Joe Bulow’s Ironman Arizona Report

by | Nov 9, 2011 | News Articles

Joe Bulow, pictured at left in the 2006 edition of Matt and Ben’s Trail Run, has very kindly let us post to the SCR website his personal recap sent to friends and family. Thanks, Joe.
REMEMBER: Read slowly. 🙂 Joe was out on the IM playing fields a long time.

Very organized at registration, meeting to discuss the race course. Calmed me some but also made me nervous. Two nights before the race, I had trouble eating due to increased anxiety. Forced the food down and felt better. No pre race jitters the day before or the morning of the race though.

VERY HOT the day before the race with predictions of temps reaching 90 for the race scared me. Luckily, the weather couldn’t have been better. Just as it started to get hot on the bike, winds came in and some cloud cover to cool things off. Interesting how we experience headwinds going out and coming back on the third loop.

I never looked at this as me doing X amount of miles in the swim, bike, or run. All I focused on were the LOOPS.

Swim to the turnaround and swim back. Do three loops on the bike and run. After the first loop, do two more and so on. Not until the #24 mile marker on the run did I think about the end of the race.

SWIM (1:47:17):
Cool water but actually refreshing. Zero visibility but not a problem. Never got kicked in the face (I swim too slow, I never got close enough to get kicked) but definitely got bumped into alot. I just tried to stay away from danger and stayed close to the buoys. Felt good at turnaround but the second half seemed longer. Plus at the turnaround, I felt a mild cramp in my calf and then my quad in my right leg. Not a good omen. Then, my right deltoid felt like a got stung by a bee. But it was just extreme fatigue from swimming. Once I saw the steps, it took FOREVER to reach them.

T1 (12:21):
Ran a bit too fast to the changing tent, out of breath. Felt off balance once I stopped to change. Felt okay when I left the tent. Definitely took my time in both Transitions as you could tell by looking at my splits. What was it, like 15 mins each?

BIKE (6:23:39):
Three flat loops with a gradual climb 3 miles before the turnaround. Felt great after the first loop; Avg 19.0 mph. Got seriously charged up heading back into town with the great crowd support. GREAT to have alot of family members there! Saw them alot the whole day.

Second loop slowed to an 18.5 avg but still felt okay. The worst part was that I experienced intestinal cramps off and on throughout the bike; so much that I couldn’t tolerate much solid food, which was a huge concern. I wasn’t hungry and the Gatorade they gave out was way too sweet and made the cramps worse. I had four bottles of high liquid calories with me but they went fast and I had to rely on what they gave out in the race. SO, I stuck with water and GU. I can’t tell you how much damm GU I consumed on Sunday.

Third loop definitely felt slow. I don’t think any age groupers passed me on the first two loops, only the pros. But AGs of both genders started to pass me on the third loop and at that point, I started to realize that my “finishing time” mattered less and less and that I just needed to find a way to finish!

Finished the bike with a 17.5 mph avg. At the time, I wasn’t ecstatic but now I’m definitely satisfied with the outcome.

T2 (14:53):
Started to run towards tent but figured I’ll be doing alot of that soon so I walked into the tent. I goofed up and put on my running shoes before taking off my bike shorts to change into my run shorts and quickly realized how difficult that would be. Emerged from the tent feeling okay but not great.

RUN (6:59:27):
I shuffled for the first 0.5 miles and then experienced a serious cramp in my right calf and had to stop and walk. Interestingly, that is pretty much how I continued for the rest of the marathon. Run 0.5 mile, walk 0.5 mile. Any more and my legs cramped up. I was averaging 15 min miles after the first four miles but then stopped thinking about it. I got a bit nervous thinking I wasn’t going to finish. I wanted to run more and walk less but was scared that my legs would totally shut down and I’d end up in the medical tent. It was all about survival for the entire run, pretty much. There were moments that I ran more and felt better but they were short lived and usually ended with a serious pain in my calf or thigh. I was able to eat a bit more on the run but nowhere near like my usual appetite. I could only take tiny nibble bites of the 99 cent Value Pak cookies being offered. Oranges and grapes were okay. Bananas gave me gas. One time, I stuck a half piece banana in my mouth and my tongue pushed it all the way out without me thinking about it. Not good.

Just like on the bike, I approached the run as three loops and not 26.2 miles. Finished one loop? You got two more. I actually felt better during the second loop than the first.

My thoughts and main goal throughout the run was KEEP MOVING FORWARD. I only stopped three times during the run. Once to stretch my back at the #1 mile marker, once to use the porta-potty after the first loop, and then at an aid station between miles 19 and 20. Which brings us to a funny story.

The aid stations offered Water, Gatorade, Cola, Fruit,Cookies, GU in that order and then finished with Gatorade and Water again. Over and over. The same thing. I was on my third loop and it was very dark outside but most of the run was lighted fairly well. The aid station between miles 19/20 was a bit dark with just a shade of light from a nearby light pole shining on the tables. And alot of the volunteers had left this aid station where most of the others were full and rocking all night.

I passed by the tables looking to see what I was in the mood for, if anything. Sometimes I craved Gatorade on the run even though I couldn’t take it on the bike. Sometimes cola. Always enjoyed the water soaked sponges. But this time, I saw something and stopped in my tracks and actually walked BACKWARDS two steps and asked (or actually yelled), “Are those donuts?” “Naw, that’s just GU!” he said. You can imagine my disappointment.

Then after the race was over, I almost missed the food area and stopped in to see what they had to offer. Pizza (I had two slices of the cheese), hamburgers (ate it at 2:30am when I couldn’t sleep) and a few other things. WHen I asked what they had for me to drink, they said, “Gatorade, Cola, and Water!” NO THANKS!!!!!

The last three miles of the run were very, very long but at that point, I knew that I could even walk the whole way and still finish. Yes, I could have run some and chance that I wouldn’t cramp up and get a slightly better overall time, but I didn’t care about that. I wanted to be able to run through the finishing chute and cross the finish line on both feet. So, I walked the last three miles and ran the last 0.2 miles. It felt awesome to see my family just before the bleachers at the finish line and the crowd cheered like I had just returned home from winning the World Series, slapping high fives from people leaning over the guard rail. A great moment in time.

No IVs afterwards. No need to hit the massage table. At least 60% of the run was on concrete/sidewalk so my feet took a beating and now 48hours after the race, the main area that still hurts are my feet. Blisters on the bottom of both feet but nothing open and some sore calves and thighs.

What a weekend! I’ll never say I’ll never do it again but definitely not anytime in the next 10 or 15 years. I’m thankful for all the support of friends and family who made this possible.


Webmaster note: Having been able to enjoy a few workout times with Joe prior to his IM experience I was most certain that his mental strength would get him to his IM finish goal, if it was at all possible. Joe has remarkable strength on the bike. He was entered in the Clydesdale division, carrying 40 more pounds than my 175. And I still have to work to escape him on the hills. He could easily smoke me on particular time trial courses if he could carry on with his training. There were an unusually high number of DNF’s in Arizona this year. More kudos to Joe.

There is much more to Joe’s story than the above. A brother-in-law also participated but I do not know his outcome. I do know the b-in-law was battling some significant debilitating injuries. Joe did this on a limited time and dollar budget. Great Divide (local bike shop) helped him out with a loaner set of aerobars and he rented his wetsuit for the event. 2nd child is also soon to arrive. For other age group stories you might begin HERE. Or click: PRO Race Recap to read of some incredible times. Michael O.

UPDATE from JOE: I actually ended up paying for the aerobars. Brian, my brother in law, finished before me on the swim but I passed him before the turnaround on the first loop of the bike. He then passed me with three miles to go on the run and finished around 15 hrs 12 minutes. He experienced alot of back pain on the bike and contemplated stopping.