Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Ironman Texas

This weekend I competed in Ironman Texas, which was to be my main race for the first half of the season.  I had targeted this race all winter and have been in full IM prep mode since my foot surgery over the winter.  When I headed down to Texas two weeks before the race, I was very optimistic about my fitness and preparation  Everything had gone smoothly since Galveston and I knew that I was in a position to compete with some of the top class athletes on the start list. I am at the point in my career where I am looking for strong competition to really see what I am made of and IMTX provided just that.  I know this is a risky proposition if I am counting on my racing to pay the bills, but in my mind I was ready to do just that with a strong performance.  I was acclimated to the heat, relaxed, and motivated.  
Sadly, the race didn't quite go as planned.
The way I felt about my swim...
On race day, all of my preparation and planning seem to go out the window. My usually very reliable swim was right on cue for the first half and I was ready to laugh my way onto the bike. The blueseventy swim skin always makes me feel light and fast in the water, and with the Wattie Ink suit rolled down, my shoulders were free to fly through the first mile.  I was happy and comfortable with no issues until about 500m to go. Unfortunately my right calf started to twitch and then suddenly went into a full cramp.  I was struggling to stay afloat as I reached for my calf and was swim over by most of the lead pack. The canoe came over and asked if I was OK as I had flashbacks of Simon Whitfield coming over with the same question two years ago at Mont Tremblant. I've been struggling with cramping off and on in training at the pool, but this was horrible. I swam the last few hundred meters with my foot flexed and calf completely locked up. I made it to shore after losing a few minutes to the lead group and hopped onto the bike.   Running ashore, I wasn't sure what had happened or what would happen as I mounted the bike.   

Dimond Van is always a welcome sight!
The Ironman is a long race, so I was not deterred despite my rough swim. I put my head down and went to work. At each of the early turnarounds I noticed I was catching the lead group, but I also noticed the chase group was catching me.  I decided to wait for the chase group then work to make sure that the groups came together. The plan worked very well and I was able to ride the second half of the bike comfortably tucked into the combined lead group. We lost plenty of time to Starky, but that is unavoidable. He was on a mission and my hope was that I could use my run fitness to track him down.  With all of the turns on the course, the Dimond bike and Alto wheels and C-Bear Bearings handled beautifully.  A big thank you to Chris (and Calla!) for the last minute tune up and finishing touch of an Ice Chain at the expo!  The bike purred through the technical course which I actually found quite enjoyable. There were a few close calls with traffic, but that is somewhat unavoidable in the area.  For a last-minute change, Ironman pulled it off pretty well!

I dismounted the bike and felt pretty good heading out onto the run. I knew that my training in the heat would let me run roughly 6:45 pace if all things were ideal, but I quickly found that my gait was not as smooth as it should be due to my tightened calves.  The heat did not help matters as I tried to stay relaxed and maintain a solid pace. The first 10K was roughly on target, but I knew that I was in trouble. My First Endurance liquid shot made fueling easy and helped me fight as long as possible, but it was an uphill battle.  I continued to click off the miles and slowly saw my pace drop. I walked aid stations as planned but every time I got up to full speed running I had to shorten my stride to avoid re-cramping. 

In the end, I was able to break eight hours for the first time in an Ironman*. I will fail to mention the short bike course when talking about the race in the future but I will remember to mention the completely EPIC thunderstorms that plagued the race after I finished. Congratulations to anyone who braved the weather and a huge THANK YOU to the volunteers who let the race continue.  I fell far short of my goal for the weekend, but despite a few rough edges I still was in the position in the race to be near the front. Patrick Lange ran phenomenally and no one was beating him on the day, but everyone else was within reach if I had everything go my way.  Of course that is rarely the case, but I will still chase that elusive day.  I'm now less than three weeks away from Raleigh 70.3 and looking forward to a bit of speed after the Ironman fitness boost.  Training between now and then will include plenty of playground 'cross training!'

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