My history with the Ironman distance is an epic failure. I had only attempted the distance once before, at the incredibly difficult IMWI. I did practically everything wrong in Wisconsin two years ago and I was going to make certain that it didn’t happen this time in Arizona. All season long, while training with Dan Billingsley and Nicole (wife), we focused on pacing via power meters on the bike and our nutrition. We have learned over the last two years that getting one of those critical elements wrong (even by a small amount) can turn any triathlon run into a death march. And ultimately, it always comes down to the run.
One other key thing we did during training this year was two big blocks of focused training. The first involved a cycling-only week in July which consisted of 5 consecutive days of long hard riding for a weekly total of just over 500 miles. The second was a big triathlon training week in September. Both of these blocks of training showed noticeable and immediate results that carried increased fitness for the rest of the season.
Ironman Arizona is a very late season race (at least for Midwesterners) and it made for some VERY windy and VERY cold training days in October and November. Dan, Nicole and I would head out and just get through those last weeks of training. As the race approached it was comforting to know there were so many people racing from Springfield and so many more watching/tracking us all online. Nicole Sommer, Dan Billingsley, Dan Dungan, Patty Shafer, Brenda Reiling, Dave Bagot, Mark McCormick and myself were all racing from Springfield as well as a group from St. Louis led by Hardy Breed’s Jeff Black. Tempe itself proved to be a great town and the venue & host hotel were ideal for an Ironman.
Swim – 56:32
The Ironman swim start is one of the only aspects of the race that I was really not looking forward to. We entered the water at around 6:45 and had to swim about 75 meters to get up the starting line. It was relatively easy to get up towards the line without too much congestion. Treading water in the dark (the sun rises there around 6:55) and the incredibly cold water (62 deg.) made for a pretty stressful situation. As the gun time approached the actual line got more and more congested. I settled for 2nd position with Nicole right behind the front row of athletes. Not ideal for me, but I would have to swim around some bodies. The gun went off and we started forward. I went incredibly hard at first to get out from the mass of people. I was in a row across the front of the entire race within the first 50 meters and continued for another 3-4 minutes at that pace. I could feel myself going too hard and decided I would settle in behind some of faster swimmers. I immediately felt a huge pack of swimmers come around and over me when I slowed down. I let them all by me and continued to look for some feet to draft off of. Eventually I found an opening and continued to pace the swim on my own. When I got to the first turn buoy I realized I was almost half way done with the swim. At the second buoy I wanted to check my split to see what kind of pace I was on. 26:02. “A little fast”, I thought to myself. I then found a guy with a huge efficient stroke and got behind him. It was a perfect draft. In fact, it was so perfect that at one point I thought he was slowing down so I went around him. Once I was out of his draft I realized I could barely go around him because he was going so fast. I happily settled back in behind him.
Bike – 4:59:53 Garmin Connect Bike Data
Once out on the bike it was time to dial in my pacing plan. My plan was to hold between 200-210 watts the entire day. At first the pace felt really easy, but I knew that it was very important to stick to the plan. I had a secret goal of breaking 5 hours for the Ironman bike leg, and with 3 laps to do, I knew I had to be around 1:40:00 per lap to do it. I also knew that whatever split 205watts gave me is what I was going to get. Coming up to the end of lap 1 my Garmin read 1:38:40. I was so happy to see that sub-5 was a real possibility! I continued to execute the pacing plan and the nutrition plan like clockwork. I was feeling great. I had no issues whatsoever on the bike except for a little bit of shoulder pain for sitting idle in the aerobars for so long. I was drinking a full bottle of Perform between every aid station and it made me pee during the bike… A lot. I successfully peed 7 times during the bike while moving. Towards the end of the ride I was so comfortable doing it that I could do it and continue to pedal (my shoes still smell like it, too). The last lap of the ride did see my numbers start to fall ever so slightly. Not a major slow down, but enough to make me focus on going under 5, all the more. During the last 10 miles back into town I was solely focused on my power, my speed, and my bike time. I slipped under 5 hours by 7 seconds. I’ll take it. I ended up averaging 204 watts (207 watts Normalized Power).
Run – 3:42:29
Off the bike, I saw some friends that had come out from Bloomington to watch my wife and I race, and they told me I was 5th in my age group coming off the bike. I couldn’t believe it. But once I got out on the run course, I was quickly passed by two guys in my age group. I knew I was at least in 7th. I continued to run my own pace, actually trying to hold back from going too hard. Guys continued to run by me (some literally flying by me) but I was running my own race. The run was a 3 lap course (just like the bike) and I felt incredible the first lap. The second lap started to get hard but I was trying to maintain my pace. By the time the third lap started I was starting to lose some speed. Guys were going by me that looked to be my age. Many guys wear compression socks that cover their calves (blocking their age) or have intentionally erased the age on their calf completely. At that point during the race I knew my age group position didn’t matter, but I was really wanting to break 10 hours. I had it calculated that if I didn’t slip much more during the last lap I could go under 10. I was really starting to hurt during the last 5 miles or so, but I kept running. I kept trying to maintain a positive focus on what I was actually doing and trying to accomplish. The miles slowly came and went. I could hear the crowd on the other side of the water and I knew that was where the finish was. I kept focusing on it and focusing on the other runners that I was lapping. I wanted to slow down and make it stop, but I knew I was very close and knew I was going under 10 hours. I finally made it back to the area where the crowds were and gained some motivation from them knowing I was close to being done. I made to the sign that shows an arrow to the finish line. I had run by it 3 previous times and finally got to turn left towards the finish. Just then a guy came running by me with a “42” on his calf. I thought to myself, well now I’m in maybe 15th place or 20th place in my age group but it didn’t matter because I was going under 10 hours. I entered the finish area and started high fiving the crowd on my way to the line. I screamed and loved every minute of it. I had done it.
Final – 9:46:28
Once I had finished, I met back up with our friends in the finish area. They told me I had finished 8th in my age group. I couldn’t believe it. I thought that some of those guys that had gone by me during the run had been in my division. This meant that besides those two guys in the first two miles that went by me on run, the guy in the finish chute that passed me was the only other guy to do so. I would find out the next morning that the top 7 in my age group got slots to Kona. I had missed a Kona slot by just 10 seconds.
I really don’t think I would change very much about my race. I know that it’s easy to go back during a 10 hour day and find 11 more seconds and qualify for Kona, but I’m extremely happy about my result. And, I couldn’t be happier with my training partners’ performances. Everyone from Springfield had fantastic races (one our very own ended up on the podium, DD!!) Nice job, Springfield!
Ironman Arizona Nutrition –5,608 Calories & 10,589mg Sodium
4:00am wake up
1 Imodium AD
1 Ensure+ :350 calories & 220mg sodium
1 cup of coffee
Peanut butter on bread with banana slices- :412 calories & 420mg sodium
1 cup of coffee
2 Imodium AD
Walk down to the transition area
1 Ensure+ :350 calories & 220mg sodium (sipped on until the start)
Immediately drank one large water bottle of Gatorade and Gatorlytes.
Ate 1 peanut butter Powerbar
Every aid station grabbed a bottle of Ironman Perform and drank it before the next aid station.
6 salt stick plus caps – took one cap every 45 minutes.
Ate 1 sleeve of Clif Shot Blocks (lemon-lime flavor) throughout the ride
Sipped on a bottle of (4 scoops of Perpetuem and coffee) the first half.
Grabbed another bottle of Perpetuem and coffee at special needs.
Ate a Powergel (double latte) at mile 105
*Peed seven times on the bike
1- 20oz. Gatorade with Gatorlytes. 240mg + 780mg = 1020mg sodium & 150 calories
1- Powerbar = 240 calories & 200mg sodium
2- 20oz. Perpetuem with coffee = 1,080 calories & 880 mg sodium
11- 20oz. Ironman Perform. 475mg x 11 = 5,225mg sodium & 1,925 calories
1- sleeve (6 pieces) Clif Shot Blocks = 200 calories & 140mg sodium
1- Powergel = 110 calories & 200mg sodium
6 – salt stick plus caps – 190mg sodium x 6 = 1140mg sodium
3 2 oz. of Ironman Perform = 278 calories & 759mg sodium
44 oz. of Coke = 513 calories & 165mg sodium
20 oz. of water
Ice and sponges at every aid station
*Peed 4 times on the run