Total time: 12:56:40 (25/103 AG, 1117/2361 OA)
Swim time: 1:26:40 (48/103 AG)
Bike time: 6:17:35 (17/103 AG)
Run time: 5:02:06 (37/103 AG)
T1 time: 6:35
T2 time: 3:45
The hotel shuttle delivered me and my husband to the race site around 5:15. First task was to load up the bike with water bottles, fill the aero drink, 20 or so GU packets and salt tabs into the bento box. I also needed to pump my tires. I'd deflated them just slightly the day before knowing that the bike would sit in the sun all afternoon and then the temps would drop and then it would heat up again as we were in the water. Or so I imagined.... I remember last year when we volunteered in the transition area as bike handlers that tires were actually popping in the racks and we were running around trying to find them and get them repaired before racers came in from the swim. Crazy! In any case, it got pretty cloudy and cool on Saturday afternoon and remained so into Sunday morning so it never really got hot.
So a nice young man with a pump was pumping up the tires on some other gal's bike next to mine. I used my "damsel in distress" act to get him to pump mine too ;). Nice!
Next, it was on to my transition bags to drop in a couple of last minute items that included chap stick, salt pills and a couple of GUs for the run. I have no use for special needs bags so didn't have to be bothered with finding the location of that drop off. Keep it simple is my mantra!
Nothing else to do at this point except check the bike one more time — okay maybe one more time after that too... then stand in the porto line to pee and then stand in another porto line to pee. So I'm standing in this line with about 50 other people and this girl runs to the front with another girl and says "Can she cut? she's an athlete!" and we were all like ummm yah, we're all athletes! Get in line!!
Finally, it was time to work my way into the wetsuit. I found a quiet place away from the crowd which was good because the butterflies were in full flight at this point. I forgot to keep a body glide with me which I'd pay for dearly later....
Suit on. Goggles and swim cap on. I need prescription goggles to see so I walk around like a dork with them down on my eyes long before we hit the water. Its go time and I make my way to the water. The pros are in already and about to go. Its still pretty dark! We get herded into the swim entrance which requires us to climb over a railing and down onto a deck. From there you gotta just jump in! Mike Reilly was imploring the crowd of athletes to get into the water so they could get the race started. No time to think about how cold the water was. Just jump!!
The water in Tempe Town Lake is cold! I'd gotten an ice cream headache the day before when I jumped in for the practice swim, but this morning it didn't bother me at all. I guess I was too preoccupied with the task at hand to even notice. You had to get out of the way for the next people jumping in so there was no time for any drama. I made my way toward the bridge and then under to the other side. Was very cool to look up and see all the people lined up on the bridge above and along the side of the lake. It was still a little dark. I just picked a spot kind of in the middle and kind of close to the start line. I had space around me initially, but it quickly filled in. Women were in purple caps and guys in red. I had a lot of guys around me which made me a little nervous...
I know there was music playing but I don't remember what it was. I was concentrating on keeping my head above water and not making too much contact with the other athletes who were quickly filling in around me.
Finally the canon sounded and it was gloves off! I got elbowed in my left eye almost immediately. It felt like it was swelling up and I felt sure I'd have a black eye by the time I got out, but I think the force just created some suction that made my eye feel really weird... good times :). So I did what I had to do to keep moving forward. Got chopped in the throat and thought my esophagaus might be crushed :). I threw a couple of hard kicks totally unintentionally that landed on some unfortunate soul. Hope that person made it out of the water... Tried to stay calm and get into a rhythm. It was a long way out to the turn around buoy. I kept hearing Max's words— "just run your engine" — so I made that my mantra for the day. At one point before the turn around, I was way inside the buoy line and the kayakers were yelling at a bunch of us to go right. So I got off course here and probably wasted time trying to get right of those next buoys. This happened to me on the way in too where I had to swim diagonally to get to the right of the buoys — again, wasted time. I did manage to draft at times and actually thought that I had a pretty good swim going. I didn't see my time until I had my wetsuit off so no idea really except that I felt good and was able push hard when I made the last turn into the finish.
Now getting out of the water was tough. The water level was a little low. You had to hoist yourself up onto the first step of the stairs, but that step was at surface level. This was a real challenge after swimming 2.4 miles! They had volunteers who helped to hoist you out. Thank god I had a strong guy who just pulled me up once I figured out how to tackle it. Again, wasted time here but not a big deal.
I was a little vertically challenged when I got onto the stairs and made my way up to the wetsuit strippers. However, my legs felt really strong and I had no trouble trotting quickly up to transition while everyone else was walking. Yelled out my number so I could get my t bag as quickly as possible. Got to the entrance of the tent and decided immediately that I was not going in. It was packed! And all I could see was bare arse. Again, I like to keep it simple. No wardrobe changes for this girl. Two piece tri suit and you swim, bike and run in it. I plopped myself down on the ground outside the tent. Dumped my bag. Put on my helmet, glasses, race belt, and shoes. Chapstick in the pocket and left the sunscreen as they had it at the tent exit. Had a terrific volunteer who knew just how to help. Let me lean on her and didn't get all up in my stuff. I was outta there pretty quick. However, I did have to get through that forest of bare arses and whatnot in the changing tent which was not easy and a little disturbing. It was absolute mayhem I tell ya. Personally, I found it to be ridiculous — one set o shourt and top for the duration ladies — simple! Just head for the bright light on the other side I told myself. Your bike awaits you there! In I went and quickly to the other side where I got slathered with sunscreen by another awesome volunteer. I ran through the transition area yelling out my number and the rack number.
So I really dig riding my bike and I was excited to get out on this course and see what I could do. I had not had any chance to ride or preview by car any part of the course beyond what was right there at the transition area so it was all gonna be an adventure. Well, an adventure it was! The first loop was fairly uneventful and my fastest. There were lots of turns before you actually got out onto what is called the Beeline. This is the straight out and back part of the course that can be really super fast if conditions are right. Note: IF conditions are right! There is a slight incline on the way out, but for those of us from the northeast, its fairly negligible.
The way out was great! Had a tailwind and was cruising between 18 and 24 mph. The scenery this first time out was interesting. Basically its the desert with big cacti like you see in the movies. The Beeline is a 4 lane highway with a decent width of desert between one side and the other. So we had one side all to ourselves which was good. The only thing you had to be weary of was bikers coming the other way and the pros who blew by with their motorcycles in tow. "Run your engine" was the mantra.
Hit the turn around and that tailwind became a headwind. Wasn't too bad on the first lap. The weather was looking quite threatening at times, but so far had held up. They had been forcasting rain and high winds for the day so every mile that went by that didn't include too much of either felt like a blessing. Got back into town and the weather was better there with more sun than clouds and less wind. Great crowd support which is just what you needed before you headed back out to do it again. Saw Dave and Brendan and Arizona Max each time.
Second loop was again a good trip out but with a little more cross wind at times rather than tailwind. At the turn around the wind was a little crazier. I hit the turnaround at exactly 3 hours. I was stoked! I had told Max that I thought I might be able to do a 6 hour bike split and here it was happening. And, I wasn't killing myself to do it either. At least, not until I made that turn. Riding up toward the turn around the sky had gotten really dark and it looked like it was gonna open up at any moment. That moment came just as I made the turn at the 56 mile mark. The wind was nuts. At least 20 miles an hour with gusts much higher. It started to rain and then it hailed! I thought it was supposed to be warm and dry and sunny in Arizona!! The hail was painful on your face and the wind gusts threatened to take you off your bike! Okay, so been there done that with the wind and the rain. Tried not to let it get in my head. Just hunker down and keep pushing forward. Stay upright and don't let anyone take you out.
The rain and hail ended fairly quickly. You could tell that it was precipitating in small areas because suddenly it was dry and then wet again. The wind definitely made getting back into town more difficult. The wind did not let up.
Out for the third loop and the wind was going in many directions for the whole loop. Coming back in was even worse. It was definitely taking a lot more energy to maintain speed than I would have liked. Took a lot of effort just to keep moving forward and it had gotten worse closer to town as well. When I finally got to the end of the third loop and had entered into town, you could tell all weather hell had broken loose as the crowd had disappeared and the roads were wet. The wind was tough here too which made getting to transition feel like forever.
The one big mistake I made in this race was with my bike. I had purchased a new saddle and put it on myself. As a result, I knew I needed a bike fit adjustment and just was never able to make time to get this done. By the end of the ride, my feet were letting me know just how big a mistake this was. When I got off the outer sides of my feet were killing me, particularly my right foot. I thought this would dissipate quickly but it did not...
There was plenty of room in the transition tent when I arrived. A volunteer insisted I come in and sit down. I wanted to get in and get out! She was great and helped me get fresh socks and shoes on. Race belt and hat and I was good to go. Headed out and wanted to use the portos but they were occupied I think so I just kept going.
Ahh, the run... well, I really should have been able to throw down a better run time. I really believe I could have if my foot/feet had not been hurting so badly. Seriously thought I might be injuring myself each time I tried to get going. It just got too painful and I had to slow to a walk. I didn't have this problem at FIRM Man Half IM so not sure what caused this except that I know my bike fit is off and my ankle/knee/hip alignment was all f'd up. I should have addressed this and didn't... stupid, stupid, stupid! The bike course is such that you rarely stop pedaling. Its more or less flat and with the wind there was no coasting. It was pedal or fall down! So that amounted to a lot of pressure on my feet.
Anyway, here I am. On the run. Got to get it done. I was at 8:04 coming out of transition so I knew I a good race going and I'd had to just push through it. So I did. Ran as much as I could and then walked a bit. Very quickly I was able to talk myself into running between every aid stations. This became the rhythm of the run for me.
The course is three loops, each roughly 8.5 or so miles. It crosses over the lake and back againwith a ton of turns. Not exactly flat as there are many very sharp turns and inclines and few descents. There are also a lot of surface changes. At times you're on concrete, then pavement, then unpaved pathway and then there were a few places where they had raised platforms to get you over rough areas. You had to pay attention to your footing in many places and watch out for curbs and things too. The loop seemed so complex that you never really got bored with it. I didn't really have it figured out until my third go around.
The aid stations were all themed and really fun. I got into the coke pretty much immediately. Coke, water, grapes, orange slices and an occasional pretzel or potato chip was what I went after each time. Just the sight of gel packet made my stomach turn a little. I'd had enough on the bike, but probably should have forced another one or two down while out there. The sun was out for a bit, but for the most part it was overcast and cool. At one point I got rained on just a tiny bit, but also noticed that it had rained on other parts of the course as it was wet in places.
It took about 13 miles for my feet to work through their issues. I kept on just trying to run as much as I could and looked forward to each aid station mostly as an indication that I had made it another mile. With three loop course, there's a lot of mile markers. You get excited when you see the shape in the distance until you get close enough to see that its not the one applicable to the loop you're on... doh!
So the other big mistake I made was to choose NOT to wear my Garmin. I had my Suunto on and it got messed up during the swim so I couldn't really be certain what my time was once I left the big clock at transition. In hindsight, that clock may have been ten minutes ahead for the pros... not sure. In any case, I couldn't be certain what kind of pace I was running or even where I was in terms of my time. So major mistake number two.
I think it was on the second loop when I walked past two young gals who were walking more slowly. They asked me, "What loop are you on ma'am?" Ma'am!!? Doh! I started running. Don't call me ma'am!
Third loop. I want to be done. Its dark and there are places where its hard to see. I become very motivated to finish this thing. Three miles out and I'm on a mission to run and not stop until I hit the finish line. I come to the part where there is a makeshift walkway to get us over a rough construction area. Its only wide enough for one person or two shoulder to shoulder. Come up on two guys walking through it. No way to get around them. "Giddy up guys!" I'm a little annoyed... They get outta my way thanks very much. A lot of folks are walking at this point, but I gotta be done. Lots of 'scuse me, pardon me on the bridge back to the other side where transition is. There's a guy running behind me who is on a similar mission. He runs past me as there is finally space to do so and let's me know that we can still make it under 13 hours if we keep moving.
This was a magical moment. This guy suddenly giving me this incredible awareness of the time as if he knew what my absolute do or die goal was and some how also knew that maybe I'd lost sight of it. Maybe it was Chlo? :). He was a bit faster than me but we agreed that we needed to keep running to the finish to keep it under 13. To have not kept it under 13 would have been a complete fail to me... If I hadn't had this information at that point in time, I might have stopped and walked or slowed for an aid station and ruined my chance to achieve my "must do" goal.
I kept that guy in my sights for the duration. I did not stop running. I did not take in any more fluids or food at the remaining aid stations. Got to the path along the lake that eventually led to transition. More and more spectators lining the path. Mile markers passing more quickly now... mile 24, mile 25 — keeping that guy in my sights.
I did visit the medical tent for a little while. Needed to lay there for bit until I could stand up without falling over. They gave me lots of chicken soup which really helped me to get back on my feet.
So I guess given how tough things got out on the bike, I am pretty happy with this result. There's no doubt in my mind that I could have run a better marathon if my feet hadn't been messed up. To have gone 4:45 would have been just perfect. I'm very pleased with my bike split given the conditions. A flat 6 hour split would have been achievable for me on a better day. The swim... well, the swim is the swim. My transitions were fast and that's what helped to keep me under 13.
I feel like I have to go do this course again. Regretting a little that I didn't sign up for next year, but maybe again in 2012 :)