The Texas race is on a Saturday so myself, Ana and Jamie left Chicago on an early flight to Houston on Thursday. We arrived around lunchtime and drove around 30 minutes north of the airport to The Woodlands where the race is based.
We checked into the race hotel, The Marriott which we had booked right around the time I entered the race. The hotel is in a perfect location and I would thoroughly recommend staying there.
Once settled in I went over to the expo and got registered. Queue was not long so was through quickly. I then picked up my bike from Tri Bike transport who had picked up my bike from Highland Park Trek about 15 minutes from where we live and trucked it over to Texas. They offer a great, cost effective, service which avoids you having to pack up your bike in a box and get it off and on planes.
We had a quick lunch and then returned to our room for a little relaxation time. A snooze later, I decided to take a quick stroll over to transition and checked out the swim in, bike out, run out schemes. Whilst there I met a guy who told me that this was ironman number 39, made my 6 seem quite inadequate!
After a very pleasant dinner right opposite the finish line with a colleague from work and her family we retired to bed.
Early Saturday I went over to the swim start for a practice swim. The race organisers did not advertise the practice very well but after asking around I found out it was going on. I must have been one of the few that didn't know because three were hundreds of people milling about when got there.
The swim starts about a 15-20 minute walk from transition. Kind of unusual in most races I have taken part in but in the end it was no big deal. More of a big deal for me was that the swim was one where the temperature of the water is too hot to allow wetsuits. You can actually wear a wetsuit if you want but you have to start 10 minutes behind the mass start. I planned to not wear a wet suit and because I had never done it before, was nervous about how I would perform. I had actually done a lot of swim training so I felt apprehensive but reasonably confident that I would be fine
Anyway, had a nice swim even though the water was a bit choppy, and returned to the hotel for breakfast and then to bike check in and final preparations. These always take longer than you think so I was not done until lunchtime.
Rest of the day was spent examining maps, buying stuff in the expo, relaxing and eating! What was clear though from the forecast was that Saturday was going to be hot...over 90 degrees, winds gusting up to 14 mph, and mid 80's humidity. Having spent my training time during the winter in Chicago..this was going to be a tough adjustment!
My father, who was on business in Houston at the same time, came up for an early dinner and, after dropping him off at his hotel, I retired to bed. I slept reasonably well, but thoughts of the swim kept racing around my head....
I had also not had an ideal training run into the race. I had been ill a couple of times in Jan and Feb which had meant that I had lost at least 4 weeks of training. With my tight travel and work schedule this is a big deal for me. In fact, late in March, I nearly decided to pull out. But with some consistent and strong training in April I felt I was in half reasonable shape. I knew, however, that given the expected heat and humidity I was going to suffer a fair amount. There is nowhere to hide in an Ironman....you will get found out eventually!
It seems to have become a tradition for me that I have a small bowl of granola, coffee, a bagel with cream cheese, and more coffee for my pre Ironman breakfast. Strangely, the hotel did not offer a breakfast so I arranged to have the items delivered via room service the night before and put the milk etc in the fridge.
So having filled myself with food I walked over to transition, checked out my bags and then met up with Ana and Jamie to walk over to the swim start.
One mistake I made, I put chamois cream in my bike bib shorts on Friday afternoon and left the in the hot sun all day and night. I should have put fresh cream on the shorts on Saturday....by about mile 70 on the bike I had a fair amounts of pain from rubbing on my ass and crotch...
Swim - 1hr32m
The swim at Texas can be broken down into 3rds. The start is in Woodlands Lake and takes you out most of the length of the before you turn back on yourself and almost return to where you started. However, just before the start line the course takes you to the left where you swim down a narrow canal to the finish and transition.
I could not figure out where best to start in amongst the masses so I decided to be in the middle of the start line a little behind the front..this turned out well for me so I would do this again.
Anyway, the gun goes off and we are underway. The start of an ironman can be very stressful with lots of fighting and kicking so I am always determined to keep calm and just try to get into my stroke as soon as possible. I really did not have any major problems.
However, the kicking and fighting returns when you turn into the canal. It is very narrow and so there is little room to manoeuvre. This is not the best time for this to happen because tiredness is beginning to creep in and other swimmers get more angry! The very interesting part of the canal is that spectators are very close. They could reach out and touch you..never seen this before.
Bike - 6hr14m
Felt pretty good when I got out of the swim and very pleased to have survived without the wetsuit! Smooth transition and off I went on the bike.
I knew from conversations with fellow competitors that the wind was going to be with us until about mile 40 and thereafter it was going to be either a side or worse, a headwind all the way home.
40 miles in, sure enough I was averaging 22mph and feeling good. Turned a corner and then suddenly the side wind slowed me down....after a further 20 miles and another left turn I was slowed down even more by the headwind....
I had no bike issues, got or had all the nutrition I needed and so the ride caused me no problems. However, after about mile 80 I really started to feel the heat and the wind, and with my chafing issues the last 20 miles were really tough. I wanted them over quick...My speed really slowed and so I did not manage to break 6 hours.
Run (or not) - 6h23m
I was very pleased to get off the bike but I soon realised that I was pretty much cooked already and I had a marathon to complete! I had no intention of quitting so I figured that I would cool myself down at the first aid station and things would quickly improve.
I went through transition slowly and then started to run out after getting covered in sunscreen. The aid station came quickly and I drank cold drinks put ice in my hands and on my head. I then started to run again but I quickly slowed to a walk. I was already suffering and I was on mile 2! In fact, after repeating a run walk pattern until mile 4 I started to feel dizzy and was concerned that if I collapsed or sat down my race would be over.
There are 3 loops for the marathon:around the lake we swam in and the the town where the hotel is based. I quickly decided that I came to Texas to complete the no wet suit swim and get a medal...whatever the time so I ended up walking most of the first loop with the intention of cooling down as much as could. This included getting a tip from a fellow runner to put ice into my shorts because the vein around the crotch is wide and so is more likely to help with cooling. This technique had a good effect so as I came back into town I felt better to run again.
A quick note here to say that the crowds in and around the main town of Woodlands were fantastic, they created a great atmosphere and really cheered me up as I struggled through the afternoon heat. Dancing girls, singers, bands, you name it they were out to cheer us on..
So onto lap 2, starting to feel better so I ran a lot more than I walked, but as I headed into the end of the loop I was done. I had nothing left to give so I was left to mainly walk with brief interludes of running.
The marathon was my worst time ever, ironman or not, but I was so delighted to get over the line and finish! Ana and Jamie said that I did not look happy but I can tell you that inside I was jumping with joy...what a tough day. I finished in 14hr26mins and was so happy to get the medal put over my head. Ironman number six was done...
I went with Ana, Jamie and my Dad for food and drink at the post race party. I inhaled a burrito but my legs were very very tired. I had to then get off my sore ass and walk over to transition to pick up my bike. It felt like one of the longest walks of my life. Ana even had to wake me up after I took a little rest in the grass on the way! After struggling through transition to get my bike and gear we slowly got back to hotel and I collapsed into bed. I was very happy, despite my time, to have got the job done..
Next morning after inhaling a large breakfast I decided that I have to go back to the Woodlands and do the whole experience again. I always want to do better so I signed up for Ironman Texas 2014. I really enjoyed the whole experience, the atmosphere, and the location so I will return....