Fall is a tough season for me ergo I’ve decided to always do a late race, so I can maintain focus on something I have some control of and have a distraction from some of the hard challenges that have happened in my life during this time of year.

I signed up for Ironman Arizona last year. Because the race always sells out, I booked a room and bought tickets to volunteer at the 2015 race. The plan was to fly down, volunteer, help some clients, cheer, and sign up. Over the past few years I’ve raced enough to earn all world athlete gold status, so right after I bought my tickets, I was able to sign up early anyway.

I still went down and had a great time, I got to watch Justin, a good friend, get his first Kona Qualifier, my Coach and friend Dave get another KQ, and super Steve Kern get a PR. All three of them are Thai Massage clients.

The 2016 season was one of my toughest ever, big highs and big lows in life. One reason I enjoy Ironman is the steady effort that is rewarded. While I generally have failed to keep my race efforts in control, it is my decision, racing is my hobby, my life style, it’s a choice and I can control my reactions to how the race is unfolding. It’s good practice for life, although I do far better in racing than life but both have improved, and I believe I’m far better at life because of Ironman.

The swim

1:08 one of my slowest swims ever, not too surprising (now that I have thought about it) I missed a lot of swim workouts during the final couple weeks, which is generally a big swim block.

Coming out of the water I knew I was behind my expectations, and I couldn’t find my bag. A volunteer was able to find it, probably only a 15 second delay but it seemed like minutes. At this point my self talk was “stay calm”, “be in control”. I found my bike right away: it was in a great spot and almost all the bikes were gone, I guess that is one advantage of a slow swim.

The bike

I rolled out on the bike did a good job on minding my watts, it is easier on a flat course. A big group of cheaters pulled past me a few miles from the turn around, and I ended up passing most of them on the way back down. I suspect a lot of people pay attention to speed and heart rate versus watts. The drafting groups got bigger as the race went on, the officials did a great job of penalizing people as I saw lots of people in the penalty tents. My third lap was the worst, the slower swimmers, faster cyclists had caught up, I hope most caught up without the aid of drafting but I doubt it. I was coasting to let one group of cheaters get far enough in front of me, so I would not be drafting only to be passed by another group. I cussed them all out. and passed about 50 people in the space of 200 yards, but I doubled my watts to do so. I looked back and some had jumped on my wheel so I took a drink of water an spit over my shoulder, took another drink and stood up to pee.

I don’t read the magazines anymore or the blogs or truly follow any professional triathletes or coaches. The disrespect for the rules, the lack of sportsmanship makes me wonder what is being written, what is being coached. In our spectator nation it’s become the norm to heckle, to hate the officials, the other team, your opponents. Maybe the penalty isn’t high enough, it should be more. Maybe the likelihood of being caught is so low, it’s worth the risk.

I wrestled through college it was just NAIA wrestling but we showed and had respect for one another and the sport.

My bike time was 5:28, my fastest bike split ever but also on the fastest course, so no reason to get excited about that. Off the bike I was 357th place over all. Lionel Sanders, the men’s winner, rode a 4:04, Meredith Kessler, the women’s winner, rode a 4:44. Last season at IMCDA I rode 5:52 and was 225th over all off the bike. Andy Potts rode a 4:33, Heather Jackson rode a 5:08. So the bike split PR really doesn’t mean a thing.

The run

At the start of the run my feet felt like numb stubs, but I did a good job of backing down my effort the final hour of the ride to set up my run. I didn’t wake up my feet, next time I’ll have a plan flex and extend my feet and toes in that final hour. I always run walk any race and this was no exception. I ran about 8 minutes to the first aid station and walked my 30–60 seconds. I did a great job with that for the first half, the ambitious goal was 8:50 pace, with 9 being the default with the walk run strategy it was very doable. 8:50 at 6 miles, at 12 miles 8:55 pace, yikes 9 pace was becoming the pace, 9:06 averge at mile 18, so 9:10 was becoming the pace, I was falling apart albeit slowly, My heart rate was dropping too, I recognized I was not getting in enough calories,

I had pushed the calories on the bike taking in more than I had in any previous race. I have something of an iron gut, and I had been training on the bike with lots of extra calories.

My hope was to load up on the bike and not need as many on the run. I was still taking dosages but I probably should have taken in another 20–30%, something else to experiment with. Mile 22 I was at 3:26, 9:21 average pace, and I was slowing down a lot, a WHOLE lot. But I was loading up on calories, flat coke mostly, guessing I was getting 50 calories every aid station. At mile 24 my time was 3:47, running at 9:27 pace still slowing down but those are big “hills” of the two loop course. I picked it up for the final 2.2 miles thinking about my friend Justin who took is Kona slot in the final Mile of the race last year, the final 2.2 miles were my fastest of the day ended up with a 4:05:30 so a 9:21 pace. Far off the goal.

The finish, I love the finish the Voice of Ironman Mike Reilly announcing my name and part of my story “D.J. DeAustria of Portland Oregon had a full hip replacement and now is a 12 time Ironman”. The finish line is full of awesome volunteers; three or four helped me slow down and stop, and one fun woman kept asking me what I needed, did I need medical or water, but all I wanted was a beer and she laughed and said at least you have a sense of humor, but truly I wanted a beer.

Karon Rakoz was running around letting me know where Bob Rakoz was. Bob ended up getting a big PR. He has been my most consistent training partner over the past 3–4 seasons and I am super happy to have been a part of his race and training, he won’t speak of it but he had a tough tough training run up, before IMCDA so IMAZ which was a social race became an something of an A race and he went to race it beyond expectations.

Kristin Valentine, my athlete, went from not running at all for about 10 years to doing an Ironman and running at very respectable 4:56 Ironman Marathon split. I’m super proud of her and it was truly an honor to coach her for the year. In January she just wanted to do a Half Ironman, in May after St George, she wanted to do another Half Ironman, after CDA 70.3 she decided to do an Ironman.

Jennifer Woodruff made another big comeback of the day after 38 months of injuries/ accidents / hanging it up/burn out. She secretly signed up and started biking more and more, started swimming, and incredibly began to run too. Her execution of the plan was perfect! Her run splits were solid and even, after a restrained bike split that many would love to have. Welcome Back Jen!!

Jennifer Thompson has a huge come back of another sort, she has dealt with injury for the last couple of years and 2 years ago ended up in the med tent, but she avoided that tent this race. I ran with her for a bit asking her how she was doing and her during race report wasn’t optimistic but she finished. Not her best time but very solid and more importantly I think she had a blast racing and being cheered on by friends.

Kevin Cashett raced to “win”, and when he was out of the money he rallied and finished. I look forward to seeing how he does when he simply focuses on the half and oly distances next season.

Steve Kern who had openly said he’s taking a break from Ironman had fiasco after fiasco happen before the race and still had the mental strength and problem solving ability to have a decent race and was a part of Kevin’s finishing the race, it is a solo sport but we all lean on each other at times.

Barkey Hope Hedinger over came a serious of injuries to close out the season with a Kona Qualifying effort at IMCDA, Kona and a great race at IMAZ, if I had half her energy I’d get twice as much done for sure.

Kelli Christian who I have been spying on all season had another race full of smiles, it’s such a joy to see her have fun with the sport.

Arizona Mary, as we call Mary Laibe. I was able to see and call out a few times she saw me once.. I think.

Stacey sportygirl Larsen had the race of her life, Giant PR, it was a super happy moment after her 24 hour sickness in Whistler, shit happens folks and Stacy rocked the course swim bike and run.

Erin Lopez was robbed.. I can’t express my feelings.. but she is a winner and has overcome more than anyone I know and will be back, her spirit is strong he network is awesome. She is a Bad Ass.

I have my 12th WTC branded Ironman now, it’s been quite a swim, ride and run and walk.