Saturday, May 24, 2014

Ironman Texas - Only $140.60!

It has been quite a while since I have scribed my thoughts and views in this little blog of mine.  So I had a little free time and have decided to jot my thoughts down and give you a review of my last race Ironman Texas.

The race is in a beautiful location known as The Woodlands.  This is, as my brother-in-law kept saying, a planned community.  It is just northwest of Houston, TX and has everything an athlete and spectator may need.  The town surrounds what is called the Waterfront where bars and shopping line a system of canals wide enough to accommodate a water taxi system. My wife and I chose this location due to timing and what our schedule would allow.

The training leading up to our race was quite eventful.  We had the coldest winter in quite sometime.  And the spring winds did not allow for many safe rides outside.  By the time Texas rolled around we may have gotten four long rides outside all of which in winds with steady 20mph breezes, no open water work, and numerous treadmill workouts due
to weather concerns.  So we got to the race venue with some big questions, though one answer we had was no matter how windy it was we could definitely manage that.

We took our Iron-sherpas, Jessica and Brandon (my sister and her husband). They wanted to come as they have had a blast at our previous Ironman races. We left the children at home and struck out for a long weekend in southern Texas. The drive was thankfully uneventful and only took 14 and 1/2 hours!  We arrived at The Woodlands on Thursday with the race taking place on Saturday.  We got checked in and began to hydrate and eat in preparation of the days to come. Our hotel was only about 1.5 miles from the race site and all accommodations were easily accessible by bike or a short walk.

Friday was our warm-up day.  It would be our first open water swim of the year! Air temp was mid 70's and the water temp was 71.4 degrees.  Prior to the swim we looked at last year and saw that it tended to be a warm swim.  This year was unseasonably cool. Which worked well for us.  We had brought both our wetsuits though my wife likes to use mine and I don't like to wear one if I don't have too.  The practice swim was perfect. My wife and I entered the murky water and swam for the entire 800 yards.  The water was cool but definitely tolerable without a wetsuit, especially for 2.4 miles.

The rest of the day after we checked our bikes, we sat out by the pool read our books and just chilled.  The evening brought about a glass of wine and early to bed.  Did I happen to mention it was also our 15th wedding anniversary! We couldn't have imagined a better way to celebrate.  The next morning our sherpas arrived right on time and we headed out to the transition area to drop our bags and make the mile walk to the swim start.  Along the walk we saw a man wearing diving goggles and a snorkel offering "Swim un' Lessons for only $140.60" which brought levity to our perceived death walk!

The Swim:
The swim is a mass tread water start with an out and back then a turn to the right into the canal system. I swam in my trusty speedo and an old pair of goggles. Though by the time the gun went off only about 1/2 the racers were in the lake.  Thankfully Kerrie and I had headed out early and swam to the back of the mass chaos.  My swim was smooth until the first turn which was a fend for yourself and thank goodness you made the turn moment.  I made the second left to head to the canal relatively unscathed. I found nice open water and just felt at ease.  Making the turn into the canal I had to be aware of the narrow concrete walls on either side.  As much as I tried to stay in the middle of the canal I kept finding myself skirting the wall.  The swim is unique also in the fact that my sister was able to walk along and follow us for the entire mile into transition.  I made the final buoy only 50 feet from the exit and absolutely got clobbered.  Apparently the two guys behind me felt it was more important to grab and pull then to exit calmly.  I stopped my stroke proceed to turn around and let them know to chill out. All in all my swim was a PR at 1:14:02 (1:13:00 at the exact exit).

The Bike:

In transition I made the change to bibs and my tri top.  My fueling was one water bottle (to be changed at every water stop), one electrolyte bottle (24 oz. 2x Vega mix to be changed at bag pickup @ mile 60), 2 PRO Bars, 6 Chia bars (I carried 1/3 picking up the other half at bag pickup).  The fueling was good.  I actually had to stop twice to pee at mile 20 & 60, both of which were good signs given the rising temperature and humidity. The route was a single loop of 112 miles incorporating parts of Sam Houston National Forest which was beautiful.  Winds were out of the southwest at around 15 mph. The ride went Northwest and coming back Southeast in a circle. It was scenic and rolling course.  The around mile 70 we got onto a highway for about 20 miles that was a chip seal road that rattled through your bones and was impossible to find a smooth route.  I had to work hard not to go fast as the course leaned to my strengths on the bike so I kept a steady cadence and really rode well. I had worked through some packs and was relatively on my own for quite a large part of the ride. I rode a disc on the rear and tri spoke on the front and it felt like butta.  Rode a PR at 5:24:00 at an average speed of 20.7mph.

The Run:

The run course was a three loop course of 8 miles.  This took you past the finish line twice, through a beautiful neighborhood, some bike trails, and finally a raucous Waterfront which absolutely energized me.  I had changed into a short pair of running shorts and the same tri top I wore on the bike. My fuel was going to be completely course supported carrying only 2 Chia packets with 2 more at bag pickup.  My plan was to run/walk the first loop.  I ran for 10 min then walked for 2 min, which I followed and felt pretty good.  On the second loop I began to feel a bit bloated and tried to use the potty with no avail. I had stopped sweating and knew these were bad things. I made the conscious decision to walk the next loop in hopes that my stomach would pass whatever was stopping me up.  I took in a sip of coke, water, ice, and powerade (totally gross and I think the ultimate cause of my discomfort). With every loop the Waterfront area was an absolute party area with 3 miles of tents, drinking, fans 3-4 deep, and nice swat on the butt at every bridge.   The last loop I found my sister and I changed out of my tri top into a soft cotton shirt which was heaven. I began to feel a bit better and started to run a bit, especially running the last mile. Crossing the line felt amazing.  The energy was great and it was a PR!  My first IM marathon under 6 hours.  5:59:00 with a total IM time of 12:52:09.

I met up with my sister and B-in -law at the finisher chute.  They had said that Kerrie was about one loop behind me.  I told them I would go get some fluids and wait for her under the bridge and would then let them know she was coming so we parted ways.  We had 4 cell phones between us and questionable batteries in all.  I grabbed a cold pop and could barely stomach it.  I made my way down the stairs to the Canal to wait for Kerrie to pass by.  It was about an hour and some until I saw her.  At which time I had then moved into the finisher chute to award her her medal which the directors were going to let me do.  I sat down to relax and waited, and waited, and waited.  I looked and wondered where she was and why she had not crossed! I knew when to expect her and it was now an hour and 15 minutes past that time! I gave up hope, I had a dead cell phone, my sister had dead cell phone, no way to contact and find out where everyone was.  I slowly walked out of the chute hoping to see her and sure enough out of the darkness I hear her call me.  I was so relieved and came to find out later she was 5 feet from me, but I was out of it and completely missed her come through at the time I thought she would be there.

All in all it was a great race.  My wife did amazing. I am so proud.  We missed the boys and a special thanks to our iron-sherpas who really went above and beyond to help us enjoy this goal.