Ironman Texas 70.3 Race Report
Memorial Herman Ironman Texas 70.3 (Galveston) was set to be my first attempt at the 70.3 distance. In the big picture and the vision i have for my plan with this sport, attempting the distance this year made sense. After discussing with my coach, Matt Hanson, we both agreed this was a good plan, and the right time of year to go ahead and try this. This is also my first year in a new my age group – 25 to 29. Although i do have to add I’m 24! 😉
I had a REALLY good training block leading up to the start of this season with two training camps and high bike milage from January to April. A month in Clermont, and a month in Tucson really had me feeling very fit! Although this was my first one, I did have some goals and expectations, although i was told many times not to. You put A LOT of work into these so I wanted to do what I feel I’m capable of FOR ME.
Going into this race, the swim is what I was most concerned about. Not because I don’t like the swim – I do really think its my strength right now. BUT because my age group was going to be the NINETEENTH wave to start! 19 out of 20! The 50+ women were the ones that would be starting right in front of the young guys. I know they weren’t too happy about that either. But it is what it is. These are the factors that are out of our control.
But I pictured it like a game. Not only was I going to try to swim fast, BUT i was going to have to have to bop and weave and dodge what looked like 100s of people! And when the gun went off, that’s what I tried to do. I did my best under the circumstances. I really REALLY felt strong right off the bat. I was trying a brand new wetsuit also and it felt soooooo much more comfortable than anything I had ever used.
The whole swim my only goal was to find the quickest route through the sea of people to each buoy. I tried to find some fast feet from my age group to sit on but once we ran into the back of the wave in front of us I lost track of everyone. My group was in powdered blue caps, and like 2 or 3 waves ahead of us they had started another men’s group the 50+ men i believe, in the same colored caps, and a ton of them were still in the water. So less than 10 minutes in I already didn’t have a clue what place I was in or who I’m racing. The whole swim, which i expected, was just a cluster of heads and people going 20 different directions. At one point some guy was back stroking the opposite way of the buoy and I remember literally having to swim directly over his belly. That part made laugh. (Side note don’t laugh and swim, drowning hazard).
I am ok with my swim given the circumstances. But I do not think that I was truly able to demonstrate my fitness or what I was capable of. Had I had clear water without 1000 people in front of me i do feel like it would have made a significant difference. BUT this is what age group racing is and everyone had the same problem. There were 4 guys in my age group that were able to figure it out and navigate better than me. One guy from my age group swam a 23:00 given the same exact circumstances I was, so he figured it out! But for the first swim of the year, I’m happy with that.
T1 went smooth as it can I think. I had the way I was going to run out with my bike all picked out before hand. I’m not an all world athlete or vip? So my rack position was not the best. But all I had to remember was 2nd palm tree! Also if you’ve seen my bike, it kind of sticks out like a soar thumb.
The bike course was pretty much what I had pictured. The ENTIRE way I was screaming ‘on your left’ at the top of my lungs and just hoping someone doesn’t turn left into me and we crash. I am happy there were barely any turns because if you’ve ever been in a packed race you know how congested the turns get, or at least in my experience they always are. Galveston was a sold race out this year. The morning of this race Galveston island was sitting at like 95% humidity. Like less than 20 minutes into the bike i was already tasting salt. I thought it was from being near the ocean? Which in hindsight was really dumb of me. I later find out if your tasting salt that’s how much sweat is accumulating on you. With that much humidity its not going anywhere, so you sweat more from my understanding. So LONG story short and one of my major, if not the most important take aways from this race, is to DRINK DRINK DRINK!
My plan was to have on me 2 bottles of liquid. One bottle in the bottle cage on the frame, and one in my specialized shiv’s reservoir. So that’s two on me, and my plan was to just get one more bottle either gatorade or water at one of the aid stations on the back half of the bike and that would be three. My thinking was 3 bottles in a little over 2 hours for the bike portion sounds right to me, and it probably would have been had I drank all three bottles! I did end up getting the third bottle but when I refilled the reservoir only a little bit of it was needed to top it off. Like less than half. Later after the race when we were able to empty the bladder from the bike it was practically full. So we think in the course of the 2+ hours I was on the bike I only got about 2 bottles in me. NOT GOOD! And one of those mistakes that should be easily corrected.
The bike was basically out with a tailwind and back with a headwind. Honestly the way I was thinking was no matter how hard I bike, the run is going to be miserable anyways. Even if i really decided to take it easy and conserve for the run it wouldn’t have changed much. In fact if i spent longer on the bike that would have been MORE time out there NOT drinking and getting MORE dehydrated.
I took FULL advantage of the tailwind. I was absolutely loving every minute of that first half of the bike. Who wouldn’t? I broke my 40k time trial record during this bike with a 54:00 the first half. That wasn’t at all part of the plan but I was happy to see that. Another item to note. I didn’t look at watts ONE time. Not once! I switched the Garmin computer screen to the road map just to watch the name of the roads and stuff. I didn’t want to see speed or watts. I knew on an amazing day for me today I could bike a 2:10 / 2:15. So that’s all I went on. This was just a spur of the moment decision and I was just rolling with it. The whole way out I knew from mile 40 – 56 would be where it got rough, and I was ready for it when it did. As far as I remember or looked up to see – I got passed a total of 3 times on the bike. Once near the beginning and than twice in that little stretch. One of the guys that passed me had on calf compression sleeves so I had no idea what group he was in. The only other group behind ours was the 20 – 24 year old guys, and the relays. So it was either one of them, or someone I had beaten in the water. I do know the other two who passed me in my rough patch, one was 58, and one was 28. So I still didn’t have a clue what place I’m in. I tried to keep an eye out on the people I was passing the whole ride to my right but who knows. When I got closer back to moody gardens (T2) – it was looking like I was going to hit my goal time. It’s always when we start going into the turns again and getting closer back to town where time really starts adding up it feels like with all the congestion, and speed bumps, etc. But SAME ON EVERYONE!
So ended up about 3 minutes slower than I had planned on with a 2:18 bike split. It was whatever. I was genuinely SO excited to be done with the bike. Most of the time that’s not the case. Today I was so over that damn bike.
T2 went fine. I really wanted to get in and get out and get the first 15 minutes of the run done cause thats always when I start to relax and my legs tend to open up a bit. As I was coming out of T2 i was looking for my dad cause I knew he would have over all time because I was in the dark on that. I had NO clue what the overall time was or what place I was in. On my way out I saw him and asked. He shouted 2:49:00 overall time for the day.
Not what I wanted to hear. To break 4:10 (my original goal for the day) I would have to run a 1:19 half marathon. Now there’s being hopeful than there’s also being realistic. With the way I was feeling that was pretty much out of the question. But if I run a 1:25 or even a 1:30 half that will be under 4:20. Alright bet, I gotta run a 1:25.
I got through the first 2 miles and I always try to focus on when my legs feel like they’re ready to run and have forgotten the bike, and that normally happens about that time. Than mentally I try to forget the bike. Always focus forward not back. The race is in front of you. (Good advice I’ve gotten that always stuck with me). This is when I decided to also stop looking at pace on the run. I didn’t care. I quickly could tell this was going to work WAY better if i don’t monitor it constantly. Most of the time looking at pace really messes up my head. So it was so much more relaxing to just flip the watch screen to time of day, and just run.
Now I had heard the Galveston run course was a bit complicated and wonky, but WOW, that was a cluster! Between how many people were on the course, and the constant turns out and around Moody Gardens, the miles just felt SO slow! But since it was all in that little park and was a three lap course, the crowd support was AMAZING! I love seeing funny signs and there were some super creative ones out there. That first lap felt like it dragged out forever. I finished the first lap and switched my Garmin back to the run screen to see where I’m at and it looks like I was on a 1:30 half marathon pace. That was a bummer. Also the effort felt SO much harder than that. But if i stayed consistent and ran a 1:30 I would still get a 4:20 overall time.
The reason I’m talking about time so much is because honestly at this point I didn’t have single clue what place I’m in. I know there are some fast dudes in this age group. The winner of the 25 – 29 the previous year did like a 3:56. So obviously its whoever showed up, but was I winning? Was i in tenth? I had no idea. It was just too hard to keep track of. Honestly the ENITRE run I didn’t see a single calf with my age group on it until the end, and I was actively trying to keep an eye out!
So it was all just a time trial to me to see how fast I could get it done. And after the fact is when I would see what place I’m finished in. The second lap is when my race all sort of fell of a cliff. The storm that was brewing the whole morning looked like it had moved directly on top of us. I was SO hoping it would start raining. The second lap felt worse than the first, which I was hoping would be opposite. I was hoping I was really into the run now and warmed up so to speak to start getting faster. That was NOT the case. BUT, I completed the second lap and switched the Garmin screen back to see my run time and I was STILL on a 1:30 half pace! (I was still not looking at pace the second lap). I was convinced I had slowed WAY down just off how rough that felt. My dad screamed something at the start of the third lap, like “age group, go go go!” I didn’t understand what he said. I thought he ment maybe I need to push cause someone’s coming? I have no idea.
My coach had said if I stay calm the first two laps this was the lap I should ‘go to war’ on. And that would have been ideal to be able to do that. But wow! My body was not working with me. All signs point to really bad dehydration. I was seeing spots. I was barely lifting my feet off the ground. Running that slow should NOT have felt that hard. I absolutely didn’t want to walk at the aid stations at all, but I just took them as small breaks to reset. It turned kind of comical. It was really really disappointing. I thought wow, I’m absolutely ruining this! (Still not looking at pace – who cares at that point was my thinking). Each lap was a little over 4 miles and when I had about a 5k left of the last lap my goal quickly became just to finish. Time goals were kind of out the window. I knew if someone came up on me I’d have no response, so I was no longer ‘racing’ at that point, but just surviving. Which I DID not want to happen. But that was where I was at.
The last 5k the wind was REALLY picking up and the sky was so dark! I was burning up though. I just felt really really HOT. So I was hoping the rain would start. I made it out to the beach area and I knew this was almost done. On that last stretch I finally see a guy that had a 28 on his calf! I asked what lap he was on. He said his FIRST! So that was kind of a good sign I guess. I said ‘keep it up’ and went on by him.
About two minutes later there it was! My first 70.3 finish line. I crossed, got my medal, walked out of the shoot and there was my dad. All I cared about was what my time was, cause once again I was in the dark on this. I had no idea what my overall time was. He said I did a 4:27, but no idea what place I’m in. And than I walked to a little curb and sat down.
I would be lying if I said I’m happy with that run. I’m NOT. Not at all. Running in triathlon is all up to you. It’s the only time it truly is on you and in your control. And I lost control of it. Causes: Nutrition, and inexperience are the first two things that come to mind.
Official Finish: 4:27:33 – 4th Place
Not but 10 minutes later after I finished, the skies opened up and all hell broke loose. Seriously the worst storm I’ve ever been caught outside in. Felt like a little hurricane! We rushed to the car to get out of it. But WOW! There were so many people still out in that. We later heard word that they told the remaining athletes out on the course to find shelter and that they canceled the rest of it. But with good reason. Later in the week I saw footage on facebook of the timing clock falling down at the finish and almost hitting some people! Something like only 380 out of the 3000 finished that day! Only 9 got to finish in my age group out of I believe 129!? Just 10 or so minutes later and my whole season would have been different! Crazy.
For starters, there is a GIANT learning curve to these. I guess like in all aspects of triathlon. But WOW. There are so many things I could have done differently.
I have GOT to learn nutrition. It’s the fourth discipline for a reason and I have yet to figure mine out. I blame 90% of the last lap on that run on being completely dehydrated and calorie deficient. Running on empty. There probably are more reasons that the last lap ended up being so awful but I know that’s a major part of it. I didn’t feel the need to pee ONCE over the course of the entire 4 hours, and than not till 3 hours after the race! That’s a horrible sign for me. Ask anyone I’ve ever trained with. I have the bladder of a pregnant rat. I mean I have to pee ALOT.
I knew that age group Ironman racing would be this crowded going in. I expected that. But this was one of the reasons I had been hesitant to sign up. However starting from the literal back of the pack and working my way up actually was very motivating. I’ve always thrived leading races. The local smaller ones around here, leading is my favorite position to be in. Controlling the field. But going into an event this big with so many people was kind of relaxing in the sense that I knew I would never be in the ‘lead’ of the race. That the entire day would be moving through a sea of triathletes. This can, and i do believe slowed me down in some parts, but also can help. That’s what age group racing is now and all part of the game.
I am so SO motivated to do this distance again. A sub 4:30 for my first 70.3 and my first real race of the season, I will take that! I accomplished getting my worlds qualification here and that was one of the main goals, and that’s now done.
With that being said, I’m reevaluating how I want my season organized around Nice. (70.3 world championships this year in September in France). So I will keep everyone updated for news on that and what we’ve decided to do.
As always the support from everyone and messages means SO much to me. This was an amazing weekend. I’m itching to do this again but I want to be smart about it. Thanks to my coach Matt Hanson for getting me prepared for this over the last few months. I hang on every word he says. I have to mention my kit sponsor also. One of the most comfortable race kits I’ve ever had, Tres Piñas. I loved it!