My Ironman Arizona 2013 Race Report


Team SheriAnne is awesome!

Team SheriAnne is awesome!

Do you have the confidence to set and go for your GOALS?  Why do you set GOALS?

By no means am I veteran, but the level of calmness I felt the morning of Ironman Arizona 2013 was comforting.  Growing up in southern California, I spent many days at the beach and in the ocean.  To say, I love the ocean, is an understatement.  At an early age I learned to respect it’s power and beauty.  With that respect came calmness and acceptance of what will be.  I now feel the same way about Ironman racing.  Long course racing should be respected for what it can do to your body and all the elements and external factors that can go wrong.  As long as you put in the time and do the training you are at least setting yourself up for partial success.  The other part that gets you across the finish line is your mind.  By respecting the magnitude of Ironman racing and having the confidence in my training, I looked at Ironman Arizona 2013 a little differently.  The morning of the race I had a healthy dose of butterflies in my tummy and the confidence to accept what the day was going to bring.

Even with the confidence to accept what will be, I still set 3 goals, a stretch goal, a challenging yet doable goal, and a bailout goal.  On the heels of my adventure at Ironman World Championships I set some lofty goals for myself for Ironman Arizona and even shared them with a few.  I am a firm believer in sharing my goals, in doing so I am more inclined to go for them and not bail on them as easily.  Before I share my stretch goals with you and how my day landed I want to tell you my number one goal for every race is to have fun.  I paid money to do this, spent many hours training and made many sacrifices.  I want to have fun.  So, goal numero uno is HAVE FUN!

IMAZ 13 race start CollageLet me start by saying I did not hit my stretch goals and I knew early on in the race that was not going to happen.  I had to quickly adjust mentally to set my sights on my, challenging yet doable, goals.  Every race is different, even the same race venues are different because of the external factors on each day are different.  Last year at Ironman Arizona the weather was spectacular and yielded to some fast times.  I finished in 10:16 last year at my first Ironman and set my stretch goal to go sub 10 hours this year.  In order to hit that I knew I would have to have an epic day where everything lined up just perfect.  My second stretch goal of the day was to have a 3:15-3:19 marathon.  It would all come down to how well I doled out my energy on the bike and if my mind and body was ready to run that pace.

Race morning I felt excited and ready to race.  The weather was lining up to be quite spectacular and it felt like it could be a great day.  Prior to entering the water I got to see  my daughter and sisters.  My family plays a huge role in my ability and desire to race and seeing them before I start is a wonderful feeling.  Shortly after I entered the water with close to 2800 other racers, the canon sounded and the sheer chaos began. I have only experienced mass starts for Ironman and have experienced wave starts with all other races.  I prefer the mass start because of the energy and you truly know where you stand amongst all racers once you are out on the course.

Want to go swimming?

Want to go swimming?

This start was by far the most aggressive and physical that I have ever experienced.  I was constantly being touched, pushed, pulled, kicked, punched, you name it.  Finding open water was not a possibility for most of the swim.  I literally felt like I was swimming in a washing machine, I could not find a rhythm.  Before I even hit the turn around on the swim I knew my swim time was going to be off, just how much was the question.  On the way back in it remained physical and the constant need to sight was tiring my upper back.  I could feel myself mentally slipping, knowing that every second I struggled was a second I was giving up to reach my stretch goal.  Fortunately, I found some open water, collected myself and focused on not letting this rough swim set the tone for the day.  I started thinking about my bike and how excited I was going to be to spend the next five plus hours with her.

As I exited transition to head out on my bike I looked at the race clock.  I was crestfallen.  My swim time was about five minutes off where I wanted and needed it to be to hit my overall stretch goal.  Five minutes may not sound like a lot but remember in order for me to hit a sub 10 hour goal I needed everything to line up perfectly.  Thankfully my family was right there as I was leaving for the bike leg.  Seeing them quickly diverted my attention to what is really important in my life; which is to be the best mom that I can be, to be an inspiration to them and to show them to always do your best.  So what, that I was not going to hit sub 10 hours, do they care, no.  Does anybody care, no.  This mental shift helped me to simply enjoy the bike and accept what will be.  The day was set in motion and I had the confidence to know that I was going to finish no matter what and those that cared about me would be proud regardless.  Plus, I still had another stretch goal that was still within reach.  I just had to bike smart and hope that I was ready to run.

IMAZ run Collage

My bike was very enjoyable and I felt I doled out my effort as wisely as I could.  The last 12 miles I was ready to be off my bike and start running.  My spirits were high, I was joking with the volunteers and was looking forward to testing the limits of what I could handle.  When you have a long history with running, as I do, you can tell pretty quickly what your legs are going to be able to do at the beginning of a run.  After riding it takes about a mile for my legs to settle into their rhythm of running and feel normal.  I knew by my second mile that I did not have the legs nor the mental strength to go sub 3:20.  This epiphany was about the same time my sister let me know that I was 9th in my age group.  Once again, some mental adjustments were necessary.  By mile four I felt confident that I could hang on and manage a 3:30 marathon; that I was happy with.  Little did I know that it was going to be mentally draining for 3 hours to hang onto that pace.  My legs wanted to go slower but my mind would not let them.  I constantly had to keep my foot on the mental gas to keep my legs turning over.  Now that I had let go of my stretch goals, I wanted to finish as close as I could to last year’s time.  But more importantly, knowing that I was close to top 5 in my age group, that became more of a motivating factor.  Getting on the podium at my 3rd Ironman would be awesome plus another shot at Kona would be even more epic.  The level of support I received on the run course from my coaches at Camelback Coaching, my fellow Wattie Ink Elite Teammates and my family was incredibly energizing.  I found myself focusing on running from one group to the next.  Before I knew it, I had 10K to go the finish.

IMAZ 13 finishpodium Collage

Powering home in the last few miles, all I could think about was how I gave it everything I had.  I did not hit my big goals for the day but I finished and did my best.  I ended up with a finishing time of 10:21 which put me 3rd in my Age Group and 10th overall amateur female.  There were only 2 slots allocated to my age group for Ironman World Championships, so I missed that one as well.  However, it is a good thing because I already have two full Ironmans on my schedule for next year.

Recognize that in long course racing it is good to have time goals but you must accept the external factors that may impact your goals and respect the impact that long course racing can have on your body.  I learned that doing two Ironmans five weeks apart definitely impacted my body.  If you let it, long course racing will teach you a lot about yourself and what you can handle.  You will quickly recognize the limitations that you put on yourself.  I love this sport, all that it represents and what it teaches me about myself.  The biggest thing I learned this last year of racing is that goals are great, they keep you moving forward and striving to be better than you were yesterday.  But it is important to not lose sight of what is important.  Why did you set those goals?  What is your objective?  Everyone’s reasons for racing are a little different but the cool thing is in the end we all are champions and winners.  We all inspire someone.  So keep setting those goals and achieving them.

Thanks for reading and happy training!


About sherianne

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is SheriAnne Nelson and I am happily married to my husband Mike. I’m a mother of three beautiful children ages 9, almost 6, and 3, am a passionate fitness professional, and a Star Diamond Level fitness coach within the Team Beachbody program in Scottsdale, Arizona.

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