Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Ironman 70.3 Galveston 2013

April 7, 2013 provided a better than average day for the half Ironman race that had me in Galveston. It was a bit warm and sunny by afternoon, but it was also the best weather I could remember in several years of doing this race.

I arrived in Galveston the day before the race. I checked in and met up with a number of friends, including Karen and Mark, with whom I shared lunch. After lunch we walked portions of the course and transition area before leaving my bike in its place for the night. I left to go check in to my hotel and grab dinner, and then head back to the hotel for an early (or not too late) bedtime.

Pre-Race: I arrive early and set up my gear in transition. Then I walked around a bit to verify the paths in and out of transition. After this I walk towards the swim area and wait. Since the first swim wave went off at 7:00 am and my wave went off 75 minutes later, I had plenty of time to wait.

Swim: It is finally time for my wave to enter the water. I try to hop off the pier and into the water--nothing happens. I sit on the edge of the pier and hop off into the water--again, nothing happens. With two minutes until my wave begins, I take a deep breath and hurl myself into the water---splash, I'm in. After a bit I am off with my wave and swimming. I have a good couple hundred yards before doubts start to creep into my head. I make myself stick with it and ignore the thoughts of quitting and not putting myself through this. After a bit I am able to make the turn at the first buoy. Then I settle down into a rhythm and swim the long portion of the course. As I go along I begin to pass a few people from the wave ahead of me, later on I pass some from the wave or two ahead of that one as well. After making the last turn I swim towards shore and exit the swim in 44:10. I'm a bit disappointed in that but don't let it get to me as I know my swim training is the last thing I was able to resume from my injury and know it's behind the other sports in my recovery.

T1: I make it into transition, change over and get out in 5:24. Not exactly fast but I deliberately take the time to get it right.

Bike: The bike begins well with an opening split just under the 20 mph mark. I am doing this whole race on a a heart rate plan and keep a fairly consistent speed. Their is a bit of a tailwind on the first half and a headwind in the second half, during which I average about 19.4 mph for the first half and 18.5 mph for the second half. I finish the bike in 2:57:17. This was in my expected range and I was feeling pretty good at this point. I could have gone harder on the bike but I also know I should get off the bike feeling that way.

This image was captured by my friend Corey as I begin the bike portion of the race.
T2: 2:54. Considering my less than favorable transition heart location, I think this is pretty good time. It is also the only portion of the race faster than last year (by one second!). Again, I take just enough time to be certain I am ready to head out (other than sunscreen).

Run: I am running this on a plan to manage my heart rate in a specific zone. I set off at a comfortable pace and feel a bit quicker than I expect, which I know can't last. I have a pretty good first few miles before I start to feel a bit of fatigue. After the first lap of three, I am definitely feeling this race. I slow a bit into a more deliberate pace, but one which is well managed. I walk through each aid station and that is all that I walk. Lap two is mostly spent just getting through it. Lap three begins with the knowledge that it is my last  objective for the day. In the end I push myself with the same heart rate goals as earlier but go slightly faster than the previous lap, aided partly by the finishing sprint at the end. About 150 yard from the finish I hear a familiar voice calling to her friends from just behind me, then right before the finish I realize that I am stride for stride with my friend Kelly. It was a great moment finishing with a friend, especially as unplanned as this was. My run time was 2:23:19, pretty much in the range of expectation but I had still hoped for faster.

Finishing Time: 6:13:04. Initially, this was a bittersweet finishing time. I am very happy to complete this race but still comparing it ti last year that was over 20 minutes faster. In time the enormity of what I had overcome in returning from my injuries sustained last October get to me and remind me just how special this race is. Just a couple years earlier I doubt I could have imagined finishing this quickly. I can quite truthfully remember a thought from that far back wondering if I could ever break 7 hours; coming back from serious injury and reconstructive surgery after 169 days and doing what I did was probably a near impossibility--especially when viewed from the perspective of a few years earlier.

It was tough to think about my first non-PR race finsih in 4 years, but in the end this was far more important than a PR--this was getting back my life. Now that I've gotten this far, perhaps there can be days in the future that hold PRs again, perhaps even podium finishes, but the real prize was just being here and doing what I love in the company of friends.

I. am. back.

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