Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Race Report: Ironman Arizona

by Matt Mead


November 16 -22, 2011

Tempe, Arizona


This is my race report for Ironman Arizona 2011. It is a play by play of my race week and race day. The race day was great, a few typical Ironman hiccups along the way. It was a great venue. I hope you enjoy the read.

Jamie, Suzanne, Frank, Heather, and I arrived in Phoenix on Wednesday, November 16th around 10:30am. This was my first IM without family support. Marian, Amalia, and Addison stayed home and would be tracking me online. This was a mental challenge for me on race day, but I had other local support.

We can’t get into the house we rented in Scottsdale until 1:30pm so we decided to have lunch. We find a nice bar named K O’Donnell’s American Bar and sit outside. It is beautiful weather. I have a chicken pesto sandwich and start carb loading with a couple of beers. Texted Joe Milne back home and let him know my carb progress. We get to the house and it is awesome -- a multi-million dollar home. It has four bedrooms and bathrooms, huge kitchen and living space, pool, basketball court, tennis courts, and putting green. Big thanks to Suzanne and Jamie for finding the place. Later that day Dan and his son Cole arrive. Dan’s wife Nichelle is friends with Suzanne and Dan raced St. Croix 70.3 with Jamie and Frank. Dan is a big boy who looks like a pro. He is doing his first IM so I am excited to be a part of that and to help where and when I can in terms of guidance. Jamie convinced him to explore triathlons so we will see how that goes when Dan finishes. Frank leaves to pick up his Mom (Terry) and Dad (Big Frank) and I go to the food store. When everyone arrives back we all sit down for a nice pasta dinner, another beer and some red wine.

Thursday morning Jamie, Dan, Suzanne, and I headed to registration and waited in line for about 30 minutes. Registration was pretty quick and easy. Next we walked around the expo and headed to TriBike transport to check on my bike. They were just setting up and not open until 1:00pm. We decided to head to Old Town Scottsdale for some lunch. We found a great Mexican restaurant with fish tacos. They were good and the margarita was even better. After lunch I headed back to TriBike because I wanted my gear bag and to check on my bike. It was a long line, but I waited and checked in. I left my bike there for race day because it was next to transition. That afternoon Jamie, Suzanne, and I headed to Camelback Mountain. It was crowded and we couldn’t find parking so we left and headed to Phoenix Mountain Recreation Area and Park. We then went for a little hike. It was hillier and tougher than I thought, but it was beautiful. We only walked ¾ of the way up to the summit because we didn’t want to push it and the sun was setting. Jamie took some great photos when we stopped near the bottom to watch the sunset. I practiced my modeling skills so he could get the correct lighting. I’m not sure if those photos will be released. While hiking I found a woman’s license on the mountain and was going to mail it back to her, but found her on LinkedIn and sent her a connection request. She got back to me and was in the area watching a friend compete in IMAZ … small world. When we got back from the mountain Frank and his family was starting to grill. Frank cooked up some nice sausages, burgers, and chicken. Heather made some great potato and pasta salad.

Friday morning had breakfast at the house and decided to go with Frank and his parents to drive the bike course. We stopped by TriBike so Frank could get his gear bag and then headed out to the course. We saw Dan and his son so they followed us. The course had a bigger climb than I expected on the Beeline Highway. Nothing crazy and nothing I haven’t raced or trained on before, but just unexpected. The woman who had lost her license called me while we were driving the course and had a friend at the expo, so I ended up meeting her to return the license. After that we headed back to the house. Frank and family went to meet Heather’s aunt and uncle who were in town, Jamie and Suzanne were in Sedona, and Dan was visiting his family, so I was left on my own Friday afternoon. I watched Wolverine, the X-Men Origins and packed my gear bags. Made a few turkey sandwiches with chips and a beer -- I hope someone is keeping track of my carb loading with the drinks. Friday night Big Frank made two great lasagnas, a veggie and a meat one. I had about four servings and some bread. Everyone joined us for dinner. Jaime’s Mom, Eileen and Suzanne arrived as well. The support crew was intact for race day.

Saturday morning, Jamie, Frank, Big Frank, and I went to check in the gear bags. Dan was already in the area doing the morning practice swim in Tempe Lake. We picked up our bikes from TriBike and met back at the car. We took the bikes for a little spin on the course (approx. 7 miles) to test brakes, shifting, computers, etc. Everything was a go except Dan and Jamie needed to get some quick work done on their bikes. We dropped off the bikes in transition and gear bags in their location. We decided to eat in Tempe and went to Monti’s across from the race site. I had a good grilled turkey sandwich but it went down slowly since the nerves were starting to kick in. We headed back to the house to relax. Had a nice pasta dinner and was in bed by 8:30 – 9:00 pm.

RACE MORNING – I woke up around 4:00 am and had some breakfast. I met Dan in the kitchen and he is nervous and anxious. I explain it wouldn’t be normal if you weren’t, at least for me. Trust your training and it will all come together. Then Frank and Jamie came in. Jamie is so calm but excited that he tries to get us to relax. Big Frank is driving us to the swim. He loves it and we really appreciate it. Thanks again Big Frank. We went to find special needs first and then our bikes. Filled the tires, added water bottles, made some last minute changes, and then off to body marking. Next we checked our gear bags one more time and then went to change. Dropped off the morning clothes bag and headed to the swim entrance.

THE SWIM - It is 6:50 am and we are still not in the water. The pros start and we are standing in the transition area waiting to go across the timing mat. We are not up front so we don’t know what is going on. Finally we start moving and cross the mat and now people are screaming at us to get in the water. We need to jump a railing and dive in. The goggles move so I tread water and adjust them then start heading to the starting line about 150 yards away under two bridges. I am not even at the first bridge and the gun goes off to start the race. No national anthem, unless they did it for the pros, and no Ironman song. There were also people behind me. Oh well, the day begins.

The swim was a 1.2 mile out and back in Tempe Town Lake that looked more like a river (Charles River in a way). The water was cold (61 degrees), but not unbearable once you got moving. The water was also murky and you couldn’t see your hand or the person in front of you. The first 1.2 miles I was clobbered way more than my other IM swims. I am not sure if it was because I swam an extra 150 yards and was in a different pack of swimmers. Anyway I am not a strong swimmer so I just kept moving forward. After a few punches in the face, and I mean closed fist punches (do these people swim with their fists closed?), and people swimming into my side going the opposite direction I decided to move to the outside to have a more comfortable swim. It smoothed out the second half of the first 1.2 miles for me and I made the turn. The 1.2 miles back was going smoothly until I got a very painful calf cramp. I had to stop and tread water to rub it out, and then I was off again. Then about halfway through the 1.2 miles back I cramped again on the same calf. I rubbed it out again and continued. Left the swim and peeled off the wetsuit.

Swim time: 1:20:40, about 5-7 minutes slower than what I was hoping for. No need to panic. I was out of the water.

T1 - You were pulled out of the water and up metal steps at T1. You can’t touch the ground and my shin was smacked on the first step. For those who remember Boston Tri it was similar. Then it was a long run across Tempe Park to the chute to the gear bags and off to the changing tent. It was so crowded I changed outside the tent, had sunscreen applied and went off to my bike. When I got to my row no volunteers were around so I had to grab my bike myself and run the length of transition to exit the bike. The exit chute went through the expo area. I mounted and was off.

T1 time: 8:18 - better than past IMs for me, but I still need to work on that.

THE BIKE – The bike course was three loops, approximately 37 miles each loop. The course was mostly flat except for the end of the Beeline highway where you had gradual incline. It was a false flat as athletes were referring to it. Each loop finished back at transition. I wasn’t a big fan of turning around that close to the finish and covering the same terrain, but it wasn’t that bad and kept moving forward. The first 8.5 miles was flat and fast around Tempe and ASU heading toward the Beeline. Jason Kramer, a friend from Boston and the Alzheimer’s group who now works at ASU and lives in the area, was watching and spotted me right away with the blue and green of Boston Triathlon Team. It was great seeing him briefly and hearing his cheers. Once on the Beeline it was a 10 mile gradual incline with the last 0.5 – 1 mile the steepest. As you turned around and headed back to Tempe it was all downhill and flat. You were flying. I averaged about 21.2 mph after the first loop and I was thinking what a great bike this was going to be. I started the second loop and it was pretty much like the first, but then I hit the Beeline and the wind had changed and it was behind me climbing the hills, which was great. But as soon as I made the turn on the ride back into Tempe I had a headwind the entire 18.5 mile journey. No matter which way I turned the wind was in my face. I averaged about 19.7 mph for the second loop. At the turnaround back in Tempe after the second loop I saw the clan -- Suzanne, Heather, Frank’s mom and dad, Jamie’s mom and Suzanne, Dan’s family, and Heather’s aunt and uncle. What a special treat -- you could hear them from a mile away. They were a great cheering section. The third loop was pretty much like the second with the wind, but I did need to stop and pee. I was pushing through it and started to think if I should pull back with the wind to save energy for the run. I saw groups of six to eight riders drafting with this wind and flying by me. I was so frustrated when I would go by a penalty tent and see it empty. Oh well, it was beyond my control. I fought through the wind and finished the bike strong and dismounted my bike.

Bike time: 5:34:36; 20.08 mph avg.

T2 - was a shorter run to the gear bags and changing tent and a volunteer took my bike, but it was still a run. It was also less crowded and I had a seat out of the sun inside the tent. After a bathroom break and some sunscreen I was off on the run.

T2 time: 6:00

THE RUN – The run course was three loops as well, approximately 8.7 miles each loop. The course was flat with one hill around mile 4 /5, 13/14, and 22/23. The course was a little confusing at first, but well-marked. It was like a figure eight where you ran on one side of Tempe Lake and then crossed over a bridge and ran on the other side back to the bridge you started at and cross back. This short loop was around 2.5 miles and then you continued on this side of the Lake and ran to the next bridge and crossed over and then did a lollipop loop away from the Lake back to the Lake again, down to the same side of the Lake to the bridge you just crossed and cross back again and ran back to the start of the run … do you understand? I said it was confusing! J This second part was about 6.2 miles making the total loop about 8.7 miles. I started the run feeling like I pushed the bike too hard. However I stuck to my plan. My strategy was to run the first half of the marathon around 8:30 per mile and then hold it if possible or slow down to 9:00-9:30 for the second half and come in around 4 hours or just under when finished. The first 11.5 miles went as planned, but then my stomach was acting up and I needed to use the porta-potty. The race slowed down from here. I am not sure if it was because I used it and I upset my stomach more or not. Maybe I could have kept going and see what the result would have been. Oh well it is an Ironman and I made the decision and lived with it. I kept moving forward and had some mile splits like I planned, but then had some slower that involved visiting the potty again. I saw the clan -- Suzanne, Heather, Frank’s mom and dad, Jamie’s mom and Susan, Dan’s family, and Heather’s aunt and uncle as I began the third and final loop. It was awesome just like I experienced on the bike and helped a lot. The entire run I had to pee a lot just like the bike. More than I have in past IM races. I saw the cheering section again before I entered the finish chute, grabbed my cell from Suzanne so I could call the family and headed to the finish line … Victory Lane.

Run time: 4:07:18; 9:26/mile.

I had ups and downs throughout the day, but finished and was happy. Talked to Marian, Amalia, and Addison and they saw me cross the finish line on the computer and that is the best feeling ever hearing their voices.

FINISH TIME 11:16:52

POST RACE - Got a massage, had something to eat, called the family, changed clothes, grabbed the gear bags and dropped off the bike at TriBike, then went back out to the course to cheer on Dan, Jamie, Frank, and other athletes. I missed Dan cross, but eventually saw him. I witnessed Jamie get a personal best and saw Frank pull it together after a tough swim and first half of the bike to run his best IM marathon. Congrats to all of them.

Thanks to everyone who trained with me, gave me their advice, healed me, and supported me. Very special thanks to Marian, Amalia, and Addison for putting up with me and my training for these last 6 months. I could not succeed at any of this without their support.

I hope you enjoyed this race report,

I love you all.


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