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Tuesday, 25 October 2016

2016 Ironman 70.3 Arizona


My 2015 inaugural triathlon season had been a success.  After Lavaman in March, I had set a goal to work towards participating in an Ironman by 2020.  I hired a coach, slowly updated my bike, and raced/trained more/harder.  This progression meant that once Olympic distance tris were feeling good, we would step it up to more challenging distances.  The goal was to sign up for a fall race so we could spend all year training.  To this end, I chose the Ironman 70.3 Arizona on October 16th, 2016.  I was also fortunate enough to get a lottery spot for the Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon that June.  So the 2016 plan was to train for Alcatraz in June, while building up for the 70.3 in October. Alcatraz was my halfway point so to speak.

So in mid December of 2015, I signed up for the Arizona 70.3.  It was now official. 

My training had been going well and the 70.3 course was flat, so I was not too worried.  There were some factors that aided in my anxiety however.  The weather was going to be hot, 30 degrees Celsius.  I knew the distances and had done them in training, but not all together.  I was worried about how I would hold up toward the end. The bike course (as you will see) was very confusing and included several 180 degree turn arounds.  But I was told by several people during Alcatraz, that if I could do that race, I can to a Half Iron. 

I flew down to Tempe on Thursday with a layover in Calgary.  While in line for US Customs at the Calgary airport, my bike got several strange looks.  One older gentleman, on his way to Arizona to avoid the Canadian winter (we call them Snowbirds), asked me what kind of bike it was.  I told him and told him what race I was doing.  He looked me up and down and said that based on my haircut, he could see it.  But based on the rest of me, he was skeptical. I shot him such a look.  He immediately realized what he had said and tried to save face by saying he could never do it.  I was used to this, but could not help but still be offended when someone judges me this way.  There are hundreds of people in worse shape than I am who do these races.  We do them to prove to people like this Snowbird that we can, but more importantly, we do them to prove to ourselves that we can.

When I reached the border agent, he also asked me what was in the bag.  When I told him, he had a different, and more appealing, response,"Why in the world would you want to put yourself through that!?  Are you a bit touched in the head!?"

We had a laugh about it and although he thought I was insane, I could sense a level of respect from him.  I like these reactions much better.

Bike and I arrived safely in Tempe and took the free shuttle to the hotel.  After a good night's sleep, I woke up early on Friday to assemble the bike.  After the bike was in one piece, I took it out for a test ride in the parking lot.  Everything worked fine, but my right pad on my aero bars was too high.  After some adjustments, my bike was all ready to go. 

I decided to do athlete check in on Friday rather than Saturday. I walked from my hotel to what they call Ironman Village.  I walked over the bridge that would part of the bike and run course, along the seawall that was the last section of the run course, and along the water we would be swimming in.  It was hot.  I got there early and the first thing I did was buy water and Gatorade. 

I took the extra time to walk around transition.  I found my spot and it was a good one too, near the edge and closer to the bike entrance/exit than the run entrance/exit.  This meant less time running with my bike in and out. 


I then walked over to the finish line to scope it out.  There was a small group of people taking pictures in the finish area.  I walked around to investigate the finish chute while I waited my turn for a picture. I took the picture, then stood there for a few minutes envisioning what it would be like to cross that line.


After meeting several athletes in line for athlete check in, I went to buy some swag.  Unfortunately, because I was traveling, my credit card was put on hold.  After 45 minutes on hold, I was able to use my credit card.  I got new tri top and a shirt for Jen.  Then I bought some C02 for my bike, since the airport had taken mine out of my bike bag.  

Saturday morning I checked my bike in and attended the pre-race briefing. 



The pre-race briefing consisted of all the same information as usual. The one thing that was different was transition setup. Rather than having all your gear to one side of your bike, all of your gear had to fit under your bike.  Nothing could go past either wheel or be wider than your handlebars.  This did not pose any major problems, but I did ask if there was a bag check.  I was planning on using my Escape From Alcatraz transition bag, but it is rather big and there was no bag check.  I ended up using the transition bag I got for free at this race.  It folded up flat and worked great.  Good thing I asked.
 
I walked back to the hotel, grabbed some food, and rested for the rest of the day.  I packed all my gear and went to bed early. 

After a restless sleep, I woke up at 4:00am to start race day.  All my gear was packed so that was one less thing to worry about.  I took the hotel shuttle to transition and arrived very early.

As I entered transition, I skipped body marking.  I wanted to look and feel professional at this race so I bought TriTats and applied them earlier that morning. 

I got to my bike and realized that I forgot my pump.  Oh well, someone will have one I can use.  Luckily, my neighbor offered me his.  As I made sure all my gear fit under my bike, I began chatting with the surrounding athletes. One had done Alcatraz 6 years in a row.  One was doing his first 70.3 as well. While others were on their 3rd of 4th.

As I was setting up, I realized I forgot to bring my body glide for my socks and wetsuit.  I also forgot my small towel for my feet.  I took a moment and calmly told myself, "If these are the only things I forgot, then I am OK."

I filled my water bottles, loaded my nutrition, put the bike in an easy gear, tested my watch, and double checked all my gear before starting to stretch.

After stretching, I did a walk through of transition to know exactly where to go during the race. I asked where the sunscreen station would be and was told it would be right as we entered transition. 

I put my wetsuit halfway on and made my way toward the swim start. While continuing to stretch, I chatted with some more first timers.  We did out best to keep our minds at ease.

After one last visit to the washroom, I put my wetsuit on fully and started making my way down to the swim start.  As i\I walked through all the later start waves, I began to feel anxious.  I reminded myself that just like Alcatraz, this would all be over in a blink.  I knew what to do and I knew I could do it.  Just take it one leg at a time. 

While waiting in the back of my wave start (3rd wave, male 30-34), a guy I had met the day before recognized me.  I had forgotten his name, but he reminded me that it was John.  We psyched each other up as well as a few others.

The waved were 8 minutes apart and as soon as one wave began, the other wave could enter the water.  An 8 minute warm up swim sounded good to me, as did a deep water start.  

Soon the time came for us to enter the water.  As I walked past the volunteer holding the 'Wave 3' sign, I asked him for a high five.  He gave me as high five and assured me I would do great.

As we walked down the steps I made a mental note to not hit my shin during the exit.  The last step was colored bright orange to it was easy to see.  I stepped onto the orange step and jumped into the water.



The water was very warm.  They announced earlier that it was just 1.1 degree under the wetsuit cut off.  I could have easily swam sans wetsuit, but the suit does help out more than you'd think.  Maybe I should invest in a quarter or sleeveless suit.

I took my time swimming toward the start line.  We had plenty of time and I wanted to use the full 8 minutes to soak in the experience. Point of no return.


I positioned myself in the back and chatted with some other athletes who had the same strategy. I took one last look around at the bridges, the other waves waiting and cheering, the spectators, and the sun slowly rising over the mountains in the distance.  It was time.  I was here.  This was going to happen.

The Swim


The horn sounded and our wave was off.  I made sure to stay in the back and start off slow, but even then I found myself swimming into people and people swimming into me.

We swam under the bridges and the pack began to thin out a bit.  I could feel my heart rate rising.  I focused on slow, controlled strokes and I let the experience of starting my first Ironman 70.3 wash over me. 

Shortly after we started our swim, the sun rose over the mountains and shined directly in our eyes. This made it difficult to sight the buoys.  Luckily, this side of the swim course was relatively narrow.  As long as the pack was to my left and the seawall was to my right, then I was good.

As I passed the buoys, I noticed that they were numbered.  I wondered how many there were and wished I had counted them the day before.

About halfway to the first turn, I caught up with the stragglers from the previous wave.

A little ways further and I could hear shouting.  I sighted to see what was going on.  There was a volunteer on a paddle board shouting.  I thought to myself, "That is not good. He's cheering us on, but people are going to think he is trying to direct us or get our attention."

Turns out he was not cheering us on.  He was trying to get out attention.  We had all cut too far in and almost swam to the left of a buoy.

As I passed the buoy numbered 7, I sighted and realized that the next buoy was the first turn buoy.  I made the turn, sighted, and swam the short distance to the next turn buoy.  I took a short break to get a better look at the rest of the course.  A few other people did the same.  I shouted, "Woo! Halfway!"  They were not as thrilled about that as I was.

On this side of the river, the distance between the buoys and the seawall was much further.  Luckily, the sun was now at my back and sighting was not a problem. 

The buoys on this side were orange and numbered just like the yellow buoys in  the first half.  I looked to see if they were numbered.  They were, however they counted up rather than counting down.  This was no help.  I knew there were 7 yellow buoys (8 if you count the red turn buoy), but I also knew that this side was longer than the first. 

About 3 buoys later, the leaders of the next wave began to pass me in their purple caps. But for every purple cap from the wave behind that passed me, I passed a pink cap from the wave ahead of me. 

With about a quarter of the way left to go, I could see a police boat off to my right.  As I swam closer, I could hear it's motor under the water. Then about 20 meters later, the water began to smell (and taste) very strongly of gasoline. I began to swim a little faster.

As I approached the bridges, the sun was higher in the sky.  I could feel my butt warming up quite a bit.  Although this conformed that I had good body position in the water, it also meant that the weather was starting to heat up. 

As I swam under the bridge, I could see spectators looking down and cheering us on.  I began to pick up speed, knowing I was almost done. I soon found myself at the last turn buoy.

I took the left and found several purple caps right on my heels, literally. I started to move out of their way until I realized, that this was not my problem.  If they needed to swim around me they could .

I sighted the exit steps and decided to take the far right exit.  I swam all the way to the orange step, touched it, then reached up.  The volunteer grabbed both my hands and started to pull me up.  I told him I was worried about hitting my shin, which I ended up doing anyway.  Luckily, I did not hit it hard. As the volunteer pulled me up, he told me I did a good job swimming all the way to the step.  He asked if I needed help unzipping my wetsuit.  I was already halfway up the steps when I told him I was fine. 

By the time I reached the top of the steps, I had already unzipped and began to take off my wetsuit.  The volunteer at the top tried to reach out and unzip my suit only to realize I had done it already. 



As I turned left at the top of the steps, I saw a photographer to my right.  I have no idea why, but I stuck my tongue out at him as I went by.  It made for a pretty epic, slightly provocative picture.

 

During the pre-race briefing, we were told there would be no volunteers to help with stripping off wetsuits, but there were.  I opted not to use them and walked by on my way to transition. 

The swim exit was lined with spectators.  They were very encouraging, but I could not help thinking they were only cheering me on because I was walking.  Maybe they thought I was not doing well.  Regardless, it felt good to be encouraged. 

I never saw a timing mat, so I had no idea when to lap my watch for the end of the swim.  I ended up lapping it right as I entered transition. 

As I entered T1, I looked to my left where the sunscreen tent was. There was no one there.  I kept going and made my way to my bike.  I followed my landmarks right to my bike.  I saw one of the other first time 70.3er there and we chatted for a bit while transitioning. 

I stripped off my wetsuit, put in a bag, and placed it under my bike.  I asked if anyone knew why no one was at the sunscreen tent and no one knew.  An athlete to my left called to me and threw some sunscreen.  I quickly sprayed myself and passed it back to him graciously. 

I grabbed a quick drink, told everyone to enjoy their ride, grabbed my bike, and was off.

As I ran out of transition, I informed the volunteers that no one was at the sunscreen tent.  I made my way  to the mount line, lapped my watch, and was off!


The Bike


Alot happens over 56 miles (90k) and even more over 70.3 miles. There are several details of the bike and run course that are a bit hazy or that I down right just can't remember.  It does not help that the bike course is 3 loops and the course is a bit confusing (as you can see from above).  I will try and mark on the map what sections I am talking about. 

The weather was still very cool, but I stuck to my hydration/nutrition plan regardless.  Race day was a hot day and I knew this from the weather report earlier in the week.  When I had my pre-race meeting with my coach, we laid out a plan.  Due to the heat, we wanted at least 1000mg of sodium and at least 2 bottles of water an hour.  I did the math.  Every 10 minutes, my watch would alert me to drink.  I would take a few swigs of my electrolytes and a salt tablet.  Every 20 minutes, my watch would alert me to eat.  I would take a hit from my gel flask, a few swigs from my electrolytes, and a salt tablet.  If I followed this, it would ensure the proper hydration, calorie intake, and sodium intake.  Initially, my aero bottle was electrolytes, bottle 1 was electrolytes, and bottle 2 was a concentrate with the remaining electrolytes I would need on the bike.  The plan was to drink from the aero bottle, use bottle 1 would refill the aero bottle, then throw bottle 1 away.  When going through an aid station, grab a water to replace bottle 1, use that to refill my aero bottle, and add the electrolyte concentrate from bottle 2.  More on how that worked later. 

Out of transition, the course took a slight downhill and a left turn.  Then it was onto a long flat section.  This was perfect for easing into the bike, warming up the legs, and hydrating/nutrition. It was also another great moment to look around, and soak in the experience of the bike leg of my first 70.3.


The roads were nice and wide, closed off, and the course was very flat. I was worried about the course being crowded with bikes, but for most of the race, it was pretty spread out.  I took the opportunity to get into my aero bars as much as possible. 


After the long, flat section the course took a right turn.  I took it slow and wide.  With the course being 3 laps, I had plenty of time to learn/become more comfortable with the turns.


 As I took the turn, I rode over a timing marker. I knew I had several family, friends, and teammates tracking my progress.  I thought about them at home, getting a notification that bib 580, Joseph Hayden,  had just passed the first split on he bike.  And with that though, they were all lined up along the road, cheering me on.

A ways up, the course took us over a bridge.  The pavement changed and I freaked out a bit.  I kept checking my tires for flats.  I soon relaxed and told myself that it was just a change in pavement, not a flat.  This happened alot during the race. I heard one athlete who was here last year, had 6 flats during the race.  The pavement changed so much, that things were falling off of people bikes.  The road was littered with bottles, C02s, bento boxes, and even whole rear saddle cages. I knew how to change a flat and had done it in a race before.  But I did not want to have to deal with the hassle of it here.

Once over the bridge the course took a right turn and down a small hill.  There were plenty of volunteers at this race for all the turns.  There was no way to get lost.


I used the downhill to recover before the course started a very gradual uphill.  There was a sharp left turn as we climbed an overpass over the 202. One again, there was a helpful and encouraging volunteer there to direct us.

Once over the bridge, there was a nice dowhill that lead to a wide left turn.  I was able to take the left turn pretty fast given how wide it was. 


After another flat section, there was yet another left turn.  Before this turn was a small train station.  The commuters on the platform looked at us like we were from Mars.  The customs agents "touched in the head" comment came to mind.


After this turn was another flat section before going over another bridge.  We had looped around and were back near a previous turn.  I could see bikers on there way out onto the loop.  Of course it was hard to tell what lap they were on. 


The course then double backed on itself all the way back to transition.  As I rode past transition, there tons of volunteers and spectators cheering us on.



The course took a left though the main part of town and the streets where lines along both sides with spectators cheering each and every one of us one.  As we crossed Mill Road, the pavement changed and I once again checked my tires. 


On the other side of Mill Road, the course narrowed.  The 2 lane street had one lane for car traffic and one lane for the bike course.  Our lane was split in half for bikers going each direction.  I checked behind me before dodging potholes, manhole covers, or any other debris on this narrow section. 

As the long flat section continued, I saw an aid station on the other side.  I started thinking about how to execute the station on the way back.

Then, to my right I heard 2 voices cheering us on.  I looked over to see 2 girls in very uncomfortable (but kind of provocative) looking yoga positions. It was a very strange site to see. 


The course then took a right turn onto a false flat section. The road inclined very gradually and there was a bit of a headwind, so being in the aero position helped here. 

We rode out to University Drive before hitting the first of many 180 degree turn arounds. I made sure to shift into an easy gear before the turn around to help accelerate out of it.


The course continued down McClintock over a bridge and down a nice hill before we hit another 180 degree turn around. Then it was back over the bridge, a small downhill, then a right turn. There was a timing split on the second turn around and once again, everyone was there cheering me on (even if it was only in my head).


Back on Rio Salado, I headed toward the aid station I had seen before. Earlier that weekend I had pronounced Rio Salado as Rio 'Salad-oh' to which a local abruptly corrected me, "It's 'sal-ado'!"  I continued to say Salad-Oh in my head.

As I approached the aid station, I emptied bottle 1 into my aero bottle, dropped it within the marked area for dropping gear, and grabbed a water bottle.  The 2 volunteers handing out water at this station were very good at handing off water bottles.  I took a few swigs from the bottle and placed it in my rear saddle cage where bottle 1 had been.

I had just completed my first hand off at my first bike aid station. 

The course continued back down Rio Salado (see, I got you saying it too) before we took a right turn over another bridge.  As I turned right the pavement changed and the water bottle fell out.  I had 2 thoughts, (1) I am going to get a penalty for littering/gear abandonment and (2) how do I stick to my hydration plan if I lost a whole bottle?   As I continued over the bridge, I calmed myself by reminding myself that the weather was still nice and cool, and that this was only the first lap.  I had not jeopardized anything,  And there was no penalty called on me for losing my bottle. 


On the other side of the bridge was another 180 degree turn around. I suddenly had a song stuck in my head.  Although I only sang the 2 or 3 line I could remember. 

Once off the bridge the course turned right back onto Rio Salado and toward transition. The whole time singing to myself, 

"I'll never let you turn around, meh nah each other..mah nah mah da-da-da- your mother. . . I'll never let you go.  I'll never let you go" 

Over. And Over.


Once back through the narrow part of the course, just before the main part of town, the course took a right over one of the twin bridges we swam under earlier. In fact, there was still some athletes in the water finishing up their swim. 

Once over the bridge, I could see bikers flying down a hill and under the bridge.  I figured I would be there soon, but did not know.  As you can see from the course maps, this section was very confusing. 


After the bridge was another long out and back with another 180 degree turn around.  I will completely honest, I don't remember this section at all.  Even going back and retracing the course with Google street view did not jog my memory.  


After the amnesia out and back, the course took a right turn.  Oddly enough I remember this turn.  The turn took us into the left lanes of Washington Street then a sharp left.  After the left was a nice, windy, downhill section that took us under the twin bridges.  This was the section I had seen earlier.   

After a few more windy turns, the course started uphill. I stayed in the same gear, thinking I could use the momentum of the downhill to carry me up.  Once around the final corner I could see that this would not work. This was a legit uphill.  Up until this point the 'hills' on the course had been slight inclines. I shifted into an easier gear and began to climb.


At the top of the hill was a sharp right turn before the course leveled out again.  There was once again a very encouraging volunteer there directing us. I stayed in an easy gear for a bit to spin out and let my legs recover.  After some recovery,  I shifted back to the big ring and continued on. 


The course arced to the right before a good downhill.  Again, this was a legit downhill.  Up until this point, all 'downhills' had been coming off of overpass bridges or slight declines.


I bombed down the hill, using it as more recovery.  The course turned left at the bottom of the hill and there was a very young volunteer yelling at us to slow down.  I took the turn wide and cut in.  Another volunteer was at the apex of the turn warning us of bumps in the road.  Luckily, the bumps were outlined in fluorescent orange tape, easy to see and avoid. 


The course then did a gradual climb all the way to Rolling Hills Golf Couse. The course was narrow and we found ourselves once again dodging bottles and road obstructions.  At one point I had to break hard to avoid running into a giant metal plate in the road. 

At then end of the climb was yet another turn around.  I used the downhill as recovery before making a right turn and once again avoiding the bumps.


Then it was the biggest climb of the course.  Luckily, there was an aid station at the top.  After losing my water bottle after the last aid station, I decided to change up how I would refuel at the aid stations. 

I grabbed a water and used it to immediately refill my aero bottle.  The water left in the bottle I drank right away and thew the bottle away before leaving the aid station area.  I then put some of the electrolyte concentrate in my aero bottle as well. This worked out well.  I could refill when needed and not have to worry about a bottle falling out.


At the top of the hill, as the course leveled out, I could see a photographer on the right.  I dropped into aero position to 'pose' for a photo.  I laughed with an athlete who was passing me saying, 

"Doesn't matter how well you do or how you feel, as long as you look good in the photos."

 

We continued on with a left turn that took us back down the hill we had climbed earlier.  I recalled this section being very whindy, so I was sure not to take curves too fast. I could use this lap to scout and take lap 2 and 3 with more confidence.  This strategy ended up paying off, because toward the bottom of the hill, there was a y split.  As we bombed down the hill, it was hard to tell whether to veer right or left.  It was not until the last minute that we realized you had to veer left.  Mental note added for lap 2 and 3. 


At the bottom of the hill, the course leveled out a bit before veering right and heading up an incline. As I used the remaining momentum from the downhill to get me up the incline without changing gears, I saw the same spectators under the bridge from earlier. 

At the top of the incline, the course turned right through a parking lot.  Once on the other side of the parking lot, we turned right and started over one of the twin bridges back toward transition.  A large group of cyclists rode in front of me before stopping just before the bridge.  Turns out, there were just a group of cyclists out for a ride and did not realize there was a race today.


Riding over the twin (Mill Street) bridges was very cool.  You could look out over the swim course, overlook the run course, and see the cast majority of the Tempe downtown area. 


Once over the bridge, we took a right turn back through the main part of the city.  Spectators still lined the streets cheering as we rode through.  

We took a right turn and were back at the start of the bike.  Volunteers and signage directed us to the left side of the road while the right side was designated for those coming out of transition.


As I rounded the same left hand turn as the start of the bike course, I was onto lap 2.



As the 2 make-shift lanes merged, I made sure to give those starting the bike leg room.  

Much of lap 2 was the same as lap one.  So in an effort to not bore my audience, I will only point out the main and significant details. 

During lap 2, I was still having a blast.  I took advantage of my aero bars and continued to be paranoid about getting a flat. 

As we rounded the right turn at N. Priest Road, I found myself stuck behind 2 cyclists.  A guy on the left was taking his sweet time passing a girl.  He just rode right beside her, flirting.  There was not enough room for me to pass and I did not want to get called for drafting.  When I felt comfortable with it, I passed him very close on the left. I wanted to say something to him but ended up just shooting him a look instead. 


Once over the bridge, after the right turn onto the 202 Loop Access Road, I felt a sharp pain in the top of my right shin.  I could not figure out what was going on. Was this where I had hit it on the swim exit?  I focused on using my left leg to pull up on the pedal stroke to give mt right leg a bit of a rest. By the time I had gotten to the left turn at Central Parkway, it had cleared up. 


An athlete missing his left leg from the knee down passed me at one point and a few kilometers later, another athlete passed me who was missing his right leg from the knee down.  It was cool to see them them out there. I was curious about how their transitions were done. 



After completing the first loop of lap 2, we rode though the main part of town on El Salado once again.  And once again, the streets where lined with spectators cheering for all of us.


As we headed out toward S. McClintock Drive the course narrowed again. Traffic in the open lane was backed up quite a bit.  I thought maybe it was because there was something going on at ASU.  Somewhere Rural Road, we saw the reason traffic was backed up.  A volunteer was directing us into the lane to our right (the traffic lane) while another volunteer had stopped traffic.  In the bike course lane were several volunteers, 2 paramedics, and a woman on a stretcher.  She had a neck brace on and there was blood coming down from the top of her head down her face.  I did a quick search and could not find anything pertaining to her current well being. 


Once again on this lap, the same Yoga girls were out, this time in different, but still awkward positions.

Later, as we approached the turn around at University Drive, an athlete decided to try and pass me on the left as we made the 180 degree turn.  Luckily I saw him and was able to take the turn wide. As we came out of the turn, I passed him and said, "That was a dangerous spot to be in."  He replied, "Yeah those turns are tricky."  I don't think he understood what i was trying to tell him.


Further down the course, as we approached the Weber Drive turn around, the athlete in front of me unclipped as she took the turn.  I did the same.  It really did not do anything other than act as a mental support.  I felt I could take the corner faster and tighter knowing I was unclipped.  My logic was, if I was going to fall, my leg was already out to catch me.
 


Once back on El Salado heading back towards Mill Ave, I did my new aid station routine.  Grabbed a bottle of water, used it to refill my aero bottle, poured some water over me, and dropped the bottle in the designated area. 

This section of the course on this particular lap got very crowded as more and more athletes (and waves) finished their swim and were out on the bike course. 


As we turned right onto the Scottsdale Road bridge, I could see the water bottle I had dropped during lap 1.  It was among even more lost C02s and other bottles that had been rattled loose from the pavement change. 

I did not unclip at the Scottsdale turn around.  The 180 degree turn was wide enough for me to feel comfortably.
As I headed back into the main part of town on El Salado, a car to my right was playing some cool rock music.  I looked over, saw his window was down, and I shouted, "Turn it up!"

He smiled and turned it up.


After crossing the bridge, and after the amnesia stretch, I was back in the whindy downhill bits.  I was more familiar with the course now and felt more comfortable taking them faster. 

At one point, I passed my transition 'neighbour' and cheered him on.

After the second climb of lap 2 and a much needed aid station, I once again passed the photographer.


Lap 2 continued to be similar to lap 1.  We climbed up the hill, bombed down a hill, turned left onto College Ave, dodged bottles and that plate in the road, unclipped at the turn around, came back down, climbed another hill, used anther aid station, and passed more split times while imagining all my virtual fans at home cheering me on. 


I crossed the bridge and knew I was almost done with lap 2.


I made the right turn through the gauntlet of cheering spectators and past transition.
 

As I rounded the turns down and past transition, I kept repeating (almost trance like), "Last one. Last one. Last one."



At lap 3, I was still feeling good.  At the first aid station, I dumped my empty gel flask and replaced it with my back up. 

Halfway though lap 3, I began to feel the tole that 75 kilometers had taken.  I continued on, pushing through, remembering my training: lift your knees, pull up with the opposite foot to give you other leg 'min breaks', smooth controlled pedal strokes.  The more I focused on form and technique, the less tired I felt.

 

At the Scottsdale turn around my cheery Third Eye Blind song was replaced with Bonnie Taylor.


At the Marigold turn around the woman in front of me unlipped, then stopped, right in front of me. Luckily I had also unclipped and was able to catch myself before I fell over, I rounded the turn and took off down the hill.


Then it was the last climb, last aid station, and last pass of this photographer.



The weather was starting to warm up as the sun climbed higher in the sky.  I had been sticking with my hydration/nutrition plan and hoped it would be enough for the upcoming run.

Soon after, I was on the bridge on the home stretch. 

As I once again rode through the gauntlet of cheering spectators, I could see a few cyclists in the penalty tent.  

I made the right turn down to transition and kept right for those finishing their bike leg.

I made my way to the dismount line and gingerly climbed off my bike.  The volunteers at the dismount line congratulated me.  I responded with, 

"Thanks!  I'm done right?  The bike was it right?"

They laughed and I sort of laughed.  

I took my bike to my spot and started getting ready for the run.  On my way out, I stopped at the sunscreen tent (that was now manned by volunteers).  I stood there as they covered my back, arms, and shoulders.  I wiped off the excess and covered my legs, face, head, and ears. I thanked them and was on my way.


The Run


As I left transition and started on the run, the weather had gotten hot.  I usually start running out of transition way to fast and I  have to force myself to slow down.  Not today.  Today I slowed down because I had no choice.  

As I walked by cheering spectators, I saw the volunteer from the swim wave start.  I walked up to him and asked him for another high five. He recognized me and gave me a high five. 

I was wearing my race belt for my bib and a fuel belt for my hydration/nutrition.  Shortly after starting the run, the water bottles in my fuel belt were bouncing around way too much.  I took them out and placed them in the pocket of my tri suit.  Next race, I will try and attach everything I need to my race belt and forgo the fuel belt. 


I stopped a few times to adjust my shoes and stretch my legs. I was in no hurry. There was still alot of race to be run.


At one point I adjusted my fuel belt and ended up popping one of the snaps off of my race belt.  My bib was hanging on by one strap.  I tucked it under my fuel belt and continued on, checking it periodically.  I did not want the photos of my first 70.3 to be ruined by a off kilter race bib.

At about the 1 mile mark, I was passed by a much faster athlete.  He ran past me very quickly as I was taking a walk break. A spectator cheered him on a he ran past, "Daniel's on a mission!" As I hobbled past, I smiled  and said, "I'm on a different mission." She laughed and told me that to finish was the only mission.


A short distance later my transition 'neighbour' passed me and returned the encouragement I had given him on the bike. 

As the course turned right onto Priest Drive, I ran over a set of timing mats.  I envisioned my virtual fan club getting an alert on their phones that I was on the run.  Running slower than expected, but still going nonetheless.


As I ran over the bridge, I watched the athletes who were still on the bike.  Once over the bridge, I stopped at one of the many aid stations.  I grabbed some water, drank it, grabbed more water, and poured it over my head.  The water was ice cold and a shock to system, but it felt so good in the Arizona heat.  I stuck with the same hydration/nutrition plan as on the bike but added Sports Beans to the mix as a special treat to myself.  Whenever I ate some beans I quoted the fake trailer in Tropic Thunder.


 The run was pretty grueling, but I knew it would be.  I just kept telling myself that I was stronger than this thing and the only way to end the suffering was to keep moving forward, regardless of how fast. 


Now on the other side, I saw the spectator from earlier again as she cheered me on, "Still going!  Still on a mission!"

I gave myself a mini-goal of making it to the twin bridges and trudged on.  I knew we would be running over the next bridge and the I would be done with my first lap.



At around mile 3, I ran though a sprinkler system.  The water felt great but the droplets fogged up my glasses.  I wiped them off and made a mental note to duck next time. 

As I approached the next bridge, I realized that there was a small out and back before crossing over. Under the bridge was a nice, shady aid station.  I did my usual routine and ran on.

The course alternated between a kind of packed gravel and sidewalk.  I picked the flattest part of the path and continued on. 

I looked up and to my left and could see the athletes on the way back toward the bridge.  I knew I had to be close.


Sure enough, I made it under yet another bridge and at the turn around.  Now, on the way back to the bridge, I was looking down and to the left to see where I was just moments earlier. 


The course took us back under another bridge, up a switchback, then up onto the bridge.  I stayed to the left while running across because the sides where slopped.  I did not want to mess up my hips by running off center.
As I ran over the other side and above an aid station, I heard a volunteer shouting, "Water, Gatorade, cola, red Bull, Gels, Ice, Cold Beer!!"

I laughed.  He had to be joking.  I ran down another switchback and down to the aid station.  

"I heard cold beer." I told him.

"You must be delirious. I never said anything about beer." 

Maybe I was. I did my usual routine, stopped to use the washroom, and then headed back out.


There was another small out and back,  then onto the packed sand trail to transition and lap 2.  I had walked this section the day before and was familiar with how far it was. 

As I ran, I realized that this was the same seawall I was seeing while swimming.  I looked out over the water and took it all in.  I had swum that.  I had bike all this.  Now, I am almost on the last lap of the run.  It was tough, but it was happening, and it was worth all the pain.


Along the retaining was were little plagues that various artists had made.  No 2 were the same.  As I stopped to adjust my shoes and stretch for a bit, I looked down at the plague.  It said something to the effect of, 'Listen to the lake and it will give you the answer."


I listened to the lake. It said nothing.  Well, it did not say to stop, so I assumed it wanted me to keep going.  So I listened. 

As I approached transition and lap 2, the amount of spectators lining the run increased.  Everyone was very supportive.  Some young boys were holding a sign with a target on it that read 'Hit here for more Power!'  As I ran by, I slapped the target.  The boys cheered and shouted '42!!' I guess they were counting how many had wanted more power and I was number 42.



Although lap 2 was much hotter and much more grueling, it went by much faster. I knew the course now and could break it up into smaller sections.  I do this all the time when I lift weight.  If I have to do 8 reps, I count 1-2-3-4-1-2-1-2.  It breaks it up into smaller, more mentally doable section.  If I have 15 reps, I count 1-5, 3 times.  

In my mind, I sectioned off the last lap using the bridges. 


Around mile 7, I could hear a woman explaining to a young boy what was going on and telling him the distances.  As I ran by, I said, "It's less fun than it sounds."  And we all had a good laugh.


A short distance later, I saw a man in pain on the course.  I asked him if he needed anything. He said his quad was cramping up.  The only thing I could do was offer him a salt tablet and hope it helped.

As we continued to run, I took time to encourage those on the course with me.  Most were only on their first lap and the day would continue to get hotter.  I reminded them that as long as you are making forward progress, you were doing fine. 

As the course once again turned right onto Priest Drive, I passed the timing mat and the volunteers one last time.  I thanked the volunteers telling them that this would the last time I would see them.  They let out an 'Awwww' to which one runner (still on her first lap) responded, "LUCKY!"


The bridge was very crowded this time and it forced me to run bit slower.  I was not complaining. I once again watched those who still on the bike course.  A part me envied them.  I would love to be biking rather than running.  But then again, if I was still biking, there would still be a run afterward. 

As we turned right on the other side, I stopped at an aid station and did my routine.  The volunteers were cooking burgers and the smell was glorious!  I looked the grill master and shouted, "You realize how torturous this is right?" He laughed and apologized.


Around 8 and a half miles in, I stopped for a walk.  Another athlete walking with me reminded me that forward progress is still progress.  I laughed and agreed.  We began to chat about our race experience so far.  He said he had crashed on the bike and his first lap of the run was done on pure adrenaline.  Now, the adrenaline had worn off and he had just enough energy to walk. His name was Chris. He was a tall, lean, athletic looking man about my age, so it came as a surprise when he said that just 3 years ago he weighed 350 pounds.  He had done several 70.3s and (I think he said) 4 full Ironman races.  His goal was to race in Kona for the World Championship next year for a charity.  It pains me that I cannot remember the specific charity, but it had the word smile in the name.

Stories like Chris' inspire me.  Here is someone, who 3 years ago, was physically incapable of something like this, but now, he is where he is.  

I wanted to chat with Chris more, but I had already walked enough.  I wished him luck, thanked him for sharing his story, and I ran on.


I made it to the bridges.  Another section done. On to the next bridge. 



Around 9 and a half miles in, I passed a woman who was walking and encouraged her, "You are doing great!"

She looked at me and responded, "Not as good as you."

"There is plenty of race left." I responded.  She laughed and agreed. 

Soon I was back at the sprinkler.  I told the guy next to me to either duck his head or take his glasses to avoid them fogging up.  We both ducked our heads and ran though the nice cold mist.

He looked at me and said, "You've done this before. Second lap?"  I told him yes and rather than responding with jealousy, he was happy for me. 

As we continued to run, my new sprinkler buddy and I played a bit of leap frog for a while. 

As we returned to the part of the course that was packed gravel, I saw an athlete struggling.  I told him my trick of running on the flattest part to avoid hip injury.  He ran beside me for a bit on the flat section and noticed a difference right away.  Before pulling ahead, I told him to do the same thing over the bridge. 

A bit later, as we approached the bridge, a female athlete expressed excitement at how close we were.  I hated to be the bearer of bad news, but I had to tell her about the out and back before the bridge.  She thanked me and said she would have rather known and mentally prepped for it than to be taken unaware, like I was on lap 1.


I made it to the bridge again, went though my aid station routine, then continued on to the turn around for the last time.  Just before the turn around we went under another bridge.  I walked from this bridge, to the turn around, and to the bridge again.  I joked with a man beside me, "All these athletes are running under the bridge.  We are smart.  We are walking, maximizing our time in the shade."  He laughed and we chatted a bit before I started off again. 

As we once again ran up a level, I looked down, trying to see Chris to cheer him on.  I saw both men who had missing legs on their run.
Then, my sprinkler buddy (who was a bit ahead of me), looked over his shoulder, pointed at a sign, and said, "10 miles!  You really are almost done!"  Others around me heard this, and once again, no one was jealous.  Everyone was happy for me.  It was a good feeling. 

We once again made out way onto the bridge where I ran on the flat sections. I noticed that my left gel flask was beginning to slide out of its holder.  I fiddled with it until I realized it was not going to stay.  So I took it out and stuck it one of my tri suit leg pockets.


Once again, I was at the beer aid station.  I took some pretzels after my usual routine and pressed on.

As I continued to run down the sandy section, a girl named Jennifer encouraged me.  We started talking about the race and the heat.  She asked me if I was on lap 2 and when I i told her she said, "Oh well then are pretty much done!"  I told her that alot can happen and I still had a ways to go.  She congratulated me anyway as she pulled ahead.

As we continued on, a saw a group of young boys.  As I passed, they read the name off my bib and started cheering. They did this for everyone who passed.  Turns out they were waiting for their mom.  Once their mom ran past them, they ran ahead to see her again.  As they ran up the course they passed a football back and forth with one of the other runners.

I was getting closer and closer to the last bridge.  I began to push more and more.  I passed Jennifer who congratulated me once again.


I kept my focus on the bridge as it came closer and closer.

I passed the last aid station as every volunteer asked me what I needed.  I told them I was so close to be being done that I could not stop.  They all cheered.


As I ran under the bridge, I stayed left, to the finish chute.  As I made my way down the grass section of the finish, the gravity of what I had just accomplished hit me.


I was about to cross the finish line of an Ironman 70.3.  This was a big and very new moment for me. I started to get emotional.


I ran up an incline and made a sharp right turn as the grass gave way to the finishers carpet.  The announcers voice was loud but at the same time inaudible.  A woman passed me on my left and I was worried she may ruin my finish photo.  Luckily, she was much faster than me.



I crossed the announcers timing mat and heard him say my name and where I was from.

I crossed the finish line and let out a scream.  It was done.

video




I turned in my timing chip, got my hat, and most importantly, I got my medal.


It was all over, in the blink of an eye.

I walked around a bit to stretch my legs and get my bearings. I then made my way to the finishers tent to get some water.  A man saw the exhausted look on my face and asked, "Did you win?"  I said yes.

After some rest, I went back to transition to pack up and get my bike.  Everyone in transition was excited about their races.  We all shared stories, experiences, and laughs.

I packed up and called Jen,  She had watched me cross the finish line on the live online feed.  She was very excited and proud.  She made me promise that I would go back to the finishers tent and eat 3 pieces of pizza.  Before I ate, I called my parents. I did not realize how hungry I actually was until the 3 pieces of pizza on my plate were gone.

After sticking around for the awards I walked back to the hotel.  I got a few honks from volunteers on their drive home.  And a block away from my hotel, a random driver rolled down his window, looked me straight in the eye, and gave the most epic thumbs up I've seen in my life.

I had one goal for this race: To finish.  I also had some smaller time goals. I met my swim goal, my bike goal, and my over all time goal.  But despite not doing so well on the run, I was ok with my time. It was my first 70.3 and the weather was a big factor.


I mentioned earlier that someone once told me that if I could do the Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon, that I could do a Half Iron.  That night, while drinking some cold beer in the hotel room, I came to the conclusion that they right.  While Alcatraz had a longer and much shorter bike and run legs, the difficulty of the course made it pretty much on par with a Half Iron. Granted the only Half Iron I have for comparison is Arizona.

The next morning I devoured a Denny's Grand Slam Breakfast and 2 pancakes.  I packed up my bike and my gear.  Watched some TV, and then had a great dinner with a dear friend, his wife, his father in law, and their beautiful 2 year old son.

This was definitely a great weekend.


Thank you taking the time to read this race report.  I know this one was particularly long ans there are several memory lapses, but I've tried to recall the event as best I cant.  Alot can happen in just under 7 hours.



This fall and winter will be a run focus with the goal of running a half marathon in early spring.  Be on the lookout!  And don't worry, I have 2 more Ironman 70.3s on the schedule for next near.

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