WEEKEND RECAP: THE ARIZONA R&D TRIP
i know, i know. even the people who raced got their reports out sooner. this of course will preempt today's HUMP DAY HAIKU. so sue me.
let's just start with OH.MY.GOD. if you're training for your first Ironman and you get the chance to volunteer or observe at another Ironman, TAKE IT. then again, if you're considering signing up for an Ironman but haven't done so yet, maybe don't go watch one first. or maybe you do and you're so inspired that you go straight to the awards banquet the next day and sign up for next year. i bet there's a 50/50 split on that opinion, but i am sooooo glad i'm went to Arizona this past weekend on a bunch of different levels.
THE FUCKER hitched a ride thursday with Iron Maiden Sinta and her crew from Triathlon Connection. i was still house sitting and couldn't make it out 'til friday morning, so i caught a ride with fellow LA Tri Club member and Valley Coach director, Luis Canales and his wife Marielle. we went straight to the expo upon arrival, and my butterflies started as soon as i stepped foot through that friggin' Ironman blow up arch. i'm not even racing, and i'm already getting nervous??
pass THE SALT please!!!
then we headed to the athlete's dinner later that night where i sat in on the pre-race meeting afterwards. they started talking about cutoff times, and i REALLY started to panic. outta the swim in 2:20 from the gun, off of the bike by 5:30pm, but if you don't even make the 3rd loop of the bike by a certain time, you're out. if you're not on the second of three loops of the run by a certain time, you're out. 17:00 hours to bring it home or YOU'RE OUT. not 17:00:01. ok, don't think i'm naive. this wasn't news to me. i've got this crap memorized, but it all seems so harsh when they start reciting it right in front of you. then they go on to say "if you've come to Ironman Arizona because you think it's a flat course, i think you'll be pleasantly surprised." and even if that's true, WHO THE HELL SAYS THAT TO A CROWD OF 2000 ATHLETES LESS THAN 48 HOURS BEFORE GO TIME??? now that's a mind fuck if you ask me....
i'm so confused!!!
i roomed with Iron Maiden Sinta and wanted to be totally focused on her and helping her in any way, but it was best to be out of her way as well. saturday, she would focus on setting up her special needs bags and fine tuning her bike before she turned it into transition. so i got up early saturday morning to hitch a ride with none other than BOLDER HIMSELF!!! yes, yes, y'all, i got to have a bloggy meet up with the one and only. he was in town to support his good buddies, Commodore and Benny, who were racing and to also be a part of a really cool gift bestowed to someone really worthy of it. we drove about 30 minutes to Scottsdale to meet up and ride with yet again more tri bloggers, Melissa, aka MoMo, Krista, aka Tri Dog Mom, Mr. Tri Dog Mom, Shane, and another friend of theirs, Daniel, all doing IM CDA. i only needed to ride 65 miles, and they were going for a full century, so they figured out where i could turn around early and make my way back to where we were parked.
WARNING: THE FOLLOWING PICTURES WERE TAKEN WITH MY CELL PHONE AND YOU KNOW HOW I FEEL ABOUT CELL PHONE PICTURES. THIS WAS EXCRUCIATING, BUT NECESSARY AS THE NIGHT BEFORE I LEFT FOR ARIZONA, I DISCOVERED THAT MY DIGI POINT 'N SHOOT HAS GONE MISSING. WHO LOSES A CAMERA?? PLEASE PUT GOOD THOUGHTS INTO THE UNIVERSE THAT IT IS RECOVERED BEFORE I LEAVE FOR BRASIL OR I AM DEVASTATED!!!
(l. to r.) Bolder, THE FUCKER, and Krista
Shane, Krista, and Daniel
they took us through some GORGEOUS neighborhoods and scenery, including one loop they've named "Tour De Crib" peppered with some beautiful McMansions, but i gotta be honest, these guys were way outta my league!! i held on pretty well for the better part of the ride, and i was able to draft off the back, but as soon as the wind picked up even a bit, and once i slipped away from the pack by even the slightest distance, they just started to drift further and further in front of me. they were great to wait for me though, and once, Bolder even pulled me back to the group, but then we took a turn into a mean wind, and i was struggling even worse. thing is, as much as i don't wanna admit it, my frozen shoulder pain is rearing its ugly head again, and it became increasingly painful to hold aero, and if i couldn't hold aero, there was no way i could stick with 'em. so even before i was supposed to split off, i told them to go on without me. they were all great and encouraged me to keep going with them, but it just wasn't fair to keep having them wait for me when they had so much mileage still to go. so i bid them farewell, and continued back towards where we were parked. i kept a good clip going and then found a nice climb up a street called Via Linda until it dead ended for the last 10 miles. then i stopped at a grocery store for a sandwich and chocolate soy milk and went across the street to a park and watched a little league baseball game while i waited for them to finish their ride. turns out the ladies worked Bold to near death, but i'll let him tell the story... then we drove back to Tempe and said our goodbyes with plans to find each other on race day.
kickin' it with my tri homies
screw the cowbell, MORE SALT!!!
Iron Maidens Cindy (cheerleading), me (cheerleading), Sinta (racing) and Juliet (racing).
not pictured: Iron Maiden Deb
Sinta and her Triathlon Connection crew merged with a few of our LA Tri Club Crew and friends and family, and we threw a pre-race dinner at the condo of one of Sinta's teammates. what a great home-cooked meal and a calm distraction the night before go time. beats sittin' in a loud, crowded restaurant any day!!! those who were racing did two rounds of feeding starting early, and by 7:30 we were on our way back to the hotel for last minute preparations and to get to bed. 9:00pm rolled around, and it was lights out. the alarm was set for 4:00. i knew Sinta was nervous when she asked me to also set my phone alarm for 4:05 in case hers didn't go off. Sweet dreams, Sinta!!!
double check and leave nothing behind!!!
4:00am. Sinta's alarm goes off. she doesn't budge. should i wake her?? no, i'll let the alarm run. she'll wake up on her own. alarm finally stops, and Sinta still hasn't budged. ok, no problem, i'll wait 'til my alarm goes off. finally it does, and still no Sinta. ok, she's starting to squirm, no wait she's just rolling over. oh no, she's still not awake. then another roll over and she slowly sits up, then sits crossed legged in the middle of her bed with her head hung low into her lap. is she stretching? is she praying? is she still sleeping in her lap? i really don't want to impose on her routine. i'm just gonna lay here and not budge and not be in her way. slowly she's up and starting her breakfast routine. i try to just be as quiet an unobtrusive as possible and ready to go when she is. we were just over a mile from the start, but it felt like the longest ride ever. nobody talked, nobody joked. they were all in the zone. the weather forecast called for a high of 95.
this wasn't news to anyone. i'm sure people had been watching the weather for weeks, hoping, praying it would change even the slightest, but hopefully they had taken the appropriate precautions. walking towards transition, you could just feel the buzz everywhere. i walked Sinta as far as i could before she went in to triple check her bike. we hugged, and i told her she would be and Ironman the next time we saw each other!!! here was the first of the Iron Maidens going for the 140.6. i still needed to find Iron Maidens Juliet and Deb and any other LA Tri Club peeps i could. watching all the activity made me wish i was racing. i wanted to get it over with. i felt ready, and THAT FELT GOOD.
major bike porn here
scanning transition, the bike porn was OUT OF CONTROL. makes me feel a little inadequate with my aluminum FUCKER, but whatever. it ain't the bike, it's the rider right?? in that case THE FUCKER is screwed!!!! i passed by a guy and overheard him say he was doing IM Brasil. of course i had to chime in that i was doing it too (he was FINE after all). his name is Brody, it'll be his first Ironman as well, and never mind that he was probably in pre-school when i graduated college!! turns out we're both going through Endurance Sports Travel and we're staying in the same hotel. yay, more fun peeps to hang with!!
Michellie gets in her zone
then look who i found sitting all the way on the edge of transition under a tree trying to hide from the hype. it was none other than 2006 winner at both Arizona AND Kona, Michellie Jones. i can't say enough how much i idolize her. she's just good peeps ya know? we made eye contact and i smiled and wished her a great race. she didn't seem nervous AT ALL, but rather so calm that it could come off as aloof. that's the true sign of a honed triathlete. they not only have the physical strength, but they have the mental strength. they train, they prepare for everything, and then they let it all go, and stay in the moment when the gun goes off. Mike Reilly was already on the mic announcing the last minute race details, and then he summed it all up best when he said "you may not be able to control the heat, or even the wind. in fact the best thing you can do is to let go of what you can't control and focus on what you can control, and that is YOUR ATTITUDE."
the racers started to pour in, double and triple checking their bikes, getting marked, squeezing into their neoprene and then dropping off their dry clothes bags. the lines for the porta potties got longer. it was definitely on!!! i made my way to the swim start, and look who else i found!!
PHOTO UP BEYOTCH!!!
yep, there's Bolder again and this time armed with his camera. next i saw MoMo and Stronger!!! it was a bloggy morning!!! i went up on one of the bridges to get a good bird's eye shot of the pros swimming out to the start line, and there just behind them on the dock waiting to jump in were all the age groupers, blue caps for the boys, and pink caps for the girls. the pros went off at 6:45 and then they let the age groupers in the water to make their way to the start about a 100 yards away. nice warm up, but then you had to tread water or wait on the banks until go time. check out how this guy chose to wait...
no stress here...
the music is blaring, and Mike Reilly starts his spiel.
"WHO'S DOING THEIR FIRST IRONMAN THIS MORNING?"
"HAVE A GREAT DAY OUT THERE, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, AND WHEN I SEE YOU AGAIN, YOU WILL BE AN IRONMAN!!!"
THE CANNON GOES OFF, AND THEN IT'S ON.
hey, ma!!! look at me!!
hey, who grabbed me??
my next desktop wallpaper
the swim is on, and you can spot the people freaking out, not being able to put their head in the water. i wanna just jump in and tell each and every one of them that they're gonna be ok. then there were the back of the packers who were really struggling. one stayed on his back, nearly floating in place. everyone around me watched in amazement, waiting to see if he could flip over and get on his way. finally he did as a big sigh of relief came over the spectators. he was on his way now. no telling if he was gonna make the cutoff, but he was on his way...
then i went and parked myself near the transition bags.
grab and go!!!
LESSON #1 - know where you're bag is and don't wait for the volunteers to find it, cuz they may not be paying attention as your number is called out. i watched several people still stunned from the swim just standing there as nobody was looking for their bag. now if you're trying to qualify, that's precious time. me, not so much, but id' be frustrated if nobody was helping me, so i'm gonna help myself. i'll just be sure to know where my bag is and run towards it. if nobody near is holding my bag out, i'll start scanning the numbers. yeah, it all sounds perfect in theory. think i'll remember that after 2.4 miles??
not much to see as the changing tent is closed off, but i did ask Sinta and others what they were planning to wear for each leg of the race. typically, it's the tri kit the whole way through a shorter race, but tri shorts for 112 miles?? OH.HELL.NO. so then it's a question of what to wear under your wetsuit. i'll do what Sinta did. i'll wear my tri top and a separate bathing suit bottom for the swim leg, then change into fully padded bike shorts and keep the tri top for the bike leg. then for the run, i'll still keep the tri top but have a singlet waiting just in case i'm grossed out or irritated in any way at this point and switch out of the bike shorts to my tri shorts. it was a toss up between these and running shorts, but i don't want to risk any unwelcome chafing, and then that eliminates one more place i'll have to apply Body Glide. and yeah, that means stripping naked in the tent. no biggie, they're separated into men's and women's sides just for this very reason. Sinta said she sat down to change and some woman in front of her bent over with her bare ass all out and then some. hey, who said modesty was an Iron Virtue?? GET.ON.THAT.BIKE.
Lamar is looking awesome!!!
i watched everyone i personally knew get off on the bike. some looked happy that the swim was behind them, but for me i'll be sad that the funnest part is now done. the bike is my demon for sure...i caught up with Iron Maiden Cindy to head back to the hotel and knock out our 15 mile run. i plotted a 5 mile loop that would take us through downtown Tempe, ASU, and then back to our hotel to stop and pee and refuel. we didn't get started 'til 10am, and with each loop, it just got hotter and hotter. we knew it was better that we were running together, but there was very little conversation going on. i can't recall the last time i've had such a bad run. for one, i got so caught up in the Iron morning that i didn't stay on top of my own nutrition for this run. sure, i ate when we got up at 4am, but it was now 10am with temps AND winds increasing exponentially. Cindy is definitely a stronger runner than i am, and i felt as though she was having to hold back her run for my dragging ass, but we powered through. each stop at the hotel really messed with me too. the a/c was on in the room, and it would've been so easy to just bag it, but having Cindy there made it harder to just throw in the towel. it took everything in me not to sit down on the bed. i knew that if i did, i was done. by the 3rd loop, i could feel the heat radiating off the asphalt and up through the soles of my feet. each step became more painful than the last, and my shoulder was burning. at each red light i had to dangle it to the ground to try to give it some relief. and then i thought,
"HOLY SHIT. i can't believe they're out there doing an Ironman in these conditions today"
it was time to HTFU. if they were out there doing The Full Monty, the least i could do was get this miserable 15 miles done with and not complain. i found some comfort knowing that i shouldn't experience the same heat in Brasil. now the wind, that's a different story, but again, nothing i can control, so nothing to obsess about. i CAN control where i train in this next month, and i'll seek out some headwind riding on the bike path for the mental toughness more than anything, but the rest is outta my control, so i just gotta stay in the moment.
i made sure to take the time to replenish with a protein drink as soon as we were done with the ride per the Paleo Diet for Athletes (more on that soon), then ice my shoulder, but i was also reduced to having to pop some ibuprofen to get through the rest of the day. not my preference. i hate any pain killers, especially NSAIDS, but if i was gonna make it to midnight, i'd be stupid not to take the drugs.
as i iced and Cindy got dressed, we got our first reports from the field. Iron Maiden Juliet's husband, Eddie, texted us that she had just passed him at around mile 54. we did the math and were immediately alarmed. the wind must be wicked out there, but if she didn't pick it up quick, she might not make the bike cutoff. so we called him back and told him the situation. he needed to find her, to call our other friends out on the course and relay to her that she had to pick it up. we were leaving it up to him as to whether he wanted to stress her out like that, but i couldn't live with myself if she didn't make it and i knew i had a chance to warn her and didn't. Eddie appreciated the info, and said he'd try to catch up with her. then we got another text that maybe it was mile 64 he was at and not 54. um hello?? Juliet is the math teacher in the family, but clearly Eddie doesn't share the same skills, or at least map reading skills. was he at mile 54 or 64?? this was crucial stuff!!!
we ate near the race course in downtown Tempe and raced back to get to watch as many peeps come in from the last loop of the bike. the looks on their faces told the story, the warn and beaten down looks as if nobody could imagine what happened out on that road. they looked so grateful to be done, to make the cutoff. then, there went Sinta!! smile on her face, a good sign. she was in the moment. still waiting for Iron Maiden's Juliet and Deb. with an hour to go, Juliet made it in. dammit to Eddie for his map challenged self. we stressed her out for no reason. but she was smiling, a good sign. 45 minutes to go, and still no Deb. she went out on the bike before Juliet, and Juliet is a stronger cyclist, so it made sense to see her come in before Deb, but we were now down to 30 minutes. where was she? with every yellow helmet, we were relieved, but then it wasn't her. with 15 minutes to go, the first official race support car drives past us with several participants crammed inside. we're not talking a roomy cargo van as you'd expect, but like a small Subaru wagon with people all twisted and contorted inside. WTF???
then Cindy asked, "do you see her in there?"
me: "no. no. no way she's in there."
then it was like the scene at the circus where 100 clowns pile out of a volkswagon bug, as racer after racer undid they're pretzel knotted legs and fell out the doors. just as i thought there couldn't possibly be one more racer coming out, i recognized the LA Tri red white and blue colors, and the yellow helmet.
i couldn't do it. i just couldn't face her, but we couldn't let her walk back through the excitement of the athlete's village alone, so we ran and caught up with her. amazingly, no tears, not drama. she was just calm as a cucumber. she said she just couldn't fight through the wind, and in the next breath, she was already talking about next time. what an amazing spirit!! you gotta respect that.
we walked down to watch the run, and this is where i started to freak a little. this is where Ironman is decided, and some people were on the brink. there were already some seriously wobbly legs and vacuous eyes, but at least they were still moving forward. i cheered for everyone i could, and you could tell it made a difference to them. in the distance i could hear Mike Reilly already at the finshers' chute, announcing the speed demons..
Cherie Gruenfeld, most winningest age grouper at Kona, sets a course record!!!
but it was too early to celebrate at the finisher's chute. it was still light out. no way i'd be finishing by now. i needed to go observe the special needs area. i needed to get in touch with where i'd be right about now on the course, and it ain't no finisher's chute. i needed to encourage as many people as i could, because if they could make it, then maybe i'll make it.
Frank Farrar, oldest participant at age 79, sadly dropped out not long after this was taken
the sun started to go down and finally some relief from the elements. hopefully this would turn it around for them out there. i'd cheer and cheer, and some would be appreciative while others could not even take their gaze off the few feet in front of them. these looks scared me. where had it gone wrong for them? still though, THEY WERE MOVING FORWARD. then there were those who would stop and TAKE THEIR SHOES OFF. oh no. no.no.no.no.no. if i do that, i'm done.
smiles are good!!!
Juliet is pulling off a negative split!!!
finally, i spotted Sinta again, still smiling. she said she felt ok, but what was slowing her down was that she had to stop at every porta potty. i've heard the same from Iron Maiden of Honor, Lesley, but for both it eventually subsided. Juliet looked great too. she was actually picking up speed with every loop!!! i still hadn't spotted Luis since he'd come out of the water or Lamar since his second loop of the run. Marielle called to say Luis had made it to the final turnaround of the 3rd loop, so we waited to see him pass before we headed to the finisher's area.
Lamar and Luis bring it home
once they passed, it was time to head to the finishers' area. this is where it just got surreal. people walking, people crying, people shaking, people puking. some still even looked strong like they'd got their pacing down perfectly. but most of all, PEOPLE WERE FINISHING!!! people of all sizes and shapes, through the insane heat and brutal wind out on that bike course, were still straggling in. the statistics usually indicate a 10% DNF rate at most Ironman races. today it was more like 15-17% and most on the bike leg, including Bolder's buddy, Commodore. it was just not their day. you can train and prepare and train some more, but at a certain point, the conditions prove to be far too dangerous, and that's when you realize no matter what the cost, it's just not worth your life or your long term health. godspeed to Commodore. he really gave it all he had and more.
i waited to see our Tri Club member of the year, Renata D'Angelo come in at just under 16 hours (flatted on the bike), and by then, a lot of the speed demons were showered and had also returned to cheer 'til midnight. when i ran up to Renata, she still had that beaming smile and said how sad she was that she wouldn't be able to cheer me on in Brasil, her home country. with just an hour left 'til the final cutoff, i couldn't leave now...
the crowd awaits
Mike Reilly, the voice of Ironman, calls out another finisher
Mike Reilly exclaimed that this was one of the fullest set of bleachers he'd seen at any Ironman. we were stomping, clapping, dancing, woo hoooing, pounding on the sponsor panels that lined the chute, anything to let those still out on that dark run course know we were still there waiting for them. as a racer would come in, some were reduced to a slow walk, but then they'd see our outstretched arms waiting to high five them and they'd lift their head and pick it up a little to the line. mind you, for every sweaty, salty, perhaps even pukey high five i got, my anxiety grew for fear i'd get sick, but that didn't stop me. "just don't touch your face" i thought to myself. "and as soon as your ass comes through that hotel room door, YOU MUST WASH THESE MITS!!!"
the 17:00 mark came and went without anybody coming close. they brought back the woman who'd last crossed about 3 minutes earlier and did a quick interview. she said she was thrilled to have at least won SOMETHING. then Mike Reilly asked the course officials if there was anyone still close and would we stay to cheer them on. there was one woman, she came in about 6 minutes late. oddly enough, her name was MONICA and she looked to be a little younger than me. i remembered seeing her all day. i started to cry. that could be me. she came in with her mom running beside her, head down, but we cheered her on and she lifted that head and ran it to the line. don't know if Monica got an official time, but they gave her a medal and a shirt. that's the least they could do i think.
back at the hotel i caught up with Sinta who had showered and was just settling in to go to sleep. we gabbed all night, and of course i wanted to know about every second. how did you feel here? how 'bout there?? what did you eat here?? how 'bout there?? what was the worst part?? what was the best part?? and just as she'd settle down and start to fall asleep she'd jump up and remember another story!! this went on for about two hours, and finally in the last seconds before she drifted off for good, she whispered
and lastly, THE BEST piece of advice i got all weekend. this from Luis who had this experience at IM Brasil in '05: