Ironman Arizona 2014: Race Report

Untitled“Go! Run Hard! The finish line is all yours” <— Coach Audra as I peeled off to run up into the finishers shoot.

“CHRISTINA HEE-BERT, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!”, running hard, smiling, tears streaming down my face, I finally hear it, words I didn’t hear when finished IMCDA, “YOU ARE IRONMAN”.

Sunday, I truly did feel like an Ironman. What an IRONMAN is to ME, I felt it. I belonged there. I AM AN IRONMAN <—I said it to myself so many times on that run course.

Lights in my face, seeing the ENTIRE finishers shoot, hearing people cheer you to the end. Oh my, I loved it.

UntitledHow about we start from the beginning of the day? An actual race report! Hell didn’t freeze over, but this race was something special. As you know though I had been freaking out going into the race. Worried I wasn’t prepared. Did not meet critical volume with my running, and just didn’t know what would happen. But I can SWIM, and I cycle the shit out of a bike, so no worries.

Race day there were no worries.

Again, I was lucky enough to start with Lisa, I had been standing there with Joe, and up she popped, I slammed her with a hug, “I knew I would see you here. We got in to this together, we are starting this together.“. You’re right Lisa, lets do this. With Lisa and Joe there, we put on our goggles and jumped into the water.

It was a 400 meter swim to the start line from where we entered the water. Madness pretty much started as we all swum to the start line. I barely made it to the start line, not even starting where I wanted to place myself, when the canon went off. Started my Garmin and went.

Goal was to be calm. No panic attack. “Swim, keep swimming, Chris, don’t stop, swim”. I did just that. Of course there were times I gagged on water, or got cutoff, or had someone come up behind me and pull my feet down. The sun became blinding at one point, but I just swam with the herd. I really had no clue where I was going. Lisa had told me the set up of the swim course the day before, so I kept imagining her face and how she outlined the course with her fingers and said “Easy”. Yep, easy.

Whats NOT easy, are 2800 people that you are swimming with. Starting with the first turn things got abusive, the turns were not smooth what so ever. I survived, a little shaken up, and started swimming again. I like to image myself drafting 2 friends that I have done open water swims with before, JG and Jerry. They are both big dudes, I fit perfectly. So I settled in at times behind people, but in the end people were crazy. Last .25 of a mile there was a giant wake. C’mon! This is supposed to be flat water. Along with everyone else losing their minds, I started to get beat up pretty bad. I got kicked in the face 3 times, by the time I hit the last red turn bouy, I couldn’t see out of my goggles, I am sure I was crying, and I thought I was drowning. People came up out of nowhere and were just pushing me down. “GO, GO, GO, SWIM, ITS RIGHT THERE, SCREW YOU DUDE, GO” <—- Couldn’t see, people were being assholes but I made it, a nice volunteer pulled me up onto the stairs, I get up and look down at my watch 1:27!

Untitled1:27!!?!?! I seriously was not expecting that. Other than dealing with the people and near death experiences, I felt as though I had a SOLID swim. I DID have a great swim. I thought my watch would say 1:15, but apparently I was WAY off. Oh well. Coach Audra said to stay in the moment, whatever happens, forget it, its over, on to the next thing. Wetsuit was stripped off, and I shuffled my blinded self to the changing tent. I don’t remember who I saw afterwards but it was great to have someone screaming my name! Tori? Joes Mom, Uncle, Aunt? Brooke? Lisa’s Mom? Trish?Jerry? Whoever! THANK YOU!

T1 took FOREVER. Give me my bag! Where the hell do the women go?! I had no volunteer to help me sort my shit, so I ran in dropped it right there next to another chick and just went to town shoving things in pockets, fixing my sunglasses that KEPT falling apart (Yeah, I know I should have shoved your sunglasses into my bag Jerry), helmet on, shoes on and out the tent…

Again, someone screaming my name! I am happy. Smiling. Totally jazzed out. I need to eat and I NEED to let EVERYONE pass me.

Quick note, EVERYTHING to the minute of my race was planned. Day before I met up with Coach Audra, we went down to every last detail of what I would do that day. Also day before I video chatted with Coach Jeff (while he sat in the airport eating delicious looking calamari), he told me EXACTLY when to eat and drink my GENUCAN. My job was to nod, say ok, and EXECUTE the game plan.

Back on the bike… People passing me. I smiled and waved (yes, Coach A said that was what I needed to do), shoved some fig newtons down my throat, drank water, peed in my shorts, by that time I was out of town, dropped into aero and started my day. My WINDY day.

Whoever said that Ironman Arizona was flat, is a complete liar. You may hear that its a “false” flat all the way out, but there really isn’t anything “false” about it. You do kinda go up the entire way out. You aren’t climbing mountains, but you sure as hell aren’t flat. Throw in some wind, and then it feels like you are climbing. The same thing happened at IMCDA. I sat there pedaling, rolling my eyes, but shrugged, said “I know this game” and got to work.

I was to: Negative split the 3 loops, and feel GREAT/AMAZING/WONDERFUL at mile 80. So “because you told me to drill sergeant” its exactly what I did. It was tough gauging my effort going into the wind. I stood by my heart rate, kept spikes to a minimum, and just rode my bike. Once I hit the turn around though, GAME WAS ON. Coach A lent me her race wheels and I put those suckers to work. I FLEW back. It was almost easy. I was enjoying myself.

Couple of things: There were quite a few wrecks. Its REALLY scary to go by a wreck scene, see someone covered in blood, another athlete holding their neck, arms contorted…. Its terrible. I am so sorry to all the athletes that had something happen to them on the bike course. It made my heart hurt to see them. But just knowing people are helped, and saying a little prayer is all you can do.

UntitledNext thing: Happy thing: I had both Tori AND Jerry at the special needs station cheering me on. Seriously, I love you guys. I was happy to see you EVERY loop (except the last I didn’t see Tori). Its also great to come in for my special needs bag, have a volunteer grab my bike, Tori bring my bag, help me get ready, tell me to smile for the camera, then relay message from Coach Jeff to get my ass going and bike faster down the hills.

Last loop, I took off. In town I saw Coach A “This is your last lap. YOU GO ALL OUT!”. I went as hard as I could. Come the last lap though, the wind was blowing HARD. I couldn’t ride in aero all the way out, the wind was blowing my ass all over the place. I watched athletes coming down the hill, seeing if they had any issues with the wind, because my saving grace was being able to FLY back in because you were barely moving out. Then my chained dropped.

Here come the bad words….

“F*ck! F*ck! F*ck! ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME!?!”, I pulled over and started messing with my bike. The chain was jammed up, I couldn’t get the derailer to shift over. I couldn’t lift the chain. I picked up my bike then set it down. STARED at it, then repeated the process. Spent a moment collecting myself, saying “Egh, it happens. In THIS moment. Fix it. Get out of here.”. I got the chain back on, hopped back on and started rolling out.

Then it dropped AGAIN. Repeat that ENTIRE paragraph above. There was a quick moment of panic thinking that my derailer broke. But I stayed positive. In the day before pep talk with Coach A she was warning me about drafting, because of the 3 loop course and there being 2800 athletes racing, drafting is a bit of an issue. She said “If you get carded. Who cares. Pros get carded all the time. Just sit do your 4 minutes then think “heh! I just rested my legs for 4 minutes, thank you” “. The time spent messing with my bike actually did feel great on my legs. I caught up with all that had passed me, and was in a happy place again.

I saw Lisa every loop going by, I screamed and said hey, you probably didn’t hear me, I also saw you flat, whip over, and start yanking on your back tire. “DAMMIT!”, I knew how much this race meant to her, and a flat is NOT something you want…. EVER. Also saw Joe on the course, well on the LAST loop. Finally! Seeing my friends out there made me happy. A reminder that we are all out here doing the same thing! There will be stories (and of course there were).

T2 was much faster. Had a volunteer yank me in, dump out my belongings, get me sorted out, I chatted with a chick I had been riding back and forth with (hope your run turned out great, you are an AMAZING cyclist!), put my hat on and rolled out…. Rolled out to get sunblock put on and realize that I had chafed from the swim earlier. Poor girls got a “AHHHHHHHH!!!” right there face. Also thank you to the volunteer dude that I asked to lube up my face with vaseline, “I need more, c’mon baby, LUBE ME UP!”. My face was so wind chafed, and my nose felt destroyed.

Smile on the face, I headed out for my run…

Game plan: Walk the aid stations, and walk 1 minute every 15 minutes. I hadn’t reached enough volume with my running (longest run 15 miles), Coach A couldn’t emphasize strong enough that I HAD to hit my planned walks. Also start SLOW first 3 miles. Stay within 150-154 BPM. Settle in to the half way point, start picking it up, then come mile 20 all you have is a 10k left, you can run a 10k ALL DAY!  Yes ma’am. I listened.

I felt great. I felt happy. I met Tracy and Elizabeth (Hi! Ladies!). I ran. I ate bacon. I danced with dudes dressed like women. I kissed babies (no not really, just high fives for the little kids). I smiled. I saw teammate Brooke like a MILLION times and every time she said “Why are you still smiling?!”…. Girl cause YOU make me smile, and I was doing an IRONMAN!

There was a small moment “I wonder when Ill hit the wa-….. No, you aren’t. This is your race. You are an Ironman. You were meant to run long after biking long. Hell you LOVE to run off the bike. I thought of Mark laying next to me in bed the day before I left for Arizona, and I was freaking out “Babe, you have the base. You are going to do amazing“.

Smile. Eat. Drink. Walk. Run. Slow down. Speed up. Legs? What legs? You have NO legs.” <— I really disassociated my legs from my body. Happy place. <—- Insert all that talk around mile 18.

First loop under the Mill bridge I see Coach A, she runs up along side me, tells me good job, asks how I am feeling, then says “You know your in 16th place right now.“. Me: “No shit? I would LOVE to be top 20!“, Coach A “Well then, DONT fuck it up“. Roger roger! I wont.

Well… I also tell her I think I have to take a crap. She tells me to try and fart. If you don’t shit yourself you are fine. I felt fine leaving her. THEN second loop I had to stop. TWICE. But only twice. <— Yeah, you got too much information there, but this is part of the game my friend.

I don’t know more to say than I ran. This was my race. I didn’t think of anyone else. After hearing my position I told myself I would keep it. Screw the world. You cant catch me I am the gingerbread man.

UntitledI was happy. I talked to myself A LOT. I saw EVERYONE. Apparently I got adopted int the Wattie team because my kit was looking KILLAH!

Coming around the last loop Jerry popped up, “Hey, Coach says to pick up the pace“, me: “What?! You tell him I had to stop and take a shit! TWICE! Im on my game plan”. Jerry gave me a pep talk, well just talked, peeled off somewhere and then some how I am at 20 miles. A 10k left. YES! THings are going to get fun.

I dropped the 1 minute walk every 15 min. I needed to run. So I ran. At one point during my “potty breaks” I knew some people in my age group had passed me. This was miles back, but I had been worried I would never catch up to them. But then low and behold… there she was, walking. Buh Bye Jennifer (sorry Jennifer, you looked great, but after I passed you, you weren’t getting your spot back). My pace picked up a bit. Saw Jerry again, and then had to run up a hill. I questioned myself if I should walk it or not, but no. GO! Cresting the hill put my at 23-ish miles, I turned to Jerry “Dude, for the first time, but body is actually saying HEY, you might be a little tired” <— I did just finish running up a hill, didn’t think of that.

Then I said “Hey, do you think I can get away without stopping anymore?“, Jerry said “Yeah, its only 3 miles. Your an Ironman.”

Boom. I’m not walking anymore. I ran down the hill, through an aid station and saw Tori, she came running up “Hey, Mark says if you break 13 he will buy you race wheels!“, I turned to her and said… well I am not sure what I said. But I was thinking “That man said he would pay for my hair to get done, he can pay for that AND the race wheels!”. She kinda got the gist then said “Christina, you are on pace for 12:50, you NEED to run the 5k of your life“.

OK, I need to get into my zone”, Tori “Yes, yes you DO need to get into your zone”.

I took off. No more walking. There were 2 more aid stations left. I didn’t need them. I didn’t need anymore to eat. I needed to run.


I said that over and over. I went through the first aid station, and started up a hill, I got a little nervous…. Should I walk the hill just in case? I started to walk, but 5 steps into it, a lady I had been running back and forth with all day came running up behind me “No! THis is it! Lets go!”, I said “Ok!” and took off. We crested the hill, was running over the overpass, coming up on the “salt” station (where by the way I saw Chris Leito earlier, bad ass) when I saw a women with age 29 on her calf.

I turn to the lady who told me to get going (she is a blonde, she is 54, and I told you I was hanging on to you all the way in), “Hey, what qualifies as ALL WORLD ATHLETE, top 15? Or top 15 percent?”, she said she wasn’t sure, I looked at the women (I wasn’t sure if she was in 16 or 15 place), I turned to the 54 year old blonde and said “I HAVE to go”, and then from there I ran as hard as I could.

That was about 1.25 from the finish line. PEACE OUT.


I was so zoned into what I was doing, that I was surprised when I started to hear my self kinda gasping. DONT STOP.

Faster. GO. Then I heard a familiar voice, and BOOM! There was Coach A “Hey girl!”. Audra, I have to say that you have the PRETTIEST running form ever, you running next to me, well its kinda sexy, and inspiring.

I don’t remember much what she said. She said key words. I felt her running next to me. Then she said “You aren’t going to even feel this last .25 mile. Just under that bridge and you are there. Lets go! YEAH! You see that girl? Go get her!”.

“Go! Run Hard! The finish line is all yours” <— Coach Audra as I peeled off to run up into the finishers shoot.

And I did. I ran so hard up that little hill into the finishers shoot, I wanted to throw up, I couldn’t breathe. I heard someone say, “Listen, they put the disco music on for you Christina!”

I was running so hard, gasping for air, hot tears in my eyes, then I heard him, (I didnt hear him at IMCDA), I opened my eyes, let the tears fall, the entire finishers shoot was mine…

“CHRISTINA HEE-BERT, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!”, running hard, smiling, tears streaming down my face I cross the finish line.

Christina YOU ARE AN IRONMAN, and thats how you run a damn race!!

Crossing the line. I was so overwhelmed. I was so happy. I knew everyone was watching. I wish you all could feel how I felt, I really was trying to radiate my emotions. Everyone at one point in their life should feel that way. I am crying as I type this. It was the best day of my life. A STRONG day for me. I hit my game plan, I smiled, was happy…. TRULY an IRONMAN.

UntitledI was scared I would pass out. I was a little bit of a wreck, at the end of the finishers area, EVERYONE was there. Tori, COACH A, CLINT, Tony, Brooke… Everyone. I don’t even know. I was crying. I was so happy. I got hugs. A big kiss from Audra. Talked to Mark on the phone. It was all magical.

Then I refused to move like a puppy who doesn’t want to walk anymore. I had to wait for Lisa. We need to take a picture… I have to wait. At one point I had starbursts shoved down my throat, and the next thing I know I was carted off by a medic to the bathroom.

Everything was fine. I just ran an Ironman. I missed Lisa finishing. Audra shoved french fries down my throat (Thank you, I love you), I DID get to see Lisa. Then Tori told me Joe was finishing, I snuck off to wait for him to, to only AGAIN have another medic cart me off the the bathroom (apparently I was lost for 1 hour 30 minutes….Lets not even talk about it).

Still greatest day of my life. Also it was FREEZING after that race. I am STILL freezing.

UntitledNow for the credits….

Thank you TORI for being the BEST EVER SHERPA. You let me be crazy. You were the best. I didn’t have to use my words. I never want to do a race without you. I love you. Thank you. I don’t know what I would have done without you. Everyone TORI is the best. She should hire herself out. She was EVERYWHERE. She was tough on me, and she gave me what I needed when I needed it. Thank you for being my friend. I have learned so much from you. Thank you.

UntitledJoe! You are an IRONMAN! I am so proud of you! So happy! Thank YOU for being my friend, and for always being positive. Your kit looked amazing! Can you imagine if you trained!!! 😉 Seriously, thank you for being there. Sorry for not helping more, but Tori saved the day and babied your ass! Also send love to your family for being there and cheering me on, and I am sorry Tori took my jacket away from your mom… I was kinda cold.

Coach Audra. I love you. Thank you for being the one of the most inspirational people of my life. You pushed me. You taught me. You did so much. Thank you for being there. It meant the WORLD to see you on that course. I just did what you told me to! I really needed your strong self to pick me up and get me going this training cycle. You are the best.

Coach Jeff. I DID IT!!! HA!!! Thank you for ALWAYS being there. Though you weren’t on the race course you WERE there. I ran my race. Talking to you the day before put tears in my eyes. It was my race. Been waiting YEARS for this right? Without your guidance and the base I have built up that race would not have been the same. Thank you. I love you.

UntitledJerry! JEEEEEEEEERRRRRRYYYYYYYY! You don’t even know how much of a lifesaver you were. I NEEDED you. From packing my bags, to seeing you on that course. I am so happy to have you as a friend and teammate. *sigh* You don’t EVEN know! Thank you! THank you Thank you!!

Brooke, You had on a damn ninja turtle costume!!! I love your smile! I love your energy! Thank you for coming out! P.S Joe was super jealous he missed your costume.

Tony! You came! OMG! Seeing you in the morning sent me over the moon! And then you were there ALL DAY!!! High five! Thank you!

Lisa, I love you. I don’t know how we decided on IMAZ but it was the best choice.

Mark, my love. Thank you for believing in me. I thought I saw you 10 times (you and your triathlete body).  You were with me reminding me that I had the base for this, and ran along side me that last mile. I swear I wasn’t sand bagging it. Thank you for supporting my crazy. You kinda owe me race wheels now… and a haircut (plus color).

Thank you TO EVERYONE that sent me messages, emails, FB posts, Instagram comments before the race. I felt like everyone knew I would have a solid race. While on the race course I thought “Are they just saying that? Or are they seeing something that I don’t?”. I thought of EVERY comment. Thought of ALL my teammates. Thought of everyone racing. I just thought of everyone, as if I have a minute with you and told you “Thank you for believing in me, I am working really hard to show you that I can, thank you, shit is about to get real”.

UntitledALSO…. holy crap!! All the INSTAGRAM FRIENDS! You guys are AMAZING! So proud and amazed at ALL of you. You guys did great and looked great. Thank you for your smiles, and thank you for letting me stalk you.

You ALL made this weekend the most POSITIVE and INSPIRING weekend of my life. I don’t think I have ever been so happy. Great friends. Positive vibes. Friends I love!

Volunteers, I love you. Thank you. Where would we be without you?

I know I missed a lot. Sorry. And I know there were a lot of “I love you’s”.

But I love all of you. Thank you.


**Forgot to add times**
Those are my splits. Some thought I was there “just to finish”. Nope, honestly goal was to hit or break 12 if conditions were perfect. Breaking 13 was what should be. Always improve. NEVER let anyone set limitations on you. 

**All World Athlete**
Top 10% make AWA. I was only 16, I’ll take it. So I did NOT make AWA BUT having the surge at the end, well, it made me feel strong.



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