After a rough go at the Ironman World Championships, Jacqui and I weren't ready to end the year. We talked about racing once more before the year end because we felt that sickness got the best of us and we really wanted all the hard work/training that we put in to be put to better use. Not to mention, we both love to race, travel, and go to new places. We searched to see what options we had and came down to 3: Florida, Arizona, or Cozumel.
Cozumel was the first to toss out. We had done the race two times before and wanted something new. Yes, it is our favorite race, but the other two options seemed better. Florida may have been the top choice, but it was really close post Kona so there was a little bit of the unknown. We both leaned towards Florida though as:
1) I would be able to drive there making travel with the bikes easy
2) it was an amateur only race which meant that if we both raced well, there could be a tiny chance that one or both of us could be an Ironman champion.
The only downside: I was still sick post Kona. I had gone to the doctor after not getting better 10 days post Kona. They said that I had severe sinus/ear and upper respiratory infections. I had trouble breathing while attempting to do any training- so Florida was bagged and it was down to Arizona. Arizona had a ton of positives: 1) flights were CHEAP! I booked mine round trip for $125. 2) We had a free place to stay with one of my dad’s friends from growing up that was 20 mins away from the race site. 3) It gave me a few extra weeks to try and get healthy / recovered. 4) Arizona had raving reviews, so it was exciting to go to a new race venue and check it out!
Shortly after making the decision to race, Jacqui and I decided that we didn’t really want to talk about or tell anyone that we were going to race Arizona. Sometimes, there is just added pressure with all eyes on you. We thought it would be fun to go into a race under the radar and stress free with no expectations or big goals. Just go race to our potential and do what we love to do.
Leading into the race, it was good and it was bad. I still battled sinus problems and had daily congestion. Disclaimer for grossness, but here is a photo of what I dealt with each day.
Race week- I flew out solo on Wednesday for the Sunday race. I got in Wednesday evening and was able to get pretty settled. I took the Wednesday flight since it was the cheapest option and also allowed me to adjust in case my head got clogged from the flight. Sure enough, I was dealing with the thick green stuff and was pretty filled in the head upon arriving. I struggled on my first run on Thursday and took some medicine to try and break it up to hopefully clear me out before the Sunday race.
Saturday I started to come around again. Jacqui had arrived the night before and we were able to get our pre-race workouts together. It was much easier to breathe even though I was still blowing my nose every few minutes. I was excited/nervous to give racing one more big go in the 2017 year!
Crisis adverted as I changed Jacqui’s tube and put in a new one. But it instantly left us both a bit worried that we could be getting some flats during the race. After finalizing our gear and bags, it was off to line up at the swim start.
Jumping into the water, I didn’t feel so bad. It didn’t seem to shock me or feel that cold. I was even swimming smooth and strong right from the start. I’m not sure if I started too far back though as I was immediately passing quite a few people. As always, the swim felt like it was taking forever to get to the far turn around buoy- the course itself was very simple: swim straight down, make two quick left hand turns, and then swim straight back down. The only thing was that the ‘canal’ was not exactly straight. I had a slight curve to it, so if you swam along the side wall, you might swim further.
After I got to the far turn around and started to head back, I started to feel cold and losing energy. I also wasn't thinking clearly anymore as I started to veer off to the side all by myself and was close to the side wall. Before I knew it, nobody was around me and I was no place near the swim buoys. How did that happen??? I think that I was more concerned about how I couldn’t feel my arms anymore and stopped paying any attention to what direction I was swimming in. I really struggled to find any rhythm felt like getting back to land was taking entirely too long. Sure enough, when I popped out of the water, I saw one of my slowest swims to date- 1:02. I was really disappointed, but knew that Ironman was a long day and I could still salvage a good race if I had a good bike and run.
After I made it to the far turn around, I immediately felt the tailwind. Wow- the way back was going to be awesome! And it sure was. What was 17-19mph turned into anywhere between 30-38 mph. I was running out of gears and had to spin pretty quickly just to keep the power up. I made it back to town in 34 minutes. That same trip when first going out took me 56 minutes! This put me at 1hr 30 minutes to finish one loop, and I got pretty excited to see that if I kept it up I would ride in the 4.5 hr range.
Lap 2. I still was riding along with good power and spirits were high. I could tell I was making my way up in the standings and nearing the front of the age group race. But then the congestion set in. I started to blow my nose every few minutes and the big green globs were back. The sleeves on my kit were covered in the thick mucous, but I needed to keep getting as much of it out as I could. My body was still fighting the infection going on in my head, but I was feeling ok enough to keep fighting and pressing on. It was also during lap two that I had something crazy happen. As I was making the pass on a female rider that was on her first lap, she suddenly veered right into me for no reason and almost took me out. I figured it was because a gust of wind caught her and pushed her over. Nope. As I looked back, she was in her aerobars texting on her cell phone! I had never seen such a thing during a race and immediately screamed at her to put that away and watch where she was riding. What has gotten into people?!
In that first mile, I concentrated on trying to find some sort of rhythm, but couldn’t until I was finally able to relieve myself. Once done with that, my pace immediately improved. Through the first mile in 6:47 and then mile 2 in 6:30. Things were coming around! Mile 3- 6:15! I continued to move through the miles and the pace was holding consistently. I started to settle right in the 6:30-6:40 range and figured even with a small drop off I would be able to be sub 3 hours.
Around mile 8, the course took us up a small hill…and thats when the body started to shut down again. It wasn’t as immediate as in the past, but my stride was gone, and I wanted to be done. I also was noticing that I couldn’t get enough fluids in. The dry air was making it seem like I could never ‘quench’ my thirst. I knew that the second loop of the run was going to be quite a struggle because even before I started it, my pace had dropped into the mid 7s and it was extremely uncomfortable.
When I finished, the only thing that I thought was, “my body needs a break.” After racing quite hard year after year as well as finishing my 7th Ironman in the last 2 years, I realized that I had asked quite a lot of my body. A break was needed as I was run down. But to put it into perspective, an 8hour 59 min Ironman finish on a run down body is pretty good :)
I do know that I am looking forward to some time to let my body heal and recover and eat more fruit snacks / candy that my body can handle (oh wait, I already do that). I also know that it has been an incredible string of years full of memories (some more painful that I’d like to forget!). I couldn’t be more grateful for my family, friends, sponsors, and of course incredible wife for all of the support not only this year, but ever since I began this crazy journey of endurance sports.
Here’s to some time spent in the offseason!