Believe it or not, I am quite the realist. When you do the math on paper, knowing how popular Ironman Arizona is among all the Ironman races worldwide (selling out in seconds - having a Kona slot 11 months ahead of race day) and the the diminishing slots available per race, I have to admit that my goal of making it to Kona in 2015 seemed to be a pipe dream at best. Possibly only 3 or 4 spots available in my 50-54 age group.
But yet, I trained on and press towards the goal to have this race be my opportunity to get to the big island!
Many asked why I didn't race an Ironman last year when I was in my first year of eligibility in this master age group. Honestly, I didn't have any desire last year to race 140.6. I had 70.3 Ironman Worlds in Vegas as a goal last year and my last full Ironman was back in 2011 at IMCDA.
I know better than anyone that you have to want to do this race! If your heart isn't in it, the training and commitment is way too hard to just go through the motions.
However, even with the Half Ironman distance is definitely my sweet spot, I did receive the ok from Cristette to sign up for 2014 IMAZ. So I brought my folding chair and blanket the Monday after IMAZ 2013 to sign up for this year. My heart was in it.
Working with Nick White at Carmichael Training Systems (www.trainright.com) for the past 3 years has been great. We set a plan for the year that included an A race in the Spring, St. George 70.3 in May and of course, IMAZ in November. Goals included a return to the podium at St. George again like in 2013 and a podium and Kona Slot at IMAZ.
First goal met with a turn down of the 70.3 Ironman Worlds slot at Mt. Tremblant since there was no way I could make that trip this year.
Now on to IMAZ.
With a successful Soma 70.3 race where I had an ok swim and decent bike, I charged ahead on the run in 4th place in my AG to pick off 3 competitors for the age group win. I was a little concerned how much work it took and how spent I was post race. After dinner and hydration, I felt great and realized this could possibly be the way Ironman Arizona would play out. It's how I race.
My race day strategy was to swim smart and consistent and exit the water sometime between 1:05 and 1:10. The swim race morning was uneventful and I came in at 1:08:59. (1:47/100m average pace) Slower than I thought it would be but this distance is not won in the swim.
They set out chairs in the T1 tent which was great to get my bike helmet and shoes on. T1 took me 4:12.
It's no secret that it was windy Sunday. Northeast gusts got worst as the morning went on. The 3 loop bike course is fine and the first loop was great, and I felt like a million bucks coming back to Tempe for the Rio Solado/Mill Ave turnaround. Then, the wind. Laps two and three were worst, so much worst! Lap two, I had a couple of spots on the Beeline before Shea that registered 15 mph but the good news was that the winds stayed consistent and he return back to Tempe was fast with easy 33-35 mph speed. I remember Carlos Mendoza calling it "free speed"! The last loop saw a lot of my gains diminish and I admit that speeds were as low as 9-11 mph. I returned to town not too frustrated or worried since I have learned to realize that everyone is dealing with the same elements. My bike split was 5:31:36 (20.27 mph average pace)
I entered T2 again with outside chairs and much fewer racers to get ready for the marathon. I wasn't dreading it. Everyone knows the run is my strength. At this point, I have no idea where I stood in age group rank. Mentally, I was prepared to hear anything for 10th to 12th position. I wanted to see Erik Svans as the run began to hear the news. I spotted him and he let me know I was in 9th position but the guys ahead of me were bigger and already struggling. I had in my brain that I would need at least 4th place to have a chance for Kona. That's 5-6 guys I need to run down! Here it goes!
T2 time 2:18
I never ran the run course before race day. I was open to it but it never worked out. (Unless you count the Underpants Run this past Thursday) I was very glad the course changed last year from three loops to a two loops. In past IMAZ races for me in 2097 and 2009, the second "Big Suck" loop is so difficult to work through. I get I could mentally get through a double loop course strong.
Nick told me to be conservative on the beginning of the run. Now upright, and in my element, I tend to run fast and hard off the bike. I looked down at my Garmin 910xt a couple of times in miles 2-4 and saw 6:45 pace. I quickly slowed down and enjoyed the run, staying at 7:28-7:40 pace very comfortably. I did see a couple of 50somethings as I ran on but didn't keep count. I should've but forgot. The rule of this type of day is not to do anything new that hasn't been tested before. I did venture a little out of that mode after attending a breakfast Friday am with Chris Lieto for Base Performance (www.baseperformance.com) and started to hear about salt absorption through the tongue rather than in capsule form. I am a big sweater and tend to overheat as the day gets longer. I put the product in my areo water bottle for the entire bike and licked my thumb and applied the product on my tongue every 15 minutes on the run. I actually loved the salt taste and never walked or cramped on the entire course. As I finished lap one (13.1 miles) I saw Erik again waiting for the report on where I stood in age group rank. "You are now 3rd or 4th but you can't slow down!" He said. "Really?" I thought. This could happen but there was still a whole lot of course to cover. Another half marathon to go. But now I now what's ahead; the out and backs, Curry Rd. hill etc. I continued with my PowerBar gel (double espresso) every half hour and my Base Performance salt lick every 15 mins. I started cola in the second loop and more water in my mouth and over my head to stay cool. My pace did diminish but not far from 8min miles or faster.
I have had in my mind all year that my race would come down to the last 10k. 6.2 miles to see how all these months of training would pay off when I needed them.
Last year I committed to Crossfit Endurance training at our One Multisport (www.onemultisport.org) Eilte Team sponsor , Power in Motion. (www.powerinmotion.com) Now that I am in my 50s, I truly feel strength and muscle maintenance will set me apart from the competition. All of the burpees, squats, etc will strengthen me to the finish line.
This all crossed my mind as I past the One Multisport Aid Station at mile 20. Erik was there again and said, "You are in 3rd but you can't slow down." Last 10k - how ironic!
I felt strong and good going over the Curry Rd. Hill and knew I could hold off anyone new. I would be ok.
Those miles clicked away rather quickly somehow and before I knew it, I was on Priest heading south towards Rio Solado. Then it's a straight shot home.
As I came to the last aid station with a Sally Meyerhoff theme, all in pink, I saw a poster that read, "Be Relentlessly Positive!" I saw my good friend and Sole Sports Running Zone (www.solesportsrunning.com) buddy Sean McManus and I said to him, "This is it!" He understood perfectly.
I spotted Erik again on Rio Solado and I asked if I was still in 3rd place. He said, "Yes!" I looked at him and said, "I'm going to do this!?!"
And I ran into the finish chute.
Run 3:34:15 (8:10/mi pace)
Gender Rank: 112
Division Rank: 3
Overall Rank: 138
Monday's Awards were awesome as expected. I had three goals for the race:
3. Sun 10 hours
Two out of three ain't bad!
I was pretty sure things looked good for my slot but nothing was posted at the Village that confirmed the age group slot allocation.
Then I got nervous. "What if there are only 2 slots?" I thought.
Mike Riley, the voice of Ironman, put on an plastic lei and began to announce the rules and process for Kona. "I will state the slots, state the name up to three times then move on to the roll down. It sucks being older sometimes more than other times! They start with the 18-24 women and slowly work their way to the geriatric groups.
Finally, Mike turns the page and adjusts his reading glasses and says, "Men, 50-54 - 3 slots and one added slot for a total of four!" I am in! I waited for my name and my fake flower lei and took my golden ticket to the payment table.
I am so excited and thankful to my wife and boys for their support. Cristette- I love you and look forward to celebrating our 25th Wedding Anniversary on the Big Island!
To my club, One Mutlisport and my team ONE Elite -thank you for letting me wear such treasured colors!
Of course to my coach, Nick White with Carmichael Training Systems for his insight and push!
To Valdora bikes (www.valdoracycles.com) for being my bike sponsor and for all your support! Can't wait to take the PHX2 to Hawaii!
Now it's marathon training time and my 12 consecutive Rock and Roll AZ full marathon! Never stop! Right?