|Race morning at IMAZ 2010|
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. :)