Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Ironman Texas 2014

I headed out on Wednesday last week for Texas to compete in the Ironman Texas race. I was excited. I felt like everything I've done for the past 4 years had led me to this point. Especially all the hours of training I had put in in the past six months. Little did I know that in 72 hours, I would be wondering if it had been enough.

Thursday morning I met up with my fellow Utahns and went to the Ironman Village to register and buy all sorts of memorabilia and pick up our bikes.

Our plan was to go for a ride of an hour or so but we soon found out the roads in the area weren't very friendly for smooth riding. After the fact, we figured out we needed to go in a different direction to get out of the main traffic areas. As it was we pedaled around the river and checked out the transition areas.

Then it was time to go to the athlete dinner and get motivated by the voice of Ironman, Mike Reilly!
My coach and friend, Lizz, was supposed to come down but I received word that some sick kids were preventing this from happening. I was disappointed but I had a lot of my tri family there to cheer me on.

Friday morning was the practice swim. It was calming to be able to get into the water and even more so with the revelation that the water temperature was such that we were going to be wetsuit legal! After a quick shower, it was time to drop the bike and bags off at transition.

I have to say, at this point, I was really calm. I knew the "hay was in the barn" and there was nothing left to do but get started in the morning. We met up for an early dinner and then I headed to hotel to do my final preparations and sleep.  I did not have a good night's sleep which is usual for the night before a race. At 3 am I received a text from Lizz that she was on her way down - making the 9 hour drive to be there! Couldn't go back to sleep after that!

Race morning - The morning was beautiful. After setting up and checking our T1 transition, we had about a mile walk to get to the swim start. As far as swim starts go, it was pretty normal. Lots of energy, anxiety and anticipation. And long bathroom lines. But eventually we found our way to the water and the cannon went off.
I had thought I would hang back and to the side like I know a lot of first timers were going to do but I started in the middle of the pack. It wasn't so bad really, I got jostled around a little but nothing more. This was going to be my longest swim ever. I had no idea what to expect so I kept my head down and played Dori ("just keep swimming, just keep swimming"). I didn't look up or look at my watch so by the time I turned into the canal, I had convinced myself that I was the very last swimmer out there. I felt/saw a kayak behind me which confirmed my thinking. We have 2:20 to do the swim so imagine my surprise when the volunteers helped me out of the water and I was at 1:58 AND there were still lots of bikes in transition. The volunteers were so great. In the changing tent, they helped me get into my T1 bag and get my shoes and sunscreen on. One of the many things I learned on Saturday is what I need and don't need in my bags. Off I went to grab my bike. The crowds were still cheering even a couple of hours into it!

I felt good so even though the wind was more than I had planned on, I felt like I was hanging in there and it wouldn't be an issue! And it wasn't for the first 30 miles. I wasn't tracking my speed so a lot of this is in retrospect. I had practiced my nutrition on my long rides so I stuck with what I knew, water sips every 15 minutes and some Vitargo every 10 miles. And salt tabs. I'm not sure when things started going downhill but I know when I got to 40 miles, the wind and "rolling" hills were starting to get to me. Training in wind had made me confident but when I reached 50 miles my confidence was waning. I was enjoying the scenery and especially when we rode through the Sam Houston National Forest. It was beautiful and I remember thinking it would be fun to go camping there! I passed the 60 mile cutoff point and stopped at the aid station a couple miles further up. They informed me I had about 14 minutes to get moving before they would have to pull me. I freshened up a bit, refueled and refilled. I started to take off but realized that with the predicted headwinds I was not going to make the 80 mile cutoff time so I walked back to the med tent and told them I was pulling myself.

I have never not finished a race. This was a very hard decision for me and I've been second guessing myself for the past 4 days. I know it was the right thing for me to do but it's still disappointing. I was loaded up in the SAG wagon with 3 others who couldn't finish and we started the long drive back to The Woodlands. I sent a text to Lizz on what happened so she was waiting for me when I arrived. Not sure if I cried or not but it was great to see her "coach" face and have her help me dissect some of what happened. She kept saying "when you do your next one" to which I said "oh hell no"!!!

After a quick shower, I grouped up with my crowd to cheer for the racers still on the course. It was really fun to see them run by a few times and then to see them cross the finish line! We took a little break to eat something after our group had finished but went back to the finish line just after 11 pm to see the end of the race. If you've never been at an Ironman finish at midnight - you must! The energy from the crowd is amazing, we are all loudly cheering in the last of the runners. It can also be heartbreaking to see someone who isn't going to make the cutoff by just seconds.

Sunday we went to the awards banquet. I keep using the word amazing but it really does describe the people, the energy and the determination of all the participants. By this time I had become more amenable to thinking about registering for another full ironman race. A few of texts from coaches and friends were encouraging me to make the attempt and to not waste the training I had worked on. So far there isn't one that will work in my schedule but I'll keep looking. In the meanwhile, while still at the banquet, fresh from defeat, with coach's approval, I registered for the Boise 70.3. It's in 17 days. I haven't looked at the course but know that for myself it's important to jump back on that horse!

Most of my group left on Sunday and try as I could, there were no available flights to get me home earlier so I spent the rest of the day and the next morning doing one of my favorite things!
On Monday morning I received an email saying that I had a run workout to do. I wasn't sure my legs would cooperate but they did and I actually felt better for it.

I know I have forgotten a lot of the goings on from the weekend, it was an emotional time for me. I do know that I have learned a lot - about participating in an Ironman and most importantly, about myself. I hope to take that knowledge and keep on pushing myself to the limit!

I'm grateful to all who have encouraged and supported me on this journey. I have an amazing tri family, coach and friends. And an even more awesome husband and sons who have cheered me on from the very beginning. Love you all!!!!