After last year’s Ironman Texas, I wasn’t quite sure I wanted to do this race again. Not because the swim was changed the day before the race, or because the bike course had more turns than its distance, or because the weather was more hot/humid than Kona (I actually welcomed that because gaining more experience in Kona like conditions is beneficial to me!) but because I wasn’t sure I was ready to put myself through nearly 100% indoor training again.
Last year, I struggled! I struggled through many of my long rides, and as the weeks went by I was slowly but surely losing motivation. I was quickly approaching the edge of burning out. Indoor training can be quite monotonous and I honestly didn’t want to put myself through that again. So instead, I signed up for Ironman Lake Placid because I knew I would have plenty of friends to train with, and I wouldn’t be confined to my pain cave a.k.a living room weekend after weekend.
Yet as the weeks went by, this little voice inside my head kept telling me to sign up for Ironman Texas regardless of all of the above. Come December, I was swimming better than ever, and my motivation to redeem my mediocre race at Ironman Texas last year was sky high, Right around the New Year, I came down with a nasty sinus and ear infection and there went my streak of kick ass training. I was laid up for pretty much 3 weeks with zero energy to train and that is not like me. With 15 weeks to Ironman Texas, I watched my fitness hit its lowest point since years ago. I did however become great at puzzles.
Home sweet home (Prague, Czech Republic)
My 2nd home
Because this is exactly how I spent my New Years!
Although sitting on the couch wasn’t exactly how I wanted to kick of 2017, I think it allowed me to really get hungry again and so while on antibiotics, I finally pulled the trigger and signed up!
I started the build toward IM Texas mentally fresh and ready to bring my A game day in and day out.What followed was something I could only dream of. I put together probably my best ever training block, and I very much continued to surprise myself week after week whether it was in the pool, on the bike or the treadmill. (Yes – I did a lot of my runs indoors). Just when I thought I was surely going to blow up, my mind was sharp, and my body continued to perform week after week.
Consistent build from 1/9 to 3/26 (11 weeks of consistent build), followed by a down week, before one final push during our training camp in Tucson, Arizona.
During this time, I averaged little over 15 hours of training between swim, bike, run and weekly strength and plyo session.
Consistent build, with 1 down week followed by a big week in Tucon, AZ (training camp), and taper week before race day :)
With 2 weeks before Ironman Texas, we had our annual training camp in Tucson, and although my swimming decided to go on vacation, my cycling and running were the best ever. I was putting out power day after day that I have never done before fairly effortlessly, and my running legs were sharp. The long run at the end of camp is always a struggle thanks to the accumulated fatigue and although this year it wasn’t any different I ticked of 15 miles at a pace 40 sec per mile faster than a year ago!
Needless to say I travelled to Texas knowing that I was in one of my best IM shapes to date even if all of my swimming has been done in the pool, all but 6 days of cycling had been indoors, and probably 80% of my runs were indoors too or in temps below 40 degrees (and I am being generous here)
I arrived in the Woodlands on Wednesday mid day, and headed right to packet pick up before settling at the same homestay as last year – the Broncalo’s. It seriously felt like I never left and Jesus and Laura are seriously the best! I spent the next two days, just making sure I had everything ready for race day, and I even got a pre-race swim in with the PushGlideKick team and the awesome Gemma Hollis. My swimming really decided to show up that day, so it felt like everything was coming together just in time for the big day J.
Outdoor pools make everything better!
We won’t talk about the day I tried to squeeze myself into my wetsuit just to make sure I was ready for anything. I haven’t had mine on since September so had to do it. Good thing there is no photographic evidence of this as trying to squeeze into a wetsuit when it's nearly 80 degrees and just as humid really wasn't pretty! (It did take 2 people to zip me up!)
Mr. Flash ready to rock!
T1 bag plus missing rice/potato cakes (no I didn't use the toe warmers, but when forecast initially called for low 50s, I had to be ready)
I woke up on race morning to temperatures in the low 70s with humidity in the mid 90s! Humidity for breakfast anyone? With T1 and T2 being in two separate places there was no time for messing around. Just like last year, there was no in water warm up for us age groupers, so the 15 min walk over served just as that.
The Swim: 1:16:30
The swim was a self seeded rolling start except there were no signs that would indicate any swim times. This is where I made my first mistake that 100% cost me some time. How much time – we will never know, but I know my swim is better than the time shows.
You can see the masses getting ready for the swim start! And that yellow circle - yup - that's me stretching it out instead of swimming already! (Photo Credit - David Reynolds)
I got in the water too late and found myself in a 2.4 mile boxing match inside a watching machine, with underwater visibility up to about my elbow. I spent at least the first half of the swim either swimming into and around people or looking up every 2 strokes to see where to go. I then spent the 2nd half of the swim trying to pee while swimming, which for me is impossible! It was becoming downright painful, and I welcome any tips and suggestions – TMI I know.
Looking at my splits, the last 2000 yards were actually nearly 5 sec per 100 yards faster than the first half! Unlike last year, I didn’t panic and just kept on trucking although apparently way too slow! I wore the BlueSeventy Nero Race yellowlense goggles that will make even the gloomiest day bright, which allowed me to see the buoys very clearly. I did have a bit of a hard time finding my way into the canal, but once in there I found a descent rhythm. The water in the canal was super choppy but it didn’t really phase me – the very slowly moving bodies however did. I made my way around everyone the best I could, even if that included multiple times of me coming to a dead stop to actually survey what may be the best way to get around the wall of mostly men in front of me. I got pushed, and punched and kicked and shoved, but I shrugged it off. Before I knew it a volunteer was literally pulling me out of the water up onto the stairs like I was a 5 pound weight!
I glanced at my watch, saw my time and very quickly bolted out of there. This wouldn’t be the first time, I would be dissatisfied with my swim time, but I knew the day was young. I actually felt the best I have ever felt coming out of the water, and quickly shifted my focus to what I needed to do in transition and onto the bike I went.
The Bike: 4:58:53
Although I would normally let my crappy swim dictate the first part of the bike, I never once again even thought about my swim time (until post race of course). I held back a bit even though my legs really wanted to go. I also knew what it was like to race in the heat/humidity in April after training through the east coast winters. (Although the weather was far from what it was like last year even temps in the 70s coupled with 90+% humidity at the start of the day will eventually catch up with you when you are used to the temps in the 20s & 30s). I was moving well, and sticking to my pacing and fueling plan. As a very rhythmic rider, I was actually really excited about this bike course. It really played to my strengths especially coming of 99% indoor training. I love to just put my head down and go to work. I never even used the front chain ring!
Just getting started! (Photo Credit - Scott Flathouse)
Once on the highway, I just put my head down and began to pick up the pace some.
The scenic IM Texas bike course ;) (Photo Credit - David Reynolds)
The wind was starting to pick up too but it felt like we had an equal head and tail wind both directions. The whole first loop I was staying steady at around 23 mph, and I even did some quick math once I passed the 56 mile marker. At mile 56 I was on pace for a 4:52 bike split. Say WHAT?
Beating trains! (I sadly don't even remember this train!)
(Photo Credit - David Reynolds)
At mile 82 I was still on pace for that very same time but the last 30 miles back into transition, the wind decided to come out and play! It was headwind and crosswind from hell! I was actually still feeling strong and was able to up my effort/power some more hoping to add some more time on my competition. After averaging 23+ mph for 82 miles, going less than 20 mph however felt super slow, and I spent the last next 20 miles watching my average speed quickly deteriorate to just over 22 mph.
As much as I always wanted to ride my bike on the highway, I was very glad to get of it and put in the final push toward T2. I rolled into T2 with my best power output yet over the IM distance, and feeling strong!
I hopped of the bike, handed Mr. Flash to the volunteers and immediately noticed that my legs were feeling awesome! Thanks to an empty changing tent, I had about 3 volunteers helping me with just about everything! I don’t know who you were, but thank you, thank you, thank you!
The Run: 3:27:40
I bolted out of the changing tent on a mission, with my heart rate way too high! I knew better than that yet I was still flying high. Thankfully only few hundred yards in Kurt Perham of PBM Coaching pretty much told me to cool my jets and I finally began to slow my pace down – my running has been coming along great but not 6:40s-6:50s great ;).
My HR was still a bit high but my effort was feeling super easy, and my legs felt fresh! The weather was a far cry from last years heat and humidity, so for the first time ever, I wasn’t overheating from step 1 BUT my HR was still a bit elevated for the pace I was running. The challenge of racing in the heat/humidity after training through east coast winter is real.
Thumbs up to feeling awesome! (Photo Credit - Janina Rajecki Davis)
The eventual winner Emily did pass me fairly quickly around between miles 1 – 2, but I was able to keep her in my sights for the next 6ish miles. I also learned (from her husband) that there was another competitor about 2:30 min up the road from Finland currently leading our AG. I wanted to find her! (This was probably around mile 5)
Still in control (Photo Credit - Janina Rajecki Davis)
I kept on moving with ease and it was at the beginning of the 2nd loop (probably between miles 8-9) that I all of a sudden lost Emily. It turns out she made a quick pit stop and hence I now found myself in front of her. My legs were still feeling good – my HR had settled although still a bit higher for the pace I was running, and I continued to look for Venla the Finish girl who I knew was still in front of me.
When I hit probably mile 13ish, Emily’s husband told me the gap to the Fin was now down to 1:16 so I knew if I just kept my pace, I had a chance of catching her before the race was over! Of course I am sure he was saying the same to his wife, who kept getting closer and closer to me all of 2nd loop. It was so FUN to be in such a close race!
It's getting more real! And yes - the competitor behind me is Emily!
(Photo Credit - David Reynolds)
By mile 18-19, I ended up passing Venla, and was told by David that I was now leading my Age Group! At this point Emily was back on my heels, and was closing fast. I was definitely starting to feel the hurt. I began to feel low on fuel and I couldn’t get enough liquids in me at each aid station. When Emily passed me around mile 20-21, I went with her for nearly 2 miles, but the lack of fuel has caught up with me and I was feeling awfully thirsty secretly wishing for more aid stations along the way!
You gotta love the matching stride!
(Photo Credit - Janina Rajecki Davis)
Anything can happen in the closing miles of the marathon, and I made the choice to settle into more manageable pace instead of potentially blowing up just a few miles before the marathon. I had come to Texas to get a slot to Kona and I knew if I could just hold on to my pace it was going to be mine. Emily’s pace was too fast for me, and as much as I wanted that “W”, I wanted that Kona slot more. Blowing myself up and getting caught in the end of a very long day wasn’t in my best interest. I made a safer decision of the two, but you better believe if this was Kona, I would turn myself inside and out!
I ended the day with an Ironman PR of 9:49:46, one speedy bike split, new run PR of 3:27:40 and the Kona slot I came here for so it’s hard to be disappointed.
Hello Kona #5
Kona girls - 2nd, 3rd, and 5th (1st and 4th already had their slots from IMAZ)
2nd AG by couple minutes stings, but finishing 3rd overall amateur at a competitive North American Championship race after being 10th last year is nothing to sneeze at, and I am super excited for the rest of the season!
I may have travelled to this race alone, but I felt far from alone! The Woodlands community is absolutely amazing, and I have met many people here that make this race feel like a hometown race for me! Big Thank you to my homestay – the Broncalo’s, David Tilbury-David for being my bike mechanic away from home and making sure I put together Mr. Flash just right, his wife Janina for the awesome run photo’s, Gemma Hollis (PushGlideKick) for letting me swim with her squad while I was here in the Woodlands, Scott Flathouse and David Reynolds for the awesome photo’s used in this blog! The Texas triathlon community is truly awesome!
And of course thank you to my coach Jorge Martinez (E3 Triathlon Coaching), and all my sponsors/supporters without whom I wouldn’t be standing at the start line ready to go year after year!
QuintanaRoo, The Refreshinq Co., BlueSeventy, Dr. Cool, CycleOps, Finis, Levelen, Elevated Legs, and Swiftwick.
Next Up: Patriot 70.3 followed by Ironman Lake Placid!