Well I am finally finished with my rookie year as a professional triathlete. Boy was it interesting! Lots of ups and a few downs, but overall if was an amazing year of learning how to run with the big dogs. I am happy to say that I finished on a high note and that I will be reporting back for a second season to see where I can challenge myself next.
Ironman Arizona turned out to be a wonderful way for me to complete the race season. I went in knowing that my competition was tough, and that there was a big field racing this ironman. For this race it was only about me and my goals to achieve. I set my one big goal for this race to finish under 10hrs. I knew it was doable if I could stay present and have faith in my fitness.
When the pros got into the water it was still pretty dark and the water temps were frigid. I did discover this year I enjoy swimming in the cold water and once you get your face in, it is never really that bad. I just hate when the water is too cold and I over heat in the wetsuit. So 60 degree water was just perfect for me. We got a 2 minute warning for the start and then no other warning. The gun went off and kind of startled me. I took off. It always takes me a few minutes to get my rhythm and to weed though the bodies. Once I got going I knew I would be in the back of the pack but that if I could stick with at least a few athletes, I'd be happy. I was able to keep a few girls and one guy about 10yrds right in front of me for almost the entire swim. I was feeling good that although I was in the back I wasn't alone and was keeping pace. The first bridge seemed to come very fast and then to the turn around. I felt strong and just tried to keep up that pace. Not long after going back under the bridge both of my calves cramped up for a min or so. My legs were cold and I just had to kick it out or otherwise I wouldn't be able to make it through the swim or maybe worse. So I slowed a and kicked out the cramps. At that point I wasn't able to pick my pace back up and I was getting tired as well. I trucked through the last .25 miles of the swim. That is when I was being caught by the age groupers. I had a few small packs blow over me and just tried to hang on any little bit that I could. This swim time turned out to be my worst Ironman swim ever. I don't know how because it felt much more smooth and controlled as others. Needless to say, I am back in the water already with a swim coach and focusing my off season training on my swim. I will get there people, I will get there.
T1 wasn't as complicated as it looked in the set up. It flowed really well and didn't take me long to get on my bike. The air was a little cool, but nothing anyone couldn't handle as their body heat would rise soon.
I did not mind the three loop course. The first loop went fast. The trip out on the loop goes a little uphill and was against the wind on that first loop. As I turned around, it was awesome. Downhill and with the wind helped me gain over 1.5mph average on the way back into Tempe. As I was reaching the turn around I saw a group of people with purple shirts on jumping up and down and screaming my name. I flew past and had no idea who they were. So funny, because when I came back past them, it was my family. All of them were wearing homemade shirts with different triathlon picture of me ironed on the front. It was the Spitler crew. I started laughing, and then was filled with joy because they all wanted to surprise me and be my biggest supporters of the day. I really appreciate all the time and effort they spent being in Tempe. Being an Ironman spectator is not an easy task.
Second loop was just another loop to me. It felt same as the first and I stayed at an even pace. I really feel I picked the best set up for me for this race on my bike. I knew that my HED disc was the best choice wheel for this type of course and it really assisted me in keeping such a fast pace for most of the bike portion of the race. I was comfortable down in my aero position and couldn't be more grateful for that. 112 miles is a long time to be hunched over and as long as I am comfortable it is usually going well.
As I started the third loop I knew something was different. I was tiring a little but heading outbound it did not feel too awful. GREAT!!!! As I approached the turn around all I could think of was, I'm home free. Little did I know that the wind had drastically turned and that the next downhill portion was going to be the toughest part of the whole race. It was like getting smacked in the face. The wind was so strong that even going downhill I was losing my average mph and pushing as hard as I could. It was rough.
I really dug deep on the way back into transition and just gave it everything I had. I was really happy with the overall time of my bike. It was a good course. I never got jammed up with athletes on the course and there was plenty of aid around. It was not the most scenic, but there were always people around which always helps me push myself.
As I ran into T2, my teammate Donna Phelan, was there to greet me and cheer me on. Donna was coming off of an injury and had planned to pull out on the run. She had a stellar swim and bike, so I'm pretty sure she was happy with the day. It was so nice that she stuck around. It made such a difference having her say encouraging words to me. T2 is always a place of high anxiety for me and it is the part of the race I hate the most. So thank you Donna for keeping me together and reminding me of the good things to come in the race.
I felt really great the entire run up until mile 18. I was going under 8 min miles and just pacing along well. At mile 18 I hit a little bonk. It wasn't that I was in muscle pain, it was that I was just getting really exhausted. I had kept up my nutrition just fine and was keeping hydrated. I just hit a wall. I walked the aid stations only from mile 18 to 21. After that I saw I had about an hour left to reach my ten hour goal. I knew if I stopped all walking and went as fast as I could without pushing myself to too much muscle fatigue, I would make it. So there I went. I just dig deep and got back on the horse. The last two miles were just about looking straight forward and reaching the finish.
AND....I made it!! The finish was slightly anticlimactic. Athletes have to run through a parking lot with a bunch of cars and semis and you really don't know where you are going. Once you hit the last turn you are in the finish shoot and it is over. I did shed a few tears when I crossed. I knew I had made my goal and kept my head together for the entire race. This was a success for me! I knew I could do it and it meant so much to end the season in a place where I felt good.
Thank you so much to everyone that was out there cheering me on. It really meant a lot. Thank you to Mom, Michelle, Karen, Katy, Chris, Rob, Kathy, Derick, Sue, and Siri! Seeing you guys out there on the course made my day. It was such a wonderful day, a good Ironman, and a fantastic way to end my season. I am spending the next month taking it easy, and enjoying not being on a strict training plan, but of course, still keeping up some fitness. Looking forward to a little vacation in the sun without a bicycle, and spending downtime with my family and friends over the holiday. After that it will be on! I am more excited and motivated than I have ever been to make next year even better than this one. I am still able to live my dream everyday and I am grateful.