Jessie Donavan's IM Arizona Race Report

Ironman Arizona – Total Time 9:24, Swim 1:09, Bike 4:54, Run 3:15

In the beginning of the 2011 season I came up with a lofty goal of getting my pro card in triathlon so that I could compete in my first Ironman in the fall. Any of you familiar with Ironman knows that the races typically sell out a year in advance and since I hadn’t already registered in 2010 becoming a professional was my only shot at getting into a race. I was of course a bit intimidated at the thought of jumping into my first Ironman and the professional ranks all at once but I am never one to shy away from a challenge so I decided to go for it. The beginning of the season went well and I was able to meet the necessary criteria in my first three 1/2 Ironmans of the season to make the jump. My training for Ironman Arizona started fast and furious at the end of the summer. I started working with a new coach, Jesse Kropelniki of QT2 Systems, and immediately increased both my training volume and my overall commitment to the sport. It was definitely an adjustment, I have a full time job and three young children so my life is far from your typical professional triathlete. There were certainly days when I thought what am I doing, my life epitomizes that of an “Age Grouper”, how can I do this? A typical day for me includes packing lunches, biking the kids to school, working and bedtime stories but it also began to include 100+ mile rides, gallons of sports drink, dozens of Gels, bars, running and more running and hours in the pool. After a month of working with Jesse I began to feel ready to take on the Ironman distance and believe that I could compete with the Pros.
I went into Arizona with a solid plan, I was going to finish feeling strong, stick to my pacing and nutrition plan no matter what and race my own race. The days leading up to the big day were a bit nerve racking at times, here I was racing as a professional but I just wanted to shout out to the person next to me, “Can you believe we’re going to do an Ironman tomorrow! This is so exciting!!” Not really something you shout out at the Pro meeting so I kept my cool and blended into the crowd. Before I knew it race day was here and I was treading water in Tempe Town Lake waiting for the gun to go off. I lined up in the back as planned and just put my head down and swam. Swimming is definitely my weak link and I came out of the water 20mins back from the top women, lots of time to make up! I jumped onto my new Cervelo P3, thank you Fitwerx!, and headed out on the bike course. I felt great throughout the whole 112 miles and slowly picked up my HR and pace throughout as planned, I couldn’t believe how quickly it flew by and I definitely finished feeling like I had so much more to give out there. I started the run feeling strong, telling myself to just run an easy 13 miles and then the race could start so I settled into my pace and ran. It was at this point that I started to feel a bit nervous, I had all of the horror stories of Ironman swirling through my head and I was watching many of the professional men around me crumble, they were one lap ahead of me on the run, but I tried to remain focused and just keep putting one foot in front of the other. I had been warned of the dark zone from mile 18-22 on the marathon so when I got to mile 18 feeling like my legs were on the verge of cramping up for good I stayed focused on just getting to mile 22, forget 26, just focus on 22. Sure enough I was soon at mile 22 and I wasn’t ready for the race to end. I was still feeling pretty good and I knew the longer the race went the more chances I would have to catch the women ahead of me. Pretty much the only advantage of coming out of the water last is that you get to spend the whole rest of the day passing people, I try to stay positive about these things. When I crossed the finish line in 9:24 I was ecstatic, I had definitely put together a great first ironman and I was able to show that I can be competitive with the best. I was excited about the results but more importantly I was excited that I had done it and finished feeling strong, smiling and knowing that my family was all watching online at home cheering for me as I came towards the finish. Training and competing in an Ironman is definitely a journey and I did my best to soak up every minute of running down the finish chute, smiling ear to ear and already thinking about the next one.

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