IM TEXAS

Thank you Elee, my wonderful wife for tolerating all my training hours and weekends alone with the kids to allow me to chase this ridiculous dream I have!  I love you!  Special thanks to my Mother-in-law and Father-in-law for taking care of me and my faimily on race week!  You like always were wonderful gracious hosts and your support is amazing.  Thank you also to Elee’s Uncle Sam for making the trip up from Austin to see us and watch me compete, it is really nice to have the support of family on an Ironman course especially so far from home!  Also to Elee’s cousins for being out there in support.

Ironman Texas was a huge success for me.   I achieved my best finish in an Ironman event and attained my goals of reaching the podium and qualifying for another Ironman World Championships.  I finished the race 6th overall amateur,  25th overall male and 3rd in my age group (35-39).

This was the inaugural running of this race, and let me say it is not “fast and easy”.  The course offers quite a bit of challenge (and we had favorable conditions opposed to what we could have had).  The swim is not wetsuit legal, the bike is one loop and has, according to my Garmin, over 2200 feet of climbing and constant 10-30 mph wind with plenty of technical turns, The run is flat out hot, it is a 3 loop course that has one mile of shade per lap, so yes three miles of shade and 23.1 miles of sun, with quite a few turns.  Oh and did I mention the high humidity?

This season started a little slower than planned for an early season race with work and an achilies injury that delayed running 6 weeks.  My shoulder had been quite tolerable with no new pain, and my swimming has been getting back on track. A solid effort at California 70.3 in April was a big confidence and fitness boost for me, and with my biggest training block ever 4 weeks out, I knew I could perform well in Texas if I could tolerate the high heat and humidity.   All my workouts up to the 7 day taper felt spot on and I knew I could perform well in Texas if I could tolerate the high heat and humidity, and with my coaches heat acclimation regiment I was quite sure it would not be an issue to be able to tolerate it.

The week of the race my legs felt a bit flat but my pacing, watts, and HR were all on target so this was quite normal and I was not too concerned.

Race morning came and I was sure that I would have a solid day.  Once again I had the privilege to race with my coach and training partner Dave Ciaverella.  We went through the typical morning race prep routine and made our way to the swim start, wished each other well and found I respective starting positions.

The swim course is a bit different, it is in a lake, but you go out (buoys to the left) a bit over a mile, come back a little less than a mile then turn right up a very narrow channel (seriously like 12 feet wide and 3.5 feet deep) As I mentioned early this was not a wetsuit swim. I decided to start a farther to the right of the buoys assuming that all the other fast swimmers would be on the left to the middle.  This proved to be the right move, maybe I swam a bit farther, but I had absolutely zero contact with anyone.  It was the cleanest Ironman swim start I had ever had.  I usually have to put out a good sprint effort in an Ironman to establish a position before settling into a rhythm.  On this day I was able to immediately just cruise and focus on long strong strokes, without the initial spike in heart rate and elbows and feet to the face.  I met up with a group of 4 dudes about 800 meters in and worked with them to the first turn buoy.  On the way back they stuck to the buoy line, but I swam closer to the shore line because we were going to be making a right turn so I figured it was the shortest route.  I did have one other guy come with me and I pulled him in the rest of the swim.  When we entered the canal and although there were only about 25 other age groupers in front of me it really made the water choppy, I can’t imagine what it must have been like in the middle of the swim pack.  My watch said 58 when I got out of the water, so I was pretty stoked.  My official swim time was 59.  I am pretty happy with that, it’s probably my best swim in an Ironman being as it was without a wetsuit.

Transition 1 was fine, no issues, not fast but not slow; 2:36.

Off on the bike I was feeling good.  After my first drink of nutrition though my stomach starting to turn a bit, but settled.  Next drink my stomach turned a bit again, so I extended my drink periods by a couple minutes for the rest of the ride and it seemed to clear that up.  My goal for the bike was to ride at 220 watts.  I was going to go out at 215 for the first 50 miles, then 35 miles  at 220 then 225-230 the remaining 27 miles.  I stuck with this plan to about mile 60-65.  At that point my right groin began to twitch.  “OH PLEASE DON’T LET THIS BE HAPPENING!”  Too late it happened, my groin cramped bad, so I stood up on the pedals and tried to stretch it out.  I started to feel good again so pushed the watts back up to 220 and passed the female pro that passed me while I was stretching,  about 3 minutes later my left groin began twitching… “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?”   I stood up on the pedals to stretch right as the cramp came on.   “OK, why is this happening?”  I was drinking my nutrition with sodium every 23 minutes and drinking an additional 20 ounces of water every hour and I had peed 3 times already so I did not think hydration was the issue, but it must have been.  I increased my water intake to 20 ounces gone before every aid station.  This didn’t really seem to help , I just simply could not push more than 205 watts for more than a couple minutes without one of my groins seizing up.  I decided to do 2 minute intervals at 230 watts with 3 minutes at 205 watts.  This worked for about 15 minutes then my left calf started to cramp on an interval.  I changed it up again and did 220 for two and 205 for 5.  I may have gotten 2 of these in but my legs just constantly felt they were on the verge of cramping, so I rode at 205 watts or under until the final stretch into transition.  I just soooooo wanted to get off that bike, but was terrified of what might happen that first step off the bike.    I had passed a 3 or 4 guys in my age group and a few others out of my age group, but had also been passed by 4 guys, 3 of them in my age group so I really was not sure where I sat coming off the bike.  My goal time was in the 4:50’s and I came in at 4:57 so since I rode 15 watts under my goal power I was pretty happy with my bike split.

The 3rd guy that passed me in my age group had passed me right before transition, and I heard him complaining as we were running into transition that he had gotten a flat early on the bike. Right after that I heard Dave, my coach yell from behind that he was right there, I was pretty stoked to turn around and see him, knowing that I would have a running partner to keep me focused!  I left transition on the heels of the dude that had passed me in my age group, I still was unsure where I sat, but this guys was a big dude and dressed like Torbjørn Sindballe, in all white body cooling gear, so had a good hunch he may struggle in the heat especially if he tried to make up time after getting a flat.  Dave caught me within 200 yards of transition, and quickly put me in check, and we slowed down to 7:40 pace, the guy in front of me was running at 6:30 pace and I was certain he couldn’t hold it.  Shortly  after that a guy in Dave’s age group passed us running 7 minute pace, but we remained patient and held 7:40-7:45 pace.  Ann (Dave’s wife) rode up on us and informed us that I was running in 4th, and Dave was running in 2nd.  The first 8 miles we kept each other in check, each of us felt the urge I think to try and keep our competition close, but each of us also knew that we needed to stick to our plan and  those guys would come back to us.  It was AWESOME running with Dave, the crowd support was amazing, the crowd and the other athletes were very supportive of our team effort and it just made the time go by so much faster.  After the first loop (about 8.5 miles) I made the comment that maybe that dude could hold the pace he was running, Dave said,  “no way its only 8 miles in man, you have to be patient, there are not many people who can run sub 3:05 pace for an Ironman and I guarantee these guys are not one of them”,  literally within a mile we blew right by the m45 leader, and 2 miles later we blew by the  4th place guy in my age group.  Dave simply said “see dude.”

At this point I was also starting to struggle, this run course was hot!  There was maybe one mile of shade per loop and 7 miles of sun.  I was doing everything I could to keep cool.   I had to let Dave go, my stomach was churning and my legs felt like they were going to cramp with every step.  I had a feeling of failure run through my mind, but quickly snapped out of it as I reminded myself that Dave is a former sub 2:30 marathon runner, I am a former 250 pound couch potato, my spirits were then lifted again as Ann informed me that I was running faster than everyone behind me in my age group.  Hearing this news was good and bad as my natural reaction was too ease up, but I fought the urge and kept on at 8 minute pace.    At mile 18 I could see Dave again up in the distance, and at Mile 19 I passed him while he was stopped tying his shoes, I yelled to him I am right here, he said something I think but I could tell  he was hurting.  Its funny how in an Ironman you look for reasons to take it easy,  I so bad tried to convince myself to wait for Dave, but knew that he would be pissed at me if I did.  I kept pressing on but my pace had slowed to 8:10’s even on the downhill shaded portion of the run loop.  At mile 22 I heard Dave’s voice again “ I’m right here Aleck all we have to do is run under 8 minute pace and we will go sub 9:30”  I replied with, “ I don’t think I can man”.  He said It’s ok just keep going only 30 more minutes.  I watched him disappear again, as my hamstrings literally felt like they were going to seize at any second.  I felt like I was pushing hard, if I didn’t have a Garmin I would have said I was running 6:30- 7 minute pace, but in reality I was struggling to hold 8 minute pace.  At mile 24 I saw Ann again and I think she played a trick on me telling me I was 4th, and 3rd was right in front of and I would have to dig deep, but the next guys is 6 minutes back.  I was too hot, too tired and too depleted to logically think that there is no way that this is correct since I was off the bike in 4th and I passed a M35-39 and nobody else has passed me at all, so I dug deep, I put my heart rate into zone 5 the final mile and a half to muster up a 7 minute pace final stretch.  The crowd here was great, I really like the downtown finishes.  I gave a few high 5’s as I came in to hear Mike Riley talking about how my greatest athletic accomplishment was peeing my pants on 2nd base when I was 6 years old in little league.  It turns out they really do pay attention to the answers you put in on the active.com registration, and no I am not really an airline pilot!  Final time 9:30.

I am very excited about this race result.  I know that I am not at the top of my fitness, I know that I did 90% of my rides on the computrainer, I know I struggled in this race and I came from the Portland Oregon 50 degree weather and out performed 99 % of the people in a 2600 person field in the 90 degree heat of Texas.  I again stuck to my plan and prevailed.

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