This sign – held by a woman at mile 10-ish of the marathon – sums up my IRONMAN Arizona. I fought so damn hard all day long, but punching that second trip to Kona just wasn’t meant to be this past Sunday. Was there a smidge of disappointment? Of course. But, there were plenty of lessons learned, and it was a solid day building some serious mental fitness. Onward to the offseason – of dreaming and scheming!
Swim // 1:09:15
Overall, the swim wasn’t that pleasant – or, perhaps I’m biased coming off Kona’s clear turquoise water!
I skipped Saturday’s practice swim because I didn’t want to know what I was jumping into: a dark, icy “lake” (who knew, this being Arizona and all!). The second my feet hit the bottom step into Tempe Town Lake Sunday morning… zing! It didn’t quite take my breath away, but, wow, it was freezing. I didn’t warm up until about 400 yards in and that was only because I peed in my wetsuit.
We started in the dark – at 6:50a – so sighting was hard until the sun came up, and even then, it still wasn’t great. My plan was to swim near the wall (on the right) until the bend, but because I couldn’t tell where I was, I ended up swimming just inside the buoys (with clear water) nearly the entire 2.4 miles.
I never really felt like I found a groove and instead focused on a getting to the next buoy… and the next… and the next… until I finally reached the final turn buoy. The choppy back stretch felt long – am I even moving forward?! – so I knew I wasn’t setting any PRs, even in a wetsuit. Maybe I need to stick to salty ocean swims?!
Bike // 5:12:36
My bike strategy was to tuck into aero and fly on the Beeline. I felt great at the get-go, and I made sure to keep drinking as I made my way out to the first turn around, straight into the wind. OK, I can handle this, especially after Kona, I thought. After I flipped, I realized just how strong the wind was because the descent back into Tempe was stupid fast. Like barely pushing 150w and going 35mph fast. I’m a descender – my favorite! – so used it to my advantage and hammered the pedals.
The wind started to wear on me about halfway through the second loop. I watched my power slowly start to fall, and no matter how many times I told my legs to move, they just wouldn’t hold the watts my brain was telling them to. Nevertheless, I kept fighting and moving forward toward the turnaround as fast as I could, ready to make up more time on the screaming descent. (Highlight of the second loop: Seeing friend Krista and her two pups – one a baby vizsla! – at the turnaround!)
After some cheers from my tribe at the Rio Salado + Mill turnaround in town – THANK YOU for being everywhere on the course when I least expected it and needed it the most! – I gave myself a little pep talk to gear up for the third loop. Last one… keep Emily in view… you’ll be done in less than two hours… think of the reward, that descent, at the end!… you can do this… you don’t get to give up!
The last out was tough, and about halfway through, Emily took off, and I knew she’d crush the rest of the race (she later took the overall amateur win… boom!). I fought hard, got out of aero probably more than I should have and just kept hammering as best I could to try reach my bike time goal. At mile 100, I knew it would be close, so I hit it as hard as I could through the final turns through town (and felt oddly discombobulated). I rolled into T2 two minutes shy of my goal, but pretty freaking pumped to have biked a 5:12 – the fifth fastest in my AG! To be honest, I haven’t been super happy with my cycling the last few months – it’s just felt flat – so this was a big confidence boost that yes, it’s there and that if I would have held my target watts…! Still lots of work to do, though :)
That said, I’m not a fan of this bike course. It’s flat and boring, and there’s too much drafting. Lesson learned: Pick a course that plays to my strengths (climbing FTW!).
Run // 3:50:18
As soon as I got off the bike, I knew the run would be tough. As I tried to lift my right leg over my bike saddle, a searing pain shot through my groin – something that’s never happened after biking (later found out my seat was too low, so guessing that’s the culprit). I hoped it was just tight from being in aero for so long, so I tried to walk it off into the change tent. I sat, caught my breath and got my bearings (I was kinda dizzy) before hobbling out to run. After a mile or so, it loosened up a bit, and to my surprise, holding 8:40s felt doable. A quick stop in the porta-potty at mile two – the Coeur one-piece was an easy on + off! – and I was on my way to see what I could hold for the next 24.
Overall, I never really felt good the entire run – but then again, does anyone ever feel great during an IM marathon? I dug deeper than I ever have and fought hard for every single mile. There were tears several times and more than once I thought about how nice it would have been to just walk and how much better I’d feel physically post-race if I did.
But, that’s not me.
After a particularly low point around mile 16 when Nick walked with me for a short stretch, I put on my big girl pants, sucked it up and started running. Yes, it hurt like hell (especially my right hip + left quad), and I wanted to be done. But, I also wanted to give my best – because giving anything less isn’t me. With two miles to go, Coeur teammate Amy slapped my ass and told me to hustle and catch Robin. So, in true erin fashion, I dropped the pace and ran my fastest two miles of the day. I fought ‘til the end, but came up a minute short of fourth and 2.5 minutes from Robin in third. (If only I’d had one more mile or picked up the pace a smidge earlier… I know for sure I could have caught both of them.)
Getting a pep talk from Coeur teammate, Amy.
I’m trying not to think of the what-ifs because that gets you nowhere, but they’re still there. Could I have found feet on the swim? Were there more watts in my legs? Could I have dug deeper earlier in the marathon? In the middle – and the end – of the marathon? All likely answered with yes, but it’s over and done, and I’m ok with my race – especially six short weeks after Kona.
Any day on an IM podium – especially with my Coeur Sports teammates – is a good day.
But first, a much needed and well deserved off-season…
35-39 AG podium!
Coeur teammates and speedy ladies, Kristin and Hailey.
Recovering with an açai bowl (obviously) and still dreaming of Kona…
Gear: Coeur Sports one-piece kit + little black sports bra, HOKA One One Clifton 2s + Kona trucker hat, and Feetures no show tab socks.
Official time: a shiny new PR of 10:19:01!
First, thank you, body, for powering me through a long year (on a TrainingPeaks schedule since last November 1!) healthy and happy!
And, I’m a lucky lady to have such incredible people in my corner – you all know who you are – and I have so much gratitude for everything they’ve done to support me on this journey. High-fives and hugs to you all ♥
My number one ♥ He gets all the photo credit, too!
Coach Andy and friends Nick + Danielle hard at work figuring out AG placement with a time trial start. That may have been more work than actually racing!