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Here is the race report:

So its over, after 1 year of training here is my IronMan race report. Before I start with the actual event, some notes on the preparation leading up to it – including one of the best pre-race stories ever.

An IronMan is more about the preparation and training than it is about the actual event. To be frank if you don't enjoy training then there is no point even trying to complete the event. My training program was broken down into 3 stages.

Stage 1: Get Fit. This basically lasted between November, 2009 and March 2010 (5 months). During this time I would train 3-4 times per week; without a lot of focus or direction. I also spent some time here learning some bike skills and improving my swimming (which improved dramatically).

Stage 2: Get Focused. Between April and July (4 months) I started to actually follow a more structured plan. I would do a basic 3x3 training plan (3 bikes, 3 runs, 3 swims) per week.

Stage 3: Get Ready. The last 3 months (Aug, Sept, Oct) is where you really need to bear down and stick to a very rigid training program. Every day needs to be accounted for, you are doing 9+ workouts a week and each one needs to have a specific purpose. Skipping workouts becomes impossible. Here is when you also add in your big distance workouts (150km bike, 30km runs). To give you an idea of the training load - August had 33 hours of training, September 40 hours, and October 47 hours. During this time I only had one injury - and that only took 1 week of healing. It is amazing how your body will adapt - and respond during this period.

Event Prep:
The event itself was a family affair; I drove to Tempe with the entire family and met up with my dad and his wife. It was nice to have all the family support and to share this with them. We arrived on Friday, I got myself registered and picked up all the instructions. On Saturday I was at the event site early to get my pre-race swim in and to get my gear all registered (you need to drop off your bags and your bike). I was all done by 2 pm and headed back to the hotel for a nap.

That night we had our pre-race sushi meal and developed the plan for the morning. I was going to wak up at 5am and meet my dad in the lobby at 5:30. We would get to the starting area just before 6am - plenty of time to get changed and ready for the 7 am start.

I slept well that night; I woke up at 2:30am with some nervous energy but managed to get back to sleep by 3am. I woke up at 4:56 and turned off the alarms. I grabbed my bags and headed out to meet up with my dad.

Now this is where the story becomes surreal. I stepped into the elevator and just after the doors closed the elevator dropped about 10 feet - and STOPPED. I waited about a minute before the panic meter hit 11. The elevator was not moving - I was trapped. I clicked on the little alarm button but it didn't really make much noise - I then hit the phone button and it started ringing - but nobody was picking it up. Unsure what to do I just started screaming as loud as I could (which was pretty loud). After about 2 minutes I heard someone yell back "shut-up I called the manager".

This made me feel a bit better - at least I had somebody who could help me. I heard the elevator next to me open and called out to the manager. I then asked a question "do you know how to get me out of here?". The manager gave me the generic response "we are working on it".

At this point I felt like a rat in a cage. I had so much nervous energy; trapped in a little box. I felt like I wanted to scream, cry and punch someone all at the same time. My biggest fear was telling Kayla that I needed to do it all over again next year. I was sure I was going to miss the start. It was 5:15 am. The manager had explained they had tried calling the elevator service company but surprise nobody was answering. I pleaded with him to call the fire department. He said he would. The 5 minutes he was gone were the longest 5 minutes of my life. He came back with a plan. He was going to reset the elevator. He tried this 3 - 4 times with no success. At this point I figured we might need to try alternative measures. I was able to get the inside doors open about 10 inches but the outside doors (to the shaft) were not moving at all. The manager even tried a crow bar but still couldn't get them to open. We struggled with the door for about 30 minutes before the fire department arrived.

I heard them talking; the conversation went like this.

Fireman: "Did you call the service company?"

Manager: "Yes, no answer."

Fireman: "They probably won't answer until 9".

Fireman: "Did you try unlocking the door?"

Manager: "It has a lock?"

Fireman: "Hold on"

The Fireman then unlocks the outside door and it opens fully. I then pry open the inside door and see day light. This might actually work. The fireman then with the manager pry open the door about a foot; I picked up my bags and tossed them through and jumped up (I was between floor) and crawled out. Amazing.

I had second thoughts about getting into the other elevator but was more concerned about getting to the race; it was nearly 6am. My dad was waiting for me downstairs - we gave each other a look that was beyond words and headed out to the car.

I arrived at the start area in a total panic; ran to the starting area; stripped into my wet suit; handed off my clothes bag and jumped into the water. Ready to race my IronMan.

Swim: 2.4 miles

The 2.4 mile swim was in Tempe town lake. The lake was extra cold this year (just over 60F) but most of the participants where happy it even had water. In the summer the dam that holds the water burst, and it was only refilled 2 weeks before the race.

The start of the swim was total chaos; imagine nearly 3000 people all floating in a tight area splashing and bumping into each other. It was very crazy. The fact it was also dark added an extra sense of anticipation to things.

I really didn't start "swimming" until nearly 15 minutes after the gun went off. Up until that point it was hard to take even 2 or 3 strokes without bumping into someone. The good news is that things did spread out after a while. My goal time for the swim was 1:20 - 1:30, and a quick look at my watch at the turn around point (not quite half way) showed I was on that pace (36 minutes). The swim back was much easier and I got a decent pace going for most of it.

The exit procedure was interesting. There is no beach; only a set of stairs (fairly wide thankfully). You swim up to the staris and then "crawl" up to the top. I say crawl because the bottome stair is actually above the water level so getting out takes some effort. Once you get out the volunteers take good care of you. They walk you over to a set of "peelers" who take off your suit; then walk you to another person who hands you your bag and leads you off to the change room. Very well organized.

Swim Time: 1:17:30 (1:30:00 goal)

T1 Swim to Bike:

As you run to the change rooms you need to be careful not to get chilled. It was still very early and the wind was blowing (more on that later) and you are basically naked. I was walking over to the change room and noticed most people were running; so I started running too (just to make it seem like I know what I am doing). The change room was very busy so it was hard to find a spot to sit down. I actually waited a minute for a spot to open up before finally getting changed.

My feet were numb from the swim and it was hard to get my socks on wet & cold feet. After that it was out of my trunks and into some dry shorts; finally the helmet and gloves went on. I took some time to drink a bottle of Gatorade and eat a bar. I did have a small panic attack when I noticed that my food bag was missing. There wasn't much I could do at this point so I headed out to find my bike.

T1 Time: 13:03 (15:00 goal)

Bike: 112 miles

It felt great to get on my bike. It was still cold so I put on my arm warmers (thankful that I brought them) and headed out. I have never ridden the bike course so I was a bit unsure of what to expect. I knew it was flat (only minimal elevation gain) so I expected it to be a fairly fast course.

Every prep article I read stated one thing. DO NOT PUSH HARD ON THE BIKE. The last thing you want to have to say is "I didn't finish IronMan, but I had a great bike split". With this in mind I was going very slow; making sure my HR didn't spike and that I stayed in easy cruiser mode. It was difficult because I was getting passed by a fair number of people. I rationalized that I would see them later (also nearly everyone was riding $5000+ bikes).

The bike course is 3 laps; with each lap having 2 main sections. Section 1 was what I called the city section. Riding through some city streets out until you get to Beeline Road - which was the country section. I made a point to grab as much food as I could find at the first aid station. I think I grabbed 3 bars and 3 gels. A good haul.

The ride out Beeline was pretty good; I was feeling OK but noticed my pace was a bit slower than I had expected. I didn't think much about it until the turn around - that was when I first noticed the big head wind. It felt like you were in a wind tunnel. My pace dropped from 17 mph down below 15 mph (and even slower than that at times). It was a real drag.

At mile 25 or so I stopped to get my special needs bag and loaded up on more food. I was now fully stocked for the rest of the ride. By the time we got back into the city section I noticed the first sign of trouble; it was hard to gauge but I was fairly certain I was loosing some tire pressure. I then remembered that in the morning rush I had never pumped up my tires to the correct pressure (110 psi). I didn't know how bad things were but figured it was best to fix the problem as soon as I could. I remembered from the first loop spotting a bike repair tent so when I found it on the second lap I headed in. Sure enough my tires were around 40 psi. The tech pumped up front and back while I organized my food situation. Once I got back on the bike I felt an immediate improvement and my pace picked up 1-2 mph. (up to nearly 18 mph) and I started passing a lot of people. My back also felt better so I was able to stay in Aero position longer.

Things were going well for about 20 minutes when the next problem hit - flat tire (and this time the tube was shot). What I figure happened was that riding on low pressure compromised the tire so that when it was fully inflated it wasn't able to hold - and finally burst when I hit a small bump on the road). I pulled over and started the repair process.

The rest of the ride went pretty much as planned; the ride out was nice (tail wind) and I would use that time to relax my back; the ride in to town was brutal and I would focus on trying to stay as Aero as possible. All the while making sure I was keeping some energy in reserve for the run. You develop a bit of a routine; things tend to go in 10-15 minute intervals.

First you take a drink; then you get into Aero for a good 5 minutes. Then you pop up and take in a bit of your bar; then back in Aero; then a quick drink and a gel. Repeat. Keeping a tight schedule keeps you mind focused and you don't worry about what is ahead or on distance.

I was very happy to be off my bike at the end. My but was sore and my legs were ready for a change of pace.

Bike Time: 6:39:56 (6:30:00 goal)

T2 Bike to Run:
I pulled into the bike zone and got a quick glimpse of the family. They were all there waiting for me and I was going slow enough that I had time to at least say hello. There wasn't much time for chit-chat however as they volunteers keep things moving (they don't want a back up). This transition was pretty easy; they hand you your bag; you find a spot on the grass sit down and change your shoes. Sounds simple and it was.

T2 Time: 5:18 (15:00 goal)

Run: 26.2 miles
Anyone can run a marathon in 5 hours (with a bit of training); the question is can you run one after biking 112 miles. I knew from training that the first 2-3 minutes of the run were going to feel very strange. It is hard to explain but when you run after biking (even after short distances) your legs don't really respond well to the brain. The muscled sort of do their own thing. I made a point not to look at my watch until I was feeling comfortable. When I did look at it read just over 3 minutes and my pace was right locked into my comfort zone (9 minutes / mile). <Whew>. I kept this pace up until the first aid station (1 mile). Here I took some time to get organized and started into the food they were providing.

The run course is 3 laps just like the bike course. The course is fairly flat with only two sections that I would call "hills" and both of them are short and not too steep. Much like the bike; the run becomes a routine that starts to flow nicely. I would run 9 minute miles from one aid station to another; walking each one and taking time to eat and drink. The process would typically go like this.
1. Stop at the first drink station; pick up the Gatorade.
2. Drink the Gatorade quickly and find the chips.
3. Eat as many chips as you can quickly and walk to the water
4. Drink the water
5. Take out the bar and take a bite
6. Start running while chewing on the bar

This is basically what I did for the entire race; with only slight variations. Towards the end I switched the Gatorade for coke, and the chips for chicken broth.

I was both surprised and pleased with my pace. I finished the first 10K in just under 1 hour; and was under 1:30 at 15km and generally feeling good. During training most people told me the real race started at around 10 miles. I approached the 10 mile marker with a bit of dread; I was expecting my body to start shutting down and that the last 16 miles were going to be very difficult. At 10 miles I was feeling good; my pace had slowed a bit (I was now running just under 10 minutes per mile; and when combined with the walking was averaging just over 10). I kept waiting for the "wall" to hit but it never really did. I just kept to my routine. After each walking break there was a bit of a mental game to get the body to start running again; but I wasn't hurting at any point. Tired yes; but not hurting.

The last little section comes at mile 22; here you come back very close to the finish area; only to be sent out again for a little loop through a park area. It was here that I first allowed myself to focus on the finish. I looked at my watch and some quick calculations figured 4:45 was a possibility. I took a bit of a gamble and abandoned my routine and decided to just run out the last 4 miles (no more stopping at the aid stations). I wasn't really in the mood for more food anyways - I was ready to be finished. My pace wasn't good; my form was horrible but I managed to shuffle the last 5 KM in just under 35 minutes.

As I approached the finishing chute I heard the crowd cheering and actually got a bit emotional. I took some time to reflect on the training that I had done and felt proud that I was able to set a long term goal and stick to a plan and finally achieve it. Once in the finishing zone you almost don't want the race to finish. I saw my family cheering me on, and I wanted to spend some time with them; but it was time to step across the finish mat and put this thing to bed. I looked up at the clock and saw 12:55 and was genuinely shocked that it was under 13 hours. I had never actually done the math during the race so I didn't really know what my finishing time was going to be.

Run Time: 4:39:50

Total Time: 12:56:03


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Congrats tecmo!

Fantastic race, esp with all the issues (elevator, bike, food)! And, nice job on holding back on the bike. I didn't do that enough and paid the price on the run.

So, ya gonna do another?
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I have no plans to do another IronMan. The time commitment is great and I have other adventures planned!

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