IRONMAN Lake Placid Race Report

Also known as “suddenly Boulder doesn’t seem so tough” πŸ™‚

Lake Placid was my 3rd IRONMAN this year, 6 weeks after Boulder which itself was a very tough day with the altitude and high heat. Lake Placid also marks my 10th IRONMAN just 2 more to go (Wisconsin and Chattanooga later this year) until I can apply for the legacy program and at some point the opportunity to partake in IRONMAN Kona.

My training since Texas has not been going great. I think doing an IRONMAN every 6 weeks is very aggressive and I’m fatigued physically and mentally however the last 2 weeks have gone pretty well and I think most of it is mental and was feeling mentally strong and in pretty good shape. Placid was going to test that πŸ™‚

Like Boulder, my family came with me. We flew into Montreal and spent a couple of days there where we took the kids to the science museum and wandered round the old town. I went to a Tim Hortons and ate Poutin and a maple leaf donut. This was about as Canadian as I felt possible πŸ™‚

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We drove the 3 hour trip to Lake Placid on Thursday where we checked into the High Peaks Resort which is the host resort for IRONMAN Lake Placid. Note that although its the host resort it is actually pretty far from the village and the transitions. There are many other hotels much closer FYI. It was a nice enough resort though and the staff were very friendly.

When we arrived we went and registered at the convention center which was all very standard and then went and registered the kids for the IRONKIDS run on Friday and the VIP passes so the family had a good view at the finish line. As usual bought a few things in the store including a complete Lake Placid IRONMAN tri shorts, running shirt and bike shirt in addition to a donut IRONMAN bike shirt πŸ™‚

Lake Placid is a small town but there are a lot of places to eat with a huge number of Italian restaurants so lots of pizza and pasta choices πŸ™‚ There is also a Ben and Jerrys ice cream store which we may have frequented daily. Also a nice chocolate shop with giant chocolate raisins!

On Friday we had the IRONKIDS run. It said it started at 2:00 however before the half mile run they had the kids dip and dash who all had to finish so the run didn’t actually start till 2:45 and it was a hot day. There were a lot of very grumpy kids. I definitely think it would make more sense to tell people different start times for the various events.

After the run I laid out all my gear. This event added lip balm sunscreen as on boulder my lips got a bit burnt. As it would turn out sun was not a huge problem for Lake Placid πŸ™‚

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Saturday I took my bike and bags down to the transition area. The run and bike bags are kept together on a set of hooks which was pretty cool. Your morning clothes bag went on the same hook on Sunday so was easy to collect everything at the end of the day.

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For the rest of the day I pretty much did nothing. Pasta for lunch and as always pizza for dinner. We watching Paddington Bear 2 in the room πŸ™‚ I bought tri-tats for this event so put them on before bed. Went to bed around 8:30 and actually slept pretty well. I got up at about 3:15 to eat my apple sauce, protein shake and bagel. I checked the weather forecast and it had stayed with rain starting around 8am and finishing around 12 with temperature of 55 going up to 72 later in the day. Greeeaaaatttttt.

I walked the half mile down to transition, pumped up my tires, put on a bottle of Gatorade and a bottle of water (which I never even opened) however the morning clothes bag drop off was at the transition and so I just hung around the transition area sitting in the men’s changing tent rather than going to the swim start. The water temperature was about 74 so wet suit legal, woo hoo! With an hour before the 6:40 age group start I put on my wet suit, applied the spray on lube around my neck, put on some sun screen and put my morning clothes bag on the bottom hook next to my run bag then walked down to the swim start.

It wasn’t raining yet but was 55 and pretty chilly. The swim course was two loops (really just out and back) but they were really keeping people pretty tight on the swim course not letting people stray too much out by way of people in canoes telling you to move over, which meant frequently you would bump into people, get stuck behind people and a few times get kicked by people. It was a rolling start where you self seeded into your estimated finish time. I know a few people with anxiety around the swim were unable to finish because of how bunched together they made us. I thought the swim was fine though, finishing in 1:29:59 (no matter where I swim I’m always 1.5 hours). Sometimes it’s good to be a bigger person so if people do knock into you its fairly easy to knock them back out the way. πŸ™‚ You have to get out the water between loops and they had some water to drink which was nice. It started to rain during the second loop which made the water a bit choppy. Overall the swim in Mirror Lake was nice and you had great visibility to see the buoys so was easy to stay on course. I also saw the underwater line a few times that connects the buoys and if you can stay on it provides the shortest path without having to sight the buoys. Problem is everyone tries to do that πŸ™‚

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After the swim its a run to the transition area (which really wasn’t that far, I had heard half a mile but was nothing like that). Grabbed my bike bag off the hook, into the tent, put on my new bike shirt, applied the butt chamois butt’r stuff which really helps with the saddle pain and is much better than a bar type thing I used to use. Applied some sun screen, stored my nutrition and out I went. Into the rain. I turned on my bike computer but it was having problems finding GPS so didn’t register the first .25 mile of the ride but thankfully started showing my speed pretty quick. It was now raining a lot. A lot of cold rain, in the cold. 55 degrees. This would be the state of the entire first loop pretty much. I was freezing for most of the first loop and it was a cold that felt like it was going down into your bones. My new white socks were basically black by the end.

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Additionally there was a 15mph SE wind which just was the cherry on top of my misery Sunday πŸ™‚ It hit you as a headwind but somehow never was a tailwind and rather a cross-wind trying to blow you over as you went down the hills. It was a tough course and normally you get downhill back from the uphill’s and Placid had massive downhills BUT because of the rain my brakes were barely working so I had to go down really slow. I would pull on the breaks and they responded with “meh, don’t want to”. A brake placebo. The first loop took 3.5 hours. I was looking at a 7 hour bike ride. I’m not sure how much better I would have done without the rain but it really was just very tough. There were a few flat sections but mainly it was up and then a short down. You can see the elevation data below (this is for both loops). It stopped raining by the second loop and the road dried up plus I now knew the course a bit better so I took the downhills much faster. I got up to 45 mph πŸ™‚ weeeeeeeeeee. The second loop was definitely better than the first but I really wasn’t any faster on the second loop and my total bike time 7:01:57. Wow! My slowest ever but also I would say the toughest course ever with worst conditions ever. I feel I tried hard during the course so was pleased with it. It’s a very hard course but the scenery was amazing and the miles did go pretty fast. There were aid stations every 10 miles and lots of porta-pottys along the course which was lucky as I guess because it was so cold I had to constantly pee on that first loop πŸ™‚

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Another quick transition and on to the run. It was actually great weather for the run. Around 70 degrees but lots of cloud so no bright sun beating down on you. The course was hilly (surprise). I felt tired getting off the bike but not drained. My plan was to run downhill and flat and walk the uphills and I mostly stuck to that with the odd extra bit of walking when required. It was great seeing my family at the half way point (I also got to see them mid-point and at the end of the bike). They had orange Gatorade on the run course which surprised me, normally its lime πŸ™‚ I brought my own nutrition and had a gel every 30 minutes, this time I used ones with caffeine! Apart from that it was the same as all the other IRONMAN events with water, coke (which I had a couple of times), redbull and later on chicken broth. They also had various types of food. The run is two loops and the volunteers throughout the event were amazing as always and the crowds were great. Everyone talks about the finish line at Lake Placid being second only to Kona and it was amazing not that I remember much about it πŸ™‚ I was really tired and basically had tunnel vision on the finish line. I forgot to even make some kind of victory pose. I just ran across the line πŸ™‚ Final time on the marathon 5:20:37 giving me a total time of 14:15:59 when you add in the transitions. That time is way off my best however this was a very different course, very different conditions and I really gave it my all. Sometimes I finish an IRONMAN and feel like I could have done better. I feel proud of this one and am really happy with my performance.

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And the reward πŸ™‚ Medal, hat and t-shirt goodness. You also got a mini-towel to celebrate the 20th anniversary.

I picked up my bike and bags, dropped my bike off at Tri Bike Transport then walked back to the hotel (about half a mile). Showered, ate 1/3 of a sandwich my better half got for me then completely failed to sleep all night like every other night after an IRONMAN. Could not sleep a wink. I wish I knew why. I can only guess its eating nothing but sugar all day with caffeine and I never normally drink any caffeine so am pretty sensitive to it I guess. At 5am I left the room and wondered around the town and took a picture of the lake. Really was amazing location.

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At 6am I walked down to the store to join the queue. I was about number 20 in the queue and by the time it opened just before 7 there must have been a hundred people behind me. Bought the finisher jacket, t-shirt and polo as normal then headed back for breakfast with my family.

Overall Lake Placid IRONMAN was awesome. As usual the IRONMAN was a great experience. Super well organized, amazing volunteers and you just live to hear Mike Reilly tell you that you are an IRONMAN πŸ™‚ It’s a very tough IRONMAN, I would say the toughest I’ve done. I was chatting to people who had done it in previous years and they said it was harder this year but its a great course, great finish and you have a great sense of accomplishment when you finish. It should be on everyone’s list to do. As the multiple signs on the course point out “if it was easy, it would be called your Mom” πŸ™‚

Two more to go this year, six weeks till Wisconsin then 3 weeks after that Chattanooga!

 

 

IRONMAN Boulder 2018 Race Report

Also known as 14 and a half hours of hell but lets step back.

Six weeks previously I had completed IRONMAN Texas and set a new PR of 12:47. The marathon had not gone great but was still happy with the time and was IRONMAN 1 of 5 scheduled for 2018 to get me to the magical 12 total which will enable me to apply for the legacy program and a chance at Kona. I had maintained my training however I had done little to account for the 6000 feet altitude. I also didn’t swim at all between Texas and Boulder as I was having knee problems and swimming aggravates it but swimming is always the warmup for me at IRONMAN and not super concerned about it.

To help adjust for the altitude we (my wife and 2 youngest kids came with me) set out on Tuesday driving from Texas. We drove nearly 11 hours and stopped at Colorado Springs which is about 90 minutes from Boulder and the same altitude. We booked into a cool hotel called the Mining Exchange that still had the safe from when the hotel was an actual exchange location!

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I got up early Wednesday and went to the hotel gym where I ran 12 miles on the treadmill (in the 68 degree air conditioned gym) and felt totally fine. No signs of any difference because of the altitude which was awesome and gave me a lot of confidence that the altitude would not be an issue. How naΓ―ve of me πŸ™‚ We headed out and completed the final miles to get to Boulder where we checked in at the Boulder Marriott which was about one mile from the High School which was the location of the athlete village and shuttle pickup/finishing line. The hotel was going through a modernization which meant multiple times the elevators were not working and our room was actually kind of dirty (chewing gum on the floor under the desk, loads of other dirt on the floor) and the bathroom had a glass door with no blind for the massive window in the bathroom. This becomes an issue when you have young kids that want to go to bed at 7:30 and the sun does not set until 8:30 meaning there is a blaring light for a full hour and when you have an IRONMAN the next day and want to go to bed early.

Thursday morning we went and did a whitewater rafting trip which was fun (although my wife and son could not do it as he broke his arm 2 weeks previously) and then went to the IRONMAN village to check-in. I have AWA status so you had a separate check-in however even the regular line had no wait and was super fast as I’ve found all my IRONMAN check-ins (except Florida 2017 which was a complete cluster). You tell them your number (or name), show an ID, they give you the forms in which you just check its all correct, write in your hotel and phone number, give them back then grab your rack packet which has your bib, stickers and swim cap. They put on your bracelet then you go grab your race bags and timing chip. For the backpack you head over to the store where they give it to you. All done in less than 10 minutes. TriBike Transport was also right there so I grabbed my bike and took to the car. Meanwhile my family checked in to the VIP area so they would have a good view at the finish. About half mile North of the village are a lot of restaurants serving all types of food. There was a Cheesecake Factory we went to quite a few times. Also an awesome ice cream shop which we frequented often which would actually prove to be a problem as there was also a great candy store which we also visited but it was a family vacation so that’s OK right!?

Friday was quiet and I just kept an eye on the weather forecast which was showing Sunday at 95 degrees. Ouch, but I’d done Texas and other IRONMANs at that temperature so was not super concerned. I trained Thursday and Friday morning lightly but rested Saturday. I did not participate in a practice swim, with hindsight a mistake because of the altitude! I packed my bags up Friday and checked them multiple times. As usual I would recheck the bags constantly. I always lay everything out on the bed head to foot and visualize what I need and compare the equipment list in the athlete guide. Additions this year was a headlamp in my morning bag (awesome when pumping up tires and when using the port-a-potties), a plastic grocery bag to help put on the wetsuit (put on your foot as you slide into the suit to avoid friction) and a lubricant to spray on the back of my neck to stop my neck being cut by the wetsuit.

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Saturday morning we got up and drove to the reservoir to drop off my bike and morning clothes bags. TriBike did offer a bike shuttle where they would take your bike but I preferred to see my bike on the bike stand and put it there myself. There was plenty of parking at the reservoir and the whole drop off of the kit went super smooth and like the check-in was fast and event free. We then went and had lunch, didn’t really do much then ordered Cosmos pizza for dinner (which was awesome). I went to bed the same time as the kids and had a raging headache (which I never get). This was because of all the ice cream and candy which I’m just not used to anymore. Damn you delicious sugar. I eventually fell asleep but woke up multiple times checking the clock.

I set an alarm for 2:30 at which point I got up ate my apple sauce, protein shake and bagel. At 3:30 I walked down to the high school (took about 20 minutes) where I dropped off the bike special needs bag (which had a single spare inner tube) then boarded the bus (which were all already there) at 4am for transport to the Boulder Reservoir. The headlamp came in handy here as well as we walked from the bus drop off to the transition area.

We arrived a little before 4:30 (the time of transition opening) but they started the body marking and then headed in to the bikes. I put on my drinks (I decided to try without an aero bottle for this IRONMAN as always found it a pain filling it up during the event and instead just use bottles since that is what they provide at the aid station on the bike course anyway), took my bike to the mechanics where they inflated to 100 and then headed over to check my bike and run bags were still there πŸ™‚ At that point I just settled in at the bike area since the actual swim start had no port-a-potties and knew I’d want to use the bathroom before starting. I had my last drink at 5:30 along with a 5 hour energy, put on my wetsuit (water was 70.9 so wetsuit legal) along with sunscreen then dropped off my morning clothes bag. It was a rolling start where you self seeded so I put myself at the back of the 1:20 to 1:30 section.

The age groups started getting in the water at 6:20 and I think I was in around 6:35. The water felt good but visibility was only a couple of feet. I started to swim and took my first breath, head into the water and OH MY GOD I NEED AIR is all that went through my head. I’M DROWNING. It was the sensation when you hold your breath and you’re at the end and need to gasp. The altitude seemed to have had no impact on me at all in the training since I’d been in Boulder however with the swim where you take a big breath was a huge difference. People had warned me about the swim but I really didn’t think it would impact me but it was super unsettling. I just had to keep telling myself it was OK, breath deep and slowly exhale. After a couple of hundred yards I got used to it and it was OK. The swim was one big loop but it seemed to take forever! Final swim time was 1:31:25 which is pretty typical for me. A quick run out and they helped you out of the wetsuit (sit on your butt on the floor and they yank it off), grabbed bike bag and into the change tent.

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It was already getting hot! On with more sunscreen, bike top, nutrition etc and out to the bike where I hopped on. The bike course was two loops. Now I had been warned (by the manager at Papa Brothers funnily enough who had done a single IRONMAN which was Boulder) that the course was deceptive. If you were going towards the mountains you were going uphill even if it looked like a downhill which made no sense to me and I assumed he was crazy. HE WAS RIGHT. No matter how it looked if you are going towards the mountains you were peddling and going slow. There were sections I would swear were a fairly big downhill gradient but you were peddling hard and going 12mph. There were times I was going 5mph and I saw many people just walk their bikes up the hill which I’d never seen on an IRONMAN before. It was insane. On the other hand if you were going away from the mountain it was the opposite and you were going downhill. There were sections I got up to 41mph which was awesome. If you were parallel to the mountains then the visual of the gradient was accurate. It was hard. The first loop was not too bad however for the second loop the sun was out in force, there was a headwind as you approached the mountain and you were just tired. There were aid stations roughly every 10 miles which had as usual bottles of Gatorade Endurance, bottles of water and some gels.

The official temperature was 95 however I read that people say when you add the lack of shade, the radiation from the road, the altitude the “feels like” was 103. Who knows but it was tough! As I rode I kept hearing a weird crushing sound which I later realized was my soul as I was mercilessly beat down. Along the ride I saw multiple people just veer off onto the side of the road and crash where they had blacked out while riding! Fortunately none of those people I saw were seriously hurt. The road condition itself was great, it was really just very hot, high altitude and was a pretty tough course. Total time was 6:28:49 which is slow for me.

I got to transition and really didn’t feel great. I grabbed my run bag, changed and headed out which was about a 6 mile run (at a slight up hill gradient) with no shade to the town where you would then complete 2 loops for the 26.2 mile total distance. My goal was 3 minutes run and 1 minute walk. After one interval that changed to 2 minute run and 1 minute walk until it flipped round to 1 minute run and 2 minute walk. Then there were periods where I just walked. It was just hot hot hot and horrible. The sun would not go down (well it did at 8:30 just as I was finishing). The course was basically flat with the occasional up or down and there were aid stations every mile with cups of Gatorade, water, coke and various things to eat. Once you got to the two loop run along the creek there was shade so that helped a bit but by that point I was just burnt out. In the end I limped in for a 6:06:48 marathon which is my slowest ever (apart from my first IRONMAN where I had second degree sunburn by the time I got to the marathon πŸ™‚ ). Total time of 14:30:37 which is nearly 1 hour 45 minutes slower than Texas which was 6 weeks previous! So obviously disappointed but at least I finished. I understand it was an 18% DNF (did not finish) and I saw a lot of people on the run that had passed out, being sick so consider myself very fortunate was not in that position and hopefully everyone is OK. I’m also pretty sure some of the mile markers were wrong as once I passed mile 25 it seemed to be about 2 more miles to the finish or my mind was just playing tricks on me but others I spoke to said the same thing πŸ™‚

One great thing was seeing my family at the finish line which is why I have the big smile on my face but also made me feel guilty for taking so long and making them wait! Couldn’t do it without their support and was so grateful they waited for me to finish. Hopefully I can make it up to them at Lake Placid in 5 weeks and not make them wait so long!

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A HUGE call out to the volunteers. It was tough being out there competing but there were also all the volunteers who were out there in the same sun helping us and really just can’t thank them enough as without them it would not be possible at all.

Thankfully my wife drove so didn’t have to walk back to the hotel where I showered, ate some pizza and couldn’t sleep a wink all night. I got up early, had McDonalds which opened up at 5 then walked to the village where I was second in line to the store to buy all my finisher goodies πŸ™‚

Boulder is an awesome IRONMAN. It was well organized, very pretty scenery and a great host town. I think the altitude obviously is tough and we were just unlucky with the heat. The next day the high was 82, a full 13 degrees cooler! Oh well. Definitely recommend it but try and get there early to acclimatize and do a practice swim so you don’t freak out on the actual day!

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Good luck!

IRONMAN Texas 2018 Race Report

28th of April 2018 was my first IRONMAN of 2018 and the forth time of participating in the IRONMAN Texas event. As usual it was a great event and had good conditions, if a little on the bright sunny side (which we’ll get to). As a recap my history with Texas:

  • 2015 – First ever IRONMAN. It was about 95 degrees and near 100% humidity. I got second degree sun burn on the bike and pretty much had to walk/drag the entire marathon. My time was around 15:30
  • 2016 – Second IRONMAN. It was cooler but the bike course was cut short to about 96 miles (if I remember correctly) and we had a hail storm during the marathon. Time is meaningless because bike was so much shorter than normal and was stopped for a period of time during the marathon
  • 2017 – My forth IRONMAN. Good conditions, managed to run non-stop the first 13 miles and finished in around 13:02. It was the new bike course on the toll-road but we had strong wind which meant in one direction of the toll-road loop (you did two loops) your speed dropped a LOT
  • 2018 – My eighth IRONMAN (I did a total of 4 in 2017, Texas, Santa Rosa, Florida and Chattanooga). Also got AWA silver status for this year.

For this year I decided to stay at the Westin which is basically at the finish line. In previous years I always stayed somewhere that required me to drive and it was always a little bit of extra stress worrying my car key would survive morning clothes bag etc. This year I just decided to remove that stress completely and just treat myself πŸ™‚

I drove down to Houston Thursday morning and arrived around 10:00. I went straight to athlete check-in which never seems to have a long wait (the AWA express line was longer than the regular πŸ™‚ ), check the forms, sign, grab bags, duffle bag, timing chip, buy some things at the store and you are done in 10 minutes. From there I was able to check-in early so that was great. I would then begin my standard eating pattern for Houston. Macaroni Grill for lunch and dinner on Thursday (pasta with marinara and chicken breast), lunch again on Friday followed by Grimaldi’s Pizza Friday night πŸ™‚ There are lots of things to do around the Woodlands and no end of food options.

I really just relaxed Thursday and laid everything out on the bed that I would need to pack in the transition bags and for race morning. I would later unpack and recheck multiple times including when I actually drop off the bags πŸ™‚

Friday I woke up early, watched some TV, ate a bagel and rechecked the bags. The transition is just over half a mile walk from the IRONMAN village so I decided to walk my bike and bags to the transition which had a 10am open time. I had already let air out my tires to avoid any risk of popping over night. The check-in is very smooth. Essentially as you walk in they take a picture of your bike, they will direct you to where you mount your bike (by the seat) and then you go drop off your run and bike transition bags in the designated areas. There are lots of volunteers to help direct you. You can also access the bags on race morning if you happen to forget anything. And that’s it for Friday! I went and had lunch, saw Avengers Infinity War (which was great), ate pizza and went to bed early and actually had a good nights sleep which is rare for me before an IRONMAN. I was more relaxed than usual.

Saturday morning I set an alarm for 3am. Ate an apple sauce, protein drink with milk and a bagel along with some Gatorade. I got ready and headed out about 4:40 as transition opened at 5am to check your bike, drop off drinks, pump up tires etc. I had my morning clothes bag with me with wetsuit, googles, cap and drinks etc. I had my tri-suit on and my timing chip already round my ankle. Remember to take a drink with you to drink while you wait and I take an extra bagel as well as I like to keep eating πŸ™‚

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I arrived a little before 5am but they were already letting people in. One thing I didn’t bring which I will in future was a head lamp as it was a pain trying to check bike, pump tires etc. You can take your bike up to the technicians who will pump up your tires for you but normally I just borrow a pump from someone around me which is what I did this time. I filled up my aero bottle, put an extra bottle of water on the bike and went and checked my gear bags were still there πŸ™‚

From transition its about a mile walk to the swim start. It was about 55 degrees so I had a long sleeve shirt over the tri-suit and was a nice walk down. Once you arrive at the swim start you get the body markings done and you can also drop off the bike and run special needs bags if you choose to use them. This is also where you drop off your morning clothes bag before the swim start. There are quite a lot of port-a-potties however the queues get big very quickly so use them early!

The age groupers start at 6:40 and for the first time in Texas IRONMAN history it was WET SUIT LEGAL!!! This was great news for me. About 6:10 I put on layers of suntan spray, some glide around my neck then put on my wetsuit, dropped off my morning clothes bag (which would be waiting for me at the finish) and took my place in the 1:30 to 1:40 self-seed location for the swim. I was in the water just before 7am. The water gives basically zero visibility (it’s gross) and I tend to stay on the outside of the pack to minimize getting kicked! I maintained a steady pace and its a basic out, back, then down a canal to the finish line. The visibility out of the water was pretty good so when you poke up your head you could see the buoys to stay on track. As always lots of helpers to get you out the water, help get out the wetsuit, short run and then grab the bike gear bag and into the changing tent. I did a 1:31 swim which was good for me so very happy there.

I grabbed my bike and off I went. There was very little wind and the temperature was not too bad. About every 10 miles there are aid stations which bottles of water, bottles of orange Gatorade, gels and some food. I had my own food which was a gel every hour and at 20 minutes and 40 minutes past the hour half a waffle. The bike course is about 30 miles on regular roads and 80 miles on the toll road (two loops). It’s basically flat the entire time with some minimal rolling hills. Now this year there was a bit of controversy, packs of cyclists that were drafting at a massive level. Below are a few pictures I grabbed off social media.

There were multiple packs of 50 riders that caused numerous accidents, drove people off the road and were breaking the rules of IRONMAN where there should be NO drafting. Now I was lucky. I saw the packs but they were on the opposite side of the road (benefit of me being slow) but I was not impacted by them but there are a lots of stories about them causing accidents where people were hurt and ultimately they are just cheating themselves. How did this happen? Why did the officials not break them up and send them to the penalty tent as in every other year there are lots of motorbikes with officials that would stop this type of thing.

Based on various threads it appears the officials were all pulled off the course for athlete safety. There are 3 lanes on the toll road. The middle lane was supposed to be used for the outbound, the inner most lane (by the median) for the inbound with the outer lane for support vehicles. It seems as soon as the age groupers got on the course they/we all used the outer most lane in addition to middle lane at which point it was considered unsafe to have the officials out on the course as they may hit cyclists. The bike support vehicles were still out though so not 100% clear on the difference.

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The peloton aside, the bike was uneventful and fast (except for the fact for some reason I had to stop to pee 3 times in the first 2 hours, I think I drank too much πŸ™‚ ). At mile 80 one of my aero pads flew off so the last 30 miles sucked as I had to rest my arm on Velcro but not that big of a deal. It was also 110 miles as they had to shorten the course by 2 miles for athlete safety. I think the original turn point on the tollway was a tight turn which if you went too fast would end with a 40 foot drop so they felt that was not the best idea πŸ™‚ I’m fine with safety first there! Bike was 5:40:40 which again was pretty good for me (especially considering all the pee breaks πŸ™‚ ).

I felt good running to the run transition except when I took a deep breath it made me cough. This had happened to me on previous IRONMANs. As I realized yesterday its the swim. I don’t swim much and when you swim you take short, deep breaths. I’m just not used to it so I need to focus on that more in my training as that inability to take deep breaths caused me challenges on the run! I got changed and headed out. Note at every transition I reapply sun screen AND let the volunteers add their own layer as well. Better safe than sorry.

The run is 3 laps. There are areas with lots of crowd support and areas that are very quiet but its super flat and a pleasant run.

I started a steady run at about 10 minute mile pace which included 20 second walk at each mile to drink from the aid station (which are every mile and had water, lime Gatorade, red bull, coke, some food and later in the night chicken broth however I actually finished this year before that was available πŸ™‚ ). I had my own gels which I wanted to take every 30 minutes. I managed this for the first 2 hours but after that had trouble eating.

The sun was strong. It was only about 82 degrees but there was almost no shade and the sun was relentless. My goal was to run non-stop until at least mile 13 but at mile 10 when I stopped to drink I couldn’t get started again straight away and from that point on it was a mixture of run/walk until I got to the last couple of miles when I ran as best I could until reaching that final turn when everything goes out the window and you just run trying to fool everyone that you’d been doing that the entire previous 26 miles πŸ™‚ I’m English and the sun just saps everything from me but also my inability to take deep breaths was an issue and my body just didn’t want to eat the gel so of course I was lacking energy. I think I needed to be drinking more, taking more salt and just forcing myself to eat the gels every 30 minutes. Lessons learned πŸ™‚ Final run was 5:12:40 which was disappointing as I’ve done better than that on other IRONMANs but overall I set a PR as the swim and bike had been good. Final time 12:47:35!

Once done the amazing volunteers helped me grab a drink, get a picture, a slice of stone cold pizza (incentive to run faster for next time πŸ™‚ ) then I walked straight to the Westin where I was unable to sleep the entire night but the day was done.

So I was happy and a little disappointed as I felt I could have done better on the run but still overall a new PR so I’ll take it πŸ™‚ The next morning I got to the store at 6:15 where I grabbed a chair and joined the line ready to buy my finisher jacket, polo, hoodie and t-shirts πŸ™‚ They were all awesome this year!

I know it was 2 miles shorter on the bike but even with an extra 6 minutes of bike I’d still have PR’d. Additionally I read some people saying because it was 2 miles shorter they are not a true IRONMAN. I disagree 100%. 2 miles makes zero difference. Some IRONMANs have 110 mile bike, some 111, some 116 (damn you Chattanooga), some have downstream swims, some are hilly, some are flat, some are really hot, some are cool. You can’t compare. You did 2.4 mile swim, 110 mile bike then a 26.2 mile marathon. YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!

Now on to Boulder!

 

Silver All World Athlete for 2018

Just got notification I got Silver All World Athlete status for 2018. That’s based on being in the top 5% of full Ironman event athletes in 2017 for the points gained (based on the time difference between you and the person that one) from your top 3 Ironman’s. Now lots of people don’t do 3 or more which limits how many points they can accrue but yay Silver and yay great benefits like separate event check-in, AWA bib and swim caps for 2018. The 1000 point one if when you wear a wetsuit if its wetsuit optional. In that case you can only get 1000 points.

IRONMAN Florida 140.6 Race Report

IRONMAN Florida 2017

Sitting on the plane coming back from New York (will make sense by the end) and thought I’d spend some time writing up my IRONMAN Florida 2017 experience. This was a late addition for me which meant the only places left were the IRONMAN Foundation places which meant I got bib number 84 and slightly better bike/bag placement and an expedited check-in line which as it turns out saved my butt πŸ™‚

Because I booked this late I stayed at the host hotel, the Boardwalk Beach Resort. After booking I looked at the reviews which were pretty terrible so I looked forward to my arrival with a little bit of dread. I arrived Thursday (as there was an early flight from DFW (via Atlanta) to the Panama City local airport) and after a 30 minute taxi ride arrived. The IRONMAN village and check-in were actually in the Boardwalk Beach Resort car park so that was super convenient. I couldn’t check-in to my room yet as it was only 12:30 and I was told check-in for the hotel would be around 2:30 so I just took my suitcase with me to IRONMAN registration and the line was ridiculous. I’d never seen such a long line. Now this was the last day of registration but there must have been 100 people ahead of me. Fortunately that IMF entry gave you different check-in so I got to basically cut out the entire line, fill in the paperwork, get my stuff, timing chip then out through the store where I bought some shirts and pins. It was about 1:15 so I thought I’d try my luck checking in and they let me. They were friendly and helpful. Grabbed a quick bite of pizza (which took 30 minutes!) then off to the room.

Is the hotel stellar? No. But it was fine. I’m guessing its a spring break type hotel. There were two double beds in the room and bunk beds. There was a fridge (which had orange rust up the side of it) and a microwave. The ceiling was cracking over the window but the actual room was clean. Sheets clean. Towels and bathroom clean. Maybe I got lucky but it was totally fine. The bed was a bit hard but really wasn’t that big of a deal and you had lots of space. I did put a spare sheet over the bottom bunk bed before I put my stuff on it as there were some stains that I didn’t want to identify or risk touching πŸ™‚ Now there are nicer hotels but this being the actual host location had some big advantages that I’ll get to and if I did Florida again I would stay here again even though I’m sure there are nicer places to stay.

I unpacked and laid all my gear out on the spare bed as always. I use the gear list in the athlete guide and as always picture myself from feet to head of the gear I’ll need to make sure I wasn’t forgetting anything. Once I was all laid out I put it in the bags (only to take out again and recheck about 5 times before final drop off).

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There were no stores super close so I walked to the Walmart to buy water, Gatorade etc. It was only about 3/4 of a mile I think up the road but it was hot then I had to carry it all back which I think was a mistake with hindsight. I ordered pizza and pasta from Hungry Howie’s which was tasty. Went to bed early.

Next day got up, rechecked contents of gear bags, walked up to Waffle House to have egg whites and a waffle (about 1 mile round trip and was nice and cool). I walked down to the sand and it was quite the view (this was basically right outside my room as well) and this is where the swim would take place the next day (Saturday). The waves seemed intimidating however there were some people out swimming and what I noticed was by the time you got to waist level walking out (which was quite a way) the waves stopped and from that point it was fairly calm so you didn’t actually swim in the wave crashing part.

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I had a quick work call then off to gear drop off which was literally outside my door. Walked up to TriBike Transport (which was as close to bike drop-off as humanly possible, right next to it), they put on my pedals, quick ride around to ensure was OK, put on my bike stickers then dropped off my bike. I had a day to kill and this happened to be the day Thor Ragnarok came out. I had researched before hand and there was an IMAX in town so I’d already bought a DBOX 3D seat (the DBOX seat actually moves during the film). I ubered to town, had lunch at Olive Garden (pasta with marinara sauce and chicken breast along with some breadsticks and 5 cheese marinara dip) then walked to the movie where I snacked on some Buncha Crunch while enjoying an awesome movie. Then uber back to hotel where I had Hungry Howie pizza and went to bed.

I slept OK but work up around 2:30 am and this is where the Boardwalk really started to shine. Transition opened at 4:30. This was outside my room. I went out, got my numbers marked on me, put my drinks on my bike, pumped up tires to 100, checked my gear bags were still there and normally now I would spend 2.5 hours waiting sitting on the floor, queuing for the restroom (which I’ll pee 3 times normally as my body panics). Well, I just went back to my room. I stayed there for 1.5 hours, watched a bit of a movie on my iPad, used my bathroom, drank some Gatorade etc. It was awesome. I could even still hear the announcements! THIS is why I would stay here again. At 6 am I decided to wander out already in my wetsuit with a layer of sunscreen spray applied. Dropped of a morning clothes bag which literally just had a room key wrapped in a towel in it (I had also put a room key in my running belt the day before) then out to the beach where I had to walk on the sand (I HATE sand. HATE the feeling. don’t know why, I just do) and was chatting to people. I’m always amazed at how friendly everyone is. It’s awesome and while it was great being in the room obviously I missed out on some additional time talking to people.

It was a self seed swim start. Volunteers where holding up signs for expected swim time so I put myself in the 1:30 slot. At 6:30 the pros went off and 6:40 the age groups started to go in. I think I hit the water about 7:00 and they had a timing mat as you went over so your time started as you went in the water (this is normal to me but some people said this had not always been the case). It was a two-loop swim and you got out after the first loop to run back round to the loop start. My wetsuit is armless but it was fine. I think the water was about 71 degrees. You waded in quite a way until you started swimming and the waves were gone at that point. There was a little chop but nothing really bad. I had a hard time seeing the buoys and found myself off course a few times but nothing too bad. I prefer to stay on the outside as I’ll sacrifice a few minutes to not get kicked in the face. The water was really clear and you could see the sand at the bottom. Was nice. The salt water was not. I’d never swam in the ocean before and the salt water sucked. I didn’t really feel it added buoyancy beyond the wet suit but who knows. My tongue was tingling and obviously just got worse as you continued swimming. As I finished loop 1 I was at 40 minutes which was great for me. Thankfully they had cups of water as you ran round to loop 2 so that helped. Loop 2 was more of the same (except the sun now blinded you after the first turn as you were swimming straight at it (however this is a short leg as you quickly turn again to head back to the beach)). I finished in 1:25 which I was pleased with and got help pulling off the wetsuit, stood under some hoses setup to help get sand and salt off then off to grab T1 bag and into a big conference room to get changed.

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Then out to the bike. Its one big loop and its pretty flat. There are a few rollers in the middle but really nothing to bad. I never had to change my front gear. As always terrific support on the course about every 10 miles. I have my own nutrition (Gu every hour, then half waffle 20 minutes and 40 minutes) but use their Gatorade and occasionally swig of water. It was uneventful which is great! I set a PR on the bike of 5:52:37 so was super happy with that. I had a new bike computer, the Garmin Edge 520 which performed great. Was a nice big screen and showed everything I needed. As always my butt and neck were hurting but that’s just the norm now.

floriday2017bike

At transition they take your bike, helped grab my T2 bag and off I went to change. I was feeling pretty good. This feeling would not last. This was a two-loop run course.

Now my old PR was 12:54 ish. So far with the good swim and bike and my transitions I could do a 5 hour marathon and still come in at 12:40!!! This would be awesome. It was a completely flat marathon course and I’d done a 5 hour marathon in IRONMAN Texas which was similar flat course and temperature so my hopes were high. However as soon as I started running it felt tough. I’m not sure why. My legs had been aching a little on the previous day. I think maybe training during the week (Wednesday I did a sub 2 hour half marathon on the treadmill, Thursday elliptical before flight for an hour) then the walking Thursday in the heat had maybe taken it out of me a little but I was struggling. I managed to run for the first 8 miles but then had to start walking for a bit then running for the next 8 miles but at 16 miles my running was getting slower than my walking πŸ™‚ My mouth was tingling and I just felt dead to the world. I was trying to eat a Gu every 30 minutes but as the run goes on that gets harder to do so I think I was not getting enough sugar. Also the Gatorade gets harder to drink and you just want water. At 16 miles I just had to walk. I grabbed a cookie and nibbled on that as I walked and drank water. I chatted with some fellow walkers for the next 4 miles. After an hour I felt better. Tingling had gone, felt like I had some gas in the tank. I looked at my watch. If I could maintain just over 5 miles an hour I could beat my old PR so off I went running again. It was run walk but managed to maintain for the next 3 miles until I just crashed again and this time pretty much for good. I felt like crap and really struggled to keep moving. As I got to the end I ran the last part and finished the marathon in 5:25:23. Ugh. Luckily because of the bike and swim my total time was 13:05:49 which I’m actually fine with but obviously disappointed as with this flat course I really should have been able to beat my Chattanooga time which was super hilly (BUT it had the super easy swim). Below are some pictures and I may stop buying them as I realize I look exactly the same in all the races πŸ™‚ Same pained expressions, same happiness when its over πŸ™‚

And the final split times.

FullSplitTimes

After it was all done a quick pickup of the gear bags (Tribike had already took my bike which caused me confusion at first as I didn’t think I booked the valet service!) then the morning clothes bag had to be picked up from a different location (where you dropped it off). Went back to my room, had a protein drink and some pizza, showered then utterly failed to fall asleep like every other IRONMAN lately. I can only assume its because all day I’m eating nothing but sugar and caffeine then at the end of the day the brain says “nope, not turning off, you can just lay here all night”.

I got up the next morning not too sore (but it got worse as the day went on). At 5:30 walked past the store and there were already people waiting!! I went to Waffle House for egg whites and a waffle again then took place in the line at about 6 am. I was probably about 40 people back and I was the last person they let in in the first batch when it opened at 7am :-). I bought my finisher t-shirt, polo and jacket (I love the jackets this year).

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Went back to the room and decided to just head to the airport since there was no Internet at the hotel (the entire time no Internet, that sucked!!!!!) and at least I would have Internet at the airport. I had to speak at a conference in New York on Monday so I took a flight to NYC (via Atlanta) where on the Monday I was speaking on the 10th floor of 7 World Trade Center (it was a Hybrid Identity Protection conference) and was actually hosted by the company that owns and is building the new World Trade Center and at lunch we had a talk by the CEO and owner, Larry Silverstein about the experiences which was amazing. The view was great and I also went and saw the Memorial Waterfall close up.

Now I’m on the flight home. That’s the end of 2017 IRONMAN for me. I’ve done Texas, Santa Rosa, Chattanooga and Florida this year. Next year I have 5 booked which will get me to 12 and I can apply for the Kona lottery! Overall a good year and I’m excited for 2018.

  • Texas – 4/28 (done before 3 times)
  • Boulder = 6/10 (I’m nervous about this one as everyone says the altitude is a killer)
  • Lake Placid – 7/22 (hilly I hear)
  • Wisconsin – 9/9 (apparently you should “love hills”, I don’t)
  • Chattanooga 9/30 (done before twice and this is where I PR’d)

Up next is the Dopey in Disney World January 2018 πŸ™‚ but I can take a little break from training.

IROMAN Chattanooga 144.6 2017 Race Report

Sitting in the airport the day after the 2017 and wanted to share experience of another awesome IRONMAN event. This is my second year of participating in the Chattanooga IRONMAN after also participating last year (where there was record heat and DNFs (Did Not Finish)).

I arrived on Thursday and checked in then went off for some dinner. Friday morning I got up and checked in. Took about 5 minutes, show your ID, check some forms, get your backpack (like the style of this years), chip, bib numbers and swim cap and you’re off (after a quick exit through the store). I brought my Xbox with me for this IRONMAN so spent most of the day just playing that. For lunch I had a baked potato with chicken in it then dinner was spaghetti with meat sauce. Saturday is gear check day which is super simple for Chattanooga as everything is in the same place. Since I started using a Trisuit its actually a lot less to pack now but I lay alley gear out on the bed, I compare to the gear list in the athlete guide and also visualize putting everything on from feet to head to make sure I don’t forget anything. Shoes, socks, bike shirt, nutrition, bike helmet then for run running shoes, socks, knee supports, nutrition belt with bib, glasses and hat. Also put sunscreen in both bags. I took my two transition bags down (run and bike) and picked up my bike from TriBike Transport. The drop off is behind the athlete village so you drop off your bike then as you exit drop off your run and bike bags, that’s it. Quick tip, try and tie you bag as much as possible just incase it rains overnight to avoid your gear getting wet. Also don’t have your tires pumped up all the way to avoid them popping over night. Lunch was bread, paste with marinara and grilled chicken breast then dinner was spaghetti with meat sauce and garlic knots. Also had some candy πŸ™‚ Early to bed.

I actually got about 6 hours sleep which is great for me before an IRONMAN. Got up at 3 am, ate some bagel and 20g of protein powder with water. Checked my morning bag again, wetsuit, timing chip, cap, goggles, bottle to put on bike, drink to put on bike and an extra drink for while waiting to actually start since you get to the start about 2 hours before it begins, extra bagel and a 5 hour energy. Transition opens at 4:30 so I left the hotel at 4:15 and walked down (was about .5 mile). I got there and there was already a big line but once it opened it moved fast. They numbered you up (they write your bib number on both arms then your age on your calf unless you do this yourself with something like TriTats) then I grabbed my bike and pumped the tires up to 100 (there are always plenty of pumps around or people willing to share, never had a problem). Put on my bike bottle with Gatorade and a bottle of water. Walked through the two transitions checking my bags were still there (always a panic point) and then off to jump on school bus that takes you to the swim start. At the swim start you line up along the path that leads to the point you jump in the water. You completely self seed. It was wetsuit optional and I choose to wear a wetsuit as I hadn’t done much swimming nor done open water swimming without the comfort blanket that is the wetsuit and so I decided to wear it. It’s sleeveless so I never get hot in it. There are toilets where you get off the bus but none down at the actual water entry point. The queues for the toilets near when it was about to start were insane and people just started going in the woods, even the girls! πŸ™‚

You swim downstream in the river and last year I did 1:09 whereas my normal swim is about 1:30-1:35 so the current helps a LOT. As soon as I jumped in the water and started swimming it felt like I was moving FAST. I was very controlled, I consider the swim a warm up and want to save my strength for the bike/run. It’s a straight line course and I finished in 59 minutes! I couldn’t believe it but yay! I’m the one in the middle πŸ™‚

A quick walk up the ramp, grab the bike transition bag, into the changing tent. I bought myself a new helmet for this event. It’s one where the visor is part of the helmet. While yes its supposed to be more aerodynamic I actually bought it as I always experienced discomfort having the glasses sitting under the helmet. It would rub over my ears. This fixed that feeling. I look like weird bug person πŸ™‚

On to the bike, had a quick gel and was off. I felt fast. The course for the bike is two loops and its 116 miles instead of the standard 112. This is because of the nature of the possible routes available however since the swim is helped by the current I think this balances out (although my butt and neck were very unhappy with the extra 4 miles πŸ™‚ ).

There are some big hills but it gives back, i.e. you go up but then you get nice long downhills where you can recover. One of the downhill parts is near the end of the loop and I got up to 36mph, super fun, I actually found myself saying out loud β€œwheeeeeeee”. It was a warm day however there were clouds that gave relief but on the second loop you started to feel the heat and things were getting tougher. I was drinking a bottle of the Gatorade every 45 minutes I think with a little bit of water sprinkled in between. On the hour I would have a Gu then at 20 minutes I had half a waffle and at 40 minutes the other half. That gets me about 430 calories an hour which seems to work for me. I did slow on the second loop but still pretty good. All-in-all I finished in 6:19:18. My guidance would be just take it easy on the bike. Remember, you have a marathon (26.2 miles) still to do. If you kill yourself on the bike you may gain 30 minutes but the run will easily take that back! On the course they have aid stations about every 15 miles where they have bottles of Gatorade, bottles of water and also bananas, Gus etc. I carry my own nutrition so don’t use that but if you train with the same nutrition they give out it can reduce what you have to carry. I just stick 6 waffles and 7 Gus in my bike shirt and I’m done.

With the bike done it was back to transition, grab the run bag and then get back out there. At this point as I started the run I was sitting at 7 hours and 40 minutes. My PR was 13 hours and 2 minutes. If I could run a 5 hour 20 marathon or less I could beat my PR and break 13 hours which has always been my goal. I set out steady and jogged at around 5.5 mph for the first 8 miles (slower for the odd incline) which you can see in the breakdown picture below but at mile 8, oh boy and I’d been dreading it as I remembered from last year, you hit hills, BIG hills. Once you get up the big hill, you run down it then have to run up again, then down again then back up the hill you ran down. It’s about 3 miles total that includes very hilly portions then its flat (ish) to 13 where you get to do it all again.

I got to 13 miles at 2 hours and 30 minutes. If I could do the second in 2 hours 50 I would meet my goal but I was feeling drained. I was struggling to run and kept walking plus I was getting the tingling in my lips which is never good. I kept doing math in my head of how fast I had to run as I got slower and slower until it was starting to look impossible but then something wonderful happened. Now I’m a huge Superman fan and Superman is powered by the sun but it seems to have the opposite effect on me. What wonderful thing happened? The sun started to go down. I got a second wind and just went for it. The math still seemed like I would fail as I’d need to be over 5 mph and I had all the hill section but I just wanted to do the best I could. I ran when it was flat or downhill but walked up the big hills (but at a fast pace). I was making time up, the math in my head started to look possible again until on the final incline I got mile 24 and I had 30 minutes left. 30 minutes to go 2.2 miles. I could do that almost walking and it was only a few more minutes up hill then it was down and flat. At the top of the hill I started to run and kept running. At mile 25 I had over 15 minutes left. I could walk but I didn’t, I sped up. The crowds were amazing, I could see the finish line and I crossed, 12 hours 54 minutes and 53 seconds. I PR’d and broke 13 hours. As I crossed the finish line my legs kept giving out but I didn’t care. I knew I had broken 13 hours. Got my picture taken grabbed pizza but was unable to eat it. Drank some water. The pictures below sum it up, pain but relief, joy and then just overall happy its done!

I headed to pick up my bike then as you exit the bike pickup they give you all 3 of your bags all tied together (which is awesome, run, bike and morning clothes bag). I dropped my bike off at TriBike then started the long walk back to hotel carrying all 3 bags. That was hard and slowwwww. I couldn’t eat anything still even back at the hotel. I forced about 40 g of protein powder with water in me but really couldn’t eat solids. I showered then got into bed but could not sleep. Same thing happened in Texas. Not sure if its because consumed so much sugar during the event or something else but all night I just laid there. I went back and looked at my times (below).

This shows the actual position out of totals (however I really don’t care about this part). My goal is to try and improve my time.

At 4 am I got up, packed, showered again, set off out the hotel at 5:30 to find breakfast then at 6:30 joined the queue for the IRONMAN store to buy my finisher polo, t-shirt and mini-jacket (the full jacket is great this year but I already have it from Texas and Santa Rosa so decided to get something else). Even though the queue is big it moves fast. And now at the airport going to Orlando to speak at Ignite (big Microsoft conference). UPDATE – my luggage went to the wrong airport so that was fun πŸ™‚

Once again a great event. They all are. The volunteers are AMAZING and just never stop giving. THANK YOU!!!

This was number 6. Half way to my goal of 12 so I can apply for the Kona lottery.

Up next, Florida in 6 weeks!

IRONMAN Texas 2017 Race Report

Well the muscles have healed, I’ve had some sleep so it’s time to write-up my race report for the 2017 IRONMAN Texas which was on 22nd April 2017. This is my third straight year doing Texas and it was awesome. The course was great, the other participants were all great and friendly, the IRONMAN team were great, the volunteers amazing and the spectators awesome!

I went into this IRONMAN feeling optimistic about setting a new Personal Record (PR). My previous best was 14 hours 30 minutes for 2016 Chattanooga (I don’t count the time for 2016 Texas as the bike course was shortened). I had changed a few things:

  • I had focused more on running. Completed a number of marathons. Did more running post my long bike ride on Saturday. More hill running (on treadmill)
  • I changed my drink from water with Nuun to Gatorade. When combined with the Gu and waffle this raised my hourly calories from about 230 to 400 an hour. I think previously I was not consuming enough during the bike leaving meΒ  short on energy for the run
  • The temperature was to be between 70 and 75. Much cooler than the 95 all three of my other IRONMANs had been

I still did all my training on the treadmill and spin bike but had put in more mileage. The only time I trained outside was the few marathons I did and a 10 minute bike test I did following the new tires I had put on my bike the week before the IRONMAN (this turned out to be a huge disaster that I’ll talk more about later) as part of a tune-up I had done by a travelling bike service.

In terms of timing, the onsite registration is 2 days prior to the event while the bike and run bag/bike bag drop-off is 1 day prior. I live near Dallas which meant the Woodlands (the location for the IRONMAN) was about a four hour drive. I got up early Thursday, went to the gym for some light cardio and weight training then drove down to the Woodlands. I went straight to the IRONMAN village which has the registration tent, store and partner tents.

Registration is fast. You give your state ID and they write down your bib number on a card. You then go into the registration tent, go to the waiver desk where they give you two forms. You check the details, enter some contact information then give them back in. You then pick up the transition bags, grab your bib numbers, get your IRONMAN bracelet put on which has your number on it and will stay on you until after the event and your timing chip which will attach round your left ankle (grab a safety pin as well to help really secure it on the morning). You will also grab your fancy backpack (or whatever the style is that year) and a few other goodies. You exit registration to the store which does not have the finisher gear yet but will the evening of the event and the next day.

I then popped over to TriBike Transport to make sure my name and bib number was on the valet list. Normally I ship with TriBike but for Dallas I just drive the bike down with me but the valet service is $40 and simply gets them to pick up your bike and run/bike transition bags the night of the event and bring it back to the IRONMAN village for the next day. This means you don’t have to worry about it after finishing the IRONMAN and worth every penny to me!

Then off to Macaroni Grill for my ritual pre-IRONMAN diet of marinara pasta with grilled chicken breast on the side for lunch with water. I will have the same for dinner, the same for lunch the next day finishing off with a cheese pizza from Grimaldi’s for dinner the night before the IRONMAN.

I checked into my hotel (which I had the bad luck of a room that had a door to adjoining room which had a young family containing a toddler that screamed and shouted all 3 nights I was there till midnight which because of the door seemed like was in the room with me meaning I didn’t sleep till the kid did) and laid all my gear out in 3 piles on the floor: clothes for the morning, bike transition bag content and run transition bag content. When I think about the content I need I run through in my mind getting dressed from feet up to head to make sure I’m not missing anything. The 2016 Texas athlete guide had a great checklist:

athletechecklist2016

Remember if you are not wearing a trisuit you also need to pack things like bike shorts/shirt, run shorts/shirt etc. I packed the bags and set them aside for drop off tomorrow. I don’t use the special needs bags (these are available on the course for things like extra nutrition, spare inner tubes etc but you don’t get these back at the end so put in nothing of value). I then proceeded to veg out and just watch reruns of The Office.

On Friday I had a bagel for breakfast and some fruit then went to the transition point with my bike, run and bike transition bags. Everyone is super helpful and will direct you. Find your row for the bike (don’t have the tires fully inflated, you pump them up the morning of), hang it up by the saddle then drop off the bags. Then off for pasta, pizza and more The Office reruns.

Friday night I only got a few hours sleep because of nerves and the loud kid next door but at 3 I got up, had some apple sauce, a power cake, packed my morning bag and just hung around. At 4:30 I headed out. I park at a garage by the IRONMAN village then walk to the transition area which officially opens at 5:30 but they normally open earlier. Here you go pump up your tires to race pressure (100 for me) and there are technicians up at the front to do it for you but also people bring their own who always share. This is where my bike nightmare begun. I pumped up to 100 PSI and my front tire no longer spun. The new tires they put on were bigger and when pumped fully were hitting the frame. I’m not a bike expert at all. This was stupid on my part to change tires the weekend before and even though I did a quick test I hadn’t pumped to 100 and the company that did it never thought of it either. My solution was to lower the wheel slightly which seemed to fix it however I suspected gravity would be my enemy over time when I started riding but nothing I could do at this point.

I then walked to the swim start where they do the body marking and you can drop off your morning (white) clothes bag which will be moved to the finish line available when you finish. You also drop off the special needs bags if you have them and then wait.

The water temperature was wetsuit optional which means you can wear a wetsuit but you start after the people who don’t wear them and you are not eligible for age group awards. Not a concern for me πŸ™‚ so I opted to wear a wetsuit since I’d injured my shoulder in training and my entire swim training consisted of 2 half mile swims and 1 one mile swim! Everyone is super friendly and generally happy to chat. The lines for the restrooms were super long so make sure you give yourself enough time. It was a rolling start with athletes self-seeding which means people are constantly entering the water and you choose when you enter. If you are slower don’t try and get in first as people will be swimming over you so put yourself in the right place. I entered the water about 6:50 and the water was great temperature but solid brown. You could not see ANYTHING in there at all. I settled into a very easy pace and I tend to stay on the outside as I don’t want to get kicked in the face and an extra few minutes is not going to significantly impact my 14 hour time. It was a straight up and down course and then a right turn into the canal. The canal portion was disgusting. I was constantly getting long strings of something in my hands and on my face (last year the swim course was changed as the canal was too polluted to swim in) but was still swimming easy and felt good. Then at the end its a sharp left just before getting out where everyone funneled together and got knocked around a bit. People were on hand to help you get out the water and undo the wetsuit. 1:28:15 for the swim which for me is good and I got out feeling great with very little energy expended.

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Now a run up, grab the bike bag and into the changing tent. I get changed into my bike gear and this took a while. My next IRONMAN (Santa Rosa) I’m going to try a trisuit to avoid the changes from swim to bike to run. I then run up to the bike and its very muddy. I grab the bike and walk it to the mounting line. I got on the bike and my shoes would not snap in to the peddles. The mud had clogged everything up. I pulled over and stomped my feet to get the mud off then my feet clipped in and off I went. The first 20ish miles were on normal roads before going onto the closed off highway on which I would ride two loops.

About 60 minutes in I started to hear a very loud screeching noise and could not work out what it was and I noticed my legs were getting tired. Noise went and came back louder than ever. I pulled over and sure enough my front tire would barely move. I had been fighting the tire as it had slipped up again so was rubbing on the frame. Damn. I loosened it again, pulled it down a few millimeters and tightened. It spun and off I went again. About 30 minutes later the massive screeching again and I saw one of the mobile mechanics on the side of the road (there is great on course support with motor bikes roaming helping cyclists if you have a problem). He basically told me what I was doing was not going to work (as I had found) and the only solution was to let air out the tire. He let out a lot of air until it no longer rubbed on the frame. So now I’m on a tire without enough air pressure but better than it was and off I went no longer worrying about the tire. Lesson learned here is to not make changes just before an event and test in the same circumstances as the actual event. Stupid but not a mistake I’ll make again.

The part on the highway (80 miles of the 112) was basically 20 miles South in a straight line, 20 miles North back and then turn and repeat once more. There were a few small rolling hills but nothing bad and as soon as you went up you would go down straight after it. After completing the first Southbound 20 miles, turning and going North and with about 10 miles until I was going to turn to go South again a strong wind started that was blowing almost directly South which means straight against you which slowed down and was getting stronger but in my mind I was thinking in 10 miles it would be behind and then yay! I turned and with the good tailwind I was going about 23-24 mph for bits and the wind was only getting stronger. As I neared the turning point I was filled with dread and sure enough a massive headwind slowing me to about 15 mph for the remaining 20 miles of the highway. I saw people by the side of the road bloodied and heard the wind had blown people off of bikes. For once being heavy worked in my favor πŸ™‚

Once you left the highway there was about 12 miles left which was all still going North which meant all still had the massive headwind and sucked and was so happy to see the transition area. Bike was 6:10:15 which was slower than I had hoped (6 was my goal) but with the tire problems and the massive headwind I was fine. In my head I was thinking I had to do 5:30 for the marathon to hit 13:30 which was my hopeful goal.

My nutrition went well on the bike though. On the course they have stations every 10 miles giving out 750ml bottles of water and orange Gatorade in addition to bananas etc. There are also restrooms as the stations and amazing volunteers. I took Gatorade at every stop and occasionally a water. Every hour I ate a Gu (that I took with me) and at 20 minutes and 40 minutes I ate half of a waffle (which I also took with me). About 400 calories an hour.

At the transition they take your bike and re-rack for you and I went and grabbed my run bag, went to change tent and changed into my running gear. Then out I went (after quickly getting another round of sunscreen from the volunteers outside the change tent). On me I had 5 Gus and 5 waffles along with two small bottles that I planned to fill one with water and one with lime Gatorade (that they have on course). I ate a Gu quick and while I initially planned to walk at first I felt pretty good so decided to just easily jog and looking at my old running watch was going about 6mph. At the water stops (which are every mile with water, Gatorade, red bull, coke and then every few miles have Gus, blocks etc) I would ask them to fill up my bottles as needed which they always did.

The run is 3 loops of a roughly 9 mile loop which is super flat with great spectator support throughout. You run through some park areas, some nice housing areas and the canal area. The run was feeling good so I decided to just run non-stop for the first loop. The temperature was probably around 70 (the high was 75 for the day) which was amazing and I was breathing great. I got round loop 1 without having to walk and decided to keep going into loop 2. At around mile 13 my times were great and I constantly do math to work out “if I walked now at 4mph what time would I finish in” and I had worked out I could now walk and still finish in 5:30 as I was at about 2 hours 10 minutes for the half and my breathing was getting more labored. I decided to walk for a bit to recover. I guess I walked for about half a mile then started running again. In my head I was now thinking to break 5 hours for the marathon which was very doable but I knew I was slowing down. I ran for another 3-4 miles then walked again a little for about 5 minutes but then ran again. I was also getting mild tingling in my lips.

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I had planned a Gu an hour and a waffle at the same intervals as the bike but was unable to eat the waffle at all as my body made it clear to me I would be sorry if I even tried. This meant I was just having 1 Gu an hour and the Gatorade meaning I was way short on my calories for the run. I also was licking base salts every couple of miles. I didn’t want to take banana, pretzels, broth or anything else as I had not trained with that.

I was at about mile 22 and was at about 4 hours and 5 minutes. I knew if I wanted to break 5 hours I would have to run the next 4.2 miles with no walk break so off I went. I don’t have a tri watch so had no clue of my overall time. I knew I was at about 8 hours after the bike with the swim and two transitions but not an exact idea. I really wish I had as if I had known I probably would have pushed just a tiny bit harder. At your final loop you split off right to the finish line which is a few hundred yards left. You down a slight decline with people cheering your on and you just find more energy and speed up (no one will ever know you walked/crawled bits earlier on). You take a U-turn and run up the final slight incline to the finish line. People high-five you as you run and you cross the line and those words you have been waiting for “John Savill, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN”.

As you cross the finish line there are volunteers to basically catch you as once that adrenalin wears off you tend to collapse a little. They wrap the metal blanket thing round you and walk you to get your medal, hat and finisher t-shirt and then get your picture taken.

My marathon time was 4:55:45 which I was delighted about. Sub-5 was amazing for me as part of the IRONMAN. I still don’t know my final time though. I know its around 13 hours but not sure if over or under. You then walk to the food and I grabbed some pizza (which was stone cold) and a can of coke. I then found a chair and sat down. At this point I get a terrible tingling in my face and lips. This happens to me every time. I’ve tried to research and its either lack of sugar or lack of water. Not sure which. I just sat in the chair trying to eat but couldn’t really and had a few sips of coke and water. I sat for about 10 minutes. The tingling didn’t really go away but it does not panic me anymore. I went and picked up my morning clothes bag to get my car key and made my way to the car park where I grabbed my phone to text my wife and look at look at my final time. Sadly the tracking site still had not updated to show me finishing the run nor would it the entire night! It was not until next morning the site updated my times so I could see my final time!

Drove to the hotel while chatting to my wife on the phone. I knew it was around 13 hours which was still awesome and I was delighted. Made my way to the room, drank a protein shake, half a milky way but couldn’t really eat still. Jumped in the shower then went to bed and didn’t sleep a wink of sleep all night. I just could not sleep. Not sure because I was buzzed about the time. Maybe the amount of Gatorade I had consumed during the day. But zero sleep but that was fine. I just did an awesome IRONMAN.

About 3am I just gave up even trying and tried to check my time again which had now updated!!! 13 hours, 1 minute and 54 seconds. I just missed 13 hours but I crushed my previous best by nearly 90 minutes. I suspect the extra running training and the cooler temperatures coupled with the additional calories thanks to Gatorade was the reason but no idea what the bigger impact was. If it had not been for the bike problems I would easily have broken 13 hours but oh well. I’m happy with that.

At 6 am I got up and drove to the IRONMAN village. I got breakfast at the Westin (where I’m staying next year to avoid having to drive on the day and stress about my car key getting lost in the morning clothes bag πŸ™‚ ) then off to the store to buy an awesome finisher jacket and t-shirt. I then picked up my bike and bags from TriBike, put in my car then drove home which I arrived at about 11:00am. Pancakes for lunch then it was III forks for dinner and a tasty steak πŸ™‚

Next up is Santa Rosa in 3 months time. It will be warmer and the bike hillier. What will I do differently? I need to focus on my swimming, carry on improving my bike times and run times but I’ve just bought the Fenix 5 tri-watch so I’ll better know my times and will buy a tri-suit to cut my transition times. I need new running glasses as I lost them at the finish line. I also need to think about 2 Gus an hour on the run as clearly waffles don’t work at that point. I’ll be taking my bike to the bike store and getting the front wheel replaced with a smaller one!

Completely opposite to what makes sense for the IRONMAN I’m trying to gain muscle wanting to get to about 205 from my current 195 but that will probably take about a year as its slow to gain with all the IRONMAN training. I’m happy to have lots of goals and believe I can still improve all round.

In summary an amazing experience. I love the IRONMAN events. I love the volunteers and the spectators and the IRONMAN team. They are always well organized even when factors beyond their control get in the way.

Most I love my wife and my family without whose support I would be unable to train and participate in these events.

See you at the next one!