Ironman Arizona 2009 Race Report

Since I get the feeling this will get long, and will include a number of pictures, I'll put most of it behind a LJ cut for Livejournal friends.

In summary, a good race plan almost perfectly executed. Time objective 13:20 or better, result 13:26:10.

Finished 3rd in the Ironman Executive Challenge 50+ category, so missed out on the IMH slot. In theory I should have won the best improver slot, but since the Longest Day wasn't a qualifying race, that I also didn't win. However, overall I'm very, very pleased with the race, and most importantly how I feel afterwards and my recovery.

I'm very grateful to all the support I got here, on Facebook, Twitter and most importantly at the race from Chris, Kevin, Tammy, Amit and all the other Austinites out there to race, volunteer and sign-up for next year, you are all stars! Thanks also to the guys at Jack and Adams who found and fitted a new fork for me in a day, so my bike was ready to be collected.

However, my biggest thanks go to Dr Z and The Wongstar. Dr Z aka AJ Zelinski, at Advanced Rehab and physio Brian(?). Back at the start of 2007 I was having real problems with my right ankle and they worked on it for me for nearly 3--months both breaking down the scar tissue and taking me through a series of exercises to strengthen my ankle. Since then, AJ has worked on my knees at regular intervals and also on my back recently.

Thanks also to mojojoey aka the Wongstar, who helped out earlier this year, fixing up the built up shoe I'd finally got back from RunTex. The first shoe I got from RunTex had me all optimistic that it would be a big help in my running, it did help somewhat, but since I was convinced by Bill Stone to only add 1.5-inches, my foot strike still feel natural or easy. I ran nearly 300-miles in those shoes. I started early this year to get a replacement set, and if you read back through the entries here, you'll get a sense of the frustration. When I finally got the shoes, nearly 200-miles later, they were a major disappointment. Jocelyn fixed them up for me, and on a run to test them out, we talked and she offered to make a shoe from scratch. You can read and entire blog entry Jocelyn wrote on our mutually beneficial relationship here.

Suffice to say, without both Jocelyn and AJ's work, I wouldn't have had the confidence to start, let alone the strength to finish!


Pre-Race: I drove to Tempe, AZ in my new car, and the bike was transported by Tri Bike Transport(TBT). I stayed at the Tempe Mission Palms Hotel for 4-nights, both TBT and the hotel were included in the Ironman Executive Challenge(IMXC) entry fee. Turns out I literally had the closest hotel room to the race site. My room was on the 2nd floor and opposite my door was an Emergancy Exit door with steps that led down to the parking lot, just 2-blocks from the race site and expo.

I did a practice swim session on Friday morning. I walked down with two other IMXC competitors and once down there we changed into wetsuits etc. I was surprised when @Tammy found me, but was even more surprised to see @Jessica amongst a sea of wetsuits. We waited around for the official 10am start and got in. The water was a murky clay color and not clear at all. Drafting would be difficult, you could barely see your hand let alone someone elses bubbles. I tried drafting off Tammy since she is only slightly slower than me, but it never really worked. The water was 64f, swimmable but cold. After short 600m roundtrip I headed back to the steps and got out, dried my top half and changed, walked back to the hotel for the IMXC Breakfast with the pro's.

The breakfast was a fun affair with Heather Fuhr and Mike Lovato. Lovato was interesting and humorous. I've met Mike before at Jack and Adams, but never for more than a cursory discussion. After the breakfast I headed up the street to CVS for the required race essentials.

Race essentials included bottled water; this is no time to take a chance; also, two small cannisters of spray-on factor 50 sun block; one for the bike bag and one for the run bag. As good as the volunteers are at applying sun block, I didn't want to default to that, one because I'm a (former) redhead and burn easily and didn't want bits missed, and two because you don't want to be seen in all your race pictures smothered in white sun block! Other essentials included a small tube of Curel moisturizer.

When I got back to my hotel room, I looked at my legs, they were covered in a dry brown film, presumably from the water earlier. This was change of race plan #1 - I decided that despite my earlier assertion that I would swim/ride/run in the same shorts, I was going to change in T1.

After that I collected my bike from TBT and took it for an easy ride out and back to test out the handling with the new forks. It felt secure and strong, all that was really left was to drop everything off on Saturday and get the race on! Getting ready in T0, I managed to pull one of the pins out of the Garmin 310XT, things were not going my way with this watch, having broken the glass the week before. I managed to get it back in securely and set about trying to set up the various parameters on the refurbished model I'd got from Garmin tech support. Sadly I left auto-lap on 1-mile, which means I have a lot of manual work to do before I get real summary data from it. So I'll post a separate entry for that.



SWIM: For the swim start I'd decided not to decide where to start from. As always at big races, there are loads of opinions, everything from swimming outside the bouys, strictly speaking illegal, and to start by standing on a ledge on the wall. I got in as early as I could and swam over to the first bridge parapet in the water and waited, each time the space in front of me filled up, I moved left. About 5-mins before race start things had settled down, and there was still a big gap in front of me. This was to be the story of my swim, every time I looked up, there would be a gap to the left or right to swim into.

I did have people swimming into and banging into my legs, and for a short period, had a guy who was definitely zigzagging back and forward in front of me, I moved up alongside him for a few strokes and his arm struck the side of my head, nothing serious and as much my fault as his, I left him behind. At one stage I looked up and I was on the wrong side of one of the yellow bouys. If you look/click on the swim picture above, which is taken from "arizona" by Mike Stratton on Facebook, you can see that one of the bouys is about 50m off course. Which explained that, I moved over quickly and back on course for the first turn bouy which was almost 1.1 miles from the start.

I rounded both turn bouys without real problem, at the 2nd turn bouy there was definitely a bunch up, and I had to stop and pick a spot to swim for, I went quiet close to the bouy. Once heading back to the start, it was actually pretty scary to see how far the first bridge was. About half way to the bridge I realized I needed to pee, this was harder than I thought, by this time I was pretty tense from swimming non-stop for 45-mins, eventually just before the bridge, I relaxed enough and never broke my stroke. I made the last turn and was swimming into the steps. It took me two goes to get my left foot on the first step, meanwhile I was getting dragged up by a well meaning volunteer.

I ran up to the wetsuit strippers and dropped, the pulled the wetsuit off and I was back up and off to get my T1 bag.

SWIM Stats. Time 1:14:48 for 2.4-miles; 59th in the 50-54 Age group, 929th overall, fastest IMXC 50+

T1 Once I had my bag I sat on a chair in the mens change tent. Off with the wet shorts, then emptied out the contents of the bag in front of me. First up I grabbed the small travel tube of Curel moisturizer I'd bought at CVS and squirted in on the pad in my shorts; next up, on with the shorts, in my rush I stuck in left foot into the pad and ended up with curel on my foot, but still plenty on the pad; next up arm warmers; I'd pre-rolled these, but they were still pretty hard to get on, next helmet on, glasses in helmet, finally put all the remaining junk including wetsuit and swim hat back in the bag, pull the cord tight and run carrying bike shoes.

I sprayed my head, face, arms and legs with the sunblock I'd but in my T1 bag, I got a volunteer to do my shoulders, neck and the small of my back. I dropped off my bag and threw the sun block in the trash and was off.

T1 Stats. Time 9:17 and 78th in age group, shockingly slow. Still it was going to be a long day...

BIKE:



My plan for the mount had always been to run with the bike right out past the mount point and onto the road and to find somewhere to one side and put on my bike shoes there to save having to try to run with the Wongstar block. Turns out this was definitely the right choice. I flew past people struggling to run with the bike, then the carnage at the mount line and for about 25yds afterwards. However, things took an unexpected turn, I was sprinting down the chute holding my bike by the saddle when my glasses fell out of my helmet. I stopped to pick them up and decided that was the place to put my shoes on... Personally I wish I'd put my shoes in the pedals in transition and then run right out and done a running mount.

Once I was out on the bike I settled in easily, I was soon cruising down the street past the Sun Devil stadium at 22MPH; I was able to keep up this until Bee Line Highway with mile splits of 21.7, 21.7, 22.3, 22.3, 20.1, 19.8, 20.5, and onto Beeline at 21.1, 18.5, 18.3, 17.5 - you can see the trend. All this was done in the small chain ring. As Beeline started to head up hill with the wind in my face, I slowed fairly significantly. Although I felt good, I decided rather than power I worked on cadence and perceived effort. I managed to keep at around 17MPH until the hill just before the turn around where my speed dropped to 14.8, 13.8, and 14.7.

At the turnaround, it was volunteer, supporter, and aid station jamboree, so much noise and so many people, I stood and powered over the timing mat and powered up the slight incline, grabbing only water and a powergel. My mile splits from the 1st turnaround were 23.5, 30.8, 32.4, 32.1, 31.3, 28.1, 26.7, 29.2, 28.3, 29.6, and 25.2 and I was off Beeline. I passed probably more than a hundred cyclists, maybe more at this point. I can't tell you how exhilarating this felt, passing other triathletes, even fast ones, as if they were standing still. No matter how much I hated the wind in my face in later stages of the ride, I wouldn't have given this up for anything.

The ride back into town was more of the same 24.4, 25.5, 26.6, 23.7, 21.8, 21.9, 23.2, 21.8 and I was at the turnaround in 11-minutes ahead of schedule, I was going to have a hard time repeating this though, especially 20-miles averaged over 25MPH. Around 48-miles I stopped for "bio" break. A volunteer took my bike and I hopped from foot to foot waiting for the person already in the "break room". It seemed to take an age, but browsing the averages on the Garmin data, it seems that the whole stop only cost me 3-mins, including the wait. It did however account for my slowest half mile split of just 14.2MPH back on the bike, my mile splits settled down to about 3mph less per mile than the first lap.

What this meant was out on Beeline, heading into the wind I was working hard to go slower, typically 14-15MPH into the wind. It was about now I started noticing the bunches of riders. I have to admit to following a couple of guys that had passed me and then slowed, for maybe 100m or so. Then I remembered @mojojoeys blog from Florida and pushed on, passing them both and getting back to 16MPH splits. There did seem to be a lot of groups like this, it wasn't intentional drafting, it was definitely unintentional but still against the rules. On the way into town I'd ride into these groups shouting "move on or move over" - I never looked back to see what effect it had.

Back in town I was definitely starting to get tired. I was comfortable, my nutrition plan had been going to plan, no lost bottles, just traking water, bananas and an occaisional powerbar or powergel from volunteers. I did pretty well on my trash as well, I'd ride from aid station to aid station in the aero position, trash in hand and dump it in the next aid station trash can. You can see this above, with a banana skin firmly clamped, this would have been going down Beeline on the 2nd loop!

Heading out on the 3rd loop there was Chris, Tom and big group of Austinites cheering in the middle of the road, I gave them a big wave and pushed on. The 3rd loop not only was I tired but the wind had changed direction. That meant that going up Beeline wasn't so bad, but between my shoulders was very stiff, making sitting in the aero bars for long periods, painful. I managed to keep up an average 17MPH, but overall I had already lost all 11-minutes I'd gained on the first loop and some. The last 3-mile splits up to the turn around on Beeline were my slowest of the race 13.5, 13.4, and 13.8. I stopped for another "bio break" which didn't help, I also took the time to stretch out my back. I was back on the bike and headed into town for the final time. Mile splits were slow though 22.7, 24.2, 24.6, 22.6, 20.7, almost 10MPH down on the first loop but I pushed hard as I really wanted to get in under 6-hrs.

Back into town with the wind to my back and on the flat, I managed a reasonable average between 19.5 and 22.3MPH, as I came to the race center, I swung my right leg over the saddle, and just before the dismount line, dropped my left foot, handed the bike to a volunteer and ran.

Bike Stats: Time 5:53:01 for 112-miles, 8-minutes over my schedule. (Disappointing) 65th in Age Group and 994th overall, an even 19MPH average.
FIRST BIKE SEGMENT 37 mi. (3:09:05) 21.14 mph
SECOND BIKE SEGMENT 37 mi. (5:10:07) 18.34 mph
FINAL BIKE SEGMENT 38 mi. (7:17:05) 17.96 mph

My bike nutrition plan had worked perfectly, I used 2x 500ml bottles of half Gatorade and half water, with 4x scoops of carbo pro per bottle. I'd also taken 5x salt tabs, which I'd put in a small ziploc bag in my DeSoto shorts. The strange thing was that I'd hardly seen any of the Austin folks out on the bike. I caught a glimpse of Maggi, and someone else from T3, I got a shout from Lenny Glick as he passed me on the 3rd loop going up Beeline; no sight of Tammy, Rhonda, or Jennifer Walker. Hoping they were OK.

T2 I'd left my bike shoes on the pedals and ran to get my bag, again I passed a ton of people. In the tent I looked at my feet, they were filthy from a combination of the two barefoot runs, in a split I decided on race change #2, to wear both socks. First up I brushed all the grass off my feet, I then took a small tube of Aquaphor and liberally squirted it on the soles of my feet and the outside, both socks on, both shoes on and then another spray of sunblock, hat on, put another pack of salt tabs and one of Ibruprofin in my shorts along with the sunblock and and repack everything left over into the bag and go. It was only once I was out on the run course I realized I still had my bike arm warmers in to race top pocket.

T2 Stats: 4:32; about average for my age group; given my lack of problems during the run and after, time well spent.


RUN



I made two good decisions in T2 for the run. First, I'd put another 500ml bottle with just the 4x scoops of carbo pro in my T2 bag. Took this out on the run with me and at the first real aid station filled it with half water and gatorade. Instead of using cups on the run, I just refilled the bottle with water and gatorade and carried the bottle across the line.

Second, about 4-miles into the run, I could feel my left foot starting to rub between the toes. When we got to the bridge over the lake, I stopped, went to one side and sat down, removed my shoe and sock and put more Aquaphor between each toe. I also used the Aquaphor on my lips, and resprayed myself with sunblock and threw the sunblock away at the next aid station. This undoubtedly was a major contributor to my level of comfort both during and after the race. No sunburn, no chapped lips, no blisters.

I made slow progress on the run. I still struggle on reflection to work out why. I took 2x Ibruprofin each lap, which worked out about every 2-hours. My knees were never really painful, although in my mind they were stopping me from running. Looking at the Garmin data, my mile splits on the run were mostly in the 13-14-minute miles, with some at 16-minutes. At this pace I was struggling to get around in my target time.

My best run pace in the first half of the marathon was the 9-min 6-sec mile out of T2, but mostly the walk/jog strategy was killing my averages. I talked to a few people on the run, a couple of Brit's and finally on the way out on my second lap, one of the IMXC competitors ran past me and then stopped to a walk. I jogged up to him, we talked briefly and then he ran off, not realizing I guess he was a full lap ahead of me. Next up I was passed by Rhonda, we briefly talked, and she ran on. Shortly after I was caught by Jenn Walker, we walked and ran together for a while but eventually she ran off. Still no sign of Tammy and most of the other IMXC competitors.

As we passed the special needs bags on the way out for the final loop, I grabbed my longsleeve top and put it on. The sun had gone down and although it wasn't cold, I was feeling cold.. About mile 3 on the final loop, I walked alongside a woman whose race plan was to walk the whole marathon and she was walking at a fairly brisk pace. Certainly although I jogged from time to time, she kept up with me through about mile-25; it was then that my race started. I was looking at my watch thinking I wouldn';t make my 13:20 time, and worse still, I was going to be over 13:30 - that wouldn't do.

I managed to do a couple of miles at 10-min 30-sec pace and then along the river path for the last time I didn't feel I could keep it up. I stopped to a walk and took my longsleeve top off, rolled it up and stuck it down the back of my shorts, after all I didn't want to wear it for the finishers pictures, priorities. I looked at the watch one more time and decided if I really pushed I could make sub 13:30. I set off and did my fastest half mile of the whole run, 8-minute mile pace.

Run stats: 6:04:32, 130th in Age group; 2055 overall.
FIRST RUN SEGMENT 3.5 mi. (8:05:04) 12:25/mile
SECOND RUN SEGMENT 8.6 mi. (10:06:35) 14:07/mile
THIRD RUN SEGMENT 8.3 mi. (12:13:11) 15:15/mile
RUN FINISH 5.9 mi. (13:26:08) 12:21/mile
TOTAL RUN 26.2 mi. (6:04:32) 13:54/mile

I'm pretty frustrated with this even though it was a significant achievement considering I've never run more than a half marathon, and given how painful both my knees were after the Austin 3M Half marathon earlier this year, and all the problems I had with Plantar Warts . Somehow though I'm just unhappy about it. I know that I could have gone under 13-hours, and I can see how I could get to sub-12:30 and possibly sub-12.However, I resisted the urge to sign-up for 2010.




Post-Race: After crossing the finish line I could hear Amit shouting, and after having my finishers picture taken, saw Chris and Kevin. I have to say Chris and Kevin, in combination with TBT were great. I have not seen my bike since getting off it at the end of the ride. Apprently it arrived at @Jack and Adams yesterday, but I hav enot been down to collect it yet. Chris and Kevin collected all my bags and my bike, and dropped the bike off with TBT while I was out on the run. Total result, thanks Guys!! I walked with Chris and Kevin into the athletes care area, grabbed a slice of pizza and sat and talked, got out of my race gear into my dry clothes from the morning, and I have to say, felt fine. We went back over to the VIP tent right by the finish line and met up with Amit and Radhika and I sat for a while and had a beer. I checked the Ironman feed and it looked like Tammy was due in any minute, so Chris, Kevin and I went to the chute and waited, and yes, not long and Tammy came down the chute to the rapturous cheers from the stands. I went and congratulated her, took her back to get her finishers medal and t-shirt. Then after a quick chat, I was done. I walked back to the hotel with my bags alone.

Next morning, after a spot of early morning shopping for finishers gear, I went to the IMXC Awards breakfast, a few of the guys had done really well, I was though surprised to find I'd come 3rd in the 50+ and had the fastest swim. After another picture, I returned to my hotel room, packed and left.

Summary
Result: 13:26:08, 3rd in IMXC 50+; 100th out of 170 in Age group; 1588 out of 2515 finishers; AG Winners time 9:39:56

Overall I'm very pleased with the result. LIke many triathletes and habitual ironmen, I'm not satisfied with the result. I have more than a nagging feeling I could have done better, who knows. I definitely raced to my plan and didn't make any bad decisions, or change anything without thinking it through. I also avoided signing up for 2010. This was strangley an easy decision at the time, but is starting to wear on me now, maybe I should have...

Thanks again to all those that supported me, but time to get on with the rest of my life now.

Next Up: I've entered the Ironman Hawaii Lottery for 2010, you never know. My next race will be the sprint and the Lonestar 70.3, after that the Rookie Sprint triathlon. Not sure what else for 2010 at this point, but for 2009 I'm going to have a go at my 5k PR again at the Life Fitness Reindeer Run on 12/5.
  • Current Location: United States, Austin
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Well theres a big push here for a bunch of us from Austin to head up to Oklahoma to do the Redman, both half and full distance. I've no idea what I'm going to do in the 2nd half of the year, but you'd be welcome to come down to Austin for a couple of weeks and put Redman in if that works.

We can leave it for now and based on what happens later in the year, apparently you can get in Redman 6-weeks or so before...
hooray! I am proud of you. don't be so disappointed in your time. it's your first Ironman. somehow I knew you would start doubting your decision to never do another one.... ;)
You were brilliant, start to finish!

What struck me was your impeccable consistency. Thanks for sharing the stories & the pics. So exciting! OH & .. yay for Curel. *giggles*
Thanks Lynn, as far as Curel goes as a solo lubricant, it works for me ;O
congrats!
hey mark,
i tried to leave a comment after i chatted w/ you at des' party. but i got all confused and defeated by the live journal format. :) anyhoo, it was nice to talk to you today @ lift. just wanted to pass on a huge congrats to you on arizona; you are amazing. i can relate to and respect your desire to 'have done better' but you have done more than i to this point in finishing an IM! good for you for taking some well deserved down time; good for the body and the soul. best of luck for 2010; whatever it may hold!!
take care,
kelly
Re: congrats!
Thanks Kelly, your first comment did make it through! Good to see you today too... and no, I really don't think I'll do another... (probably!). See you around soon!