11.Twenty.20Eleven – Ironman Arizona

Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays!!

Race Week
The week leading up to Ironman Arizona was supposed to be nice-n-relaxing.  I was well into my taper and took the entire week off from work.  However, with thoughts of my 1st IM (and all of the unknowns associated with that) and a two (2) day, 14 hour road-trip with a 5 month old (and all of the unknowns associated with that), I was a bit nervous.  Actually, that is probably understating my mental state quite a bit.  I am most often a very easy going person…I try not to get too high in good times nor too low in down times.  However, I was feeling the stress of facing the unknown and the uncontrollable.  How would I feel on the 3rd loop of the bike?  What will the last 16 miles on the run feel like?  What if it rains?

I tried to stay as relaxed as possible.  Molly, June and I packed up on Tuesday and started our journey to AZ.  We were hoping to leave by 10am to make Albuquerque around 5 or 6pm.  Of course, packing for a Jeep full of triathlon AND baby gear is somewhat of a major event in itself and we did not hit the road until 1pm.  We have not even started and we were already 3 hours behind schedule.  Oh well.  Thankfully, June road-tripped like a champ (i.e. slept 90% of the trip) and we were able to make decent time and arrived in Albuquerque, NM around 7pm.  We unloaded the essentials, got some dinner and then crashed.  The next day (Wednesday) we were able to get an earlier start and made our way to Tempe, AZ.  June, again, was a great road-tripper and we made good time.  As we neared Tempe, we actually found ourselves on the IM AZ bike course heading into town.  That got me excited.  Of course, in my excitement, I did not realize that that GPS app on my phone quit working and we missed our turn to the rental house.  Luckily, I was somewhat aware of where we were from previous visits and was able to not get us too completely lost while the phone rebooted and VZ Navigator was reloaded.  Shortly after 5pm, we arrived at the rental house.  We did a quick walk-thru, unloaded the Jeep and then I went for a short shake out run (i.e. nice-n-easy with a few pick-ups).  My run did not feel great…but I chalked it up to 14 hours in the car.

IM AZ Road Trip Cargo

Infant + Wanna-be IM triathlete + Road Trip = Full Jeep. Can you spot the 5 month old?

The next a.m. (Thursday), I woke up and was going to go for a nice-n-easy bike ride.  As I was airing up my tires, I noticed that I had two (2) spots on the sidewall of my front tire that was worn bald.  These were brand new tires and they had two (2) bald spots!  In trying to figure out what happened, I realized that the strap that I used to hold the wheels in place must have rubbed the tires bare during our trip…this was most likely due to the crazy wind we drove through.  Two (2) days before bike check-in and I have an inoperable bike.  I got on-line and found a local bike shop.  They were able to get my bike in today, install some new tires and have it back to me either this afternoon or tomorrow.  I asked if they carried my tire (Michelin Pro 3 Race) and they did not…but one of their sister stores did.  The person with whom I spoke had to make a trip to the other store today, so he said he would pick up some new tires for me.  I was stoked and thanked them profusely when I dropped off my bike.  I tried to relax as much as I could the rest of the day.  Molly, June and I went down to the race site and I did packet pick-up.  On our way home, I got a call from the bike shop and my bike was ready.  Sweet!  Thank you Landis Cyclery!!  On Thursday evening, my mom and her husband arrived from St Louis.  We relaxed with a nice salmon dinner.

GC and June

GC and June hanging at the lake (with the ducks) at the rental house in AZ

On Friday a.m., I met one of my MHM athletes for a bike recon mission.  Thanks (again) to Landis Cyclery, I was able to do the bike recon on my bike!!  John and I met and did an easy ride out to the Beeline Highway.  We rode out a little bit and then back into town.  The ride was nice to get a feel for the course.  On Friday afternoon, Molly’s parents arrived as well as my dad and his wife.  With all of the grandparents set to for babysitting, Molly and I were able to head back into Tempe and attend the Ironman Welcome Dinner.  I was told from veteran IM athletes that you should attend the welcome dinner at least once…and I would agree with that.  It was neat to mingle with other athletes and get pumped up by some of the speakers.  After dinner, we went back to the house, chatted with the grandparents a bit and then I went to bed…hoping for a decent night’s sleep (the sleep you get 2 nights before a race is actually more important than the night before).  Given that I was used to the frequent wake-ups that happen when you have an infant in the house, my sleep patterns of late are far from typical, but I was able to sleep a decent amount.

IM AZ Practice Swim

Max and June getting ready for the IM AZ practice swim in Tempe Town Lake

That brings this tale to Saturday…one (1) day before the race.  I was hoping to spend it with my feet up.  Instead I spent it doing the practice swim, packing (and re-packing) all of my bags, checking into a hotel close to the race site (this is where I would spend Sat night…to hopefully let me get a bit more sleep…but also not force the others to get up at way-to-early-n-dark on Sunday morning), doing bike check-in and running by the grocery store to pick up food for my prerace breakfast.  I was able to put my feet up for about 30 minutes and do a little reading-n-relaxing.  That was critical!  After my short nap, one of my sisters and her family arrived – they were staying with some relatives and wanted to say a quick “Hello.”  After our meeting, the rest of our crew went to a local pizzeria and had some delish whole wheat crust pizza!!  After dinner, Molly dropped me off at the hotel and wished me luck.

June With Grandparents

June With Grandparents

Saturday night I probably slept a total of 1 or 2 hours.  I was up late shaving my legs, checking (and double-checking) all of my race day gear…making sure my Garmin was charged, etc.  Finally, I was able to get in bed and relax with a book.  I would read for a bit, turn off the light and try to sleep for a bit…get anxious…turn back on the light and read for a bit…repeating this cycle 4 or 5 times until I went ahead and got up around 3:30 am (my alarm was for 3:45 as I was meeting “the John’s” at 4:45 to walk over to the transition area).  Upon getting up, I had some breakfast (granola cereal and orange juice), prepped my nutrition, got dressed and then headed down to the lobby to meet the guys.

Pre Race
The atmosphere at the Transition Area (TA) was somewhat subdued.  It was dark and I think everyone knew that it was going to be a long day, so they were conserving their energy.  I dropped off my special needs bags, filled my water bottles and pumped up my (new) bike tires.  Then it was wait-n-relax time.  I hit the porta-potty a few times and scoped the TA layout for both the T1 and T2 “flow.”  At about 6:15, I started to put on my wetsuit.  As the sun was starting to rise and the crowds were starting to gather, the energy was picking up.  I scouted the crowds looking for my family, but was unsuccessful.  HINDSIGHT 20/20 TIP:  If you want to see your family & friends pre-race, have an exact time & location.  The pros were let in the water and shortly thereafter, the age groupers started to get in.  As I got in the water, the cold temps did not bother me much.  I had done the practice swim the day before and knew that in a few minutes my body would acclimate and be ready to go.  I positioned myself on the far side of the swim lane/course (near the middle of the lake…both out & back) about 4 or 5 rows off the front.  I was surveying those around me and moved around a bit to give myself a little bit of space and get away from those that looked like they had a bit of the deer in the headlights look.

The cannon started and the mass swim start was absolutely crazy.  Due to my swim speed (or lack thereof), I was swimming along with a large group of people the entire time.  Although I was on one side of the swimming lane, there were people around me the entire time.  There were people in kayakers that kept yelling at us to “go right”, but there was no room to go right….only lots of flailing arms and legs.  I had some calf cramping very early on…which I need to investigate further.  Not sure if it was the cold water OR improper nutrition/breakfast pre-race or what, but it had my worried.  From time-to-time, I would go into a “pull” mode swimming and try to stretch my ankles with some ankle flexes (I did not want to stop completely less I get swam over by those on my feet).  I never felt super-tired nor did I feel my swim stroke deteriorated much due to fatigue – indications that all of those sets of 500s paid off and my race pacing was not too fast.  Upon exiting the water, I was concerned about cramping, but thankfully I did not feel any more.

Max Swim Exit

2.4 miles down...138.2 to go!

When you swim right in the middle of the masses, you get to T1 with the masses.  I had decided to change into my cycling bibs & jersey…although it slowed me down a bit, I felt it increased my chance of finishing feeling “comfortable” (and w/o major saddle sores).  I did not, however, expect my T1 to take nearly 10 minutes…but there were no empty chairs and changing into cycling gear while wet & standing was a bit tough.  I changed my clothes and hit the porta-potty to unload some of the Tempe Town Lake that I must have been drinking during the swim.  I grabbed my bike and ran all the way across the transition area (my bike was parked just about as far from the Bike exit as possible…lucky Males 30 – 34!).

Exiting T1 on the Litespeed!

Exiting T1 on the Litespeed!

My primary goal for this race was to finish, so I think I “rode” the 112 miles more so than “raced” it.  My legs were tired, but I definitely had something left in the tank.  The 1st lap, the winds were rather calm.  The 2nd lap, they picked up a bit on the return to Tempe (slight downhill).  On the 3rd (final) lap, I could definitely feel it blowing me up the hill outbound and was rather concerned about how it would feel during the return…it was tough, but I tried to stay as tucked in my aero position as I could and take in my last few calories before the run.  It is an interesting situation to be really tired about 90 – 100 miles into the bike and know that you still have a marathon staring you in the face.  😉  Thankfully, no mechanicals.

IM AZ Bike

Thankfully, T2 was a little less crowded than T1.  I did another full change into running gear as I wanted to be “cool” in running shorts & singlet.  Another molasses-slow transition, but again I was doing comfort over speed for this event.

Max Early On Run

Early miles on the IM marathon

The run was basically a 3 part story.  The first part (first 6 – 7 miles) felt great.  I was expecting this as my Long Bricks included a 45min run of ~6 miles.  However, right after this period, my stomach went south quickly and I basically did porta-potty hopping for 7 – 8 miles.  At this point, I thought I could, if absolutely necessary, walk to the finish, but I was a bit concerned about dehydration from my pit stops and my inability to take in anything.  Additionally, I had absolutely no desire to be out there an add’l few hours.  When my stomach got sour I stopped with the Powerbar Perform sports drink (I drank Infinit on the bike, but was taking in the nutrition from the aid stations on the run as I did not want to run with a Fuelbelt).  At the risk of TMI, my last porta-potty stop around Mile 14/15 was no longer like a shower coming out of my butt…just gas.  Clearly I was in an “odd” mental state as this got me excited.  I got out of the restroom and was able to start running again!  It was nothing super-quick…mid 8s, then sub 8s.  I had a large “support crew” with me (Molly & June, my 2 sets of parents, Molly’s parents, one of my sister’s, her husband and 2 of my nephews) and they set-up camp on the run course where there is bi-directional traffic….you run by ~ Mile 3.5 and Mile 8.5 of each loop.  This really helped me break down the marathon as I knew that I would see them every 3 – 5 miles.  When I saw them on the 1st loop, I was all smiles & high 5s.  On the 2nd loop, I gave them a “heads up” that it would be a bit slow as I was having “issues”.  Upon starting the 3rd loop, I told Molly that my stomach was feeling better and in 9 miles, June’s dad was going to be an IM.  That got them (and me) excited.  With a mile to go I saw my MHM athlete (John Herring) up the path finishing up his 1st loop.  I ran up on him, told him he looked good and wished him well for the rest of the run.  He asked if I was finishing up my last lap and I said yes.  He told me to enjoy it as I’d earned it.  I ran on up the path and was passing people with conviction as I did not want any “tag-alongers” for the finishing shoot.  Just as I turned off the main loop to the finishing stretch there were 2 or 3 runners just up the path.  I decided not to kick them down as I did not want to lose my lunch at the finish nor did I want to interfere with their race finish experience.  I was going to break 11 hours, and I was OK with that.  The IM race finish was really cool…although I had known for a few miles that I was going to finish, it was still surreal to experience it…especially after being there exactly one (1) year earlier and seeing others do the very same thing and wonder if I had what it took to be an Ironman.  10hr 50min 19sec after the cannon sounded race a.m., I confirmed that I did and got to hear “Larry Spradley, you are an Ironman!”

Max IM AZ Finish

Larry Spradley - YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!

Thank Yous

I owe a lot of people a lot of Thanks…

Molly – Thank you for all of the support and encouragement during my Ironman build-up & race.  I know that doing IM training with a newborn in the household can be tough on everyone…but your help (and many late nights & early mornings) made it possible.  I know I still owe you quite a bit for all that you did…and I am hopeful I can return the favor in the not too distant future.  Love you!!

Molly and June

My Support Crew

June – Although you probably will not be reading this blog entry for quite some time (if ever), you were absolutely my inspiration during many of my long bikes & runs.  Your dad is an Ironman!  You may not remember what happened on Nov 20, 2011 (or that you were there), but I will never forget.  Love you!!

June Smiling

June enjoying the sites at IM AZ

Family & Friends – Thank you for all of the prayers, well wishes & positive vibes…in person, phone & email!  Your interest and enthusiasm in this journey has meant a lot!  Love you all!

STL Folks

IM Max Support Crew

Pete Alfino (and the entire Mile High Multisport family) – Your “nudge” to get me to register for the Ironman event helped to kick-off this journey and your advice helped to keep me going in the right direction.  I learned a lot during my IM journey about myself and the sport of triathlon and I think it will help me be a better father, husband and endurance coach!  😉

To my sponsors – wait…an opportunity!!  If you are looking for a slightly faster than middle of the pack grouper (with lots of potential ;-)) who blogs once in a blue moon about an event that occurred more than three (3) weeks ago…you have found your guy!!  This is especially true if you have connections to the Blue Triad SL LE.


2 Responses to “11.Twenty.20Eleven – Ironman Arizona”

  1. Way to go Max,Molly and June……thanks for sharing. Trina

  2. Stacy, Lee & Cole Z Says:


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