Disappointed! Somewhat, at least for a while, but as the evening progressed and I was able to watch my training buddy Sandy Roberts pass the finish line with a big smile on his face, my personal disappointment turned to pride! But I get ahead of myself.
Ironman is a commitment..big time! It's a commitment of time, effort, money and sometimes your relationships. I already have the tattoo so why sign up to do this crazy race again? Partly to keep Sandy company, but also a chance to get the monkey off my back and see if I can actually do an Ironman I can be proud of. So Arizona it is! I went there with the goal of winning my age group and going back to the Big Island next year. I looked at the winning time last year, 11:45, and decided I could do that with a half way decent race.
So I hired Liz to coach me and toed the line for 9 months of training. Coming off a year of injuries I wanted to take it slowly. Getting to the start line is half the battle at my tender age! By the time we jumped in the car on Thursday I had finished my training and felt in the best shape I have been for years. I was ready! The long drive to Tempe is still better than shipping your bike, particularly at current airline prices for bikes, and a rental house there worked out perfectly.
Friday was a day of preparation, a little time by the pool and a short ride and swim. Our cheerleading team was not complete until we picked Desa up at the airport just before midnight, then it was back to the house for a good nights sleep. Saturday a little run and time packing bags. Special needs, T1 etc, etc. Then it was time to drop everything off at the race start and say goodbye to my bike until Sunday. Liz and Desa made dinner for us and then disappeared downtown for a cheerleaders conference, leaving myself and Josh and Karen to try getting an early night. Not easy when your mind is racing and your stomach has butterflies. That alarm clock went off way too soon!
At 5.15am we all pile into the car to start the long journey to an Ironman finish line, either crossing it or cheering someone else across.
Tempe Town Lake is a large expanse of water shadowed by the Sun Devil Stadium of ASU, but by the time we shivered into the water for the start the sun was still hiding behind the horizon somewhere beyond the turnaround bridge. We were told it was about 63 degrees which sounded like a pretty good night at Nite Moves, but to me it felt cold. An hour and twenty minutes later I knew it was cold. I got out and quickly had my wet suit stripped off and then started shivering...uncontrollably. I was whisked off to warming hut #2 and surrounded by blankets, medics and fellow racers trying to get warm. Someone jambed hot water bottles under my arms and said "sit there for 15 minutes". What! This is a race, I don't have all that time to hang around, so after about 10 minutes I was up to get changed and ready for the bike. Unfortunately my body didn't agree. I was still really cold and my stomach was killing me. I was white and wobbly as Liz told me later. Porto Potty stop number 1! No luck, it still hurt.
When I got out of T1 I had managed a stunning 20.02, and I thought Dan Rudd was slow at CDL, where was the jacuzzi when I needed one? I was still cold, very unsteady on the bike and my stomach hurt. What great start for a shot at Hawaii. By mile 5 I was off my bike for Porto potty stops 2, 3, 4 and 5. The only bright spot was seeing Sandy waiting in line as I came out, between numbers 3 and 4. How random, I trained with him all year and we meet again at a lonely outhouse on the outskirts of Tempe. I guess boys are like girls, after spending so much time together our body rhythms start to sinc, but ours is the colon not the uterus! I watch Sandy disappear into the distance. Lap 1 of the bike was proving to be a nightmare. Stomach still cramping but I'm at least getting a little warmer, then I notice my front tire is no longer 115, its more like 15...a flat! Now who would have thought a flat would ever be a good thing, but actually it was? With a little help from 'The Bike Guy' I was able to fix the flat, but more importantly got some food inside of me and made porto potty stop #6...success! Gas travels at it's own speed through the body but when it's ready to come out that's when we have a little control, and get rid of it I did! Ok now it's game time...I was back! Of course Liz and the cheerleaders thought I was dead, since when did Dave ride 14 mph?
The 2nd and 3rd loops were fun. Warm, hydrated and enjoying the ride, but still with some stomach discomfort that I could handle, unfortunately not eating very much though. That will come back to haunt me!
I got into the entrance to T2 and stopped to smother kisses on my favorite cheerleader and then it was off on the run.
My goal had been to start the run at 2.00pm, it was now 2.52pm. My chance of the trip to Hawaii was slipping away as I would have to run a sub 4 hour marathon to have any chance. A very tall order, but I felt good as I ran out for loop number 1.
The run course at Arizona is 3 loops just like the bike course. Where the bike course winds out of town and then climbs up to the turnaround with a lovely downhill return, the run course winds around...and around...and around, giving you numerous chances to see your team mates and cheerleaders. Mostly along the Lake but with some twists around a sub-division and a climb up one of the rocks overlooking the town, it is interesting and in parts challenging. I was having fun for the first loop and into the second one, and then it was back! I'm not sure if I hadn't eaten enough on the bike or just pushed through the cramps while having fun on the bike, but porto potty stop #7 was my final one. Cramping, and not knowing what to eat that sounded good, I started walking and knew my dream of another trip to the Big Island was done. I saw Liz and Desa one more time as they continued to work the crowd and athletes into a frenzy of positive energy and at that point I knew the remaining 14 miles would be a death march. I couldn't subject them or myself to 3-4 hours of walking the remainder of the run to finish just for finishing's sake. I didn't need to prove anything to anyone and I certainly didn't want to end my day the way I started, cold and disheartened.
At about 5.30pm I took myself off the course and handed in my chip, knowing that I had just walked off my last Ironman course. After some tears and disappointment I found some clarity. I was in the best shape I have been in years. I'm healthy, with no injuries. A great fighting weight and can race a mean half IM. I just can't figure out how to handle the nutrition coming off a swim where I swallow air and fill up like a balloon...and that's perfectly alright.
So now the fun part. I got to see my training partner and good friend finish like he started, with a smile on his face, knowing he is an Ironman. So congratulations to Sandy Roberts, to the amazing Kyle Visin who I'm sure will tell his own story...I hope! To Karen and Josh Schultz, both having incredible races. Karen you rock!! Josh managed an injury prone training season to pull out an excellent race. Sarah Mandes for pulling out a PR over her last IM Arizona race and Kim Hargrave for hitting her goal and going sub 12 with a 11.47, both girls overcoming tears of frustration after the swim!
Finally thanks to local cheerleaders Liz Groom, Desa Mandarino and Craig Adams plus all the family and friends that joined them to make this day very special for all of us.
See you at the Santa Barbara Marathon.....you didn't think I was going to waste all that training did you?