Friday, December 23, 2011

Yesterday's bike/run brick

Since it's still early in my Ironman CdA training, and technically I haven't started my official training plan yet (but soon, very soon!), I'm taking this time to test the waters on some workouts that I've never done before.  And Thursday brought hill repeats, on the bike, followed by a brick run.

The Captain met me at my house around 9:15 a.m., and we got our stuff on and headed out the door.  We did a nice, easy warm up pace on the bike for the first 4 miles, then started our first set of hill repeats.  Our initial plan was to do a set of repeats, then ride for about 20 miles, and follow that up with another set of hill repeats.  After our third time up the hill, I reached forward to adjust my front shifter and felt it suddenly come loose.  It took my a moment to realize what had just happened.  I stopped my bike and looked down, expecting to see some major destruction to my bike, but was relieved to find that my front shifter cable had just come out of the little screw that holds it to the derailleur.  I messed with it for about 30 seconds before deciding that this would be best done at home.  So, we altered our ride and decided to just do another 5 hill repeats, gradually increasing in intensity.  This was actually perfect because I only had my easier gears available to me.  The rest of the ride went smoothly and we headed home to do the brick run.

The run was actually very nice.  We headed out for a four mile run, and picked up the pace a little bit on each mile, with the last one being done at 7:40.  I enjoy doing runs like this because I get to push The Captain to his limit, whereas he pushes me during the swim.

Another successful workout in the books, and it's a good thing because it's holiday time now, and who knows what is going to happen to my training this weekend (actually, I know...and it rhymes with zero).

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Back in the pool

At this past Ironman Arizona, I set a new PR for the swim portion (and for every other part of the race too!).  My time was 1:19:47, which for me is pretty fast.  I knew how to swim growing up, but not properly.  So, when I decided to do an Ironman, I teamed up with The Captain, who swam in high school, and started working on my technique.  From where I started, I can notice a huge difference, but I know that I still have a long way to go.

I took a few weeks off after the Ironman and didn't do any scheduled training.  I just simply did something if I felt like it.  Since I am not a big fan of swimming, I didn't do any swimming...until last week, which was just shy of 4 weeks post Ironman!  I met The Captain up at LA Fitness for a short, but hard swim workout, with a nice and easy 6 mile brick run to follow.

I should start this by explaining that there were two goals for this particular swim.  First was to remember how to swim.  Second was to try and replicate a swim workout that The Captain and I had done just four days before the Ironman.  In short, he tried to kill me during that swim and was attempting to do it again.  Well, I was actually pleasantly surprised with what transpired during our first swim of this new season.  We did 4 sets of 5 laps, finishing in 4:10, 4:08, 4:07, and 3:56 respectively.  And we only took thirty seconds of rest between each set!  I am 100% positive that I have never swam that fast before.  Again, maybe it's not super fast, but for me it's pretty darn good.

About a week later, I got up at 5 a.m. and headed over to the pool for some laps.  I didn't have The Captain there to pace me, but I still swam much faster than I normally do.  Which makes me very optimistic for my near future.  I'm not going to get my hopes up quite yet of anything spectacular for IMCdA, because it is 6 months away.  My hope is that I can continue my swim training, and not push it to the side like I normally do when my training volume starts to increase.  Only time will tell!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Congrats again to my wife!

My beautiful bride holding up her very first half marathon finishers medal!

 The other day, I was looking at the pictures on my phone and I came across this one. And it reminded me just proud I am of my wife for battling her way through the Las Vegas half marathon. She kicked some major butt! And it was only her first one (with more to follow...hopefully!). Woo hoo!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Miniature Felt bike

My daughter standing next to her future bike...hopefully!

Back in October, when I was in Tucson for the Mount Lemmon Half Marathon, I took a little trip over to the TriSports.com store. While we were there, we stumbled across this miniature Felt bike. Which got me thinking...if I get my daughter training now, she could be the next Chrissie Wellington! But seriously, how awesome would it be to see a kid cruising down the road on this little bike?!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Ironman World Championship on YouTube!

In case any of you wanted to see the 2011 Ironman World Championship, but failed to either watch it when it aired or tape it, you're in luck!  Someone has been nice enough to upload the entire thing to YouTube for your viewing please.  And since they were nice enough to do that, I'll just link that video here:



If you can't see that video for some reason, go here.

Enjoy!

Monday, December 12, 2011

I think my recovery phase is over

My peak race for this year was Ironman Arizona.  I had been training for 42 weeks, so I was more than ready for some time off.  Since Ironman Arizona took place on November 20th, I been hitting my recovery head on.  And by that I mean I really haven't been doing any workouts.

Of course, "workouts" is a relative term.  Sure, I've ridden my bike a few times, run on the treadmill a time or two, and even ran the Las Vegas half marathon with The Wife.  What I haven't done is any workouts with a purpose or goal.  Usually, when I'm doing my training for a race, I have a specific goal for each workout, whether it's a distance, time, or speed.  So my way of recovering has been to just sort of do some cardio when I feel like it.  And since I hate swimming so much, I haven't even looked at a pool over the last few weeks!

But it's just about time for the rest period to end.  I actually should have ended it last week, but life has been pretty busy lately, so I figured another week would be alright.  So now I get to work back into figuring out a way to work out almost every day!  Woo hoo!

As for the actual training plan that I will be following, that's top secret.  I've been receiving threats from some of the other guys that I'll be racing with in Ironman Coeur d'Alene, and so I'm going to keep this one close to my heart.  Ok, that's a lie...I'm still going to post it (the threat part is absolutely true!!!).  I'm actually getting the plan that a buddy of mine used in Ironman Arizona to go sub-11:00.  Now, I'm not saying that sub-11:00 is my goal (or, am I?), I'm just saying that he obviously had success with this plan, so I'm going to give it a whirl.  This plan doesn't actually start for a few more weeks, so until then I'm just going to get back into working out regularly and do a lot of technique work (because I suppose I can improve on technique.  Shocking, I know).

And with that, I'm off to train!  Thanks for reading!

(ok, I lied again.  I'm not going to train right now.  It's 8:45 at night and I'm just going to watch some TV and go to bed.  But tomorrow!  Tomorrow I will begin training! Ha!)


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Restaurant.com in Vegas

First off, I have no affiliation with Restaurant.com, or with Vegas.  I just enjoy saving money and eating a lot of food.

On our recent trip to Las Vegas for the 2011 RnR Las Vegas half marathon, The Wife and I decided to try out Restaurant.com.  This is a website that offers "vouchers" for a list of restaurants, and sells them for a few dollars.  Typically, you can get a "$25 off of a minimum purchase of $35" voucher for about $2.  At first, this seems like a slam dunk of a deal.  But when you read the fine print, it's not as clear.  When you use these vouchers, there is an automatic 18% gratuity added to your bill, and it cannot be used toward tax/tip.  So, your bill has to be $35 for food/drink, then they add tax and an 18% gratuity, then they take off $25.  We figured that we would still end up saving around $10 per meal by using these vouchers.  We did some investigating and ended up with 6 different vouchers.

I should mention that these vouchers can be purchased in a number of different denominations, and the discount is not always the same.  Sometimes it is $10 off of $25, or $25 off of $35, or $50 off of $100 and so on.  It really just depends on where you are planning on going and what you would normally eat.  For us, the $25 off of $35 seemed like the best deal.

Figuring out which places to eat at was kind of a pain in the butt.  It's pretty hard to tell, without having been to any of these places, which place is going to be a dump and which one is going to be nice.  It actually took me a fair amount of time to decide on the 6 places that I chose.  Even still, we had no idea if these deals would work out.

The first voucher we used was for Aromi d'Italia.  For the amount of food we ate, it ended up being a great deal.  I'm not going to go into exactly what we ate and how much it cost, just know that it was worth it.  In fact, every one of our vouchers ended up being a good deal.  So, if you're headed to Vegas and looking for some good places to eat and want to use a Restaurant.com voucher, try these places:

Aromi d'Italia
Coconut's Beach Bar and Mexican Grill
The Alexis Garden restaurant
Strip Burger

I know I said we had 6 vouchers, and we did.  We actually had 2 vouchers for Aromi d'Italia, so we ate there twice (I'll get to this in a moment), and we had one for El Segundo Sol, which we didn't have time to eat at, unfortunately (but it looked very, very good!).

Part of the stipulations of these vouchers is that you are only allowed to use one restaurant specific voucher, per party, per month.  In other words, you can only use a coupon at the same restaurant one time per month.  We knew that this was printed on the coupon, but we figured we'd just try it a few days apart, and they didn't seem to care.  Now, had we gone in on consecutive days, maybe they would, but whatever.

Next time you're going on vacation, why not try out restaurant.com and see if there's anything on there that looks good!  We did, and it seemed to work out pretty well!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Race Recap - RnR Las Vegas half marathon

Last weekend was a pretty special weekend in my household.  Not only was it The Wife and my 6th anniversary (woo hoo!), but we got to experience a couple of firsts in our relationship.  The first, well, first, is that we took a little trip to Las Vegas, together.  We both have been there separately (I went back in 2009 for the greatest concert ever...311 day!), but we had never been there at the same time.  The main reason for us never having taken a trip to Vegas together is because Vegas really isn't my kind of place.  If I'm going to go on vacation, that's not the first place (or even the tenth place for that matter) that comes to my mind.  And, with us having a young daughter, Vegas is definitely not a place that I think kids should go...but that's a whole other story.  This trip ended up happening because of the wonderful opportunity that I've had to be on Team Marathon Bar.

The strip with the Cosmopolitan Hotel with its blue lights


As a member of Team Marathon Bar 2011, I had agreed to race in at least one Rock n Roll Series event.  I chose the Las Vegas half marathon as that event.  And somehow, even though she had never run anywhere near that far before, I convinced The Wife to join me in the race!  We made arrangements for my parents to watch our daughter and our trip was ready!

We arrived in Vegas on Friday afternoon.  My dad had come with us (to make a long story short, he hooked us up with a hotel room by using his player's club card, and in return  we paid for his plane flight home.  It was much cheaper than paying for a hotel room) and was to be heading home that night.  We checked into the hotel, got the room all situated, and went to grab some lunch.  After lunch we headed out to the Disney outlet store to see if they had any sweet deals before returning back to the room.  Part of getting a free room through one's player's club card is that you agree to gamble a little during your stay, so my dad had to go play the slots for a bit.  The Wife and I took this time to participate in a TV show screening research study, which ended up paying each of us $30 cash and a ticket to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower at the Paris hotel.  Sweet!  After that was over, we took my dad to the airport, had some dinner, and went back to the room to get some sleep before we had our big day at the expo on Saturday.

THE EXPO
As I mentioned earlier, The Wife and I had participated in a TV show review panel in which we were compensated for our time.  Well, I woke up early enough and had some time to kill while The Wife got ready for the day, so I headed back down to the review panel and participated again!  Another $40 cash money into my pocket!  Alright, now for the expo...
The Rock n Roll Series puts together expos like nobody else.  The only other races that I've been to that even come close are the Disney expos.  There usually sooooo many vendors at the RnR expos that you are guaranteed to walk away with at least a couple free things.  The Wife and I made it a point to walk up and down every isle to see what there was to sample.  And we definitely scored!  The Wife got her IT band taped with some kinesiology tape for free, we picked up about five 5-hour energy bottles, we each got a couple t-shirts, some flashing lights, Sports Beans, wine samples, and a whole crap-ton of other stuff.  I had agreed to meet at the Marathon Bar booth at 1 p.m., so we had arrived at the expo around 11 a.m. and spent a couple hours walking around.

When I met up at the Marathon Bar booth, I wasn't really sure what was to come.  I was asked if I wanted to participate in a Rock Band competition, to which I declined (had I sampled the wine a bit more, I would have agreed!).  Then I was asked to judge the competition instead.  And heck yes I agreed to that!

No, I did not play the Simon Cowell role

The 3 of us judges, judging away!
The competition was actually very fun to watch, and I wish I would have agreed to play in it.  But oh well...there's always next year!

After the Rock Band competition was over, we took a few Team Marathon photos of the members that were there, and did some filming for an upcoming weight-loss piece that is going to air on Lifetime some time early in 2012.  I'll keep you posted if I learn any more about this.  After the expo, it was off to dinner, then up to the top of the Eiffel Tower, then back to bed.  For our Eiffel Tower experience, we planned to be at the top during sunset.  We thought it would be a great view, and it was.  Check out this sequence of photos The Wife took (sorry for the quality...the battery on The Wife's good camera died so we had to use our little pocket camera.  Still pretty sweet looking in my opinion though!)

The Bellagio

Looking South from the Eiffel Tower (Mandalay Bay/race start is the gold building off in the distance)

The Flamingo hotel

Planet Hollywood hotel

The Flamingo again, with the sun setting so now it is lit up!

Looking South again, with some lights on now

And South again

And again...

Planet Hollywood is brightly lit

The Bellagio is very majestic at night

And the Flamingo hotel one more time

RACE DAY
Race day was going to be interesting.  I had never run a night race, and The Wife had never run a half marathon, so this whole thing was going to be new to us.  We planned to wake up at a decent time, head out to lunch and be back around 1 p.m. or so in hopes to take a little nap.  Our plan hit a minor snaffu when The Wife realized she did not pack a crucial piece of her running attire, so we spent some of the morning searching for a replacement, which worked out well because we ended up at the same mall where we were planning on eating lunch.  We enjoyed a small lunch, headed back to the room and took about an hour nap.

We had plans to try and meet up with some of our friends that were also running their first half marathon prior to the race.  We thought that maybe it would be a little difficult trying to find 2 people in a sea of 44,000 people, but it actually wasn't bad at all.  We met up with them, found our way to the bag check area (which I thought was very, very well organized) and checked in our bags which we would pick up again after the race.  We spent a few more minutes inside killing time, but eventually found our way outside so we could soak up the race experience.

The Wife and Krista

The Wife and me

Krista and Zak

We failed to consider how cold it was outside, and that we had over an hour prior to race time.  So after we took these pictures, we searched out some of those outdoor heaters.  We huddled around the heaters for a while, then decided to go watch Cheap Trick finish their pre-race concert, and wait to watch the Jabbawockeez give a little sample of their hip hop anonymous dance show.  Once they were done, it was time to head to the corrals and wait for the race start.

Depending on where you read the stats, it's reported that there were 36,000 people registered for the half marathon.  I think we all headed to the corrals at the same time.  When we got over to the corrals, we immediately hit a brick wall of people and stopped moving.  We realized we were only at corral 12 and had a long way to go until we reached 24.  We saw a little break between corrals 12 and 13 and decided to try and walk to the other side of the corrals in order to get out of the crowd and be able to move back to our corral.  Well, we realized, once we were already half way across, that this was not a walkway, and we were in fact now in corral 12.  I made the executive decision to just go ahead and stay in this corral since we would never make it back to our corral in time.  We planned on running at the start to get out of the crowd and make our way to the side so we could walk.


I'm sure some people are upset with what we did, but trust me, if you saw the rush hour traffic jam that was going on, you would have done the same.  And I could tell by looking around at other bib numbers near us that a lot of people did do the same thing.  I know that doesn't make it right, it's just a result of over crowding.

After a few technical problems with the sound system (we didn't hear most of the pre race talk and national anthem), the race started!  We slowly worked our way to the starting line, waiting until it was our adopted corral's turn to start.


The first 4 or 5 miles of the race were very entertaining.  It was really cool to run down the Vegas strip with all of the lights on.



The other part that was awesome was since this race was an out-and-back style, we got to see all of the race leaders running toward the finish.  Those guys and girls are fast!

The middle portion of the race wasn't as visually appealing, but it was still fun enough.  There was actually a section where there was runners moving in both directions.  There were people everywhere!


After that little section, it was time to start heading back toward the strip.  The nice thing about this race was that there were plenty of land markers to reference where you were headed.  To know that we were headed back toward the strip, we just knew we were running to the Stratosphere.


Finally, we were back on the strip and headed toward Mandalay Bay to finish the race.



And the big finish...


Woo hoo!  The Wife just finished her first half marathon!  And she did an awesome job.  I really couldn't be prouder.  And she was obviously feeling pretty excited at the time, because she walked right by the medals without getting one!  I had to run up to her and grab her and tell her to go back and get a medal!

POST RACE
The post race amenities left a little to be desired (like ripe bananas instead of green bananas, and maybe some electrolyte drink?), but it wasn't bad enough to ruin the moment.  We grabbed whatever we felt we needed at the time and headed back inside Mandalay Bay to get our bag from the bag check area.  When we entered the hotel, there were runners everywhere.  There was now 44,000 runners who didn't feel like walking back to their hotel lying all over the place.  It was pretty crowded to say the least.  But we still made our way to the gear check area without any problems.  We found a spot to sit down for a few minutes and I went and got our bags.  I changed into some regular clothes (since I didn't want to wear my spandex running pants out to dinner), met up with Krista and Zak, jumped on a charter bus that drove us down to where we were planning on eating dinner.  We limped our way over to Strip Burger and enjoyed a fantastic post-race meal, including these bad boys...

That's right, 32 oz beer is a great post race rehydration tool!

And with that, the night was a success.  Everyone finished the race and lived to tell about it.

THOUGHTS
There's a lot of negative press out there about this race.  There's stories of many, many people getting sick (the rumor is that the race water may have been contaminated), running out of finisher medals, running out of race t-shirts, etc.  Some of these things were possibly avoidable, and some perhaps not.  We ended up having a great time, and didn't really let any of the problems that other runners seem to be caught up on bother us.  I can see that if you were trying to run this race for time, then you may be upset.  The one thing that was pretty messed up was how the marathon and half marathon were supposed to "share" the road.  There was one lane marked for marathon runners and between 3-5 lanes for half marathon runners.  Unfortunately, nobody really took note of this and the marathon runners sort of got screwed.  Unless they were on pace to run a 3:00 marathon, they met up with 36,000 half marathoners and had no room to run their race.  But the way we looked at it was, it's a race in Vegas, it probably shouldn't be taken seriously.

On that note, The Wife's performance really blew me away.  I went into this thing expecting to finish around the 4:00 mark, and we were under that by about 45 minutes!  The Wife has been having some pretty severe IT band issues, which had prevented her from really training, at all.  We ran 8 miles back in July, and since then she has only walked 3 miles at a time.  So for he to get through this race and to do so like she did was amazing!

Congrats on finishing your first half marathon!!!!!!!

Monday, November 28, 2011

2012 IMCdA Training plan

Today (I am writing this on Monday night) is the day that most people will be starting their 30-week training plan for Ironman Coeur d'Alene.  I, on the other hand, am still taking a little time to recover from Ironman Arizona, which apparently involves running a half marathon in Las Vegas.  Anywho, I'm currently going through the process of figuring out what I want to accomplish for this next Ironman race.

I have a few goals on the table that I need to filter through in order to decide what my game plan is going to be.  First off, my overall goal will be to finish Ironman CdA.  Since I've never raced this course before, I won't really know what to expect, so just finishing it will be a successful day.  The next step up would be setting a new PR.  And while I had a phenomenal day at Ironman Arizona last week, there is still plenty of room for improvement.  The question is, how high do I set the bar?  Do I go for an even 11:30, or go big and say sub-11?  Lastly, there is a rivalry goal that I must consider.  Well, two of them actually.

The first rivalry goal is that I have to decide if I think I'm capable of finishing first out of the group of people I will be racing with.  Realistically, this doesn't matter.  But, it's one of those things that just exists.  We are all going to be thinking that finishing first out of the group would be awesome, but of course, no one is really going to come out and say it.  The other rivalry this has much more pressure added to it is my rivalry with The Captain.  Now, we don't really have a rivalry, because we are good friends and we do a lot of our training together.  But the way that our racing has played out is that he had beaten me in 2 previous Ironman Arizona races, and I finally beat him last week.  Well, he is going to be doing Ironman Arizona again next year, with the goal of beating my current IMAZ PR of 11:39:49.  So my rivalry goal for IM CdA is to set a new PR that The Captain will be unable to beat at IMAZ.  I do think that this is wishful thinking.

I'm not saying that I'm actually going to include all of these goals into my training planning.  I'm just saying that these are some of the goals that I have to consider so I can figure out what my real goals and expectations are for this race.

I'm hoping to have the basic outline of a training plan within the next few days, and I'll post it once I do.  Until then, I'll just be doing some easy training to allow my body to continue to recover before I get going again.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

I forgot a couple of photos!

In the midst of writing up these novel-style race reports (sorry they were sooooo long!), I forgot to include a couple of pictures that were pretty funny.

At one point in the race recap, I explained that The Wife and her sister had bumped into Eric Byrnes' wife.  Well, The Greats (The Wife's grandparents) are actually big fans of Major League Baseball, and more specifically the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Diego Padres.  It took some explaining, but the instant that The Greats realized that Eric Byrnes' wife was just on the other side of the bike-start chute was priceless!  See for yourself:

Here is my mom explaining to The Wife's grandma that Eric Byrnes' wife is just across the way
Here is the look on her face when she finally understands
And now here's my mom laughing at that particular reaction
I think she would have passed out if she saw Eric Byrnes go by on his bike!  Definitely an awesome reaction.

Ok, I think I'm finally done talking about this Ironman race.  Maybe.  Eh, I'll probably find something else to write about it.  Ha!

Thanks for reading!

*And thanks Rachel (not The Wife, like I incorrectly stated in a previous post) for the pictures!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Day in the Life of an Ironman Spectator

Guest post time from The Wife!
(Please pardon the long-windedness of this post & any errors, 
because I had to write it TWICE due to a glitch that erased half of it - yikes!)
The Wife & Little One - We are one proud family!
Pre-Game Prep

After an 8pm bedtime the night before, I shook Jason awake when his alarm went off at 3AM. (He was wearing ear plugs because our hotel was half full of ironman athletes, & half full of rowdy football fans in Tempe for the ASU/UofA game. It took a lot of convincing to get him to wear them, because he thought he would sleep through the alarm.) From that point on, I am awake for the day, but I am trying to stay quiet so our 3 year old sleeps in as late as possible.

Side note: If you are looking into places to stay, we have tried out 2. Both are great hospitable places to stay, modernly designed, & due to popularity, reservations need to be made about 11 months in advance. Here's my abbreviated take on them... Courtyard Marriott: Pricier, nice standard rooms, selling point is that it is within walking distance of all weekend events & easy to drop by your room midday if necessary; Hyatt Place Tempe: Well priced, farther distance (they do provide shuttle service), large rooms - similar to a suite (conducive to accommodating all of the crap that triathletes bring along with them for their races ;) winking), free breakfast (this year they provided gatorade, bananas, & granola bars for athletes).
  
After sending Jason off  with a kiss for good luck, I got ready for the long day ahead. Pack up a backpack full of snacks and drinks for the day & fill the wagon with chairs for sitting on. Our support team is eclectic, ranging in age from 3 to 80, so it serves well to be prepared. We definitely dressed in layers, because it is chilly in the morning, but sunny & warm by the afternoon. I called The Captain's wife who was staying warm in their truck in the parking garage.  The Greats (my grandparents) were waiting outside. Little One & I headed off down the hallway to the Parents' room. After knocking on their door, we discovered that they were still in their pajamas, because their alarm clocks were off by AN HOUR! Oooops! No time to delay, we had to head to the start. 

Little One's Deluxe Transportation
Meet Our Crew: My mom & stepdad (the energetic ones who run from spot to spot to enthusiastically yell for their athletes, using bike, motorcycles, and cowbells as accessories), Great Grandma (loves to brag about J),  Me (designated videographer), The Parents (photographer and child wrangler extraordinaire), Great Grandpa (Number cruncher - always keeping track of athletes splits & expected times),  Little One (super trooper daddy fan), J's Sister In Law (the smart one: always there for race start &; key cheering times, takes a break in the afternoon to do homework & do Macayos Happy Hour before volunteering at the finish line)




Our favorite place to view the swim start is from atop the East Mill Avenue Bridge. For a 7AM race start, it is necessary to get up to the bridge by 6AM at the latest. We set up our chairs in a little semi circle in effort to save space for the members of our party who had not yet arrived. I ran down under the bridge by the water & met up with Jason. He spends so much time training leading up to this race that i can't wait to watch him meet his goals. I communicated where we were standing on the bridge, so the J & the Captain could wave to us before the start. (BTW - The Parents made it to the bridge in time to wave to Jason.)

Our prime viewing spot


Swim, Daddy, Swim!

After the Pros take off, 3000 athletes jump into Temp Town Lake and make their way towards the kayak line to tread water waiting for the start gun. It is an amazing sight & it feels like the swimmers coming out from under the lake are never ending. It is a miracle that I am able to spot J nearly every time. One very smart athlete had a flashing light attached to his swim cap - BRILLIANT for easy recognition! One of my most favorite parts of the whole event is hearing the national anthem. The first year we watched, the whole lake was full of people singing along. Then they are off! An endless sea of athletes swimming towards the sunrise. 

Funny sign we saw while waiting

Now comes the tricky part. You have to decide which side of the course you want to be "trapped" on. You can either be by the lake, or outside the bike course near Mill & Rio Salado. We opted to stay "inside"  by the lake side. While walking to our "spot", my sister and I passed a woman and her children that we determined to be Eric Byrnes' family. We got a good laugh out of that ; ) We waited and watched all of the athletes run by with their wetsuits in hand to pick up their transition bags. Thankfully J's bright orange and blue jersey is easy to spot. Then we ran over to the bike chute to yell for him as he sped by on his bike.  

  
Good thing there was approximately 2 hours until he would be back near Tempe Beach Park on the bike loop... At this race course, they have "crosswalks" to cross the race path. Well, considering that there are about 3000 athletes & they are all speeding down a narrow race chute, that leaves little time for even more spectators to safely cross their paths during the virtually nonexistent breaks in the action! They have security regulating this, but for safety, they have to wait a LONG time to let people through. I think it was about 40 minutes before they would let 3 people at a time run across. I would love to see them construct temporary "bridges" to help with this problem in the next few years. 



We waited near the lake to watch people come out of the water for the swim. We wrote with chalk on the run path along the lake words of encouragement for the 3rd portion of the race later in the day. Watching the swim cutoff is exhilarating and heartbreaking at the same time. It was amazing to watch
a guy encourage a girl the rest of the way to narrowly make their way out of the water before the time ran out. It was impossible though not to get choked up watching a woman struggle her way the whole 2.4 miles in the murky water just to be told that she missed it by a few seconds. As Mike Riley says, "You WILL come back and do it next time."


Bike, Daddy, Bike!

The next stop is along Rio Salado. The street is lined on both sides by people waiting hours to spot a glimpse of their loved ones speed by at 20+ MPH & to give them a cheer to boost their confidence before they head back out to the Beeline Highway. We pulled our wagon full of chairs and set them up behind a group of fans sitting on the sidewalk. This is not always easy... here is a video clip of one of our false alarms. 


Since we have slightly less than 2 hours to kill again, we walk down Mill Avenue to find a spot to get some lunch. There are tons of restaurants conveniently located within a very short walking distance. We chose Gordon Biersch. After my tummy was full from tapas and a pear gorgonzola salad (thanks for treating us Great Gpa!) We also dropped off all of our warm jackets at the hotel (an advantage of staying at the Marriott).

Little One with some Marathon Bar love!

The Greats returned to the hotel for a nap & The Parents, Little One, & I headed back to Rio Salado. We parked ourselves along the curb and started watching everyone who passed. at this point, both J & The Captain were making very good time & moving along faster than we expected. They were within a few seconds of each other on this lap. We took advantage of the early afternoon timing and returned to our hotel room for a brief rest. I was able to sit down, and upload some of the videos I had taken so far to the computer. 

Before we knew it, it was back to the transition area to watch the bike finish. The Greats & The Parents went to the "Run Out" area. Little One & I perched up on a planter on the southeast corner of Tempe Beach Park to await J's bike finish. To our delight, we saw him & The Captain cruise by together! We made a quick call to notify the others & then hustled down to meet up with them. J looked happy to be off the bike & on to what I normally consider his best event of the Ironman.  


Run, Daddy, Run!  

The next camp out location was under the Mill Avenue bridge. At this point, Little One could play in the dirt - she was getting a little antsy by this point in the day, but is quite a trooper. (Juice boxes, Grandma's Banana Bread, almonds, and raisins are also great tools to get preschoolers to hold still for a short amount of time.) We set up our chairs along the sidewalk. At this point, we were able to view runners on approximately the 3 mile and 9 mile point pf each of their 3 loops.  
Snack Time
As Jason came to our point at the end of his first loop, I was definitely worried. He didn't have his head held high, or  look like he could do this all day long,  in the casual way he normally appears during races. He waved, but looked tired & worn down. I knew he really wanted to finish in under 12 hours, and I was secretly hoping he could do 11:30, and wasn't really sure his spirits fit in with this plan.   

When he came by again (which would be about 3 miles later) he suddenly looked like he had much more energy.... and he was running next to a kid who I thought was a little strange, because he was smiling right at me and my camera. I would later learn that Murph, an Ironman virgin from Texas saved my hubby on his race - Thanks for that buddy! Now Jason was on his way for the second lap of the run. 

We packed up to cross over the "crosswalk" to be on the "other side" of the race course. Tempe Beach Park has a great little playground, perfect for expending preschoolers energy during the mid afternoon. I took the opportunity to grab a little Jamba Juice & nachos (I'm a sucker for the junk food at times to my husband's dismay). 
Playtime with Grandpa (Professional Child Wrangler)


Then we stood on the platform where 10 hours earlier athletes jumped in the lake to start their adventure to wait for J to come by to start his last lap. Finally we saw them - J & Murph! Whoo hoo! Kick it boys! Get moving on that last lap... you're almost an Ironman!  

We went to watch Jason at mile 21 when my daughter informed me that she had to go to the bathroom. I asked her if she could wait to see Daddy run by, and she said, "No! I'm going to poop my pants! I have to go NOW!". Ummmm. No. I did NOT bring a change of clothes for her. This is an emergency & we needed to find a port a potty STAT. Luckily, I knew that one of my co-workers from the hospital was about to start his volunteer shift at the finish line medical tent at about this time. I hustled my 3 year old over there & he snuck us in. (It is hard to find a port a potty that isn't full or doesn't have a long line by this point in the day....) We made it! Although, we got walked in on by some poor athlete & Little One exclaimed, "He sneaked up on us!"  

Whew! Off to the finish line! J's Dad had taken our wagon back to the hotel so we didn't have to deal with it & the bleachers at the finish. We all made the climb up the bleachers to watch athletes arrive at the end of their quest. In reality, if you are relatively young or old and not super steady on your feet, the bleachers are a treacherous place to be! As people saw their loved ones come down the chute, they would clear out & we were able to slowly make our way down towards the ground level. Thank goodness we did, because about 40 minutes before Jason finished, Little One became a limp sack of potatoes in my arms, passed out asleep, and never regained consciousness for the end of the night ; ) My arms were DYING trying to cradle her. I am not the ironman athlete my better half is. The only thing keeping me in that spot was knowing I would get a glimpse of Jason soon. 

[Side note of annoyance: There was this photographer with a GIANT camera leaning over the siderail completely blocking my view. That is just plain rude. If you are just spectating for the general fun of it and not watching anyone specifically, please stand a few rows back. Most of us have been up since 5am vigilantly keeping watch out for our loved ones and cheering them on all day long. We REALLY want to see them cross that finish line! Okay... I am done]  

The clock passed 11:30 and I was bummed that he didn't finish by my secret goal, but was very anxious to see him round that corner! Then @ 11:39, Murph & Jason ran past us, throwing their hands in the air to finish. The cool thing was, my mom, step dad, stepbrother, stepsister, and sister were all volunteering at the finish line at this point, so they got to see him up close and personal right when he crossed the line, and gave him his medal. 
Laughing with the Step dad about talking to Eric Byrnes

Murph, J, & my Mom
After that... The Greats & The Parents walked back to the hotel with Grandpa slinging our dead weight Little One over his shoulder... because we had already returned the wagon to the hotel... epic fail.  I set out to find Jason in the massive sea of athletes... and he obviously doesn't have a cell phone with him. (What did we do before those things?) We missed each other a little bit, because I went to the recovery area & he walked into the stands (and saw The Captain finish!). Note to self: Talk about your post race meet-up plan BEFORE race day.  

Spectating with the athlete 

To register for IMAZ, you basically have to either race or volunteer to be able to sign up for the next subsequent year's race. Last year, Jason & I both worked in the Finish Line Medical Tent towards the end of the race. We were blessed with the chance to see Chrissy Wellington party with the crowd at the midnight finish. We had so much fun that we decided to make a point to try and see it every year! 

After walking his gear back to the hotel, we got a meal at Fatburger. (We were very disappointed that they were out of skinny fries & milkshakes:(( crying) Then we looked at the clock & we still had THREE hours left before midnight!  

I am ashamed to admit it, but I complained kicking and screaming about staying for the finish. I was so tired, my feet hurt, I was cold, and I just wanted to go to sleep. Oh wait.... my husband just swam 2.4 miles (I would have drowned), biked 112 miles ( I would have quit), and ran a marathon (I would have died). But as he says, "I train for this and you don't". I think he's just trying to make me feel better... and I'll take it!  

Wouldn't you  know it, I made it to midnight. We chatted with a young kid who actually got a Kona spot that rolled down to his 3rd in age group finish the next day. We also talked with a man who came out every year to spectate and was considering attempting it himself.   

During this last hour or so, all of the Pros are hanging out in the finish chute, encouraging the athletes on their last stretch. Mike Riley (the "Voice" of Ironman who announces everyone's name all day long) is out there swinging around his towel, pumping up the crowd. All the people down in the front bang on the boards to the beat of the loud music creating a frenzied environment.  

We watched a woman who once placed first in her age group in Kona, lost her leg in a car accident, attempted post amputation to complete 2 Ironman's unsuccessfully, but was able to finish under regulation time in AZ. I saw a 74 year old man cross the finish line.... AMAZING! An older gentleman who had obviously suffered some sort of injury came around the corner being supported my 2 fellow athletes all the way to the end - what a show of sportsmanship.  When they were almost at the finish, Mike Riley stopped them and cued the entire crowd to roar, "YOU are an IRONMAN!!!!" The most nail-biting highlight was watching a woman give every last ounce of her self to make it across the finish line at the VERY last second.  Check out her photo finish. 

If you have never had the chance to experience spectating an Ironman, do it! Especially if you think you might like to attempt it yourself one day. It promises to always be an emotion filled, awe inspiring experience. I always look forward to them & LOVE to hear those words.... "Jason Wright... YOU are an Ironman!"

I am so proud of you and I love you very much Jason.

Friday, November 25, 2011

My epic battle with Eric Byrnes is over!

It's time for battle!

By now, you're probably aware that I just completed Ironman Arizona, and set a new personal record.  It was a crazy day, and a lot of it went better than I could have imagined.  I've already told you about all of my personal goals and accomplishments for that day, except one.  And that goal was to beat Eric Byrnes!

Image found on Google of Eric Byrnes
Eric Byrnes used to play professional baseball for the Arizona Diamondbacks (and a few other teams during his career).  He retired from the MLB after playing in the majors from 2000 to 2010.  Since his retirement, he has been playing some slow-pitch softball, golfing, and probably a ton of other perfect retirement activities to just enjoy life.  One thing that he also started showing interest in was triathlons.

For his first triathlon, he wore his surfing wetsuit, rode a beach cruiser for the bike portion, and then still clicked out some 6:30 miles during the run.  And doing a few shorter triathlons got his eyes set on the big dance...a full blown Ironman triathlon.

Fast forward to November 2011.  Eric Byrnes could have signed up for any Ironman in the world, but he chose Arizona.  Some might think it was because he used to play professional baseball in Arizona, so he felt comfortable here.  Others might think that he did his research and found that Ironman Arizona is actually a pretty nice race.  But the truth is that Byrnsie was challenging me to a duel.  I'm pretty sure as he was signing up for the race, he said to himself, "Jason Wright!  You're going down!"

When I found out that Eric Byrnes was going to be battling me head-to-head at Ironman Arizona, I started to wonder just how fast he would be.  I had already set my personal goals and felt that they were pretty lofty already, so I wasn't really going to be changing my time goal.  But would the added advantage of beating Eric Byrnes propel me to a speed that I have yet to discover?

All during race weekend, I could tell that Byrnsie was avoiding me.  I went to the athlete check in on Friday, and I'm sure he went on Thursday or early on Friday to avoid receiving my incredibly intimidating glare.  And at the athlete dinner on Friday night, I had saved him a seat, and he purposefully either didn't show up or sat as far away as he could.  Then on race morning, he did everything in his power to get away from me.

Before I get to the actual race results and which one of us was declared the winner of our epic duel, let's set the stage with a couple videos.  This first one is of me getting ready on race morning, and there was only one thing on my mind...


This next video is actually of The Wife and her sister.  While they were spectating, they happened to end up next to Eric Byrnes' family!  The Wife ended up talking with Byrnsie's wife (and says that she was very nice and friendly).  This video is a recap of what happened...


Now, let me clear something up.  The Wife was incorrect.  This is, in fact, a REAL rivalry!  Look at all of the facts, and it is very obvious that this thing is for real.  Moving on.

And finally, here is how the epic battle went down!

The swim was intense.  I kept looking for Eric Byrnes before I got in the water.  I was going to offer to let him draft off of me so he could be fresh for the bike and run (or, maybe I was actually planning on drafting off of him!).  But, I could not find him.  I'm pretty sure he had his body guards keeping an eye on me and telling him to move to the other end of transition whenever I was getting near.  The swim started, and about halfway through I got kicked in the face.  "Darn you Byrnsie!"  I know that he was the one that kicked me.  He had singled me out in the swim and deliberately swam in front of me to get in this cheap shot.  But that's fine.  I didn't let it phase me.  After the swim, this is what our stats looked like:

Byrnsie: Swim time - 1:15:52, T1 time - 8:40, total time - 1:24:32
Jason: Swim time - 1:19:47, T1 time - 9:39, total time - 1:29:26

Sweet!  I was only down by about 5 minutes.  Not too shabby!

The bike was where the tide changed...but not in my direction.  I still had not actually seen Byrnsie out there on the battle field, so I had no idea where he was in relation to where I was.  And that's probably because he was flying on the bike!  He was going so fast that I'm considering requesting that his bike be inspected for a jet engine.  The other thing that I'm sure about is that Byrnsie was the cause of all of the flat tires out on the course.  After receiving the kick in the face from him during the swim, I wouldn't put it past him to have carried a baggie full of thumbtacks out onto the bike course with the intention of releasing them in hopes to give me a flat tire.  He needed an advantage!  Lucky for me, he missed.  But that didn't matter.  He smoked me on the bike:

Byrnsie: Bike time - 5:10:06, T2 time - 6:03, total time - 6:40:41
Jason: Bike time - 5:34:44, T2 time - 2:47, total time - 7:04:10

Crap!  Byrnsie was crushing me!  But on the positive side, I did have a faster T2, so ha!

The run, as you may have already read in my run recap, was a little rough for me.  Byrnsie, on the other hand, had a great run!  Again, I didn't see him because he obviously avoided me, but he had a great marathon time.  Based on his splits, he averaged around 8:30/mile for the first 9 miles, slowed only slightly to 9:20/mile for the next 8.5 miles, and slowed to 10:48/mile for the last 6.2 miles.  It may seem as if he was getting tired near the end, but that's not the case.  He was deliberately slowing down in order to taunt me!  He had such a great race, and had blown me away, that he wanted to savor the moment for a while and really rub it in.  Well played, sir, well played.

Byrnsie: Run time - 4:04:22, total time at finish - 10:45:01
Jason: Run time - 4:32:54, total time at finish - 11:39:49

Back in January of this year, I made the bold prediction that Eric Byrnes could finish this race under 10 hours.  I wasn't quite correct, but I was correct in predicting that he would have an absolutely amazing Ironman debut!  There was no doubt in my mind that Byrnsie would attack this sport with the same intensity that earned him the right to play major league baseball.  On top of that, he is the prime age for triathletes, and he is fortunate enough to have the perfect living situation to become a top level triathlete.  I'm just happy that I was within an hour of his time!  I think he took it easy on me.

It kills me to say it, but congratulations on destroying my hopes and dreams, Mr. Byrnes.  You may have won the battle, but the war is far from over!  I fully expect you to return to IMAZ in 2013 when I plan on racing this course again.

Ok, now that my soul is crushed, let's get to a happier note.  As I said earlier, The Wife ended up bumping into Eric Byrnes' wife.  And as The Wife's sister stated in that video, they sure as heck snapped a picture of their sign:

Awesome sign Mrs. Byrnes!

And The Wife also got a great shot of Byrnsie in action, just as he was passing his family!

It pays to have a great sign!  I'm sure he was very happy to see his family.

And oddly enough, my mother in law was volunteering at the finish line, placing medals on finishers.  Well...she got to give Eric Byrnes his first Ironman medal!  Awesome!  And of course, she and her husband snagged a photo of the lightning fast Eric Byrnes and his beautiful family:

Congrats on the wonder finish!

Thank you Mr. Byrnes for the epic battle.  I am proud to have provided you with a rivalry that could push you to your limits and drive you to finish in such an amazing time in your Ironman debut.  I wish you continued success in your retirement and your new found addiction that is triathlon.  Hopefully one day we can battle again to see who wins round 2!