Don’t believe me? No – I wasn’t in the kids locker room at a local Woodlands YMCA, but YES – I had to squad down to wash my hair!
This was my first time racing this early in the season, and never mind an Ironman. I have done 5 IM’s to date, and all of 5 were either in October or November. (Read full summer of outdoor training)
There was a ton of time spent on my trusty CycleOps trainer sweating away
Just keep pedaling, just keep pedaling
Racing Ironman Texas meant that pretty much all of my training happened indoors. If it wasn't for the annual E3 training camp in Tucson, I could have counted the number of my outdoor rides on one hand. This way I at least needed both ;)
Top of Mt. Lemmon and all smiles!
Mt. Lemmon selfie on the way back down
Swimming in the sunshine
Running in shorts
Just enjoying the fresh air and beautiful views
I came back from Arizona ready to race except I still had another 4 weeks of (indoor) training left. Not an easy task after having so much fun in the sun, and I was really starting to question my decision to race this early.
The announcement that bike course would be shortened to 94 miles and have about a million turns further shook my at that point a bit fragile confidence. I knew I shouldn’t worry about things that were out of my control, but I kicked and screamed and even thought about transferring to another race. Since there were not any races in the near future that I could affordably get to (key word affordably), I finally moved on, and played the cards I was dealt with, but I wasn't happy.
On the upside, I was very lucky to score an absolutely amazing homestay (my 1st ever), so that gave me the flexibility to arrive in Texas a little bit early and gave me an extra day or two to check out the area, course, expo without the crowds etc. Jesus and Laura were both amazing and took absolutely unbelievable care of me during my entire stay! I may have to hire them as my race sherpas for all my IM’s from now on.
Home made "paella" to die for! WOW!
The canal I thought I would swim in but never ended up doing so. The swim was changed the day before due to high bacteria levels in the canal
Amazing sunset from the run course
Few short pool swims, rides, and runs later, it was time to race! I haven’t raced since IM Kona last October, so I was definitely a bit more nervous than usual. The butterflies were at an all time high, but I also knew I was physically ready - I just had to lock in mentally!
The Swim: 1:15:15
I was ready for a non wetsuit swim in the very dark waters of Lake Woodlands, but I wasn’t ready for just how warm the water would be. It was announced shortly before the start that the water temperature was 82 degrees, but it felt more like 90. (I am always cold, so you know the water really was very warm).
All my other warm IM swims (Kona & Cozumel) I never felt hot, but in Texas I did. Instead of swimming through cooler patches of water as I made my way up the course, I felt the water temperature rising. Before we even made it to the turn buoys, I was boiling even though I wasn’t pushing the pace and was swimming very comfortably. That’s after I stopped hyperventilating from bit of a hectic swim start (My 1st ever rolling start without a promised warm up that never happened was no bueno) .
I actually ended up completely stopping a bunch of times in the first quarter of the swim to catch my breath and to look where I was going! Not exactly the perfect way to start the day, and definitely a sequence of firsts for me. It was far from how I imagined the swim would go given the swim training I had done the last 5 months, but I was determined to calm down, and at least stay on course. I eventually ended up finding someone just a bit faster than me, and swam on her hip for pretty much the entirety of the second half of the swim even that meant a few surges that were causing my body temp to increase.
The calm before the storm
The mad dash into the dark waters of Lake Woodlands
Happy to see Linda cheering me on and SO ready to get on with my day
When I got out of the water and saw 1:14:xx on my watch, I was actually pretty happy given what I had experienced the first half of the swim. I know that I still have long ways to go before I will get to where I want to be, but I am also very proud of myself of how I mentally dealt with the situation I found myself in at the beginning of the swim. I am my own worst critic, but I am very good at moving on when in race situations.
This was a long transition, but I love IM transitions. I was in and out as fast as I could.
The Bike: 4:07:35 (2nd fastest amateur bike split by a few seconds)
Time to put my head down, and get to work while staying extremely alert.
Unlike any other bike course I have ever done, this one had lots of turns and intersections for us to go through. I was the first to complain about that, but I must say that all the volunteers, cops etc. did an absolutely amazing job of policing/securing all turns/intersections and I had felt 100% safe in that respect. There was definitely some “not so very smart” riding and or cornering by some of my fellow competitors but I knew that was going to happen and along with the usual drafting didn’t let that bother me. (I have become good at minding my own race).
The plan was to start the bike a bit conservatively and then pick up the pace (power) after mile 60 or so. Once I tried to pick the pace up however, the power just wasn’t there and my right quad was all of a sudden on the verge of cramping. I kept drinking/eating and popping salt pills like I normally would but just couldn’t shake that oncoming cramp, and my watts were nowhere to be found. I tried sitting up, standing up, but every time I tried to generate any sort of power my right quad was threatening to seize. Instead of upping the power, I was now just trying to limit the damage by staying as aero as possible while pedaling along at my recovery watts for the last 30 miles, which was extremely frustrating, but again, I am very happy with the way I dealt with it.
Aero was the name of the game
I wanted to be off the bike so bad, but I was afraid of what that I will feel like. In retrospect, I didn’t have to pee until essentially mile 90, which should have been a sign to me that the hot swim perhaps dehydrated me much more than I thought it would (I normally always pee by mile 20, and then a few more times after that – yeah I know – tmi but you gotta do what you gotta do!). I should have started to drink more and perhaps get some more salt on board, but in the heat of the moment (it was definitely nice and steamy) it just didn’t even dawn on me! It will next time if I find myself in the same situation but hopefully I won't!
I hopped of the bike and ouch - that quad was far from happy! The women’s tent was fairly empty so I had at least 5 volunteers attempting to me very quickly! I could have just stayed in that tent all day.
The Run: 3:43:39
The Run: 3:43:39
As soon as I started running I knew I was in for a tough run. It was hot and steamy but that’s what I came here for! I wanted to race in Kona like conditions! In addition to my tri kit, I also wore the Dr. Cool cooling towel around my neck and cooling headband which I love! (Use code: JANA20 to get your own).
My mind wasn’t on the heat but rather on that right at this point already very painful right quad! With every step it felt like I was getting punched square in the middle of it – definitely not how anyone should feel at mile 1 of 26.2. My plan was to run by HR for the first few miles so I didn’t overcook the opening miles of the marathon as I usually tend to do, and then settle in, and close in hard with the last 10k. I have been running very well in training and was hoping to finally show my run in a race but it wasn’t meant to be.
Given my right leg already feeling like it ran a marathon before I even started, I just tried to keep a steady pace throughout, and slow down the least. I also kept popping SaltStick tabs every 15-20 minutes that I am pretty sure were the reason I didn’t end up cramping and was able to although painfully keep moving all day. I was also getting uncharacteristically thirsty in between aid stations which resulted in the decision to actually walk all aid stations to make sure I got in enough fluids and cooled myself off. I never really overheated thanks to my Dr. chillband and scarf as well as the Castellli Stealth Top, but I was extremely thirsty even though I was drinking more than I ever have.
I also knew I was running 2nd thanks to my twitter friend Jordan who was giving me on course updates. Hailey was killing it up front, and I seemed to be somewhat safe in 2nd as long as I just kept shuffling along. My shuffle definitely slowed down once I hit mile 20, by which point my legs hurt like never before. I was very thankful to at this point see my host family at least 3 or 4 times in the last couple miles of the course because they honestly kept pushing me along although I swear I had no idea how they kept beating me to various spots on the course over and over again.
By mile 25.5 the thunder and lightning hit, the temps dropped, the wind picked up and the sky opened up! I have honestly never seen anything like this before. The wind was blowing so hard that the one last out and back I had to do turned into a holy shit my legs can’t move fast enough, stop pushing me forward you crazy tail wind to what felt like running into a brick wall with a parachute holding me back, while getting beat up with hail & head wind but there was no stopping me!
The finish line was very anticlimactic because everyone including the “voice of Ironman” was understandably at this point seeking shelter but I was very lucky to have guess who there - 2 strangers now friends, whom I have just met my host family there who saw me and cheered me on at least 4x in the last mile of the race when I wanted to be done so badly, as well as my teammate Linda – who was seriously all over the course all day to cheer me across the line! Thank you guys SO much!
Where is everyone?
To give you an idea of just how empty the finish line was and how strong the thunderstorm was!
Final Time: 9:13:32 (2nd AG - 35-39)
In the end, it was far from the race I imagined and knew I had in me, but it's the tough once that we learn from the most! Although, I am not happy with the time, I am very happy with the way I fought all day even when not much was going my way. I never lost hope and fight and I did get what I came here for and will be making my 4th trip to my favorite island this October!
The 35-39 IM Texas podium
And last but not least, THANK YOU to my coach Jorge Martinez of E3 coaching for getting me ready to race a hot/steamy Ironman so early in the year, to my individual sponsors: Quintana Roo, CycleOps, Dr. Cool as well as all of our team sponsors - you guys ROCK, and I appreciate the support more than you know. SPECIAL thank you goes out to David Tilbury Davis for taking care of me along with Jesus/Laura my host family while I was visiting his home state of Texas! I would have been lost without your support! Now that we have a legit bike course, maybe I'll be back ;).