28 November 2010

Ironman Arizona 2010 Race Wrap-Up

I’ve written my race report telling about the day of the race, the ups and downs, the times, the heart rates, the joy, and all that went on from my perspective. It cannot be complete, though, without sharing my appreciation and feelings of gratitude. Ironman racing is a team effort. When you are out on the course doing the race, sure it is you who is pulling through the water for 2.4 miles. And it is you who is pushing and pulling the bike pedals for 112 miles. And it is you moving your legs to run, and/or walk, the marathon. But you are not out there alone.

The massive team of volunteers is amazing and they deserve mounds of praise. Every step of the way they were there for us athletes. From the start of the swim to trying to climb out of the water and up those damned stairs, they are there to help. They stripped off our wetsuit, they pointed us in the right directions, they handed us our stuff and collected our debris. The volunteers shouted directions, hand us nutrition and water, took our trash, tried to keep the course safe, cheered us forward, massaged our pains, tended your wounds, caught us at the finish, supported us, hung that special medal around our necks. All this help is an amazing thing to be a recipient of, and it’s all in an effort to help us succeed in reaching our goal. I am so grateful to all of them.

Then there was the Get Sladed Nation, a group of people who may have cheered for me on race day (or not even known when I was racing) but who supported me during the time leading up to the race. I am forever grateful for their love, help, encouragement, care, support, and/or expertise. From the doctors who helped me deal with injuries or illness – all setbacks that turned out to be temporary, to the physical therapists who helped me recover. There was the plantar fasciitis which involved multiple doctors (Dr. John Martinez, Dr. John Chisholm, Dr. Tallman), endless attempts at treatment, custom orthotics, multiple forms of physical therapy, shockwave therapy under general anesthesia, and finally an analysis of my running form by Gino Cinco.

In April I had a pesky little bowel obstruction (actually a blockage when my small intestine decided to fold over on itself) that led to a visit to the ER, 3 hours of surgery, and a week in the hospital. Dr. Giurgiu was my guy. At that time I felt a tremendous amount of support and sympathy from my iamtri.com online friends in the Ironman Arizona 2010 group and especially the 50+ Triathletes group. I was in a bit of despair sitting in the hospital and then coming home, unable to walk even a quarter mile. I received empathy, encouragement, prayers, and donated training miles! It was a nice mental and emotional boost. (And it hasn’t stopped there as members continue to be supportive, positive, and sharing of their knowledge.) What a group!

Pain in the right shoulder began to appear during the summer. First Dr. Anthony thought it was the AC joint (acromial-clavicle). Then Dr Richburg thought it was a tear in one of the rotator cuff tendons, confirmed with an MRI showing a 75% tear. It turned out to be both of these. I had stopped swimming and doing most of my upper body strength training. After 5 weeks I started back in the pool since NOT swimming didn’t seem to be helping. Saw shoulder expert and surgeon, Dr Jan Fronek, who eventually gave me one injection, recommended lots of physical therapy, did not advocate surgery, and gave me the go-ahead to race.

My now-traditional pre-race cutting of my hand on a piece of glass came during the shoulder issues. This time I didn’t get stitches… but I SHOULD have. I won’t mention this doc’s name. I also won’t be returning to that Urgent Care.

The non-doctors who supported me were at least as important. My kids (Marc, Corey, Matt, and Courtney) were a great joy to have with me at the race. Their cheering was great, especially on the run when I was able to see them 5 times (I think). I fed off of their energy and it helped keep me going, knowing they’d be there when I came around again. I also knew they would be good company for the “older” Get Sladed Nation support team! Marc and Courtney flew out from LA and then returned Monday morning because it was a work day. Corey and Matt made the long drive out on Saturday, carrying extra luggage with them. Getting to share this experience with all of them was really great. I was so happy to have them there!

My extra mean trainer (XMT), coach, strength training expert, and friend Diane Buchta, is the kind of person everyone should have in their corner. Her expertise, personal experience, enthusiasm, energy, and supportive nature are unique. Her strength training has been an essential component to my success, not to mention my self-image. Her can-do attitude is second to none and helped fuel my fire to keep going no matter what.

Having Mom at the race, in person instead of just in spirit, was just the best. Her arrival Saturday afternoon was a total surprise. I had no idea that she and my wife could possibly have managed to coordinate all this. I never thought she would do it, given how much planning and good fortune it took to pull it off. Her devotion to Dad, who has Alzheimer’s, is something to behold. It is something very important to her (and to Hank and to the whole family) and she rarely misses a day of seeing him. She is also such a sports fan and appreciates the hard work and competition that goes into an athletic event. She enjoys the buzz of the crowd, the excitement, the focus… everything that’s involved. Getting to see her 54 year old “kid” compete in an Ironman was a special treat in her eyes! Fans like her are VERY rare. Her generosity at meal time was something else, too! Mom was along for this ride from the very beginning of my efforts to do an Ironman with her great support and interest, from my preparation to crossing the finish line and beyond.

And then there’s a certain friend who jumped on board for a wild ride, supporting me as Sherpa, driver, videographer, checklist monitor, and friend. Phil, a high school friend and fellow swimmer, was the one that got me back into the pool in the first place back in 2006. He took on the support team / pit crew job after he found out Linda might not be able to go to the race at all after her breast cancer diagnosis. He offered to drive out with me, stay with me, and help out with whatever I needed. To do this he took vacation time from work. In return he got to drive me everywhere, carry most of my crap, check off my checklists, take me to my workouts, adopt my daily routine, make sure I did stuff I had on my schedule that I’d forgotten about, get up at 4:00 a.m. on race morning, stand on a bridge over a lake before sunrise, take pictures and video, stand on a windy corner on a desert highway to see me ride by for 20 seconds, stand on the run course and see me go by 4 or 5 times for 20 to 30 seconds each time. After I raced for nearly 12 hours he was there at the finish line ready with congratulations and my post-race O’Douls beer. He did all of this with enthusiasm and good humor, and he showed me how supportive and generous a friend could be. I’ll be forever spoiled by his kindness.

Lastly there is Linda, my one-and-only, who was diagnosed with breast cancer 2 ½ months before the race. With her health and treatment for this being our highest priority, my participation in the race at all was in question. As things progressed and a plan of treatment began to form, we had hope that not only would I be able to race but she might be able to join me. At times she was more concerned about this than I was. Each step of the way she wondered how it would affect our calendar. Would she be able to drive out with me? Then it was a question of could she fly out on Saturday? Would she be stuck at home relying on text messages from Phil and coverage on the computer?

Eventually things fell into place and she was able to have her radiation treatment followed by a couple days of recovery, then a flight out to Arizona on Saturday. I had been unhappy enough leaving her behind on Wednesday but having her there the day before the race helped to make everything feel right and the way it should be.

She arrived just in time to step into her role as the “cruise director” for the Get Sladed Nation in attendance. She coordinated where everyone should be during the race to cheer for me, timing things out so I wouldn’t be missed. And she made sure everyone also got away from the race for breaks, movie watching, and refueling.

Linda has been supportive of me since I started on this triathlon adventure. It has evolved and grown to Ironman proportions as I continue to pursue time goals and personal improvement. She has been so understanding and accommodating in part because she knows how much this triathlon thing makes me happy. How I got so lucky to marry the perfect person, I don’t know. She is the best “teammate” anyone could ask for. I would never be able to do this without her.

To have such a great group of supportive people is such a blessing that I will forever be grateful for. Thank you to everyone who has been a part of the Get Sladed Nation. You all are the best!


  1. Thank you, my love, for your beautiful words and sentiments. I have to add my thanks to your Head Sherpa for making your IMAZ possible and to your Mom for helping me get to IMAZ and supporting all the "cruise destinations" while you were competing.

    Oh yeah, one more thing...you should have listened to Dr Slade when you cut your hand!!! That will teach you an important lesson.


  2. Skip, great post. You are a good man and a lucky man to have so many people to count on and support you. Stay healthy and hope to see you out there racing in the future.