Sunday, December 8, 2013

IMAZ Part One: The Road to Tempe

Sometime in the months after Ironman Cozumel, the idea to do another Ironman was born. 

I'd always thought Ironman Cozumel would be a "one and done" kind of thing. But as I've written before, Ironman is a lot like childbirth; while you're in the throes of agony, living in fear of what lies ahead, not sure if you're up for the challenge, you swear you will never do it again. 

But then, afterward, you're all aglow, this precious gift in your hands, this amazing sense of accomplishment in your heart, and you think: What pain? What agony? It really wasn't so bad. I could probably do this again . . .  

And then something else takes hold, moving you along from simply thinking I could probably do this again to I could probably do this better; I want to do this again. I am up for the challenge! I need to prove to myself that the first time wasn't a fluke, that it wasn't beginner's luck that I made it through 140.6 miles. And that horrific marathon split? I know I can do better then that next time . . .  

And with those two words--next time--your fate has been sealed. 

So on November 19th, 2012, I sat poised at my computer, fingers at the ready, watching the clock tick down to 12 noon--and it was on! Fingers flying over the keyboard, sighing with relief--yes, relief!--when I made it "in" to the site and was officially registered for a race that filled to capacity in 40 seconds. Literally thousands of people plunking down a huge chunk of change for the privilege of five months of grueling training followed by a single day of swimming, biking, running; sweating, pushing, suffering (sounds like childbirth, right?) through and over 140.6 miles of water, asphalt and concrete.  

And then I didn't really think about it again until spring. Though I kept up with a basic and minimal fitness regimen over the winter, my training for the season didn't start until March when I began preparing for my first race of the season . . . a local sprint triathlon to benefit the melanoma foundation. The day after the race, on Monday, June 17th 2013, training for Ironman Arizona officially began.  

Over the next 22 weeks I would log:

105,426 yards swimming
2056.77 miles cycling
306.21 miles running

A typical training week consisted of 9-13 workouts over 6 days, with one day of rest. Other than taking care of my family and attending to the daily requirements of my job as a freelance writer and yoga instructor, my life revolved around Ironman training. There were no happy hours, wine tastings or leisurely weekends, and in the thick of it all, as training intensified from the Build Phase to Peak Phase, I begged friends and family for forgiveness--for my total lack of being there, for my singularly focused and selfish pursuit; because, yes, training for an Ironman does require a certain degree of selfishness--and their promises to remind me how awful it all was and to schedule an intervention if I ever got the crazy idea to do it again! 

Overall, I had a great season, standing podium in 3/4 races and twice qualifying for the 2014 USAT Age Group National Championship in Milwaukee, WI

SC Sprint Triathlon
1st in Division
2nd Overall Female (out of 101)

Iron Girl Sprint Triathlon
6th/302 in Division
Top 2%: USAT National Qualifier

North East Olympic Distance Triathlon
2nd in Division
USAT National Qualifier

ChesapeakMan Skipjack (75.2-miles)
2nd in Division
11th Overall Female (out of 52)
41st Overall (out of 132)

Then, in September, with about 6 weeks left to go until IMAZ, the wheels came off. My left hip and hip flexor area had been tight for a few weeks, making it tough to stand and elongate the hip after sitting. So, I decided to try a foam roller to stretch and loosen the left hip and IT Band. Big. Mistake. I'm not sure exactly what I did--perhaps tore or ruptured some muscle fibers?--but as I moved the foam roller under my hip, I felt excruciating pain. The muscle I injured—the Tensor Fasciae Latae (TFL) was all new to me--Ironman training is nothing if not a full course in anatomy. The TFL is a tiny muscle, inferior to the IT Band, which is a long strip of fascia along and over the iliac crest. Apparently, pain in the TFL is common for certain types of athletes, such as distance runners.   

As a result of my TFL injury, I was unable to run for the rest of the training, the TFL like a rope being rubbed back and forth and frayed on the corner of a wall, as it moved across the iliac crest. Aqua jogging, or pool running, replaced actual running for the first 4 weeks, and I scheduled extra massage therapy and acupuncture appointments to help speed the healing process. My last scheduled long run was, instead, a long power walk of the same distance. Two weeks out, I managed a few short intervals on the track, but each effort to run caused a setback in my healing. It was the best I could do. 

Though it felt odd leaving my bike at a local shop to be picked up by Tri Bike Transport--like I was leaving one of my limbs--it was also a slight relief. I'd done it! I'd completed the training. The big day was almost here! 

                                                      TriBike Transport - Asheville, North Carolina
The packing and logistics for an Ironman--arranging childcare (Thanks Mom & Dad!), scheduling carpools (Thanks friends & neighbors!), creating and coordinating a schedule--seemed almost as bad as the actual training. I was a total stress ball. 

Finally, on the afternoon of Wednesday, November 13th, we flew to Tempe, Arizona. Tri Dad--a relatively big, tall guy--traded in a bunch of frequent flier miles to upgrade our tickets to first class so we could fly in comfort and he wouldn't be cramped into a tiny seat in coach, his knees pressed into the seat back in front of him. This was a luxury well-worth the trade-in, as not only did we have extra room, but we also had plenty of food. Pretty good food too, for airline food. And the flight attendant doled out bottle after bottle of water to us (not tiny plastic cups of it). We drank about 2 liters of water each during the flight, which was on time and went smoothly. We collected our bags without delay (tagged "priority" as they were, thanks to our first class seats) and were on a shuttle to our hotel within minutes--which is when we hit our first and only minor travel snag. 


Our hotel, Four Points by Sheraton Tempe, had experienced a leak and we were unable to check into our room. Tired and travel weary, we were relocated to another hotel for the night--The Country Inn & Suits, which was conveniently located across the street from The Dream Palace, and adult night club that generated a steady stream of traffic flocking to its purple neon decor. 

Luckily, our room at the Sheraton was ready by 10 AM next morning. We checked in, unpacked our bags, and caught a shuttle to Tempe Beach Park for the race Expo and packet pick up. 

The fun was about to begin . . . 

Next up: IMAZ Part 2: Countdown to the race. 

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