First a little background information about me. I am 42 years old and married to the most wonderful woman in the world. I am a father of two, who works a full time job and is training for Ironman Texas. I am not much of a swimmer, not a strong biker, and not a very fast runner. I guess you could say I am a run of the mill MOP to BOP (Middle of the Pack – Back of the Pack) type triathlete. I started doing triathlons in 2011 and had been running off and on since 1996. My cycling experience was strictly MTB up until I started TRI training. My wife started dabbling into triathlons after running what seemed like over a 100 marathons (exaggerating a little) and her enjoyment of the sport piqued my interest and so I decided to give it a shot.
On November 4, 2012, I participated in the Oilman Texas Triathlon, a half iron distance race consisting of a 1.2 Mile Swim, followed by a 56 Mile Bike and ending with a 13.1 Mile Run, for a grand total of 70.3 miles. Prior to this race, I had only participated in Sprint Distance Triathlons with my longest swim being 550 Meters, longest bike 15 miles and longest run being a 5K. I have participated in other road races with my longest run to date being 13.1 miles.
I had been training for months and had done several 60 mile bike rides, two 12 mile runs and several swims in excess of 3000 yards. I felt strong physically leading into race day but in the week leading to the race, my mental focus had shifted from, “Yeah Bring It On” to “Oh S**t, this is really happening.” I began having my doubts and upon talking to my coach and other athletes, I found out this was perfectly normal. The main voice of comfort was that of my wife, as you know as a true badass, who told me to trust my training. She reassured that all my hard work and dedication would get me through the event. As usual, she was right…
|The pre-race prep|
The night before the race, I got all my gear in order, set my clock back and thought a good night sleep was in order. Was I ever wrong. I think I slept a total of 2 hours.
I woke up race morning, I kid myself when I say I woke up since I had been awake since 2:00 a.m., and had my prerace meal. I ate a banana and a peanut butter and honey sandwich. I continued drinking water and electrolytes. I gathered my gear, took a quick shower and headed out the door. When I left, I got a call from my wife who said I had left my second banana and pop tart, which I planned on eating an hour prior to swim start, on the counter. She said she would bring them to the race. I got to the race site, which was La Toretta Resort in Conroe, TX, got body marked, picked up my chip and headed into transition. By now it is about 5:50 a.m. I get my transition area set up and start mentally preparing for what is going to be a long day. The forecast was for possible showers and a high temperature of 84 degrees. Temperature at race start was forecasted to be 64 degrees with 100% humidity, yuck.
The race start was scheduled for 7:00. This race was a wave start beginning at 7:00 a.m. with 4 minutes in between each wave. My swim wave was scheduled for 7:20. This event was a beach start which was a unique. Before the swim start began, I jumped in the lake and did a warm up swim of about 200 meters.
|Before the race|
The swim was wetsuit legal with the water temperature being reported at 69 – 70 Degrees Fahrenheit. Entering the water felt pretty good. I avoided the mad rush and decided to hang back and let the overzealous, that’s what I like to call fast people, go on ahead. I waded out about 15 meters and started swimming. The water felt great but visibility was limited. I stuck to my game plan and kept a good comfortable pace that I knew I would be able to maintain for the duration of the race. The water felt a little crowded, I laugh at this comment because I can only imagine what an Ironman Swim Start will be like, and ended up bumping into the same guy until the second turn. Rounding the second turn buoy, I looked around and began seeing different colored swim caps, not the ones from the wave behind me as I normally do. I realized I had caught up to people in the waves before mine. This was a first for me. I pressed on, made the third turn and headed for the beach. Before I knew it, my hands were touching bottom so I stood up and exited the water. The wetsuit strippers were great and had me out of the wetsuit in one measly pull.
I had a really good swim, by my standards, and had originally projected to be finished in 50:00. I was out of the water in 47:31. The road to T1 was long so I walked most of it and picked up the pace to a slow jog as I got closer.
There is nothing really special I can say about transition. I took my time, out on my shoes, helmet, glasses, made sure I had all my nutrition with me and headed out. Oh yeah, I did down a bottle of water to wash the lake water taste out of my mouth.
I know some of y'all will laugh when I say this but by Texas standards, this was a hilly bike course. I knew what to expect with the bike because I had trained on the course the weeks leading to the race. I headed out and set my timers to remind me when to drink and eat. The plan was to drink from my water bottles containing 2 scoops of Cytomax mixed with water every 15 minutes and eat something every 45 minutes. This is the plan that I trained with and this is the plan I stuck to during the race. My caloric intake for the duration of the bike was to be approximately 290-310 calories per hour. The first hour, I finished one bottle of Cytomax, containing 190 calories, and ate a Honey Stinger Strawberry Flavored Waffle (these things are the bomb), 120 calories. Also, I took one Energy Labs Endurosalt tablet every hour. The second hour was pretty much of the same except 1 took one Accel Gel Vanilla Bean, 100 calories with the Cytomax and lots of water. Water was kept in my Aerodrink aero bottle. My last hour, I ate a Kind Bar instead of the waffle or gel. My coach told me to stay hydrated and I guess I did, I had to stop and relieve myself at two of the three water stops. Things to learn : Learn to pee on the bike.
As for the ride itself, it felt a little crowded. There was limited shoulder along the route and it was not a closed course. Passing people proved sometimes difficult. There were times I was glad no race officials were around because several of us would have gotten penalized for drafting. The rolling terrain took us through the Sam Houston National Forest to the town of Richards. The roads were in good condition despite some wet areas from the previous day’s rain. Once through Richards, the route took us through the small town of Dobbin, up a “false climb” road, Johnson Rd., back into the town of Montgomery. You may ask why I used the term “false climb”. Simple; Johnson Rd. is one of those roads that looks flat but in reality, the majority of the road is a constant climb. Once in Montgomery, we took the road home.
My heart Rate began to settle around mile 6 but it was difficult trying to maintain in the correct zone because of all the climbing. I finally decided to stop trying to maintain Zone 2 (127-146 BPM) and was just trying to maintain a low Zone 3 (147-168). I was also trying not to stay in Lactate Threshold too long during the climbs.
I finished the ride in 3:21:13 which equated to an average speed of 16.7 mph. I was happy with the ride, the speed and I felt good coming off the bike.
Again, transition was uneventful. I took my time, knowing I had at least 2 hours (on a good day) to go. I put on my shoes, grabbed my race number, nutrition for the run and headed out. Oh yeah, had to stop at the porta can, AGAIN, on my way out.
The run was a 4 mile, plus a little more, 3 loop course. My strategy was to walk the aid stations and keep hydrated. Well, my plan worked for about 2 miles of the first loop, I began walking a little more than anticipated. My legs began to feel tight, but not cramping tight, at the hip flexors. Every now and then I felt a “twinge” in my quad and my left Achilles. Prior to this race, I had been dealing with Achilles Tendonosis but had recently been running pain free. When I felt the Achilles twinge, I grew concerned. It didn’t hurt enough to make me stop and stretch it but it was letting me know that the issue was not 100% healed. I abandoned the Cytomax for the run and was taking water, Gatorade, gels and Endurosalts during the run. After a while, I grew very hungry but felt nauseous at the same time. I commented to another runner that “I feel like vomiting, but I’m hungry.” This comment drew some laughs and comments from some spectators. I guess they found it odd to be hungry and nauseous at the same time. I decided to abandon the gels and the nausea subsided. There were pretzels available at the aid stations and I took full advantage. They really hit the spot. The run became more difficult as time went on. Along the course, there were large pockets of spectators followed by areas of solitude. The solitary moments were good and bad. Good because it allowed me to reflect on the day and bad because the crowd seems to make you forget about the pain and press on. I pressed on and upon passing Mile 10, I kept repeating to myself, “Just a 5K.” When I hit Mile 12, I told myself, “I’m gonna do this.” That last mile, everything came into perspective. I had been told that the biggest part of the road to Ironman is the journey. My coach told me I would become a changed man as I journeyed down that road. At that moment, I realized this was one of those moments along the journey. I can’t express to you the feelings I had but it was like nothing else mattered to me but my wife, who was there to support me not only during the race but my training, my children, and my faith, which gave me the strength to participate and finish this race. When I rounded the corner to the finish line, I felt a sense of joy, a sense of pride and a sense of accomplishment. Sharing this moment with my wife, my kids, my sister and nephews was a feeling that I will not soon forget.
|On the run course|
I finished the run in 2:46:12. This was a little over my goal but I am happy with the result. Total race time was 7:05:30.
Looking back at the experience, I realized there are some things that need to be addressed. First and foremost is hill strength on the bike. The course proved somewhat challenging because of the terrain and I will be riding the same area in May. I can always improve on my run. I’m pretty happy with my swim, for now, but I know my balance and form could use some work. My nutrition plan worked for this race but I know it will have to be tweaked for longer distances.
|Rounding the corner to the finish!|