Ironman Texas 2013
Eeesh… I don’t even know where to begin.
Suffice it to say, I had high hopes for this race. The week before the race went great. I left town Tuesday night and headed down to the Woodlands with the Maloys. We got in a little late, but I didn’t have to drive, so the late hour didn’t phase me. Wednesday, I headed over at the Expo, spent a good amount of time in the ART tent with Dr. Maloy keeping me loose, ate, hydrated, and rested. Thursday was pretty much the same. Friday, I dropped off my bike, went to the Pro meeting, and repeated Wednesday and Thursday. Amy and the girls drove down after school and got in that evening. I got one last night of good sleep, and we were up at 4am for the usual Ironman race morning routine.
We got down to transition early, I checked my bike, put my computer on, filled my bottles, and got my helmet inspected (and took some pictures of Boo’s Flat Stanley posing on my bike). We set out on the trek over to the swim start, and even though it was still really early, the port-o-potty lines were already crazy long. Amy grabbed a spot in line, and I ran over and dropped off my special needs bag. (I was NOT going to forget that again this year!) Thankfully, the line moved quickly, and I had plenty of time to get my sunscreen on and my goggles anti-fogged. I hugged and kissed Amy and the girls, and I headed over to the swim start. All was going just as planned.
Then, the cannon went off. I hesitated a second too long to start, and just like that, I lost the feet of the guys in front of me. Amy said she and the kids were watching the swim start from the bridge, and there was one lone Pro hanging off the back. She and Monkey said, “I really hope that’s not him.” Well, I can tell you – it was. It’s no secret that the swim is not exactly my strong suit. Adding to that the fact that I just couldn’t get comfortable and into a rhythm and the fact that I was in the water with some really fast swimmers, and it got ugly… and fast. When I made the turn into the channel to head towards the swim exit, I was mentally defeated. I knew the predicament I was in, but I don’t have any extra gears for swimming like I can muster on the bike or run. So, after a brutal 1:11 swim, I was finally out of the water… the last Pro and behind more than a few age groupers. If it weren’t for Byron Benoit pulling me out of the water, yelling encouragement, I might have thrown in the towel right then and there. I ran through transition to my bike… the only one left on our rack, and I was literally sick to my stomach. I told myself, “Put it behind you, and just get going.” So, I grabbed my bike, nodded to the Maloys, forced a smile for Amy and the kids, and tried to make up whatever time I could as I raced out of town.
I heard it was going to be a warm (low-mid 80’s) and windy day, and I knew the second half of the race would have a headwind all the way back. I was angry, but I knew I couldn’t ride angry or I’d pay for it later. I told myself to ride hard but not over-ride. Pace, eat, and drink, and reel some of them in. In the town of Richards, as I crossed the railroad tracks (not sure what mile it was), I finally caught a male Pro. I had passed most of the amateurs and some of the Pro women, but I was on the hunt for the men. When I passed him, I was minorly relieved and thought, “Well, at least you’re not last.” From there, it was more of the same. Control what I can… pace, nutrition. I kept eating and drinking, noting that it was getting warmer, but I felt like I had a good plan for the day. At mile 80, I felt good, but the day was getting harder. I kept looking at the clock, doing the math, realizing that my bike split wasn’t shaping up to be under 4:40 like I’d hoped. At mile 90 though, as we were getting back into town, we got a little break from the wind. I was able to get my speed up a bit more, and the math started working out a little better. I felt confident – if I was able to accelerate like that late in the race, it was a good indicator that I had done well with my nutrition. I rolled into transition with a 4:39:39, and that gave me another little boost. I was still ticked about the swim, but I had biked more or less what I wanted, so there were positives to take from that. I figured I was still around 30th or so male Pro, so I just hoped some were dying on the run.
I handed off my bike, made my way through transition, burned the bottoms of my feet on the scorching hot pavement in the run bag pickup, and made my way through the transition tent. The volunteers were so awesome. They helped me open my bag, slapped some sunscreen on me, got me water and ice, and follwed me all the way to the exit cheering. Stuff like that really gives you a nice little boost. I ran out of transition, reviewing my nutrition plan in my head, and working to get into a good rhythm. The first loop went by pretty uneventfully. I didn’t get passed by anyone and passed a few myself. I went through my self-assessment – feel good, nutrition seems OK, good spririts – check. At this point in the race, I hadn’t really seen many people on the course. I had biked most of the course alone and now was running basically alone. On the second loop, there were more people out on the course, which was nice. I was still feeling OK, and then I got to mile 12. I wasn’t sure what happened, but I slammed into a wall. I tried to reassess and figure out why things seemed to all of a sudden fall apart. I was frantically searching for my “reset” button to get back to how I had felt just a mile earlier. So, I took a little longer through the aid station, stopped at the port-o-potty, adjusted my sock that slipped a little, adjusted my chip that was rubbing – searching for something that might help me get back on track.
I started figuring out that I was dehydrated. I took in as many fluids as I could and told myself to just keep going. It was taking everything I could muster to keep moving forward. I was literally thinking, “Left, right, left, right.” I saw the Maloys and Amanda Melo with the “big heads” along with Amy and the kids screaming at me from the far side of the canal.
I tried to straighten up my form and smile at them, but even that took effort I couldn’t spare at that moment. I looped around and passed them on the near side of the canal. Jason yelled at me that I had moved from 24th to 17th male Pro and that everyone was suffering in the heat. Hearing that helped me find that extra gear I had been searching for. It was just what I needed to hear. I still had my special needs bag waiting ahead with extra nutrition (more salt!) and figured I could gut it out to the finish in about an hour. I picked up my pace and said (I think out loud), “Get moving and finish this thing!” I flew through aid stations, grabbing whatever they handed me and splashing it on myself, making me a sticky mess but I didn’t care. I made my way around the back side of the loop and was heading to the canal for the last time. I saw Jason Soria, I picked up the pace and closed the gap. I caught him at the aid station, patted him and said, “Let’s go.” He took me literally, turned and said, “OK, let’s go!” and he took off. I tucked in and stayed with him.
You know the saying, “Misery loves company?” Well, that was us. He was running well, but he said he was suffering. I understood completely. We went back and forth, pushing the pace together, all the way to the turn-around which was my 26 mile mark. He said, “Run with me,” and I locked in on the Team Imagine Sports logo on his back and just followed. At my turn-off to the finish, we shook hands, exchanged words of encouragement, and I headed into the finish.
The finish chute runs about a block away from the finish, then turns back around and to the finish arch. I ran along the fence high-five’ing people on my way in, and all of a sudden an arm shot out with a Texas flag. I realized as I grabbed it that it was Monkey handing it to me. She yelled something about the top corner being in my right hand so I could get the flag right-side up. Well, let me just say, 100 yards from and Ironman finish is not the place for me to figure out whether or not I have it right side up, so I opted to grab the blue field with both hands and avoid the possibility of flying the flag upside down. I made it to the line in 9:33:11 with a 3:35:39 run, which left me 15th male Pro… right in the middle of the pack. I’ve had better days and I’ve had worse days for sure, so I did take comfort in coming back from so far behind for a respectable finish.
I went to the med tent to rehydrate and cool off for a few minutes. It was there that I was told that the temp was actually 96* with a heat index over 100*. So, my mid-80’s nutrition wasn’t quite sufficient for the day. Rest assured, I’ll stock up my special needs bag even more in the future. Congratulations to all of the finishers – it was a hard day. Amy and I are especially proud of her boss, Troy, who dug deep and finished in 13:47:29, in spite of his severe deyhdration. And to those who did not, hold your heads high. You worked hard, but it was a really hard day. Next time will be better. Tracy – you fought all the way to your finish line. You’re way tougher than most, and you’re gonna kill it in IMAZ!
Finishing so dehydrated made the next few days tough. I haven’t felt that bad after an Ironman in a really long time. On Tuesday, I was still walking like a car accident victim. I had been toying with the idea of racing Ironman Kansas 70.3, but with only three weeks in between and feeling as bad as I was, I didn’t think that it would happen. After a couple visits to SVSS and my regular dosing of Vector 450, by Friday, I was feeling much better. I gave myself some extra time to decide to be sure that I could get back up to sufficient training before going back into a taper. I discussed the race with Lauren (my coach) and made the final decision this last week. I’ve had some great rides and runs, which gives me confidence to press on. So, Thursday, the Vector 450 team and I will make our way to Lawrence, KS for the 70.3 on Sunday, the 9th.
Stay tuned, and wish me luck!