Ironman Arizona - TriathlonFull Ironman

View Member's Race Log View other race reports
Tempe, Arizona
United States
Ironman North America
71F / 22C
Total Time = 11h 32m 37s
Overall Rank = 590/2565
Age Group = M35-39
Age Group Rank = 100/324
Pre-race routine:

I don't know where to even begin. I have had this race on my horizon for two years. Back on November 19th 2009, I had just begun day 1 of my triathlon journey - starting a 20 week training program for my first triathlon (an olympic distance) in March of 2010.

My swimming ability was basically limited to not drowning. I remember trying my first 25 meters in the pool and being completely out of breath. I had no clue how to swim correctly. In the bike department, I was not much better. I had just purchased my first road bike and was still figuring out how not to fall over with clipless pedals. I was the steriotypical noob - a fat uncoordinated guy in ill-fitting spandex with hairy legs. My running skills were perhaps the worst of the three disciplines. One could only describe my natural running gait as "shambling". At the time I could only run an 11 minute mile for around 5 minutes before I had to stop and catch my breath. In a nutshell, as an athlete, I had my work cut out. But having just watched my friend Jon cross the finishline at Ironman Arizona 2009, I knew that this was something I was going to do.

Fast forward to November 20, 2011: 85lbs lighter and feeling invincible, I step confidently into the transition area to make final preperations on my race gear before embarking on my baptism of suffering - the final leg of my two year Ironman adventure. Today was going to be EPIC. In two short years, I had covered over 400,000 meters swimming in the pool, ridden almost 10,000 miles on my bike and run almost 2,000 miles. I truly felt (finally) like an athlete. I felt .... ready.

And by ready, I mean...NERVOUS.
Event warmup:

Having watched all of the Ironman Kona specials from past years on TV, I often fantasized about how I would feel when my day finally came, milling around the start area, warming up with all the other athletes. I imagined that the adrenaline and nervous energy in the air would be palpable - and palpable it was!

I hadn't imagined though, how cold it would be. It was freezing! I was so happy to finally don my wetsuit. I would like to pretend that it was the frosty air that had me shaking like a leaf. Not the fact that I was about to climb into an aquatic version of Wrestlemaina in a few minutes. Yeah, it was the cold for sure.

For sure. *gulp*

I hear Mike Reily's voice over the PA tell all the athletes to get into the water. Oh MAN! THIS IS IT! Feeling some tears welling up, I quickly gave my wife and kid a hug, realizing that it will be many hours before I would be able to do that again. After saying my goodbyes, I walked over to the large mass of rubberized humanoids slowly shuffling over the edge of the dock into the frigid waters of Tempe Town Lake like a flock of strange arctic monkeys.

Before long, I was over the edge and SPLASH! The 60*F water actually felt a bit warmer than the air - to my pleasant surprise. I quickly made my way over to the very front of the pack and all the way over to the start buoy that was furthest from shore. I had heard that most people tend to crowd near the shore because of the optimal racing line. I was more than happy, though, to swim a few dozen extra meters if it meant less crowding.

Waiting in the cold water for the start with my ear plugs in, the outside world seemed eerily muted and distant. In contrast, I was hyper-aware of my own body. I could hear the rush of blood pounding in my ears. I could feel the tautness of my wetsuit as my chest rose and fell with each breath. I could feel the water swirling in little eddies around my fingers and toes as I nervously tread water. The whole world seemed to be slowing down around me. Time almost came to a stop. When (after what seemed like an eternity) the starting cannon finally shot, I heard nothing. Reality wrenched itself from it's peaceful stillness and came crashing down on me. The world suddenly erupted into foamy white chaos as the writhing mass of 3,000 triathletes launched into frantic action... The race is ON!
  • 1h 08m 51s
  • 3862 meters
  • 01m 35s / 100 meters

The swim was everything I imagined: frantic, crowded and difficult. However, I was ready for this and was able to push back the rising bile in my throat. There would be no panic attacks today! Despite starting in the front row, the first 200 meters were INSANE! Most of the swimmers to my left instantly started cutting into my line and pushing the immediately surrounding group of swimmers farther and farther into the main pack closer to the shore. Sighting with every stroke, good swimming form was all but impossible to maintain. I was unable to find any clean water for the majority of the swim.

Only on the return leg, when the buoy-line bent slightly to the left before coming back to the right was I able to break from the pack by cutting the corner and aiming for the far buoy (Thanks for the great advice, Bryan Dunn!) All in all, the swim went pretty well. 1hr and 8min was quite a bit slower than the 1 hour swim I had hoped for (and think I am capable of) but overall, considering the tough conditions, I'm pretty satisfied with the first leg of this race.

One thing that I did notice: About halfway through the swim, my lower back and left buttock were starting to complain a bit. I didn't realize it at the time, but this minor annoyance was just the preamble to a much more debilitating problem that would rear it's ugly head a little later on.
What would you do differently?:

Not be so polite. I need to start swimming over people who get in my way. Allowing other people to dictate my swimming line cost me some time.
Transition 1
  • 05m 56s

I got out of the water feeling pretty good! Not dizzy in the slightest (a problem for me in the past with cold water swims) and the sun was out and warming me up. The wetsuit strippers did a great job of liberating me from my neoprene incarceration and I was thankful that the chaotic swim was finally over as I was handed my bike gear bag and led into the change tent.

I dumped my bag out onto the floor and quickly but carefully put on my helmet, bike shoes, race number belt and glasses. I ran out of my tent and was greeted by a volunteer waiting with my trusty steed and partner for the next 5+ hours, Minerva. I jogged through transition and quickly mounted my bike. I was on my way!
What would you do differently?:

Nothing. It was what it was.
  • 5h 35m 49s
  • 112 miles
  • 20.01 mile/hr

It felt good to be on the bike! All of my race day nerves had melted away with the completion of the swim and I was loving life! I had this big cheesy grin on my face that would not go away. I just kept laughing and telling myself- "This is the Ironman!! You're racing in the f%&$ing IRONMAN!!"

I was looking forward to finally riding on a flat, cool, and calm course. All of my training in Vegas this summer was precisely the opposite: hot, hilly and extremely windy. My rides typically started in the 90's and climbed into the 100's, the flattest route available has 2000' of climbing and the wind in Vegas is legendary. I assumed that this would make the Ironman Arizona bike course a piece of cake.


Now don't get me wrong, the IMAZ bike course is technically much less difficult than my typical training ride, however, there were unforeseen difficulties that I was ill-prepared for. Because of my hilly training rides, I am used to getting out of the saddle (to power over a big hill) numerous times during a ride. This did not happen on race day. Because the course is so flat, I basically laid down on my bike, unmoving, for over 5 hours - only getting up at the turnarounds to get back up to speed. This would prove to be a problem...

Laps 1 & 2 were pretty uneventful. Averaging a little over 21.5mph, I was purposefully holding back so I could save my legs for the run. The wind was non-existent on the 1st lap and picked up a little on the second which slowed me down somewhat.

On lap 3 at around mile 80 my back finally gave out. Staying in the aero position for nearly 5 hours without really moving much gave me a major spasm on the lower left side of my back. From this point on, I was not able to get down in the aerobars without serious discomfort. Unfortunately, that's also when mother nature decided that we need some more wind. I fought a nasty headwind all the way back into town- siting upright on my bike.

My average speed on the third lap dropped to 19mph and my dreams of a sub 5:10 bike split were flushed. I ended up gliding back into transition in 5 hours and 35 minutes. I saw my family cheering me on as I rode by and immediately all my negative thoughts were gone as I fought back a flood of emotion. Although my back was shooting fireworks of pain up my spine, I was still having the time of my life!
What would you do differently?:

In training: I need to stay in the aero position for much longer sessions to better prepare my back for race day.

On race day: I need to remember to shift around more on the bike. Maybe once every mile or so, I need to get out of the saddle to stretch my back and get the blood flowing again.
Transition 2
  • 04m 24s

It felt good to be on my feet again. After handing off my bike to one volunteer, I clumsily lumbered over to another volunteer to pick up my run gear bag and made my way to the changing tent. I quickly swapped bike shoes for run shoes and a helmet for a visor. On the way out, I made a quick stop at the port-a-jon to pee for the first time that day. Maybe TMI, but my pee was thankfully clear. My hydration plan was right on target!
What would you do differently?:

Nada. Stress free T2.
  • 4h 37m 37s
  • 26.2 miles
  • 10m 36s  min/mile

By the end of the bike leg, I was ready to sell Minerva. Considering the searing pain in my lower back, I can't tell you how happy I was to start running. My back was in pretty bad shape and every time I tried to hold on to my planned race pace (8:00min/mile) it would seize up and take my breath away. On the first lap, I was able to hold 8:50 and had to walk some while in the aid stations. On the second lap, I was hanging on to a 9min mile and had to walk more of the aid stations. By the third lap, I was really hunched over and my pace slowed dramatically. The sun was going down and everything started to hurt. Even my hair hurt.

Not a mile into lap 3, I was fortunate to come across a guy named Jeff who was nursing a leg injury and we kept each other company as we shuffled the last 8 miles. After passing 3 times the sign that instructed finishers to turn left, I finally got to turn left and follow it. Suddenly, I was in the finish chute.

For the second time that day, time slowed to a crawl. I had time to reflect on the days events. Did I really do that swim this morning? It felt like last week. I realized that I was feeling sad that it was almost over. I was about to write the last sentence of my Ironman story. I looked around and saw both friends and family shouting and cheering. The vibe at the finish line was insane! Hundreds of people screaming, dancing and clapping, music booming and the announcer calling out he names of the athletes as they triumphantly cross the finish! It was like a giant party! You'd think I was winning gold at the Olympics! I threw both arms out and gave high-fives to all the spectators as I floated towards the finish line. All the pain in my body dissolved into pure elation as I finally crossed under the finish banner. Tears welled up as I heard the announcer say to the world: "Anthony Ripamonti, YOU. ARE. AN. IRONMAN!" I did it.

It was over. After four and a half hours of running and eleven and a half hours of constant motion, I finally allowed my body to come to a stop.
What would you do differently?:

Aside from taking in a bit too much food at one of the aid stations, I really couldn't do anything different. My pace was dictated completely by my back spasm. Considering that 2 days after the race, I felt completely recovered, I know that I had much more to give on race day. Although I did not hit my goals in terms of time, I definitely hit my other goals of doing the best that I could on race day and enjoying- even savoring every moment.

All the early mornings at the pool, all the scorching hot afternoon runs, all the endless miles on my bike in miserable winds were worth it. One thing is certain: I absolutely LOVE this sport and I am already chomping at the bit to challenge myself again.
Post race
Warm down:

After getting my medal and having my picture taken, I quickly located my family and friends and hugged them. I started going over some of the events of the day when suddenly I started feeling not so great. Apparently, my body had issues with suddenly stopping after 11.5 hours of exercise. My blood pressure dropped and I was getting light headed. I laid down on my back and put my legs on a chair. In 5 minutes, I was right as rain. I was looking forwards to eating some dinner and having my first beer since February!

What limited your ability to perform faster:

Back spasm. No doubt about it. I know I am faster.

Event comments:

Say what you will about the evil corporate overlords at WTC, but they do put on a good event. I had a great week leading up to the race. Everything was well organized and the volunteers were OUTSTANDING.

Profile Album

Last updated: 2011-01-13 12:00 AM
01:08:51 | 3862 meters | 01m 35s / 100meters
Age Group: 69/324
Overall: 468/2565
Performance: Average
Suit: Nineteen Pipeline (Full Sleeve)
Course: Long, slightly bent rectangle starting under the eastern most Mill Ave. bridge, heading east just past the Rural Rd. bridge to the turnaround.
Start type: Deep Water Plus: Shot
Water temp: 61F / 16C Current:
200M Perf. Average Remainder: Average
Breathing: Good Drafting: Average
Waves: Navigation: Good
Rounding: Good
Time: 05:56
Performance: Average
Cap removal: Good Helmet on/
Suit off:
Wetsuit stuck? No Run with bike: Yes
Jump on bike: Yes
Getting up to speed: Good
05:35:49 | 112 miles | 20.01 mile/hr
Age Group: 78/324
Overall: 494/2565
Performance: Average
Wind: Headwind with gusts
Course: 3 lap out-and-back from Tempe to the Beeline highway near Shea Blvd. Mostly flat with a deceptive climb leading into the turnaround. Wind on the course is a roulette game as it shifts constantly (seemingly never in my favor).
Road: Smooth Dry Cadence:
Turns: Good Cornering: Good
Gear changes: Good Hills:
Race pace: Comfortable Drinks: Just right
Time: 04:24
Overall: Average
Riding w/ feet on shoes
Jumping off bike Good
Running with bike Good
Racking bike
Shoe and helmet removal
04:37:37 | 26.2 miles | 10m 36s  min/mile
Age Group: 100/324
Overall: 590/2565
Performance: Below average
Course: 3 lap figure 8-ish type course around Tempe Town Lake. Mostly flat, however there are climbs around the bridges and one moderate climb up Curry Rd. around 3/4 around the loop.
Keeping cool Average Drinking Too much
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Average
Mental exertion [1-5] 4
Physical exertion [1-5] 4
Good race? Ok
Course challenge Just right
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities: Good
Race evaluation [1-5] 5