My first Triathlon
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Memorial Hermann Ironman Texas - Triathlon
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The Woodlands, Texas
World Triathlon Corporation
91F / 33C
= 15h 38m 39s
Age Group Rank
Sorry in advance for this being SOOOOO long….hope you enjoy reading!
There are three purposes to this race report. First, and most importantly to me
(and one of the reasons for the extreme length
), I want to have as accurate as possible recant of my day/weekend out there while it's still fresh in my mind since this is my first
(and possibly only
) Ironman attempt. Second, I want others in the BT community to hopefully benefit from my experience or minimally get some slight entertainment from it
(I know I have enjoyed reading all the other race reports from the last couple of years in preparation for this race!
) Admittedly, from the benefit standpoint, I probably don't have any groundbreaking revelations to provide that will allow you to have a successful race whereas if you had not read this, you wouldn't have had a successful race, but hopefully there's at least one helpful thing in here. And lastly, I wanted to have something that I could provide all of my friends and family who supported me over the last 10 months either in person or from afar. So keep in mind that this is written with these three purposes in mind….and, one more time, sorry for the length!
I had the alarm set for 4am so that I could get up and eat breakfast the requisite 3 hours before the swim start. I woke up feeling pretty good despite the early start. Time to start packing on the calories... This included my normal pre-race breakfast of a honey whole wheat bagel with peanut butter, clementines, and a few handfuls of Cinnamon Toast Crunch
(I stumbled on this at the beginning of training for this as something that tastes really good early in the morning and settles in my stomach really well...I usually have a little before morning workouts just to get something in my stomach
). I also drank a bottle of water and a bottle of Perform throughout the morning
(trying to stay ahead of my hydration for the day
). All in all, it was about 1000 calorie breakfast and 40 oz of fluids.
We left the hotel at 5:30 and headed off to the transition area to check out my bike, inflate my tires, drop of my nutrition for the bike portion, turn on my athletetracker GPS, and check out both of my gear bags to remind myself where they were located as well as to make sure nothing crazy had happened overnight with my stuff in the bags. All was good. The previous day, I’d luckily overheard the suggestion to let out a decent amount of air from your tires to prevent them from expanding during the heat of the day and eventually popping! That would have sure been a bummer to come out to in the morning and I’m sure that this happened to more than one person due to how hot it was out there on Friday.
Lauren, who has been an excellent race sherpa for my half IM and now the full IM, carried almost all of my gear that was needing to be dropped off as well as my bike pump. TIP – While I recognize not everyone is lucky enough to have someone who can carry stuff for them, having my bike pump turned out to be really helpful. When I got to transition to check out my bike gear, there was a LONG line waiting for the bike techs to get their tires inflated. While I still would have had plenty of time, I’m sure, it was nice to have one less stressor.
After the walk to transition from the hotel and then on to the swim start
(this was well over a mile...I think they need to call this one a 141.6 distance!
), I was as warm as necessary for the day ahead. Lauren helped me put on sunscreen and I went and dropped off my special needs bags for the bike and run. We'd been waiting for the rest of the support crew
(which, besides Lauren, included my parents, my child, and brother- and sister-in-law
) to arrive at the swim start before I moved closer to the water because I knew they were going to herd us in as early as possible and I knew the closer I got, the more likely it was that I was going to feel obligated
(as the rule follower that I am
) to get in the water and have to start treading water. They arrived, including my two-year old in the BOB
(who probably wasn't terribly thrilled to be up and about this early
) and we were able to take some pictures before the day began. I went and did a little light stretching, dropped off my morning clothes bag and headed towards the water.
1h 35m 47s
02m 29s / 100 meters
Background: I had had trouble with both shoulders leading up to the race. The issue with my left should was a couple months before with an overuse/bad technique issue and the right shoulder was from an extremely minor bike accident that I happened to land entirely on my shoulder three weeks before the race. I solved the first issue with time, advil, and technique/swim form improvements by having a swim lesson
(best money I’ve ever spent in this sport
). The right shoulder really didn’t seem to be improving to the point where I was going to be able to swim even remotely well. Fortunately, I have a friend who happens to be an orthopedic surgeon
(shout out Courtney!
) and was willing to give me a cortisone shot which ended up helping a lot even though I still didn’t have all of my strength back. The reason these things are important is that I missed most of my longest swim workouts between these two issues and just didn’t have the fitness for this event that I would have liked. Not that I was worried about finishing, but it did present little bit of an unknown since I was not used to going that distance only to then follow it with the rest of the race events.
As I approached the swim entrance, they announced the singer of the National Anthem and she began. What’s funny is that they said it was ok for athletes to keep entering the water while this was going on, but very few moved despite their continued prompting throughout the song. I normally get very caught up in the National Anthem, but I think I was in a daze and the nerves had kicked in and I can barely remember anything about it. All of the athletes knew that as soon as they got in that they were going to have to tread water which of course no one was excited about and so everyone was ignoring the announcements to keep moving into the water. With about 5 minutes before 7am, I went ahead and got in. The water felt good and I got myself into what I felt was a pretty good position mostly in the back of the back and certainly not in the center. I found treading water to actually be relaxing, but as more people entered the water, it became more crowded and treading water was not as easy as before. I think without realizing it at all, all of the people getting in after me were heading to the spot I was occupying. I knew there were more people around me, but I clearly, in hindsight, had no idea how many people had gotten in near me and behind me in those last few minutes.
I will fully admit that I was excited about the mass swim start. Maybe this makes me crazy
(many would argue that simply attempting the race itself is crazy
), but I wanted the FULL experience and this was definitely part of it even though no one relishes the possibility of getting punched and kicked
) while swimming. I could have worn a wetsuit which would have required that I start in a wave 10 minutes later
(and usually only 100-200 participants do that
), and would have made for an easier and likely faster swim and likely a more comfortable first-half of the swim
(before I caught up to the slower swimmers from the mass start
), but the tradeoff would have been 1
) sweating more
(which, as it would turn out, I really did not need
) and 2
) I wouldn’t get the mass swim start experience that is so ubiquitous with Ironman. As Ironman seems to be moving towards eliminating mass swim starts, this may have been my one shot at being a part of this.
The cannon goes off. I start my watch and began “swimming” …or maybe something more like treading water with forward progress because no one can really get any space as we all immediately are on top of each other. I was a good 20 meters
(if not further
) behind the official start buoys and it took probably a minute just to get to the start
(as I write this, I’m starting to understand how my swim was so slow compared to what I expected
It was at least 500 meters before things settled down enough for me to get into any kind of rhythm and I was able to find a little open space. I gave up even attempting to draft off of anyone because it kept causing me problems and significant amounts of contact. Any calm I found didn’t last terribly long either. None of the contact hurt, but some was startling
(like the time I got kicked right in the eye and it caused my goggles to mash into my eye socket
). I sighted well and felt like I was making decent progress and found myself at the first turn it what didn’t seem like a painfully long time. It was pretty open again at the turn. The next turn 100 meters later to head back north towards the swim start was fine, too. However, things got congested again as we swam back.
There was this poor girl starting at about the half-way point who I think I ran into or hit with my arm a half dozen times. I don’t know if it was her or me
(or some combination of both
) not being able to swim in a straight line, but I would swim away from her every time this happened and within a few minutes
) find myself making contact again. She probably wanted to kill me.
I still felt like I was sighting well and felt that I was consistently the same distance to the right of the buoys. What I didn’t account for is the land coming out to meet me because all of a sudden I felt my feet touch ground. This was somewhat unsettling because I didn’t realize I was far enough over for that to happen. I promptly swam back closer to the buoyies and soon found myself entering the canal. It’s pretty wide at the beginning and there weren’t so many people that it was overcrowded. When it got narrow, though, I was swimming near the south side wall which I thought was ok, but I ended being pushed by the current/waves
(I assume created by other participants?
) into the wall repeatedly and we were beginning to get pretty crowded again. At this point, you could touch the ground and more than a few around me were either standing or walking a few steps before beginning to swim again. My feet touched ground a number of times when I was pushed into the wall and admittedly used it to create some momentum to start back up.
Finally I could hear the end of the swim and could see the final turn buoy that was just meters away from the exit. I got out of the water
(apparently with my name being announced by Mike Reilly, but I didn’t hear it
) and headed for T1. I looked down at my watch and was pretty disappointed with my time. I knew things were tough in the water, but felt like I was going at a decent pace for long enough to get a good time for me
(pre-injury, I was shooting for 1:15-1:20, but would have been happy with something sub 1:30
What would you do differently?:
I'm not completely sure, but the answer has to include something because I don't feel that it could have gone much worse than it did especially after finding out my time. I'd probably find a different position to start from and of course. It surely would have helped to have gotten more of my key workouts in for the month or two prior to the race.
I was so thrilled to be done with the swim when I got into the tent, but I already had a feeling I was in for a long day. I took my time in T1 and reapplied sunscreen after drying off, changed clothes, loaded up my gear and headed off.
What would you do differently?:
)?....nothing. I took my time and gathered myself mentally as I prepared for the long bike ahead.
6h 37m 2s
When I headed out on the bike, I was feeling pretty good after collecting myself in T1. The road was pretty congested and riders were pretty close together. I was in a bit of a predicament because I wanted to go faster than those in front of me, but there were so many people, I was going to have to exert more energy than I was comfortable with in order to abide by the passing/no-drafting rules. I wanted to take it easy for the first 30-40 miles and I think I did a pretty good job of that looking back. The road conditions were great and I was feeling pretty fast and, at this point in the day, it was still pretty pleasant weather being about 9am. There was also a tail wind for most of the first half of the ride. I immediately started my nutrition plan which included 2 bottles an hour
(1 Perform, 1 water…I did a sweat test on myself last summer to discover that I needed about 40 oz an hour to avoid losing water weight on hot bike rides
), 1 salt stick cap an hour
(electrolyte salt tab
), and then alternating bonk breakers
(which I would get from the course
) and Honey Stinger Waffles
(which I had on me
) each hour. This would make for about 350 calories an hour
) and just under 800mg of sodium an hour
(just under 5000 total
). This is what I did in training for all of my long rides and felt good afterwards. However, I think that I underestimated just how thirsty I would be after the swim because I almost immediately drank my first bottle. This should have been a clue that I was already behind on my fluid intake, but I didn’t realize it since I felt I had my nutrition so dialed in from training rides.
I don’t remember the exact location or mileage
(around mile 20
), but I made one horrible mistake on one of my turns. I took it too fast, hit the brakes, my back wheel started slipping, so I straightened, let go of the brake and went straight into a ditch on the side of the road. Man, after going 3+ years of riding without an incident, I have two in the span of a month? I was briefly shaken up. A spectator ran over to see if I was ok and checked out my bike and me to make sure I was ok. I knew I’d hit my head
(and turned into a pretty sweet burn/bruise that my family was very impressed with after the fact
), but it didn’t even really hurt to the touch other than the skin just stinging a little bit. I was ridiculously fortunate that this was not worse. The prayers for safety definitely came into play on this one because God was watching out for me. In fact, upon inspection after the race, it turns out that my helmet was cracked which meant it did its job and gets to go to bike helmet heaven now
(just add one more cost to this race!
). All in all, this stopped me for two minutes.
Feeling quite fortunate that I could continue racing, I eased back into things and from then on took every turn with a lot more caution. Nutrition wise, I didn’t realize until a little later that the top of my bottle of Perform had broken off during the crash and I was losing calories and fluids as it sloshed out the top. For some reason, while I drank the rest of the bottle quickly to not lose any more, it didn’t occur to me to get another bottle sooner to try to replace what I’d lost, so now I was 100 calories and 10oz of fluid short from my plan
(at the time, didn’t seem like a big deal
). Also in the crash, my bike computer sensor got slightly dislodged and was no longer giving me proper readings on my speed and distance. While this was not a terribly big deal because I was less concerned with speed and more concerned with how much effort I was putting in since speed can be very deceiving, I made the decision to not correct this and so from then on didn’t have much of an idea of how far I’d gone or what speed I was going other than every 10 miles having a mile marker. I’m still not sure if this was smart by allowing me to not focus on what speed I was going
(particularly while in a headwind
) or a big mistake.
Around mile 60 was the special needs bag. This was where I planned to reapply sunscreen and I also had tortilla chips waiting for me. I opened the bag only to find it full of ants
(including inside the bag of chips
), so I got my sunscreen, applied it and went on my merry way.
Overall, the first half of the bike course was nice. Smooth, shade covered
(for at least a decent portion
) roads, spectators at many of the turns and some on the side of the road
(even one group of guys in speedos with funny signs that showed up at least three times on the course
), and at least a slight tail wind. The second half, as everyone who has done this course in training or in a race knows, is a challenge. It’s more exposed, in my opinion it was hillier
(not sure if that’s real or perceived…according to the elevation map, we actually are losing elevation for the second half
), a long stretch of decently rough road, obviously much hotter between the hours of 12 and 3, and of course the headwind for most of the ride back to The Woodlands. Now, I would have to say, the headwind wasn’t AS bad as I had it in my mind it was going to be, but I know it took energy out of me.
Around mile 70
(aid station 7
) is where I started noticing carnage on the race course. It was at this point that most riders were stopping at the aid stations
(rather than riding through them and grabbing what they needed on the fly
) and taking multiple bottles of water to pour on themselves while others were stopping and getting off their bikes to sit down in the shade. This made the aid stations a little dicey from this point forward. I don’t know if I was distracted by this or what, but somehow I didn’t realize I needed to make a bottle switch with an empty I had on my down tube, and it wasn’t time to remove the water bottle from between my aero bars. Maybe 10 minutes later, I finished my water bottle and went to make the switch only to find that I had an empty bottle down there. I was already thirsty…uh oh. I started getting nervous that I was going to pay for this since the next aid station wouldn’t be for another 30 minutes at least.
I made the decision that I was going to stop at the next aid station and take a breather and drink a bottle to try to replace the deficiency my mistake had created while getting some rest and cooling down. There were five or six other guys who looked in way worse shape than I felt already there sitting or lying down. I stepped off my bike at Aid Station 8 and my hamstring immediately cramped up, but it went away quickly and I kind of laughed it off.
I have to give a special shoutout to Aid Station 8. They were awesome! Those kids
(I don’t know how old, but they looked like they were teenagers
) were running around doing everything they could for everybody they could all while being so encouraging. They embodied the spirit of this race and they certainly made my day. All of the volunteers deserve huge kudos, but this one stood out to me because of a need they filled for me at that moment.
I got back on my bike and began praying thankful prayers for what I’d already been through this day and how I still felt good and had the mind to stop and take care of myself. Immediately after this aid station was pretty significant downhill for what felt like at least half a mile…it was a gift and I was even more thankful!
Nothing significant happened thereafter other than just wanting badly to be off the bike and my legs began to incessantly cramp
(in weird muscles I’d never had cramp before
). As I stopped briefly at each aid station, I noticed that more and more people were stopped and off their bikes taking in whatever shade there was available. The course was getting more thinned out – partly from being stopping and partly from time gaps being created between participants. There was even a mile or two where we were going through a neighborhood with a number of turns that, if it weren’t for the few spectators and orange arrows guiding me, I would have thought I’d gone off course because I saw no one in front of me…it was weird. I can’t say that I finished strong, but I finished and didn’t feel terrible!
What would you do differently?:
I think my nutrition SHOULD have been right. However, the fact that I hadn’t gone to the bathroom once all day at this point and how I felt on the beginning of the run clearly showed that it wasn't. I don’t think that I went too hard on the bike, but that my nutrition issues caught up with me.
I was so glad to be off the bike and get my bike shoes off that I yanked them off as soon as I got on to the grass in the transition area. A volunteer took my bike, which I was so thankful for, and I walked through the transition area to pick up my running bag to head into the changing tent. There was just one small problem. As I walked somewhat slowly
(with my socks on, mind you
) on the cement and brick sidewalk to grab my bag, I noticed the bottoms of my feet were unusually hot. I continued on into the tent and realized that they were really hurting. I had literally burned my freaking feet on the sidewalk through my socks! Needless to say, this was not a good start to my marathon. The good news, I thought, was that I was still sweating in the tent
(and having a hard time drying off to put on sunscreen
) and therefore couldn’t be too dehydrated. I changed shorts and heading out on my run. This was a long transition, I know, but at this point in time, my goals had changed simply to survive and finish, so I was ok with simply taking my time and regaining my composure before starting on the final leg of the journey.
What would you do differently?:
This one is easy….keep my shoes on until I’m safely in the tent!
6h 53m 43s
15m 48s min/mile
Starting on the run at about 4pm meant it was probably in the low 90s and feeling like it was about 100, but this is what everyone expected. Every step hurt because of the burns, but not so much that I couldn’t run. You immediately run on the canal portion for a little bit which was everything that I expected. One of the early groups you pass is under a bridge and guys and girls are on both sides, all scantily clad, in a dance party with music blaring asking everyone that’s passing to dance. Believe it or not, I think I partook each time I passed :
After running a bit, I approached a little off-road section with uneven ground. This turns into my least favorite part even though it was probably all of one-eighth of a mile. The ground was uneven and I couldn’t predict where my foot would fall and this seemed to hurt even more. I decided it was time to walk. Maybe another quarter mile in, I realized that I was just simply exhausted. This surprised me because I had proven to myself in past races and in training that I run pretty well
(compared to how I normally run which isn’t super fast
) off the back. I quickly realized that something was very wrong and I had to be careful. My body wouldn’t let me run when I was in direct sun. I tried starting to eat at the aid stations, drinking what I could
(including beginning to drink de-fizzed coke
), taking a salt tab, and using cold sponges and pouring both in the front and back down my shirt. I knew I was still sweating, but some aspect was off. I think it was a combo of light dehydration and salt loss and that turned out to be more than my body could handle. I couldn’t cool down.
I thought at first I could fight through it, but realized I was doing nothing more than risking finishing the race which was the most important task. I started running for whatever portions were shaded
(which were minimal for the first lap and a half
) and walking portions in the sun. I also started doing some math and began setting time goals for myself for each mile. I realize the shade/sun run/walk method I’d devised would allow me about a 15 minute mile which also happened to be easy to keep track of on my watch and something that I could easily monitor and something to work for. At this point I approached the swim start area which had tons of porta-potties lined up on the side of the course. Amazingly, I felt like I had to pee for the first time all day, which, for someone who feels like they’re dehydrated is actually a bit of a relief. That is, until I saw the color of said pee
(sorry to the friends and family reading this!
) which clearly showed I was very dehydrated….hmmmmm….
I was already a few minutes ahead of the 15 minute schedule I’d set at about mile four which is when I was approaching the aid station I’d volunteered at the year before. This was important because I knew there was a medical tent there
(side note: I think there was a medical tent at all of the aid stations? But I swear I never saw a single one of them
). I decided that I would just sit down in the shade of their tent for a couple minutes especially since no one else was in there. Personnel came up to me and made sure I was ok
(to which I told them “yes, but just needed to sit”
) and asked if I wanted a cold towel. I said “sure”, but what I didn’t realize is that this was a full towel that they draped over my shoulders and back. If felt AWESOME!
I managed to continue on basically covering a mile every 15 minutes to finish lap 1 while taking in fluids and food at every station. My stomach was handling everything to which I was extremely grateful. Lap two began including a new beverage – chicken broth!...an endurance race staple. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted anything so good
(and I had already been popping salt stick caps and eating everything salty I could get my hands on
). It wasn’t an instant pick-me-up or anything, but I knew if anything could help, that would probably be it. I began having that at every aid station in addition to my water and perform.
Lap 2 was pretty uneventful…in a good way. I decided not to get my special needs bag at that time because I wanted to leave my fresh shoes and socks to the last lap. I stopped again at the same medical tent as lap 1 and just hung out a little while. This time on the back side of the canal trail Lauren walked with me for an eighth to a quarter mile checking my status and I filled her in on some of the day so far
(I did NOT include comments about my crash at that time
) as well as my strategy for completing the run so they could know what’s going on. By the end of lap two it was starting to get dark.
Starting lap 3, they were handing out glow sticks and I still had over 8 miles to go….not somewhat in the dark. However, I was starting to feel energized…partly by it consistently being cooler outside
(rather than just in the shade
) and also because I think I’d somewhat caught up on my nutrition. I got to the special needs bag and changed my shoes and socks which was pretty difficult because any time I pulled my leg closer to put on the shoe, my leg starting cramping, but I managed to get both on and it was nice to have something fresh and dry on again. I had already begun to run consistently longer than I had the first two laps and this made it even easier. It felt so good to be running at a pace I was accustomed to for even a minute straight. Don’t think that I was about to start busting out even any 10 minute miles, but I was definitely going faster and it was a good morale booster…until mile 22.
Remember those burns? Turns out that I had a pretty sizeable, the size I found out about after the fact, blister on one foot from said burns…and it popped. I actually FELT it pop when my foot landed while I was running during this stretch and thought, “that couldn’t be good”. At first I thought that it didn’t hurt any more than it had previously, but unfortunately, as I tried to run on it, it just hurt too much. I succumbed the fact that I would be walking the last 4 miles. Given the fact that I was walking at about a 16-18/mile pace, that made for a LONG last four miles. But I knew at least I had more than enough time to finish.
It was a slog-fest and disappointing to have to walk those last four miles, but at least there weren’t many people out on the course anymore….they’d all moved on to the finish line or headed home because it was dark out.
Finally I approached the finish line and I knew that I had to run at least the last portion. I summoned the necessary energy and started running after getting into the narrow chute area. I immediately wondered if I’d be able to run the whole way not completely thinking about how far that was from where I’d started. I got to the turn around that led you to the finish line and fortunately felt energized enough
(and it was uphill which was better on my blister
) to “strongly” finish while giving people high-fives along the way. I was so in the moment that I didn’t even remember Mike Reilly saying my name
(fortunately, I have video recording of this!
). I can’t believe I’m an Ironman!
(or how long this race report is!
What would you do differently?:
Nutrition earlier in the race...I did everything I could on the run given how I started with blisters on my feet from the burns and starting dehydrated
Went to medical tent to get checked out. Only thing necessary was taking care of the popped blister and some more chicken broth. Went to go check out the finish line activities after this since is was approaching midnight. Very cool atmosphere!
I don't know what my post race weight was, but the next day after I'd had a huge amount of water and tons of food, I was still 2.5 lbs less than when I left town a couple days earlier. Crazy.
What limited your ability to perform faster:
acclimation to the heat and clearly a revised nutrition plan. I felt besides the swim tat I was prepared for this, and that my nutrition was right from what I'd learned last summer, but you combine a bunch of "little bit wrong"s and you have a disaster on your hands.
The post race was probably my biggest disappointment for the day. 1
) when I got out of the medical tent, I went to get some food. I don't know what they had in earlier hours, but all they had were some burritos, cookies and soft drinks? I've had better at my local sprint races. The burritos were good and they were big, but they didn't even have all of the meat options left to choose from
(beef and shrimp were left
) I went go to put my name on the list for massages at about 11:35 and they said they close up at midnight and their list already would take them into that time, but I could come back the next morning. SERIOUSLY? I was heading out of town the next morning so this wouldn't help me.
For both of these things, it was clearly an issue that it was after 11pm, but, to me, the people finishing then needed more of this kind of stuff
(or at least as much as
) than people who finished in 10 hours. That just seemed completely unacceptable.
Finally, they need to put carpet down in the transition area on hard surfaces since people are going to be going around barefooted...this was a serious limiting factor for me that I'd burned my feet.
Last updated: 2012-07-16 12:00 AM
01:35:47 | 3862 meters | 02m 29s / 100meters
Point to point with .9 miles out, 100m across to the turn-around, .9 miles back towards the start, and turning right to go approx .6 miles through the canal to the exit
78F / 25C
Run with bike:
Jump on bike:
Getting up to speed:
06:37:02 | 112 miles | 16.90 mile/hr
Headwind with gusts
1 loop course going counter-clockwise starting going north with a tailwind and eventually heading south with a headwind
Riding w/ feet on shoes
Jumping off bike
Running with bike
Shoe and helmet removal
06:53:43 | 26.2 miles | 15m 48s min/mile
3 loop course, very small portion off road, mostly nice cement paths or asphalt roads/parking lots.
Mental exertion [1-5]
Physical exertion [1-5]
Lots of volunteers?
Plenty of drinks?
Post race activities:
Race evaluation [1-5]
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