DNF at IMAZ
These kinds of race reports are never any fun. But I know when I watch the IM online and I see a bunch of blank fields for an athlete I'm tracking I want to know what happened. So I'll tell everyone exactly what happened.
I arrived in Tempe on Thursday to get ready for the race. The expo was just open, so I was able to get my packet without standing in lines. All of the volunteers were great. Then I stopped by the IM booth and bought a IMAZ shirt, jersey, sticker, and a few other things. Not sure what I'm going to do with those now. Maybe I'll wear them anyways to remind me and keep me training hard for next time.The big stress for the week was getting my husband here. He was on travel for work and was supposed to fly in to Tempe from Boston on Friday night. His plane was late and got struck by lightning as it headed into Dallas. Dallas was a mess and shut down, so he got a hotel and an 11am flight on Sat morning. That flight was late because 30 planes were damaged due to hail. He finally got here, butI only had a little time to visit with him before getting ready for the race. Saturday night we went to dinner with the Tucson Tri Girls, then I mixed all my bottles and got everything ready. I only got 5 hrs of sleep that night. Got up at 3am when I couldn't sleep anymore and got ready. My stomach was so nervous that I kept having to go to the bathroom. Finally left the hotel room and walked to transition. Filled my bike bottles, dropped off my special needs bags, then sat around waiting. The Tri Girls found us and took lots of pics, then it was time to get in the wetsuit and head to the water.
I couldn't believe the number of people on the dock waiting to get in the water. I found Holly and Kyle, and hung out with them andthen I saw Welshy (a guy from BeginnerTriathlete.com) and said hi to him. We finally got in the water. I was expecting stairs, but we hadto jump off the dock. Into the water I went, and started heading forthe start line.
This was a really slow swim for me. I seeded myself towards the backand right on the buoy line. I could barely hear the announcer. Finally the gun went off and we started swimming. From where I wasit wasn't too rough. Didn't get beat up or anything. I tried to stay on the buoy line, but had a hard time sighting into the sun. At one point I heard someone yell, and it was Holly! After I realized it I yelled "Go Holly!" to her. It made me feel better knowing someone I knew in all this mess of 2000 people was right there with me. I kept popping my head up to see, especially after the Rural bridge. I thought the turnaround buoys were right after the bridge, but theywere quite aways. Swimming with my head up for that long tired me out. Towards the end of the swim I could only swim a few freestyle strokes before having to stop and breast stroke. It felt like it took forever. I was fully expecting to see 2 hrs on my watch when I got out, but was surprised to see 1:47. I was just glad to be out of the water. I got to the wetsuit strippers and heard "Go Tri Girls" and looked up and it was Kathy! (from the Tri Girls) I was so glad to see her! My suitwas off so I jogged along the path, and saw my husband, in-laws, and friends along the fence and waved to them. "I'm so glad that's over!" I yelled to them.
I jogged along the path, which was really long, and got my T1 bag. A volunteer came up to me and took my wetsuit and guided me into the change tent and helped me the entire time. I was really grateful to have someone there. I took my time just to make sure I didn't forget anything. I had a small hand towel in my bag, and the volunteer gave me a towel for my feet. My feet were covered in dirt and grass, so I took extra time to towel them off all the way. Got my gear on and hit the porta potty on the way out. Then I got my bike and headed out on the course. I heard a bunch of people yelling "Go Tri Girls"along the way. It was great!
I was so glad to be on my bike. I decided to get my legs under me and try to take it easy for the first loop. Little did I know what was ahead. I settled into the aerobars and spun in an easy gear. The road was really rough in spots, and I was worried about getting a flat. Finally I ended up on the beeline and saw Tri Girls on the course along the way, both in the race and cheering on the side ofthe road. I made it to the turnaround and was faced with a horrible headwind, and my speed dropped. This was not good. I pedaled along and finished the first loop and checked my time. I would have to hammer the second and third loops in order to make it. I bit my lip as I passed my family that was cheering, because I knew I was going to be close to the cutoffs.
At the start of the second loop I put the hammer down and pushed hard. I was going 20 mph UP the hill on the beeline. I hit the turn in one hour (15 min faster than first loop) and headed into the wind. The wind was so strong, and the gusts almost pushed me off mybike. Getting to the special needs area was especially tough. I looked down to see my computer at 9 mph. I pulled in to SN and got my bag to get my pretzles and handiwipes to wipe the salt off of my face. I got back on the bike and headed out. The wind was stripping all of my sunscreen and face oils off. At one point I pulled out my Vaseline from my bento box and put it on my lips, nose, and cheeks.
The wind was relentless. On a hill I normally went 20+ mph while coasting I was going 10 mph with peadaling hard. All I knew was thatI had to start my 3rd loop by 3PM in order to make the first cutoff. But the wind was pushing me back. I pushed and pushed and finally got back into town. I got to the start of the 3rd loop at 2:45PM, with 15 minutes to spare. I stopped by the first aid station to use the bathroom, and pulled my bike off the rack when I was done and discovered my rear wheel locked up. I looked down and the skewer was out of the dropouts! I put the wheel back on and tightened the skewer. I think what happened was the lever of the skewer got pulled open on the bike rack when they were pulling bikes out. So I rode over 80 miles with an undone rear wheel. Thank goodness for lawyer tabs on dropouts! Everytime I think about the corners I railed through with the wheel like that gives me the willies. I avoided disaster on that one.
The 3rd loop was empty, except for the few of us struggling to make the cutoff. I remember I kept looking for Holly. We always seem to be near each other in the races, but I didn't see her out there. I was hoping nothing bad happened and that she was OK. I pounded the pedals as much as I could and hit the turnaround 20 min before the 4:15PM cutoff. I knew it was going to be close to be back by 5:30PM. The winds were really strong at this point, but I pushed harder than I ever have. It was the worst wind I have ever felt on the bike. I thought about everyone out there, and everyone that was watching and cheering for me. The Tri Girls came out to the course and cheered for me every few miles, which really helped. It was just like Ragnar! They would drive up a bit ahead, then get out and cheer. It made me feel like I wasn't alone out there. At this point I just wanted to get off the beeline and back into town. I hoped and prayed for the wind to let up, even if just a little bit. But it wouldn't. I pushed and pushed and pushed. I passed 5 other people while pushing hard. The last 17 miles I went into sprint mode and stopped taking on my nutrition. My heartrate skyrocketed as I pushed, but even with all the pushing I was only going 11 mph into the wind. My mind raced frantically as I did the math. Time was slipping through my fingers, but I was going to fight. The cops at each corner cheered as I came through, probably because I was grimacing as I pushed the pedals. I was topped out and couldn't push any harder. Each gust of wind stripped more and more from me, so I dug deeper and deeper into the energy reserves. I knew I was fighting against the wind, against time, against a DNF. I had to keep going.
Finally I turned onto Rio Salado and checked my watch...10 minutes left. The transition area seemed so far away, but I slammed the pedals down as hard as I could. My arms were yanking on the aerobars as I diverted all of my energy and everything I had left into my legs. The windblew hard but I kept pushing. I started yelling and screaming as I pedaled. It hurt so bad and I couldn't go any faster, but I had to keep going. I passed through an intersection and the cop lady there cheered for me as I yelled. I frantically pedaled, my mind focused on nothing but pedaling as hard as I could. I wanted to throw up from pushing so hard, but I coudn't stop. I figured I would puke on my jersey if I had to, but I was going to keep going. Just keep going...just keep going...I turned onto the Mill Avenue bridge and there were only minutes left. I couldn't let up now even though it hurt so bad. There was I guy just in front of me, so I worked on chasing him down. As I crossed the bridge I looked down at my watch...10:30 total race time, that meant it was 5:30PM. I didn'tcare, as I figured maybe my watch was wrong and off from the official race time. I rolled over the second bridge on the way back and the Tri Girls cheered for me. I stood in the pedals as I headed back into the wind on 3rd street. I made the next turn and the guy in front of me had pulled off to the curb, talking to some people. I kept going. I learned from racing motorcycles that you don't ever stop racing until you see either a red flag or checkered flag. I made the turn into the parking lot, and pushed the pedals hard all the way up to the transition area.
The volunteers yelled for me to slow down and dismount from the bike. The following conversation was surreal.
volunteer: "Ma'am...we can't let you continue."
other volunteer: "Don't let her cross the timing mat."
another volunteer: "Take her chip off."
I looked at my watch...5:36PM. I had missed the cutoff by 6 minutes. All I could do was nod and point at my left leg. They were going to have to take my chip off, as I wasn't going to do it. They took my bike, and one of the volunteers, a large guy, walked with me and held me up. "How are you feeling?" he asked. I looked over at my husband and shook my head and started crying. "I know...it's hard."The volunteer said as his voice shook and he choked back tears. "I'm going to take you over here." He led me to the med tent. "Do you need anything else?" he asked. I turned and hugged him and started crying uncontrollably. "It's ok...I know this is hard." He said as he cried a bit and held me. They sat me down on a lawn chair and I kept crying. Another volunteer came over and said he had racked my bike. "I do triathlons too and I know this is hard" he said. His name was Jason, but all I could do was nod as I bawled. "You did great Pirate Girl!" I looked up...who knew that was me? (that's my BeginnerTriathlete.com handle). It was "Stands With A Fist" who was volunteering and had a BT tattoo on her wrist. All I could do was nod and cry.
They checked my blood pressure and my pulse which was now racing as I cried. They told me to breathe, but I couldn't. All I could do was cry. I thought about that scene in the '04 Kona race where Sarah Reinertsen missed her bike cutoff and started crying, and I knew how she felt. They let Zac (my husband) come over.
"I tried so hard!" I told him through the tears.
"I know you did...I'm proud of you!" he said.
"It wasn't the distance...it was the wind" I said.
"I know it was bad. But you did it! You finished the bike!" he said.
I took my shoes off. My feet were killing me, especially my big toes. I had blisters on the bottoms of my feet. I sat in the lawn chair, drinking Gatorade. They had offered me chicken broth, but I told them I was vegetarian. Kind of funny. I finally stopped crying and they brought my transition bags over. I was able to stand up, and walked over to my in-laws and gave them a hug and started crying again. We had to move out of the way of a truck backing up, so I wandered over and got my bike. I leaned on it as I wheeled it out of transition. It was tough because other people were picking up their bikes, and they were wearing their running shoes. They were finishers.
I walked in my bare feet with Zac up to the entrance to Tempe beach park. We turned and went to the right along the side walk, because I didn't want to see the finish chute. I couldn't look at it. We walked behind the bleachers and found a dead-end. I mustered all of my strength and climbed over the fence. I'd rather climb a fence than see the finish line at this point. I walked with Zac back tothe hotel, leaning on his arm. A woman passed by going the opposite direction on the sidewalk. "How did you do?" she asked. "I didn't finish" I replied. I didn't wait for a response, and kept walking.
We got back to the hotel and I immediately put on clean clothes and sat down on the couch. I fell asleep for a little while, then got upto get a quick shower. I discovered how sunburned and windburned Iwas. I got into my jammies and wrapped myself in a blanket. I was freezing! I called Niki (Tri Girl), and she came and visited me in the hotel room as I couldn't move. Looking back, I'm not sure how far I would have gotten on the run. I had sprinted for so long and not taken in any nutrition that last 20 or so miles that my body probably would've been in a really bad state. Still, it would've been nice toat least have the opportunity.
It was hard being in the hotel that night and the following morning, hearing everyone in the hallway talk about the race and congratulating each other. It felt like everyone finished but me. I wished I could be like them and be happy and be a finisher. But I'm not. I never pictured this happening. All I could visualize the whole time thinking about the race was running down the finishers chute and hearing "You are an Ironman!" But it didn't happen. I tried my hardest and left it all out there on the course.
- I have less recovery that my body will need to do.
- I learned what to change for next year.
- I know what to change and do for a training plan next time.
- I can consider this to be a dress rehersal for next time.
And the good news: I just registered for IMAZ 2008. I'll give this another whirl! This race may have beat me down this year, but I'm going to do everything I can to beat it next year. The SOMA 1/2 Ironman did that to me, and IMAZ appears to be it's bigger brother. Although I'm not mentally ready right now, the race does sell out, and I didn't want to miss the chance to come back next year and try to be an Ironman.
(I found out later that day that winds on the Beeline had been 35 mph gusting to 40).