Thursday, April 14, 2011

Ironman Texas 70.3

This past weekend Amber and I went down to Galveston, Texas for the Hermann Memorial Ironman 70.3. This would be the first test to my Ironman training plan. It would also be Amber's first race as a professional triathlete. We both knew that the race didn't favor our race styles. Not only was this race the US Championships bringing out the best competition, but the weather was hot and humid, the bike course was flat and fast(no hills so had to stay in aero the whole time), and the run was a four loop course with multiple turns making getting into a rhythm challenging. However, a challenge was what we were looking for.

We got down to Galveston Thursday morning so we had plenty of time to explore and enjoy the great seafood cuisine that seaside towns have to offer. We found many similar eats to New Orleans but also had some things you may find in the Mid-West like Frickles(fried pickles). All in all we only had one meal that we weren't pleased with and that was an ill-advised stop at a deli. Stuffed and tapering would be how I'd be describe the days leading up to Sundays' race. Neither of us could think of the last time we had such a relaxing vacation.

Sunday morning came and everything changed. Am was in the second wave and I was in the 4th, 10 minutes behind. After quick introduction to the multitudes of recording breaking swimmers, runners and cyclists that they had competing at the race, the gun went off. The excitation was palpable. A little over 10 minutes later however, it had turned to nervousness. Now it was my turn with my first deep water start, looking around at over a hundred fellow 25-29 racers.
It started out as I had planned: to latch on to a faster swimmer and hang on for dear life. That worked for all about 150 yards until he had pulled away and I was left to swim on my own. On my own is a bit melodramatic, but definitely without the aid of having someone to look forward to keep going straight. Over the next 1.1 miles of supposed swimming, I would estimate that I did something closer to 1.4 with all the zig-zagging that I did.

Coming out of the water, it occurred to me that my once tight tri shorts where now sagging like a full diaper. Oh yes. I thought it would be a good idea to wear the Rock On Reed shorts that caused me so much grief at the Exeter Swim Meet. While not drooping to my ankles, they certainly were increasing my drag on the bike.

The bike: Need I say more? It took all of about ten miles to remember why I had stopped biking a couple years ago in the first place. It's painfully repetitive without the competition of a run. I'd pass someone or someone would pass me and that would be it. Very little back and forth or much strategy of any sort. Pretty much hammer for as long as you can then do it longer. Fun. At the turn-around, I looked at my watch and was pleased to find I was only a few minutes off my scheduled plan to break 5 hours( the out was a lot windier and I had planned for a slower out than the back). As I turned the corner to re-trace my steps so to speak, I felt the wind on my back and looked down at my speedometer, saw 24 mph, felt comfortable and started thinking about 4:40. I kept up that pace and train of thought for about 10 miles until I all of a sudden felt very sluggish. Bonk? Nope-flat rear tire. As Am will lovingly chime in, I am not so mechanically inclined and adamantly avoid getting my hands dirty. The combination of the two lead to a nearly 15 minute flat tire change. Crud. The rest of the bike went uneventful but knew without some sort of miracle I wouldn't be getting under 5 hours today.

What luck? As I come running off my bike to start my first of four laps around Moody Gardens-an aquarium/water park, I spot Amber ahead starting her third lap(yes that's right-with only a ten minute head start). I quickly caught up with her partially due to me sprinting and partially due to her slowing down when she saw me coming. We then ran the next 6.5 miles together and had a blast. It was so much fun running with her passing hundreds of people(most of which she was lapping while I was still a lap behind). The hardest part of this run course was the constant turning. If you can picture hosting a half marathon all within a modestly sized amusement park with a half dozen small out and backs that would at least give you a rough idea of what it was like. You could never get a rhythm going because you'd then have to do a 180 degree turn blocked by three middle-aged triathletes on the walk portion of their walk-run strategy. Nevertheless, we ran those first two laps in about 44 minutes before parting ways.

There are very few things that stink more than seeing the finish line and knowing you still have two more laps to go. A few of those things are: 1)no longer having Am to run with, 2)having nearly twice as many runners blocking your way, 3) seeing your age-group peers at various distances ahead of you but not knowing what lap they are on, and 4) the sun coming out and burning any and all exposed skin.

Despite all those pleasant things, I finished up with about a 30 second negative split for the second half to finish in a 5:08. Not quite the sub-5 I was planning for, or the 4:40 I was hoping for but, with all the things I learned I need to improve upon, a good(and fun) experience nonetheless.

Amber finished up with a 4:36, a two minute PR finishing well within the top 100 overall and 18th female pro. A great start to what I expect to be a very illustrious triathlon career!

UP NEXT: Gansett Marathon this weekend for me on Saturday and my first criterium race on Sunday. Then only two more weeks until St. George!

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