This report has been submitted by Racergirl Nicole who had a fantastic day in Tempe – Melanie
Last week I kicked off another race season at Ironman Arizona. I have to admit, despite all of the long hours in the saddle, countless early morning runs, staring at a lonely black line at the bottom of the pool with glazed eyes, all of the little aches, pains, and a bit of mental anguish, it was all worth the 10 hours and 37 minutes I left on the race course in Tempe, Arizona. I can walk away from this race and say that in the close to 9 years of racing triathlon I had one of the best race experiences of my career. There were a number of reasons for this, the first being sticking to a finely executed race plan worked out with Coach Lynda, second remaining in the moment throughout each discipline, and finely having my close friend and number one kickin’ wing training partner Neily and her hubby Peter Clode (a Kiwi turned American pro triathlete) along for the experience.
Race morning I woke up at 3:30 AM to both Neily and Peter’s demise. At one point Peter remarked that I had it all wrong and that “people come home around 3:30, they do not get up to start the day”. Okay, so maybe he was correct, but we had a race start time of 6:45 AM and I still had to make killer coffee, eat breakfast, put on my snazzy new Fleet Feet race kit, and organize one last time for the adventure that was ahead. Surprisingly we made it out the door of our cozy retreat at the Holiday Inn with plenty time to spare prior to the race start. The minutes passed rather quickly and suddenly the next thing I knew Peter and I were zipping up our wetsuits and heading for the dock ready to make the plunge into the algae saturated waters of Tempe Towne Lake…..
Fortunately for the pro athletes, the 6:45 AM start coincided with the sun rising and shining straight into our eyes. At the start, it was quite difficult to decipher exactly where the swim course buoys were located, as each time I gazed upon the horizon I was blinded. My plan was to simply stick to the heels of the swimmers in front of me for guidance and a bit of a draft. The gun fired and off we went. I quickly found myself on the feet of a number of athletes and by about the 1K mark about 5 of us were off the back of the front pack and had formed a group of our own. I was feeling okay, more comfortable than anything, as I kept reminding myself that I had close to a mile and a half to go until the exit. At the turn around 3 of the 5 of us had broken away and were taking turns pulling one another along. All was well until about 500 meters from the final buoy when all of a sudden all 3 of us started gunning for the non-OSHA approved metal stairs that led to the swim exit. I safety maneuvered up the steps and looked towards the clock to see…59:24. A bit slower than what I had in mind, but I had beat my swim time from the year prior, so I anxiously moved forward to let the rest of the day unfold.
I had a speedy transition thanks to the number of volunteers who helped me gather my helmet, snazzy new pink Zeal Optics sunglasses, spare tubes and CO2 cartridges and most importantly handed off me my trusty Aegis Trident for the 112 mile cycling adventure. The bike course consisted of 3 out/and back loops through the city of Tempe and Mesa. At times it was quite desolate, particularly out on the Beeline Highway which was littered with nothing but cactus, dry weeds, and a few animal carcasses. The good news is that the conditions were not nearly as windy as last year, but the bad news is that the temperatures were rising into the mid 90’s and it was merely mid-morning. I stuck to my race nutrition plan and ate my Fig Newtons and Clif Blocks and drank my special concoction of Gatorade Endurance, Carbo Pro and Succeed tabs every chance I could. I also ended up grabbing water at each aid station and dousing myself in hopes to remain cool in light of the heat rising off of the pavement and feeling that I was merely 10 feet from the sun. Just as planned, each loop of the course I pushed just a little harder and remained steady while keeping a close eye on both my heart rate and perceived effort level. With such a flat and fast course it is easy to just “hammer away” and then have absolutely nothing left for the run to only become an Ironman casualty during the marathon. I rolled back into the transition area just over 5 hours and 30 minutes and gladly handed over my bike to a smiling volunteer. I was quite relieved to have the bike course under my belt and to have escaped without any mechanical issues other than the biomechanical issue of my low back being a bit grouchy from riding in “aero position” for over 5 hours.
Once my bike was whisked away I ran willingly into the women’s changing tent to get ready for the marathon. A few other women pros who had entered the tent before me were contemplating heading out on the run course. There was no question in my mind whether or not I was going to run; I was ready to see what my body had in store for me during the next 26.2 miles. I laced up my new Asics DS Trainers and let the volunteer slather sunscreen (which was more like clown makeup and really does not look sexy in photos) on my legs and back while I put on my visor and glasses. I downed a few more Succeed tablets and off I went….
The first loop of the run course I felt rather smooth and controlled and found my rhythm easily as I ran from the bike path, to the sidewalk, to the pavement, to the rocky trails. The second loop of the run was not quite as fun for me, as around mile 12 I began to get rather grumpy. The good news is that I never stopped running; the bad news is that I had stopped smiling and was thinking about how I was now doing a “modified shuffle”. I also passed Neily on my way to the third loop and heard her say, “hang in there”, which when translated, meant that I really looked a wounded mare ready for the pasture. My stomach was also on the cusp of going south, so I decided to stop eating the Clif Blocks. As if someone had forced a happy pill down my throat, mysteriously at mile 18 I caught my second wind. This change of attitude may have something to do with the fact that I was now drinking Coke (Viva caffeine and sugar!) at each aid station along with water and thinking about being one step closer to the finish line. I just continued to move forward. At mile 24 I caught site of another pro woman up ahead, subsequently she was walking. I pretty much ran by her and next thing I know she was on my shoulder challenging me. I ignored her, chuckled to myself, and went on my merry way and by the time I hit the last uphill she was no longer on my heels. The clock at the top of the bridge about a half mile from the finish read 10:33…..this was the first time I had even glanced at my overall time. At that point I knew I was going to have an Ironman distance PR and have quite a good finish for the day.
I crossed the line in 10 hours 37 minutes which placed me as the 11th pro woman. I owe huge thanks to Lynda (www.lwcoaching.com) for guiding me through this once again, to Scott White at Fleet Feet Laguna Niguel for all my needs when it comes to running and racing apparel, Gino at A.R.T. Therapy, Troy Cunardi at Zeal Optics, Neily and Peter (who also finished in 9:33), Kerry B. for all of her “WOO HOOs” along the way, Rick Laird for helping me hobble back to the Jeep, and finally all of my friends, Hornets (you know who you are), and family for all of the positive thoughts and constant support!