Well here is another one for the learning books. Ironman Texas was a great experience with a less favorable finishing outcome It’s so easy for one to focus on the bad part of your race and make excuses for everything that went wrong in your race. I could probably make 100 excuses for why I came off the bike in 6th and ended in 19th….pretty much right back where I came out of the swim! But hey- I can finally say that I have completed an Ironman in which I had a faster bike split than run! Also on a positive note- I had an amazing Family to stay with and an awesome roommate!
Ironman Texas started to get interesting long before the gun went off. About a month before the scheduled race date, I received information that there was no approved bike course, and that they were working on a solution. The solution came about a week later. On paper, the course looked like more of a world class rollercoaster, but it was better than no course at all! Then, about a week after this, we received news that part of the course was washed away in flooding! Exhausting all options to add extra mileage, the course was shortened to 94 miles…..with a grand total of 88 turns!
The swim course was changed 2 days before the race because E.coli readings were way too high in the canal portion of the tail end of the swim. This meant that they had to create a whole new T1 at the swim Start/Exit, creating two different transitions. This is not uncommon for races, but is usually planned out a little earlier than the day before the race. Props to all of the volunteers that helped set up this last minute transition. It’s not a quick job setting up fencing, bike racks for 2400+ athletes and arranging a whole bunch more porta potties!
When we jumped in the water at 6:15 to warm up, I was wondering if it would even be daylight when the race started. It was… but barely! The water was a cool 27 degrees, so my first open water swim was obviously non wetsuit. Feeling relaxed, when the gun went off, I quickly got in a rhythm and found some feet. I really need to get better at knowing what my competitors look like under swim caps and goggles if I’m going to figure out whose feet to try to grab. After a few minutes, the lead group took off (as predicted), and I found myself with a small group of 5 girls. I thought I could surge ahead, and maybe catch the group in front, but soon realized that wouldn’t be an option. I decided to settle on some feet and stayed there for the majority of the swim. I came out in 1:02 and change….an almost 4 min improvement from last year. Not a 55min swim, but a solid improvement.
Onto the bike. I quickly got into my zone, keeping my watts exactly where they needed to be. I have really been trying to focus on body positioning on the bike and efficiency in terms of keeping aero. This must have worked because I found myself holding back on the power and still travelling at 38-39km/hr. I kept reminding myself that I had 152km to catch the girls in front. I didn’t need to try to do it in the first 20km. I worked my way through the field up to 6th, where I’m pretty sure I hung out there, still gaining a little on the top women, for a good chunk of the last part of the ride. About 110-120km into the ride, I really started to feel the heat set in. I found myself working and breathing harder than I wanted to keep the same power. The fluids that I was taking in started to bounce back up out of my stomach. This was not what I wanted. Rather than fight the heat, I dropped my power down a notch, just trying to focus on breathing and keeping as cool as possible. I wound up riding the fasted split of the day in 3:59 something. Not so awesome when I dismounted and found myself super dizzy as I ran through T2.
It only took about 2 min into the run for a super cramp to set in in my stomach. F$&# I said to myself…maybe even out loud… This can’t be happening again. It was like a repeat of CDA last year in the insane heat we had there. I made it to the first aid station, thirsty as hell from the heat, and immediately tried to get some coke in me. I was hoping this would help bring my head out of the dizzy fog. A few meters past the station, it all came up- and I mean ALL! I had a belly full of undigested liquid (hence the cramp). I tried to regroup, and start running again. My cramp disappeared, but I had nothing in the tank. I was devastated. I had felt so good about this race, and all my winter training, and now this. Depressed and pissed off, I would spend the rest of the “run” in intervals of running, walking and puking. I was soooooo overheated that even the ice cold sponges were not even putting a dent in my body temp. I was most definitely not the only one whose body caved in the heat, as I found myself making many new fully cooked walking buddies along the way. At one point during my last lap, a lady jogged past me and said: “OMG! I LOVE it when I see a Pro walking!” “Thanks” I muttered as she jogged away. Initially I’m like “Seriously- I know I’m having a S&#t day- I really don’t need you to state the obvious right now”, then the more I thought about it, quite often people have the perception that we start before everyone and usually (with the exception of some VERY talented fast age groupers) finish before everyone. We train hard, we are fast, and you rarely see us out on the course. Well, you either don’t see us because we had a super day where everything clicked, or a day where everything fell apart, and called it quits. Reality is, we are all the same. Yes, we are racing at a “different” level, but our good days are the same as your good days, and so are our bad ones. And trust me- we do have our bad ones!
With around 12 kms to go, the weather changed drastically over the course of 5 min. A sprinkle of rain was a godsend…exactly what I needed to cool off. Well, it wouldn’t last, as all of a sudden we found ourselves in an extreme thunderstorm. When they say that “everything is bigger in Texas”, they weren’t lying! I found myself running through calf-deep rivers on the road within 5 mins of the heavy rain starting. With lighting flashing across the sky, and thunder so loud, it sounded like explosions going off, we were informed at the next aid station that the race had been stopped, and we were to seek shelter in the clubhouse down the road. No other explanation. Was the race finished or paused…. Either way, some athletes seeked shelter, while some continued to run. At this point, my only goal was to get to the finish. I chose to keep on running, because if I stopped, I knew my body wouldn’t go again. At this point, I was running the fastest I had ran all day- a sure sign my body had been overheated, and had now had a chance to cool down. I made it to the finish- not as I wanted, but I made it.
The volunteers who toughed out these insane conditions, holding their tents down at the aid stations, and grasping onto coolers, garbage cans and kiddie pools full of sponges to stop them from getting washed away in the rivers gushing down the road, deserve a medal for what they endured that day. Thank you to all of youJ
While some may complain that IMTX was not an “Ironman” because of the shortage on the bike, I can confidently say that ANYONE who survived Saturday is an Ironman!
A huge thank you to my sponsors as well for helping me to the start and finish line: Skechers Performance, CarboPro, The Bike Barn, Swagman Racks, Podium Imports, Garmin, Blue Seventy, and Cobb Cycling.