24 November 2016

Race Report Part 3 of 3 – Ironman Arizona 2016

 This was my 9th Ironman race, the 6th one in Arizona. I love the venue for many reasons and it didn’t disappoint. Though the conditions didn’t play to my strengths, they were very pleasant and mild. It was cloudy all day, which limited sunburn potential. The air temperature was mild: between about 60* and 80*f. And the water temp was the best we’ve had it at 65*.

We arrived at the venue on race morning a little late at 5:10am. I went to my bike first to add nutrition, check the tires, and make sure it was ready to go. For the first time at IMAZ I didn’t bring my pump so when I squeezed the tires and could push in I knew I now how to take it to the mechanic for a pump up. I wanted him to do it since I was only slightly familiar with these race wheels that Joel generously loaned to me. They had given me a little trouble 2 days before so I was a little anxious. All pumped, prepped my bike and nutrition, added to my gear bags, stood in a fast moving portapotty line, turned in Special Needs run bag, got the wetsuit on, used the resistance cords for swim warm up, turned my morning clothes bag, and lined up for the swim. Thankfully I had a ‘to do’ list with me or I would have forgotten something. Didn’t really have any extra time but had enough get it done without rushing.

View from Mill Av bridge - orange wetsuit - click on picture for closer view
Finding my spot by the 1 hour sign, I got cap and goggles ready and drank my “stuff”. Spoke a little with Kellen, who was right there too. Anthem, male pros, females pros, pour water down my front, cannon shot, and then age group swim. This time they funneled the athletes through 2 small openings in the barrier. At first it was frustratingly slow, knowing how it went last year. Once I figured out what was going on I got back into focusing on what I was doing. Went down the stairs and straight into the water. It wasn’t crowded or hectic – great start for newbies and less secure swimmers. My swim was steady and uneventful, with limited contact and some opportunities to draft. I could feel a little cold in my legs and feet but nothing significant as I made the final turn towards the swim stairs exit. And NO CRAMPS, which is only the 2nd time that’s happened on a 2.4 mile swim!

I lined up on a part of the stairs that seemed empty, grabbed the step, pulled my knees up, and… began cramping! Quads and hamstrings started to seize up. The volunteers pulled me to my feet but I could not walk up the steps. No one else picked that stair location for a good minute so I stood there carefully trying, with assistance, to get to the top. Even then I couldn’t really walk at all. I just stood there waiting for the cramps to subside. Someone was telling me or telling the volunteer to get out of the way.

Eventually I made it off to the side where people tried to help me with the wetsuit. The peelers/strippers normally have you lie down and then they yank your wetsuit off in one motion. If I laid down I would probably never stand up again so I just stood at the railing. Someone put a mylar blanket over me, another guy held me, and 2 others, sitting on the ground, carefully worked on getting my wetsuit off as I stood there. Then one of the 2 on the ground started working on my quads and hammies to release the cramps. The whole time I knew the clock was running but needed to patiently wait it out. I had many thoughts running through my head since I’d had cramps before. Sometimes they've affected how I’ve been able to bike and run afterward. The key thing I did was to withhold judgment and let it play out. It can be easy to TELL someone to do that but it’s another thing to implement it in the moment. I chose not to think or dwell on the thought of “I’m screwed” or “this is not going to get better”. After this 4-5 minute challenge (it seemed like 10) I was able to move again and walked, and then jogged, to the changing tent. Briefly sitting down didn’t trigger a cramp return and I had no cramp issues until the run (which probably weren’t related anyway.) I cannot begin to express how grateful I felt towards all those volunteers who were willing to do just about anything to get me on my way.
Swim 1:01:40

Transition went fairly smoothly after the cramps subsided. I went with my normal cotton disposable arm warmers, left the hand warmer packs, wore socks and gloves, drank down my UCAN, grabbed the bike, and ran out well past the mount line (and past other fumbling cyclists).
Transition 1 11:56

It was nice to be on the bike and feeling pretty good. It took me the first ½ mile to get the Garmin watch working but once I did, it worked well all day. I rode under control the first ½ loop, trying to keep it easier than I thought I could go. There was a headwind going out on the Beeline Hwy, which made for a slow split. I remember seeing a 1:07 or so, which I knew was slow for me based on past races. As I turned and headed back down it felt like I was flying with that tailwind! Unless it’s on a steep hill I hate the sound of “pawl clicking” that comes when you are coasting (on most bikes) - it means I’m not working to propel the bike. As usual I pedaled downhill with the tailwind.
The 2nd loop felt faster, in part due to nutrition intake, though I think the wind may have been a little stronger. The 3rd loop was the slowest of the 3. 3 times during the ride I pushed a bit too hard (for me) when I got into a group of 3 riders who passed me and then slowed. I backed off, passed them back , and pushed another 30 sec so as not to disrupt their pedaling effort. In the process I spiked the heart rate a little but mostly just added fatigue to my legs which was probably unnecessary but I wanted to live within the spirit of the race rules. Total calorie intake was a bit short of planned: probably 900 calories. In the end my bike split was 10 min slower than last year’s. Average HR 119, Max 132; Average Speed 20.27, Max 35.3mph. (That night when we retrieved the bike, my rear tire was down at least 25 lbs of pressure. Not sure if it had a slow leak or what. It was down even more the next day.) I did not come close to even or negative splitting the bike with the 3 loops being 1:47, 1:49, and 1:55.
Bike 5:31:32

I took my feet out of my bike shoes with about ¼ mile to go and pedaled with feet on top. Dismounted just before the dismount line, walked and jogged to get my bag, and then changed outside the tent since the air was warm and it looked dark inside there. Without compression socks to put on I got out in less than 5 min. The anticipated portapotty stop was unneeded since I peed twice while riding on the bike.
T2 4:56

The run started slowly and with little promise for a good split. I was feeling the fatigue and some back discomfort. As per plan, I walked and jog a little to start. The first little uphill the legs decided it was time to cramp again. I shifted immediately to a cautious walk to let things settle down. Again, I made no judgment that this would be permanent or temporary. I just dealt with it the best I knew how. I tested it as things subsided and the legs responded. Gradually I got into a reasonable pace, taking short walk breaks as needed until I settled into an effort level and heart rate I’d planned to maintain.

The run was about as expected: it was HARD and PAINFUL. I hated it and loved it, sometimes simultaneously, sometimes alternately. As is typical I would find a flow and just be moving and feeling like a runner. At other times my legs or feet or back or all of that would feel heavy, out of balance, inefficient, painful, and/or unpleasant. There were highs and lows on a regular basis. In my mind I would feel despair, defeat, confidence, and joy. I was frequently ‘checking’ myself to maintain even, level emotions.

In the end the run was not fast – 43 min. slower than my best marathon – but it was my best Ironman run split by 3 min. Considering that I had 6 weeks of actual road running training (otherwise mostly elliptical with some treadmill) I’ll accept that as not too bad. Also negative splitted the run with a 2:24:49 first ½ and 2:22:08 second ½ .
Run 4:46:57

Final Result: 11:37:01, 6th place in age group (previous best 11:29 in 2015 with full run training and no leg cramps). I feel short on many of my goals. I hit my experiential and process (execution) goals and in the end that makes missing my time and place goals far less disappointing.

In part 1 of my ‘race report’ I expressed how I was extremely grateful of all those family and friends who cheered, supported, checked on line, and/or volunteered. In part 2 I told how awesome it was to race with my friends and fellow athletes. The thing I may not have explained well was how the athletes I coached or supported gave back to me. The excitement, anxiety, uncertainty, and enthusiasm from the newbies helped remind me of my first Ironman and the MAGIC that is part of this event. While it added stress to me it ALSO added a good energy. I LOVED being able to race with them and to be there to happily cry with them at the finish line.

Bike loop splits 1:47:31, 1:49:57, 1:55:42
Run splits by mile:
1 – 11:45; HR ave 113, HR max 122
2 – 11:24; 121, 128
3 – 10:16; 124, 129
4 – 10:23; 124, 130
5 – 10:16; 125, 130
6 – 10:29; 123, 128
7 – 10:32; 124, 129
8 – 10:46; 121, 127
9 – 11:18; 120, 126
10 – 11:41; 118, 125
11 – 09:55; 125, 130
12 – 10:38; 122, 126
13 – 13:42; 117, 126
14 – 11:07; 122, 133
15 – 10:41; 124, 129
16 – 10:59; 123, 132
17 – 10:45; 121, 127
18 – 10:59; 121, 129
19 – 11:00; 121, 126
20 – 10:19; 123, 128
21 – 10:46; 120, 127
22 – 11:25; 118, 124
23 – 12:08; 116, 124
24 – 10:17; 121, 127
25 – 10:06; 126, 132
26 – 10:22; 124, 127
.2 – 9:44 pace; 129, 138

½ marathons – #1 2:24:49, #2 2:22:08

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