Ironman Arizona 2019
Total time 11:27
Swim 1:20; Bike 5:50; Run 4:06
Transitions: swim to bike 7:20 (0.4 min run) and bike to run 3:27
18th in AG, 70th female and 379th overall
Arizona Ironman was my 3rd full Ironman race. My raced my first Ironman in 2017 in Madison, Wisconsin. My second Ironman was in Louisville, Kentucky in 2018 (the swim was cut short due to strong current in Ohio River). I completed Madison in 12:38, and with a short swim in Louisville my time was 11:03, I think that with a full distance swim, I probably would have finished around 12:10. At Arizona I shaved 1 and 10 min from my debut Ironman and about 45 min from my second Ironman.
I like to look back at the training and see what I have worked, what did not and what I will adapt moving forward into my next training cycle and racing.
What was new this year:
- Training by an an Ironman training Plan. Training by the Ironman plan, that was written with an Ironman in mind. I purchased a planon the Training Peaks by Heather Casey from Peaks State Fit. LOVED IT and recommend checking it out if you dont have a coach and in the market for an Ironman plan.
- A month before Iroman I swam all long swims in a wetsuit (in the pool) to strengthen shoulders. I found myself being very tired after the wetstuit swims. After a month of swimming in the wetsuit regularly, I felt less exhausted and ready for the bike.
-A new nutrition plan, more on that later.
- I did not run a marathon as a prep for the race.
- Raced Half-Iroman distance 2 weeks out. 50 min PR from last year half.
- Indoor bike trainer. One of the best decisions that I made off season. Training for an ronman in the Mid-West in November when you still need to get 5-6 hours bike rides is on a borderline of impossible.
- Shoulder strength exercises before the swims.
- Found joy in swimming and biking.
Improvements to what worked last year:
- More biking. Bike represented 50+% of my weekly volume, I only had 3 runs a week and most of them where off the bike. When I trained for my first Ironman, I trained like a marathoner who added biking and swimming. When training for Louisville, I added more bike and cut some runs. But I still was run heavy.
- I did more strength workouts, which included 10-15 min workout before each swim to work on shoulder strength and pull.
- Regular off the bike runs - bricks. I barely had any stand alone runs, most of the runs were off the bike.
- Limited racing during the race specific training in the last 3 months of the training.
- Biked and swam during off season to work on technique.
What I have stopped doing:
- Thinking like a marathoner who trains for triathlon. Think bike first.
- Stressing about workouts and weather ( having trainer at home reduced weather related stress considerable).
- Relying on other people's availability and paces. Training by my own pace and putting our my own plans out and offering to join me and follow my plan, vs other way around.
Pre-race: Friday and Saturday.
Ironman weekend starts on Friday.
Friday is packet pick-up day. Saturday is bike check-in and Sunday is a race day. I jumped on a 6 am flight from Chicago to Phoenix, to make sure that I had time to check-in, get a short workout in and drive the bike course before it gets dark.
Weather was beautiful. We lucked out with the weather. Earlier that week, it rained for 4 days, when we got their, the weather was absolutely gorgeous 65F and water was 63F on Sunday.
I flew with my bike, paying $75 each way on Southwest. No issues. It is something new for me, flying with the bike, but I did it twice this year and it worked great and definitively more economical. Yes, there are drawbacks, like making sure I put it back correctly and in time for the check in, and of course we all heard the stories of a lost or a damaged bike. 24 weeks of training, thousands of dollars paid and the bike replacement cost, it would be devastating if the bike did not arrive or arrived damaged. I was very happy to see my bike box at the oversize baggage pick up.
Got to the venue, attended the athletes' briefing, picked up the packet, assembled the bike was ready to complete the short workout.
6 miles on a bike and 2 mile run off the bike. The venue is beautiful, views are great. Seeing athletes getting their last workouts in was exciting and motivating. Bike felt good, run did not feel easy, but I knew that late packing, early flight ect made me tired, so I was not concerned. But I definitely have noticed low humidity. I am used to high humidity, low humidity made me thirsty and my sweat rate was different, I barely was sweating. That made me worried, as I did not know how to adjust to that and how it will manifest itself during the race.
After the session on the course it was time to drive the bike course. It is a great course, with just a few turns. We did not notice an incline when driving ( definitely noticed during the race, especially on the 3rd loop). The bike course was easy and very straight forward. We grabbed an early dinner and decided to get a short swim in. Thankfully the Ironman has arrange an access to the local pools for the competing athletes. We had to wait till the start of the an open swim (7 pm) at the Arizona University pool. To my surprise it was an open pool. I was worried it will be cold, but it was beautiful and definitely has added to the overall experience. 30 min swim was what I needed to stretch and get a feel for swimming in the low humidity.
No surprise that I was exhausted and slept like a baby. Next morning,I got up early to make sure that I don't sleep in. When I sleep in, it makes going to bed on time the night before the race difficult. I packed my Run and Bike bags. Checked my bike and prepped it for the check in.
Day started with an open swim. It was "balmy" 64F. Definitely wetsuit legal. The open swim was scheduled for 10 am, which is 3 hours later than when the race would start the following day. I decided to swim without neoprene booties and see how it felt. When I first jumped in, I felt as cold water was getting inside of the wetsuit and it took my breath away. My forehead, feet and hands were cold. After about 10 min in water and moving, I started to feel better and not as cold. At the end of 700 yard swim, about 20 min in the water, I started to feel warmer and knew that if the water stays at this temp, I will be fine. Last year the water was colder and people did get very cold during the swim. I was in water for just 20 min, in the race it would be 1 hour and 20 min. I was still thinking if I should swim in the booties. I have not swam in them for year, and only swam once before that, so I did not know what it will look like. "Nothing new on a race day" is engraved into my brain. The rule that I broke a few times for this race, making decision on a go, adjusting to conditions, some worked, some backfired.
After the swim, I got a quick (20 min) bike in, just to make sure that bike was ready to be checked in.
I checked in the bike, as well as the run and bike bags. I decided to take a picture of what I checked in. That was so helpful. I have a tendency to panic trying to remember what I checked in and what I needed to bring next day. This way I had a reference and it worked out great when in the evening in the hotel I was packing the rest of my gear for the race.
In the event we went out for dinner with the family. They have been supporting me all year, picking up
slack here and there, it is as much their race as mine. I wanted to make sure we have time to relax, discuss next day and I have good dinner. I broke my own rule and ordered from the menu vs eating my baked potato. I was worried how it will work out next day. It was fine, but I will probably not do it again next time. I kept stressing out evening if unfamiliar food will sit well. Anyhow, we had a great time at the local brewery ( not for me), ate dinner, chatted about life, race, next year ect. My daughter is a freshmen at Northern Arizona and it was the first time we saw her since August. It was a special time and I wanted to make sure that we spend time as a family and enjoy each others company vs only talking about me and my race.
Back to the hotel, quick roll and stretch, shower and sleep. I was sipping on water with Nuun all day to get ready for the race day.
Our hotel was 10 min away, the transition was closing at 6:30am, that meant I could sleep till 4:30 am. I followed my morning routine, ate my regular breakfast, rolled for about 15 min and was ready to drive to the venue. It was a beautiful morning, 57F at 5:30 am.
I got there at 5:30 am and had an hour to get it all ready. Started by setting up the bike with nutrition and hydration, and added air to the tires. I converted to tubeless tires this year. I have heard many horror stories about cactus needles on the road at the Arizona Ironman causing the flats, that I decided to go tubeless. I also added additional water bottle in the lower cage and that was a great decision. I only stopped 1 time for 1 min 30 sec on a bike to refill. I mounted my computer, checked is I had everything I needed to change the tire if I had to. I knew I had everything, but nerves take over and I was checking and double checking.
After my bike was set, I went to add gear and nutrition to my run bag. That is when I made the decision that backfired later. I placed my old and trusted running shoes into my bag a day before. I decide to change to a newer shoe to give me more bounce on a run. Shoes had at least 50 miles on them, I purchased them for this race, put some miles on them to get them ready. At the same time, I made a good decision and added a short sleeve shirt and sleeves to the gear bag. It is a dessert and it gets cold pretty fast after the sun goes down. I also have a tendency of getting cold at the end of the race, and it is not a good combination. But it was a beautiful day and I did not want to overheat during the run. I added nutrition, filled my water bottle, packed a back up watch (hence on my finishing photos I am wearing 2 watches). My watch has 12 hours charge, and during my first Ironman I ran last 4 miles without a watch. Not a huge deal, but I like to know where I am time wise.
Bike bag was next. Left it exactly how I packed it a day before, just added nutrition. I was ready to put on the wetsuit and head to the swim start.
We all lined up based on the swim finish time. I place myself with 1:20s, which ended up to be exactly where I finished my swim. Made another good decision, I decide to wear neoprene booties. THE BEST decision of the day. I also wore a double swim cap.
Swim went great. It was windy and we swam into the wind. My first half (1,2 miles) was 45 min. I started to get inpatient and wanted to be out of water. I looked at my watch and I was only half way through. I increased my pace, and swimming with the wind have helped, second half only took 35 min. I was punched in a face 3-4 times and each time my googles moved, thankfully double capping worked and they did not move, last punch pushed them so deep into my face that I felt my eyes popping. But it is the name of the game when you swim with thousand of your friends and everybody wants to swim closer to the buoy. I tried to stay close to them, so close that I bumped into at least 3 of them. We swam under a lot of bridges, I was trying to remember how many of them we had to swim under, that is when I saw last red buoy, and it meant finish was close. The huge win that not even once I panicked or felt like panicking in water. Big win for Olga!
Got out of water - 1:20... .My last 2.4 swim was in 1:38, I cannot describe how happy I was. All early swim practices are paying off. As I was trying to get off the wetsuit off my shoulders, I was the wetsuit peelers. I was caught by surprise, I expected them to be further. My wetsuit sleeve got caught by the watch. Took us a minute to free it and get the wetsuit off. I think I lost about 30 sec here. The run to the bike transition was .4 mile on a narrow red carpet, 2 people had hard time running side by side. I started to run into people who were in the earlier swim wave, but swam slower. I was trying to run around them, with no much luck. I settled and just ran as fast as I could and passing where I could.
Bike was next. I grabbed my bike of the rack and ran toward the mounting line. I started my journey of 112 miles. My goal was 5:30 min, my time was 5:50. The incline was more than I expected and riding into the wind did not help either. We don't have a lot of hills in the area, so hills as hard for us. And I don't ride well into the wind. I have broad shoulders and they act like a parachute. In some areas I would slow down to 12 miles per hour, but way back was fast and furious, up to 30 miles per hour. My average was 19.2 miles. The course was 3 loops. I like looped courses, especially on new courses. Get familiar first time and then it gets easier. Most difficult segment is 60-80 miles, but once I got to 80, only one loop left, I started calculating my overall time and planning for the run. With low humidity, I did not need to stop to use the bathroom and only needed to refill 2 bottles 1 time. I consumed about 3000 calories on the bike. That was great, as in my first 2 Ironman races I under consumed the calories and paid on the run. On my last training bike rides I tried Belgium waffles from Whole Foods, they pack whooping 450 calories in 1. I ate 4 of them, plus I had Maurten 320 calories powder in my water bottles, and I had a couple of gels to get me to the calories I needed.
I got off the bike. Those first minutes are so hard, legs don't want to run, hip flexors don't want to stretch. I wobbled to the changing tent. While on a bike, I decide to run in the short sleeve and take the sleeves with me. It was 3 pm and sun was still hot, I did not want to overheat. I was 25 min behind my A goal, but I was happy to starting my marathon. As happy as one could be, but run is still my favorite and the run course is so great that I was looking forward to it. But I was also happy with my time, weather was great, I felt great and it was the last thing I had to do before I could stop and rest.
On to a run. My first 2-3 miles were in 8:45s, my goal was 9s. I decided to slow down a little and settle into 9s. The course was rolling hills, which I also liked as it allowed for different muscles to work and it added variety to the race course. It is a 2 loop course. At mile 10 my toes started to cramp. That is when changing a shoe to a newer shoe on a last minute backfired. The new shoe was not as wide as an old shoe and did not have as much room for my swollen feet.
At times it was painful, I tried to find a position where it would hurt less. I was finishing running on an outside of left foot pretty much on a heal to limit impact on the toes. But I knew I was close to my goal of 4 hour marathon which was my goal for my 2 previous races. My final time was 4:06 and I was happy, because I finished strong, felt great and my toes hurt for 16.2 miles!
I was mostly passing people and sometimes making new friends and encouraging them. I was half way through when I did a mental check and realized that I was not ready to be done, I was glad I had another loop, although I would be okay with 20 miles, but it is an Ironman after all, I was content with running 26.2 miles to bring it home.
My goal B was under 11:30. At mile 20 I knew if I keep the same pace, which was close to 9:20s, I will be under my goal. I felt great. I made a decision not to eat off the course. I had my Maurten gels, I had Maurten 160 in my bottle, I had electrolytes. Only thing that I took was water, coke and ice. Mile 22, 23, 24, 25, 26... .home stretch, last .2 . I was emotional. I had a great training season, I had a huge half Ironman PR, I was going under 11:30... .I had tears in my eye when I heard: OLGA, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN! It never gets old. Number 3 in the books!
I felt great at the finish. Tired, yes, but great.
Next morning, I was still on cloud 9. Although 11:27 have only given me 18th place in my age group (in my debut Ironman in Wisconsin I was 20th), but I was happy with the race, training, nutrition, hydration, I was a solid race after a solid training season that I can build on in 2020!
I know that nutrition is of interest for many people. I have completely changed I this year. I have practiced the race nutrition on my rides, I had it as part of the workouts in my training plan and it forced me to practice. I started to use Maurten, powders and gel, and Drip Drop for the electrolytes needs. And those waffles... .450 cal per waffle, cannot beat it and they taste great and I had food on the bike.