Sunday, May 17, 2015

Ironman Texas 2015 Race Report (Ironman #4)

Ironman Texas Race report (Ironman #4)

Race date: 5/16/15

Time: 13 hours and 11 minutes.
762 overall, top 38% of all race participants.
119 in my Age group (45-49) (top 38%)

Swim - 1:36 (218 out of 318, well below the middle,   Did not wear a wetsuit)
Bike - 6:16 (158 out of 318, slightly above the middle)
Run - 4:53 (94 out of 318, top 29%, only 22 people out of 318 in my age group ran under 4 hours)

Other previous Ironman times

August 2011 (Canada) - 13:15 (95 degrees)
August 2012 (New York) - 12:48 (94 degrees/75 dew point)
August 2012 (Canada) - 13:12 (90+ degrees)

Weather:  94 degrees, 75 degree dew point, 15-20 mph wind. Weather was brutal. Marathons would be (and have been) cancelled with this type of weather

Goal: No time goal. Use this race as a training workout for the Comrades ultra marathon on 5/31/15 in South Africa. Finish the race with a smile on my face and uninjured. Be able to run the day after finishing. I achieved all these goals despite very challenging conditions.

Why IM Texas? Picked this race as a make up race for the cancelled IM Lake Tahoe (forest fires) on 9/21/14 (where I broke my ankle late in July 2014 and couldn't get a deferral of the race so was planning on walking the entire marathon. I got a break when it got cancelled).  Stayed with my friends Ben and Brent in a house 7 miles from the Texas race.

Training:  Materially undertrained for this race. I did not follow a training plan for this race, instead just tried to do some form of exercise everyday. I couldn't swim much due to my allergy to chlorine (and as my allergist says "other irritants in the pool"). Every time I went swimming, I got a cold for a week. So I swam 3 days a week for the 3 weeks before the race.  For the first 3 months of the year, I ran only a small amount due to a frustrating bone bruise on my right knee. I rode my bike trainer a lot and did elliptical. I only did one bike ride outside all year (60 minutes in Central Park). I did no long rides outside (longest was one 4 hour bike trainer ride followed by one 2 hour ride.  Nearly all other rides were 60-90 minutes). I ran 20 miles once in early April (Miami in heat), and no more than 13 miles a few times after that.

I ate well for the week leading up to the race. Lots of greens, beans, avocados, sweet potatoes, potatoes, red onions, fruit, chia, flaxseeds, etc.

Went to bed at 930pm and got up at 4am. Dew point was 73 when I got up. Huge bowl of oatmeal and fruit (2 bananas, pineapple, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries) and 4 heaping tablespoons of ground flaxseed.

Left for race at 5am. Super crowded when we arrived at 515am.  Parking tough but we found a spot close to transition. Due to massive rain all week, the bike/run transition was SUPER muddy.  This made it tough and people had to carry their bikes out of transition.  I had to be super careful not to roll my ankle, which resulted in super slow transitions.

After making sure my bike was good to go and my bike and transition bags had everything I needed, we walked about 1 mile to the swim start.  We arrived about 6:20am, about 20 minutes or so before the rolling wave start (by swimming speed, like running corrals). I ate another banana and drank a bottle of powerbar perform.

I was unexpectedly emotional at the start. In February 2013 I had complete reconstructive surgery of my foot and ankle to repair a ruptured tendon (Brevis) in my right foot. Doctor said that it was caused by misaligned feet that I was born with. He also said that I may never run again, and if I do, it most likely wouldn't be at the same level. 2 blood clots in my leg came after this surgery too and I spent a year on blood thinners seeing all kinds of doctors telling me I would be on blood thinners for life (luckily I got off them). In March 2014, I had knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus. In July 2014 I broke my ankle on an easy Central Park bridle path run (I have zero stability left in my ankle and my ankle rolls frequently) and couldn't do any exercise for 6 weeks. A tough 2 years where I did zero triathlons. To be standing on the start line of my 4th ironman felt amazing.  I minimized my training to stay healthy, and I felt healthy. I thought about my dad and wished that he could have seen me finish an Ironman.  He would have loved it. He always said that I could do anything I put my mind to, and because he said it, I have always believed it.

Water temp was 81 degrees (the pool I train in is 81 degrees too), well over the 76.1 degrees wetsuit legal limit, so I went with no wetsuit (I could have worn a wetsuit and started all the way in the back, but I decided I wanted to experience a race without my wetsuit). When I started doing triathlons in 2010, I couldn't swim 8 lengths in a pool my swim form was so bad. So being without a wetsuit made it much harder for me. So, the race started, and I was ready to rock and roll except for one thing. We arrived so late that I didn't get a chance to get my goggles wet and spit in them to Defog them. So, when I got in the water, sure enough, my goggles instantly fogged up. The water was already over my head, so I had to stop, tread water, and spit in them. I get a lot of twitching in my calves these days, so treading water with my legs got my calves twitching right away, which meant my calves were tight and twitching the entire swim.  I had to repeat clearing out my goggles 3 other times during the swim as water got in my goggles (and also because the sun tan lotion burned my eyes).  I also forgot to take my wedding ring off before the race, so I had to hold it in place during the entire swim with my thumb. This didn't help my form. Near the 2 mile point of the swim, my calves were twitching and cramping, so I decided I could no longer stop and tread water due to the risk of Charlie horses. This meant that I swam the last 0.5 - 0.75 miles with some water in my goggles and my eyes burned).

Back to the swim start.....I started swimming and realized that there was zero visibility. Zero.  The water didn't seem dirty, but it was super murky amd green and therefore there would be no drafting today (I'd heard about this coming in, but it was worse than I expected). 2.4 miles, here we go.  Because nobody could see, the swim felt like a complete washing machine.  People bumping into each other everywhere.  I got grabbed, scratched, swam over, pulled, kicked, touched, etc.  I probably had contact with somebody over 150-200 times.  It was tough. I got hit in the jaw hard once. All this activity forced me to slow down and pull my head out of the water more to sight. This meant that I would get stuck behind people and have to wait for them (no room to go around them with 2500+ people in the water at one time). The water was also very VERY choppy, particularly in the narrow canal for the last 0.75 miles. My quads and calves also got tight as time went on, definitely because I didn't swim enough in training. However, I had practiced how to stretch my legs in the pool and was able to do so during the race (averting many Charlie horses).  So, the swim felt long to me and my Garmin watch said I swam 2.59 miles (vs 2.40 miles). I was ready to be done with the swim for most of it due to not being able to see. Otherwise, I would have really enjoyed it. I finally reached the swim end in 1 hour 36 minutes, which is about what I expected, good for xx in my age group (xx percentile) xxx overall (xx percentile). People helped us out of the water and it took me 4 seconds or so to get my balance, and I almost toppled right over when I got out of the water.  Rough swim. Proud to have done it. Glad to be done.

Transition 1 -
I walked the entire transition and took my time, being really careful with my right ankle. The transition tent was super muddy and hot!  I had to be careful not to get my feet and socks muddy. I put a water bottle and towel in my transition bag that helped me get off the mud and grass I accumulated coming into transition. Got my bike shoes on, put suntan lotion and aquaphor on, and headed out, stopping to urinate (I had to go during the swim but was unable to execute urination while swimming, which most people do). I noted that my urine was basically white, a great sign indicating that I was not dehydrated at this point. I walked to get my bike, being careful once again not to roll my ankle, and carried my bike out of transition.

Bike 1
I took my time walking to the bike mount point. I appreciated the large crowd and cheering. I wasn't expecting this many fans out. I had a hard time clipping in due to the large amount mud that was stuck in my clips on the bottom of my shoes. Finally, I clipped in and was on my way. I noticed that my heart rate was around 145, which was perfect and lower than the start of my other ironman races. Great, I thought. I started on my way and instantly starting passing people. Not one person passed me for at least an hour, and by the end of the second hour I was averaging ~20.0 mph. I felt good, drank Gatorade, and ate gels. It was hot, but I felt good, although after the 2 hour point (40 miles), the wind seemed more prevalent in my face and my fatigue started setting in. My power numbers started going down and by the time I hit the halfway point (56 miles), I was in decline. The wind (15-20 mph) was pretty much directly in our face for the remainder of the bike, which made things extremely tough. I started getting passed by people from 56-75 miles in.  I also was having problems with my front brake, which was rubbing against the tire. Frustrating because (1) it was probably slowing me down, (2) because while I reached down multiple times to open the brake up it would tighten back up whenever I had to break on turns, which wasn't infrequently, and (3) I was never able to totally fix.   I found it hard to sit in the aero position and my neck began to get sore. By the halfway point, I was sick of eating gels (probably had 5-6 gels at this point). So I started drinking a lot more Gatorade to get calories and more hydration into my body and I ate a half a banana at each aid station (every ~10 miles). This seemed to work. I completely stopped at the 80 and 90 mile aid stations to get extra water, Gatorade, a banana, and to refill my front water bottle with Gatorade. I also poured water on my head. It felt great to stop for a few minutes and as a result I was able to go faster and catch a group of people (men and women) that I had been riding near (passing and being passed by).  By 90 miles, I desperately wanted to be off my bike and wasn't sure that I would be able to run off the bike at all, let alone run a marathon. I kept pushing, working hard to maintain 17.4 mph for the last 20 miles. During this stretch of the course and other earlier places, there was not a lot of room for us cyclists on the road, as some of the roads were narrow. Occasionally, I would hear a large Texas pick up truck charging up behind me, which was a little unsettling. I finished the last 3 miles strong and came into transition 2 (T2) extremely happy to be done with the bike leg. During the bike, my right foot burned a little bit here and there on the side but having my orthotics in my bike shoes generally kept my feet feeling good (as opposed to my other 3 ironman races where my feet really hurt after a while).

Garmin File (Bike) - click

Bike nutrition
5 vega gels = 500 calories (last gel at mile 56 - was sick of them)
1 date = 25 calories
4 bananas = 300 calories (1/2 banana at most aid stations)
6 bottles of Gatorade  = 1050
Calories / 144 ounces
1 bottle of powerbar perform
= 210 calories / 30 ounces
40 ounces of water
2 salt tabs

Total calories = 2085 / 6.2 hours = 336 calories an hour.  214 ounces /6.2 = ~34 ounces per hour. Poured a lot of water over my head at aid stations at miles 80 and 90

Transition 2
A bike catcher grabbed my bike. yes!  I made my way through the now swamp like, muddy transition area carefully, walking so slowly that I might have well been crawling (I'm guessing less than 2.0 mph). It was a long walk from the bike entry to my run bag, and what should have taken me 2-3 minutes probably took 6. I grabbed my run bag, changed into my run clothes, put on new socks, suntan lotion, aquaphor, and my visor. It was super frustrating how muddy it was.  I ate a banana and debated whether or not to carry my hand held water bottle with me that had powerbar perform and chia seeds in it. I took a sip and the temperature of the liquid had to be over 100 degrees. Yuck!  Dump it, I thought. You can live off the run course. Luckily, as I found my way out of the super hot transition tent, my water bottle was affixed to my hand. I went to urinate again, but this time noticed that its color was yellow. Too yellow. Not dark yellow, but not light yellow enough. I was dehydrated. Not dangerously, but I needed fluids even though I thought I overconsumed liquids on the course. For a second, I wondered if the orange Gatorade I consumed on the bike course turned my urine yellow. I knew that this was not the case, but it's funny what comes into your mind after 8+ hours of exercise in sweltering heat. I ran out of the tent, asked the people applying suntan lotion to do my neck, and I was off.

It felt great to be running!!!  I looked down at my watch and noticed that my pace was sub 8:30 and my heart rate was in the 130s and low 140s. MET rules!!!! I thought to myself. The first mile was downhill so that helped. The crowds were huge and very motivating. There was music playing all over and people were dancing. Some people were scantily dressed.

The run course is 3 loops so you see the same people 3 times.  Also ran along the lake we swam in and some beautiful neighborhoods in the Woodlands.

The run course had us running up a very steep, short, grass hill to get from the river to the lake. I was surprised by this hill and walked it gingerly to make sure I didn't roll my ankle. After this hill, things felt harder (mile 2). Generally, my ironman marathon race plan is to run the first 13 miles and then reevaluate how I feel. After mile 2 (~9:30), I knew that I wasn't going to be able to run 11 more miles without stopping (at any pace). I decided to change my strategy to walking all aid stations. I was hot and tired.  My heart rate was fine in the 130s, but my third mile (~11:00) was harder than it should have been (it felt as hard as running a 7 minute mile). So, I started walking all the aid stations. I filled up my water bottle with ice and water, drank 2-3 sips of coke, and ate some form of fruit at every aid station.  I was soaked the entire run, as I poured at least 1/2 of my water bottle on my head, arms, face, and legs a little bit during each mile.

At about mile 7 I saw Ben, which was awesome (and one other time after that). I never saw Brent on the run.

So, the run went on. Walking the aid stations, running in between, where I would run in the mid 9s to mid 10s, then walk the aid stations. I set a goal of finishing the marathon in under 5 hours, which quite frankly I wasn't sure I could achieve. After about 18 miles, I started to walk a little more, then run.  I walked most of miles 25 and 26. Normally, I would have run these miles, but with my upcoming Comrades 54+ mile race two weeks away, I decided to take the last few miles easy. My body felt good and my knee did not hurt at all.

After I passed the 26 mile mark, I entered the finishing chute. I was surprised that there was only 1 other person in the chute, and he was really struggling. I slapped the hand of every kid I could and had a huge smile on my face. It was downhill there, and my Garmin said I was running around a 6:58 pace at some points. I turned and noticed that the finish was uphill!   Only an ironman race would do that!  I passed the other guy in the chute and flew home with a huge smile, so happy to be done!  My first ironman finish that wasn't crowded with other people in my finishing picture. My 4th ironman in the books.

After the race I met Ben, who was waiting at the finish. We walked around a lot and didn't sit for a few hours, which helped our recovery. I wasn't sore at all, and the next day felt like I could run the full comrades race. I swam an easy 2600 yards 2 days after the race which also helped my legs recover. 5 days later I ran 10 miles in Central Park, followed by a second 10 miler the next morning (with a lot of hill repeats both days). My last longer runs before Comrades.

Overall race views

1. Woodland is a beautiful area, particularly the run course that runs through a neighborhood with beautiful houses.

2. Swim- I prefer a swim with clean water where I can draft. This was ok, but not great.

3. Bike - fine course, although prefer more streets to be closed, particularly given a triathlete was killed a few weeks ago on a sprint bike course in New Englnd

4. Run - great run, lots of crowd support, flat.

In the week after the race, it became even clearer that most people really struggled with the heat, humidity, and wind, and many people had to drop on the bike due to dehydration, cramps, light headedness, bacterial infections caused by the murky lake water, and for iv fluids.  Many people that finished had to back off their normal race pace by around 20% to finish (which equates to about 2 hours slower for a mid 10 hour ironman and longer for slower athletes)

1 week before the race, I stubbed my toe on my bike trainer, which I do frequently and usually never think anything of it. However, later that day my toe had swollen up so big that I couldn't walk!  I went to urgent care for an X-ray.  Luckily, it wasn't broken (he said there may have had a small hairline fracture). So I requested mobic (a strong anti inflammatory), thinking that maybe I would recover in time to do my race.  I ate really well too, as I believe food is medicine. The next day, however, the swelling was gone and I was fine.

Dave Matthews was playing in the outdoor theater next to the finish line. We could hear it perfectly. At first, I thought it was a cover band, but when I took a minute to listen, it was definitely him. Got to hear a few of his songs and he sounded great!



  1. Is the ultimate goal to eventually win one of these?