First: recovery.

I've taken my sweet sweet time to truly recover: the day I returned from Arizona, I got the keys to my friend's apartment where I spent all of Thanksgiving week hanging out with her dog and watching screeners. No, I am not a voting member of the Screen Actor's Guild yet, so don't tell nobody, but it was awfully nice to  save a few hundred dollars on movie tickets, especially after buying all my Ironman merch. A few hundred you ask? Yes. It was SERIOUS binge watching. I saw Celeste and Jesse Forever, Savages, The Paperboy, Flight, Quartet, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Sessions, The Master, and The Silver Linings Playbook. And in theatres, I saw Lincoln and Breaking Dawn Pt. 2 (yes, yes I did. And no one asked you to judge me about that.) Having a pile of movies to watch proves the best way to force yourself to not exercise for a solid eight days. (Ok, so I took a very slow 19.5 mile bike ride on Thanksgiving morning. But I was heavy into napping and reclined movie viewing for most of the other time. Now that it's been a solid lazy week, I'm starting to add back in some activity. Today I will do some yoga, which I'm very excited about. I rode my bike to a matinee this morning (ate popcorn and peanut M&M's... deeply unPaleo) and we'll be back to riding this weekend. Running starts next week, as that's the most percussive. And if there's one thing I now really know, it's that I MUST GET INTO THE POOL. (Ugh, chlorine and LA Fitness.)

My body feels surprisingly good. The most painful part was, no joke, the seven-hour car ride back to Los Angeles. Mike, Rhonda and I could hardly get out of the car at the gas station we were so sore. It was comical. We looked like old men groaning and creaking. But after a day or so, I felt like any other day, with just a bit more fatigue. Sleep's been essential, and I'm glad I haven't rushed back into action. I think it'll pay off in the long run. Or so Joe Friel tells me. And with Cabo in four months, I gotta be smart. Nice that being lazy is the smart thing to do.

But now, it's time for my...

Ironman Arizona 2012 Race Report!

(Please don't sue me.)

(Please don't sue me.)

Weirdly enough, the moment I was done with the race, it almost seemed like I hadn't done it at all. Strange that you can spend hours and hours doing something and it just sort of evaporates from your mind. But I did do it... my finisher medal tells me do. And so does this:

I like this finisher certificate exclusively because it looks like I was so fast on the bike that I could not be captured on film. Also, that's a pretty sweet cactus.

I like this finisher certificate exclusively because it looks like I was so fast on the bike that I could not be captured on film. Also, that's a pretty sweet cactus.

As you can see, I was almost perfectly between my guesses. A little more towards 12, but still in the 11s, and a little longer than my ideal times, but those are ideal for a reason... they are more like a dream or a prayer. The more I think about it, the happier I become with these results. That's the issue with having a delusional goal... you start to think your very good time wasn't good enough. But hey, now I have something to reach for at Los Cabos IM, right? Right.

It was indeed a good race for me, and a perfect race to do in the name of choosing my pace. By following my plan, I guaranteed a strong finish. I stuck with it, and the day was mine, even in spite of a little bit of adversity... you never know what's gonna happen on race day, and you have to just embrace it. I've been reading Fit Soul, Fit Body, which focuses on calming the mind using shamanistic techniques like invoking the image of the deer, so I tried to zen it up and think of my shaman mama sending me light with all her lady friends back home (they did so around the end of my ride.) I HIGHLY recommend this "hippie crap" to anyone who'll try it... anything that can get you out of your tortured body and transcend your suffering is a glorious boon. And as I shall tell you, it really changed my experience of the race to something incredibly positive. I'd been really worried about going to a negative place during the race, given the way I'd been mired in breakup heartache during my training. (They say you race like you train... well in that case, I should have been randomly bursting into tears.) Luckily, with the help of positive thinking and some race day focus, I was able to fully shove away these harmful negative thoughts and get to a really good place, which led to a really good race.

To start at the very beginning... it's a very good place to start... the swim was RUFF. We all know the water rugby feel of a mass start what with the kicking and the punching, so I knew it was going to be unpleasant. I did hope, however, that I'd get into a rhythm and find a hip I could draft off of. Problem was, people kept swimming into me sideways or muscling me out, which just seemed ineffective and bad for all of us, so it was just a constant struggle to get the hell away from these douches, which wasn't making for a very efficient swim. I got a solid kick in the head and a punch to the cheekbone-- annoying 'cause I saw that guy veering towards me and thought, "hum, that dude is kinda crooked" and then next stroke BAM in my face, whadda dick! In these crazy times, as the sun started to blaze in our eyes, turning underwater a bright yellow, I kept saying to myself, "the image of the deer, the image of the deer" and thinking of the deer I'd seen during a long run at Griffith park. It helped me feel less like getting vengeance or hyperventilating, so that was cool.

Thanks, deer. You brought me peace.
Thanks, deer. You brought me peace.

At the turnaround, things cleared up, but unfortunately too much-- I was too ahead of some people to draft but too behind also, so I just swam alone for essentially the rest of it, which I know makes for a slower time, and sure enough, my swim was a solid seven minutes slower than hoped, which made me grumpy. I became even grumpier when the wetsuit stripper couldn't figure out how to navigate around my Garmin and wound up ripping fresh off the housing so I couldn't mount it on my bike or watch strap, but had to carry it in my mouth for the start of the ride-- I have to find that picture-- before figuring out what to do with it. (Eventually I balanced it in my open fuel belt pouch so I could still see my heart rate. It was precarious, but blessedly never fell out. Good luck for me!)

Transition wasn't too long, even with the GPS fuck up, and the long ride out I had to make sure to keep my HR low, and felt bummed to see I was at 13mph at points. I trusted the plan though, and knew I'd be getting a headwind on the downhill. (It is so very hard to curb your bike arousal when you first get out there!) But like my compression suit dictated: my body, my pace, my choice. And I chose to be conservative on loop one. And this proved wise.

Sure enough, I was able to hammer up to around 30mph back without getting my heart rate too elevated, so I made up time... even with my first bike pee. Breaking the seal, awww yeah. It sort of became tradition to pee every loop on that first hill... like a reward for making it. Also was perfect for proving I was hydrating correctly... not too many pees, but not too few. It came out to four over the course of six hours, which I think is spot on. I actually went once more with like, half a mile to go, since I didn't want to waste time in transition, but wetting yourself off the bike seems kinda wrong. Wow, don't you love triathlon? It's so feminine and discreet!

Anyway, after getting over the Garmin stuff and getting through my holding back of the first loop, the bike went according to plan. Except of course when my bar end shifter came loose on the way back of the first loop and went all the way down so I'd have to big ring it no matter what unless holding it up manually. I opted to crush it a bit more than I would to get back to the turnaround, as a buddy of mine told me there was a bike shop tent ready to help with issues, and sure enough they were able to tighten me back up in under a minute so I hardly lost any time. (Bravo, y'all.) Loop two the headwind switched directions so the uphill was now closer to 19mph, but that meant less of a sweet descent, and that was a bummer. I got my special needs Mexicoke super quick from my Fortius friends and chomped down half a Stinger waffle (the other half fell victim to gravity, alas) and before I knew it, I was on Loop 3, trying to force feed myself the fig Bonk Breaker I KNEW I had to eat, but found profoundly disgusting. (So disgusting.)

The last 30 miles or so I had to switch to gels, because I did not have the patience or tolerance for solids anymore, but I think I timed out my nutrition perfectly, because I felt pretty damn fresh for a 112 mile bike, and quite thrilled that I made it in solidly under 6... not quite 5:45, but not that far from it, either. Nice job, Muller.

My transition was killer for an Ironman, since I did myself the service of not using the restroom... under three minutes. (That's like a regular T time!) I was off and running right fast, with a big crowd of people whooping us all on. Nice to be back from the lonely dessert where the Ironfans were, and my familiar faces: Adrian, my running sherpa from the LA Marathon, was at the first aid station, and ran with me through it every time I came by. He's sort of my hero. So that immediately made me feel good at the start of the very long run to the finish.

Here's the difference between proper training and finishing: I've done an Ironman. Yes, an unofficial Ironman, but it was 140.6, so don't give me lip. I am stubborn as hell and physically quite durable, so I always knew I'd do it. I just didn't do it exceptionally fast. Kinda like Everest. And since I hadn't really trained as comprehensively for Vineman as I did for this-- aka I only did ONE 97 mile bike ride-- it was just bound to be more painful. This race was finished a full TWO hours faster, and WAY less painful. So when I got to the run, it was tiresome, to be sure, but I still had legs, and my miles were passing steadily no matter what. The real trick was to stay positive.

The day before the race, I'd called my Mom to let her know what a great Mom I thought she was and what a good job she and Dad had done. Because I honestly think I wouldn't be as strong as I am if I hadn't felt so fully and comprehensively loved as a child, with parents who always believed in me and urged me to aim high. I've never doubted my abilities, and have always been able to do more than I'd ever dreamed. Telling her this and feeling that gratitude put me in a really positive and warm place that contrasted greatly with the sadness of my training time. Instead of feeling neglected and trained, I felt strong, with a heart full of love and hope. Even though I didn't have my family there with me, they were in my heart. And I didn't think, "oh poor me, I was supposed to have a boyfriend sherpa me around". I had friends to help. Pix helped me with my stuff, and everyone was there with me when I needed them. This was a race for all of us, and it was my race, too, and I couldn't have done it without them.

For the run this time, I did not have a specific list of people for each mile. Instead I just had a general idea: this was my Ironman. I'd made it through the swim, I'd made it through the bike, and here I was on the run. I was doing it. This was my time. I was here, doing an Ironman. Here were all my friends-- Wimer, Michael, Will, Dave, Rhonda, we were all doing it at long last. Back home, tracking me online, everyone was with me in spirit, rooting me on. And I felt so good, and so loved, and so strong when I thought about that. Mile 1 or 2 I was thinking "oy, I am tired, this is balls", but I pushed that out of my mind and started thinking about how BLESSED I was that I could be here, right now, and how many people love me, and it made me feel so... wonderful. I cannot imagine feeling that great during a marathon after a bike that long, but I wasn't thinking about it that way. I was just in the moment, loving where I was, loving my life, loving that I was racing in the name of something I believed. And I didn't want to be an angry feminist, I wanted to show my strength, and my strength comes from an open heart and those who love me. And the point of trying to start a movement is to do so with an open heart, to show how strong we all really are. So I got to that place and I stayed there for the next four-and-twenty. I promise you, few people have smiled so much on a run. My cheeks hurt.

It was definitely trying, and required a lot of patience, but as long as I kept smiling, it all seemed ok. (I also thought of Chrissie Wellington and how SHE is always smiling... if it works for her, hey, why not??) Passing those Mile 20 signs when you're on mile 4 or so is insulting, but soon you're on loop 2, and people get to know you and your progress on the loops. Everyone dug the Team Choice message and would cheer, "I like your shirt!" (the fuel belt probably made it look like a two-piece, but who cares, they liked it!) There was one little picnic by the lake that would whoop like crazy whenever they saw me, which I loved. And of course, the best thing of all time was when one dude said, "YOUR BODY IS CHOICE!!Best repurposing of a feminist slogan to hit on someone ever done.

At the start of my last loop, the sun started to set, and it was honestly one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. My smile was still intact, but now I was really feeling the spirit of nature and the now shaman style, and I swear I could have cried. I look seriously blissed out in the pics they took at that time:

At one with the Tempe sunset.

At one with the Tempe sunset.

The sun set by the time I had about six miles left, and I was sticking with my walk through the aid stations, run the rest plan. I had my hands full with a water bottle and the Garmin (damn it), and while I'd hoped to up my pace from 9:30s, I pretty much just stayed there the whole time, which isn't too bad. With four miles left, I found I SERIOUSLY had to use the facilities (for the solid kind of action), and had to muscle my way out of my compression suit, which was one of the most difficult things you can possibly imagine. A damp compression suit does not remove easily from a sore body. I nearly got a Charley Horse in my shoulder. So we can assume had I not been averse to a horrifying Julie Moss style display of public bowel movement, I might have had a faster run. But whatever. I made up a little time when I ran with a woman on her second lap for a good pace for a couple miles... I was feeling resentful of my GI system for not cooperating and didn't want to get passed by any women, but then felt relieved to be buddies with this lady when I found we weren't in competition. It made us both faster without any of the slight paranoia the feeling of competition gives you. (I'd felt her behind me for a while and thought "ack! Who's that!" So running side by side and talking about where we were from was way nicer.)

I moved onward at the third to last aid station, as this was my finish, and before I knew it, I was back crossing the bridge for the final miles. A man in a rainbow afro who I'd seen twice before recognized me and said, "I know you're finishing, pick it up! You can do 11:45!" I thought, "well okay then," and started to up my ante. I'd felt paranoid of bonking with a mile left, as that was what had happened to Adrian last year-- a full on meltdown one mile from finishing, can you imagine? But I was good to go, and I felt my legs just start moving a little swifter, and a little swifter, and I could feel the wind on my face and that low roar of the crowd in the bleachers at the finish with the drone of the announcer, and soon I was rounding the corner with lights blazing in my face, and I saw the clock and I went into a full dash for the finish so I could go in a blaze of glory, a crazed smile on my face as I sprinted across the finish line and heard my vaguely mispronounced name declared an Ironman. Hooray!!!

Everyone says you should milk the finish for all its worth, but I like to finish strong. It makes it more like a race. Plus, if I hadn't, I wouldn't have made it under 46. And this way I beat my old time by 2 hours AND two minutes. Pretty swell!

I was vaguely hysterical in my happiness, kind of laugh-weeping with my metal blanket and water bottle as I waited for my finisher photo. And after getting some recovery pants with ice on (amazing expo purchase: the ice packs FIT into the compression gear. Faboo!) I walked back along the path to walk in Mike to the finish. It was a magical time. I'm kind of sad I won't do this race next year. Oh but I'll surely be there to cheer everyone on!

So, uh... what next?

Firstly, I have a massive amount of video I need to sift through to make a masterful IMAZ youtube creation. Since that is how I rooooooooll. I also need to see what's next for the CAUSE. But this was a pretty badass race to act as a flagship one for the movement. You go, gurl. Gotta work on a kickstarter. At some point. Then I need to get back in the saddle. The bike saddle, that is! I am also trying to make strides in my professional life by performing more and recording a comedy album (planning on a live show that I could record.) And also looking into getting some sponsors to alleviate some of the fiscal burden that is triathlon. Because I'm worth it. Don't ya think?

AuthorNikki Muller