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Ironman Arizona - TriathlonFull Ironman

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Tempe, Arizona
United States
Ironman North America
93F / 34C
Total Time = 16h 44m 42s
Overall Rank = 1655/2027
Age Group = M45-49
Age Group Rank = 161/204
Pre-race routine:

Due to driving home to TX and other issues, I'm writing this 7 days after the race. That's a lot of time reflect on the experience and go through the range of emotions following an event like this.

I picked IMAZ because I was raised in the valley and really like the desert. Racing here, we could stay with my dad and it was like a homecoming of sorts. I had prepared well and set some fairly aggressive stretch time goals that I might have a chance at if everything went well on race day.

Enough's been said about the heat and wind. It's April in AZ; it can be hot and windy. You sign up a year in advance, you pay your money, you do your training, you take your chances, you need to be ready.

Drove into town on Wednesday, stopped by the race venue to pick up some rented race wheels and recon the area. Attended the BT meet-up dinner the night before. Saw a bunch of new names and faces, and and a few familiar ones. Always cool.

Everything went perfect leading up to race day; feeling strong, sleeping well despite the strange beds, eating great, even the annoying crotch pimple I've had for 3 weeks went away 2 days before Sunday. Everything was falling into place...

Race Day
Slept solid, woke at 4:15, drove to the race site alone, the family would follow later. Ate my standard oatmeal bar, protein bar, and drank a Power Edge while driving.

Mixed up the Infinit bottles, got my bike all set up, and double-checked everything 3 times. The guy racked next to me asked me help him with some sunblock on the hard-to-reach places. That's the most I've ever rubbed a man, and I told him, "If this wasn't a race, this would be a pretty kinky scene." He laughed.

Portacan visit, wetsuit on, slammed a gel and some water; good for go.
Event warmup:

None, other than the swimming into position and treading water for 10 minutes waiting for the cannon to fire.

I had swum 2 practice swims during the days before so I was familiar with the water and some of the landmarks. Felt good about my chances of making my goal of 1:20.
  • 1h 40m 24s
  • 4224 yards
  • 02m 23s / 100 yards

I'm not a fast swimmer and picked a spot towards the back and the inside line against the bouys.

Cannon shot and we're off. Got the usual contact, but nothing bad; one minor bump to the goggle required a stop to re-adjust. I'm a right-side breather and just swam parallel to the shore. Used the buildings, bridges, and light poles to gauge my (slow) progress.

Swam a pretty straight line, found several drafts along the way, but couldn't stay on long because they would either swim slower or off course. Stayed steady and never really tired. My only real worry was getting leg cramps, but I only had a couple very minor ones. (I've had some very bad ones at the pool.)

Rounded the last bouy and to the ladder. Great! My weakest element is complete, even if it's 20 minutes slower than my goal. Time to get to the real work of the race.
What would you do differently?:

Nothing really, swam my swim and didn't have any major problems. Just slow, even with a wetsuit.
Transition 1
  • 07m 52s

Up the ladder and stripped quickly. Started to run fast, but then realized; hey, this is a big T1 and a long day, what's the hurry? Went smooth enough, but took a bit to get a top and socks on.

As I exited the change tent, there were some portacans nearby, and there was a slight urge to pee; not strong, but might as well take care of it now. As I turned abruptly, my bike cleats slipped on the smooth concrete sidewalk and I crashed to the deck. 1" long gash in the palm of my hand and a very sore elbow. Great! What a start? The cans were full anyway, so I just proceeded to get the bike.
What would you do differently?:

My only planning screw-up was not putting a small towel in each transition bag to dry/clean my feet off; was frustrated by how much dry grass clippings were stuck to my feet.
  • 7h 54m 21s
  • 112 miles
  • 14.17 mile/hr

Headed out to the highway while getting settled in on the bike. Feeling just perfect, still nice and cool, and everything's in place for an awesome ride. Until,,,

we get out to the open areas and get slammed by the wind. Oh well, I think in the back of all of our minds, we were "expecting" this, we just didn't want to have to actually deal with it. No sense in whining; just keep it spinning in the small ring and keep the head down. 12-17mph going up the hill into the wind and 28-30mph going down with the tailwind. I'm a light guy so the downhills were a little slow because I wanted to save energy and not push the big ring too hard, just took it easy.

First loop was uneventful for me, but plenty of athletes had lots of flats and a few mechanical problems. Never saw an actual bike wreck, but did see one guy flat on his back at corner being attended to by the EMS. He was talking on a cell phone, so I'm hoping he wasn't hurt too bad. Took advantage of the tailwind/downhill to take the pee I missed in T1. Relief is awesome.

Go past the race venue and the "hot corner", and get the first look at my cheering section; my wife, my dad, my cousin Karen (KSH), and her dad.

Second loop was pretty much the same; taking in Infinit, eating bites of Clif bar, and drinking water, same headwind and tailwind. Starting to get very warm now, but keeping cool and still letting the average speed float at an energy-saving level. No chance of meeting the time goals today (the first of many goal adjustments), but it's still a long ways to go.

Everything is still perfect; no hot spots on the feet or saddle, muscles great, no cramps, no aches or pains. Except for the wind; as good a ride as I've had in all my training.

Third loop starts innocently enough. My glasses and eyes were getting clogged with dried salt deposits and it was a little annoying. A couple miles out there were some college kids shooting cold water at the riders with high pressure water guns. The water felt good, but one of the blasts got me right in the eyes and glasses and combined with the salt, really made a mess of things. No problem, I'll stop at the next aid station (~mile 82), get some more water and get cleaned up.

As I approached the station, I started to feel the first effects of the day. Pulled into the station, unclipped, but stood astride the bike while getting the water, cleaning my face, and peeing all at the same time (gross, I know). All of sudden, I started getting dizzy, so I leaned my head on the aerobars, and sucked in deep breaths.

A volunteer asked if I was OK, sure I said, I just need a break. She squirted half a bottle of water on my back and arms, and said she'd be watching me. I felt cool, but the stomach started revolting. I swung my leg over the saddle and walked the bike over to lean my head against a car. An EMS person who was attending someone else asked if I was OK, sure I said, I just need a break.

This lasted 5-10 minutes, but things were getting worse by the minute. Now, I had to take a crap and it had to be NOW. I racked the bike and luckily there was a portacan open. I kept the door propped open with my foot to keep some air flow, but I had to be careful so the legs wouldn't cramp up. The diarrhea hit with full force and I was done in minutes. Felt really bad for the guy who was slumped in the shade against that portacan dealing with his own problems.

As I staggered out and upright, the dizziness and my stomach weren't done yet; I knew I was fixing to heave. I grabbed the bike rack, bent over and cut loose. 1-2-3-4-5-6 times I threw up. All the Inifinit, Clif bar, water, Gatorade; gone and running down the street and back towards the portacan (with the guy in the shade). Dang, what a mess. Sorry man, but we're all having problems.

That same volunteer comes over and asks if I'm OK, sure I said, just need some water to drink now. She brought me another bottle and I was actually feeling that wonderful "post-vomit relief". I cleaned out my mouth, squirted down my face, topped off the aero bottle, and mounted the bike to begin the last uphill/headwind leg to the turn-around.

Later I thought about the volunteers... Did they have ANY idea what they were going to witness and endure during their shift out on the bike course? My thanks and appreciation goes out to them.

I had little energy, so I just drank some water and kept grinding it out, 8-10mph was all I could manage. Time to harden up and keep it going. After what seems forever; the turn-around and aid station is here, but I have to stop again with more stomach distress. This time I dismount and use the bike as support as I double over. 1-2-3-4 times I throw up. How can there be anything left?

Find an empty chair and sit down while holding the bike upright. An EMS guy comes over and asks if I'm OK, sure I say, but I ask him if he has a rag or paper towel that I can wipe off with. He has nothing, but could cut up a blanket if I need it. No, don't do that.

Sit there for ? minutes and catch my breath. Get another bottle of water, clean out the mouth, squirt off the face, top off the aero bottle. I've got my routine down and everything. Mount the bike and take off, but now I have zero energy and water is the only thing that sounds or tastes appealing.

All the way down the Beeline, with the downhill/tailwind combination, I'm able to coast with minimum effort and still maintain 18-20mph . At this point I start realizing the gravity of the situation. I'm firmly at the back of the pack and in danger of missing future cut-off times. As I get closer to town, the support crew is picking up the cones for the outbound lane and the aid stations are being shut down.

I basically laid in the aerobars and pedaled enough to keep moving forward. On one of the westbound roads, with no riders in front of me, I got confused on the coned lanes and was riding in a traffic lane, then I saw a car coming right at me. Oops, time to switch lanes, quick.

Lost all concept of time while this was happening, and looking at the splits later; the stops and sickness had added another 1hr:15m to this loop. I was concerned that my cheering section was worried about what might have happened to me.

Thankfully, I was approaching transition and a chance to recoup and refuel. Handed the bike off to someone, took my shoes off and walked to the gear bags.
What would you do differently?:

The $64,000 question: What made me sick?
Heat? No, I've been there before and I wasn't pushing THAT hard.
Nutrition? Same stuff I 've been eating and drinking for 2 months.
Lake water from the swim(s)? Possibly. More on this later.
Transition 2
  • 08m 45s

The change tent was a mess. Such chaos, I've never seen. I thought I was bad; there were guys worse. Looked like a post-battle scene with wounded warriors laying about in various states of shock.

Took my time, ate a few pretzels, drank some cool water, ate some ice. Changed socks, put on shoes and prepared to "run".
What would you do differently?:

Given my physical state, this was doing very well.
  • 6h 53m 20s
  • 26.2 miles
  • 15m 47s  min/mile

It was about 5:30 in the afternoon and another 1-1/2 hours until sundown. There was no way I was running right now, so the plan was to walk the first loop, hydrating and eating what I could to get my strength back. The first aid station came and I got a little bit of everything. The shaved ice snow cone with Gatorade was the best.

All time goals were gone and now the only goal was to finish before midnight. Started trying to do the math in my head about what it's going to take, but the scale and the numbers were just too big for my reduced mental capacity. All I can do is to keep moving forward as FAST as I can, ALL the time. Take control of what I can control in my box, right this second, then worry about the rest later as it comes.

Another aid station, another bite of banana, a few sips of water, Gatorade, and coke. This is repeated a couple of times. Still walking steady. Passing athletes sprawled out in the shade, sitting down, EMS folks going to and fro, seems like everyone's having issues of some sort.

As I cross the Rural Street bridge near the end of loop 1, I get that bad feeling in my stomach again. Right in the middle of the bridge, I grab the rail and bend over in the sidewalk. 1-2-3-4 times it comes up; everything I've eaten or drank in the last hour is in the gutter. Great.

I hear a voice in my right ear, "Dude, seriously, you need to check yourself into medical." I thought it was a race official, but it was another athlete who stopped to check on me. He asked if this was my first puke job? No, I've had some others. He asked if I was OK; sure I said, I just need some water. He has a water bottle and offers to squirt a rinse in my mouth.

The relief was immediate and after a 100 yards of walking and looking at my watch; I've GOT to start running to have any chance. So run I did, for about 3 miles, at a decent pace, too. My best running all night. I pass my cheering section and give them an update of my problems. 1 loop down.

Of course I couldn't keep that going, so it was back to walking as fast as I could. By now the sun was down and keeping cool wasn't an issue, getting hydration and some sort of fuel was the priority. Nothing was working. A little water and 2-3 pretzel sticks was about all I could handle. Would run/shuffle a little, walk a lot; my whole race was reduced to going one step at a time.

At this point, I could start working the numbers and could see that it was going to be VERY close to midnight at this pace, too close actually. I just HAD to step it up; not finishing wasn't an option. How could I justify it to my family and friends? No quitting now.

As I was nearing the end of loop 2, I vaguely remembered there being a cut-off time to start the 3rd loop and I overheard someone mention it was getting close. Oh crap!, can't let that happen, so I started running. Made it another half-mile or so at a moderate pace.

As I passed the "fork in the trail" that separates the finisher's route from the start of the 3rd loop, I came up on a couple who were walking. I asked them if we made the cut-off and he said yes; by 8 minutes. Alright, another goal met. Now I have to go 8+ miles before midnight. I just gotta do it.

Her name was Molli and her husband, Tony, was going to walk with her on the last loop. I asked what their walk/run ratio was and if I could tag along? He was doing the math and at this pace, we could make it by 11:50. Excellent, I've got a 10 minute cushion.

We'd run 3 light poles, then 1 more. Walk awhile, run a little more. To the end of the guardrail, then to the cones; anything in front of us became the next goal to achieve. They were walking pretty fast and little-by-little, I'd fall back, first 25 feet, then 50 feet. I didn't want to loose contact with them, so I'd "sprint" on up to catch them, then we'd run some more.

At this point, it was 10-11 o'clock and there were very few athletes out on the course and it was pretty dark and quiet out the back side of the loop. Almost surreal, we were actually still doing a race. A few pretzels, a handful of grapes, a little water was all I could eat, but we kept it going. The stomach had stabilized somewhat, but the bowel wasn't done, so I got a squirt of poo in the pants as a little reminder. Lovely.

Got a good taste of what life is like at the back of the pack. Depleted aid stations; no ice, no broth, etc. It's not planned like that, but it just happens. Passing quite a few athletes of various levels of distress, plenty of cramps, limping, shuffling. We're actually doing pretty well. Molli's husband is encouraging everyone with back pats and words to hang in there.

I'm within a couple of miles now and barring complete failure, I'm going to finish before the midnight hour. For the first time in hours, my mind relaxes a minute and "enjoys" the experience. Finally, as we get close and head up the finisher's route, I tell them to go ahead first and I'll lag behind to avoid too much congestion in the chute to the finish line.

Wow, it is done. I made it.
What would you do differently?:

Not get sick.
Post race
Warm down:

Get my medal and shirt (wrong size) and walk around looking for the family. They come over to the fence, we hug, and snap a few pics. I heard later there were no medical facilities to speak of, so I'm glad I wasn't too bad (maybe I was?). Missed out on the whole finisher's photo thing. If it was still operating, no one offered it to me and I didn't think about it until the next day.

Immediately found an open portacan to take care of some unfinished business. Had my wife get a mylar blanket while I found a chair to sit down. She also found a cold piece of pizza and a warm coke (life at the BOP) but I wasn't too interested. Sat around and rested while she got my bike and bags. It had been a very long day.

What limited your ability to perform faster:

Getting sick. Really don't think it was heat stress or race nutrition. I threw up four more times on Monday and had dysentery for 4 days afterward. A week later, I'm still recovering from the gastric problems.

I'm disappointed in my race that I didn't get to really use my abilities and training to full advantage and post better times. It could be said that it's the ability and training that got me to the finish considering the situation. OK, I'll take it. There were a LOT of DNF's who'd trade with me.

Event comments:

It's an IronMan with all the hype and big scene, but the closer you get to midnight, the less there is; of everything. It could be debated that the BOP needs good treatment too, but it's just not always going to happen, and that's the way it is.

I had a good experience and glad I finished, but I'm still wrestling with whether it was "worth it".

Profile Album

Last updated: 2007-08-28 12:00 AM
01:40:24 | 4224 yards | 02m 23s / 100yards
Age Group: 0/204
Overall: 0/2027
Performance: Average
Suit: 2XU full
Course: Big rectangle loop in Tempe Town Lake.
Start type: Deep Water Plus: Shot
Water temp: 65F / 18C Current:
200M Perf. Average Remainder: Average
Breathing: Good Drafting: Below average
Waves: Navigation: Average
Rounding: Good
Time: 07:52
Performance: Average
Cap removal: Good Helmet on/
Suit off:
Wetsuit stuck? Run with bike: Yes
Jump on bike:
Getting up to speed:
07:54:21 | 112 miles | 14.17 mile/hr
Age Group: 0/204
Overall: 0/2027
Performance: Bad
Wind: Strong with gusts
Course: 3 loop course to the edge of town and up the highway. Some tricky turns and cobblestones to be careful of.
Road: Smooth Dry Cadence: 85
Turns: Good Cornering: Good
Gear changes: Good Hills: Good
Race pace: Comfortable Drinks: Just right
Time: 08:45
Overall: Average
Riding w/ feet on shoes
Jumping off bike
Running with bike
Racking bike
Shoe and helmet removal
06:53:20 | 26.2 miles | 15m 47s  min/mile
Age Group: 0/204
Overall: 0/2027
Performance: Bad
Course: 3 loop course with turns, over here, over there, all over the place, with some slight uphills and down.
Keeping cool Good Drinking
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Good
Mental exertion [1-5]
Physical exertion [1-5]
Good race?
Course challenge Just right
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities: Below average
Race evaluation [1-5]

2008-04-21 11:11 PM

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Waller County, TX
Subject: Ironman Arizona

2008-04-22 9:00 AM
in reply to: #1353609

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Subject: RE: Ironman Arizona
Sorry to hear about all the problems, but you did finish! I'm pretty sure if I had expelled the amount of fluids out of my body that you did, I would have quit.
2008-04-22 9:00 AM
in reply to: #1353609

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Dallas, TX
Subject: RE: Ironman Arizona
Well, I was there to witness the experience... and gosh, you know what... had you stopped, it would have been OK! Seriously. I'm not sure HOW you finished man. I never could have done what you did out there.

Great job on finishing and becoming an Ironman! YOU ROCK! CONGRATULATIONS! I can't say it enough.

Otherwise, I hope that maybe someday you will think about possibly trying another one to show what you can do when you aren't sick. But don't tell Beverly I said that. She'd kill me for suggesting it!

As for being BOP. Yea, it sucks. Welcome to my world. It's lonely. Less excitement, less racers, less stuff. Everyone who is fast should experience it just once (this was your one and only time!)... to understand how hard it is to race at the BOP.

That sucks that they didn't offer a finishers picture to you! WTH? Food sucked... no medical tent, etc. Sure, you are at the back, but you are still and Ironman and deserve the basics. A letter should be written.

Ok, rest up and take a well deserved break. I'm glad I got to go watch and be a part of your cheering squad!
2008-04-22 9:02 AM
in reply to: #1353609

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Extreme Veteran
Frisco, Texas
Subject: RE: Ironman Arizona
i heard you were sick, but reliving it through your eyes is another thing. well done on finishing despite your body telling you the total opposite. you truly are an IRONMAN. great to meet you out there, sorry it was such a struggle, but so happy you made it to the end!!! well done!
2008-04-22 9:22 AM
in reply to: #1353609

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Subject: RE: Ironman Arizona
wow jim, what a really tough day. I know many of people would have quit, way to stick it out. your medal looks the same as everyones. you are an ironman. It was a really tough day out there and you worked thru it. nice job, get better and lets hit the shorter stuff.... this is suppose to be fun
2008-04-22 9:53 AM
in reply to: #1353609

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Atlanta, Georgia
Bronze member
Subject: RE: Ironman Arizona
Bad day at Blackrock..The experience will make you so much faster the next time around. I am amazed you were able to get through the day..Yeah, I believe there are lots of people who would kill for that finisher's medal.

Way to go, Ironman!

2008-04-22 12:36 PM
in reply to: #1353609

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Frisco, Texas
Subject: RE: Ironman Arizona

Congratulations....Ironman.  It was a tough race.  Great job perservering to the finish line.  You demonstrated great mental toughness to continue under those conditions.  Hope to see you at some other races this year.


2008-04-22 12:49 PM
in reply to: #1353609

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Extreme Veteran
Greenwood, SC
Subject: RE: Ironman Arizona
I can't believe you finished with all that. You are tough.
2008-04-22 12:50 PM
in reply to: #1353609

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Extreme Veteran
Round Rock, Texas
Subject: RE: Ironman Arizona
Jim, first off, it was great to finally meet you.  I know the race disappointed alot of us on many different levels.  Still, we join a small group of people on this planet that have finished an Ironman.  To have done so on an incredibly difficult day makes it even more satisfying.   Your next Ironman will be comletely different  Like others have said, you have the same medal as the winner and no one can take away the fact that YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!
2008-04-22 9:23 PM
in reply to: #1353609

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Subject: RE: Ironman Arizona
great job out there and great report. its awesome to read each an every person's individual account of their IM race and they never get boring. you showed more heart than i think i have ever shown in a race b/c you had the chips stacked against you and you continued to go all in to finish. sorry the stomach created so much drama on race day but you still finished and now its time to get ready for the next race. think about all that base training you have banked this year and now its time to add some speed. best of luck the rest of the year!!!!
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