Thursday, December 20, 2012

Ironman AZ Race Report--Ironman for Two

This was my second IM.  I completed IM Coeur D'Alene this past June, which was amazing.  But for financial and convenience factors, an IM race 2 hours from our base camp in Tucson just can't be beat.  Were it easy to sign up for IMAZ without being a participant or volunteer, I likely would have skipped it this year.  But the race continues to sell out to the general public faster and faster each year: supposedly in 40 seconds for 2013.  Karen and I had lucked into signing up this year by sitting at Starbucks with our laptops at 11:50 AM (Eastern Time, IIRC) on the appointed day, filling out our applications on, and hitting "return" as fast as we could starting at 12:00:00.00.

With Karen training up for her first full-distance IM, work and kid sports in full swing, and a week-long medical mission to Peru on my schedule in October, my performance expectations were a bit up in the air.  My goal was to train as much as circumstances allowed and see what I could do.  IMAZ could have been anything from a sincere effort to KQ/podium to a mere extended triple brick workout.  Training-wise, I made a genuine effort at re-peaking and addressing the most obvious shortcomings from CDA, most notably my ability to run a whole flippin' marathon off a 112 mile bike ride.  I got in some good "long days," such as an 8 hour bike, a couple 5 hour rides, a couple of 5hr/2hr race rehearsal bricks, and a 3 hr run, but I spent what should have been "peak week" in Peru fulfilling a lifelong medical mission dream and anesthetizing kiddos for needed heart surgeries.  My expectations were thus closer to the "workout" end of things.

Placing a femoral arterial line
in a 2 month old patient
Keeping a watchful eye on things
Since Karen and I were both racing, logistical hassles were compounded, perhaps even more than doubled.  Even with a babysitter joining us for the weekend to help out with our three kiddos, the extra pre-race and gear gyrations cut into our rest time significantly.  Needing to check in two days before the race was a bit of a hassle, but as WTC customers, it's not ours to question why, just to do or die.  Hooyah.

To mitigate future insanity, we have already agreed not to do full-distance IM together in the future, so that one of us can act as Sherpa.
Photo idea courtesy of Vince Matteo
Now, onto the race:

The swim was a single lap in verdant Tempe Town lake.  "Verdant" in this context means "murky green enough to make one wonder if pre-dosing with antibiotics might be prudent."  But I've done several open water swims in Tempe Town Lake without ill effects.

The lake and bridges were lined with supporters, which was heartening.  Swimming directly East at the exact time of sunrise was mitigated by a few morning clouds on the horizon.  I started out one row from the front to allow for the more enthusiastic swimmers to sprint away.  They did.  There was a little jostling and bumping, but nothing either excessive or deliberate.  I was swimming in truly open water for most of the time, which was also the case in CDA.  My focus was on swimming as straight as possible with as little kicking as possible and high elbows, to save energy and leg strength for where it could be put to better use.  It felt smooth and easy, and I popped out of the water in 58:17, far faster than expected, which was good for 3/274 in M45-59 and 85/2147 overall.  I didn't think I'd ever break 1:00 in an IM swim, and wasn't about to foul my whole day up by trying too hard to get there.  Guess there was some merit to my technique goals.

T1 took 6 minutes.  In the future, I'll skip the wetsuit strippers, as I think I could've done it quicker myself.  The worst part of T1 was recognizing that I'd left my Garmin 800 in the pocket of my morning clothes.  Dang.  Bike leg "by feel."  I was hoping to have power numbers to check my enthusiasm and help me save strength for the run.

The slight downhill grade on the way back was fast and fun.
The 3 lap, flat bike leg was initially uncrowded.  All went well except my GI tract.  I'd had food poisoning a few days ago and had been on antibiotics, which I'd stopped the day before the race.  Whether or not it was the illness or the meds, I experienced both absorption and motility problems.  I've never refluxed up water and fluids on the bike in any race or training, nor have I had to make an emergency stop at the port-a-potties ever during a race.  Life is about new experiences, though, and I tried to pace my fluid intake at what my body could absorb, as opposed to what I had been able to do in training rides/past races.  I kept what felt like an easy pace, and by lap 3, the entire field was on the course, resulting in almost continual passing.  Just before the turnaround, I passed Karen, and we chatted briefly.  It was heartening to see that she was feeling good and enjoying herself.  As the field turned around and headed back towards Tempe Town Beach Park, I was feeling good.

This evaporated quickly, as a fellow age-grouper began yelling and cursing at me because I had been passing someone else and had not gotten out of his was fast enough, even though he had apparently asked repeatedly.  I informed him that I had moved as soon as I'd heard him, and he might want to speak louder.  He continued ranting.  Sarcastically, I told him that it was really nice racing with him.  He waved at me with one finger.  I said something to the effect of "back atcha," but I think not so politely.  My adrenals started to run, and I re-passed him and gave him a very hairy eyeball.  But then sanity returned, and I decided not to let it spoil my day.  I slowed down, let him pass, and said, "have a good race, David" with all the sincerity I could muster, which may not have been much.  (Names were on race tags)  My head got back in the game pretty quickly after that.  

The bike leg was faster than expected, 5:07:30, averaging 21.85 MPH, including the port-a-potty stop.  I was well situated at the end of the bike: 9/274 for M45-49, 114/2147 Overall.  A strong run could have put me in Kona/podium contention, but I didn't know this at the time, which was probably merciful.

T2 included a slight delay because the volunteers got me the wrong transition bag.  Petit pink running shoes just weren't happenin'.  I didn't really mind waiting an extra minute, as I had a bit of trepidation about getting onto the run course.

The run started with the customary awkward feel but unexpected speed.  Vince, a new buddy, cruised past me during the first mile.  He's fast, and I was pleasantly surprised to be off the bike at the same time as him.  We talked for a minute or two, then I bade him farewell so I could reel myself in and slow back down. 

The GI issues I'd had on the bike became worse.  All the jostling associated with running made my already upset abdomen start to feel crampy, particularly when I drank.  It wasn't possible to keep up with the fluid intake I'd needed during long training runs.  Cutting the pace down slightly didn't help.  The next curveball was that my Garmin 310 had not charged properly and was completely out of batteries.  The entire Ironman was now going to be "by feel," and with a less than sublime feeling brewing inside me.

My legs felt fresher than in Coeur D'Alene and my stride felt pretty fluid, but it didn't help.  It was like watching a slow motion train wreck, with me being the train.  I started slowing down in earnest at about mile 5, and knew I was going to have to walk or stop to get enough fluids in me at some point if I wanted to finish.  But I wanted to be over the hump psychologically before I walked, so I gutted it out until the second time up Curry Hill, at about mile 15.  Then I made a long pit stop and slurped down some serious water, sports drink, and Coke.  After a couple minutes I resumed, shuffling when I could, and walking when I had to--mostly at the aid stations, repeating the water, sports drink, and coke routine.  Miles 15-23 were pretty miserable, at a barely faster than walking 5 mph pace.
Karen cresting Curry Hill
The highlight of the run--actually the entire race--OK, she's the highlight of my whole life--was seeing Karen.  I caught her at the beginning of her first and my third lap, and because I knew I was now well out of the running for Kona qualification or the age group podium, I ran with her for about a mile and we chatted.  She was still feeling strong and smooth, and sticking right with her pacing goals. 

Now I get to stop running and start eating
Towards the end, the fluid resuscitation efforts paid off, and my legs began to move pretty well for the last three miles.  It was heartening to finish strong, even though I was well behind what I thought I could have done.  Our three kids and the babysitter were there and cheering when I crossed the line at 10:39:21, following a substantially slower than expected 4:24 marathon.

Overall, I was 26th out of 274 starters in M45-49 and 276 out of 2147 finishers overall.  Not bad at all, given my GI issues and my less than complete preparation.  Finishing a full Ironman has not yet lost its glow, and hopefully never will.  It was exhilarating to cross the line and know I'd done it again.  As many racers say, I won't always be able to do this, but today is not that day!

I threw down some more sports drink and quickly dove into my morning clothes to avoid cooling off too much.  After a meal and shower at the hotel, we went back to the finish line to celebrate Karen's triumphant first 140.6 finish!!!
Exultation! Our 4 year old is in a teal shirt at bottom left

What went well/better than IM CDA:
1) Well rested for the race.  Stayed off my feet the week before, unlike CDA.
2) Didn't waste precious leg strength kicking on the swim; went faster anyway.
3) Results notwithstanding, running fitness was better.  Longer individual runs and bikes, coupled with good race rehearsal bricks, really helped.
4) New Hoka Bondi-B running shoes were awesome.  25 years of ASICS Cumulus/Nimbus have come to a close.
5) Raised over $1000 for Heart Care International!
6) Did something logistically insane while staying happily married.

To improve:
1) Bike pacing could probably still be more conservative.  Don't get caught up in the fun of biking fast!  Oh, and put the GPS/powermeter on the bike for the race.
2) Do medical mission/vacations off season.
3) Don't eat leftovers or questionable food within 2 weeks of the race, if ever!
4) Karen and I won't ramp up for and do IM at the same time, not just for race weekend sanity, but to avoid providing our kids so many "strategic opportunities for the cultivation of independence." (See below)

Seen our parents? We think they are exercising again!

Team Quigley kid T-shirt: "Our Ironmom is living fully thanks to us"

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