Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Chuck Norris never did an Ironman

But I have. And I have the tattoo to prove it!

It wasn't pretty or anything close to what I dreamed of, but I made it through with almost eight minutes to spare (thank god) and got a big hug and a thank you from Chrissie at the finish line (more on that later).

Also, I'm going to apologize in advance for the length of this report but it covers seven days and almost 17 hours of racing and I'm still leaving a lot out.

Also, I can't get my photos off my camera or iPhone for some reason. But there is an album here that has a lot of photos of me:

Rama's Photos

and some guy I don't know took this photo of me on the bike course

and here's my finish line video

Prologue

Just a little recap of my week leading up to the race for those who don't read my blog regularly:

Monday

In the morning I was in tears from pain in my left hip and butt. I was also in a bit of a panic since I wouldn't have been able to get to the start line in that state. But a PT and an ART session helped with that. Did heavy strength in between as prep for the race.

Tuesday

I gave my presentation on Agile Architecture for my company's Tech Forum along with my partner-in-crime and then went home to finish packing and take off for the first part of the drive. I made great time and made it to Pasadena before I decided I should really stop and get some shut-eye before I ended up driving straight through to Tempe and got there before the rental house was ready.

Wednesday

I arrived in Tempe, unpacked the car, picked up The Sherpa from the airport, went grocery shopping and stayed up too late gabbing about triathlon stuff. Somewhere between Tuesday and Wednesday, in spite of my best efforts, I tweaked my back, probably during one of the times I dragged my enormous suitcase in or out of the back of my car.

I also managed to crack a crown while eating a burrito for dinner. I was bit freaked out because I was afraid the whole thing would fall out and then I'd have to race with mouth pain. Alternately, I'd cut my tongue rubbing it along the sharp ends. Either way, I knew a trip to the dentist was in order so I put out a call on the Interwebz and people came through in spades with recommendations.

Thursday

I ended up going to my friend's mom's dentist. He made sure the crown was still sealed and dulled down the sharp points so I wouldn't cut my tongue and he didn't even charge me! He also said that this probably happened because of the two new crowns I had recently gotten on that side of my mouth causing some sort of change in my bite and that more stuff might happen until I got the broken one fixed. I did continue to have some weird biting issues throughout the week (and today I had some pain when air blows across the area) but it all held up for the race.

I actually got this taken care of pretty early in the day and was able to arrive at registration around the time I had planned. I picked up my numbers, bags, timing chip, and goodie bag around the same time as some of the pros. They seemed so serious and maybe even a bit nervous and that made it more real for me and I got a bit nervous, too.

Then it was on to body marking. In general, I'm not a fan of this part of triathlon. I don't really like people drawing on me with a Sharpie and I think modern technology has made the need to do so obsolete. But this time they used the stamped-on numbers like they do at Kona and I was completely on-board. The stamped numbers make me feel like an elite racer.

The rest of the day, we checked out the Ironman store and the rest of the Expo and I had my first shot at ART. It was kind of a fly-by as he just worked on my calf and even that was more of a lick and a promise than a useful session. I was not impressed, actually.

During all this, The Sherpa was not only acting as my Sherpa but was also serving as our personal photographer. Yes, that's as awesome as it sounds.

We also had a plan to go bike riding up the Beeline Highway along with some people I know from the iamtri site and my friend Cee. But by the time we picked up her bike from TriBike Transport and got some lunch into us, it was late and hot. We almost blew the whole thing off, but eventually we got our act together and headed out around four.

We has a great ride. We took it easy and still made good time. After I did some math, I became convinced that a 6:45 finish time as not an impossible dream even if it was still a stretch. I revised my plan to aim for 1:20 going up the Beeline and 1:05 down, then try to shave off 5 minutes from each subsequent trip up and back, but I also told myself not to stress if it didn't happen or if it took 1:30 up and 1:15 back as I had originally predicted. (All those who know what actually happened are probably laughing right now at the irony.)

Friday

The Sherpa and I both wanted to attend the athlete panel. I was pretty sure Chrissie would be there and I wanted to tell her how much the advice and encouragement she gave me last year had meant to me during this very trying year and that it was a large part of why I was able to get to the start line ready to race. From public statements she's made in the past, I thought she'd appreciate knowing she made a difference in my life and I wanted to give something back to her in exchange for what she gave to me.
The panel was great. But afterward Chrissie was mobbed and then she had to book to do some TV interviews. She said she'd hopefully see us at the finish line. At this point I realized I wasn't going to be able to tell her what I wanted to in person. She's just got too many demands on her time and people who want a piece of her and I didn't want to be one of them. So I decided to write her a note that she could read at her leisure when it was convenient for her.

Then I got a one hour massage from the Ironman massage tent hoping to calm my hip and I went to the Laser booth for two pain treatments on my back. Not sure if the massage really did anything, but the laser thing-a-ma-bob made a difference. At least for a while.

I didn't see any of the pros at the Welcome diner, but I did win the Erin Baker Living Healthy award as I wrote about earlier. So my letter to Chrissie was still burning a hole in my pocket.

Saturday

This was the only day we had to swim in Tempe Town Lake so I got up early to do so. I wanted to try putting Vaseline on my face, hands and feet and to practice getting up the steps out of the lake, which people had warned me was tricky. I also wanted to do something at race pace to loosen up and get mentally ready.

The swim went well. After the warnings I'd gotten about the steps, I had no trouble with them (which considering my lack of coordination was a bit of a shock) and the Vaseline worked well so I decided to keep it for race day. I did forget my swim cap so I only had my squid lid which tends to slip around without a cap on top, but I didn't lose it or my Garmin so it worked out.

They had set up a 1000 meter course for us. I took my time getting to the point where the swim start was and hit the lap button so I'd know how much time I needed on race day to get back there. Then I hauled ass around the course. It felt good and I thought the temperature was fine and so was visibility, two things I had been worried about. I never got a chance to examine my lap times though. The rest of the day was too hectic.

After swimming, Cee and I both got ART. Her shoulder and foot were bothering her and her ART dudette diagnosed tight ankles and she finally got some foot relief, even if it was mostly temporary. My ART dude showed me a good stretch for my hip flexors and did a more thorough job than the first guy. He also said I could come back later and he'd tape me up for the race.

We went back to the house and I finished packing my bags for check-in. Then it was back to Tempe Beach Park to drop off my bags and bike. I had been given the advice to mark my bags with bright tape so they'd be easy to find later. I notice some people used ribbons and one gal in my age group put a stripe down the side so it stood out even when stacked together. I made note of these tactics for next time.

I went back to the ART tent to get taped up but the original guy wasn't there. However, they had their "taping expert" do it instead and he also worked a bit on my foot which was still hurting due to my plantar fasciitis flaring up. At this point I'd had three ART sessions and a massage and I was stretching and foam rolling at the house like a mad woman. I just hoped my body would hold up for the race.

Then we went home and got ready for the BBQ we had invited everyone too. I had had qualms about the BBQ idea. I figured it would work better for me than going out to eat, but I was worried that no one would come.

But it all worked out. We had way too much food, but people came, seemed to have a good time and it was all very low key, which worked out well for my mood. Plus Cee didn't have time to make a supporters t-shirt and I had tons extra (since MacBoy's friends bailed on him and my work friend from Tuscon had car trouble and also couldn't make it) so everyone took one and some Sharpies so they could put her name under Team Mac.

The only thing that went wrong is that MacBoy got a late start on his drive and didn't show up until after I went to bed. Honestly, this is exactly what I expected to happen, so I was more exasperated than upset. I followed my plan to take my normal sleeping pills so I'd have a good night's sleep for once on race night and took myself off to bed around 10 pm -- only slightly later than planned.

Race Day

The morning of race day, I got up at 4:15 am and had the same thought I always have when the alarm goes off too early on race day: Why I am doing this? What if I just go back to bed and don't show up?!

As usual I ignored it and got dressed. I couldn't find my racing earrings so I assumed I hadn't brought them. (Of course, I found them later once it was too late.) That was annoying, but not a show stopper. As I woke up more fully, I started to get excited again.

I had never ran into Chrissie so I gave the letter to The Sherpa with strict instructions. He was to give it to Finish Line Girl (another friend out here to volunteer for the race) and she was to give it to Chrissie, not when she finished, which would be rude, but later when she came back to put medals on the Age Groupers. I have great friends and I knew they'd do their best, but stuff happens and directions get lost in translation so I was slightly worried. But I had to let it go and trust it would all work out.

I got to transition right about when planned and went through my pre-race routine. The first glitch is that I couldn't find my goggles in my morning clothes bag. I only had my backup pair. I don't really like them but they were in there for a reason -- to be used if I couldn't use my regular ones -- so I put them on. Then I couldn't find Cee to lend her my bike pump but she had already taken care of it. Finally, I realized when standing in line at the bathroom that I wasn't going to have time for my planned warm-up. I did the DROM part while standing in line so at least I'd be loose and figured that  swimming to the start line would be enough of a warm-up and warming up isn't as critical for an all-day race as it is for a Sprint.

It was a lot warmer than I was expecting and I ended up ditching my "throw away" socks pretty early in the process. I also found the whole "morning clothes bag" set up less than ideal. I decided that if I ever do one of these again, I'd just hand it over to a friend over the fence when I was done with it instead of putting it putting in the proper bin. For one thing, I did end up running back to Mr. Mac several times to hand over stuff I hadn't put into the morning clothes bag before I turned it in.

The Swim

Pretty soon it was time to get into the water. We were supposed to go over a timing mat to get in but I never found it. I wanted to go back and make sure I'd gone over it but the volunteers were practically pushing us into the water so I just jumped in. I tried to be careful but I did hit some rocks on the bottom, but not so hard that I bruised anything. The water wasn't as bad as I was expecting or maybe I was just too nervous to notice the cold.

I swam out to where I expected to start but no one was there. Then I swam to the first group of people. But I was so close to the start line so I swam back to the next group. I asked someone what their expected swim time was and they said they had no idea and were deliberately holding back. So I'd found the group I normally try to stay in front of at least. I swam up to the lead group again and asked someone what their expected swim time was and they said 1:10! I said I was up too far and he said don't worry about it, it won't matter. So I put myself just behind that group and just in front of the "looking sick with fear group" and hoped for the best.

At some point, I realized that my backup goggles were not adjusted properly and I couldn't fix them without taking off my swim cap and squid lid. I didn't want to do that because I was afraid of losing my Garmin. Plus, I wasn't sure there was time. So I just pulled the straps as tight as I could and tucked the loose ends under my cap and hoped for the best.

Right before they started the countdown, a whole bunch of new people showed up out of nowhere. I was concerned about being in such a big group, but the cannon went off and I started swimming and immediately my goggles fogged up. So I had other things to worry about.

There was some contact but most of it was me swimming up onto people and not being whacked around or at least not more whacked around than you'd normally get in an open water swim. I had heard so much about how horrible the mass starts of an Ironman are but I didn't find it particularly bad.

On the other hand, I did have trouble staying to the left of the buoys. I wasn't the only one but I think it added a bit of mileage to my trip! I did my best to swim from buoy to buoy and once I got my goggles cleared of fog and sealed to my face, it went better. I had the impression I was making good time in spite of going off course and not being able to draft off anyone and my Garmin buzzed every 15 minutes at around where I expected to be. It went off at 45 minutes about 10 feet from the turn-around buoy so I was only a minute or two off plan.

I was excited because I figured I'd make up some time on the way back since I was now swimming with the current instead of against it. However, I turned at the buoy and was immediately hit in the face with what felt like the wake from a boat. Except that these "wakes" kept coming and there were no boats causing them. I figured out that it was chop from the wind. It slowed me down because it made it hard to keep my rhythm and also hard to breath properly.

The next thing that slowed me down was some lady doing the back stroke. She whacked me in the face and my goggles came loose and I never did get them sealed back right. So I was swimming kind of blind and stopped twice to try to adjust them. When the 1 hour buzz went off I was still in a reasonable place where I could pretend I wasn't off plan, but when the 1:15 buzzer went off, I was clearly too far away from the Mill Street bridge to get back to the dock in 15 minutes. I tried to tell myself I'd miscounted the buzzers and it was only an hour but I kind of knew I hadn't miscounted and my 1.5 hour swim goal was out the window by about 10 minutes.

T1

Sure enough, I got out at about 1:42-1:43. I pressed the lap button on my Garmin but I didn't feel the buzz so I tried again when I had the cap off my head and this time I saw "Start biking". Oops. I guess the first press had worked after all.

I had a bit of trouble with the wetsuit strippers and in T1 because I kept trying to do things that they were trying to do for me. Also, I had decided to wear my real arm warmers because they are comfortable and I felt I needed that mentally, but the gal helping me in the changing tent just could not get them on my arms.

Also, I had been advised not to go into the tent if I wasn't changing (which I wasn't) and that turned out to be good advice that I'd wished I'd taken. It was crowded, dark and smelly in there and I got dead grass all over everything including my feet and inside my socks.

But eventually I got out of there and ran to my bike. There were volunteers helping us find our row, which was cool. But The Sherpa had already pointed out that my bike was in the row with the electrical box at the end so I really didn't need them. I ran my bike out of transition and mounted pretty fast. (Sometimes I have problems mounting because of adrenaline.) By the time I looked at my watch, it was almost 9 minutes so I figured my transition time was at least 7 minutes. Which kinds of sucked, but I wasn't that surprised.

The Bike

I got out on the course and everything was going well. I was going pretty fast but I wasn't over-exerting myself. There was a tailwind going up the Beeline instead of the usual headwind and I was able to get to the turnaround in 1:15, five minutes earlier than planned! The only troubling aspect was that I was experiencing some pretty heavy chafing from almost the get-go.  I'm not sure what was going on as I hadn't had issues with these particular tri shorts before.

I knew there'd be a headwind going back but it was also slightly downhill so I was thinking at worst it would take 1:15. That was until I turned around and was hit in the face with the most horrible wind. I didn't know it at the time but the 10-15 mph winds from the weather forecast turned out to be 35 mph winds with 40 mph gusts!

I am kind of glad I didn't know the exact number though. I figured I'd been out in some strong winds before and I would be okay. I took my time getting back especially after seeing two racers carted off by ambulances. It looked like they'd been caught up in the wind and thrown to the side.

As we got closer to town, it started to sprinkle. I was heating up and thinking about ditching my arm warmers so I actually was okay with some rain. Unfortunately we got a bit more than "some". It was real rain and the roads were slick. I figured I could handle it though. I was careful to stay off the painted lines and slowed down a bit and that was good enough -- no bike crashes for me.

At some point after the turn around, I looked at my Garmin and saw 3:00 on it. Crap. Although I was planning to negative split each loop, there was a chance that wouldn't happen and 3 hours times 3 loops was a nine hours and I just didn't have that much time before the cutoff. (Alert readers will figure out that I forgot to subtract off the time for T1 so it wasn't quite as bad as I thought.)

I realized I was going to have to push harder. After all, there was no point in having enough energy left for the run if I didn't make the cutoff. So I decided to push now and deal with the aftermath later. Unfortunately, it was still raining and the roads were rather wet. Therefore, I had to be careful (the memory of those ambulances was still fresh in my mind) and couldn't really push until I got far enough out of town to get to the dry parts of the road.

At that point, the tailwind was gone though. The winds were just everywhere basically. Somewhere in there the pros passed me. First a motorcycle leading the guys. It looked like Chris Leito (local boy!) was in front. Then a second motorcycle escort and Chrissie screamed passed me doing a million miles an hour. I don't think I realized before that point what racing is like for a pro. I actually feel a bit sorry for them -- how can you notice the scenery or people cheering for you when you are that focused and going that fast?

Anyway, two seconds later, they were gone and I was back into my own race, singing my bike song in my head (Against Me's Teenage Anarchist) and sometimes out loud to get through it. I got to the turn around point (half way!) and my Garmin said 4:00 and I was much happier. Eight hours would get me in about a half hour before the cutoff. Then I turned around and had to put my foot down at the turn around point because I took it too fast and then I couldn't get back into my pedals and I had to scoot with one foot until I got part way up the hill. Well, that was a bit embarrassing.

I got to Special Needs and I figured I absolutely had to use my extra Belgium Butter because of the chafing. I didn't really need my second bottle of sports nutrition as I was doing fine with my energy bites and gels and didn't really need much extra calories over that. I also had to pee.

I had planned to stop three times on the bike, two to pee and once for Special Needs. I had not planned to use the port-a-potties at Special Needs because everyone does that and the lines are too long. But now I had to and, sure enough, the wait was horrible. It ended up taking me 15 minutes to get out of there! At least I got to eat my Snickers while I waited.

I realized I was drinking too much since I shouldn't have to pee so soon after my first pit stop. The Belgium Butter felt great but the relief was not very long lasting. I made a note to cut down on my water consumption and was actually able to get through the rest of the bike without any more stops gaining back a few minutes from what I'd lost in Special Needs.

The winds continued to shift on the way back but I felt like they weren't as bad as on the first loop. There was this one underpass that was basically a wind tunnel and on the first loop I could have sworn at one point that I was not moving forward and I didn't have that feeling the second time. When I looked at my Garmin after the turn around (a) I had made the cutoff to start the third loop and (b) I saw 5:45 so I had managed to make up some time. (Or so I thought... the official times don't show that. More on that later.)

I was feeling pretty good at this point. Yes, I'd pushed it when I wanted to take it easier but I only had about 38 miles left and I'd done ton of rides of that length and I felt fresh enough to do this one.

Again, there was a lot of wind on the way back. But the rain was entirely gone and at some point there were rainbows! I started geeking out over the rainbows, which was particularly funny because during the mandatory athlete's meeting, they had shown a funny "don't do this" video which included this clip with explicit instructions not to geek out over rainbows and here we all were in the middle of an Ironman doing exactly that. I didn't care though. The double rainbow and the single rainbow after it were awesome.

In addition to the rainbows, there were two amusing aide stations. One was manned by some ASU cheerleaders and the guys were wearing funny clothes and everyone was quite rowdy. I love an rowdy aide station.

The other aide station involved clowns and they had stuff to encourage you to throw your water bottle at it. On the first loop I tried to dunk someone in a dunk tank and on the second loop I aimed for some stuff you were supposed to knock over. But on the third loop I remembered what happened at Vineman and so I cycled past yelling "Can't stop. Clowns will eat me!" I cracked myself up but I don't think the clowns quite got it.

As we were getting closer to the turn around, cyclists were calling out "you're almost there and there's a tail wind coming back". Then I heard a chipper voice behind me calling out "Hello, Miss Mac". It was Cee who had finally caught up with me. I didn't know it but she also ended up swimming about 10 minutes slower than expected so she had a lot of time to make up to get to me. (I knew she'd do it eventually though as she's a stronger cyclist than I am.)

So we turned around (no foot down this time) and ... there was no tail wind! In fact, there was a headwind pretty much the whole way down and the winds had picked up from earlier in the afternoon. It was brutal, in fact. On top of that, I wasn't able to stay in aero as much as I liked because of the winds, because I was tired and because it made the chafing worse.

I started chanting to myself: Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming. I could hear Dory from Finding Nemo saying that in my head and it helped. At some point I changed it to Just keep spinning, but, while that was more appropriate, it didn't work as well as a mantra for some reason so I went back to swimming.

I lasted until mile 108 at which point I had nothing left in my legs. The volunteers kept yelling at me that I was going to make it and to just keep moving forward. I was so scared I wasn't though. It was so close to 5:20 and I had no oomph left. But I figured I could collapse in the change tent and just kept pushing as best as I could.

T2

But I made it! I didn't collapse in the change tent either. I also did a better job of letting the volunteers help me this time. I changed my shorts because I didn't want to take a chance that I'd have no chafing on the run. I put my run shirt over my tri top for warmth and I had to change my socks too because the rain had gotten my first pair wet and running in wet socks can give you blisters. So I ended up happy that I had put the change of clothes in my bike-to-run bag even though I hadn't planned to use them.

The Run

I got out on the run and something was wrong with my left shoe. It felt like my heel lift had slipped. But I took out my Superfeet insert and my heel lift was fine. So I put it back in and still had the bump. I took out the insert again and this time I realized it was folded over under the toe. It took a couple of tries, but I was able to get the insert back in properly eventually.

Then I took off and everything went well at first. I had planned to run most of the route but walk the aide stations and maybe the uphill parts. But the first aide station came up at mile .38 so I didn't bother to walk that one.

I did grab cookies though. This surprised me. I don't normally eat on the run. In fact, I take in as little nutrition as possible to keep my tummy happy. But I was told that during an Ironman you should give your body what appeals to it and for some reason my body wanted cookies. And pretzels. And broth. Stuff I wouldn't normally eat because it's not that great. (They were factory-made cookies, not homemade.)

So I gave my tummy cookies and it was happy. It liked the broth and pretzels too but was only eh about the potato chips and quite annoyed about the Coke and even the water. So I stopped giving it anything but cookies, the occasional pretzel and broth. I also had some grapes at some point and a banana and an orange slice.

I had been talked into taking my running jacket by the T2 volunteer but I quickly figured out that was a mistake. It was too hot for that especially with two shirts on and my arm warmers that I ended up needing for the entire bike and my compression sleeves on my legs. As I came around to the second run station, I saw The Sherpa waiting to start his volunteer shift. So asked him if I dropped my jacket by the trash point, would he pick it up. Of course he said yes and I was free of that albatross. (Other racers and volunteers are allowed to help you so it wasn't even illegal.)

I walked that aide station but I forgot to walk the next one. I was feeling good at aide station four but I made myself walk it. The same at aide station 5 but that's when the wheels started to come off. I turned the corner and hit both more concrete and a uphill part and I couldn't run it. So I walked for most of the way to the next aide station.

At this point I started walking a lot. I was also very mentally down. I was starting to be afraid I wouldn't make it. So I made myself sing my run song (Katy Perry's Firework) and I started chanting as I ran. I chanted "I will not give up." over and over. I also said all my mantras including some new ones I made up on the spot. These included "Chuck Norris has never done an Ironman, but I am/have" and "Of course it's effing hard, it's a freaking Ironman" and "I didn't come all this way not to finish." and finally "I want my f'cking Ironman tattoo."

I decided that the run between aide stations plan was not working. A lot of the aide stations were on dirt and it didn't hurt to run on those like it did on the concrete. So I revised to a new plan. I would run on the dirt and any downhills and I would walk all the uphills and I would play it by ear on the flat concrete parts. This worked out fairly well, but every stretch of walking cut into my time cushion.

People were telling me that I would make it and that I could race walk the whole thing at this point and still make it, but I started doing math in my head, and I didn't think they were right. Plus, while the racers, spectators and volunteers were encouraging, the guys with the walky-talkies looked concerned and I figured they knew better about who was going to make it and who wasn't.

It didn't help that I didn't know the cutoffs for the run checkpoints and no one I asked did either. I ended up walking a lot of the second loop and I was afraid that I wouldn't be let in to do the third loop based on my progress so far so I tried to pick up the pace. I was so relieved when I was allowed in.

At that point I had 2:35 left and my calculations said I would make it if I kept my average run pace to 15 minute miles. Therefore, I was quite surprised when the guy with the walky-talky said I would have to dig deep and keep up my current pace (I was running when I entered loop three) if I wanted to make it. So I went over my calculations again and realized I had left off the 6.2 miles when I was doing the math and that I would actually be over by seven minutes if I kept the 15:00 pace! I figured I needed to be closer to 14:45. Though all of this was complicated by the fact that my Garmin didn't agree with their signs about how many miles I'd gone and my math skills were deteriorating rapidly.

So I started running more. I forced myself to run every time my average pace went to 15:00 or more no matter how bad it felt.

I also found that at mile 18, I had pretty much no juice left. Up until then it was my injury holding me back, but at mile 18, I also ran out of run fitness. I slogged on until mile 20. At this point, I had two hours left and I knew I had run a 10 k in 1:06 at Santa Cruz doing a 3 minutes run, 1 minute walk pattern so I did that on all the non-dirt flats.

Or I tried. I couldn't always run for 3 minutes and my 1 minute walk sometimes stretched out to much more than one minute. But I was able to get my average run pace down to 14:49 and I knew there was a big stretch of dirt for the last miles and I was more hopeful of making it.

It was actually dirt intersected by paved paths leading down to the water. So I would run a few yards chanting "run on the dirt, run on the dirt" take about 3 steps of walking on the concrete path and then go back to "run on the dirt". Part of me thought it was kind of silly to walk those steps but my legs didn't want to run at all so the walk breaks kept them from just shutting down entirely.

I got to the turning point for the finish and the volunteers kept telling me I was going to make it if I just kept running but I didn't think I could. I remembered the path to the finish line chute being much longer than it was and my legs did not want to run at all and it was so close to midnight. I stopped twice but forced myself to start up again and then I saw the chute and that I was going to make it and I forced myself down it and it was amazing.

My kids were there and I could tell they were proud of me and Mr. Mac too and I slapped hands with them and with strangers calling my name and Mike Reilly called out my name and said "You are an ..." and made the crowd shout "Ironman".

Finish Line Girl was there to "catch" me and we hugged and hugged and then she took me over to Chrissie to get my medal and told her "this is the one who wrote you the letter" so I guess she got it and also she even read it because she got kind of emotional and started thanking me like I had done something wonderful (instead of her doing something wonderful for me) and we hugged and it was very overwhelming and she thanked me some more and we got our picture taken together.

(Have I mentioned how much I love this woman? She is so genuinely kind and giving.)

Then I went to find my family, eat some food and get a massage. The only food left was some pizza that turned my stomach and some fries that looked okay. But while I was waiting for my massage, eating a fry or two, my stomach finally rebelled from what I had done to it on the run and I had to run to the bathroom. It wasn't too bad though and I did have Immodium on me so I was able to get back in the massage line.

After my massage, I was finally cold so I put on some dry clothes from the morning clothes bag and then we all went back to the house where MacBoy informed me that I was a champion and he was going to put that on Facebook. Aw.

The Aftermath

So it's several days later and I've had some time to process things and look at my split times. I've also been asked several times if I would do this again so let's get that out of the way first.

My answer is: Well, I'm signed up for Ironman Canada next year so I kind of have to, don't I? :)

But seriously, I'm looking forward to IMC. I still want to do it.

At the same time, I never want to do "this" again. "This" doesn't mean an Ironman. It means the way it went down. The brutal bike course, the flirting with the cutoffs for most of the race and, most importantly, not having much fun on the run.

One of my big goals was to have fun and I did have some fun, but not enough especially at the end.

The swim was good even though it took longer than I wanted. The bike had fun parts. The first pass up the Beeline was good. The rainbows were good. The crowd was awesome. I enjoyed the course when I wasn't being beaten about by incredibly hard winds (and even sometimes then). I had fun waving to my friends (who are awesome, by the way) and feeding off the crowd support. I had fun seeing the pros because the course had so many loops so I actually was racing with them instead of miles behind them. I executed my nutrition plan perfectly too.

But I did not have the speed or the bike fitness to deal with those conditions and that was not fun. The last four miles on the bike were not fun at all.

As for the run, pretty much none of it was fun except a little bit running with George from our club, seeing Cee on the last loop and talking to some of the other people in as much of a time crunch as I was. Not to mention, getting to hug Chrissie at the finish line. Oh and the cookies -- the cookies were definitely fun.

But mostly the run was just a hurdle to get through to get what I wanted, which was to be an Ironman.

On the other hand, I feel like this race was a triumph. Not a physical one as the only time goal I made was my T2 time (ha!), but definitely a mental one. I did not give up when the wheels came off my race and I am an Ironman and I have my tattoo and a hug from my idol, Chrissie.

19% of the starters did not finish, but I did and, for this race in particular, it is not some platitude to say that finishing is winning.

The Future

So what does the future hold for me? I have decided that I love the Half-ironman distance and that 70.3 is going to be "my" distance. I will continue to do full Ironmans, but only if there is something meaningful or fun about the course and maybe not one (or more) every year.

IMC is a big race for my club and racing with my friends is fun. Plus, the course is beautiful. So I will definitely do that one. And maybe some day I'll do some of the other courses that are on my list and even Ultraman Canada one day. But I'm going to slow down about it, make sure I'm healed and make sure I'm still having fun every step of the way.

The thing is, I had this bug to do an Ironman and this feeling that time was not on my side. So I rushed to do this one while I still wanted to do it and while I still could. But now I've done it so that sense of urgency and of time running out isn't there any more.

I also want to concentrate on getting stronger and faster rather than on distance at this point. If I were faster and/or stronger, the winds wouldn't have taken so much out of me and if I was faster, I wouldn't have been in such danger of not making the cutoffs.

I certainly would have had more fun!

So I'm not sure about also doing Cozumel next year. It's not the two Ironmans in one year or that the course is supposed to be hard (because it's not though with my racing history they will probably have a freak hurricane while we're there). It's mostly that racing in November makes the season really long.

I thought I needed that extra time this season to get ready but in retrospect I think I was completely ready to do this race at the end of the August and all having the extra time did was allow me to re-injure my calf and develop back, hip and foot problems.

IMAZ '10 by the numbers

I alluded to this when talking about my bike splits. It seems like my perception of how the race was going didn't always match reality. When I look at my split times, it seems like the second loop actually took longer than the first even though I was pushing it. Cee says that she though the winds were worse on that loop, not better, so maybe that was it. Here is what I did:

Swim: 1:42:45 (2:42 / 100m pace) 2141/2362 overall, 39/56 in my age group
T1: 6:47 (5/56 in my age group!)
Bike: 8:26:12 (13.29 mph) 2292/2362 overall, 50/56 age group
T2: 4:04 (5\56 age group)
Run: 6:32:39 (14:59 mile pace) 2207/2362 overall, 48/56 age group
Total: 16:52:27 (2205/2362 overall, 48/56 age group)

For the three loops of the bike, I averaged 13.69 mph, 12.8 mph and 13.37 mph respectively. I got in almost 15 min before the bike cutoff (which was 5:30, not the 5:20 I thought it was). This means I actually did the first loop the fastest and when I thought it had taken me 3 hours, it was actually around 2:42. The second loop that I thought I'd done in 2:45 was actually done in 2:53:27. The last loop was slightly faster at 2:50:32, but I thought I'd done it in around 2:40 (though honestly I stopped checking after 5:11 pm when I kind of just didn't want to know).

For the three loops of the run, it's almost impossible to tell what was going on by the split times posted on IronmanLive.com. It seems like they were reporting the times from a mat near run station #2 and not the one when you first entered the loop. But based on how my pacing is reported, it looks like I did the first loop slower than I thought and the second loop faster. I did pick up the pace for the third loop as I thought I had and definitely for the last bit when I did more running that walking. I'll be able to judge more when I'm able to upload the data from my Garmin and study it assuming I ever do that.

Odds and Ends

Some stuff I forgot to include in my report and I can't figure out how to make fit:

I ended up taking about 6 Advil and 2 muscle relaxers during the race. I used up all my ACLis samples, mostly on the run and they helped a lot. I forgot to pack the Aleve I was going to take in T2 and I could have used more Advil, too, but it was okay.

On the second loop, at Run Station #2 (run by Team Blazeman), they were calling out what they had but it was all liquid. I said "cookies, where are the cookies" in a frantic tone of voice, but there weren't any cookies so I just kept running. As I was heading around the corner almost to the Last Chance Trash sign, a guy comes running up yelling "Who wanted the cookies" and he gave me three cookies! I thought that was so awesome that I tried to eat all three which was a mistake. I stopped after eating most of the second one and gave the third one to Mr. Mac when I passed him.

On the bike course, I saw the leading pros with a motorcycle escort several times. The first time Chris (Lieto) was leading the men and Chrissie the women. The second time Jordan Rapp seemed to be in the lead and I had a feeling Chris was not going to have a good race. The second time the women went by, I didn't see Chrissie but two other women in the lead. They were going so fast though that I figured I must have missed her. But the third time I clearly saw that Wong was the lead cyclist and I started to worry that something had happened to Chrissie.

When I next saw The Sherpa, I asked him what happened and he said she'd torn up the course and set an American Record. (It was actually a World Record for a WTC-branded Ironman.) She also came in 8th overall, beating all but seven of the men. So I'm thinking that she was too close to the men to get her own motorcycle and that's why I didn't see her.

She also ran with bloody feet! I figured she'd finish around 8:30 to 8:40 on this course and she finished just over 8:31. Which is even more amazing considering the conditions. She did her swim in 51 minutes and the marathon in 2:51. I'm in awe.

Cee says she saw me many times on the bike and called out every time but I only saw her twice. I saw my friend Dan once and George from the club once on the bike and once on the run.

A guy from my club who is an Ironman Animal decided to comes to Arizona at the last minute to watch the race. He had raced last year and we had cheered him on so it was great to see him on the bike course yelling like crazy for me. I yelled back. :D

My friends were great too. They screamed every time I saw them and they stayed on the bike and run course for a very long time. I really feed off the crowd so having people there cheering for me, especially people I know, helps so much. So does racing with friends.

I think that's everything. If you have any questions, just ask.
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