Just as I anticipated the weather turned out to be the most challenging variable of the day. The official high was 95 however the reported temp out on the bike course, with the heat radiating off the road, hit 109. While the heat made things tough, for me the wind for even more taxing. The bike was a 3 x out-and-back format and on each leg out we were beat down by a ridiculously strong sustained headwind which gained strength the further we rode outside of town. The upside to the wind was it sped up the return trip to the transition area. Despite these easier return trips the brutal winds took an extreme toll both physically and mentally on me. There were times on this last lap where I was reduced to riding at about a 12 mph pace on flat ground because the headwinds were so strong. Although the bike was tough I fared well on the other 2 disciplines as both my run and swim split times were in the overall top 100. The swim was even the highlight of my day as it went smoother than any other mass-start major race Iíve competed in. Starting out the swim I lined up on the outside of the concrete canal they call Tempe Lake. I was on the front line and about 5 yards from the bank on the right-hand side of the start. My tangent to the turn buoy about 1 mile up was slightly longer than those on the inside but my plan was to avoid wrestling with the fast guys and stick to the smooth water on the outside where I can lock into my own pace and minimize the stress on my body. My plan worked perfectly as I only had to jockey for position for about the 1st minute and then I was able to use the concrete canal bank on my right to sight off of, allowing me to keep a constant distance from myself to the bank in order to swim a straight line. Sighting off the canal bank also allowed me to avoid looking into the sun which was just over the horizon and conveniently positioned spot over the turn buoy weíre shooting for. About a Ĺ mile into the swim I started to cut my way over diagonally from the bank towards the turn buoy and a few minutes later Iím on the outside of what seemed to be the tail end of the lead age group swim pack.
My swim pace felt somewhat fast but sustainable. I focused on long strong strokes and was picking up my head about every 5 stroke cycles to make sure I remained on-path. After the turnaround sighting was easier because we were no longer looking into the sun and before I knew it I made the final left turn towards the exit ramp. I exited the water in 57 minutes and change, just a few seconds off from my swim time from Switzerland last year.
After a quick transition I headed out onto the bike feeling only slightly fatigued in my upper body from the swim. To combat the desert heat Iím wearing a pair of DeSoto arm coolers. These are white breathable sleeves that help keep your arms cool and protected from the sun. To supplement this Iíll also pick up 2 bottles of water at every aid station on the bike. Iíll immediately dump the 1st bottle over my head, shoulders and arms. Iíll stash the second on my bike and use it to intermittently wet myself until I can reload with 2 fresh bottles at the next aid station about 10 miles up the road. The arm coolers work perfect for this strategy as they absorb just enough water to chill you down for a few minutes as the wind blows over them.
I felt relatively good during the 1st lap of the bike. My shoulders and traps were a bit sore from the swim but otherwise I was fresh and ready to ride. During this lap the wind started out as a mild headwind then grew stronger until I hit the turnaround point about 18 miles outside town. While it was breezy the wind didnít bother me as I was able to stay in my big ring for all but the final short incline to the turnaround. Approaching the turnaround I heard the buzz of a helicopter overhead and I see the lead pro males pass me on their way back into town. The pros donít seem to be too far ahead of me considering they started the swim 15 minutes before we did so I feel like Iím riding strong and holding a competitive pace.
After the turnaround Iím like a rocket blasting back into town. The wind is strong enough at my back to boost my speed to a sustained 30+ MPH all the way back into town. On the return trip to transition I start to see the mass of age groupers heading out. From what I can tell Iím still in the lead pack of age groupers, just where I want to be. By the time I finish this 1st lap Iíve finished 2 bottles of my energy drink mix and still feel relatively fresh.
At the turnaround for the 2nd lap Iím blasted with a much nastier headwind than I faced on the 1st go. This wind speed feels like itís about 15 MPH with gusts easily surpassing 25 MPH. At times it reduces me to speeds in the low teens and it starts to take a considerable toll on both my legs as well as my mental state. While itís hot out my cooling strategy seems to be working as I donít feel like Iím burning up. My nutrition also appears to be on track however Iím quickly loosing interest in my sugar water and my body is craving plain cold water, not the sports drink I should be feeding it. To quench my burning thirst Iím taking in water complimented by salt pills. I donít feel like Iím sweating a drop but with the dry desert heat I assume all sweat is evaporating as soon as it crests my skin. After the turnaround on the 2nd lap I tell myself 2 of the 3 sections with the nasty headwind are over and I only have to fight the wind once more. I cruise back into town although even with the wind at my back Iím not able to maintain the 30+ MPH speeds like I could on the 1st lap. With all the fluids Iíve consumed I start to feel bloated so I occasionally sit up out of my aero position to help the reservoir of fluid pass through my GI.
At the end of the 2nd lap I see Aim, Brooke and Chris. As I pass them I think how much I donít want to fight the wind for another 18 miles in the desert heat. I push through the final lap and this is easily my slowest lap. My legs are just plain spent by now and I donít have the strength to maintain the speed I want to be doing. After the turnaround during the final section into town Iíve pretty much lost it mentally. Coming into the race my goal was a top 5 finish in my age group and now just finishing the race seems like it will be an accomplishment in itself. Iím disappointed and my self pity is not helping anything right now. In the back of my mind I know despite the toll the last 5 hours of cycling has taken on my legs I do have the ability to finish off this day with a solid run. As much as I have no desire to continue on right now given the conditions I know Iím going to come out of transition running and I have the ability to run a strong race no matter what kind of heat the Arizona desert wants to throw at me. Now I just have to get back to the transition area and get my running legs under me.
Finally Iím coasting into transition and I drop off my bike with the volunteers. After a quick change I head out onto the run course. My GI is slightly bloated and my legs are understandably sore but Iím glad to be done with the last few demoralizing hours of cycling and onto a more enjoyable 3+ hours of running. I tell myself ďthe faster I run, the faster I finishĒ.
Over the 1st few miles I feel like crap. My stomach is full of water and itís sloshing around like a washer machine. Itís about 95 out right now and the most shade I can find along the run course is provided by the occasional plane passing over from the neighboring Phoenix airport. For about the 1st ľ mile there were spectators along the run course but now weíre on the far side of the canal and thereís no one around to encourage us on. I do my best to lock into a sustainable pace. Itís not a fast pace but as Iíve lost most of my mental fight the seemingly 8:00 pace seems fairly respectable. Iím continually passing other competitors and that helps a little to motivate me on. Nearing the end of the 1st lap I pass Aim, Brooke & Chris and as they try to encourage me as I shout ďI hate thisĒ. This pretty sums up my mental state right now. Iím not enjoying any step of the run. Curiously unlike past races when Iíve had a bad day and Iíve planned how Iím going to sell my bike on eBay, today all I think about is finishing the race. Perhaps this is a sign of strength or maturity. Probably itís because Iíve just succumbed to the fact that Iíve only begun my career in this sport.
The 2nd lap of the run is a bit easier as there are more competitors on course and a majority of them are walking so passing them helps to motivate me to continue running. On this lap I even have to stop to pee which is an good sign that Iím keeping hydrated enough to sweat and have excess fluid to process out of the blood stream through the kidneys. My hydration plan for the run was not something I put much thought of coming into the race. My plan-on-the-fly has morphed into walking through the aid stations so I can quickly sip a cup of Gatorade or water, then run every step between the aid stations located at each mile mark. At the aid stations I also take 2 cups of water which I dump over each of my arm coolers. I know in Switzerland last summer I was able to run 100% of the run but todayís conditions were vastly different from those of last year and at this point I really donít care what I did in Europe under totally perfect racing conditions.
Moving into the last lap of the run I pass a guy who seems impressed with my less-than-stellar stride and asks me what pace Iím running. I donít have a GPS to tell me my speed or lack thereof ,and the desert heat has ceased any sensible brain function I would normally have. Added to this Iím putting every ounce of energy available into moving forward so a verbal response takes more energy than I like. I reply telling him ďno clue, just trying to finish.Ē
While the run was hot and I felt like crap at no point did I ever feel like it was something I couldnít or wouldnít complete. Halfway through each lap we cross a bridge taking us back by the transition area and at this point I start to feel like Iím within reach of the finish. I see Aim, Brooke and Chris and as they cheer me on I realize theyíve been out in this heat as long as I have and we all need to get inside so I kick up the pace. This increased pace lasts for a few minutes then my speed quickly drops back down as I head back across the lake. I just donít have a lot of fight left in me right now. I think a bit reason why Iím not pushing myself as hard as I should be is coming into today the goal was to finish in under 10 hours and that goal no longer seems attainable. Without that goal still in my sights I donít any primal hunter instinct driving me on. Now itís just about a respectable finish and no blowing up prior to the end. I guess Iím playing things safe instead of risking everything for a faster finish.
On the far side of the canal I pass through an aid station and as Iím walking and sipping on some water this guy who Iíve been playing leap frog with for the entire run passes me. I realize that this guy might beat me, and who knows who else is going to beat me just because Iím not giving it my all. Screw that. I drop the cup and immediately turn on my fastest run pace of the day. Finally I received the wake up call I needed about 6 hours ago. Stop being bummed you wonít set a new PR. Who cares. You can still beat this guy and probably a few others, so go do it dammit.
For the next 3 miles Iím finally running a respectable sub-7:30 pace and I feel alive once again. This is the pace I should have been running all along. Iím passing people much quicker now and no matter what I will finish strong. I pass under the final bridge and have less than a ľ mile to go. I moving along at a good clip as I turn off the main course towards the finishing line. Now Iím all smiles and Iím remembering why it is I so enjoy these long races. Nothing I've ever done matches the sense of accomplishment you experience when finishing an Ironman. I glance back several times to ensure no one is within reach of me and after I give myself the all-clear I slow up to enjoy my final steps down the finish chute. As I cross the finish line I stop and hold the tape taking in the moment that was not easily attained. After the race I meet up with Aim, Brooke and Chris. While Iíve said this at pretty much every long race in the past, I tell them that this was ďthe toughest race Iíve ever doneĒ. Iím sure Iíll say this many times again in the future.
All things considered Iím generally pleased with todayís final results. The conditions were by far the most challenging Iíve ever competed in. My training over the winter was done in temperatures ranging from about 20 to 50 degrees so racing well in todayís 90+ degree weather is an accomplishment in itself. The wind definitely took an unexpected toll on me and Iím disappointed in how much it slowed me down and how I allowed it to negatively affect my mental state. I finished in 10:23, just 23 minutes off from my goal and all things considered itís not a bad result. I was 99th overall, with 34 of those people ahead of me being professionals. Not bad. I was 11th in an age group that was allotted 5 Hawaii slots. 2 of the top 5 guys in my age group didnít take their slots so both the 6th and 7th place finishers picked up a Hawaii ticket at roll down.
Considering I was only 4 places and about 23 minutes away from a Hawaii slot I feel like Iím within grasp of my Hawaii goal. Seeing how close I came makes me hungrier than ever to turn up my game over the next 7 months so Iím better prepared to have a great day when I return in November for IM AZ round 2. I know thereís still a lot of improvement I need to make with my cycling in order to be able to log a competitive bike split. My split today on the bike was 5:42. Not a great time by any measure, and a good 20 minutes slower than where I need to be if I want to be in the mix for a qualification slot.
I think there were 2 main reasons for my lackluster bike performance. One, I just didnít have the necessary power in the latter half on the bike to maintain a competitive race. This is likely due to poor pacing as well as a need for greater cycling strength and endurance. Fortunately these are skills I can improve on over the entire summer and I know when I return in November I will be a stronger and smarter cyclist. Two, I lost a good portion of my competitive drive when the race turned tough. This could be because I was too focused on a goal instead of concentrating on the process. Stronger mental skills are something I can improve on through more racing, something Iíll definitely address with my summer competition schedule.
My run was 3:36 and while this was the 74th fastest run split of the day I know Iím capable of much better. In November I hope my run time is much closer to 3:20. This run course is not hilly, itís just hot. Iíve shown myself through this race that I can deal with the heat, both on the bike and during the run. The biggest limiter for me to have a spectacular run is my cycling strength. Becoming a more powerful and efficient cyclist will definitely position me to faster run.
With regards to my swim, I continue to be totally pleased with where it is. Iím actually really excited for swimming over the summer as the outdoor pools will be open and hopefully my work schedule will enable me to be able to spend time in Boulderís outdoor long-course pool.
While Iím disappointed by my mental performance during the race Iíll learn from my mistakes and this will make me a stronger competitor. I think back to IM CDA 3 years ago where I totally lost it mentally and physically and ended up walking about Ĺ the run finishing the race in about 11.5 hours; my worst result ever. Just 4 months after that race I came back to have an awesome iron-distance race in Florida. Setbacks are a natural part of the learning process, and with quality training I'll do over the next 7 months Iím sure Iíll return to Arizona a smarter and stronger athlete. The plan for the remainder of the year is to keep things fun and competitive over the summer and then increase the mileage in late August to ramp up for IM AZ in late November. Starting in late May Iím going to enter a bunch of local races. The goal here is that the race environment will help to push me harder than I would otherwise be able to drive myself alone while training. My summer schedule will include 2 bike TTs, 3 swim-run races, a duathlon, an Sprint triathlon, an Olympic triathlon, and a Ĺ IM. Following that Iíll take an easy week or two to freshen up, then begin my IM training which will likely include another Ĺ IM in September as I prepare for Arizona. The short races throughout the summer will keep things fun, help me to develop greater power on the bike, and hopefully help me to focus on the process and not the results.
While races are a physical test against the other competitors, for me itís also a mental contest against myself. How much do I want it? How much am I willing to suffer? How strong is my resolve? When things turn tough in a long race itís challenging to stay focused on the task at hand. Down in Arizona I lost my focus for about 6 hours due to adverse weather conditions and a lack of cycling power/endurance. In Switzerland last year I was in the zone for the entire race and I had my best day ever. Mental strength is an absolutely critical component to successful race execution. When I return to Arizona this fall I have to maintain better focus. Improved focus coupled with greater cycling strength will undoubtedly better position me to discover more of my athletic potential.
This results in Arizona showed me Iím close to my goal of competing in Hawaii as an average day put me about 23 minutes out of contention, so with a great day I know I can be in the running. Hawaii will always be a goal and goals help keep things fun and with a purpose; but in the end itís mostly about doing something you love and learning about yourself. This sport, similar to others, correlates to many of the challenges we face throughout life and following every triumph or setback there are lessons weíre taught that help make us a more patient, resolute and focused individuals. I have a deep passion for this sport and more then anything else I continue to love the day-in day-out training. Triathlon has made me a better person, it has taken me to amazing places and it continues to be a positive driving force in my life.
For the race I owe a big thank you to Aim. She continues to believe in my dreams and aspirations and sheís constantly my biggest supporter. She never questions my racing schedule and sheís always willing to contribute her money and time to come to my races. Sheís a great partner to have in all life's adventures. Sheís the person I want to cross every finish line with. I also want to thank both Brooke and Chris. They took time out from their lives to fly down to the desert and spend a weekend supporting my race. Itís a major understatement to say it was special to have 3 of my favorite people on the course cheering me on. While this race was not my best performance it was no less special than a PR day as I was able to share the experience with my best friends.
Looking forward itís time to have some fun racing over the summer. Iím super excited to do my 1st sprint triathlon. Itís been 4 years since Iíve done anything shorter than a Ĺ IM so it itíll be fun to do a triathlon you finish in just over an hour. Plus now with the snow melted I can finally get up to altitude for the beautiful mountain rides and runs I so love to do. Until next timeÖ
Results Overall : 99th (2027) Age Group : 11th (141)