This year IMTX 70.3 marked my 4th Half Ironman distance event. With each race, I’ve learned something new and have used that knowledge to improve my overall experience. This year my goal time was sub 5 hours. I believe this is achievable with the strength improvements I’ve been able to make as well as racing smarter in general. I didn’t achieve my goal this time around and I’ll go into that in detail further down the report. A big part of what I’ve learned from long distance events is how I’m organized.
Looking back on my race reports shows that I’ve had incremental improvements in the way I organize everything needed for race weekend which also relates to how much sleep I’m able to get the night before. Rest is tough enough with three little boys and traveling let alone all the stress and concerns around a long distance race.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned doing endurance events is that as long as I have a pair of goggles, my bike and some shoes I’ll be “OK”. I have the training and the will to finish.
The training is what prepares you. The race is the celebration of your efforts. With that, your attitude is what lets you adjust to whatever is thrown at you on race day. Case in point, check out my Ironman Texas full distance from last year. The course was changed the day before. This made for a chaotic race morning for everyone. The water temperature was in the 80’s. The bike course had almost as many turns as it did miles and all of my nutrition was lost on a single bump. The run got hit by a micro cell of severe weather that caused the race to be stopped due to high winds, lightning, and hail with a temperature drop of close to 30 degrees. After surviving all that you learn what you can deal with mentally. Not everyone on the course was able to adjust and you could pick these athletes out of the crowd because they looked stressed and panicked.
Back to the race prep. I’ve been working long hours this year leading up to the race so I’ve fallen a little behind on my preparations.
On the Tuesday before the race, I managed to setup a folding table in the garage and spend the next few days setting things aside as I came across them in the house. On Thursday I finally checked my list and got the last of what I needed to be consolidated in one spot.
Friday after work I finally organized my gear by discipline (swim, bike, run) and prepared my nutrition and cleaned up my bike with my race setup installed.
The weekend of IMTX 70.3 we had a busy schedule that included 3 family members scheduled to race in two different races along with some of our normal weekend activities.
Zach and Aimee were scheduled to complete the Run Houston Minute Maid Park 5k on Saturday morning. Which required us to be ready for both their race and mine on Friday. This is when the crazy starts.
Saturday morning we were up early loading sleeping kids into the car and heading into Houston for the 5k. This race was on April Fools and one minute from the start of the 5k they announced that the race was going to be delayed 20 mins because a Shipley’s Doughnuts delivery truck overturned on the race course and they needed to get it cleared. It was just an April fools joke but I’m pretty sure the race director freaked out and several runners were ready to volunteer to clear the donuts. Shipley’s are the best doughnuts around.
Zach ran a good race in the 14 and under group and Aimee placed 3rd in her division. She’s really doing well with her training and races. I’m proud of her dedication and effort on top everything she does for our family. After the awards ceremony, we headed back to Katy for Tae Kwon Do practice before stopping by the house to load up our bags and my race gear for Ironman.
We got to the IMTX 70.3 check in around 3 pm and everything went pretty smooth. I used my AWA Bronze status to skip the check in line which was nice making the whole process about 10 minutes. We then went back to the car and got my race numbers placed on my bike before taking it to the bike check. It was windy and the forecast for the race was not looking very good so I ended up pulling my aero bottle off the bars which interfered with placing it on the rack so that my brake levers would add better support than balancing it on my seat.
Note to new racers: This is normally against the rules or at least can’t be this way when transition closes. The correct way to rack your bike is with your front wheel down and the bike hanging from your seat. We were allowed to turn out bikes because the bikes were going to be on the racks through the night and the wind was picking up and not expected to go away.
I also learned something new. I saw a few bikes being secured race ready hanging from the seat using bungee cords or other straps to secure them to the rack. All it really does, in the end, is keep you from needing to turn your bike in the morning or in my case also reinstalling my bike bottle back in which is a little bit of a pain to get positioned with the straps just right. I didn’t have anything to use so I’ll have to find something and try this out on my own.
Before leaving for the day I met up with the Velocity Sportswear Ambassadors the “TriMafia”. They’re an awesome group of athletes of all levels who support each other with members ranging from beginner to pro. The group also has a few certified coaches who share their knowledge. The support this group gives out is how an ambassadorship should be and Velocity Sportswear goes out of their way to support the athletes and make everyone part of the family.
We were staying about 30 mins from the race site and got out the door a little later than planned causing us to get stuck parking pretty far away compared to right next to the bike transition like in 2016. I was tight on time when I arrived at transition and was directed to the wrong entrance for body marking. Luckily one of the TriMafia members saw me and had a marker. This is when I realized I forgot to get some TriTats for this season. They’re supplied with many of my races but this isn’t one of them.
As I finished getting setup in transition they turned the lights off in to tell people transition was closed and to clear out. I normally like to get set up and then walk the full transition for each leg of the race to get a feel for my rack location from each entrance so that I don’t get lost. I didn’t get to do that this time around and just did a quick count of the racks on my way out.
I then hustled back to the car where Aimee and the boys were hanging out to grab my swim gear before hustling to the swim start barefoot. I had a little time with my swim wave scheduled to start 40 mins after the start but it was still cutting things a little close.
I was assigned to the 11th swim wave. When I arrived my swim cap color was lining up but I didn’t know if it was my age group or one of the others since they rotate the colors. Either way, I still needed to get my wet suit on so I hurried up to the beginning of the starting dock and met up with some TCCR members who helped me get in my gear. They also looked up the swim waves on one of the phones to see when I needed to get lined up. It turned out that the group I saw lining up was my wave because we were the first group of purple caps and they were now next in line to jump in the water. I rushed up to the front of the crowded dock with a team mate saying a quick good luck to those I knew as we pushed our way through the crowd and made it to the end of the dock just in time to get my cap and goggles on before jumping in the water. My buddy Silas also pointed out that the corner of the swim was modified and had two buoys to go around instead of one.
After the start whistle, I got nailed in the face about 4 strokes in. I looked over and it was by Silas who is much faster than I am. Totally my fault. This only threw me off for a second since my goggles stayed on. Overall I thought the swim was pretty good. I was to the outside of the crowd which is my normal strategy and didn’t see anyone in my color cap until I got to the first turn. Once I made the second turn which was only a few yards further out I could feel the waves moving through me as I swam. I felt like I was doing a good job holding my line and wasn’t sighting as often as I normally do. This could have been because the waves were actually pushing me to stay straight. I have a habit of angling to the right.
When I got to what I thought was the next turn I noticed that no one was turning. They were all swimming straight…. So, I took a second to really look up and saw that the buoy colors changed from yellow to orange and that there was a long line of buoys before the last turn which was red. I knew it felt like that last turn had come really fast and now I knew why. I never looked at the swim course layout like I usually do so I didn’t know that the buoy color changed. Lesson Learned.
I passed many orange and yellow caps in the water but didn’t see any purple from my wave. This usually means that I’m ahead of the main pack and this was the case again. There were a few swimmers like Silas who was in my wave and way ahead of me so I shouldn’t have seen him. I’m a fast swimmer but he and a few others swim like they have webbed feet.
After the actual last turn, the water became a complete wash with lots of chop. This is also where the swim gets the most crowded as everyone angles to the same point on shore. Ironically my Garmin picked this up as my fastest section of the swim. In the end, I was 4 minutes slower on the swim than last year. There are so many factors that can affect your swim speed that I’m still happy with my time. I forgot to hit the lap button on my Felix 3 until I was headed out of T1 so I didn’t know where I stood until after the race.
Learning Note: I used KT tape on my neck to protect it from the wet suit chaffing. This was the first race I did this at last year and it worked great. At Oilman I didn’t get the tape in the correct spot and at this race, it was placed too low and didn’t work. If you use this method zip up your wet suit and lift your arms above your head and have someone mark the top edge of the wetsuit on your neck. Place the TK tape here.
My transition went well but was 1 minute longer than last years. I’m still not really sure where I lost the time. It could have been because I grabbed water and walked while I drank to wash down the salt water I managed to swallow. I also took the time to put on socks and my bike shoes this year so that any sand on my feet didn’t tear them up again. This should have been a trade off from the arm sleeves I put on and the energy bar I ate in T1 the year before. Another change in my routine was my bike shoes. We were not allowed to place our shoes on our bikes and run out barefoot. This is supposedly for safety. I’m still trying to figure out how running in bike shoes and still mounting the same way is any safer. I don’t do a flying mount I step into the left shoe and then lift my leg over getting a half peddle stroke out of it to get me moving which I think is actually faster and keeps better bike control. O well. I did the best I could to scramble out while wearing my bike shoes and then had difficulty clipping in my right foot. When I got home later that afternoon and was washing off my gear that I noticed I damaged the cleat on the bottom. It was still functional but the rubber on the bottom tore loose and interfered with the front peddle guide and the alignment to lock in. This was why I was having so much trouble. I use Time Xpresso peddles. With these peddles you only have to touch the trigger in the peddle for it to lock closed. I had to push into the peddle like it was a Shimano Keo which is spring loaded.
It was an intense 56 miles. I averaged 21.3mph with a crosswind that was close to 20mph. This made for some interesting passing moves. When a gust hit, you would move over several feet. Since it was a cross wind it didn’t really slow you down too much but the only point on the bike course where it felt like the wind helped was in the last few miles when you cut across the island back to Moody Gardens. This was only a mile or so and even with the wind I didn’t get slowed too much and finished within 20 seconds of my fastest bike time from Oilman in November. I drank a total of 78 oz of fluids taking the last 10-15 oz as I approached T2 and left 160 cal worth of Honey Stingers in my bike bag. I also took two salt tabs in the second half and a pickle juice at mile 4 or 5. Looking back I should have needed to pick up 2 bottles from the aid stations but with the wind, I didn’t feel like I was losing that much fluid and I paid for it on the run.
T2 was also about a minute slower than in 2016. Again I’m not really sure why it was so much slower other than changing my socks and getting my shoes out of a plastic bag. This was to keep them dry from the rain that never came.
As I left T2 I finished off a bottle of pickle juice to help fight off muscle cramps in my legs. The cramps were taking place just above the knee on the inside of both legs. I set a pace that felt good and kept the leg cramps from taking hold. This lasted for about 2 miles when I effectively ran out of steam. I was having trouble keeping my body moving like I hit the wall but with less pain than when I’ve hit it in the past. I believe it originated from not taking in enough fluids during the bike earlier in the race. Slowing down took its toll on my mental game and did me in. I was no longer able to maintain any steady pace and only run for short periods of time before I had to walk again. Looking back at the race after a few weeks this was just as much a mental breakdown as it was physical. I hydrated heavily at every aid station to play catch up. I also started off with anything that would cool my core temp. like water over my head or ice down my shirt because I felt like I was burning up.
I found that every time was able to cool my body I was able to get moving again at a respectable pace. Each time, however, this was short lived. As the ice melted or the water/sponges came up to my body temperature I slowed and eventually found myself walking again. At one point I considered a run walk strategy but I never was able to apply it at any set interval.
It was tough staying motivated on much of the course with the only crowd support being the other racers. Whenever I was back near the buildings I was able to use the crowd and knowing my team mates, wife Aimee and kids were cheering me on to start running again and was able to run for what felt like my longest stretches. When your mental game is shot like mine was the crowd can really make a difference and I’m grateful for all the people who put out so much energy cheering every participant. Even if we don’t respond it’s appreciated more than we are able to show at that time. Please keep it up.
This particular race had a noticeable decrease in crown size from 2016 outside of the finish area and main buildings of Moody Gardens. This was most likely because of the weather forecast for 2017 with every type of bad weather you can think of being called out. In 2016 it was blazing hot but you also had people cheering for all but one section of the run course (about 1 mile).
On my last loop around I had the same struggle as the previous two. I was also falling further behind as my pace continued to drop as I walked more. I had a final rally on the back side of Moody with a solid push for the length of the waterfront to the finish where I was able to muster more energy than I would have guessed I had to finish strong.
I’m setting a goal for my next race whether it’s a short distance or another long distance race to work on my strength with cross training, my run speed with track work, pick a training plan to help keep me motivated and moving when life and work get busy. I also want to fix some of my bad eating habits that I’ve recently picked back up on so that I’m ready to give it my all.
I encourage you all to set similar goals and to hold me accountable for mine. You can see my progress on IG, Twitter, and FB by following @mytriaddition