The Perfect Race Day: IM AZ 16
We always have a big team showing at Ironman Arizona, and 2016 was no different. From team dinners and group rides, to the brutality of a 3:30am wake up on race morning, there’s nowhere we’d rather be on a Sunday towards the end of November.
* The unofficial best dressed on the course, you’ve had a dedicated single focus leading into this race, how has this year and season been planned for success last Sunday?
Pete and I set out a great plan for 2016; a year for which I had big goals. We decided I would only do one full distance tri, and focus on shorter distances.
The year started not long after Kona 2015 as we like to perform well at Oceanside 70.3 in the beginning of the year. This made for a very long season, but I also started mountain biking quite a bit this year which was good for breaking the training up. Pete is also very good at programming (and advising) with a macrovision.
The year had some challenges (mechanical in Oceanside, my first DNF in St George, DNS in Augusta due to stomach virus), some successes (1stAG and 4th Overall at Honu, 70.3 PR at Worlds, and a couple smaller overall wins), but everything was a C race compared to Arizona. This gave the ups and downs of 2016 perspective, but also pressure once it’s time to deliver in Arizona.
I’m content with the result of Arizona, but I didn’t quite hit my targets. I learned some valuable lessons. I look forward to 2017 as I still see a lot of room for improvement
* Wow Eric, you passed me with a few hundred meters to go and were motoring, it looked like there was nothing that could stop you!! I know this year hasn’t been easy with a back injury and run leg issues and yet you came away with a massive PR, what’s suddenly clicked in these last weeks/months to allow you to put it all together?
In early November of 2015, as I was gearing up for Ironman Arizona I found out that my lower back pack pain was coming from a stress fracture that would keep me from racing. Some down time and physical therapy was supposed to take care of it, but 2016 began with me watching the race season pass by unable to participate.
It wasn’t until the end of summer that we confirmed the pain was coming from a herniated disc in my lower back. Knowing the cause of the pain was refreshing and developing a plan to possibly race in Ironman Arizona 2016 gave me some new life.
With very little base work this season, Pete stuck with me and developed a plan to help me go from basically zero to ironman in two months.
What I realized during my season of down time was that surprisingly I was less productive in the other parts of my life. I’m blessed with a wonderful family, job and awesome group of friends, but unable to train and race took a toll on me emotionally. The sideline helped me realize that I do love racing and I was eager to get it back in my life. When I finally began training in September, I was hungry for it. I longed for each and every workout. I cherished the fact that I was back and I had my eye on the prize, IM Arizona. I welcomed the fatigue and pain that comes with training.
The swim in Arizona went as planned. I was hoping to swim under an hour, but that just isn’t in the cards for me yet. What was different this year from the previous four Ironmans was that I wasn’t taxed after the swim. I could actually see straight, walk straight and talk as I sprinted through transition. That paid off on the bike. Although I didn’t put as much time training as I have in the past, my position on the bike and biking prosthetic were as dialed in as they had ever been. I knew I was going to have a strong bike after the first twenty miles. The CFC tent and cheering section was impossible to miss and gave me energy at the start of each lap. At about mile 90 of the bike, I began to feel a stomach cramp. With the easy tailwind section of the bike left, I took it down a notch to try and get my stomach ready for the run. I sat in transition frustrated because the cramping was full on now. With my run leg on and some nutrition strapped to me I took a glance at my watch to recognize that I would need to run close to a 3:30 marathon to reach the amputee record of 9:57. Knowing that was a long shot, I figured I could at least give it a try. After the first two painful miles, both well over the sub 8 minutes that I would need to hold, my race goal changed. Now I wanted to get through my stomach issues and finish the race strong. Ten miles of painful running was not what I was hoping for going in to the race. Finally, though my stomach pain began to relieve. As I started my second lap, things were turning around for me. I passed the CFC tent finally running and was approaching the bridge. I ran in to Pete after crossing the bridge I felt new life. My pace picked up and I began to attack the course. The next ten miles to the finish line went as I pictured it while building up to the race. With a mile left, I didn’t want to stop. I continued to increase my pace as I closed in on the finish line. As I crossed the finish line, I felt like I had won. A few months prior, I wasn’t sure if I would be healthy enough to race. Crossing the finish line in my personal best of 10:31 erased the frustration that I felt earlier in the season. I feel a renewed love for triathlon. It’s part of my life now and I’m going in to the offseason still hungry and eager.
* After missing cheering for you last year, this year I definitely tried to make up for it (donning our team kit helps tremendously!) and loved seeing three strong legs and even the occasional smile. What were some highs and lows of your day – and how much does your ‘next race in a speedo’ bet with long time friend Joey account for when you’d rather walk than run?
New PR by 4 minutes. First a big thanks to Pete for getting there after a rough road of work travel and injury that left us with little less then 8 weeks of quality training. The race support this year helped get me through since everyone recognized me. Sorry Katie and Pete for not acknowledging either of you in the final miles. At mile 20 my the pain in my legs became unbearable along with my energy beginning to crash but only coke and the thought of lapping my friend Joey who was a half a mile ahead kept me going. I heard you guys cheering me home but I had no extra energy to acknowledge. I had just one thought repeating in my head “just keep running, just keep running”
Oh yeah, I beat my friend again. Look for Wonder Woman coming to Ironman Oside 70.3 haha. He has to wear superhero costume
* I’ve mentioned this to you already but every time I saw you on the run you were focused and strong. Tell us about your day.
I loved the logistics of this race everything was close and easy to get to. The weather was perfect ready for a great IM. The swim went well felt strong coming out of the water got on the bike and started my first loop. It was so awesome seeing the CFC tent and our cheering crowd as I went by it gave me some extra energy. I knew 10 miles into the ride that something was not right my bike felt extremely uncomfortable and I did not have the power I was shooting for. Honestly the 112 miles was a death march from getting a drafting penalty, which I was really wasn’t (insult to injury). I kept telling myself hang in there and hopefully my legs will be there for the run.
I got off the bike could barley walk to transition changed my shoes and off I went. I was not sure how I was going to run the marathon but just put my head down and went. The run started out ok then about mile 4 legs and body were getting tired. I unfortunately had to take two emergency stops in the porta potty’s on the run which was not much fun. I stayed positive and told myself my legs will come around and they did around mile 18! I finished the marathon decently was not fast but at least I was passing people and I felt good.
The race was not my best but not my worst I learned a lot form he race and gained more confidence on my fitness. End of the day I am extremely fortunate to be able to race and have a family that understands what it takes to do this sport. There is nothing like running down the shoot for an IM no matter what your time.
My CFC family was incredible I can’t tell you how awesome it was to see you everyone on the run. Pete was everywhere he would just appear. I was so happy to see him on the last mile made me feel vey proud to be member of our awesome team.
* Sigh, the most photogenic girl in triathlon, and from what I’ve seen you’re going to hold firm to that title 🙂 This year you’ve moved and added a corporate job into the tri-life mix, yet still been able to build on your swim-bike strength for a 1:30 PR. How stoked were you to cross the finish line after that effort?
I was so thrilled to get to the finish still feeling good and still happy to be out there. This was the first race where there wasn’t a single time I was wishing I was somewhere else; I enjoyed the entire day. I had an awesome swim despite the murky water and never finding any fast feet to draft off, and had my usual reaction to finishing the swim: “Now it’s time to work”. I felt like I could have ridden another 50 miles on the bike. Maybe it was the energy I got coming past the CFC tent and seeing Katie bouncing like a kangaroo and screaming my name while Pete yelled encouragement; maybe it was nailing my nutrition plan and sticking to my power numbers – either way I felt better than I had in any day in training. The run is always hardest for me and IMAZ was no exception, but I ran my plan and beat my goal of a sub-5:00 marathon with 17 seconds to spare. Seeing my CFC crew and other friends throughout the day kept me smiling. Having everyone cheering at the finish capped off an incredible day. Add to that beating my goal time by 35 minutes and PRing by 1:30, and it added up to a fantastic day. I did what I set out to do this season: I stayed injury free, had fun through all of the training and never burned out, and accomplished my goals. Awesome end to an amazing year. I can’t wait for the 2017 season!
* We had pegged some pretty aggressive goals on Mike’s swim for this year and not only did he hit that but he backed it up with a solid bike and run giving him a nearly 1:30 overall PR from last year.
* Our serial Ironman Arizona participant – did you already sign up for next year? Lenny always lets us know his thoughts as he’s riding by. This year it was, ‘I love this sh*t’. How pumped are you to see friends and team mates out on the course?
What a fun race! I just finished my 3rd straight Ironman Arizona and it did not disappoint yet again. The last two years the weather was up and down, and finally this year we got some fair weather – it was around 70-80 and overcast pretty much all day, perfect race conditions. My favorite part of the race is getting to the turnaround of the first loop on the bike and flying back into town with some downhill help! This year was probably the most fun yet, I felt like I was going 28-30 mph for like 7-8 miles, sooo fun! I always try to look for friends and teammates racing, it’s great to see the friendly faces! It’s really great to see the CFC tent and all our friends and coaches supporting the racers, cant miss it right after finishing the first loop back in town, another one of my favorite parts of the race, it just feel like a party in town. IMAZ is a great spectator-friendly course with 3 loops on the bike so we have plenty of chances to see fellow racers and friends out there spectating and supporting us. Also plenty of time for faster riders to put in some more time on the slower swimmers, haha, I got lapped by two much faster teammates this year – Jon and Aaron – who came blowing by and I was happy to see them crushing it. Gave me a little chuckle that they were able to lap me by a full lap on the bike! The run is also very spectator-friendly with tons of support not only from friends, but from all other people in the crowd. Really fun to run by the river and have all the tents lined up and people cheering on both sides for a good mile or two. It brings me up so much to have that support and cheers, really really fun! It makes you feel like you can run faster and it always takes me some discipline to not get too excited, to keep my pace in check and not to try to go too fast during these sections. The best feeling ever is running through the finishers chute at an Ironman! So many smiling faces, so many cheers, and the day just finally comes together for one final moment of feeling soooo good and soooo happy with accomplishing our goal! After a loooong day, it’s always great seeing Pete, Katie, Amber, and all my faster friends at the Finish line!! Great day, can’t wait for the next one!!!
* Between us we have a pretty epic handle on this race, I reckon. Pacing the pavement nervously while they’re in the water and waiting for them to make the first half mile on the bike to get by our CFC and Bont Cycling tents; the splits and lap counting for 180km and then the divide and conquer approach on the run course: I’ll take the top end, you manage the back section. And we text. Text and text and text and text until all the chickens are safely back in the roost. I wouldn’t wanna do this with anyone else. Please confirm:
I would have to say its one of my best day in Triathlon I have had. KT and I made a great team on race day along with our other support staff. AZ is a perfect race for coaching and being able get to the athlete multiple times during the race. I sure did clock up a few miles on the bike.
I’m so very proud of our athletes. Everyone has their own story with their life and with their sport that they had to overcome and they all got through tough times and excelled. I’m honored to have them on this journey. They are all family to me and consider them all great friends.
Till next year