Thursday, December 1, 2011

IronMan Arizona Race Report

I've done it. I am an IronMan! 
Here's my story of the Arizona adventure. It's a long one but after 14 hours of a race, I've earned the right to write a long blog entry. Read it all or scan the photos, your choice.

A year in the making...
It's been a whole year in training. In learning how to swim in a wetsuit. In buying and learning how to road bike. In running more than 3 miles at a time. And of learning how to eat calories like there is no time tomorrow. But it's mainly been a journey of my mind.

People ask why I signed up. For me, I set out on the journey to celebrate life. That living was better than dying. That a strong mind can overcome anything in life.

So 1 year of training had rolled by and the day had arrived to compete.

I was bricking it! My health had taken a setback in the past 2 months, with visits to 2 doctors a week for diagnosis, treatment, check-ups, and various medications. This obviously put a kink in my training, as well as my mindset. I felt like I was back to the start of the year when I just hoped to finish. I hoped that muscle memory would be what got me through the day...and called it an "extended taper"

Pre-Race Activities
The days before the race were a whirlwind of activity. Registration, packet-pickup, bike pick-up, bike tune up, massage to loosen muscles, pre-race meals....Good to keep you busy for 2 days.

registration for the big event

I even got to meet Coach Troy. "Ride like a goat" I said to him and he laughed saying I had obviously had  done a few of his bike training videos. I got a lovely picture with him and Nigel and some good words of wisdom from him about the course "it's a fast course". Thanks Troy....that helps a lot.

Coach Troy "Ride like a Goat!"

I also ate lots of food. Nothing fancy or new to keep the stomach on an even keel. But I ate and drank often to have a storage of calories ready for the 10,000 calorie day!
One of the meals was with the San Diego crazy crew. Barrie and Steve who had signed up with that's right they were the instigators in this.....I think I need to thank them really. And the support crew they brought along, always nice to have people cheering for you to keep you moving forward.

The Arizona Race Crew!

Race Day Arrives!

Alarm woke me up...yeah ok...I was already awake and just waiting for the buzz of the alarm. Made up the drinks for the day (2 large bottles of CarboPro) and food parcels (Chicken tortilla wraps, cheese sticks, bananas, chocolate pretzel bars, and twinkies!).
Grabbed all the bags and drove our way to the start line. Nice parking nearby and the town was starting to awake with Ironman participants.

Oh man, those lines for the bathroom are terrible. Everyone waiting, waiting, waiting.
Nigel took it upon me to point out the men's urinal and said "see all these guys in the line waiting here, you know what they are doing if they aren't going over there." Thanks Nigel for the lovely imagery at this time of the morning.
Long wait for the bathroom

Standing at the funnel waiting to get in the water. Not moving anywhere, but happy to not get into the water too long before we start. I was feeling a wave of panic and just closed my eyes and thought of the 2 angels on my back that are looking over me this year. Love you Mom and Dad.

Still not in the water. Heard the gun go off for the pro swim and saw a surge in the people waiting to get in. The announcer starts to say "3 minutes to get in the water...go" and everyone started jumping over the edge into the water.
I jumped into the cold water...a brisk 61 degrees...and started to swim towards the start line.
Aim was to stick in the middle /back section to avoid the "washing machine"

7:00am "Boom"
The music was playing and the gun went off. 2600+ people all moving forward. An incredible moment with adrenaline going through your veins (good thing too to fight off the cold water!)

Human Washing Machine...aka IronMan Arizona Swim start

Here is also where the adventure started. Nigel and I were intending to swim together. We were next to each other at the start but then Nigel started having a panic attack. No matter what we did he just could not move forward. 15 minutes went by...and then I started to panic whether we would finish or not.
Nigel asked me to keep going and leave him...a final kiss and I was off.
Nigel stayed and got the kayak doctors to give him oxygen.

Medic!!! Medic!!!
I personally think it was the duct tape on the wetsuit to repair the gaping hole in the back....good ole duct tape. Or is it?
Duct Tape...Magic or Machiavellian?

7:00 - 9:00am
Swim swim to make the 2:20 hour cutoff. I was back of the pack and swimming to make time, make the cutoff. The sight of the sunrise was beautiful and serene in the moments of swimming and breathing every 2 strokes.

watch the sunrise and sunset in 1 day

I realized I was going to make the cutoff and took a moment to pause and refuel with a gu tucked in the arm of my wetsuit. Then I came up to the ramp where you had to be pulled up.
Man was I dizzy but I made it! 

SWIM TIME: 1:49 hours

It's a long way up those stairs after 2.4 miles

Here's a fancy picture of me getting out of the water. The fabulous wetsuit strippers do their job quickly yelling "arms out" "sit down" "go and run that way"....all in a matter of seconds. I'm running in a direction towards something...still dizzy at this point.

Swim complete! now which way to the bike?
Get to the changing tents and it is mass carnage....there was way more naked flesh than I ever wanted to see. But it was lovely and warm with heaters to warm up the bodies. My aim was to take my time, an extra 5 minutes was fine with me to ensure that I went through the steps on my checklist (yes this is Lucy...I ALWAYS have a list). Some dry clothes, food in my belly, and sun cream smothered on me...and off I go.

T-1 TIME: 9:04 minutes
lots of bikes in the transition area

Bike bike bike! I was going to make pressure off. My goal was to take it in 3 stages:
  • Loop 1 - go easy-peasy lemon squeezy and focus of fueling
  • Loop 2 - go at goal pace ~16-17mph
  • Loop 3 - decide what's left and adjust 
Of course plans never really "go to plan" in an IronMan. Loop 1...stomach was not having food. Not a good sign. I managed to eat 3 bites of chicken after 30 miles and 1 disgusting gu force-swallowed.

starting the bike ride
Loop 2 and looking forward to the special needs bag of food. The magic of food in a bag...and THE best thing ever was the Twinkie. Glorious food of sugar and gave me a burst I needed for the next 50 miles! Go Twinkie Girl!

Twinkies taste GREAT after 67 miles of biking in an IronMan

I was glad about a spur of the moment decision - ZIP wheels! WOW - these bad boys were great. They had a free spinning hub (techie talk for wheels that keep going round and round). The aero position of my tri-bike made a flat ride great against the winds that picked up in the afternoon.

Biking in the desert 
The 3rd loop came round and suddenly I was hungry! Ate the 2 chicken tortillas, chocolate bar, banana, Carbo drink bottle, and of course LOTS of salt tablets. The secret sauce was taking these tablets on a regular basis to ensure I did not get de-hydrated.

Body aches...the legs felt good, but the neck was in pain. Aero is streamlined on the body but an odd angle on the neck with strain to hold that head up. I cupped my head in my hand to help - and folks commented "hey don't be bored!" but it was only to keep the head up!

BIKE TIME: 6:53 hours

Finished the bike ride! Woo hoo. I now had to do a 26.2 mile run. A bit daunted for sure! I needed to find my bag in the sea of bags, then go into the changing tent again. Took my time, made sure I put on the right gear as it was going to be in the dark!

T-2 TIME: 8:06 minutes

Find your bag and get changed for the run
The Plan was a 6 hour run-walk
I started the run and the crowds started talking "you look great Lucy" "strong pace Lucy". Wow! what a great energy boost to have the crowd cheering me on. And thank you race coordinators to adding participants name to the race bib. Genius!

Another great spur of the moment decision was to buy some compression socks. I bought them to keep me warm at night and to hopefully help keep the calf muscles a little tighter and in place to carry me through 26 miles. Those babies are what made the difference...I'm sure of it!

Starting the run when the sun was still out

I started to run and went for 3 minutes. Tired and mind was just saying "no way am I going to run for 5 minutes!" So I just didn't push it and said "ok Lucy if 3 minutes is what you can do, then we'll go with that" and I did a 3 minute run - 1 minute walk.

Still running after the sunset 
As the sun set in the desert, I told myself that I had to keep it the 3 min-1 min pace up. No changing this if I had allowed myself to have a short run time. And I just kept chugging away. For 26 miles I pretty much kept doing this. The intense focus of this and using my watch to time myself kept my mind active.
And the fans on the course were amazing!

Bands and music along the course, cheering fans, and the magic Dr Hoyt Icy Hot magic masseurs! mmm love you ladies for keeping the legs moving forward!

Love you when you rub this on my legs at Mile 20!

I saw a few familiar faces along the run....Barrie early on, Nigel 3 times as I lapped him, and Steve as he was running in towards the finish line. The final lap had a message show up on a board from a friend "Lucy you are an inspiration" and that helped me pick it up for that last few miles.

RUN TIME: 5:07 hours

I came in towards the finish line and felt fantastic! I enjoyed the crowds and slapped all the hands of the fans in the crowds.

Lucy, you are an IronMan!
14:06:43 hours

Post-Race Activities
Oh man...the high of finishing was amazing....but I seriously crashed hard. No-one told me about this!!!
I was dizzy and could not get any food or drink to settle. I staggered around and waited for Nigel to finish (14:55 hours - impressive after the swim start)...and then threw up in a bush! This photo was before I was sick :)

The medal of an IronMan!

Pretty much rested and rested some more. After 2 days and a great massage, the legs were fine. I rested up for the ramp up to...The IronMan Tattoo! Hooray...had been thinking what to get all year...I wanted the M-dot on the leg and something that included the Arizona.

Check out the tattoo! 
I put it on the right hand as I pass you on the bike or run you see a flash of my Red IronMan!

Another Ironman?
I had to ask myself this earlier this year because you have to sign up 1 year in advance....I thought "I can always not do it, but I can't sign up later"

So I've signed up for Canada next August.  Here we go again!