I tell the kids all the time – it’s ok to make mistakes, everybody does it, the important thing is to learn from them. With that in mind, I joined Mark in Phoenix this past weekend to do some training on the IMAZ course. He actually was down there to attend a conference, so it was not solely an Ironman recon trip, but that was certainly the focus. I was eager to avoid a repeat of my IMStG experience where I didn’t preview the bike or run course before the race and the whole thing was a big, mostly unpleasant, surprise.
The weekend was a big eye opener, and although I am probably more nervous about the course than I was before, it is much better for planning to have seen what we’re going to be faced with in less than two weeks.
The swim looks…unappealing. That’s the most polite thing I can say about it. I thought of two positives though: (1) it will not be wavy, (2) it’s one loop which is better for avoiding congestion. The downsides are that the water is every bit as murky and dirty-looking as I had heard. It’s also going to be cold, which I am not a huge fan of. So, that’s the swim. I am planning to practice swimming with my eyes closed in the pool between now and the race to prepare.
On Sunday we parked our car at a casino on McKellips and road over to the Beeline Hwy to the turnaround. We did that route twice for a little over 50 miles. I specifically chose this race in part because of it’s reputation for having a flat bike course, so I was a little surprised to discover that the part on the Beeline is not exactly flat. It is a slight uphill and into the wind. We got a great tailwind on the way back down, but it is going to take some mental discipline to not get discouraged by the speeds on race day if it is a windier day. People crab about the fact that it is three loops and it’s boring, but I am not really bothered by that. I am never taking in the scenery much anyway, so the loops don’t bother me. But, it’s true that there isn’t a whole lot to look at.
It’s possible – depending on winds – that the bike course will be slower than IMCoz on the day I raced there which was a relatively calm wind day. That was an eye opener.
On Saturday, we headed out in the afternoon to run one lap of the run course. I won’t lie. It sucked. Two major revelations about the run course – it is not as flat as I expected, and it is almost all on concrete. In retrospect, of the five IMs I have done, IMCdA has had the nicest run course. Sure, there’s that one hill that you have to run twice. But the rest is pretty flat and it is very scenic. The IMAZ run course is not scenic, although I am hoping it looks a little nicer on race day than it did this past weekend with spectators replacing some of the unsavory characters who were hanging around.
I didn’t actually run the biggest hill on the AZ course (which we will run three times), but I am very glad I saw it and know what to expect. It is nothing like the hills in my neighborhood, but it is going to feel large at mile 23 of the marathon. I’m sure of that. More than actual ability, the run course is going to require a lot of mental toughness.
After focusing on some of the more negative things about the course when we were down there, I also came up with some positives. The weather and climate are similar to our area and the area near my parents’ house near Palm Springs where we have done quite a bit of training. I’ve always thought that it would be an advantage to race an Ironman in a climate similar to where you live and I am hoping this holds true on race day. We’re also in the same time zone. That’s always a plus.
For the remaining days until the race, my goal is to focus solely on what I can control and try to prepare for the different challenges that may come up on race day. There is no point in worrying about how hot, cold, windy or hard the course might be on that day. All I can control is how I pace myself, my nutrition and – most importantly – my attitude. I have resolved that regardless of what happens, I will try to remain positive until I cross the line and not give up on myself.
I had big goals for this race and whether or not I attain them remains to be seen, but on November 18th, I am going to head to the start knowing that I trained hard and I am going to give it my best. That’s my promise to myself.