I wrapped up all my required race prep by about 1pm on Friday, spent the afternoon and evening doing nothing, literally nothing (was actually bored). I did some walking around, hung out on the patio at the hotel, headed out to the store just for something to do.
I finished up my race day fueling plan on the computer and my race day morning schedule about mid-afternoon and studied it, and studied it. I think this worked really well, I had never thought of actually writing it all out, because I obviously had not ever thought it all out like this (it was challenging). I think this was difference in the good day that I had.
Was able to get into bed around 8pm on Friday and quickly fell asleep, I woke up about 2:30am, was restless after that but stayed in bed until around 3:45am which was the time I was planning to get up anyway. I woke up and felt pretty good, I had stayed hydrated pretty well through Friday using water with Base salts throughout the day and even through the overnight.
Around 4, I got my shower (its a tradition) and started to pack my special needs bag and bottles for my bags. I had frozen them overnight since I knew it would be hot. I ate my power oatmeal (Only 1 pack instead of 2, didn't go down so great), had some coffee and some Infinit as I did my final prep and mental prep for the race. About 4:50 I headed out to walk down to the start, it was about a 1.25 mile walk from the hotel and took me about a half hour to get there, but once I got there, I stuck to my plan to finish my Infinit and have some water before around 6:15am (just before the swim start). I prepped my bottles, bags and my bike .. had NO problem finding an airpump for my tires (I had let air out on Friday when I dropped it due to the heat). One thing I noticed was that I am not totally positive what pressure to pump it to. I have my pump at home marked and never paid attention to the numbers, so I actually pumped up three times (first time, then asked around, the second time for rear, the third time for front). Once I got that squared away, and did a final maintenance check on the bike, I hit the porta-potty and headed out for more mental prep.
The water temperature was announced as 81 degrees, wow. Glad I didn't bring the wetsuit, it would have not been used anyway, I kind of figured that. The start was a self-seeded, rolling start, which in my opinion didn't work out so great. I couldn't believe that Ironman could not have signs to help direct people to the under 1 hour, 1-1:15, etc like they did at Lake Placid. They said "we have no signs" ... amazing. This caused some confusion because people were NOT seeded right and I noticed it about 10-15 minutes into the swim.
I did the best I could to seed myself properly, buckled down and headed through. I got the chance to shake Mike Reilly's hand as I headed into the water, that was awesome... he is such a nice guy. I knew it would be a good day after experiencing that.
The water was definitely warm, even warmer than the pool at the gym but I found that I was never overheated. I don't think it was 81 degrees throughout the entire lake as I did feel the temperature change as the swim went on. The buoys were not straight, not straight at all which made the swim more difficult because I couldn't really ride the buoys like I normally do, in looking at my Garmin results, I was all over the place. The first 10-20 minutes were rough because I was swimming over people all over the place, because they didn't seed themselves properly. I'm not the strongest swimmer, but definitely stronger than many others.
I did get bashed in the head twice because I ran up on the first person, this one wasn't too bad. The second time, after the turn, was a good shot. I thought my goggles cracked as I ended up with water inside my left lens. Thankfully that wasn't the case. It was more difficult to sight towards the end of the swim since it was getting real foggy over the lake.. they had said it might get foggy but it was weird swimming in a lake and not really being able to see much around you (even the buoys).
I finished up the swim very satisfied with my result, I got into a real pace and felt strong. The goal was not to wear myself out but to just ease into a comfortable pace. Before I knew it, the 2.4 mile swim was over, with a time of 1:24. I was happy with it.
My plan in transition was to take my time, I had carefully planned my bike bag and wanted to make sure it was emptied, and I was able to do that. I was in good spirits in transition tent (although they tend to be real disgusting with man stink), but got my stuff done, hydrated per the plan and headed out. I even got the sunblock on me (except for on my face). I found my bike in transition and almost jumped on it right there, yeah, forgot to run it to the mount line (duh).
I was concerned at first because my heart rate was at around 152 coming out of transition, so I had to calm down, thankfully the course allowed me to do it. I wasn't sure where I was going to be comfortable but I remember you saying to just ease into like a long training day, and then get comfortable with a pace. Although I feel I was passed by 200+ people on the bike in the first few miles, I seemed to fall into a heart rate of around 135-140, it felt good. The power wasn't terribly high (only around 90-100) but I wasn't concerned about that measurement at all. I had always felt comfortable with my cadence around mid-70's RPM so this felt good.
The one thing I can say about the bike was, it was hot, real hot. My Garmin recorded a max temperature of 100.2 degrees at the end and an average temperature of 92.9 degrees. I knew i had to keep the sunblock on so I didn't burn (which worked), which would have only made me hotter. THe fueling strategy you had me put together paid off during the bike, I managed to stick to it almost perfect, which basically forced me to "drink" something every 5 minutes, I alternated water and then Infinit every 5 minutes and every 30 minutes I took a shot of Base salt. I was a little behind in hour 1-2 on Infinit, but I made it up, I think I have to find way to mark my XLab bottle on my aero-bars as to when its halfway and when its not, that pretty much messed me up and forced me to drink more or less depending on how I guessed. I got a fresh bottle of water at each rest stop although since they were 24 oz bottles, I never too more than half of it to stay within the 36-40oz of fluids per hour.
I fully stopped at every "other" rest stop along the way to stretch out, put on sunblock, use the bathroom (in 2 cases) and to get some extra vaseline for those special areas (lol). The volunteers were great! I did misjudge where the special needs drop was, I assumed it was around mile 47, but it wasn't, more like mile 53 or so. I ran out of the first load of Infinit just before hour 3 and got nervous because I had planned to hit special needs by then. Thankfully it wasn't too much longer until I got my refills for the rest of the bike ride. I managed through with using water and Base salt for the (2) 5-minute sections I missed, and it didn't seem to be a problem.
After the special needs stop, it was more of the same, just keeping with my fueling strategy, but it was getting hot. Even with the wind in the face, it was hot, just knew I needed to stick to plan.
I found that towards the end of the bike (last 45 minutes or so), it was getting more challenging to keep my heart rate at 135BPM, it kept falling below 130, which I guess is a good thing, but I didn't want push the pace hard at that point to get it back up since I knew I had the run coming up, so I kind of went with it. Before I knew it, we made the turn for the final stretch and I rolled into transition 2 (note it was about 100 degrees at this point).
I decided to take off my bike shoes to run the short distance from the front of the park to the transition (it was a pretty good run), but didn't realize that running through bag pickup, it was REAL HOT on the ground, glad I didn't burn my feet. Good advice for the future is don't do that, just stay in your shoes. I was fortunate enough to basically be un-bike-geared by the time I got there (helmet, gloves, shoes, etc) so it was easier just to transition.
I had the same plan as the last transition, which is to take my time, and make sure I have everything I need and am ready to go. Basically empty my transition bag and do a last check. I flew through transition but started to feel the heat as I got out of the tent (it really stunk in there by this time). On to the run.
I came out of transition with my heart rate at around 157BPM, wow, way too high. I found out though that this was pretty much going to be the way it was the rest of the day, regardless of what I did. The heat was brutal, especially the humidity, it was oppressive, you couldn't even breath but I managed to slow it down and try to find a pace. It took awhile to find a pace, probably a half hour or so, and even that pace wasn't great because my heart rate was running high 150's at that point, even running a 12:00+ mile. Without walking, I couldn't bring it down, so I just went with it.
I stopped and walked through each rest stop, took a little COLD water over my head, a little water in my mouth with Base Salt, and put ice in the front of my shirt, back of my shirt and in my hands ... with rubbing it on the back of my neck. Thankfully they were not stingy with the ice, but it was SO hot that the ice in the cup melted within 5-7 minutes, so I had to use it fast. But I kept running after the aid station.
Everyone was struggling, and the course was weird because it was 3 loops ... so you never knew who was on what loop, which is sometimes good, sometimes bad. It was time to get to business though and figure out how to get through this without dehydrating and melting into a pool of flesh. I did pretty good with fueling the first hour with Infinit, small amount of water and Base salt. I had my fuel-belt with 4 8-oz bottles, and then a 24 oz bottle in my hand both with Infinit and just got water from the water stations. I figured this should get me to special needs without issue. The only bad part was that the Infinit was real warm, and didn't go down so great. My legs felt good out of transition and for a good portion of the race, I just didn't push it.
I struggled to keep my heart rate out of the 160's with the heat running at around 100 degrees (not to mention the heat index being higher), so I just took it easy, and stuck to my plan. Thankfully (at the time) I heard thunder in the distance, they were calling for spotty thunderstorms during the race and it sounded like they were going to happen. It was about an hour fiteen in and the sky got dark and the rain started, at first it wasn't terrible, but then it was like a monsoon. It actually felt real good to be cooled down finally and I kept my head down and kept pushing.
I made my way down to the waterway front and it turned from just rain into a storm, I mean a serious thunderstorm. The rain started to include small pieces of hail at first, I didn't know what to expect. Believe it or not, I kept with my fueling plan through it all, and believe it or not my heart rate dropped back into the mid 150's during the rain, probably due to my body finally cooling off after being in the heat for 6+ hours.
The storm turned worse and the wind picked up, and the hail picked up and i'm not sure if you've ever been outside in a major thunderstorm, but it was crazy. The wind was taking me away (it was a tailwind and I had trouble not letting it push me). I was soaked, totally soaked, head to toe. Here is a video of what it was like for probably 20-25 minutes of this portion of the race (its not me in the picture though).
I found a way to keep pushing it when others stopped and took cover, I actually found out that they pulled runners from the course for 30-40 minutes in certain areas for their safety, but they missed me. Thankfully the storm let up a little bit and allowed me to dry out a bit, I was just soaked, like never before. I only remember running this wet during the Flying Pig marathon in 2010 when it poured for the start. It was like I jumped in a pool with my running clothes on, and then decided to go running.
The positive though is that I was cooled down, it gave me time to get my electrolytes back in line because I was certainly not keeping up with it in the heat. I took down Infinit, and Base Salt, and water at each stop and felt myself getting back into normal form and easily knocked out the next few miles. I was hoping the sun wasn't going to come back out to make it REAL hot, and thankfully it didn't.
I continued walking through each rest stop, grabbing water and ice, even after the rain and then continued running. I knew I had to stay cool. The one good feeling I had during the run was passing the guys and girls who pounded it on the bike. It felt weird having 500-700 people pass me on the bike (because I had a good swim) but I told myself, that i'll see you later when you fall apart on the run from pushing it. Its not "nice" to think that, but without a real plan for how to execute, I could only guess that would happen beacuse I had been there before.
I made it back around to special needs (around mile 11 or so) and refreshed my 4 bottles of Infinit and got a new 24 oz bottle to carry. This was also real warm (yuck), but I knew that this was it for fuel but still had 15 miles to go (and probably 3+ hours). I planned on finishing what I had as planned and then taking in either soda (as you recommended) or using gatorade, etc if I ran short.
At this point, I was starting to dry out a bit, but my feet were just soaked, I was concerned about blisters and although I thought about changing my socks at special needs, I didn't because I felt it would make it worse (dry socks on soaked shoes). My heart rate stayed in the mid to upper 150's for the next bunch of miles and I continued through my fueling plan. I was starting to overheat again, or maybe it never went away, but regardless, I slowed the pace when I needed to around mile 15 or so. I continued to RUN the course, and not WALK, which usually by this time, I would be pretty much walking, so the training has paid off.
The rain started to pick up again around mile 18, but wasn't too bad yet. Around mile 20, I started to fall apart a bit, I think because I had not done a run this long (3+ hours) during training, so I wasn't used of it. The taste of the Infinit was starting to be not so attractive to me, so I started to not take so much down and started to switch to water with Base salt to keep my electrolytes in line. THis kind of worked, and I mixed in some soda at the rest stops, and that kept me okay but the soda wasn't FLAT, I was expecting it to be. It made me a little gassy, but I got through it because I had never really trained with it. Around mile 22, my back (shoulders and lower back) were starting to get real sore. I was passing people like crazy at this point, again, people who kept cutting me off on the bike, and pounding it past me and up hills.
My knees were bothering me since about mile 15 and my ankles and feet were starting to bother me as well, but I kept running. Yes, I kept running. I started to take a short walk break when my heart rate started to rise up above 156BPM because I knew I couldn't push it. I did this until around mile 23 when my heart rate started dropping, it was now down in the 140's. I can only attribute it to the fact that my body was feeling too much fatigue. I remember you telling me that it gets hard to get your heart rate up, regardless of what you do, when your body is fatigued, it just won't let it. So I figured I would not push it and started to walk run a little more into mile 24-25 but I was primarily running.
By this point, the rain was picking up again pretty good, with some lightning and thunder but nothing like it was earlier in the run. I was already soaked, I was tired and I pretty much fell off my fueling strategy. I think mentally I was not able to keep the fueling strategy because I kept forgetting to "drink" and it was making my stomach blah from the taste.
When I got past mile 25, I knew I was close, just took some water in with Base salt and abandoned the soda and Infinit, it just wasn't going to work for me from here on out. I continued the run walk (mostly run though) to keep my heart rate under 150, which was pretty easy at this point.
Finally as the rain picked up again, I headed down the final stretch alongside a woman I had run with many times on and off through the race. As we entered the final steps before the finish, I let her pull ahead, cleaned myself up, put my arms in the air as I crossed the finish line. I did it. Mike Reilly got my name right telling me "I am an Ironman" (again). I was thankful for the finish line catcher lady that helped me stand up straight and worked me through the details of the finish line. But unlike other races, I didn't really need her to babysit me after she gave me my stuff. I got my picture taken and away I went.
I was happy with my performance on Saturday, even though they cut the bike short. There had been a lot of drama before the race and it didn't stop once the race started. As you know, my goal this season is to finish the race strong and feeling good, regardless of time, and I think I did that. It still feels like I have some work to for IM Chattanooga in September, but I know I can get there. I questioned the training a bit because it was less than I ever did before, but I understand it now, I won't question it again (you are the man!)
THe swim went as expected, T1 was perfect, the bike was right to my plan, T2 was perfect and based on what I went through with the run, it turned out good as I ran pretty much the whole time. I think working on the late race strategy might be something I need. I seemed to fall apart in the last 1 to 1.5 hours and it could have been worse. I also don't think the heat helped anything either, but we'll work on it.
Overall, a great experience for my first trip to Texas. Thanks for getting me there healthy and helping me have a great day!