Monday, November 25, 2013

IM Arizona 2013 – The Day has arrived………

“John Tate, You are an Ironman.”   What a great thing to hear as you cross the finish line of your first Ironman.  

David and I got to Tempe on Thursday and after I dropped him at the Hotel, I jetted out to meet Laurel and Bill at a little athlete’s get together.  It was great to see her and finally meet Bill in person.  They are such great people and friends too. 

Bill, Laurel and me.

Friday morning found David and I heading out to the B-Line to go for a practice ride so David could get a feel for part of the bike course.  It was a very nice ride.  Thanks to Laurel, I was able to ride the course back in May.  It was a lot different as I was now riding it on my TT bike and had a few months of conditioning under my belt.  The pace David set felt good and I felt like I could keep my goal of maintaining an average speed of 18mph on the course during the race and having enough left for the run.

David getting ready for his first ride on the B-Line
Where's the Beach?

I can still remember riding with Laurel on my rented road bike and her on her mountain bike training for Leadville.  She killed me.  We went down into Fountain Hill area for a detour at the turnaround.  What a gorgeous community.  On the way back into town we came across what must have been a couple hundred CO2 cartridges spread out on the side of the road.  Laurel, being the ecologically minded person, one of her many fine qualities, stopped and we picked them all up.  Filling up our water bottles and our bike jerseys we headed back to the shop and put them in the recycling bin.  Found out they were spent cartridges’ the Arizona Department of Transportation discarded after use.  Shame on you ADOT!!!!!

Friday afternoon David and I went for a short run to shake things out and take a look at the turnaround point of the swim course.  Then Saturday morning we headed down to the water for a nice little practice swim.  Felt good getting in the water and getting a feel for the temperature, it took the edge off the nerves a bit too.

Race Day

Pretty crazy!!!  Got up early and started my pre-race nutrition plan.  I was nervous as all get out.  A bit excited too.  Just wanted to get in the water and get going.  We donned our wetsuits and I gave Robin one last kiss and headed to the start of a very long day.  I had planned to stay to the right and back of the swim group as I had done in previous open water situations.  However, somehow I found myself right in the middle of the pack.  The cannon went off and the craziness began.  Swimmers climbing over you, grabbing your feet, hitting you as their hands entered the water trying to get the best positioning for themselves.  After a couple hundred yards I found a pretty nice line and was able to get into my rhythm.  Because of the craziness, I didn’t have to spend too much time sighting.  I did however find myself staying right on course with the buoys.  Not sure if it was the best plan, but I managed a pretty good swim (1:39) for this non-swimmers body and my first real mass(ive) swim start.  Out of the water and heading for T1 was a great feeling.  I was anxious to get on the bike and get going.

Race Morning.  The last smile of the day until we cross the finish line.

And they're off!


Seeing Robin as I was mounting my bike and heading out was awesome!  Her smile and encouragement is always an inspiration for me during these events.  I was on my way and feeling great.  My goal for the ride was to get it done under 6:30.  No crosswinds on race day made for a nice fast ride.  I had just gotten out on the B-Line when David hollered at me as he was heading back into town to start his 2nd loop.  All I kept thinking to myself, I wasn’t going to let him catch me.  I stuck to my nutrition plan and rode through every aid station taking in some fluids.   

I kept looking at the horizon for the different landmarks I stashed away in my head from my two rides on the course and many sessions on the trainer and the Tempe Spinerval DVD, so I had some idea as to how close I was getting to the turnaround.  After the first turnaround I picked up speed as we headed downhill and felt like I was flying with little effort.  I got back into town for the start of my second lap and once again, there was Robin.  Smiling and cheering me on.  

As I approached the turnaround out on the course I really had to use the restroom.  However, there was a line so I kept going and finally stopped at an aid station on the way back after getting off of the B-Line, as there was no line.  The folks took my bike, filled my water bottles for me while I was doing my thing.  I took off and about a couple hundred yards from the station my rear wheel flattened. Mile 65, flat tire, great!!!!  I quickly changed it and was back out on the road.  It was a good thing that at the last minute before we left Portland, I decided to buy another stem extender and set up a tube in case I had a rear flat as I didn’t want to have to take the only one I had off and put it on a new tube on the course. That little bit of planning really paid off.  It was the best $4.00 I have ever spent.

As I came into the chute heading for T2, there was Robin, again cheering me on.  I managed to finish the bike within my goal with a time of 6:14, which gave me an overall pace of 17.9mph, with 2 bathroom breaks and 1 flat repair.  And David didn’t lap me, I was very happy.

Coming back into town.


I was two-thirds done and ahead of my goal time.  I headed out on the run and was still feeling pretty good, tired, but good.  I watched my pace as I was going a bit too fast at first and needed to slow down.  I was wearing my Hoka One One’s and in training they always felt great after the bike.  Felt like I was running on pillows.  Felt the same on this day too, which was a pleasant feeling.  David hollered at me again on the run course.  It was nice to see him throughout the race.  It always gave me a boost, right when I needed it.  Of course, once again I couldn’t let him lap me, so that was my focus on the first half of the run, keep going and don’t look back.

The run course was absolutely gorgeous as it was along the riverbank on both sides.  Throughout my training the past year, I spent numerous hours and miles running around the waterfront in downtown Portland where we live.  So I kept associating my run in Arizona with different spots back home.  I kept telling myself, I was just out for another long Sunday morning training run.  It really helped. 

First half of the run along the riverbank.

I had planned on running through the aid stations my first few miles.  I stuck to the plan but also knew I needed to slow down a bit or I would blow up later.  I didn’t slow down to my preplanned race pace until somewhere around mile 9.  Later, this would end up being a big mistake.  I did see Bill, Laurels boyfriend, and said Hi as I went through one of the aid stations.  He yelled out my name over the loudspeaker as I went by.  It was really nice seeing a familiar face at that point. 

I made it to the halfway point and no David, so I was happy and proceeded on my second lap as it was starting to get dark.  About mile 18 I started to fall apart and I wasn't sure why.  I made sure I was taking in my nutrition as planned, walked through a few aid stations, and didn’t go all out on the swim and run.  I just felt spent.  Then it hit me; I should have slowed down much sooner in the beginning of the run.  Told myself so many times I would not go out too fast on the run, but I did.  That is lack of experience for you.  Too late now, for the first time in the event I was in fear of the possibility of not finishing. 

I almost got into a panic and overwhelming sense of failure.  A solid year of Ironman preparation and training to get here and then to fail on a stupid avoidable mistake, I felt a bit of depression coming on.  Then all of a sudden, there was my angel in disguise, Robin.  I handed her my sunglasses and she walked with me for about a half mile.  Giving me the encouragement I needed.  My energy was renewed and off I went, running to the next aid station as I smiled and told her I would meet her at the finish line.  I was not about to give up at this point!

I ran to each aid station then walked through them and ran to the next.  The last 4 however, my adrenaline kicked in and I ran through the rest, and skipping the last two, running all the way to the finish line.  I rounded the corner and headed down the finishers chute, I was about to finish my first Ironman.   I was so overwhelmed with joy hearing Mike Reilly say those coveted words, “John Tate, You are an Ironman.” and better yet, to see Robin (and David) at the finish just made one of the toughest and longest days of my life perfect and complete.  My goal was to finish my first Ironman in less than 14 hours, and finish strong.  Mission accomplished; 13:51 and with a big smile on my face.

What a very long day!

Will I ever do another Ironman? Absolutely!!!!


5 years ago, after a heart attack, the doctor told me I had 3-5 years left on this planet if I didn't change something in my life.  What a wakeup call and dose of reality.  I had to change as I did not want to leave my true love alone.

5 years later, filled with a lot of change and training, hearing those ever coveted words over the loudspeaker, "John Tate, you are an Ironman."  They were the second best words I have ever heard. Robin saying "I do", still number one.  

The journey to IMAZ 2013 was filled with so many wonderful experiences.  I met and shared time with some of the most wonderful people I have ever met.  Was it easy, No! But then again, nothing worth anything is ever easy.

David Hopper has been such a positive and great influence in my life.  Getting me to do my first marathon (Eugene 2013) all the way to finishing my first Ironman, he was there all the way with undying support and a fountain of knowledge.  I could not have accomplished all I did this past year in getting to Arizona without him. He was (and is) such an inspiration and mentor.   Thank you David for everything, I could not have done it all without you.  All the training in the freezing cold, rain and heat of the summer was a lot of fun and at times a bit painful, but well worth it.  You are a true friend and I am so glad our paths have crossed.  I look forward to our next adventure, whatever that might be.

Thanks to Laurel Darren, Ertan, Ami B., Will Cortez, Athlete’s Lounge, Vernier Software and Technology, and a host of others, for all your help and support in fulfilling a dream.

A Big Thanks also goes out to my mother and family for believing in me and not writing me off.
And of course, Thanks has to go out to my strongest supporter, my lovely wife, Robin.  We did it sweetheart!  We turned it all around, from a hospital bed and downward spiral 5 years ago to finishing an Ironman.  You stuck with me, had faith in me, always encouraged me when I thought I couldn’t, took care of the household when I needed to train long, took the dog out in the rain, gave me dry shirts on my 6 hour indoor trainer rides, carting my bike, running and swimming gear around on every vacation, you made so many sacrifices, so that I could complete a dream.   I bow down to you and your immense patience with me during this journey.  Thank You my love! 

Athlete's dinner with my true Love, Robin.

The journey to IMAZ 2013 has come to an end.  But as one chapter ends, another begins.  What next?  Stay tuned and remember, no matter the situation, and no matter what people tell you, it’s still up to you and only you to determine the outcome and your future.  You can accomplish anything you want.  You just have to believe in yourself, have patience and don’t let go of your dream.  It also takes a lot of support from those around you who really care and truly love you.
Morgan Freeman, in the Shawshank Redemption said it best, “Get busy livin, or get busy dyin.”  I chose to get busy livin(g) and I haven’t looked back since.  Until the next adventure, I wish everyone the best in fulfilling your dreams and aspirations.

John “Ironman” Tate

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