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Ironman Arizona - TriathlonFull Ironman
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My swim training approach; starting in September to swim 3000 meters a couple of times a week. Try to ramp up to 4000 or so meters at least once a week in October and continue that through race day. I accomplished that for the most part. I'm a believer that I could most likely get a little faster in the swim but it would take a lot of training time for only a little benefit. My main goal this year was to not panic when I jumped in the water like I did last year, that alone could save me 3-4 minutes. I also went to the practice swim on Saturday this year and it really helped. The water was 65 degrees (2 degrees warmer that last year) which made all the difference in the world. I still used a neoprene cap and ear plugs.
My friend (Joe) and I headed off to the swim start quickly realizing we had made the error of waiting to long. Our plan was to start between the 1:15 and 1:20 group. We were all the way back in the 2+ hour group and were having a difficult time moving up. It was super crowded and there was very little room. I told Joe lets just stay here, it doesn't really matter anyway since our time doesn't start until we head down the swim stairs. So we just relaxed and slowly moved forward with the crowd. I watch a lot of youtube videos, always looking for inspiration and to hear someone's story. As we inched toward the start line I recognized a volunteer that made a youtube video of his race in a previous year...one that I thought was inspiring. I said "Hey you are the guy with the video about your race...very cool and very inspiring" .He thanked me and shook my hand and just like that we moved past him. I thought to myself what a cool way to start this race! ( Here is the link to his video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C9kzzoFy99Y).Joe and I approached the stairs looked at each other and said have a great race see you at the end..smile...high five...and jumped in. Tempe Town Lake has a little bit of a curve to it. Ironman sets up the buoys to follow that curve. The most direct route is to actually not follow the curve, but initially follow the seawall which does put you off to the side where there are less people and not much of a chance to draft off of anyone. I took the direct route and swam along the seawall. Wow..I'm swimming..no panic attack...no leg cramps..this is great. I had prearranged with my wife where she should stand along that wall in case I was able to swim by and could wave at her. She wore a bright yellow shirt that I instantly recogonized and swam towards. I could see her chatting with Joes wife as I swam their direction. Once I got close enough I stopped and waved...no reaction...I waved again...still chatting...I shouted "HEY LORI"...no reaction...again "HEY LORI!!"...this time she heard me and frantically waved back. Ok...now I can continue on...she later told me she thought I had long since passed by and thats why she wasn't looking...likely story. I used two distant towers to sight off and kept a fairly straight path towards the first turn buoy. I did notice that there were some fairly large groups of swimmers that reminded me of sheep. One person leading the way with a group following. As the lead swimmer got off track, the group would follow right along behind him. Prior to the first turn there was a group of about twenty that were headed way off course and I had to swim through the middle of them at about a 45 degree angle. It made me wonder why they don't look up and try to sight off that red buoy up ahead. Only light contact and no issue getting through them. Made the two turns and headed back the other way...halfway done. No contact..almost off on my own...kind of like practice in the lake I trained in. Hmmm..still no cramps...feeling good...but yep I'm ready to be finished with the swim. Ok now I'm up to the toughest part...made the last turn lots of people everywhere all trying to zero in on a set of stairs to aim for...lined up with the 2nd to last set..nope big group moving that direction...ok the ones in the middle look good...whack..thunked in the head by someone in the middle moving to the outside...dog paddle... let him go in front...ok put your head down and swim hard to the steps. Volunteer reaches down and gives me a hard pull and I'm wobbling up the steps...whew! I can hear Mike Reilly announce my name coming out of the swim. I thought to myself "Crazy every Ironman I have done he has called my name out of the water". Funny how thoughts like that float through your mind in the midst of chaos. I quickly picked two volunteers who pulled off my wetsuit picked me up and nudged me on my way. Ok thats done...check.
Running up the path towards the transition area I kept looking for my wife. I hear Finney...great job! Its some of the members of the AzTri Club...I high five them and smile. Just up ahead I hear Way to go Finney! It's Lori and I smile again along with giving her a high five while trying not to drop my wetsuit and goggles. A volunteer yells "2942" and someone grabs myT1 bag and off to the changing tent I go. Not exactly a quick change but I didn't have a volunteer to help. I did get a chair this year...nice. Changed, downed my tailwind and out the door. One of the disadvantages to being in the 55-59 age group is your bike placement. 3rd to last row in the the back, which means you have to push it the length of transition, probably 100 yards to the mount line. No big deal, I just think it should be the other way around...:)
Bike training. Since I live near the course I like to train on it as much as I can, or at least part of it.This year I rode part of the course 47 times prior to race day. This is a huge advantage. It both mentally and physically prepares you for this race in particular. The Beeline highway is a stretch of 11 miles or so (each direction) through the desert out to Fountain Hills, the turn around point in the race at Shea Blvd. Outbound is about a 2% climb with the turn around being the opposite. Winds swirl and can be a headwind on part of the course that change and give you a headwind again when you expect a tailwind coming back. I've had days when there is light or no wind and can average 20+ on this section of the course, other days I've only been able to average 13-14 with a strong headwind. It is mentally tiring and challenging when its windy. I read an article about the effect of noise and how it can physically make you more tired. I practiced riding with my swim ear plugs on the course on windy days to try and block the noise. It seemed to help me and I decided if it was windy on race day I would wear my swim ear plugs on the bike (which I did). Volume...I went into June with around 350 miles on the bike for the year. By race day I had 4000 miles on the bike. In October I rode 965 miles for the month. Most rides were 70 plus miles. I think I did maybe three 100+ plus rides. I fit them in wherever I could. Sometimes that meant back to back long rides and then big periods of nothing between. It made me nervous how I would feel on the bike because it wasn't all that consistent. I also tried to ride hard on almost every single ride, sometimes not for the whole ride but at least part of it. I don't ride with a power meter and try to just go by how I am feeling.
The mount line at any Ironman is a place to be cautious. The area is narrow with lots of people that you don't know what they are going to do, it definitely pays to be vigilant. As I started to push off and swing my leg over my bike the person in front of me suddenly stopped and I was narrowly able to miss them. The bike exit shoot is maybe 2/10ths of a mile long. I rode easy looking for family and friends yelling and waving when I saw them. My wife planned to go home and watch the Vikings football game (she is a huge fan and we don't get to see many of their games here in Az) while I was on the bike. I actually get some comfort in knowing that I can just focus on the bike and not have to look for anyone. As my tires came off the wood ramp leading from the bike exit to the street, I hear "Hey Finney" as my friend Joe goes flying past me. My initial gut reaction was to stomp on it and catch him but my better sense kicked in and said just ride your race. As I headed outbound I kept looking at the various flags around thinking "it's going to be windy...". Sure enough by the time I got to the Beeline it was pretty windy headed out bound...maybe 10 mph headwinds with occasional gusts to 15 or so. It was at this point that I really decided my race strategy for the ride. I would lay back but stay consistent while riding into the wind and push harder when the wind was light or a tailwind. My bike was loaded with plenty of calories so I did not need to stop at the aid stations with the exception to grab water once in awhile. The only other nutrition I would need on the bike was a bottle of Ensure that I had poured into two gel flasks. One I would drink on loop two and the second on loop three both at the Shea turn around point. I don't use special needs bags so would not need to stop. At all of the aid stations I try to get through them as fast as possible and stay to the far left, again you don't know what people are going to do and I have seen several near misses. At one of the aid stations coming down the Beeline I saw a woman being worked on by paramedics, they were putting a neck brace on her, I can only guess there must have been some type of pile up at the station. With three loops it can be a crowded course and you really have to pay attention.
Joe and I played tag back and forth through the first loop. I would catch up then he would pull away. I honestly wasn't trying to catch him, our riding styles are just different enough that it worked out that way. The winds were lighter on the second loop and I kept with my strategy of going harder with lighter winds. All the while in the back of my head I kept remembering the message I had received from a friend that reminded me to not go so hard on the bike that I didn't have anything left for the run. I chuckled to myself knowing that he was tracking me online and wondered what he was saying. I knew I was going pretty hard...but was it to much? I saw Joe just a head of me as we approached the special needs station. He pulled into grab his bag and I sailed on by. I continued pushing pretty hard through the rest of the second loop and continuing to the turn around at Shea Blvd of the third loop. "Ok Finney what are you going to do now" I thought to myself. Well...its all down hill or flat from here on in...probably another hour and a half of riding..I'll ease up just a little to try and let my legs recover. Nutrition...water...keep steady...start thinking about transition and the run. About 3 miles from the end of the bike Joe goes flying by me again calling out my name and laughing. How the heck did he do that...wow I thought he must have really pushed that last loop on the bike. I again had to fight off the urge to stomp on it and catch him. As I came down the bike entry shoot there was my wife, we smiled yelled and waved at each other...I made a mental note to ask her if the Vikings had won or not...
Ride up to the dismount line...hand off the bike...yep the legs are a little wobbly. Lori had moved over to where the transition bags were so we smiled and waved again and I headed into the transition tent. Joe was sitting outside on a chair and changing into his running shoes. As I went by him I jokingly said "Hey wait for me...I'm just going to change real quick". He laughed and said "sure". I know it costs me some time but I like to change out of my riding clothes. Found a chair easily changed clothes, hat, sunglasses, race belt and out the door. I need to go to the bathroom but there was a line so I took off knowing I could find one on the course with no line.
Run Training. Last year I ran a 4:09 IM marathon. my previous best was 4:30. This year I focused all of my run training on distance and speed. Volume wise I ran about 1100 miles this year. I ran usually two to three days a week. Almost all of the runs were at least 10 miles and the pace something less than 8:15 per mile. My theory is that your Ironman marathon pace (minutes per mile) will average out to be 1:15-1:30 slower than your training pace. I also tried to negative split every run, knowing that in an Ironman the further into the run you go the higher your heart rate. I wanted to simulate that feeling by running faster each mile in a training run. I thought I could probably run somewhere between a 3:50 and 4:10 if everything went ok.
I took off on the run and didn't see Lori by the run exit but knew I would see her on my way back past transition. I felt really good and about half a mile out of transition my shoe came untied. I quickly tied my shoe and looked at the average pace on my watch...7:28...yikes...way to fast. I forced myself to walk for about 30 seconds and then settled into about an 8:30 pace. Just before the 2 mile turnaround I saw Joe headed the other way. He was probably a minute or so ahead of me and looked strong. I high fived him and told him to go get it. I knew I had to run my own race and there was a long way to go. When I came back near the transition area, there was Lori smiling and cheering me on. I stopped and hugged her...yep I'm really sweaty...:) About a mile past that, so somewhere around mile 5 both of my quads seized up in charlie horses. I walked peg legged for a little bit and massaged the cramped up muscles. My very first thought was, that's it, you are going to have to walk because you pushed to hard on the bike. You should have listened to Dale (the friend that sent me the text message before the race). As the muscles released I slowly started to run. In my head I thought ok now I have an excuse to not run a good marathon. Lame. Quit trying to find excuses to ease up and just run. Just past the next aid station there was a tent that was handing out BASE salt. I know not to try anything new in a race but...I also knew I needed something for the cramping. I took some of the salt and started using it about every mile. It worked. The farther I got into the run the less my legs cramped. I also was really enjoying the run.The Mill Street Bridge accesses both sides of the run course and my wife planned to meet me on each side allowing us to see each other at least 4 times per loop. I had dedicated this race to her. This is my 6th year of Ironman training in a row. She has supported me through all of it. She puts up with long training runs and rides on weekends and manages a stressful job as an Executive. More importantly she is a great mom to our two boys, one with Autism. Its a lot and hard to understand unless you live it. I wanted her to know how much I appreciate her support of my endurance adventures. I stopped each time we met gave her a kiss and said thanks for all that you do...I think it made me feel as good to say it as it did for her to hear it. Each time she would give me an update on how far ahead Joe was. At one point Joes wife was with Lori and said that he had told her he was "going to leave it all out on the course today". I looked at her and said "Well I think I left it out on the course today and if someone could help me find it that would be great!" We all got a big laugh out of it! I just kept chugging along and reflecting on the friends and family that support me. The end of the run in an Ironman marathon is painful, I don't know of many people that would disagree with that statement. Both your body and your mind want to quit and go forward at the same time. The spectators become a little more silent, the athletes withdraw into their own world...its a weird eery peacefulness in the middle of the pain. I was at that point at mile 21 when I heard "Hey Finney" jolting me out of wherever I was...it was Joe. So after training thousands of miles together and racing all day long...here we were side by side. For me there wasn't any time goal or anything more important than the friendship that we had developed. We decided that we were going to finish the remainder of the run together. So for those last miles we joked, laughed, complained about everything that hurt and kept encouraging each other to the finish line. Just like training. As we came down the finish shoot side by side egging the crowd on to cheer louder for us, I couldn't think of a better way to end this race.
Joe and I got our finisher medals, hats and T-shirts. Picked up some pizza and water and then met our wives outside the finisher area. They had picked up some beer for us so we sat on the grass and relived the race and drank beer. Lori checked our official finish times...I was ahead of Joe by three seconds...and I'm never going to let him forget it...:!!
Last updated: 2015-11-30 12:00 AM
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2006-06-21 7:53 AM benihana
Overall Rank = 360/2442
Age Group = 55-59
Age Group Rank = 8/151
Its great to live in the city where you are going to race. Race week is so much easier. No travel, no hotel, eating your own meals and sleeping in your own bed definitely are an advantage.
My training for this race was not as good as other years but I had a better race. More rest and recovery time, familiarity with the course...who knows. I didn't use a training plan last year or this year. I generally know what I want to accomplish from a training perspective each week but don't use any type of formal plan. I think I'll address how I trained in each specific segment of this race report.
I try to set myself up so that race morning is easy and doesn't require a lot of running around. My nutrition for race morning is fairly simple, I drink an Ensure about 3am, get out of bed around 4:30 and drink half a cup of coffee. Eat a nutella sandwich on potato bread and drink a glass of water. Just before the swim start, I drink about 12 oz of tailwind with 200 calories. My transition bags are set up the day before, each with their own bottle. A 100 calorie Tailwind mix in about 8 oz's of water. Just enough to gulp down. Once I turn the bags in on Saturday I don't need to go back to them until the race. I do stop by my bike with three bottles of Tailwind mixed to 300-350 calories (more on this in the bike section). I also turn on my Garmin and make sure it has a signal. On Saturday I inflate the tires to around 95psi and then don't touch them again. I don't like trying to bring a pump or borrow one and have never had a problem with the pressure on race day. I will add that I always put on a new chain, cassette, tires and tubes about a week before the race and get at least one short ride to make sure everything is functioning correctly.
The last thing that I will add as pre-race prep is that I do my own body marking. The last couple of years I have used TriTats and really like them. I put them on Saturday night. They won't come off on your sheets and you are good to go on race morning.
I try to plan to arrive at Tempe Town Lake around 5:45ish. Traffic was hectic this year and I think I was a little later than that but since all I needed to do is drop off the bottles for the bike it didn't stress me out. A group of us hung around and took a few pictures and joked about whatever came to mind to lighten the mood. My wife and I reviewed the spots that we should look for each other. Then it was time to head off to the swim start.
I guess I will add one more thing here. I went into this race with no total race time goals. I thought I could do about 1:20 on the swim, something under 6 hours on the bike and around 4 hours for the run. A great friend of mine always sends me a message before these races and it helps me to focus but I truly went into this race wanting to have fun. I knew that next year I would not be able to race this event and just wanted to enjoy the day. I trained with a friend for most of the summer leading up to this race and we planned to start the race together. Training with someone can really make those long training days more fun. We joked around a lot and had lots of laughs. We teased each other about who would be in front of the other during the race, each saying it would be the other and what we were going to do to slow the other person down. Good times.