Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Living Strong

An Ironman Arizona Race Report

At some point in the last 18 months or so, I quit getting nervous about races.  I toed the line at my half Ironman(s) and was surprised at this fact.  Ironman Arizona was no exception.  I slept fairly well the night before the race.  I woke up a few times but had no trouble getting back to sleep.  I had set the alarm on my watch for 3:45 AM, comforted by the fact that should the alarm fail to wake me up, Lisa would be coming down to get me at 4 AM.  Still, I woke at 3 AM and just wasn’t all that interested in going back to sleep.  Time zone changes have that affect on you.  I was secure knowing that in Atlanta it was 5 AM, and this was “normal” for me.

Breakfast was the typical race morning fare:  bagel with cream cheese, yogurt, and coffee.  It went down much smoother than Knoxville, a further testament to my lack of nerves.  Our friend, Karen, showed up at the house at 4:45 AM, and she, Lisa, Dee Dee, and I all packed into the van and headed to the race site.  I had figured that an hour would be plenty of time get ready to race.  The bike was racked.  The gear bags had already been delivered.  There really wasn’t anything to do but load the bike with my nutrition, pump up the tires and get into the wet suit.

Arriving at transition at 5:15 AM, you could feel the anticipation and excitement in the air.  We made our way to the entrance, where I gave Dee Dee a kiss and agreed to meet her back at this spot.  I found my bike in transition and set my bags down to begin pumping up the tires.  I reached out with my right hand and pressed the front tire with my thumb.  A grimace plastered my face, as I registered the fact that my front tire was completely out of air.  Oh, this can’t be good, I thought.  After several futile attempts to pump up the tire, I went around to the back and filled the rear tire, which was fine.  I came back around to the front, reached down to take the cap off the nozzle, and the stem broke off in my hand.  No wonder the tire wouldn’t hold air.  I wasn’t sure how it made it through my test ride on Thursday.

Good thing I was fifteen minutes early!  I took the front tire off and proceeded to remove the tube.  I was getting a bit nervous and concerned about getting my tire fixed in time.  It showed when I dumped all the tools out of my Cage Rocket into the grass, and darkness.  Locating my tire levers, I removed the tire and then the tube.  I pumped up the replacement tube slightly so that it wouldn’t get caught in the tire and put them both back on the rim.  The tire was a bit stubborn going back on, but I finally beat it into submission.  I pumped the tire up to the recommended 110 pounds and proceeded to inspect it, and it was a good thing I did.  There was a bulge in the tire on the opposite side of the stem.  I let the air out of the tire and refilled it.  The stubborn bulge was still there.  Now, I’m getting flustered.  I hurriedly filled the bike bottles and placed my nutrition in the bento box.  I removed the front tire, grabbed my bags and walked back to meet Dee Dee.

My tire was flat!  I told her.  I need to drop off my special needs bags, get the bike techs to look at my tire AND get body marked…

Take a deep breath, Dee Dee said.  You have plenty of time.  Ahhh, the cool voice of reason…

My main concern, having not visited the bike techs before, was that there would be a line, and I would be late for the swim start.  I had heard somebody say that special needs drop off was behind the bridge with the lights.  I made my way down the right side of transition towards the lake and exited near the bridge.  The boxes for the special needs bags were about a hundred meters on the other side of the bridge.  I threw my bags into the appropriate boxes and made my way back to transition.  The bike tech tent was all the way on the other side.  Lucky for me, there was nobody waiting.  That was a relief.  The bike technician quickly fixed my tire, even offering a bit of advice on how to prevent that bulge in the future.  On the way back to my bike, I got body marked by another helpful volunteer.

With my front tire securely back in place, I set off to find Dee Dee.  I had left in such a hurry, I had no idea to where she might be standing.  Lucky for me, she was pretty close to the place I left her.  I came upon her and Karen from behind while they were just having a discussion about going off and looking for me.  It was pretty funny that I happened upon them at that exact moment, and we all laughed.

We spent the next fifteen minutes or so talking and taking a few pictures.  At 30 minutes till race time, I got out of my clothes and into my wet suit. 

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Most of the athletes had started to make their way to the swim start.  I said my good byes and wormed my way up the line.  I asked where the dry clothes drop off was and was a bit perturbed that it was at the back of the line.  I pushed my way through, dropped my bag, and then made my way back up the line towards the lake.  At that point, Mike Reilly came over the loud speaker, telling the athletes to get in the water and move up behind the pros.  It was going to take a few minutes to reach the swim start.

Hopping the railing in my wet suit was not an option for me.  I made my way down the ramp to the stairs.  The line was moving pretty quickly, but when we got to the water, not many people were all that excited about jumping in.  Having swam the day before, I knew what to expect, and there was no point putting it off.  I fixed the goggles to my face and leapt into the water.  My reward was bone chilling coldness on my hands, feet, and face.  I started swimming towards the bridge, with the objective of figuring out where I wanted to start in line.  I had previously decided that I didn’t “care”, and found myself about two thirds up the line, 5-6 people back from the front.  Off to my right, the lake wall was lined with people, as was the bridge over my head.  Music was pumping over the loud speakers.

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The pros cannon had sounded while I was swimming to the start line.  Every once in a while, Mike Reilly would come over the loud speaker, giving the kayakers instructions on how to keep the athletes behind the starting line.


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The roar of the athletes and the crowd was deafening.  Ozzy Ozborne blasts from the loudspeakers and another roar erupts from the water and the gathered spectators.  Fists are pumping.  Athletes are bouncing up and down in the water.  I decide that I’m too close to the front and move a couple of more rows to the back.  A few minutes later, I changed my mind and moved back up to my old position.

Kayakers!  Please move away from the starting line…


The boom of the cannon takes me by surprise, and Ironman Arizona is under way.

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Having gone through this before, I was very careful to make sure I had plenty of room to start swimming.  All of sudden, you have 2500+ athletes going vertical, and getting kicked is a very likely possibility.  The swim start at Arizona wasn’t nearly as crowed as Ironman Florida, but the process was pretty much the same.  I basically swam on the heels of the athlete in front of me until some space started to open up.  It was almost impossible not to draft at this point.  Every couple of strokes, I felt my feet or my legs being touched.  There was nothing malicious about it.  In the middle of the pack, we know how to respect our fellow athletes.

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The swim started to the east of Tempe Beach Park and followed the curve of the lake past the Rural Road bridge before turning around and heading back.  We had been told to follow the lines of the buoys, keeping them to our left.  Before the cannon sounded, I identified two towers over the bridge to use for sighting.  About four hundred meters from the swim start, the river curves to the right, and I found myself inside the buoy line, due to swimming in a straight line.  I am well into my zone at this point and swimming fine.  Every once in a while, I’m forgetting to keep my mouth closed when I sight, and I’m taking in a mouthful of lake water as I get slapped in the face.  The kayakers close in and begin to shoo us back on course.  Within a few hundred meters, I am back onto a direct line with buoys.  As I breath to my right, I can see swimmers following the lake wall.  I think to myself that those swimmers are adding some yardage!

At the first turn buoy, things get crowded, and I have to shove the buoy out of the way as I make the turn.  Several times, I have to pull up and wait for the swimmers in front of me to continue before I can resume swimming.  In response to this, my right hamstring cramps.  The only way to relieve the pain is get vertical again.  The second turn buoy was a short hundred or so meters away.  On the far side, I turned over on my back to glance at my watch.  I wanted to make sure that I was on pace for the swim I wanted.  My watch said thirty-two minutes, and I was happy with that.  I had momentary visions of grandeur, like I would swim a 65 minute Ironman swim, but I knew in my mind that the route back was going to be a bit longer.

On the return trip, things opened up a bit more.  There was plenty of open water in which to swim.  I continued to hydrate myself with lake water, even though I was constantly reminding myself to keep my mouth shut.  At the curve of the river, the kayakers were yelling at the swimmers to get back on course, and not cut the tangent.  I saw a buoy up ahead and to the right and angled my path so that it would pass to my left.  I was careful not to swim over any athletes that hadn’t made the correction yet, nor kick any that came across my path from behind.

My arms and shoulders were getting tired, and I wondered if I had swam too much the day before.  To make matters worse, my left calf cramped.  Unlike my hamstring, the only way to fix this cramp was to point my foot down.  Have you ever tried to swim with your feet pointing down?  It’s like dragging an anchor.  I really hate that wet suit.  I’m never going to use it again.  I vowed to stop kicking, relaxed my legs and started swimming properly again.

Unfortunately for me, at the final turn, both my hamstring and my calf decided to cramp at the same time, just as I made the turn towards the stairs.  I rolled over onto my back, pointed both toes towards the sky, and stretched my leg muscles, only to see throngs of triathletes threatening to swim over me.  I wondered what they thought about me floating there on my back.  My mind registered “eternity”, but I quickly flipped back over and swam towards the dock.  My legs decided to cooperate and not cramp, although I feared the damage was done.

When I reached the dock, I lifted myself up and planted my ass on the bottom step.  The volunteers were there to grab my hands and help me stand.  They also made sure I had my balance, and I didn’t fall.  GREAT JOB!  I thought to myself.  I bounded up the stairs and made a left towards the wet suit strippers, where I hoped to see Molly, who was volunteering.  The first wet suit strippers I came to were free.  The guy saw me trying to get my arms out, but first I had to take my watch off.  I threw my goggles and swim cap on the ground.  The lady picked them up and took my watch from me as the gentleman pulled the wet suit off my arms.  I laid down flat on my back and he peeled off the lower half.  A+!!  I grabbed my stuff and ran through the wet suit strippers towards transition.

Towards the back, Molly and I saw each other and screamed.  I ran up to her and gave her a big hug, which I think surprised her a bit, but she reciprocated.  As I ran off, I looked back to see if I had gotten her wet, and I smiled.  I always love seeing my friends at the races.  I ran around the corner into transition and hollered out my number to the volunteers.  The lady in my line handed me my bag.  Dee Dee was yelling my name off to the side.  I ran over and gave her a kiss, which drew some applause from the spectators.  I proceeded to the changing tent.  There were quite a few triathletes changing outside.  I, however, was doing a full change, and I needed to be inside the tent.  It was pretty crowded in there, but I managed to land a primo spot.  I opened my bag only to find that the bag was not mine!  The volunteer had handed me somebody else’s bag!!  I went back to my volunteer, swapped bags, came back to the tent, and had to find a new place to sit down.

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Let’s face it.  Unless you are wearing the same tri suit for the entire Ironman, changing takes time.  I traded my jammers for bike shorts, bike top, arm warmers, Road ID, Garmin, sunglasses, helmet, blech!  It was 12 minutes before I finally got sun screened up and out on the bike.  If I knew what was waiting for me, I probably would have taken more time :-)

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The forecast for the race was rain with a high of 67 degrees.  So far, we hadn’t seen hide nor hair of rain, and I was hoping that it would hold off for the day.  At the athlete dinner, the bike course director said that the winds would be out of the south-west at 5-10 mph, and that would mean gusts of 10-20 mph out on the Beeline Highway.  My goal for this race was to keep my heart rate between zones 1.7 and 2.0, and have a great run off the bike.  The only thing required to do this…  discipline.

As usual, my heart rate was slightly elevated as I started my ride.  I allowed my heart rate to stay above Zone 2 for a while, but absolutely refused to allow it to touch Zone 3.  As a matter of fact, as long as I was going over 18 miles an hour, I was perfectly happy to coast.  The bike course is an out and back of approximately 17 miles, with a little extra in and out of transition to get you to the magic number of 112.  After a right, a left, and another right, you hit the Beeline Highway proper and head out into the desert.

I rather enjoyed the three loop course.  The scenery was all new to me on the first loop.  The aid stations where packed with helpful volunteers.  The elevation change of 450 feet or so was gradual until the final couple of miles, when it got noticeable.  There were even a few flattened coyotes on the road for entertainment.  For the most part, I kept my heart rate low (2 – 2.2) and my speed high (18+) until I hit the hills near the turn around.

As I made the turn around, the full force of the wind hit you in the face.  Add to that the speed gained by going down hill, and it was quite windy.  On the inside, I was secretly pleased.  I would rather have the wind in my face going downhill than the other way around.  I had no idea.  On the way back, members of the Maricopa Indian Community were out cheering.  I tried to smile at all the volunteers and spectators that I could, but I had saved a special thank you to the Indian community for allowing us to race through their land.

I made my first pit stop at the port-o-potty by the special needs bags.  Fortunately for me, it was a quick in and out as most of the athletes were using the latrines by the first rest stop.  That is just about where the road flattened and the winds picked up.  I was finally able to bring my heart rate down below zone 2, and I was barely managing 16 mph into the wind.  It was a relief to hit that first right turn and pick up some speed, only to make a left back into the wind, then another right.  The strong wind was pushing me from the side, and I leaned into it.  Finally, we made left towards the turn around, and the wind was blocked to some degree.  I made the turn around in about two hours and fifteen minutes, and I was hoping the wind would die down so that I could pick up my pace.  I had no idea.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see Dee Dee at the turn around.  I stopped on the way out and removed my arm warmers.  It was starting to warm up.  As I rode towards the turn around, I heard something hit my tire then go clinking down the road.  On of my air canisters had fallen out of my rack.  I ended up having two of them fall out!  Off in the distance to my left, I could see a nasty cloud dropping rain.  I was hoping to beat it to the turn around before it reached us, but alas, it was not meant to be.  The rain came down in huge drops.  Fortunately, it didn’t last long, but the damage was done.  I was now wet and cold.  I wasn’t complaining though.  My efforts were keeping me mostly comfortable.

The first thing I noticed as I made the second turn around was that the winds had picked up.  Before, where I had been doing 20+ mph downhill, I was now going 18.  Where I was doing 16, it was now 14.  Driving into the head wind was not fun.  I, however, am getting wiser with age.  I reminded myself that my bike time didn’t matter.  I WANTED A GOOD RUN.  To do that, I would need to stick with the plan and ignore the digits.  Next time I race, I will have a screen with just heart rate on it, and not speed.

I stopped a little further down the course this time to use the restroom.  I ended up waiting a little bit this time, but I was ready for a break.  The small of my back was hurting, and a slight stretch was just what I needed.  I think I spent 4-5 minutes resting before hitting the road.  As we neared Tempe, there is a right then a left turn followed by a short straight away.  I’m not sure what happened, but I looked up and a police officer is running to a cyclist that is lying on the ground.  Evidently, the cyclist was blown into a cone or one of the signs and ended up wrecking his bike.  He was laying on the ground clutching his shoulder as I went by.  I reminded myself to stay diligent and not allow the wind to blow me into anything.

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At the turn around, I again looked for Dee Dee and my friends and family, and unfortunately, they were nowhere to be found.  Dee Dee was too busy snapping pictures of me to yell, but it still would have been nice to see her in the crowd.  On the way back out, I saw a volunteer walking down the side of the road with a bike.  At first, I thought it was the same bike as the injured rider that I had seen earlier.  However, we hadn’t quite made it out that far, and another rider had had a very similar accident. This was getting ugly.

On the way out to the turn around for my final loop, and I am out of food.  I had not anticipated being on the bike this long and threw one of my Harvest Bars into my run bag.  I started eating whatever I could grab at the aide stations.  The Power Bars were a little sweet for me, but I’ve learned my lesson!  I also got chicked by Chrissie Wellington on the way out.  I’d been keeping my eyes on the pros as they went by.  I saw Chris Lieto and Rapp as they stormed past, and I was so excited to see Chrissie go flying by.  She is an animal.

About half way out to the turn around, I feel something hitting the back of my right thigh.  My bottle cage had collapsed!  Unbelievable.  I emptied one bottle into my aero-bottle.  Moved another bottle to the front cage, and threw the two empty bottles into the garbage.  I could still feel the bottle cage rattling around behind me.  It was so loose.  Fortunately for me, the final rest stop before the turn around had a bike tent.  I stopped there for a brief moment and had them tighten the screw.  I did not want that sucker falling into my tire and doing some serious damage.  The bike support on this race was awesome by the way.  Not only did they have two bike tents, they had riders on motor scooters with spare tires and everything!  I just didn’t want to find out how good they really were :-)

If anything, the wind had picked up even more for the final trip back to transition.  I got dumped on again, and to add insult to injury, I’m going even slower.  Ignore your speed!  Ignore your speed!  I kept telling myself.  I think at one point, I was doing 12.5 miles per hour, and I was just grinning, and swearing, but still, grinning!  To top it off, the wind shifted a bit, and on some of the turns where we were going cross wise against the wind, it was now a head wind!  Grrrrrr!!  At one point, I was buffeted by such a cross-wind, I was pretty sure it was going to throw me off the road. Never have I been so happy to see the turn around.  They had closed it off now, and the only way though was straight to transition.  Dee Dee, my mom, and my sister were waiting for me near transition.  As I rode through, I reached out and touched my moms hand.  I coasted up to the dismount line, got off the bike, and waddled into transition.

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There was no confusion this time getting my run bag.  The changing tent was a lot less crowded too.  I made a left as I entered the door.  A previous athlete had left a towel on the ground for his feet.  I had started my bike off with a lot of sand and grass in my shoes.  It was nice to have someplace relatively clean upon which to change my shoes.  While I was getting dressed, a volunteer came by and asked if I needed anything.  One of the medical personal inquired as to how we were feeling, and another volunteer brought us water.  I had grabbed a full bottle of Gatorade off my bike, and I drank most of it while I was sitting there.  My nutrition had been good, but I was a little behind on the hydration.  I stuffed my gels and my salt tabs underneath the legs of my tri shorts, as I had no pockets, but it worked out just fine.  On top, I had my yellow Livestrong running shirt, and I was wearing sun glasses and Dee Dee’s HTFU hat.  I was styling.

Outside the changing tent, I paused to allow the volunteers to slather me down with sun screen.  It had worked so well in Florida, it was no a brainer for me here.  I took off out of transition and failed to see Dee Dee and the family.  I wondered where they were.  Right past the run exit, there was a sign saying left to finish, right for laps 1, 2, and 3.  I teased one of the volunteers about having to do three laps.

At this point, I’m just really curious to see if my strategy paid off.  I’m running along at a 10:15 pace and feeling rather strong.  Ideally, I should have started out at an 11:00-11:15 minute pace until I got my feet back under me, but I was feeling pretty good.  We headed west along the lake to the first bridge, and the wind was blowing strong in our face.  We crossed over the bridge and made a right into the first aid station.  This aid station was kind of cool as they had a massage tent for the athletes.  I think the idea was to help relieve cramps.  I didn’t use it, but I saw some athletes that did.

Along the back of the lake, we were sheltered from the wind.  This allowed the heat to build up.  We crossed over the Mill Avenue bridge onto the south side of the lake where we were routed through transition.  Right at the turn into transition, Dee Dee, Kelly, the baby, and my Mom were waiting for me.  I was partially out of it, but I was so happy to see them.  In my excitement, I gave everybody a kiss except for Kelly and the baby.  That’s all I thought about for the rest of the loop, was getting to see Kelly and the baby again.  I was so happy that they came all the way from Spain to see me race!

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The path along transition was over carpet and on uneven ground.  One of the triathletes behind me remarked that this was going to be fun on the second and third lap, and I agreed with him.  We made a right at the lake, back onto the running path.  After passing under the bridge we made a right to run by the special needs bags.

Way to go Wes, you’re looking strong…


I looked up and it was Kim.  All weekend long I had been trying to meet up with Kim, and finally, I got that big hug I was looking for.  She jumped up out of her chair and wrapped my tired sweaty self in a huge hug, and it just made my day!  Thanks Kim!!!  I took off running again down the path.  I wasn’t ready for my special needs bag yet.  We ran back over the Rural Road bridge to the north side.  We made our way back to the lake before heading west.  We hit a rest area where we made a right towards town.  This was the only section of the run course that was not by the lake.  I made a quick port-o-potty stop at the aid station by Curry Road, but I was strong enough to keep my pace below eleven minute miles.

On the back side of Curry Road lies the only true hill on the run course.  No, the bridges do not count.  On this first loop, I managed to run up the hill, and I was very pleased with this.  We made a left onto Lake View Road which brought us back to the lake where we made a left heading east to the Rural Road bridge.  We ran under the bridge, looped up onto the bridge, then ran across the lake to the other side.  We looped back under the bridge again before heading west to transition.

So far, for the first loop, I had been maintaining a sub-11 pace, and I couldn’t be happier.  I thought that if I could do one more loop at that pace, I would be golden. I would just hang on for the final loop and give it everything I had.  But, I was getting tired, and my GI system was making its presence felt.  It was then that I decided to hold on till mile 13 before I started taking breaks.  After mile 13, I needed another port-o-potty stop, but I managed to hold pace until mile 14, and then I surrendered.  Yea, there’s really no other way to describe it.  I was happy with my performance, and I was going to give it whatever I had left.  I settled on a run one minute walk one minute cycle and got underway.

Back in transition, I saw Dee Dee and my mom again.  Unfortunately, Kelly had left to visit a friend, but Dee Dee told me she would be back later.  I saw Kim again at Special Needs, where  I stopped to change my socks.  The Ironman socks I was wearing had started to raise a blister on my right foot.  I changed into a thicker pair of running socks, and I was fine from then on.  The young man volunteering asked me if I was done with my bag, and I told him no.  I had a long sleeve shirt in there I might need on the final loop.  I stuck to the run 1/walk 1 schedule religiously, and was managing 13 minute miles.  The problem was that my bathroom breaks were just killing me.  I didn’t want a repeat of Florida, so I basically decided to stop visiting the latrine and take my chances :-)

I was very very excited to start the third loop.  The main problem I have with multi-loop courses is that you have to run past the finish line, and you have to see all those signs with mile markers that are one to two loops into your future.  I had to force myself to keep focused on my run, my race, and not get depressed by wanting to get done.

Near the first bridge on the run, an Ironman had showed up to play his banjo.  All of us runners agreed that that was cool, and we thanked him.  Back along the north side of the lake to the Mill Ave. bridge.  There was an aid station there where a guy with a speaker system was motivating the runners with music, and young chicas were dancing.  I smiled and thanked them.  They provided a lot of motivation.  Over the bridge and back into transition, where Kelly, Saoia (the baby), Lisa, Karen, Mom, and Dee Dee were all waiting for me.  Kelly and Saoia got kisses, and everybody else got hugs.  I was so happy that they were there.  As I left to finish running, Dee Dee told me she would be waiting for me at the finish line.

Back east along the lake to the Rural Road bridge.  At this point, I am in just tons of pain.  I allowed one of those thoughts to sneak into my head.  Why, I wondered, do I pay to put myself though this much pain?  I crossed back over to the north side of the lake.  The Volunteer at the corner recognized me and commented that I was on my final lap.  I laughed and agreed.  I thanked him for volunteering.  I managed to pick up the pace again, and the lack of stops was contributing to a faster pace.  I even managed to do some run 2/walk 1 minute cycles.  I was ready for this thing to be over.  As I climbed the lone hill one final time, an older triathlete commented that my Timex was beeping.  I told him that I was doing a run/walk cycle.  He asked me if I was doing 10/1, and I laughed.  I told him,  No, I am doing a run 1/walk 1 cycle.  He commented that that was a good technique, and I told him that it was good enough to bring me home.

The final rest stop on the north side of the lake was run by a local tri club.  It had an old West sheriff theme, and all the volunteers were dressed up as deputies, sheriffs, medical personal, and cops in skimpy clothes.  It was very well thought out.  Not to mention, the volunteers handing out the goods were just awesome.  One final trip over the Rural Road bridge and I’m heading west towards the finish line.  Spectators are still out encouraging the athletes, but the crowds are very thin now.

The Mill Avenue bridge passed over head as I woggled past transition and made it to the sign.  Instead of going straight now, I make a left towards the finish line.  Even at this late hour, the volunteers were wonderful.  We ran through the parking lot before making a right out onto the road.  For a minute, I’m like where the eff are they sending us?  Not another one of those races where they tease you with the finish line before having to run another half a mile.  Fortunately for me, I was worried about nothing.  At the next corner was the turn to the finish.

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I glanced over my should to see where the next athlete was.  He was about twenty yards back, and I was maintaining about the same distance from the guy in front of me.  I didn’t want to share this moment with anybody.  The glare of the lights was staggering.  The crowd was large and enthusiastic, in sharp contrast to the finish line crowd at Ironman Florida.  I wanted to savor this moment.  There was no mad dash for the finish line.  This Ironman was different.  It was special, in a different kind of way.  I raised my hands to encourage the cheering.  I framed the “Livestrong” on my chest and pumped my first.  I blew the crowd some kisses to thank them for being there.  As I jogged down the chute, I low fived the kids waiting there with their hands outstretched.  I saw Karen’s smiling face in the crowd and I waved.  As I crossed the finish line, I glanced up at the clock and the race photographer snapped my worst finish line photo ever.  LOL.  C’est la vie.

Again, unlike Florida, I was immediately grabbed by two finish line catchers, a man to my left, and woman to my right.  They kept a firm grip on my arms, and the man wrapped my shoulders in a space blanket as another volunteer hung the medal around my neck.  The woman asked what size shirt I wanted and grabbed it for me, and my hat.  After reassuring her that I was not going to keel over, she left me with the man.  He, too, was an Ironman (as was his wife).  As a matter of fact, he was a multi-Ironman, on his way to Cozumel this weekend.  How could Ironman Arizona get any cooler?

Well, let me tell you.  Unlike that other Ironman (I know, I’m totally dissing on Florida, but I loved that race too), they actually had HOT pizza for me to eat.  I grabbed my two slices of pizza, a water, and made my way to the family tent, where I was joined by Dee Dee, Lisa, Karen, Kelly, and the baby.  The family didn’t stay long.  They were tired, and they baby was ready to go to bed.  After saying our good byes, I rested while Karen and Lisa took my bike tickets and went to transition to get my equipment.  I felt absolutely spoiled.

Lisa asked me if I wanted her to bring the car around, and I said no.  I felt well enough to walk, and I did.  We made our way slowly back to the car.  After loading everything up, I hugged Karen and said good bye.  I wouldn’t be seeing her again.

I slept most of the way home to Lisa’s house. I was exhausted.  I barely had enough energy to shower and get into bed, everything pretty much hurt, but that just comes with the territory.  The highs, the lows, the pains, the successes, the EPIC fails, they are all part of the process that makes us Ironman.

If you believe, you can achieve, anything…


Joe said...

Wes, a wonderful account. The effort, the pain, the's all there. Mega congratulations.

Very cool how you captured the mental elements of all of this too. You managed your race well. The experience paid off.

So happy for you! Have a happy Thanksgiving!! And rest well!!


Darrell said...

Darn good recounting of the days event. Sounds like you had the time of your life. Congrats, Wes!

Enjoy your turkey day and all the trimmings. You've earned them. And, we have so much to be thankful for.

Bigun said...

Great race and report! You rocked it - it was fun to follow you!

Tea said...

I am so happy for you Wes. Excellent write up! I loved the comment "enough to bring me home". Hey, that might make a great t-shirt "fast enough to bring me home".

It was amazing the way you kept your head on straight (with a little help from Dee Dee)when you found the flat. Out there, the only thing we can control is our reaction, and once again you showed what a tremendous athlete you are.

Lisa said...

One of the best race reports ever, very engaging to read. Now I have the story behind those numbers that I kept looking up throughout the day.

I'm so happy for you. :-)

LBTEPA said...

Well done Wes and beautifully expressed as always :)

Jess said...

Congrats on a great race Wes! It sounds like you stayed true to your plan and had a great race. Rest well now and enjoy all the Thanksgiving fixings! You totally deserve it!

Hope you and the family have a great Thanksgiving!

Lily on the Road said...

WOW, what an awesome report Wes, and yes, again you've made me cry! I'm so proud of you!

Well done!!

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, give Dee Dee your Sherpa Supreme and hug for me !!!

Michelle said...

Awesome race, awesome race report. You are amazing!

Julie said...

Woo hoo!!! Way to go Wes!! This is one of the best race reports ever! You had so many fantastic pictures...I can't believe how many people were in the water!?! Wowzer! You did amazing and I am so proud of you:) You worked your butt off and it shows! I love how dedicated and loyal you are to your sport! Such an over achiever:)

Congrats on a freaking fantastic race Wes!! You are awesome my southern blogger friend:) BTW, you look great too!!!

Leana said...

Wes, congratulations on an amazing race! You trained so hard for this and it really paid off for you. Way to play it smart on the bike. Darn wind though!!!! Well done....time to rest up...and I hope you had a great Thanksgiving!

Perry said...

Great race report and congratulations on your excellent finish!

Gotta Run..Gotta Ride said...

I hung on every word while reading your race report. You did not leave anything out and I love it! Can only imagine that you have to get a little emotional writing this and then reading it? I know I did reading it.

Way to go IronWES!!!!!

Kim said...

i am so stinkin proud of you friend. the highlight of my day was seeing you out there and hugging it out! congrats wes! :) xoxo

Scott Keeps Running said...

Spectacular, Wes. Awesome.

My Life and Running said...

Got a little teary with that last line. Such an inspiration you are Wes. Congratulations Ironman!

Stuart said...

Great write up Wes, strategy created and executed!

You are an Ironman!

challenges2010 said...

Man I'm terribly late reading this but I'm so glad I did! Very inspiring. You give a great race report as always.

Congratulations on becoming a multiple Ironman!!