Monday, December 1, 2008

Dude, I won...! Ironman Arizona race report

After a 2 and a half year hiatus from Ironman racing, this past Sunday I returned to the site of my last race in April 2006 (Tempe, Arizona) and toed the line for my 5th Ironman distance race at Ironman Arizona.

Those last 2 ½ years have been tumultuous and uncertain for me: I left JPMorgan, my employer for the prior 10 years, unsure that I could ever regain a passion for my career and finance again, I was chased out of the US due to an immigration snafu, unsure if I’d ever make it back to California again, I spent 4 winter months in London unsure if I’d ever see sunlight again, I battled with anemia and exhaustion for almost a year, unsure if I’d ever run a sub-9 minute mile without collapsing to the floor again.

Ironically, it was the week before Thanksgiving last year that blood tests revealed my hematocrit was 29% and that I was severely anemic. I still haven’t figured out why it happened but understanding the cause of my fatigue brought with it solutions: daily dosages of iron supplements and treating filet mignon as a dietary necessity instead of a luxury!

Sunday’s race was the culmination of a year-long process not only to get myself healthy again, but also to get myself to the level of supreme fitness required to challenge for a *Kona slot* in an Ironman triathlon. My life/work situation had changed since my last Ironman race and therefore my training also had to change to accommodate my unconventional work hours (~5am to 3pm) and the reduced amount of time I had to dedicate to training.

I won’t bore you with all the minutiae of the race but here are a few bullet-points:
- the swim was easily the roughest triathlon swim of my career as I was getting beaten up all the way to the halfway turnaround buoy
- exiting the swim in the top third of competitors (instead of the bottom half) offers up a very different dynamic on the bike. I’m used to just riding by tons of people but this time I was surrounded by packs of guys, with very few women in sight
- the first 5 miles and the last 5 miles of the run were the hardest 10 miles of my life
- the entire marathon was an agonizing mental battle with my mind whipsawing between thoughts of quitting the race and the insanity of the race distance and dreams of achieving all my racing goals

As for the race results, I got off the bike in first place in my age-group, briefly relinquished that lead in the middle of the marathon before snatching it back in the closing miles. I finished in a total time of 10 hours 33 minutes and 6 seconds, some 33 minutes faster than my previous best, good enough for 1st place in my age-group and an AG course record. I PR’ed every leg of the race with a swim of 1:09, a bike split of 5:19 and a marathon time of 3:56. I also qualified for next year’s Ironman Hawaii! I’m in shock… I think I’ve revisited the website 10 times since the race just to check that I did indeed just have the *race of my life*!