Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Ironman Arizona Report

WOW... what a crazy  and insane experience.  I have been through a variety of emotions over the last 9 months, with everything hitting a pinnacle on Sunday.  Since Sunday, I have had various thoughts again and I'm not sure where I'm going to land.  All of this has been very interesting to me - learning about myself physically and mentally, as well as learning about the expectations that I put on myself and how I react when I perform. 

Race Report
I got a great night of sleep Saturday night.  I went to bed around 8:30pm - woke up ready to go, only to realize it was only 10:20pm.  Sheesh.  Woke up again at 2:15am to sounds outside the window of people leaving a bar.  Hilarious!  Then woke up at 4:25am and just got up.  I was already prepped for the day, so after about 15 minutes, I was bugging Tyson to get up because I wanted to GO!  I settled down, listened to a little "G6" and we left the house around 5:30am. 

Tyson and I had passes from Janus that got Tyson into all the athlete areas.  It was VERY cool to have him with me before the race.  It was a cold, but I was nice and bundled up.  I got to see Bryan and Jamie roaming around in the bike transition area before the race.  Ran into Chris McClurg and Bryan Henry.  Saw Diana and Karleen prepping for their races.  Here we go...

I jumped off the ledge and into the water - 62 degrees.   Shockingly, it was no big deal... I think I prepped appropriately.  I swam over to the start and moved all the way to the left, near the buoys.  There weren't nearly as many bodies crowding me as I expected, and everything went nicely.  The swim went by pretty fast.  My mind was pretty calm, and I was rehashing all the swimming memories I've had since I started taking this seriously in the spring.  I remember watching the Ironman swim start one year before and thinking "who does this"?  I remember swimming in TTL for the Tempe International Triathlon and one of the kayakers coming up to me to ask me if I needed a rest(!).  I thought about the people watching the swim right now who think we're crazy.  I thought about Sam and Karleen getting out of the water 20+ minutes ahead of me. I got right into a groove and settled in.  I wondered if swimming more over the next 8 months will improve my swim time or if this is the best I can be.  Middle of the pack is a pretty good accomplishment for someone who was 78 of 90 women out of the water in her first triathlon. 

The swim was interesting - there were always people swimming into each other ahead of me.  I didn't really get the chance to get a 3-stroke breathing pattern down, so I spent almost the entire swim breathing every other stroke to my right so I could keep my eye on all the dangerous people who might kick or hit me. 

While swimming back, I happened to notice people up on the Rural bridge behind me as I was taking a breath... then I heard loud cheers and saw Tyson's orange hat... Tyson and friends FOUND ME in the water. It's a pure miracle. That was a highlight of the swim for sure!

My right pinky finger stopped working about 10 minutes into the swim.  I lost my right ring finger another 30 minutes later.  Then, I started to lose my left pinky about 20 minutes from the finish.  I was swimming crippled, but it didn't break me.  I was nearly trampled by a couple of BIG dudes on the last little jaunt from the buoy to the steps out of the lake.  I had to go into fight mode to make it to the finish - elbows out.  1:20:53.  My goal was 1:20, although I thought my time would be better after hearing how fast the overall draft would be.   All in all, the swim felt great. I was satisfied. 

Transition 1 was a nightmare... I couldn't get my arm warmers on because 1-I was wet, and 2-my fingers didn't work.  I ended up asking a volunteer to help me, but he couldn't get them on either.  We finally just ratcheted them up my arms as best as possible... you'll notice in my photos that one sleeve is red and one is white.  That's me being clever and prepping two layers of arm warmers.  Needless to say, 5 minutes wasted in transition later, that didn't work out so well.  I have photos to prove it!  T1: 8:07.  Ridiculous!

Toughest bike ride of my life.  Really. 

Loop 1:  I saw Nick on Rio Salado, and he reminded me to keep my heart rate low.  I was running 10-15mph over what Nick wanted it to be as I turned onto Beeline, and I was still getting passed by EVERYONE.  I tried to remain confident, but the consistent passing wore me down mentally.  Remember to keep you HR low, I kept telling myself.  Calm down, calm down. 

I lost my bottle of Hammer Gel within the first 5 miles - it bounced right out of my Bento Box.  That's okay, I can take Powerbar Gels from the aid station.  I took one at the second aid station, and the 2x caffeine gave me a stomach ache.  I can't take caffeine gels (I've learned this before), but it was the only option so I took it.  ICK.  I realized about 5 miles later that the pain in my belly was from the caffeine.  I asked for a non-caffeine gel at the next station, to no avail.  So, I will stick to the other food I brought.  I worked the stomach pain out. 

The first half of the first loop out to Fountain Hills was FAST, uphill.  I was getting blown around, but it wasn't too bad.  At the turnaround, the wind was in my face and the side winds started to pick up.  I was all over the road - slow and miserable.  By the bottom of the first loop, I was a mental wreck.  My time on the first loop was crazy slow and I was doing the overall calculations in my head and panicking. 

I tried to tell myself not to worry... everyone is in the same situation.  But the reality is that everyone else was handling it better than I was.  I kept falling further and further behind.  I thought I was going to get lapped by my Durapulse friends on the bike.  It was pretty close.  Looks like I need some wind training.    To top it off, I had to use the bathroom 2 times on the first loop. I guess I was hydrated. 

Loop 2: Uphill took forever, even with the wind behind me.  Can I make it through 3 loops of this?  Can I?  Not sure.  I'm supposed to be a cyclist.  What's going on?  I decided on the first half of the second loop that one IM is all I needed and that I can check the box and move on. Couldn't believe I had signed up for another one.

The wind was whipping around me, and the disk wheel was dragging me all over the road.  I hadn't really ridden with a disk before, and doing this in IM for the first time was a mistake. I should have gone with my other race wheels to be safe when I found out we may have high winds.
When I got to the turnaround, I stopped to use the restroom.  As I got back onto the bike, it started to rain.  I went down the hill in the swirly wind and all of a sudden I got the attitude adjustment I needed:  HAIL.  I just started laughing.  Laughing out loud and a HUGE smile came across my face.  THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE HARD.  Teri, why did you take the bike part of this race so lightly?  Just because you came into this with cycling as your strength doesn't mean that you can tame it without effort.  You deserve this ass-kicking and you're going to like it.  This is IRONMAN, damnit. Like one of the fan posters said, "They don't call it EASYman."  I pushed through the downhill of loop two.

Loop 3: When I got out to the Beeline on Loop 3, the side wind had dissipated, but the southward wind had picked up.  I was FLYING, and with a low heartrate.  I passed people left and right - the same people who passed me earlier in the race.  I was feeling great.  At the turnaround, though, the wind was so strong that I couldn't have been going over 6 miles per hour.  The swirly wind kept catching my front wheel and pushing me around.  Wow... this is unbelievable. 

My quads were burning.  Will I be able to run? I kept having Deuces Wild flashbacks where I had so much pain in my quads that I had to walk.  Will this happen again?  Who knows.  Maybe.

Bike time 6:19:30.  One FULL hour slower than my goal (of course with perfect AZ weather).  Everyone I know was riding well, despite the weather.  And I was riding very poorly.  It hurt my feelings.  I have never wanted to get off my bike so badly.  Get me off this thing. Now.

Transition #2 flew... easy, great.  As I ran towards the changing tent in my bike cleats, I could tell that my legs were going to be fine.  What a relief.  T2 time: 3:00.

Loop 1: Felt GREAT out on the run, from the beginning.  I was praising Nick in my head for making me ride at a lower HR.  Thank you thank you!  I felt great.  I kept getting complimented from spectators about my stride and how great I looked... it helped my bruised ego.  I was passing people left and right - it was so very fun! It was great to see Nick all over the course, fantastic to see the Tribies everywhere.  People all over the course were cheering for me because I was racing for Tribe.  Very cool.  It was awesome to run through the Tribe aid station with the loads of orange.  Great to see Kevin out there, hoarse by the end of the night!  I love the passion.  It was so very nice to have friends all over the course cheering.  They were everywhere! 

I got to see Karleen on my first loop - she was a FULL loop ahead of me.  She is a monster!  I also got to see Diana on my first loop.  I truly enjoyed seeing the other Tribe ladies in the race.  It felt like we were all in this together.  We all truly enjoyed the day. 

Loop 2: Running up to Priest on loop 2 was painful.  I was joking with another runner that I was drafting behind him, and it was true!  Drafting on a marathon.  Who knew!  I had such a fun time on the run... I was dragging the first part of loop 2, but I pulled it back together as I started running with the wind.  Actually, in hindsight, I enjoyed the hills because I run downhill well. 

Nick wanted me to walk the aid stations and run the one miles in between.  This turned out to be a great strategy... it kept me on track and kept me running, with small breaks. 

Loop 3:  It was so very nice to run around the lake, looking at the mile marker signs for Loop 3 and realizing that this was my last loop.  Yes, that mile marker #19 is for ME.  Yes, that mile marker #23 is for ME.  When I realized that some runners were just seeing mile marker #4 for the first time, and I was looking at #20, I had so much pain for those behind me.  Wow... what an experience.  I saw LaVerne on my last loop, and seeing LaVerne was one of my highlights of my day.  She is an amazing woman. 

The rain came down again with about 3 miles to go.  What a riot.  I was ready to be done.  I walked through the Mile 25 aid station, and another gal in my age group jogged past me.  WHAT?  So I took a Coke, mixed it with water, guzzled it, caught her and put some distance on her.  I had a great run.  4:03:29. I was hoping for something like 3:50, but I'll have to hold out for next time...

Friends put cheer chalk all over the course for me, and I was so pre-occupied that I didn't see it!  BAD ME!  There were photos though that I saw afterwards, and that was super cool.

I had awesome support during the race.  Of course, having Tyson out all day with that "wow, that's my baby" look in his eyes is WAY amazing.  He is a great supporter of me, and I appreciate his involvement.  It was SUPER cool that Benny and Sally from Portland were there cheering and taking photos. Sally got the most awesome photo of my finish!  I will post once I get it.  Patrick and Alex and Jo and Mon were there all day... Troy and Susan, and Ryan Wing were cheering me on as I ran through the run chute in the park. AND Chris and Erica and crew - they're always so loud, in the best way!  Bryan Henry and his girl were there.  And I saw several gals from the Women's Cycling team cheering  - so fun!  And Robin running with me on my last lap giving me great words.  And Karen and friends on the bike course!  SO MANY people... it was super cool.  I felt like I was running on a cloud. 

We went to Four Peaks after to have a couple beers and eat something.  YUM.  I didn't last long.

What's Next
Well, this was quite an experience.  I have to say that it was more challenging mentally than I expected it to be, and I got my ego crushed. I'm having a bit of a pity party with myself.  I have learned a couple things about myself that I think I already knew:  I am fiercely competitive.  I think highly of my athletic ability (or my potential ability).  I put a LOT of pressure on myself to perform.  I get really disappointed when I don't live up to my own expectations. I judge myself based on others.  Wow... this is me putting it all out there. Naked. 

I am signed up for IM Canada.  I'm not exactly looking forward to it right now - I'm more afraid than confident.  I can get over this, but I need to get out there and train.

I am being pressured by my Durapulse friends (you know who you are) to sign up for IM St George. Seriously, people!  I'm debating it... but really... 3 IM races in one year? 

In the interim, I'm racing Ragnar Ultra in February with a group of strong runners, Boston Marathon in April, some cycling races Jan-June, and IM Canada in August.  Then, I'll be supporting Tyson for IMAZ in 2011.

What am I turning into?


  1. Man T, I am the exact same kind of competitor as you. Hard to admit, but it is true. I know what it feels like to put a lot of work in, and not being able to play your best game/ have the race time you know you are capable of due to weather, or injury, or other uncontrollable circumstances. This makes the times when things go perfectly so sweet! What I found out about myself, is that I need to come back again and do better, just for myself.

  2. Wow Teri! What a great report! Yes, every emotion one can experience comes out in this race. You rode a disc wheel for the very first time uphill and into that wind?? Extra weight and a huge sail effect.. wow!! No wonder you had a rough ride. Honestly, Teri, I know you are a MBA, CFP, wife, mom, etc, etc, and you have NO business being down on yourself. You did awesome, amazing, incredible!!! YOU ARE AN IRONMAN AND YOU ROCK!!!! Just like you used the learning from Tempe International to get you here, you will use this learning to crush IM Canada! You even managed to pull me out of a ditch through this... THANK YOU!!! :-)

  3. You are a stud. You just never know what the day will bring you and how your body will react. You should be proud that you didn't let the bike get the best of you and you had a fanatastic run!

    You'll have all the motivation in the world by the time you get to Canada, and if nothing else, the pure beauty of the course will get you through it!

  4. Teri I am sooooooooooo proud of you. Following you in the race but also during the months leading up to it was amazing.