03 December 2009

Ironman Arizona 2009 Race Recap

On so many levels my Ironman Arizona 2009 race was a success. I achieved most of my goals, survived a number of setbacks in getting to the starting line, had a great experience, and came away feeling that I could do better. I know that the support I got was invaluable to my success and helped make it all possible.
Here are the basic numbers:
Final Placing - Age Group 59th of 170 men aged 50-54; Overall 1,132nd of 2,516 people.
Total Time 12:32:02 - 2.4 mile Swim 1:00:49 (2nd fastest in age group, 170th overall); T1 7:32; 112 mile Bike 5:44:22 (50th fastest in age group, 780th overall); T2 6:11; 26.2 mile Run 5:33:10 (104th fastest in age group, 1,748th overall)

Staying at Hyatt Place in Mesa, a few miles from Ironman Central but just down the street from part of the bike section on Alma School Rd, was a good choice. So was arriving Wednesday night because it allowed us to get the lay of the land and get acclimated to the area, course, time zone, and weather.

Race Day: Woke up on time, having slept surprisingly well. All went well until I got 2 miles down the freeway when I realized I'd forgotten my nutrition bottle at the hotel; the bottle that would take me through 4 hours of the bike! With no back up, we went back for it as my wife tried to calm my escalating internal freakout! She ran up 4 flights of stairs to get it for me. Arriving 25 minutes later than planned at transition was stressful but I was still able to take care of everything without rushing and still be ready to swim. By the way, in the intro to the little highlight movie they put together and showed at the "awards banquet" it says something about athletes forgetting their bike nutrition bottles!
At 6:40 I jumped into the water, among the first athletes, so I could get a warmup in. I picked a spot behind the first row of swimmers because my goal split was 1 hour and I knew that would probably put me in the top 10%. The wait seemed to last forever: there was the National Anthem, the mayor, and then the instructions. The swimmers behind were inching forward but the front had no where to 'inch' as I tried to hold my position and preserve my space. I wore tinted goggles because of the sun rising in our eyes but won't do that again! It made it feel much darker than it was.
The cannon went off and I experienced what many less experienced swimmers experience: a little shock from the cold after having my face out of the water for 10 minutes, the chaos of everybody trying to occupy the same space, and the inability to catch my breath. After what seemed like 2 minutes, things calmed enough so I could start to settle down, though, with the tinted goggles I think I must have been weaving some and swimming more towards the edge of the lake instead of straight down the course. Next year it's clear goggles for me AND I'm gonna count how many bridges we swim under so I know where I am. I was able to draft behind other swimmers off and on, which saved some energy. Out of the water in 1:00:49; average pace 1:37/100m or ~1:26/100yd.

Thanks to the volunteers, I was able to get up the water exit stairs! Leg cramps made the practice I'd put in for exiting the water useless! The wetsuit strippers did their thing--it was kind of fun!-- and then to transition where the tent was dark and I fumbled around forever trying to put stuff on. Forgot my gloves in the bag, decided I was "warm enough" and went without my sock arm warmers (still love that idea), and got my bike. It was an amazing sight to see 2,500 bikes all lined up and ready, now that the sun was up. Being 170th out of the water meant that the transition area and bike mount line were very uncrowded. Transition: 7:31

The bike went well, though I nicked a cone in the first 5 miles and almost went down. Having crashed just the week before, that freaked me out a little. You can bet I stayed clear of those thousands of cones the rest of the day. I DID see 2 crashes along the way and I was guilty of not stopping, though I did immediately tell volunteers on the route so they could get help. My 2nd loop was my slowest but I also think it was windier. Rode in aero position a lot longer than I imagined I could, but even a week later, I was feeling it. None of the injuries from my bike crash the week before seemed to impact my ride, with the exception of slowing down quite a bit on every turn. The bike split was almost 6 minutes faster than my goal of 5:50 - 5:44:22, averaging 19.51 mph. That was the 50th fastest time in my age group, putting me in 30th place at that point, 544th overall. My segment/loop average speeds were: #1 - 20.54mph, #2 - 18.83mph, and #3 - 19.26mph. It looks like I did take it out too fast, though my 3rd loop wasn't too far off my first. It is so tough to hold back on that first lap when you know you're near the front and there are so many people behind you. Heart Rate average - 129bpm; calories burned - 3675; Zone 4 - 1:10, Zone 3 - 4:30.

I got off the bike at 1:53 in the afternoon, handed my bike off to a volunteer, got my T2 bag, and went back into the tent to change. Again I was very slow. I'd opted for comfort as opposed to speed so I changed both my shirt and bike shorts in there, and I put on compression socks. Yet another volunteer helped me get my shirt pulled down as it was all rolled up and wouldn't budge! (Next year I think I'll wear the same stuff for the whole race and maybe save 5 minutes total in both transitions.) I wrapped my left quad, above the knee where the bruise from last weeks bike crash was, with an ace-type bandage. That was "Dr." Sladed's excellent idea. More volunteers gooped me up with sunscreen and I was off and walking, looking for the first open portapotty, having 'held it' for the entire bike! (Sorry, too much information?!) Transition 6:10.

It was difficult to walk because of all the excitement around me. Spectators were cheering and all the athletes were running out of transition and onto the course. I wanted to be cautious and ease into it for my heel injury's sake. After the first potty break, I had to make 2 more pit stops - a 2nd one on the first lap and the last one on the 2nd lap. The quads began to hurt right away but the heel with plantar fasciitis was good until about the 4th mile. I struggled to get going but was at an okay pace to begin with. Eventually I began to realize that 5 hours was an unrealistic goal based on my mile pace, considering how I'd trained and how I was feeling. I allowed this to dull my focus and slow me down. There were lots of emotional ups and downs along the way. I'd planned to alternate running 5 minutes and walking 1. Sometimes ran longer; sometimes walked longer. The long hill on the other side of the river turned into a long walk each lap. I looked forward to the walks but absolutely dreaded starting back to running 'cause of the quad and heel pain.

The crowds on the south side of the river were awesome; the aid stations were awesome; the volunteers were awesome; my wife, son, and his girlfriend were awesome! In contrast, there were many parts of the run, especially on the north side, where there were NO spectators between the aid stations. Those stations were usually noisey and full of energy. Also on that side of the river was the Ford Inspirational sign where Linda posted "Got Guts, Got Heart" for me. When you cross the mat it reads your chip and posts the message on a lighted sign board. I got to see it on the first lap.

At the start of the 2nd lap (or was it the first?) I had an extended conversation with another guy who was in my age group. I think he was encouraging me because I was in the middle of a walking segment. I told him it was part of my run plan. We discussed painful quads, my bike crash injuries (some of my bandages were showing), my plantar f-ing-itis, and the fact that he had a 3 month old hairline fracture in his tibia and was running against medical advice.

Marathon Run Time: 5:33:10; Heart Rate max 144, average 122; calories burned 3258; Zone 4- :45, Z3- 3:27, Z2- 1:23
Run Splits:
Mile #1 11:58, HR142/125
#2 10:13, HR144/139
#3 13:15, HR142/132
#4 11:33, HR142/135
#5 10:07, HR142/134
#6 12:28, HR141/130
#7 11:22, HR134/128
#8 12:43, HR131/122
#9 11:39, HR136/127
#10 11:25, HR132/125
#11 11:55, HR128/123
#12 13:12, HR130/119
#13-14 26:10 (13:05), HR129/121
#15-16 29:48 (14:54), HR127/116 (bathroom break I think)
#17-18 26:47 (13:24), HR128/119
#19-21 38:00 (12:40), HR132/121
#22 14:39, HR128/117
#23 15:08, HR126/114
#24-25 27:00 (13:30), HR125/114
#26.2 13:43 (11:25), HR143/?
Some of the split variation is caused by when the walk breaks were taken. Sometimes a slower mile time was because 3 walk breaks were taken during that mile instead of the typical 2. Also if a mile contained a hill I tended to walk up that hill.

In hindsight I could have picked up my pace the last 5 miles but I wasn't that focused. The finish line almost surprised me when it came up. At the end I was euphoric and, yes, I cried. Although I was 32 minutes slower than my (unrealistic) goal time of 12 hours, I was thrilled to have finished, thrilled to have reached my goal of being in the top half of my age group (almost making the top third), beating my bike split goal, getting close to my swim split goal, and thrilled to have my wife there to celebrate with me and enjoy the moment after putting in all that time and effort. I realized later that not once during the entire race did it cross my mind that I wouldn't finish. The people who helped me - family, friends, fellow triathletes, and the volunteers - made it possible. I have been blessed and am so grateful to have been able to live this dream.

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