Lessons Learned from Arizona

Well, better late than never for a race recap. Rather than reviewing the race itself, there are some key takeaways I’d like to share. Before I get into it though, I have to give a huge shoutout to my sponsors for making this race and the season happen. I couldn’t have done it without you. Thanks for everything.

It’s taken me a little bit to sit down and put my thoughts together but I finally have a chance to put together a good reflection on IM Arizona. No, I did get my end goal of a Kona spot but I did everything that I could. Setting goals and effectively executing a race plan put me in the best position possible but there were simply people faster than me that day. With that, there are definitely some lessons learned from the race that I can take with me for 2017 and years to come.

  1. Listen to your body. IM Arizona came 8 weeks after IM Chattanooga. While many have turned around and raced iron-distance events in shorter windows, this was my first time. It was important to listen to my body, feel the ups and downs of training and not push until I was physically and mentally ready get rolling again.
  2. Test your equipment. You know what it’s supposed to feel like so don’t wait to call it out. The worst is that you’re wrong. I was riding and things just didn’t quite feel right. I couldn’t put my finger on it but settled on possibly the crank being a little loose. Turns out, the left bearing in the bottom bracket was completely seized up. After changing this out, getting a new chain and chain ring, and a nice tune-up from FitWerx, I was on a completely new bike. I had two short rides on the bike and then race day. The bike felt so smooth and amazing that I was actually laughing during the ride.
  3. Don’t rush recovery. If you’re waking up physically tired or the drive to workout has waned, there’s a reason for that. Let things come back together without pushing recovery. The fitness will still be there and you’ll probably come out stronger by letting the rest come than if you try to push through the stress and get to unsustainable levels. I spent lots of time with Dr. Todd getting things right and ready.
  4. Build a clear and definable plan both for nutrition purposes and race strategy. This is one of the most important parts to come out of racing and training. We’ve all heard that you shouldn’t try anything new on race day. Practice to race. It’s that simple. That includes a nutrition plan and pacing strategy. For me, my nutrition plan has been a work in progress. I’ve battled some GI discomfort in years past, cramping in calves or quads, and fading late in races. Since then, I’ve worked with some stellar companies to come up with a great nutrition plan that can be adjusted due to race conditions. UCAN is my main nutrition during the race. What’s great about UCAN is that it provides a steady burn and gives sustained energy. THIS IS HUGE!!! That means significantly less caloric intake. During IM Chatt, I took on roughly 1200 calories and then again during IM Arizona I was between 1200-1300 calories. And, most importantly, no GI distress. In addition to UCAN, I use AccelGel late in the race for quick energy boosts. PacificHealth labs has both a regular gel and a caffeine gel. What I like about the regular gel is that there’s a protein component so you don’t get such a high sugar spike and then possible crash. It also doesn’t blow up my stomach and matches extremely well with UCAN. To address cramping and sodium loss, I’ve started using Precision Hydration. The electrolyte mix and electrolyte tabs have nailed the cramping issues. The mix has different levels of sodium and is customizable based on your needs. I’ve ironed this out with the help of my nutritionist, Elevate by Nicci, and she’s been spot on with the development, teaching me about needs, and addressing those needs.

    With the race strategy, having a coach or someone else to bounce ideas off of has been great. But it doesn’t do anything if you can’t stick to the plan. Which leads to…

  1. Be patient. I already spoke about not rushing recovery and listening to your body but being patient goes beyond that. Race day is a long day. There’s no reason to blast out if you can’t sustain it. My coach (Earl Walton from Tailwind Endurance) and I had a clear plan for the bike. The bike course is a bit deceptive. It feels easy on the first trip out but by the third lap, the 10 miles of crosswind and steady uphill rip up your legs. UNLESS, you’ve been patient and haven’t gone overboard. I stuck to power numbers and then on the third lap was ready to open up a bit. By the third lap, I passed every rider that passed me on the first lap. It was brilliant and set me up to come off the bike in a strong position. And riding the Ventum One was amazing. I ripped through the back end of the course. Having a bit of a tailwind/crosswind really brought out the aerodynamic advantages of the bike. It was fun!
  2. Focusing throughout the race is hard. The mental effort to get back in the game can’t be understated. I hit a mental wall around mile 16. I told myself to just keep going and that it was ok. It took me roughly 4-5 miles to snap out of it and get focused again. As soon as I did, the last 5 miles went by quickly. But it was a long, dark period to get there.
  3. In the end, it’s a race. Enjoy the thrill of the race and the energy of the crowd.
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