Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Ironman Arizona Race Report

Where do I begin?  I think I was more nervous the weeks leading up to the race, than the actual race week.  Nick sent me an email on November 1st and said Happy Ironman Month...I was like, holy shit, are you serious??  Damn, how times flies!  I thought I was going to puke the entire week.  Packing for the race, I was shaking.  I was thinking....damn, suck it up, I put in the work, I am ready, I am going to be fine.  Corey said I was just coming down from my sugar high from our blueberry stuffed french toast!  Once I got to Arizona and saw Jeannie and Corey, my nerves subsided.  As a coach and racing with your athletes, I felt like I had to be stronger for them too and not show that I was super nervous.  I think that really helped.  

Landing in AZ, you could already feel the excitement in the air.  Thursday we went to the expo a bit early to check out the Newton tent, so Nick could say hello to his co-workers and try to catch up with 2 of his other co-workers who were racing as well.  We had an hour to kill before packet pickup was open, so I was super psyched to shop at the Ironman tent.  I learned from Nick’s race in Louisville that if I really wanted something, I had to buy it now because they would either sell out or the lines would be so long that it would take forever.   Of course, I always get a jersey or a tri top of the race...this time I got the whole cycling kit!  Super stoked.  I got a few gifts too.  It was a weird feeling being in there and it felt like I was just shopping for Nick again and I kept saying to myself....I am racing!  Such a cool feeling.  Packet pick up was smooth.  I sweet talked the guys to give me an extra cap because of the cooler water temps.  I am not a fan of the neoprene cap that goes around your head/neck area.  It makes me feel like I am being strangled.  The guys put smily faces on both caps.....for good luck, they said....Hey, I am game for that!  

Jeannie, Corey and I went out for a little run to flush out the legs, prob about 30 minutes or so.  The rest of the day was spent relaxing at the condo with the family.  Corey and I got to babysit Teagin while the spectating crew went out for a trail run.  There's no better way to relax before a race than to color and watch Sesame Street with your 1-year-old niece.  That night we ended up going to Four Peaks Brewery (my fav AZ brew) with the parents, Nick, Corey, the Weber crew and Bock showed up too!

Friday:  Since TriBike Transport didnt open until 1pm the day before and we were tired/hungry by the time that rolled around yesterday, we decided to ride first thing Friday morning.  I think everyone else had the same idea.  If you are unsure of using TriBike Transport, I would highly recommend it.  They were right there AT the transition area, you can pay for a gear bag (totally worth it), they make sure everything is ok, pump your tires, take your bike back after you ride it and keep it there until you need to put it into the transition area.  We scoped out the map of the first turns on the course and headed out for a 45 minute ride.  We all felt great.  Granted it has been 10 days since we have seen our bikes, so it was so nice to be back on it again.  The weather was awesome, barely any wind (maybe 7-10mph) and pretty flat course.  We were all thinking, this is going to be awesome!  After a quick ride, we walked around the expo again.....again to the Newton tent.  Nick got all of our spectators all Newtoned out for the weekend.  He can’t have someone in our party without them! HA!  After the ride/expoing, we carbed up at Einstein Bro Bagels!  And got some to go!  Based off the research I have read regarding Carb Loading and/or Pre-Race menu planning says to increase the % of carbohydrates 2 days before race, so Friday for us, and then to start tapering down.  The struggle with this, for me, was that tapering is SO hard and your body is decreasing volume/intensity at this time, so I wasnt that hungry.  I pretty much had to force feed myself the week leading up to the race.  I think nerves had to do with it too.  But I wasnt that hungry and just kept shoveling it in!  I was NOT going to pass out on this course because of my nutrition!

Friday night was the IMAZ Welcome Dinner.  It was a pretty cool set up.  They had it outside on the Tempe Town Lake next to the Arts Bldg.  They had a jumbo-tron set up so you could see the stage where Mike Reily, the Tempe Mayor and others would speak.  Dinner was typical: pasta, chicken, salad and cookies.  The Welcome Dinner is pretty sweet.  This is where all the athletes come together before the race, Mike Reilly shares stories of some athletes racing, Race statistics, The breakdown of the athletes (males, females, states, countries, profession, ages, etc.)....they bring people on stage and share stores of how they got there.  They brought the oldest and the youngest athlete on stage.  It was 2, 18-year-olds, male and female, and a 64-year-old woman.  They all spoke about what they were doing the Ironman, expectations and any tips!  Overall it was a nice cool night and great to have all the athletes come out together!
Sat came quickly.  We had to be at the Open Water Swim Practice from 9-11am.   But we also had to have our bikes out of TriBike Transport by 10am to get into the transition area.  So we had to time our swim, get in, get out and get going!  The swim was great.  The water was cold at first, but once you jump in, pee in your suit, start moving, you’re good to go.  We all three jumped in together, I look over at Corey and he has a big smile on his face.  That ass was peeing right on me.  No worries, I got him back race morning!  We took a quick loop around the buoy, about 25 minutes or so.  Changed clothes and racked our bikes.  Once in the transition area, we had to put down our Bike and Run Bags for the next day. (BIKE BAG: cleats, helmet, gloves, sports bra, cycling shorts, tri top, HR monitor, arm warmers, compression sleeves, butt butter, socks, sun glasses and chapstick.  RUN BAG: Tri shorts, Newtons, extra socks, visor, 2 PowerGels, and extra salt tablets) This is the bag you grab from the swim and after the bike.  We found an awesome volunteer that laid out the whole course for it, cause it was a bit confusing on paper.  We were able to see where we were coming out of the water, running up the side of transition, parallel to the water, where to grab your bags and how to enter the changing tents.  
We went over the same thing for when we come back into transition from the bike too.  This is one of my favorite things about Ironman races....the bags and changing tents!  I was a bit spoiled at Vegas because it was like that too!!  Got all the visuals down...Now, off the scope out the course.  But not without another stop for more Einstein Bagels!  During race week, you want to be a creature of habit.  I only eat what I know my body can handle.  I do not eat anything I haven’t eaten before.  Once fueled, time to check out the course.  Nothing too terrible.  We noticed more of an incline going out and decline going back.  Pretty open, not much to look at, lots of browns and cactus everywhere!  Bring it on!  After the car ride, we were pooped and took a nap.  Our spectators were out trail running again, while the athletes chilled.  Nick loved where we were staying because it was right next to South Mountain Park, which had miles and miles of trails.  With his new found love of dirt running, he was in heaven! :)  

Sat night we had an awesome dinner at Jeannie’s house.  It was perfect.  All of our support crew were there; family and friends from all over!  It was great to have everyone come together, meet each other, share the excitement and energy of what the next day will bring!  Pre Race meal consisted of plain white pasta with olive oil, grilled chicken, 2 white rolls and a brownie.  Oh, and a glass of red wine.  Helps calm the nerves and puts me to sleep.  Both of what I needed.  :)
Sunday came before you knew it.  I woke up at 3 am wide awake.  Totally excited.  Totally rested.  Totally ready to take on this challenge.  Nick made me breakfast, while I got ready.  I had white english muffin with peanut butter, 1 banana, bottle of water and coffee with almond milk.  I always have to make sure to give myself plenty of time to digest, typically 2-3 hours before the race, and to make sure I go #2.  Very important!  The last thing I want to do is wait at the port-a-potty lines to take care of that!  No, thank you.  

Corey and I were both up earlier than we thought, had breakfast, had everything ready, so we decided to leave a little earlier.  Glad we did because when we got there it was packed!  We didnt have bike pumps, so we had to wait at the Bike Mechanics Tent to have them help us.  For some reason, that is the only thing that makes me really nervous before a race...having a flat tire.  It’s not like I don’t know how to change the damn thing.  While waiting to get tires pumped, there was also a volunteer body marking in line too.  Super cool.  These ironman volunteers rock!  

After I’m all pumped, I added my nutrition to my bike (IM Perform in my AeroBottle, 2 bottles of water, BentoBox: 2 boxes of PowerBar energy balls and swedish fish).  Found Corey and Nick, put on my wetsuit to warm-up because it was freakin freezing and waited for Jeannie to get ready.  There wasn’t much time after that.  We took a few pics, said our goodbyes and before we knew it, it was time to jump into Tempe Town Lake.  
Nerves set it, but l felt great, confident and ready to rock.  Then I look over at Jeannie and she is trembling.  I tell her she is more than prepared, stay calm, stay positive, stay focused and have FUN.  We all hug and jump in.  The national anthem was played, then Mike Reily said....see you at the Finish Line.  I got choked up a little bit, but I didn’t want my goggles to fill up with tears!  I looked over and saw Corey again....I told him to have fun out there today!   
Cannon goes off......OMFG is all I can say about the start.  You don't know how many times I have watched this race start from previous years, but it doesn't do justice until you are in there.  I have heard people talk about it being like a giant washing machine of arms and legs.  It IS!  Talk about insane.  It was totally nuts.  All I could do was survive for the 1st 20 minutes of the race.  I just told myself.....Expect the unexpected.  Stay calm. Have fun.  Then I just started laughing.  Seriously.  That is all that I could do.  I was swimming freestyle with my head completely out of the water.  Every stroke I was either kicked, scratched or punched.  I thought for sure I was going to have raw feet from them being scraped off.  I am so surprised that I do not have bruises all over my body.  The water was cold, but I was happy I could feel my feet, hands and face the whole time....well, yeah, because they were being attacked the whole swim.  After about 20 minutes or so, it calmed down a little.  But it was congested at the turn around and all the way back to the swim exit.  That was the most brutal swim I have ever done.  Hey, it’s an ironman.  I knew it wasn’t going to be easy.  Onto T2.

Coming out of the water I was pretty stiff in my low back and couldn’t feel my feet.  Which was fine to me because I have super sensitive feet and I would of normally walked on the concrete.  What a wuss!  I heard my peeps to the right screaming and instantly felt great.  Heading into the changing tent I was shivering so much that I started to pee uncontrollably.  I was warming up though!  HA!  Right into the port-a-potty I go.  It was pretty funny.  But I was glad I was hydrated.  Once I got into the changing tent, a cute little woman named Liz laid out my bike needs and pretty much dressed me.  It was awesome.  I am thinking, this is so cool.  I hear Nick in my ear, like I will the whole race, but him saying, take your time in transition and make sure you get everything you need.  Which I obviously did, 11 minutes later, I am dressed, lathered with sunscreen (Sorry, Nick, I didn’t use the sunscreen girls because I didn’t want to look like a schmered bagel like you).  I actually had Liz help me in the tent. :)  

Heading out of transition you had to go single file out of the park for about 2/10 of a mile until you hit the main road.  The bike course was a 3 loop, out and back, about 38 or so miles.  The cool thing with this is that you can see your support crew plenty of times and you knew what to expect with each turnaround.  And so the bike begins.  Heading out I was still pretty cold from the swim, so I wanted to make sure to warm-up a bit before hammering it.  I knew going out was more of an incline too.  I warmed up pretty quick, but then I looked down at my computer and I was only going about 14-16mph.....hello head wind......I thought, OMG this is going to be a long ass day.  Until I hit the turn around point, which was straight down hill, and hello bike!  I was going 30 mph with hardly any effort.  With a tail wind, down the hill and headed back to the transition turn around point.  I am now thinking, kick ass this is going to be a fast ass course.  My first split was around 1:50. I got psyched.  Sub 6 bike here I come!  But keep thinking, calm down, this is a long day, do not push, settle down, get into a nice pace because we have more work to do.  This is my first race, I can blow it up here. So, here we begin lap 2 and 3. 

Everyone talks about the Arizona desert being pretty windy, but the whole time we were here there hasnt been any wind.  Until race day.  What would an Ironman be like with out changing winds with each lap, cross winds and dust?!  I said to myself again, expect the unexpected.  So, with lap 2 and 3, hello head wind, cross winds and 2 bigs gusts that almost knocked me off my bike.   My main focus was nutrition.  You have to fuel to run.  I kept taking in fluids every 30 minutes like clock work.  I broke down the bike into 30 minute segments, which helped.  The first 4 aid stations I grabbed a banana (again, thanks Nick for that tip), water and Perform.  I alternated IM Perform and water every time I drank one, I filled it up with the other.  I also took in 2-3 PowerBar chocolate and oatmeal energy balls, gummies, swedish fish and coke.  I have a new addiction to Coke.....during training (Melissa!)  I was super thankful my stomach didnt give me any issues.  I felt great, well hydrated...I even had to pee at mile 65 (at that time I was wishing I was doing a 70.3 because I would of already been off the bike by now) Jk....I was nervous to stop though, thinking I would cramp up or something.  I actually felt even better getting back onto the bike.  The only issues I had on the bike were just getting tired and achy.....traps and ass.  

It was so great to see Jeannie and Corey out there on the bike.  With it being an out and back, I saw them numerous times!  Gave me a great boost that I needed!  The last 15 miles or so were tough, I couldn’t wait to get back into T2.....I have never been more thankful to get off my bike!
Heading into T2 was the best feeling in the world.  I kept dreaming of what it would feel like getting off the bike and then onto a marathon.  I was so happy I felt as good as I did.  This was actually the longest bike ride I have ever been on before too, the most I got up to was 106 during training, so I was pretty pumped that I still had full function of my body!   As I headed into the changing tent, I had to pee again.  I think I hydrated pretty well.  Lots of pee.  When I got back into the changing tent, a young girl with a knee brace helped me.  She had it all laid out for me again like Liz.  Loved it!  I kept thanking her and telling her how awesome she was.  I wanted to ask her to run for me, but she had a bum knee.  Oh well, guess I have to get out there and run now.  As soon as I got out of transition, I saw my mom, Jeff and Nick.  What an amazing feeling.  The adrenaline is just flowing through your blood now.  
The first 16 miles were awesome.  The run course on the map was so confusing that we really didn’t go over it much, so I didn’t know what to expect on the North side of the water.  I knew the South side was side walk, gravel and ramps onto the bridges, but that was it.  The run course, like the bike, was a 3 loops course, so about 8.7 miles each way.  I trained this way, so I knew what to expect and I enjoyed being able to see so many spectators, volunteers and our peeps out there!  Just like the bike, nutrition was the main plan and to keep moving.  My goal was to take in 1 PowerBar Gel every 30 minutes, well, every 3rd aid station, which was great because they were set up every mile apart.  In between the gels I had coke and water.  I was hesitant to try warm chicken broth, but since it was cooler out and I was hardly sweating, I decided not too.  Wish I did, maybe it would of helped?  Maybe not?  Corey and Jeannie said they liked it.  

The first 2 loops came and went.  I felt great.  I was thinking just maintain this pace and your on track for around a 4 hour marathon.  That was until the sun went down and I was creeping into my final lap.   As I headed over the 1st bridge, with about 8 miles to go, I completely wiped out.  Crazy thing was, I tripped over a crack on the side walk (beacuse it was freakin dark and NO lights were on) I landed on my hands first, then shoulder, knees and some how rolled and poped straight up onto my feet again.  Then I just kept on running.  I was so FN pissed.  I first thought, how the hell am I supposed to run 8 more miles in the dark, not to mention some was a rocky trail and uneven side walks.  I could tell I was getting tired because I did start getting negative and cussing!  I said again, expect the unexpected, stay positive and keeping moving....I am almost done with this bitch.  I could feel my hands and knees burning, but didnt even look at them.  I was afraid there was blood all over and I would freak out.  I couldnt move my right pinky finger, but realized it was getting cold, so maybe my hands were getting a little stiff....suck it up, right!  This is an ironman, shit happens, move on....keep moving forward.  

The last 10k of this race was the hardest part of the day.  Just get to the next aid station.  My legs were starting to get heavy.  I felt like I had knives in my knee and ankle joints, think it was from all the concrete pounding!  There was this one aid station on the North side of the water and they were AWESOME.  The women were all dressed up in leather cop uniforms with heels and whips!  As soon as you came around the corner they would beat you with them...not hard, just a light tap..
.....whatever gets you moving.  Then the guys were dressed up like the Reno 911 dude, slinging their hand cuffs at you.  Freakin awesome!  One lap he said....me and you baby....anything to get your mind off of what you were doing.  I loved it!  I would have to say the volunteers were amazing.  They are what makes racing so great.  That and all the awesome spectators that are there all day cheering for their family and friends.  The race couldn’t happen without both of them.  

My final miles were on a path that was barely light, half gravel and half trail, so I felt like I was high kneeing it the whole time (that would be my one complaint...hardly any lights when the sun went down.  Not smart.  I was afraid to go hard and eat it again).  Anyways, with less than a mile from the finish line, I saw Jeannie.  I thought, oh no....how hard is this to see her when I am about to finish and she has one more lap to go.  I stopped, gave her a big hug and kiss, told her I loved her, I was proud of her, go kick some ass and I will be there at the finish line for you.  After I passed her, this is where the crowd was bigger and bigger.  As soon as I rounded the corner where transition was, I felt like I was in slow motion.  The crowd was roaring.  I wanted to soak it all in.  I remembered at the Pre Race meeting that they said, take your time, you worked your ass off to get to this point, soak it up.  And I sure did.  I slowed down and felt the energy of the crowd all around me.  I heard my name from the side and saw my mom, Jeff and Nick (and the rest of the crew)....gave them high fives, tears started flowing and I stopped and walked through that finish line!  I have never been more excited and exhausted in my life.  I was kinda bummed because I didn’t hear my name called because it was SO loud coming through the chute....but a few peeps recorded it and I got to hear it later.  
I would have to say that was the hardest, yet most rewarding thing I have ever done in my entire life.  Corey summed it up pretty well by saying, if you take all three sports and you do each one until you absolutely cannot do it any more, then you move onto the next.  That is what it felt like.  Each sport I was completely ready to be done with it, then you regroup and move onto the next.  That is the beauty of triathlon, especially this distance, it is such a mental sport.  It teaches you how to dig deeper than you ever thought was humanly possible, then you dig even deeper and you keep on going. 

The connection you feel with everyone on course is unbelievable.  Just when you are totally feeling like ass, someone will be next to you and say...You got this girl!  Awesome!  This sport is about pushing yourself beyond your limits, redirecting your energy, managing the pain and truly seeing what you are made of.  I am proud of myself (and Super Proud of Jeannie and Corey) for this Kick Ass accomplishment.  We are now in the cool kids club....now I am cool like Nick! :)  Speaking of Nick.....I want to thank him for doing his ironman first, allowing us to learn from you, easing our worries, helping us gain confidence in this distance, sharing your tips and tricks and always telling it straight....Nick is known for being a total smart ass, but he is usually right (although I never tell him that).  He is always my number one fan and always makes sure I am taken care of first.  :)  Thanks babe, i love you!  
Here is Jean Bean coming through the finish line chute.  She looked awesome!  It was such a great feeling cheering for other athletes you were racing with the whole day!
Thanks to all the spectators who traveled to see us race.  It was absolutely amazing to have your support out there on the course and though out the week.  It was a joy to hear your voices and see your smiling faces out there.  It would ease my pain, every time!  Thank you!!!