Dear Arizona: See You in November

(Pre-post apology.  I missed blogging Friday and Saturday.  The hotel we stayed at wanted $15 for internet, which I think is insane.  And we got back from Arizona last night at midnight. So this is a SPECIAL Memorial Weekend round-up!)

You'd think that after more than six months of blogging practically every day about Ironman Arizona, I'd get the sense that the journey is real.

I'd have thought so too, until I actually drove up to Mill Avenue and Rio Salado in Tempe on Saturday to preview the bike and run course.

But a funny thing happened as I drove down Rio Salado into the parking lot of the Tempe Beach park.

I got goosebumps. Big ones.  Hairs on the back of my neck stood on end, saluting the course.

Maybe it was the Linkin Park song on the radio ("What I've done") hitting just as I pulled up to the main intersection.  I think it was the gravity hitting me that this whole charade isn't a pipe dream, even with all the training that has gone into it.  The dream is real, it lives at a real intersection, and in six months it's me against time and the elements.  Right here.

It doesn't get any more real than that.

If I thought all this was a dream, reality smacked me in the face as soon as I got on the bike.  At 8 in the morning it was close to 80 degrees. By the time I finished the bike ride it was in the low 90s.  By the time I finished the run, I was pretty much dehydrated, even with drinking more than a liter of water, consuming multiple Endurolyte pills, gels and Clif Bars.

Note to self: Training nutrition in California does not equal training nutrition in Arizona.

The bike ride was the culprit.  I didn't sweat during most of the ride.  Why?  Well, the constant cross-wind that felt mostly like a headwind swept any moisture I had right off my face, leaving a film of salt on my skin and all over my jersey.  (Speaking of, it seems that the winds are at their harshest looping back off Shea Boulevard on the Beeline Highway and coming back into Tempe on McKellips. The only semblance of a tailwind seemed to come roughly halfway back on the Beeline Highway.  Please, someone correct me if I'm mistaken.) My college years in Tucson had taught me to always hydrate even when I'm not sweating, so I actually had consumed nearly two water bottles filled with Hammer Perpetuum during the nearly 2.5 hour ride.

It wasn't enough.

I found that out the hard way during the run.  I couldn't figure out why my heart-rate wasn't dropping from heart-rate zone 3 even when I was supposed to be in zone 1 for the first 20 minutes. At first, I thought it was a good sign since I felt fine and refreshed. Guess I didn't need zone 1.  Wrong.   The remaining 40 minutes of my run were to be in zone 3, which quickly turned into zone 4 despite my best efforts.  All the while, my speed was roughly one-half to a full mile-per-hour slower than usual.

The funny part about this unfortunate dichotomy  was my inner monologue the entire duration of the run.  Literally, in my head I was talking trash to the bike and run course.  In fact, I was planning my official response on Twitter, of all things.  It went something like this:

"Dear #IMAZ course, your oppressive heat and nasty crosswinds don't scare me. Your ass is mine in November. Hugs, Ryan."

Turns out that doesn't fit in 140 characters. But you get the idea.

I even went as far as likening my training in Scottsdale/Tempe as like Rocky training to fight Drago in Rocky IV.  I could literally replace screaming "Drrrraaaaaggggooooo!!!" atop the mountain with "Irrrrroooonnnnnmmmmmaaaaaaannnnnn!!!!!"

"You ain't so bad!"

It wasn't until later in the afternoon, after about at least three additional bottles of water, Gatorade, and a Myoplex protein drink, that I realized the folly of my ways.

But, I WILL be ready in November for Arizona.  No matter what it brings.  Even if the bike course is 80% cross/head winds.  Even if there's a heat spell.  I will be ready.


And for those of you who read my blog because you want to know more about wedding planning with Stephanie, here's your special update.  We had a great time in Scottsdale.  One of our favorite restaurants and site venues, Sassi, lived up to its expectations in every way.  The food is truly outstanding (the veal chop, pizza di carne, and orecchiette pasta are my big recommendations), the views are stunning and the price is a bargain. We're not sure about the actual wedding location on the property so we're going to continue scouting locations.

We also checked out the Fairmont Scottsdale, which had really great room deals and a truly all-encompassing resort that could make for a fantastic destination wedding.  We need to do more research on this location, but it's still a contender.  Whether we'll be able to handle the heat and critters in September remains to be seen.  Both Steph and I were apparently attacked by a spider lurking in our bed on Friday evening, as Steph has nine welts all over her arms and legs to show for it.  That would seem to be a strike against Scottsdale.

And now, the weekend continues.  Steph and I are going to practice some yoga for a while and then tomorrow we'll hike Escondido Falls in Malibu before meeting my folks for dinner.  And of course, there's three hours on the bike, re-enacting the eighth stage of the Amgen Tour of California. On my tri bike.  Oh yeah!

It's been a fantastic weekend of discovery, insight, and relaxation.

And PS: Arizona Ironman, your ass WILL be mine in November.

173, 172 and now, 171 days and counting.