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As time permits, in-depth musings on myriad subjects will be posted. Abbreviated adages will be announced via Twitter.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

IMTX Race Report

Ironman Texas was over, as in finished, a week ago. Sadly, it has taken me that whole week to finally sit down and write up a race report. So, here goes.

Nicholle & I took off Thursday morning to head to The Woodlands. Prior to departing, I had wanted to get in one, final Indo Row workout at the Y, so I did, following up with about fifteen minutes of spin class. Nicholle & I would likely have stayed a bit longer in spin, but the usual instructor was out, and the substitute was not in sync with what I had in mind for a proper taper.

Rather than take the Saturn up the road, we loaded up the Insight and set off, periodically stopping to ensure the straps on the aged Saris Bones were tight enough; they were. We hit The Woodlands by noon, right on schedule, and were able to check in our hotel a lot early. From there, it was off to the Athlete's Village for packet pickup. Apart from some longish lines, things went very smoothly, and new acquaintances (race friends) were made. Shortly thereafter, the obligatory pre-race purchases were made from the Ironman store to psychologically prep me for a finish: You can't wear the stuff if you don't cross the line.

Thursday wrapped up with a scheduled massage at Massage Envy and dinner back at the hotel (pizza & ice cream). Friday would be a frantic day, and Saturday would be…well, race day.

Come Friday morning, it was up fairly early to head to Northshore Park for a practice swim. Jason, Rodney, and I rode on over and met up with Bruce, Holly, Leah, and several hundred other athletes.

As for the lake, I typically respond to inquiries about the swimming venues with "I've swum in worse," but, for Lake Woodlands, this was the worst. Shallow, muddy, mucky, and just plain nasty, this lake had one thing going for it: The temperature. Friday morning's temperature was in the upper 70s (77, if memory serves), which I found ideal, considering that I planned to swim in just a tri kit, sans wet suit. After just under 30 minutes, my swim was done, and I felt fairly comfortable for race morning, so it was back to the hotel to see if all parties involved had come together to get the elusive MS Society kit to me. While they did, the kit wound up not working out; sizing made it entirely too tight, which was both uncomfortable and revealing, where certain parts of the anatomy were concerned. Sadly, in spite of the leaps and bounds exhibited by friends and family, and with World MS Day coming up on the 25th, I decided to race in the tried & true Bicycle Heaven kit, largely to Nicholle's insistence. If my wife was behind me for that choice in kits, who was I to refuse?

Early in the afternoon, Nicholle & I made our way to transition to drop off the Slice and the sundry bags needed for race day. Afterwards, Dad & Mom met us back at the hotel to chat and go over race day plans. Everything was coming together very nicely, including the earlier-than-expected arrival of Dan the Running Man Powers from Dallas. Yup, the catalyst for getting me into this whole triathlon & Ironman thing (which, ever-so-nicely, led to the meeting of the woman who would become my wife) was making a trip down for the race. Knowing so many would be at the finish line, with so many more monitoring via Twitter & Facebook, I was all but guaranteed to have a great race.

Race morning arrived, and Dan & I were dropped off near transition by Nicholle (many roads were blocked off, so she could only go so far). After getting fluids set up for the bike and the run, Dan & I picked our way along the run course down to Northshore Park. This was a bit of a hike, but manageable. A quick change and a couple of trips to the port-a-potty later, and I was making my way into the water. As I cross the timing mat, Black Sabbath's "Ironman" played over the PA system. "How hackneyed" was my first thought, but then I started wondering if I should have taken off my wedding ring. Talk about your omens. Both of them.

2.4-mile Swim | 1:27:27

Ironman Texas was an in-water start, which was OK, as far as I was concerned. However, the conditions were tremendously cramped for the slated 2,650 registered athletes (just under 2,200 were purported to have finished, although I've no idea how many actually started). Coupled with the blaring music on the PA system, I didn't even hear the gun go off. Rather, once I head the yelling and saw arms, legs, and heads moving, I started the watch and waited a few minutes before beginning my strokes. Once I did, though, it was bad news: On my first stroke, someone kicked my (left) hand, and my wedding ring slid right off my finger, gone. So, I stopped, freaked, and tried to decide what to do, knowing that the lake wasn't too deep. After what seemed like an eternity (3-5 minutes?), I convinced myself that, ring or no ring, there was a race going on -- a race I had paid a lot of money to do, trained a fair amount for, and had countless people waiting for me to get going.

All that pool swimming, and even the few swims I managed to get in at Boerne Lake were poor preparation for picking my way through so many athletes, some with good swimming abilities, many more without. But, pick my way through, I did, slapping, kicking, and whatnot to an untold number of individuals, with many, many, many more returning the favor. In a word, the swim was a cluster. But, the finish must have been spectacular to watch, for the canal seemed to be lined on both sides with cheering spectators. And that was just plain awesome. While the split was nearly ten minutes slower than my target time, I took it for what it was, thankful to get onto dry land so that the race could really begin.

112-mile Bike | 5:25:00

Timing just did not allow Nicholle & I to drive the bike course prior to the race, so I had only word of mouth to go by for what I was to encounter. That, however, turned out to be just fine. Other than a quick stop to adjust the speed sensor of the Knog NERD, the bike leg was everything for which I had trained: Cloudy, windy, and humid. The Slice had been rigged to be perfectly accommodating for these conditions.

The course was just as described, with rolling hills over smooth pavement (exception: ~3 mile stretch around mile 80), which made for a near-perfect bike split. The NERD was a tad off on calibration, so, were the course on-point at 112 miles, I showed 115.xx, which threw a few things off for pacing, but nothing insurmountable. I rolled into T2 five minutes ahead of my anticipated bike time, putting me within striking distance of an 11:30 finish, a full half-hour faster than the for which I was gunning.

26.2-mile Run | 4:13:40

Few things bike-related are worth the money apart from getting professional fit to one's bicycle, especially for the 140.6 distance. Despite the fitting taking place over two years ago, Cobb still has me dialed in perfectly for the Slice, resulting in a rejuvenated feeling in the legs coming off of even a 112-mile hammerfest. This was to be an amazing run.

Coming out of T2, around two o'clock, I kept reminding myself that I needed to pace properly, in order to avoid literally burning up on the run course. Granted, much of the cloud cover was still in place, but the sun was peeking through in some spots, and the humidity was unreal. Still, I found someone with whom to pass the time -- Mike, from Chicago -- and the Garmin 310xt he was sporting kept us running at a decent clip. However, I dropped off of him after a tad past two miles when I developed a cramp in my right arm, attempting to fish a sponge out of the back of my jersey. Once that was resolved (in case I forget to mention it later, Ironman Texas had the most amazing volunteers), I was back on/ahead of pace, catching back up to Mike in a few miles and then dropping him before finishing the first of three loops on the run course.

Dan & Nicholle were out by the riverbank to cheer everyone on (even me!), and I caught sight of Mom just before the split for the finish and second/third loops. Curious thing about that: There was no indication that runners were, in fact, headed in the right direction for the split, resulting in a bit of confusion among several competitors; nobody wanted to be DQd for an honest mistake. But, all was right in the end of the first loop, and laps two and three went by even better than the first. The beauty of a short, multi-loop course like IMTX has to offer is that, after the first loop, one is able to calculate how best to pace themselves each lap and in each section of the lap. This did not seem like running a marathon at all.

That said, there was some slight discomfort/pain on the run: Chafing in an uncomfortable region down south. Stupid me didn't think to stop for Vasoline from the med stations, which resulted in my walking more than what I wanted but not near as much as was walked at CdA in 2009. However, when it was clear that I would not only meet but also crush my goal finish time of twelve hours, I was able to push through the pain and cross the finish line looking and feeling fresh, ready to go for more.

Total Time: 11:16:09

Unlike many others, I did not cross the finish line with my arms raised. Yes, I beat my time from Coeure d'Alene by nearly an hour and my goal time by nearly forty-five minutes, but I wanted to cross the line in the same fashion which I raced: Steady and controlled. I let out an emphatic "Yawp!" when I hit the timing mat and an even more exuberant "Boo-Ya!" when I checked my watch. The volunteers at the finish, like those on course, were extremely helpful, yet were somewhat taken aback that I was chatty and asking them how their day was going. Just being friendly, I suppose. We were in Texas, you know.

Dan was the first to meet me at the finish, but Nicholle soon came along; I was so happy to see her, yet so saddened to inform her that I had lost my wedding ring a little over eleven hours ago. Even Dad & Mom were excited, even after such a long day out in the sun. Really, for as much as the competitors do, what with all the swimming, biking, and running, the spectators really have it much worse: "Sit. Wait. Cheer." is what one shirt, dubbed "IronFan" read. And that had got to take its toll. Fortunately for me, my IronFans carried themselves like true professionals.

Ironman Texas went extremely smoothly, but the aftermath was a different story. There was a fair amount of confusion at the finish line, as to what was where, and how to go about things, but this could have just been me being so wiped and in disbelief that it was all over so seemingly suddenly. A bit of miscommunication, coupled with my desire to continue moving in order to avoid cramping up, caused Dan & I to get separated from Nicholle & I my folks, but things were eventually straightened out.


So much went into this race, and I don't just mean time and money. There was an obscene amount of training, graciously afforded by my supremely-supportive wife, and shared with fellow triathletes & educators, Jason & Rodney; even registering for the race likely would not have happened had it not been for those two guys. Equipment is also a heavy factor on a distance race like this, and Bicycle Heaven kept my bikes and me rolling throughout the year (and have throughout the years); there is no finer shop with no finer employees I have had the great fortune to know. Also on the bike front, John Cobb deserves another shout out for 1) Getting me interested in this whole bike fit & time trial approach to cycling; 2) Designing such a great saddle as the HC170 -- it is a lot minimalistic, but it works very well for me. Worn on the bike and the run, Rudy Project continues to earn praise for making such stellar sunglasses: The Sportmask Performance continues to be my "go-to" sunglasses for when the need for performance, with regards to comfort and visibility, is paramount. Dan, Dad, and Mom get a lot more thanks for making the trek out to The Woodlands just to watch me race…for 11+ hours. I'm sure they each had better things to do with their weekends, but I sure am glad they chose to spend it in the vicinity of the course -- and the same goes for all of you watching me online, especially you, April. Thank you to Cindy and the gang at the SA chapter of the National MS Society for the framework for raising funds & awareness for you, for Nicholle, and for the countless others out there affected by MS. Thanks, also, for working so hard to get a racing kit together for me. I'm sorry that the sizing & such didn't work out.

All of the aforementioned must make way for one person who trumps you all: Nicholle, my wife (yeah, I'm biased). Be it Ironman or just making it through a day at the office, she is my rock, my cheerleader, my very reason for striving as I do. Thank you, Nicholle, for putting up with me and this silliness of shooting for another Ironman. Thank you for feeding me, cleaning up after me, cheering me on, and checking me in reality when needed. Especially when needed. I could not have done this without you and will not be doing it again, as promised.

Thus ends this chapter in my life. Once was great, twice was even better, but there won't be a third. It would be too tough to top. However, multisport will continue to be used as a tool to raise funds and awareness for the National MS Society. The fund raising continues at http://www.off242.com/donate through October 2011. Please, donate early, donate often. :)

Regardless of if you've donated or not, thanks for reading.

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