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May 18, 2013 - Ironman Texas - A Sticky Situation
 

Race Splits

Race Splits: (14th Age Group, 83rd Overall)

Swim: 1:02:11 (1:36/100 meter pace for 2.4 miles)

T1: 3:39

Bike: 5:20:47 ( 20.95 mph for 112 miles)

T2: 4:06

Run: 3:50:22 (8:47 per mile for 26.2 miles)

OVERALL Finish Time: 10:21:05


Pre-Race


I have said this many times and this race was even more present that these races never get easier. Ironman Texas 2013 was my 5th full Ironman on May 18, 2013 in The Woodlands, Texas and it was definitely some of the most difficult elements I have raced in, EVER. To say I didn't race to my potential is an understatement, but I did race to my potential IN those conditions. As I always say, it's only what you have to give on any given race day, nothing more, nothing less.

Being fortunate enough to have the race in my home State and only 3 hours from door to door, I was able to get this race done without taking off weeks from work, completely turning my family's lives upside down, and feeling really acclimated to the environment from the first cannon going off. I made my way down on Wednesday after work and got settled into the Marriott on the race course. I had several friends racing and even more spectating, which made it pretty exciting to finally have friends and family there to see what Ironman is all about. I had another C4 Endurance athlete there with me and we managed to get in some short sessions and make sure everything was ticking off correctly.

I was very happy to see Tonya and the boys join me Friday after school and then had a nice relaxing dinner at our friend's house in The Woodlands. This just happens to be the same childhood buddy of mine that got me into triathlons over a decade ago. His wife had cooked this massive dinner for us and I'm convinced that was part of my good fortune on race day.

After heading back to the hotel and getting ready to call it a night, we had a last minute (in my underwear) surprise visit at the door. Low and behold, it was my sister and niece all the way from Dallas surprising me to come watch the race. I have wanted them to see an Ironman since my first one and finally they were going to see what it was all about. I was now blessed to have not only my amazing wife and two sons there, but also my sister, niece, and a block full of friends from Texas cheering for me. Life doesn't get much better folks. There was even a Canadian Cowboy there!!!!

 

RACE DAY!

Race day arrived after I did all our gear check-in the day before and I felt ready to get this day started. It was a little chaotic getting all the stuff done at transition and then making the 1 mile walk to the start. By the time I arrived, I found my good buddy Corbin waiting with coffee in hand for my wife and sister. It was so great to see friendly faces before the race and I even got to see my family beforehand. I felt pretty rushed b/c they started pushing the non-wetsuit swimmers in the water around 6:35-6:40 and to get a good spot in the water, you really have to get in early. I chose to take a small beach ball and inflate it part way enough to help me float so I don't have to tread water for 20 minutes. This all worked out flawlessly and I gave it to one of the kayakers beforehand so it wouldn't be littering. So it was all pretty rushed, but I managed to get in without issue and await the start.

 

SWIM


This might have been the roughest start of any I remember, but this could also be that I am getting old and remember less from year to year. The first 200 meters was extremely rough, but Canada felt similar, so I just tried to be smart and not go out too terribly fast. Some people complain about the water quality and quite honestly, I have swam in worse than this. Lady Bird Lake is just as disgusting as Lake Woodlands and you never hear of people complaining about it. Yes, it is murky and dark, but it seemed no different than most lakes in Texas to me. Bunch of complainers if you ask me! I grew up in this type of water with a fishing pole in hand, in shoes that were falling apart, walking up and down creeks, rivers, and streams, so it was fine by my standards. The swim was pretty uneventful, and for the first time I felt like I really did a good job of not going out too hard and holding on to the gas pedal for so long. I made the first long stretch, made turn 1, made turn 2, made the turn into the canal and headed for the last 900 meters. I thought this canal was wider and choppier than Austria, maybe b/c it was concrete walls on the side? Ironically, this was my second fastest swim time at an Ironman ever. Was it my training? Was it something else? Not sure, I just know this was my first non-wetsuit Ironman, but my second fastest swim time! Giddy Up! A really cool feature on this was my friend Corbin was able to pick me out of the swimmers in the canal and got SEVERAL pics of me swimming. That's just cool!

T1

Nothing much to report, got out of my gear, into my cycling gear, hit the port-o-john and headed to the course. Ok, volunteers are pretty freaking cool people!

 

BIKE

The bike started off pretty uneventful and frankly felt that way for a long time. The ride is very well spectated and I thought was a beautiful ride. The national forest was beautiful, the ranches, farmland, and all of the little towns. I really, really enjoyed this bike course. I really felt at home when you'd cruise past all the horse ranches, farm land, or otherwise and people were sitting out on their ATV or tractor or under a fruit stand. Ah yes, this is the Texas I know and love so much! I had a "power" game plan from the start and up until mile 65, things were ticking off just as planned. I hit special needs at 60 to grab my bottles and kept rolling. Somewhere around 65, I could really start to feel my helmet heating up my head. This helmet choice came back to bite me in the rear by mile 80 when I was fully "baked". My race plan now was completely out the window and time was slipping away quickly. I tried so many things to cool off, but it had already done the damage, my head was baked, and my gut was upside down b/c I had overheated.
I couldn't eat anything, so I just tried to continue liquid calories and a ton of water poured all over me trying to cool the core. From 80-112 miles, it was pure survival mode. A pro named Chris McDonald gave a talk at the athlete meeting before the race and I will never forget something he said. It's not about who is the fastest, it's about who slows down the least. I honestly repeated this to myself at least 1000 times in the last 32 miles of the bike and most of the run course. I tried to salvage my bike ride, but was so hot, that it's really all I had in me to go any harder. The most frustrating part was my legs felt amazing, but I couldn't hardly breathe I was so crazy hot. At the end of the day, I lost some time and some power on the bike b/c of this heat, but you know what, life goes on! Learn to roll with the punches that mother nature dishes out and you have to laugh it off. My tests previously with the helmet worked fine, but this day was different, VERY different. Bike done, life is good!

 

T2

You'd think this was just as uneventful as the rest of T2 times, but there was definitely some drama. I handed my bike off, ran past the grass, and went to grab my T2 bag. Oh WAIT..this concrete is CRAZY HOT! I was absolutely scorching my feet! I didn't sign up to walk on fire rocks, what is UP with this concrete! I will definitely wear my bike shoes next time as I think my feet are actually blistered. About the same time I was freaking out about my feet, some other guy collapsed ON the concrete and they started calling for medical. That's when I decided, hey Jack! My feet don't hurt that bad! Let's do this marathon!

RUN

Well, by now it was only about 115 degrees and 150% humidity, life is good! I will choose heat over cold every day and twice on Sunday! I am used to hot summers and sweating sitting on my patio drinking a beer, so what's new right? Well, I felt as good as one can feel when they are running in hot/humid conditions for the first of 3 loops on this course. I had already determined earlier in the day that my normal solid/gels/salt tabs were not reacting well with my gut for some reason, so new nutritional strategy has begun. Fluids, fluids, fluids, and ice everywhere on my body. I really felt great for the first 8 miles, but I knew the concrete was taking its toll on me. I kept repeating what Chris McDonald said about "it's about who slows down the least" and tried to slow down as little as possible. It's really hard to say if it was the heat, the concrete beating up my legs, or a combination of all of it that started my pace decline (or is it ascent?). I started questioning my sanity at some point. I mean really, why do I do these things? I am out here and at least 80% of these people are walking, why am I running? Then as you continue to run, you start making deals with yourself, mind games! If I keep running, I'll be done sooner, I won't be AS far off my goals, and that finish line will feel oh so great! I mean really, I didn't do all those long runs, track intervals, long intervals, etc. to come here to walk 26.2 miles right? With each lap, I was able to see all my friends from Texas Iron, then I'd run into my friends from Houston, then I'd run into my friends from Brady, then my family and so many in between. I did decide to do another race in my cowboy hat and it was priceless. Having ice in your hat, in your jersey next to your heart, in your shorts next to your artery, and anywhere else you can put it is truly a saving grace. I am fairly confident that hat absolutely saved my race. After you run one lap and feel good, then you run lap two and you start to question your sanity. By lap three you are doing a lot of praying, deal making, and just trying to find ANYONE that will run with you. I met two guys in my last lap that pretty much saved my day. My legs felt like someone had taken a hammer to them (thanks Houston concrete) and just beat the crap out of me. I met some guy from North Carolina, but he dropped off somewhere around mile 20 and I guess he started walking. Then along came a guy I hadn't seen until around mile 21 or 22 and I knew he was my next partner immediately. He came next to me in an aid station I think with his "Team-Marsh" kit on which instantly sparked a conversation between us. Turns out he is a friend of a lot of my friends back in Austin and he was able to hold a stronger pace than me. We ran the last 4-5 mile of the race together, some he lead, some I lead, some we both just held on to a little hope to finish vertical (okay, maybe for me, not sure about him). Mike M. was a great friend to me in those final miles. He did put some space between the two of us over the last mile, maybe 15 seconds or so, not sure. I know he's in some of my finisher's chute photos from my wife…so close enough that he made me want to keep running. Thanks Mike! You are my saving grace for this race, I loved running with you! The last 5 miles was really a lot of a blur just trying to get to the finish line, stay hydrated, not stroke out in the heat, and try to keep up with Mike. He mentioned this later and I had completely forgotten I said it. Favorite quote on last loop of the run: volunteer: "do you need anything?" you: "I need this to be over" That was no joke…the finish line was so close! I didn't run anywhere near what I had planned to run on this day, but I'm not sure I could have done anything different on the run portion to change the outcome of that lack luster pace I held on that day. I suffered as much as I could on that day. I finished my fifth Ironman! 

THE FINISH

I really can't go into the level of gratitude I have for friends and family that came out to support or watched online, or just were there for me the past 6 months during training. My wife, my boys, my son's flag football team that I coached, my co-workers, all of my family everywhere, my swim partner, my athletes that I coach, my IronPals, my previous coaches, TRG and everyone that involves, James B., Angie B., and Jack from Jack and Adams (man…where would I be without these three!), my Church friends, my friends from Houston and the Woodlands that got me started in this sport, Meredith T. for her nutritional help (and her husband for inspiration!), and so many others that I know I have missed here. This sport is so selfish and you have gone out of your way to support me on my journey. I love all of you and couldn't do this without you.

This day is one for the record books for me personally. The heat, the humidity, but it was in my backyard, I had so many friends and family spectating and racing that made it absolutely AMAZING! My wife was completely floored when I told her that I'd like to do it again. I personally can't stand to be cold and my body truly shuts down when it is too cold (i.e. St. George 2010). This race showed me that I can survive JUST FINE in some pretty hot and miserable conditions. What could I do on a “mild” day? I'd LOVE to find out! I'm always looking for that next challenge and this race taught me a lot about myself. What can I do on a flat(ish) course, what can I do on concrete, what can I do in the heat, etc. Now the question is, what could I do in all those conditions if I trained differently, or wore a different helmet. I figure I'll find out one day. I will find my next challenge, I'll suck it up and accept it, and I'll keep moving forward. I truly love the sport of triathlon, but Ironman really makes my heart beat. Until my next “heart thumping” adventure, I thought I'd leave you with this little “Spectator Race Report” my sister wrote after her first Ironman experience. I love her outlook on Ironman!

SPECTATOR RACE REPORT from my beloved sister!

My brother always writes a report after his races. I thought I should write some spectator facts. I've been to lots of races before, but this was my first IronMan event. 1) Ironman competitors are crazy. Not just a little. My brother included. CRAZY. I cant believe they do this for fun. 2) I've watched him finish before online & I always get emotional. I know how many hours he put into training. I know the sacrifices. But watching it from start to finish was CRAZY. You cannot grasp the full magnitude of 10-17 straight hours unless you just watched it live. 3) these athletes must have about 8% body fat combined between all of them. Omg! 4) I was hoping to motivated. I am a person of size who strives to improve herself (when life isn't as crazy) & I was hoping watching would make me want to get out my running calendar. It really just made me want to drink! It was CRAZY! 5) I wanted a margarita when Troy finished as much as I wanted a margarita after my own marathon. I felt guilty for being so exhausted & hot & sweaty when I didn't do 140.6 miles. But I certainly was all of that. 6) my sister-in-law is a rock star. She has only ever missed one of my brothers races & he has done a gazillion. She has spectatorship down to a science. Huge kuddos to her! 7) my brother is awesome for recognizing that its not easy to be a spectator. He even bought the margaritas . Seriously though, he watched days leading up to the race for where the best shade spots would be for her. That's awesome. watching in person is scary. I worry so much. Why isn't he out of the water? Why isn't he off the bike yet? What happened? Following online allows you to use the Internet as an excuse becuz maybe it didn't update. But waiting in transition is darn hard when you just wait & wait to see your athletes jersey & make sure they are smiling. 9) I'm not sure what my brother paid for the hotel at the race site, but it was worth every penny for the spectators have a place to go to the bathroom, get fresh drinks, take the kids swimming, etc. again kudos to him for thinking of his family like that in race day. 10) that swim start was crazy crowded. It was about 2.5 minutes of battling, splashing, kicking, etc. 3000 estimated athletes all going to the same place at the same time. ouch. 11) people watching is pretty fun at these events. 12) did I mention these athletes are crazy? But, crazy and all, that finish line is way awesome when they announce some special facts about you individually & announce that you are an ironman. It's not something I will ever strive to do personally (ever) but it was certainly amazing. I'm so proud of my crazy brother for having the dedication it took to do something of this magnitude. Amazing. Crazy, but amazing.

~Coach Troy

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