Tuesday, November 22, 2011

It was the best of (bike) times. . .

And it was the worst of (run) times.  In other words, the IMAZ Race Report . . .

One year ago today, I signed up of Ironman Arizona.  When you sign up for an event, you have so many goals, so many hopes, so many plans.  And then, over the course of 365 days, you have so many opportunities to make them come true.   When I started this journey, I hoped to 1) drop 3 minutes off my swim; 2) drop 30 minutes from my bike and 3) drop 30 minutes from my run from IM Louisville. 
But then life got in the way.  I agreed to be fundraising chair for my kids school-- responsible for raising over 112,000 in the months of September, October, and November; I agreed to coach not one, but 2 soccer teams with weekly practices and weekend games; I agreed to teach 6th grade religious education on Monday nights, and I agreed to help run Soccerfest again.  Needless to say, life happens and sometimes gets in the way of your best made plans. 
With that background, I found myself on an airplane, headed to Phoenix, Arizona for Ironman Arizona.  Had I trained?  Sure I had.  I'd done a lot of medium length workouts.  Bike rides of 80 miles.  2.5 mile swims.  22 mile runs.  VERY FEW longer rides.  Almost no combination workouts-- where I combined bikes and runs or swims and bikes.  Was I worried?  YES.  I really was.  I knew how hard it was to get to the finish line at Louisville.  I knew how bad I'd felt.  And, most importantly, I knew how much harder I'd trained.  Multiple workouts of over 10 hours.  Many, many over distance swims.  Many combination workouts.  I had no real race plan-- in fact, I didn't develop a race plan until Saturday Night before the race.  I wasn't 100% certain of my nutrition plan.  In fact, I was pretty certain it was going to be a long hard day and was under no delusions as to the likelihood of my finishing the race. 

The folks in Tempe were amazing.  I got to athlete registration and it took me about 37 minutes to pick up my number, my swim cap, my timing chip, my "swag" bag, my bike and my gear bag.  I found myself back in my hotel room with some wondrous free time before the Welcome Dinner.  At the welcome dinner, I got my first eyeball of the AMAZING Arizona skyline at dusk and marveled at the beautiful colors-- thinking to myself how much I was going to enjoy seeing those colors as I headed out onto the run--presuming I made it that far-- which I wasn't guaranteeing.  By far the best part, however, of the welcome dinner was getting to see my IronTeam Mates from 2010.  Susie, Mary, Phil, Nate, Michelle, Nick and some new Iron Team friends were all competing.  Just being around them started to ease my nerves. 
This is just one of the places the all Iron Family cheer
Team had written my name in chalk on the course. 
I think all told, they chalk-fetti'ed about 1/2 the course
with inspiration!
Saturday Morning started with the practice swim.  I'd heard so much about how cold the water was going to be in Tempe Town Lake, so with much trepidation, I wiggled into my wetsuit-- one of my least favorite things to do.  Walking down the stairs (which would be our exit stairs on Sunday), I silently cursed Sandy Shepherd and Margaret Mackey for getting me into this nonsense! With one hand on my goggles, I took a deep breath and jumped in. 
It was cold-- no San Francisco Bay Cold, but chilly non-the-less.  The good news was it wasn't as cold as I thought it was going to be-- the bad news? I couldn't keep my goggles from fogging up AND I managed to get that super dizzy vertigo feeling that is associated with having your ears in cold water. .
Great-- after about 5 minutes I pulled my dizzy self out of the water, was so dizzy I tripped on the way to get out of my wetsuit, and started worrying that I wasn't even going to make it past the swim!

 Sunday Morning came quickly. As I made sure my bike tires were pumped up and got my special needs bags to the right places, the sun started to rise over Tempe Town Lake.  The yellow buoys marking out the course seemed to go on for ever-- from the starting line it was almost impossible to see the red turn around buoy. 
Transition was like family time.  Sedonia, Dana, Mike K, Kristie, Helen and so many others from IronTeam who had come out to cheer us on and volunteer to help out were everywhere.  Mike K applied my number to my arms and my age to my calf and gave me a zip into my wetsuit.  Sedonia stood in line at the port-a-potties we me. Kristie was there securing the starting line.  It was amazing.  There was no way to get too nervous-- everyone was there to calm me down.  I borrowed a sharpie one last time, remembering at the last minute that I needed to bring my passengers with me:  writing Jack on my right hand and Will on my left.   Before I was ready, I was in the water.

I had been worried about the swim start.  There were 2500 people pushed to one side of the lake. This is called a deep water start.  And I wasn't sure I was going to like it.  Sedonia had advised me to lie flat on my front (i.e. dead man's float) to take up more space.  SO I did. But, one of the things that I noticed was that there was a lot more space in the water than I was anticipating.  I looked over and saw that about 2/3 of the field had positioned themselves sitting on the wall on the right hand side of the lake.  As my brain started to work, I realized that once that cannon went off, and all those people pushed in from the right hand side, it was not going to be much fun for anyone.  So, I tried to move towards the center of the lake.  And as I moved left, BANG-- the cannon went off.  I changed direction and started moving forward. 

My fear was realized when I saw the 1000 people converging from the right hand side.  Holy Rugby match.  I've got a dandy bruise on my right hand shoulder from someone's foot.  I fought my way down to the turn around-- probably never taking more than 2 strokes at a time without getting some part of my body clawed (legs, back, feet-- some guy (or woman, hard to tell in the water) grabbed my breast as they clawed by).  It was not a swim to get a rhythm going. 

The way back was slightly better.  I found some room to swim and the bridge that started far in the distance slowly got closer until it was time to exit.

Upon reaching the stairs, I pulled myself out of the water and climbed up.  I pulled off my caps and goggles and pulled down the strap of my wetsuit-- I found the strippers, sat down, and they pulled my wetsuit off me and handed it to me.  I was on my way to T1.  

Off with the Bikini bottom; on with the bike shorts, socks and shoes.  The little old lady who was helping me get dressed was befuddled by my toe socks. . . Helmet, Chin Strap and out the door-- stopping only to get a quick hug from Ironteamer Dana (who was applying sunscreen to participants as we exited transition).  A volunteer brought me my bike and I was off to the races.

If there is one place I always struggle, it is on that damned carbon torture contraption. So, I dread this part of the race.  I hopped on, and headed out, making sure to turn my Garmin on so that it would remind me to drink, let me know how far I'd gone, how fast I'd gone, and, most importantly, how long I had until the cut off time (after which, I'd be pulled from the course and not allowed to finish--given my lack of long rides, this was something I was VERY concerned about).  About 5 minutes in, my front tire started to make a funny noise. . . thunk, thunk. thunk. . . and then BANG a gunshot went off-- or, more accurately, my front tire blew out.  Over to the side of the road.  Take off the water bottles (because otherwise when you turn your bike over the liquid spills out-- done that before).  Pull out the spare tube, CO2, and tire levers. 

As I sat there changing my tire, at least 200 people whizzed past me.   About 100 of them uttered the following: "dude, that sucks" or some variation there of.  I sang to myself as I changed the tire:  "nice and slow, nice and slow, nice and slow is the way to go," reminding myself that haste makes waste and all that good stuff.  About 8 minutes later (maybe 10-- I don't know how anyone changes a tire faster than than), I was off again.  

I fought a headwind on the way out to the turnaround.  On top of that, it was also slightly (very slightly if you are from the Bay Area) uphill.  The MPH on my Garmin averaged about 12 MPH -- or, as I translated for myself-- not making the bike cut off.  Not even coming close.  But I felt OK, just grumpy about the flat and worried about the time.  Finally, I saw the turn around.  I turned, grabbed some water at the stop, used the port-a-loo and headed back towards town.  Now I had a slight downhill AND a tailwind.  Now my Garmin read 28 MPH.  Yes, I'm serious.  I averaged about 25 miles back into town.  It was like an E ticket ride all the way back down.  Needless to say, by the time I got back into town, I had the biggest smile on my face.  Which only got bigger (and caused a few tears to roll down) when I saw the humongous cheering section set up calling my name. 

Note the HUGE smile on my face!!!
 I was anticipating a pretty major headwind heading back out on loop #2-- so you can only imagine my pleasure to find that I was averaging about 15 MPH.  I hit the turn around, looking forward to making that turn again and getting back to the carnival.  Well, the joke was on me.  The wind had shifted-- it hit me in the face HARD.  Smack.  Felt like I was being blown backwards.  It was also about here that I lost Garmin.  She'd been threatening to die for the last few months, but she made a final beep and off she went-- so far not to be resurrected despite multiple attempts at resuscitation.  Quick visit to special needs to pick up my new bottles and take a potty break and back into town, and back off on the last loop.  Felt OK-- no real boost like I was hoping (since the wind had shifted right, that was the only reason it could have been hitting me in the face at that point?? so confused.)  It turns out the wind had shifted again.  Reaching the turn for the third and final time I was heading back--with my friend the tail wind.  I took one more potty stop and found myself pulling into transition.  The time on my watch was about 3:30. Or about 2 hours BEFORE the time cut off-- I'd made it with plenty of time to spare-- now all I needed was to run a marathon-- in 8 1/2 hours or so.

I was doing a full change in transition. So I grabbed my bag; pulled off my bike shorts, pulled on my run shorts and got myself out of my bike shoes and into my running ones. I pulled on my Worcester Academy Tank Top-- Veteran of I'm Not Sure How Many Campaigns.  I grabbed my waist pack with my calorie source and I was off.  7 minutes in T2 (instead of 14 like last year).  I was pretty surprised by 
how good I felt. It was still daylight (which I hadn't been anticipating) and I felt good.  I started out on the run-- knowing the first few miles would be rocky, and started my run/walk strategy. 4 minutes of running followed by 1 minute of running.  I had no Garmin to tell me how fast (or how slow) I was going.  But, I felt strong.  Not FAST, but strong.  My legs didn't feel wobbly (like they had at Louisville).  My stomach felt a little wonky (which would continue throughout) but not terrible.  I was ready to go.   And off I was. Notice in the picture that I'm still smiling.  I have a lot of time, and I am feeling good!!! How is that for 2/3 of an Ironman?!?  (when I hadn't trained as much as I wanted to). 

 I kept going with my run/walk strategy but felt like I was getting stronger as I entered into lap 2.  My friend Flick, on her way to a 10:41 finish patted my on the shoulder as she turned left to the finish line while I turned right to begin my second loop.  The sky got darker, my pace probably slowed some (but who can tell with no Garmin) but I was still having fun.  In the picture I'm telling Sedonia that I feel GREAT!!! (as we walked up the only hill around).  Strong legs,  Good Heart.  Good deal! 

Needless to say, it wasn't to last long.  I started out on my third, and final loop and immediately my stomach started rebelling.  I could not, could not take another sip of lemon-lime Infinite sports drink.  REALLY I couldn't; wouldn't.  I spent the rest of the run choosing coke and cookies (and dipping the cookies into the coke) to get my calories in without causing my stomach to rebel.  Aside from some fairly unlady-like burps, this strategy at least worked!

The second rebellion came from my right shin and calf.  Basically, an instant shin-splint.  Felt like my calf muscle was separating from my shin bone. 

Rebellion #3 came from my right baby toe.  I've been wearing toe socks for 2 years-- no blisters no matter what I did to my feets.  But, there formed, and popped the biggest blister I've even gotten.

I wasn't smiling any more.  Oh-- and did I mention I was tired??? 

The good news was I had given myself enough time to walk the last 8 miles if I needed to and still make the midnight finish deadline.

About this time I heard, for the first time, the whine of an ambulance siren.  I noticed it, mainly because it wasn't the constant drone of ambulances that I heard last year at Louisville.  In fact, now that I think about it-- the one ambulance and EMT I saw on the bike course was sitting on a chair outside his ambulance looking bored.  What a huge difference 30 degrees makes.

As I came up on the last .5 miles, I ran into my own cheering section AGAIN.  As I finally made the left hand turn into the finisher's chute, I was smiling again. 

Swim: 1:19
T1: 0:07
Bike: 7:02
T2: 0:06
Run: 6:48
Total time is 30 minutes faster than my Louisville Ironman time!

I'd done it-- I was an Iron Man again.  I'm happy with my swim (faster that Louisville, slower than Vineman-- I've got some to learn about how to manage that funky swim start thing); MORE THAN HAPPY with my bike.  I never thought I'd potty 3 times, get a flat and still beat my bike time by more than an HOUR!!! and increase my MPH from 13.6 to 15.9.  Disappointed in the run.  Knew I wasn't going fast, but wish I could have held on to the 14 MPH pace I held between miles 1 and 11.  I slowed to 16.5 over the last 15 miles.  BUT, given that when I started I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to finish; Given I was not as trained as I wanted to be (and had planned to be); Given I had been fundraising chair, Given I'd coached 2 soccer teams, Given I'd chaired SoccerFest, Given I'd taught religious education AND am mom to two amazing boys, I'm proud to call myself a 2 time Iron Mom!

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful story Paula. So inspiring! Congraulations!!!