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Race Report – Ironman AZ – Nov 15, 2015
By Todd Ehrlich
In summary, it was an amazing day. For the most part, the swim and ride went according to plan, and while I wasn’t able to keep the pace that I was hoping for on the run, I’m thrilled with my overall result.
I woke up at 3:45 after a solid night of sleep. No pre-race jitters. I had a little bit of nerves during check in Thursday, but after picking up my bike from TriBike Transport and going for a spin, they quieted down.
I ate a quick breakfast (oats, banana and a tube of mashed apples, bananas and berries). I’m 47 years old and am back to eating baby food.
In going to get dressed, I found notes and cards from my family, including an audio-card from my boys. That reduced me to tears; so maybe I was slightly on edge.
The 30 minute drive to the race was uneventful. Upon arriving, I loaded my drinks, fuel and bike computer while sipping UCan. After a long wait at the porta-potties, I donned my wetsuit, dropped off the morning bag and cued up with the 1:10ers.
When the cannon fired, the line moved quickly. I was in the water before I knew it, definitely less than 2 minutes. I felt the swim went pretty much according to plan. The staggered start left room to maneuver and I was able to get into my rhythm pretty quickly. There was a decent amount of contact, but the only real shot I took was an elbow to the goggles at the last turn buoy.
The course is a long rectangle, and you can’t see the far end from the start. In hindsight, I wish I had scouted it better because from what I saw on the map I expected the turnaround to be sooner. Not a big deal, just distracting, constantly wondering where it was. The other thing I would have noticed is that the buoys were not lined up straight; in fact they made more of an hour-glass rather than a rectangle. On the way out I sighted on the nearest buoy which drew me towards the center of the lake only to have to angle back towards shore to hit the turn buoy. On the way back, I started sighting on the furthest buoy I could see. I’m having trouble getting the data off my Garmin, but it’ll be interesting to see the route I actually swam.
T1 went pretty much according to plan. It’s so nice having the wetsuit strippers. The runs in to
transition and out to the mount line were both a little longer than I had anticipated prior to arriving, but I had walked them the day before, so knew what I was in for. My only mistake was I forgot to leave my bike in an easier gear for starting. Also, I know that you now can leave your shoes on your bike (new this year), had I known, I would have practiced for it; but I wasn’t going to try to figure it out on race day.
Only one surprise on the ride: rain, and a lot of it. Actually, other than taking the few corners a little slower, it really didn’t impact the ride much and was kind of nice to have it rinse off the sticky Gatorade that had sloshed over the bottle and my hands.
The ride is 3 laps of an out and back course. The first half of the out is flat, followed by a false flat up and ending in a 2 - 3.5% climb for the last couple of miles. The return trip is mostly down and a lot of fun.
The first lap went pretty much according to plan and took about 1:50. The winds were pretty quiet and the adrenaline was pumping hard. The second lap was just over 2 hours, including a 3 minute porta-potty stop; big line. The winds had picked up significantly, or course blowing down the hill and the rain started coming down in earnest around the turn around point. The final lap was about 1:56. The rain had let up for the final dash home. The only down point was that as the storm rolled out of town, the winds shifted, and the final flat, which should have been a tail wind, was in my face.
Fueling for the ride went mostly according to plan, I had planned on 3 EFS flasks, 4 waffles, plus a Gu or two from the aid stations. At the last minute, I threw an extra EFS in my shirt pocket and it turned out to be a good thing. I’ll blame it on the rain and the cold and not my butter fingers, but I dropped two of the flasks when they were about half done. Fortunately, no one saw, and I didn’t get a penalty.
This is where I felt the impacts of the cold and rain. I could barely feel my fingers and feet, and it took me forever to get my socks and calf sleeves on. Note to self, no socks next time. I had planned on bypassing the tent all together, but I went in so I could at least start off with dry socks and shoes. This transition took about twice as long as I had hoped.
Coming out of transition, I was high as a kite and running too fast; but I couldn’t slow down. I even told myself to slow down, but I just couldn’t. I took a quick potty stop at the 2 mile aide station and used that time reset my pace.
The next two miles were tricky because the course dropped to a dirt path along the lake and it was muddy and slippery, and we had to zig-zag around puddles. And one point I slammed my shoulder into a sign because I was watching my footing as I dodged a puddle. It really would have been embarrassing to DNF because was I knocked out by a “please curb your dog” sign.
Around mile 7, I thought I was going to start seeing my fuel again. I think I ate too much at the start of the run. I slugged an EFS flask over the first two miles, picked up a Gu at miles 3, 5 and 7 and guzzled 2 – 3 cups of water and/or Gatorade at each aid station. My family told me afterwards that when I saw them at mile 9, I didn’t look good. I switched to nothing but water for the next 4 miles and things settled down. Then I was able to resume grabbing a Gu every 2 – 3 miles and working some Gatorade back in.
The run is two loops around a horseshoe shaped course. The hardest part of the whole race was the first lap. In addition to the mud and not feeling well, I felt like was the slowest the person on the course. The pros and age groupers who were on their second lap were flying by me and since running is by far my weakest leg, those who started the run at the same time as me all seemed much faster. Runs go by more quickly if you have someone to talk to, but that never happened on the first lap.
The second lap was much better. It sounds cruel, but it was fun running with people at my pace only to see their jealousy when they learned I was on my second lap. It was also surprising that several times I’d be running and talking with someone, only to have their watch beep and them say “time to walk”.
The one goal I accomplished on the run was to not walk except in the aid stations and only long enough to get my fluids in without pouring half of them down my front. It felt great not to walk the half mile long, 2 – 3% hill which 90% of people were walking on the second lap. This might have been the only point where I was passing people on the first lap.
I’m pretty sure there is little in life that can match the feeling of running down the finishing chute at an Ironman. It was a culmination of a journey that formally started a full year in advance. It’s easy to look back and nitpick your plan for where you might have been able to do a little more; but in my case, I don’t think there were very many of those moments. Things didn’t always go to plan. Starting the year with a stress fracture didn’t help, but I it gave me time to focus on swimming, turning it into my strongest discipline. I missed a few workouts along the way because of travel or family conflicts, but I can honestly say that I never missed one or cut one short because I was too tired or didn’t feel up for it, and based on that, I’m ecstatic with my result, knowing that I gave it all I had.
TTEndurance had a strong showing at the 2015 Tour de Greenwich on Sunday, 9/15, represented by Eric Sydor, Beth Allen-Reilly, Gregg Ziebell, and Karen Ziebell. While a bit of a tricky race day, given wet conditions … and a couple of steep climbs – the TTE Team rode away with remarkable results!
Eric took second place in his age group and 13th overall, while impressively shaving 6 minutes off of his prior performance in Tour de Greenwich – finishing the 20 mile course in 0:50:29, an exceptional 23.8 mph average. Gregg, returning to the race after a 16 year hiatus, took an astounding 16 minutes off of his prior performance, finishing the course in 1:00:01, an outstanding 20.0 mph. Beth rode a superior race taking first place in her age group, finishing in1:08:35, an impressive 17.5 average! And finally, as a last minute entry (yes, about 10 minutes before they were lining up!) Karen entered her first cycling race and rode away with her first podium appearance, taking third place in her age group with a 1:09:56 finish, an incredible 17.2 average!
Despite slick conditions, the TTE’ers had a great morning – fantastic results and smiles abound!