Race report by Chad Quinlan

Ironman Arizona was the second try at the full distance for both Andrew Levine and I (both did Lake Placid last year), and we were both looking forward to making some big improvements. Racing in November definitely makes for a long season of training, but I felt really good going into this race and I owe a lot of that to Colin’s coaching, of course. Feeling healthier than last year and having made some gains on the bike and swim, I was ready for a good day.

Striking poses at the end of a very good day!

The trip to AZ was uneventful, and Andrew and I were lucky enough to be able to stay with his in-laws who live 20 minutes from the race in Scottsdale. We had been prepared for a little bit of heat, but the weather for our whole trip turned out to be perfect (50’s overnight and high of 70 in the daytime). Race morning went pretty smoothly with my nutrition plan well thought out in advance with Colin (gotta love all that applesauce at 3am). The transition area for AZ is pretty small so it’s a bit crazy on race day , but Andrew and I were ready to go well before the gun went off, so we just tried to stay loose and warm.

Swim: I will start with saying I am not a good swimmer. My Lake Placid time was 1:25, but after some lessons with Colin this fall I had improved my last 2.4 mile swim to 1:19 in the pool with no wetsuit, so I was hoping to be in the 1:15 range for this race. My issue tends to be more about heart rate at the start, but even with the crowded LP start last year I had a smooth day so I was excited about this swim. However, the swim start at AZ is just as crowded and with no shore, the athletes need to literally jump in to the water and then tread water for about 10-15 minutes in a very crowded area. Andrew and I started near the front, but finding clean water even before the gun was tough and it ended up hurting me. My heart rate went way too high after getting clobbered for the first 2-3 minutes of the start, so I veered off wide to find some smoother water. This helped, but I ended up spending too much time alone and missing out on drafting. By the mile mark I was back in the pack, but just as I got comfy, my goggles got raked off my face costing me another minute. All told, I came out at a very disappointing 1:22. As a note, several people including Andrew and me recorded closer to 2.5-2.55 miles for the swim, but oh well. As for what I could do better, I think it’s mostly around doing a better job of warming up to get my heart rate down. The crowded start meant you couldn’t really swim around beforehand unfortunately. I also of course need to get faster in general because even my target time is mid pack at best. Andrew had a 1:16 here, which is also a bit slower than he wanted.

T1: The transition area was weird, with bags just on the ground and quite a long run, but I found mine quickly and had no real issues. Time was still 5:52 though, so I need to get a little faster here.

Bike: I’ll start with the fact that I felt great on the bike, beat my target time and stayed exactly on my power goal number. But this is where the fun happened. Some of you have heard, but at mile 50 on the bike I had an unpleasant crash. Everything had been great, hydrated well (peed a lot…Colin loves to hear that), nutrition felt pretty good and I was right on my power target. Then after the second turn around outside the city there is an aid station. I got my bottle no problem, squeezed it all into my speedfill and was starting to accelerate and toss the empty when some ($&!*@) in front of me that I was about to pass decided to stop dead in the middle of the road. I couldn’t react fast enough with one hand off the bike and just clipped him. But going ~18mph this lead to me flipping right over my aero bars and landing hard on my shoulder and head. The guy I hit was of course fine and realizing his mistake came over and apologized several times before I less than kindly told him to just get away from me and go race. After some aid station volunteers saw the crash, they ran over to help—and get me off the road. After a lot of cursing and trying to regain my balance, I was able to stand and evaluate the situation. Seeing my aero bars bent completely in half was my biggest concern and ignoring the nice people all telling me to sit down, I was yelling around for someone to get a wrench to fix my bike. Seeing the dent in my helmet and bleeding arm hanging limp, they were all more concerned about me, but I convinced them I was going to ride and they were able to fix my bike after a few minutes. I refused the med tent suggestion, knowing they would make me stop, and after about 5 minutes I got back on my bike and thanked the volunteers. With a bit of road rash and sore shoulder/rib I spent the next 60 miles riding with one arm when I could, and my aero bars were uneven and at a weird angle, but it worked. I think it slowed me a little, but I managed to keep my power dead even for the rest of the ride and come in at 5:23 vs a goal of 5:30. Andrew had a great day here coming in at 5:05!

I don’t know what I would do different aside from, ya know, not crashing. But my legs felt really strong coming off the bike.

T2: This went pretty smoothly aside from the nice ladies with the sunscreen yelling at me to go to the med tent when I refused to let them put lotion on my shoulder. Time was 2:52

Run: This is where I could feel the effects of the crash a bit more. Trying to keep my fiance and family from freaking out, I smiled every time I ran by and turned away so they couldn’t see my shoulder, but I couldn’t swing my left arm much and deep breaths started to hurt a bit. Despite this, I was convinced I could hit my goal of a 3:45-3:50 marathon and started out ok. My run hurt me last year at LP (had a 4:20) despite being a strength of mine normally, but I had learned a lot from that race and had a good plan with Colin on how to approach it. My biggest goal was to never walk during this run aside from aide stations and I stuck to that for the whole day. My legs were tired and sore, of course, but they kept motoring and my nutrition plan worked pretty well. Unfortunately, I was never able to drop my pace as I had planned and while I don’t know how much the crash hurt me, I’m still a little disappointed with my time of 4 hours. Andrew ran the marathon at an amazing 3:32. I should also note one thing that really stunk.for me…the last turn to go to the finish shoot was not well marked and I approached it right as it got dark (Which happens fast in the desert). No one was there directing me so I ran right by the thing and ended up running about an extra quarter mile in total before realizing it! I was mad and sprinting when I realized my mistake, but came across the finish line at 10:55, beating my biggest goal of going sub 11, but slightly off my ideal number of 10:45. Andrew had an incredible day coming at at 10:04, and while I know he wanted to be sub 10, this is still an awesome time and huge improvement over our LP times.

2 tired guys showing off their well-earned finishers’ medals.

Recap: After some xrays in AZ that cut into some of my post race vacation time and some pain meds, I learned that I have no fractures in my shoulder, wrist or rib, which is great news. The less good news is that I had a dislocated rib (which explained the breathing pain, but it’s healing now) and likely have a torn labrum in my shoulder (MRI results pending, but I’ve already had that shoulder surgically repaired once and my doc isn’t hopeful for good news). I couldn’t have done much to prevent that crash aside from react faster, but it’s hard not to wonder if I could’ve hit 10:45 if it hadn’t happened. All told, though, I am very happy with my day am looking forward to getting faster all around for next season.