Saturday, November 22, 2014

Day 653 - Road2DNF aka: Ironman Arizona 2014

November 22, 2014

Hello all.

Here is the race report for Ironman Arizona 2014. To give an accurate report I need to discuss the events leading up to the race as they are equally relevant and ultimately the deciding factor in my performance on November 16, 2014. If at any time it seems as though I am making excuses, remember this fact, it is ALL my responsibility. No one and nothing else's. This is only a record of what happened.

In the last three months of the prep for the race, I was pretty busy with work. As many of my readers know, my work involves a lot of hours and often 24 and 48 hour days are common. The period was the busiest I have been in years. Stress was very high, sleep was irregular and or non existent. As a result, I missed a lot of workouts. (Remember what I wrote in the first paragraph about responsibility?)  I missed weeks of workouts during the most crucial time. I was already injured and not running which was affecting my cardio but in my head, I kept hoping that I had built enough of a base that it could carry me through. Could I have pushed myself more to workout? Yes. Despite everything, no matter how tired or injured or stressed I was, I could have done more. It is as simple as that. Everyone says, consistency is key for Ironman training and I had lost my consistency months before.
The week before the race was busy and as usual without a lot of sleep as there were several things going on. On Tuesday, November 11, we took Orion to the dog park. She hadn't been since she was much younger and we wanted to see how she interacted with dogs she didn't know. She did great! Greeting and interacting with all the other dogs. She truly has the best personality I have ever seen in a dog. At one point, we approached a water fountain that was surrounded by a large pack of dogs. I looked down at Orion to see if she was stressed, then looked up just in time to see a large pit bull puppy leaping at me! 

There was no time to react and the pits claws/paws hit me right in my un-tensed gut. It doubled me over. The pit wasn't attacking me, it was being friendly, but damn it hurt! It actually tried to jump on me two other times, even nailing me in the frank and beans once. We left soon after but my left side was bothering me. The pits claws had penetrated pretty deep into my abdomen to tear the rectus muscle. It would remain a painful annoyance well into the race and still bugs me even as I write this more than a week later. We left on Thursday and had a nice drive to Arizona. The trailer hitch I installed late Wednesday night worked great with the new foldable bike rack.

The puppy was surprising well behaved. The hotel, the Candlewood Suites in Tempe was both clean and very affordable with a built in kitchenette so we were able to cook. It was also nice and quiet. I found it through my USA Triathlon Membership Benefits. $79 a night! I woke up Friday morning feeling like I had finally gotten some real sleep. After a breakfast of oatmeal with blueberries, we hoped in the car and went to packet pick up. The weather was beautiful and the forecast for race day was great. Mild temperatures in the mid to low 70's with very little winds from the desert. Several people had mentioned to me about how bad the water quality was in the lake. Here is a tip people: Don't do that! It doesn't help the person racing in any way and there is nothing that they can do about it! Seriously.  .  .
Packet pick up was a blur with me struggling to remember all the instructions I was given. After filling out the waivers, I was directed to the different tables to receive the swag, (an Ironman branded bike multi-tool, a small LED flashlight and an Ironman Arizona backpack.)

,We headed back to the hotel where I sat trying to figure out the gear bags. In non Ironman triathlons, you set up your transition gear next to your bike. In the Ironman half and full's, you only rack your bike in transition. All other stuff is put into the gear bags they give you. I sat there scratching my big eggplant trying to figure it out. Finally I called a friend, who patiently walked me through each one. (Thank you Rhonda!) There were five bags with two being assigned for "Special Needs" and a "Morning Clothes" bag. The two remaining were the actual bike bag and the run bag.

Once I got the bags situated, it was late so I went to sleep.

The next day, Saturday November 15, 2014 I woke at about 9:30am thinking I would take my bike and gear bags to check in before meeting with my coach Chris Hauth at 11:00 am. He was in town to support several of his clients for the race. I realized, I wouldn't have time to do the bike before the meeting and instead headed to the Mission Suites hotel. My feet were particularly sore that morning and I was limping slightly. Chris arrived about the same time along with about six other clients. He detailed the course along with suggestions for attacking it. He also mentioned what and when we should eat. Afterwards, I asked him if he had any suggestions for me. He said, "Steady, stay steady the whole time." For the bike, he told me to go easy. He said if at any time I felt like I was going too easy on the course, then that was the right effort. I was worried about making the cutoff time but he said not to worry I would be fine.

I picked up the bike, run and bike gear bags and went back to the expo. I remembered reading that I should avoid walking around a lot the day before the race so after dropping it all off, we went back to the hotel to prepare an early dinner per Chris recommendation. The Boss made spaghetti with mild marinara and a salad that we ate around 4:30 pm.  Next I put on some temporary tattoos of my race number on each arm and my age on the back of my left calf. Then I made up four bottles of Skratch Labs and put them in the fridge. I was in bed by 7:00 pm.

The Race

The alarm went off at 4:30 pm. I was actually awake. I felt like I slept okay even though I woke up about five times to pee. I had a bowl of oatmeal with cinnamon and some frozen blueberries. I drank a light mix a Skratch Labs and water.
We grabbed the two special needs bags and the morning clothes bag which had my wetsuit,  goggles, ear plugs and swim cap in it and left. When we arrived at the expo area, I saw one of the vendors was already open and asked if he had neoprene booties as I heard the water was pretty cold and didn't want cold feet during the bike. He did and I bought a pair. I went to my bike to check the tire pressure and realized I had left all four of my water bottles at the hotel. Damn!!! I had some extra Skratch Labs packets in my bike special needs bag, so we went back to the vendor and bought two water bottles. I knew there was some Gatorade Endurance electrolyte drink on the course so I wasn't too worried about it. Not ideal compared to the Skratch Labs, but better than nothing. Also, I still had electrolyte pills and my normal Pure bars for fuel. I ended up with my hydration timing being off though as the Gatorade Endurance quantities were different than what I normally took in.
I rushed over to The Boss to hand her the tire pump and get a good luck kiss. I rushed off to get my wetsuit on and eat a Pure bar as it was 6:40am. I put my clothes in the Morning Clothes bag and turned it in. Then I went to turn in the Special Needs bags. Ends up, I had to rush out of transition to get to the truck that was taking the Special Needs bags. Fortunately, a volunteer saw me heading towards them and ran over to help. I went back to the swim start and realized I forgot my ear plugs. Damn! I went back to the Morning Clothes bag area and waited while they located the bag. Got em! Ran back to the swim start and realized I still had my flip flops on! Double Damn!!! Back to the Morning Clothes bag area. By the time I got back in the swim start queue, people were already getting into the water. Unlike the previous year, the athletes had to enter the Tempe Town Lake from the exit bleachers. I made my way to the bottom of the bleachers and jumped in. As soon as I did, my diaphragm hitched up like I had gotten into severely cold water. Thing is, the water was cold but not that cold. 68° is all. As a matter of fact, too warm to wear the booties I bought. I was a good distance from the start so I tried to relax and stretch out. Every time I put my face in the water though, I could not comfortably exhale. Coach had said to hold back when the swim started to let the chaos pass. I had just began making my way towards the start when the cannon went off.

I was at least 800 yards away! I started to Tarzan swim to move forward and try to get my breathing under control but it was tiring me out enough that I couldn't settle in and relax. I kept stopping to tread water to catch my breath in between alternating doing the back stroke and Tarzan crawl. I kept thinking, if I didn't get my breathing under control, I was screwed and would have a very short day. All the people flashed through my mind who I knew where expecting me to have a strong swim. Everyone except the slowest were disappearing in the distance. Finally, a kayak came near and I grabbed the nose.

I waited there for a full minute to catch my breath and get my breathing under control. That's what it took! All the sudden, I was fine and took off, by then I had wasted twenty minutes with my slow crawl. I was able to relax into it and sped along passing everyone I came upon. There were lots of swimmers around me so I thought I was doing okay on time. (I hadn't really looked at the watch though.) As I swam, I noticed the water was really nice. Everyone had said it was so dirty and nasty. Maybe it looked that way but it sure didn't smell or taste nasty. I passed under the far bridge and noticed there were bird nests under it. I wondered if they were Finches. I felt so good, I began changing up my breathing pattern. Instead of doing 3 to 1 breathing, I started to do 4 to 1 and even 5 to 1 like the drills coach had me doing. I knew I wasn't at the rear so I wasn't worried. There was one lady who was pacing me, each time I stuck my head up to site and look around I would see her. I would say something encouraging to her as she looked concerned. I passed the last bridge and turned towards the exit bleachers. She paused to look. "We're almost there!", I said. "Can you believe it?" she replied. "Let's finish this!", I responded. I got to the bleachers where the volunteers told me to put my butt up on the first rung. Nope! Back into the water I fell. Arms refused to work. Okay dammit, PUSH! Up I went. The volunteers were great, helping me up and saying encouraging things. They guided me to the wetsuit strippers who, through experience knew to hold onto us as we were guided on what to do. "Down on your butt!" "Open your mouth, bite down!" (To hold my watch while they pulled off the suit.) Off went the suit with me only a little worried they were going to tear it, and up they helped me. Someone put a foil blanket around me as I jogged into the changing tent. I was thinking as I jogged along that I felt good. I shouted out my number to the volunteers and they started looking for my bike bag. As soon as I got into the tent another volunteer started asking if I was okay. Apparently, I looked cold. They handed me my bike bag and I quickly dried off, lubed up the undercarriage and put on my clothes. I say quickly but later my transition was almost twenty-one minutes! Didn't feel like that. I ran out of the tent and into transition.

Only unlike the above photo, there was about four bikes. Uh oh! I grabbed the bike and headed out. The Boss was at the exit filming.

 Apparently, it's a fashion faux pas to wear compression sleeves while biking. I don't care. My legs feel better during the long rides.

Heading out on Rio Saldano Parkway the weather felt good. I waited until well past the Mount area then ate and drank. As I do in training, I ate half a Pure bar every half hour. (190 calories per bar.) I drank Skratch Labs mix each fifteen minutes. (160 calories an hour.) Until I ran out that is. At the first aid station, I grabbed a Gatorade Endurance and a water. After the first two hours, I was out of the Skratch Labs so I switched to the Gatorade Endurance, drinking a quarter bottle each fifteen minutes or so. (80 calories an hour.) I was worried my stomach would get upset not being used to the Gatorade but I didn't have any issues. Desert air is dryer than people realize and I was monitoring my hydration level carefully drinking water every now and then as well. I did notice that the lines from my wetsuit on my arm didn't go away for several hours though. I sent the days leading up to the race hydrating so I was surprised.

As we turned north onto South McClintock Drive, I noticed the wind for the first time. Supposedly, it was not going to be too windy so I didn't think to much about it. Coach had told me to go easy and focus on feel not heart rate. Every time I found myself pushing a bit, I slowed down. But my gut was telling me that I was too slow. Not wanting to second guess coach, I kept going with an easy effort. When I turned onto Beeline Highway, I felt the full extent of the headwind. I have heard since it was up to 25mph. I met a twelve time Ironman finisher after the race who said, in the seven times he had raced Ironman Arizona, this was the worst winds he had experienced on the course. Great! All I know is it made for more work. But as I was trying to go easy into this crazy wind, I was slow. People were passing me regularly and I kept thinking, this can't be right. The turn around point is at the top of a very long gradual hill. Once I turned, I had the wind at my back and was absolutely flying back to town. I thought the speed would help me make up lost time. After the first loop, I checked my watch and saw I took three hours to get back to the first aid station. Holy crap! I realized I was in trouble. There was no way Chris could have known what would happen out there so I couldn't imagine he would want me to keep going at the same pace. So I sped up during the second loop. My knees and feet were beginning to ache. I noticed that I don't pedal consistently. I pedal for awhile, then pause and coast for awhile. I wondered if I always do this as I'm not sure. The coasting let me catch my breath though. The effort during the second loop, burnt me out for the third.
I felt like I completed the second loop faster but on the way out, I was alone for much of it. People passing on the return side started calling out to me saying encouraging things. Uh oh! I knew I was in big trouble. As I went up the big incline, my legs were just not there and I was thinking that if I somehow made the cutoff, I would have to dig pretty deep to finish the run. I was seeing people on the side of the road being attended to by race staff. I asked one lady who had stopped and was just staring into the distance if she was okay. She said "Yeah, I'm just really dizzy." She had a half filled water bottle on her bike. A volunteer was running towards her from an intersection. I handed the volunteer a single serving packet of Skratch Labs as I passed. As I approached the turn around, I noticed that there were only a couple people and some vans. As I approached I got a sinking feeling. The race staff member held up his hand and said, "I'm sorry. You didn't make the cutoff." I turned to see several others riding up and the looks on there faces. To my right, a lady was crying and being consoled by another. I asked the volunteer how much I missed it by, he told me, "You missed it by a minute." "One minute?!" I asked. He nodded. Another volunteer was already at my ankle removing the timing chip. A third approached and said I could give him the bike, they would take it back to transition.  I got into the van waiting near by. The mood was somber to say the least. Someone in the back was sobbing. The lady sitting next to my said, "Okay, who's got the tequila?!"
They dropped us off ironically, right next to the finish line. We were still in our bike shoes and kits so it drew some attention. I could hear people whispering things like, "Look, they still have their cycling clothes on." and other related things.  Sigh.


4682 yards
1:55:32 Time
1,391 Calories Burned


95.8 miles
7:15:31 Time
3,091 Calories Burned

I found The Boss outside transition. I was having a little trouble walking by then and was limping considerably. It's rough to be a spectator. They have to concentrate on each person coming in and not look away. If they don't hear anything, they worry. It's rough. I told her what happened. I'll never forget dreading the look of disappointment I imagined she would have when she finally saw me. I was wrong though, she was only concerned. I had a pretty good attitude. I knew what happened and who's fault it was. Mine.
It's simple, I missed too many workouts in the last three months. I had too many days without sleep and too much stress. It wasn't the winds, it wasn't the advice, it wasn't the nutrition, the pit bull or anything other than the fact that I didn't put enough into it ultimately. Not running hurt my training significantly, but it was only one element.

From the time I woke up Monday morning and during the entire ride back to Burbank from Arizona, The Boss and I discussed what happened. About an hour into the five and a half hour drive, we had determined that I would race Ironman Lake Tahoe in 2016. I would take time to heal the plantar fasciitus and get into exceptional shape for all the climbing. Lake Tahoe is the toughest in the world according to the Ironman race program. What a great way to finish my first. We also discussed doing Ironman Cozumel as a back up. I could think of worse things then going to a beautiful tropical island in Mexico to race Ironman!

The worst thing about it, is that all the nay sayers get to gloat and say, "See! We knew you couldn't do it!" To that I say.  .  .  this time.

This is a set back. That is all. When I started this journey, I knew I wouldn't change a lifetime of not following through programming overnight. In the big scheme of things, I've come pretty far. I just haven't gotten there yet. It's kind of like my wife's theory why I haven't lost the rest of the weight. She believes that I have a psychological block that I won't lose any more because I will lose "myself." Or a subconscious part of who I am. Maybe it's a fear that after everything I went through as a child, the last "safety blanket" I have wrapped around me will be lost. The last piece of who I am only to be replaced by the unknown. And maybe that unknown factor scares me. When you carry some of the scar tissue like I do, you kind of feel like somewhere inside, you are keeping the monsters and nightmares at bay. The idea of losing yourself means losing those protective walls that hold whatever horrors just out of reach of your conscious. Facing them with no protective filter of any kind seems too much to ask.
Whenever I talk to people about addiction, I say "Quitting smoking or drinking or Vicoden, etc is easy. Learning to face life without it is the hard part." It is as simple as that. Maybe it's time I strip away my last safety net and embrace the person I can be and not the person I fear I would become.

Here are my totals for each of the activities from February 7, 2013 until November 16, 2014.


136.68 miles

107:39:54 time (h:m:s)

73,250 calories


3,364.23 miles

254:33:26 time (h:m:s)

135,414 calories


551.02 miles
134:55:14 time (h:m:s)

101,508 calories

Total miles: 4051.93
Total time:  20.7 days or 497 hours, 8 minutes and 34 seconds.
Total calories burned: 310, 172

All in all, it was a good experience. I learned a lot and won't make the same mistakes again. So this isn't the end of my journey, this is only the beginning. Thanks for reading.


  1. Well done... Do not fear nay sayers, no matter how slow you go, you still lap those on the couch. Very well done.

  2. DUDE! You did something amazing! It doesn't matter if you finished or not because you're going to try it again. And think about how much you learned about yourself along the way! Your story is inspiring and encouraging. Keep at it. We are age-groupers for a reason. Just getting out there and training, showing up for yourself and your health and making YOU a priority. Seriously--it's all about being better than you were yesterday or a year ago. I know this race must feel like a defeat but use it in your training for Tahoe and let if fuel your desire to beat yourself! Also--throw in a few shorter races over the next year and a half to help build your confidence back. It's amazing what even a good 5k can do for your self-esteem! Thanks for sharing your story!

    1. Thank you for your kind words Jessica! Sorry for the late response.