4:26 To Tempe

Ironman Arizona Redux
2008.11.23 – Tempe, AZ

“He that keepeth his mouth, keepeth his life. He that opens his lips too wide shall bring on his own destruction.” Proverbs 13:3

“It’s man’s nature to take what he wants. That’s how were born.” – Ben Wade

The first shot rang out at 6:50 am. And from there, the mayhem began. Several posses formed up on the way out of town, and, as with any big group, it took some muscle to enforce order. As the sun rose, I found myself tracking the conveniently colored sombreros of Jasper Blake and Chris McDonald. Both reliable second pack swimmers, I knew they would find a way to put themselves where they needed to be coming out of the water. Having shot myself in the foot previously, I kept my pistols pointed straight ahead this race. Jasper picked his way to the front of the second pack, doing a good job closing gaps and bridging around slower swimmers who’d started too hard. And I stuck right on his feet. Admittedly, I was a bit of an asshole, knocking people off my hip and locking onto his feet like velcro (sorry for tapping your feet so much, Jazz). “Rubbin’s racing,” as the saying goes. I’d logged too many hours to let timidity interfere with my swim. The pace settled down after about 800m, allowing us to relax turning the buoy. I stayed with Jasper around both turn buoys, but he then eventually bridged over to Chris McDonald, who picked up the pace leading his own line on the way back in. I moved over with Jasper, and then past him, and kept right on Chris’s feet. I had to fire a few warning shots to people that tried to take my position, and ultimately the law was enforced with Chris leading the way, and myself staying hot on his trail, making sure not to let any gaps form. The pace was very relaxed, partially because swimming behind a guy as big as McDonald makes things easier and partially because it seemed as if there was finally a good sense of order in what had previously been a bit of an outlaw town. The clock showed just over 50 minutes when I crossed the mat, clearly a bit fast for the pace I felt we were swimming. Mostly I was happy with who I exited with, and I heard a couple cheers of “good swim!” from people I knew, something that also helped me feel like I was in a solid position. After the race, I found out we’d put about two minutes on the third pack and given up just over four minutes to the leaders. Going into the race, my goal was to stick in the second pack, and I accomplished that with relative ease.

Total 2.4 mile swim time: 50:28

And so, after a thankfully uneventful first battle, it was time to pull out the heavy artillery. The weather was perfect for hard riding – cool with a light breeze that built in a relatively stiff wind as the day wore on. But for the first lap, it was wide open trails of black asphalt in front of me. A few small tweaks to my trusty steed in the weeks leading up to the race made a solid difference in overall comfort. While there is a consistency to how I approach races, I do think that in the case of IMAZ, knowing the bike route offers some advantages. The course in Arizona is a challenge for a few reasons. The first lap, there is less wind, but clear roads. Each successive lap, the wind builds and the course gets more congested. The building wind is problematic, in a way, because it makes it harder to hold your power up on the way back into town. The nature of the course is that it’s uphill on the way out into the headwind and downhill with a tailwind on the way back., at least if the winds blow in the prevailing direction. So the most effective strategy, I believe, is to punch it a bit harder on the way out of town and then you can relax more on the way back in. As the wind picks up, there is also a lot more traffic to contend with. You get the incidental draft of passing people, but you also have to pay a lot more attention to not getting your reigns tangled up with some city slicker out for his first pony ride. So despite the fact that my pace looked extraordinarily even, I actually rode a fair bit harder on the first lap than on the second, and a fair bit harder on the second lap than on the third, and in each case, I also dug my spurs in deeper on the way out of town than on the way back in. Despite feeling like I was herding the masses in front of me each lap with calls of “onyourleftonyourleftonyourleft” seemingly issuing forth in perpetuity, I still managed to make my way steadily through the field. At each time check, I was getting closer and closer to that steam train of escort vehicles at the front of the race. Rolling into transition, I knew I’d closed time, and after a relatively quick transition – I’ve finally learned the key to Ironman transitions is to have a clear plan about what you want to do and what order you want to do it in – I headed out onto the run in third place, less than two minutes from the two leaders.

Total 112 mile bike time: 4:26:12 (fastest bike split & new bike course record)

I was, however, running like an outlaw on a jailbreak. On a fast day with good conditions, I knew there would be a lot of fleet footed folks tracking me. I hoped that I could rely somewhat on “out of sight, out of mind” and that with a good first lap I might demoralize them somewhat. To be truthful, I also wanted to put my own nose in the wind and lead the race. Risk taking is not something that usually goes hand-in-hand with successful Ironman racing, but I also didn’t want to be too patient, something I thought I was in April. I figured I could run 2:55 or so relatively “comfortably” (at least as far as running a marathon in an Ironman is concerned). I was also pretty sure that would not roll me across the finishline in first. I thought a low 2:50’s (2:51/2:52) run would do it, but that was also truly enemy territory for me. How do you pace for something you’ve never done? I’m not sure, but my instinct was, “You go for it.” So I rolled on the pace like a tumbleweed in a hurricane and blew through the first four miles or so at 6:00/mile pace. Right around five miles in, I caught Chris Lieto and the satisfaction of actually being at the front led to me settle down for a few miles. Coming through the first lap, I put in a surge and pulled away. I still felt really good, and once I’d pulled away, I settled into what I’d hoped would be a reasonable pace. I’d run the whole first lap at about 2:40 marathon pace, which was much too fast, but at the same time, I thought if I could settle into just under three-hour pace for the last two laps, that’d net me a 2:52/2:53 marathon, which just might be good enough to win.

Leading the race was an incredible experience, right up until the time I realized I’d blown the motor and Andreas Raelert rolled by me like a locomotive and Chris Lieto rolled back by me like the wise old trailhand who hasn’t whipped his horses into oblivion. For a while, I prayed that the hand of god would smite me then and there. (If you haven’t seen 3:10 to Yuma, rent it so you’ll get that reference.) My legs felt like I’d been stabbed with an Arkansas toothpick in the middle of each thigh. I was paying the price for opening my lips too wide to start the run. This was my own destruction. Fortunately, it appeared that several people behind me were in the midst of their own self destruction as well. Gritting my teeth and hiding behind my sunglasses, I soldiered on, focusing on one foot in front of the other. With about three miles to go, Coach Joel, who’d been great at giving me good tips throughout the run, told me to use my arms, and I started to pump my arms in an exaggerated fashion like a sprinter, but with legs in slow motion. For whatever reason, this seemed to helped take some of the load off of my legs. Combined with seeing the 40km marker a little later, the smell of the barn took over, and I started to pick up the pace. In the last two miles, I closed from 2:30 seconds down to Lieto to within 20 seconds, but fell short of last second sprint heroics in the race for second place. 140.6 miles later, and I was in almost exactly the same spot I was in April – 3rd place, just a whisker out of second. So I ain’t no one legged rancher, but I’m still one tough son of a bitch…

Total 26.2 mile run time: 2:58:43

Total 140.6 mile race time: 8:19:45 (broke old course record)

© Kerry Yndestad, Yndecam.com

11 thoughts on “4:26 To Tempe

  1. Mr. Rappster, Thanks for the post. You should publish some of this stuff. Loved the movie. Bad man turned good, yet the good was inside all along and expressed in part, through art. “A race is a work of art” as Pre said, your front running was a act of faith and courageous. “Every action of a man is right in his own eyes.” You ain’t no CS.You will be an ironman champion, soon. Let me rephrase that, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN CHAMPION, you just ain’t been paid yet. Heinz

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  2. Man,…I yelled as hard as my cowboy lungs from CowTown could scream at you. When I saw you in the lead, I went ballistic; couldn’ve used raw hide to chew on,…I was so excited, and thought you had it. ps. love your position on your bike.

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  3. Great race report buddy. I don’t know how u wrote it so quick. I still need to write my summer Iron report on my teams blog. Anyway, I have a suggestion you once made to me (that I just recently listened too). That is wear a HRM, to help with not going out too hard on the run. Don’t worry you will be in good company, I know Allen used to wear it on the bike (check out the 89 transition). Maybe he wore it one year on the run too. Potts, Bozzone, etc. Just listing other pro’s because I know it is a hard decision to make. HRM’s seem to be anti-gunslinger/city-slicker. But, remember the best gunslingers were the smartest as well as the fastest. Maybe in a low-key race u should test it out. Just resuggesting this, because your advice helped me breakthrough recently. When u go to Hawaii you will be a real threat. And, hells yes you need to write a book sometime.

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  4. I freakin’ love these reports, man… Your RR is truly something to which I look forward after each and every race you do. Nice job out there. I wish I could have been out to scream at you in person, but alas I had to make do with screaming at my computer (and at IMLive for not having more detail/regular updates).

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