November 20, 2011
If you would have asked me six months ago whether or not I would ever race at Ironman Arizona, much less 3 months after my first Ironman race, I would have said you were crazy. In fact, the day after IM Canada when Adrienne presented me with this idea, that is pretty much what I said with a few expletives thrown in. I don’t like loops and I am not a fan of flat bike courses, so I really have no business in Arizona. However, after thinking about if for a few minutes, her idea really did make sense. Adrienne, Laura, and I were already planning on going to Arizona to cheer on our teammates, so why not just race it. That is rational thinking, right? Our coach, Joby, was not that surprised with this crazy idea and thought it was reasonable. By this time he had known us for a while and realized crazy was our normal. The problem, how do not one, but three people get into a race that has been sold out since the day registration opened? Laura may look all sweet and quit, but she is quite the negotiator. Somehow, she persuaded Carmichael Training to buy more registration slots from WTC and we were in. I was actually super-excited when we got into the race. I swore I would never do IMAZ, but once the wheels were in motion I was fully on board the crazy train. And, we drug Carol aboard as well! Fast forward a very short few months and race day was upon us.
Prerace: Leading up to this race, I felt pretty calm. I think it was because it all happened so quickly, I did not have time to obsess about it. I didn’t feel as intimidated as I had in Canada. Not because I am in any way, experienced at Ironman, but having our team there almost made it feel more like a training day. It eased the pressure a bit, at least for me. It wasn’t until I got everything set up in transition and went to where our support team was set up that I realized that I was about to spend the better part of the day and evening putting my body through what could be a lot of pain. I went through a very brief what have I gotten myself into moment and then wet-suited up and headed to the water.
Swim: I generally like in water swim starts, but I was not sure how this would work with over 2500 people starting all at once. I just kept thinking of how beat up I got at IM Canada and was waiting for thousands of people to all start swatting at me. Laura and I swam out to the start line together and tried to position ourselves in a fairly open pocket with good buoy position based on what Joby showed us the day before. It felt like we were treading water for a really long time awaiting the inevitable. And then, all of a sudden it all started; legs and arms flailing everywhere. I was able to get into a decent swim rhythm pretty quickly though and maintained fairly open water for the majority of the swim. Siting to the turn buoy was nearly impossible because of the sun, so I have no idea whether or not I was swimming the shortest course possible. Based on my time, I don’t think I was. I got tangled up in people near some of the buoys and when people were trying to converge, but overall, it felt like a much more fluid swim than Canada. I was taking in a lot of water though and Tempe Town Lake is not clean. It was really making me gag and I was hoping it would not result in GI issues later on during the day. Got out of the swim and heard Paul screaming for me. I could not see him anywhere with all the people, but it was good to hear his voice. Looked at my watch and was a little jacked that I was 4 minutes slower than Canada. It made me feel behind. Swim Time: 1:24:32
T1: As I headed to transition I heard Tina and Vicki screaming like crazy. They are hilarious and so encouraging. Grabbed my T1 bag and sat down to get ready for the bike. My stomach was still a bit queasy from taking in so much water during the swim so I took a little time to get ready and try to stabilize my nausea. T1 Time: 5:58
Bike: I am not a fan of flat course bike riding. It is not that I am a great hill climber, I just prefer hill riding. There is no relief on a flat course; you are spinning the entire time. Based on my training rides, I did not go into this race with a lot of confidence; especially if the wind picked up a lot. The one nice thing about a looped course is that you can compartmentalize the 112 miles into segments more easily. The objective was to get faster each loop. This is always a really daunting goal for me. The plan was to go out very controlled the first lap, get a baseline, and get faster from there. The first lap was not too bad. Carol whizzed past me and then Bill at some point. I knew it was just a matter of time. It was nice to see my teammates out there even if they were kicking my butt. There was some head wind on the climb (I use this term loosely) up to the turnaround. Thankfully, this meant for a tailwind on the return trip of the first lap. At the end of the first loop, I was on target to meet my overall goal bike time. Out for lap two – shortly after this lap started I noticed there was I guy that I had been leap frogging with from the beginning of the bike and so did he. We exchanged some pleasantries as we passed each other throughout the rest of the ride and it actually helped me push a little harder. I got to the turnaround 5 minutes faster, but could tell that I had a nice tail wind helping me do that. As soon as I started to head back down the hill, I was smacked with a head wind. Every time I turned onto a street I felt like I was still in a head wind, how is this possible? I reached the end of the 2nd lap about 4 minutes behind the 1st lap which was frustrating. One lap left to go and it was starting to feel like ground hog day. Damn loops. The wind died down a bit for this loop. A mild tail wind to the turnaround and I dropped another 5 minutes off my time to the turnaround, which was encouraging. I was feeling good at this point and knew I was on my way back to town and off the bike. My last lap was 3:30 minutes faster than the 2nd, so I was happy and feeling good. I could have pushed harder on the bike but didn’t want to blow my legs for the marathon. My overall bike time was a little faster than the planned target – yay! Bike Time: 6:19:59
T2: Once I got off of my bike I could feel that my legs were worked. I walked to my T2 bag instead of running and tried to stretch my legs out a little. As I was about to start running I realized I didn’t have my hat on. I have no idea how I missed this when the volunteer helping me was handing me the contents of my bag, but I did. I knew this course had very little shade and while it was not supposed to be a hot day, I really wanted my hat. Thankfully, my T2 bag was at the top of pile and I was able to retrieve it without wasting too much time. T2 Time: 5:34
Run: Anyone who read my IM Canada race report or talked to me about that race knows I didn’t have the run I wanted in Canada. I have beaten myself up about it and, let’s be honest, IMAZ was really about me redeeming myself on the run. I had to prove to myself that I could put together a marathon within an IM race. Starting the run my quads were a little tight and my left ankle was hurting me for some reason, but overall, I felt pretty good. I settled into a controlled pace and just hung there. Because the run course is made up of 3 loops I got to see our spectators a ton, which was great. I know Mia, all the cool kids like loops. I wouldn’t say I am a fan of the loops, they are still really repetitive, but they do have their perks. Especially because I am so directionally challenged, I didn’t really realize that I was running three identical loops on the run. And, I have no idea how they did it, but Cassie and Mia were everywhere. At about the half-way point, the fatigue in my legs started to set in and my comfortable pace was becoming very challenging to maintain. I could see my pace starting to drop, not terribly, but it was getting noticeably harder to stay on pace. I still had a half marathon left, so I took it from mile to mile at that point and some miles were better than others. Oddly enough, I never once looked at my overall run time. I just looked at each individual mile. I was seriously compartmentalizing at this point. I actually started feeling really strong for a couple miles around mile 21 and 22 and then really started to fade the last two miles. I knew I was almost done through and all I could really think about was In-and-Out burger. Which, I did not get until the next day but tasted so good. As I approached the finish I heard, but could really not see, our supporters screaming and it made me smile. I still didn’t know what my run time was, but I felt like I put together a good run, which is all I really wanted to do and to get called an Ironman when I finished. However, once again, I did not get announced as an Ironman. Seriously, what is up with that? Run Time: 4:38:41
Overall Race Time: 12:34:44
This was my redemption race and I feel good about it. That said, I still have a score to settle with IM Canada, but I will get around to that in 2013. IMAZ was a much better experience that I expected. I enjoyed the course way more than I anticipated. That said, we had pretty perfect weather and an amazing support crew. The opportunity to race with my teammates was worth the loops. I may not have seen everyone out on the course, but I knew you were there.
It has been a good few weeks since the race and I have really had time to think about the year as a whole. I feel lucky and blessed for all the experiences and I have had and all the support I have received through all of it. I have raced nearly every race this year with both Adrienne and Laura and not one without at least one of them and I would not have it any other way. Team FC rocks and training and racing with my team was a blast. I have trained harder this year than ever and truly enjoyed all of it, even when we cycled in the nearly freezing rain and I could not feel the majority of my limbs. Joby, you have put together an amazing group of people and I am so happy to be a part of it. Team FC friends and family, thank you for being out on the course all day cheering until you lost your voices, literally. All the friends and family who tracked me from home, thank you does not seem like enough but knowing you have people watching and waiting helps push me to the finish line. Paul, I don’t know what I can say that I have not said before. You are there for every race (nearly) and give yourself and your time unconditionally. Not without whining a bit, but still unconditionally. I know how rare that is to find and I am lucky to have you. Apparently, you are a keeper, so you are stuck with me.
What’s next? I have been and will continue to enjoy a bit of recovery time. Then, the year of 70.3 races begins. Oh, the fun we will have!