Well, it’s been an interesting training build into this race to say the least. About a month ago, I wasn’t sure I would even be able to race after being told that my IT band was not happy. But I am happy to report that with only about 40 something running miles in the last month (12 of those being on the Saturday before the race) – I was able to compete and finish Ironman Texas! I finished 12th in my Age Group.
Going into this race, I knew it was going to be a little different. The bike course was shortened to 94 miles due to flooding. I thought maybe the swim might be either cut short or eliminated due to water quality too. And the run, well I must say that I’ve never been more nervous or had more doubts about completing a marathon in my life — and I’ve run almost 30 marathons in my lifetime so far. I was able to pass the run-test thrown out by my PT – I had to complete 12 miles with very little or no pain in my IT band or IM TX was going to be a swim and bike. So with much anticipation, the Saturday before the race – I set out for a 12 mile run. I took it slow but was able to finish the run without much pain. It still didn’t leave me much confidence for how the 26.2 mile run would go in the Ironman race but I packed my bags and headed for Texas!
I flew to Dallas and met my parents and sister. My mom and sister traveled down to The Woodlands with me for the race – it was their first time spectating an Ironman race. On Friday, we were told that the swim course was going to be changed, T1 and T2 would be a split transition for the race, and the bike course would then end up being 95 miles. I actually think in the end that the new swim course ended up being a better swim and splitting T1 and T2 wasn’t too complicated. The water temperature was 81 degrees on race morning so it wasn’t wetsuit legal – I sort of expected that and brought a nice pink bathing suit for the swim 🙂 Why not make the 2.4 mile swim fun, right? I swam 1:11 and honestly was hoping for a time more in the 1:05 range – I was a little disappointed leaving the water but I moved on. I think I swam around 1:16 in Frankfurt last summer when that one wasn’t wetsuit legal – so I’ll take 1:11 as an improvement.
Transition was slow for me as usual but I got everything on and out on my bike. I was supposed to hit 165W for my NP but noticed early on that my power was in the mid 145W range for most of the ride. But I glanced at the speed on my watch and it was between 21 and 22mph and I was happy with that given the heat and the fact that I wasn’t on my new bike. Heart Rate was my primary guide for the race and I was supposed to keep that around 133bpm for the entire ride. Looking at my HR for the first hour, it was in the 145 range and I knew that was too high – it was getting warm and the humidity seemed like about 150% to this Cali girl. I took in my nutrition and water along the way and finished just under 21 mph for the entire ride. I ended up riding 95 miles in 4:40 and I was pretty happy with that considering the last minute change to switch back to my old bike for the race and the million turns on the bike course. I eventually braved some of the turns IN my aerobars!
For the first time ever in an Ironman race, I was sad that the bike was over and completely anxious about the run ahead of me. Usually I’m SO happy to hop off my bike and begin the run but that day it was different. I started the run feeling pretty good, but I knew that it was going to be a hot and humid run. It’s been a cooler spring in California so I haven’t been able to get in many runs in the heat …. or much running at all for that matter (notice a theme here?). I ran the first 5k a little too fast looking back at my splits but I settled into a pace between 9-9:30 which included only stops at the water stations to grab some ice and refill water as needed. This pace faded later to around 10:00. I went through each mile, not knowing if it was going to be my last before my IT band decided it was done. I made it to mile 13 and the unknowns really started to occupy my mind – I started to doubt myself but kept repeating “Go Mommy Go” in my mind over and over. I kept pressing on with each mile and forcing myself to only walk through the aid stations and begin running right away after the last trash can. I took in my nutrition as planned (something I didn’t do in the heat during my Ironman in Frankfurt which lead to more walking at the end of the marathon – so I was happy that I was sticking to that plan) During this point of the run, the clouds began to roll in and I felt a sense of relief that it was going to cool down a bit. I was just hoping I could finish before the storms rolled in. As usual, I avoided all the people spraying water with the hoses along the course because I didn’t want my feet to get wet for fear of blisters….. this turned out to be a waste of time because shortly after the mid-point of the marathon, the heavens opened up and it began to pour! Pouring so hard, I could barely see in front of me. Then the streets started to flood – so much for those dry feet (and I have many blisters now to prove that!), I could see lightening in the distance and could hear the thunder. I remember wondering to myself “I wonder if they will cancel the race?” but I kept pressing on in the pouring rain. As the paths continued to collect standing water, I had to walk a bit through the puddles because my body was not really up for jumping at this point in the Ironman and I noticed that when I turned my foot out to go through the water, my IT band started to hurt. So I stopped to walk through these puddles. I can remember going through an open area where I counted the time between lightening/thunder and only got to 4. I thought to myself, “wow, that’s pretty close!”, but I kept pressing on. All of a sudden, around mile 19 – everyone came to a stop. We were standing in water up to our ankles and my first thought was that the path was flooded and people had stopped to walk through the deep water and the runners were just getting backed up but someone else said that the sheriff had stopped the race to due the weather. So we stood there in the flooded path as runners began to fill in behind us. I took the opportunity to stretch my legs but couldn’t help but wonder if I would be able to get started running again. We were held for about 25 minutes …… all of us stood in the pouring rain and our body temperatures began to drop. I was freezing – then all of a sudden, they said GO! The race was back on! and what was once a steady stream of runners plodding along at the end of an Ironman quickly turned into what seemed like a marathon start – hundreds of people starting a race at once shoulder to shoulder …. except our bodies were at mile 20 of an Ironman. That was an interesting few miles, but thankfully my body cooperated and I settled back into my running pace for the last few miles of the marathon. In the last 800 meters someone from my age group passed me and I thought to myself – THIS CANNOT HAPPEN. So I gave it my all to catch her and just barely caught her as we crossed the finish line.
I found my mom and sister and then reality set in – I had just finished my 6th Ironman race and more importantly, I was able to complete the run relatively pain free. Although, a 4:12 marathon is not what I wanted on that day, but with pretty much no run mileage over the last month – I’ll take it and move on. This race leaves me wanting so much more for Kona but that’s the drive I need to keep me motivated over the next few months as I prep for Kona. I realize how lucky I really am to have my Kona spot and that any given race or training cycle can bring on the unexpected. Just being able to complete an Ironman race is a blessing. Overall I really enjoyed this race with no pressure for a certain time or place and I was smiling most of the race.