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April 22, 2017 - Ironman Texas - Ironman Racing Rarely Goes as Planned

Race Splits

Race Splits: (36th Age Group, 200th Overall)

Swim: 1:04:56 (1:40/100 meter pace for 2.4 miles)

T1: 4:44

Bike: 5:12:56 ( 21.47 mph for 112 miles)

T2: 4:45

Run: 3:49:59 (8:46 per mile for 26.2 miles)

OVERALL Finish Time: 10:17:20

It’s often stated that racing Ironman is like trying to land a space shuttle on the moon, blindfolded, via remote control. I think that really just about summarizes my race this time around. The past couple years have been an interested road for me littered with a lot of ups, downs, PRs, and PWs. With some minor setbacks after my last race in 2016 that forced me off the swim and bike for about 3 months, it allowed a lot of reflection and time to refocus my mindset and energy. I won’t go into a lot of mushy emotional details, but let’s just say that the only goal I really had going into this race was to have fun, remember why I got into this sport, and smile along the journey. I managed to get through an entire day without ever asking myself, “why do you do this to yourself?” or “what are you doing here?” and I smiled A LOT throughout the day. That’s what I like to call WINNING!


Without really trying to put any pressure on myself about training or racing or pacing or all those things that stress people out, the numbers don’t really lie and I knew it was setting up to be a potential PR kind of day for me out there. But I don’t care right? RIGHT! Who cares about numbers and stats and rankings and and and and. I just wanted to rediscover my love of triathlon and Ironman. So regardless of what happened on race day, there would be no goals that aren’t getting checked. I was enjoying my race week, so much that I implemented the race taper of a good friend of mine (LH), the beer taper. Yes, that was me at the Taco Stand on Friday afternoon drinking a beer with my childhood best friend. Life is short, best to share it over some good laughs with good friends. All gear checked out just fine, water temp was heating up like a hot shower, run legs were already feeling achy, so yes…taper is going perfectly! Anxious to get my family here to settle down before a short night’s rest and a long day ahead.



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.



As stated, water was warm. I don’t even recall hearing how warm, but I know it was 78 degrees the day before and the temperature outside was 86 the day before. My bet is the water was probably 80 degrees, non-wetsuit swim here we go! I have raced it two other times in a swim skin without issue, so no biggie today. Things were less rushed today since my buddy loaned me his mountain bike to get from the hotel to transition and then over to the swim start. You basically have 1 hour 10 minutes to get all that done and the walk alone is about 2.5 miles from my hotel. Fast forward to 6:40 and we jump into a lake with 2700 of our best friends. I don’t think I ever remember swimming the first 100 yards with my head out of the water for fear of getting kicked to death. Finally got out and found some clear water and followed several different feet until the first turn. By then, things spread out a lot and I just sort of leap frogged from one set of feet to another. Rounded the corner to take on the canal in the last 1/3 of the swim and soon there after started smelling a strong stinch. Hmmm I thought. I know that smell. That’s what I smell like after I spread 3 yards of mulch on my flowerbeds at home. YUCK! All the new construction they were doing to beautify the area was running into the canal b/c of recent rains. You may as well have put us in a pit of manure and mulch and told us to swim through it. Unfortunately, Ironman Texas will never live this one down. We all pretty much TASTED mulch for about 1000 yards and I smelled it the rest of the day. It. Was. Disgusting! Managed to get out of the water and see that I had swam my slowest swim since my very first Ironman in 2008. I have no explanation since I actually thought I was about 7 minutes faster. I truly felt like I gave it my all and was swimming hard. My only mental saving grace is that the swims are typically not terribly accurate, but usually pretty close. I noticed the past few years, even the pros times have ranged from 1-5 minutes difference, so I’m not going to lose any sleep over a few minutes on my swim. Nothing else I could have done since I swam as hard as I could so I could go to the bathroom sooner.


Grabbed my gear and got changed out of the swim skin and into my helmet. Off to grab the bike and ride a flat-ish 112 miles on the toll road.



This is where I’d like to point out ways NOT to PR your day. First, you get through T1 and start cruising but you can’t see out of your visor b/c the humidity is so thick you could cut it with a knife. This resolved in a few minutes and visor went back down. Then you are being passed like you are standing still and spinning your legs out of control. Hm…all that rear shifting isn’t working. This brings me to my second method of ways NOT to PR your Ironman. Your Di2 shifter isn’t working. You can’t shift your rear derailleur at all. AWESOME! You make the first big hairpin turn and accidentally hit the base bar shifter and it WORKS! So now you figure out you have to grab down to your base bar to shift all day. Good thing it’s a flat-ish course! All the while battling a fogging visor, a rear derailleur malfunction, only to realize that your power meter is not even turning on. NO POWER to the POWER meter. No garmin readings, no red light on the powermeter. Notta. Is the brand new battery I put in it dead already? When you arrived at transition this morning to air up your tires and put bottles on the bike, it looked like it went swimming. Did the humidity/weather play a factor insuring that as my third method of how NOT to PR your Ironman, that yes, you are screwed? This we will never know, but what we do know is that the only 2 times this powermeter failed me was in May 2015 and April 2017, both at Ironman Texas. I’m going to call it a jinx on this race and me with power meters, but I’m also contacting SRAM to give them a piece of my mind. Going back to our goals, nothing can ruin my day today. RIGHT! I’m enjoying my day and going to ride by feel. All those indoor cycling hours have to pay off somehow right? Tuck the head, pound the calories, and just ride. That’s exactly what I did for 88 miles until, well, it hit me. Not like a dark cloud of thunder that you see or hear, but like a dark black MACK truck that runs you over without you even seeing it coming. Wind. I was on target for about ~4:50 bike split until…Wind. All day long it was windy, but not like this. This was more like some of those youtube videos you see of Chuck Norris shooting random people – EPIC FAILS. I felt like Chuck Norris shot me and I was just going to fall over. That kind of wind folks. I have fought some serious wind before on the Queen-P highway in Austin and I’m sure some of those days were like this, but this was race day and it really hurt. On lap 1 in places where you could fly going 20-35 mph, it was like eating candy on ice cream. On lap 2 in the same exact places, you were lucky to be going 8-18 mph. All the high expectations with none of the fun of candy and ice cream. Remember how this started, that’s right…NO expectations for today. Who cares what your time is at this point anyway? We just want to finish the bike course in one piece and go have some fun on the run course. So we pulled up our big girl pants and finished the work.



Finally got my first glimpse of my wife and youngest son (oldest stayed behind to play in his basketball tournament) and it was a glorious sight! That’s honestly all I remember of T2 was seeing their faces and high fiving my son. That’s what I needed.


With my oakleys, running shoes, cowboy hat, powergels, and base salt in tow, we are ready to tackle this marathon. This makes 11 Ironman races for me and there truly is no other course on the circuit like Ironman Texas. It’s entirely possible that running with a cowboy hat makes you feel more invincible b/c EVERYONE on the course is your best friend or it could be just b/c it’s your home state and you know so many people throughout the course. I did consider tossing the cowboy hat a few times b/c the wind was incredibly strong and trying to pull it off my head. However, by the time I hit the second loop of the run and people started remembering me and having these 10-15 second conversations with me as I ran by, I knew I couldn’t get rid of it. This was nothing but fuel for the fire to keep smiling and have a great day. Seeing my family and friends along the course was probably one of the more memorable races of my life. My son jogged beside me for a few steps and had so much energy that it just kept me upbeat. Literally, the area where they spectated caused my HR to increase by 10 bpm on each loop. INCREDIBLE!!!! By about mile 16-17, I started battling some nutritional issues from lack of calories. The first couple rounds of gel didn’t settle so I was very nervous to take more. At this point, you have to keep pounding, so that’s what I did. I rebounded on the calorie and energy levels but by now, running on 20+ miles of concrete had taken its toll on my legs. I turn 40 in a few weeks and running a marathon during an Ironman that is comprised about 99% of concrete takes a little bigger toll on your legs than it did when you were 30 or even 35. Each step hurt terribly bad and that’s when I kind of knew that I just had to get to the finish line as fast as I could. A good friend I met years ago in Austria passed me around mile 24 and was looking so great! She tried to get me to tag along but my legs just couldn’t muster a second faster than they were already carrying me. She tapped me on the way by and a spasm shot down the backside of my leg and made me stumble a bit before regaining my composure. The finish line was glorious! I ran as hard as I could, which wasn’t all that fast, but good enough for me. I saw my family, high fives and for the first time in many Ironman races, I actually heard Mike yell “We have our first Cowboy from Round Rock, Texas, Troy Clifton, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!” I’m typically so dazed and confused that I don’t even hear my own name. Thanks for all the times Mike, you are everyone’s inspiration.


2nd Slowest swim of all Ironman races, 2nd fastest bike of all Ironman races, and the fastest run at Ironman Texas of all 3 races. It wasn’t my fastest IM Texas, nor my slowest of the three. 5th fastest overall time for me out of 11 Ironmans. I have absolutely no reasons not to be smiling today. The things that prevented me from a PR on race day can all be resolved and fixed for next time. I smiled more times on Saturday than probably any other Ironman race of my life. That’s winning. That’s when you know you can call it a PR – a Personal Record of enjoyment on a day of racing at Ironman. I have so many friends that were on the run course that day that deserve a hug for being out there all day. I would probably miss a few of you if I tried to name them all, but you know who you are and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Some of you are a constant reminder of where I came from when I first started this sport and nearly brought me to tears each time I saw you. Some of you were there in the beginning and the middle and continue to show your support all these years later. Some of you have been there since my childhood and others just during our adulthood, but every single friendship is one I cherish deeply. Either someone said it the other day, I heard it, read it, or something, but it was about how we wish to be remembered when we leave this Earthly world. This resonates deeply with me for personal reasons lately and I can only hope that I have left my mark on the lives of many friends and family. The same mark they have left on me and know that I would not be the same person without each of them in my life today. Remember what I said earlier? Who cares about numbers and stats and rankings and and and and. That’s pretty much where I’m at in life and I think it’s pretty darn great. As I embark on my “jog over the hill” in a few weeks, I think back on my first 40 years and thank God for all the things He has blessed me with. The journey He has put me on and allowed me to do on His earth. I thank God for giving me this family that I don’t deserve, for giving me the opportunity to race in a sport that I don’t deserve, for giving me friends that I don’t deserve, and for allowing me to coach athletes that probably deserve better. I pray we can all find happiness in this life and the next. I have been blessed beyond measure with family and friends that I cherish and I pray everyone else is equally as lucky. See you on the trails.

~Coach Troy


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