Sunday, December 15, 2013

Race #8 of the Season: Ironman Arizona - Part 3: Post-Race

We continue our tale (what I can remember ...) on Monday, November 18:

It's a little surprising.

You'd think the night after an extreme endurance event, you'd be able to sleep like a baby. Not so. In my case, it was probably a bit due to the massive amounts of chafing as well as an extremely sore body. I will have trouble finding a comfortable position to sleep in for about the next week or so.

We woke up relatively early; I forget exactly when, but perhaps 7ish? A bit before? We struggled to get out of bed - moving was difficult. Walking? Barely happening. I might have squished myself into compression gear if I'd been able to bend that much. As it was, getting dressed was an adventure in itself. Sure, due to crippling stiffness, but more due to the insane amounts of chafing. Let me tell you about it:

- back of the neck. Dang wetsuit. Blueseventy, if you want to either a.) send me a new wetsuit or b.) figure out how I can avoid this in the future (remember, I BodyGlide'd/TriSlide'd/Vaseline'd before the start ...), I'd appreciate it. Or any other wetsuit companies. I can (probably) be bought.
- back of the arms (few inches under the armpits. can be seen in photo of me stopped on run just above arm coolers). Happened somehow during the swim. Completely new experience. Completely miserable.
- side of the boobs. Went with a new bra - Skirt Sports! - which I had run in no problem and I think ridden in once no problem, but something happened during the course of Ironman that made it chafe me something fierce. Giant band-aids were my friends and aided me in actually wearing a bra.
- side of body. Still have a mark from that one. Still have no clue how it happened.

I will say, though, that one perk of me stopping an insane amount on the bike was that I was NOT chafed in the lady-bits area (woo hoo!) and I was NOT sunburned. Had I had those two injustices on top of everything else? I dread to think of it. *shudder*

In any case, we got dressed and shuffled (literally shuffled) outside for breakfast. We figured we'd eat first and then check out the merch. We went to NCounter for our second meal of the trip. I wasn't feeling great, but shrugged it off, thinking I just needed food. I forget what Brandon ordered, but I got eggs and strawberry French toast. The eggs were EXACTLY what my body wanted - inhaled those in about 10 seconds flat. The French toast? It was tasty ... but I could barely eat it. I maybe managed a third of it.

It was good that we ate first, as the line (practically non-existent when we got there) was out the door as we finished up. We saw Corie in line and chatted with her for a few minutes. We saw our teammate Mike as we started heading to Tempe Beach Park (his mobility appeared to be much greater than ours).

We saw Richard as we hit the park - he was walking just fine. He also said that this was the first Ironman that he got a massage after he finished and also the first one he was walking just fine. Things to keep in mind for next time ...

The volunteer line was long; we were glad we weren't in it. The line to get in the merch tent was long; Brandon hopped in it while I went down to collect our special needs bags. I was initially going to get mine and then hop in line while Brandon got his; turns out, no one was checking bags like they did the night before, so I grabbed his as well. I could have in theory dug through all the bags, seeing if there was anything I wanted out of there (I had some nice arm warmers and coolers in mine ...). But that's shady and immoral and I don't roll that way.

By the time I shuffled back up the hill with our bags, Brandon was almost in the tent. I joined him and we went inside.

Oh god, the finisher's merchandise. It is GLORIOUS. And it is EXPENSIVE. And WTC knows we'll all buy it, because we want people to KNOW what we have DONE, because it was a FEAT of GLORY, goddamnit. I know that they're suckering me in with it and I hate that I'm a willing participant.

I will say that I spent a lot less money than I could have. $220 still sucks, though.

I got:
- the coveted finisher's jacket
- a coffee mug (to match my Boulder 70.3 one)
- a picture frame (on sale. only justification)
- a finisher's visor (I run in visors, not hats)
- a sticker for my car (so everyone can always know what I did)
- a water bottle (we're triathletes. we can NEVER have too many water bottles)

I COULD HAVE gotten:
- a plaid faux-western shirt cycling jersey (sort of regretting this one)
- an M-dot ornament (okay, they sold out and I bought one after the fact. it's on the tree as I type this)
- a finisher's half-zip running pullover (like my Run CO one better)
- an IMAZ toque (with how cold it's been, kinda regretting this one too)
- an IMAZ cycling kit (gonna wait for this to go on clearance I think)

After shopping, I felt kind of blah (recurring theme for the day ...) and we shuffled over to the picnic tables to sit down.


Do we look dead? Because that's how we feel.

I forget how, but we somehow realized the people at the table across from us were Layla's friends, so we chatted with them and waited for Layla to get off her shift from registering people for next year. We then talked with her for a little bit before leaving to head back to the hotel.

We detoured to Starbucks on our way back to the hotel - I felt like absolute ass and thought that maybe something bland would help calm my stomach. I got a croissant and a San Pellegrino and nibbled/sipped on both while flopped on the bed in the hotel room. Eventually, it worked, and I felt a tiny bit better. Better enough to head to lunch, at least.

We picked up Mike and headed to In-N-Out - that's what Brandon wanted post-IM - for some food. I ate my burger, but struggled through it. Like on the bike the day before, I consumed food knowing I needed the calories. Mike's fries, however, ended up becoming mostly my fries which is weird, because I usually don't like In-N-Out's fries.

We dropped Mike off after that and I think just hung out with Corie - she was on the patio of the Irish bar near our hotel. I know we also stopped at CVS so I could stock up on giant bandages.

That evening, we went to Hooters (fairly standard post-race dinner for us). The salad and fries were once again a struggle; wings not so much. It might be that my body just really wanted protein and not much else. Mike met us there and then we met my parents back at the hotel - Dad had some super expensive cigars that he brought for celebration - not only for Ironman, but for Brandon's upgrade, too. Dad, Mom and Brandon smoked; Mike and I just sat there. The cigars got smoked, the night wound down, we said our good-byes, we went upstairs to bed.

Tuesday, November 19:

We woke up relatively early once again - too ingrained habitually to do otherwise - to pack up all of our assorted stuff and head on out. Brandon went down to get a luggage cart and realized that the voice of Ironman, Mike Reilly, was in the hotel room next to us ... which brings me to the first time I cried all weekend.

We were loading the cart and Mike Reilly was doing the same. Brandon called over to him, said that he never actually said the magic words to me (in my video, he just says, "Theresa Geist, from Denver"). Mike asked me what my name was; I told him - he then boomed, "Theresa Geist - You are an IRONMAN!" (if anyone was still sleeping, they weren't after that.) I thanked him, and went back inside the room. I thanked Brandon, hugged him, and for the first time since starting the race, cried. I think a little part of me needed that phrase to make it official. I know Mike doesn't do every Ironman and has in fact cut down on the amount of races he does and I feel very fortunate to have done one of the few races he works. Makes it that much more special.

It took way too much time to load the damn cart, but eventually we got it loaded and somehow finagled the very full cart, our last few bags as well as our bikes and ourselves downstairs to check out (it did take two elevator trips, though). Brandon checked us out and we got my car from the valet.

Amusingly enough, we were parked next to Mike Reilly and we were packing our cars together. He asked if we were from Colorado (saw the plates); said yes; made various small talk. In the midst of the car packing process, I dug out the chalk pen and made an adjustment to the message on the rear window:


Mike saw and gave us a thumbs up.

We then both got on the road and at Mill, turned our separate ways. We stopped at Starbucks for coffee and at Dunkin' Donuts for doughnuts (mmm, munchkins) and breakfast sandwiches. Final stop on our way out of town was Bernie and Judy's - we still had their house key and we wanted to say goodbye.

The next day and a half would be spent driving home. We went a new route - up through Four Corners with a stop in Durango, Colo., for the night. It was a nice change of pace, though some of the Indian reservations you drive through are downright depressing.

At some point Wednesday, I noticed I got another Ironman rite of passage:

Yep, cankles.

We saw Norm on our way back home as well.

Normal mobility started coming back on Friday in Boston - we were walking mostly normal, but the amount of walking we did ended up being a bit much - we started getting random aches and pains in other places.

Final Thoughts:

- Ironman was an amazing journey. It was tough, a ridiculous amount of work (and I know I could have done so much more) and consumed almost the entire year. At the same time? I know I'm not one and done. I know it'll be a few years before our next - probably 2016 and probably Louisville - but I can't wait until I can do it again. I know I can do so much better. I can probably easily chop at least an hour, if not two or more, off my time.

- I feel so rudderless now. This entire year has been in preparation for Ironman. This month is the first one of the year that I haven't had a training plan of some sort and it feels so weird.

- I don't know when the above is going to change. Nothing big is on the horizon. Our next scheduled race is probably going to be the Dino half-marathon in Utah in May, but we don't need to start training for that (well, that, and I'm not running currently due to IT band issues).

- I wish I had the money/time to be able to do an Ironman every year. Without the structure, I don't know what to do with my time.

- Seriously, can I do another one???

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Race #8 of the Season: Ironman Arizona - Part 2: Race Day

And we continue our tale on Sunday, November 17 ...

Race Morning:

Waaaaay too early, the alarm went off. Ironman is nice in that you don't necessarily need to get to transition early to snag a good spot on the rack and get set up ... but you DO still need to get there early for a few reasons:

- porta-potty stop. standard for any race.
- get bikes checked out/re-pumped up
- drop off special needs bags
- get everything sorted out and drop off morning clothes bags

So, while transition didn't open until 5am, we were up by 3-something so we could walk to the Starbucks on Mill and get breakfast in us before we had to head to the park. (I seriously had a last call, "Wake up or you miss IRONMAN" alarm set too. No joke.)

We got to Starbucks, ordered coffee, spinach wraps and pastries to go and shuffled back to the hotel to eat them. I sipped at my iced coffee and barely choked down half of my spinach wrap.

Story time: I had practiced swimming on spinach wraps (and veggie sandwiches) at home since I knew I'd probably be eating Starbucks for breakfast race morning. Handled it no problem. HOWEVER. I did this practice at say, 10am, before getting in the pool. Hours after I had already gotten up. My typical am food snarf is a fried egg (or two) and glass of oj. Not much chewing is needed/involved.

The sheer amount of chewing that is needed to eat a spinach wrap was way too much for this poor body at 4:something am. I forced down as much as I could because I KNEW I needed the calories, but ugh.

We gathered our stuff and headed to the park.

Brandon not happy to be awake.

"Do I have to go do this?"

We gathered up our assorted bags of crap and headed to Tempe Beach Park. We amusingly saw Carlos among the mass group of spectators and waved hi. We also saw Corie on our way into trans. Once into transition, we dropped off our special needs bags and then got our bikes taken care of. Both of us needed air in our tires (used a tip we got last year and let some air out the day before so as to not have them pop overnight) and I wanted to make sure my bike was okay after I fell on the damn thing.

While in the bike line, Brandon met another one of our MX12 VIP teammates, Francisco, and I got to meet him as well when the techs were working on my bike. Bike okay (figures it's fine and I wasn't) and tires filled, it went back to its spot on the rack. We then got body marked, met up with Ky and Sasha (two other teammates), and talked to Corie along the fence for a while.

At some point, I decided that I wanted to try and hit up a porta-potty one last time, so Brandon and I got in line and started getting into our wetsuits and putting on sunscreen in the process - I also made sure to put on a lot of body glide/Vaseline/TriSlide on the back of my neck so as to not have a repeat of the Peak chafing incident (Spoiler alert: it failed). The line was moving - albeit slowly - and they started making announcements on the overhead about thinking about moving toward the swim start.

As a result, we made the tough decision to get out of the line as we still needed to drop off our morning clothes bags AND pass off phones/camera/dinos to Kris and Mark who were just about at the park. I tried eating a bit of the blueberry muffin I bought that morning - took a small nibble and couldn't do anymore, so back into the bag it went. We met up with Kris and Mark to make the exchange then dropped off morning clothes, re-met back up with everyone and started moving toward the swim start - Corie walking with us on the other side of the fence. Which was good, because I realized I was still wearing my flip-flops. I gave them to Corie and continued on.

Brandon and I got separated from Sasha and Ky in the mass of humanity (only managing to stick together because I basically grabbed him and wouldn't let go), passed under the swim start arch, walked down the ... dock, I guess ... and jumped into the lake.

The Swim:

They tell you to jump and then swim away as fast as you can because more people are jumping in after you. We did just that. Brandon was hooting and hollering and swearing and clearly happy to be there; it was good for me because despite my lungs hating the cold during the requisite adjustment period, it kept me from being nervous since I was yelling at him to stop carrying on and also kind of pretending not to know him.

We made our way up to the start - about ... 200m? - figuring out that we should probably be near the back, but not the way back and maybe off to the side. Brandon got out of the water for a second - I refused for a few reasons:
1.) I get out and I'm probably not going back in
2.) I had pretty much just adjusted to the water temp (63) and was not going to chance needing to readjust again

In the midst of all that, we heard the cannons for the pro men and the pro women starts. Soon enough though, the cannon went off and it was time to race. FINALLY.


People liken the mass swim start of an Ironman to a washing machine; Run CO buddy Richard likened it to an MMA fight; me? I thought of the movie Titanic and the moment just after the ship goes down and everyone not in a life boat is scrambling to the surface and smacking the water and anything and everything just to stay afloat. It's that chaotic.

I was able to put my head down and swim for a few strokes right after the cannon went off, but I soon felt myself running into too many bodies. So, I popped my head out of the water and either did the breaststroke or a modified sidestroke thing to keep my head out of water and see where the hell I was going and to try and navigate myself through the crazy while still propelling myself forward. Eventually, I was able to find some open space and swim.

Early into the swim, I started having issues with my wetsuit zipper string - it didn't stay tucked in as usual and came out, trying to choke me. I'd take a stroke and shove it on the other side of my body, but before long, it would come back the other way and annoy me some more. I, and I say this while shaking my head, "luckily" swam off course and essentially ran into a kayak. I took this fortuitous twist of fate as a sign, stopped, and shoved the string back where it belonged. I also tried to adjust the Velcro of the suit as I sensed possible chafing again.

As I left the kayak, I realized I had failed in that attempt but really didn't want to stop again. Thus I made the decision to keep swimming and try to adjust it again at the turnaround.

I should mention that at some point in the first half-mile or so of the swim, someone (I think male) smacked my foot and knocked loose the gauze/tape wrapping my foot. It didn't come off (thankfully), but I now had a bandage "tail" that I would feel against my foot with every stroke/kick. Vaguely annoying, I tell you.

That all being said, I actually enjoyed the first part of the swim. It was a gorgeous morning - I had Sarah Brightman's "It's a Beautiful Day" stuck in my head - and I was thanking everyone I could think of for the opportunity to be out there, swimming in Tempe Town Lake, doing an Ironman, on such a wonderful day. I don't believe of myself as a spiritual person anymore - lapsed Catholic all the way over here - but the "out" part of that swim made me one again, if only for a little while.

The turnaround came sooner than I was expecting (and shortly after I somehow smacked my hand on one of the bridges we swam under; klutzy, that's me) and just after rounding the final turn buoy, I stopped at another kayak to see what I could do about the chafing situation. Unfortunately, one's body (or at least my body) drifts under a kayak when one is resting on it and that half-inclined position is NOT ideal for attempting to fix a wetsuit one-handed. I didn't want to screw with it too much, so I gave up quickly and went back on my way.

The first bridge (of ... three, I think) came quickly, but those other two? Took FOREVER to get to. I also couldn't sight worth a damn. I'd see a buoy way off to my left; I'd swim in that direction, see it nicely off my left ... and then the next one would be way off to the right. I probably swam way more than the 2.4 miles, honestly. Sometime late on the way back, my right calf also cramped up (I thought my swim kick was crappy enough that this wouldn't happen ...) but seemingly worked itself out quickly. In any case, I finally got to the last buoy of the swim and turned toward shore ...

... and headed straight into the sun. That final little bit took so damn long because I kept having to stop and sight and try to figure out where the hell I needed to get to. Even then, I still ran into one of the red floating buoy-thingys that were diagonally out from the edges of the steps. I got to the steps, managed to flop my ass onto them without a repeat of the day before ... and couldn't stand thanks to the cramp that was back in my calf with a vengeance.

I was trying to stand and the volunteer told me, "Don't worry, you still have plenty of time," ... which really means, "You made the cut, but not by a whole hell of a lot." I looked at my watch while crossing the mat, took a split (or so I thought ...) and saw that I made the cut by a closer call than I would have liked.

Time: 2:02:48 (rate: 3:11/100m; 2553rd overall; 684th gender; 101st division)


I hauled ass to the wetsuit strippers and got my suit peeled off and then hauled ass to the med tent to get my ankle checked out.


The staffers tossed a mylar blanket around my shoulders - didn't need it - while I told them my situation - I sliced my ankle open yesterday and got five stitches in it; could you please make sure the water didn't make it nasty and could you please rewrap it? They sat me down, looked at it (no infection!) and rewrapped me and I was on my way. I ran from the med tent, behind the trans tents and almost all the way to my gear bag (I have NEVER had that much energy after a swim - swim training paid off) before I walked. I got my gear bag and headed into the tent.

I've heard wonderful things about the change tent volunteers at Ironman and everything was true - they are FANTASTIC. They don't blink an eye when you drop your tri shorts to add more butt butter. They help you sunscreen and into your shoes. Mine had figured out a trick to get the arm coolers on quickly and she got them on quicker than I've ever been able to do myself. I looked at the Honey Stinger waffle I had tossed in my bag, considered eating it for about 2.5 seconds, said "screw it" and tossed it back in the bag and was on my way.

I ran out of the tent, called for my bike, got it, and was on my way to start the ride.


Time: 11:24

The Bike:

The bike starts up a walkway in the park. On that walkway, I saw Scott (a friend of ours from Run Colorado who you may remember did Boulder 70.3 with us; he's also doing Coeur d'Alene next year), Corie, Layla, my parents and Brandon's parents. I popped out on Rio Salado and the course was off.

I should mention that leaving transition I realized that I actually didn't take my split time leaving the swim - I actually stopped my watch. Oops. But, since I knew the bike course had time cuts too, I switched it back over to the clock setting and just kept an eye on the time - I knew I had until 5:30 to finish the bike.

Right away, I did not feel good on the bike. My right calf, my crampy friend from the swim, was being annoying and the adductors were miserable too, just like at Boulder 70.3, and to add more suffering to the pile, my hamstrings decided to hate me too. I knew it might be a long and miserable ride. I also started eating early on the bike since I knew I needed food and quick.

I stopped at the first aid station to pee (and every time I would stop, I'd also reapply both butt butter and sunscreen) and, interestingly enough, stopped at that aid station every loop (by the third loop, the guy asked me if I had ever left).

The sign that I definitely knew it wouldn't be my day? The same stretch we pre-rode on Thursday and rocked? The stretch I was consistently hitting 21, 22 mph on? Yeah, try 15-16 mph. Miserable. Still, I knew that I had a long day ahead of me and if I just kept to a 90-95 cadence, maybe things would work out in my favor.

I saw MX12 teammate Mike ... right before the Beeline, I think, and saw Brandon while climbing the Beeline.

The Beeline, by the way, sucks. It sucks hard. They advertise Arizona as a relatively flat course - let me tell you, it is not. That Beeline climb is soul-sucking and, had I known it was as steady of a climb as it was, I would not have slacked off on hill work in training. But I had heard, oh, flat course, and therefore rode as much flat crap as I could. Big honking mistake.

I still managed to pass a few people, including Ky right before the turnaround.

As awful as the climb was up, the descent was a lot better. I did manage to drop half my nutrition (the bag of Bonk Breaker bars), so it was crack cookies for me until special needs on the next loop.

I stopped - not at every aid station, but quite a few. I also went through a lot more liquid than I did in training, so that was another reason for stopping - water. I also was interspersing the water with my lemon-lime Skratch to keep getting electrolytes in.

Back into town, see friend Mike volunteering at the turnaround, see my parents, keep going.

I smiled whenever I could when I passed groups of spectators - I didn't want to because I was that miserable, but the crowds loved the smile and I enjoyed that energy.

I saw Mike and Brandon again on loop two as well as Kris and Mark on the Beeline, who were taking photos.

Dinos cheering on the athletes! Extra dino is Craig (he belongs to Kris and Mark).

Brandon waving on the back half of loop two.

Me just past the loop two turnaround (why I'm out of aero).

I stopped at special needs to get more Bonk Breaker bars and my other bottle of Skratch - and also to get more powerful sunscreen on me.

The downhill didn't seem as fast on loop two and the wind started kicking up.

Crossing the river right before the turn onto Rio Salado, I saw a guy I didn't recognize in an MX12 kit off his bike, stretching - I asked if he was okay; he said yes.

I got to the turnaround to start loop three and I mentioned how miserable I was to my parents. I don't think they believed me.

The start of loop three was mentally rough. I stopped at my aid station again, where I learned that the MX12'er off his bike that I passed was Derek; we chatted for a bit waiting for the porta-potties. By this point, it was getting harder and harder to swing my leg back over my bike to get back on it.

If I ever wanted to throw in the towel, it was starting the Beeline climb on this loop. I had to look at my RoadID, at my saying on there - The only way out is through - and go in my brain to tough it out. I saw Brandon as he was leaving special needs - he told me that either Ky and/or Sasha were out.

At mile 90, my stomach started to hate me - probably because it wanted protein and/or REAL FOOD. I didn't want to keep eating my nutrition, but I did because I knew there was no way in hell I should stop eating with 22 miles still left to go in the ride. The bananas at the aid stations ended up helping out here.

I kept going back and forth with this one woman - she was bigger than I was and I passed her on the climb. I could tell by her body language that she wasn't happy with me passing her and passed me soon on the loop three descent. However, she'd pass and not pedal; I ALWAYS keep spinning my legs unless I'm stretching them out. I never stop pedaling. As a result, I'd pass her back; she'd then rush to pass me - this went on for a few miles before I think she got fed up with me and passed me for good.

Around mile 100, I sensed someone on my wheel. It was this old guy - he came up alongside me; we chatted for a second and then he passed me, but stayed at a pace as such that if I were to continue my current pace, I'd be drafting off him. So, I passed him back and then just felt him on my wheel - I think he wanted a pull that late in the bike. However, at that point, I was kind of cranky and there was no way in hell I was going to pull someone (or draft them), so I kicked it up a painful gear and dropped him. Once I knew for sure that he was behind me and not coming back up, I went back into what was comfortably uncomfortable.

I finally neared the end of the course, saw I was still fine on time with my watch and spun out my legs. I got to the dismount line ... and my legs barely wanted to work.

Time: 7:26:02 (rate: 15.06 mph; 2505th overall; 659th gender; 101st division)


I hobbled to my gear bag and into the tent and began the process of getting myself ready to run. I added more sunscreen, put on my race belt skirt and got my compression socks on. The volunteer was super nice (again), but struggling a bit with the socks; I figured I knew how to wrangle my feet better than anyone, so I got them on myself. I did ask for a slice of pizza - I knew it was for the volunteers and therefore felt a bit bad, but my body neeeeeeded something other than Bonk Breaker bar/crack cookie. Also, from volunteering the year before, I knew you got sick of that Papa John's reeeeealllly fast.

I left the tent, said "no thank you" to the sunscreen volunteers (or tried; they still got my shoulders) and went on my way.

Time: 7:52

The Run:

I think I saw our cheer squad as I started the run, but I honestly don't remember now. I do know that as you start the run, you run past special needs. Corie was working that station and I don't think saw me until I yelled at her. She said hi as did Sasha, who unfortunately didn't make it out of the water. However, she came back out to cheer us on which I give her insane amounts of credit for.

Early on the run, I actually ran into Richard. He was on loop two at that point, but we walked together for a bit and talked - I told him about my ankle; he said he had two flats on the bike. He got more energy before I did and went on to finish his race (in 12:something). Soon after Richard left me, Derek passed me, looking fantastic.

The first couple miles were really slow; I was barely running since my legs did not want to work. The plus side is, I never felt Mr. Crampy Calf on the run - score one for the compression socks. I also kept looking to the other side of the course to see if I would see Brandon - as it was an out-and-back (and down and across and out-and-back and across and back again), I figured I would at some point.

I was alternating (ice) water and (iced) Perform at the stations; I was also taking in grapes (so tasty!) as well as the occasional orange wedge, banana and potato chip.

Around mile four, I checked my time (switched to my Garmin) and realized that I was going about 4.5 miles per hour and if I kept at that pace, I might not cross. From that point on, I started picking it up a lot more.

Back under the bridge and I saw both sets of parents and heard that Brandon was about an hour ahead of me. That also helped me pick up the pace - "Let's see if I can catch him." (Spoiler alert: I didn't.)

Scott was camped out just before the Tempe Center for the Arts so I talked to him briefly before he kicked me back on my way.

I saw Mike shortly before I crossed the Priest Drive bridge - he was getting ready to start loop two.

I didn't see Brandon until he was coming out of the TriSports aid station (so he was just past 10; I was about at 6.5); I yelled at him for a good 30 seconds before he heard me. Kris and Mark were with him; Mark left to say hi and take a few photos.

Miles 6 through 11 were where I was able to pick it up and actually run quite a bit - Garmin has all those miles in the high-11s or low 12s (fastest I got were miles 9 and 11 - 11:47.9 for both).

Going back over Priest, I saw Mike coming the other way; he looked to be struggling a bit, but I knew he'd finish (and he did).

At the split to either the finish or loop two, I picked up a glow necklace from the volunteers. It was annoying. I tried wearing at as a necklace - bounced too much when I ran. I tried putting it onto my visor, which is how Kris and Mark found me with it.

Just passed under the Mill Ave. bridge.

Asking Kris if there's a good way to wear the glow ring.

I was also able to kiss the dinos while talking to them ... and ditch my sunglasses with Kris. I asked her about that - she's a certified USAT official - and she said technically ... no, but meh, and took them.

I wasn't going to stop at special needs ... but changed my mind and ditched my arm coolers. I considered putting on arm warmers, but figured I didn't/wouldn't need them (smart move).

Those stops made mile 13 in the 15s, as did a small pause at an aid station to take some Advil for a headache that was popping up.

I saw Brandon right before mile 14 - he asked me if I wanted him to stop/slow and wait for me; I told him it was completely up to him and continued on my way. At the time, it seemed like a good idea, but as I continued plodding on in the dark - and lost speed; walked more and more - I knew that if I managed to catch up with him, I'd tell him to keep going, that he'd had a great race and he needed to have his day without me. I'm ultimately very glad that's what he did.

At mile 16, I reached uncharted territory - that had been the longest I'd ever gone in training. It crossed my mind, but briefly.

I said hi to Kris, Mark and both sets of parents one last time as I went back under the Mill Ave. bridge.


I saw Scott again shortly after and stopped to talked to him for a second, but he wouldn't talk and told me to keep going - I was perfectly fine talking, but eh.

I did see Sasha soon after that and did walk with her for about three-quarters of a mile - it was nice to have someone to chat with. We parted ways as I went back over the Priest Dr. bridge.

On the bridge, I talked to some guys who were on loop one; I felt for them and though I didn't vocalize it, I was very concerned if they'd actually finish. I hope they did, but I have no idea.

Right around mile 20, I started having gastrointestinal issues. I spent most of the next couple miles walking from porta-potty to porta-potty. The mile 19 aid station didn't really have TP so I moved on - the smart choice, as the next two aid stations had lit porta-potties WITH TP.

It's the little things when you race, you know?

I also dropped my glow ring somewhere around mile 21. I had dropped it a few times earlier, but bending down hurt so I told myself next time I dropped it, it was staying down (I kept fiddling with it in my hands).

Climbing up the hill at mile 23ish, I started talking with the woman next to me and we figured out that we were Twitter buddies! Cameron, if you read this, it was nice to meet you and I'm sorry I unceremoniously ditched you at the aid station. :(

The reason for me doing that was because it was the TriSports aid station! I yelled at Seton on the mic - he gave me a hug and told everyone working the station that I had volunteered the year previous, just like them, and that I was going to be an Ironman.

Brandon about to hug Seton - he stopped there too.

I then peeled off course to find Debbie and asked her advice on the stomach - she said just keep drinking water and broth (OH GOD THE DELICIOUS BROTH ... that I, without fail, always dripped a little down my chin).

That meant I broke one of the rules people told me about - don't stop moving. I stopped moving several times (bathroom stops will do that) and I never had a problem getting back going. Maybe it was all those long morning runs followed by long shifts on my feet at work - maybe I was just used to being on my feet for a ridiculous amount of time.

In any case, I still had a ton of energy in those later miles. I wasn't moving all that fast, relatively speaking, but I looked a lot fresher and "better" than a lot of the other athletes around me.

As I hit the Priest bridge, I could hear the finish line. I had two miles to go and I knew I would make it.

As I hit the other side, I started choking up. I forced myself not to cry because I wanted to start running again and I knew I wouldn't be able to run if I were crying. My Garmin also died at about 25.5 miles, so that was awesome.

At mile 25, I started trying to run as much as I could. I hit the small incline before the curve into the finisher's chute and a volunteer came alongside me, telling me to straighten my bib and that I was going to crack 16 hours. Halfway up that hill I started to run and I didn't stop until I crossed. I was going to do my typical sprint to the finish no matter what.

I did take in the moment, though. As soon as I entered that chute, my arms were raised, I was pumping them up and down. It's true; the pain disappears. All you see is bright, blinding light ahead of you. I vaguely heard my name be called and saw a flash of bright green (friend Mike's shirt). I took note of my crappy finisher's song (Mambo No. 5. shoot me.).


I got to the line and jumped in glee. I did it.

Time: 6:07:29 (rate: 14:02/mi; 2352nd overall; 611th gender; 97th division)

I got my mylar blanket and medal and declined a bottle of water. I got my hat and shirt and went to find Brandon/friends. I got food - pizza sounded as unappetizing as concrete, but hot, salty fries? Tasty deliciousness. I eventually found Brandon and we got a finisher's photo together and I got my solo ones. I also saw the parents and thanked them for being awesome.

Overall Stats:
Time: 15:55:35
Division Rank: 97/106 (F30-34)
Gender Rank: 611/685 (female)
Overall Rank: 2352/2707 (or 2516; starters/finishers)

I felt good for about the next hour; I had enough energy to go down with Kris and Mark and Corie to get my morning clothes bag and both our gear bags and bikes (Brandon stayed up with Mike). I saw Derek once again down there and congratulated him.

We lugged everything back to where Mike and Brandon were. Kris and Mark went to see the finish line at midnight; Corie hung out with us. I left everyone to use the bathroom; sitting was a bad idea. At that point, I started to stiffen up.

After the race finished, we all went our separate ways. I was also extremely thankful we switched to the host hotel because that half-mile walk? Was harder than the marathon, I swear.

We got to the hotel, showered (or, in my case, sponge bathed due to all my horrible chafing) and fell into bed.

To be continued in part three ...

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Race #8 of the Season: Ironman Arizona - Part 1: Pre-Race

I'll probably hopefully only break this into three parts: pre-race, race day and post-race. Shouldn't need to do much more than that ...

This story really goes back about a year, back to when we first went down to Tempe to volunteer and subsequently sign up.

(That night we spent in the park? Yeah, no longer allowed to do that. Some people tried and got kicked out for "no overnight camping in the park." We're totally the reason why. Also probably the reason for the speedpass idea. Sorry, WTC/Tempe!)

Then, if you've followed along all year, we've been essentially training for the race since January - building up a base through the spring and then official training starting in May. It all came down to where I start my story - Tuesday, November 12.


I had hoped to get in a swim on Monday, but with work and all the stuff we needed to do to get ready to leave butt-early Tuesday am, it wasn't going to happen.

Tuesday morning, we left dark and early for Tucson. I surprised Brandon by swinging by our friend Norm's house in the Springs on our way down (after coffee) for good luck hugs and chat ... and hopefully to have some of his speed rub off on us (spoiler: didn't work).

From the Springs, it was a looooong time to sit in a car.

Back of my car.

Brandon rolling out his calf somewhere in New Mexico.

I'm bored. Also probably somewhere in New Mexico.

We rolled into Tucson that afternoon. First stop was to TriSports to drop off our bikes to get tuned. We ran into a slight snag there - we learned that one of their mechanics had quit and we were most likely not going to get the bikes back until Thursday morning. Um, great, need them tomorrow, but if we had to drive back down to get the bikes, so be it. Brandon, however, said "Unacceptable!" and ended up name dropping the owners somewhat.

We leave, unsure about when we'd get our bikes back, and check into the hotel. As we're bringing our stuff inside, I get a call from TriSports, saying the bikes would be done in the morning. Sweet. I felt bad, since that meant the mechanic was most likely either staying late that night or coming in for a while on his off day, but there was also a small, selfish part of me that was quite happy.

That settled, it was off for the usual round of food (eegee's, Wienerschnitzel, Lucky Wishbone) and then bed.

Wednesday, November 13

We were up fairly early on Wednesday - partly because that's our lives and partly because we wanted to be up to get the breakfast deal at Frank's/Francisco's (TONS of food for very cheap). After breakfast, we went back to the hotel and got another call from TriSports saying the bikes were done and we could pick them up whenever. We also got this call before the store was technically even open.

So, when they did open, we checked out, packed up our crap and headed over to TriSports. We got the bikes and a few other things (nutrition, small things of chamois butter, extra tubes (for Brandon), new hydration system (also for Brandon)), chatted with a guy who saw our car and had just done Kona and then drove up to Scottsdale.

Once we hit Scottsdale, we said hi to Bernie and Judy, brought in our stuff, learned a friend of Brandon's from college actually saw our car on I-10 (the odds, what are they?) and then changed to go for a quick run.

From our MX12 friend Mike, we knew there was a decent hill on the run course so we wanted to check it out. We parked under the same bridge we volunteered at last year and went for a quick run to shake out the legs and see the hill. It was crap and we knew it would hurt a lot on loop two.


After the run, back to Bernie and Judy's for delicious dinner and sleep.

Thursday, November 14:

We woke up on Thursday, ate breakfast, grabbed our friend Mike (different Mike; we know a few) who had gotten into town the night previous and went to get checked in.

At check-in, it seemed everyone else there had done Ironman before - we seemed to be some of the only first-timers. Apparently the newbies don't show up early on the first day (of two) of check-in. Little do these people know that while this is our first IM, it ain't our first triathlon (or WTC) rodeo; we know how this shiznit works.

Checked in! Could NOT keep the smile off my face.

We walked around a bit after, checking out the bike rack area and scouting out our spots (not that it mattered much). We then dropped off Mike at his hotel, promising to meet up with him later for a ride.

We went back to Bernie and Judy's to "check out" and to make "crack" (no-bake) cookies for bike nutrition.


We also said hi to Brandon's parents who had just gotten in, packed our car up AGAIN and drove to Tempe to check in to our first hotel. Once there, we got settled and unpacked a decent bit of our stuff so we could get ready to ride.

Aaaaallll the sunscreen/anti-blister prevention stuff we brought.

Mike showed up soon after that so we packed up the three of us and all our bikes into the car and drove some of the bike course. We were ideally hoping to ride the Beeline, but didn't see anywhere to park (or anywhere I felt comfortable parking) and didn't want to ride basically a full loop, so we parked at a shopping center along the route and did an easy 9 miles/30 minutes, riding almost up to the Beeline.

Hey look!

The ride went fantastically well and gave both of us a lot of confidence for Sunday.

The confidence dance.

Mike ditched us along the course to go back to his hotel to shower and change; we did the same at our hotel before picking him up to go back to Bernie and Judy's. They organized a dinner with all of our out-of-town cheer squad (my parents, his parents, Mike, Kris and Mark) which was a great time. The night started growing late-ish (sometime after 9), so we said our goodbyes and headed back to the hotel.

Friday, November 15:

We woke up, grabbed breakfast at the hotel and went into Tempe for our pre-race massages. We decided that might be a good idea, especially since we both had some nagging issues - for me, my IT band and my shoulder. Afterward, we headed over to the expo and the 11am athlete briefing. Just after that, we saw our friends Richard and Carlos from Run Colorado - Richard was racing on Sunday with us; Carlos was cheer squad/support (and also a volunteer, we found out later).

Mike ran down to meet us and we had lunch. We then hit up the pro panel with Brandon's friend Aaron and then sat through the second athlete briefing just so we could see/meet some of our MX12 teammates.

From L to R: Me, Mike, Brandon, Sasha, Ky

I'm not exactly sure what we did after this; I think we went back to the hotel to just chill for a little bit before the athlete dinner.

The athlete dinner is something that we heard mixed things about - go; don't go; go, but get there early to get a spot; go, but don't plan on eating - but since this was our first Ironman, we figured we'd do the whole experience so we went. The food wasn't bad - standard catered crap - and we were able to hang out with Aaron.

Me, Brandon, Aaron

We didn't stay for the whole presentation - we watched the beginning, learned who the "biggest losers" were, saw a tribute to the Filipino athletes (typhoon/monsoon relief stuff), etc. before leaving and heading back to the hotel for the night.

Saturday, November 16:

As always, the day started with us waking up decently early for breakfast and then grabbing our swim stuff to do the pre-race swim in Tempe Town Lake. We'd heard mixed things about this, as well - don't; you don't need the swim practice; the water's gross so it's best not to chance it - but since we hadn't swum in about a week AND we wanted to get a sense for how truly cold the damn water was, we decided to go for it.

Waiting for the swim to start.

We got in and did a short swim - not even a full loop of the small "course" they had marked - and learned that while yes, the water was chilly, it was no worse than some of the lakes/reservoirs we'd swam in here. Race day would be fine.

I did, however, run into a small snafu getting out of the water - I slipped off the step (as I was listening to them tell me how to properly get out) and jammed my toe into the concrete at the bottom. As a result, I ripped off some skin and started bleeding. Luckily, they had an ambulance at the ready, so I could get patched up.

I'm dumb sometimes.

We joked that since I made a blood sacrifice to the Ironman gods, the race better go well. From there, back to the hotel to pack up our gear bags so we could drop them off later that afternoon.

There's a lot of stuff. We really only needed to deal with the bike and run gear bags - those were due that day. The others we'd drop off the following morning.

With those all packed, we put them, all our stuff, our bikes and ourselves into the car (after checking out) and drove down to the park. We hauled all our crap in, gave Mike shit (he was working bike check-in) and then put our bikes in place. We got Brandon's on the rack and let some air out of the tires no problem ... but then it was my turn.

We were talking as I was wheeling my bike up my row and I realized I passed my spot. I walked backward with my bike to the spot and the wheel must have torqued into my legs since the next thing I knew, I fell over onto the bike. Embarrassed, I got up ... and realized I was bleeding. A lot. Out of a cut on my ankle that looked pretty deep. We tried to find medical help - a volunteer ran to find out for me - and realized it was back up near the finish. We racked my bike, turned in our gear bags and then I gingerly made my way up to the finish ... where they were setting up the med tent, but no one was there to help out. Apparently they only have medical staff on hand when the athletes are actually doing something (swim that morning, race day).

We knew I had to get it dealt with since I was bleeding everywhere. We made the decision to go to Judy and Bernie's and have Brandon's mom clean it out. If it needed further care after that, we'd make that decision then.



Brandon's mom cleaned it out the best she could, but everyone assembled (his parents, Bernie and Judy) decided that it looked pretty deep and I needed to get it stitched up. So, we found an urgent care facility right down the street from Mike's hotel. I needed to get the go-ahead that I could race - you could tell the doctor was like, "I don't know ... but I know I'm not going to be able to stop you so ...". Whatever. Five stitches later, I was greenlighted and good to go.


We picked up Mike after that and went to get checked in to our second hotel. Driving back, I realized I forgot to let some air out of my tires, so I went and did that while Brandon and Mike checked us in and brought the stuff to the room.

While I was on my adventure, I also went to see if pro triathlete (and Steve Stenzel nemesis) Devon Palmer was still near the QR tent, as I saw on Twitter a bit earlier. To my luck, he was. Like I told Steve I would earlier when I knew that Devon would be at IMAZ, I told Devon, "Steve Stenzel says you suck," and then we had a nice chat. Some day those two will sort out their differences. Maybe. I think they like the attention they get from being frenemies too much to do so. I'll bet they're probably complete bros behind closed doors (closed browsers?) though.

I did, however, make sure to get a picture:

He liked the doughnut shirt, but then again, who wouldn't?

After that, it was off to meet Mike and Brandon again. We had sushi, said bye to Mike for the time being and then it was time to chill in the hotel for the afternoon.

We had a ton of visitors, though:

- Brandon's parents came by to see how my foot was doing and they also set us up with some ice so I could ice the damn thing.
- Corie, one of our fabulous teammates who raced the year prior and came down this year to volunteer and register for next year (and cheer us on).
- Layla, a friend of Norm's who came by to punch Brandon (long story) and show us the best sign ever.

See? Best sign ever!

Everyone left eventually, though. We met up with Mike a few hours later to grab dinner at Denny's - pre-race breakfast-for-dinner routine must go on! - and then to the hotel to try and sleep through the cannons going off at the ASU game ...

... to be continued ...