2011 Race Report
First, I want to thank my wife for tolerating another year of Ironman training – anybody that has done this knows that the training is a major time commitment and the family is the one that is making the sacrifices. It helps that she is an accomplished triathlete and has completed distances up to 70.3, but there were still a lot of missed time together and activities that were planned around triathlon. Next I want to thank Joby for bringing me to the start line of my second Ironman distance race without injury and prepared to do this distance. Thanks to my Son Eric and my parents for coming out to support me and take pictures and endure the entire day. Also, my friends John and Cindy Higgins – they had never been to a triathlon, marathon or any other type of endurance event – I know this whole thing amazed them and I am thrilled that they would come all the way to Arizona just to watch me. I want to thank all of my teammates that were out there on the course with me – Matt (first to pass me up), Carol (2nd to pass me up), Jillian (3rd to pass), Sean, Michelle Foo, Kyle, Marie and Vickie, Robin, Lisa, Adrienne. Special thanks to all of the FC Supporters that were out there until the end – I saw Paul on every lap of my run cheering hard . Local OC volunteers/spectators – Julie, Tina, Vickie, Stacy, Yen (Tri La Vie), Jacquie, Danielle (Tri La Vie), Jody. Finally, Scott – we did it again.
This was my second Ironman race and it was on the same course that I did last year. Arizona is a great venue for racing/spectating – the energy is very high and the excitement level is everything that you would expect from an Ironman race. Last year I had an outstanding race for my first attempt at this distance and this year I had very high expectations for improvements. Last year I was very relaxed and confident that I could achieve my goal to finish the race – this year I was more nervous and felt a lot of pressure to perform. My race season this year had been a string of PRs, a podium finish and some top ten finishes so I felt confident that I could make major improvements in my IM numbers vs last year. My training was also outstanding, with regards to the times that I was posting and the distances that I was covering. Overall I achieved a significant improvement in my time – 13:23:45 (2010) vs 13:00:58 (2011). This was a 22:43 improvement over last year’s time and it was also good for 23rd place out of 82 in AG and within 17 % of the first place time. Last year I was 75th out of 150. When I reviewed my times for each part of the race, it was obvious that all of the improvement came from a faster cycling time, however, multisport endurance racing is not just the sum of the parts. It is an integration of all five parts (transitions count too) that interact with each other. Although my swim time and run times were nearly the same as last year I was able to make a 28 minute improvement on the bike and still swim strong and run strong and that was the real improvement for the race.
Finally, there is this issue of 58 seconds. It was a goal of mine to break the 13 hour mark in this race and I felt that I could do it easily based on my training results and racing times that I had posted this season. Whenever you are this close to the goal and you don’t hit the mark you have to ask yourself if there was something else you could have done to make up that time. I can say this with confidence that I left everything on the course and on this day and these conditions I could not have improved my time.
Pre Race Activities
Thursday – We arrived in Tempe late afternoon on and checked into our hotel – the Best Western on Scottsdale Rd. We went to our room and as we approached the room we could smell cigarette smoke in the hallway and when we opened the door the place reeked of smoke. We went downstairs and had our room changed – this is a non-smoking hotel so the manager apologized profusely and fined the previous person $250.00. I went out for a 3 mile run following part of the run course that takes you to the venue – I purposely did not go through the finishing line (has to be bad luck to do that).
Friday – The next day we went to the Expo and, unlike last year, I only spent $23 on a visor (way too expensive for a visor). Several of us went out for a 15 mile bike ride and survey of the bike course. I was feeling the wind out there and knew that it would probably be there on Sunday. Later in the day we found my parents and took them down to the venue so that they could see where the race was taking place and also so they could figure out the train system to take to the race on Sunday. We went back to the room and I got all of my bags together and did a check on my bike. I was borrowing Brian Conn’s Aerojacket wheel and I found that the spindle for the rear wheel was loose causing lateral movement of the wheel. Now I wasn’t sure if I would be able to use this wheel so I took the cogs off and put them on my rental wheel until I could get it checked out somewhere. I put the usual ‘emergency only’ things in my special needs bags – I have never stopped at special needs and I hope I never have to as the things that I have in there are for major problems – spare tire, tubes, cartridges, wrenches for the bike bag and extra gels and clothes for the run bag.
Saturday – Today is the day that you can swim and check out the water at the lake, then you turn in your bike and run transition bags. First I needed to go to the bike mechanic and have my wheel checked so I got there early and was first in line. They have really high prices for the services at the expo and so I was worried about how much this would cost to fix. I handed my wheel to the mechanic and in less than a minute he tightened it up and said have a good race.
We were all supposed to meet at 10:30 to go swim and I finally got a little antsy and just went in. I swam out to the inside buoy near the start and checked out my site line and then swam back to the exit. We all gathered for a group picture and then it was time to go get some lunch before heading back to the room to put my feet up.
We picked out a restaurant for dinner and planned to meet my parents, Eric and John and Cindy there for dinner. Eric and John and Cindy were driving into town that day and were scheduled to arrive around 4:00 – they both reached Scottsdale Rd exit at the same time, but the ASU vs Arizona football game was scheduled for that night and the streets were gridlocked. We could not get out of our hotel and it took them over an hour to reach our hotel. We had to cancel dinner plans and walk across the street to a semi fast food place for dinner – not what I had in mind, but I managed to get a rice and chicken burrito that seemed to be an OK prerace meal – no salsa.
Preparation – I had a very poor night of sleeping – I fell asleep around 1 AM and got up about 3:30 AM. I usually sleep well the night before a race but I could not sleep this night. I had 2 packages of oatmeal and 2 yogurts for breakfast and then we packed up our things and headed over to the venue. We paid to park at Monti’s because it is close to the race finish and I knew I would not want to walk very far after the race. I went to transition and pumped up my tires – the aerojacket requires 2 people. I also, needed to tape the aerojacket around the perimeter so that it wouldn’t flap in the wind. I needed to get Vickie Smith Mindy’s Garmin because she needed something that would last through the race. I thought I had a lot of time but I was feeling very rushed. I found Vickie and I was going to show her how to use the device and we really didn’t have time – also we couldn’t get the HR monitor to synchronize because there were too many people with monitors on. I finally got over to the restroom and made one stop and then it was time to put the wetsuit on and get in the water. It seemed like I had a lot more time last year.
2.4 mile Swim
2010 time – 1:38
Predicted time – 1:30
Actual time – 1:40
Difference – +8:00
Place after swim – 60th
I jumped into the water right away and swam out to the start buoy – I had a tip from Denise Bardsley that this was the best place to start. When the gun went off I started swimming right away and there were arms and legs hitting me for at least 500 yds. One person grabbed my leg and started pulling which I thought was uncalled for so is kicked my feet and caught some bone – I think it was a jaw. I felt very strong swimming and I thought I was going at a good pace for the distance. On the way out I stayed pretty close to the buoys and swam towards the far right of the bridge. I made it under the far bridge and it seemed like it took forever to get to the turn buoy. Then I swam across the lake and hit the turn bouy that would take me back to the finish. The day before the race I had walked out onto the bridge and I thought I had a pretty good sighting point for the return trip, but I think it took me wide and added on a lot of distance. When I made this turn it seemed like everybody was swimming back towards the middle and I stayed pretty close to the side of the lake. I followed this path all the way down sighting off of an electrical power pole. When I got out of the water I felt like I ahd a good swim and I was hoping to see something in the 1:20s or low 1:30s, but I saw 1:39 and by the time I stepped on the mat it was 1:40. I was pretty disappointed and this kind of affected my transition as I was upset and distracted from what I needed to do.
2010 time – 6:25
Predicted time – 6:00
Actual time – 7:17
Difference – +:52
Place after T1 – 54th
This was an OK transition but should have been better. I let the strippers get my wetsuit off and made sure they didn’t take my timing chip and then made the run to where my bag was located. Last year they had it out for me and this year I had to find it. I took the bag to one of the picnic benches and put my bike jersey, helmet, gloves, glasses and socks and shoes on. I had a great spot near the bike out and I heard the volunteers calling out my number and by the time I got to my bike rack they had my bike waiting in the aisle. I pushed it out to bike out and started my ride.
112 Mile Bike
2010 time – 6:07:57
Predicted time – 5:40:00
Actual Time – 5:39:24
Difference – -28:33
Place after bike – 19th
I got on the bike and headed out Rio Salado listening to everybody cheering as I left on the long ride. I saw my family and friends John and Cindy as I left. My cadence sensor was not working so I had to spin by feel and speed. I started out just spinning and not paying much attention to speed – my HR was elevated and I was trying to get it to go down, but I was really excited and it stayed high all the way through the fist loop. My plan was to negative split each loop and hopefully be under 6 hrs for my total time. As I made the first left turn onto McClintock I spotted Adrienne on the side of the road fixing a flat tire. I quickly asked if she needed help, and I felt like I should stop, but this is a race and I knew that she could fix her tire. As I made way out to the Beeline Hwy I noticed that there was not much wind. When I hit the turnaround at the top of the highway I pushed my lap button and recorded 1:04:44 – this looked good as long as the wind isn’t blowing. I rode back to the first loop turnaround in :48:28 for a total first loop time of 1:53:22. I was thinking that I would break 5:30 if I continued to drop the time.
On the second loop I started to feel the wind and as I was going up the highway I could tell that I was going much faster than the first loop and I wasn’t working very hard. I passed Robin, Sean and Jillian on this loop. The time to the top of the highway was 56:28 which was 6 minutes faster than the first loop and I was thinking that was too easy. Then I turned around to go back to town and the wind was right in my face blowing very hard. I had some gusts that made the bike a little unstable and I had to hold in tight. I made it back to the end of the send loop and the crowd noise was very loud and exciting. I saw Mindy and Eric and the rest of my friends and family there. My total time for the 2nd loop was 1:52:42 and so I had negative split this loop even though the ride was completely different because of the wind.
On the third loop I was being careful not to push too hard because I knew it would get me on the run. I took advantage of the wind going up the highway and tried drop my time as much as possible and at the turnaround I measured 54:17 compared to 56:28 for the second loop. This was right in line with what I wanted to do. I ran into Kyle at the turnaround and he rode with me for awhile but dropped off along the way to stop at special needs. I had somebody blatantly drafting on my wheel going down the highway and while it bothered me to a certain extent, I knew he was liable for the penalty and I was getting some advantage with him on my tail. My time to return to town from the top of the highway was 57:09 for a total time of 1:51:26 making a perfect negative split on the three bike loops. The interesting thing was that I negative split the first half of each loop by comparison and positively split the second half of each loop by comparison. This was the affect of the wind on the ride. Final bike time was 5:39:24.
T2 Bike to Run
2010 time – 3:36
Predicted time – 3:00
Actual time – 3:35
Difference – -:01
Place after T2 – 16th
Last year this was a good transition for me and it was a good one this year too. I ran to my spot where my T2 bag was located and a volunteer handed me the bag. I sat down on one of those picnic benches (I have never been in the changing tent – this year or last year). I started getting changed and a volunteer came over to help collect my things. I changed my shocks, shoes, put on my Exceeding Expectations visor compliments of Cheri Gruenfeld and headed to the run exit. I thought I had removed my bike race belt but it turned out that I left it on – people kept coming up to me on the run and saying go Bill and I didn’t know how they knew my name.
26.2 Mile Run
2010 time – 5:27:02
Predicted time – 5:00:00
Actual time – 5:30:23
Difference – +3:21
Place after Run – 23rd
I started my running with my legs feeling good and my cardio felt good so I thought I was going to meet my expectations on this run. As I headed out towards the bridge at Priest Rd I started feeling very tired – it sort of felt like I was going to fall asleep. I wanted to lie down on a bench and sleep for about 10 or 20 minutes, but I knew that if I did that somebody would probably come and take me off the course. I kept going towards the 2nd aid station and I saw Adam there – I also saw some other person screaming my name, but I didn’t recognize her. On the second loop I realized that person was Rose. I stopped to use the restroom at this aid station and realized that this was the first time that I had to go all day – it also was the only time that I went all day. I was grabbing grapes and oranges at every aid station and that was my primary source of nutrition for the run. I did use some e-gel that was left from my spare flask for the bike, but mostly I ate fruit. As I came back around to the venue I saw all of the supporters near the aid station and heard my friend John yell out “put your foot into it Bill” which is something that he always tells me when we are playing music together – it means keep the beat and timing right.
I made my way out on the second part of the first loop Matt came up behind me. We chatted for awhile and then he went ahead. As I was making my way to the aid station right before the big hill I came upon Chris Davis from OC Tri Club. To my surprise he was walking and seemed to be struggling, although he was on his 2nd or 3rd loop of the run already. He has done more than 15 IM races and is usually at the top of his AG. I stopped and walked with him a little and then I started running again – he passed me going up the hill. I was stopping at each aid station and trying to keep my pace around 11:00-11:30 but I could tell that I was not going to hold the pace that I expected. I still felt very sleepy as I finished the 1st loop.
Somewhere during the second loop I started to slow down to a pace in the 13s – I never stopped and walked, except for the aid stations, but I really could not make myself pick up the pace. I felt OK and I never felt like I was in any danger of stopping, but I just wasn’t going very fast. I was really hoping that the second half of my run was going to move down into the 10:30-11:00 range and I knew I didn’t have that energy level left. I settled down into about 13:30 for most of the second half of the run.
At about mile 18 Sean and Michelle Foo passed me up and I assumed that was the last of our group that would go by me. I started to calculate my pace and remaining time to break 13 hours and I could tell that I was going to be close. At mile 20 I knew I had a 10K left and I know what my pace needed to be to break 13:00. I decided that I could not afford to stop at anymore aid stations and I would have to pick up my pace a little above 13:00 to make it. I was able to get through the aid stations without stopping and I tried to pick up my pace – I was banking on the adrenaline rush that I got last year to help me in the last 2 miles. When I hit the mile 24 mark nothing seemed to change and I could not get my legs to turn over any faster. I pushed very hard in the last 2 miles and when I got to within .3 miles I saw Paul and Tina and they were cheering me on and I was pretty sure I could not get in under 13:00, but I kept pushing to the Finish Line. I saw the clock as I got close and I tried not to look disappointed because I didn’t want to ruin my picture, but I was not happy with the final time 13:00:58. I put my arms up and ran through the line to the volunteer that was assigned to me. It was over – my second Ironman race.
Post Race Thoughts
I have now completed 2 full Ironman races and I am ready to take a break from this distance. The distance is more than twice the difficulty of the 70.3 and it is much larger than the sum of it’s parts. Each leg of the race takes a toll cumulatively on the following legs and when you reach the run it starts to become unbearable. The training is a major intrusion on your life and it consumes all of your time and thoughts for at least 4 months if not longer. However, I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything that I have done in my life and I am grateful that I have been able to do this without injury and with respectable finishing times. I made major improvements in may race this year and I am pleased with the outcome – I will probably always be looking for those 58 seconds, but I know that didn’t leave them on the course.