About Me

My photo
Texas, United States
Welcome to my blog. What is a triathlon? It's a swim, bike and run usually in that order. My goal is to give exposure and insight to triathlons along with encouraging living a healthy life style. My post will also contain my collective thoughts pertaining to my training experiences. Feel free to send an email to ej@trilifeblog.com with any feedback or questions you may have. facebook: www.facebook.com/TriLifeBlog

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Ironman Texas 2013 Race Recap

I took a few days to let this one sit in before I began thinking about it. For those new to an Ironman event, it is made up of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run. This makes for 140.6 miles of work to gain the Ironman title.  The past two years I had volunteered at this event. I was done spectating and was ready to give this course a go.  

This was going to be my second full Ironman event. I trained with the intention of hitting a low 10 to sub 10 hour finish time goal. Two weeks prior to the event I felt really confident. My swim and bike were holding steady and my run was real strong. I was in the best running shape of my life.
Most of us train for months on end for an Ironman event. We spend hours upon hours training our body to be prepared for race day. I know there are race day performance limitations we cannot control, such as a flat tire or transition bag misplacement. There are other elements which are hit or miss such as nutrition and hydration.

I thought of and accounted for all the elements which I felt would better my chances for a great race day. Eight days before May 19th, race day, I ended catching a bug. The thought of getting sick before the event had not crossed my mind. My throat was sore, I started to feel weak and low on energy. I tried upping my Vitamin C and drank some Airborne. As the evening came I came down with a fever. I knew it was too late and I was going to have to let the bug run its course.
Without going into too much detail, I had hoped I had a 24 hour bug, but unfortunately it turned into five nights of fighting off a fever. I also had a sore throat, a horrible cough and mucus.  The only positive going for me was I was into my two taper weeks. I was hoping that rest would allow me to kick the bug and be fully recovered before race day.

I started feeling my energy levels comeback Thursday 17th. My throat was still a bit sore. I was also coughing up a lung and could not stop from spiting up mucus.  From the time I caught the bug all the way through race morning I did not get one night of sound sleep. I was either fighting a fever and/or waking up in the middle of night because of a cough and mucus.

Friday, the day before the race, I was starting to get real nervous. I knew my health and energy levels were going to be a coin flip on race day. I was especially worried because I knew it was going to be a really hot day and my plans of acclimating to the weather fell at my waist side when I got sick. At this point I felt there was a lot going against me, but I was still going to keep a positive attitude about the race.
I got maybe 5 hours of non continuous sleep the night before the race, however on race morning I felt awake and refreshed. I was in a good mood and wasn’t concerned about the race. I convinced myself that I was going to have a good day regardless the outcome.

I had heard stories of athletes treading water for 5 to 10 minutes before the age group swim started. I’m a sinker not a floater and this was going to be really hard for me to do. A friend of mine suggested standing in the water by the dock. It was shallow enough for me to stand there without having to tread water. I can’t thank her enough for that awesome suggestion.

The swim start in an Ironman event is like no other event start period. When the gun goes off there are over 2000 athletes encaged in mass chaos. Arms and legs are flinging in all directions. There is kicking, pulling, scratching and bumping going on all at once. I had experienced this once before so I decided to stay as far right on the outside as possible. Even with that strategy I was still in the mix of all of it.

As the swim progressed and I found a rhythm. I couldn’t tell if I felt fatigued or where my energy levels were. I was too distracted by the cool refreshing lake water. It felt so good. All I wanted to do was enjoy every moment of it, because I knew the rest of the day was going to be anything, but cool. Approaching the swim exit I had no idea where I was in regards to my swim time. As I reached the swim out and started heading to T1, I took a glance at my watch and saw my swim split was 1 hr and 38 minutes. I was over 20 minutes slower than my goal time. I knew right then that I was going to make the call to turn the race into a training day.
I had two reasons for this decision. One, I knew that if my swim time was that off my body was not %100 percent recovered, so my 10/sub 10 hour goal time was out of the question. Two, and most importantly I didn’t want to risk injury or a relapse of being ill. The night before the race I had already explored this scenario, so I was at peace with my decision.

I spent nearly 12 minutes in T1. I took my time changing into my cycling gear, and decided to make a pit stop before heading out onto the bike course. My bike set up consisted of a white pair of Zoot calf compression sleeves, Zoot Icefil arm coolers, Specialized Trivent shoe (love the sockless feature) and Specialized Prevail helmet. Conditions were going to be way to hot for my taste to wear an aero helmet. The Prevail was a perfect fit for this event.
I walked out into the T1 bike area, and some athletes were running by me rushing to get onto the bike course. This was a change of pace for me. There was no reason for me to rush through transition so I took my sweet time. I walked up to my bike, pulled it off the rack, thanked the volunteers, and headed off to the mount line.


I knew I wasn’t 100%, and I was interested to see how that was going to affect me on the bike. There was a tail wind on the way out so it was hard to gauge my effort. As I approached mile thirty my energy levels were down, and my legs did not feel strong. I was bummed as I kept a race thought in the back of my head, wishing for some type of race miracle. I guess at this point the “training day” realization set in. It took a few minutes to shake off the disappointment. I knew I had to get my head back on track if I was going to finish this race. I focused on keeping a nice even pedal stroke to allow me to enjoy the ride and take in some of the scenery.
Approaching mile 50 the intensity of the sun begin to multiply. It all of a sudden turned into a hot miserable ride, and started to feel like survival mode. I wasn’t too concerned about my body reacting to the heat conditions. I felt my output effort wasn’t high enough to put me in danger of dehydrating.  Never the less I still took every opportunity to pour cold water on my body and arms sleeves at every aid station.

It was so hot on the ride that I could feel my skin heat up between aid stations. It was a stinging burning heat piercing heat. I also noticed that the cold water I poured into my front hydration unit would warm up before reaching the next aid station. I decided to make a stop at mile 80 to stretch, eat some nutrition, take in some extra fluids and try to keep my core temperature down. I think this was one of the smartest moves I made during the race. I literally took maybe 5 minutes just hanging out talking to the volunteers to allow me to cool off.

Mile 95 came around pretty quickly. I wasn’t pushing pace, and was trying to enjoy the ride into T2 when my inner growing area started to cramp up. This was not what I had expected. I slowed my bike pace down to allow for the cramp to work itself out. It was muscle fatigue setting in. I felt the 8 sick days were catching up to me. I proceeded to ride and a few miles down the road my other inner growing area also cramped up. I slowed pace again and allowed the cramp to work itself out.
I was less than 10 miles from the finish and I told myself stopping was not an option. I was hoping some mind over matter would get me to T2. I slowed my pace down to 17/18 mph. To complicate things further an excruciating pain on the tip of my left foot’s longest toe appeared out of nowhere. I didn’t’ have a blister and the toe was not rubbing against my shoe. I did not know why it was hurting, but it made for a miserable 10 miles.

The DNF thought crossed my mind for a second then I realized what I was considering. My mind had gone off on me and I had to real myself back in. I’ve never DNF a race and I wasn’t about to start even if I had to walk the marathon.
Though I wasn’t wearing a HR monitor I knew I was unable to get my heart rate up on the bike course. I would safely say my HR average was 125 to 135 the whole way through the bike course. Approaching T2 I knew I had a hot 26.2 mile run waiting for me. Would my toe hold up? Would my cramping seize? I was ready to get off the bike and find out. I was really hoping I would not have to walk the marathon.

The Run:
Entering T2 I handed my bike off to a volunteer. As hot as I was I surprisingly felt at calm and peaceful. I walked over to get my run gear bag and found a spot in the changing tent. I immediately grabbed two cups of water and poured one on my head and one on my back. I sat down and took my time getting out of my bike gear and into my run gear. I decided to take the arm coolers off as they were a bit to snug on my upper arm area. I wanted to be comfortable on the run course so they had to go.

I was in T2 for almost 10 minutes. It was a nice little breather. I got up and headed out the changing tent. I took a look at my Garmin and saw that I my bike split was 5:28. I was off again by 20 to 30 minutes, but this time it was expected since after my swim I had already accepted that my body was not race ready for the day.

Heading onto the run course I started to put a run plan together. At first I though I would run 5 miles at a time and walk an aid station. As I started my run, I felt pretty good. I decided to cruse and hold an 8 to 9 minute pace. As I approached the first aid station I thought to myself, that there was no reason for me to run 5 mile straight. I’ll just run between aid stations and walk through them. My new goal time was to finish between 6 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. I figured if I could get the marathon done in 4 hours that would allow me to hit that mark.

To my surprise I had a really good time on the run. I felt really bad for all my fellow athletes who were hurting out there. There were a lot of people hurting on that run course. There was little to no shade until after 6 p.m. I was very gracious to be able to put forth the effort I did. As I jogged between aid stations I ran into several North Texas triathlete friends. These were guys and gals I’ve become friends with over the past 4 years through living this healthy life style.

I stopped and walked or jogged with all of them. I carried on small conversations to see how their race was going, and words of encouragement were shared. I knew that my 8 to 9 minute per mile pace goal was going to be blown, but honestly I didn’t care. I was too busy enjoying the company on the run course. It felt like a social run, and brought back memories of when I paced a friend of mine in the White Rock Marathon this past December. I was genuinely enjoying the run, and I believe the key is that I did not feel pressured to race.
Please do not get me wrong, it was a very hot and brutal day. I believe my experience was a bit more pleasant then most because I turned the notch down on my race effort to practically nothing at all. It was a low zone training day and I think that’s what made the difference for me.

On the run course I at least 80 percent of the athletes were walking. These were people who had trained for months and months for this event. They were prepared to go the distance. What we were not prepared for was the heat and humidity Mother Nature was throwing at us.

The run course is a three lap course. On the third lap the shade started to set in, and there was a small breeze on a few sections of the course. As I clipped off the last few miles of the race I was in really good spirits, and was ready for the race to be over. The fans on the run course were great. They were full of energy cheering us on. As I ran my last ¼ mile to the finish line this experience was completely different than my IM Florida experience in 2011. I had a great time in Florida, because it was my first event. I remember racing and enjoying every second of it. IM Texas 2013 I found myself missing my goal, but still enjoying the event.

Overall I felt very fortunate to be able to get through the Ironman event. I knew many out there were suffering. At the end of my day I was able to get through the run in about 4 hours, again 40 minutes off my goal time. Though my initial goals were shot I was satisfied with my Ironman experience.  Yes, I would have loved to have been 100% for this race, but it simply was not meant to me. There will be other events other times.

I was impressed with all the fans that came onto the bike course to cheer us on. There were even locals who had nothing to do with the Ironman event sitting out on their lawn cheering and clapping. I also enjoyed the 3 loop run course. Normally I’m not a fan of loops, but on this hot brutal day seeing people you know 3 times through helps out tremendously.

I think there is something unique in each and everyone of us who go out and complete an Ironman. It’s something that can’t be explained. As armatures we do not do this for the money or fame, but for the love of the sport. This is something that we cannot be taught to love, we just love it. There are some of us out there who love this sport, but do not know it yet.  The main reason I started this blog in 2011 was to bring exposure to Triathlon and Duathlon events. With several distances to choose from, this is something than anyone of us can do. I enjoy sharing my experiences, and I can only hope that they motivate someone to get out there and try.

My race results:

Swim:    1:38:50

T1:          12:11

Bike:      5:28:04

T2:          9:54

Run:       4:03:04

Finish:   11:32:03

Div Rank: 51 Overall: 223

Thank you for reading this blog entry. As always feel free to email me any questions or comments you may have.



1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing this guide. I am hoping to compete in the next Texas triathlon. Really need to practice for it though. I will be following your guidelines.