Ironman Arizona 2012 Part 3 - The Run

I really need to finish this race report off... Truth is, I've been putting off writing about the run because I'm not really sure how I feel about it.  There are some things I'm happy about, and some things I'm not.  Such is life, I guess.  Here's my shot at wrapping it up.

I flew through T2 (bike to run transition) pretty quickly for me, in 3:33.  There was hardly anyone in the change tent, and I had two fabulous volunteers all to myself.  They handed me my socks (I think they didn't want to put them on after they saw me smearing vaseline all over my feet - more on that later), helped put my shoes on, shoved stuff in my pockets, packed up my bike stuff... and before I knew it, I was outta there - despite me telling them I wasn't in a rush.

The first few kilometres of the run felt easy, but I didn't feel like my legs were "racy".  If that makes sense.  They didn't feel worked over from the bike, but they didn't feel full of pep.  Honestly, it just felt like a regular training run.  I had a plan, and that was to run 8 minutes / walk 2 minutes for the first three hours, then 4/1 after that.  I also had a pace I wanted to stick to, and I noticed pretty quickly that I was in the higher end of that range.  Oh well.  I stuck to my plan and that went fine.

One nice thing about the course is that it is three loops of a somewhat figure-8, meaning I got to see my peeps a lot.  Of course one not-so-nice thing about the course is that it's three loops, that kind of gets to you after a while.  In a "oh, this again..." kind of way.  The first loop was really uneventful, save for my cheering section whooping it up every time I came through.

There were tonnes of spectators everywhere on the transition side of the lake, and all the cheers and people help pass the time and mileage.  It was pretty warm out, but the aid stations had sponges and ice, so I never really felt the heat.  Some of the runners were complaining about being hot, but I didn't notice.  That's a good sign and I'm happy about that.  I also enjoy the run leg of any triathlon for the social aspect; I love to chat with runners going by about how their races are going, where they're from, etc.  Makes up for that lonely bike leg!

Running through the crowds is always fun!
Running past a cheering Kirsty... I'm not sure
what I'm doing with my arm there so clearly
I still need to work on my form.

I did notice by the end of that loop that I didn't put enough vaseline on my left foot and I could feel a hot spot starting.  I have really weird toes that love to form blisters.  So I decided to stop at the Special Needs station and grab my bag, which I tucked some more vaseline into.  I took a few minutes to smear both feet, just to make sure everything would be good from there on.

Foot maintenance at the halfway point.
Guess I should have taken more time in T2
to slather that vaseline on!
I was told there that I couldn't get my bag again, which was kind of a bummer since I put a long-sleeved shirt in for the last lap, as when the sun goes down there it can cool off quickly.  I thought I'd better take everything with me for the whole second half of the marathon; I tied my shirt around my waist, grabbed my nutrition, and also the headlamp I had put in the bag.  It gets dark early, and there are parts of that course that are not lit.

On the bridge after the halfway point, I noticed my pace was off.  I didn't feel particularly tired, not anymore so than one would expect halfway through an ironman marathon, that is.  I was double-fisting calories at each aid station, drinking, wasn't too hot... so running through my mental checklist I couldn't really find the culprit.  Bottom line, I suck at running.  I was still having fun though, so continued on and really tried to stop checking my Garmin.

The third lap was definitely tough, and I really appreciated my cheering section being out there (still).  My legs hurt a lot, and I made some firm declarations several times that I was never going to do this again.  I just kept chatting with other runners, tried to stick to my race plan, took in calories whenever I could, and just kept putting one foot in front of the other.  I never stopped (except for a couple of porta-potties).  One thing, though - a couple of times when I was on my walk intervals, I didn't start running again at the prescribed time because I was talking to someone next to me, and I didn't want to be rude and run away.  I think I should get over that.  Just how polite do I need to be in a race, anyway?  I am a total nerd.

The last lap seemed to take forever.  Actually, it did pretty much take forever.  I was thrilled to be crossing the Rural Road bridge for the last time headed in, and a guy standing there said if I picked up the pace, I could make it in under 13.5 hours.  I didn't really know that, because I'd set my Garmin to show me my run time only.  I had a rough idea of what time it was, and really wanted to finish under 14 hours (especially since at that point, my marathon goal was out the window), so that made me really happy.  Soon enough, Jason was standing on the side of the path, and I handed him my long-sleeved shirt, which I never needed.  There was only a kilometre to go from there, but I didn't seem to be able to go any faster.  That last bit was a blur, and I vaguely remember running down the finish chute.

Once again, a couple of wonderful volunteers were there, and after giving me my finisher's medal, hat, t-shirt, some water, and making sure I was ok, they handed me off to Jason and it was all over.  A shout-out to the IMAZ volunteers: everyone was amazing, helpful, enthusiastic, and pretty much the best volunteers ever.  Thank you, all.

I was (am) super happy with my finish time (13:30), which is a PR by almost an hour.  I was (am) super happy with my swim and bike times.  I was (am) happy that I PR'd the marathon, but was (am) disappointed that I didn't break six hours for the run.  I still have soooo much work to do on my running.  Once reunited with my peeps, I made some more emphatic declarations that I was three and done, and there wouldn't be another ironman in my future.  A week later now though, and I'm not so sure... 

to be continued???

Ironman Arizona 2012 Part 2 - The Bike

I was soooo glad to be on my bike, and out of that insane swim.  I think the bashing I got was just bad luck on my part.  Bad luck because of my swim time.  If you're swimming under an hour, there's probably around 100 people (out of 3000 in the race) swimming that time (not including pros, but they have a separate start anyway).  But if you're swimming in the 1 hour to 1:15 range, there's around 1000 athletes swimming in there, so there's only so much space!  

Anyway, onto the bike.  My legs felt good right away, and for me the bike was really a big question mark because there the terrain is so different from home.  I like the course there, as I ride well when I can go into what I call "metronome mode" - just pedalling a steady cadence and holding that rhythm.  There aren't any big climbs there and no technical, twisty stuff.  As fun as rides like that are, the Arizona course just lets me settle in and maintain.

I'm definitely not on Vancouver Island anymore...

There was a headwind heading out on the Beeline for the first of the three loops, and I kept my effort feeling cruisy and comfortable.  It wasn't too crowded on the course, but I did see a couple of packs of cheating drafters all riding together.  I saw an entire pack (about a dozen athletes) all get red-carded, so the officials were out there doing their job, and the first penalty tent I went by was jam-packed.

At the first turn-around I decided to pick it up a notch and take advantage of the tailwind and false-flat descent back to town.  "Hello 11", I said as I switched into my 53-11 and hammered back to town, and ended up riding that section at 40 km/h (25 mph).  I didn't have my Garmin set to show how fast I was going (some things I don't want to see when I'm racing...), but I could tell it was fast.  It seemed to take no time at all to get back to town, where I was greeted by my awesome cheering section of Jason, Candace, Kirsty, Tim (and Tana!).

Coming into town...

and heading back out.

Another turn-around at the transition, and back out of town.  The second loop was pretty crowded as by then everyone was out of the water, and the winds had shifted.  Instead of a headwind out and tailwind back, they were pretty much all over the place and not a factor at all.  It was definitely strange, however, when I went past a sign with two flags on it, and each flag was blowing a different direction.  Didn't matter, as I was rocking a brand new set of Hed Jet 9's and they are awesome!  We decided not to use the disc cover because the wheels were so fast on their own.

I stopped at the Special Needs on my way back on the second loop, and I want to give a shout-out to the amazing volunteers that took care of me there.  It wasn't very busy in my number area, and the guy who grabbed my bag pulled everything out of it for me, took away my empty bottles from my bike and stuck my new ones in the cages, handed my sandwich to me and I think he even opened the baggie it was in.  He and another woman gave me a push-off and I was back on the course, I don't think I was there for even a minute.  

Once again it seemed I was back to town in a flash, and back past my awesome cheering section at the turnaround.  It's almost like this race is the movie Groundhog Day, as you keep repeating the same over and over... once again I was headed back out of town on my bike.  The third loop was uneventful for the most part.  I stopped at a porta-potty just past the drive-in theatre (thanks to the volunteer there who took my bike), had the same fluky winds as the second lap, and turned around to come back to town for the final time.  

One thing about an Ironman bike course, it's pretty lonely.  Sure, there are 3000 people racing, but because of the drafting rules you have to be 4 bike lengths apart at all times (except a 20-second window to pass someone), so you never get to really chat with any of the athletes.  As a result, you're just kind of on your own for the entire 180 kilometres.  

And just like that again, I was back in town.  But this time I wasn't making the turn to head back out, and instead peeled off to head into transition.  A volunteer grabbed my bike, another handed me my run gear back, and it was onto the run.  My bike time was 6:00:49 (26th place in my AG) which I'm super happy with!  I wanted to be under 6:15, and figured if everything went perfectly I'd ride close to six.  But as I said, it's always an unknown with the terrain so different, and whatever race-day magic shows up... and I definitely got some race-day magic out on the bike that day.

Ironman Arizona 2012 Part 1 - The Swim

Normally, I enjoy swim races.  It's fun to push hard, and I'm not too poor of a swimmer so I revel in my strong event.  To get into Tempe Town Lake involves jumping off a cement wall into cold, inky-black water.  When I hit the water it didn't seem as cold as I remembered; maybe because my sweet BlueSeventy Reaction fits really well, or maybe because training for the Alcatraz swim had numbed my cold water senses a bit.  There's a bit of a swim to the start line, where  I lined up a little to the left of the lake, about three rows back (exactly where I'd planned).  There seemed like there was some open water in that spot too.

I had about ten minutes to wait for the start, and killed time by chatting with everyone around me.  There were mostly men there; I didn't really see any women.  We all seemed in pretty good spirits: giggling, being friendly and encouraging each other.  I figured I had a solid spot to start and the swim would go well, especially because I'd had some good swims this year in a couple of races.  Well... the cannon went off and I had about five seconds before all hell (almost literally) broke loose.

I tried to swim in a nice rhythm, but it seemed like wherever I was in the water, several other people also wanted that EXACT spot.  Not incredibly rare for a triathlon start, but the level of aggression really surprised me.  I was swam on top by the same person for over a minute, was punched, kicked, grabbed, pushed under... in general totally beat to crap.  Again, triathlon starts are rough, but this was like nothing else I've experienced.  I played waterpolo at a pretty competitive level for several years (not to mention when I was a kid my dad and I used to have a cut-throat game of water basketball in our backyard pool, so I am used to being practically drowned by larger men), but this swim experience made waterpolo players seem like complete pansies.

The kicking, the punching, the dunking, the gulping water continued, where it usually last the first couple of minutes or so.  It never let up the entire 3.8 km swim.  I wanted to haul myself up on a boat and quit.  Several times in the first 20 minutes I had that thought.  I wanted to punch and kick and flail back.  But I knew I couldn't do that, as once you give in to those negative thoughts it would be too hard to recover.  I am not one of those people who race out of anger or fear.  So I tried to ignore the pummelling, stopped a few times for people to literally get off of me, and Just. Kept. Swimming.  I channeled my inner Dory (Finding Nemo) and repeated the mantra over and over:  Just keep swimming... just keep swimming... just keep swimming... and by doing that, it kept me going and not giving in to the fury that seemed to be bubbling away at everyone else in that lake.

Just keep swimming... just keep swimming... I repeated this for at least 20 minutes and kept myself sane.  About 3/4 of the way back - BOOM - all of a sudden I got cracked in the face by a guy next to me.  So hard it made me scream, stop, and the guy stopped as well to see if I was ok.  I was a bit stunned, but thanked him for stopping, and said I was fine.  (I ended up with a faint bruise around my eye - lucky no shiner).  I put my face back in the water and swam some more, and learned how hard it was to choke back tears and swim at the same time.  But I Just. Kept. Swimming.  I tried really hard not to give in or give up.  

I have never been so happy to see the end of a swim in a triathlon.  I grabbed onto the stairs leading up the concrete wall out of the race, and wanted to hug the volunteer that pulled me out of the water.  I felt like I was in a bit of a daze, got my wetsuit pulled off by some volunteers, found myself in the change tent and collected my thoughts to get ready for the bike.  I ran through the bike transition where I saw Jason and Candace smiling.  Jason handed me my bike and I was out of there.  Relieved that I didn't quit, relieved that I didn't drown, and relieved that I was out on my bike and pedalling under a bright blue sky.

On solid ground again.

Happy to be pedalling away from the lake.

My swim split was 1:08.17, about 30 seconds faster than I swam there two years ago.  (A minute slower than my IM swim PR from 12 years ago).  I thought on a good day I'd swim maybe 1:06, so I wasn't disappointed at all in my time as I just wanted to go under 1:10 for sure.  And of course, I wanted to enjoy the swim, which I definitely didn't... but moving on - heading out onto the bike course it turns out I was in 9th place in my AG.  Happy with that as I was hoping for a top-ten swim.

Coming Soon...

I know, I know... I am behind on my race report.  I will assure you that I finished, it's just been a crazy few days.  Flying home, back to work, eating junk food - priorities!  Thanks to everyone who has been emailing, facebooking, or asking me to my face when my race report would be up.  Who knew that more than just Jason reads my blog? :)  It's coming soon.  Promise.  

Proof that yes indeed, I finished.
Obviously I pirated the picture...
real ones coming soon as well.

Gear Bag Fun

One of the things I really like about ironmans is how organized you have to be. You need a lot of stuff to get through the long day, and I love making lists and organizing things. You also are given specific bags for each leg to pack things in to, so we spent some time this afternoon getting everything ready.

Organizing the gear bags.


Here is most of what I have packed in each bag:

Morning bag - wetsuit, cap, goggles, socks (it's cold standing on the concrete before jumping into the lake), body glide.

Bike gear bag - helmet, sunglasses, bike shoes, number belt.

Bike special needs (at bike halfway point) - 2 bottles with CarboPro/Vega mix, pb & banana sandwich.

Run gear bag - running shoes, socks, Vaseline (I slather it all over my feet to prevent blisters), visor, more nutrition.

Run special needs bag (at run halfway point) - Vaseline (in case I need more), more nutrition, long sleeve shirt (it cools off quickly here).

Finish line bag - warm clothes, shoes, recovery drink.

Checking in.


Bike, and bike & run gear bags are all checked in. Special needs bags packed. Now I'm just hanging out and waiting for tomorrow!


I put ribbons on my bags to make them easier to spot. Yes they are numbered, but there are 2863 athletes in this race so anything helps!

Encouragement from a friend.


Tempe Time!

I signed up for Ironman Arizona a year ago. The training has been a blast, and I can scarcely believe I've been here in Tempe for a couple of days now. The first time I did an ironman (2000, IM Canada) I didn't really know what to expect. Ten years later I did another (2010, IM arizona), and had kind of forgotten. But it's ringing clearly in my memory right now how much that last third of the marathon is going to hurt!

Swimming at ASU in the sun.
I'm trying to think of fun mind tricks for when I'm in that place where each step of the run is like daggers in my quads. I think Stuart Smalley was on to something with his daily affirmations: "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and dog-gone it, people like me!". If I keep saying that to myself, it will keep me smiling. And when you're smiling it means all is good!

Pre-riding on the Beeline.
That brings me to my goals for the race. My number one goal is to enjoy the day and appreciate everything it brings me. I am so lucky to have a life that allows me such indulgences like ironmans. I can't control the weather, I can't control my competitors, I've tried to manage mechanical issues with my bike... so at this point all I can control is my reaction to everything around me. I have no reason to react with anything but positivity - what's not to love about a life that lets me have some serious "no fun fun" in the Arizona sunshine?!

Of course I'd like to go faster than two years ago, but if I don't.. as long as I've enjoyed the day and haven't gotten all sucky it will still be a success. Lucky for me, I have some great peeps in my corner who won't hesitate to remind me of that!

In the meantime, we've been enjoying Tempe and I'm all checked in and ready to go. Sunday can't come quickly enough!

Heading in to registration.
Emerging with my timing chip and wristband - I'm officially committed!

Pimp My Ride 2012

One week out from Ironman and it's time to get the bike ready.  Jason and I spent time this weekend dialing everything in.

First step is cleaning the bike.  It wasn't too bad seeing as it's seen a lot of trainer action lately to avoid the rain.  Still, I can't show up to such an important event with dirt on it!  Since Jason was doing some other jobs, I got to clean it with no cranks, chainrings, or chain on it.  Made it easier to get into a lot of nooks and crannies.  For anyone familiar with me, you know how much I like a clean bike, and I'll put in some serious effort towards that.  Check out my post on how to clean a bike here: Bike Bath.  I also took off the bottle cage and pump mounted on the down tube.  I need all the aero benefits of my sweet Specialized Transition frame!

All shined up, and Jason put bigger chainrings on.  Living on hilly Vancouver Island, I have pretty wussy gearing.  But headed to a fast course like Arizona requires some different gears, so new chainrings, different cassette, and new chain.  Smooth!

New bar tape, computer mount off, and bar-mounted bottle.  I love having the bottle right in front of me on my bars, as it reminds me to drink.  

Race wheels on, and we may add a disc cover once we get there.  This will be the first time I've raced without tubulars.  Jason's been doing a lot of bike gear research (nothing new, that may be the understatement of the year) and he's decided we should move to clinchers.  New clincher tires have almost as low rolling resistance as tubulars, and with latex tubes ride just as nicely.  We're going to put Stan's sealant in the tubes to help prevent flats - lots of thorn potential on a course that rolls through the desert.  Another advantage to running clinchers is I only have to carry a tiny tube rather than a spare tire.  I can change a tubular and clincher in about the same amount of time, so that's a wash.  Clinchers it is.  Jason is the bike gear guru around here, so if he thinks clinchers are the way to go, then I defer to his judgement.

A quick test ride up and down the street and we're ready to roll.  Which actually means taking the bike apart (sort of) and packing it up for travel.  For tips on how to pack a bike, check out my earlier post (click here).  Flying with a bike is a source of stress for me, so I'll be happy when we're there and everything's reassembled just right. 

Holding Together

I'm one week out from Arizona, and have managed to hold it all together without suffering any injuries during training.  That's due to a combination of a smart training program, injury-preventing body work (any little niggles were immediately subjected to ART, Graston & IMS by my chiro and PT), and a whoooooole lot of luck.

One thing that's really helped my chronic knee injury is KT Tape.  Jason first started using it a few years ago under the guidance of our chiropractor (Dr. Jim Verners in Victoria, BC).  Admittedly, I was skeptical.  How can a piece of tape do anything?  Jason assured me it helped him through a plethora of injuries, so when my knee let me know it was venturing down an unhappy path, I decided to give KT Tape a try.

KT Tape / kinesio tape / SpiderTech tape / a bunch of other brands is basically a flexible fabric tape that has several different functions depending on how it's applied.  It can be support, help to enable movement, help to restrict movement, encourage lymphatic drainage, relieve pain, prevent injuries... etc... All you need to know is the particular application for the body part and the function you need.  Jim helped me get started, but there are many many YouTube videos that can anyone can watch and learn from.

Normally after a long run (1.75 hour +), my left knee gets pretty sore, a bit swollen, and I limp around for a day.  Once I started using KT Tape - no pain, no swelling - no limping... almost unbelievable but true.  Now I can't even imagine going for a long run without taping up first.

Do-it-yourself knee support using
two separate pieces of KT Tape.

SpiderTech's pre-cut "full knee spider".

I tape my knee, and am considering trying it on my adductors for long runs as well.   Jason has taped his calf, achilles tendon, hamstring, anterior tibilalis, vastus medialus (part of the quadricep), rotator cuff and shins.  (Don't ask...) We are both KT Tape converts, and it's my go-to suggestion for anyone experiencing pain or discomfort.  I'm not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV, but give it a try!

School Pictures

Because I am a high school teacher, my life is being documented every year by the ubiquitous school pictures.  What everyone wants, isn't it, a portrait every year?  Just for you, here is a sample of my life in pictures:

Kindergarten - first school picture.

High school graduation.
10th year at Cowichan Secondary.