November 19, 2017
I’ve looked forward to Ironman Arizona (IMAZ) 2017 for over a year. I traveled to volunteer in 2016 to watch and support team mates AND see what I was getting myself into for 2018. This entire year was about being prepared for this IMAZ 2017. This isn’t to say that I didn’t concentrate and race other races, but I considered them formative races to this big day.
Race Conditions: For the 10 days leading up to the race the forecast was 82 degree with 0 – 5mph winds. This changed on race day. My data shows a high of 86 degrees and winds between 10 – 20mph depending on time and place on course. The water was a brisk, 68 degrees and the air temperature low dropped to the mid 50s once the sun set. Hot and windy during the day and wonderful at night.
Goals: 1) Finish 2) Enjoy the day 3) Race to Plan. These are simple goals, but the third goals was dangerous for a first Ironman. Two goals were plenty – don’t have a race goal, don’t have a race goal, but you’ll have a personal race goal
Before the Race: I traveled to Arizona six days before the race to spend time getting into mindset, acclimating, and enjoying the pre-race activities. Great for a first-timer, less for a veteran. The days before the race, we had a chance to jump in the lake to check sight lines and water temperature (best thing I did for my race start).
Morning of the Race:I took this morning slow and steady and my goals was no stress. Of course, I forgot my timing chip and had to get a new one. All was good and prepared to start the race. My sherpa did a great job of communicating with me and allowed me to worry about the race and not the gear.
There was nothing special about the swim but a cool 68 degree water that was warmer than expected, but cool enough not to overhead during a 2.4 mile swim. Due to previous day scouting, I had my first long sight line and took off with very little hesitation. I got into a great rhythm and headed counter clockwise down the first line. The course was shaped like a bent elbow.
I had a steady swim pace where I could have pushed the pace at many points. Due to the distance, I settled into a felt steady/moderate pace. I was around the far
turn buoys and down the back stretch, but a calf ready to cramp was distracting me and the sight line was LONG. At about 3000 yards, I lost my swim stroke and kick. It took a couple of minutes to find the groove – it was lost. I was a log sitting in the water paddling without noticeable forward progress. I had to go back to swim basics and do each step of the process to eventually find it and take off. My swim volume this year was my savior:
2017 Swim Volume: 106.71 mi (187,810 yards), 73:19:34 h:m:s
IMAZ Swim Time: 01:21:13
I felt appropriately tired, but satisfied coming out of the water with an aggressive swim plan time of 1:20:00. I didn’t overrace this leg (cost me a hamburger bet), but I raced the swim as I need to for an “A” race.
My mantra: Do not override the bike, do not override the bike, do not override the bike. I love to override the bike portion of the race. I set my goal at a 19mph pace. The data tells the story.
2017 Cycling Volume : 3,187.23 mi, 216:19:43 h:m:s
IMAZ Bike Time: 06:00:06
Yes, I could have had a faster bike time. Ironman data said I rode 18.68 and my bike computer showed a 19.1 average. This was my biggest win of the day. I was not tired coming off of the bike – cramped up and sore, but my legs felt great. Exactly were I wanted to be off the bike.
I worried about the IMAZ run ALL year. For good reason. I felt great coming off the bike at 2:45p. But it was HOT. I started fast and closed it down quickly with the heat. I was well within my ability to finish the race and had plenty of time to finish within my race goal. Other than the heat, I felt really good. I did pull something under my right rib (during swim) that gave me some pain, but that’s the name of the game. I took the first hour slow to let the sun drop out of the sky a little and took the opportunity to refuel, rehydrate and get ready for the long haul to the finish line. Between mile 4 and 13 I had a steady pace that I thought I could handle forever.
At mile 13, my back started to ache. This wasn’t a surprise – it’s the first of my running structure that breaks down. But this was early. I mentioned it to Kara (Max’s Sherpa), but kept going – just something for her the mull over. This was a critical decision time: a) slow my pace and save the back, or b) race to plan.
By mile 16, my back was hurting and I was now on the walk. The pain was manageable, but the ibuprofen that I took weren’t making a dent. I knew at that the remainder of the race was going to hurt – Nick (team mate) was a good sounding board on course – I kept going – a forward lean was noticeable. By mile 20, the grandpa lean/hunch had become a serious problem.
At mile 22/23, I was in trouble. I completely stopped for the first time on the course. I was in serious pain and I needed to find relief. I found a railing and stretched my back on it – reaching down as close to the ground as possible and cat arching my back. This gave some temporary relief. I had base-salt all day. I had three “hot shot” and at this point I had enough ibuprofen for a couple of days. I was warned that there are dark place on the run course – there are and I was facing it.
The last five miles of this race felt like the whole race. My stretches started to get closer together.
The mile 24 aid station was a ugly, hard place – under a lit bridge at the bottom of a downhill and coming to an uphill. I stretch long and hard but kept moving forward.
I saw my support team for the last time (last of many) and Coach Ben knew my status by the look on my face and my form. We’ve worked enough together that the pep talk was of goals and possibility. Nothing to do with the pain, or my willpower to finish.
There was only me, the UNT tri-club supports, and my coach at the time. The rest of the world simply didn’t exist at that moment. I apologies, again, to the children and families on the sideline for my load four-letter word (twice).
1) Finish 2) Enjoy the day 3) Race to Plan.
To make my race goal #3, I had to pick up my pace. I tried for the next 200-500 yards. It simply could not happen. Goal #1 (finish) was still 2+ miles away. Goal #2 (Enjoy the day) was a long time ago.
Mile 24 – 26.2 were, mentally, the toughest of my life. I’m quick to note: There are many people who suffer this way everyday with their lives. I could have stopped at any point and the pain would have gone away. I chose this fight – I was fighting mental against physical. Physically, everything in my body, except my back erector muscles were great.
At mile 25.5, I headed toward two EMTs on a four-wheeler. As the rushed to my aid, I yelled at them not to touch me and used their vehicle to stretch my back. This was strategically my worst mistake – I had two care takers that were more than willing to ease my pain – It was hard to tell them not to touch me. “What do you need?” The finish line. “What can we do for you?” Nothing. I knew that the point that I allowed them to take over my care that I lost my ability to decide if I would be allowed to finish the race. I left them with painful whispered thanks and headed to the finish line.
Mile 26.1: Denise (my wife) asked me to run down the carpet. This wasn’t something I even contemplated for the last five miles. But, you have a lot of time to reflect during the race and I had decided to make it happen to the best of my ability. Luckily, Nick had positioned himself at the start of the carpet and I was able to stretch and had him extra stuff. No time to full explain what I was doing – he just didn’t want me to stop! I stretch and took off standing 100% tall breathing hard to hold myself up – not from being tired, but controlling the pain with breathing. Looking at the video I was anything but tall. But, I finished at 14:16:04 (9:23p).
2017 Run Volume: 840.83 mi, 183:18:24 h:m:s
IMAZ Run Time: 6:36:00
OVERALL TIME: 14:16:05
Mentally: I was 100% ready everything that race could have thrown at me. I was ready for the worst. I’m glad I was ready. At any point, I could have rested at done a 17 hour race without so much pain. Mentally, I pushed my physical.
Done Right: Stay with my race plan. I trusted the plan and knew that my coach agreed.
Improvement: This is easy. Become a better endurance athlete. Work on that erector core.
Differently: Nothing. Done right.
Lessons: The mental is as much or more that the physical and they will bleed into each other. More study needed.
Back to Training: Coach know what I need.
Next race: Rocky Raccoon 50 mile race. My run is my weakness. Kill the weakness.
Back to the grind.