Friday, November 23, 2012

Mixed Moss---Or Should I Say Sagebrush?

Welcome to the off-season and to my last race report of 2012! Last weekend was my first trip to Ironman Arizona, affectionately dubbed "Kona 2.0" because of its proximity to the Hawaii Ironman and the all-star field that it typically draws. I'd been thinking about this race for over a year and had high hopes to put together the breakthrough performance that has alluded me all season. Don't get me wrong, it's been a good year---probably the most consistent season I've ever assembled---but I haven't really had that race where everything just flows and you come away thinking, "WOW, did I just do that?!". Unfortunately I'll have to wait for next year to continue the pursuit of that "perfect" race. While Sunday's effort fell a little short of my goals, I still managed a respectable 8th place finish and another sub-9:30 finishing time. I'm beginning to think that maybe Consistency is my real middle name! Since my initial foray into the Ironman distance when I went a 10:07 at IM Coeur d'Alene (and had absolutely NO CLUE what I was doing!), I've clocked times of 9:19, 9:22, and 9:28. I don't especially like the direction that those times are trending, but considering that it's a 9+ hour event I have to admit that a 9-minute span is a pretty good batting average. The next step is figuring out what changes to make in training to develop consistency at the next level...say, in a range that is closer to the 9-hour mark!

All smiles after the practice swim. I like cold water!

The weekend was destined to be a great one whether or not I performed well because I had a lot of people at this race rooting for me and the energy was really something special. The IMAZ course is extremely spectator-friendly and I think my "official" cheering squad (Mom, Aunt Candy, Kira, Albert, & Shay) managed to catch me sixteen times throughout the day. There were so many other people cheering for me along the course as well----for fear of leaving anyone out I'll not mention any specific names but instead offer a big THANK YOU to everyone who gave me a holler; you know who you are and I appreciate every single one of you!

One of the more flashy aid stations. Thanks for the support!

Here is a recap of my impressions from the day:

The swim start is the coolest race start I've ever done, with all the spectators looking down from the Mill Avenue Bridge and lining the sides of Tempe Town Lake. I was even able to spot my cheering squad as I did some warm-up laps, thanks to my aunt's ability to project her voice! Memorable to say the least!

Spectators perched on the Mill Ave. Bridge.

Once the cannon went off the swim felt like it lasted FOREVER. I think this must have been because it was the first single-loop Ironman swim I've ever done. 2.4 miles is a long way and it's amazing what a little break in the middle can do for you both physically and mentally! I was surprised that it only took 55 minutes---not an especially great time, but probably a fair reflection of where my swim training has been and good enough to get me out of the water in the top five.

And we're off!

The first half of the first bike loop felt EASY and I was pleased to be able to stay within striking distance of reigning World Champ Leanda Cave and still feel like I was holding back. Once we made the first 180-degree turnaround though I felt like CRAP and the string broke. It wasn't a particular pain or GI issue or anything along those lines, I simply felt like I had no power. This was a new experience for me on the bike (in a race, that is) and it lasted through the remainder of Lap 1 and all of Lap 2. Once I hit the third lap I started to get my legs back under me and was able work back up into 5th place by the time I hit T2. It was a healthy reminder that it's a loooong day and anything can happen, so it's good to stay positive and pack some patience & perseverance in ye olde bag 'o tricks on race day. Bike time: 5:03---again, not my best and not what I was aiming for, but still a solid ride.

A smile for my cheering squad.

Similar to the bike, I felt AWESOME starting the run---nice and light on my feet, like I was jogging. I was really trying to control the pace the first loop and not repeat my mistake from Cedar Point of going out way too fast. My splits show I did a decent job with that. The problem is that despite still feeling pretty good, I wasn't able to increase my pace as planned (sound familiar?). I started tightening up a bit around Mile 18, but I hung on gamely and even finished with a pretty good kick in a last-ditch effort to catch 7th place. My run split was not spectacular---3:25---but overall it seems to have been a slower day across the board for whatever reason so I'll take it.

Digging deep.

Despite falling shy of what I was aiming for, finishing an Ironman is still a big deal and I'm proud to have another one under my belt. I'm very lucky to be able to do this sport at all and it's a tremendous honor to toe the line with such an accomplished field of athletes. Now it's time to kick back, relax, and soak up the season!

High fives down the finishing chute.

Wrapping it up, I'd like to thank my sponsors: REV3, Powerbar, Recovery Pump, Pearl Izumi, Rudy Project, Blueseventy, Fezzari, Maxxis, and The Bike Shoppe for their awesome support throughout the year. Thanks of course to my family & friends for their support and for becoming real groupies over the past year! It's always great to have you along for the ride. Thanks to those who have offered me advice, wisdom, and motivation along the way. And of course, a special thanks to Albert for understanding, accepting, and supporting the lifestyle that is required when you're immersed in the "relentless pursuit of excellence".

In good company.