Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Iron Bash Man

To hell with my MCM write-up that I will never finish anyways. Here's the abridged version: Garmin strap broke off at the start; held the Garmin for the entire race (hands eventually went numb); lost satellite signal at mile 19 near the Capitol Building (hmmm), chased down a few runners near the end, and finished 82nd overall in 2:49:16 for a marathon PR.

Without further ado, here's Bash's IMAZ write-up:

Training for Ironman Arizona was like nothing I had ever done before.

5AM runs, go to work, hop on the bike until it got dark, and then go to the gym and swim and sometimes run again after that. Getting home after 9PM made for a very long day during the week. Weekends consisted of long bike rides and long runs.

I chose this particular race for a few reasons, and mainly, I have two really good friends in Arizona and my fiance’s brother goes to school in AZ, so I knew I would have a lot of friends and family in town for support. I flew down with my fiancé and best friend (Seth), and my fiance’s parents flew down right before the race.

I guess I’ll begin with the practice swim the day before.

I brought both my full sleeve and sleeveless wetsuits with me as it was supposed to be cold in the water. I haven't used my full sleeve wetsuit since last year.

I put my wetsuit on and started making my way to the water, jumped in, and could NOT breathe! I took a couple of minutes and tried kicking and moving my arms in order to warm up. It helped a little, but it took me a good 10 minutes to actually warm up, and even then, I was still freezing in the water.

I got out of the water and decided I wasn’t even going to try the sleeveless wetsuit as I needed the extra warmth of the full sleeve. I was petrified.

Got back to the hotel after the practice swim and was checking in my bike when I began to freak out a little about the swim. How was I going to swim 2.4 miles in freezing water? I decided to shut off my phone and just try to relax for the rest of the day.

My alarm clock on race morning went off at 4:15AM. I actually slept very well, which was a big surprise. Ashley’s brother was picking us up at 4:50AM, and he would be dropping me off at the race site.

I got dropped off, found my bike, pumped the tires, and did all the pre-race stuff. I then found a bench at about 6AM and, again, tried to relax.

Slowly I put on my wetsuit and at about 6:30AM and eventually got in the swim in line. I got in the back of line to enter the water as I didn’t care about starting in the back. By the time I got to the jump in spot, the guy was yelling, "hurry up!".

The swim start was about 200 yards up, so I jumped in. The same feeling that I had yesterday during the practice swim took hold of me again! I couldn’t breathe! I couldn’t even put my head under water as my entire body was still adjusting to the cold water. I eventually made my way to the official start of the swim.

The sound of the cannon caught me by surprise and I hurled myself forward along with the other bodies in the water. I tried to do a lot of sighting and avoid contact with the other swimmers, but it was impossible. I may have started too far back, and there was a lot of kicking and punching early on.  I was struggling to get into a swim rhythm because of the crazy start, but after maybe 10 to 15 minutes of full body contact swimming, the insanity stopped for the most part.

Off in the distance I could see the Bridge, which is the turn around point on the 2.4 mile swim course. The bridge, given it's size, looks a lot closer than it really is. Fortunately, the first half of the swim, other than the start, was pretty uneventful. By the time I got to the turn around point I looked at my watch and it read 40 minutes. Awesome! My 1.2 mile swim PR is 40 minutes.

I started my way back out for the second half of the swim, and headed towards the Bridge once again. And once again, this bridge looked a lot closer than it really was. I went under the Bridge for the final time, and took the last turn to the get out point. It was a great sight to see. I never really thought I was going to finish the swim until I took that first step out. The day before I was really scared, and even the first 10-20 minutes of the swim I wanted out.

I slowly jogged out of the water and a wetsuit stripper helped me get out of my wetsuit. It felt so good to get out of the water, since it was so cold and the sun was finally starting to rise.

I originally figured that the swim would take me an hour and half, and my official time was 1:36 for 2075 place and 125th in my AG.

I ran to the transition tent with my wetsuit in hand and saw Ashley first, then Elissa and her daughter yelling at me. A volunteer gave me my bike bag and I went into the changing tent. I am usually really fast in transitions, but I took my time in this one. My feet were shaking so I tried to relax and get my socks, helmet, number, and bike shoes on properly. I was finally ready to go and a volunteer gave me my bike and I was off like a rocket.

I saw some more friends and family at the beginning of the bike, which gave me a huge boost.

The bike course is a 3-loop out and back. It's a gradual increase in elevation on the way out, and a decrease in elevation on the way back in. Heading out I was right on the pace I wanted with 3:10 to 3:30 per mile, and I felt like I was hardly working!

Got to the turnaround point in the first loop and it was really downhill on the way back. I even hit 2:08 for one mile, and averaged well over 20mph! I thought the ride was going to be really easy! I decided that that was going to be my strategy for the remainder of the bike. Stay within myself to the turnaround and crush it on the way back in.

I saw more friends and family after each loop, which helped tremednously.

The second loop started the same as the first one. I felt good and it didn't feel like I was pushing harder than I had to. I got to the turnaround point and, of course, the wind picked up. Nice. I was unable to fly back down like I did during the first loop for the next two. This sucked.

I might have had a chance at sub 6 or sub 5:50 if the wind wasn’t there, but you just tell yourself that everyone out here has to deal with the same conditions, so suck it up.

Like the swim, much of the the bike was pretty uneventful.

I saw some other athletes from New Engalnd with TriFury jerseys on, so I would talk to them quickly in passing. I met a women from New Hampshire and a guy from Wilmington, MA.

I was also making sure to get in my nutrition. I had eaten about 7 GU’s, 2 PBJ sandwhiches, 2 cliff blocks, and a lot of Gatorade and water.

At about mile 90 of the bike, I started to do the math in my head. If I pushed I could get sub 6 on the bike.

At this point I decided to get ready for the run, and didn't want to push too hard in order to save myself for the run.

I was also thinking about my overall time and knew that I would be in the range of 11 hours total time, unless I really blew up on the run. Sub 11, which was not a goal of mine, was out of range unless I ran a sub 3 marathon.

I made sure I stretched during the last few miles of the bike, and tried to get in my last bit of nutrition to help me fuel for the run (if only I had pancakes).

My overall bike split was 6:03:45, which was 1378th place and 98th in my AG.

I got off of the bike and my legs were, not surprisingly, a little wobbly. Jogged to the changing tent and patted some younger athlete on the back. He looked like he was hurting off of the bike and was walking to the tent. He had number 18 on his calf indicating that he was only 18. I gave him some words of encouragement and got my run gear on and headed to the run out.

I came out of T2 and was once again flying!

My heart rate monitor was on and I made sure I stayed in the low 170's. I didn’t want to push early on and the monitor helped me stay in control for the most part.

Again, I saw friends and family as I made my way out for the first mile. My legs felt shaky, but I knew the feeling would soon pass and I was used to this feeling from my long brick workouts.

The run course is a 3-loop figure 8, which was great for spectators and also for the athletes. I would see my friends and family 3 to 4 times per loop!

I got to about mile 5 and my legs were starting to loosen up. I heard some foot steps behind me and knew someone was trying to keep pace. I looked back and saw an elite female. I asked her what lap she was on, and she said it was her 3rd, but she was hurting. I told her to stick with me and we made small talk.

At this point my legs felt good and I was running at a more comfortable 7:40-7:50 per mile pace, and my legs felt fine for the most part. I had done my long bricks in the 7:30 range, but never biked as hard by myself before. I having a sense of false hope for a faster marathon.

I ran with the elite female until the split and she told me she was going to PR, but would miss out on the money. This was her 11th Ironman. She thanked me and wished me luck. I joked and asked if she wanted to run 2 more loops.

During the second loop, at about mile 13, I noticed that my nutrition bag of GU’s and salt had fallen out of my pocket. I went past an aid station, but they were cluster fucks. They were giving out Gatorade, water, cola, sponges, GU, and powerbars. I stopped and walked thru one at about mile 15 because I realized that it would be too difficult for me to run through and grab everything that I needed.

I only walked 4 to 5 times through the aid stations and I wasn’t happy about it, but I was starting to get really hungry.

Got done with the second loop and was starting to get excited. The sun was starting to set and to think that I had outlasted the sun today! I started swimming when it was rising and now its going down. I took off my sunglasses and continued to put one foot in front of the other.

The last loop was pretty uneventful. I was slowing down, but I never hit the wall like you sometimes do in a marathon.

A lot of people were walking and no one was really passing me. My pace had slowed to about 9 minutes per mile. Looking back I think the walking through the aid stations and trying to start up again took a lot out of my legs. Oh well, it was my first one and I didn’t care, I just wanted to finish.

I saw the Mile 24 marker and pressed on and started making my way back to the main area. Saw Mile 25 and my legs felt OK!

This is about where I lost it.

I couldn’t believe I was going to make it. I thought about so much that last mile. My parents, family, and friends flashed through my head.

My amazing fiancé for putting up with me and my training over the last year and being so supportive.

Seth, my best friend, that flew down with me and was always so loud and intense on the course. He also was getting up with me at 5AM to run and he’s a newbie.

My clients, especially Lynn and Flea who are always very supportive of me and help keep me sane.

My running buddies from GLRR, most notably EJ, Sully, Bui, Fil, Glenn, Frank, Eric and everyone else that pushes me on a weekly basis.

You have all helped get me here.

Sully would go on 20 mile runs with me and hes not even training for anything.

Bui went on a Bashicide, which consisted of a 100 mile ride and 20 mile run and he had never rode more than 60 miles before, and it was also 30 degrees out!

EJ introduced me to the hills in my back yard, and let me chase him at track.

I thought about how far I had come.

I thought about the first time I was in the pool 2 ½ years ago and I was doggy paddling. I couldn’t swim 50 yards without gasping for air.

I thought about that first swim clinic I went to and not making it 100 yards out and back. Having to grab onto the kayak.

I thought about the hours I had put on the bike. The hours out running and especially those weekend mornings that I was up early to start working out.

I thought about the other triathlons I had done and marathons.

This lasted for a good half mile and I was starting to get emotional. I snapped out of it at the split where it says left for finish and right for another lap.

I started to pick it up here and passed one guy at Mile 26. I didn't want be "that guy", so I patted him on the back and said good job. He told me to finish strong. I took his advice and passed him.

I saw Seth to the right of me yelling again as he is always intense. He jogged with me for about 20 yards and then let me go.

I was wondering if it would be a cluster at the finish, but it wasn’t. Just a lot of loud cheering and no other athlete was near me. I really took it in as much as I could during that last mile and finally crossed the finish line. I then heard my name over the loud speaker and the words declaring that I was now an Ironman!

I bent over and held onto my knees. It's an amazing feeling that cannot be described.

A volunteer helped me move forward and take my chip. I saw Seth first and gave him a hug, then Ashley’s parents. I finally saw my number one fan, Ashley, and she was crying.

This could not have happened without her full support.

My final time was 11:44:55 with a 3:45:22 marathon.

My overall place was 682 out of 2500 and my AG rank was 69/160.

I got my phone soon after the race and was completely overwhelmed by the support and love from friends and family though voicemails, text messages, and Facebook.

I will do another Ironman, but not for at least another two years, perhaps longer. I want to work on my swim and bike. I learned a whole lot about myself during this cycle. The training, and the actual race, and especially what I am capable of through this experience.

1108 29 Arlington MA USA Miscellaneous
1:36:51 6:03:45 3:45:21 11:44:55 682 69

TOTAL SWIM 2.4 mi. (1:36:51) 2:32/100m 2075 125

BIKE SPLIT 1: 37.4 mi 37.4 mi (1:56:16) 19.30 mi/h
BIKE SPLIT 2: 74.6 mi 37.2 mi (2:03:21) 18.09 mi/h
BIKE SPLIT 3: 112 mi 37.4 mi (2:04:08) 18.08 mi/h
TOTAL BIKE 112 mi (6:03:45) 18.47 mi/h 1378 98

RUN SPLIT 1: 2.5 mi 2.5 mi (19:04) 7:37/mi
RUN SPLIT 2: 11.5 mi 9 mi (1:10:37) 7:50/mi
RUN SPLIT 3: 20 mi 8.5 mi (1:18:14) 9:12/mi
RUN SPLIT 4: 26.2 mi 6.2 mi (57:26) 9:15/mi
TOTAL RUN 26.2 mi (3:45:21) 8:36/mi 682 69

T1: SWIM-TO-BIKE 11:33
T2: BIKE-TO-RUN 7:25

I leave you with one last quote from the excellent book "Iron War":

"In the hardest moments of a long race, the athlete's entire conscious experience of reality boils down to a desire to continue pitted against a desire to quit. Nothing else remains. The athlete is no longer a student or a teacher or a salesman. He is no longer a son or a father or a husband. He has no social roles or human connections whatsoever. He is utterly alone. He no longer has any possessions. There is no yesterday and no tomorrow, only now. The agony of extreme endurance fatigue crowds out every thought and feeling except one: the goal of reaching the finish line. The sensations within the body-burning lungs, screaming muscles, whole body enervation- exist only as the substance of the desire to quit. What little of the external environment the athlete is aware of-the road ahead, the competitor behind, the urgings of onlookers-exist only as the substance of the desire to continue. The desire to continue versus the desire to quit-the athlete is this and this alone until he chooses one or the other. And when the choice is made he briefly becomes either preserving or quitting until, after he has stopped at the finish line or, God forbid, short of it, the stripped-away layers are piled back on and he becomes his old self again. Only not quite. He is changed, for better or worse."


  1. Just read this a 2nd time. It's a great read. Now you have bragging rights for life. Bash YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!!

  2. What a GREAT account!!! Thanks, Bash for sharing this. I knew you were a great athlete...but had no idea that you are a terrific writer. I feel as if I was there with you--felt as if I WAS you...swimming, cycling, and running. (Boy am I tired! :)

    CONGRATULATIONS on your achievement!!!