IRONMAN ARIZONA 2010
It has been exactly one week since I raced at Ironman Arizona, and have had ample time to digest and contemplate how my day unfolded out there on the course. Since this Ironman involved so much more than just racing, I will start from the beginning and hope you will enjoy my recount of Ironman Arizona 2010.
My journey started off packing up the bike and gear, my wife, and our three kids in the car on Wednesday evening to make the 1000 mile drive westward to Tempe. We drove through the night and finally arrived at my brother, Jeff’s house, in Gilbert, AZ (About 20 minutes from the race) in the early afternoon on Thursday. We lay low Thursday evening and then headed to the Ironman Village and Athlete Check-In on Friday Morning. As I stand in the long line for check-in, a volunteer came around asking for Bib #s. I told him I was bib #98, and then he says “What the heck are you doing standing in line???” I said, “Isn’t this athlete check-in?” He says, “Yeah, for Age Groupers… You need to go check in with the pros”! AWESOME, but, I think you got the wrong dude, bro… So he directed me to the tent where I needed to go, which was chalked full of volunteers waiting to help me, and within about 3 minutes my check-in was done. I was also finally able to meet Erin Baker, maker of THE BEST BREAKFAST COOKIE IN THE WORLD!!! She hooked me up with some granola and a bunch of my favorite Caramel Apple Breakfast Cookies and snapped a couple pictures. I then went over to transition to check out the “Lay of the land”. When I got there, my rack said “BIB #95-98 MEDIA” and I was the second row away from transition in and out! AWESOME!!!
While I was there, an Ironman ICON was there, and I learned she would be on my rack 2 bikes down… Sister Madonna Buter! She is 80 years old and has finished countless Ironman events, and has the biggest heart of any woman! Here is a picture of us…
After I am all checked in and goofed around at the Ironman store and expo, my buddy Anthony, my brother Jeff, and Anthony’s girlfriend and I drove the bike course. As I was driving it, I could not get over how smooth and flat the roads were. As we head up Beeline Highway, I saw “The Hill” that everyone was talking about… Hill??? It looked like the elevation gain in my driveway, so I was VERY excited to see that it should be pretty smooth sailing. I will briefly mention that there was a slight breeze as we drove the course, but the sun was shining (which was a far cry from how it was on race day) and Anthony and I were VERY excited about the race now that we had seen the course. After that, we went back to Jeff’s house, went out for some killer BBQ at Famous Dave’s, and then hung out until the Welcome Dinner. At the dinner we sat next to a BUNCH of folks from www.IAMTRI.com , which is Ironman’s online Social Network for Triathletes. We sat next to a couple gentlemen from the UK, one of which was a Royal Marine, the other was hoping for a 9:20 finish!!! WOW! It was a great evening, got to hear a few guest speakers, and watched my friend Marie Hughes win “The Erin Baker Lifestyle Fitness Award” for losing more weight than any other athlete in preparation for this race (120 pounds)! Afterwards, we all go grab some frozen yogurt, and then we call it an evening and enjoy a good night’s sleep.
As Saturday morning comes, Jeff and I head down to the swim practice at The Tempe Town Lake. After I jump in, the 61 degree water slaps me in the face, and ensures that I am now awake! After I was in the water for a couple minutes and started swimming, the coldness went away and I enjoyed a smooth 1000M swim. Afterwards, I met up with Carrie, who is a writer for LAVA Magazine, and we had a 20-30 minute interview which went very well, and is now posted on their website at http://lavamagazine.com/features/lava-talks-dan-benintendi#a xzz16hSpHij4
We then headed back to the house to pick up my family and my gear to be checked in to transition. We arrive back at Ironman Village, and again, I get the awesome opportunity to bypass the lines and head straight to my rack to place my bike in position. After checking all the gears, and doing another “Glance-over” of the bike, all is well and there is nothing left to do but prepare for the big day tomorrow! When we got back to Jeff’s house, he informs me that his friend “Christine” who is an incredible Massage Therapist, was coming over to hook me up with a massage, WHICH WAS AWESOME!!! Later that evening, Anthony and Jill came over to Jeff’s and we had quite a carb load, which consisted of Pizza, Pasta, Lasagna, Salad, and Garlic Bread! YESSSSSSSSS!!! After that, a few friends came over, we watched the UFC Fights and then turned in for the evening.
My alarm rang on Sunday, RACE MORNING, at 3:30am and the rituals began. After bathing, applying PLENTY of Body Glide on various parts of the body, I begin fueling with a Banana, a waffle with peanut butter, some Gatorade G2, and of course, an Erin Baker Breakfast Cookie! I ensure I have all of my race gear and we head on down to the start. Jeff and I went together and got decent parking because he was volunteering at the Finish Line later in the day. When I get to transition, it really is awe inspiring to see the sea of AWESOME bikes! 2500 of the fastest and sweetest machines money can buy!
I double check all my gear, make sure my tires had enough pressure, exchange some warm thoughts with neighbors, and then finally it hits me… THE WIND IS HOWLING!!!! Before we started swimming, the winds were at a steady 10mph. As the minutes creep away, and we get closer to the start, I put on my wetsuit, grab my goggles, and start making my way to the swim start. We watch the cannon go off for the pros and the energy in the air was ABSOLUTELY electric! I was so excited to jump in the water and get the race going. However, I waited until the last moment to jump in the water. As they announce we are 5 minutes from race start, I jump in, and make my way to the start line. I positioned myself in the middle of the crowd, and was about 4 rows back from the front of the pack. After the cannon blows, I find a pocket and start stroking! I took a few knuckles to the head and a few random kicks, but nothing too crazy. Honestly, the swim was VERY enjoyable… My sighting was spot on, my pace was comfortable (maybe a little slower than I would have liked) and the time flew by VERY fast! My total swim time was 1:11:06 which put me in 642 place for overall swim time out of 2500ish athletes.
I come out of the water and am feeling pretty fresh. It was a pretty good jaunt to the transition tent, I got my wetsuit peeled off me, headed over to get my Transition Bag, begin drying off, wipe the grass, gravel, and funk from my feet, put on my socks and shoes, helmet and sunglasses, and I then headed to the far end of transition to grab my bike.
As I jump on the bike, I sense that the wind had picked up a bit and the sun was beginning to peek out. I start spinning and I was feeling REALLY good heading down Rio Solado Dr. Once we got past downtown and away from the big buildings, the wind let me know it was there!!! It had now turned to 15mph winds and was a cross wind for the first quarter of the loop leading out to Beeline. Once we hit beeline and started ascending “The Hill”, the wind was directly at our back, and I was climbing at 24mph. When I hit the turn-around at the top of the hill, I looked down to see I was averaging 21mph! AWESOME!!! THEN, I turned around and WHAMM!!!!!! The wind slapped me in the face. It was brutal! I was doing 17mph going DOWNHILL… What the heck? Anyways, it wasn’t so bad as long as I stayed Aero, and the first loop went by pretty quick. When I was getting close to starting the second loop, there were thousands of people there at the turnaround and it was an amazing spectacle to come in to!
I make the turnaround, hop out of the saddle and head out for the second loop. By this time, the clouds had moved in, and the wind had INCREASED to 20+mph. I am a big dude at 220 pounds, and I was getting blown all over the place. I hit Beeline again and am flying up the hill at 24-25mph again. I knew I was in for some pain on the way back down… Well, I make it to the top, hit the turn-around, and yup, BRUTALITY! This was the most brutal loop for sure… About 5 minutes into my descent, it started to rain, but then it started to hail! WHAT???? Where was the sunshine and slight breeze we had hoped for? All there was to do was keep pedaling, stay aero as much as possible, and keep on keeping on. I come in to the turn-around again, and got a much needed pick-me-up and headed out for the third loop. About 8 miles into this loop, I had to pee. So, I hopped off the bike, went to the port-o-joy, took care of business, did a little stretching, and hopped back on. I tried to stay on top of my nutrition and hydration, and thought I was doing a pretty good job (this would prove to be the contrary when I hit the run) so I kept plugging away and as I got to the top of Beeline, I had to pee again. So, I hopped off again, peed again, took in more fluids and nutrition, and made the final 16 miles back to the bike finish. About 5 miles from my finish I saw Marie on the bike. I asked how she was doing. She was coming in for her second loop and was concerned about cut off times. I told her to keep on pedaling and I would see her at the finish (She finished in 16:52:-- AWESOME… I knew she would do it).
As I head in to the Bike Finish, the crowds were amazing! However, I was not feeling so hot. I grab my transition bag and head into the tent. I was VERY cold and was fading due to poor hydration and nutrition. The guy helping me asked how I was feeling, he grabbed me some water, I took in a gel, and he hooked me up with some ART to help loosen me up, which was great. I put on my jacket and headed out to the run. When I am dehydrated, it taxes my respiratory system and if my heart rate goes up I have a very hard time breathing. So, I spent the first mile or so walking to get hydration and nutrition back. At the first aid station I took in a Power Bar, cookies, pretzels, Powerade, water, and salt tabs and once that hit my system, I felt better. When I would finally get on top of my nutrition, I would find it start slipping away again and I would find myself chasing my tail like this for the whole marathon. I was hoping for at least a 4:00 marathon, but because of nutrition issues, I was stuck with a 5:44. My running base is super strong right now, especially after coming off my 100 Mile Run 5 weeks ago, I just wish the nutrition would have been dialed in a bit more so I could race to my potential.
The loops went by fairly quickly, and there were a lot of spectators and some really funny / cool aid stations to help break things up. As I came off the bridge on my last loop, I remove my jacket and give it everything I had to the finish. I turned the corner, saw the lights, heard the music, and then it hits me, I did it! I run down the chute to the cheers and screams of everyone there, and get the honor of becoming an Ironman for a 2nd time! This proved to be a VERY tough day, but that is why they call it Ironman! As I ran through the finish line, my brother was there waiting for me to “Catch” me, and that was awesome to see him. He made sure I got my medal, finisher’s shirt, pizza, pictures, and most importantly, he led me to my family that was waiting for at the finish. MAN it was good to see them!
I had hoped for a 12 hour finish going in to the race, but I did not expect the weather conditions, nor did I expect the nutrition issues. All-in-all, I still improved my time over Ironman Louisville by almost an hour and I am VERY happy with that and my final TOTAL time was 13:16:24. It is easy for me to forget that I have only been doing Triathlon for 2 years, and I have come a long way in a short time. If I could shave off an hour each Ironman, I will definitely be Kona-bound by the time I am 60! Maybe someday, but I am A LONG WAYS away from that now. So, that’s it; 400 pounds 2.5 years ago to 2-time Ironman Finisher and a very satisfied soul! There are far too many people to thank individually for love and support given to me over the past couple of years, so please accept my heart-felt thank you for everything! It is time to recover and move on to my next challenge. I know the coming year will present some challenges as I will be going in for my 2nd round of surgery to remove the tremendous amount of excess skin from the weight loss. I will continue to cross each bridge as I get to them, and again, can’t thank each and every one of you enough for all you do to keep me going!
Your Friend In Health & Sport,
Dan Benintendi - OH Support Group Leader