27 November 2019

Ironman Arizona 2019 Race Report

Here’s my typical, long race report for Ironman Arizona 2019. Feel free to move on. As usual there’s some introspection along with some of the race nitty gritty. It’s far from thorough but already too long. If you’re just looking to be amused, jump down to the Run section…
Ironman #13 is DONE. It turned out not to be what I’d hoped for or wanted but it was not totally unexpected. To summarize the day: it’s pretty much always true that if you want to perform well or great, you need good or great preparation. I did not have that! I’m not a fan of excuses but I had 5 pretty poor weeks of training leading into IMAZ after doing the 70.3. Truth is it took most of a week to recover and then I got sick for 2 weeks. This didn’t shut me down completely but it certainly limited what I could do for final prep. I also have had high levels of fatigue related to pouchitis, a colonless person’s version of ulcerative colitis. This, on top of being sick, limited the number of workouts, their duration, and even how they were done. Preparation and, above all, consistency have been the keys to my racing relatively well in the past so when I’m not consistent it very much has an effect on performance. I know most people don’t much care about whether I take 11 hours or 14, but of course I do.
The day before the race we went down for the practice swim and to turn in our bikes and gear bags. Ate lunch at Rubio’s and then back to the hotel to relax, prep nutrition, and watch the USC vs. Ucla football game. I opted out of dinner and went with 2 smoothies to minimize “traffic” in my GI system, a strategy that worked well for AZ70.3.
In bed before 9pm for the 3:30 alarm. Did not sleep very soundly or deeply. It’s common for me to have interrupted sleep but this fell well short of restful. Got up, woke Linda, and did my usual preparation, knowing Mom would be ready before we were! Got to the venue, did my stuff, and walked to the swim start with Linda and Mom. I was among the first dozen to arrive. In hindsight, we could have slept another 15 min. or half hour. I got my warm up in, put the wetsuit on, and said goodbye. Got into the coral in the 1 hour to 1:10 group with John. It was a much better set up than last year when I couldn’t squeeze into where I thought I should be. Genna snagged a volunteer job to help patrol the area. 
Swim 2.4 miles – 1:05:03, 2nd of 92
The rolling start was fairly calm, especially once you got pass the first few hundred meters. Pretty minimal contact for me except at the 1st major turn buoy 1000+ meters in. The swimmers spread out again once we headed west. Water was 61 or 62*f. I would guess. Having poured water into my wetsuit and on my face just before helped make that fairly comfortable. Also having done plenty of early morning open water swims with Sally certainly had me accustomed to it. 
I was conscious of my legs and feet as I’m very prone to cramping. I was relieved to get out of the water unscathed. I think it’s cool getting to swim under the bridges. They seem so high when you’re in the water. And when I see spectators it makes me want to look for my support crew or even just wave or yell to any random people looking down. I sighted extra going east just to take in the pretty sunrise. I felt a little drained of energy with about 800 m to go. That’s never happened before but I backed off a little at that point. 
Transition 1 – 15m30s
Volunteers helped me up the ramp and then I found some stripper to take off my wetsuit top. I chose to leave the bottoms on for warmth as I ran/jogged the long ¼ mile or so to transition and the changing tent. After trying to get the wetsuit bottoms off (and putting my thumb through the rubber), I sat in a chair and got help with the it. The volunteer gave it a yank and yanked me right onto the ground. Little did I know that wouldn’t be the last time I’d land on my backside! Fortunately I wasn’t injured. He said it would be easier if I wasn’t so muscular. Not in the mood for a discussion, I thanked him and then took quite awhile to get my stuff on so I’d be warm enough on the ride. I did not want to be shivering or worse during the first part of the ride. Besides, finishing was the absolute priority.
Bike 112 miles – 6:15:26, 28th of 92
Did my usual running bike mount, rode up out of the expo area, and hit the fairly rough road for the 1st mile. Then had a headwind for about 12 of the 19 miles out to the turnaround on the Beeline Hwy. Going up the hill, which is really mostly just a “false flat” I was often going 12-16 mph. After the turnaround I felt like I was flying back, easily hitting 30+ mph. My back started to hurt by end of the 1st lap of 3 total. If you’ve read my race reports before you know that I sometimes pee on the bike. You’ll be glad to know that I used the portapotty 3 times instead! The first time I decided was because I didn’t want to get cold. The 2nd and 3rd I used the time to stretch my back, which provided 15 minute of temporary relief.
I decided to take my caffeine early in hopes of masking some of the back discomfort. Fatigue also showed up part way into the 2nd loop. Given my output power and reasonable (for me) heart rate, this was not a good sign. The caffeine helped some for both issues but fatigue and back pain still remained. I didn’t ignore my mental game: don’t look too far ahead. Plan but stay present. Problem solve. Get through this. “What if you are stronger than you think?” (Thank you Kat!) Out near the turnaround for the final time, near Red Mountain, my mind wandered to “I’d like to get off this bike and go hike that mountain.” I pushed it aside, excited that I was about to blast back down the hill for the last time. I also periodically reminded myself to not give in just because it was hard. I thought about how many weekend long rides I had done, how much time I’d put in, and how those training rides took me away from Linda so I better make this worth the sacrifice.
One more recounting: I wore homemade disposable arm warmers, a windbreaker, and those little instant hand warmers in the sub-50* air. The clouds hung around for about ¾ of the ride. When it finally got warm enough I ditched all the extra outerwear, including leaving the jacket at an aid station in case someone behind me needed it.
Favorite sign: “If you’re looking for a sign… This is it!”
T2 – 6m29sec
It was a huge relief to get off the bike. I knew it was a much slower ride than I had hoped for but that’s happened before so I was still open to having a good run. But I was also realistic knowing how I felt going into IMAZ. I got the running shoes and race # belt on, etc. and headed out of the tent. It’s hard to forget stuff (like I did at AZ 70.3) when it’s all in your bag for you to grab. 
Run 26.2 miles – 5:36:56, 38th of 92
It was a rollercoaster of a run. The 1st 2 miles were a struggle but they usually are. I started to find a flow but then I’d lose it – this happened repeatedly. Not long after I would get into a good rhythm then I would begin to feel lousy or feel a hamstring think it might show me who’s boss, and I’d start to slow down or walk again. While I ran most of this marathon, there were plenty of walking blocks. There was also plenty of something else…
OMG! Skip has OMB! Yes, it’s true. I have Old Man Bladder. I stopped 6 different times to pee during the run. Six! It was ridiculous! Each time I got into a portapotty I couldn’t help singing to myself, “Let it go, let it go. Can’t hold it back anymore” from the Frozen song. On the bright side I guess I stayed relatively hydrated and, considering my performance, those 6+ minutes mattered not at all.
Pace wasn’t great but at mile 4 I think I saw a 10:38 mile or something like that. My race brain took a while to calculate things but knew that an 11:25 pace would still get me under the 5 hour marathon. That was my new goal! It didn’t last very long. Even though I resorted to my affirmation question and also to something Sally said that I distilled down to “What if you knew this was your last time being able to do this? What would you do?” Even with all of that I still couldn’t push past everything..
Run nutrition didn’t go very well yet again. I had a plan but I started to stray from it around 5 miles. I tried different things that were available at the aid stations. Nothing went down very well, though at least it all stay down. When I was coughing or heaving, nothing came back up. I think the dry heaving I experienced was probably mostly caused by the dry air than from what I ate/drank. Anyway, I just didn’t get in enough calories. Another unsolved question: I ended up with very sore and very tired abs in spite of all the core training I’d done! How can that be?
I saw family and friends most memorably near the half way mark. Coincidentally I was running pretty well for much of that mile. It was great to see them at that moment and it gave me an energy boost. That didn’t last and again I slowed and sometimes walked.
Some of the running was closer to a shuffle and thanks to my shuffling I found an uneven sidewalk seam that was raised up maybe half an inch. I manage to trip and go down, falling onto my hip. There were 2 or 3 other runners right near me and a young woman quickly asked if I was okay. I was too tired and my mind was too fried to feel embarrassed. I looked up and said, “Yes,” even though I wasn’t quite sure. She then asked if she could help me up. I put my hand up and said, “Yes please” and she pulled me up. I was so grateful for her help and told her so. If she hadn’t helped me I don’t know how long I would have been there. During an Ironman run I’m unable to even bend down to retie a shoe by mile 4 or 5 let alone get up from the ground. Once up I gathered myself, assessed things, and started walking. I had some small abrasions, a little blood, and a hip bruise but nothing really hurt.
I carried on, undulating between feeling like I could run like I had in training and then feeling like I couldn’t run another step and had to walk. There were some moments where balance was a little off and I was asked more than once if I was okay. Eventually I finished, running, staggering, stumbling, and walking.
Favorite signs: “Your high school gym teacher would be so proud of you!” and “Stop reading signs and RUN!”
Finish line 140.6 miles – 13:19:21, 21st of 92
I ran the final ¾ mile to the finish line. I couldn’t wait to be done. A fellow athlete’s wife was volunteering in the finish area and “caught” me. We hugged and I was close to letting go of my emotions but realized I needed to find Linda first. She gave me my medal, shirt, and hat. We found Linda and I immediately went to her and hugged and cried with relief. Mom was next, then food (which I didn’t really want), then friends and sitting and telling stories, and finally gathering up equipment to take back to the van. We ended up at Dave’s BBQ 30 minutes before closing… terrible food idea! Too bad!
It was quite the day. I had lot’s of new experiences at this Ironman, even though it was #13. You never know what you’re going to get on the day and you don’t have control over a lot of that. I got on the “elevator” and it took me to lower level parking instead of the penthouse. I thought I would at least come out of this with less soreness because of my slower performance but that was a wrong and silly notion. 1 day after the finish I felt it just as much. My back also isn’t very happy and the body is tired and in need of a good recovery. So I truly did suffer out there, which is always a goal of mine.
In hindsight I went into this race knowing that I just needed to finish. I didn’t have true expectations that I would place under the circumstances. I also experimented with my training this summer and fall and was less prepared physically than ever before. Even though I have a long, consistently built base of endurance, that can only take me so far when it comes to my own peak performance. I know I’m capable of a faster race than this 13:19 finish but will I ever beat my best performance from 4 years ago? I don’t know. I don’t know yet if I’ve reached my triathlon peak. I certainly don’t want to believe that but I really won’t know until I’ve left no stone unturned and also know I’ve trained the best that I possibly can.
Now I need a break. I need some rest physically and mentally. Next year I have Ironman 70.3 Oceanside on the calendar in early April, which will keep me eligible for the Kona slot. If they don’t get to my name on the list for Kona in 2020 then I don’t plan to do a full 140.6 mile Ironman next year. In 2021 I’ll see where I am mentally and emotionally. I’m guessing that’s when the legacy slot will be awarded to me. I also age up to the 65 to 69 age group. Maybe that will be a chance to try to earn a Kona slot by winning a race. For now it’s just a dream, though. I’ve been striving for this goal of qualifying to race in the World Championships for 11 years now. The rewards have been many despite falling short 13 times. Finding motivation and using that to push my preparation is the key to my success. I’ll need a little break if I’m going to find that again.
I’m grateful for all the love, support, comments, and encouragement I always seem to receive from so many before, during, and after these races. I feel unworthy but I do always try to bring my best on race day. I just want to thank you all very much: Linda, Mom, and my friends who came all the way out to Arizona; family and friends who followed remotely; my Team Challenge family - it wouldn’t be the same without you all.

No comments:

Post a Comment