It’s been a little while since my last update. The summer was busy and filled with both good and bad. I’m planning to write a season summary. Stay tuned for that. It will be a mash up of good and bad stories from my ’18 season. For now, here’s my race report from Ironman Arizona, while it’s still fresh in my mind.
I wasn’t planning to race AZ. In fact, I never understood why this race was so popular. The water is COLD. It’s a late season race. The idea of a three-lap bike course isn’t thrilling. However, I now see why this race draws a crowd. And that is, it draws a very passionate crowd as the spectators are great! The weather is usually very predictable – less chance of rain and mild heat with low humidity. Compared to 45 degrees and raining (which was the bill for the day at Ironman Louisville this year), I’ll take it (more on IMKY in my season summary).
Knowing the water would be the coldest of any triathlon I’ve ever done, I got a neoprene cap and tested it in the practice swim. Pretty decent. Still got numb hands and feet 10 minutes in. I knew the swim would be a challenge on race day considering my stroke rate slows in water as cold as Tempe Town Lake. It is what it is.
We were greeted with a slight chill in the air, but nothing crazy. Winds were light. Predictions were we’d have a great day. Then, my Garmin bike computer decided not fully turn on. The display said “working,” but clearly it wasn’t. I tried cycling the power several times to no avail. I might come out of the swim with no bike data, annoyingly.
The swim in 59/60 degree water started as best as I thought possible. The first 5 minutes I only got half-breaths due to the cold, even with the warm-up. I almost don’t feel like I get any air in water that cold. After about 15 minutes, things settled and I focused on my stroke and sighting. The water was glass at the 2nd buoy turn which led all the way down the lake to the far end. This was a LONG way. It was easy to get discouraged, but the sun was coming up and a beautiful sunrise peaked over the desert mountains. I noticed another female pro just ahead of me. We traded spots a couple times. Other times, she picked a different line and we convened at the far turn. The final turn to the swim exit was much choppier water to the swim exit. Coming out of the water, I couldn’t feel my feet at all! I don’t know how I made it safely into T1.
I had a moment of truth with my Garmin, jumping on the bike. Please work! The answer – NO. With no other watch, the only way to estimate time was by course completion. This was much easier to determine on a 3-lap course made up of out-and-backs (thank goodness for that). About 12 miles into the ride, my Garmin started functioning, and I got the timer going. The power readings, however, were very unreliable because it wasn’t calibrated. Bummer. As I approached the end of the first out-and-back, I wasn’t the happiest due to the Garmin issues. Also, the first part of that 18 miles felt harder than it should have and my feet were still numb. I knew there was a false flat up to the turnaround, but it shouldn’t have felt THAT hard. When I made the turn to head back to town, a very steady headwind was the cause of that difficulty. Now going with the wind, I was FLYING. Soon enough, I was back to town, and heading out on the 2nd lap, along with many other athletes. I felt recharged with the sun finally warming things up and the 2nd lap flew by without a hitch. I prepared my mind to stay focused heading out on the last lap and enjoy the beautiful desert landscape. The course was now very crowded and required concentration with so many other athletes. After the final turnaround, I slowed to get a bottle of Gatorade at an aid station and found myself behind another rider who had abruptly stopped. I slammed on the brakes, fearing for the impact. I cursed – very loud (sorry to the volunteers who heard this)! How I didn’t rear-end this person is unknown. I thanked all my lucky stars.
Coming off the bike, my legs felt a little stiff, but good. I was in and out of T2 quickly, thanks to the wonderful volunteers! Heading to the first turnaround, I saw few athletes, mostly men, and passed them. I was slightly under pace, so I tried to keep calm and settle to a pace I could hold for the whole marathon. Each time I checked my watch, I was slightly faster than I’d like. Eight miles went by quickly and I was happy with the status quo. Halfway through I still felt good and ready to cream the 2nd lap. 15 miles in I could feel my glutes and quads getting a little hammered and I tried to keep my cadence high to avoid slowing. By mile 17, the soreness got worse, especially my left glute. At mile 18, I decided to stop and try to stretch everything a bit. This didn’t help much and it was even harder to start running again, but I did! I knew stopping or slowing too much again would make all the soreness come back, so I ran through a
couple aid stations. At mile 23, all I could think was “just a 5k” left…but even that seemed far then. Seeing the finish line was a huge relief and, somehow, I still had enough to jump to touch the arch. I see now why people love this race – the volunteers and spectators made this a fantastic day and the weather was PERFECT. My finish time of 10:19 was a personal best for me, to top it off. The next goal after some massage was finding some vegan pizza, which was accomplished at the Mellow Mushroom. Yeah, it was a good day!