Arizona Ironman Race Recap

Happiest finish line ever!

Happiest finish line ever!

“Beth Ulibarri, you are an IRONMAN!”  Unfortunately I did not hear Mike Reilly say those words, however, I did finish the Arizona Ironman!  I’m still a little sad that I didn’t hear those iconic words, but I won’t let that take anything away from the awesome day I had at my first Ironman.

All the pink and green caps lined up to get into the water

All the pink and green caps lined up to get into the water

The morning started with a short walk from our hotel to the start.  I had to drop my special needs bags off and then went to my bike to inflate my tires.  I lost my husband at this point, but fortunately found him in time to get our wet suits on together. The entire area was so crowded that we never found our other friends that were racing.  I was just happy that I had my husband with me as we got ready for the start of our day.  We held hands as we were herded like cattle into a narrow space where we descended some steps to enter the water.  We wished each other luck, had a quick kiss and the next thing I knew I was jumping into the cold water and swimming a few hundred meters to the starting line.

Treading water awaiting the start of the race

Treading water awaiting the start of the race

I was definitely nervous, but had to put that aside and just suck it up and get going.  After a few minutes of treading water, I heard Mike Reilly say to us over the loud speaker “May the wind be ever at your back” and the cannon went off (these words would run through my head later in the day when the wind was doing the exact opposite!).  There is much to say about the swim, but I’ll keep it brief and say that it was brutal. I was hit in the eye, the temple, punched, run into, swum over, and even took a kick to my wrist that I didn’t realize until later in the swim had turned my Garmin off.  I did my best to remain positive and used my favorite Nemo mantra “just keep swimming”.  The good news is that I got out of the water intact after a 1:16.50 swim and was ready to get on with the rest of my day.

2700 athletes plowing through each other at the start of the swim

2700 athletes plowing through each other at the start of the swim

Once I got out on the bike, I began my fueling (Bonk Breaker bars, gels, Skratch drink mix, and Klean Athlete Endurance tabs and Electrolytes), and told myself to bike smart.  I didn’t want to ride the bike course too hard and put my legs at a disadvantage for the run.  I think I did a good job of really holding back the first of the 3 loops, and I’m glad I did, because the wind kept getting stronger and more punishing throughout the day.  We rode up a 9 mile stretch of the Beeline Highway each loop directly into a 20-25mph headwind, with occasional crosswinds that pushed me a few feet to each side.  I had to stay alert and focused all the time for fear of a gust blowing me over.  I saw 4 crashes throughout the day, which scared me, and I hope that everyone was alright.  Around mile 30 I hit a bump in the road and the right side of my visor popped off my helmet.  At first I tried to fix it (as I’m riding down the road) thinking I just need to pop it back into place.  When it wouldn’t reattach, I had to figure out what to do.  I tried riding with it hanging on by one side, it must have looked hilarious hanging titled across my face.  When I realized that wasn’t going to work and that I could not reattach it (the screw had popped off), I pulled the other side off and completely detached the visor.  Then I stuck it in my back pocket, but a gust of wind came and blew it away.  After messing around with that, I was happy to be rid of it and settle back down into my ride, fortunately, I was wearing sunglasses under my visor!

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I stopped once around mile 60 to use a porta potty and refill my aero bottle with the drink mix I was using.  Other than that, I was on my bike, getting water bottles at aid stations while riding by and staying on top of my fueling strategy.  It was a welcome relief at the end of each lap coming back into Tempe where my friends and family were cheering us on.  It gave me a burst of energy to go back out and tackle the uphill into the wind each time.  6:37.47 later I was off the bike and never so happy to put my running shoes on!

Time for my favorite part of the day, the marathon!  Even though I have run 11 marathons the past few years, with this being my first Ironman, I had no idea what to expect after biking 112 miles and swimming 2.4 miles.  My number one goal was to cross that finish line, and I hoped to do it feeling strong.  My strategy was to run much slower than I would in a marathon, so I started out at around 10 minute per mile pace.  I walked through every aid station and took water and poured ice and water on my head to keep cool.  Luckily the temperature was in the low 70s, so the heat was not a factor for me at all.

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I made a few new friends along the run and enjoyed chatting with them as the miles passed. I saw my husband for the first time all day on an out and back section of the run.  I was around mile 2 and I guessed that he was around mile 4.  I was running on a path on top of an embankment along the lake and he was down at the bottom, but with his awesome MS-orange shirt on, I saw him and yelled and we waved, so happy to see each other and know we were both doing alright.  The run course crosses to the other side of Tempe Town Lake and about an hour and a half later we got to see each other again and managed to stop and kiss before heading our separate ways.  It was so comforting to know he was having a good race and was out there on the course getting it done.  I saw one of our friends on the run course, but I never saw our other 3 friends that were racing, despite knowing we had to have passed each other at some points throughout the bike and the run!

Looks like I made a bunch of friends on the run!

Looks like I made a bunch of friends on the run!

Out of nowhere, my knee started bothering me around mile 11.  It was on the outside and felt related to my IT band.  I think it was from running on the hard concrete path.  At points it almost felt like it was going to give out on me and I got a little concerned.  I debated stopping to get some ibuprofen, but never ended up doing that.  I just kept telling myself only X more miles to go and I can put some ice on it and I don’t have to run for weeks!

Other than my knee, I felt great the entire run.  I stayed on top of my fueling, and continued to walk through each aid station.  Sure it got tough toward the end, but it never felt insurmountable.  I think that since I biked and ran very conservatively all day, constantly afraid of pushing too hard and hitting the wall, I was able to maintain a decent pace and push through the rough parts of the run.  Around Mile 25 I started to hear Mike Reilly’s voice at the finish line calling people in and at that point I knew I had done it.  I knew I would become an IRONMAN.  I knew all the training and sacrifices had been worth it.  I was so happy to be feeling good and present in my head (no brain fog like when I push hard in a marathon sometimes).  I couldn’t wait to hear Mike Reilly call my name!  I began passing people the last half mile and even managed to pass a few people in the finisher’s chute, it was like I was sprinting on air, it just felt so good!  I finished the run in 4:27.54 and crossed the best finish line of my life.  My total race time was 12:32.46, which was good enough for 25th in my age group.

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The journey of the past year has come to completion and I could not be happier.  Ironman is about so much more than the twelve and a half hours I was out there racing.  It’s about determination, perseverance, hope, dedication and proving to myself that the impossible can become possible.   I want to give an enormous thank you to my family and friends for their unwavering support and their huge part in helping me reach my goal.  I was blessed with an incredible race experience and am grateful to Klean Athlete for the opportunity, encouragement, and of course, amazing products that helped keep me healthy through hundreds of hours of training to get me to the starting line in top shape.

Some people have already been asking…Am I going to do another Ironman?  Geez, can a girl have a few seconds to just enjoy finishing an epic race?  Maybe my friends know me too well and think I already have the “next” race planned!  While it is a bit soon to figure all that out, what I can say is that I did not get my goal of hearing Mike Reilly call my name at the finish line, and that irks me just a tiny bit.  Possibly enough to do another one…

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I am an Ironman!

In case you didn’t see my Twitter and Facebook posts last night, I officially became an Ironman!  I finished the Arizona Ironman in 12 hours 32 minutes. It was an incredibly tough, wonderfully challenging experience. I will post a recap of the long day when I can wrap my head around it all. For now I am celebrating and thanking my friends and family and all of you for the support and encouragement!  And thank you to Klean Athlete for their support this past year and sponsoring me in this special race. Now let the rest and recovery begin!

Ironman Arizona Goals

Whew, I have made it to just days before the BIG RACE!  Has it really been a year since I was in Phoenix with my family volunteering at Ironman Arizona so my hubby and I could sign up for the 2014 race?  And now, here it is!  I guess time really does fly when you are having fun (if you call training, working, family life, eating, sleeping, then repeat, fun).

My Batman Family volunteering at the 2013 Arizona Ironman

My Batman Family volunteering at the 2013 Arizona Ironman

A few people have asked, what my goals are for my first Ironman race this weekend. They are not too complicated:

  1. Finish the race in less than 17 hours.  (For those of you not familiar with Ironman races, you have until midnight to finish the race to be considered an “Ironman”.)
  2. Hear Mike Reilly say those magic words: “Beth Ulibarri, You are an IRONMAN!” This gives me chills just thinking about it.

Honestly, there isn’t much else than the two big goals above.  My time simply does not matter, as long as I meet all the cut-off times throughout the day and don’t get pulled off the course.  I also hope to be present and smile as much as possible, because this really is a joyous occassion, right?  I get to celebrate all of my hard work this past year.  Even though I know not all 140.6 miles will feel good, I will remember that it is a privilege and a blessing just to be out there able to move my body all day toward the finish line (hopefully).

The work is complete, the training is over, it’s time to get it done!

For updates over the Ironman weekend follow me on Twitter, @MilesAndTrials and Facebook, Miles and Trials

 

 

Arizona Ironman Taper

Dear Arizona Ironman Taper,

Hello, sweet friend.  I have been anxiously awaiting your arrival for months.  After signing up to race the Arizona Ironman last November, I spent the past year preparing for the challenge of my life.  After months of training, thousands of yards in the pool, hours and hours on spin bikes and my new tri bike, and hundreds of miles of running, the time has come to hang out with you, Taper friend, for the next 2 weeks.

I’m not going to lie, I was hoping to see you last week, as I normally hang out with you for 3 weeks prior to the marathons that I have run.  But, according to my slave driving Ironman training plan, I only get to see you for the next 2 weeks.  Who knew that the longer the race (over 5 times the distance of “just” running a marathon), the shorter the taper?  Hmmm, I feel a bit ripped off.  Oh well, you are here now and I’m going to enjoy every minute with you until 7am on November 16th when it all begins and I get to see if I have what it takes to go 140.6 miles in less than 17 hours.  Until then, let’s relax (as much as possible) and celebrate the journey so far.

Your (hopefully) soon to be Ironman friend,

Beth

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5 Year Marathon Anniversary

5 years ago I ran my first marathon at the age of 38.  I had run a little off and on for years prior, but never for more than 4-5 months at a time before getting injured or being pregnant or running a business and taking another year or 2 away from running.  I did not grow up running or participating in sports that required running and I am far from a natural athlete.  However, I had always had the idea of doing a marathon in my head (even when I couldn’t have completed running a 5k!).  All this to say, you never know what is possible until you try.  And that small seed that had been planted in my head to “someday” do a marathon has now blossomed into 11 marathons completed and a bigger seed in my head to “someday” (as in 4 weeks) do an Ironman.

My first marathon was the Duke City Marathon in Albuquerque where I live.  I didn’t know much about training back then and didn’t even have a watch with GPS.  I found a marathon plan online for running 3 days a week that I used because I had battled many injuries that derailed my running over the years.  The plan worked well and I was able to run the entire marathon without stopping (although the last 10k I could have probably walked faster than I was “running”).

The start line of my first marathon, October 2009

The start line of my first marathon, October 2009 (I’m in the center with the pink shirt on)

Finished in 4:13

Finished in 4:13

As painful as those last miles of the marathon were, both physically and mentally, once I crossed the finish line I knew I wanted to do another.  I thought with better training I could possibly get a little faster.  Unfortunately, my eagerness to continue running did not allow my body proper rest and recovery time after the race, and I was quickly injured again.  It took me 2 more years of working through various injuries before I was able to run my second marathon.

Now 5 years, 11 marathons, including 2 Boston Marathons, later, (not to mention a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis), I still want to train and continue to improve.  I have taken a bit of a detour from running marathons due to triathlon training this year.  I raced my first Half Ironman 4 months ago and am getting ready for my first Ironman on November 16th.  I’m fairly certain that myself of 5 years ago never could have imagined this!  Keep dreaming, let those thoughts that might seem crazy in your mind become the seeds that blossom into your future.  You never know where they will take you.

Dream big