Here it is my race report. First I’d like to thank my coach Julie Dunkle and the group that I trained with. Without you girls it would not have been as much fun. Also want to thank my parents for supporting me through all this and my kid sister Jill who was my sherpa and handled a lot of stuff for me on race day.
Arriving in Tempe on Thursday allowed me to handle a lot of the athlete requirements before everyone got into town. This helped keep a lot of pressure off of me. Saturday was gear check day for my bike and my gear bags which helped even more come race morning.
Thankfully I got to bed early and I slept like a rock! Woke up and ate 3 peanut butter and banana sandwiches while sipping some water. Got the rest of my special needs bags set to go went through my race checklist and once everything was good my sister and I went down to the race venue. It opened at 5AM and we were there around 5:15AM. Once down there I had to get my nutrition into my bike and everything all set that I couldn’t leave overnight. Got my special needs bags dropped off, dropped my friends off at the pool, and completely forgot about putting my salt sticks into my bike as well putting on my HR monitor. Said good bye to the kid sister and got in line for the swim start.
I positioned myself up towards the front to avoid having to swim over people. As I treaded water and waited for the gun to go off I was anxious to get started. The excitement in the air was astonishing. As the cannon (not a gun or horn) went off the washing mashing began and for me it didn’t stop till I got out of the water. I swam a 1:10 which I was pretty disgusted with but I also wasn’t swimming as fast as I could. I held back some because I had a 112 mile bike and a marathon to do. So I wanted to conserve some energy seeing as though I’d never gone so far in my life. I settled into a good rhythm away from some people and just kept swimming. The turns got a bit crowded but nothing crazy. On the return there was some waves pushing from the rear which helped and the sun was not in our eyes anymore. I didn’t wear my Garmin this time around I kept it on my bike. I didn’t really have any issue’s exiting the water but once I was out finding a wetsuit stripper that was available was a bit interesting. Finally after that was done I trotted into the transition tent.
I was fully expecting to get a 5 hour ride with at least 20 MPH average here. I jumped on the bike feeling great It wasn’t till we got to a clearing that I had felt the wind gusts and knew it was going to be a long day… Once I turned onto the Bee Line Hwy it was 11 miles of straight headwinds all the way out and then tailwind all the way back. I didn’t have my HR strap on but I don’t use HR when riding since I have my Power2Max Power Meter. I kept my watts under 214 to keep me in Zone 2. Even going downhill I didn’t want to hammer it out too fast and not have any legs to battle the headwind going back. With each successive loop the winds kept getting stronger and stronger eventually slowing me down to 8MPH at some points. During the bike I also had 4 damn flats… 4 of them. As that 5th hour ticked away I just kept riding to get to the run. My nutrition was dead on (could have used more salt sticks) but I felt great getting off the bike and ready to hit the run. The change to the speedfill bottle on the frame and the aerobar bottle holder worked out great! I kept my APX in the bottle and then the water bottles from the aid stations in the aerobar holster.
My plan here was to run 4 minutes and walk 1 minute all at an easy pace for the first loop and then crank out some more intensity. Grabbed some water at the first aid station along with Gu Chomps (Not sure I should have). Then ran into Stuart from the Tri Club and we chit chatted and both were along the same run/walk plan. We were cruising a nice 11 min mile pace which I was OK with. At the 2nd aid station I took some cola (I wanted a caffeine pick up after the head winds. Well the cola was not flat by any means and right around mile 3 I started to feel gassy… very gassy. I was burping hoping it was just gas and then you have that ah-ha moment where as they say “Don’t trust a fart”. I told John and Stuart that I’d catch up to them. I spent the next 10 minutes or so in that porta-john. Then it seemed I would repeat that for the next 10 miles except only taking in water, pretzels and grapes. I didn’t know if that combination would help but in my mind my thought process was like this. Pretzels to help absorb any carbonation, water to help dilute the cola more, and grapes for the sugars. I don’t know if it was the “best” thing but for me it worked. I started to feel human again around mile 12 and I was off to run/walking with enjoyment (Yes I said enjoyment). I saw my parents when I started the 2nd lap and asked where some others were and they said they are out there running. I was relieved they made the bike cut-off. I stopped at my special needs bag and changed out my shoes (I shouldn’t have done this either). Why did I change out my shoes when the one’s I was wearing seemed perfectly ok. Either way I started running again with my 4/1 ratio. Around mile 16 I was in a daze of things tunnel vision to just make it to the far turn around and that’s when I asked a volunteer for some water and instead she gave me perform. Well, after that perform went down the hatch in about 15-20 seconds it was coming back up along with everything else in my stomach. I took some water and tried to jog it out a bit which was fine for a bit and ended up puking a couple more times. Finally at the mile 20 or so turn around I had been feeling really good. Then my coach Julie started running with me for a bit and we had a chit chat. She asked if I was alright and I said not really. Explained the stomach stuff to her. She said I was going to make it, even if I ended up walking the rest of the way I was going to make it. By this time by feet were really starting to hurt (damn shoes, I knew it was the shoes). I should have never changed them out. I hit mile 24 and I could hear the finish line.
At mile 24 once I started to hear everyone being called an Ironman everything kind of hit me. I really was going to make it, I really was going to become an Ironman. I didn’t care about the time I was going to make it. I started thinking about how many people supported me through this. How I wish my father could have been alive to find out that his oldest son had turned his life around from a heavy drinker to an Ironman and an inspiration. I wished my grandparents were still around as well. Finally as I turned the final corner down the finish chute I remember seeing the lights. I remember seeing all the hands wanting hi-fives. I remember hearing “Christopher Holley, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN”. I couldn’t tell you my emotions at that moment. I can’t tell you what else I heard. I can’t even tell you at what point I got my medal. I don’t even remember taking the finisher picture. I remember seeing Rhonda at some point which surprised me that she made it out. I remember my parents meeting her and not much else after that.
My parents went back to the hotel they were tired, I could tell by their smiles that I made them proud. I still had to watch the rest of Team Dunkle come in. I heard some of the ladies and Henry finish but I couldn’t make it through everything in time to cheer them on going down the chute. Nicole had finished as well but couldn’t move fast enough either. Finally I made my way around everyone to the inside turn of the finish shoot. As the final hour approached more and more of the ladies from Team Dunkle finished. They had did it. My certain someone had finished and I was so proud. Finally Erika crossed the finish line all smiles. She was soo excited she ran down the far side of the chute away from her dad and she hi-fived every single hand she could. We all did it, we all become an Ironman that day.
I still can’t believe it’s over just like that. It was a 5 month journey that brought me to places that I’d never been both physically and mentally. As I look back at the race day while writing this. I had a LOT of fun. At the end of the day that’s what being an athlete is all about… FUN.