Great stuff from Jackie Muterspaugh (Utah) as he recaps his Ironman debut at IMAZ!
This was my very first full distance Ironman so this is from a rookie's perspective. Drove from Salt Lake City to Tempe over the course of two days with a short visit with my parents in St George and arrived on Thursday afternoon which was the first day you could pick up your packet and check in. Checked in and got the lay of transition. I loved the set up as there was one transition and everything was centrally located, no long run from swim exit, easy in and out of transition with many different places for spectators to follow their athletes.
My wife was able to see me come out of the water and then she could move to see me exit for the bike out portion. Parking for the event was 1-2 blocks away from lronman village and transition so also a very nice feature. Friday I got up early and went for a short bike ride out through the desert with some climbs to get acclimated to the wind and heat. Did a short run as well to make sure everything was ready to go. Temps were in the upper 70's and wind about 10mph (out in the desert it was much stronger). Saturday AM cloudy and cool, went to the swim start for the only swim practice you could do at the venue. I got in the lake about 10 and they had a marked course with kayaks. We could do a single loop, which according to my Garmin was just over 1000m.
Water temp was 64 and since it is in a manmade setting was calm. Finished the swim and went and racked my bike in transition. Ready for lunch and then went and checked into the hotel that was close to the venue. Went on shut down mode and enjoyed the football games that were on.
Race day ate at 4:30 and was in transition by 6:00, filled the bottles and ate a little more and ready to hit it. National Anthem and the pros were given 15 minutes to warm up. Men pros went off at 6:45, ladies pros at 6:50, then the massive rolling start began right after the ladies. I hit the water and did not remember it being that cold so was immediately telling myself to relax and just start slow. The rolling start was pretty good except for the people that needed to stop and fix goggles or were shocked by the water temp.
After muscling through the first 200 it started to spread out a little. I found myself swimming with people my same pace so I found feet and drafted as long as possible. Was not swimming in a straight line and had to correct course a few times but was feeling good and was glad there was cloud cover, so no issues swimming into the rising sun. Hit half way turnaround and was surprised I was there and was ahead of pace by about 7 minutes. Return swim was feeling good until the last 400 I was starting to feel the effort and just cruised in.
No issues the whole swim until I got within 10 feet of the swim exit and the person in front of me stopped and kicked me in the mouth!
Swim to bike transition went fine and headed out on the 3 loop course. Wind was blowing but nothing too crazy and still complete cloud cover. As you ride away from Tempe it is a false flat winding out into the desert. About 10 miles in you start to climb (when I say climb, like 2-3%) and the wind was picking up pretty good. Turn around at the top of the hill and you now have 10+ miles of slight downhill or flat so I tried to make up time and passed a ton of people. Lap one takes you back into downtown Tempe and as we exited it started to rain and blow. Rain and rain and rain for the next 60+ miles, but the temps were in the upper 50's and I had arm warmers on so I was actually just right. 2nd lap no issues and was feeling good so I pushed a little on the last downhill section heading into T2. I can tell you the last third of the ride there were many casualties, too cold, too much rain, etc. That was sad to see so many struggling. I came into T2 super excited because I had no real expectations for the run other than to finish and I was feeling pretty good.
Run is a great course and is extremely spectator friendly as you loop through transition multiple times. Flat, rolling course along the lake and you can see a great deal of the course at all times which is great: First half I was managing my effort and was ahead of my pace. It started to rain again and I did not use a run special needs bag so I was wet and the temps were dropping. Mile 14 I hit a dip in my nutrition and had to walk a mile to the next aid station where I fueled up on warm chicken broth and pretzels. Felt good but was getting cold due to the walk and started to tighten up a bit, but was able to walk/run until mile 23 where I just got too cold. I had to pull a garbage bag off the side of a can along the route and put it over me to try to keep dry and warm up but it did little as I was chilled to the bone.
I was well ahead of my goal pace so I did the smart thing and power walked the last 3 miles so I could run down the finish chute. As soon as I could hear Mike Reilly announcing and the music pumping I gathered myself (at this point the emotions are crazy) and headed down the finishing chute with arms raised and a huge smile!!
I have never been so cold in my life at the finish and the little aluminum foil blanket was not cutting it so I knew I needed to gather my stuff and get out of there. Found my family with a sweatshirt and quickly gathered my bike and gear, loaded up and headed to the Hotel where I stood in a hot shower for 45 minutes.
What would I have done differently? All run related. Put a jacket or long sleeve in a special needs bag, carry more of my own nutrition (Hammer Perpetuem) to balance out the dips in energy between aid stations. Other than that it was a near perfect day, no injuries and left motivated that I would come back and break 13 hours easily. I committed to my family though that I would not do another full IM until all my kids are out of the house, so in 2020 I will take another run at it and plan to do them more consistently. What an amazing feeling of accomplishment once you are finished and I would tell everyone you need to do it... when you do there is nothing you cannot accomplish in life! If you can get in this race (Arizona) it is awesome! The course is stunning, the location is awesome, and the time of year is right so you can build all though the season. They just added a 70.3 this year in October and I would love to hit that next year for sure.