2008 Ironman Arizona Race Report

Race Report. Well actually it's more of a chapter book....but Ironman...it's a long day.

It was necessary for our hotel to post the above sign
I am thrilled with my entire experience at Ironman Arizona. My intentions of this blog are not to brag. I just want to acknowledge that "I got what I wanted" .....That's a term Tim and I tease each other with. I am not going to be the person who has a dream race only to complain and say "I should have, could have done better." I wasn't sure what I had in terms of fitness. I honestly didn't know. A wedding 8 weeks before an Ironman and a foot injury lead to a slightly unconventional training plan. On race day you've got what you've got and you execute it. This is a matter of skill, luck, and psyche. I decided I would give it my all. I would find a way to gut out any rough patches. Above all I would be happy with the results. I owed this to myself, my family, and my friends who made sacrifices and supported me. I was prepared to deal with the worst. Secretly hoping to have the race of my life. I thought I had enough good fortune for one year. It was time the good fortune ticket be passed on to somebody else. I guess I was wrong. My good fortune continues. I'm not sure why I'm so lucky. I just am and I'll take it.

Pre Race:
After eating an 0400 breakfast buffet we were off to the start. My husband kindly got up and walked to the start with us. It was really cool seeing the white lights of the Tempe Town bridge. It sort of reminded me of Christmas lights. It served as a reminder that I just had to get through this day. After I could relax and enjoy the holiday season with my husband. It helped keep things in perspective. No matter how daunting this distance seemed in about the time it takes me to complete a shift of work my endeavor would be over. All of the training, the anticipation, and the excitement would be over in a matter of hours. It sort of seemed like being a kid and opening presents on Christmas morning. I was left with one thought. I better make it count. Soon this experience would only be a memory. I was nervous but not painfully so. It was hard to be preoccupied with my nerves when others had never done this before. At least I knew what to expect. It was cold before the sun came up. Tina, Jess, Elaine and I put on our wetsuits early and were ready to go.

Of note, I was nervous enough to pee 5 times before the race even started.
Of second note, I did not stand in line for the porta potty once.
Of note #3, there were wet foot prints noted on the cement that surrounded the feet of several San Diego ladies
You piece the above together.

The swim:
At 6:50 the pros started and we were instructed to enter the water. In addition to swimming 2.4 miles we had to swim to the start and tread water for 10 minutes (and walk up hill to the start). Luckily, I had been advised not to waste my energy treading water. I swam to the side where I could hold the wall.
I think Tina, Jess, Elaine and I clung to each other, our teeth chattering with cold and nervousness. I would have probably hyper ventilated if I hadn't been with these girls. Social pressure keeps me well behaved and I put on my big girl pants and tried to relax. Above the wall were tons of fans. I scanned the crowd for Tim but didn't see him. I knew he would find a way to see me somehow. I was glad when the gun went off. It was time to stop thinking and start doing. This is so much easier for me.
The start of the swim was slow going. I hung in the back as I figure I am slower than most. I don't have a swim background nor do I "swim enough." I am steady though. I knew I could handle the distance. Maybe I should have bolted for the first few minutes and tried to get out of the tangles. It might have been faster. Maybe I would have got in trouble going out to hard. I crawled along for quite sometime, breathing every stroke because the pace was so slow. This didn't bother me too much. I had far fewer size 13 feet in my face than at Couer D'Alene. The water was warmer. I followed the wall until the stadium, then I let it go away from me. This is just what I was supposed to do. I proud of that. I tried to stay on a pair of feet slightly faster than my own. After things spread out I found my rhythm and really enjoyed myself. I love swimming in a wetsuit. I love swimming in open water. It's nice to be buoyant.
I knew I was getting close to the turn and gave myself a bunch of pep talks. At Couer D'Alene the turns were really jammed up. I got stuck. Frankly it was a bit of a scare (even for me). All those arms flailing, people breast stroking, treading water and panicking. I headed into the turn very wide to avoid the crowd and it was cake. Of course, part of me began bargaining with myself.....did I need to take the corner that wide, all the extra distance. I squashed that thought and accelerated forward. I knew I had completed the hardest part of the swim. A huge weight was lifted. The only difficult section of the swim left would be the exit. I tried to swim as efficiently as possible. I know my swim time wasn't "fast" but other than changing tactics at the beginning I couldn't have gone any faster. Now, give me another year of Masters and that is a different story.
I didn't fall down upon exiting the water this time... so I would say it was a success. I quickly made my way to a wetsuit stripper and they freed me out of my suit. I said thanks and I ran to my gear bag. I was cold and shivering but I knew things would warm up quickly. I grabbed my bag and quickly donned my helmet, goggles, shoes, and socks. I was off before I knew it.
The bike:
Lap #1
I felt really jumpy at the start of the bike. This is where my race starts and my legs just wanted to fire. My head knew I was supposed to pace myself but it seemed so slow. My legs just wanted to rip it up. I tried to settle into a steady rhythm but it took a long time as I start out the bike so far back. There was a head wind going out on the course. I remember looking at my speedometer and thinking it might be a long day. There was a bit of a steady climb for the last few miles before the turn around and I remember looking at the speedometer thinking it's going to be a really long day. I was ok with that. I could deal. Having a head wind gave me something to sink my quads into and quieted my mind. I'm such a weirdo that having an obstacle outside the race course itself actually calms me. I hit the turn around and realized just how much of a headwind we had and how much of a tail wind I had on the return loop. Now it is time to party I thought. Wow, this was fun. I smiled, I laughed I began to relax. Free speed I thought. This is great.
Lap #2
Now I am stressed again as I really have to pee. It is so early in the ride and I really don't want to stop. "I don't wanna....wah" I thought. Proving my amateur status, I failed to take care of things while riding. I began to get a little negative but I knew better. I decided to fix things and began putting all my energy into finding the nearest porta potty without a line. In my opinion IMAZ is well supported but could have a few more porta potties....the race is today. I finally found a porta potty without a line but it was a bit off the road. A nice lady offered to hold my bike and I ran to the bathroom. She handed me back my bike and said "Good job, you're at mile 44 -- almost half way." Umm, not quite. Half of 112 is not 44.I felt so much better I knew I had made the right choice and headed back to work. It is amazing how much less men drafting or blocking bothers when you don't need to pee. I started to relax a bit more. I had been so worried about flatting or going too fast and losing steam but I was starting to feel like I had plenty in the tank.
Lap #3.
I see Tim at the turn around. I am hoping he's not upset with me for riding too slow here. There was a no pass zone and I was stuck behind somebody monkeying around. Literally, he's doing yoga on his bike in a no pass zone. Dude ...the race is today. I know IM is a long day but save the yoga for the mat or at least the passing zone. I remember though Madonna Buder's advise on not allowing negative thoughts into your mind so I focus on eating, drinking, and perceiving being boxed in as a good rest during this time.
I head out for the final lap of the bike. I start to realize I might be in a good spot time wise but I don't allow myself to read too far into the numbers. It could be discouraging. I start to focus on starting the run by 2:00 p.m. I knew this would be a good time for me. I the lap goes on and I feel pretty darn good. Then something happens and I want to cry. It looks like a mirage and I keep riding but the turn around looks further and further away. I want to cry. I want to whine. I am sure somebody has moved the turn around. I acknowledge this lack of coping. That's the joy of having bonked so many times over the past few years. You figure things out and I know the I want to cry feeling means I have about 15 minutes until I bonk. I whipped out an espresso Gu and downed half of it. I shoved the other half up my shorts. It leaked out down my thigh and made for some awesome photos :) About 10 minutes later I felt awesome again. Well, awesome minus my symphysis pubis feeling like it was broken. I now knew and feared every imperfection in the road and was unloading the saddle before every bump. As much as I love my bike, 112 miles in the aero bars with skimpy shorts on was plenty. I was ready to run.
I passed mile 90 and got excited. I felt much better than at CDA at this point and felt that I could steadily accelorate until the run. I had read in a book to slow down in the last 20 miles and not to eat or drink anything because it would make starting the run hard. That tactic didn't do me any good at CDA. I decided I would try things my way. I kept hydrating until the end. The 2:00 p.m. run start seemed very possible and it seemed like I just kept gaining momentum. I saw Tim as I headed toward the T2 transition. We exchanged grins. He said that was fast and I smiled the "I know" kind of smile that indicated I surprised myself and was happy. At this time I had no idea I had biked a 5:29. I wouldn't have dared to dream that. I feel like I have a lot more to develop in terms of cycling. I know it takes a special course, conditions, and a special day to do that and I am so lucky that everything came together today.
I felt like I was in a great position to run. The one were you feel you could have gone harder on the bike. I think that is the key to the run. I wanted to nail a 5:45 so I would have a chance to execute the run. I was so excited because my legs felt pretty darn fresh. The bike course at CDA had demanded a lot more of my legs and I survived the run there.
Ran in feeling like a rock star with the roaring TCSD contingency. I quickly changed I couldn't wait to start running. I ran out of T2 and was so elated. Now I really felt like a "Celebrity" because some awesome TCSDer was taking pictures and all these people were cheering me on. It was so unbelievably awesome. I felt so lucky and blessed. I also had an over whelming feeling that this time I would get that run right.
As I headed down the lake and towards the park my legs began to feel "dead" and I started to huff and puff. "Oh no, already I'm struggling" then I looked at my Garmin and saw I was running a 7 minute mile pace, it felt like a 10 minute mile. That is a pretty quick pace for somebody who just biked 112 miles and has a marathon left to run. "Whoa girl, easy," I thought. (It's funny how self talk is always in the third person). Apparently I got a little too excited. The run course was fun. Up and over the bridges and weaving through the crowds. I was steady. I felt very strong. I saw Tim and he was so excited for me. I saw my coach and he told me I looked strong. I saw Danielle, fast-Philipe's wife, and she was cheering for me with so much enthusiasm I could cry. It was awesome I just kept sucking in the energy from the crowd. This time it is different I thought of the run. I felt like I was trudging in CDA but now I felt like I was running. It was great. I worried though that I would run out of energy and remembered to take my nutrition slowly and steadily. I had used a formula that used my weight and estimated speed to figure out approximate calories expended and calories I could absorb at that speed. It was really quite low, about 150/hour. My stomach alternated on feeling bloated, churny, and ready to explode with feeling growly like I could eat an elephant. I just focused on what my coach told me to spread my calories out and take in small amounts frequently avoiding overload and bonking. I was sick of sweet gel but this time I wasn't carrying food on me. I had a water bottle and electrolyte caps. This time I planned to get my running fuel from the North America Sports buffet. I loved the pretzels in CDA but I couldn't chew them in AZ. My mouth was too dry. I resorted to the gel. The little wimpy girl in me said she "didn't wanna" but I pulled on my big girl pants and focused on being rational. 150 cals at an 8-9 minute mile pace meant I only needed to consume 1 1/2 gels over 7 miles. At each aid station I would take a little mouthful that was all. I certainly was not going to throw out my chance to have the race of a life time because I was fussy. I had to make two portapotty stops during the run which sort of killed me since I was having the "race of my life". The focus on being rational said "Dude, it's bodily functions; give yourself a break." I'm glad I gave a lot of respect to being rational because it helped me to make some wise choices. Really how fast would I have gone if I would have had a party in my pants to run with? So I stayed positive. I got to the half way marker in just about two hours. I'm not sure if the second port-a-potty stop was at 13 or 13.1 miles but I think I ran a steadier pace than my splits indicate because of the stops. I fell back into my rhythm and my shoelace came untied. Errr....how am I supposed to impress my husband with all this lolli-gagging. Remain rational, I thought. How fast are you going to go if you trip and fall down. I fix the shoe and get going again.
I know this is sick and twisted but despite wanting to be done I actually didn't want things to end. There was only about 2 miles that were really rough. Miles 14-16. The rest was like a party. I felt like a rockstar performing for an audience. As I headed into the last lap I felt satisfied. I would just cruise it in and cement a decent finish. Tim thought otherwise. He ran out to take my sunnies as it was getting dark. He was so excited. He told me I was steady and strong and that I was going to beat his time at CDA. He said I was starting to move up in position and told me that this lap was were the money was at. Then he slapped my rear so hard it sent me forward at a pace at least one minute a mile faster. I swear there was a red imprint of Tim's hand:) After this I was so fired up I swear I accelerated until the finish. I do remember passing people that had passed me earlier. So much of my fatigue vanished and I was so excited. I was racing now. Trying to get to the finish as fast as I could. This was amazing because I thought I would claw my way into the finish but this was so different. This was my vision. Running fast in the dark. So many times during evening runs I ran thinking if I could only run like this on Ironman day. It was happening. It was real.
I remember heading through the grass chute area by T1 and T2. It was lined with people. This girl in front of me motioned to the crowd to cheer. The crowd totally errupted. It was so cool, it gave me energy and I ran faster. I caught up with the girl and thanked her. We started to run together and sailed through the section I struggled on the last lap. Getting through that section easily was like a get out of jail free card. I was loving things now. Only 4 miles left. The girl I was running with started to slow down. She said she felt bad and to go. I didn't want to lose my new friend so I offered her on of my electro-lyte caps. She took one of her own and told me to go. I felt kind of bad leaving her but picked up the pace and moved on. There are no guarantees I will ever do an Ironman again so I wanted to make the most of it. Also I started to become aware that I had the potential to finish in 11:11 which was my grandmother's favorite number. The next few miles went by quickly. After mile 24 though it seemed like I had been running for a long time. I began to get nervous that I had missed the turn to the finish as it was dark. Then a girl came all out sprinting past me. I knew I hadn't gone the wrong way. Nobody would be running like that with 8 miles to go. I looked at my Garmin. 25.6 it stated. There wasn't a 25 mile marker on the course and I had a half mile to go. Crap.....time to pick it up the race was almost over and I still had tons in the tank. I turned a headed down a dark alley towards the lights of the finished. I swear I was sprinting (but I probably wasn't). I entered the finish chute and started high fiving everybody. I saw Tim and high-fived him.
I finished in 11:14:01... Sorry Grandma, but minus the potty stops I probably executed the course in 11:11. I'm pretty excited as I started and finished the run in 17th place. This is the first time I have not given back a zillion places on the run.
My friend Whitney from San Diego was volunteering in the finishers chute. She intervened the other catcher and instead of screening me for medical needs asked if I PR'd. I was half laughing and half crying and said by about an hour. She let me go to the fence and hug Tim. After that Tim and I headed to the finishers area where they served the best pizza ever. Tim and I snorkled pizza down and I called my parents and Tim's parents. They had been tracking me all day and I couldn't wait to share my excitement with them.


tim said...

Nice job. Was your wetsuit all warm and snuggly when you started the race?

Cindy said...

Great report, Jen. I felt like I was right there at the race cheering on your fabulous performance!

Bruce and Cindy said...

Awesome race. You put it all together very smartly. We were so proud of you and cheering wildly at our computer.

Jennifer Yake said...

Thanks guys. Bruce.....you would have crushed it. ....the road to Kona might be through Tempe for you. If they release spots at Ford you should sign up.