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IRONMAN Arizona 2022 Race Report
Playing it cool in Tempe.
By Matt Hanson, EdD
What’s one more?
2022 has been a long year to say the least.
I have raced more times this year than any other in my career, and I still have one more planned before the year ends. But my body is holding on well and I’m still enjoying the process. So after Kona, I decided to add to my 2022 calendar, putting my name on the IRONMAN Arizona start list as my penultimate race for the year.
This course places quite a different demand on the body than the previous races I’ve done in the build. It has a very flat bike course, so you have to be ready to stay pinned in the aero bars. It is typically cool and dry with a cold swim, which necessarily affected everything from my taper to my nutrition strategy and even my pre-race cup of coffee.
The nutrition challenges for IMAZ are also different. Since it is quite cool in the morning and you are getting out of cold water, it is easy to neglect the nutrition early on in the race, which can definitely creep up on you at the end of the day.
The temperature also affects fueling in a less obvious way: hydration mix concentration. Due to the cooler conditions, I was able to reduce my liquid intake on the bike to 1.5 bottles of fluid per hour – down from three per hour in Kona! This was much easier on the belly in terms of volume, but made osmolity more of an issue, because the calorie and electrolyte targets were the same as the other full-distance races I’ve done this year, despite the lower water volume. To compensate, I went with double the number of Liquid Shots as I typically would and got the remainder of my calories from an even mix of EFS and EFS-PRO.
The cooler conditions also mean I was able to taper a little more without fear of the heat affecting my heart rate significantly, which can be a problem while not carrying a moderate level of fatigue in the system. So race week was a bit more relaxed. I was also able to travel 3 days before the race, which minimized the pre-race training stress on unfamiliar roads.
I started my morning with a full cup of coffee, which was a nice way to start the day; for a warmer IRONMAN, I’d either have just a half cup – or simply skip it altogether. I had my coffee and breakfast three hours before the race, then just sipped on EFS-PRO leading up to about 10 minutes before the start. I had my first Kona Mocha Liquid Shot right before getting in the water for the 10-minute warm up to top off pre-race carbs and caffeine.
The past few races, I’d had quite a poor swim start. Thankfully, I was able to get into a great spot right away. At the turn just past the halfway point, I noticed that the group was quite large and the main guys I wanted to have a bit of a gap on getting out of the water were still in the group. So I moved up a couple spots to try to push the pace and break up the race a bit. This was somewhat successful; the group cut in half, and we were able to gain about a minute on the group that fell off.
The start of the bike was cool as expected, but it was much windier than the forecast predicted – we had a block head wind on the 19-mile out section for each of the three loops. This made the aid station situation a little tricky. Due to a 15mph+ tailwind on the “back” section, I was traveling too fast to grab a bottle without braking, and didn’t want to lose the time. So I planned ahead and made sure I had my fluids topped off on the last aid station before the turn around.
The bike leg went as planned for the most part. I let a few guys go early on and hoped that the race would come back to me. I held consistent power throughout and ended with my highest power ever for a full. I still had lost a fair amount of time to the four guys in front of me. But I knew I did my job nutrition wise on the bike so had set myself up for a strong run.
I set out right on my anticipated target and just focused on keeping relaxed and getting everything I needed nutrition wise. I was making steady progress to the front, finally closing the gap to the podium in the last 10k of the race and passing third and then second within a span of about 100m. From there, the gap to the front was too far out of reach, so I tried to keep steady, ultimately protecting my second place – and an invitation to the IRONMAN World Championships.
On to 2023… soon.
Overall, I was happy with the performance. I had a good swim, a decent bike, and my second fastest run to date – just under 10 minutes faster than my run split in Kona.
There are definitely a handful of things I need to improve on during the off season, but the result is solid and it justifies my decision to extend the season. It is a great feeling to have my World Championship qualification sorted and be in full control of my schedule for next year.
I’ve got Clash Daytona still on tap for 2022, then I will enjoy a nice off season break before getting back to work to make 2023 bigger and better!