It’s so much easier to blog about a great result rather than a crappy one, but it’s the crappy ones that we can learn from the most. Man it bites though… Going into Ironman Texas I felt ready. I got in my mileage and dialed in my nutrition (after my flail at NOLA 70.3). I’ve done this before… it’s been 6 years, but “it’s just like riding a bike” right? Famous last words…
I felt relaxed on my ride over to The Woodlands. I was on schedule and with a ‘Train Wreck’ from Emily’s Coffee I was feeling GREAT! I found a phenomenal parking spot right next to the expo (which is a HUGE deal for those who have attended IM TX) and the line wasn’t too crazy long for packet pickup.
It’s all relative. I do miss walking right up to the pro line, but I met some nice folks on the way like Mike with Sea Suckers and another Mike who was racing. Lots of Mike’s! We were just chatting about needing sunblock when a woman came by offering sunblock to those in line! Are they psychic?!?! Or did they just not want us to look like this!?!?
After getting my gear, I stopped by the Zoot tent to pester Jake and check out their goodies until I found my friend, Caroline Lauver from the DC area, who I was staying with and her friend, Andy Lipscomb. Then it was onto the PowerBar tent for snacks! Too bad it wasn’t one of these and air conditioned though! It felt HOT outside!
When I got to the house we were renting, I quickly settled in and set up just about everything so I could relax at dinner with a fellow teammate, Scott Boylan, and his family and friends at The Grotto. Good thing I left early because parking was a nightmare! The food looked delicious and I don’t get to see my teammates often so I figured it was worth the effort. About 1 hour after we ordered I asked the waiter if it was coming out soon. Turned out that they had messed up one of our group’s entrees and held back our order while they fixed it. Since they held my pizza back so long, they were remaking it. Ok…. Only problem is everyone else got their food and were close to finishing by the time I got my food. For those of you who know me well, I get very hungry very quick and am not so happy when I am hungry. Needless to say, it took a LOT of willpower to not wig-out. I was hoping they would offer a free dessert, but no. I left tired and angry. As I got to my parking spot easily a half mile away, I remembered I still needed to go to the grocery store… CRAP! I was tired and grumpy. Good thing I happened to park in the HEB lot! When I got back to the house I shared the story with Andy since Caroline had already gone to bed.
The next morning I woke up early to get ready for the practice swim offered at the swim start since normally it is illegal to swim there – they obtained permission for the race. Caroline made some yummy blueberry pancakes before we left. I got there just in time to swim for the last 15 minutes and managed to catch Kelly and Derick Williamson on their way out. She looked GREAT! Unfortunately, they were about to close down the open swim so we didn’t get to chat long. After a quick swim I ran into another friend and Team Red, White and Blue Ambassador, Dori. I finally got to meet her hubby and son!
Then it was time to head to transition to drop off all of my gear. I anticipated horrible parking so I drove down to the mall since I planned on going there afterwards anyhow. I rode my bike over about half a mile to transition with my bags hanging all over me. Waiting in another line was a new experience as pros are often allowed to bring their gear in on race morning. It was nice to see photos taken of every bike for security purposes.
However, it was NOT nice to see how packed the age group racks were…
I’m sure all bikes were bumped quite a bit. Always a good reason to check your derailleur and brakes before the race and possibly even during. As I dropped off my swim to bike bag and bike to run bag I made sure to tie a pink ribbon on the top so I could see it quick in the seas of bags.
Next up, LUNCH! I jogged back to the mall and was pleasantly surprised to find a Cheesecake Factory! As I placed my order I realized I forgot my wallet… back to the car I go, but lucked out by finding a to-go parking spot right outside! I was so hungry I ate in the car. I could not possibly wait until I got home.
Back home I cleaned up and rested…waiting… waiting… waiting for time to pass…. Slowly… very slowly…
Race morning was as usual – I get nervous and can barely eat but force myself to so I can have a full ‘gas tank’ for the day. Again, I managed to find good parking and made the 0.8 mile walk to the swim start. Right after the pros started, we were allowed into the water. People of all abilities were lining up… in front… I asked several people what their goal time was and quickly learned that a lot of age groupers do not effectively seed themselves. I know I’m not a great swimmer, but folks swimming a 1:30 should not line up in front unless they don’t mind getting bumped… a lot… I was getting kicked before the cannon even went off. Once the cannon sounded, I got a few kicks to the face, a heel to the ear, some elbows and a few ‘Helen Sandwiches’ before we even hit the first turn buoy. To avoid most of the traffic I stayed wide. I’m sure it added some time, but I’d rather not get beat up anymore. It was actually enjoyable. I started day-dreaming of how nice it was that my blueseventy Element goggles hadn’t gotten knocked off OR fogged up at all because I used Foggle right before I got in (I actually re-used the same towelette I had used the day before and it worked GREAT!). As we turned into the canal I knew I could do this and that I was on pace. About ¼ mile from the end of the swim, something in my left upper back by my scapula felt really bad! Maybe my rhomboid? I couldn’t breathe to my left side anymore. Good thing it was close to the end of the swim. I fumbled a little hobbling up the steps and over to the wetsuit strippers but overall, T1 went great! Not my best swim time, but good enough for 6th in my Division. The volunteers at IM TX are PHENOMENAL!!! Sorry IM Florida… you’re great, but you better step up your game!
I was so focused I didn’t see Caroline yelling at me until we were right next to each other. Even then, I could only recognize her by her voice. I get so focused I often blur my surroundings. I took off on the bike and felt great except the pain in my rhomboid which kept me from taking deep breaths. Overall, I paced myself good on the bike. Unfortunately, I was again disappointed by the blatant drafting. Sometimes even when a draft marshal was present and nothing was done about it. Regardless, I managed to knock off a few spots and came off the bike in 2nd place.
I felt okay starting the run. Pretty tight, but manageable. As the run went on, my lower back kept getting tighter and tighter. I didn’t want to stop to stretch, but I knew I needed to. It didn’t help… I kept plodding along to finish out the first lap of about 9 miles and could no longer feel my right side arm or leg. The pain in my lower back was excruciating… I tried taking some more ibuprofen, but to no avail. I tried walking an aid station then starting back up… Nothing except walking would relieve the pain and numbness. Do I keep running and maybe earn a Kona slot and possibly do permanent damage, or do I stop to walk the rest of the marathon, or do I quit and go home early? Since walking didn’t hurt my back any more, just my pride, I cried my eyes out as I walked. I quickly found out that crying wouldn’t even work as I would get so choked up I couldn’t breathe. Just wasn’t my day! I decided to change into dry shoes and socks at the run special needs station since I was taking my time anyway. Soon thereafter, another teammate, Luis Alvarez – who has done more than 100 Ironmans – caught up to me and asked what was wrong to which I tried explaining but started crying again. Little did I know that this was the BEST person one could ever wish to have as company at a race! He is ‘The Most Interesting Man in the World’ you know! He quickly cheered me up and over the course of 2 laps and at least 15 miles we had a TON of fun! I wish I had a camera!
For the first time in a race, I got to read the signs and interact with the volunteers more than just a passing, “Thank you.” Some of the most memorable signs were, “Faster, Faster, Faster! That’s what she said!” and “If this was easy, it’d be called your mom!” I gave every kid who had their hand out a high-five and watched the excitement in their faces. I snuck up on one of the guys in speedos with a wind wheel in the back-side around the 1st mile of the last loop. He was bent over messing with the radio so I poured ice cold water down his ‘crack’ and jogged off briefly as his friends laughed hysterically! I ‘good-gamed’ Jeremy from Cobb Cycling. Although I finished disappointed in my time since it was 2 hours longer than I planned, I was glad I stuck with it and turned a potentially devastating experience into a fun afternoon. The next step was figuring out what went wrong which was the easy part. I did my entire cycling training sitting upright, not in aero. My long rides were outside with a large group from Bike World which was great to push me, but did not to allow me to get in aero. My week day rides were often inside on the stationary trainer with a laptop in front of me so I could work. Plus, I hadn’t done any sort of physical therapy or injury prevention strength training in weeks to months. Such an easy fix could’ve made the difference in my race. An expensive race physically, emotionally, and monetarily. 2 days after the race, Training Peaks posted a blog to finish out their Strength Series. This performance fail was entirely my fault. My coach had put these workouts on my calendar. Unfortunately, this was one of the toughest lesson’s I’ve learned in 12 years of racing. But it is often these rough days that teach us the most.