Sunset view of the USS North Carolina from my Condo
After the host Hotel sold out of rooms at the B2B rate, I found a condo “close” to the hotel. I figured that a lot of stuff would be happening at the hotel so I wanted to be within walking distance. On the VRBO.com map the condo looked to be about 3 blocks from the hotel, but when I go there we actually shared a parking lot with the hotel. And the condo was $60 a night cheaper. SCORE!
View of host hotel from Condo balcony
The view off the balcony was the Riverwalk and the USS North Carolina (the Battleship). Nice!
Seriously right across from the condo
I was one block off Front Street which was the main tourist street with all the restaurants, bars, convenience stores, and coffee shops. Then, the day before the race I heard a bunch of clanging in front of the condo. Yep, that would be the finish line set up. I was one block away from the actual finish line and right in the middle of the finish line celebration area. Holy cow! What a score!
Finish line from balcony
I sent my bike through TriBike Transport, and it was delivered directly to the Transition 1 area, so I didn’t even have to worry about transporting my bike (although I did have to go out there to claim it and set it up in the transition area). This was easily the most convenient race I have done.
I headed over to the Expo to get my packet, check out the Expo vendors, and buy a(nother) race belt since that was the one thing that I forgot at home. It was weird to walk around a big Race Expo and not know anyone. Who were all these people and where were all my friends? I did run into Mohamed, the one other athlete that I knew in town.
Luckily my husband had hired a fishing boat early race morning which just so happened to leave about 3 blocks from T1- where we could set up our area and air up our tires before taking the trolley to the beach start. While there was a bus from the host hotel to T1, a ride in an uncrowded car seemed like a nicer start to the morning. We picked up Mohamed on the way and Phil deposited us at T1 before the bus even arrived. It was about 48 degrees, but on its way to a high of 72.
I set up my nutrition on the bike, and checked my tires. Since I had dropped everything off the day before there really wasn’t much more to do. The first trolley was leaving to the beach start at 5:30 (still 2 hours before the race start). I figured I might as well hang out at the race start than distress over my T1 set up, and I was looking forward to the warm trolley so I got on the first trolley… which happened to be an open air bus with no windows or doors (as we pulled out, I saw the second trolley was enclosed an probably heated, nice).
My freezing cold trolley
The warm trolley behind us
When I got to the beach it was still full dark. I had my sleeveless wetsuit (the water was about 70 degrees), but I did not want to put it on until I had used the bathroom 5 or 6 times (just to be sure). While there was no “morning clothes drop” (anything you weren’t taking with you into the water would be left on the beach and donated), I thought it a worthwhile investment to wear a pair of old running shoes with old socks, a cheap jacket I bought the last time I was out of town and surprised by cold weather (for this reason all Texans have about 14 jackets they never wear), and one of the fleece blankets I usually keep in my truck. I was all wrapped up hanging out in a gazebo (between trips to the port-o-john), waiting for it to get light out and late enough to don my wetsuit.
Like a Plastic Bag in the Wind (the Swim 2.4 miles):
The sky finally started to lighten and I took one final port-o-john break, then started working my way into my wetsuit (since I was wearing my sleeveless, it is actually a lot easier to get into then a full sleeved wetsuit). I do have to say that I was much warmer once I got my wetsuit on. I “donated” my sneakers, jacket and blanket, with the remainder of my goggle anti-fog spray to the beach Gods. Then I headed over to the water.
The Iron Distance swim is 2.4 miles (4000 meters). I have been swimming a 1:48/100m in my wetsuit at Pure Austin Quarry Lake, so I figured I would be a bit faster in salt water and I knew that the tide would be coming in giving me a bit of a boost. I would expect a 1:12ish Ironman swim time, but with the incoming tide I was hoping for something closer to 1 hour.
The ½ iron distance is on the same course, but they start 1.2 miles further up the beach and after the iron distance swimmers have passed. I was a little familiar with the course since I did the ½ distance 3 or 4 years ago but I am horrible with directions in general so I forgot exactly where the 1/2 way point was.
When the gun went off we all ran into the water. Since the water was 70ish degrees it actually felt pretty warm coming out of the 48 degree air. The swim was not over-crowded and I was able to quickly find a rhythm. I swam towards the big yellow buoy and followed whatever feet I could get behind. There was some person on my feet the whole time, I know this because they hit my feet. Every. Single. Stroke. I really don’t mind folks drafting off me and I know occasionally they might brush my feet, but every dang stroke? A little consideration please.
After the first big buoy I pretty much had no idea where I was going. There were only 3 or 4 buoys on the whole 2.4 mile course and I could not see them until I was within a few 100 feet, so I just swam on hoping the folks in front of me knew where they were going. Then I was at the big orange turn buoy. But how can that be?! I knew that the 1/2 iron folks came in before the turn and I hadn’t been in the water near long enough to have swan passed the ½ iron swim start.
Flying through the water like a bag in the wind
Once I turned, I really had no idea where I was supposed to be going. Thank goodness all those folks in front of me were heading in the right direction!
Before I knew it I was at the end dock and climbing the ladder out of the water. I ran over to the wetsuit strippers and had my wetsuit pulled off, grabbed my suit and started running towards transition. I also glanced at my watch. 50 minutes and some-odd seconds?! How? That’s like a pro swimmer’s time. I guess we had was quite a current!
Swim time: 50:23
I ran off the dock, over the sidewalk, across the street and into T1. I grabbed my swim to bike bag and ran into the changing tent. I was quickly able to get my cycling jersey on, and my socks and shoes, but I could not for the life of me get my arm warmers over my cold wet arms. I actually had to completely remove the first one after fighting with it for several minutes. I just could not work it up my arm. I was finally able to get them up most of the way. I applied some sunscreen to my nose and cheeks, then stuffed my wet grassy wetsuit, goggles and swim cap in to the bag along with the small towel I had tried to dry off with. I ran out to my bike, and headed out of transition.
T1 – 9:43 (wow, that seems really long)
What the Heck Happened to my Tail Wind? (the bike 112 miles):
I got on the bike and started riding through the neighborhood streets to the main road. This required several turns which is where I determined that I had forgotten to tighten my breaks after changing my rear wheel. Meh, it’s a race. Who needs breaks?
About a mile into the ride we had to ride over a drawbridge that had a metal grate maybe 50 meter long. As I said, I did the 1/2 distance race years ago and remember that as long as I kept my wheel straight the grate was no problem. The gal in front of me rode on to the grate was all over the place. I thought, “Girl, just hold your wheel straight!”, right up until I hit the grate. It was like riding on ice. I could feel my rear wheel fishtailing left and right and the grate was not flat, but had raised edges. It looked like it would hurt – a lot, if I fell.
This is what the nasty grating looked like only much shiner
The wind was predicted to be NNW at 5-8 mph, which really isn’t bad, but we would be riding the course NNW for the first 65 miles.
Of course this meant that later in the day when the wind might be stronger I would have a nice tail wind to carry me home.
I had not been on my bike for a week prior to the race which may not sound like a lot of time to some folks, but felt like forever to me. When I did start the bike portion of the race my legs felt heavy and a bit sore. Uh-oh! What the hell is that? I was able to keep at a pretty good speed though, so I just waited for the sore feeling to go away (though, it never really did – I have no idea what that was).
While the course was almost entirely flat, it felt really good to use some other muscles on the occasional hill. The roads were in pretty good condition. While there were one or two that had chip-seal, it was nothing like the disaster that is Texas roads, so that was nice.
In most not-really-big races there comes a time when I feel like I am all alone on the bike. At the Kerrville Tri, there were stretches when I couldn’t see any riders in front of me or behind me. Since there were only 700 folks doing the full iron distance race, I thought I would be alone a lot on the bike, but I was never alone. And for most of the ride there were a group of about 5 of us who were within 100 yards of each other: Occasionally I would pass one of them, then one would pass me, but we all seemed to keep sight of each other throughout the ride. It was helpful for pacing and my pace was very steady throughout the ride between 14:30 and 16:20 for each 5 miles (there were two slower segments, once when I made a necessary pit stop and once when I stopped to get the EFS bottles out of my bike special needs bag at mile 56).
The course was marked at every 10 miles and I knew once I passed mile 60 I would get that helpful tail wind all the way back to transition. I passed mile 60, then 65. Hmm, that tailwind should hit any time now. At mile 70 I started asking other racers, “Hey, where the hell is that tailwind?”
While the wind was not particularly strong, I was promised a dang tailwind on the ride in, so where was it? It was not to be…ever…
Really? 180 degree wind direction change just as I turned?
Oh, I see. So that’s how it’s gotta be, huh? (Yes,that is the wind flipping from a N wind to a S wind, just about the time I made the turn to head south). Ok, so maybe I did have a killer current on the swim, but I also had a head wind the whole 112 miles on the bike.
I was careful to stay on my nutrition and especially my hydration which can easily be forgotten in the cool weather. I alternated between one bottle of EFS sports drink or one bottle of water at least every 1/2 hour, and either a gel or a 1/2 a PB&J sandwich every hour. I think I did pretty good eating 5 gels and a whole PB&J while drinking 9 bottles on the bike.
I rode over the big drawbridge (not nearly as treacherous as it as in the morning, though it still did sorta suck), then rode into downtown to the Convention Center where I dismounted my bike after 5:46:01 (at 19.3 mph).
I ran into the Convention Center, handed my bike to a volunteer, then ran around the perimeter of the convention center while taking off my helmet, arm warmers and headband. I grabbed my Bike-to-Run bag and went into the changing tent where I stripped off my jersey, then changed my shoes and socks (mmm, clean dry socks), grabbed my 10 oz water bottle then headed out on to the run course.
The Devil Went Down to Georgia (the run 26.2 miles):
The run course was a modified out and back. On the first loop you ran several blocks north and up a hill before turning around and heading back to the Riverwalk (on the second loop you did not have to run nearly as far or up the hill), then you would run along the Riverwalk, past the finish line, over the cobblestone street (I could swear I was going to trip and break my neck on one of those uneven cobbles) for about 2 miles, then through the neighbor hood for another 1 1/2 miles to Greenfield Lake. Greenfield Lake is a lot like Brushy Creek Trail – tree cover, wooden bridges, the lake, and very soft black-top. This has to be hands-down the most beautiful Iron Distance run ever.
Take a look:
Whoops. You can just ignore this. Nothing to see here…
About 15 of the 26.2 miles was around the lake.
While there were only about 700 people racing the full iron distance, because of the two out and back loops the course was always populated. They also had some of the most enthusiastic Energizer-bunny-ish volunteers at every mile on the run. I grabbed Gatorade or water at each water stop and, if they had them, an orange slice. Everyone: athletes, volunteers, and spectators were very encouraging. It was really nice.
On parts of the course where there were no people, someone had put up some encouraging… and some odd signs.
“Seems like a lot of work for a free banana.” was my favorite.
I still don’t understand “Run like a chicken on a sugar high.”
And there were multiple picture of Phil Collins with saying and quotes – none of which made any sense to me (for you young’uns Phil Collins was a singer in the 80’s both solo and with a band called Genesis, and he appeared on several episodes of Miami Vice a TV show in the 80’s).
As I was running I was amazed at how good I felt. Usually the first three miles after the bike just suuuuuuck, but I had to work to keep my pace slow during the first three miles today. Woo-hoo! I was remembering how great I had done my bike nutrition, trying to member everything I did so I could do it again in the future. I was so busy patting myself on the back that I was surprised when I started to slow down… a lot at about mile 6.
Now I was trying to figure out what could be happening. “Ok, just slow it down a bit until you feel better. Get to the next mile.” At about mile 8 was the turn around and I was really not feeling it. At the mile 9 water stop I grabbed a flat cola and some Gatorade and looked at the fruit and cookies. Then a proverbial light bulb over my head and I realized that while thinking about all I ate on the bike, I had forgotten to eat on the run. Orange slices only go so far. I grabbed a gel and sucked it down. Mmm-mm, 8 hours into an Ironman noting tastes as good as another gel…
I saw Mohamed on the run course as I was heading back through the park on my first loop. He was looking pretty good and I was feeling a bit better as the caffeinated gel started to take effect.
By the time I got back into town I was feeling better and did not stop nearly as long at each water stop. As I headed back out through the Riverwalk, I was thinking “I’ve got this! Just get back out to the lake.”
I can say that for the first time during an Iron Distance Tri, I never felt like, “Ugh, I have so long to go.” While I wasn’t running as fast as I had hoped (I had really hoped for a 10 min/mile), I actually did not feel like poo. Maybe that’s the trade off. I did another gel, but this one went down with a lot more internal dialogue, “Ok, you don’t have to eat the whole thing. Just take a little, then wash it down with water. You won’t even taste it.” Yummy, gel at hour 9 1/2.
As I ran around the lake, all of a sudden there were cars everywhere! Parked all over: driving looking for parking spaces; tons of them; and people everywhere, dressed in there bestest cowpoke attire! What the heck is going on? I asked some other runners but we were all pretty clueless. The Volunteers and spectators were doing there best to keep the trail clear, was we runners were also warning them “Runner back!”. For all the people, I do have to say no one every really got in my way.
When I got to the aid station I found out that there was a concert at the Greenfield Amphitheater. The Charlie Daniels Band! (for you young’uns the Charlie Daniels Band was a popular country rock band in the 80’s, who’s big hit was The Devil Went Down to Georgia). The band started playing as I approached the amphitheater and I got to listen to Charlie Daniels for about 3 or 4 miles. That was unexpected but pretty cool. In celebration, I ate a 1/2 a banana.
Turned around at the 20ish mile marker and knew I only had a 10k left, so I kicked into gear and hauled ass (by hauled ass, I mean I got my speed below 10 minute miles). I stopped at the 23 mile water stop because while I felt like I could run all the way in, I often feel that way right before the wheels come off because I neglected my nutrition.
At this point it was becoming dusk. I knew that the road to the finish line was mostly brick and some ass-busting uneven cobblestone, so I turned on my headlight so I wouldn’t trip and break my leg, then have to Julie Moss* it across the finish line.
*this is the most painful 3 minutes of video you are likely to watch, ever.
I sprinted across the finish line to the roar of the crowd and some loud music. I felt like I had a really good run, though I probably could have gone a bit faster if I remembered to eat earlier on.
Run: 4:37:50 (10:35 min/mile)
My overall time was 11:28:44, a 40 minute PR off my last best Iron Distance time!
I was 16th Overall Women, 3rd in my Age Group and 5th Overall masters:
I was very happy with my time.
I got my Medal, bottle of water, and Finisher Pajama Pants (which are the bomb, if you were wondering), met Phil them walked 1/2 block to the condo elevator where I was able to go upstairs and take a shower; then change into clean, warm clothes; then go back downstairs and watch Mohamed finish. Perfect!
I wholly recommend this race to anyone. Everything about it was fantastic.