Last summer when the registration for the inaugural Ironman Texas opened up, I was refreshing the computer screen until I could register---and I was registered within minutes! I knew this was going to be an adventure, but little did I know just how much of an adventure it would be!
I started a 20 week training program for my race that coincidentally began January 1st. Steadily the training weeks got longer and longer and longer, with an occasional recovery week thrown in after 3 build weeks. I remember that February through April had many long and dark workouts, and many times I felt like I was still asleep when I got to the gym to swim or ride. In time I was also so tired that I was not always sure I could complete a workout without falling asleep. There is a lot of stress that goes with training for an Ironman, but I also feel like it was worth every minute of effort I put out. I have so many good memories that I could never remember them all at the same time if I tried.
Anyway, on with the race report.....
I set 3 alarms to be up at 3:30am and within minutes I was packed up and ready to head out the door. Technically virtually everything was packed up the night before--and unpacked and repacked..... Since bikes and transition bags were turned in the day before the race all I had to do was get myself there ready to race and turn in my special needs bags (one bag for each the bike and run that was available at key points in the race in case there was something I thought I might want or need). I head out, get parked near the race and get to transition by 4:30am (I have to love being so close to this race--2.5 miles from the start line!). I check my bike, set up my nutrition on the bike and head out towards the swim start area. As I walk along I bump into various friends and talk about the race. By the time I get down there and get all ready to go it is about 30 minutes until race time. As I am standing around with friends waiting to enter the water, we realize we are only several feet away from one of the male pro racers, Tim O'Donnell and his girlfriend Mirinda Carfrae. Tim goes on to take the Men's 2nd place in this race and Mirinda is the reigning Women's World Champion. In a few minutes we are in the water, I find a place to hang onto a nearby dock to avoid using energy treading water before we start as the final minutes tick down.
At 7:00am the gun goes off and the race begins. I was caught in a tight-ish pack for most of the first part of the swim and held back by so many slow swimmers that started at the front of the line. I also wanted to try to swim at the outside to start, but there were still athletes getting into the water when the gun went off and they blocked that route for me. I expected bumping and jostling and was not surprised at the swim being rough at times and did not think it was that bad. The next day I heard several multi-time IM-er's describing it as worse than their other IM swims, so maybe I was better off being planned to expect worse than it was. Here is a photo showing a sample are of the swim start.
Being my first Ironman swim, I projected a 1:40 swim time and was clocked at 1:40:03.
As I make it in, I get to the ladder at the swim exit and pick up my transition bag on the way from the water.
I had a good bike ride for the first half, but started having problems early. For some reason my bike computer was not registering out of transition (and I did check it before the race) so I made a very early quick stop to realign it. All was good for the first hour and a half as I was pretty much on pace and then little things went wrong. First, the screen showing my speed went blank and never came back on, so I biked on heart rate and perceived effort as my guide, which is what I use for my effort level anyway. About an hour later the zipper broke on my nutrition box and I had try pry it open. Still, I made it through the first half of the bike ride about 7 minutes ahead of my goal range. However, I started feeling nauseous around mile 60 and by mile 70 was in urgent need of a rest stop. After a longer stop than I wanted at the porta-potties and making sure my feet were OK in my wet socks (next time I am considering a mid point sock exchange), I then got back on the road. I did not time my stop but it probably got close to 15 minutes. I did feel better for the next 20 miles but then the nausea returned around mile 90 and stayed with me all day. Seeing friends late on the bike course did perk me up a bit but my stomach was not happy.
I did finish the bike in the back end of my (7 to 7:30) target zone with 7:24. I thought my T2 was slow but it was faster than I thought it was, I headed out on the run. I really did enjoy the run course, and was almost always near someone cheering or volunteering, but my stomach kept bothering me. I walked the first half mile to get started and when I saw a friend who motivated me to start running. The best run I could manage was a 3 minute run/2 minute walk on this loop--however that still got me around loop 1 in approximately 2:02 on my watch when I hoped to average around 2 hours per loop.
It did feel good to run but I was always so close to being sick when I ran. By the time I got to mile 12 I was realizing that even this effort level was pushing me to nearly vomiting and I feared that might push me too close to dehydration, as I saw a number of runners go down from dehydration and heat exhaustion. I decided at that point that I would rather walk and guarantee a finish than push my pace and risk failure, so I walked much of the rest of that second loop and just ran where there was better crowd support. About a mile into the last loop I was feeling somewhat better and wanted to try to run some more, but the guy I was walking with kept wanting to drop out so I stayed with him and talked him through the last loop until we got around the mile 25 marker. At that point I told him he had about 45 minutes left with a 20-25 minute walk ahead of him and I started running again until near the end. I waited near the finishing entry to Market Street for a minute or two to get a place with no other athletes in the finishing chute and then went for my finish.
I was glad to have the chance to go in and high-five a bunch of people on both sides and really have fun with my finishing run before I crossed the line.
It was not long until I saw friends and fellow OutRival Racing members come up and hug me and tell me how happy they were for me and want to ask me all about the race. That really made me feel so great to share those moments with friends!!
Finally, before I drive away from the race area to head back home, I am adding the new distance sticker to my car!
Ironman Texas was an awesome experience! I may have had things go wrong, but I also was well enough prepared to overcome those problems and succeed in finishing. In the end, I was able to endure and still enjoy my race. A friend of mine had once told me that there is no real plan for Ironman because things will go wrong. I remembered this statement during my race and told myself that I would be fine---and I was. This Ironman journey was the adventure of a lifetime and I would not trade it away for anything! As difficult as this was, I can't wait to do it again!