2005 Ironman Arizona

Don't stop till you drop

Sometimes I have a tough time writing these reports. It was a glorious day, the sun was shining, and noble heroics abounded. Etcetera, etcetera.

Ironman Arizona was a far cry from my last long distance race, when I imploded at the Great Floridian. My goal for IMAZ was simple: qualify for the World Championships at Ironman Hawaii. We found out at the pre-race meeting there would be 8 spots for menís 30-34.

As usual, itís easier said than done.

For moral support, my wonderful wife Bri put up with my pre-race antics. My sister-in-law Shana also flew out to watch the festivities and on Friday got to witness the transformation of a pretty laid back guy into a complete Type-A freakazoid. Adding to our stressors were the following:

To combat the cold I was fortunate enough to get a Z-pack (an anti-bacterial 3 day pill pack) from the helpful Dr. J, who also supplied The Mystical Lucky Rock of Sedona. More on that later. Not much could be done about the lost sleep on Thursday, but rather than moan about it, we went with the flow.

After taking care of this, that, and the other thing on Friday, I was able to get into bed at 7:15PM. My cold, fortunately, was limited to my head, and didnít feel too bad. Was asleep before 8pm and slept through the night. That helped.

Up at 4:10 for some pancakes with salt (yumm), half a bagel and PB, Gatorade, and a cup of coffee. Off we go to the race site. Bri and Shana drop me off at the transition area and I take care of pumping up the tires, dropping off the special needs bags, and get things settled in general.

My nutrition strategy was 2 bottles of Carbopro (4 scoops) in Gatorade at start & 1 bottle water, 2 of the same in special needs bag, drink more as needed, and a flask of Mocha Hammergel to bring along from the start of the bike. I also put a shot of espresso into 1 of the special needs bike bottles. I like coffee, if you havenít guessed.

So, details, details. Swim: Goal: take it pretty easy, let someone else do the work. Actual: lined up at the front and swam clear of the crowd by 200 meters. Drafted 1 guy for about 5minutes then his pace slowed. Jumped on the feet of another guy for 5 minutes then he slowed. So I go around him. Now I see one age grouper ahead to the left, but too far up for me to bridge to. So I keep it steady, relaxed, and wind up pulling a group of 5 guys around the course. Slowed down a couple times to let someone else do the pulling, but this pace was slower than I could do on my own while picking the line and keeping effort under control. Ah well. 51.49 time. Course probably 2 minutes long.

T1: Slow, the volunteers in their effort to be helpful kept picking up my stuff and generally getting in the way.

Bike: Goal: Stay steady, keep HR average 150 or under, time around 5:00-5:10 (weather dependent). Actual: Scott Molina blew by me at mile 1 and I quickly realized that there was no staying with him that day. Latched onto a couple guys in my AG at around mile 20 - the crosswinds/headwinds neutralized the physical draft advantage from a clean position - HR average ran slightly higher (155) than planned but this I attributed to race day as my effort was down. Let them go at mile 50 as my HR was getting too high and I wasnít going to make that mistake twice. A lot of folks were really cranking hard on the tailwind section of the course.

Was passed by another guy (also in my AG) at mile 65, and another (also in my AG!) at 90. Kept the HR around 152-153 with the occasional up and down due to winds. By the way, on this 3 lap course the winds were horrendous for about 12 miles on the return into Tempe.

In a tribute to steady riding, I re-passed 3 of these 4 guys at mile 106. Bike split - 5:14, 21.4mph. I think I was the 6th amateur off the bike, and 3rd in the AG. Problems Ė they lost my special needs caffeinated bike bottle, so I grabbed a couple bananas and a gu on the course to make up some of the calories.

T2 Ė quick, got in and out.

Run Ė The same guys Iíve been talking about passed me around mile 2. So now Iím back into 6th. Goal: steady, shooting for 3:25 but will be happy with 3:30. Actual: back tight until mile 4, have some hip tightness going until mile 6 or so, but then things loosen up and I can start running comfortably. The dirt sections are awesome as I despise running on poured concrete. My legs just arenít hardened enough for that.

Get through the half at 1:41. Switch from light trainers into flats at run special needs. This is a mistake as the dull ache in my quads immediately kicks up a notch. At this point Iím in 9th place, having had a couple more guys pass me in the first half. There is one guy slightly ahead of me who went hard on the bike and is now battling his own demons. Miles 14 and part of 15 are uphill into the 30mph wind. They are horrible. I start to crack. We turn around and things get better but now itís hot. Do a bit of walking when I start to get that dizzy/ill feeling. Not good. But keep me going forward. One step a time.

Another guy in the AG passes me around mile 17. Now Iím in 10th. Mentally kick myself to get in the game. My wife is out here, has been putting up with my long weekends, never seeing me as I split time between training and coaching,. Are you going to give it up now? With 9 miles to go do you chuck it in the river and go home defeated? Canít do that. Never do that. Stay in the game. I pull myself together.

Mile 19. Another son of a bitch in my AG passes me. Now Iím in 11th. But the off-road section is coming up. I am a runner. I love the off-road. We hit mile 20. Itís now or never. I dig. Back to 8 minute miles. I pass struggling-with-demons guy. 10th place. I pass son-of-a-bitch guy. 9th place. At 22, I pass one of the couldnít-stay-with-him-on-the-bike guys. He has blown. 8th place. Kona? Can I?

At 23, son-of-a-bitch guy shows me he has major spunk and is gone. Must be down to 7:30 pace. Behind him is another AGer. He isÖhe isÖ


Iím in 10th again.

The rest is uneventful except at mile 24, when we come off a small decline. My right hamstring decides to say hello. I have to stop and stretch a couple times. Lose a few more precious seconds. But then it lets go and I am able to crank into the finish. Definitely the strongest Iíve finished an IM. My last 10k is somewhere around 51 minutes (I lost the ability to keep splits much earlier). Marathon time: 3:40.23.

Total time: 9.52.35, 43rd overall and 10th in the AG.

On Sunday, our AG is awarded another Hawaii spot from menís 75-79. 3 guys pass on their spots for Hawaii. Struggling-with-demons guy is 12th and gets his spot. 13th place, couldnít-stay-with-him-on-the-bike guy, one place out of a spot, is a short four minutes behind me.

See you at the big show.

Postscript: I would like to thank the Mystical Lucky Rock of Sedona (replicas are available for sale, send five dollars payable to me), Evan Schube (our gracious host) my wife Bri, the Academy, and the two Germans & Matt from CA who all passed on their slots.

Disclaimer: No one was harmed in the writing of this report. No offense is intended to anyone who played a part in it!

Marty Gaal