Texas 70.3

Texas 70.3

Sorry in advance for the long post, but there’s a lot to talk about!  Last Sunday I raced Ironman Texas 70.3 in Galveston, TX, an island about 45 minutes south of Houston right on the coast in the Gulf of Mexico.  It didn’t really feel like Texas to me.  This was my first professional race and I was ready to have a better performance after a bad race the previous weekend.

There were 58 pro men on the start list but only 50 of them actually ended up starting.  This made for a really competitive race, with some world class names like Starycowicz (aka Starky), Lionel Sanders, and Richie Cunningham.  It was pretty awesome to be on the start line with them and at least be in the mix for a bit.

Race morning I racked my bike, set everything up in transition, and went for a quick warm up.  I only ran about 10-15 minutes but I was already sweating like a pig!  It was so humid already!  I am a heavy sweater but this was bad.  I made a pit stop to go to the bathroom and I was drenched in sweat.  I went back to my car and drank some more Gatorade, hoping it would make up for the fluids I lost.

I grabbed my Xterra wetsuit and made my way over to the swim start pretty early.  It was quite a hike to the start, so I wanted to have extra time to get my wetsuit on and not feel rushed. Eventually, at 6:50 they let the pro men in the water to do a short warm up before the start.  I felt good and didn’t need to swim that much because I normally don’t get a swim warm up.  The warm up was a luxury for me.  I wanted to line up next to Canadian Antoine Desroches (eventual 1st guy out of the water), but I found Lucas Pozzetta, who was in my bike pack in the Clermont Challenge last year.  I knew he was a fast swimmer.

Swim

The cannon went off and it was pretty chaotic for the first few minutes, but got better after the first turn buoy.  I made an error lining up smack dab in the middle, but the start was not as bad as I expected.  I’ve had much worse starts in the past, so it didn’t really bother me very much.  I was hanging onto the lead pack for a bit, but got hung up at the first turn buoy and dropped because it bottlenecked with all the guys trying to turn a small corner.  The front group opened up a 20-30 second gap on me, but I was able to get some clear water.  There were a couple other guys swimming near me and I figured we wouldn’t catch the group, so I just settled in and got to the finish.  I ended up coming out of the water in 11th in a time of 24:09 with Richie Cunningham and Lucas Pozzetta.  My Xterra Vengeance worked well.  Some volunteer told me that the leaders were 30 seconds ahead.

Bike

I ran to my bike, had a good T1, and got out onto the course.  There were some side roads before getting to the sea wall road which makes up 95% of the course, a simple pancake flat, straight out and back.  Coming out of T1, the pace was pretty rich as I rode with Pozzetta for about 10 miles.  He was riding well.  I was pushing about 280 watts for a solid 20 minutes and decided I needed to ease up a bit as I had another 46 miles to go.  I let him go and then, what seemed like 20 guys, passed me.  In hindsight I regret not sticking with Pozzetta or staying with the train of guys, but you live and learn.  I rode mostly alone the rest of the way to the turn around and then back to transition alone as well.  I drank as much as I could on the bike, made easy with my built in Ventum bottle.  I wasn’t able to, or didn’t have to, go pee which wasn’t normal for me.  Looking back, that was probably a bad sign that I needed to hydrate more.  Everyone was complaining about the wind but it seemed like it was only a crosswind most of the way, with a bit of tail wind on the way home which was nice.

Thanks to Scott Flathouse for the amazing shots of me on my bike!

Trying to fly like Captain America.

My brand new Kiwami LD RIO nations suit was awesome.  I had never worn a suit with sleeves before, and I loved the way it felt and fit.  Not to mention I looked like Captain America.  Before the swim, instead of rolling the tri-suit down to my waist underneath my wetsuit, I kept the suit zipped up and the sleeves on.  Surprisingly, the sleeves didn’t bother me or create any shoulder restriction at all.  In my previous two 70.3 distance races, my butt normally hurts after cycling 56 miles without any chamois pad, so it was really nice to have one for a change.  Additionally, I was able to put my gels in the back suit pockets instead of just shoving them randomly in my kit.  A huge thanks to Andre at Kiwami for everything!  If you are in the market for a tri suit I definitely recommend Kiwami.  I’ve worn a variety and switched between brands in the past but I’ve always gone back to Kiwami.  They truly are the best in the business.

Kiwami LD RIO Nations

I finished the ride in 2:14 which I was very happy about.

Bike Strava activity is here.

Run

In T2 I took the time to put socks on, grab my gels, and put my Garmin on.  Right away I felt the effort from the bike.  Not so much lack of legs or energy, but my hamstrings and back definitely felt the 2 hours in tuck position.  I stayed down in my tuck almost the entirety of the ride, something I wasn’t totally used to.  After 2 miles of running, I felt good and started getting it going.  It was a 3 lap course, about 4.4 miles each lap, with lots of turns and out and backs.  My first two laps were good but then lap three turned into a death march.  I don’t remember much of it.  I walked pretty much all of the aid stations and any sort mild of inclines.  I was getting really dizzy and tired and was not sure I was going to make it to the finish.  I went from running 6:00-6:10 miles on the first two laps to running to 6:30, 6:40, a couple 7:00’s, and 7:45 on my last mile.  At that point I wasn’t even racing anymore.  It was survival mode.  Finally, after what seemed like forever, I reached the finish line and almost fell over.  the finish line pictures tell the story.  Some volunteers helped me walk to the medical tent because I wasn’t able to.

I spent an hour and a half in the medical tent and was administered two bags of IV saline.  My body temperature had reached 104 F.  They told me I had heat exhaustion.  That was the second time I’ve had that happen to me in very high humidity race environments, so I need to figure out my hydration a bit better when it is humid.  Part of it is racing at such a high intensity and laying it all out there, part of it is nutrition, and part of it is temperature management.  After looking at my run file, my average heart rate was 194 during the run and 205 max! That is crazy high.  I was experiencing some serious cardiac drift and dehydration.

Run Strava is here.

I finished 28th pro and overall in a time of 4:06, well under my previous best, so I was pretty content with my result, considering everything that happened on the run and not riding in the group on the bike.  Also, I didn’t get chick’d or beaten by any age group amateurs, so there are some small victories in that 😉

Lessons

I learned a lot from this race.  Most importantly, I learned that pro racing is much harder than what many people think.  It was very eye opening for me and I gained a lot more respect for anyone that has raced or races at the professional level.  I underestimated the fitness and speed that these guys really have.  I knew they were fast on paper, but until you are right there with them battling it out, you have no idea.  It’s not like a normal age group race that I’ve done in the past where I just hold a specific power or pace and stay within my own limits.  It was surge, back off, surge, back off, until you get to the finish.  They don’t let up, and they will do whatever it takes to drop you and make you suffer.  If you are thinking you may want to go pro, realize that cruise control is over. Long gone are the days in which races can be won without redlining it for most of the race.  It takes serious guts and greatness to do well against these guys and I am hungry to get back out there and give it my all.  You also need to prepare, prepare, prepare.  Almost prepare like you are in the worst shape of your life even though you are probably in your best shape.

My plan of attack next time will be to just go for it and not look at my power on the bike a whole lot.  If I blow up, then I blow up.  Coach Brent says that usually the pace eases up a bit but I need to be willing to take some risks next time.  He also said part of it is just having the confidence to push big watts and still believe I can run afterwards.  After all, it is racing.

Next weekend I’ll be in Clemson, SC for my last Collegiate Nationals.

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