Another race weekend back in the Lone Star State!
It’s confusing to some that Ironman branded races can either be half (70.3 miles) or full distance (140.6 miles), and many of my friends thought this was “THE” race I’ve been training for. And let me just say, for all of you that sent encouraging notes or congratulatory Facebook comments….man, I LOVE YOU GUYS! Seriously, your encouragement means far more than you know. But. I still have 16 days until my first FULL Ironman (so keep cheering)! The race in Galveston last weekend was just….the warm-up; an opportunity to go through the motions and hone in on my race-day strategies in preparation for the BIG day.
If you remember, I traveled to Austin last October in hopes of getting this race-day practice and confidence boost. However, the swim at Austin 70.3 was cancelled due to fog so it wasn’t really the swim/bike/run experience I had been hoping for. So I talked to my coach about a last ditch effort to get in another 70.3 before April, in hopes it would give me the reassurance I needed to know that I was ready to tackle Ironman Texas. My coach was planning to do Galveston 70.3, so I signed up too. And then our other 2 teammates, Amy and Cecilia registered and BAM! we had ourselves a nice little girls trip in the making….
The day before the race we attempted a practice ride, but didn’t even make it 1 mile before we stopped and turned back. Winds were too gusty and it was just too dangerous to be out there in traffic.
The weather forecast wasn’t looking good. 90% chance of thunderstorms with 20+ mph winds. I thought for sure parts of the race were going to be cancelled or shortened. We kept an eye on the weather app, not that we needed it really….you could just step outside to see that it was bad.
So we showed up on race morning, hoping for the best! Per usual Texas weather, the forecast had cleared some. Winds and humidity were still high, but looked like the storms would hold off until later that evening. Ok, so this is happening!
I felt surprisingly non-nervous before the race – possibly because I kept thinking it wasn’t going to happen? In fact, I even told Amy to brace herself for the onset of my nerves before the swim (because man, in Austin they were ridiculous!!) but they never really came. Amy and I were in the same swim wave so we kinda goofed around and talked with other athletes until it was our turn to jump into the water.
1.2 mile swim
And here’s where I made my first mistake. In my last couple of swims I’ve always lined up near the front of the swim wave. I thought surely there couldn’t be that much difference between the first and third row. Well there is, and I was having to fight people for position, something I’ve never had to deal with before. Even though it didn’t last longer than a couple minutes….it was still annoying and uncomfortable. My second mistake was not really familiarizing myself with the swim course. It was rumored the officials had removed a turn buoy but I wasn’t exactly sure where, and well…I was just flailing around out there with no real plan. The water was choppy due to the wind and there was a weird side current thing, and there were people swimming on either sides of the buoys…some stopping to hang on them so it was just kind of a cluster. As the swim normally is, I guess. After the first turn I think I finally chilled out some and tried to slow my pace to find a comfortable rhythm as I headed to the next turn buoy. By the time I rounded that buoy, the swim was almost over. I could see the swim exit, a straight shot in front of me, so I settled in and practiced my 6 stroke sighting technique until it was my turn to walk up the rickety exit ramp. Yay, swim complete…in (almost) the exact 35 minutes I had hoped to finish it in.
Official swim time: 34:54 (1:48/100m)
56 mile bike
We knew the wind would be bad. We knew it would be gusty…which means unpredictable…which means we had to think extra hard to be careful and remain upright. Coach and I had talked about eating something right out of transition, before getting out to the Sea Wall where the buildings wouldn’t be sheltering us from the wind any longer. So that’s what I did. I ate a few bites of my PBO bars and drank what I could. And also I was trying to calm my breathing here. HELLO humidity acclimation!! Humidity was high and I was having a hard time adjusting. But about 5 minutes in, I caught my breath and all was fine for the rest of the day.
The course was a straight out and back, and it was obvious we had a cross wind. But on the way out, it almost felt like a cross-tail-wind at times. This made me nervous for the return trip, thinking it was going to be a cross-head-wind coming back. So I rode a little conservatively…just like coach and I had talked about. Due to the wind, I didn’t really have any hard and fast clock based goals. The main goal for me was to not push too hard, and save some gas in the tank for the run, just another opportunity to practice nutrition. I’ll admit I didn’t eat as much or consistently as I would’ve liked to. Sometimes it was just too scary to take one hand off the handlebars. But I drank almost all 3 of my Tailwind bottles, so that’s a win!
It felt like forever before we got to the turnaround. There was a bumpy bridge and some tiny hills, and some beach cows. But other than that, it was just flat and windy. And because of the wind I was out of aero more than I would have liked, so I was just more uncomfortable than normal. Ugh, are we done yet?
Yes, we’re done! Official bike time: 3:15:45 (17.16 mph)
13.1 mile run
The run was a 3 loop course so at least I got to see my peeps over and over. That was fun. It was humid, but bearable. And remember all that wind we had on the bike? It completely went away on the run. It was stagnate. We ran by the swim course and even the water had completely chilled out. It was almost flat compared to the choppy conditions earlier. (Providing further evidence that a reverse triathlon would be so much better!)
You know the run is not my favorite. But I just kept things moving. Walking when I “needed” to walk and kept ticking away the miles. I know it’s all in my head, and one day I’ll try to really conquer this mental game. But I gave it the ole “good is good enough”, and just kept things moving forward, as I plan to do in a couple weeks for the full.
My goal was to run about a 2:30 half marathon. As I got closer to the finish I could see that I was close to that. So I gave it what I had left, and crossed the finish line, happy with my day’s work.
Official run time: 2:30:01 (11:27/mile)
Dang, over my goal time by ONE SECOND, lol. But I’m pretty happy with the run overall. I mean, I’d like to be faster….but that run was 7.5 minutes faster than my run at Austin 70.3, which had no swim. So yay!
Overall race time: 6:30:10
And now…my favorite part! Time to celebrate…
After the race, I feel more confident than ever that I am ready for Ironman Texas. I’m so close to my goal of becoming an ironman before I turn 40. Exciting stuff!
After the race, we talked about seeing an 80 year old man out there on the course. Well, as luck would have it, guess who I ran into at the airport! Meet Wayne Mehl, an 80 year old from California who finished the course in a little over 8 hours, and took 1st place in his age group (um, he was THE ONLY guy in his age group). He has at least 4 more races on his schedule this year, and eventually hopes to be the first man over 83 to complete the full Ironman distance.
If he can do it, I can do it. So now all I can do is hope that I’ve done enough in training, and that I’m prepared for whatever race day holds. I’m excited and nervous, and ready more than ever to finally hear those words “Trista Mennen, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN”!