I could walk to the start line and put in a 8:45 or thereabouts. Again, that was purely speculative. Though, maybe that time was plausible had I nailed my nutrition. Nevertheless, I showed emotion, because I really cared about putting forth the best effort for my team and myself.

Now that I have my baseline level of fitness established, my coach and I know what to work on moving forward. There are plenty of questions floating around though. Namely, why I am so terrible at eating while running in Ironmans? And what’s next from here? I’m not sure. Maybe Ironman New Zealand, then Mount Kosciuszko. We shall see…