“Want to keep the season rolling…”
That was the subject line of an e-mail I received on August 4th, from a friend at Ironman, inviting me to race Ironman Arizona on November 20th. Having just come off of a fantastic race in Roth, I was intrigued but hesitant. Did I want to commit to another Iron-distance race so soon after my first one in four years? What could I hope to gain or achieve from doing so? Having trained well in the lead up to Roth I knew I had the fitness to finish the race, but would I be able to race well? More importantly, could I race well just two weeks after the NYC Marathon which I had already planned on racing hard?
After a few discussions with my awesome coach, Darbi Roberts (who was also racing IM AZ, after finishing 4th last year and WINNING IM Wales earlier this year), we decided it was a low-risk race for me. I would go into the race with no expectations or specific time goals and just pick certain aspects of the race to work on (e.g. – the dreaded swim). My original plan for Roth was to take some time off to recover, and then really focus on the run to try to PR a fall half-marathon (current PR: 1:35:17) and a fall marathon (current PR: 3:29:58). This meant that I would target the Philly Half-Marathon on September 18th, and the NYC Marathon on November 6th. Because Philly was only a few weeks away, we hit the ground hard with run training averaging about 36 miles per week.
Unfortunately a couple of weeks prior to Philly, I hit a bit of a snag with an injured glute. The glute injury stemmed from a herniated disc I’ve had in my L5/S1 and also due to a second slight herniation in my L4. Luckily (or unluckily?) I’ve been dealing with the L5/S1 for a couple of years now so my doctors, coach and I knew what to do. We cut back on run training significantly, and upped my swim and bike time. This lead to a poor showing in the Philly half marathon (1:44:12) but a surprisingly strong showing in the NYC Marathon (3:32:49). Goes to show what no expectations going into a race can do for you, eh?
Anyway, I arrived in Arizona Thursday morning with the idea of just having fun this weekend. Upon arrival, the plan was to get my bike put back together and do a quick test ride to make sure everything works. Of course the best laid plans often go awry, and it took quite a bit longer than planned to get my bike put together which meant a lot more time was spent at the expo than planned. That was OK, though, because I was able to hang out in the Ventum booth (thanks Rachel and Diaa!) and meet some awesome people (including Heather Jackson!).
Back to the Ventum booth – if you guys ever have a chance to meet Rachel and Diaa at a race, please take advantage and do so. I had the opportunity to meet Diaa last year in Kona (thanks, Greg!) and ever since then he’s been an incredible friend and supporter. I purchased my first Ventum soon after Kona, and even though their smallest frame (at that time) was just a bit too tall for me, Greg and Diaa worked together to come up with a solution. Not only that, Diaa custom-painted my bike and has provided me with a great deal of support since I’ve had her, including giving me a clutch piece of advice for how to properly position the straw of my water bottle (this turned out to be vitally important later). Seriously an awesome group of people to know and work with.
We also ended up displaying my bike in the booth all weekend, once I got her back and also once the CeramicSpeed guys were done with her (more on that in a second).
Anyway, one of the other items I wanted to take care of pre-race was to install some OSPWs from CeramicSpeed. I had been doing some research about them and based on what I’ve read, they can save at least 1.6 watts and they make the drivetrain run a lot smoother. When combined with all of the other CeramicSpeed components I have (coated bottom bracket, UFO chain), all these savings in wattage can be significant. Since I’m a slow cyclist, I figured any free speed I can get will be helpful!
One of the potential issues with the OSPW and a Ventum though, is that the larger chainstay of the Ventum does not give the OSPW much clearance. So, to alleviate any potential issues I reached out to one of the best mechanics in the world, who works for CeramicSpeed and also works on practically every pro triathlete’s bike. He was kind enough to respond and assure me that it would be no problem to do the install, and he told me he would be in IM AZ as well!
With such fortuitous scheduling, I decided to go ahead with the install with which they did a remarkable job. Not only that, Jeff also fixed an issue with my front brake that three other mechanics were unable to fix. Thanks Jeff!
Side note: want to see how awesome CeramicSpeed components are? Check out the video below. Note how my cranks keep spinning without any pressure on the pedals and I’m able to shift through the entire cassette.
Now enough about expo shenanigans and on to the race!
The swim in Arizona is in Tempe Town Lake, which is actually a reservoir that occupies a portion of the dry riverbed of the Salt River (thanks Wikipedia!). From what I was told prior to the race, the water is quite murky. Since I’ve done the NYC Tri twice as well as the only IM to occur in
New York City New Jersey, I didn’t think the water was murky at all. I could see my hand on entry into the water, which meant to me, it was clear. But then again, I do typically have low standards.
I was warned prior to the race that the water could be cold, but I thought the water was quite comfortable at 65 degrees. Apparently a number of folks thought 65 is cold, since I saw quite a few triathletes wearing booties and neoprene caps. . In the practice swim the day before, I overheard several people discussing how they should prepare for the cold water. Silly Westerners.
Speaking of the practice swim, I did not have a good one. My plan was to get into the water and acclimate myself to the temperature, “murkiness,” and general feel of the course. What ended up happening was that I got into the water, swam about 50 yards, and then started to panic. I ended up treading water for about 5 minutes with several volunteers asking if I was OK. I kept trying to start to swim, but every time I would my heart rate would skyrocket and I’d start thinking irrational thoughts. I ended up barely swimming to the first bridge and cut across the course to head back. All told, I spent about 14 minutes in the water, with 10 of it just treading water in certain spots. Not a good way to start off race prep.
Luckily, I ran into Darbi talking to Diaa at the Ventum tent. I told them both what happened, and they were more than sympathetic. In fact, they were actually quite helpful giving me some advice, encouragement, and stories about pros who also have a similar open water fear and about folks who have panic attacks. After speaking to them, I felt encouraged and significantly better. In fact, I felt great the rest of the day despite the setback I had in the water.
Also prior to Race Day, we had a breakfast with TJ Tollakson and Pete Jacobs. TJ has done this race a number of times, so he gave us some great insight about the swim. One of the things he said which I followed, was that don’t worry about sighting off of the buoys. In fact, sight off of the bridges and the buildings because if you follow the buoys, you’ll swim a longer course since the buoy line curves. It was great advice, because it allowed me to swim closer to the side of the lake and not worry about being run over or sighting these tiny buoys in the middle of a large body of water. Side note: isn’t it amazing how those buoys are actually quite large and easy to spot on land, but once you’re in the water, they become 1,000 times smaller? Objects are NOT larger than they appear.
Further more at the breakfast, the XC guys gave us some advice about the rolling start. I had initially planned on seeding myself in the 1:35-1:40 range, since that was my expected swim time (my goal was to beat my bib: 139). They told us, however, to seed much higher because the lake is so wide that there won’t be any issues with space. Seeding higher would also allow us to get into the water earlier rather than spending an extra 10-20 minutes potentially mentally psyching ourselves out. This is how I ended up in the 1:00-1:05 group with a few of my XC teammates.
I have to say this was absolutely clutch advice since I was able to get into the water perhaps less than 5 minutes after the race started and it allowed me to spend the time in the corral talking to my teammates and friends. I went into the water calmly and as soon as I got into the water, I made a sharp right and swam right along the line of kayakers lining the way up to the first bridge.
Once past that bridge, I just focused on keeping the lake wall equidistant from me at all times. In the event that the lake wall curved, I looked out for the next kayaker. There were a good number of them, though admittedly there were more of them towards the middle. Still, it helped me to see the people cheering from the lake wall and I knew that in the event I got into trouble, I could swim to the lake wall if I needed to. One thing I noticed though was that it really is impossible for me to swim a straight line. I kept veering off to the right side and had to keep turning left in order to stay as straight as possible. Very much like me to not be entirely straight!
In addition to the wall or kayakers, I also sighted off the tallest buildings that lined the lake. I was told prior to the start to sight off of the tall glass building in the distance because once I got to that building, that would be where the turn buoy was. Whoever told me that unfortunately either lied or was mis-remembered, because even though that building seemed like it would be far enough away to be where the turn buoy was, it wasn’t. It was still a good two buoys before I could turn, and I lost a bit of time treading water, confused.
Once I made the turn and started swimming home, I started to feel like I would be OK. Even though I was only halfway through the course, once I know I’m swimming back home, I’m mentally in a much stronger position. Of course for some reason, at about 3200 meters into the race, I started to panic. For no reason whatsoever (at least none that I could identify), my heart rate shot up. Knowing that I had to lower it before swimming, I stopped and tread water. I looked for the nearest kayaker but I couldn’t see one on either side of me. Finally, I saw a kayaker about 100-150 meters away from me, towards the lake wall, kayaking down against the swimmers. I started to swim directly across traffic (since at that point, I was closer to the buoys as opposed to the wall) and when I was closer I yelled and waved at him. He saw me, and quickly changed course to let me hang on to his kayak. Not wanting to tell him I was panicking, I told him my leg was cramping. I’m fairly certain he saw through that, as he told me to not worry about it and reminded me that I was swimming home and I’ve already finished quite a bit of the swim. His calm voice and support helped, and I only needed about 30-60 seconds with him before being able to continue on.
Upon letting go, I was able to finish the remainder of the swim without incident.
Swim Time: 1:39:22 / Goal Time: 1:39
Coming out of the water, you climb up a short set of metal stairs and turn left. Once you turn, there are wetsuit strippers available. After removing your wetsuit (assisted or otherwise), you run down the length of the transition area and loop around the Run Out section on the eastern side of transition.
Then you run past the change tent, turn right and grab your Bike Bag from the ground before heading into the change tent. There are very helpful volunteers along the way who yell out your number so a volunteer can give you your bag, but for me it’s quite easy. I’m one of the last people out of the water with such a low bib number so I can easily spot my bag without needing a volunteer.
After grabbing the bag, you can enter the change tent. I don’t recall if there were two entrances, one for females and one for males, since I tried to go through transition as quickly as possible. I also ended up just dumping my bike bag outside of the transition tent since I saw an empty chair near the entrance. Once I emptied the bag, I grabbed my headband, helmet, and then sunglasses. I then put on my bike shoes (note to self: learn how to flying mount in 2017) and threw my wetsuit, goggles, and swim cap into the transition bag. I ran into the tent, threw my bag into the bin and proceeded to run to my bike. Since I had a low bib, my bike was right next to bike out which helped speed up transition a bit. Sadly, I still fumbled around while putting my bike gear on that my transition was not as fast as I wanted it to be.
T1 Time: 4:34 / Goal Time: 4:30 (+:04)
After passing the mount line, the bike course makes it’s way out of the park where transition is, and then onto Rio Salado Parkway. This road is closed to traffic for a few blocks, before opening one lane to traffic heading in the same direction as the cyclists. I didn’t have any issues with crowding on the course at this point as I thought I would, and focused on getting into aero and controlling the effort I was putting out. I have a tendency to override the first part of the bike course since I’m so excited about being out of the water. I get so excited, in fact, that I hit my highest HR on the bike just :24 into the race! This is because I know that as soon as I get out of the water, the hardest part of the race is over for me. No matter what happens for the remaining 138.2 miles I’m going to be just fine.
Prior to the race, Darbi and I also had a strategy discussion about how I was going to race the bike and the run course (more on the latter later). Since I was coming off of a 3:32 in the NYC Marathon exactly two weeks prior, I wasn’t sure if my legs would have recovered enough to have a super strong effort on the bike. What we decided on was to focus on my effort levels, heart rate, and wattage numbers. Further, instead of focusing on my overall speed (mph), Darbi advised me to remove that data field from my bike computer so I wouldn’t freak out and push every time my speed dropped below 20 mph. It was some brilliant advice, however I didn’t execute it quite so brilliantly since I left the speed field on my 735XT (I use a Garmin 735XT throughout the race, but supplement it with an Edge 1000 since I have some issues with my power meter [PowerTap C1 chainrings] registering to my 735XT in Triathlon mode). Still, I tried not to focus on looking at my watch and just focused on looking at my Edge.
In addition to this Darbi also told me to be very conservative in the loops. Since Arizona is a three loop bike course (each loop being a 37-ish mile straight out and back), most people have a tendency to override the first loop. She told me of how many riders hammer the first loop only to really suffer the 2nd and 3rd loops. I wanted to ride under 6 hours for this bike, so we agreed that I would ride the first loop in 2:00, the second loop in 1:50-55, and the third loop in 1:45-1:50. This would give me a range of 5:35 – 5:45, while also ensuring that I did not put out too much effort in the first loop.
This was a brilliant plan on paper, but sadly my legs had other ideas. While I made the first loop exactly on time, I felt fatigue in my legs during the out portion of the Beeline Highway. This stretch of the course is about 10 miles in total, and on the way out is a gradual incline with a seriously wicked headwind. Prior to reaching the Beeline Highway, you ride around a few local roads with 4 turns which allowed you to gather some momentum and speed. Once you make the left onto the Highway though, you are hit with such a strong headwind that my speed dropped from 20 mph to 13. It was so strong that even though you don’t have to get out of aero during the incline, I had to get up and stand a few times just to fight through the wind. I tried to stay as legally behind as many riders as I could as well before having to pass them, but man that wind was tough.
There’s not much to do about that wind though, except to try to stay as small as possible and to keep on pedaling while making sure not to exceed your power numbers too much. I also tried to keep in mind that this was only for about 5-7 miles on the outbound and once I make the turnaround I would have a massive tailwind on the way out.
And boy, did I have a massive tailwind on the way back. The turnaround is at the top of an incline, and once you got to the top, you can drop back into aero and really fly down back towards town. Right after the turnaround was an aid station, however, so you had to be careful and not immediately start to fly due to volunteers, debris, and other riders around. After clearing the aid station, it’s a fantastic feeling to suddenly go 35+ mph after slogging your way through at 13-16 mph prior to that turnaround.
If only my legs weren’t fatigued going into the race, I know I could have had a better time. When I finished the first loop in 1:56:58, I was much more tired than I should have been given that I was lower in both my target wattage (165) as well as my heart rate goal (160) for the first loop. Rather than focus on the negative though, I told myself to just keep trying to nail my goal times, but still watch my effort to make sure I had enough left to finish the third loop and run well off of the bike.
During the second loop I had planned on stopping only at special needs to refill my Ventum bottle. My original plan was to have a second Ventum bottle filled with about 600 calories of CarboPro to supplement the 800 calories I had in my first bottle. I also had a water bottle between my aerobars filled with Rocket Fuel (a mixture of Base Amino, Base Hydro, and Base Salts) and I planned to grab a second bottle of that also at Special Needs. I had planned on only grabbing water at aid stations in order to help was down a lick or two of Base Salt every 5 or so miles. Pete Jacobs was the one who actually helped me streamline my plan a bit, since instead of having a Ventum bottle in Special Needs (and thus losing a bottle at $50 a pop per race), he suggested that I buy a 1 liter water bottle the day before and mixing my nutrition in it. This way, I can grab the bottle and refill on the fly instead of having to stop, unscrew my Ventum bottle, take it out, put in the new bottle, screw it in, and throw out the old bottle. I thought this was quite a brilliant solution, until I reached into my Special Needs bag only to realize that I failed to put in the 1 liter bottle of water and just put in my 2nd bottle of Rocket Fuel.
I sat there for about 5 seconds before realizing what I did, and then had to get back on my bike and figure out a plan B for the rest of the ride. I had not paid too close attention to what nutrition was out on the course since I planned on taking care of it on my own, so when I passed the next aid station I paid attention to what they had. Knowing that I didn’t want any solids, I skipped the oranges, bananas, and pretzels and keyed in on the Cliff Bar gels. Unfortunately I hadn’t really taken them before so I was afraid of how I was going to react to them. I was worried that I would have stomach issues, even though I already stopped at an aid station to poop about halfway into my second loop (and thus lost about 4 minutes of time). So, I ended up taking the gels but only took 3 for the remainder of the race (about 46-50 miles) for a total of 300 calories in addition to the 800 I had.
I also ended up stopping at an aid station in the 2nd and 3rd loops to refill my Ventum bottle, since: a) I wasn’t thinking clearly enough to know that I did not need to stop and I can refill on the fly, and b) I was drinking water the way I drink my wine: very, very quickly. I ended up drinking so much water that I peed on the bike four times over the 112 miles (I felt bad for the volunteer who caught my bike because there was so much pee on it). I didn’t know this at the time, but this was a bit of a harbinger of things to come, but I’ll talk more about that later.
Towards the end of the second loop, as I approached the turn around, I felt a sudden sharp pain on my back. It turned out to be Darbi slapping me on the back, but at the speed she was going, it hurt! We gave each other some encouragement as she was finishing the bike while I was getting ready to head out to the third loop. She looked happy and strong, so that gave me a quick (albeit slightly painful) boost going into the third loop.
Second Loop: 2:09:43 (ouch)
Going into the third loop, I knew my goal time had gone out the window. So, very much like my second loop I focused on heart rate and wattage. While my heart rate was good (154 average), my power numbers were way off. I was much lower than where I wanted to be but I knew that I couldn’t really do much about it because if I tried to up my average power to where I should have been, I would destroy my legs for the run. Therefore, I just kept my head down and kept on pedaling.
I’m not going to lie though – this loop was mentally tough. Knowing that I was way off my goal time and way off the power numbers I was capable of, it was tough to stay motivated. Initially I had planned on this being just a fun race and not really worry about time, but being in the Expo and meeting and hanging out with people like Diaa, Darbi, Heather, Mirinda Carfrae, Ben Hoffman, Meredith, and Pete and TJ totally had me jacked up to race. I tried to keep them and our conversations in mind, as well as the thought of people back home tracking me and cheering me on. These thoughts definitely helped propel me, and even though there were several moments when I just wanted to slow down and relax, I kept on pushing.
Finally headed back to transition, I rode past the turnaround point back in town and onto the long chute leading to the Bike Dismount line. There, I quickly got annoyed with how many people were coasting down the very narrow chute and how casually they were dismounting their bikes and strolling their way to their run bags. Come on people, it’s a RACE! Leaping off my bike after passing folks down the chute, I threw her towards a volunteer and ran around people to get to my bag.
Third Loop: 2:03:45
Bike Time: 6:10:26 / Goal Time: 5:50 (+20:26)
T2 was fairly straightforward. You entered from the opposite end of transition from Bike Out. Run Bags were lined up a few feet past the Bike In arch, about perpendicular to where the Bike Bags were laid out. Once you picked up your bag, you can run into the same change tent as earlier, change, and then exit. Upon exiting, you turned right and ran under the blue Hoka One One arch for Run Out.
Similarly to how I ran through T1, I ran through T2. I grabbed my bag, ran into the change tent, dumped everything out of my run bag, and put my helmet, headband, bike shoes, and sunglasses into the newly emptied bag. I then put on my TriBy3 hat, a second set of sunglasses, run shoes, and then my race belt and Spi belt. The reason why I had two belts was due to the fact that I lost all but one of my gels that were on my race belt in Challenge Roth, so I wanted to avoid a repeat of that unfortunate incident.
Once fully kitted, I ran out of the tent and onto the run course.
T2 Time: 2:04 / Goal Time: 1:59 (+:05)
The run in Arizona is a two loop course that loops around Tempe Town Lake. It’s a fairly flat course, with a couple of slight inclines near each turn around point. Coming out of T2, athletes make a right to get onto a paved path. At this point, athletes run parallel to the swim course and the path is full of spectators. Almost immediately after this point is the Special Needs section, so it’s full of awesome volunteers cheering on the athletes while screaming their numbers. I told them I was in my first loop and not to worry about me, but I think the volunteers realized that since I came out of T2 holding a Honey Stinger Waffle and my secret weapon – a roll of Mentos.
My plan was to eat the waffle as I ran down to the first turnaround point and save the Mentos for a later time when I really needed it. I actually discovered the power of Mentos during Challenge Roth earlier in the year, when Abby saw me at around mile 23 or so. I was really struggling at that point and she asked what I needed. I knew she had candy with her and asked her for the roll of Mentos she had. They were quite wonderful at that time and helped me finish the rest of the run upright.
Anyway, coming into the race I wasn’t sure what my legs would be capable of during the run since I had run the NYC Marathon 2 weeks prior with very little running leading up to it. Since my training for the marathon mainly involved biking and swimming, my plan for that race was to run by heart rate and keep it under 170 the entire time. One seventy on the run is mid-zone 3 for me, so I knew that if I stayed there I would be just fine. I ended up running a 3:32 for NYC based on that HR, so my coach and I thought 3:45 would be doable for AZ.
With that in mind, I focused first on maintaining my HR and then decided to see where I was pace-wise. My first mile split came at 8:22, with a heart rate of 160, so I knew almost immediately that 3:45 wasn’t possible. Still, I was feeling pretty good so I thought if I could maintain at around 8:20-8:30 pace I could still run a 3:50. Little did I know, but more on that later.
Running parallel to the swim was pretty cool, since I saw the landmarks I was sighting off of again but this time while I was on land. It also made me realize how long swimming a mile is, since I kept looking at the landmarks and kept thinking: “I swam HERE?!?”
At one point I also saw one of my XC teammates (Trevor) running on the lower path (the path splits into a lower and upper path a few hundred feet out of T2 and athletes on the outbound leg run out the upper path while athletes coming back run on the lower path). He looked really good, so I yelled out his name to cheer him on. He didn’t hear me but that was OK. I found out later on that he was actually going into his second loop while I was going into my first. He crushed AZ (9:22 with a 3:21 run!) and earned his Kona slot for 2018. He’s also one of the nicest guys I know, so I was very happy to hear that he had such a great day.
Back to my race – as I mentioned earlier there are some gentle inclines on the run course. One of the bigger hills is around that first mile marker since the path looped around to get onto an even higher level. It’s not bad at all since it’s fairly short, but it’s enough to keep you on your toes. I saw a number of folks walking up this hill. For NYC runners, think of the incline that takes you up from the West Side Running Path to Riverside Park and to W. 72nd Street. For those who’ve done the NYC Triathlon, this is the hill that you take coming out of T2 to get to W. 72nd Street. Now imagine that hill with a 1 – 1.5% less grade. That’s about the length and grade of that incline. Not bad at all, so I tried to keep my HR down and focused on shortening my stride, lowered my arm swing, and kept my head up as I ran to the top. Unfortunately right at the top is a 180 degree turn, so it’s a bit of a challenge but otherwise it wasn’t bad. The rest of the path leading to the first turn around point is dead flat.
Once you traversed the turn around point at mile 2, you had to take a similar hill in reverse to get to the lower path. Here, I tried to make sure not to over stride and not to exert too much force when my foot hit the ground. I kept my feet directly underneath me and made sure not to overrun the downhill because even as slight as it was, if I did I would definitely pay for it later.
Part of the lower path isn’t paved but almost trail-like. Central Park runners can compare it the Bridal Path, but far less uneven and rocky. This portion of the run takes you back to transition and past a convergence point of those starting the run/second loop and those finishing the race. It’s a pretty awesome location to run by, because several local triathlon teams/shops set up tents here to cheer and support. Since it’s also a point where you could see your runners 4x, a large amount of other spectators are here as well. So, even though my pace had slightly slowed at this point (mile 3.75-4-ish) to around an 8:40/mi pace I was still having a good time and happy to see my friends and the rest of the XC families who were here to support us. I was even able to give them a thumbs up!
Past this point is a bit of a lonely stretch until you get to the other side of the lake, but it’s only about a mile long. There aren’t any spectators here since it’s a bit narrow, but since there are plenty of other runners I focused on trying to pick off as many as I could while still maintaining my HR. For everyone I passed (or who passed me) I said something encouraging to them, and for the most part I received encouragement back. This is actually one of the things I love about our sport, since everyone genuinely supports each other and wants them to do well. We all collectively suffer together, and since we understand what each of us goes through, we all support each other in our own little way.
At the end of the path, athletes made a right onto a bridge (North Priest Drive) which crosses the river. This bridge is also a vehicular bridge, so outbound runners get to run on the sidewalk, while inbound runners run on a lane on the road protected from vehicles by orange cones. Once on the other side of the bridge, there’s a slight descent onto another path. It’s on this portion of the run course where Leanda Cave ran by me, heading in the opposite direction. I cheered her on and about a minute or two later, I saw Darbi heading my way. I cheered her on as well, and told her to catch Leanda while Darbi gave me a low five and said something to the effect of: “this hurts.” Later on she told me that she probably shouldn’t have said that to me, but at that point I was still feeling decently good and since it was just mile 6 (for me, around 23-24 for Darbi) it actually made me laugh when I heard it.
The path descends down to an aid station, which I later grew to really appreciate. The volunteers were so energetic and a few were in costume. In fact, all of the volunteers were really amazing on the run. As I ran by (in the first loop), I would yell out what I wanted and several volunteers would run over and get it or they would run to me and hand me what they were holding. They were really amazing.
Also amazing was the BASE Performance team who was out between Mile 6-7/23-ish. My plan for the run was to take a lick or two of BASE Salt every mile and since I knew they were out there I wanted to grab a Rocket Fuel from them (a mix of BASE Salt, Hydro and Amino) when I passed them. Tony Demakis saw me coming, and recognized me even though I’m not part of the BASE team. He ran out to meet me, asked what I wanted and when I asked for Rocket Fuel, he said: “keep going, I’ll get it to you.” He ran all the way to where their tent was, dug around the back, and ran all the way out to meet me and hand me an ice cold bottle of Rocket Fuel. He was amazing, and it felt SO good to hold something so cold. It felt even better to drink it. Thanks Tony and the BASE team!
This part of the course is the “harder” part of the run course since it’s a bit hillier. The path continues down along Tempe Town Lake until the Mile 8 turn around. After the turn around, you run above the lower path similar to the opposite side of the lake, and around mile 8.75 or so, the course veers of the path to run around Papago Park. Leading up to the park there’s some neighborhood running, and once you enter the park it’s quite pretty. It’s a bit hillier in this section, but nothing too bad. It’s also a relatively short section and once you exit the park, you descend down to Mile 10, where the TriSports.com aid station is located.
These guys really go out of their way to support athletes with some loud encouragement, more costumes, and a DJ blasting music. Since the aid station is underneath what appeared to be an overpass, the music reflected off of the sides and it was awesome. In my second loop, I did tear up a bit in this aid station since I was approaching mile 23 (so almost done!) and I was hurting so badly that the downhill that preceded this aid station was quite painful.
On my first loop, it was fun to run through these guys and know that I was on my way back to transition to start my second loop. I still had three miles to go though, and I knew I was starting to hurt a bit. For the first time, my mile splits broke 9:00/mi, with Mile 9 at 9:04 and Mile 10 at 9:14. As I left the TriSports aid station though, I did try to speed up a bit while maintaining my under 170 HR. I was at 163 bpm at this point, so I tried to maintain that.
Coming out of the path and running back across the bridge, I started to feel a bit better. I ran Mile 11 slightly faster at 8:50, but when we turned off of North Priest Drive and onto Rio Salado Parkway, I started to cramp up and hurt. At this point, I was trying to figure out the best way to alleviate the cramping. I didn’t think it was due to a lack of electrolytes since I had the Rocket Fuel a couple of miles prior, and before that I was taking my BASE Salts and also drinking the offered Gatorade at the aid stations. I also didn’t skip any aid stations so I knew I was properly hydrated. Still, the cramp progressively worsened, and by the time I hit Mile 13-ish where I saw my friends again, I was not in a happy place.
As I started the second loop, I passed an aid station. I took some water there and almost immediately I felt the urge to pee. It was so strong that I couldn’t fight it, so I started to pee on myself while “running.” I felt a little better afterwards, in the sense that I didn’t have to pee anymore, but I was definitely in a bad place from that point on. The rest of the second loop was a constant battle between wanting to really slow down and walk versus wanting to push myself harder and harder because I was on overall PR pace. My desire to PR luckily won, so even though the second loop hurt worse than I’ve hurt in a while, I managed to keep making forward progress. I walked slowly through all of the aid stations and kept on hydrating as per my previous plan.
I may have been a bit over hydrated though, since after every aid station I immediately had to pee. I ended up peeing on myself across all of the aid stations from Mile 14 to the Finish. All told, I peed on myself 14 times on the run (plus 2 on the bike, for a total of 16 times – a new record). It wasn’t just small tinkles either. They were full on fire hydrant gushers. I washed my tri suit twice after the race and ended up leaving my race shoes in my hotel room since they were so gross after the race.
Anyway, Mile 26 was probably the most painful mile of my life but I did manage to run it as my third fastest mile of the back 13.1. I had every intention of celebrating coming down the finish chute, but to be honest, I don’t remember it at all. I remember making the right turn off Rio Salado Parkway and I remember being faced with a small hill. At the top of the hill, athletes made a left onto the finish chute, but I do not remember doing that. I remember running up the hill and from there things kind of went a little blurry. Apparently I was weaving down the finish chute and after crossing the line I would have collapsed had the wonderful finish line volunteers not had been there knowing that I was quite literally on my last legs. They caught me as soon as I crossed the Finish Line and brought me directly to the med tent. At some point I must have stopped my Garmin, because I did have a fairly accurate marathon time from what Ironman has (4:17:52 versus 4:17:03). I’m glad I was aware enough to do the important things post race.
I had no idea what was going on.
Once in the med tent, the wonderful medical volunteers helped bring me back to life. They thought I was dehydrated but I tried to tell them that wasn’t the case. Still, they gave me an IV (after 4 tries in both arms) and that did wonders for post-race recovery. To this day, I still don’t know what happened that made me pee so much and I don’t think I ever will.
Below is a video of me crossing the line. In retrospect, it was pretty funny to see but I know a few folks back home were freaking out. Sorry about that folks!
Best. Finisher. Video. Ever.
Run Time: 4:17:03 / Goal Time: 3:45:00 (+37:03)
Overall Time: 12:13:29 (PR from Roth, 4 months prior: -40:24)
Overall I’m very happy with the effort I put forth in the race. I pushed hard and gave it everything I had that day. While I’m not happy with the overall bike and run times, I know that I couldn’t have pushed any harder that day.
That’s all I can really ask of myself, and to be honest, it gives me a lot of motivation and encouragement for future races. I CAN be faster and I WILL be faster. Work truly does work, and I can’t wait until I race again in 2017.