Thursday, November 22, 2012

Ironman Arizona

I will try to keep this to the point but inevitably this might get a bit long in parts!

Before getting into the nitty gritty, let me state that I did have some goals…beyond finishing that is, put simply there were:

  • Swim; <2:00 hours
  • Bike; 6 hours
  • Run; 4 hours
  • Transitions; 30 mins

Realistic, ambitious, crazy…well, yes, no and maybe! Either way if met they would give me a 12:30(ish) finish.

So with them stated let’s moved on. Per my last post the whole Ironman thing takes several days in advance of race day to get ready for; the drive out, the race check in, expo, practice race swim,bike and bag drop off, athlete dinner and briefing.

Check in (4) Check in (5) Check in (10)

By the time race morning comes you’re feeling pretty intimate with the race, that being said the morning of race is still pretty nerve racking. After double checking the bike and topping up the tires, lining up for the porta-johns, dropping off my Special Needs bags it was time to put on my wetsuit.

As many of you know the swim was (and is) my weakness, so I spent much of the night tossing and turning about not making the swim cut off of 2:20 so a sub 2:00 was a realistic time based on the two full distance swims in the pool which were around the 2:00-2:10 mark. After donning the suit it was time to line up with the other 2500 athletes and get into Tempe Town Lake. This was to be my first “mass” “deep water start”, that is everyone at once from treading water to “GO” and I knew I needed to get in, get wet and get comfortable before the canon went off. The previous days practice swim had us descending down a  ladder into the water, for this entry we were required to climb over the railing and jump in and swim away asap to avoid being jumped on…stress levels were climbing. Oh and did I mention the water was 64 degrees…trust me that’s a bit chilly.

Anyway as I Inched forward it was time to jump in and with only a small hesitation, the next thing I knew I was floating back up to the surface and swimming away to the start line area a couple of hundred yards away. With over 900 first timers there was a lot of nerves in the air and I was surprised to see many of the swimmers inching along the side of the lake outside of the water. I was happy with my decision as I became acclimatized to the water I bobbed along a bit as the gaps around my filled up and finally found a kayak to hang off of until the one minute warning.

With a minute left I swam away and found some space…and then were off. I had heard about the washing machine and was expecting some of it but it actually wasn’t too bad, I was kicked in the face a couple of times and caught an elbow to the ear which dislodged my goggles which I had to stop and right but other than that it was an ok start. Here are some aerial shots to give you an idea of the size of it.

image image

I settled into a comfortable pace and was surprised to see that I was passing people and of course I was being passed. The joy of this swim is that you can be followed along the side of the lake and I was incredibly lucky to to have TriBeccaTO sherpaing for me and she managed to get some great photos.


image You can see how snug it gets!

Basically I just kept plugging away, my sighting wasn’t great and found myself overshooting the first turn and had to be corrected by a kayaker. According to my Garmin I actually swam 2.73 miles so basically I added an extra 600 yards!


Finally the end was in sight and I reached the steps where I was basically pulled out of the water as the steps out were at the water’s edge. From here I pulled my wetsuit top down and was then assisted by the wetsuit strippers who had it off me in less than 10 seconds! Swim done it was off to T1…

IMAZ (40) image

A fairly uneventful, but not too speedy (10:05), transition I was on the bike. The bike course is three 38 mile out and backs with the majority of it on the Beeline Highway. The course has a false flat with much of the Beeline having the climb outbound which of course translates into a downhill coming back. The only unknown factor is the wind. I had had the opportunity to visit Tempe twice earlier in the year and have ridden the Beeline three times with wind blowing me from every side, today was going to be a mix.

Based on the Lactate Threshold tests I had the week prior my plan was to keep my HR under control and within the range of 125-136 and under a max of 155. The three loops were to be ridden “easy”, “solid” and “cruise”. Once out on the Beeline I was faced with a headwind going uphill, no doubt this sucked, my splits and speed were well down on my goal of 19mph average. Of course the upside was that there was a tailwind coming back! To put that into some perspective the first 20 miles took 1:13:19 (average speed 16.2mph) on the uphill with headwind and 58:17 on the downhill with tailwind (average speed 20.95mph). For the next two loops the wind was reversed and basically this balanced out the climb with the tailwind.

In terms of nutrition my plan was a gel or something every 30 minutes, basically aiming for 200-250 calories per hour along with a S!Cap and 30 ounces of water. I had thrown some DZ Nuts into my Special Needs Bag which I grabbed on my second loop around mile 65 which necessitated a quick stop to apply it…much less risky than crash with my hand down my shorts!

While Becca aced the swim photos she was not so lucky on the bike;


She was however out on the course doing a “Wonder-womanful” job and had been busy was a box of chalk!

image IMAZ (76)

The official bike photos are pretty good!

image image

I am waiting for the download link?!

Here are the bike splits over the 112 miles…officially I was off the bike in 6:15:59, 16 minutes slower than hoped but only 5 minutes slower than planned overall. I had moved up 53 places in my Age Group from the Swim; from 259 to 206 and 579 places overall from 2353 to 1774. It seems crazy to think that I passed nearly 600 people on the bike but the reality was that for 6 hours it was only the Pros and the best AGers that passed me…by my math if the bike was 350 miles long I stand a good chance of being on the Podium?!?


My bike was caught and I was off to T2 which, while faster than T1 was not fast (9:05), I was a bit wobblier than expected and it took some time to get on the CEP sleeves and get my socks comfortable, I ride without socks. Out of T2 I was a minute under schedule.

image image

Shoes on and I was out on the run. Time to play to my strength. Ha ha ha! Lie the bike I was planning to run by HR with it pretty conservative for the first 13 miles and then “hanging on” for the second half to the finish. This would dictate my pace and seemed like an easy plan to follow, while I had a goal of four hours I was really trying to complete it under the heading of; “there is no such thing as a good bike and a bad run”, that is if I overdo it on the bike I am going to pay for it later, if you have read Chris McCormack’s book these are what he calls “matches” burn too many of them too soon and you have none left for later.

The run is three 8.4 miles loops around Tempe Town Lake. My pace for the first 10 miles was in the 10’s (average 10:16) slower than planned but god enough for a 4:30 marathon, which is respectable, I had fallen into a nice rhythm of walking the Aid Stations for a little break. It was warm on the run but the sun was setting and in the desert in the winter it doesn’t take long for it to cool down although I was making good use of the hand out sponges along the course.

image IMAZ (87) IMAZ (89)

With all of that said what I hadn’t planned for was the GI issues that hit me as I started the second loop, put bluntly I wasn’t sure if I was going to throw up or crap my pants or a combination of the two. I was struggling to keep any decent pace up, felt weak and nauseous. Becca found me at an Aid Station and said I was looking pale and felt cold!

IMAZ (92) IMAZ (93)

I spent a little time in here and then moved on…

The next seven miles were the worst, I was moving but there was a lot of walking. It had gotten dark and cooler which helped and while the support of the crowds was nice it was actually nicer being away from the raucous cheering and noise etc. I fell into a run walk pattern that kept me moving along basically running and walking between light poles. Over time I would extend the running portion from 1:1 to 2:1 to 3:1 beyond that though was hard and so for no the 3:1 seemed to work. As I got to the Aid Stations I also developed a pattern of drinking 1/2 cup Perform with 1/2 cup water…I actually only sipped this, then a cup of warm chicken broth and a sip of coke. Sounds like a terrible concoction but the quantities were small, they basically contained everything I needed and it worked and let’s face it you do anything that works! Over time I stared to feel better and extended the running, counting my paces; run 50 walk 30, run 75 walk 30, run 100 walk 25. I stuck with the last ratio almost to the end and by the end I was feeling 1000% better so much so that I ran the entire last mile at 8:21 picking off as many people as I could but yet trying to leave a big gap either side of me for the finishers photos! Here are the run splits;


Despite such a shitty run I had gained ground moving up from 206 to 184 in my AG and from 1774 to 1594 a total of 754 places since getting out of the water overall and 75 places in my AG  where I finished 184 out of 263. Having carved out some space in the finish all that was left was to cross the line and be thankful…mission accomplished!

The spoils!

IMAZ (101) IMAZ (105) IMAZ (102)

So several days later I am left to reflect on the race and of course think about what went right and wrong;

The good;

  • My swim, while not fast was solid I cramped a couple of times but shook them off
  • The bike is about as dialed in as it’s going to get, race wheels and and aero helmet were well worth the $1600 (cringe) investment
  • The nutrition and the hydration plan worked on the bike, I was never hungry or thirsty
  • Training in my race kit, while new the Hammer kit was a match for what my training kit has been for months
  • Racing by HR, this was new to me but it allowed me to race “within myself” and not blow up

The bad;

  • My sighting was terrible, this probably added another 10-15 minutes to my swim
  • My Transitions are very slow
  • I probably need more running off of the bike, the problem with this is a 4-6 hour ride followed by a 2 hour run is time prohibitive
  • The GI issue, well this could be lots of things, the only thing I did new on race day was to have a concentrate of Roctane on the bike, I don’t think it was this as if it was it would have manifested itself sooner

Final thoughts. Undertaking an Ironman is no small feat, the commitment to training is huge over 200 hours, covering 2000+ miles across 17 weeks is a lot and I put a few things on the back burner to focus on the training.  The cost is another issue, the entry alone is nearly $700, I need to do some more analysis but during the last 12 months I have probably sunk around $15,000 into this endeavor…I have no regrets but it’s worth pointing out. The weekend of the race I was very fortunate to have an Iron Sherpa, Becca. This took a lot of the stress of things away and allowed me to focus on my things, it goes beyond saying that I am very grateful and in addition to getting some great photos so was my Social Media maven for the day.

Talking of Social Media it only remains to say a huge thankyou to everyone who followed alone on Twitter, Facebook, Daily Mile, my blog and posted message of support and congratulations, they really mean a lot!

The Garmin details are here;






And here are the photos;

I am sure I will have some more to say but this is a good place to stop for now.


  1. Nice job! And very good goal setting and a considerable amount of goal achievement! I am going to have to come back and read this later in more detail as I prepare for my own IM in September...

  2. Thanks for sharing Stuart! It's ALMOST enough to inspire me to start pushing the bike/run distances! I'm not sure I could stand the swim though :)

    Brilliant performance!

  3. Great report! I'm so proud of you, and uber-impressed! You killed it!

  4. Awesome job! Love the video of the finish!

  5. Nice job. Garmin is notoriously inaccurate on swim distance with gps just because of the range of error. (look at your file - I bet you didn't swim up on the river bank!) That said, great job killing your goal time!
    RE: bike-to-run bricks, there is a diminishing return for long runs after rides. Injury is a distinct risk. 30-40 min runs after a long ride is all I think you need to train your legs to run off the bike.
    Will you be back for 2013?

  6. congrats stuart! i am not sure how many people would sign up for an IM with a 350 mile bike ride... haha. bummer about the GI issues but you powered through it and continued to gain ground - impressive!

  7. Congrats Stuart! Good work getting through the tough times and conquering the Ironman! Looking forward to reading about the next challenges


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