Max Israel’s Ironman Arizona Race Report

max is long time coaching client, ironman, adventure racer, entrepreneur and just all around great guy. although i didn’t train him for this ironman i worked with him all year last year. i’m posting this because i think it’s a good read and we can always learn from others experiences… congrats max!
read the report here.


Ironman Arizona Race Report

Overview: I came, I saw, I melted.

Swim: 1:14:00 [4] 2.4 mi (30:50 / mi)

Swim: about 00:01:50 minutes slower than last year. Not terrible considering I did only very minimal swimming in favor of run and bike. I’ll gladly give up two minutes to push this time into other areas.

Got out of the water feeling fine. Probably could have hammered harder. Did get a hard kick in the lower lip about a minute into it. Resisted the urge to grab the guy’s ankle and pull him under, though. 😉

Bike: 6:06:12 [4] 112.0 mi (3:16 / mi)

My bike clocked this at just a touch over 6 hours, but I guess the race clock doesn’t lie. My race strategy came apart here. Here is what I think happened…

Let’s start with my goal: An Ironman overall PR at 11:30 based on a conservative swim, solid bike where I might shave a few minutes off my usual 6-hours and a transformative run of around 4:00. My last two IM runs were 4:40 and 4:24, respectively.

I wanted to come out of the water and be on the bike and working by 1:20, which was conservative. I did that. I then wanted to have a 6 hour bike split, but if I could do it without hammering too hard I wanted to bank another ten minutes. Then I wanted to run a 4:10 or so marathon and land right at 11:30.

It didn’t happen.

Lap 1/3: Came out strong but didn’t push hard. Headwind was immediate. Unlike last year, the headwind came at you as you rode out of town uphill. Chatty and smiling, didn’t hammer and focused on staying comfortable. The final results aren’t posted yet, so I can’t get the exact split. (The three laps are all slightly different distances owing to how the move traffic around the hub.) Came around that first round and felt like I was roughly 3 minutes ahead of a six-hour pace.

Lap 2/3: Felt a bit tired coming back out of Tempe, but my plan was to have the middle leg be the work horse of the day. I found a fast looking guy and picked up my pace to match him. As the hillclimb began, I just felt like a million bucks. People were dying in the heat, which began climbing into the 90’s. The wind got noticably stiffer. I passed people effortlessly climbing out of town like they were overweight school children. Turned at the top and with a steady tailwind pushed 30 MPH or so back to the bottom.

A little discouraging…All that work had really only bought me about 2 additional minutes in the bank. In retrospect, my math was probably off a bit because the distance on lap 2 was a couple of minutes longer. But that wind…

Lap 3/3: I really didn’t feel like I had worked it that hard on lap 2. I had been drinking straight water roughly 1 bottle per aid station and supplementing with endurolyltes (3x per hour), around 280 or 300 calories per hour via Power gel which was the aid station choice.

I just came out onto that third lap and simply didn’t have the juice to work back up that hill. I gave away tons of time. In the end, I made the decision not to force the issue. I knew I was giving back some time, but figured a retreat here was smart. Better to survive the heat and wind and make my stand on the run. I crossed into transition at 6:02 or so per bike clock. Don’t know why the clock said 6:06. Shit. All that gain given back…and then some.

Run: 5:08:37 [5] 26.2 mi (11:46 / mi)

IM Arizona marathon. What a depressing marathon.

I can’t say why things went so badly, but here’s one possibility. Temperatures on the run course hit 100 degrees. It couldn’t cope. Helpfully, I read Hammer’s website *after* the race and noticed that their recommended dosage for my size in that environment is 4-6 caps per hour. I took 3 per hour. I probably missed one or two hours’ worth over the day by accident.

This hurts my pride to write. I knew early that I was not going to have a good run. My plan was to try to stick a 9:00 mile for the run, with some hustle-walk aid stations thrown in there. I did this for a lot of Sundays over lots and lots of miles, practicing that pace.

I just couldn’t turn those legs over, and the cramping started immediately. From there, I never got knocked down with cramps but I would start to cramp very quickly after moving my pace faster than 9:00. Before long, I struggled to keep 10:00. Then 11:00.

A few times the heat pounded on me so hard that my head swam and I simply needed to find a patch of shade to rest for 20 or 30 seconds or I was going to pass out.

What went wrong today, especially on this run? Why can’t I run — really run — that Ironman Marathon the way I want to…the way I can run almost any other time?

Nutrition — not enough protein in the mix?

Electrolytes — not enough?

Weight — is 200 pounds just too much to lug around?

Heat — was it too much to expect that all my training was 35-50 F and race day saw 100F ? What could I have done, short of moving to the Sunbelt for training?

The Grand Columbian was absolutely a harder course in every respect, yet I did better. I don’t think I was in better shape at all for that — I’m almost certainly in better shape now. The course temp at GC was probably maxed in the high 70’s on race day.

High points were the last half mile of running. Once the sun went low I started feeling a hell of a lot better. Crossing an IM finish line with a PR for me is great, but there’s nothing cooler than a night finish under the lights. I ended up running with a great guy from Missouri — a normally 10:20 guy who had been puking all day but was still great conversation and funny. We pushed and cajoled each other to pass the time and keep hustling as best we could. Saw the sun set running over one of Tempe’s pretty bridges, which made me smile.

I need to regroup mentally. I’m just seething right now and want more than anything to have that day back to try some other things. I’ve got some ideas on how I’ll spend the next month. Get some much needed time with Alex running trail and riding mountain bikes. I’ve got an invitation to row in a masters 8 at Greenlake, which could shake things up for a few months. Maybe I’ll just do little serous exercise and just laser in on diet while I drop 10 pounds. Goddam.

This year they’re changing this race date to be in November, so IM AZ will actually run AGAIN in November. That’s a tempting shot at redemption.

I could also register for Grand Columbian in September. I know already that I’ll be one of those places.

Note: Time not exact — add 10 minutes or so for transition. Be warned…long post.