Tag Archives: IMAZ

Ironman Arizona Race Report

0823_098542Here 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.

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.

Swim:0823_076121
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.

Bike:
0823_020538I 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.

Run:WP_20141116_15_39_57_Pro
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.

The Finish:0823_090644
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.

Coming Too:WP_20141116_21_21_58_Pro
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.

Wrapping Up:
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.

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Ironman Arizona–My Experience.

Just like that the race is over and the post race celebrations are coming to a close.  What started out as a childhood dream came true November 16th, 2015.  It was a year in the making though.  None of this wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for me asking my mom to help get me in through the online registration.   2014 has been quite a year and ending it by becoming an Ironman.

Most of the race was a blur so I’ll get to my race report later once the emotions settle a bit.   I’m not a Kona qualifier and probably won’t ever be, but when you decide that something is possible you need to go for it.  I trained under the same coach I used for Oceanside through her group special.   Some of the people I knew and others I didn’t.  We all embarked on this adventure to become Ironmen together.  Triathletes of all shapes and sizes all out to achieve what many people say is nothing short of crazy.   We trained together, we traveled together out to AZ a couple weeks before the race and we all kind of bonded in a special way.  The memories we will cherish and remember forever.

I signed up for this race on a whim of believing that it’s possible that regular people can do this and it’s not just for pro’s.  I knew it wasn’t going to be easy and I knew it was going to be hard.  I found new limits for myself that I didn’t think possible.  With all my weight loss I wanted to prove to myself that I could go out and do something great.  They say Ironman is a drug and in part they are right.  You get this high going into race weekend and then once it’s over you go through a down period.   Everyone goes their own ways again back to their regular lives or in my case my off season.

Once in Tempe I was excited to be a part of the experience.  Go down to Ironman Village get my athlete check-in process done and check things out.   Lots of vendors, lots of athletes but not much of anything real like clinic’s or things for inspiration.  The underpants run was fun to take part of and Friday was getting a tour of the transition area’s with places to spectate at.  There is so much more to think about while doing an Ironman verses other distances.  That time my parents were in town and the excitement started to really build.  We went to the opening ceremonies that evening which just fueled the fire of inspiration.  Saturday had a great swim with the group in the morning and gave my parents the same tour I got.   Having my family there really meant a lot to me.  It’s important to me that they see that anything is possible no matter what age.  We saw a 72 year old woman who was doing her first ever triathlon finish the race.

After the race was over and everyone who finished was still on their highs the village seemed to take on a different excitement.  The previous day was done and everyone was already looking at IMAZ 2015.  Different athletes looking at their previous days race in different ways.  Some were happy to be done with it and never do it again.  Some looked to their Garmin data to already start looking at what they could have done better.  Some started to compare races year through year.  I already know I’ll be volunteering at 2015 so I’m not signing up for it.  I didn’t have my HR monitor on during the entire race (major fail on my part) so I don’t have much data to analyze for the race.  At mile 22-23 though is when I could hear Mike calling people an Ironman.  I knew that I was going to be an Ironman and while I was overcome with emotion the rest of the race was just enjoying my accomplishments.

2 Weeks of Up’s and Down’s 100 Miles in 5 Hours and 1 DNF.

imageYes you’re reading that right 100 Miles in 5 hours of moving time.   I did stop to vent some frustrations with some of the drivers going around Fiesta Island.  That was my training highlight of the weekend training followed by a run from Del Mar to Carlsbad with the woman I’m dating.  Yes you’re reading that right I said I’m dating a woman but more on that in another blog post or maybe later in this one.  The downfall of the weekend of training was my DNF at TikiSwim.   I joined the San Diego YMCA and stopped my 24 Hour Fitness membership as well.   24 Hour Fitness just didn’t suit my needs anymore since I’m no longer a casual gym person.  The “Y” as everyone calls it has spin classes that work with my training schedule along with a Masters program that works with my training schedule as well, so it was a no brainer.

Thursday 9/25/2014 marked the “40th Anniversary of Triathlon” and Triathlon Club of San Diego along with the San Diego Track Club put on a race in it’s honor in it’s same format of “run > bike > swim > run”.   I took the day off from work cause I wanted to take part in this event.  I love being a part of great experiences and this one was amazing.  Got to race with some pro’s and some more triathlon icon’s. I can’t wait for the 50th!  I didn’t bring my Garmin with me and I wore a loaner chip however I don’t know my time yet since they haven’t been posted and really I don’t care.  The experience of Tri’ing with everyone was worth it.

So Saturday I told myself I wanted to hit the 100 Mile mark on Garmin so it could be “Official” and I circled around Fiesta Island more times than I could count.  I started around 6AM and little to no traffic with very little wind and the first 50 miles felt great…  Then the traffic picked up cause of an event on the far side of the island so I couldn’t get going too fast cause I just don’t trust the drivers around San Diego, they are clueless.  Then around mile 70 the winds started to pickup so the long part of the island had a headwind which brought me down to about 17 MPH but at the short side I got up to 28 MPH which was great.  I kept everything in Zone 2 with the occasional Z3’s then finally made the last lap to 100 and called it a day.   I learned 2 very valuable lessons that day.  One is that I can’t go off liquid only carbs because I can’t take them in as easy as some bonk breakers in my bento box.  I found that I just didn’t need grab them as much as I should have.

Sunday started out hectic and disappointed but ended on a good note.  I left for TikiSwim and there had been a fatality on the freeway which left me no time to get mentally prepared for the race.  I got there with 3 minutes to spare before the race started and grabbed my packet and grabbed an old pair of goggles cause I couldn’t find the other pair in my bag.   With no time to warm up just as I got to the beach the gun went off and out I swam.  The surf was rough with some huge sets coming in.  Some people panicked and I just kept swimming.  Had this not been a race with life guards I normally stop to WP_20140928_001help them out but they were going to be fine with the on course help.  However swimming out I was kicked in the face and a flow of water started to come into my left side of the goggles.  I thought just my goggles were knocked down so I adjusted them and started to swim only to have to stop 5 seconds later and empty them out.   That’s when I discovered that I could put my finger right through!  I was only at 1/4 mile when I just said this isn’t going to work and swam back to shore.   Could I have toughed it out and swam without goggles probably and my eyes would burn and pay dearly for it the next couple days.   I based my choice on the facts that this was a training race and not an A race.  Some people have called me a quitter for not toughing it out but those same people didn’t pay over $1000.00 an Ironman race too.   Either way I was more disappointed that I couldn’t finish. Went ahead with a point to point run from Del Mar to Carlsbad.  I had never done such a thing and I had my doubts about it.

59 Days and Counting till IMAZ… WTF IM #2?

Time is flying by and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have my doubts that I am ready for this.  The days are slowing ticking away and my mantra lately has been “This Ironman isn’t going to train for itself buddy.”  I’m biking longer than I ever have before  and enjoying it.  This past Saturday while I was out on a 4.5 hour bike ride it was around mile 70 where I thought to myself that man 20 miles seemed so long back when I signed up for IMAZ.   Now 20 miles just seems like a warm up.  Now with me really having the confidence in not blowing up on the bike I can start getting in more running as well which I’ve totally been slacking on.

I really need to break this mental barrier of running is punishment again.  Today after a 75 minute spin class I went out on a 2.5 mile run and had the best times in a long time and surprisingly in the heat and humidity I felt great (Yeah I just said that).   I opened up my stride a bit more but watched my cadence go from 79/80 to 76/78 but my HR instead of riding that 147 BPM line dropped to 138/140 BPM.  I was lower in my Z2 and my avg times per mile dropped from a 10:30 min/mile to a 9:31 min/mile.  Now I did have to walk once to stretch the hip flexor a bit but then chugged along.   It kind of has me wondering now if trying to get the shorter steps and higher cadence was back firing for me since I have longer legs.   I’ll monitor some of the longer runs to see what’s going on with that.

whistler

On another note yes I signed up for IM Canada as well.  WTF was I think is the first thing that comes to mind but I must be honest.   The course looks absolutely awesome and I’ve heard excellent peer reviews of it.  So why not?   This is in July so it works perfectly for my St. George 70.3 in the beginning of May.  At first I didn’t think I’d like some of the longer IM training but it’s kind of growing on me in a sadistic way.

It’s Been a Week of Hills!

GiroMaybe it’s been 2 weeks of hills, I’m not really sure at this point as everything is running together.  There have been both physical and mental hills that have brought me up and down, but it’s all part of becoming an Ironman right?  You learn to juggle the demands of your work, social, and training lifestyles as volume pick up and move you to what you once thought those limits are.  Slowly as you approach them you start to feel that you get that anxious feeling in your gut and you press on.  You slowly move past your previous limits and the confidence builds as you start to explorer the space you didn’t know existed.

So last Saturday I swim buddied at the San Diego Triathlon Classic.  I was supposed to race in this race but after careful thought with my Ironman training it just wasn’t a good fit.  Especially since I had a 105 mile ride from Solana Beach up Mt. Palomar the following day.  So putting the pride aside I went and rode with this great girl who is also training for IMAZ at a slow pace for a few hours (probably not the brightest thing cause of the 105 mile ride the next day).  Either way we had fun and it was great time…… I guess you might call it an Irondate!  Then later that night I got my run in… again this was not a good idea.  The upside was I ate a TON of carbs!

WP_20140906_003My athlete Rhonda who just did her first ever triathlon back in May finally reached the podium Saturday as well.  She took 3rd in the Athena division which she earned.  The Tri Classic was her A race and she even surprised herself.  You can follow her journey on her Facebook page “Living Instead of Existing”.  She didn’t know it at the time but I decided to stay and watch her finish and cheer her on going across that finish line.  I’m proud of her her finding this new found love of not just triathlon but being competitive.  As I’ve been a mentor for her the goal for this season was for her to just have fun and enjoy the sport, clearly it is.   Next season will be pushing a bit more (like I haven’t done enough of that) for some possible podium spots in the Athena Masters and also increasing 1 or 2 races to Olympic distances in her preparation for a 70.3 early 2016 with possible IMAZ 2016.

palomarSo now to Sunday’s fun…it really wasn’t much fun.  It sucked and it sucked a lot.  Started at 6Am 1 whole hour early and I knew there would be hills and a damn mountain so I used my road bike (I think I should have kept to my tri bike).  My road bike is an aluminum frame which I refer to as a tank.  I’ve had that thing for almost 5 years and never once had to change a tire or tube.  I put thousands of miles on it and it truly is a tank.  I knew I was going to be slow and I knew it was going to be a 9+ hour ride.  Yes you see that big mountain in the middle of the elevation chart that was a 7-8% grade for 11+ miles?  I had to ride up it and the gearing on my road bike in it’s easiest gear was a lovely 4 MPH avg going up it.  I’m not going to lie I wanted to quit going up and just go downhill.  My brain was telling me to quit and just turn around but my legs just kept peddling up even as I saw friends of mine going down.  I stopped and let my HR go back down since the sun was beating down on me and climbing up hill keeps me in my Z4 and Z5 for long periods of time.  On these stops I made the mistake of looking at my map on my phone and talk about the longest mile.. I thought to myself man I’m going 4 MPH this is going to take me 15 damn minutes to get to the top this is just dumb and why did I do this.   It was about this time that my legs wouldn’t let me turn around that I finally caught up to my buddy Marcus and I thought to myself that if he can do this than so can I.  Finally made it to the top with him and another guy named Steve.   10702229_715504185206710_5231643471898073495_nWe caught the girls just before they went down it was a fun quick reunion (I hated all of them at this point because they beat me and weigh half of what I do.)  It was at this time where mother nature decided to shower on us.. A LOT!  Yeah that wall of rain was what I went through on the way down.  My friend Carrie happened to snap this picture as she was going up and I was going down.  At the end of the day we all got across the finish line we got our medals we endured mother nature’s 100+ heat and flash flooding.  Congratulations to everyone we made it out alive and our legs truly do hate us now.

I heard someone say that after 6 hours of straight exercising something happens to you.  They are right and it’s different for everyone and for me it was interesting that it was my legs that kept me going forward and not quitting when everything that I read and listed to told me it would be my body that was telling me to quick and it would be my mind telling me to stop.  I felt that urge to want to keep going, that confidence that you can do this.  You can finish it.  People still call me crazy and say that this is not normal behavior.  I would have said the same thing 3 years ago as well.  But for me this is becoming the new normal and I like it.  One of the best choices I made in my life was losing weight and getting outside of my comfort zone of inside the bar.

Life Time Tri: Minneapolis–Race Report

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Well I’m halfway through my season of travelling for races and man it got here fast.  Strangely enough this felt like my hometown race.  My family from my mom’s side live in Minneapolis and while only a few of them made it out to the race.   Everyone made it to the BBQ we had later that day, and that’s really what made this trip for me.  I rarely get to race with my family watching so it was extra important that I had a smile on my face and that I got over that finish line not looking like death.

This race was unique for me and I had a lot of small challenges to overcome.  First was the weather.  It was rainy every day I was there except for the day after the race and then it was awesome.  During the race it was muggy and humid, and the course had a lot of mud.  The Twin Cities have been getting rained on so there were lots of flooded area’s around town and the ground was completely soaked.  Second was that I rented a road bike.  I didn’t have time to really get some saddle time before the race thanks to the rain.  So during the race I couldn’t really feel my butt past mile 13 or 14.  I also couldn’t really get into any aero position which means I was catching wind like a sail!   The other stuff wasn’t as important because I was mainly there to just have fun.

The Swim:
No wetsuit this time  While the water was warm I didn’t feel the need for a wetsuit and went about swimming without one.  The water was warm so I took advantage of it.   The start was a time trial start so they had us in pairs going into the water every 3-5 seconds rather than 1 big wave.  The entry was a beach start which was cool because I didn’t have to wait behind everyone else wadding through the water.   I got plenty of good leaps in and off I went.  During the leaps I passed 4 people just inching out.  I didn’t even get a swim buddy that I could draft off of in this race and there was a lot of jostling of elbows and kicks that where way off.  I will say this swimming in fresh water for a change is nice.  I don’t have salt crust on the face during the bike.

The Bike:
It’s been over a year since I had to ride a road bike during a triathlon so I knew it was going to be an experience.  The course was very scenic and it went through parts of Minneapolis I didn’t know even existed.  Seems the road crew didn’t either cause there were potholes, creases, and horrible divots through the entire ride.  I couldn’t seem to pickup much speed either cause after mile 13 or so I could no longer feel but butt.  The only reason it was still there was that every single bump I hit I could feel it.  I couldn’t even get into the aero position for the ride which felt really weird to me.  Of course spectators love to cross the street as bikes are going through and I almost hit a few of them but ended up in the oncoming lane of traffic to avoid them.  I’m lucky I didn’t get in a serious accident with other athletes.

The Run:
Well this was a 2 loop course around the lake I just swam in.  It was filled with water from the rains and mud from the soaked grass.  It was pretty humid and muggy out so it felt like I was running through a lake.  Not to mention it was hot without the sun even being out.  Thankfully I had a lot of fun and looking back it wasn’t all that bad.  There was another guy going across the finish with me and we both looked at each other and said lets smile and sprint it through.  So we did complete with smiles and a hi five afterwards.

The End:
Well I might do this race again next year or the Maple Grove Triathlon.  It was nice to see family and had fun exploring the trails that Minneapolis has to offer.   Till next year.

Where Did the Time Go?–3 weeks into IMAZ Training already!

It really got here before I knew it, and I would by full of it if I didn’t say that I’m a bit terrified.  Let’s be honest though, when you embark on the stuff you truly want to accomplish it is supposed to be terrifying.  That’s what makes the accomplishment that much sweeter.  I’m 2 weeks late in starting this blog post due to things coming up and trying to stick to training as much as possible.

The last 3 weeks have been a whirlwind of training, traveling, racing, and helping others reach their goals.  I’m writing this as I get ready to head to Minnesota this week for a race out there.  I have family out there so I’ll be able to stay with them and I’ll have a car as well to travel around.  The upside to Minneapolis is that it’s super bike friendly so I plan to do a LOT of cycling.  I’m excited for my family to be able to get out there and watch me race and I’m excited to see them. I grew up on the west coast for the most part and missed a lot of my family growing up and now as we’ve all gotten older we just don’t get time to spend together much.

My training for the most part has been on track however I don’t feel like I’m where I should be.   Part of that is because of my break for the month of June.   I think my run for the most part suffered the biggest set back and I need to get it back.  However when I look at the numbers though it’s my aerobic endurance that is gone.  Training for short course racing is all about speed and power over the short course instead of a steady pace.  So what does that mean for me?  More longer runs and bikes at a steady Z2 pace to get that endurance built up again.   What does it mean for my short course races coming up?   Well it means that I’m going to look at them as training and keep myself at a solid pace.

Also got to see my friend Rhonda complete her 2nd triathlon the weekend of my ITU Race.  She has come a long way and it’s pretty cool to see the effect that I have had on her.  From believing that she could do her first triathlon before October to now looking at training for her 3rd triathlon in September.   I’ve found it’s very rewarding personally to watch people accomplish what they once thought they couldn’t.