Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Ironman Texas - Race Report

OK, first off, Texas is HOT!

Leading up to my A event for the first half of the year, I didn't have any really disappointing results from previous race, but nothing spectacular either as I had hoped.  Oceanside was fun with an awesome run, but not a complete race.  Wildflower was windy and I didn't prepare properly with my eating ahead of time.  Not the things to give the confidence I could smash my first Ironman this year and make my Kona goal.

Arriving in Houston on Wednesday, it wasn't so bad.  80 degrees and sunny bearable so it started getting me excited for the weekend until I looked and saw over 90, humid, UV index of 10+ and the end of the world scheduled for Saturday.  Time to hunker down, hydrated, and take in as much salt as I could.

A few short runs and swims along the way, and the Ironman Welcome Banquet was actually a lot of fun.  I sat with a bunch of people from that started a group for IM Texas.  We all had good thoughts for each other, helping out with advice and encouragement over the past year and it was fun to put a face to a name of a lot of them.

Friday they let us in the water at Lake Woodlands.  It is technically private property, so swimming is illegal outside of organized activities.  The water was cool which was good and bad.  It put thoughts that the temperature might actually drop to make it a wetsuit legal swim.  Ironman rules are if the water temp is 76.1 - 84 degrees you have a choice to wear a wetsuit or not.  If you wear a wetsuit, you are not put in for Kona slots or awards, so I was going without, but if it dropped from the 77 degrees during the practice swim, I would jump at the chance to wear it.  I have a TYR Torque Speed Suit as plan A though.
Heading in to the practice swim

Out of the water, bike check and then one last mission to find salt.  Amazingly this was a more difficult task than imagined.  Figuring this was a very important piece for every one's day tomorrow, the Expo should be well stocked.  Backfire, as there is none there.  Sports store, none.  Finally GNC?  Nope, but they were friendly enough to point me in the direction of a pure running store Luke's Locker the finally had some, but not much left as I was probably not the only one in this predicament.  Time for dinner with the family and bed.  Thanks Karen for such a great pre-race meal!

Race morning and I wake from an actual good night's sleep at 3:30.  Standard bagel with peanut butter and honey, and I added a yogurt with granola along with 2 cups of coffee and we are out the door.  Probably a little too quick as I discover once I get to my bike at transition.  Forgot the salt on my bathroom counter.  CRAP!  #1 wrong thing of the day (there's always 3 do be ready to deal with them).  Call Dad and we don't know how he'll get them to me, but we'll figure something out.

You have to walk a mile from transition to the swim start at the lake.  Very quite and relaxing through the tall trees and glow in the distance from the swim start.
The crowd was growing quickly and the volunteers number marking were hilarious all dressed up for the morning to loosen the mood. This was a good touch as everyone needed a smile at this point.
Time to relax and do my "business" and get int he right state of mind for and Ironman Swim.  I think I was in complete denial of what was coming at me.  I tried to put in more pool time, but I just hate the pool!  Aquatic Park or open water just goes by much faster than laps.  My stroke felt strong, but man, the wetsuit is my security blanket.
Calm before....
Carnage begins
The gun went off and things were going well!  The first 100 meters went alright, and only some wash making it difficult, but the course is not straight, and you have to stay to the outside of the buoys on this course.  Hitting the first area where things start "snaking" along the shore and the water got crowded.  People with wetsuits swimming faster, and no wetsuits slower, meant for more traffic going the same speed.  I end up breast stroking twice as I paniced for a few seconds and decide my best track is wide to the outside to stay out of the mix.  Mantra in the water ended up being "Calm is smooth, smooth is fast".  Feeling better I get my stroke back, but can feel I'm not on top of the water and dragging.  STUPID POOL!  Heading down the canal for the race was a sight though.  Very sweet aspect of the race where people are nearly on top of you screaming GO GO GO!
Swim time - 1:15:56 - 531st Overall - 82nd AG

Out of the water and really not happy.  Looking at the time 1:15 and change, not good for my hopes in the race.  Smoothly get through transition and onto my bike, I have crazy things running through my head like smashing my legs to get back into it.  Calming down, I cruise out the first 8 miles to the first turn, keeping watts down, but absolutely flying by people!?  I know I was deep in the pack, but how far back was I that I was passing people like they were standing still?  That worried me even more, but I had to stick to the plan of trying to keep my effort between 250-280 watts, and try not to spike my effort too often.
Taking on the rollers north of The Woodlands and into Sam Houston National Forest was just an amazing course.  Technical enough to keep people from latching on and drafting, but staying fast the entire time and able to stay in the big chain ring.  The temperature was still in the 70's with cloud cover so this was my chance to move up with a light tail wind and smooth roads.  Hitting the midway point at 2:14 I know I'm on, but the return back to The Woodlands would not be as easy.  Racing the rising temperatures and increasing headwinds the weather people predicted was my only worry now.  Got to my Special Needs bags, grabbed my half frozen bottles of Perpetuum and Powerade (special trick I'll divulge later) and I'm cruising down the road.  About a quarter mile after the aid station a HUGE rattlesnake is in the road!  Nearly jumped off my bike, but it appeared dead.

The Marshalls were out all over the course and picking off draft packs on the return making me happy.  I was forced to ride the whole bike course solo due to my poor swim, and I found comfort they were doing their job.  Winds were picking up the entire return route, but I could still hold effort all the way making up spots up until the last few miles.  The effort did take its toll on my as with a few miles left my right leg started to cramp.  I immediately went for more salt tablets and force fed as much Perform as I could before getting to T2.  Arriving at T2, I missed the dismount by a few yards and was force to back up a few feet to satisfy the judge there.  I'm glad he said something or I would have just kept going.  Into the changing tent, found a chair and the volunteers went to work on me, they rock!
Bike Time - 4:50:01 - 6th Overall - 3rd AG, Avg 249 Watts for 3.0 watts/kg
Off the bike - 61st Overall - 7th AG

Off with the shoes and sock, attempt to pull a leg up to get my shoe on and SEARING pain as my right groin seizes up.  I try to calm down as I figured this was coming after the same thing happened in a Port-a-Pottie in Switzerland.  I get the volunteer to force my shoe on because the only thing that will get the cramps to stop is to stand up and start jogging.  They get me standing and I'm off and everything releases.  Legs feel great and after a short respite my stride gets comfortable and I'm cruising a 7:00 mile pace!  All the sudden my parents and friends appear on the bike path next to me cheering the heads off, such a great feeling, but I proceed to yell at them because they made a big deal about "Pacers" in the Pre-Race Briefing, lol.  Coming around to where we were staying Lewis is there cheering me on and gets me going.  For some reason everyone is telling me to "Pace myself"?  Not realizing the brutality the heat was raging on me I charged on, passing a few more in my Age Group.
The second lap was where the wheels started to fall off, but luckily for everyone.  My Dad could see it on the second lap and he had saw I was 7th AG off the bike and Lewis knew people were seriously dropping pace on the run as the day went on.  Now was the time to pace myself and not blow up.  Every aid station I tried to fire down a water, Perform, Coke, and ice down the shorts, possibly the best feeling of the day.  Lewis kept yelling to get as much ice as I could at every station so that was my mission.  

Final lap, and its pure misery.  Over 90 degrees, sun straight down on most of the course, aches and abrasions all over burning.  I saw one AG'er pass me, but I know there were more I passed, so trying not to panic as I feel the effects of the heat come on more and more.  The last few miles were getting serious as I felt a chill.  The only thing that means is I had limited time before full shut-down from going too far into dehydration.  Stomach starts to cramp with a mile left so breathing became difficult.  Gasping for air and a chick passes me and I can't do anything about it!  NOOOO, I GOT CHICKED!  Approaching Market Street you can hear Mike Reilly going nuts and it draws you in.  You try to push harder and the pain starts to go away for a second.  Unfortunately a new pain starts and its my hamstring yelling at me and my stride turns into a gimp for the final 50 yards.  Hopping through the final stretch I cross the line and luckily the finish volunteers were on their game and catch me before I hit the ground.  Knowing I put my best effort in was worth a trip to the Med Tent and the wheel chair ride was a riot  with people congratulating me the whole way.  
Run Time - 3:39:02 - 9th AG 
Final Place - 49th Overall - 5th AG - Pro's included (20th Overall Amateur)
A few Powerbar Performs later, some Air Conditioning and I'm all fixed up and discharged.  My Dad was searching for me all over and found me wandering out of the Med Tent.  He had the pleasure of telling me I finished 5th Age Group and that I had guaranteed my spot for KONA!  A big High-5 and hug and it was time to celebrate.  My parents and friends had reservations at a restaurant right at the finish line.  Enjoying copious food and beer, I was ready for a bed with the sweet satisfaction of overcoming my obstacles of the day and matching my Dad for a Kona slot.  
Proud Mom in the background
Thanks to everyone over the past few years that helped me stay motivated and kept me in touch with real life at the same time.  All too often triathlon and Kona can become too much of an obsession for people, but my friends and family were always there to make sure I had my head on straight.  And for my coaches M2 and Focus N Fly, thank you sooo much for getting me here.  Your next job is to make sure I don't embarrass myself in Kona.  Now I just need a swim coach.

Next up, getting Dan'o into the big dance at Ironman Canada!
Ticket to Kona!


  1. Thanks for the shout out! I'm working on it.

    Haven't said it enough, but this is sooo huge. Congrats man! You busted your butt hardcore.


  2. pretty awesome, Brett. congrats

  3. Simply awesome...we LIVE and train in these conditions and it's came in and finished when many pros couldn't. Nice job!!

  4. Congrats Brett - This is such a great recap and I'm in awe of how hard you have worked consistently over the last several years. Definitely an inspiration to everyone.

    Also - the picture on this site is beautiful! Did you take the background photo? It's awesome.

  5. Thanks Sarah and I wish I could take credit for the background, its just standard on Blogger.