Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Ironman Arizona Road Trip - Part 2

Sunday, Nov 21 - Race day. This is going to be long….

breakfast at the lake wall
the pros are about to start
swim start

the "washing machine
The race started at 6:50 for the pros and the 7:00 for the age groupers. We wanted to get there around 6:15 to find a nice spot to watch the swim start. We ended up on the wall a 100 or so meters past the start buoy. Spectators were lining up here and on the Mill St. bridge above. The sky was somewhat overcast, water temp was supposedly 61 degrees, which is a little chilly. Air temperatures were in the 40s and they were predicting some rain. Not ideal racing conditions, but it should make for a much more comfortable run.

The race started right on time and the pros were off. Then the age groupers. 2400 swimmers all at once. Quite the sight! A few made their way to near the wall to try to shake off the stress of the open water. One guy lost his goggles but the kayaks are prepared and have spares. We watched a few minutes of the swim then headed to the Dunkin’ Donuts on Mill St for some coffee and donuts. Today I was “doing everything I won’t do next year.” Well maybe not everything, but why not have some donuts for a mid-morning snack. And I promised Ron I’d bring him a donut. LONG LINE at the coffee shops - hundreds of spectators had the same idea I had. Once I had my coffee and a few donuts, I regrouped with Shannon and Darby and we headed to watch more of the race. 
an athlete at the start of the bike
The first pros were already on the bike when we got to the place where the cyclists leave Tempe Beach Park and head out on Rio Salado. This was the spot where the turn-around is on the bike course. Like I said - very spectator friendly. I saw Sonja and Michelle because of their green jerseys. Couldn’t recognize anyone else that I may have seen! After a bit of watching the bikes head out of transition, I worked my way over to the swim exit to see the last of the swimmers. An Ironman swim has a 2 hour and 20 minute cut-off. If you don’t have your foot on the step to climb out of the water at 2:20, you are not allowed to continue in the race. There were a handful of athletes that were clearly not going to make it, and a few that were really, really close. The race announcer kept encouraging them and asked that the support kayaks help keep them in a straight line (so as to not swim any extra distance by zig zagging). We watched a lot of cold people get out of the water. Spending over two hours in 60 degree water, even with a wetsuit, chills the core. It was a sad sight to see the few athletes get told they were not able to continue. Tears are shed by both athletes and spectators. To have worked so hard and have your day stopped after a less than 2.5 hours has got to be disappointing.
lots of volunteers at the swim exit

Matty Reed (in front) racing his first Ironman distance race.
We walked back over to the bike course and he went back to the hotel to get his son. I then walked east along Rio Salado to find a spot on the bike course. I found Shannon and Darby again and we cheered on the athletes. I then walked a little further down the road and kept cheering. I was able to see the lead pros and tried to get a couple pictures. I also saw an amazing athlete - an Army guy who had one leg. Talk about inspirational! He wasn’t even using a prosthetic as his leg was amputated near the hip. We do single leg drills a minute or so at a time - I can’t imagine doing it for 112 miles!
amazing athlete here. yes, he only has one leg.
At this point I met up with Liana (@FITtorrent). We chatted for a while and I told her how great the races in Boulder are! Then the rain came. A brief, but substantial shower. I got a little wet. It would rain on and off for a few hours. Next I made my way back near the bike dismount as the lead pros would be coming in soon. I met up with Ron again, met @HiTriGuy who was volunteering at the bike dismount station, and we found coach Chuckie V (@ChuckieV), pro triathlete Angela Naeth (@tri3angela), and a few of their friends. We got some good pictures of the lead pros coming in off the bike. Chrissie came in about 10 minutes in front of the 2nd place female, and not too far behind some of the male pros. 
Chris Lieto getting off the bike.
Ben (@HiTriGuy) and Ron
Chrissie Wellington getting off the bike
Shannon and Darby's volunteer station - run gear bags
Because the run course was set up in these twisty loops, you got to see the athletes come through transition about 3 miles into the run (and then several times after that). The female leaders looked strong, and 3,4,5 were just within a few minutes of each other. Once we saw most of the leaders and a few age groupers come in, it was time for lunch. Nina was at Hippie Cove so we headed that way. Hung out for a while and had some good burritos while missing another rain shower. A little before 3pm we headed over to the grandstands at the finish line, as the pros should start to come in shortly after 3pm - after 8 hrs on the course. 

I think 8:13 was the course record. Sure enough, at 8:06 Timo Bracht powers in. Soon behind him Rasmus Henning and Tom Lowe (Chrissie W’s boyfriend). Jordan Rapp, last year’s IMAZ winner came in 4th. Not bad after suffering a very serious accident in the spring where he got hit by a car. Joszef Major wrapped up the top 5. Matty Reed, doing his first Iron distance race came in 6th, I can’t remember who came in 7th, but Chrissie Wellington came in 8th overall and 1st female (of course). She cracked the top 10 and her 8:36 was the fastest female time in an Ironman brand race in the world. (She has the fastest iron-distance time of 8:16 at the Challenge Roth in Germany.) Linsey Corbin came in 2nd at 9:05 - 29 minutes behind Chrissie, but still an amazing time! Fantastic to see all that! I hung around and watched some of the lead age group men come in, as well as Sonja- she won her age group! Michelle came in 3rd in her age group, and Steve Vaughan of the Pikes Peak Tri Club came in 5th in his age group at 11:13! I went to go find Steve since he was here by himself, but couldn’t find him! I missed CTS coach Teri Pitman cross the line just a few minutes after Steve. 

Timo Bracht wins with a new course record!
Rasmus Henning comes in 2nd
the stands are full!
Chrissie Wellington finishes in 8:36 and sets a new Ironman (brand) world record for women!
behind the finish lines - volunteers helping the finishers
view of the mill from the finish line
By now it is about 6:15 so I head on down to check out the run course. The sun has set and anyone that didn’t make it to the bike line by 5:45pm wasn’t allowed to continue on the run. I walked down to transition and went under the Mill St. bridge and then walked along the edge of the run course against the flow so I could cheer on the athletes. I kept thinking about how I might feel at this point next year. I’m sure it is just a mental will to keep moving at a reasonable pace. There were a lot of people walking, but the aid stations seemed well stocked and supported from what I could see, although they would still be out there for over 5 more hours. I headed about a mile down the course to the next bridge and then walked back along another part of the course, also against the flow. One thing to note for next year is that the run course, although three loops, is pretty curvy and twisty with a lot of turns. And I will most certainly spend some of my time running in the dark.
I made my way back to the stands and kept cheering on the finishers. At this point there is a steady flow of finishers. Each one gets their name called by Mike Riley announcing they are an Ironman. The emotion on every finisher’s varied, but it was a strong emotion. Some took their time down the chute and celebrated. Others sprinted to beat the person in front of them. I am going to be a celebrator. The crowd is cheering for you so soak it up!
As the night moved on, the party grew. At 9pm U2’s Where the Streets have No Name was played. Three more hours of finishers. Shannon and Darby came to the stands after their volunteer shift. The atmosphere was that of a big party. Energetic songs on the PA, Mike Riley and and assistant (can’t remember his name) were making the evening special for each Ironman. As the night got later, the energy at the finish line increased. The emotion on each finisher’s face appeared to grow stronger. One spectator caught my eye - she was about 12 years old and was holding up a sign that read “One bite at a time. Go Daddy #92.” She waited with anticipation as every finisher rounded the corner and headed into the chute. And each one wasn’t daddy. Hours passed and #92 still wasn’t there so she started crying. But she held that sign up high. The celebration was going on and she kept waiting and waiting. I think it was after 11pm when we finally saw #92 come down the finish line, smiling and enjoying his jog down the to the finish line. What a relief! She had us all worried that #92 might not finish!
blurry, but Linsey is on the left, Chrissie on the right with Mike Riley.
The last hour was a big dance party. Chrissie Wellington and Linsey Corbin came back down to the finish line (actually they’d already been there for several hours congratulating the finishers and giving them foil blankets. They came out into the finish chute and did the YMCA with all of us. They seemed to have a lot of energy after a race like that! And the crowd got louder and louder for each finisher. And as the midnight cutoff approached the antipation grew. Many of the earlier finishers were celebrating in the stands. Nina got Dana settled in their hotel room and then came down. Sonja and Michelle also made it over to cheer with us. Jennifer (@IronJen) finished holding her IronJen sign. With about 20 minutes to go, Leslie, a friend of my parents finished. The crowd went nuts when the last finisher came down the chute with only seconds to spare. I couldn’t help think about how I will feel coming down the chute to the finish line a year from now. It will be such an accomplishment! It will be an extremely challenging year, but quite amazing!

After the last finisher we wandered back to the car to try to get a few hours of sleep. Registration starts at 7 am, the line starts before 6am and this race fills FAST.


Michelle said...

Thanks for your cheers on Sunday....I look forward to cheering YOU on next year!

Nicole said...

You're welcome Michelle! I had sooooo much fun out there this weekend! Next year will be a little different, but I hope just as exciting.