Thursday, November 24, 2011

Ironman Arizona 2011

For those who want the cliff-notes version, come back in the next day or two for my race video.  I really wanted to wait to post this till I had race photos from ASI but 5 DAYS after I ordered them and I have not received anything yet..

The start cannon went off and the crush of bodies in the water began to swim.  There was bumping and jostling and occasionally half a body on top of my legs but I felt good!  I really don't mind the triathlon body contact any more and I knew I was getting pulled along with the masses for some extra speed.  If I wanted, I could just pretend I was working the pole up the street at Babes or Skin, given how many times my ass was being groped by strangers.

Surprisingly, given that the water temperature was identical to the Splash & Dash I'd done the previous week, I was not really cold.  Certainly not the bad shivering and shaking I'd done in 2009 in similar conditions.  Maybe all those days of ending my showers with a blitz of cold water to the head had worked.
I'd worried about sighting on the outbound leg into the rising sun but as it turned out all I really needed to do was follow the many flailing arms and bobbing heads in front of me.  I made it to the far end of the course, turned left once, turned left again and began the trek back.  At that point my watch said 53 minutes and I was on track for about the swim I'd expected.  Well, the way back turned out to be a bit more of a challenge.  Much of my draft was gone and sighting was oddly difficult - I KNEW I just needed to get to the Mill Ave bridge and yet the buoys seemed to curve in and out.  With about 1000m left to go, a bigger girl with a huge kick went by - I latched onto her feet and went hard to stay with her for the draft.  I rounded the final turn buoy and headed for the exit stairs.  At that point you can hear Mike Reilly and the music and the crowd, you *just* have to swim a little further.  100 yards from the swim exit, my draft, who was having some trouble sighting and had gone off to one side, kicked me squarely in the right eye.  We both popped up stunned for a millisecond and then kept swimming.  At that point, who cares if my goggle might leak or I might get a black eye, I just want to finish this swim! While it was not exactly where I expected to come out time wise, I learned that pretty much everyone I knew had slower swims than anticipated so I'll just take it for now.  We have plans for working on the swim for next year.

A wonderful volunteer grabbed my arm and hauled me out of the lake, I ran up the steps and across the mat, and that was one leg of this amazing race DONE!

2.4 mile swim: 1:57:26

I ran right to the wetsuit strippers, who had me out of my lovely Blueseventy suit in no time, and began the long run to transition - all the way around the bikes and changing tent, grabbed my bag, and then into the changing tent. was chaos!  Last time I'd raced and come out of the water 13 minutes later than this, I had the tent mostly to myself.  This time it took a second of scanning the area to find an open chair, which I dropped into and got to work.  I had planned in advance with my coach to wear the same outfit all day, which meant riding in tri shorts (having applied copious amounts of Aquaphor before the swim) and a faster transition.  While I put my socks and shoes on, my kickass volunteer got a baby wipe for me to clean the TTL dirt off my face, stuffed my nutrition in my pocket, and put my race belt on.  I grabbed my helmet and sunglasses and ran out.  It definitely paid off to think through the order/commands I needed to bark out in transition to fly through quickly without forgetting anything.  I ran for the bikes - where mine was racked on the far end, closest to the bike out - and was lucky enough to get Danni as my bike handler - great to see a familiar face as I headed out!

T1: 4:17

And then it was time to ride my bike, 3 loops around the course, for a total of 112 miles.  I knew there was no "racing" that would be done here, simply spinning at the intended watts and fueling up for however many hours it would take (I guessed between 6:45 and 7:00)  There was a little headwind on the way out of loop 1 but nothing like last time where I'd had to spin 11mph in my small ring to get my heart rate down and stay within my target watts.  My legs were a little cold and slow to warm up but I felt good.  After 15 minutes to let my stomach settle down from drinking half of TTL, I began to take in calories.  The wind shifted after my first loop and loops 2 and 3 were characterized by tailwind on the way out to Shea and strong headwind on the return trip.  Sometimes, it sucked.  I might have stuck my finger down my throat and made gagging noises at Jeff on my way out for loop 3 to indicate my enthusiasm.  But I knew if I kept at it and just focused on the plan, it would end eventually.  And really it wasn't that bad, because I'd practiced riding in lots of wind in aero.
In the meantime, I was entertained by friendly comments from other athletes (soooo many men who flew by me took the time to offer encouragement and I still remember the first who did - when I looked him up later, it turns out he was the 1st overall amateur in the race - how cool is it that one of the crazy fast people is still supporting others out on the course?), by watching the little pace lines of drafters go by (and chuckling when I heard the put-put of the race official's motorcycle shortly thereafter), and by the fact that even while staying within my race limits and not trying to race I was passing people!
So here's where I managed something new and exciting...for the entire bike ride - all 6 hours and 49 minutes - I never got off the bike.  I grabbed water bottles from the aid station volunteers while riding.  I peed twice on the bike, on the downhill of loops 1 and 3.  I knew Mary would be very proud of me for that!  And I rode this distance for the first time ever in tri shorts!  I experienced some chafing but nothing any worse than usual for me - thankfully I ride an Adamo saddle (cutout in the middle) so the spot I chafe is more at the top of my inner thighs.  (Side note: however, when you are chafed...and you burns a little!)
Eventually I made the last turn onto Rio Salado and knew I had less than 2 miles to go.  I started getting ready to get off the bike, undoing my shoes and slipping my feet out, and wondered how it would feel to move after so many hours of continuous riding!

112 mile bike: 6:49:48

The first few steps were...a little rough and then I took off running to grab my bag and hit up the changing tent.  Tossed my helmet off, grabbed my socks and shoes to put on, and asked the volunteer to shove my bundle of gels in my pocket while I got my shoes on.  Her response? "I'll get it after you stand up.  Don't worry, it's not even 4:00 yet and you have till midnight, you have plenty of time to finish."  Hmmph.  So...transition took a little longer than I would have liked.  Volunteers are a wonderful thing to have so I'm not going to say anything negative but a little aid would have been appreciated.

T2: 2:28

Off to run and I knew I needed to dial back my pace right away.  Make it feel painfully easy for the first 5 miles.  I felt slow as could be, like I was trotting in place, while I ambled along passing people but it worked.
The first 8-point-something mile loop was completed entirely in my goal pace.
Our pre-planned mini goal had been for me to run Jen down and then pull her with me to the finish for a PR for both of us.  I was getting updates from her family and mine that I was catching up with her but it was sooner than I'd expected.  The next update I got was that she was BEHIND me.  Huh?  Turns out I'd passed when she stopped to use a bathroom.  So I never saw her on the run.
Somewhere around the 12 mile mark, I slowed to walk a hill and felt a wave of dizziness hit.  Uh oh, that's not good.  My race-fried brain tried so hard to figure out what I needed - calories? electrolytes? even more water?  Well after discussion with my coach the missing ingredient was salt - a lot more than I was taking in.  So I struggled with nausea and dizziness for the remaining half of the marathon.  Not exactly the run time I'd expected/trained to have but that just gives me a goal for next time.  For most of the 2nd loop, I ran from aid station to aid station and walked the aid stations while trying Coke, orange slices, anything that seemed it might settle well in my stomach.
The third loop was up and down.  I was still passing people more than I was being passed, I was taking in calories at the aid stations via orange slices, and I was trying not to walk more than the aid stations.  But somewhere around mile 22 and again at mile 23 I let myself walk for 5 minutes and tried to fuel up for the remaining miles.
At mile 24, I started running and did not stop.  I blew right through the last aid station and kept going.  I was on a mission to finish.  I think the crowd near the Mill Ave bridge knew I was headed for the end and gave me lots of cheers.  I high-fived the volunteer working the split off point between the turn to the finish and the other loops of the run.  I ran through the parking lot, turned onto Rio Salado and picked up the pace.  I ran until I had clear space for the finish chute on my own and then I ran even harder.
The magical moment of an Ironman finish chute arrived.  Screaming crowd, bright lights, and Mike Reilly calling my name.  The happiest place on earth, even happier the second time around.

26.2 mile run: 4:50:57

I can see now how each Ironman finish is special in its own way.  The first...well, there's never anything like your first and that voyage into the unknown.  This one was the confirmation that I could do more than just finish, I could come back to the same course, having worked harder and smarter for the two years in between, and improve upon the past.

Finish: 13:44:56 
A 75 minute Ironman PR

Having reviewed this race with my coach and identified where I had problems and hearing her plans for me to achieve that next big breakthrough, I can say - though I questioned my sanity for signing up for Canada several times on race day - that I can't wait to tackle the next set of challenges.  I'll be resting and doing my own thing for another 5 weeks but then...bring it!

Thank you to my husband for supporting me 100% through all the insanity of Ironman training, to my coach for getting me to the start line in the best shape of my life, to Recovery e21 for supporting all of my training and racing this year (I PRed at every distance this year using e21, those are results that speak for themselves!), and to Dr Brink and staff at Premiere Spine & Sport for keeping all my little aches and pains from becoming BIG aches and pains.


Beth said...

Awesome race Molly. So happy for you to have all your hard work and dedication pay off! Huge congrats!!!

Clarese said...

Molly, you are truly amazing! Congratulations. I can't wait to read about your next one :)

Stef0115 said...


Great race and great report! Very happy for your accomplishments and excited to follow you through your next big breakthrough.


Unknown said...

Great race Molly!! a 75-minute PR is AMAZING! Great job!! As awesome as you did, it's exciting that you know you can do better- get PSYCHED for Canada! :)

jennabul said...

Major congrats to you and all those who supported you. I am so happy you PRed by such a large amount. I hope you bought loads of finisher gear again and good luck in Canada :-)

Meredith said...

Great RR! You worked your ass off and it off in 75 minute PR. I can't wait to follow your adventures as you train for Canada!

Jennifer Harrison said...

Congrats again on your PR! You had a great day and overcame some low points! so excited for you and great to see you out there and all around that weekend. :) HOPE you are enjoying your rest!!!!

kT said...

Yea you! Awesome job. And however you were feeling, you look so strong in all those run photos!

Aimee said...

Great race report! That is just amazing that you had a 75min. PR! Woohoo!

Johanne Roberts said...

Congrats on a great race! It was fun reliving the day :)

Liz Waterstraat said...

You're one of the hardest workers I know, Molly. Look at how far you've come in the past few years. Many more PRs ahead. Now enjoy your rest!

mtanner said...

I am so HAPPY that you had such an awesome race. Congrats again on the Big PR! And I am so proud of you for making me PROUD on the pee!

Melissa said...

Such an awesome job Molly! That's a huge PR. I've heard wonderful things about the IMCA course and town, I can't wait to hear how that goes for you too.

Marci said...

I have been stalking your blog waiting for this report!! Wow, congratulations, I absolutely loved your report, you did an amazing job and are an inspiration to this Ironman wannabe. Love the finish shoot picture as well!

Gina said...

Nicely done Molly! Sounds like all your hard work paid huge dividends! I love how you never let the roadblocks stop you, you had a plan and stuck with it. Congratulations on a great race!

Freementia said...

Well done Lady-Dood. You have mega support here in Boise.

Btw- what is TTL dirt?

San said...

Congratulations. Wohoo.

Kim said...

way to run down that HUGE PR molly! congrats!!!

Elayne said...

Great job Molly, congrats on your huge PR! Now you get to enjoy a well deserved rest.

Caratunk Girl said...

HOLY PR!!!! What an awesome race!! Congrats to you!! SO AMAZING!!!

AND. Puck is such a cutie!! HOW did I just notice his cute little face on the sidebar???

GoBigGreen said...

Congrats Molly! I am sitting at chemo with rich so this was surely a highlight for me to read:) I think the salts is so hard to figure out, live and learn i guess!
Rest up!

Iron Krista, "The Dog Mom" said...

FANTASTIC race, and report! You looked amazing out there! Excited for Canada.. and I promise, it's not THAT hard ;)

Meera said...

What an amazing race! You are my hero for peeing on the bike :) Sorry about the low salt problem - I hope it never plagues you again. Now you are eligible for two IM tattoos :)