Ironman Arizona, Tempe, Arizona, USA. April 9th, 2005
In 2004, we had a heads up that Ironman was coming to Tempe – someone found minutes from a council meeting which detailed the proposal, so we were all prepared to sign up when the date for the Inaugural Ironman Arizona was announced. The time of year is about a month too early for me, as it meant I would need to be out in Tucson preparing from the start of March, when the weather is still quite cool. However, this race was really all about the fact that soooo many of my friends were going to be there…plus the fact that I had spent over a year of my life training in the desert only 90 miles away. Everyone said that the weather was pot luck – it could be cool, it could be perfect or it could be hot – it turned out to be cool on race day.
Kerri had Zoot race kit made up for us with our names on our butts – I was ever so pleased with my IronScot speed shorts. We were everywhere in the race – wherever you were it wasn’t long before one of the Peeps dressed in blue and white went past. We had a Peeps lunch in town which again was a fabulous event. So good to spend such a brief time with my friends. It was like being back at Ironman California.
A whole group of us stayed in the same hotel (Softie, Boop, clm, Manny, JD, Wayne, Rayman…). I remember us all being invited to JD’s room to celebrate his daughter’s birthday – with scrummy cake – not good Ironman prep food but hey….The hotel was about 1.5 miles from the race start but Softie had a rented a car as did some of the other Peeps and they were taxi’ing us everywhere. It was an incredibly emotionally powerful time – all of us back together again – I’d hardly seen any of my Page friends since 2001 and some were more recent cyber acquaintances I was meeting for the first time. We all went to dinner on the Friday night at an Italian restaurant close by. Then on Saturday we went to a Steak House in town – there must have been 20 of us there Alynn and Sissy came along as they had come into town to watch us all in the race.
The swim in Tempe Town Lake was cold and very murky – I goofed again (same as Ironman California 2000) not wearing my wetsuit hood as I saw others with just swim caps on and with the straight down and back shape of the course I lost everyone (as my brother Iain had worked out – lots of turns helps to compress people into one area and helps me to get into a draft). I felt quite cold the whole time and was disappointed with my split of 1:32:21.
The bike was mostly flat with a long drag up to the turnaround point and 3 laps. Not long after I set off on the bike I felt ill and dizzy (memories of IM California 2000 when I got chilled in the swim) and this was compounded by the fact that in the cool conditions, our race kit wasn’t warm enough. It was windy as hell on the bike (weather almanac has the wind as an average of 17 mph while I was on the bike) and only 18 deg C (not including the windchill). Part of the problem was when it is cold on the bike and yer nutrition strategy is based only on drinking and you can’t/don’t drink – it all goes wrong and yer way under on calorie intake. The only good points were catching fellow Peeps and shouting encouragement to them as I passed. I struggled the whole way and then it got worse…last 20 miles I was just turning the pedals as I couldn’t eat or drink…hoping I would make it back to transition before I fell off. Grateful just to make it back to transition, I wasn’t worried about my over 6 hour bike split (6:04:24) plus it had been very windy out there…
I knew I was in trouble and realised I had to seriously regroup before I set out on the run – I was weak and out of fuel so had to work out some way to eat – a young volunteer in transition was asking me if I needed anything and I said “some food”. He offered PowerBars etc but I gagged just thinking about them…I said was there anything else…and he understood – he said “regular food?” and I heaved a sigh of relief – maybe I was going to be able to eat – the young man saved my race by getting me some real food (must have been lunch packs for the volunteers) of which I gratefully ate the ham rolls. I knew my family would see my slow transition (18 mins) from bike to run and realise that I was in trouble…but I was sorting myself out before setting out on the run…well I was trying to sort myself out…it’s not the best way to have to start a marathon…
The run was 2 laps. I only managed to run for 3 miles before I got sick – I knew my system was so messed up I couldn’t run much this day without being ill so I started to walk and walk and walk… Soon I met one of the Peeps, Mark and he said due to his bad back he was going to walk it in – so I decided that I would walk along with him – then at about 6 miles along came another of the Peeps – Sharon – she somehow coaxed me to start running with her – and for the remaining 20 miles she ran and walked with me when I was sick – she really carried me along and I thank her for that.
My friends Rob and Jeanne Anne from Tucson, turned up to support me late on the run and with typical fellow Ironman humour, asked “Where had I been?” they had been looking for me and couldn’t find me so had walked back to see where I was because I was so slow. I laughed, since I was less than 3 miles from the Finish and it was just going to be a matter of time until I got there
We came into the Finish together -I was so happy to be finished. This was my slowest Ironman to date (13:43:33). My average heart rate was only 129 for this race – proof that I just couldn’t get going after the cold swim…
After I’d taken my gear back to the hotel. I returned to the Finish line to see the last Finishers come in before midnight. Later Rayman, his daughter and I went to Denny’s at 1am for food, conveniently located right by the hotel.
The awards banquet was good and thankfully they had beer mmmm I found lots of my friends and we sat together laughing and joking. Later that evening we [thankfully] all met again at the sports bar for some pizza and beer and some more beer and some more beer…one of the wonderful features of my life is to have finished and Ironman and then to be laughing and joking with my Tri Lounge friends as we chug beers, all a mere 6,000 miles from my home. It was sad to say goodbye to them all again as I returned 6,000 miles home to Scotland. My thanks to the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community for letting us use their land as part of the race course.