Ironman Arizona 2017
Race report by Tri-OKC member Reid Foster, who pulled out a Kona-Qualifying sub 9 hour performance at IMAZ this year!
Nice work, Reid, and congratulations!
“This is my first race report ever so please excuse any mistakes and I’m open to any criticisms. I have had multiple requests for a race report so here it is… don’t judge!
IM Arizona, from what I understand, is one of the most popular and sought after races in North America. The weather and race venue this year did not disappoint and I finally understood why this race is so popular and now is very special to me.
Kristin and I left for Phoenix on Thursday morning early and took on the 16hr drive from OKC. Thanks to Yassir Janah(who also raced)from Tulsa for coming along on the drive and making it much more enjoyable. We rented a great AirBNB about 2 miles from race start and crashed hard Thursday night! Friday the goal was low key, low stress. Friday morning I went to the Phoenix downtown YMCA and swam an easy 2000yds with a few fast 50s at the end to stay sharp. I then headed down to the race venue and had a nice easy 40min ride with some OKC locals, Rian Smoak and Scott Mayer. Easy 10min run after the ride. Around 3:30pm Kristin and I headed to Mission Palms Hotel to see my coach Matt Dixon and the whole Purple Patch Fitness crew for a race breakdown and talk to Matt. I’m glad I attended because I feel Matt saved my bacon on race day with a few key words that really stuck in my head. He told me the bike course was “the IM Vine man bike ride NOT on steroids, you are so close to putting together a complete performance”; I had done Vine man earlier this year with a less than satisfactory performance. After the meeting, Kristin and I met up with the Divide and Conquer entourage for dinner at the Mellow Mushroom. It was great to catch up with OKC locals: Rian, Merritt, Ed, Brandon, Kathryn, Ashley, Josh, Phil, Alicia, Dr. Molina, Carin, Alicia, and a few others I’m forgetting and I apologize. Saturday started with an OWS at the race start. It was about an 800yds swim @1:17 pace in my Roka Maverick X and R1 goggles and it felt easy. I knew I was in great swim shape for Sunday’s race. After the swim I dropped off my bike and gear bags and went by to see a few of Team Every Man Jack sponsors. Our team is truly lucky to have such great sponsors: Roka, ENVE wheels, Normatech, GU, 1st Endurance, Felt, Garneau, Rudy, Lululemon, SockGuy, and Boco hats. I finished off the day with some grilled chicken and white rice for dinner and an early bedtime.
3:45am came early. I usually don’t sleep well the night before but this time I couldn’t get out of bed. I slept like a rock. I knew this was a good sign. I was rested and I was actually hungry with no nervous stomach. I kept telling myself I have done this hundreds of times in training and today was just a big training day! I had my usual training day breakfast: 1 can Beet performer, 4 scoops of Bungalow Munch(FYI best granola on this planet!!!), 2 scoops 1st Endurance Ultragen, 2 bottles of EFS pro to sip on up till swim start, and of course my cup of coffee. We headed to transition where I aired up my Specialized Turbo Cottons to 120psi put my 2 bottles of EFS PRO on the bike( I put 2 more bottles of EFS PRO in bike special needs for 2nd half of the bike) and clipped my shoes to the bike all in about 10 min. I have learned since I started triathlon about 2.5 years ago to keep things simple in transition and your racing. I feel this helps reduce stress, cut down on mistakes, and save time. THINK SIMPLE!! Brandon, if you are reading this, we will work on your transitions before your next Ironman ;). I then dropped of my special needs bags and went for a short 15 min jog to spike the heart rate a bit before getting in water. This really loosens me up and cuts down on anxiety!! I snatched up my Maverick X swim suit and headed to the swim start. I was fortunate to get to the very front of the waiting line where I sat down and sipped on my bottle of EFS-pro until race start. I was able to hang with Rian, Ed, Jorge De Amorim Filho(4th in my age group), and Nathan Miller(who ended up 2nd over all amateur). Pretty solid company!!
Swim: 56:52-6th in AG (2015-1:02:44)
The swim couldn’t have gone any smoother. I was very confident going into the swim this year due to the 20-25k a week in the pool and swimming at John Hildenbrand’s private lake over the last 2 months, (Thanks John!!) I really have focused on the swim since last year where I swam 1:02 on this same course. It’s taken me a few years to realize how important it is to have good swim shape and be able to come out of the water towards the front in these races!! The gun went off for the rolling start and I was the 2nd AG to jump in the water! I wanted to get in the front and let the faster guys swim around me which would leave me with some open water to settle in a rhythm. After looking at my swim data I may have gone out too fast, which I will fix in my next race. I went out strong and found a good rhythm. After about 5 minutes with my head down I sighted to my left and no one in sight, I sighted to my right, same thing, no one in sight.. I then panicked a bit. I couldn’t help but think was I off course? Was I really swimming that fast? Where are the “sharks”? It was a confidence boost to be swimming in the front for about 500yds until the “sharks” showed up….my hard work paid off and I’m ready for another offseason to work on my swim some more! The rest of the swim consisted of swimming solo and occasionally swimming into the draft of some of the uber swimmers in the field as they blew past me. All in all very pleased with my swim and shaved 5+ min off my swim time from last year!
Transition #1: 3:08(2015-4:38)
THINK SIMPLE. I took off my Roka Maverick X and R1 Goggles and ran to pick up my gear bag. I only had my helmet in the bag. I simply grabbed my bag on the run, took out my helmet and handed my wetsuit and empty gear bag to the nearest volunteer, (by the way the volunteers were awesome!!). I ran through the tent to get my bike and head to mount line. Last year I went 4:38 in same transition, great, shaved off more time!
Bike: 4:45:12-1st in AG (2015 time-4:46:12)
My bike strength this year has improved drastically from last year to say the least and I can’t wait to see what 2017 holds for me on the bike! Since May, I have done 99.9% of my bike training inside on my Wahoo trainer. It has paid huge dividends both physically and mentally! Going into Arizona this year my goal was to bike the same time as last year yet still have some fresh legs to run. Well it worked! The bike was 3 loops (steady climb out with a head wind, and then back downhill with a tailwind) pretty simple right? Not exactly…. I learned from last year that this course can blow you up quickly (like it did to me last year)! You get out of water and then jump on your bike and you’re going 25mph and it feels easy. You think alright I’m going to crush this course it’s so fast and easy. Then 3rd lap rolls around and your trashed!! I didn’t make the mistake this year. First loop I took very easy @267 watts and made sure I was on top of nutrition. At the start of the 2nd loop I went through my mental check list and…all systems go! I went 300watts on lap 2 and felt strong and was able to keep good chain tension all the way through. I stopped halfway through lap 2 at bike special needs and grabbed two more bottles of my EFS-Pro for the last 56 miles. I was feeling ambitious on the start of 3rd lap. A fellow age grouper racing with Moxie Multisport who had been behind me for some time made a pass at the start of 3rd loop and was pushing hard to break away from me… Me being the hammer head I am went with him and was not going to let him away. This went on for about 10 min before I looked down at my Garmin 920 and I was settled in at about 335watts….This moment was where I feel I made the toughest decision of the race.. I let him go!! In the past I would have just kept pushing with him but this year I trusted that my solid run training over the last month was going to pay off. All I could think about was our fearless leader, founder, and owner of Team EMJ, Ritch Viola giving me crap for walking another Ironman marathon. NO! Not this year I kept telling myself! My mantra all day was only to control what Reid can control, race my race and that’s it. I remembered my coach Matt Dixon telling me to use the last lap of the bike to set up the marathon so I did. I backed off on the last lap and went 285watts, cleaned out my stomach, and prepped for the run. I finished up with AP-275w NP-284w, VI-1.03. PERFECT.
Transition #2:2:14 (2015-2:15 saved 1 second!!)
I rolled into transition handed off my bike and grabbed my run gear bag. They had some chairs set up outside the transition tent which I though was brilliant. It’s so dark inside the tents so I decided to just sit outside with good light and plenty of volunteers. I had gotten off the bike early and I was the only one in T2 so I had like 5 volunteers all to myself. Super cool! I put on my Newton Distance 5s and took off on the marathon. I placed my HotShot, Every Man Jack run bib and hat, and EFS-shot in a plastic zip lock bag so I could carry it easily and put it on while running the 1st mile. TIME Saver!!
Run: 3:09:21-3rd AG, 5th OA (2015-3:52:17)
The run was probably the highlight of my day. I exited transition and was able to see Kristin cheering me on as she shouted 1st in AG and 3rd overall!! I was stoked! I took off and was ready to see if my training and nutrition would pay off. I told myself I would just run like I did in training. I wasn’t going to stick to a pacing plan early I was just going to go with what my body wanted to do and felt comfortable. I didn’t look at my watch until after the second aid station 6:50 avg pace. Boom! I told myself its working… the training is paying off. I continued running, sucking on cliff blocks, and taking in EFS shot every 20min. At mile 6 I saw Kristin again and she looked at me with a confused grin and said “sub 7min miles? Really?”… I laughed and said… I guess so with a confused look on my face. I continued to keep good rhythm and started ticking off the miles: 6:46, 6:49, 6:51, 6:59, 6:54, and 6:58. I was feeling great and actually enjoying the run. Around mile 10 Joel Maley passed me like I was standing still! He was super supportive and said I looked great and to finish off this marathon strong. Joel went on to be 1st OA amateur and run a 2:54 marathon! After he passed me I didn’t panic. I knew they would go at least 3 deep in our age group so I kept pushing. I was never passed again the rest of the day. I saw Matt Dixon around mile 13. He came and ran up close to me and gave me some words of encouragement. He told me I was looking great and on the verge of doing something very special. That really encouraged me and gave me a shot of adrenaline! I was still running sub 7 min miles and I asked him if I should slow down a bit (I was afraid of blowing up)? He said no way and to go with what your body wants to do so I did and continued to tick off 6:50-7:20min miles the rest of the way until mile 23…. The wall came and it came fast! I was done! I started to walk up the hill at mile 23 and I wanted to quit. There was an aid station at the top of the hill and I decided to make one last try to run. I asked one of the volunteers for a full can of Redbull. I slammed it as fast as I could and began to walk about another 30 seconds and looked at my watch. I could go sub 3:10 marathon if I just stop walking!! About that time the Redbull kicked in I felt a little better and began to run. I was able to walk run 8min miles the rest of the way in. I began up the hill to the finishers chute and I was completely overwhelmed with excitement as I finished. I hugged Kristin and saw John Hildenbrand waiting at the finish to celebrate. I asked Kristin what my final time was… I was thinking I had gone 9:05-9:10… she said 8:56:47!!! I couldn’t believe it. I went Sub 9?? Me? No way? All I could think was I guess hard work pays off and sure enough it did! And we are headed to KONA 2017!!! I have had a few days now to reflect on the race and my preparation. I’ve always been hard-headed and very motivated to reach my goals. I didn’t let all the negative comments about me being too big and heavy to compete at the top of my age group hold me down. I used it as fuel and to my advantage. Anything is possible with the right attitude and work ethic! For all you big boys out there like me you can be fast too!
Special Thanks to my ……Sponsors of Every Man Jack- Roka, ENVE wheels, Normatech, GU, 1st Endurance, Felt, Garneau, Rudy, Lululemon, SockGuy, and Boco hats, Purple Patch fitness for keeping me on track in my training, my team mates and Ritch Viola with Every Man Jack who are a wealth of information and push me to be the very best you can be, Kristin my fiancé for the support and understanding my long hours training, TriOKC for having the best tri club around and hosting great local races, and Steve Schlegel, Marty, and the rest of the crew at Schlegel’s for always having my bike ready to roll.”