Monday, November 24, 2014

Race Report: Ironman Arizona 2014

I'll begin with my CliffsNotes version and reuse a FaceBook update.  This sums it up pretty well!  All in all - A pretty special experience. My heart is FULL.  Swim: 56:24, Bike 5:21:29, Run 3:42:39 - FINISH: 10:05:52

And for those looking for the nitty gritty, here’s the unabridged version:

I had such a great build and prep for this race. In hindsight, likely too perfect and I just didn’t develop that nervousness that usually gets all my systems revved up and ready for race day (including my gut)!! I was simply so happy and at peace with the blessings around me, but in reality, this is something I wouldn’t trade for anything. 

The days leading up to the race felt relatively smooth, everything was on plan and I remained confident that I was well prepared for the race. No anxiety or nervousness, just eager to finally get out there and see what the day had in store. I typically don’t share race goals so publicly before an event, but this time I felt ready and was simply too excited to hold it in. Maybe Mother Nature didn’t appreciate those athletes confidently announcing their target times, and as a result she greeted us with her mighty blow on race day.  As I announced in my previous post, I was targeting a sub10hr finish and I felt like I had a solid buffer built into that time to include several inevitable ironman unknowns.  Unfortunately in the end, I spent 5 minutes too long on the course and although I should feel very proud of a 10:05 (Ironman PR), and a Kona qualification, i unfortunately I just didn’t feel the typical rush of emotion and joy when I crossed the finish line. Total bummer since that’s typically the best part! Anyhow, it’s tough to explain the why’s for that, but regardless, I’ll do my best to describe my race experience.

Saturday - Ironman Eve: What can I say, Julie is sherpa extrodinaire. It was so comforting to be surround by such loving and caring friends and having Kerry, Julie and Erik at the condo was just that. Everything was pretty seamless as I completed the typical pre race stuff - Chatted with friends, family, my coach etc and again, I just felt super even keeled. Body felt good, no last minute concerns or issues.  I had made my lists and checked them twice! 


Race Day Play by Play

Pre race Bfest: Beet Elite shot, Protein shake, Sweet Potato, Cliff Bar - Peanut Toffee Buzz, Bottle of Osmo preload/Osmo Active Hydration. Yerba Mate Shot (about 30min prior to start)

SWIM (56:24):  (I'm the pink hat to the right of the front yellow kayak)

 I jumped in the water early to ensure I had no issues making my way to the front - I received a new ROKA wetsuit which I’d worn once a few days before the race. Thankfully that’s all I needed to determine it was the prefect suit to kick off a PR day in Tempe. It was a not only fast, but also super comfortable and flexible around my shoulders. The race start was delayed 5min, but I had no issues positioning myself in the front - No crowds, no contact. I swam on the right side to tangent the big curve in the lake. I saw Julie cheering for me off to the side about 1000m into the swim, which was pretty neat. I basically swam the entire 2.4 miles on my own. No drafting, but more importantly, no wresting or abuse, which was very nice.  I saw my mom along the fence as I ran into T2. She was her typical enthusiastic self and it was wonderful to have a pretty empty transition tent as the 2nd female amateur out of the water.

Swim Gear: Roka Maverick Pro Wetsuit  - Size Medium. Speedo Vanquisher goggles. Tinted mirror.

T1 (3:52): Hustled thru - Putting on the T1 Stealth top was a bit of a challenge, but otherwise it was quick and streamlined. I grabbed my bike and off I went. I had watched this race enough to know it was a huge luxury to have that bike chute to myself as I made my way to Rio Salado. There was no shortage of smiles as I got going.

BIKE (5:21):  After looking at the wind predictions, I knew we’d face a stiff headwind on the way out and a generous tail wind on our way back to Tempe.  It’s a ~37mi loop which we do 3x. Since the bike sets up the run, I knew how important pacing and patience would be in those tough/windy conditions.  Some reports had wind guts over 35mph, with sustained winds over 20mph. It certainly felt that way, especially on loop 2 and 3. I actually haven’t reviewed my power file yet (I’ve been in Europe all week and my Garmin is still attached to my bike in AZ), but I noticed during the race that my NP was spot on each loop and as a whole. In those conditions, having a power meter to help guide pacing was a huge advantage. I consumed fluids and foods exactly as planned and as practiced. Although everything was dialed in, I did notice I was slipping behind my goal time of 1:42/45 per loop as a result of the winds. I was coming in closer to 1:48/9 on those last two loops. I knew it would be a much slower day for everyone on so I didn’t stress about it. It was a pretty lonely ride those first couple of loops. From stories of other athletes I was expecting to see much more drafting and packs flying by, but I just didn’t experience that where I was in the field.  As the miles ticked off, I remained focus on sticking to the plan. I felt that I had paced and fueled properly and was therefore confident in my ability to execute a solid run. I was leading most of the bike and flipped back and forth with Amanda throughout the last 17miles. A good position heading into T2 and my body and legs felt just fine (all things considered). 

Bike Gear: Specialized Shiv XS, Specialized Evade Helmet, Castelli Stealth T1 top, Orca shoe covers, Zipp 808 front, Zipp Disk
Bike Nutrition per hour:  ~25oz Osmo Active hydration.  Homemade Salty ball (~85cals)  1/2 Honey Stinger waffle (80cals), and 3  Honey Stinger chews (~60), 1 MAP AA tab. I also took 1 peppermint TUMS at about mile 105 to preemptively get my gut ready for the run.

T2 (1:28) - Kept it simple.

RUN (3:42:49) : Amanda and I came off our bikes together in T2 and we headed out on the run shoulder to shoulder. Certainly not the way I prefer to start a long marathon (a sprint tri - YES, bring it on), but actually I was sort of expecting it. 7:30s were comfortable, but I just don’t have the ironman run experience/confidence to push the pace early. I wasn't feeling bad, but I wasn't feeling my usual spunky self which made me a little nervous, so I dropped back a bit and settled into my own groove knowing it we had a long way to go. 

I tried to focus on my own plan and let the race unfold naturally. I felt good until about mile 5 after which my stomach expressed its first sign of distress AKA slower mile splits. Ugh. I hadn’t felt that way in any training session or long run. I knew the run wouldn’t be all rosy, but truthfully, I was feeling like crap about 15miles earlier than I expected! I kept Amanda in sight, but I just couldn’t get myself into race mode. Instead I was totally focused on getting my gut situation under control. I took my firstporta-pot stop around mile 6, and that certainly helped provide a new burst and I was back into smooth running mode. From some time updates, I had dropped to roughly 90sec behind 1st by mile 9, but I felt like I was getting my groove back and settled into my target pace. I was still on target to hit that sub 10 goal, but I didn’t have much wiggle room. 

As a came around after 13.1miles, I was still getting time updates from spectators and my time back from 1st was consistently around 2 minutes.  I certainly wasn’t feeling good, but I wasn’t feeling horrible either -  It was an Ironman after all. As I moved into the 2nd half I knew it was time to start digging the best I could. Unfortunately my moments of feeling ok, were very short lived. I was forced into another potta potty around mile 15… This time I was slower to get back into my groove.  I wasn’t aware of any other amateurs close behind since I wasn’t really focused on the other racers (vs the clock). Unfortunately I was looking at the time of day on my watch, and was seeing my “finish before 5pm” goal slip away. I’m embarrassed to admit, but I believe that ‘loss of belief'  had a negative impact on my ability to find that extra gear.  As I approached the Curry Hill climb around mile 22, my stomach had had enough. AS endurance athletes, we’ve likely all been there…You know, that extra strong glute squeezing while frantically searching for the next potta potty.  I knew if I stopped it would be scary, but I couldn’t move any faster towards the Biffy! My biggest fear was that the Biff would be occupied, but thankfully I got inside (almost in time) I know TMI…. Regardless, once I sat down, I wasn’t getting up any time soon. Taking a short nap was crossing my mind, but instead I think I spent about 3min in there. Yikes. I saw Julie under the Mill Ave bridge at mile 23 and for the first time I wasn’t given a time back from 1st (never a good sign) but instead was given the first update from behind that 3rd (Amateur, but not in my AG) was charging hard.  As a 4x Olympian marathoner, Colleen De Reuck had no trouble catching me, and effortlessly passing me around mile 24.5. Pure runners are so lovely to watch (just not as they float by you at the end of a race- Ha)! I still haven't looked at my official mile splits since my gadgets are still in AZ and I've yet to analyze and understand what caused my GI meltdown. But that will come once life settles down a bit.

Run Gear: New Life Time Voler Tri kits, HOKA Clifton shoes, Fuel Belt 10oz handheld
Run Nutrition:  10oz Osmo preload/active hydration mix. Sipped on this for first 2miles.  Tried to take 2-3 Jelly Beans every mile (this ended up making me feel sick, so switched to COKE by mile 10), also mixed in Honey Stinger Chews. 

FINISH (10:05)

AS I approached the finish line I thought I was coming in just under 10:10, but I had forgotten about the delay in the morning (not sure why my Timex was on time of day vs chrono), so that 5min time saving was a bit of a moral boost.  Unfortunately however,  it also created a bit of a “what if” question in my mind. What if I had known earlier in the run that I still had a chance…. Would my porta porta stop at mile 22 been such a casual break, would I have found that extra gear?  You never want to end a season with any “what if” thoughts… so I’ve quickly moved passed it by focusing on all the awesomeness that this Ironman journey did in fact provide.  

In the end, I’m so grateful for everything I learned and experienced throughout the preparation and the race. My body held up so well and being healthy and happy will always be my primary driver. I had the usual post Ironman stiffness on Monday, but my legs and body rebounded amazingly well (even with an 11 hr flight from LAX to Zurich on Monday night).  It had been 4 years since my last Ironman, and I learned a ton this time around which will certainly help my development as an athlete and as a Coach.  I did let my KONA slot roll to a very deserving gal in my AG and i was pumped to hear how excited she was. As people were stamping their KONA tickets, my mind was already moving past Ironman and I was pretty jazzed for our Swiss adventure. We arrived in Zurich Tuesday for our official “Look-See” visit to find our new apartment and explore the area. KY has accepted an ex-pat assignment with his company, so YES, we’re moving to Switzerland next Feb!  We’re super pumped to live the Swiss life for a few years and equally excited to host all kinds of visitors!  

Ironman Zurich anyone?