After a strong 2nd overall finish at Florida 70.3 about a month before the race, I was excited to race Ironman Texas. Especially after DNF’ing my last 2 Ironman at the end of last season, I was a bit nervous and eager to complete another Ironman distance. The plan was to have already qualified for the Ironman World Championships and have no need to do an early season Ironman, but I really wanted to race in Kona again this season. I had never done IMTX before, but had heard it was a solid, flat and hot course. As a bigger guy, I do not consider myself to be really great in the heat, but for a guy my size, I would say I do pretty well in the heat.
Leading up the race, there was a lot of unknown and question marks with this race. They did not have a confirmed bike course for a long time and then when they determined what it would be, they ended up having to change it due to some serious flooding in the area. It resulted in the bike course being only about 95 miles with over 80 turns. A lot of people were outraged by this. However, I was not one of those people. Did I want a 112 mile bike course? Of course I did, but some people forget how challenging it can be to get the permits and approve these long races. In reality, we’re extremely lucky that we have areas around the world that are willing to close down there roads, annoy many of the locals with significant road closures and delays, etc.
I flew into Texas on Wednesday for the Saturday race. Since Kristen is now past 7 months pregnant, she was not able to fly. As a result, she and the boys stayed home. However, my Mom decided to come with me. Its very bittersweet when Kristen and the boys aren’t able to attend my races. While I love being wih them, the reality is I get a lot more relaxation time when I am on my own. However, I’m not sure its worth the extra relaxation time. I also feel bad leaving her at home, 7+ months pregnant with two young boys to tend to her all by herself. Especially given how much travel I have to do for work, it truly is amazing what she does for the boys and I. She’s busy developing a baby inside of her while having to run around and tend to two young boys. Thank babe for all that you do for us!!!
Our connecting flight was delayed so we didn’t get into Houston until late. However, we arrived at the AirBamp;B on Wednesday night as planned. From there, things went quite well leading up to the race. It was great spending time with my home and she cooked up a lot of meals for me. It was great having access to a kitchen so we went to Whole Check, I mean Whole Foods, to get our food and eat at home.
AG Rank: 25
Gender Rank: 172
Overall Rank: 226
Strava Link: https://www.strava.com/activities/576268039
The morning of the race went smoothly. My Mom brought me to T2 so I could add a couple things to my transition bag and then dropped me off at T1. I spent some time getting my nutrition on my bike and getting ready to go. I chatted with a few folks around me and was focused but relatively relaxed. I wanted to do a final bathroom stop before heading to the swim start, but the lines were really long. I waited it out, but it then made it very tough for me to get up to the front of the line for the swim. With the self seeding swim start, I wanted to be up towards the front as I didn’t want to swim through people. It probably ended up taking a minute or so for me to get into the water after the gun went off.
The beginning of my swim wasn’t overly congested. There was certainly a little bit of contact, but not too bad. I tried to find some feet to sit on, but it didn’t happen. I tried to stay close to the buoys. The first turn buoy felt like it took a while to get to, but I just stayed focused on my technique and trying to be as efficient as possible. There was some contact and things tightened up at the turn buoys, but nothing too crazy. Being a non wetsuit swim, I did need to focus on kicking a bit more to maintain a good body position, but was careful not to over do it.
After the turnaround, it was just more of the same. I stayed to the inside, which actually does not appear to have been the shortest line. A lot of people were going to the outside so I was by myself the majority of this section. However, the last buoy ended up being a bit further to the right than I anticipated so I probably should have swam wider. When I popped up at the swim exit, I saw 1:05:xx on the watch and didn’t like seeing it, but knew there was a lot of race left and now I would be able to focus on my strengths.
I decided to wear long compression socks and arm coolers on the bike. It did take me longer than I would have liked to get my socks on, but I’m glad I decided to wear them. I worked my arm coolers on as I headed to my bike. I was very happy that they allowed up to leave our shoes on our pedals so I didn’t have to run with my bike shoes on and the mount went very smoothly.
AG Rank: 5
Gender Rank: 44
Overall Rank: 44
As I headed out on the bike, I felt really good. I took my time getting my shoes into my shoes as there was a slight incline over a bridge to start the ride. I knew there were a lot of turns on the course and they started pretty quickly which was no surprise. I was passing people right from the start. However, one of the guys who I’ve raced against the last few years that is in my age group did pass me, which I was pretty surprised about. However, I just let him go and knew I had to stick to my plan and focus on what I needed to do, not what others are doing.
Once I got settled in, I was just focused on keeping my power in check (I was shooting for around 250-255 watts). I was passing a lot of people and went back and forth with a few guys most of the ride. My goal was to stay consistent and minimize of variability index (VI) despite all the turns. While turns do cause you to slow down, the key is to minimize how much you slow down for each turn and also to be careful not to over do it as your accelerating back up to speed. If you’re hammering back up to speed on each turn, you’re going to significantly increase your VI, which has been proven to cause people to fade at the end of rides and run poorly.
There were 80 plus turns on the course, but overall, I didn’t feel like I was just constantly taking turns. The course was definitely flat, but it had a couple rollers. The roads were in great condition for the majority of the course. There were a few sections of the course that were in rough condition, but given that they created this course last minute, I think I did a great job finding a good course for us.
About 40 miles or so into the ride, I did catch up with a pack of riders. It was pretty ridiculous how badly they were drafting off one another. I noticed that most of them had already received a penalty, but apparently that didn’t stop them from continuing to draft. While I was glad to see they had been penalized, I didn’t see one race official the entire ride. That was very disappointing to me, especially after seeing what I saw out there.
At around the 50 mile mark, I was approaching the area I was staying at for the week and knew my Mom would be out there. Sure enough, she was right where she said she would be and it was great to see her. Ironman sure isn’t a spectator sport, but I can’t express enough how great and motivating it is to see loved ones and friends out on the course.
From there, I just continued to focus on staying within myself and doing what I could to keep my power steady. I was doing a great job with that and my heart rate was staying quite low despite the weather heating up so I was feeling really good about the race. The only other thing worth mentioning is another issue I had with another rider in the last 10-15 minutes. There was a guy that I think may have been in my age group that kept passing me and then literally getting upright and out of the aero position, which resulted in him slowing way down each time after he passed me. I would wait 20-30 seconds or so and then I would pass him again. Not long after, he would do the exact same thing. It was very frustrating and clearly he needs to learn a thing or two about VI. To prove my point on VI, I did see him out on the run when I was on my 3rd lap and he was walking on his second lap. Smashing for 30 seconds and then slowing down for 30 seconds to ride easy just doesn’t provide good results.
Nutritionally, this was the first time that I brought all my own fluids (well the powder to then be mixed with water on the course) with me for a full Ironman and was using Glukos for my nutrition. While it does require me to carry 2 bento boxes on my bike and it can be a bit tricky dumping the powder into my aero bottle, man did I feel good during all day on the bike! I am now a HUGE advocate of Glukos and would recommend people give it a try. If anyone would like to try to, use the promo code “XXXXXXX” for 25% off any online order through their website.
AG Rank: 2
As I headed in off the bike, I was really pumped. I didn’t know what place I was in, but I figured I was up towards the top of both my age group and the overall age group ranks. Come to find out, I was actually in 11th when I was suspecting I was at least in the top 5. Nonetheless, whether I was in 1st or 100th, my strategy would not change for the run.
As I headed out on the run, I did have a bit of an issue with my race belt. Since I carry all my nutrition with me on the run (Glukos gummies and gels), I have a few extra little bags that I add to my race belt. I thought I had properly tested this a few days prior, but all my stuff was bouncing around and causing my belt to slip further and further down. I had to tighten the strap while I was running which was not ideal. However, I eventually got it to hold and it was not an issue from there on out.
There was a gentleman that was in the 45-49 age group that passed me when we were first heading out on the run. He looked strong and the competitive side of me wanted to go run with him, but I just let him go. I kept the pace very comfortable for almost the entire first lap. It was already very hot and I knew I had to be disciplined if I was going to have a good run. I just focused on keeping my turnover and arm swing up so that I kept good technique at the comfortable pace. Even at this pace, I was already passing people regularly.
About 4 miles in, a guy ran up from behind me and as he passed me, he asked me how I old I was (since I was wearing long sleeve compression socks, he could not see my age on my calf.) I told him 34 and asked him how he was. He told me I didn’t want to know because we were in the same age group. I told him that was fine and reminded him that there is a long ways to go. It was kind of funny because this conversation actually motivated me even more to stay at my current pace and not go with him as I just knew I’d see him later on in the race.
The first four miles or so are a bit isolated and there is not too much engagement with spectators. It is mostly exposed running on the street, but there is a section that you run on a paved path that is shaded. At about the 4 mile mark, the men’s leader passed me and he was flying! He was obviously on his 2nd lap, but looked very strong and I was very impressed. He went on to run a 2:40 marathon which is amazing in that heat. After those first 4 to 4.5 miles, you start to head back into town and there is awesome spectator support. Lots of people were blasting music and being very supportive. The course is very flat with a few very small rollers so I was able to do a great job of keeping my effort steady and my heart down.
As I headed out for the second loop, I picked up the effort level a bit. I kept an eye on my heart rate but was feeling very comfortable and confident. The 2nd lap was more of the same where I was passing a lot of people and doing my thing. At about the 3.5 mile mark of that loop, Matt Russell who eventually took 2nd, came up and passed me. However, I did end up running with him for a bit. He was on his 3rd lap, but it was a confident booster to be running with the 2nd place pro for a while.
A little before I got back into town on the second loop, I saw my new friend from my age group that had passed me on the first lap. I figured I would not catch him until a bit later, but it solidified that my strategy was working. I told him he was doing great and I figured we both had to be in the top 5 of our AG at that point so if we held on, we would be a lock for Kona slots.
While I was in town and close to finishing up the 2nd loop, I saw my Mom again. Just like on the bike, it was great to see her and I used it as motivation.
Heading into the 3rd lap, I was still feeling good and I was hoping to pick up the pace a bit. However, the heat was starting to get to me and the majority of the last lap was a real mental battle. I just continued to focus on turnover and arm swing, trying to keep cool, and making sure I was getting my nutrition in. At that point, there are a lot of people on the course and with the run being 3 loops, you didn’t know which lap the people were on putting I was still passing people like crazy. The only 2 people that passed me on the run were the older gentlemen right at the beginning of the run and the guy in my age group that I mentioned before and I had passed both of them back by this point.
When I passed mile 22, I was close to town and was really digging deep. I knew if I held on, I would be able to run a sub 3:10 marathon. I would have liked to have been under 3:05, but given the heat, I knew sub 3:10 would be very respectable. I continued to think about my family and clients/club members as motivation to keep pushing. I also reminded myself that I don’t know how many more Ironmans I’ll be able to do with my growing family.
It was a great feeling making the turn towards the finishing chute. However, there was probably another quarter mile or so to go at that point, which I didn’t realize. Nonetheless, I saw that there was a guy a bit up ahead of me and I decided I would try to catch up. I managed to find another gear and really pushed for that whole quarter mile or so and went hard all the way across the line.
I ended up crossing the finish line in 8:15:xx. I did not catch the guy that was ahead of me, but come to find out, he was in my age group and he started before me so I ended up beating him by 8 seconds! This is the second race in a row that pushing all the way to the line gained me another a position.
My Mom saw me cross the line and after some help from the volunteers, I managed to make my way down to the finishing area. I stumbled around for a bit and then got a massage. I highly recommend trying to take advantage of the post race massage if you can as it can really help speed up recovery.
I ended up 2nd in my age group and was the 6th overall amateur. I knew there would be at least 5 Kona slots in my age group so I had no doubt I was heading back to the island. This was a great feeling and this one felt pretty special given the troubles I had at the end of last year. All the sacrifices my family and I had made were paying off.
My goal was to break 8:15. I failed to do so, but given I was with seconds, I was very happy with my effort and I know I left it all out there. Looking back, I’m a bit bummed that we didn’t get a full 112 mile ride because I would have been very close to breaking the 9 hour mark which is a lifetime goal of mine. Hopefully I’ll get another crack at that.
About 45 minutes after I finished, some horrific weather hit the area. I was still in my tri suit and walking back to the truck when it started absolutely torrentially down pouring. When I saw the forecast called for rain in the afternoon, I initially thought that would feel nice on the run, but man am I glad I finished before the strm hit because it was crazy! I tried to get my bike from transition so I could get out of there asap, but that said it was too early to get my bike. As we drove out of there, my Mom and I were in awe of the conditions and that everyone was pushing through the crazy weather. Eventually they did “postpone” the race for about 45 minutes. I guess they had considered canceling it, but kudos to Ironman for letting people stay out there and finish the race.
The next day I went to the awards ceremony to get my award and officially punch my ticket to Kona. There were some very interesting war stories being shared after a crazy day. I got to chat with a few guys from my age group as we waited to pay our entries fees for Kona. They were really nice guys and the guy I beat by 8 seconds has a couple kids as well and it was nice chatting with them.
Overall, Ironman Texas was a huge success! I did what I set out to do and I qualified for Kona and will be heading back their this fall for a 4th time in 5 years.
I apologize that it took me a month to get this report done, but I have been very busy. Now that my clients are all racing, the time involved in coaching definitely picks up a bit. However, my wife and I also decided to put our house on the market and will be moving within the next couple months. On top of this, our 3rd child is due in 3 weeks from now. Kristen is really ready to go and we’re so excited to meet the new addition. I just can’t wait to meet him. Fortunately I should not have to travel much for work over the next few weeks so I am hoping I can help Kristen out as much as possible and allow her to rest before the big day. It is really amazing how she is able to do everything she does on a daily basis to keep our family going. I am planning on doing the Patriot Half on June 18th which will be my last race prior to the baby’s birth.
If you’re interested in hearing the audio version of this or would like to hear more about Glukos, check out Episode #3 of the Age Grouper for Life Podcast. Thanks for reading. :)