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Ironman North American Championship - TriathlonFull Ironman
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The Woodlands, Texas
World Triathlon Corporation
100F / 38C
= 15h 19m 21s
Age Group Rank
I will begin this race report where it all started...in Madison, WI. Gene Pflederer and I had driven up to Madison to volunteer for IM Wisconsin in September 2015. I had volunteered for bike check in on Saturday in order to be able to spectate all day Sunday and cheer on fellow T3 members and had planned to stand in line Monday morning to sign up for IM Wisconsin 2016.
While in Madison Gene had mentioned to me a few times that he was considering IM Texas in 2016. At first I didn't give it much thought because I was so laser focused on Madison. Saturday night Gene explained to me his reasoning for Texas and it really started to make a lot of sense for me as well. The Texas race was scheduled for May, which in my opinion is early in the year for an Ironman race. There are many advantages to a spring race. One big advantage that I could see was knocking out an Ironman early in the season and then having the rest of the year to relax, spend time with family, and possibly get many things done around home that had been neglected for awhile. This race sounded more and more appealing to me. One of the drawbacks to a spring race is that the Illinois winter weather is unpredictable and you never know if it will be mild or harsh. This means the potential for a lot of winter indoor training in the pool, on the bike trainer, and on the treadmill.
After thinking about Texas for awhile I was sold. The next step would be selling my wife. I ended up calling my wife Saturday night and discussing the pro's and con's with her of Texas vs Madison. She had already given me the nod to proceed with an Ironman in 2016 it was a question of which one. Her response was amazing..."Texas sounds good to me if that's what you want to do". I must say my wife is completely amazing! She agreed in 2014 to drive cross country to Lake Placid and now has not only agreed to support me in a second Ironman attempt in 2016 but had left the decision of the destination in my hands. So...Madison vs Texas...Texas it is!
So Gene and I ended up spectating Madison and then signing up at the hotel on the computer that night after we had called our wives. The stage was set. And so the journey began. On our drive home from Madison Gene called Scott Schafer, who lived in Cypress Texas, to let him know that we had signed up for the race. Scott informed us that he and his wife Jen and daughter Jordan had also signed up and that they had a group of people from the area that had signed up on a facebook group called the Woofpack and that he would be adding us to the group. This was my first encounter with the Woofpack.
And so months and months of 5 am pool swims and trainer rides took place. Luckily the winter in Illinois was somewhat mild so I was able to do most of my long runs outdoor. Some runs where 4:30 am pre church runs but whatever it took to put in the work.
Fast forward now to April 2016. Gene and I decided a long weekend trip to Texas for a training weekend was in order. Over the course of the winter there had been several rumors regarding Ironman Texas. There apparently had been some difficulty with getting an approved bike course for the event due to road construction on the old route. On our trip down to Texas Gene and I learned that the open water swim we had signed up to swim in Lake Woodlands had been cancelled due to poor water quality and floating debris from recent rain. We had also been reading a lot of negative comments on facebook regarding the possible cancellation of the race. We ended up having a great training weekend with a 7 mile run around Lake Woodlands Friday followed by an open water swim in a small lake north of the Woodlands also on Friday and a long outdoor brick bike/run Saturday. All of the outdoor training was a huge confidence booster for both Gene and I. We also had the opportunity to meet, train with and socialize with almost all members of the Woofpack. I must say everyone that we met was awesome! Texas felt like home from the moment we arrived. I left Texas with only 3 weeks until race day feeling energized and ready to destroy the Texas course.
My family and I ended up leaving Illinois on Sunday, May 9. We drove to Texarkana and stayed overnight. On Monday we drove down to Galveston where we stayed until Wednesday of that week. Galveston was nice because we had a 2 bedroom condo just off the beach. Made for some nice beach and family time and time to acclimate to the Texas heat and humidity. We drove up to the Woodlands on Wednesday and checked into our 2 bedroom townhouse which was about 2 mile from the race venue. Unfortunately not really close enough to walk but made for an easy drive. After unpacking we immediately headed to Ironman village for athlete check in. Check in went smoothly.
Following check in we went to Scott's place of business called Yes. Scott had obtained corporate sponsorship for our Woofpack group and had bought customized race kits, Ironman swag, and even Texas brand Newton running shoes that had just been released. Totally unexpected, undeserved, but very appreciated. Scott also had a motivational speaker, Melvin Adams a former professional basketball player, lined up for us as well. I left Yes totally overwhelmed with Scott's generosity.
On Thursday everyone in our family was pretty tired so we ended up chilling at the townhouse and shopping for our Friday night pre Ironman meal. We also attended the Ironman athlete banquet where I met and got my pic taken with Mike Reilly, the voice of Ironman. It was pretty cool when Mike asked me if I had my whole family there as my 3 boys stood there and I said yes and he told the boys that I WOULD be an Ironman Saturday.
On Friday morning I attended the practice swim in Lake Woodlands. This gave me a chance to get into my wetsuit and get in my second open water swim of the year. Did one complete lap of the course they had marked out. Felt pretty good. Following the swim we ended up dropping off my bike and bike gear bag and T1 and then drove down to T2 to drop off my run bag. The stage was set. It was time to put my feet up and mentally prepare for the challenge of the next day. I ended up going to bed Friday night at 10:15. Tried to go to bed earlier but was too anxious.
Woke up at 4 am race morning Saturday, May 14, 2016. Had my morning vitamins, a bagel with peanut butter and a banana for breakfast. Packed my PBJ and Payday bars in my bike and run special needs bag along with an extra pair of socks in my run special needs bag.
Woke up my wife and children got everyone dressed and in the car and hit the road around 5 am to drive to transition.
Ended up parking about a mile away from transition on the road. Took my nutrition bottles and tire pump and walked to transition. Arrived at T1 and it looked like chaos. People standing in line for body marking, spectators attempting to get in, etc. Avoided most of the chaos as I had applied Tritats the night before to avoid body marking. Walked straight to my bike and aired up both front and back tires. Poured one bottle of premixed Gatorade endurance into my front aero bottle and placed an additional bottle in my rear bottle cage along with a bottle of water. Also put my garmin and salt stick applicator on my bike. One final look over and she was ready to rock!
Called my wife to find out where I could meet them outside of transition. Ended up meeting them over by special needs drop by the budget rental truck.
The five of us ended up walking down to the waters edge about a quarter mile from swim start and finding this nice dock with benches where the boys could sit and have a ring side seat to the action of the swim course. At this point it was around 6:20 and the cannon had just gone off the pro men to start. At this point I took my wetsuit out of my morning clothes bag, took off my shirt and outer shorts, kissed my wife and children and headed for T1.
1h 42m 10s
02m 41s / 100 meters
I ended up walking into T1 and standing in line for the porta potty while the pro women started. Heard the cannon go off while I was in line. After the porta potty I walked over to a small grassy area in T1 and putting on my wetsuit. I purposely waiting as long as I could to put my wetsuit on because it was warm and humid and I saw a lot of people running around with there suits on and didn't want to sweat until it was necessary. I knew I had plenty of time as they were having the wetsuit people start after the non wet suit people and most had decided to not wear one.
After putting on my suit I headed over to the swim start but still hadn't seen any Woofpack members. I was actually starting to get a little nervous thinking maybe they had decided against suits. While standing there Tim Vaupel ended up finding me and pointing to where the group was standing. Seeing everyone was great! Really helped me relax! Was so glad to see Scott, Gene, Tim, Jimmy, Jeff, Andrea, Sharon and Jen! Everyone was in line and ready to go. We all ended up starting toward the back of the wetsuit line. I ended up getting in the water right behind Gene and right next to Jimmy. The water felt great! Our day had begun!
The first 500 or so yards of the swim was amazing! I breathe to my right so every time I would breathe I could see the shore lined with spectators. Amazing! For a brief second swam by where I had left my wife and kids and looked for them but there were way too many people there to see them.
I continued on with the swim having very little if any contact with anyone. The water was extremely choppy and I did catch several waves in the face and swallowed some water but felt great on the way out. Counted nine yellow buoys on the way out before hitting the first red turn buoy. I did notice on the swim out that I was getting pretty hot and my goggles were fogging a bit. As I turned the second red buoy and started heading back I noticed it was very foggy on the lake and actually had trouble sighting buoys as I swam to the outside to avoid contact. Still managed to keep up a fairly steady pace.
On the way back I continued to count yellow buoys. I ended up stopping around buoy 4 and floating for a minute to catch my breathe as I had just taken a wave and swallowed some water. Ended up peeling off my swim cap and sticking it in my wetsuit in the hopes I would cool down a bit. Found myself encountering more and more people on the way, mostly not wearing wetsuits. At this point thought I was probably moving at a good pace if I was catching non wet suiters.
When I made it back to end of the swim again total awe! The bridge was filled with spectators cheering! I ended up swimming as long as I could and making it up the ramp until I clasped hands with a volunteer who helped me out of the water. I was able to get a look at the clock and it looked to me like I had swam right around 1:42 which I was thrilled with! Finishing the swim was a huge victory for me as I was pulled from the water in Lake Placid and not allowed to finish the swim.
Up the shoot I went out of the water and over to the suit strippers. Suit stripped and jogged down the shoot to bike bag pick up. My number was called and I was handed my bag and over to the changing tent I went on to T1.
What would you do differently?:
Not a thing. Great swim.
Ran into men's changing tent and found open chair in corner. Was really hot and humid. Opened T1 bag and poured out contents in front of me. Used dry towel to dry off. Stripped off swim trunks and put on tri shorts and tri top. Applied chamois butter to tri chamois. Noticed the guy next to me was eating Chick Fil-A. Good idea!
Dried off feet and put on socks and bike shoes.Strapped on and turned on MyAthlete tracker chip. Rolled up wetsuit and swim trunks and stuck in T1 bag. Put on helmet and handed T1 bag to volunteer. Ran out of changing tent. Forgot to mention I had applied spray on sun block to avoid being slathered by volunteers.
Hit the porta potty before heading to bike rack to grab 2134.
What would you do differently?:
Nothing really aside from possibly attempt to get some solid nutrition while in the changing tent. May place a gel in my T1 bag next time or an uncrustable to eat before jumping on the bike. Pretty clean and neat transition even though the time did not reflect it.
6h 06m 54s
Ended up getting really hot on the bike. Bike course was completely exposed with no shade that I can recall. Sun came out and it got really hot and humid with heat indices reportedly around 100 degrees.
Came out of the water feeling somewhat naseauous hoping it would pass soon. Never really did, only seemed to get worse. Took it pretty easy at the beginning of the bike course allowing my HR to slowly come down. Attempted to stay around 17 mph and felt pretty comfortable with this. Saw Erin and the boys standing on a corner off of Grogan's Mill Rd.
Initially stuck with my nutrition plan of sipping Gatorade endurance from aero bottle every 10 minutes. Had my garmin programmed to alert every 10 minutes. Wanted to start using my GU chomps from my bento bag but initially couldn't get my bento bag zipper undone while riding. Started sipping water from bottle in rear cage every 15 minutes.
Ended up stopping at mile 30 aid station to unzip bento bag. Grabbed and opened 3 packages of GU chomps and put in rear pocket of tri top. Continued on with the ride sipping Gatorade every 10 mins and using GU chomps with water every 15 mins and taking salt pill at the top of every hour with water.
Started to feel really crappy around mile 50 at special needs. Stopped and actually got off my bike at special needs to stretch legs, eat PBJ uncrustable and half of payday candy bar. Stuck other half of payday in rear pocket of tri top. At this point also started spraying my arm coolers and helmet with water at the beginning of every aid station then tossing my water bottle to get fresh cold water bottle as it was crazy hot at this point.
After stopping at special needs I noticed my bike pace had dropped below 17 mph and now was more like 16-16.5. Still felt like my exertion level on the bike was good. My plan was to hold back on the bike so I could have legs for the marathon. Felt somewhat better for awhile after getting solid food. Still had not seen any Woofpack members all day.
Continued on with the bike slowly starting to feel crappy. Stopped again at mile 80 aid station to grab water and use bathroom. Also looked for Cliff shot blocks, which were suppose to be on bike course I thought, but none were available. Had run out of GU chomps. Attempted to eat other half of payday bar on bike but mouth was too dry. Ended up tossing it.
Made it back into town to the Woodlands around mile 90 I think and felt like crap in a bag. Was ready to be off of bike. Turned some corners and before I knew it had reached bike in and dismount line. Actually dismounted bike this time without any trouble unlike Lake Placid. Came in and jumped off bike and volunteer that took my bike "You look good! You look strong and comfortable!" Wish I could say I felt good.
After handing off bike I saw Scott's dad. Walked over and gave him high five and talked to him for a minute and then saw Erin and the boys. Cant tell you how good it feels to see your family even if it is for 2 minutes when you have been suffering on the bike for 6 hours. Really lifted my spirits.
Took off my helmet and bike shoes and headed down the shoot to grab T2 bag.
What would you do differently?:
Not sure how to answer this question. My plan was to maintain a 17 mph pace to have run legs for the marathon. My pace did drop significantly but I felt my exertion level was appropriate for the course. I think the Texas heat and humidity really affected me on the bike and I think I failed on my nutrition plan.
Over the winter on the trainer I had practiced with Gatorade endurance every 10 mins and GU chomps every 15 mins with water and felt great on long rides. These rides were all done in my 70 degree basement though and not in the 100 degree Texas heat. I tried to add salt pills every hour but still not sure I was getting enough nutrients.
Seemed like it was a long run from bike in to T2 to pick up bag. Ended up calling out my number and grabbing my bag and running into changing tent.
Took my time in T2. Had asked Erin what time it was when I came in off of bike and she had said a little after 3 pm. I knew in my head I had 8 hours to complete the marathon by 11 pm so as long as I could keep moving I would be finishing this race.
Grabbed seat and cup of water in changing tent. Felt great to sit down for a minute. Poured contents of run bag out in front of me. Immediately stuffed helmet and bike shoes in bag. Also took off socks and stuffed in bag. Talked with guy next to me while I was getting ready. He was a first timer and seemed to be worried that he wasn't going to make 11 pm cut off. I reassured him that we had almost 8 hours and that he could walk at a brisk pace and would be fine. Told him tonight he would be an Ironman!
Slathered some aquaphor on my toes and feet, put on dry run socks and put on shoes. Messed with MyAthlete tracker chip as Erin had said it had stopped tracking at mile 80 of bike course. Not sure what the deal was with that but seemed to be working fine. Put on race belt wit bib. Put on garmin wrist strap with Garmin watch from bike. Put on head band and sunglasses and handed T2 bag to volunteer. Walked out of the changing tent and met the sunscreen applying volunteers. Had them slather me with sunscreen this time as I was sure my spray on stuff had worn off. Turned my garmin on once I crossed the timing mat and on to the marathon course I went!
What would you do differently?:
Again nothing really. Kind of slow transition but no wasted time or effort. Its an Ironman so I was not in a big hurry. Wanted to make sure I got everything done that needed to be done.
7h 02m 30s
16m 08s min/mile
Ah the run course...this is where the wheels came completely off the bus...again.
Ran across the timing mat to start the marathon and felt GREAT! My plan was to run 4 mins walk 1 min and walk the aid stations. The first 3 miles nailed my plan! 10:06 min/mile first 1.7 mile split. Felt good but a little warm. Around mile 3 it actually started raining. I continued to run/walk and even turned to the guy next to me and said "thank God for this rain now it should cool off". The rain continued to pick up until it was a torrential downpour complete with lightening and thunder. At one point it had rained so much so fast that water was sitting on the road and we were sloshing thru it. The temp also began to drop really quickly at this point as well.
I ended up making it to the backside of the run course on a shaded walking path. Up ahead I could see a big group of people that were stopped and not moving. When I got up to the group the guy in the back said "stop your watch they are pausing the race clock". I immediately stopped my garmin.
As it turns out we ended up standing there in a puddle of water for at least 30 minutes if not longer while it continued to rain, thunder and lightening. No one really knew for sure what was going on but news had spread thru the group that due to the severe weather they were not allowing people to continue on the run course at this time. As we stood there the temp continued to drop. At one point I remember standing there shivering and looking at the guys around me and they all seemed to be as well. During this time my hip flexors and quads began to get SUPER tight and I began to feel very sick to my stomach. I also started to worry because I knew shivering we were burning calories but not replacing them with anything.
After what seemed like forever we finally started moving. I turned my garmin back on. We ended up making it out of the walking path and out into a clearing where I could now see Lake Woodlands and the next aid station. I ended up stepping off of the path and walking over behind the aid station and doubling over dry heaving. Not fun. Popped some tums and started to walk at a brisk pace. Crossed the bridge over Lake Woodlands and actually started to feel somewhat better. Started my run/walk again but this time it was more like a 3/2 run/walk.
Made it thru the residential neighborhood portion of the course and suddenly we were back on the water way. Again felt great on the water way. Tons of spectators cheering. Continued my run/ walk. Made up a ton of time on the water way. Walked the aid stations for Gatorade, cola, and water.
Made it thru the first lap of the course and saw Scott and his family. First time I had seen Scott all day. At this point felt ok but not great. Got a long embrace from Scott and he asked how I was doing and told me he loved me. REALLY needed to hear that at that point. Was starting to feel down. Continued on and continued to gradually feel worse. Walked up the hill before the mile 9 aid station. Hit the mile 9 aid station and grabbed a cup of red bull and chicken broth. Not sure why I thought this would be a winning combination...I guess my reasoning was caffeine and sodium cant lose with that. Boy was I wrong. Walked around the corner and immediately began to full on hurl in a garbage can. Hurled for what seemed like 5 mins then walked over to a porta potty sat down locked the door and put my head in my hands to gather myself. Again sat for about 5 mins and then determined I needed to get moving. Came out of the porta potty totally dizzy but began a brisk walk.
From this point on the marathon became a game of my heart vs my mind and body. There were so many times my body and mind said "Stop. Its over. You have been vomiting and are so dehydrated and so far behind on nutrition." But my heart kept screaming "No! You will not stop! You will not let your children see you quit! You did not come to Texas to fail!"
I continued on with a brisk walk from mile 9-26 taking in no water, no Gatorade, no nutrition in the fear I would vomit again. I walked and I walked and I walked. Mile 13 felt crappy. Mile 19 felt crappy. Mile 20 only a 10k to go. Mile 22 back to the water way gonna finish this thing. Mile 23 back to the water way, continuing to rain, no spectators, only the last few competitors trying to make it to the finish. Mile 24 I see Jeff VanSickle coming towards me at the out and back turn around but don't realize its him until he passes by. Mile 25 I head Jeff call my name from behind. SO glad to see him and his wife Andrea. They are still jogging. How can they still be jogging. I start jogging with them and we start to talk about what we will do at the finishes chute. Still I do not celebrate. Not until I am sure I will cross the line on my own and not be carried across. Mile 25.75 I tell the VanSickle's to go on ahead and have there moment I needed to walk a bit before the chute to make sure I could run the chute as I have NEVER walked across a finish line and tonight would not be the first.
I walk until I hit mile 26 and walk up a short hill. I start to cry as I know I am finishing but no tears. I start to jog and see Carter my 9 year old son just before the finisher chute. I stop and talk to him for a minute and give him a hug. He tells me to meet them at Crush a restataunt after. I begin to run again down the chute. I look to my left and there is my wife standing by a park bench. I say something to her, don't remember what, just wanted to get done. I continue running and can now see spectators lining with chute. I run and give high fives to everyone along the way. I turn the corner and can now see the finish line and timing mat. Lights are so bright and music is loud. I hear Mike Reilly announce "Robert Jones from Morton, Illinois, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!"
I cross the line and am welcomed by one of the volunteers with a warming blanket.
What would you do differently?:
Not sure what to do differently aside from pray for better weather. May switch back to Infinit for bike nutrition. May also try to incorporate more solids on the bike. Felt like I had a good plan holding back on the bike and my legs actually felt good early on in the run. Felt like my training was more than adequate. May have actually gone about 4 weeks too long on my training plan. Next time may try a 7 month training plan instead of 8.
After crossing the finish line was ushered thru finisher area to get finisher medal, shirt and hat. Got finisher pic taken.
Met up with Scott and his family and Jeff and Andrea in finisher area. Ended up heading down to medical tent to get checked out. Hadn't had anything to eat or drink in over 4 hours so I knew I was extremely dehydrated. While in med tent got some sublingual Zofran and Gatorade and felt somewhat better. Left med tent and met up with Carter in Ironman village. Found Erin and the rest of the boys and headed for the car.
What limited your ability to perform faster:
In this particular race there was so much to deal with from the question of the bike course before the race to the change of the swim course to the extreme weather. I know I am thankful to have crossed the finish line at all and can now call myself a 2 time Ironman but I still feel like I have a better Ironman race in me.
To finish an Ironman race and to be able to call myself an Ironman I feel extremely blessed. To be able to say I have gone thru the Ironman journey twice and have successfully crossed another finish line is beyond anything I could have ever imagined for myself.
With that being said I still feel a bit disappointed in my performance at both Lake Placid and especially Texas. I really felt like the Texas course was technically so much easier than Lake Placid with an extremely flat bike course which should have given way to a great marathon. I hate to make excuses but I think when the temp dropped during the rain it sent my body into a tailspin that I was never able to recover from.
As I sit here finishing this report I have a true passion for endurance sports and feel like I have yet to execute the perfect race. If God willing and my family will allow I will most likely head to Madison in 2017 with a fire and rage ready to conquer the hills of Madison. I can't at this time make that commitment but I feel like I need at least one more attempt at Ironman and Madison has been calling my name for awhile.
Last updated: 2015-09-12 12:00 AM
01:42:10 | 3800 meters | 02m 41s / 100meters
One lap in Lake Woodlands. Canal portion of swim was cancelled due to poor water quality.
79F / 26C
Run with bike:
Jump on bike:
Getting up to speed:
06:06:54 | 95 miles | 15.54 mile/hr
Crazy bike course with something like 80 turns. Mostly flat with only hills consisting of highway overpasses.
Riding w/ feet on shoes
Jumping off bike
Running with bike
Shoe and helmet removal
07:02:30 | 26.2 miles | 16m 08s min/mile
3 laps around Lake Woodlands. Almost completely flat.
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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