Robyn Stanley was a legend in the truest sense of the word. Fiona and I first met her when we headed to Darwin, Australia in 2013 to compete in an Olympic Triathlon. She looked out for the CoyleCrew and was a supporter of ours. Her Darwin Triathlon Club newsletters were frequent and all-encompassing. She was also there for us when Fiona and I left the Alice Springs Triathlon club and joined Darwin’s club, 1,500km away. The last time we saw Robyn was at the Cairns IRONMAN just 5 months ago. She came up to me the day before while I supported my wife in a ParkRun. According to Australia Multisport, she went 6:05 in the Cairns Half Ironman winning her age group (F60-64) back in 2012. Her last Ironman branded race was Hawaii 70.3 in 2014. She took 8th in her A/G in a time of 7:07. And, her last full IRONMAN was the IRONMAN World Championship in Kona, Hawaii back in 2012. She took 6th in her A/G of 30 in a time of 13:38; she was 60 years old. So when I woke up this morning and saw that she had passed away after battling cancer for many years, I had a heavy heart. And I would think of her in my race. Robyn, I dedicate this race for you. And by that, I mean I thought of you when it got tough and give you thanks for all you did for triathlon in the Northern Territory, Australia.
This season started in June after IRONMAN Cairns. We packed up, moved from Australia to Arizona, started a new job, and bought a new house. The buildup to IRONMAN Arizona included many races from Sprint to Half, from 5K to half marathon. I set a PB at the 70.3 distance running 1:34:22 in Arizona and a week later I ran a 1:34:07 the day after a very difficult Olympic Triathlon. 3 weeks later I ran a disappointing 3:47:30 marathon in Arizona.
The week after the race I ran once with Mom outside of Sedona. The next week I ran 5X covering 28.6miles trending faster and keeping all runs under 52 minutes. The week after that I ran 3X averaging 4.1miles a piece and the day before the race, those 4.5 miles was at a 7:22/mile pace. I have yet to swim or bike.
The day before the race we had our first ever Sonoran hot dog (hot dog wrapped in bacon) with all the fixings. We got a free hot dog as well. Chips and Guacamole. After a bunch of errands we headed to the Tucson Endurance Performance Center where I got my bike race-ready for IMAZ. When there, we met and heard from Professional Triathlete and US Olympian Ben Kanute. It was amazing to hear him speak. I had a cider, some Christmas cookies, and when we got home at 8pm I ate Ravioli’s with ricotta and spinach, covered with pesto.
To bed at 9:30pm, up at 4:15am. I felt full but had a bagel with cream cheese. During the drive to the Oro Valley, I had 2 RedBulls. We hoped in a School Bus for the point-to-point race and I conversed with the guy next to me. I had expectations of a 1:35-1:40 half. And, seeing last years results with top 3 under 1:30 I said, “Well that’s not gunna happen”.
It was very cold at the start, around 45 degrees. Bag drop, kiss wifey, I headed to the front with around 30 -40 people in front of me. That means there were 857 people behind me. At the gun I took off with the mountains behind me, the early rays of light covering the sky, and cactus abound.
So I took off and I thought about keeping my feet quick and light. This helped improve my range of 169-172SPM up to 174-176SPM. I still need work on this but aim for 180SPM. While the net-down hill of 856’ helped keep quick cadence, my 172avg is very close to the 173avg I held for the Pecan Festival 5K.
As I said, I took off and I stuck to the feet of a girl who was also wearing a “Challenge” triathlon shirt and a Kona hat. But by mile 1, I started playing games and took off in a full sprint to bridge the gap to a runner 100meters ahead of me. I dropped the 6:39/mile pace well below a 6minute mile, Garmin says I hit 5:05/mile. I backed it off on the heels of that runner and sat there pacing off of them, just looking at their center back. A quarter mile later, I went for it again to bridge the gap to another runner. I went from 6:43/mile down to 5:15/mile and held it for a few seconds before dropping back to the 6:30’s.
The rest of the net-down hill course had a few runners pass and saw me pass a few other runners while I looked out at the western edge of Mt Lemmon and knew where we were heading. For the last 5 miles while pace dropped from 6:30’s to the low 6:40’s I had to hit the loo but knew it would kill my time. I fought thru the digestion of those damn hot dogs and late night pasta. I passed one runner with 1.5 miles to go, and with .5mile to go I came up alongside a girl that I had been battling it out with for at least 11 miles. The tiny girl was fit and strong. I thought she might stick with me and then sprint at the finish. But as I moved passed her, she didn’t come and I could hear the gap growing. As I made the 2nd to last turn I was looking at my watch hit 1:26 and thought a sub 1:28 would be close. I turned the final corner, the finish was far ahead, I knew then I had to go to get under 1:28. I knew I was going to look like one of those idiots sprinting at full blast while having walked most of the race, but I wanted it like I’ve never wanted to hit a time before. I dropped my pace on the flat to 4:39/mile and averaged 5:43/mile for the last .14mile.
My first half marathon was November 2008 (1:44). I’ve now run a total of 21 half marathons averaging 1:35 and this race was my 2nd fastest ever; just shy of my 1:27:02 PB from the Harwich, Connecticut Cranberry Half.
I was very happy to give a solid effort when I hadn’t planned it. I was competitive and pushed it. By the half way mark I was leading the M30-34 A/G. Unfortunately, the mile 11/12 hill dropped by mile from 6:47 to 7:07 and I dropped a spot in my A/G to cross the line in 2nd of 52 A/G (23seconds behind) and 22nd of 895 Overall. I collected a very cool Native American piece of art and then watched my wife cross the line just under 1:40 along with the 1:40 pacer.
I felt like I was cheating this race and believe that the downhill course saved a good 5minutes; it just felt so easy. As a result, I can’t wait for us to race the full here (probably in 2019) and finally break 3 hours. My forward prediction is 2:50-2:55. Watch this space.
Thanks for reading.