Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My 2010 IMAZ Race Report

Hi All.
Race morning at IMAZ 2010
Just a quick race report about my Ironman Arizona experience. 

First, i'd like to thank everyone who shot me texts and emails of encouragement, well wishes and congratulations.  It really means a lot to me. :)

As many of you who read my blog know, this was sort of a 'throw away race' where I didn't have high expectations due to my crash and then surgery in August.  Training has been minimal as I rehabilitated my broken body... and just 8 or so weeks ago my form of exercise was a daily 60 minute brisk walk and it was just 3.5 weeks ago that I could start swimming again.  My expectation of the race was to simply participate, renew my enthusiasm for Ironman and to gain experience at the distance again.  Just being able to toe the line was a blessing and one I didn't take for granted.  Finishing was the goal, with being 'competitive' a distant aspiration.

Truth be told, I knew I had a good fitness base , despite my set-back, due to my training and race results in the first half of the season.  My 4:11 and 7th OA at Racine 70.3 showed me that I had the 'props' to be competitive at a high level again... but as many of you know, when it comes to Ironman racing, all bets are off.

The race started with abnormal weather conditions for Phoenix, cold and windy. The water temps were in the low 60's, making for a very uncomfortable entry into the water. I looked up as I was treading water and freezing my booty off...thinking, "hmm... did I do the right thing by racing today?".  I was concerned about my swim conditioning, but confident that I could soldier through it slow and steady.  The gun went off, and the cold water and realization that the day was finally here made me panic for a moment. What a horrible feeling...panicking in the middle of a mass Ironman start! I treaded water for a moment, collected my wits and then started along... not a great start.

I finally got into a rhythm and felt ok, gliding along at a steady and comfortable pace.  I just wanted to get out of that water! After the turnaround of the 2.4 mile swim, I felt that this was doable and picked it up a little. The arms were getting fatigued, but I was under control.  I exited the water stiff, cold and totally disoriented from the cold water and my feet felt numb, like stumps. I couldn't believe it when I saw my watch and a 1:01.  Nice.

I took my time in T1. No reason to hurry. I headed out on the bike and noticed well wishers and my people there to support me. That was nice.  As I started out, I immediately started taking in some electrolytes and calories. My biggest fear was now cramping... forget the cold and looming storms. 

Out on the first loop of the 3 loop bike course, I took it very easy.  Guys were passing me left and right, but that was ok... I was racing strategically and within myself. With age comes wisdom. :)  The 'outbound' on beeline hwy was fast with a tailwind but the way back was into the headwind. I maintained a comfortable rhythm with my cadence around 85-90 rpms and speeds hovering around 22 mph.  I never let my ego dictate my pace, which is something I used to do in my 20's. 

Lap 2 was faster for me as I was better warmed up.  My speed ticked up a little too, as I continued to hydrate well and eat well. Guys who had passed me within the first 40 miles of the bike were not coming back to me.  You can't fool mother nature... they were burning through their matches early... I was focused on conserving mine for the run.

Lap 3 was more difficult to maintain speed as fatigue was looming in my legs... but I was still very much in control. My 3 laps were pretty even split... a near perfect race so far. I got off the bike with 4:56 split and was very surprised and pleased.

T2 was difficult however. I was very stiff and hobbled into the changing tent. I felt my age, ugh!:)  I again took my time changing, hit the porto-potty for a pee (which seemed like it lasted forever!) and then hobbled onto the run.  My support crew was cheering me on, so that picked me up, along with so many spectators yelling, "Go Coach Troy!".

It took me a solid mile or two to get loose and into my stride, but once I did, it felt great! I started thinking that I could have a very competitive day.  My legs were turning over at a 6:45 min/mile pace and I was holding back so as not to blow up. I was downing huge amounts of electrolytes too... to avoid my nemisis, leg cramps. 

After the first of 3 loops, I had taken the first place in the Masters division and knew I was having a good day and perhaps contending for an overall podium slot for the age groupers.  I was steady and controlled, but knew that the wheels could fall off at any moment.  At the half marathon point, I was just under 1hr 30 minutes and the idea of breaking 3 hrs for the marathon started to become more of a reality... something I'd never done in my 15 previous Ironman races as a younger athlete.

At mile 16, I started feeling that all-to familiar feeling of Ironman running fatigue and pain in the quads, like a knife being stabbed in them with every step.  I focused so hard to maintain a bounce in my stride, a key to Ironman marathon running success.  My thought was just to maintain my pace and hold things together to the finish line... where was that darn finish line!

At mile 24, I knew I could hold things together and that I'd be just over 9 hours. I remained focused and suffered at my threshold of pain to maintain pace. As I ran down the finish chute area, I saw my little girls, Hope and Chloe, in the grandstand and stopped to give them each a kiss. What a great feeling to have them there to see daddy accomplish an important goal. They are only 7 and 3 yrs of age, but I hope they remember that moment as much as I will.

I crossed the line in just over 9hrs 6 minutes, good for first masters and 2nd Overall in the Amateur race.  Mike Reilly said, "You are an Ironman", it it felt good to hear again.  I was wisked over to do a quick post race interview with Ironmanlive and Greg Welch, and then reunited with my support crew and then my kids for awhile.  I was so happy and surprised with my result, I can't tell you. In particular, I ran a 2:59:55, finally breaking that magical 3 hr barrier at the age of 41...go figure!

 Overall, the race result was totally unexpected! My take home lesson, one that I've preached for a long time with my athletes, is to build your base and go into key events with very fresh legs.  Training is a year round process.

I accepted my slot to Ironman Kona in 2011 and will have that race in the back of my mind all year now. It'll be good, regardless of my end result, to compete against the best in the world again now in 'chapter two' of my life long tri career as a masters athlete. :)

Again, I want to thank everyone who supported me, cheered for me and wished me the best.  I look forward to hearing about your future race successes too. :)

Train smart,
Coach Troy

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

IMAZ in a Few Days! Update

Less than a week now until Ironman AZ!  I must admit to being a bit nervous about this Ironman because my preparation for it certainly was not 'ideal'. (is it ever?!)

The thing about Ironman is that you cannot 'fake it' like you can shorter distance endurance events. For example, if you've raced for many years like I have and take an extended time off from racing but continue to 'exercise', you can come back and with a few weeks of higher intensity training and race well at events under 2.5 hrs.  When it comes to the Half and full IM distances however, or events over that 2.5 hr window, the miles in the legs that you've accumulated in the prior 6-12 months (if not more) weigh heavily in your end result.  In particular, the 4-12 weeks before your 'big day' are crucial in terms of building that long distance aerobic endurance fitness... and due to my accident at Leadville 12-wks ago and the recovery afterwards... this is where I'm lacking.

My strategy for IMAZ is clear... I need to take the idea of being very competitive off the table and aim to finish strong by burning my 'matches' slowly and selectively throughout the course of the day.  Knowing myself and the way I race (and did back in the 1990's), it was 'all out' or nothing.  Of course, back then, I had the fitness base to back up my aggression and I could go out hard, suffer, recover and finish fast (but with lots of suffering) due in part to my high training volumes.  Nowadays, whereas my mind 'thinks' I'm still 28 and in sub-9 hr IM shape, my 41 yr old body doesn't agree. 

Besides lacking that aerobic endurance fitness base so important to successful IM racing, I also need to watch out for my leg cramping issues.  My plan is to 'hyper dose' electrolytes on the bike and run, as I did at Racine 70.3.  It worked well at Racine, enabling me to almost even split the 1/2 marathon with only a slight twinge of cramping coming on once in awhile.  I hope the same strategy works for IMAZ...because hard cramping is painful and emotionally difficult to handle as you go from 'race mode' to just survival mode.  Ugh, it's tough when you're walking along, dejected and about to seize up with every step and spectators are saying, "you look great... only 13 more miles to go!".  Whatever!! :)

So, I'm a little bit anxious but excited to 'get it on' at the same time.  My kids have been sick and I'm starting to feel a head cold, so hopefully that doesn't get any worse.  Overall, I feel good and without any unusual aches and pains. And as I've said before in my blog, I'm just so fortunate to be able to toe the line and participate after the Leadville crash. 

Good luck to any of you doing the race with me! See you out there on the course.

- Coach Troy

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Ironman AZ Preparation Update

A quick update on the life of this endurance sports coach. :)

North Tucson road to nowhere.
Well, Ironman Arizona is creeping up ... just over 2 weeks away. YIKES! I have been swimming for a couple of weeks now with about 8 workouts under my belt since getting the go-ahead from the doc after my collarbone repair surgery (and about 10 wks out of the water).  My workouts consist of 1000-1500 yds of mostly 'steady' swimming. I started doing some 100 tempo efforts in the past few workouts... man, I am sssllloooowwww.

I took about 5 years off from swimming and got back into it in March of this year.  I got myself back into decent shape, hitting about 24 minutes for the mile and 30 minutes for the 1.2 mile in my events earlier this year.  I've never been a super swimmer, probably because I've never made the sincere commitment to become one.  Why? Because I've never really enjoyed swimming all that much. I like the feeling of finishing the workout :), but I get bored easily and most of my career training the swim, even as a pro, consisted of 1000-1500 yd workouts with a few masters workouts now and then sprinkled in for some speed/tempo.  Even with minimal swimming,  back 'in the day', I was able to go 26-28 min. at the half IM,  58-60 min. in Kona and even posted a 56 min. swim at IMLP one year! I still don't know how I managed that!

So, I'm an underachiever when it comes to the swim leg of the triathlon and always have been.  It's ashame really, and one of my only regrets that , as a younger athlete... I didn't focus more on the swim and turn myself into a sub 55 min. IM swimmer. Had I done that, I probably would have been 'in the hunt' in major events because I could pretty much bike and run with most of the contenders, with the exception of the top tier guys.  But once you're off the back and 'miss the train', you're working alone and it's tough to make up any ground at that level.

Now as a masters athlete, I found this year that I'll give up 2-4 minutes to the top masters swimmers in the Olympic and Half IM distances.  That's close enough to be a contender if my run is strong, which it seemed to be this year.  IM AZ might be a different story however!

My biggest concern for IMAZ is the toll the swim will take on me in terms of fatigue.  I need to be patient, and remember that my fitness and endurance on the swim is insufficient to take it out hard from the gun.  I need to line up with the 1:10-15 hr swimmers, and try to get into a pack and swim comfortably.  If the day goes well, a 1:10 might be in the cards.

Going into the bike, I need to be mindful of the matches I burned in the swim, and go out easy and start hydrating and eating immediately.  I know I'll be tempted to drop the hammer (I remember the good ole days of being able to split sub 4:45's!) , but know in my gut that's suicide.  A conservative bike will hopefully get me to the run with a few matches left over... where the carnage will begin.

My running fitness is good, despite my 3 weeks of power walking after my injury and surgery. :)  I did some long runs of 2 hrs recently, but my body felt like it was falling apart, so I decided to back it down and toe the line in good health but not in perhaps the best marathon shape.  I have lots of aches and pains, probably from the years of abuse I placed on myself as a high school football player/wrestler (and some college) and then 12 solid years of serious tri racing, including 15 Ironmans, several marathons, dozens of half IM's and lots of training miles.  It all catches up to you and everyone has to pay the piper some day.  Geez, if I feel this way at almost 42, how am I going to feel when I'm in my fifties?

In general, my 'engine' is strong, and if my chassis can hold it together, I could have a solid race performance. My 4:11 at IM 70.3 Racine earlier this season showed me that I may still have the mojo to race a competitive Ironman and perhaps finish in the 9:30 - 10 hr range. The question will be how much my recovery from the injury has impacted my endurance and lactate threshold after so many weeks off from training... and how my reoccurring leg cramp issues get resolved on race day.

In any event, I cannot tell you how happy and grateful I am to even be considering racing in 2 weeks! When I crashed at Leadville, broke the collarbone badly and fractured the 2 ribs (they still hurt, btw!), I was pretty bummed...thinking my season was OVER.  Even if IMAZ turns out to be 'one of those days', it'll still be a blessing to participate.

Thanks for your support.  Train safe and train smart.
- Troy