Monday, November 21, 2011

2011 IMAZ Race Recap - Pre race and swim

After each race that I do, I like to write up a race recap for two reasons.  First, so others can get a little insight into what was going on that day and second, for me to actually remember the race!  The 2011 Ironman Arizona will be no exception.  The difference will be that I am going to break the race recap into a few different posts, because the race was so long and there's so much wonderful information to share!  So for the first portion of the recap, I will begin with pre-race and the swim.

I headed out to Tempe on Friday morning for athlete registration.  At Ironman events, all athletes have to register on either Thursday or Friday, and then bike/gear bag check-in is on Saturday.  My plan for Friday was pretty simple:  get out to Tempe, get registered, and drop off my bike at the Ironman Wheel Rental tent to get my race wheels put on my bike.  My hope was to get the wheels on my bike in time to take my bike out for a short 20-minute ride to test out the wheels.  Well, by the time I dropped off my bike, the guys in the tent said I would need to pick up my bike on Saturday morning.  The Captain was trying to stick to the same schedule as me, and since I wouldn't have a bike, we had to move our ride to Saturday.  We spent the rest of Friday sitting around relaxing (The Captain and his wife were gracious enough to let me crash in their hotel for the evening) and then enjoying the athlete dinner.

Saturday morning was busy, and yet relaxing.  The Captain and I had some Marathon Bar and Wheaties Fuel to hand out, so we went down to the expo at about 8:30 a.m.  We were done with our distributing duties by 9:00 a.m., which was when the open water practice swim started.  We wetsuited up and hopped into the lake to get a taste of what the lake had to offer (and it tastes bad!).  We ended up swimming for around 20 minutes before we called it a day.  We then took a short walk across the expo to get my bike with the race wheels all set to go, and jumped on our bikes for a short 15 minute ride to test out the new wheels.  After that it was time to clean up and get some Subway for lunch before checking in our bikes and gear bags!

Dinner on the eve of a race is always important, and it's become somewhat of a tradition for us to go to Claim Jumper with a large group (12 people!) to get excited for the race.  This year, that tradition continued with an early 4:00 p.m. dinner.  With dinner in our bellies, there was nothing left to do but go to our hotel and sleep!

Race morning came bright and early with a 3:50 a.m. alarm.  I immediately began my pre-race ritual of eating a Marathon Bar, a bagel, a banana, and a cup of coffee before I slowly sipped on some water.

My pre-race mugshot
I left my hotel at about 5:00 a.m. (that's when transition opened) and had a short walk (about 2 blocks) to actually get to the transition area.  My morning "to do" list consisted of pumping up my bike tires, getting all of my nutrition into the proper areas (some on the bike and some in my bike to run transition bag), dropping off my bike "special needs" bag (a bag that will be waiting for you during the bike ride, should you need it).  Throughout this process, I met up with The Captain and another buddy of mine Double A and his wife.  We all got our stuff ready then relaxed for a few minutes before the start.


Western view from East Mill Ave. bridge prior to race start
View of the starting line from East Mill Ave. bridge, before the pro's started
Same view, but now with the 2500+ age groupers waiting to start

After we all had our wetsuits on, we noticed that there was a huge mass of people just waiting to jump into the water.  We decided it would be better to make our way to the front of the group, rather than wait and be the last ones in the water.  As we were jumping in the water, the volunteers were telling us "2 minutes!".  Well, once you jump in the water, there's about a two to three hundred yard swim before you even get to the start.  We all thought we were going to miss the start, it turns out the volunteers were tricking us to get us in the water.  We ended up treading water for about 5 minutes before the gun suddenly went off and it was go time!

I'm right in the middle, with The Captain just in front of me, and Double A to his right

The Ironman Arizona swim start is a pretty amazing sight.  This year, there was over 2500 athletes in the water, all starting to swim at the same time.  And because there were so many people in the water, it was actually quite crowded.  I got kicked and hit and grabbed a ridiculous amount of times.  In fact, during the second half of the swim I got kicked in the face hard enough knock my goggles loose, leaving a little bit of a bruise under my left eye.

The above video was taken by The Wife...thanks for waking up so early!

Even with the swim being a bit of an underwater wrestling match, I was able to start the 2011 IMAZ race off with a bang!  I jumped out of the water and ran toward transition for a few steps before I remembered to look at my watch.  When I did, I saw that it was 8:22 a.m., meaning my swim was somewhere around an hour and twenty minutes.

Heading through transition to get my swim to bike bag!
I didn't know it at the time, but my official swim time was 1:19:47, which for me is a screamin' fast swim time.  I also was unaware that I was only behind The Captain by about 8 minutes (in our previous Ironman races, it was more like 15 minutes).

Overall, the swim felt pretty good.  I did have something happen that would lead to some issues later on in the race, but I'll explain all of that in greater detail when I get to talking about the run portion of the race.  So, after the swim I was sitting at 1155 overall, and 91 in my division...not too bad in my book!

Tomorrow I'll have the next portion of the race recap...the bike.  And in case you're wondering, here's the whole lineup of posts that will be included in this recap series:
The Bike
The Run
The Byrnes/Wright battle of Ironman Arizona 2011
Spectating at Ironman Arizona 2011


  1. Great write-up so far. I'm paying close attention now to everyone's big-distance race reports since I registered for the Honu Half IM in June. My pre-race blog will probably look way less relaxed than yours, more like, "Woke up, bathroom, Jittered/Breakfast, bathroom, jittered, checked bike (again), bathroom, jittered, etc...). Looking forward to hearing about the rest of the race.

  2. Thanks for reading, Dirtbag! I was much more nervous than my pre-race description portrayed. But the truth is, my timing that morning went pretty smoothly. I didn't really stand around with nothing to do (other than think about the race), and I also never felt rushed. I was pretty lucky.

    Good luck in the Honu Half IM in June! I'll be racing IM Coeur d'Alene at the end of June. Hopefully we both achieve our goals!