Ironman Arizona Race Report Part 3: the run


Run  – 2:52:38 (6:35/mi), fastest amateur run by 10:13, 7th fastest overall run. After a Thanksgiving weekend plethora of spare time results browsing fest, I believe this is the fastest amateur run ever at IMAZ. Correct me if I’m wrong!

Sure enough, hopping off the bike confirmed that my legs really did feel great (considering) and I had an okay T2. I swapped watches/HRMs because I wanted the Garmin for the run, so that added a little bit. It was really nice to practically have T2 to myself and I knew that must have meant I was placed pretty well. It was awesome to see my dad right when I started and he said, “Do what you do best!” I then saw Janée a few minutes later and she informed me that I was 9th in my age group off the bike. Sounds good to me! I figured a marathon was plenty of time for me to catch enough guys to get into the top three. My starting heart rate for the run was spot on the planned heart rate and the first mile was 6:25. It sounds too fast, but the heart rate was perfect and I’ve run plenty of miles at this pace in training. The trend continued for several more miles between 6:25 and 6:40, all depending on the terrain. I made sure I got Perform plus water at every aid station for the first hour, and I dumped a lot of water on myself if I was feeling warm. It wasn’t a hot day, but I’ve seen just how much temperature can affect heart rate and pace so I figured I might as well be as cool as possible. I passed two guys from my AG in the first lap – nice progress.  If I could even average 7 minute pace, history shows that I would catch a lot of people as they fade. At the end of the first lap, I saw my family and tons of my Racelab teammates who weren’t racing and they all went nuts. It pays to have some crowd support! Awesome boost. My first lap was 55:30 and after doing the math I thought, ‘Holy sh*tballs, that works out to 2:46:30…’ In the moment, I had not factored in the run from the loop all the way to the finish, and that was of course assuming I would also run an even pace for the entire run.

For the next lap, I looked forward to the halfway mark. It was definitely more crowded with a lot more people having started their runs, and keeping track of where I was in my age group went out the window. The 6:30s were still coming without a ton of trouble and the heart rate looked good. I passed half marathon very happy in 1:25 and just kept the focus on efficiency: relaxed shoulders, steady breathing, smooth, smooth, smooth. Around now is when I started focusing on just one mile at a time, commonly doing a countdown until the next mile. Conveniently, a 6:40 mile is 400 seconds, so a lot of times I would start counting down from 300 at .25 into each mile. It’s also convenient that I’m almost always spot-on a cadence of 180 steps a minute, so I rarely have to look at my distance for those 300 seconds; I just count down one second for every third step. It’s crazy, but I do it ALL the time and it seems to help take the mind off the vast distance that needs to be covered. I caught up to Michi Weiss when we were by Papago Park (talk about an ego stroke to pass an Xterra World Champ. Granted, he was on his third lap). I tried to tell him I’m the guy who got the bee sting on Slowtwitch’s We Noticed page (…) because he “re-tweeted” that post, but I don’t think he knew what I was talking about and told me that he’s in 6th position and maybe I can pace him.  Ha, anyway, finishing the second lap meant around 17.4 miles covered and single-digit miles to go! Two-thirds of the way done.

Running under the Mill Bridge to start the last lap, I did my best to get the crowd excited and loud and that was a straight shot of adrenaline. I don’t usually do things like that and the response was overwhelming, in a good way. A short time later, I saw Janée and she told me I was in 5th place. Wait, overall or in my age group? Being in a position to potentially go sub 9:10, it seemed that could mean 5th overall. But what if my AG was particularly strong this year? You never know, so I just kept doing what I was doing, knowing that other dudes aren’t likely to be running close to 2:50. I felt fantastic from my adrenaline shot for a brief period, and then practically as quickly, my quads started threatening to cramp. At least, that’s the way it felt; it could have just been a muscular endurance thing. So at the next several aid stations, I really loaded up on the Perform for the electrolytes hoping that would help. The thighs stayed practically the same the rest of the way, although it took a lot more focus to keep pace and hold it together. It was very easy to think that the wheels were going to come off soon. One mile at a time. One mile closer to the race of my life.  The first big focus of lap three was coming back by the transition area approximately 2.5mi into that lap, roughly 20 miles into the run.  After keeping the wheels firmly attached for those 2.5mi, I once again got to where the crowds were for another good boost, but understandably not as good of a boost being that far into an Ironman. Despite trying to focus on one mile at a time, it was hard to wrap my head around running ALL the way to the other side of the lake, doing a huge loop (including a big hill) and coming ALL the way back to finish. It sure seemed like I had way more than 10k to go. I did my best to push those thoughts out and I started thinking about Janée and the sacrifices she made to contribute hugely to making this day the performance that it was. Thinking about her and the finish brought a wave of emotion that I think helped me keep it together. Every mile, I did the math to figure out how fast I’d have to run to break three hours for the run. The 6:30-6:40s kept coming, so each mile allowed for an even bigger potential meltdown later (haha). The slowest mile of the last lap was 6:54, the lap that included the Curry hill. It’s easy for me to remember because it was the only mile that was over the pace it would take to run 3 hours for the marathon (6:53s). It bothers me a little that the results show I averaged 7:00s for the last 10k. It is definitely wrong, and I suspect the 11.5mi and 20mi timing mats were placed incorrectly, making the splits off. The second split (2.5-11.5mi) shows that I averaged 6:15s – my actual fastest miles of the day were a few 6:25s. I guess either way, I know what I ran. Moving along…

After cresting Curry, I knew I was pretty much in the homestretch. I had a ton of time to break 3 hours, I figured I’d be under 9:10, and I had about 5k to go. That’s it, just a couple miles. I kept the positive thoughts going and tried to take it in – I’m currently realizing a dream. I’m doing what I’ve day dreamed about for every single day of the past several months. I cannot wait for that turn-off for the finish and can’t believe I’ve still been running a lot of miles around 6:40. I focused so hard on the damn Mill Ave Bridge in the distance; that was practically my finish line. I got there, got to the crowds, and then finally – I got to make that turn toward the finish instead of continuing for another lap. The smile crept back in and I was absolutely ecstatic that in a few moments I’d be hearing Mike Reilly’s famed words. On the final quiet stretch before making the last turn, I slapped hands with a friend of mine who happens to be a professional triathlete, Patrick Bless, who I really look up to and got to learn from.  I made the turn, ran under the arch, spotted the best fans on the course (The Terwoords, Racelabbers, and NAU Trijacks, duh) and paused to do a Hulk Hogan-esque pose, then gave my wife a nice, sweaty smooch before airplaning to one of the best finish lines on earth.

The Hulk:

Going in for the sweaty-smooch:
With my parents, all the way out from Ohio. Yikes, glad I finished.
Hugging the best Ironman coach out there, Bettina Warnholtz:
Me looking dopey with my dream girl/best friend/#1 supporter
After it was all said and done, I went from a bad start in 751st place all the way to 4th overall amateur and 1st in the 25-29 age group for a total time of 9:04:44. This guy is going to the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii in October 2012!

8 thoughts on “Ironman Arizona Race Report Part 3: the run

  1. Josh, this is awesome. I loved reading about it. You did an amazing job and it was incredibly exciting being there to witness it 🙂 You’re a total inspiration 🙂

  2. Perfect race and wonderful report, Josh!
    All the hard work paid off and this is just the start of a very promising carrier. It is a pleasure working with you and I could not be more proud of you!
    Looking forward to many more success stories with you!

  3. Josh,
    Thanks for the honesty in your memory of the run split. I will use this to get me through the Tucson marathon coming up. Thanks for sharing your pain, and emotion.


    • Thanks Thomas! I read your race report – sounds like a solid Pro IM debut to me! Especially with pushing the pace on the bike and not being able to fuel – great recovery. What’s next?

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