Cross posted at the Snapple Tri-Team blog:
HOT 'N' STICKY (DONUTS)
When I started talking about doing an Ironman this year, my fiancée Laurel laid down the law. "I won't have you training through our wedding in June—acting all crabby and compulsive about your workouts." Message received, loud and clear. I looked at the calendar and with the june wedding I basically had the option to do St. George or Texas. I figured I'd be underprepared for either, but at least Texas wasn't mountainous. So I signed up.
I also really really like Shipley's Do-nuts and being able to think about them throughout the race and then feast on them after seemed like as good a motivation as any.
Fast forward to about January and I began to actually think about training. JUST thinking, not doing. Then I signed up for the Austin Marathon in February, and at that point I couldn't put off training any longer. I ran pretty intensively through the first couple months of the year, and tried to get on the trainer occasionally. Swimming—well that was an afterthought.
With the marathon in the books and warmer weather rolling around, I began riding in earnest. The first few long rides were a shock to the system. The fitness from the marathon training helped, though, and once my leg strength caught up with my aerobic fitness I was starting to think that doing the Ironman wouldn't be a total debacle. I was finally riding with a powermeter thanks to HED. That was interesting. It's amazing how easy it is to work too little or too much and feel like you're riding along quite moderately. I did a couple tests, which gave me some baseline idea of my potential and a sense of what to shoot for in the Ironman. I thought I'd try to average 220 watts for the bike leg at Texas. (spoiler alert—that was WAY off what I ended up with).
I pushed to swim a little more, but honestly, I only got in the pool probably 1.5 times a week average. This was not wise, but it's what I did. I've always done late summer Ironmans so I've had at least part of the summer to train with the masters team. I probably should have made an effort to hit the pool more often than I did.
Even with a fairly short taper, I went into the race weekend feeling rested and pretty good. I knew that other than my paltry swim training, I had done everything I could to make this early-season Ironman a success for me. I felt ready for a fast race, but a Kona slot for me seems to rest more on who else shows up. This race, it would turn out, would be no different.
I got to Texas Thursday, checked in, got the bike, did a quick tune up ride, and relaxed. Same thing on Friday, just checked the bike and bags in and relaxed. Hit the practice swim and got a few minutes with the other Snapplers doing the race. Good to see them and I hoped to see them on race day (I never did). The water was 80 degrees on Friday, so it was clear that it was not going to be wetsuit legal. I don't know what was going on with Lake Woodlands, but that was the murkiest water I've ever been in, bar none. I couldn't see past my bicep when I was doing freestyle. I was certain it was all Canadian goose poop. So far I don't have any infections, but trust me, I'm monitoring for any strange outbreaks. That water was N.A.S.T.Y.
Race morning rolled around and I ate some chicken and rice and a banana, and started sipping water. There were no clouds in the brightening sky, so it was pretty clear it was gonna be a hot hot day. I loaded up my bottles, a few Clif builders bars and salt tabs and headed to T1 to get everything set up. Nothing too weird happened except someone's tire popping a couple rows over as they pumped it up. At 0615 we started walking to the swim start which was about a mile away.
After some sunscreen and bag dropping, it was go time and I hit the water. They sent off the pros and then 10 minutes later we were off. I felt pretty good for the first leg, and was swimming strong and smooth. The xterra speedsuit really moves well through the water and though it doesn't give you buoyancy, it sure makes you feel quick. Down the lake we went, turned around, came all the way back and then turned into a long canal. About halfway down the canal I felt my calf start to shimmy in that pre-cramp way. I tried to swim with the foot flexed to prevent it, but all of a sudden, BOOM, full on calf cramp. Not the little one either. This was the "my calf is a rigid metal pole" and my foot is stuck in place. I couldn't keep going with it and finally had to stop. I put my foot down into this deep layer of canal muck and pulled on my toes. Needless to say, a ton of spectators were screaming "you can do it" and "you're almost there" to me while I was working it out. After what seemed like an eternity it stopped cramping and I swam off. Thirty seconds later the twitching started again and I was again trying to prevent the cramp while still swimming. And then, BOOM, full on cramp again. Same scenario, foot in muck, spectators screaming encouragement and my leg totally freaking out. I got it worked out again and swam off. It turned out I was just 5 minutes or so from the finish and luckily it didn't go off again before I got done. These cramps probably only cost me a minute or so, but that, plus my sparse training, made this my slowest Ironman swim on record.
T1 was uneventful except for a run in with an extremely over-amped tri-nerd who felt I was getting in his way. Dude, going around me instead of over me won't get you a podium. (2:53)
The bike started off well, as I settled into my target wattage and tried to begin the food and drink procedures. As usual, after a little calm-down period, I ate/drank on the 15s, rotating between liquid nutrition, bars and gels, washed down by water. My speed was actually very high for the first hour or two, and I was having trouble staying up at the correct wattage. I suspected I had a tailwind but it wasn't till mile 60 or so, when we turned back towards town that I got the headwind confirmation. I had gone to mile 56 in roughly 2:25 (23.2 mph) and would come back in roughly 2:38 (21.0 mph). The course wasn't as flat as I had assumed it would be. It was more like small rollers. Nowhere was it necessary to really push it to get up a hill.
Things were going fine despite the heat and the headwind on the way back when I started to feel overly full on my eating cycle. I tried taking a 15 min break and just drinking water, and that seemed to do the trick. This was at about mile 80. Then when the next quarter hour came around, I forced down a half bar with water. I got 99 percent of it down but on the last chunk, well, the chunks came back. Throwing up a full stomach into a headwind on a bike and keeping the pace high is a messy task. I can't wait to see my pictures because essentially I was completely covered in vomit. It was all over both arms and all over my legs. And I mean all over. Puking in the heat happened to me at Kona in 2010, so I knew that it wasn't a day-ender. I just had to let the stomach settle, and get down what I could once I was able. After 30 minutes I was able to get some more food and drink in and keep the pace reasonably fast.
Throughout this, I was finding that my power numbers were drifting downwards. I had aimed for 220 and the first half of the ride was at 202. The second half was at 179. This seemed (and seems) really weird to me, since I was pushing into a headwind all the way back at a speed that was relatively close (23 out w/ tailwind/21 back with headwind). I would have thought they'd be the exact opposite – low with the tailwind and high(er) with the headwind. I guess really fatigue is the x-factor in this, and because I am happy with the outcome of the bike (a 12 min Ironman PR that kept me in the running for my AG slots), I guess it's not really worth overanalyzing.
5:04:16 (22.09 mph)
T2 was unexciting. (3:03)
The run. Ah, what fond memories. The feeling of running in a hot oven. The three loop unshaded course. The cramps. The pain. The excitement. I felt pretty good on the first flat, unshaded loop. My splits show it and I probably should have run slower and tried for a more moderate pace. First loop 8.4 miles, 7:02 mm avg. Ooops.
Second loop. Suffering sets in. My calf began to twitch and seize on this loop. It wouldn't cramp up fully till the third loop, but I was forced to run in a flat footed shuffle so my toe wouldn't drop and let the calf seize up. This really caused problems, as you can imagine. My pace for the second loop dropped to 8:14 mm. Not great.
Then on the third loop, the calf began to seize up for real and I was forced to stop and stretch it. Then the other calf went. So I probably was running the about the same speed (shuffling really) but the pace dropped again to 8:27s.
I had changed my watch over to not be able to see what time of day it was, because as I was getting my splits I felt like my fast race was slipping away and if I saw what time of day it was I would know how bad it was going. (If you start at 7 a.m., 4 p.m. marks 9 hrs, 5 p.m. 10 hrs, etc.). So until I was in the last couple turns, I didn't know how I was doing.
With the three loop course, it was also impossible to know where my competition was. I was passing people in my AG and they were passing me, but it wasn't clear if they were on my same loop or one behind me.
So I limped it into the chute with what turned out to have been an ok marathon time, not my fastest or slowest, and yet, still got an incredible overall race PR. It was awesome to turn that watch on and see 4:30 p.m. come up as I was rounding the last turns.
3:27 (7:54 mm)
Final time: 9:35:04
Suffering level: 8/10
IV bags needed: 1
Sunburn: random spots all over the place where sunblock wasn't smeared.
Shipley's Donuts consumed on Sunday morning: 5
Place in AG: 8th
First place in AG time: 8:51
Amount of disbelief to have done a 9:3x Ironman and not get a Kona slot: unquantifiable
PR: 7 plus minutes
Overcoming swim cramping, bike throwing up, run cramping, one, two, three. That is an awesome performance under duress. 91 degrees there I heard.
Can't believe you didn't get a Kona slot. Amazing race nonetheless - great job :)
Great job! That calf cramping business, if you can't put your foot down to help it... can ruin everything, all day, for days.
Fantastic Race! And highly entertaining race report. Congrats on the PR and good luck with the June nuptails. :)
Hey Phil ... you and I have the same Ironman swim training program. I bet I can go 57 minutes just like you :)
Congrats on the PR. A good way to head toward the wedding.
Sent 'em, easily!! What a man.
Congrats! It's getting to the point that you're going to need to post pro times to get Kona slots. Yours was an impressive race.