Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Ironman Arizona 2010 Race Recap

Outside of Ironman Arizona being my first 140.6 mile triathlon distance race, the 2010 edition brought a number of highlights making it an extraordinarily memorable day. Here are some other notable mentions:
  • Chrissy Wellington demolishing the Ironman women’s record with an overall time of 8:36:13 in winning the women’s title and finishing 8th OVERALL.
  • Timo Bracht setting the course record with a men’s winning time of 8:07:16
  • Jordan Rapp taking 4th place overall, capping a remarkable comeback from a severe car accident back in March where he was unable to run an hour just two months ago.
  • 80-yr old Sister Madonna Buder competing after holding the record of oldest finisher at the age of 77 a few years back.
Morning Before the Race
I got up around 4:45am and starting eating Hammer Nutrition bars as a part of my Ironman nutrition plan. We left just before 5:30am but about 8-minutes into the ride, I realized I left my wetsuit hanging in the hotel room. We went back and I arrived at the race around 6am.
I went over to the transition area and filled up my hydration/nutrition bottles on my bike and then dropped off my special needs bag for the run. Looking back on it, a couple of things that I should have done that I will keep in mind for next time is to check my Garmin 310XT before the race to ensure that it worked properly with the different sensors (bike speed/cadence, footpod, heart rate) since so much of my race plan is dictated by those metrics. It could have been really bad from both a physical and mental perspective to have trained all year knowing heartrate/speed/cadence and not have it during the race. Along the lines of being prepared, I should have filled up an extra bottle of nutrition and set it in the bike special needs bag in the event I would have lost any of the normal nutrition bottles during the race.
After getting my wetsuit on, Carly gave me a kiss for good luck and I headed over to the swim entrance area.
The swim takes place in Tempe Town Lake which actually burst back in July. Fortunately, town officials and crew were able to fix up everything so that the lake was back a month before the race.  The day before the race, there was a practice swim to allow the athletes to become acclimated to the swimming conditions. The water temperature was a “nipply” 61 degrees. Needless to say, the wetsuit was essential.
The morning of the race, the professional athletes started at 6:50am and as soon as they were done, the rest of us had to jump into the lake for a mass start. The cool part of the start was that the crowd could get a great view of it either from the side walkway or the bridge overlooking the lake. Realistically, I know I’m not the greatest swimmer so I opted to start in the middle of the pack off to the side to avoid being trampled over. While we were treading water waiting for the cannon to signal our start, the DJ played songs to keep the athletes motivated. The last three songs I remembered them playing were Ironman by Black Sabbath, Learn to Fly by Foo Fighters, and then Viva La Vida by Coldplay. The canon sounded and the swim was on. The swim was one rectangular counter-clockwise out and back loop with the sight buoys on your left hand side. I thought the swim felt good although I probably wasted energy not being able to hold tight swim lines around the buoys. My Garmin said I swam over 3 miles and it is set to automatically vibrate after each mile so on the third vibration, I had a feeling my time for the swim wasn’t going to be great. On top of that, about quarter mile into the swim, I realized I didn’t put on my 2XU leg sleeves which distracted my focus on the swim for a few minutes while I mentally told myself that I didn’t really need them for the bike and the run.
At the end of the swim, you had to climb out of the water via temporary steps that were set up. Volunteers helped to pull you out and they also had volunteers help to strip your wetsuit off which was nice since I’ve lost a lot of time in previous races trying to get the wetsuit off quickly. A tip for next time is to find the biggest/strongest volunteers to help get the wetsuit off the fastest.
Transition 1
After getting out of the water, there seemed to be a lengthy run back into the transition area to change into the bike gear. Along the way, I fortunately saw Andy along the rails and he had my gear bag with the 2XU leg sleeves. After grabbing my bike gear bag, I found a chair to sit down and catch my breath while starting to put on my biking gear. I also took a few extra minutes wiping grass and dirt off my feet because I was afraid of getting blisters/cuts from putting socks over this. Overall, I didn’t put much planning into the transition and the lengthy time reflected it.
The bike was three loops with the longest stretch taking place along the Bee Line Highway and basically biking through the desert.
I felt pretty good coming out of the water and was easily hitting 20 mph on the first loop. Of course, the good feeling quickly ended out on Bee Line Highway. This back stretch was brutal with the wind that reportedly gusting at 25 mph at times. At one point, it also started to rain hard making it even more tricky. My speed quickly dropped and I was struggling just to hit 18 mph. I also took a couple of pit stops on the bike portion to refill my hydration tank and to also hit the restroom. For those wondering, Yes, you definitely need to take bathroom breaks during a day long race like the Ironman. I’m not hardcore enough to just go in my pants like some of the professional athletes. The rest of the bike race was fighting the wind and some minor cramping/pain from being in the aero-position for so long. When I hit the 100 mile-mark, I noticed my heart rate was well below Z2 so I decided to pick it up a bit and try to finish with a respectable bike time. At this point, it was a huge mental lift knowing that I was just about done with the bike and only had the run portion to go.
Transition 2
Much like the first transition, I seemed to take a lot more time than what I needed. I changed socks over to the Injinji socks, put on the Saucony Kinvara’s, put on the Camelback and headed out while chugging a Zico Coconut water.
The run was three loops around Tempe Beach Park. My main strategy was to employ the 4/1 Run-Walk method that I had success with during my 20-mile training run. My legs did not feel dead from the bike but I was unable to get a quick pace going during the 4-minute run intervals. The other part not going for me was feeling bloated, probably due to all the electrolytes/sodium I was putting down to not cramp up. The run seemed fairly consistent, if slow the entire time. Around the eight mile mark, I remember taking a sip of the Ironman Perform drink which is the equivalent of Gatorade and puking it back up almost immediately. It happened mid-stride without stopping which probably looked impressive for anyone behind me.
Linsey Corbin also wearing Bright Orange Saucony Kinvara’s but running a lot faster than I was. She finished second overall among the women. Also, note the TRX tattoo.
About halfway through, I started to take RC-Cola at all of the aid stations. I think part of it was being tired of drinking the EFS Liquid Shot all day. I still needed the nutrition from the Liquid Shot so I mixed it in with the RC-Cola which ended up tasting like a Vanilla Coke. Although my legs felt fine, the real pain was coming from my feet due to my history with arch problems/plantar fasciitis. My little toes also were hurting probably from bad positioning within the shot. I did notice a big difference with speed when I paid attention to form as opposed to “just running'” When I was more upright with quicker, smaller steps, I seemed to be able to move a lot faster a lot easier. As night fell, they gave us glow in the dark necklaces which I wore up until near the finish when I tossed it into the garbage because I didn’t want it in my finisher picture. Around the 20-mile mark, I started to feel confident that I was going to finish the Ironman. I thought about how quickly the last 12 months flew by, all of the encouragement & support along the way, and looking forward to seeing my family’s faces when I got to the finish line. With about a minute to go, I pulled out my phone and was able to videotape my finish from my perspective. In parallel, Kara Dimarco was able to videotape my finish from the webcast as well.
Finishing the Ironman as recorded from my phone (HTC Incredible)

Special thanks to Kara DiMarco for capturing this!
I was wondering the past month how I would finish. Would it be a struggle or would I come in looking strong. Turns out I had enough juice to jog in with a little bit of a kick. After crossing the finish line, I was given the official finisher’s medal, a hat, and a T-shirt that said Ironman Finisher. Very cool.
Believe it or not, although the race took just over 13 hours, the day was like a blur. I think it is because the majority of the attention was focused on the key metrics I needed to follow such as nutrition/hydration intake intervals, heart rate, and pacing. The first time around, I was more worried about finishing then nailing down a time. In the back of my mind, it would’ve been nice to break 13-hours and it was definitely within reach if I had more urgency during the transitions and didn’t walk so much during the run leg. Don’t get me wrong, it was still incredibly difficult to push my body for such a long time. I can’t express how grateful I am for all of the support from family and friends leading up to the Ironman and even during the race.
Compared to my last couple of marathons, the Ironman was a lot less painful to finish. I think it was because of better preparation and having a nutrition plan in place to thwart cramps. Surprisingly, there were no major injuries  and no blisters from the race. I did get a few rub burns on the underside of my arms, some rub burns on my lower back and very minimal blood blisters on little pinky toes.
With the big race being over, I’ll probably take a few days to let the body recover and then go into winter maintenance mode. It is a weird feeling being razor focused on one race for an entire year and to be done with it. The good news is that there’s always room for improvement. I already have a good idea of my racing plans for 2011 and tentatively have my sights set on Ironman Florida in Panama City Beach for 2012.
Final Stats:
  • Overall Time – 13:20:11 (1271/2500)
  • Swim Time – 1:23:08 (1401/2500)
  • T1 – 14:50
  • Bike Time – 6:19:09 (1026/2500), 17.7 mph pace
  • T2 – 9:14
  • Run Time – 5:13:51 (1377/2500), 11:59 min/mile pace

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