January 22, 2018

Ironman Arizona 2010 Race Report – Ron Saetermoe

Ironman ArizonaBackground
Ironman Arizona has been my “A” race all year. I’ve been training hard for it for a year and have had some great success in the run-up to the race. In April I took second at Ironman 70.3 California (half Ironman) only a little over a minute back from first place. Then in June I did the Ironman 70.3 Hawaii and earned a coveted slot to the Ironman World Championships in Kona.

Needless to say, my plans changed when I won my Kona slot. Now, all of a sudden, I needed to adjust my training to prepare for Kona, then to come back from that race and taper again for Ironman Arizona (IMAZ).

The problem is that when I got back from Kona I got sick. Nothing serious, just a nasty cold. Ordinarily no big deal but with only six weeks between these events this would make things a little more difficult.

I have several workouts I do on a regular basis and I monitor my heart rate during them. Generally speaking, if you can do the same workout and maintain a lower heart rate, you’re getting more fit. I watched my heart rate continue to drop pre-Kona but when I started working out again after Kona my heart rate was running 20 beats higher than pre-Kona! Okay Houston, we have a problem!
I adjusted my training as much as I dared but knew I wouldn’t be in the shape for IMAZ that I wanted to be in. Didn’t matter, I was going to give it everything I had on race day.

There are two primary reasons for me selecting IMAZ again (third year in a row): it’s only a 5.5 hour ride from home and the bike and run courses are relatively flat. The only flatter course is Ironman Florida which I have no desire to do.
The drive out was uneventful and the hotel nice and cheap! Thursday night I had dinner at Kings Fish House with Dr. Scott Neubauer. Scott helped me work out some of my kinks prior to IM Kona. Scott is a two-time IM Kona qualifier and is a great chiropractor so if you’ve got some kinks, go see Scott. http://www.coastalhealthandfitness.com/

Friday I went for a short bike ride and transition run. The weather was perfect but was going to cool off for race day. I went down to the Expo and met Rene Rodarte, another OC guy in my age group and some of his friends. We got checked in and had our race numbers and age stamped on our bodies. They certainly didn’t have their stuff together because we waited in line over an hour. In Kona this took five minutes!

Later that night was the athlete’s welcome dinner. If you’ve been to one of these affairs you can certainly miss it but since we already paid for it, what the heck! Rene, Rob Hogan and Tim Kliegle (both in my age group too) and Tim’s friend, Laura sat together while we loaded on carbs. We all bolted prior to the “mandatory” athlete’s meeting. Again, nothing ever new in these speeches but if you’ve never been, you should go.

My goal Saturday was to stay off my feet as much as possible. Saturday was also the only day they would let us swim in Tempe Town Lake so I took advantage of it. I took my bike for a quick spin to make sure everything was still working correctly (thanks to Russ Jones for loaning me his race wheels once again), and checked it, and my bike transition and run transition stuff in.

After that Rene and I went for a quick swim and discussed race strategy. I decided to line up where the most traffic, and draft, would be – close to the buoys. While I don’t recommend this for newbies or weaker swimmers, I do believe if you can survive it you will get a better draft.

After our quick dip I went back to the hotel to relax. I napped and returned some emails.

Later that night Scott and another friend of mine, Roy Nesbitt, went back to Kings to finish filling the tank for race day. I was getting excited and was full of expectation.

Sunday morning was finally here. It’s funny when you sign up for these events a full year in advance it doesn’t ever seem like they’re going to get here, then all of a sudden . . .

I woke at 3:30 and took a quick shower. Ate my breakfast of cottage cheese with walnuts and blueberries, toast with peanut butter and OJ. Hit the rest room, finished packing and was on my way.

I arrived at the race site about 4:45. It was chilly. Much colder than it had been, and there was some wind. I’ve learned to over-dress race morning because it just isn’t any fun being cold before jumping into a 60 degree lake!

I made my way to the bike corral. I really want to thank Brad (another guy in my age-group and the only guy to beat me on the swim) for the use of his pump and actually helping me pump my tires up. Sounds silly that it takes two full-grown men to pump up a bicycle tire but you haven’t seen Russ’ tires.

As I finished setting up I noticed the guy at bike #2004. It was Miroslav Vrastil. I spoke to him briefly and he told me that IMAZ would be his 20th Ironman this year and would attempt to do two more! Now that’s an Ironman!

We all donned our wetsuits, dropped off our morning clothes and headed down to the race start. It was still dark.

The Swim
If you read my race report from IMAZ last year you’ll know I had some problems (to say the least). I wasn’t about to make the same mistakes this year. While they were allowing people to get into the water 20 minutes ahead of the start I waited until about 12 minutes before. Treading water at 6:45 a.m. in 60 degree water isn’t that much fun.

I made my way near the front of the group near the buoys as I’d planned. It got very crowded, very quickly. We were being held back by guys in kayaks so we wouldn’t screw up the pro start which was at 6:50.

The pro cannon went off and they were gone. It was just beginning to get light.
After the pros left we were allowed to move up to the start line. Now it was getting very congested and hard to tread water. It didn’t seem to take long and our cannon went off.

These mass swim starts are really something to behold . . . from the shore! When you’re in it you’re wondering how anyone survives! 2,800 people all starting at the same time. Basically, you’re swimming on top of people and they’re swimming on top of you.

You know it’s going to be rough for the first 500 yards or so, so you just hang in there and hope for some clear water. While I’m a “good” swimmer I’m not a “great” swimmer which means I’m not going to be in the lead pack. What it does mean is that there will be plenty of traffic around me for the entire swim.
The first 500 yards were tough with some getting kicked and punched. I took one really good shot to my left eye that nearly knocked my goggles all the way off (note to newbies: always put your goggles on BEFORE you put on your swim cap). I stopped and put them back on and continued.

It’s hard to get into any kind of rhythm when you’re being jostled but I managed to find a groove once I was able to break free of the box I was in. It’s funny what you think about when you’re actually doing one of these. I remember thinking about what a nice town Tempe was and how lucky I was to be there. A sort of calm.

The turns were effortless. We were going in a counter-clockwise loop with just two left turns.

There was good clear water on the return and I managed to catch a couple of short drafts off other swimmers. You think it would be easy to draft since there are so many people at these races but I seem to have a problem finding someone that’s going the exact speed I want to go. I can’t say as much for the person drafting off of me. They kept hitting my toes about ½ the way back. Well, good for them!

The swim exit is a little gnarly. They’ve got a nice set of stairs to help you get out of the lake but the problem is the first step is only two inches from the top of the water. In other words, you have to hike yourself up to the first step. There were people on the stairs to help you but it isn’t easy.

Once you get out of the water there is a long line of wetsuit strippers. Next time I volunteer I’m going to take this duty! I bypassed them because I actually think it takes longer if you have them do it.

Good swim. 1:02:38. 2nd place of 84 guys that started. 97 were registered but I guess 13 didn’t start.

Transition #1 (T-1)
I stripped my wetsuit down to my waist and ran, which seemed like ½ mile, to the area where the bike bags were lined up. The woman there had my bag waiting for me as I arrived.

From there you enter the changing tent. I was lucky because I got a VERY enthusiastic guy to help me. He popped open my bike bag and spilled everything on the floor and yanked my wetsuit off. I quickly put on my socks, my cycling shoes and helmet and I was off to my bike.

Generally, I’m one of the faster guys in transition and today wouldn’t be any different. 5:05. 2nd fastest of the day.

The Bike

Normally, because the bike course is relatively flat, this is an easy leg of the race. Not so today. It was windy all day and it rained heavily at one point.
My goal today was to maintain 190 watts on my bike. Watts are measured by a special computer you can buy that keeps track of your cadence, speed and the power you are actually applying to the pedals. I maintained 200 watts at Kona so I figured if I dialed that back to 190 I would have more success with the run.
I knew right away that 190 wouldn’t be possible. I’m not quite sure if that was because I wasn’t fully recovered or if my watt meter doesn’t account for the wind. Regardless, it was a tough bike ride.

As I was about to finish my first loop a tri buddy of mine Stu Lowndes was standing on the corner held up one finger (no, not that one!) and shouted that I was in first place. Cool, I was having a really good day!

I made the loop and saw Stu on the other side of the road now shouting out words of encouragement. It really means a lot to us athletes to have our friends and family there.

Off to the second loop. The roads were starting to get more crowded now because the course is three loops and some of the slower swimmers were coming on to the course. There was a little drafting but I only saw one guy get nailed and he was quite obvious.

The “out and back” course is uphill down the Beeline Highway and the wind was fierce. I predicted a finish time of 5:15 but that simply wasn’t going to be possible today.

I made the second loop still in first place but I was working hard. It was on this loop that the rain really came down. It came down so hard I had to lift the visor on my aero helmet so I could see. Fortunately, it didn’t last too long.
It was inevitable, I finally got passed by Miroslav – and he BLEW by me! I didn’t attempt to hang on.

On to loop three and Stu let me know that I was in fact in second place now but not far behind. I yelled out that I was losing ground on him and would just let him go.

The rest of the bike was hard but uneventful . . . other than my crotch was aching. Hey, you try riding a bike for 5+ hours!

Then, at mile 110 or so, I got passed again. This guy also blew by me but it took him 110 miles to catch me.

Okay, so I’m doing the math now. There are going to be just two Kona slots in my age group but Miroslav got his already at Ironman Wisconsin. That means if I can take second or third place I’m in. Okay, let’s have a good run.
Good bike for such a hard day. 5:37:27. 3rd overall and I’m in 3rd place.

If nothing else, I’m fast in transition. The “bike catchers” grabbed my bike and I ran to get my run bag. Again, the volunteers were totally on their game. I ran to the changing tent and got another very enthusiastic helper.

He dumped my bag on the floor and yanked off my helmet as I put my running shoes, hat and sunglasses on.

Good transition. 1:25 the fasted of all the racers. We call this “free speed” because you don’t have to elevate your heart rate to get faster at it. Just practice.

I actually caught the 2nd place guy and passed him out of transition. I’m now in 2nd place.

The Run
This is where the race gets tough for everyone.

My goal for the run was to start out at an 8:35 per mile pace and see if I could hold it. 8:35 would put me at a 3:45 marathon pace – good enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

My first mile? 8:35. My heart rate? 150. Perfect. Only 25.2 more to go!
The bad news is that the guy that passed me at mile 110 on the bike, passed me on the run.

I held my pace for another mile but it wasn’t going to hold because of the wind again. Running down one side of that lake you had the wind right in your face and it does slow you down. Oh well, so I wasn’t going to qualify for Boston here today. Bigger goals in mind now.

Most of the run course goes up and down Tempe Town Lake and is fairly flat. There are some hills when you come to bridges but there is really only one hill to speak of. When your legs are fresh none of the hills seem bad at all. When they’re not . . .

The run course is also three loops which is good, and bad. It’s good because you can see your friends. It’s bad because it gets kinda boring.
I saw Stu on the run course and he ran alongside me for a short time and told me I was in 3rd (he was looking all this up on his smart phone at www.ironmanlive.com) but that there was some dude coming strong from behind at a 7:40 pace. NO WAY!!!

Oh well, I was going as fast as I could and managed to hold on to 3rd place until mile 11. That’s when the wheels fell off! I used the porta potty and felt a little dizzy. I got out and started to walk a bit. I was toast!

From this point on my goal was to run as much as possible and walk the aid stations. The walks became progressively longer.

It’s very disheartening knowing your race is falling apart. The will was there, the cardio was there but the legs were not.

At this point you just have one goal in mind: to finish. That’s what I did. I give the guys that beat me a lot of credit. It was a very tough day. A really good day for me, for a while.

Disappointing run. 4:36:33. Good enough for 8th place and 8th place overall.

Post Race
I don’t know if I would have done anything different. I held back on the bike and only averaged 167 watts. Much lower than the 190 I was planning on.
I’m not sure if I was fully recovered from Kona or my cold or simply not fit enough to run a marathon that day. Don’t know.

Yes, I’m disappointed. The Kona slots went to William Ankele the guy that passed me on the bike at mile 110 (1st place) and Konstantin Preradovic (3rd place) that passed me on the run. Miroslav took second place but already had his Kona slot.

And while it is a disappointing finish for me, it only inspires me to double my efforts next time (after a couple Double-Doubles from In & Out Burger).
If you’re interested in what us anal-retentive types do to analyze our race results, drop me an email and I’ll send you my spreadsheet.



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  1. Ryan Bates says:

    Congrats on a great race – I am racing Arizona with a goal to finish and if its under 14 hours, I will be stoked – thanks for the report.

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