Tuesday, May 24, 2016

3rd Time is a Charm?! 123.6 Miles of Fun!

Two weeks ago my wife and I completed Ironman Texas for the 3rd time.  I have had a love hate relationship with this race. I have had my fastest Ironman time in my first finish at Texas, then had my worst marathon time and worst meltdown ever in Ironman in last year's finish.  The third time had to be a charm, right?!  Well, it certainly did not lack in character building and lessons learned.  This was my 5th Ironman event and everything was falling into place as the event approached. We changed our training and I saw great changes, my mental game was as relaxed as ever, and we even had a new living experience set for the upcoming event.
The calm before the storm

Ironman Texas takes place in The Woodlands, a planned community north of Houston. The swim is in a large lake and in years past entered into a canal to the transition area.  The bike in years past was one large loop to the north and west made of rolling hills and ended at the same transition as the swim.  Finally the run has been 3 loops around the neighborhood and canal which sees tremendous fan support possibly nearing 15,000 spectators. The run course is truly the gem in this race, while not challenging, it is entertaining.   Notice I said in years past for the swim, bike, and transition? Well race week brought changes!

My wife and I knew prior to going that Ironman was having difficulty securing a bike course.  So much so that Ironman offered to give us entry into any open Ironman event since they were not even sure there was going to be an event. Two weeks to go to the race they advised they had secured a bike course, though it was 18 miles short of the 112 miles that make a bike leg in Ironman events. This was attributed to flood waters that had damaged roads and this was the best that Ironman could do.  It wasn't until we arrived that a map was available of the route.  The bike course was 95 miles and had 84 turns, which equated to about 1 turn every 0.7 miles.  Kerrie and I had mixed feelings but were pretty upbeat since we would not be getting bored on the bike. 

The lead up to the race was pretty low key.  Our SAG support (my youngest sis, her husband, and my mother) made the trip and helped us continue some long standing traditions which always helps us to keep pretty chill. On the day of check in we found out the swim course was now changed and the race became a two transition race.  I am pretty sure I saw triathletes grey matter all over the area as we
We have never been so close
walked through the expo.  Can you imagine 3000 triathletes finding out a course has been changed for the umpteenth time then being changed to something radically different!  Again we tried to remain chill and informed the our SAG about the changes and how they got to move around a bit more.

With all the drama of race changes aside we managed to remain calm and focused on our respective plans.  With great thanks to Lesley Paterson and Simon Marshall of Braveheart Coaching we had new plans, a new philosophy, and a new approach to conquer our goals at Ironman.  We adopted the philosophy of "WGAF" or "Who Gives A F&^k?!" Let me tell you having that mantra repeated throughout the race helped to keep everything in perspective.

Race morning:
Air temp: 80 degrees at 5:30 am - high of 105 chance of thunderstorms in afternoon!!!
Water temp: 82 degrees (no wetsuit)
Wind: 0-4mph S

Swim- TYR Speed brief & Goggles - With the new routing the swim was essentially a total of 2.4 miles in an out and back manner. The swim is a rolling start, with a self seeding lineup.  Well the seeding (or how fast you think you will swim) was chaotic or better yet non-existent. It wasn't a big concern for me as I have handled prior mass swims well and usually get through traffic. This swim was much the same as in my past.  I was relaxed and steady. Buoys were easy to spot and I felt I swam a consistent line.  I think I hit just about every buoy with my arm so I knew I was on course.  I did take one foot to my goggle but otherwise the swim was uneventful.  Time: 1:15:29

My notes: Raise Hell (song by band Dorothy)
Bike- cycling Bibs, cycling Jersey, TT bike-  Well the large loop was no more as was the 112 miles.  Exiting the change tent I was excited and ready to go riding. The clouds had cleared and the sun was out. I had my ride planned (every 5 min drink, every 30 min gel, every 60 min eat, repeat for 5 times). Coach advised I needed to take in approx. 1000mg of sodium and 250 calories an hour. I fueled with Scratch electrolytes, Scratch chews, Honey Stinger gels, and Salted Nut Rolls.  The ride itself was not as bad as originally appeared.  The turns were many but a good bike handler could lose very little speed through them.  We rode through residential neighborhoods, commercial streets, and some highways ( the six lane kind!).  At about an hour into my ride I finished my first bottle of four, reached to grab my next one and it was gone.  I figure it popped out after a railroad crossing.

It would be at least another hour before I could get my special needs bag which had my next two bottles, so I had to resort to using on course drink, Orange Gatorade. I hate Gatorade, especially Orange flavor Gatorade.  Well I had no choice so down the hatch it went until my special needs.  I found myself sinking into a dark place prior to my planned stop at mile 52 for my bag.  It had gotten very hot, very quickly and the many turns left me unable to find a comfortable position.  I stared at the tape on my top tube and tried to get my head back in the game.  Special needs stop came, I grabbed my bag, went potty, and felt a bit better for about another hour.  Though that dark place returned and I found myself just wanting to get off my bike and be done.  The ride was flat and if it was a normal time on the bike for me it would have been a very fast course, but this was a  new approach with trying to hold my pace back.  I entered T2 happy to be done but quietly dreading the run.  Time: 4:39:44


Run- running shorts, t shirt ring spun cotton, Altra Zero shoes, swiftwick socks, hat- I took my time in T2 change tent.  Last year I had vomited here and I did not want that to happen again.  I could tell my core temp was crazy high so I spent some time drinking ice water and eating in preparation for the heat to come. I left the tent and walked out to sunscreen and the crowd.  I began an easy trot with the plan to run/walk and keep my core temp in check. The 3 loops were 8 miles each with an aid station at every mile or so.  The heat of the day was yet to come but it was already over 95 degrees and I was roasting. My plan was to take things a mile at a time.  An easy walk/jog through mile one found me a smidge optimistic about the remaining leg. My first lap was ok.  I was feeling ok but resigned to walk more than jog because I could not get cooled off enough.  I found that I was hungry in between each aid station.

Actually running before the storm
I grabbed grapes, oranges, water, ice, Gatorade (lemon lime), and coke at every aid station. I dunked my hat at every water stop to help with the heat.  At mile 5 there was an angel of a man that had a secret cooler filled with ice cold watermelon.  It was amazing and I felt a bit renewed.  After the melon I could feel some confidence coming in my run and began to stretch my run longer than my walk time.  I entered into the canal portion of the race and hit "catapult corner" which is party central and my spirits were lifted for the next 3 miles. As I finished lap one clouds began to move in and I was able to run a bit more and feeling more confident.  The hunger persisted which was good because it motivated me to get my butt to the next aid station.  At mile 9 I grabbed an ill fated potato chip.  Now I don't know about you, but eating a dry, very salty chip with a dry mouth and swallowing it while running is not an easy thing to do.  I could not get it down, nor could I cough it up.  It was stuck.  I had only one option, puke.  I puked. Good news was the chip came out, along with everything else.

The bad news, this must have upset someone upstairs.  He decided that the parking lot I now soiled needed to be cleaned.  Yes you can blame me, the rain started.  It was nice at first.  Light drops, a breeze, the temperature dropped, and best of all, I could run!!!  For the next 4 miles I was in heaven.  The rain was steady, but with every mile it got heavier.  There were plenty of Forrest Gump jokes as the gentle rain turned into angry sideways rain.  The trails began to flood to near ankle deep.  Lightning was every where.  I passed over a bridge and had heard rumors that  the race was stopping.  Just when it was all coming together for me, they were going to stop me. I passed mile 14 and was told to go to the next timing mat and then seek shelter.  Shelter was another 1/2 mile from the mat. Myself and 500 other athletes were now undercover of canopies and a lodge in a residential neighborhood. As frustrating as it was.  I welcomed the chance to stop. I sat, rang out my socks (futile I know but mentally it was awesome), drank, and got to know some folks.  We waited patiently and after a 28 min stoppage in the race the volunteer captain stood in the middle of the road and announced the race was back on and then shouted "GO!!!". 
(link below is a great pic of running for shelter)

The view of everyone wobbling and trying to get their legs working again was priceless.  The temperature had dropped to 70's and the humidity was gone, and a steady drizzle was present.  It was glorious. The crowds which were immense on my first lap had now disappeared but I felt stronger with each mile and finished with my fastest Ironman marathon time to date.  The finish line was amazing as ever and I think the conditions surrounding the race made it even more epic.  Time: 5:26:34

Overall, I really like this race.  I have a very difficult time in hot weather but I will get things figured out.  My wife had a tremendous race and I love to see her smiling as she crosses the finish line every time. Post race was better than years past, no vomiting, no passing out.  So some work to do for the future but in all another success.  Overall time: 11 hrs. 43 min 07 sec. asterisked PR!

Thanks to the ever present SAG crew : Mom, Jess & Brandon
Thanks to Coaches: Les & Si
Thanks to Wife: Kerrie - when is the next one....
Thanks to our boys for letting us have our time
Thanks to dad for supervising the boys for us.

All smiles and all wet!!