Thursday, May 22, 2014

Ironman Texas 2014 Race Report

Leading up to Texas I tried several times to finish a post about how this Ironman had snuck up on me. Funny thought, right, that an Ironman could sneak up on someone? But for some reason, that’s how I was feeling. I was doing/had done the work and I was where I wanted to be physically, but my mental state was all over the place. The tone of that post changed week to week depending on how high or low I was feeling and in the end, I’m glad that I never bothered to finish it. The key point I was trying to make was that racing makes me nervous and stressed, right up to the point where I actually get to race, and then racing makes me happy! Of course at that time I had not gotten to the happy part and I think that’s why the words would not come…

But now, the race is over, I’ve been to my happy place and (spoiler alert) I had the kind of day that you dream about and hope for in the weeks leading up to the race. My coach talks about training as building a fitness vehicle and racing as your chance to actually drive the vehicle and let me tell you, I drove the shit out of it last weekend!

So with that background to set the stage let me move on to the actual race details.

For Texas, we stay with my daughter and her family in Houston, which is great. It gives Cath something to do while I handle the pre-race BS like registration and gear check, etc. We both get to see our grand kids and it means I have a big cheering section for the run!



Because of the drive from Houston to The Woodlands, Saturday morning started pretty early, although, I guess, not early enough. Cath and I got out of the house late and we were trying to make time on 45 North. I noticed one of the traffic warning signs flashing that the road was closed due to a bad traffic accident. I’m not that familiar with the area so I was trying to pull up the map to see if we would be impacted at about the same time that we came up on the traffic back up. Yikes! Fortunately, we were able to jump off of the freeway and onto the access road. We sat in traffic on the access road for about 10 minutes before we passed the accident and were able to get back onto the freeway. I’m not sure what would have happened if we had missed that last exit but I’m sure glad we didn’t.

Other than that hiccup, we got into The Woodlands and parked without incident.

I made quick work of my transition chores – adding my bottles to my bike and adding my solidly-frozen bottles to my run bag. This is one thing that I did differently from last year that was much improved. Last year my run bottles sat in the sun all day and by the time I picked them up they were really hot and drinking hot drink mix was unpleasant. This year I froze the bottles overnight and they were thawed and still cool when I picked them up after the bike.

I had no issues with body marking or getting in for the swim start. I warmed up a little and then grabbed on to a paddle board since I was not wearing a wet suit and I didn’t want to tread water. Just before the gun went off, I looked over for the clock and was surprised to see quite a few participants still trying to get into the water. I’m guessing there were at least 100+ who were still dry and on the boat ramp when the gun went off.



I found the swim this year to be much more congested than last, but I did not have problems with people grabbing my ankles or climbing up my back. I did get kicked HARD this year, which is something that did not happen last year. Twice to the face including once in the eye where I had to stop and pull my goggles off, and once somewhere “else” that took my breath away for a second. I swam up on someone who had stopped so I stopped, just as he gave a big breast stroke kick. Yup, that was uncomfortable.



My sighting was mostly accurate with only one small gaffe near the entrance to the canal. I swam left of center on the way out and right of center on the way back in.

Other than that, my swim was uneventful. I got out of the water almost two minutes faster than last year with the same feelings of relief and joy. (I hate swimming)

Goal Time: 1:30 Actual Time 1:33:20 Last Year 1:34:30

T1 was slow but I knew that was going to happen. Last year I ended up with BAD sunburn after the bike so I was much more careful about putting on sunscreen and also about my choice of clothes. The only real mistake I made in T1 was that my socks were inside-out and I chose to turn them right-side-out just to be safe about irritation or blisters.

Goal Time: 7:00 Actual Time 9:36 Last Year: 7:20

The bike was weird, but fantastic and so much better than last year. I followed my nutrition plan to a T and, unlike last year, I did not have any real stomach issues.

The winds were a factor but I found them to be more manageable this year vs. last. Normally the wind is at your back coming out of The Woodlands and you get some free speed. This year was different and I could see that my splits were slower than I expected going out, but I didn’t worry about it, I just stuck to my numbers and rode my plan. Then, on the way back in, I was prepared for the hurt of riding into a strong headwind for 25 straight miles and that never really materialized. Last year at mile 85, I was starting to get nauseous and by mile 95, I was mostly out of areo position and wishing the bike would end. This year at mile 85 I felt fresh and ready to make up some time and I was able to finish strong but I was not able to make up the time that I “lost” on the way out.



I think the wind was a big issue for many people, not so much because it was windy – it’s always windy in Texas – but because the course rode very different than usual and I think some people had trouble adjusting. In hindsight and after having compared notes with several people, I think the course rode at least 10 minutes slower this year vs. last!

One change that I made this year was a new helmet. I have neck issues and thus have a hard time looking up for long periods of time. My old helmet had a long tail and I was concerned that I spent too much time with the tail sticking up in the air instead of sitting on or near my shoulders. To eliminate this concern, I switched to a Giro Air Attack Shield, which has no tail. I don’t know how much if any difference the tail made but the mental win of being able to look down without worrying about that dumb tail sticking up in the wind was worth the investment. The other big win was the shield. I can’t wear sunglasses on the bike because I end up looking over the top of them because of my neck. Last year, the sun reflection off of the bright white concrete that starts at about mile 90(?) was just awful. This year it was annoying, but much more manageable thanks to the tinted shield.



Goal Time: 5:50 – 6:00 Actual time 6:00:37 Last Year: 5:58:51

Coming into T2 I felt really good and ready to run, so I handed off my bike and actually ran, well jogged, through the chute and around to pickup my run bag.

T2 was slow but again, I sort of expected that. I did the sunscreen thing again, changed my socks and shoes and shirt as I had planned. Then I decided to change my shorts too since my tri shorts were starting to chafe. Of course that meant I was changing my shorts over my shoes. Dumb. I already mentioned my frozen run bottles but I’m mentioning it again as that was a huge improvement.

Last year I came off of the bike feeling really sick and it showed in my T2 time. This year I felt tired but ready to run.

Goal Time: 7:00 Actual Time: 7:44 Last Year: 10:40

My run was nothing short of fantastic. I stuck with my, overly aggressive, nutrition plan for the first lap and then I got tired of carrying a hand bottle and mixing concentrate with water. So somewhere early in lap two I strapped the hand bottle to my run belt and switched off to the course offered nutrition. I’ll be rethinking my run nutrition for IMAZ for sure. Not because my plan did not work, but because I’m tired of carrying three bottles on the run.

Near the end of the second lap I knew I was doing well but I was a little confused about my actual progress. I really wanted to try and finish in under 12 hours and I thought that might still be possible. I asked a spectator what time it was and did the math and it was close. My 13.1 split was about 2:02 and I knew a negative split would get me home under 12, but a negative split was going to be a stretch.

I saw Cath and Sarah and Ben and the kids twice each lap and I was able to give high-fives as I ran past their canopy. Seeing them each lap was a real mental boost and it helped to keep me going.



As I passed the 20 mile marker I did the math again and “under 12” still seemed possible. I tried to keep the hammer down but it was getting harder with every passing mile.



In the end my run was smooth and on target.  I didn’t negative split but at 2:02/2:08 I came pretty darn close. The perfect run for me would have been something just under 4:00 so I was really pleased with 4:10.




Goal Time: 3:55 – 4:20 depending on the weather Actual Time 4:10:09 Last Year: 4:44:39



Overall I went 12:01:26, which is 34 minutes faster than last year and just a little slower than I wanted to go. If I had a great day and if the weather was perfect, I figured I could break 12:00. I had a great day and the weather was perfect and I came pretty darn close.



It was a fantastic day at The Woodlands and now Ironman number two is under my belt. I’ve learned a lot and I have so much more to learn going forward.  I’m super happy to be doing IMAZ.  I can’t wait to take what I learned in Texas and try to put it to good use next time.

Before I sign off, I need to say thanks to Cath for putting up with the many hours of training and my cranky mood swings and the trainer in the family room and everything else that is Ironman training. I love you babe and I think you're the best wife and IronFan that anyone could possibly have!

Thanks also to Sarah and Ben and the kids for coming out to cheer and watch "pop-pop" run Ironman.

Finally, thanks to Will for the super special cheering signs that he made.

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