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Ironman Arizona 2015 Race Report – Paul Linck

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Ironman Arizona: Full Ironman: Tempe, Arizona

Date of Race: 11/15/2015
Total Race Time: 9h 51m 20s
Overall Place: 116 / 2684
Age Group: Male 50-54
Age Group Place: 4 / 270 ** KQ for 2016

 

 

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Just a little background.  As many of you know, I had kind of a downer first 3/4 of the year for a bunch of personal issues not fit for this post.  This was not due to sport or triathlon but it had an impact on my performance and desire to compete.  Despite this, I wanted to qualify for KONA 2015 since my twin brother already had his spot and we wanted to race it together.  I attempted in IMFL 2014 and missed by 7 minutes.  I attempted in IM Cozumel and missed by 8 minutes.  I attempted in Ironman New Zealand and missed by 22 seconds.  I attempted in Ironman Texas and missed by forever and a day.  I attempted in IM CDA and almost killed myself trying and got a big fat DNF.  They pulled me from the race, but this DNF has been bugging me for a while since deep down I know I just quit when it got too tough.   I really wanted that day back or some way to redeem myself inside.
About that time, my Mom’s health took a turn for the worse so I spent a lot of my time going back and forth to Michigan to spend time with her before she passed.  I cancelled all my races during that time including my final KQ attempt at IM Mont Tremblant and Austria for 70.3 worlds.  I was lucky to be able to spend all that time with my Mom and I will never forget it.
From about that point on, all my focus was on preparing for Ironman Florida with JDude so I almost completely quit swimming, reduced my running, and spent most of my time on the bike riding lots of miles – hard miles – in the GAPs and on the big monster bike with JDude.  Our team — Justin Knight, John Rutledge (Swim), Tim Myers (Run), and me (Bike) — did a test race at John Tanner state park sprint distance.  After that our eyes were wide open to the task we were attempting at Ironman Florida and it scared the crud out of me.  At JT, I rode almost 250 watts (my FTP is ~280) for 13.8 miles and it took me ~65 minutes / 12mph.  How and the heck am I gonna do 112?  Since that race I rode my bike every single day leading up to Ironman Florida and sometimes twice a day.  I rode 1-2 big rides per week in the GAPs.  We also rode a lot  together with JDude on the big bike where I would max out my 2-3-4 hour power and go a whopping 14-15 MPH.  I rode 300+ miles per week average for the last 9 weeks leading up to IMFL.  I was scared to death that I would miss the bike cutoff and ruin JDude’s day.  Most of you have read that report, but the link is below just in case:
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I signed up for Ironman Arizona over a year ago since I got in through the AWA Gold program and I had never done it before.  But, by the time the whole year went by, and the fact that we were doing Ironman Florida, I planned not to do it.  I did sign up for TriBike Transport “just in case” and sent my bike there – I also sent it to Mont Tremblant and they just sent it back. 

After the massive 7hr 58min bike ride with JDude at IM Florida, my legs were shaking, throbbing and I was white as a ghost from depletion.  I was spent and glad as hell that I did not have to run.  But, after a couple of days, I did not feel the same after effects of a normal Ironman — I did not take the beating of the run which is where the most damage is done in Ironman.  On Tuesday I discussed it with my wife and made the decision that I was going to go to IMAZ to try and complete my unfinished business from IM CDA.   I was in the best bike shape I have been in a very long time and was curious to see how far that fitness could carry me.  There is a lot of fitness carry over from bike to run so even though I wasn’t running as much I should be able to manage.  The swim would be slower than the usual slow, but – with a wetsuit – I wouldn’t tire too much and should be able to catch most of the swimmers on the bike. 

In short, I had great fitness from all that riding but hard to tell when all 3 sports factored in.
I did not want anyone to know.  I told John and Tim and they promised to keep a lid on it.  I did not expect to be able to compete for top-5 and didn’t want the pressure of *being watched* (IMNZ: Paul moved into 4th on the run and inside KQ.  Then, at the end.  Paul just moved into 6th in the last 1k … Ouch).    It was only one week after our Epic quest at IMFL and I did not want it to take any of the attention from JDude’s awesome day.  I did not want to cast a shadow on it.  It felt a little selfish doing it by myself only a week later – like cheating on JDude, Tim, and John.  Incognito was the way to go in IMAZ.
I did a quick recon of the field in my AG and knew I would need a really good day to have any chance as the field was very strong.  I think IMAZ can be like that since many of the fast west coast guys show up.  The top-10 in my AG (on paper) had all been to Kona at least once.  That took the pressure off since I was not stressed about getting a KQ.  I wanted to complete this Ironman with a respectable time to help exorcise the IM CDA demons.  I figured I was still fit enough to finish respectably but I didn’t feel the performance pressure I normally do.  That’s a good feeling sometimes – not always – but sometimes.
I was very excited to test what all that biking would do for me.  I spoke with Bethany at EL and she asked me “What are you going to do with all that fitness”?  I didn’t tell her, but in my head I was thinking “I am gonna try to crush an Ironman in a few days”.
I flew into Phoenix on Friday and met Jim there.  We hopped on Uber and went straight to Athlete check in.   After check in, we walked to our hotel with all our stuff since it was only about 1/2 mile.  A nice benefit of an Urban race – lots of nearby hotels with rooms.  We got in the Residence INN right by the race site with less than a week’s notice.  Perfect hotel to stay in for this race, BTW.
It was cold and forecast was for the same.  That got my spirits up but I didn’t have much of my cold stuff packed.  Heck, you pack you cold stuff for Ironman CDA and your warm stuff for Arizona, right :-)?.  Not this year.   I was really looking forward to it.

Race Morning

Normally I get up and get to transition right when it opens, but Jim and I set our bikes up with everything on them the day before.  I didn’t even need to go to transition if I didn’t want.  We slept in and got down there about 30 minutes before it closed.
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For breakfast I had OJ, Coffee (a few cups), Bagel with Peanut Butter, Gatorade, Ensure, Water, Apple and Banana.  The banana was just before race start.

I had to go number 2 one more time before the race started but the lines were terribly long.  Since the run course was right there, I walked it a bit and found a whole row of unused potties.  Tip.  You can almost always find porta potties off the beaten path if you roam a bit.  Good way to avoid long lines.

The weather was cold and overcast the whole day.  It would be about 55 when I got out of the water so the first part of the bike would be cold.  That excited me and improved my odds.   I perform poorly in the heat and better in the cold. I don’t like the cold, but perform better in it.  Things were looking up for me.  Not so much for others.  Many were nervous about the cold and rainy weather.

Warm up

There was no warm up.  The water was 63 degrees F and normally when it’s that cold I like to float around in the water face first, blowing bubbles to get used to it.  The way the start was setup, there is no way to do it.    The entry into the water is a small set of stairs so that was not happening. 

The pros did a deep water start but Age Groupers started our time at the top of the stairs.  (So, technically, the pros actually swam about 100 yards less than us since we started at the stairs and they started further our out in the water.  That is why they all beat me on the swim :-)).

I seeded myself between 1:10 and 1:20 since I expected a bit under a 1:20 swim.


Swim Time: 1:17:01 (78th AG)

IMAZ 2016 Swim

 

The swim is one loop around Tempe Town Lake.  Its funny that it is even called a lake.  Its really more like a cement pond. I grew up near Lake Michigan and spent several summers on Mackinac Island surrounded by Lake Huron — this seemed more like a pond or a puddle, but its nice, clean and cold.  The swim was around almost the whole lake – certainly half.  Its a big rectangle with only 3 turns.  I prefer a one loop swim for sure.

 

Age Group swim Start down the stairs
They told us our time started at the top of the stairs and then ended entering T1.  I reached the stairs and cleaned my goggles in the water before jumping in since I did not want them to fog.  Foggy goggles is un-cool.  (Side note: Jim got kicked in the face and his goggles broke so he swam with no goggles.  He has some fun on these swims, doesn’t he?.  He had a great big red sore on his face to prove it).
I jumped in the water and started swimming, staying wide right.   It was a little rough for the first few hundred yards but not too bad.  I know other groups had it bad but our section must have seeded pretty well since it was fine for me – not too many going by me and I wasn’t passing many – just kind of stayed in our own group.
Not a lot to say here.  I went easy, stayed wide of all the buoys and tried to enjoy it.  I had a neoprene cap and booties (you can wear booties if under 65 degrees) so I was not cold.  63 is not that bad at all with the right stuff and is quite refreshing.  I always wear booties if its legal because I don’t like cold feet and it is easier to run through transition with warm feet and booties.  Megan once told me they may slow you down a bit but I use every bit of neoprene they allow.
I got out a looked at my watch and it said 1:16 something which was fine.  Official time was 1:17:01.  They had good wetsuit strippers so I did that and moved on.
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For me, the swim is nothing more than transportation to my bike.  It is a necessary step since they wont let you get your bike until you do it.  I don’t go hard because I am only a teeny bit faster when I go hard and it just tires me out and stresses me out.  I don’t have good technique so grinding just wastes a lot of valuable Ironman heartbeats.

T1 Time: 6:57

I took my time in T1.  The changing tent was warm and I was not in a hurry.  I put on arm warmers, gloves, long socks, an extra pair of bike shorts and lubed up real good.  I have sensitive underside so I often use tri shorts + bike shorts in the bike leg of ironman.  It helps me quite a bit and added some warmth (I ended up keeping them both on for run — partially because I forgot and partially to keep me warm). I put my bike shoes on in the tent rather than on the bike since they said only pros could do the flying start thing.  Turned out to be better since the rain made the ground all wet in transition.

Bike Time: 4:46:24 (moved into 2nd AG)

20151121-190541-IMAZ Bike 20151121-190541-IMAZ Bike Elevation

The bike course is a 3 loop out and back style course.  Each loop is about 37 miles.  The way out is slightly up hill and the way back is slightly down.  For this year, we had a head wind most of the way out (not strong, but there) and tail on the way back.  The roads were closed to traffic and were in very good condition.  There were a few sections where the cones made it quite narrow but for the most part it was plenty wide.  On the 2nd and mostly 3rd loop I did have some issues getting by some of the slower riders that like to ride side by side but nothing detrimental.

The nice thing about 3 loops is that you learn the whole course in the first hour and a half or so, therefore you can easily plan the rest of the race.

As usual I went a little too hard starting out because I had gobs of swimmers to pass and got a rush from the screaming fans.  I did about 233 watts/24 MPH for the first lap and my target was 215-220.   I felt I had a good plan for the next two laps and the course suited me.  My coach always says to ride fast when the course is slow and ride slow when the course is fast.  I have had success doing this.  It makes sense due to aerodynamics and works well for me.  It’s totally logical and backed by science — and you can get yours free if you call within the next 90 seconds. 

The other thing I had going for me was that all the training I did with JDude set me up to go hard for long stretches vs short bursts.  This works nice for this course.  I went pretty hard most of the way out of town – going well over my target watts since I knew I was going to get a break at the turnaround and have a recovery for the 2nd half of each loop.  After each turnaround, I took the opportunity to soft pedal, regain my energy and fuel up.

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The final lap was good.  I still had lots in my legs and went pretty hard on the way out since I knew I was going to get a break for the last 17 miles – it was *almost* like a 95 mile ride in my mind.  I knew that the last 17 miles would be a chance for me to make sure my legs were ready to run.

I am sure I saw Tony when I was on the way out on lap 3.  It had to be him since it was a new ATC kit and it wasn’t Casey and wasn’t Klo.  I went by pretty fast and he was tending to nutrition, I think.

The rain came down hard starting about half way.  I had my visor on so it didn’t bother me.  I did not get cold – I think I went just hard enough to keep warm without blowing up.  I don’t normally wear my visor due to fogging (although it looks super cool), but I always do when it rains since it saves my face.

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I dismounted at the line, stopped my Garmin, and noticed 4:46-something.  I figured at that point, even with a 1:17 swim, I had to be inside the top-10 and probably the top-5. Very few in my AG ride under 5 hours (only 2 of us in this race), so 4:46 was going to be a big jump up the field.

That changed the race for me.  I had to finish this thing off – it was not about just a respectable time anymore.  It was perfect weather for me and not so perfect for the guys that crush me in the heat.  Maybe, just maybe, I have a shot.  But it’s always about the run and I don’t know what is in store on the run.  Given I rode my target watts and HR on the bike, I *should* have enough left.

Bike Nutrition

Bike Nutrition:  3 bonk breaker bars, 2 salt sticks, water at all aid stations and some gatorade, ~4 half bananas, and about 1,000 calories of hammer perpetuem caffe latte. 

I did 220 Normalized watts and 214 Average so VI was 1.03.  My fatigue curve was 8.7% which is higher than the 5% target due to pushing too hard on the first lap.  The course design allowed me to recover from that mistake and I raced smarter that last 2 laps.  No one accuses me of being smart on the bike, but I think I did pretty well on this one.  5th fastest age group bike split in the race and 1st for athletes over 40.  Click the picture below if you want to see my TP file.
IMAZ 2016 Paul Bike


Bike Lessons Learned

I like this course.  I like the cold and rain for racing.  I think what George Darden says about the run “Speed through Strength” applies to the bike.   To get that strength, ride with JDude for the last 3 months before your Ironman race:
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T2 Time: 3:32

I took my time in T2 – no sense starting all wet.  It was raining and cold so I changed into dry socks, removed my wet gloves, drank some water and put everything else on.  It was nice to have dry socks.  Normally I don’t wear socks on the bike or the run, but I needed the warmth.

Run Time: 3:37:26 (dropped from 2nd to 4th, but plenty good enough)

IMAZ 2016 Run IMAZ 2016 Run Profile

The run is a two loop course around Tempe Town lake.  It is extremely fan friendly which helps the mojo.  Most of it is on paths with a bit on the road.  It is not flat like Florida, but it is not hilly.  There is a pretty long section coming back towards transition where you run in the dirt and the grass almost like an easy trail run.  It was dry the first time I went through but it was a slippery mud-zone on my 2nd loop. I was thinking about how hard it would be to push Justin through that section in his race wheelchair.  If any Pease athletes do this race we will need an alternative on this section.  Below is a nice shot of Jordan Rapp where you can see run course on both sides of the pond (um…, I mean lake).

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I started the run feeling good believing I was in a decent position.  My plan was to go easy for at least the first 16 miles and see what happened.  I was running *scared* to ensure I did not run out of gas too early.  As usual I did not look at my watch during the run since that just causes me to do stupid things.

Right out the gate, I ran into a guy in my Age Group and ran with him for a mile or so until he faded hard.  I was not going fast but remained steady without fear of slowing dramatically.  This was good, but I did not know if it was good enough.  As long as I didn’t start getting passed a lot, I figured I would be OK.  I maintained position pretty well from that point on.  One guy I know in my AG went flying by me in the first couple miles and I let him go.  I needed to stay within myself so I don’t throw this one away at the end.  From time to time someone would pass me but usually they were young dudes.  Didn’t see to many of us old guys.  For the last 4 miles, no one passed me – young or old.

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I arrived at the base salt tent and saw Susie and others.  I immediately pre-empted any talk about where I was saying that I did not want to know.  I do not like to know that early in the race no matter what.  It causes me to behave incorrectly and puts extra thoughts in my head that I do not need.  Up until the last 10k, I try to stay steady and within myself.  Susie fueled me up.  I saw her again on the way back so she gave me more of that good stuff again.  That base nutrition seemed to work.  Not sure, but I didn’t have the leg fatigue at the end as usual.

Nothing very eventful happened and I got to the next lap.  On the turnaround – a bit past mile 14 – I hit the *trail* again.  This time it was extremely muddy and more crowded.  People were going all over the place trying to find stable ground.  Some even ran on the very narrow curb on the side of the lake.  This lasted on and off for 2-3 miles, I think.

I got to backside of the loop again where Susie was tending the base tent.  She said I was in a good position and to keep pushing.  I was far enough along to be OK knowing this.  When I got to the far end turnaround, I saw David – another Friend and Rival of mine – only a minute or so ahead of me.  That gave me confidence.  He is faster than me and has qualified for KONA 12 times.  He is always near the top spot – a consistently fast dude who knows how to race.   The fact that I was that close made me realize I was most likely in a position to podium.  I had to stay strong, pick up my effort and make damn sure no one passed me the rest of the way.

I saw Susie for the last time.  She ran with me for a bit yelling that I needed to hang on and I was going to KONA.  She then filled me with the base fuel.  I think that was about mile 22-23 but cant remember exactly.  I needed her to push at the time to awaken me.  But, after I left and thought about it I didn’t really know  what she meant.  “Hang on”.  Does that mean someone is bearing down on me and I need to pick it up to keep them away?  Does it mean as long as I don’t blow up in last 3 miles I will be OK?  I was not sure so I increased my effort to maintain the same pace.  Age Groupers don’t *speed up* in the last 3 miles of an Ironman – it’s about who slows down the least.  I felt good and felt I was maintaining my pace.  Once I got past the long hill over the bridge, I was feeling strong and the rest of the way was *easy*.  In the last 1.5 miles, I got a huge bounce in my step, picked up the pace and was running quickly by many other runners who were clearly on their first loop.  It makes you feel fast passing people even if they are going pretty slow.

IMAZ 2016 Paul in the Chute

 

I peeled off at the point where everyone went for their second loop and I went to the finish line.  That is one of my favorite things – peeling off and being the only one finishing.  I had the finishers shoot all to myself.  I enjoyed it by going back and forth between the sides high fiving everyone I could.  No one passed me in the last 4 miles so I hoped I was in position to KQ.  It sure felt like a race that was good enough.

 

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Run Nutrition

I used the on course nutrition exclusively.  That is what I do now for the IM run.  I had a 5-hr energy to start the run and the drank water and/or gatorade at each aid station.  I ate a half banana about every 4th aid station.  No issues with cramping but without the heat, I rarely have issues with that.  I went into this race a little heavier than usual as I was bulking up for JDude v IMFL.  I don’t mind going into an Ironman heavy since I feel like a bear saving for the winter.  I am always lighter by the time I hit the run anyway.


Run Lessons

 

After checking my file after the race, I noticed that my average heart rate was 139.  I typically try to stay under 145 for the first half and then build to 150 and finish as high as 160 for average of about 150.  That indicates that I may have been able to go a little harder and run closer to 3:30.  But, my fatigue curve on the run was 5% which is spot on.  Plus, I am old and heartbeats are dropping like flies so the numbers are in flux.  I did not slow down much and that is what put me in the money. Click the picture below if you want to see my TP file.

IMAZ 2016 Paul Run

Post Finish

I went into massage and had no waiting.  The guy checked on his phone and said I was 4th.  Whew.  I was almost sure we had 4 KONA slots as we were the 3rd largest AG and I did the math – and I am good at math.  Nice not to blow it in the last part of the run for a change.

How would you rate this race

I give this race 4.5 out of 5 stars.  The only real issue is the narrow stairs at swim start and exit but with a cement pond, there is not a lot that can be done with that.  I like Tempe and getting a a hotel near the race was easy.  There is lots of stuff to do in Tempe and has that lovely, college town, festive atmosphere.  The race was well organized and has a nice history.  There were plenty of aid stations on the bike and the run.  There was also an ASU football game on Saturday which added to the festive atmosphere.  The volunteers were over the top on this one dealing with people having issues in the cold and battling hypothermia.  A girl that rode with us to the airport said she was on the verge on hypothermia and a volunteer gave her the coat off her back, gloves and hat and got her warmed up enough to finish when she was totally ready to pull the plug.  Lots of examples of that all day.  Awards and Kona slots take way too long but that is the same at all the races.  Sucks worse in bad weather.

Parting Thoughts

This was redemption after my debacle at IM CDA.   I owe this one to JDude.  He helped turn my attitude around and allowed me to end my year on an upward trajectory.  The training and racing we went through together over the last few months hardened me into solid Ironman fitness.  This Kona slot was achieved on the bike and I would not have been able to do it without all the hard work JDude, John, Tim and I did together. 

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Its nice to know I still have it in me for KQ.  After such a long dry spell, I had my doubts.  I have mixed feelings about actually *racing* KONA next year because it is such a hot, painful day.  I enjoyed this year from the bar an Alii drive watching the race and college football.  Time will tell…

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