Archive for October, 2011

Ironman 70.3 Austin Recap

I have had lots of thoughts swirling in my head following the 70.3 Ironman Austin race on Sunday. But due to the lactate still swirling through my veins and lack of sleep I’m having trouble actually getting them out in a coherent fashion. So bear with me as I’ve taken all week to collectively finish this post and recap!

Pre-Race

While it was nice being local for a big race, it also meant still getting up at 4am to get some breakfast, prep and drive down to the race site. We had dropped off our kids with my parents the night before so Jillian could join me for the day. We were out the door shortly after 5 on our way to Decker Lake. As we arrived there was already a large number of athletes, spectators and volunteers at the site. We got parked and found Matt & Nikki right away. We made our way to T-2 in order to drop off my run gear bag. We loaded on shuttles and headed towards the lake. I got my body markings and was off to T-1 to finalize my preparations for the day. I borrowed an air pump, mixed my bottle of Perpetuem, applied sunscreen, and made sure everything was in order. Restrooms were definitely an issue on race morning as every set had long lines. Being a guy I was able to venture off on a warm-up run and take care of things pretty easily. We met up with Troy and Corbin who were also racing. The wives picked out a good spot to spend for the swim portion.

Swim

I was very unimpressed with how the swim waves were scheduled for this race. Normally they lead with pro’s and go in age group order after that. I have also seen where they seed ‘faster’ age groups towards the end in order to give everyone the most time on course. I couldn’t really make out how they decided on waves for this race because I was one of the last, yet the 30’s males were mid-way through the waves. I had been telling myself for several days not to worry about it, because there wasn’t anything I could do about my 8:25 start, it just meant I would have to pay extra close attention to electrolytes and fluids. It was cool having the canon send off the pro’s then seeing Michael Raelert lead the men out of the water. One by one the waves kept going, and it wasn’t long before I was on deck. I hugged and kissed my wife one last time and got set. I spent a minute of prayer and quiet reflection before heading in the water. I’m notoriously slow in the water, so I did my usual count to three after the gun before swimming. Depending on the course, I like to stay a little towards the outside as to avoid uber chaotic swims. It worked pretty well this time as I didn’t have to battle with a lot of folks. It felt like forever before we finally hit the first turn in our giant triangular swim. The back side of the course seemed to move a bit quicker. I felt like I was holding a pretty steady pace and could tell there were still some of my age group around me although I could see the caps of the wave behind me already. I didn’t go so great on spotting for some reason and really did some nasty zig zags almost the whole course. There was a couple of times that a kayaker pointed me back on course. As I got close to the end, there was noticeably more traffic as we were squeezed in a smaller place to exit the water.

T-1

I was on dry land! What relief! As I ran up towards the wetsuit strippers (which was freaking awesome by the way) I scanned the crowd for the pink shirt of my wife and spotter her near where I got my wetsuit yanked off. I continued on into transition, applied some additional sunscreen, put my bike shoes and helmet on, and I was off.

Bike

As I crossed the mount line and got on my bike, I knew something was wrong immediately. There was mud in my cleats preventing me from clipping in. Not again I thought! We had the same problem last weekend during the LIVESTRONG Challenge. I made it about a mile before stopping and grabbing a stick to get some of the dirt out of my right cleat. I got it clipped in and continued. My left foot however would still not clip in. I danced on the pedals and decided I would stop on the back side of the lake because I wanted to get out of some of the heavy traffic. I kept working my cleat, and it finally clipped in around mile 5. The first 5 miles had flown, most likely due to the fact I had to deal with my clipping in issue. I finally got settled in and played yo-yo around Decker Lake with a couple of other athletes. Before getting to the first major checkpoint, I looked at my stats and was fairly pleased averaging 17.1 mph. The plan was to take it easy for the first 30 minutes or so to settle in. Mission accomplished. I turned up the pace a bit after grabbing a Gatorade bottle from the Tough Cookies at the first aid station. I made quick work of the next section which had most of the ‘rollers’ for the course. When I checked my average next it was 19.2! I was feeling great and almost halfway done with the course. As I turned south suddenly things changed. Part of my accelerated time had been due to a solid south/southeast wind. I knew my average speed would suffer some from this point out. What I didn’t expect was how bad it would. I’m still not really sure what happened but from that point forward on the bike course I really suffered. I wasn’t able to pick up a quicker pace and it was a slow grind in, much more so than should have been. I kept on my nutrition and hydration plan and opted for a pit stop after about two hours to use a port-o-potti. I thought it would be better to take a quick break on the bike and recover than have to do it on the run. While there I popped some endurolytes and another racer asked if I had any extra as she had dropped her container on the course. Knowing it was a long day, and I had a separate container for the run I helped her out. The return section of the course was mostly flat and through our training rides determined it would be a great place to pick up some speed & time. However with the cross S/SW wind we had, it made it very difficult. I still managed to pass a few more riders on hills before heading into transition.

T-2

I shuffled my bike into transition and made the long jaunt to the other side of the racks where my assigned spot was. I had originally liked the spot, but after realizing I had to trek my bike all the way across, I was less enthused. I racked my bike and got my run gear out. I had made the decision several weeks ago that I would put on compression socks in T-2 in order to get a ‘fresh’ feeling in my legs for the run. They went on easy enough, along with my awesome Brooks PureProject Flow shoes, I grabbed my visor and was on my way.

Run

As I left transition I scanned the crowd desperately looking to get a glimpse of my wife. I didn’t see them in the turn-around where I thought they would be. Slightly deflated I continued up the hill where there were tons of spectators. Not long after cresting, I spy the pink shirts and hear some screams. I was elated to see the cheering squad! I gave them a big wave and a smile as I set out to complete the 13.1 mile run. I knew it would be a long afternoon because my quads were already feeling tweaky. I settled into a descent pace and hoped it was just the initial transition for the discomfort. After almost a mile my legs felt a little better. However the near 90 degree temperature did not. Aid stations were supposed to be every half mile, but during the first of three laps I discovered two stretches that were almost a mile before stations. At each stop I would get Gatorade, ice water and dump ice down my shirt. Let me tell you, ice down the shorts have NEVER felt better than I did on that run during the heat! There were cold sponges at some of the stops which I stuck in my top to hold some cold water. It was very apparent that the name of the game would be trying to keep my core temperature down as much as possible. I opted to get some coke at a couple of the stops for a quick pick me up as well. Although I took in a lot of fluids on the run yet still felt like I needed to drink more. I liked the 3 lap option because it let me spend some time with my wife more on the run. When I was completing the second lap she walked with me for a bit to check on me. I told her I was hot and my legs were cramping some. She said “it’s just hot out, you’re ok, only one more lap, you’ve got this!” I told her what my pacing was and she would see me inside the arena at the finish. The final lap was much harder than I had hoped. Before the race, my plan had been to try and hold 9-9:30 minutes for the first two laps and then see what I had left to open up on the third. That was not the kind of day I was having. It quickly became a game of finishing. Mile 11 was extremely tough. I had been taking walk brakes on the rest stops. But most of mile 11 saw me walking due to my calf cramping so bad that my toes curled in my shoes. I kept pressing on, just excited to finish the day. Nothing would get in the way now. There was quite a bit fewer people on the third lap and most were taking extended walk breaks. When I hit the mile 12 sign I decided it was time to finish strong. I picked up the pace and pressed on to the arena. It seemed like the longest mile of my life, but finally rounded the corner preparing to enter the arena. I could feel the cool breeze of the A/C pouring out of the opening and the dark shade approaching. Spectators were lined deep on the arena floor and the air was filled with cheering. I hear the announcer yell my name and I’m overwhelmed with emotions.

Post-Race

I cross the finish and darn near collapse in a volunteer’s arms as my legs wield one final big cramp. Another volunteer puts a finisher’s medal on me and hands me a hat. I see Matt, Troy & Corbin all cheering and hear my wife yelling my name. A volunteer asks if I need to go to medical. I decline and say that my legs were just cramping. The boys give me lots of smiles and congratulations and I get a big hug from my wife. Let’s just say that isn’t normal. I’ve been racing for almost 7 hours and soaked with sweat and water. Any wife will tell you it’s less than desirable to touch someone after that! They all ask what I need anything- water, medical, oxygen, etc. I get some water and slowly walk to the med tent to see if they’ll give me oxygen. They were pretty swamped so I opted out and got my name on the waiting list for massage. I find a picnic table and sit down with Jillian for a few minutes. I’m overcome with emotions. I had no idea what this kind of race would do to someone, both physically and emotionally. Everything finally settles down and we decide as a collective group to hit up Pappasito’s for post race recovery/celebration since it was Tanya’s birthday as well. Let me tell you I’ve never enjoyed it so much. I had to wrestle with internal conflict about finishing and the time it took me. I had expectations and planning on finishing about 45 minutes earlier than I did. Race day during long distance events is a horse of another color. You can plan, but there’s no telling what will really happen on race day. Playing back everything, I felt I gave it my all. And on that particular day, during that particular race, I did what I could and there wasn’t anywhere that I could have made up more time. I’m proud to have notched my belt with 70.3 and look forward to the next race.

By the numbers-

Total Time- 6:57:48
1.2 mile swim- 48:46
T1- 6:17
56 mile bike- 3:28:39
T2- 7:15
13.1 mile run- 2:26:52