Ironman Arizona Race Report - 2011 Triathlon

In 2006 I completed my first Ironman on a cold and rainy Wisconsin day.  It was only my second triathlon, and at the time I had no idea what I was getting myself into. It was a tough day on a tough course and I was thrilled to go 10:52.  Immediately after completion I vowed never to do another Ironman, however after a couple of days rest the itch to Ironman returned.

Fast forward five years later and I have now completed my 10th Ironman and my first as a professional.   It is the beginning of new era for me, and admittedly I still did not know what I am getting myself into.  Overall I had a good day and went 8:57.  Here is a recount of the sub-9 performance at the 2011 edition of Ironman Arizona.

Exiting Tempe Town Lake in my 2XU V:2 Wetsuit
Swim (57:04): I have been working on my swim and I know that it is crucial to my success at the professional level.  My goal for the swim was to pick a swimmer who was slightly faster than me and hang on for as long as I could.  I swam out to the swim start and settled in between Michael Weiss and Jordan Rapp as I awaited the gun.

The gun fired and I was off.  Much to my surprise it wasn't all that chaotic and I felt very relaxed as I found some feet.  At about the 400 meter mark I started to get concerned that the pace was too easy but I wasn't going to waste any energy forging ahead solo.  The pace stayed consistent, but we were actually starting to catch up to other swimmers who had been dropped from the packs ahead.

At the halfway point I decided to take a look at my watch and it read 26:XX.  I was happy with that and actually quite surprised.  We got a little off track on the way back in, but it is better to sit in the pack and swim a little extra, than to forge ahead solo.

On The Bee-Line Highway
Bike (4:43:37):  Coming out of the water I didn't know where I stood in the overall field, but I never looked back and I focused on moving up the ranks. As I moved out of Tempe towards the Bee-line highway I picked off male and females pro with ease but the power was high. Once I got onto the Bee-line there was a stiff wind and I decided to back it off and wait for some other riders. It was only a matter of time until Matt Russel came whizzing by, towing racers like skiers behind a boat.  I happily grabbed a rope, and even though I knew I was biking above my pay grade I committed to sticking with the group.

We forged ahead on the Bee-line highway towards the turn-around as we climbed into a headwind.  It was slow work and the average speed was falling into the low 20s.  It reminded of the climb to Hawi and I was greatly looking forward to the turnaround.  Finally we reached it and our speed was up into the middle 30s as we made quick work of the ride back into Tempe.

Struggling In The Wind
Lap 2:  After the turn around in Tempe we headed out for the second lap of the three lap course.  Matt Russel finally decided he had enough and dropped everyone.  And the pace had clearly taken its toll on the rest of the riders as the group of ten had been decimated down to Dave Harju, Ryan Rau, and myself.  We picked up the female leader - Amanda Stevens - and despite my best efforts I could not drop her.  Ryan and Dave helped out a little, but much of the work was done by myself and it was taking its toll on me.  I stopped digesting nutrition and it was going no where but up.

Lap 3: I continued to do a lot of work off the front but the lack of nutrition was really starting to take its toll on my energy levels as I watched my pace drop further. I was ready for the bike course to be done, but I still had 38 miles to go.  I climbed out of town and to the turn-around where I received a very unwelcome surprise.  The wind had changed directions and the tailwind I was supposed to have home was now a raging headwind.  To make matters worse I was starting to get tunnel vision and I knew I had to get some calories down.   I backed it off even further in hopes that I could right the ship before the start of the run. The wind would prove to be too much for Amanda and Dave and they would drop off the back as I rode it in with Ryan.

At The Trisports Aid Station
Run (3:12:27):  After a race best T2, I started out on the first run lap of the three loop course.   I felt surprisingly fresh and it was in stark contrast to how I had just felt on the bike  The Garmin displayed a quick 6:10 pace - it was faster than I wanted but I felt fresh and my form was strong.  I continued running and knocking out miles in the 6:25-6:40 range and was starting to think about a sub-3 hour marathon.   Everything seemed right on track, except I was going through and inordinate amount of food and water at the aid stations.  My appetite was insatiable as I grabbed at least two cokes and two powerades at every aid station.  And for the first time ever I reached out for Gu packs. To my surprise everything was going down and I was feeling better.

Lap 2:  I continue on a torrid pace in lap two and through the half way point in 1:28.  Then the wheels started to fall off.  The Ironman Arizona run course is very rolling with lots of turns and concrete.  The pounding was starting to take its toll on my quads, and my hamstrings started cramping.  I got to an aid station on an uphill and decided it would be a good strategic point to visit the restroom.   I let my body cool down, rest, and recover as I prepared for the journey to the finish.  Miles 14-18 were the tough and I really had to focus through them.  I finished lap two and I was thrilled to have only a lap to go.

Rally Cap Time
Lap 3:  I focused on keeping good form as I worked my way through the age groupers.  At one point, I took a look back and saw a fast charging Linsey Corbin.  I knew I was on sub-9 pace for the race, but I needed to knockout some quick miles and I decided to go with Linsey.  I shadowed her stride-for-stride as the TV camera's focused in on us.  Not a word was muttered, but both of us were breathing heavy.  After four miles Linsey's torrid pace would get the better of me.  I was laboring and a complete black out was not out of the possibility - I made the tough decision to let Lindsey go.

I continued on alone and knew that I could go sub-9.  At mile 25 I saw a guy down on the ground with an oxygen mask on, and I just hoped I could keep it together for one more mile.  At .5 miles to go I past Tim O'Donnell - he had bonked but toughed it out.  I patted him on the backside and headed towards the finish with a mix of emotions.   As I entered the chute I could hear Mike Reilly's voice welcoming me on as I reached out and slapped hands with anyone I could find.  I crossed the finish line with a big smile on my face in 8:57:00.

Summary (8:57:00 / 27th Pro): Finishing Ironman Arizona was a flood of emotions - it was my 10th Ironman and my first as a pro.  I have come a long way from that first Ironman back in 2006, but the experience of finishing never gets old.

This race was confirmation that all the hard work and effort has paid off.  Although I did not have as strong of a run as I would have liked, I could not be more proud to be able to cover 140.6 miles under the 9-hour mark.   I learned so much about strategy at the pro-level and I look forward to using what I learned in my next race. Although mentally I am ready for my next Ironman, I know my body needs a break, and I am going to give it an extended rest as I get ready for 2012.

Trisports' New Retail Location In Tempe
Thank You: As always, I want to thank Trisports for believing in my dream.  It has been so wonderful to get to know everyone from Trisports this year and the team kicked some serious ass at Ironman Arizona.   I am also proud to announce that in 2012 I will be racing for Trisports and I look forward to growing with them.  For those that are not aware Trisports is opening their second retail location in Tempe that is just one block from the IMAZ race start.  Look for it in 2012.  In the meantime, you can always save 20% at with my coupon code. You can always help support me as an athlete by using my 20% off coupon code for Trisports that is tied to my name. Each code is unique for you so please contact me thru the above "Contact" tab and I will email you back the 20% off code. Codes can be used at anytime - no waiting for a special sale. They expire 12/31/14. Please remember to fill in your email address so I can reply back to you. If you don't provide an email there is no way for me to contact you. You can also tweet at me or message me on Facebook if you prefer. I also want to thank 2XU for their support in providing some of the best training, racing, and recovery apparel that I could ask for.

For those of you who don't follow Team Trisports, here is a quick summary of the IMAZ performances: Leanda Cave won the female's race, Torsten Abel took forth, owner and super-dad Seton Claggett won his age-group and finished in 9:14. Charisa Werrnick went 9:22 and Billy Oliver had an amazing race despite crashing and went 10:24.

I also want to thank my homestay for their wonderful hospitality.  Dana and Bill Jones have been great and theirs sons Austin and Logan are some of my biggest fans.  The boys always help me out with whatever I need, and on this trip they taught me all about geo-caching!


  1. Great job out there Thomas! Congrats on the Sub 9! Russell IS a beast, and that wind change for the 3rd loop destroyed a lot of psyches out there (me included). Keep on pushing on!


  2. Erik,

    I'm glad to hear that I wasn't the only one suffering on the 3rd loop.


    Thomas Gerlach
    Professional Triathlete