My Arizona Ironman Race Report
By Phillip Kriss # 1720
Training for this event started as an idea my son and new personal hero Terry had while watching the ironman on TV in December 2007. “You can do that Dad, can’t ya? You can swim that far, and you ride your bike like that all the time. And I know you can run” After a brief family discussion and consultation with my tri geek friends (Chris Blair) I signed up.
Along the way I had to learn new skills like swimming. I started at the Auburn YMCA and at first could swim half a mile in 16 minutes.
I was already running marathons and riding my bike, so those I thought were OK. All I needed to add in were the transitions.
3 Olympic and one half ironman later I found out I was doing quite well!
A month before race day I had the opportunity to take an underwater video lesson from Patty Swedberg at Raise the Bar. Huge help. My swim times immediately improved from 2 min/100 yards to 1:40 with much less effort.
My generous pal Chris Blair lent me his aero helmet and Zipp race wheels (more on that later)
I shipped my bike via Tri-Bike transport, got on the plane and flew to Phoenix where the weather conditions were perfect for a race.
I was scared to death. My heart rate was very high. I remembered the Portland Marathon I had ran when my heart rate was high at the start line, and I was road kill by mile 20. That was not a good thought. The swim was 1.2 miles upstream in 62 degree water. Plus, the race started at 7AM, so the sun was not up yet and it was dark. There was a mass start after treading water for 10 minutes, I was on my way. The kicking, thrashing and throwing elbows was less than I expected. Before the turn around, the sun came up and it was easy to swim straight because it was right into the sunrise. That was cool! Before I knew it I was half way done and not even tired, so I decided to pick up the pace. I did on the way back and passed up several people, many of which were not eager to give up their position. I got out of the water in 1:13, 7 minutes faster than expected! I was a happy man!
T1. Chaos. Well organized, but too many people in too small of a place. But in and out in reasonable time
FUN. I passed hundreds and was wondering where all these people came from considering my swim was not bad. The ride went out through town and it was mostly flat until a road called the “Bee Line”. In my opinion an appropriate name because the wind blown sand hurts your face. The last 7 or 10 miles was up a grade against the wind. I attempted to keep my heart rate around 135-140 which I did all day, but I cheated going up the hill because I could pass so many people. Going downhill with a tail wind with Blair’s Zipps was an experience to die for. The sound of those carbon wheels really turned me on. Occasionally I would pedal out at over 45 MPH. Back into town with cheering crowds. I thought to myself “Thank you. Thank you very much” as Elvis would have said it. My new glasses made me feel like Elvis too!
Then things began to vary from my established plan. My right foot went numb. Loosened my shoe and fixed that. Had to stop and pee and pee and pee. Good to hydrate well, but that was ridiculous. Then passing a whole group of people on my way up the Bee line, I heard a POW Hiss hiss hiss. I said to the people I was passing “Somebody’s day is gonna suck” That turned out to be me. I was fortunate to have just passed an aid stating on the other side of the road, so I ran back and made them help. The called the roadside tech people, who fortunately knew how to change a tubular tire. I do not. I didn’t have the tools or glue. They did it for me and had me on the road again in 28 minutes as near as I can tell. They warned me ride slow because the tire was not glued on, but I told them I didn’t know how to ride slow and this was a race. We comprised in that I would ride slow around corners. That brings me to rule # 1
Rule #1 Never try out new stuff on race day.
Coming down the Bee line attempting to make up some time made me feel like one of the characters in the movie “Blues Brothers”. I had my sunglasses on, a half a tank of Gatorade and 50 miles to go. I thought of my tire barely holding on as I was riding over 40 MPH thinking “Oh blessed mother of mass acceleration, don’t fail me now”
If it weren’t for the flat I would have been very near the top in my age on the bike segment.
Bike time 5:37.
Even with the flat my total time after T2 was 7 hours and was exactly where I wanted to be. A 4 hour marathon would get me to my goal time of 11 hours
I started off doing great. Review of my splits revealed I was running an 8:40 pace for the first 1/3. The second lap I started to hurt. My legs were giving out and I was getting very hot. My mouth tasted like I put the Arizona sand in it. I had a burning feeling in my arm pits knowing I was starting to chaff and get rubbed raw. I was developing a blister on my big toe due to my new socks being slightly thicker than my old worn out socks. (See rule #1) The second lap was painful I now realize because I did not work my nutrition plan good enough. I did not take in enough stuff. I also developed a bad attitude and started walking. Unfortunately walking did not alleviate the cramps. I think now my error on the run was not not taking in enough nutrition, but a poor attitude caused by looking at the scale of the race thinking I had 16 more miles to run and based on my current condition I was not going to make it, so why try. I was hurting and mental distress. Then the words of my pal Chris ran in. “Run from one aid station to the next and drink the Coke”. I took care of my blisters and chaffing by finding some Vaseline and lubing up affected body parts. At each remaining aid station I ate and drank everything they had. Water. Gatorade. Gel. Coke. A few grapes or a bite of a banana. A few ice chips on the way out and I was on my way again. I had also realized I looked really bad between the salt of the sweat all over me mixed up with the sunscreen. I grabbed a few sponges and cleaned myself up a bit and thought time to get this thing done. When I left the last trash can at the exit of the aid stations, I once again began running with a personal resolve to not walk again until the next aid station chanting internally to myself the Marathon Maniac war cry, “you can do it, you can do it”. I began running much better! Reviewing my splits, my pace picked up from over 12 minute miles in the middle third to around 10 the last third. At mile 23, I could see the end and hear the announcements coming from the other side of the river “Congratulations Joe Blow, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!” At that point nothing was going to stop me and I picked up the pace considerably. What a blast it was passing up hundreds in the last few miles amist the cheering crowds!
Run time 4:37
Total time: 11:37 84th of 291 in age, 281 place out of 2199 finishers.
There are no words to describe running the last few miles with the cheering fanatical crowds encouraging you by name. Talk about feeling special! Then down the chute to the finish line. I was happy it was over. I was thrilled I had made it! I was glad I was there. It was De Ja Vue. I had done it! I am and ironman and nobody can take that away from me!
A race (or our lives) is not about the whole scale of things or maybe even the outcome. That can be overwhelming and so powerfully negative it can stop me in my tracks. We don’t know for sure what is going to happen to us along the way or how it is going to turn out. Sometimes you just have to shut up your mind and get over it. One aid station at a time. One challenge at a time. One problem at a time. Take care of yourself and give you what you need to get through the moment. Ask others for help. Many are supportive and want to. To not do so would rob them of their joy. Don’t let anything rob you of your joy. Circumstances may be unavoidable and we can’t change them, but we can change the way we think and therefore the outcome. Yes the event (and life) is hard. Did I think it would be easy? No, I did not. If it were easy many would be doing it. Plus they would have to change the name from Ironman to Marshmallow man.
I am blessed by God himself to have the ability and privilege to do what I did that day and in my life. Would I recommend it to others? You bet!
Special Thanks To
God: For the desire and ability to do this
My Wife Tina: For putting up with a mentally and physically absent lunatic who spent a considerable portion of the Kriss family treasury on toys and race fees.
My Kids: Who encouraged me and traveled with me hundreds and in some cases thousands of miles just to see me at the start and finish of a race. They got up early, stayed late, and stood out in the rain, cold, snow and dark just to watch. They put up with me when I was tired and grumpy. Not bad for teenagers.
Chris Blair: He generously lent me his wheels and aero helmet. He was a great resource of advise. He also got me back into running after I had quit. I have a new respect for this ironman who can do it in 9:21. “We are running a 22 miler Sunday AM at 4:30 and you are coming. Be there” He raises the bar on what it takes to excel.
My Sister Linda: When I needed a shoulder to cry on she was there. She always has the right words.
My Mom: She taught me at a young age I had what it takes to go long.
My Dad: He used to call me “The Man of Steel…Spring Steel that is”
Patty Swedberg: For her swim coaching, words of advise especially at the last minute when it counted the most. If you are reading this and want to do a triathlon, join raise the bar and listen to her. She knows her stuff.
Mary Hanna: Signed my up for the Marathon Maniacs..a turning point in my life.
Cliff Richards and Mel Preedy: They are there most every Wednesday running when I don’t want to. If Mel can keep going, so can I.
Sam McComb: I thought I could ride, but he taught me how to do it much better. And he had a major role in getting me back on my road bike after a 10 year absence. I thought of him several times when I hurt on the run. After he rides up Lakeland hills hill, he often says “this never gets any easier”. He didn’t say that to me, but I heard it loud and clear.
Bob Kaye: Encouraged me to ride a little faster when tired. And if you want to learn how to correctly ride in a pace line, ride with Bob. He will get you straightened our real quick. Both him and Sam are old guys who know how to do it. It can be intimidating to get dropped by guys 30 years older than you.
The gang in the Ring of Fire: Lots of encouragement in my personal life. Many texts and e-mails and phone calls.
Interesting Math Facts
There are over 6.6 billion people in the world, and 19 Ironmen triathlons averaging 2300 athletes that show up, therefore 43700 starters (not finishers). That makes me one of 15102 people internationally that are able to participate in an event like this.
Figuring 16 ounces of fluid on each of the 11 aid stations on the bike, and 23 on the aid stations (I was naughty when I thought I was invincible in the beginning of the 2nd lap), I took in 544 ounces of fluid or 4.5 gallons of stuff. 24 hours after the race, not at the very end, I weighed 5.5 pounds less (or .66 gallons), I must have drank over 4.91 gallons of stuff.
My heart rate while up and around is 50. My average heart rate for the day was 134, meaning my heart beat 92460 beats in 11:37. Normally it would have beat 34500. That means I used up 2.68 days worth of heartbeats in one 11.5 hour event! Let’s assume your heart is like your skin. If you are in the sun more than you should and you get burned and peel, you will likely have premature aging of your skin if not a good case of skin cancer. Is your heart any different? Did I shorten my life by 2.68 days? Hopefully not since up and about heart rate is 50, the average of a regular person’s heart rate is 72. That is a difference of 44%. Even though I used up 2.68 days of heart beats, since my resting heart rate is 50 and theirs is 72, I should still live longer. Not counting most people by 40 are already headed towards cholesterol and cardiovascular problems. But, since I swallowed a lot of Gatorade (sugar) who knows what actually happened to my liver, pancreas and kidneys!