Ironman Texas 2014
With my first year of racing pro again behind me, I was looking for a solid start to the season. Last year was tough. Many things didn’t go as planned, and frankly, I was tired of finishing last. I did some major soul searching during the off-season, partnered with Team Imagine Sports, and with a new perspective and direction, I was ready to get things started.
The week leading up to the race was pretty routine. I got into the Woodlands Wednesday, checked in, roamed about the expo, spent some quality time in the ART tent with Dr. Maloy, and got some rest.
Thursday, I hung out around the expo a little bit more, visited with athletes interested in learning more about Vector450, made a trip back to the ART tent, and hung out at the PowerBar booth. My friend, Lewis, and brother-in-law, Stephen, headed over for lunch at the local Jason’s Deli (where we ate five out of seven meals over the course of the weekend), and then went back to the hotel to put my feet up and chill. Friday was more of the same… with a very early bedtime… and a goal of waking up on my own before the 4:30am alarm on race morning.
Mission accomplished. I awoke a few minutes before my alarm, got dressed, ate a PowerBar Chocolate Caramel Triple Threat bar, and washed it down with a Coke (hey, don’t judge… after all these years, 4:30am and I still don’t get along). My brother-in-law Shane drove in with Stephen, picked up Lewis, his wife Kearci, and me, and dropped us off at transition. I checked on my bike, dropped my bags off, and then we all headed to the swim start. If the nerves weren’t already raging in full force, they certainly were on the walk over. All Ironman races get my anxiety level up, but after being the last pro out of the water last year, I was determined not to be this year. Working to my advantage that morning were water temps in the low 70’s… well within the wetsuit legal range. I’ve spent a lot of time working on my swim, particularly my swim start, but I was thrilled with the wetsuit news…it certaily wasn’t going to hurt.
I dropped off my special needs bag (never going to forget that again!), got in a good warmup, donned my wetsuit, and handed off my bag to Kearci, our cheerful sherpa. Mike Reilly started calling for pros to get in the water, so in I went. I found a good spot for my start, put my face in the water, and my goggles fogged. Ugh. I had used my anti-fog, and these are a pair of goggles I’ve raced in several times. I tried the spit trick, wiped them out, spit again, and no luck. At least they weren’t leaking, and trying to get them not to fog distracted me until the gun went off. We all took off, and after the usual underwater fist-fight that is the swim start, I found a pack to swim with. Since I couldn’t see buoys, I locked onto a girl with green goggles (they were so bright, I could see them, but little else). I knew I wasn’t last because I was swimming in a group, so that gave me some relief. We made the turn into the final channel, and I focused hard on my stroke. I was praying I would finish the swim in an hour, but I was reassuring myself that even a 1:05 would be OK. I stroked, pulled, and stayed honed in on the green goggles. At one point, we passed right alongside a buoy, and she turned left. I took one more stroke and realized, “red buoy – turn left – steps!” I didn’t realize I was so close to being done. I ran up the steps and into transition. I didn’t notice the clock at the swim exit, as I was running to the wetsuit strippers to help me out of my wetsuit. I sprinted to grab my transition bag, and as I turned into the changing tent, I looked at my watch. It was just turning over 1:01… that meant I swam right around an hour (1:00:05 official)… over 9 minutes better than last year. It wasn’t with the fastest guys, but it was way better than I had been swimming, and it sure wasn’t last. That gave me such a mood boost as I prepared to head out on the bike.
I ran through transition, waved to my wife’s boss, Troy (2x IM TX finisher who came in to watch the swim that morning), grabbed my bike, and heard the Maloys cheering me on as I ran through the Bike Out.
The bike was pretty uneventful. I biked alone for pretty much the entire course. I passed a few pros, but as I passed them, they dropped off and were gone. It makes for a lonely day and can be hard to really push. So, I focused on my time intervals, making sure I was eating and drinking right on schedule. I did great until the last 12 miles of the bike. Right at mile 100, my bladder was full, and for some reason, I just couldn’t relax. I wasn’t going to stop, so I just pushed through. As a result, I didn’t take much nutrition in for that last part of the bike.
I made it to transition with a bike time of 4:38:34…not bad for the windy day and riding basically alone. Alot of that has to do with the great bike too – I really love my Trek Speed Concept from Richardson Bike Mart.
I grabbed my bag and ran into the tent asking where the port-o-potty was. Of course, it was outside the tent, so I changed quickly, and ran out to the little blue building. Have you ever seen the movie Austin Powers? Well, I put his post-cryogenic freeze business to shame. Let’s just say I had plenty of time to contemplate how my race was going. All in all, I felt pretty good. Swim time was OK, bike time was OK, and I was feeling OK… obviously well hydrated. Dr. Maloy was waiting outside of transition as I ran out. She asked me how I was feeling, and I could only reply that I needed to pee. She laughed and gave me a thumbs up, and off I went on the run. I tried to settle into a manageable pace and start working on my nutrition.
For the first ten miles, I was on track. I felt good, pace was good, heartrate was good, nutrition was good. Then, missing my nutrition on the last twelve miles of the bike caught up to me. Mile eleven of the run was a bit off, and then the voices of doubt in my head started getting louder. I had a bit of a rough patch. It lasted the better part of the second loop, but I tried to settle myself, stay focused, and concentrate on my nutrition. I was hopeful that if I stuck to my plan, I could get back in the groove. I even grabbed an extra couple of gels from the course, trying to see if a few extra calories would help me snap out of it. Again, I was running more or less alone. Even though it was my second loop and more people were on the course, there were no real groups. For the entire run, I had no idea where I was place-wise. I had heard 14th, 20th, and from some really “nice” guy on the side of the road, “You’re a pro? Dude, you’re WAY back.” Just things that make it hard to keep the pedal down.
As I began loop three, a girl on her first loop ran past me. She wasn’t flying or doing anything crazy, but her passing me snapped my mind back into focus. I picked up my pace, settled back into a better rhythm, and passed her back. The miles started clicking off, and just before I hit the back side of the canal for the last time, I heard Kelly Williamson coming. I kind of wish it had happened sooner, because that really got me running again. She passed me, but I really re-engaged for the last few miles. I loosened up, and I felt good as I made the last few turns, each one getting me closer to the finish. I hadn’t been paying much attention to the time because I hit the wrong button when taking a split and accientally stopped my watch. So, I had no idea what my time was and still had no idea what place. As I made the final right turn, away from the finish line on the final out and back, I realized I would be under nine hours. I zipped up, high-fived spectators on the way, and for the first time in nineteen Ironman races, I didn’t get called to the finish line. Even in 2011, when Mike Reilly called the wrong name, it was at least me he was talking about… Kelly Williamson had finished a little over a minute ahead of me, so her interview was underway. Kudos to her though; she absolutely deserved her time in the spotlight! And in fairness, once her interview was over, my finish was announced.
8:56:00 and 14th male pro. All in all, a pretty good day. The Maloys met me in the finish chute, along with friends, Tracy Shultz and Chris McCaskey. They told me where I finished, and honestly, I was in disbelief. It was finally a solid performance. Can I do better? Yes. Did I make mistakes? Yes. But, am I happy with this finish? Yes… for the first time in a long time.
Lezlie took me for my celebratory Big Mac and fries and then back to the SVSS Mobile Recovery Center to put on the recovery boots.
Wow, what a difference! I was walking better so much faster than I normally am after an Ironman.
Coach Jason Soria and I have analyzed the race, and he’s set my training plan for the next few months. Next stop, Ironman Louisville!