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  • coachramberg

Ironman Arizona 2021

Updated: Dec 1, 2021

Going into Ironman Arizona, I had a great base. I carried over a lot of fitness from Ironman CDA and had a couple more 70.3 races over the Summer as well. This year, I have biked and swam more than ever before. I really focused on my race nutrition since CDA to try to avoid any cramps that might come up again. I did Ironman Arizona in 2018 and finished in 12:08. This year I felt stronger, more experienced, and was ready to set a new Ironman PR. My goal was to break 12 hours. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. However, I pushed myself to the absolute limit and persevered through some really though times. Ironman is relentless and you never predict what will happen on race day. You must go in with a positive attitude and be flexible at any moment or you will break.

Friday (2 Days before race)

Ryan woke up a couple times throughout the night, so we slept in as much as possible (around 8am). We ate a quick breakfast and headed towards the athlete village to check in. After I got checked in, we went to the merchandise tent to pick up a couple of things including my Ironman backpack. They were sold out of a lot of stuff already but luckily; I was able to get the water bottles and a t shirt. Then we went Tri Bike Transport to pick up my bike. I went for a quick 20-minute ride to shake everything out and get my sensors all calibrated.

We got white bread Jersey Mike sandwiches for lunch and headed back to the Air BNB. I ended up taking a couple hour nap with Ryan. For dinner we got Olive Garden and I had Seafood Fettuccine.

Saturday (Day before race)

It was another hard night of sleep with the toddler. We got up around 8am again and made it to the athlete village by 9:30 to get ready for Ryan’s IronKids race! It started at 10am but the toddlers didn’t end up going until 10:30am. Things were not clarified so Ryan ended up going with the ½ mile group. We ended up cutting the course, so he didn’t have to run the whole thing. When he got to the finish line, they were blowing bubbles and Ryan was so excited he stopped, threw his wubbys, and started popping bubbles!

After the IronKids race I headed straight for the swim practice. They had a strict time limit from 10-11:30 with a mandatory timing chip. The water felt great (around 64 degrees) and was even warm towards the end of the swim.

Next, I checked in my bike. I got a great location in transition right next to the bike exit! Yay for not having to run too much with my bike! Then I checked in my Run and Bike bags. I double checked everything was in there and we were off to go get some lunch! I ended up taking another nap with Ryan which really helped my catch up.

For dinner, we ordered Olive Garden. We were in bed by 9pm but Ryan was rolling around playing for an hour. I probably didn’t fall asleep until after 10pm.

Race morning

Ryan woke up one time between 12:30-1am and luckily went right back to bed. Then we were all up at 4:15am to eat breakfast and be out the door by 4:45am. We got to transition by 5:30 with plenty of time to set up my transition area and go to the bathroom.

Swim: 1:08

I got to the swim corral early to grab a spot in the 1-1:10 group. I ran into Doug right away and chatted. Then I met Shannon from the Coeur team! There were a lot of nerves in the air. I saw lots of people with tears in their eyes. The cannon went off and we started to move forwards. After I heard the beep, beep, beep, I ran down the ramp and dove into the water. It wasn’t cold at all. It was refreshing at first and then felt rather warm. I felt really relaxed with my stroke and didn’t run into too many people going out. I kept veering towards the wall and had to keep moving towards the buoys. The turnaround finally came, and the waves started to really pick up. A mixture between the wind and all the waves the athletes were making bouncing off the water reservoir caused some huge waves! The red buoy felt like it just kept getting further and further away. I finally took one last turn and swam out of Tempe Town Lake.

T1 7:24

I ran out of the water and felt a serge of adrenaline. I was just so happy to be out of the water! To my surprise, they did have wet suit strippers, and someone was able to pull my suit off me! Then I continued to find my bike gear bag and run into the changing tent. First time using a changing tent since COVID! The nicest volunteer got me some water, opened my nutrition, and had me on my way. I ran to my bike that was near the bike out. I saw Ed Sproul volunteering and said a quick hi to him before I zoomed out of T1.

Bike 6:47

I started off on the bike and turned my bike computer on. After testing it the last 2 days and making sure it was working and calibrated correctly, the first thing popped up was “battery low”. My power was ranging from 96-160 watts and I could tell things weren’t working. Luckily, I was still able to use it has a timer and mileage counter since I decided not to use my watch.

The first part of the bike had a lot of turns through town. The roads were very bad with lots of cracks and potholes. It was much worse than the 2018 course. At mile 5 I looked over and saw Kayla on the ground with some medical vehicles. I said a prayer and continued. I later found out that she got hit by a hit and run drunk driver who turned onto the course! Apparently other athletes had similar situations with vehicles as well which is very unsettling.

As I hit the Bee Line HWY I started to feel the wind pick up. I had to gear down and felt like I was climbing a huge hill for 17 miles! It was beyond daunting. It was soul crushing. Each lap got increasingly worse as the wind kept picking up. Apparently, winds got up to 23 MPH instead of the initial 5 MPH they were projecting. Early in the first loop, I started to get side cramps and didn’t know how I could possibly get through the day. At mile 15 I got off my bike and had to take a moment to regroup. I stretched out my side and took a big drink of Skratch. I hopped back on the bike and powered through the heavy winds. The turn around was the best part! I was bombing down the hill going 30 MPH! Straight down the hill with the tail wind and back into town. Lap 1 was complete and 2 more to go!

At mile 60 I stopped and pick up my special needs bag. I grabbed my extra salt pills, bottle of Skratch, and 2 bags of Skrach powder that I later used.

Bike Nutrition: I knew nutrition was going to make or break me today and I came prepared. I had a bottle of Skratch and a bottle of water every hour, a salt pill every 45 minutes, a Skratch bar for the first 3 hours and then switched over to gels when they didn’t taste good anymore. I stayed so hydrated that I had to stop and go to the bathroom 4X! I could have used even more salt as I got off the bike could feel my right-side cramp up throughout most of the ride.

T2 4:03

I hopped off my bike and my whole right side seized up. I was devastated! I got into the changing tent and a volunteer helped collect my bike stuff and send me out on the run. I walked out of transition in tears.

Run 5:12

As I started the marathon, Tim walked with me for the first mile. I was a wreck. I tried so hard to hold it together, but the tears started to roll down my face. I just kept doing deep breathing and walking as fast as I could. After the first mile I decided to give running a shot again. It felt okay for 30 seconds so I started doing a walk/run. At the first aid station I grabbed some water and Gatorade. Things continued to improve so I tried extending it to run 1 minute/ walk 1 minute than run 2 minutes/ walk 1 minute. I picked up water/ Gatorade/ grapes and pretzels at aid stations. At mile 7 I projectile vomited Gatorade off a bridge. Some nice athlete came over and checked on me. She told me to stick with water for a while. I stayed away from Gatorade and gels the rest of the day.

When the sun went down, I started to really pick up the pace. I was feeling a lot better and felt like I could actually start running. At mile 18 they brought out the chicken broth! It was warm and felt amazing with my sensitive stomach.

At mile 22 I was running on the back part of the course under a dark unlit road. I had to pass someone in a bike lane. When I weaved back in front of them, I misjudged the lip in the road and almost tripped. I ended up catching myself from falling by taking giant steps. But I ended up kicking the curb with my toe really hard. I was just so glad that I caught myself and didn’t fall! The next 4 miles ended up being my fastest miles of the day! The temperature came down and my stomach issue subsided. As I took that final turn, I saw that bright light and couldn’t feel anything. I was just so happy to be done! With both arms in the air, I ran through the finish line, completing my 5th Ironman!

Final thoughts

This was not the day I had envisioned, but that is Ironman. I had big goals and expectations for this race. Especially after doing this course in 2018. I wanted that PR so bad, and I wanted to break 12 hours. This year just wasn’t the year. I am still proud of all that I overcame throughout the day. I kept moving and kept persevering. I am so determined to reach my goals and become a better athlete. I am excited to rest and recover and get back after it!

Things that went well

1. I was better prepared with Electrolytes than every before. I could have used even more salt pills on the bike and the run as well. The tube and small baggy worked equally as well.

2. I was really frustrated when I had cramps on the run. The run/ walk method worked well. I am glad I listened to my body and pushed when I could then walk when I needed to.

3. The sample Skratch packets worked great for refilling my bottles on the bike.

Things that didn’t go well

1. Gatorade on the run did not go well. I wanted to be proactive with electrolytes by taking in Gatorade with water at aid stations. After everything got mixed around in my gut throughout the day, the Gatorade no longer agreed with me. I probably will avoid Gatorade in the future. Maybe try using a handheld bottle with Skratch?

2. During the swim, I kept veering off into the wall and away from the buoys. I need to continue to work on staying with the buoys, so I don’t over swim.

3. My power meter not working was not ideal. Although, I don’t think I would have changed how hard I pushed. Changing the battery, a couple of weeks prior will help prevent this.

4. This wasn’t a super big deal but something to remember for next time is to pack a towel in my bike bag to wipe my feet off before putting my socks and bike shoes on.

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