I often ask my athletes what they want their “story” to be at the end of a race. I heard Simon Whitfield talk about “the story” on a podcast and it connected with me. In 2017 my race story was one that lacked passion and investment. I went through the motions but had no connection as to why I was racing. After Kona I took a hard look at myself and realized I needed to find the spark and love for this sport again… or stop. It was that simple. After a few months of learning to ride a mountain bike, I had a chat with my good friend Jacqui Duke in Texas, and the seed for Ironman Texas was sewn! Promises of a party like atmosphere on the run, and a home stay with friends was what I needed! I signed up and was looking for a new attitude!
I hired a new coach which I always do for every Ironman. It lets me experience different coaching methodologies and learn. The first time I talked to him I told him my goals and they were simple.
- I want to enjoy training.
- I want to arrive at the start line happy and excited to race.
The 3 month build to Texas was short. In that time I was able to do a lot of bike training which had to be managed around Wed/ Thur/ Fri hard spin classes at Lifetime. On top of this I led a “Long Course Wahoo Brick Workout” at Moxie Multisport which built to a 3 1/2 hour ride with 2 x 20′ brick runs. Once the group was finished their Moxie Day, I would get back on and ride more. Thank you Netflix!
Sometimes I would ride my trainer for 4 hours, then hit my mountain bike for the last 2. My goal was to enjoy training and this helped me do that. I did very few outdoor rides leading up to Texas. If it works for Lionel it’s gotta work for me! (My reason for not riding outside much is fear to be honest. So many cyclists have been hit. We live in a huge city and when I ride outside I’m on edge and nervous so I never went alone. For me the trainer was a safe option plus I got a lot of time to watch Netflix!)
Run training went well and I did more long runs for this Ironman than any Ironman before. All those miles with Brandon and Elizabeth had to pay off on race day. I stayed healthy apart from a very sore foot which was a niggly left over from Kona. At 50 years old my body is still absorbing Ironman training without much backlash and for that I’m thankful.
Swimming is swimming! I bought a waterproof Ipod and it helped but even with this I tried to talk myself out of swimming pretty much every time I went to the pool! It’s this battle in my head… an argument where I try to justify doing it later knowing full well I won’t get it done! A woman at Lifetime was often in the locker room when I was having this discussion with myself! I don’t know her name, but after a few mornings of her seeing my internal strife, she would simply point to the pool with a motherly look of “get this done”… and off I would go. As much as riding outside here is a challenge, swimming is not. Outdoor pools surrounded with palm tress make a pretty nice landscape for a swim, and really I had no excuses!
Before I knew it I was packing my bags and headed to Texas. I had a lot of good luck “omens” that oddly helped me with a sense of calm. I was sleeping great, and had the confidence in my training and attitude to say “I am ready” when asked. I knew I had a good race in me.
Life at “Casa Duke” was fun with two Great Dane puppies for entertainment! Jacqui and Allen were the best hosts and on Friday night my Canadian BFF Toni flew in! I had a full circle of support and was in a very good head space. Trever was at his absolute best as my Ironman Race Husband! Our massive pre-race sushi dinner was done and I was off to bed.
Race morning was easy. On the drive Jacqui put on “Carrie Underwood The Champion”. This was my theme song, and this morning it brought a few tears out.
- “I am invincible, unbreakable, unstoppable, unshakeable”… this would be my chant on the bike.
For me the emotions were good because it tells me I’m invested. I knew it would be a hard day and at moments that’s scary but isn’t that what we sign up for?
We got there 30 min before transition opened. This was a new experience but Jacqui was nervous about traffic so we didn’t take any chances. I set up my bike and found my crew! Trever, Toni, Jacqui and Simba. We were off for the long walk to the swim start.
I bought a new Roka wetsuit on Saturday. DUMB! Who does that! Mine is 7 years old and I was hoping there was a magic fix to improve my swim with a new suit! It took 3 of my crew to get it on me, but once on it felt good. It didn’t help my swim but darn it’s pretty!
The rolling start was easy, and I enjoyed the swim even though I did have a few dry heave moments when I swallowed water! It was pretty nasty. The water was warm and I was shocked we were in wetsuits. I was very much hoping for a non-wetsuit swim as I pretty much swim the same without one. The only “issue” on this swim was you would literally swim on top of someone without seeing them. I had long stretches by myself, and I sighted more than ever hoping for a relatively straight line. It was fun coming into the canal at the end and seeing all the spectators on the sides cheering. When I got out of the water and looked at my watch I was disappointed. The new wetsuit and the Ipod didn’t make it better. (Swim time 1:15:10) AS I got to my bike my “crew” was there. I yelled at them “I still suck at swimming”… grabbed my bike and was off! That was it. No more swim thoughts for me. I was on the bike!
My bike has never felt so good. I got my QR PR6 last year a week before 70.3 Worlds and 5 weeks before Kona. I couldn’t find my balance and never felt quite right. I knew it was getting better on the build to Texas, and on April 28th when I sat on Red Girl I was happy. She felt like home! I was off!
I could go on and on about the bike. Some things I read have estimated that 50% of the athletes out there chose to cheat… and it was a choice. The packs were huge and organized. Athletes were indignant and righteous. There were no marshals on the course and no penalty tents. The only thing stopping people from cheating was their moral compass, and unfortunately for our sport many forgot their morals on this day. Apart from the “free ride” it was dangerous. There were a lot of crashes and that is unforgivable.
I could tell you the verbal battles I had but I’m going to keep that out of this race report. I did spend a lot of mental juice memorizing the numbers of cheaters I channeled too much energy into, and my biggest regret is not memorizing the numbers of the athlete I saw fighting to ride clean. Lesson learned… next time focus on the positive as there were athletes doing the right thing. It’s obvious in results what athletes made which choices. Lifetime best bike splits in the “pro” range followed by “close to” stand alone marathon pr’s. The conditions were perfect but it was still 180k ride. Blake, who was at the Moxie bridge, said he was amazed at how fresh people looked coming off their bikes. In these packs the back riders would literally coast, take a few pedal strokes, then coast. They were sucked along with very little effort leaving great legs for the run. Enough said…. and this is Blake!
My bike was solid. I had my highest power for an Ironman to date. I did exactly what I thought I could do and at the end of the ride was able to hold power on target “with” some effort. My HR stayed exactly where I thought it would be and my TSS and IF were bang on to plan. NP the first half was 157. NP the second half was 152. My FTP is 200 so this was about 76%. I’ll take it!
This is my power graph. On a clean course I wouldn’t have those spikes. That was me getting out of packs as they literally gobbled me up. The power drop outs at the beginning and end were a few sharp u-turns we had getting onto the Hardy Toll Road. In the middle my power drop outs were descents on the overpass climbs. Not once did I give in to the packs. I am incredibly proud of this ride. It was fast… insanely fast conditions and as you’re passing packs and other athletes you get a draft legally. As long as you’re in the act of passing you can come up on another athletes wheel then pass. I did this a lot.
The first out on Hardy Toll Road I was on my own quite a bit. I was holding 35-36kph at my target watts and happy as a clam. I felt GREAT, but I saw the packs coming back. After the turn around things changed. There were more and more large groups riding together. They would come up on you on both sides without warning. I went to the left and the right to take wind. I surged to the front. I would get in front only to be caught again. I knew the power surges would hurt my run, but there was nothing I could do. I would not settle and sit in. We had head wind out the second lap too which I’m sure made the packs more efficient. (Said with dripping sarcasm.) Into town there were a lot of turns. I looked at my bike time as I hit transition. I was surprised to see 5:03, and didn’t know at that time how important it was that I had my Garmin data for the whole ride.
My timing chip had quit at 37 miles on the bike. I was lost in space to those checking the tracker. I saw my crew as I entered the chute, and now I know why they were so excited to see me! They had no idea if I was dead or alive at that point. They had checked medical and talked to the timers. So far as the Ironman folks could tell I was on course but had no idea where.
T2 was smooth. I had the most awesome volunteers in both transitions which was nice as it was a long run to the bags and the tent! Fast is smooth, smooth is fast. I was off.
As soon as I left transition I hit the infamous Moxie Bridge! I saw Blake but he didn’t see me! It was fantastic!!!! They gave you a reason to keep going.. THANK YOU Moxie!
The run course was beautiful. Lots of shade with more cheer support than I’ve ever seen! The Hippy Station was another favorite! Seeing my crew as I lapped around was exactly what I needed too. I stuck with coke for the most part, taking in only one gel and one sip of Red Bull. (Blah!). My tummy wasn’t great which isn’t the norm for me but it wasn’t bad enough to make me stop. It was more a distraction. I ran the first 10k steady. I was moving well. As it should, it got hard. I got to the half way point at 1:55 and this was an Ironman half marathon pr for me! My goal of sub 4 was in the cards.
Then it got hard”er”. I was fighting with myself for every step. I didn’t know what place I was in but the first “runner” to pass me in my age group was Ann. She wasn’t on my radar but I’d seen her on the bike. Darn it. I had a feeling I’d come off the bike high up in my group and it would be a matter of how long I could hold off the runners in the crowd! Ann was first. Next lap Trever told me he thought I was in third but he was guessing since I wasn’t on tracker. Then came Jody. She has passed me my last 3 races somewhere on the run. She went flying by onto a 3:30 marathon. Wow! I was now in 4th. A woman passed me with maybe 5 miles to go. I didn’t see her age but I had this feeling she was in my age group. I caught her and looked… she was. Darn it. I went by and with all the positive self talk I could muster I told myself to be strong and push! I gained a bit on her, then a few minutes later she was on my hip and passed me. I tried to go with her for a bit but the effort left took it out of me. I was 2 miles from the finish in 5th (I think) with no idea who was behind me. The talk in my head was non-stop. I tried everything but it was a rough two miles. I knew I had that sub 4 hour marathon in me and it was slipping away! I had to fight! Plus Allen wanted to be home for dinner by 6:30! I had serious pressure to keep Papa Duke happy! (Seriously… I thought about this!)
Finally the finish line! I had no idea my total time, but I knew I had the sub 4 mary! I got it by 22 seconds! (The course might have been a few 100m short. I had it at 41.8k but my official time has a “3” in the front !) I was happy to be done and my crew was right there!
Finally.. it was over. 10:27:44.
So many emotions post race. I couldn’t sleep that night. Tracker had the 5th place woman at 10:32. I thought I was faster than that but I really didn’t know. I’d hit the lap button on my wrist watch on the bike and had to restart the timer. I didn’t know when I got in the water so total time was lost. I was worried they wouldn’t find my results. I don’t think I slept an hour and I was anxious to get to the village to try to figure it out.
I took my Garmin data with me and the results “fix” went smoothly thanks to AJ from Sportstats. He called me and asked me for screenshots. I was able to send him my bike data from the 920 I kept on my bike as a bike computer, and the run from my 935 which was on my wrist. From this he was able to find my times in his 60 pages of manual data to verify my results. He sent me a text saying I had a time and it would be reflected at awards.
I got to awards and found out I was in 5th. I was SO happy, but of course this meant it pushed 5th out of the top 5. It wasn’t the best moment to watch her find out, but she was very sportsmanlike and for that I’m thankful.
We headed back to Casa Duke for a nap and some wine on the patio with my two girls Jacqui and Toni and of course Allen and Trever.
Simon Whitfield said “racing is about the stories”. I believe that to be true and Ironman Texas will forever be more about the story than the results. Thanks for all the support and worries when I dropped off tracker land. I might do Texas again next year, mostly for the Dukes and the Great Danes… and the Moxie Bridge! We’ll see. Angie