Ironman Arizona 2021 Race Report
November 21, 2021
I decided to leave Thursday which is the first day of the events. I wanted to get settled early and be able to experience all of the 140.6 stuff they offer, especially with it being my first. I drove myself out to Tempe and went straight to athlete village. First stop the store. I had heard rumors that they had been selling the Finisher jackets early this year which they NEVER do… but I didn’t want to miss a chance to get one for my first if they did- and decided I would sell if if I didn’t finish. Well, got there and they had gone back to old protocol. So finisher jacket would wait for the real finishers. I picked up a few souvenirs for myself and ran into my friend Jim from Indiana. Got all checked in, did my 2 mile shake out run and had dinner that evening with Jim , his daughter and wife. I also had a long phone call with my friend Kevin that night before going to bed.
Friday I met Kevin and Jim at the athlete village and we did a bike ride of the run course to check it out. After that I got to meet my friends Andrea and Kaying for lunch which was so fun- I hadn’t seen them in person before and we had a great time chatting. I was so grateful I made the time to do that. In the the evening for the opening ceremony. Really cool thing… saw Mike Riley speak and learned he was announcing our race and it was his 200th!! How special that would be to hear him if I made it across the finish line. I met with with some friends from Tri Club San Diego that evening as well.
Saturday morning as I was heading out for the practice swim I met a a woman named Bonnie from Oklahoma, who was a veteran Ironman and she was so funny. I offered her a ride to the swim instead of Uber. The practice swim was fine and the water was mid 60s, felt like San Diego to me but without salt and a lot murkier. After the swim I went and got my gear bags all ready to go and checked in my bike and bags. Went back to the hotel to relax, ordered rice, miso soup and chicken for dinner. Jerry, the girls, my parents and all of the dogs arrived later and so a quick hello to all of them before I turned to bed early.
My alarm went off at 4am. I forced down a bagel and peanut butter, a cup of coffee and mixed a scoop of UCAN with THE RIGHT STUFF in a bottle to take with me. I had pre-prepped 2 concentrated bottles of UCAN (6 scoops in each bottle, 1 packet of THE RIGHT STUFF in each() for my bike ride. My aero bottle up front was for plain water to refill on course. Jerry dropped me and Bonnie off race morning at transition at 5am when they opened. I pumped my tires,
filled my aero bottle, made sure I had everything, turned in my morning clothes bag and headed toward swim start. One thing of my pre-race routine… I could NOT go poop! I tried and waited but it was not even thinking about it. Race day nerves went the other way I guess.
It was a beautiful morning and still twilight when the gun went off so swimming into the sun wasn’t as bad as it was at the 70.3. The swim was decent for me….I did get hit, smacked and grabbed quite a few times along the way. It was SO murky that you couldn’t see the persons feet in front of you at ALL so I don’t even blame the swimmers. I hit a few legs as well. It seemed to go on forever once we made the turn but I was calm the whole swim and when I got out I had no clue what my time was at all. Looked later… 1:25 (1:59/100y pace). That is pretty on par with what I have be swimming later especially in fresh water. I would like to improve in this discipline and will continue working on my technique. I was happy to get out of the water and get on the bike. I got to transition, grabbed my gear bad (this was my first full so a new experience for me). I put on my bike top and shoes, helmet…sunglasses…and the sunglasses were not cooperating with my helmet. So after messing with them for 2 minutes I gave up and rode without them.
So I had studied this course. 3 loops. A “false flat” for about 10 of the 18 miles going out, then you turn and fly back and repeat. I knew there was likely going to be some wind going out. What I wasn’t expecting was the horrible headwind we experienced the ENTIRE second half of each loop, not just the Beeline. It was brutal and I had to come out of aero at times to not get blown off. The splits were so funny because of this. Like averaging 15mph on the way up, 27mph on the way down. End of Lap one I saw my family ! They were jumping up and down and wearing the shirts Papa made. That gave me a little pep in my step I was SO happy to see them! Right before the Beeline turn on lap 2 I passed my friend Julie. She called out my
name. I said hi and we said something about the wind. The roads were bumpy, the wind was blowing and there were a lot of riders trying to find space and not draft … next thing I knew I felt something hit my back tire and then I was on the ground. It happened very quickly. My ears were ringing when I sat up for about 5 seconds then stopped. I realized I was not broken or dead. I looked forward and saw my friend Julie lying 50 or so feet ahead of me on the ground unconscious. She wasn’t moving and it scared the shit out of me. I went over to her and called her name but no response. I looked around and within a few minutes a firefighter and medic arrived. They started prioritizing her of course. I gave them her name and told them her family was here with her. I saw her eyes open, and tried to talk to her, but she was definitely in a state of shock at that moment. They checked me out briefly and helped me get my stuff that had flown out and cleared me to continue. I don’t know what God was looking out for me, but I decided then that I was going to finish the race come hell or high water - for not just me, but for Julie too. It was hard to leave her but they assured me to go.
When I got back on my bike, I was very shaken up. My heart rate was higher than when I had been biking. I saw blood streaming down my leg. My shoulder had a nasty spot of road rash. Time to persevere I thought. Forget time goals. Lets do this. You have been waiting for this day.
The rest of the ride was brutal. The winds picked up and I couldn’t figure out why I was slowing down… I found out AFTER the race that my brake was apparently half stuck so it was dragging my wheel for the second half of the course. AS IF I needed it to be any harder.
When I came into lap 2 turn to go out for my final lap, I made a stupid embarrassing mistake and turned too close to the cone, didn’t unclip in time and did the slow topple in front of every spectator. OMG. SO embarrassing. But I was fine from that one just a bruised ego. My family when they saw me and my shoulder didn’t know that was from the earlier crash because there was no way to tell them.
At the end of the bike ride— a SLOW ride for me… I was sobbing when I came in. The volunteer took my bike and asked me to go get cleaned up and bandages. SO I did that. Then I went and hugged Bella, Jerry and Papa. I told them what happened and told Jerry to please let someone know about Julie from TCS. The volunteer that took my bike thought I was quitting. I said no, I have a marathon to run. He was a bit shocked but said OKAY! Go run!
I hadn’t originally planned on changing my clothes completely but after the crash, waiting, getting cleaned up … I decided I wanted nothing to do with my bike clothes anymore. So. Grabbed my run gear bag and headed to the change tent.Saw Kevin changing in the grass. Said hi. I changed completely in the tent and say hi to the other ladies in there. They were all very nice. I felt better out of my bike clothes. Time to run a marathon. I remembered what my friend David had told me, “don’t think about what you have left” SO in my head I said one aide station at a time. The sun was still up on my first lap but was starting to set and was a beautiful sunset. My legs felt good believe it or not. I was keeping about a 10 minute pace and that was with walking through aide stations to grab a sip of something. I was okay with that at this point. I talked to a guy for a few miles on the run course who was very kind and he told me he saw my bike crash. He saw the guy get really close to me, and saw me go down. Saw a bunch of other bikes swerve to miss and saw Julie laying there when he passed by. I thought of her most of the run. When I felt like stopping I thought how she would love to be here right now finishing this race. I am still not 100% certain if that guy I ran with was right ,or if I simply hit something on the course and lost control of my bike, but either way, I went down.
As I approached lap 2 the sun was going. The lights of Tempe were pretty. I still felt good going to the halfway point. Pace as about the same with the strides through the aide stations. On the 3rd lap it got really dark, and really quiet. There was not much talking going on among the runners. A LOT of walking. I kept jogging past people but as I got to mile 19 my legs started aching in my quads. I was still sipping water at the aide stations but did’t really want much at this point. ON this last lap I did walk up one of the short hills. My pace slowed. It’s okay I told myself.
As I turned off the bridge onto the final stretch and saw Mile 24… I was like I AM DOING THIS! A few people I passed congratulated me. I was so happy to make that turn to the “finisher” line instead of lap 2/3 at mile 25.5… I could hear the crowd as I turned onto Rio Soleda. I could see the lights. I picked up my pace. But when I go to the chute — I slowed to take it all in. Smiling, I said out loud “I DID IT! OMG I DID IT” Then I heard those magic words from Mike Riley… “MANDY LEONARDS FROM SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!” Instant tears welled up. I stopped. A volunteer handed my stuff and I said “that was a helluva day.” They took one look at me and waned me to go to medical but I wanted to so go say hi to my family who was jumping up and down so I did that ! Cried in their arms. Then to med tent I went. Overall time was 14:29, certainly not what I am capable of fitness wise but doesn’t even matter. I am so so grateful I could finish this race after what happened.
I can’t believe I finished. I had a real bike crash and finished. No broken bones but a ton of road rash and scrapes and bruises. Maybe a mild concussion although the both the medic and the doctor in med tent cleared me. I am REALLY sore but not a ton of muscle soreness.
It’s the ouchies from the wounds. I have talked to Julie and she is doing better but will need some time to heal, but thankfully no broken bones either. I do feel incredibly badly that she was taken down too and I would have loved to have the crash not happen. It's taking me time to process everything. I am very grateful I was able to get up and finish and it wasn’t worse. I had to dig really deep to finish this race and I Did it. I am not sure what is next…ask me in a few days. :) Thank you to everyone who sent me messages yesterday and today. It meant so much!