Saturday, May 23, 2015

IM Texas 2015 Race Report

After coming off the high of IM Lake Placid and Augusta 70.3 last year and I was eager to do another full sooner rather than later.  I looked at my options of early season races and decided on IM Texas without much hesitation.  Texas would offer an IM bike course I was confident I could do well on and a mostly flat run.  Like Louisville, it would offer a hot day, sunshine, and humidity.  The added bonus of wind was icing on the cake to seal the deal ;)

The lead up to this race seemed to go by very quickly.  During the early part of training I was on the trainer, a lot.  So much in fact that by the time I got outside for my first outdoor ride of 4+ hours I knocked out 85 miles without even knowing it.  I did a fair share of outdoor riding in leg warmers, arm warmers, vest, etc. even when the temperatures were perfect for just shorts and a jersey.  A couple long rides at Lake Anna, a half, a 120 mile adventure to Columbia, MD on two wheels and all of sudden it was taper time.

I like the idea of taper, but I never end up liking taper as much as I should.  The first week when I’m actually excited to taper my workouts are still long.   Then comes a sluggish-tired week, followed by the ‘oh sh*t, I think I’m getting sick week’.  Adam started his Sherpa duties extra early for this one, shuttling my bike back and forth from the mechanic to get as close to shiny and new as possible and reassuring me that I wasn’t sick, it was just ‘taper-flu’.  Too many patients walked through my office door the week before saying “well I’ve been sick and haven’t been to work in x amount of days, but I’m sure I won’t get you sick…”(sorry patients of mine but take note: if you’re sick and can’t go to work, please cancel!).  Alas, thankfully, I didn’t come down with anything and perhaps Adam was right, taper-flu (I’m not a firm believer in this yet).


We had a direct flight to Houston out of DCA, which made getting to the airport quick and easy.  I had Mr. packed up in my SciCon travel bag, checked him without issue and was pretty confident he was in good hands with SW airlines (I may have used entirely to much bubble wrap around his frame, but baby’s first flight!).  As soon as we got to baggage claim in Houston the baggage handler brought Mr. right in – he made it and he wasn’t ding-ed up!  Working bike, happy girl.  We drove to the house we were renting for the next 5 days, unloaded, and headed over to packet pickup.  Being Wednesday afternoon, it wasn’t very busy and we were in and out without much ado.  I was quite excited to almost literally run into a friend from my days in Acworth, GA during chip pickup!  The rest of Wednesday was relaxing back at the house.


Not much going on this day, a solid rest day for me.  I used time to drive the first 25 and last 25 miles of the bike course, get all the stickers to where they need to be, sort my stuff for gear bags and special needs bags and head back to athlete village to pump my tires.  This where things started to get stressful – inflated my rear tire and attempted to roll my bike, and nothing.  The wheel wouldn’t spin, ok try not to freak out, this has happened before.  It’s a simple fix, just adjust the screws in the horizontal dropouts.  I never moved them, Adam didn’t touch them, they were find 4 weeks ago.  Light bulb, bike mechanic was being helpful and getting my training wheel closer to the frame.  Ok, Adam got a screw driver and adjusted the screw, problem fixed.  We made a short appearance at the AWA reception and then headed home for dinner and some more R&R.  I do like the athlete banquet but with 3 guests at $35 a head we decided to forego that and relax at home.


I woke up early, had an awesome pancake breakfast, and headed off to the swim course practice with Adam, my mom, and Gary – Sherpa, volunteer, and photographer extraordinaire!  I was told many things before heading down to Texas – it would be hot, the water is brown, the canal is physical, I’ll turn into a headwind at mile 58ish of the bike course and so on.  I kept these things in mind and tried to prepare for them mentally and physically as best I could.  I used to think lakes in Virginia had brown water,  I no longer feel that way.  Virginia lakes seem to be quite nice compared to the chocolate milk-esque of Lake Woodlands!  Water temperature was announced to be 81*, time to pull out the Xterra Speed Suit.  The practice swim wasn’t bad, I swam for about 25 minutes and felt pretty good.  I quickly learned that I wouldn’t be able to see a thing under water, not a toe, not my hand and certainly not a body.  Unless you saw someone or something above the surface you didn’t know it was there until you ran into it.  After the short swim I headed back to the house for a shakeout ride and run.  When I got on Mr. I could hear the faintest of rubbing.  I rode him for a bit and though it wasn't constant, I didn’t want to worry about it on race day.  Adam helped me back the screws out just a bit more and then I headed out to run.  Just before I left to run I noticed some screws had started falling out of the bottom of me cleat.  Oi, another fixable but annoying issue.  Thank goodness for calm, cool, and collected sherpas! When
I set out to run it was hot, it was humid and my HR was sky high!  I took it nice and easy and let the HR settle.  I physically don’t mind the heat and humidity but my HR sure does.  After cleaning up and realizing it was still morning time we headed over to rack the bike and check in my gear bags before making a quick stop for an athlete briefing.  The rest of the day was legs up, rest, chicken, pasta, Osmo hydration, and sleep!


‘Today is the day I’ve been waiting for!.  All the hard work, long hours and mental/physical fatigue was in preparation for this day.  This was my time, my day.  I was excited and nervous.  I woke up at 4am, got in my usual pre-race breakfast along with a bottle of Osmo Active to sip on.  I got dropped off along with Sherpa Adam at T1 to load bottles on the bike, and make sure the tires were pumped and good to go.  Once I was done in T1 it was time to walk slightly less than a mile over to swim start.

Once at swim start we had a nice meeting place picked out to meet up with my mom and Gary.  We hung out there took some pics and chatted with Heather Wurtele before swim start.  I headed over to the port-o-john one last time before getting into my swim skin.  Doof mistake of the day was grabbing part of the door on the hinge side, catching my pinking in the door and the following ‘ow, ow, ow,’ shake it off, shake it off.  The adrenaline of the day must have helped because the pain subsided, but when I eventually looked at it (post race), it was a bloody, cut up mess.  I got in to my Xterra Speed Suit and headed over to seed myself for the swim start. 

THE SWIM – 2.4 Miles – 1:30:44

I was warned that this could be a slow swim, but I was confident I would swim at least as well as Placid (1:17).  I started around the 1:15 group and felt great out to the first turn buoy.  I was able to stick to the buoy line and stay in a pack for the most part.  I hit the first turn buoy and had no trouble making it over to the 2nd turn buoy as it was probably about 100m away.  Once at the 2nd turn buoy I’m not sure what happened.  I thought I swam a good line, but Garmin says I swam 2.77 miles (eeeekkkk) I need to practice swimming straight.  I’m also not convinced of the accuracy of the OWS function of Garmin as it is constantly losing satellites when your hand goes under water.  Once making our way almost all the way back to the start we made a 90* turn down the canal.  The canal was crowded, the canal was physical and I knew it would be so I just kept on going.  It was pretty awesome to have people cheering along both sides of the canal and an almost impossible place to swim off course.  I saw a bridge ahead and what looked to be the end of the canal so I picked up my kicking and thought I’d have a decent swim time.  Fail, it was just a bridge we swam under, definitely not the end of the canal.  Upon exiting the water I didn’t look at my time, I spotted Adam, my mom, and Gary cheering me in as I ran to T1.  The swim is the swim and there is nothing I can do about it once I’m out of the water.  It’s best for me to just focus on what’s ahead.

Although I didn’t know it at the time, this swim time still landed me smack dab in the middle of the pack.  It seemed swim times were a bit slow all around from pros, top age groupers and back of the packers.  I wasn’t that for off of some fellow AGers that finished in the top 10.  The swim continues to be a work in progress, looking forward to making some gains here.

T1 – 4:26

I ran through, grabbed my gear bag, and headed into the change tent.  It wasn’t too busy so I sat down, pulled my Xterra Speed Suit off the rest of the way and got my helmet, sunglasses, and chamois cream on.  I opted to carry my bike shoes in one hand through the mud pit of transition.  I grabbed Mr, hoisted him onto my shoulder and ran out to the sidewalk where I promptly stepped in the kiddy pool of water to rinse my feet.  There were awesome volunteers just after the kiddie pools that held my bike for me while I got my bike shoes on before heading to the mount line.

THE BIKE 5:22: - 112 Miles

I got on the bike and felt awesome, but apparently my HR did as well.  I knew HR might run high due to the heat and humidity.    I backed off a bit and tried to let my HR come down.  It came down a few beats, I was getting my Osmo hydration in and started early on nutrition.  HR was high, but power was right on point so I went with it, hoping that HR would start to come down throughout the ride.  The first 30 miles or so were super smooth, with a nice tailwind that at times caught my disc and made me feel like I had a sail. 28 miles down and HR hadn’t dropped much, power was on point, nutrition and hydration were going well.  At this point I stuck to power while just monitoring my HR.

The 2nd 28 miles went by almost just as fast, there was some rough road thrown in there which slowed everyone down a bit.  HR stayed just about even and power came up to the target, so I continued to stick with it.  I was still nailing hydration and nutrition (and yes, peeing as well).   I started grabbing water from every aid station to dump over myself and keep my body as cool as possible.  Though the temps when I got on the bike weren’t bad I could tell the day was heating up quickly and staying as cool as possible would benefit me in the long run.

Special needs was at mile 58, just about where the lovely headwind greats you.  I stopped at special needs for about 59 seconds to restock my Osmo bottles and nutrition.  Adam suggested I freeze the bottles I was putting in Special Needs so that they might still be cold when I got to them.   Worked like a charm, nothing better than icey cold Osmo ½ way through the bike!  I continued to bring power up, HR stayed the same.  Around mile 85 or so my stomach started feeling a little off so I sipped on some water, held off on a feed for about 20’ and ended up feeling much better.

The final 28 miles of this ride continued in the head wind.  The day continued to heat up and I was keeping my HR constant and bringing up the power bit by bit.  The last 12 or so miles of this ride were hard.  I was pushing to keep the power up.   I was able to snag two bottles of water at the final aid station to cool myself off with during the final miles of the ride.  As I started thinking about what was next I knew the run was going to be tough!

T2 - 3:57

I dismounted my bike without my shoes on, saw Adam, mom, and Gary as I passed off my bike to a volunteer and passed one more AG competitor as I entered T2.   Little did I know, her coach was right there, telling her 2nd place was just up there…yada, yada.  Well now I knew where I was, but could I hold it?  The volunteers in T2 were awesome and got my race bib on me, made sure I didn’t forget my sunglases, visor or bottle of Osmo Active + Preload.

THE RUN 26.2 Miles – 4:27:58
I started out conservatively and felt great the first loop or so of the run.  I had a running buddy for the first couple miles that came out of T2 at the same time as me.  A couple miles into the run he looked at me and said “whoops, guess I’m doing this whole race in my swim skin!”  Oi, I’m not sure how he tolerated that on the bike and for his sake I really hope he took the time to take it off during the run.  He clearly had  a trisuit on underneath.

The tried to keep up on cadence, HR, nutrition, hydration, salt.  At one point  I became so focused on getting cold water over my head to stay cool, I didn’t drink any at a couple of the aid stations.  Thank goodness, I had my bottle of Osmo with me.  While on the bike I used Salt Stick, but BASE was handing out their salt product on the run course and since it was so easy to get and easy to use I stuck with that for my salt for the run.  The first loop was slightly overcast, somewhat empty, and I was able to bring my HR up just a smidge throughout the course of it.

The sun seemed to come out for the 2nd loop, my legs were getting tired and HR was starting to not want to go up much.  I just tried to hold my HR where it was and keep running.  I started walking every other aid station around mile 11.5 which helped me get the water and ice I needed and conserve the legs just a bit longer.  The wind along the canal at one point was like running into a wall.  I tried to tuck behind a bigger guy but that only last about 30 seconds until he decided just to walk, so much for my draft. At the end of the 1st and 2nd loops we had the added bonus of running down a curvy staircase to get around some construction, thankfully my legs welcomed the change in terrain and I didn’t bite it.

The third loop was welcomed and my not-so-speedy pace was at least enough to keep me passing most and getting passed by few.  The entire run I tried to pay attention to ladies’ calves to know where I was in my AG but there were so many calf sleeves it was useless.  I did know when I got passed by bib #551 and knew she was in my AG.  Really, I’m not at the point with IM racing where I could throw down some hard miles to actually race out the marathon.  It’s best for me to just stick to my plan and execute as best as possible.  When the execution is perfect, or close to it, the result usually follows (or at least in the ½ distance it does!).  I was happy to not get sick of my nutrition on the run and was able to keep some energy consistently coming in.   The joy of reining some women back in that went out too hard on the run and had slowed significantly by loop 3 kept me moving along.  Adam tried to run next to me a few times in which in the politest way at the time I asked him to please let me do this on my own.  Soon enough I turned right, instead of going down the stairs, and started heading toward the finish chute!  A couple turns later and a short slight downhill followed but a short slight uphill push to the finish and I was done! 

FINISH TIME: 11:29:02 – 7th W25-29 AG

This was improvement over last year (at 27 minute PR) at Lake Placid despite not exactly executing my plan very well.  Looking back at how the day went I could have made some better decisions on the bike and set myself up for a better run.  I did not run to my potential and what my training suggested I should have been able to do on that marathon.  There were a lot of positives as well as some learning experiences that came out this race.  I’m always grateful to finish 140.6 miles strong, healthy and happy, but I am beyond thrilled that I have another go at this distance in September, because there’s a lot of potential to cut out some big chunks of time.  When I think about this race there's a tangible sense of disappointment that had I actually been able to properly execute the plan I was trained to execute I likely would have placed much higher in my AG.  That's why Ironman is so great and that's what keeps me coming back - just trying to nail the plan, from start to finish!

I enjoyed my experience at IM Texas, but it is by no means somewhere I’m itching to go back to.  I’d go back to Louisville or Placid in a heartbeat over Texas.  I had a great Sherpa and support crew on board featuring Adam, my mom, and Gary.   I will say Rory and Kara were missed, I may need to do an IM overseas just go keep up their Sherpa skills!

Thank you to my sponsors for helping me get to the start line and through the finish line!  Louis Garneau for a comfortable chafe-free kit from swim through 26.2 miles of running, Rudy Project for keeping me aero and safe for 112 miles on the bike, Xterra for a great Speed Suit, Osmo Hydration for helping me keep hydrated in the heat and humidity of Houston, TrainingPeaks for making sure I don’t miss a workout, Rose Physical Therapy Group for helping me stay strong and healthy throughout training, racing, and working, DC Tri Club for awesome support, Snapple for the best training partners on earth and District Taco for helping me refuel at breakfast, lunch, or dinner!