Sunday, April 23, 2017

Ironman Texas 2017 Race Report

photo by the man, Philip Shama himself
Ever since I did my first Ironman in 2013, which was Ironman Texas, I have decided to race about one Ironman a year.  When I heard that Ironman Texas was being moved to April for 2017, I thought in the back of my mind that would be my Ironman for 2017.  Plus, following my plan of doing the race every other year (I raced 2015) and to save money by racing locally, I signed up for Ironman Texas. 

The lead up to the race was pretty smooth, for the most part.  I was nailing training and feeling good while doing it.  I had some pretty good swims and power on the bike and slightly better on the run that I felt like I had a great chance of having a PR at Texas.  However, on the Thursday before the race, I was going to do a flip turn at the pool, which there are pool lights right on the lane lines on the wall where you flip turn, and freak accident, the second smallest toe on my left foot banged it just so that it stopped me dead in my tracks.  I maybe yelled out a bad word in the pool (not the first time, probably). It took a few hours, but it became quite swollen and black and blue.  I thought it was sprained.  I iced it and did everything possible for trying to heal it.  Needless to say, I did no running the week leading up to the race.  Unless you count pool running….which was a first for me.  Not terrible, but not something I want to get into the habit of doing.  And I had ordered new shoes a couple weeks before the race, but they didn’t arrive until the day of the race.  Don’t recommend doing this, but I ran in those shoes….

Morning of the race was nothing spectacular to note.  Yes, the swelling in the toe had went down at this point and it didn’t look quite as black and blue.  But still wasn’t putting weight on it! Oh and I woke up with a bit of a migraine! I chugged maybe too much coffee and it dissipated.  That and the excitement of getting ready to do an Ironman I guess made it lessen.  Needless to say, I was kind of in denial that I was going to even make it through the day.  I parked by where I knew I would end up and discussed meeting up with my Sherpa Susan.  Ran into my riding buddy, John, at transition as I just finished setting up my bike in the muddy transition, and we walked towards the swim start like 10 minutes away.  Ran into a girl wearing a Coeur onesie and chatted about her loving the kit and how her training went.  Killed some time, dropped off the morning clothes bag and popped a couple of gels in the mouth.  Yummy sugar for a snack. 😊

Swim: I lined up somewhere around what I estimated was the 1:10 swim area and then waited for the cannon to go off.  Finally it goes off and shuffle on out in the water.  I estimate I actually swam a 1:10 because it took forever for people in front of me to get in the water after I crossed the mat. If there is one thing I am proud about, I felt like I did a good job of navigating through people out of the gate.  I didn’t get hit in the face until like 1.5 miles in, which is rare for me.  All in all for the swim, I took on water up the nose 3 times….wtf? And I kept swimming up to swimmers that wanted to swim a slightly different angle than me.  Annoying. I felt like I had a decent swim and felt fresh getting out of the water.  But somehow my watch said 1:11. This is slightly frustrating because I have gotten way better at swimming in the pool and have been putting in some serious yardage. Not the time I was hoping for.  This is even with my swim time (which was also non-wetsuit) in 2015.

T1: didn’t slip in the mud, didn’t have a shoe fly off the bike, didn’t run into anyone, so I would say it was a success!

photo by the bike godfather, Philip Shama

Bike: They allowed the helmet and shoes to be placed on the bike so I was ready to roll as soon as I hit the mat on bike out.  Adjusted my shoes a couple times (112 is a long time to bike without your shoes just right) and then got to work.  It was kind of congested for the first 20 miles of the bike.  Later I saw some people serving time at the first penalty tent.  There was a lot of drafting going up one of the first overpasses.  I just tried to stay out of it, as tempting as that all was.  I got water and Gatorade at every aid station except one where I missed a bottle.  But somehow, my migraine crept back to visit at about mile 30.  I was just trying to keep drinking and putting down the calories, but my head was pounding.  I am going to switch aero helmets before my next race because I swear my head was overheating.  The water I was grabbing at each aid station (which it seriously takes skill to grab a water and Gatorade at each aid station while still moving on a bike) was being tossed over my head and body, keeping me wet and cool. Trying to anyways.  At about mile 40, I got to a really, really low point.  I was just really not wanting to be there.  I just couldn’t think of why I was out there and my head and toe hurt.  I debated dropping out at the turn around to the second loop.  Seriously, the only thing that kept me from dropping out is that I didn’t want to wait for a sag vehicle to drive me back and I was afraid that I would have to come back later that evening to get my gear back (I live 35 – 1 hour+ away).  Pathetic.  So, I went out for the second loop.  The way out was so unbearably boring as I was getting passed on repeat, but I just kept on pedaling.  I pulled off at one aid station and chugged a water and Gatorade, yes, an entire one, ate a banana.  I hoped back on the bike, made it to the turn around to come back and then holy hell, that wind!  I was struggling something serious for the way back.  And my power numbers were way off this entire ride. My mind was saying “give me more power” and my body was like “hell no!” And it shows in my file.  Average speed was over 1 mph average lower, cadence was 10 rpm/leg slower and power was 40 watts lower than I did on my two race rehearsals leading up to the race. How was it biking on the Hardy Toll Road, you ask? Well other people had some amazing times that were blazing fast and the surface did feel very fast.  But the lack of scenery and well anything, I don’t think I will want to race this again when there are so many other more scenic options.  Anyways, I get to the turn off to finish the bike and I quite audibly said “thank God!” and just kept it easy on the miles back in.  Surprisingly, my bike split was the same as my Lake Placid bike split which had around 3,500 feet more climbing.

T2: I had left my shoes on the bike and so this made for a fairly quick transition.  I didn’t slip again, although I thought I would as it was all mud at this point (they must replace the grass every year), and ran into the tent to have an amazing volunteer, bless her heart, unpack my bag and put my socks and shoes on (Seriously, thank you!) and out I went, like a rocket.

photo by Leslie, best lane buddy eva
Run: Look, I am competitive.  I saw a lot of girls (and guys) pass me on the bike. So, I knew that if I would want to podium, I would have to have a fantastic run.  Which at this point, the adrenaline kicked in again and the headache lessened.  On a side note, I loved my new shoes.  They were by far the right choice over my old shoes they replaced.  Anyways, I flew through the first loop, forgetting about my headache and toe mostly and then starting the second loop was when it all hit me.  I was doing extremely well running through the aid station and, I kid you not, taking in 2-3 cups plus ice every aid station, but still could feel myself dehydrated.  That was when I allowed myself to walk to get some more fluids in my system and salt and stopped once to go to the bathroom. :/ At this point, the race plan changed into, give it your best and try not to walk any more than the aid stations (I failed in a couple points).  I finished up a very slow (for me) second lap and then threw myself and throbbing toe through a third loop.  I decided at that point, I was going to try to run faster no matter how much it hurt…because the sooner I finished, the sooner I was done running. 😊 Ran through half of the last aid stations, walked the others, taking in fluids and nutrition at each one.  Quads really were on fire for the last few miles along with my left hamstring from slightly adjusting my stride to accommodate for my throbbing foot.  I do have to say that Ironman Texas run course is way more exciting than the other two Ironman locations I’ve done thus far (Cozumel and Lake Placid) and better than all the 70.3s except maybe the 70.3s world championship when it was in Mont Tremblant.  There is something to be said about racing in your hometown and having a lot of people you know out there cheering you on.  Although, I doubt any race has a tri club cheer squad that could top the JSC/SBS Catapult corner.  Seriously! I hope they made some pictures because it is a riot every year.  And I will be there next year instead of racing (well, except the beer mile 😉). Anyways, back to my run, I remember how the finish line feels quite distinctly when I hit mile 24 and while I felt like I was really hauling, looking at my splits I really wasn’t going that entirely fast (for me!).  But I gave it one little push because I knew I was really close to my Lake Placid time and heard the voice himself say that I was an Ironman for the fifth time. 

photo by Sylvia E

Swim: 1:11:30
T1: 3:25
Bike: 5:41:41
T2: 3:38
Run: 3:49:49
Overall: 10:50:03 (a new Ironman PR by 7 minutes and 17 seconds)

So post-race thoughts: I was really hoping for a faster time and my training leading up to it said that I was capable of doing so.  I think you learn something in each race and I learned that I can’t make too drastic of food or caffeine changes before the race, I need a new aero helmet, avoid freak accidents, take in even more nutrition on the bike, train more in the wind, I do better at hills, and the Ironman runs really hurt (well that I already knew).  From looking at the results, even if I would have ran what my goal/planned time was, I would have only moved up one, maybe two places in my age group.  Ironman Texas, being the North American championships, brought out the fastest girls, I swear, like another mini Kona.  So, at the end of the day, I may have not had the race I hoped/dreamed for, but I feel good knowing that I put forth a solid effort and did not give up when I really, really, really wanted to.  Now I am going to take some time off my toe, see when I can run pain free again and work on the summer of speed.  I am going to have to get faster if I want to remain competitive in this new age group, so there will be some painful intervals in my future.  And finally, some road racing that I got this awesome road bike for.  What better way to build bike fitness?!? Next triathlon I am signed up for is Buffalo Springs Lubbock Texas 70.3, again, so I have a couple solid months to recover and start to build speed.

Seriously, thanks everyone for the support and cheers and best wishes.  I am seriously blessed to have so many people that care about me and believe in me racing this awesome hobby. Thanks to Team Coeur Sports for the sweet kit, Roka for getting me set up with an awesome swim skin and sunglasses (seriously cool looking shades for the run!), Inside Tracker for using my bloodwork to help me be the best version of myself, Houston Coogs for helping me improve my swim, TriDot for the training plan, Shama Cycles for looking after my bike and JSC/SBS Catapult for the support.  And to the world’s best Sherpa, Susan, which I will someday hopefully repay.  Happy training, y’all!