Ironman Arizona 2017 Race Recap - Part 4 - T2 and Run

If you want to catch up on what happened before this, check out

Ironman Arizona 2017 Race Recap - Part 1 - Getting There
Ironman Arizona 2017 Race Recap - Part 2 - Race Morning and Swim
Ironman Arizona 2017 Race Recap - Part 3 - T1 and Bike

T2 - transition from bike to run


I got through some of the toughest times on the last loop of the bike with Katie's voice telling me she would be right there on my shoulder telling me what I needed to hear.  Katie was Keith's Ironman coach and has been so helpful, supportive and encouraging to me on this journey.  I still remember Katie was there at the pool the first day I had my first swim lesson from Keith.  I heard Katie remind me to stay focussed and pace myself wisely.  I asked myself if I was doing the very best I could at the time with the energy and nutrition and weather conditions and training I had behind me.  I reminded myself that I only get ONE chance to become an Ironman so I better make it count.  I did.

After dismounting my bike, a volunteer took my bike and reassured me it was in good hands.  I borrowed one of Gord's sayings and said out loud,

"That bike ride was so much fun, I think I'll go for a run now!"  
Then I followed the pointed fingers and arms of volunteers in the right direction I hoped, and ran a few steps onto the grass, then whipped off my bike shoes off so I could run faster in my socks to pick up my run gear bag.  Next, I followed more pointed fingers and headed to the women’s change tent (second door on the left!) ;)

On the way there, I bumped into Sharon who had her massage table set up just outside the change tent.

Squeeeeee!!!!!  Oh YAY ME!!!!  Happy happy joy joy!

Sharon is my Fairy Godmother massage therapist, ART goddess, favourite Ironman Arizona volunteer, new cat-loving friend!  She gained my trust at the athlete checkin and briefing within seconds and told me to look for her in T2.  She fixed things I hadn't known were broken before the race.  I got though the last loop of the bike course just hoping that she would be there and be free so that she could fix me up enough to run.

I furtively changed out of my sweaty bike jersey and into my fresh run tank top in a little niche behind the change tent with my sports bra still on and my back to the portapotties for decency.  I had heard that it was crowded in the change tents and that you would lose time if you entered the vortex of the change tent but that you would be disqualified for not wearing a shirt or shoes.  This was the fastest half change I could muster with any decency.

Sharon deftly worked her magic on my neck, shoulders, back, abductors and quads which were all on surely or sorely on fire (though she said they felt not bad).  While she was treating me to massage and ART that I assured her would likely shave half an hour off my time, I introduced her to Gord who was just going through transition then too.

Bibbity Bobbity Boo!  No more BooBoos for me.  :)

Then, as part of a full-service door-to-door delivery system, Sharon helped me change into fresh socks and shoes then escorted me inside the change tent where I changed out of my thickly padded comfy bike shorts into my fresh new lightweight run shorts.  "Shorty shorts," she called them.  I was glad that I had not been able to pee on the bike and had stopped at the portapotties along the way.  Sharon told me some stories of grossness that was happening with urine-soaked athletes spreading the love a little too liberally.

In both T1 and T2 I can honestly just tell you it was dark, warm (heated!) and there were a bunch of chairs in there with gear and athletes strewn about.  I could not tell you what any of them were wearing or doing because I was so focussed on just getting myself together for the next leg of the journey.

I noticed and commented on Sharon's stack of red volunteer appreciation bracelets.  I had one for her but hadn't worn it on the race because it was annoyingly loose on my sparrow-like twigs of wrists.  I had planned to have it in a pocket but didn't and regretted that but hoped I could get it to her afterward somehow.

Sharon took my bike gear bag from me to get put away safely and ushered me to the change tent exit.    Thank you for the royal treatment Sharon!

One more portapotty stop just outside the change tents, more volunteers to slather sunscreen on me and I was off.

There is nothing like spending seven hours on a bike and not having enough chamois cream to make looking forward to starting a marathon run feel "refreshing."  That feeling didn't last.

The Run



I could feel the sun getting weaker and lower on the horizon.  I had a Spibelt with a holster and small hand-held water bottle with the run cutoff times taped on it.

As soon as I ran under the bridges, my run special needs bag was offered to me and I took it (based on missing out on the bike special needs bag).  I ate one Hawkins cheesie (brought all the way from Canada because Cheetos are just not he same), one gummy and one Swedish fish candy my parents had picked up for me from Trader Joes and wiped off my face, neck, arms and hands.

A young girl with blond braids running about my pace and I struck up a conversation and ran together for a bit.  She was a nanny and it was her first Ironman too.  Spectators cheered us on and told us we were looking good.  I could hear from her breathing she was struggling just a little to keep up with my cruise control run pace and I just kept going when she stopped at an aid station.

There was a dusty bit on the south shore that made us all cough, then we ran through the best cheering section of buff young guys in Speedos, through the hula skirts and leis, the cowbells, the boom boom of the music, the sequins and gauze butterfly wings, the little kids staying up late and playing among the adults on lawn chairs.  A flaxen haired boy about three-years-old offered me a glow in the dark necklace.  Awwww... I smiled at his mom as I took it and said, "How could I not?"  I carried it a bit, not wanting to wear it because I was afraid it would be annoying or chafe.  Later, I gave it to a Mexican looking little girl playing on a blanket by her mom and she was delighted.

On the run, I tried two new flavours of Bloks I had never had before and they were perfect for that place in the race:  gingerale as well as spearmint.

I could hear music on the other side of the river and wondered how loud that would be for anyone living nearby.  By the time I crossed over the bridge to the north side, the Base salt people by the loud music offered me a sample as I plugged my ears with my fingers.  I put out my hand expecting a capsule but the guy explained I was supposed to lick my finger, shake salt on it and put it in my mouth.  Not on your life!  Not with all those athletes coming out of portapotties and getting sick.  Yuck.  No way.  I kept going with my own supply of pink Himalayan salt in a tube I didn’t have to touch.

The reflections of Tempe buildings in the water from the north side were stunning, steely, and silvery in the setting sun and dusk.

The north side was a long stretch that seemed to take forever so I was glad when Gord (my long ride buddy-coach-friend-twist-my-rubber-arm-you-can-do-this-Ironman-thing-don't-overtrain Running Room marathon instructor-friend-of-a-friend-now-my-friend-too) caught up with me again and we ran together for a bit.

We tasted some Hot Shots liquid samples because Gord had muscle cramps.  Holy doodle, it burned my mouth with hot pepperiness. I only took a small sip and reminded myself never to try anything new in a race.

Warm Zoup chicken broth offered next.  I had checked it out before the race to be sure it was gluten-free.  It was nice to have something hot (warm) and salty, though I wouldn’t say it was as heavenly as others made it sound.  Gord let me go on ahead while he took a walk break.  He was going to stretch out a leg cramp and catch up with me.  I never saw him again until after the race.  I saw Dan in his Canadian flag jersey heading back the other way and we waved encouragingly at each other at some point.

The second loop got difficult for me within a few kilometres.  

It was like someone turned down the dimmer switch and left it on low.  I was zapped.  I knew I needed calories but I felt full and nauseous.  There was only so much the salt could do.  I alternated water and broth, and tried some fresh fruit: a piece of banana and later some green grapes.  That was pretty good to have real food for a change and ditch the sugar fest.

They say never to wear something new in a race, but I had picked up these super lightweight lined Zoot shorts at the expo because I had decided not to wear my favourite thinly lined Louis Garneau tri shorts in favour of my thicker bike shorts for comfort due to a niggling saddle sore that just wouldn't clear up completely before race day.  Luckily for me, the run shorts were just fine and didn't chafe.  It was nice to be a little more comfortable in fresh clothes for the bike and run even if it took me longer on race day to change.  As this was my first and only Ironman, as long as I finished, it would be an automatic PR (personal record) / PB (personal best)!

I could no longer maintain my cruise-control run or even a slow jog.  I was aware of burgeoning blisters on my feet and was pretty sure I was going to lose multiple toenails.  That sounds awful but I have lost one before and it just feels like someone dropped a hammer on your toe for a while until the blister between the nail and the nail bed gets reabsorbed, then after the nail separates from the nail bed, everything goes numb until it grows out and you just have to be careful to keep the nail short and not get it snagged on anything.  It's kind of a badge of honour in the athlete world to lose a toenail I am told.

My skin felt sticky and crusty with sweat, salt and sunscreen.  

I dug deep and kept moving forward, remembering how on my first 50K ultra, my knee gave out at 25 K and I ran 6 steps and walked 6 steps for the second half.  This time, I managed to run 30 steps and walk 10 steps and alternate that until the end, stopping at many many portapotties along the way.  My second half was one hour longer than the first because of all the walking and stops.

By then, the portapotties were getting ripe so I was in and out as fast as my speedy superpowers would allow.  There was NO hand sanitizer in them.  The course by that point was littered with athletes folded in half, grabbing their knees, and hurling or retching emptily on the grass beside the path.  I kept up on the salt and water like my life depended on it.   At one point, I tried to put a Blok in my mouth and my lips just pursed themselves closed.  I just couldn’t take any more in.  I was lucky that I could just keep moving at my reduced pace.  Like the tortoise, not the hare, I just kept moving.

I looked down at my left arm where my Mom had written "just keep moving pussycat, you have 9 lives!"  I get myself into some tough situations but always seem to land on my feet.  Every time I saw a sign that said "You're amazing" or "You're incredible," I looked at my right arm where my Dad had written "YES!" :)

By then, the breeze was cool in spots where the it blew across the water but I was still warm enough in my tank top and shorts though the hairs on my clammy arms raised up in the breeze.  People asked if I was on my first or second loop around then and when I said I was on my second loop, quite a few told me reassuringly

"You WILL be an IRONMAN!"  

I teared up a couple of times and imagined doing the ugly cry at the finish line.  I imagined I could make the ASL (American Sign Language) sign for the letter K for Keith and Ken and raise my arms high and run through a banner.  I was a finish line banner volunteer at Calgary's Ironman 70.3 in 2014, where I was first Ironstruck and inspired to work toward my dream goal.

"Anything is possible!"

One spectator asked me what mile we were at.  I just had to answer,

"My technology died and I'm in kilometres, not miles so I have NO IDEA where we are!"  

Good thing I had the run cutoffs taped to my water bottle on the run too so I knew I had time to make it to the finish before the cutoff.

I saw people bailing and calling their families to pick them up.  Wait, I thought you would get a DNF if you had your cell phone on you so I didn't bring mine.  It would have been great to leave it in a waist pack inside two ziplock bags on the bike and run so my family could track me more reliably than the timing chip and mat system.  My parents texted Keith to ask if they should be worried.  He explained that the chips are remarkably reliable for leaving gaps in the tracking and not to worry just yet.  He thought one of the timing mats at mile 70 or 75 was not registering times for a few people he was tracking.

My Mom snapped the only photo of me (above) running towards the end of this epic Ironman journey.  I'm sad I didn't see her but glad she was there.  It was too late, too dark, and too sparse by then for the official photographers.

My parents were the best paparazzi!  :)

After this photo, I rounded a corner and headed toward the finish.  More on the feeling at the finish line and video, but first, my Fairy Godmother volunteer Sharon will fill you in a little more about what goes on behind the scenes in T2 in her guest post up next.

Ironman Arizona Series:
Ironman Arizona 2017 Race Recap - Part 1 - Getting There
Ironman Arizona 2017 Race Recap - Part 2 - Race Morning and Swim
Ironman Arizona 2017 Race Recap - Part 3 - T1 and Bike
Ironman Arizona 2017 Race Recap - Part 4 - T2 and Run
Ironman Arizona 2017 Race Recap - Part 5 - Guest post by volunteer Sharon
Ironman Arizona 2017 Race Recap - Part 6 - Finish Line & Beyond
Ironman Arizona 2017 Race Recap - Part 7 - Guest post by coach Keith 
Ironman Arizona 2017 Race Recap - Part 8 - IMAZ2017 epic trailer (1 min video)
Ironman Arizona 2017 Race Recap - Part 9 - Ironman Arizona 2017 - Michelle's Day (6 min video)

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