I’m happy to report that I finally broke my 6th place streak!! That is kind of a lie – I was finally 4th in my age group… but still 6th in the female overall!! Ironman Arizona 70.3 actually went off this weekend as the first Ironman race in the US since Covid – it was a small race, very little hoopla which made it a little hard to get excited for, but I will first say that I think Ironman did an amazing job putting this race on. I have read a lot of negative comments made toward them regarding having a race, but they truly went over and beyond in practicing Covid protocols, having masks, social distancing, sanitizer, gloves for bike pumps, temp checks, etc. Athletes were to take an “Athlete Pledge” to also do the best that they could do follow all protocols and respect other athletes, volunteers, and spectators. Well done, Ironman. Racing is back!!
Now that it’s over, I can say that I WAS SO NERVOUS FOR THIS RACE!!! Like… the most nervous I’ve ever been for a race! Mike and I moved from Southern Calfornia to Dallas, Texas 3 weeks ago and the moving truck actually didn’t arrive to our house until the day before the race (luckily I had all my gear, phew), I made a coaching change and started a new program with him at the same time so obviously wanted to make a good first race impression, I was riding my new Cervelo P5 for the first time and was having derailleur problems the day before, and I hadn’t actually raced since Indian Wells in early December of 2019! I also had taken my 2 month travel break from training and was wondering if that would help or hurt me, even though I was feeling fit. All that being said, I stuck to coach Ryan Bolton’s race plan, stayed (mostly) focused and listened to the body and pulled out a 4:51:18 and a whopping 9 minute PR. Here’s how it went down:
I woke up at 3:45am for an official 6:20am race start. Had 2 ½ pieces of Dave’s white bread toasted with a little PB and J. Drank most of a Nuun 300mg sodium tablet. And, of course, one cup of strong coffee! Got to transition around 5:15 with my mask in place to get all the gear ready, check tires, hit the port-o-pots, and walk down do the swim start. Apparently there were swim corrals to wait in, but I am ALWAYS LATE (as a usually always-early person this drives me nuts about myself on race day), so by time I got there everyone was already in line, standing on their respectable pink tape markers that Ironman had placed 6 ft apart. I wanted to cede myself close to the front so I walked forward and asked a guy if anyone was standing on that particular pink marker and he pointed to some guy chatting with his friends and said he was standing there. I asked, “Well, do you mind if I stand here with you guys?” and he quickly said, “No. You can’t stand here. We all got here early. You have to stand on a pink marker so no, you can’t stand here you need to go back there.” Ok..
We wore masks all the way to the water’s edge and threw them in the trash as we entered the water. A moderate 75.8 degrees, so I chose to wear my sleeveless wetsuit since I generally run hot. Coach had told me to not burn any matches I might need later, so I took a slower approach to my start and focused in on breath and keeping my catch deep. The water was very calm, buoys were easy to sight, and I turned out a really solid 32:29 and actuallly FELT good! I did forget to look at the end of the course so was confused to be turning back right at the end (D’OH!) and just had to follow swimmers in front of me. Note to self – look at the damn course.
*What was different: No body marking, no morning clothes bags – everything was kept at your bike and you had to be self sufficient, no bike and run gear bags (this I liked – it was like normal triathlon!), no wetsuit strippers (SAD DAY!), one swimmer every 5 seconds, one-way in and one-way out transition and bike rack flow
Came out of the water feeling good and it was a kind of long but flat and carpeted run back to T1. I had a smooth T1, remembered how to get on the bike with my shoes rubberbanded on and avoided falling on my face, and was off to the bike. The course had several hard turns, some which had sand and gravel in them, and lots of U-turns which made for a kind of tricky course. The roads also were not great – lots of cracks, little potholes, and train tracks made for lots of crossed fingers that I wouldn’t flat. My ENVE tubeless wheels held up to the test! My new Cervelo P5 is 2-3 lbs lighter than my previous bike (a Quintana Roo PRFive) so I was excited to see how she would go. I felt strong on the first half of the bike, staying positive in my mind and watching power and HR to make sure I wouldn’t over-do it. It was a 3 loop course which is kind of nice because you get to know what you’re in for, and you get to see the spectators several times which is always fun. It was a pretty uneventful ride for me except ALMOST dropping my chain at mile 54 when making a shift (while still in the big chain ring – I have NO idea why), but luckily heard it, stopped pedaling, and babied it back onto the big chain. OH MY GOSSSHHHHHH I almost straight up lost it. I did get the wandering-mind-syndrome on the back half of the course as I started getting tired, but tried to remain focused and calm. Squeaked out a new all time 90-minute power record and race PR with a 2:35. Rolled into T2 and successfully stayed upright through my dismount and was off to the bike rack. Grabbed my run gear, 2 SiS gels, and was off to the run – my favorite part.
Now even though this run was technically a PR for me (1:37:56), it did not feel great and afterward I was saying to my husband that it didn’t “feel” like my best run. At my last race, the legs felt GOOD coming off the bike but I held back around a 7:30-7:45 pace in order to save them. Yesterday, I decided that even though the legs didn’t feel solid, I would just trust that they’d be there and go with my quicker low-7s pace. I knew temps were going to rise quickly to the high 90s so started dumping water on myself at every aid station to try to stay ahead of it. Felt good pushing it the first couple of miles and then that dread tightness started creeping in – a feeling that I usually got around mile 9 or 10. What is happening?! It’s too early for this!!! I kept calm, pushed those thoughts out of my head, focused, stayed tall and efficient, and couldn’t wait to get back around to lap 2 to see my husband.
I saw Mike at the half way point, he told me my placings and that I needed to pick it up, and all I could say was, “I went out to hard.” I love the run the most, but it is also the place where the most dark moments happen. As I said in jest once, “Running hard is hard!” But it’s the truth and it’s also the truth that the mind will crack long before the body does. As soon as I blurted those words out, I immediately knew I needed to push that thought out of my mind. I did NOT go out too hard, I CAN hold this pace, I will NOT fade, I CAN do this, I WILL get an awesome massage and a beer after this.
The run was tough – the physical pain I’m used to but this run was extremely mentally tough for me. There were moments I wanted to quit. There were moments I wanted to cry. I’d had problems with my ITB for a few months now that I thought had mostly resolved itself but 2 days before the race was causing pain and swelling. I could feel it tightening and was scared it might give out, but it held up. I either went a little hard on the bike or a little aggressive out the front of the run because I got to the point where no matter what little tricks I tried, I just could not make my legs go any faster. Each little climb we had, I watched one more second add to my “Lap Time.” At one point, a woman absolutely FLEW by me. Normally I’d try to hop on and keep up but there was absolutely no way it was happening, so all I could do was say, “great job!”
I took the race mile by mile, and eventually made it to the red carpet. As I was coming down the chute, I looked up at the clock and read 4:58 and thought YES! I finally broke 5 hours! And then I heard them say, “And here comes Christine Warren – Unofficial time 4:51,” and I thought HOLY @^#%&@#%* !!!!!!
I think often of an interview I did for a podcast called “Pursuit of the Perfect Race” because at the end of the interview, the host asked me, “So Christine, what is your definition of a ‘Perfect Race’?” At the time, I said that a ‘Perfect Race’ was being able to execute your plan to the best of your ability on race day, but that there was no such thing as a perfect race. If I could’ve elaborated on that more, I would say that if you think you’ve had a perfect race, you might as well quit because where will you go from there? I had a solid plan that I stuck to and executed it nearly perfectly yesterday. But every race, there are SO many takeaways for me – so much room for growth, chances to work harder in certain areas, perfect tiny details even more; there is always, always, always a chance to take that knowledge back to the pain cave in search of besting yourself on the next race day.
I’m over the moon with my PR, executing a good performance despite nerves and life, and left feeling that hunger to get back to work that I’d forgotten – that feeling that reminds me why I love triathlon so much. Ironman 70.3 Texas is up next in 5 weeks time (yikes!), but I’m feeling that fire again and excited to see what’s next….