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My Experience at Ironman Texas 2011

Crossing the Finish Line of Ironman Texas

Just before I crossed the finish line of Ironman Texas

Wow, what can I say about it? My first Ironman distance triathlon is in books. It was a lot more difficult than I was expecting, but I am pretty sure it was due to the fact that the hills were more numerous than advertised. We got to The Woodlands on a Wednesday and when we got to the hotel and got our luggage to the room, spent some time getting our bikes together. In doing so, noticed that my bike seat had gotten squished to a side (thanks, Continental). Regardless of my seat, we were planning on heading to the Ironman Village anyway, so what better excuse? Walking around there, we didn’t find any vendor that sold any real selection of seats, but one did recommend Bike Land just five minutes away. So we woke up Wednesday morning, heading to the bike shop and after a few test rides, settled on a seat, so we then went for a 1/2 hour bike and 10 minute run, duplicated again on Friday after a test swim in the lake. The day ended with a good dinner at a local steakhouse. Surprised by a good sleep that night, Larry drove us to the transition area.

swimming the lake of Ironman Texas

A crowded swim for Ironman Texas

The swim was fine; yeah it was crowded and yes the final canal was more narrow than we would have preferred, but I still had a good time. Sure I could have had a much quicker swim if not for smacking into people, getting heels in my chest and head, and trying to get around crowds. I did find myself drifting to the right a few times and I can only remember seeing one of the red turn buoys, let alone even turning myself. It was a good thing that I was wearing my wetsuit, because that narrow canal got pretty chilly. It was announced that the water temp was 79° which I am sure the main lake was but that canal was definitely a few degrees colder.  It was a great sight when I came upon the arch for the swim exit! I trotted out of that animal farm, stopped to have my wetsuit ripped off my legs, and then headed to the transition tent to get ready for a little bike ride.

biking Ironman Texas

Riding the rolling hills of Ironman Texas

Wait, did I say a “little” bike ride? Who am I kidding, this was Texas and there ain’t nothing little about their bike courses. It is described on the website as: “The course is mostly flat but features some rolling hills” which is. of course, according to Texan standards. So I hop on my bike with my bottles of Hammer Perpetuem and Sustained Energy and begin my trek, with a decent crowd around me. I think the combination of the rough conditions of the swim, plus the granola bar I ate enroute to the race, played with my stomach as I had some G.I. issues for about half the bike, stopping at about four of the first seven rest areas to use the portable toilets. I did stop at the special needs stop to drank my Mix1, which I think helped with my stomach. Although it did not help with the rolling, rolling, rolling hills. Yeah, for those that do not live in “hilly” areas, imagine you are on the interstate and there are two overpasses in a row. Now imagine that for at least half of a 112 mile bike. It got pretty lonely after about mile 80, and was grateful that a random cyclist hung around for a few miles; it might not have been illegal, but at that point I would have taken a two/four minute penalty. Part of my desire to get off the bike was also due in part to a long stretch of road that was unfinished. My bottom was already sore from breaking in the new seat … it did not appreciate that dark new road gravel. I was quite pleased to make it to transition before the 5:30pm cutoff. I spent a few minutes getting my running gear before heading out for the last leg of my day – hopefully with some legs still left.

And so started my third leg of Ironman Texas and my third marathon. I had a feeling I was not going to beat either my A1A Marathon time from 2010 or my Mickey Marathon time from 2011. But what made it easier than you would think was that it was a three loop course which went through Market Street, a residential neighborhood, and circled around where the swim start was located. I jogged as much as I could. The first lap was spent mostly still in the sun, which meant there were a few points where I walked for a few minutes. I finally got to chat with someone for the first time that day and he helped the first lap go by smoothly. I wish I could remember his name to give him credit, but unfortunately all I can remember was that he was an older gentleman who had a bucket list to do all Ironman triathlons and had attempted St George two weeks ago but had crashed on the bike – still had two fingers taped. It was during our chats that we confirmed our theory on the cold swim – he regretted not wearing a wetsuit as he said his swim split was just over 2 hours. He must have had a good bike time as he was on his last run lap. Just before he jogged off (for some reason he wanted to run ahead of this lady instead of just behind her) he gave me the rest of his salt pills. When I came to Market Street, boy was that uplifting. The second lap was the start of the sunset so I tried to jog more, but that proved a bit more difficult. But once again I was grateful to chat with someone for about half of the lap, as Angelique (?) was on her last lap. We mostly just chatted about the bike, training, and the run course. After a good walk, I decided to start jogging again. When I came through Market Street again, I knew the last lap was going to be a b. it more difficult. After I passed the crowds, it got quiet and dark. There were some spots that were so dark that I was glad they had laid out the glow sticks along the sidewalk. But I knew that time was of the essence and I really did not want to stop in those areas. Who knows what weird Texan creatures were in those woods. So I pushed through those areas a bit more quicker. There was a rest area at about mile 22 where I heard someone mention that there was about one hour left. So I knew that as long as I maintained a 15 min/mile pace that I would be fine.

Just after crossing the Ironman Texas finish

Me just after I crossed the finish line of Ironman Texas

There was stretch that passed some restaurants which proved motivating, after which I walked. It was about mile 24 or 25 that I decided to not chance missing the cutoff and started jogging. Pretty soon I was upon Market Street, and the music and cheering became more pronounced. I will never forget that. Even as I type this I feel tears forming. Just before I turned the last corner I hear, and see, Larry shout at me. The home stretch with Mike Reilly and the arch that I have been waiting all day for. When I gave Mike a high-five in passing, that was awesome. Passing through the archway and having the medal placed around my neck, even better. I could probably go on and on about that day, but I have a sprint triathlon in a few weeks and, now that I feel that I have completely recovered, I was to see how much faster I have gotten over short distances.  😀

Feeling Good is Good

Okay, so I haven’t been writing in this as often as I had hoped. When I was looking at the training program at the start of this, I figured that at this point the training would be long and difficult every evening. Now that we are two months away from Ironman Texas, I am a tad surprised that the week day workouts are not as intense as I had feared. Now the weekend workouts are another matter; until last weekend, we had century bike rides scheduled. The thought of those a few months ago brought chills to my, ummm, let’s say butt.

So now that we have done a few of those long rides under our belt (pun not intended) I can say that it took a few to get comfort built up. Now that we have done a few 100 mile rides, the idea of doing 112 is not so bad … or at least so far fetched. I can say with confidence that I can do that leg of the Ironman and finish it … and walk afterwards. Now how well I will be able to do the marathon just after that bike ride is another question. I have done a total of two marathons up to this point: the A1A Marathon February 2010 and the Goofy Challenge this past January. But the longest brick that we have done on the program has been a 100 mile bike followed by a 13 mile run … and we only have to do that exact mileage once more. So it should be interesting when I get to mile marker 15 of the run. Based on how Larry did at the Great Floridian last year and how another friend of ours (David Hoy) feels leading up to his race (Ironman South Africa) on April 10, I feel pretty good.