Ironman Texas, Woodlands 2016

SHORT REPORT
nb: bike was only 152k
0:55:11 - Swim
0:03:51 - T1
4:11:58 - Bike
0:05:27 - T2
3:58:09 - Run
9:14:36 - 15th M45-49, 181st overall

Race Preview HERE

IMTexas16_Finish-3LONG REPORT

Up to two weeks before the race there seemed to be a strong possibility that this race wouldn’t happen. So it almost felt like a bonus to be out in Texas with a race to race even though the bike was shortened. Six of us travelled over and rented a massive house a little south of the race venue. In the days leading up to the race we rode part of the course and despite the last minute change it didn’t seem too bad and certainly appeared to still be very fast. We were also very kindly invited along to the Magnolia masters swim sessions each morning run by Tim Floyd. It’s fantastic for me to swim every day right up to the race and was even better when the session was put on specifically for people doing the Ironman. Training with a load of the Pros that would be racing was rather cool, there was a real feeling of tension in the air.

Two days before the race they tested the water quality and had to alter the swim route. This required a change of transition meaning rather than T1 and T2 being the same they were now separate. It also added a mile to the route. Funny how my gut reaction was “oh my god, an extra mile” even though the course had been shortened so adding an extra mile still left it nearly 30km short.

I started getting nervous two nights before the race and in a new record for me I woke pretty much every 15 minutes the night before. I took this as a good sign as I feel I get most nervous when I feel I should go well.

Marc had an inspired idea and we left a car in town and got a cab to the start. This removed the stress of parking and the one mile walk to T1. Checked my bike and found the others and with an hour to go we were sat right by the start to ensure we’d be one of the first in to the water. Already there was a an older athlete (probably early 60s) sat in a deck chair. Now thats prepared. I’m wondering what sort of swimmer he must be so I strike up a conversation. I quickly establish he’s hoping to swim 1:10 !! Once I’m ready to go my nerves disappear and it was great to chat to people around us. I bumped in to Charlesy and Shannon and had a catch up. I got my Blueseventy swim skin zipped up early to allow it to settle in to a comfortable fit.

The rolling starts make for very calm starts. Walk in to the water and start at a steady rate. Within a 100m or so I had clear water and started focussing on long strokes, not going so hard as to get out of breath and focussing on sighting every stroke and swimming a good line. This was key as we only had to keep the buoys to our left and it was clear you shouldn’t go right close to each buoy. I sighted on the farthest buoy I could see. I like to think of a piece of string wrapped around the course and then pulled tight. It would touch some buoys and not others. The buoys it touches are the ones you sight for and skirt round close. The others you ignore.

As I swam it surprised me just how many of the swimmers around me sighted buoy to buoy. On the way back this took you on a massive arc which you could just cut straight across. I did this and got thumbs up from two of the kayakers that this route took me past. I looked over my shoulder as I breathed occasionally and didn’t see anyone else doing it. Even shouted thank you as I breathed to a some of the kayakers I passed.

I thoroughly enjoyed this swim. It felt so cruisy. It was what I call “almost catch-up”. Swimming in the Blueseventy swim skin felt great, like it was helping maintain body tension. I felt I took a good line and 55 minutes was a great time for me. I exited the swim with a big smile on my face and really up for the race. Turns out I was first out of the swim in my age group by over 4 minutes.

IMTexas16_Swim

My nutrition plan was changed for this race. I was going back closer to how I raced in my early days of racing. This meant I put on a cycle jersey in T1. Jo had ordered some new skin tight cycle jerseys, though they’d not arrived yet the sample that came was a ladies medium and it fit really well so she kindly let me use it. I got a volunteer to unload two bags of dolly mixture and some marzipan in to the middle pocket, I had three nine bars in the other pockets and 4 gels mixed with water in a 750 ml bottle. I’d also decided to ride in a road helmet. Having tested both earlier in the week I felt there was a noticeable difference in comfort with the standard helmet.  I also decided, for the first time ever, to remove my contact lens and put on normal glasses. I even decided to put socks on as the run through T2 was likely to be on very hot dark concrete. Even with all this I was out in sub 4 minutes.

For the first time in ages I was looking forward to running. This helped me keep my conservative head on the bike. Even so through some of the early corners I saw 400+ watts out of the corners. I gave myself a good talking to  over this. My goal was to keep my watts in the 230-250 range whilst erring towards an average at the lower end of this. The first part of the course was incredible fast and soon my average was 36km/h (5hr bike split on full course, 4:15 on this course). This was my predicted split but it was so fast in the early part I realised I should keep on my power and RPE targets as it may just be a very quick year and I didn’t want to miss out. I had the temperature on my garmin as I’d noticed during my greenhouse sessions how much harder things got when the temperature hit 30c. My goal was to try to minimise my over heating prior to the run. Early on the temperature was in the low 20s and my average power was up close to 250w. As the temperature rose I backed off and my power came down a little. By the end of the bike my power was down to 227w and I was just under my target time.

IMTexas16_Bike

I really rather liked the bike course in a bizarre way. Many of the roads you’d never ride on normally. There were bizarre little turns, out and backs, sections along closed bits of freeway, down feeder roads, u-turns under flyovers. There were long sections on the bars, then the odd corner that really tested your cornering. I was glad I was up the field and largely riding on my own. I only saw one incidence of blatant drafting when a group of six riders came by me with about a metre between wheels. I could see them slowly pull ahead and not split. I of course shouted they were a bit close, then as they all came by and expressed my opinion that they were all cheats. I think it’s quite telling that not one complained, not one was even willing to look at me. It pains me to think that in all probability at least one of the people that got a slot in my age group was in that group.

As I approached the end of the bike I start to get some cramping in my right inside quad. I reflected it was good I started what I thought was “conservative” because at this point it didn’t appear it was so if I’d set off aggressive I could have really paid for it. I’d managed to get through – 2 nine bars, all my gels, all my dolly mixture / marzipan and a bottle of gatorade. This would be approximately 1600 cals which is more than I’d typically manage in that time with gels alone.

In T2 I changed in to a long sleeve white coolmax top which i’d last used in Kona 2011 – it helped a positive frame of mind. The aim was to keep wetting it at each aid  station as it’s very cooling when wet. I also put on my Vibram Seeya LS – I love these shoes, lightweight and very comfortable. I started running just aiming to be relaxed and not worry about pace (unless it was way too fast). The first couple of KMs were 4:55s – I’d described that as my optimistic or future pace ! Meaning that at the moment it’s the absolute fastest pace I could imagine running. By future pace, it’s what I feel should become bog standard!  Whatever way I described it I definitely shouldn’t be going any quicker. I relaxed a bit more and started to get splits of just under 5:10 – more like it. Running by T1 there were people handing out this salt tubes – you poured it on your thumb and licked it. I took one. Liked it and ended up getting through one a lap. My view is salt isn’t going to do harm and it will hopefully guard against hyponatremia. My routine at each aid station became: lick salt, water over each arm, swig everything that was on offer – pretty much that meant cup gatorade, cup red bull, cup coke, cup gaterade, then finished the aid station with water/ sponges over my arms, legs core and then ice down my shorts and held in my hands. I was very pleased I was taking all this in and getting no gut issues whatsoever.

IMTexas16_RunAidStationThis process was easy on the first lap with hardly anyone on the course. By the last laps it required walking which by then was helpful as I was struggling. My plan was to run relaxed on the first lap, focus on maintaining pace on second then try and push on in third. First lap at 5:05 km pace ( thats 3:33 marathon pace) – this was bang on. Game on I thought, feeling good and sub 3:40 marathon had to get me to Kona.

Second lap. What happened ? I was focussing on maintaining pace but it just dropped 30s per KM. It was hot and I knew there was no point forcing myself to the higher pace as I felt that was a route to over heating. I continued trying to relax, run relaxed. Remember in training it felt impossible to run slower that 5:50kms. Hit halfway and suddenly 6 mins plus seemed all too possible. I had two distinct moments where I dropped to a shuffle between aid stations. The internal discussion about starting to walking fired up in my mind. Unlike for the past several races I had a part of my brain that told it to take a hike and I picked up the pace. I kept running, kept moving. Now trusting / hoping that the conditions were really tough and everyone was suffering. I was starting to almost cramp in calves and hamstring. The last 10k was a balance of trying to push on and managing to avoid cramping.

IMTexas16_FinishShootThe weather was clearly closing in. Dark clouds were amassing. With about 3km to go the rain started. It was refreshing, it was cooling, it made a difference. Then the rain got heavier, then the thunder started. At times I jumped out of my skin. It was amazing. I’d see lightning out of the corner of my right eye and it’s reflection in a high rise out of my left. The rain  was biblical as was the wind. The final turnaround I approached into a massive headwind, I turned and the wind increased and changed in to my face – I could hardly make progress, luckily it only lasted 10s or so. The rain was like the best power shower you can imagine. The sidewalk a river. As I approached the finish I was ushered through a gap in all barriers that had largely blown over, down a curb – very un-course like. In hindsight I find that they made me skip the finish shoot out and back. I don’t know why but probably a combination of most of the barriers were blown over so it would have been an obstacle course and they just wanted to get me out of the storm. In fact, later I find that the race had actually been halted by that point but I was beyond the last safe haven on the course so was allowed to run through to the finish.

Coming down the deserted finish shoot was surreal. A catcher immediately grabbed me and said; “we’re gonna get you to safety cowboy” (ok I added the cowboy).

I was pleased with my race. I’d felt I’d done enough to have a shot for a slot. Certainly from looking at previous years my time was good enough. Later I found I was actually way off the slots. If I’d run my predicated 3:45 I would have the last roll down from my reckoning. I’m disappointed but unlike other disappointments I’m quite happy with it as I don’t feel I could have gone much faster. It’s been a very positive race. I now believe I can get back to sub 3:30 marathons. It’ll just take a little more time.

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