I used Be Iron Fit by Don Fink to train for this race. I used the competitive 30 training program he outlines.
I fuel with Infinit Nutrition on the bike and Hammer Endurolyes and Gels on the run.
Always looking to save some cash, I sent my bike with a friend of my aunt who was driving to AZ for the race. We agreed on half the price of Tri Bike Transport for the round trip, but I had to be without my bike for the last week of training. No big deal, it gave me a chance to get back on the road bike again.
The flight was fun, I sat across the aisle from a guy who is nationally ranked in the 40-44 Age Group in short course and raced for Team USA at Worlds this year (Bruce from Chicago). This was to be his first full IM as well. We started talking pace and figured we should be right about the same throughout the race – I’m a bit stronger swimmer, he’s a bit stronger biker, seemed like we’d be about the same on the run.
My race goal was to beat the sun – to cross the finish line before sunset which meant a 10:30 race goal.
I arrived in Phoenix around noon, with plenty of time to do registration and look through the Ironman store and try not to buy too much. My bike was supposed to arrive around 2. As 4:00 approached I was getting nervous, several phone calls were placed to my bike sherpa, he assured me it was coming. We made the handoff and I thanked him and made plans for how to get it back to Illinois. The bike was pretty dirty from cross-country travel, which meant I’d need to find sometime to clean it up. I was starting to question my decision to save a few bucks.
My wife flew out late Friday night after I had done race registration, the Ironman welcome dinner and race info meeting. We made the 25 minute drive to my cousin’s place Southeast of Tempe, where we’d be staying for the next few days. I was in bed much later than I wanted to be, around 11:30PM.
Slept in as late as possible, about 7AM for me with the time difference. After a cup of coffee, a bagel and the morning pit stop; we packed up my wetsuit, bike equipment, running gear, etc and headed to Tempe Beach Park for the practice swim.
Shortly after arriving I realized I had left my gear bags back at the house. This was new for me and I still wasn’t quite together mentally for the race. My cousin and wife headed back to grab them while I got my practice swim/bike/run in.
The water was 64º so booties were allowed. Wetsuit, neoprene cap and booties on, I jumped into the water. Not as shocking as I expected it to be, but definitely chilly. I saw a women who had to be in her 50s jump in with no wetsuit, my manhood shrunk a bit. I took the booties off after a bit and decided to go without them for the race. I wasn’t a fan of how my kick felt with them on. The neoprene cap would stay though. I exited the water after 20 minutes and immediately had a headache from the cold water.
After stripping the wetsuit, I hopped on the bike for a quick 15 minute easy ride. The main goal was to make sure it’s cross country journey hadn’t caused any problems. Everything was in working order and it always feels so much faster than my roadie.
An easy 2 mile run wrapped up the time at Tempe Park Beach. I had finally started to feel mentally on my game and ready to race.
Gear bags arrived shortly after I finished up and I went ahead and checked in my bike and bags.
I ate my pre-race ritual dinner (whole wheat pasta with tomatoes, mushrooms and vodka sauce, spinach salad with strawberries and walnuts and garlic bread).
4AM Wake-up, downed about 800 calories (bagel with almond butter plus a honey stinger waffle, Espresso hammer gel and a cup of coffee). Morning pit stop number 1.
5AM Arrived at transition, dropped off special needs, morning clothes and did Morning pit stop number 2.
6AM Got in wetsuit, talked with my wife and cousin for awhile and met some really talkative 4 & 5 year olds who were there to cheer on their dad. High fives from the little kids, kiss from my wife, good game from my cousin and I was off for Morning pit stop number 3.
6:45AM they pushed us into the water.
Never having done a mass swim start of this size, I estimated too conservatively and placed myself too far back from the front of the pack. This meant I was climbing over people for the entire swim, sucked in a lot of water, even got kicked in the groin by a woman, punched a guy in the back of the head on accident – the usual open water swim stuff. About halfway through the swim my right had felt numb from the cold. My left soon followed. Sighting wasn’t too difficult but was incredibly necessary as I couldn’t see my hand out in front of me each stroke. I exited the water about 5 minutes off pace from where I thought I should be but still happy with it.
I had to pee, but figured I’d do so on the bike to save time.
My hands were still numb, but at least I didn’t have a headache like I did after the practice swim. Trying to use my hands, which seemed more like claws at this point, proved to be too difficult. I got my socks and shoes on and the volunteer helping me put my arm coolers, helmet, and race number belt on as well as started my garmin for me. It felt like forever and later proved to be true.
The bike course is a 3 loop out and back. It’s known to be fast, but with a bit of a climb before the turnaround point. The wind was forecasted to be about 3-5 MPH out of the East. It was more like 10 MPH. A few miles into the bike I was passed by my buddy from the plane (Bruce from Chicago). We said hello and leap frogged each other for most of the next 10 miles when a pack started to form. I dropped back to stay out of the pack and clear of any drafting violations. This would continue to be a fight all day as I would usually overtake the pack on the flats and get passed on the climb.
After the turnaround on loop one the wind was to my back and I hit 38MPH coming down the first descent. The wind would shift for loops 2 and 3 and be out of the West, making the climb up the Beeline a little easier, but robbing me of the speeds I saw on the descent the first loop.
At about mile 75 of the bike my stomach started bothering me, I had to sit up out of the aero bars to get it to calm down. I realized about that time that I had been drinking my second bottle of Infinit a little too fast and was heavy on calories, resulting in the gassy, blotted feeling I was fighting. 15 minutes later I was back on track with my nutrition and my stomach was good again.
I grabbed my special needs bag – a12ounce bottle of flat coke and some hostess chocolate chip mini muffins (a typical treat for me during long bike rides) and ate all that as I continued moving.
At about mile 104 a motorcycle pulled up next to me. All I could think was “Crap! I wasn’t drafting what is this guy going to hit me with?”
Official: “Nicholas, are you on lap 2 or 3?”
Me: “I’m on lap 3.”
Official: “You don’t want a 4 minute penalty at the end do you?”
Me: “No sir.”
Official: “Then DROP BACK FURTHER!”
Apparently he estimated me at 3 bike lengths, not 4 behind the guy in front of me. It gave me a good scare. Two folks behind me passed afterward to ask if I had gotten flagged for drafting, I said no but that I was sassed a bit. They said it sure didn’t look like drafting to them.
Despite several attempts I couldn’t pee while on the bike. I had many times during training, but I think the crowds gave me stage fright.
Since I had needed to pee for close to 6 hours at that point I went straight to the port-o-potty after grabbing my run bag. A camera guy sat and talked with/filmed me as I put on my running shoes, visor and race belt. I was feeling pretty strong and looking forward to the run since that’s my strength and where I usually can do some clean-up work. I told him essentially that.
I put my first 1.5 miles in at a 7:30 pace, which felt alright but I was worried about holding that for the full marathon. I backed it off to an 8:19 pace which felt much more comfortable and realistic to hold for the next 20+ miles given the warmer temperatures. 15 minutes into the run I took 2 Endurolytes and then every hour after that I took two more. Every half hour I took 1 Hammer Gel. I walked through those aid stations, but otherwise ran through the rest, only grabbing new sponges or a cup of water to sip and one to dump.
The run course is also 3 loops. It’s mostly flat with one hill around mile 6. At about mile 5.5 of my first loop this mountain bike escorting a pro passed me. I later found out it was T.J. Tollakson shortly after he had made his move into 3rd overall in the race. I saw several other pros out on the run and had a short conversation with the guy that ended up 30th overall.
My wife and cousin were moving all over the run course cheering for me, which was huge boast. Because of the course layout they must have seen me 8 or 9 times.
On loop 2 I saw a women dressed as a dominatrix clubbing guys that were walking. That also added motivation to run.
With about 1 mile to the finish 3 guys passed me, 2 of which I saw were in my age group. I kept them within sight and waited to make my move, knowing I still had enough to pick it up if I didn’t start too early. I made the turn off the run course to enter a 1/4 mile stretch before the finish line chute and let loose. My last I/2 mile I passed all 3 of those guys with some room to spare running a 6:15 pace. I crossed the finish line yelling and elated to here Mike Reilly say “You are an Ironman!”
The catchers did their job, I wasn’t in danger of collapse but I definitely needed help navigating. I got my medal, shirt and hat. Hugged and kissed my wife across the barriers, signed up for a massage and started drinking and eating. The sun had gone down by the time I was drinking my chocolate milk and I began to shiver and shake uncontrollably and then started breathing really shallow and quickly, a volunteer brought me to medical where they put blankets over me and kept offering me warm chicken soup – the problem is I’m a vegetarian so I turned down the hot liquid. Eventually I warmed up. In hindsight it was probably due to how quickly it cools off when the sun drops, combined with me being wet from cooling myself with water all through the run, not having much clothing on, etc. Whatever the cause it was a bit scary. I’ve never ended up in medical during or post race. So it was another first for the day for me.
Age Group – M30-34
Age Group rank – 27
Overall rank – 215