Ironman Arizona - TriathlonFull Ironman

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Tempe, Arizona
United States
Ironman North America
Total Time = 14h 46m
Overall Rank = 1376/1943
Age Group = W30-34
Age Group Rank = 65/88
Pre-race routine:

Suprisingly, I slept well. Well enough anyway! We had a 2 bedroom condo stuffed with 13 people in it, and I headed to bed at 8:15 at night. Slept almost right away. Woke up 2 times to pee and re-hydrate. Expected the condo to be so quiet when I got up, but everybody was up and bustling around!

Ate bowl of cereal, 1/2 a bagel with PB and 1/2 a banana. Tasty. Drank Gatorade til I thought I would roll away on a tide of suspect orange fluid.

Headed out at 5:15 to the race site with my family/race volunteers. We (Eileen, my training partner and friend) got into line for body-marking. I wanted to hold up a few minutes though and wait until my mom and bro could do the marking, so I went and sat off to the side (they had gone to find parking after they dropped us off). While I was sitting there, thinking about how cold I was, I considered that I could put on my wetsuit and be warm... except... oops. I forgot my wetsuit at the house. Hmm. I was reluctant to say anything to Eileen because she was so nervous, but I figured that it was a problem that had to be dealt with right away! Sure enough she forgot hers too! So, I anxiously awaited my mom, bro and his girlfriend. Finally they arrived, and I ran up to them and said, "Small emergency!" And then everyone began to sprint in different directions!!! My friend Wes, took up the call, sprinted to the car, drove (I'm sure!) like a maniac, got the suits, and sprinted back. He had sweat cascading down his face as he handed them over.

So we finished the last minute things. Pumped tires, checked transition bags, etc. Put on wetsuits! (Hallelujah!) I ate one of Eileen's homemade energy bars--dubbed "Renew". Tasty, but probably a bad choice as my nerves were ROLLING!!! (o:

Finally all the athletes headed down to the dock where you jump in and then swim out to the start. I promptly stepped on a glass shard that I had to extract from my bare foot. Fun times!!! I knew that would come back and get me at some point in the day...

As we waited to jump in, I sung Eileen a little of the song she uses to help her stay calm in the water. I understand that this made it onto the tape that Ironman made of the event actually. Who knows? I spoke to my mom this morning, and she heard that it might be on the volunteer CD, not the athletes CD. The guy also interviewed me. And I cried all over myself as I talked to him. He asked me how I was feeling about the race, and I told him that I felt like I'd already won. That I was thinking that no matter what the day held, I felt victorious. I told him that a year ago, to the day, I weighed over 280 lbs., that I'd lost about 115 during that time, and the day was a miracle for me. Something like that, anyway. And I wasn't just shining him on. I could have so easily NOT been there to start that race. There were so many times, when it felt hard, when my binge eating patterns seemed more likely to prevail than anything else, but I made it. I made it to the start--and no matter what happened that day, starting felt like as big a victory as finishing. Unfortunately, I don't have the video... so I couldn't tell you if what I said is really on there! In any case, when they started letting people into the water, we pushed ahead. Eileen had wanted to get into the water as soon as possible so that she would have a chance to calm down. (She learned to swim relatively recently and has really struggled to overcome a paralyzing fear of the open water and the presence of many swimmers". But most of the athletes seemed to be hanging back. So this gave us two options. Hang back too, but have no adjustment time--or to jump in and risk having hordes of people come up behind us. We chose the second option. (o:

And it was scary. Eileen wasn't ready to go to the start, and we had a hard time getting out enough to be out of the way of the mass of swimmers heading to the bridge. I really got mowed over by one guy. In any case, we slowly headed over to the start. I could see that Eileen was trying so hard to calm down. I was impressed with her courage. We got ourselves positioned so that a pillar of the bridge was behind us, so that we would have less people coming up the back of us. As we tread water there for the final minutes before the gun went off, a guy mentioned that my ear was bleading badly. Sure enough, when I put my hand up, I felt a humongous gash and my hand was covered with blood. But oh well! Wasn't going worry about it now! I told Eileen that I would be praying for her, and then the gun went off and everything had begun...
Event warmup:

Well the above just about said it all, but I knew I would be in the water for about 15 minutes before the start, so was pretty sure that I would have plenty of time to warm up.
  • 1h 29m 42s
  • 4224 yards
  • 02m 07s / 100 yards

Whenever I did a long swim, my average mile took me 40 minutes. So let's do the math... 40 minutes + 40 minutes + 16 minutes = 1:36. Best case scenario as far as I was concerned! Not to mention that fatigue might take over (as I'd never swum that far) and my navigation skills are just not that good! So I hoped for 1:40, expected 1:45-1:50, and dreamed of 1:36! But I just blew it out of the water!! I wasn't going to hard... I felt pretty calm the whole time. I knew that I was really getting strong mentally for this portion, as I was not overwhelmed by the people grabbing me, the waves that went up my nose, etc. And for the first time ever, I regularly passed people (me!!! Dana!!!) on the swim! Totally surreal!! So I was thrilled, ecstatic and joyous about my swim. But it was impossibly long! Geez!!! For both of these reasons, thank you Jesus for my new wetsuit!!

For the inquiring minds, I peed twice on the swim. I don't know how anyone could make it through the swim without doing that!!!
What would you do differently?:

Sell what I'm feeling to others. It's fine!!! Oh, and maybe not step on glass before the swim, pound anyone who shreds my ear, and not eat that Renew bar just before the swim!! But otherwise, I'm too happy to look at it critically!!!

Wait, let me think here. I didn't have a lot of confidence in my navigation, so I kept questioning my sighting. Wasted a bit of time, just making sure... especially since I don't have very efficient sighting!! (o:
Transition 1
  • 08m 36s

Man was my transition long!! I got stripped of my wetsuit at the swim exit--that was interesting! Especially since they accidently grabbed by jog bra. Whoops!! But after that little recovery, I ran like crazy to pick up my transition bag and hop into the changing tent. Do you know what a miracle it is that I can run to the transition? Well it is. I got a little choked up.

So... um... did anyone else not expect to have there own personal hand maiden when they went into changing tents?? How bizarre was that? I mean it was great! But unexpected. This lovely women grabbed my bag and started organizing all of the contents, told me not to worry about putting my stuff away--she'd get it all into my bag. She put on my socks and put on some sunscreen, untangled my helmet straps and helped me get my jersey over my wet, wet body! Since I was still feeling emotional from running from the swim exit, I said, "Hi, did you know that a year ago today..." I couldn't help myself. I was so happy! I kept vomiting my miracle up on everyone!!! (o:

On a funny note, the weirdness didn't really end. I mean I needed to take off my tri-shorts and put on my bike shorts (both require a commando setting)--but she's right there... and I'm way beyond modesty at triathlons anyway, but what startled me (more than a bit) was that as soon as I pulled down the tri-shorts she offered me a towel to... ahem... dry myself. It was funny. It was weird. It was surreal. Anyway, lovely volunteer! On a side note... she missed some portions in her sunblock application, and since I was feeling no pain all day, I didn't notice until this very odd pattern began to emerge on my thigh which looked a lot like a... handprint??!??? (o: Burned like a sun of a gun.
What would you do differently?:

Umm. Not waste so much time!! Really! What could I possible have been doing for nearly 10 minutes? Oh well. It wasn't so long that I have regrets, but I'm sure that I could shave off a few minutes here. I've never practiced transitions, so that could be my problem.
  • 7h 02m 50s
  • 112 miles
  • 15.89 mile/hr

I'm not a fast biker. I made these projections for my friends to help them spectate.

Swim 1:45 (oops)
T1 :10 (just in case I needed to put my head between my knees)
Bike 8:00
T2 :10 (just in case I needed a nap)
Run 6:15

And I wasn't being modest about that. Every training ride I had indicated to me that I would bike a modest 14mph. I always always always do. But I felt great on the bike! I don't have any kind of gadgetry so I was depending on my watch and mile markers to help me figure out where I was.

First lap out: Struggled, because I was sooooo uncomfortable intestinally! Ugh. I hadn't stopped at the first place with port-a-johns... so I kept waiting and waiting. I had already decided that I was perfectly willing to pee on myself. But sadly this was not a peeing issue! Finally found the next p-a-j's at the turn around. Leapt off my bike to use them only to discover that I had a bad case of gas. Hmmm.

See here's the problem. I was raised in a house where girls don't pass gas. Really, I swear. We're made differently. Ok, well not really, but never in public. So all my life, if the need came, I'd duck into a restroom or something. So the whole day, I had to navigate a Miss Manners issue!! The funny thing was that I was willing to pee on myself... but fart in public???? No!!! (o: In any case, I would always check my blindspots and make sure that people were millions of miles away. What a dope!

But I felt much better!! I came flying back on my return, and realized that I was really holding a 16mph pace!!! I was shocked!! Where did that come from???? I felt glorious!

On my second loop out, I saw some of my friends (Shirley & Ting) that had come to spectate! I was so excited I almost fell off my bike. How come I never look cool in the pictures that they take of me??? (o:

On the way out, I settled in and kept passing people! I clearly was using someone else legs! I started to do the math in my head and realized that I was gonna finish in about 7:15! I was elated, and scared. Paranoia set in. I amused myself by watching the odd things other people were doing. I saw a women get off her bike and pee on the median of the highway. Um. It's a highway, honey. A refereen came over to give her a violation (while she was still peeing!) That's what you get for being unwilling to muss your shiny bike and spiffy shoes, I guess! Somewhere about 1/2 way through, I passed by John (jchyte) and he said hi! What was so funny was I didn't see him, because my eyes were so focused on the butt of #1122. Now get your minds out of the gutter!! It's just that #1122 had the name Jessica on it, and even though I know there are many Jessica's in the world, I yelled out, "Hey #1122, you wouldn't happen to be Tri_Take_Me_Away, would you??" She screamed yes, so we chatted for a few minutes and she filled me in on her own pee challenges! We kind of passed back and forth for a bit, and then she left me behind.

I wasn't burning up the course, but I was sure burning up my projections!! It was great. On the way back from that second loop, I passed this group of people from the reservation that was the best cheering squad!!! I felt like they'd come out just for me! I also saw that my mother, brother and his girlfriend had joined up on the outward bound aid station, so I yelled at them as I was coming in!!! They started jumping up and down and waviing and completely ignoring the bikers that were on their side of the road!!! (o: Ah, love.

On the last loop out, I stopped at their aid station. (I mostly didn't stop, except to go to the bathroom at the early one). It was so great to see them!! It wasn't until that moment when I tried to talk, that I realized how dehydrated I was getting. My voice was completely raspy! They hugged me, and I asked about Eileen. They told me she made it out of the swim, (Hooray!!!) and was holding on to her pace for the bike. I was so happy to hear that. After a moment or two, I rushed off. I felt like I was flying!

Nothing momentous in this last lap back, except that the sun was overwhelming, I ran out of my sports drink and the wind had picked up. I passed by Jessica again and said hi, and then tried to hold it steady to the end. I felt like I... was... loosing... steam! And could not imagine where the energy for a marathon was gonna come from.

But I knew this... I now had 8 hours to complete it!!!! I was soooooo gonna finish this race. In all my mental preparations, all I could do was wrestle with how I would handle not finishing. Would I be ok? What would I need? Etc., Etc. I knew I would be ok, but I also knew that someone would have to drag my unwilling body from the course before I would stop, and I was ok with that!! But now, I knew that time wasn't gonna be my enemy. I really was gonna finish... and geez... maybe in sub 16!!! What a delightful day it was!!
What would you do differently?:

I don't know how I could have dealt differently with hydration. I drank 5 bottles of my Accelerade + Sustained Energy. Probably 4 or 5 bottles of water, too. I can't remember exactly. So everything seemed to indicate that I had enough, but I was still thirsty... but afraid to have to much. So I guess I wasn't really prepared for that amount of energy exertion in such relentless heat. I also wasn't getting much in the way of solids either. I FORCED myself to eat 3 PowerBars and 2 Gus, but I wouldn't have if I was just listening to my body. I knew it would be even harder to eat on the run, so I wanted to get the calories in. I think I might need a more calorie rich drink, because solid food was just not happening!!
Transition 2
  • 07m 34s

Again, the hand maidens arose!! This still seemed awfully long, but I took some extra time with the sunscreen!! I also should have eaten something while I was sitting down, but I forgot.

What would you do differently?:

What I just said!!
  • 5h 57m 20s
  • 26.2 miles
  • 13m 38s  min/mile

Some background. Well obviously, if I weighed 280+ lbs. a year ago, I could barely walk let alone run. When I started to be able to, I was a pretty consistent 4.5 mph pace. When I did my marathon in October and surprised the crap out of myself by finishing it with a 5mph pace, I was thrilled. I also developed a persistent knee injury. It kept me off of running ENTIRELY from Christmas until almost the end of February. So much for my Ironman training, hunh?? My injury hasn't gotten a lot better, but I did start to run again. Unfortunately during that non-running season, I slipped back into some of the compulsive eating patterns. I gained about 12 lbs. It was a hard time for me, and I almost gave up. But... I didn't give up. Remember that "you'd have to drag me off the course" comment. It's true for more things than just the race.

So I didn't have high expectations for this run. I knew I could finish it, at best a 14 mph pace. I also knew that my knee would not hold up if I just ran the whole dang thing. So I set up from the very first a run walk program. I determined that I would run 8 and walk 2. I did that for the first 10 minutes and almost died!! I was so dehydrated, and it was so hot, that I was sure that I would pass out from heat stroke any second!!! So at the next aid station (and everyone after that, I dumped buckets (ok, gatorade cups) of water on my head and shoulders. I drank as much as I could take in (not much) and decided that run4/walk1 was the same as run8/walk2!! That was grand!!! I held that up for the entire first loop. I was dog tired, but holding up fine. The knee wasn't protesting at all!

On the way in from my second loop, I saw an immense cheering squad for me. I was already smiling, but it just got bigger!!! I was so happy. The second loop was a real struggle and my 80% run plan started to dwindle. But I never wanted to be mostly walking or walking for long portions of time, so I switched to run3.5/walk1.5. That worked ok.

I kept my eye out for the few BTers I knew and for Eileen, as I neve saw her on the bike. I saw JeepFleeb (well, I'm assuming it was him. It was, afterall, the only guy on the course that I saw carrying the American flag.) I called out to him as we passed, but as I had mentioned my voice was almost gone. He looked pretty focused, and we'd never met, so I wasn't surprised that the moment passed. But he looked good, and I figured he was on his last lap.

On the final loop (after my cheering section haled me!) I settled in. It was beautiful and the night felt fabulous. I could finally stop dropping water bombs on my head and maybe let my clothes dry out a bit! I ran the rest at 3run/1walk. I wasn't gonna turn any heads, but I never dropped it.

I cried several times for pure joy. It was such a good day!!! And I new I was gonna be able to go sub 15. Sub 15!! I mean it's great, but it felt almost less important than the fact that I had not given up, that I had faced this day with as much courage as I could. I felt so happy that I had not compromised the things that were most important to me to obtain this goal. Time with my friends and family, with myself and with God.

I tried to imagine what I would do when I finished the race--how I would feel. But I felt like I was already feeling all those things right then. So I sang worship songs as I pulled through the last few miles. At mile 26, they have this big billboard where people can put a message up for you. And when you hit that, all you have to do is cross the bridge!!

At the foot of the bridge, my (very helpful, wetsuit bearing) friend Wes was waiting with his cell phone in hand. He ran with me up to the bridge, while I struggled not to cry and he yelled into his phone over and over again, "She's on the bridge, she's on the bridge!! She's coming!!!!" I was so overwhelmed and happy to see him. We ran up to the sign together, where 2 friends had left a message for me on the billboard. I wish I could tell you what it said, but my brain had nothing left in it but "left foot, right foot" anymore. But I know it said they were proud. Me too.

At the top, I told Wes that it was time for my 1 minute walking break. You'd think I might have skipped it, but I really think I needed the moment to collect my thoughts. He sprinted ahead (sweat pouring off his face) to relay in person what they could not hear over the phone.

And then I saw it, and my friend came bursting out of the crowd (without having signed a waiver, or getting and armband!) and ran with me to the finish line. She was running too fast, I told her, and I couldn't keep up, but then when I saw that clock, it was like a rubberband pulled me straight to it, and I left her behind!!! I don't remember what I did when I crossed the line, if I broke the tape, if they called my name. I don't remember anything except wanting to throw up!!! And crying a lot.

I finished an Ironman.
What would you do differently?:

Well, I think nutrition was the problem again, but I don't know if I could have forseen it. I barely got any calories into me during the marathon. I consumed 2 Gus (with reluctance) and about 6 fig newtons. I tried the cola, but it nearly made me hurl. I had one of the broth, but it also made me want to throw up. I kept taking Endurolytes--about one per hour. So most of my calories came from Gatorade (about every other aid station). I really tried to eat, but I just couldn't do it. I'll have to do more research and practice with this thing.

Anothe thing is that I didn't do enough strength training with my bum knee which was pure laziness. Well, not entirely. I was super depressed about the knee (see above degeneration into binge eating) so it was hard to get motivated to do the work that needed to happen. But I'm really going to do it now!!
Post race
Warm down:

Not much. I wasn't in horrible shape when I crossed the line. Very emotional, but nausea and some pretty sore knees where my only problem. I managed to eat 1/2 a banana--but pizza was a big no-no!

As I was sitting there, my friend (the one who could have gotten me DQ'd by running with me!) told me that Eileen had not made the 4:15 bike cutoff. I was so sad for her, but really proud that she had accomplished so much. I knew she probably wasn't gonna see it that way immediately, but hoped that she would come to it.

After I had a minute, I went to see my family and friends!! It was so amazing.

Mom (Linda), Brother (Dave), Brother's Girlfriend (Hana), Miracle, Eileen, Eric, Joann, Bora, Wes, Kate, Anna (the younger!), Anna, Shirley, Ting.

They had made a burger for me (I'd been craving one all week!) and gave me flowers. I'm not sure if I ever stopped smiling!!! It was such a lovely moment. Did I stretch? No. Did I cool down? No. Did I eat anything to recover? Other than the banana? No. Did I do anything right at all???? Yes, I hugged everyone and laughed and cried & felt like my day was perfect.

What limited your ability to perform faster:

Well, seeing as how I blew my Best Case Scenario of 16:11 right out of the water, I don't even know how to answer this!!!!

Sure I should have done more strength training, sure I should have done more time in the pool (and on the road and on the bike).

But I have NO regrets!

Event comments:

Really well supported and organized. But what's that worth?? Here's my comment. You can do it. If you want to, and it means something to you, you can do it! Don't ever think you're not the type, or you're too heavy, or people are watching.

I AM your poster child.
4/9/05, 280+ pounds
4/9/06, 172 pounds and an Ironman!!!

There is hope for all of us, even on the darkest of days... and I've had my share over the past 3 months, the past year and the past lifetime. But Hope has always made himself known to me.

Profile Album

Last updated: 2006-01-02 12:00 AM
01:29:42 | 4224 yards | 02m 07s / 100yards
Age Group: 65/88
Overall: 1585/1943
Performance: Good
Suit: Full body (my first!!!, and what a difference!)
Course: Big long rectangle in Town Tempe Lake. From Mill Bridge heading East beyond Rural Bridge. Hard right to the northshore, then a hard right back beyond the Mill Bridge. Another Hard right into the stairs to exit
Start type: Deep Water Plus: Shot
Water temp: 66F / 19C Current: Low
200M Perf. Good Remainder: Good
Breathing: Good Drafting:
Waves: Navigation: Good
Rounding: Good
Time: 08:36
Performance: Good
Cap removal: Helmet on/
Suit off:
Wetsuit stuck? Run with bike: Yes
Jump on bike:
Getting up to speed:
07:02:50 | 112 miles | 15.89 mile/hr
Age Group: 63/88
Overall: 1550/1943
Wind: Some
Course: Three loops through downtown Tempe, corner of Scottsdale and then off into the Salt River reservation. Relatively flat, entirely shade free!
Road: Rough Dry Cadence:
Turns: Cornering:
Gear changes: Good Hills: Good
Race pace: Comfortable Drinks: Not enough
Time: 07:34
Overall: Average
Riding w/ feet on shoes
Jumping off bike
Running with bike Good
Racking bike
Shoe and helmet removal
05:57:20 | 26.2 miles | 13m 38s  min/mile
Age Group: 65/88
Overall: 1264/1943
Performance: Good
Course: 3 laps out and around Town Tempe Lake. Pretty flat and a nice course. But it was hot (for the first loop and 1/2!) Nice, nice volunteers everywhere you went!!
Keeping cool Below average Drinking Not enough
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Good
Mental exertion [1-5] 5
Physical exertion [1-5] 5
Good race? Yes
Course challenge Just right
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities:
Race evaluation [1-5] 5