In mid-summer, I made the crazy decision to do this race after having completed several sprint distance triathlons and showing improvement in those. I just felt it was time to step up to a new challenge, although I had yet to even attempt an Olympic distance race. I know, insanely stupid as more than one person pointed out at the time. But I figured if I registered and paid online there was no backing out and it would “lock me in”, so I did that. I picked Austin because it is an Ironman sanctioned race, it is a FUN city, and it fit perfectly with my race schedule. Immediately, it became my training focus from that day forward.
As a city, Austin did not disappoint. I got in on the Thursday before my race and figured, since the race wasn’t for a few days, it was party time! I hit the town and had some fun….6th Street and the surrounding downtown area has amazing energy and such a good vibe. One great bar/club after another spilling into the street…..many are open air with rooftop decks overlooking the street and almost all have a kick ass live band and people are friendly.….kind of like Bourbon Street in New Orleans. Great food too!! My only regret is not having someone there the entire time to experience it with me.
Surprisingly, I got good sleep the night before the race…….a rarity for me. I was up at 4:30 am and arrived at Travis County Expo Center by 5:30 am (T-2 location). From there, they shuttled us on buses over to the swim start and the location of T-1, Walter E. Long Park. There were 2,600 racers from all over the world competing. My daughter Courtney, who flew in the night before, had her own hotel room and car so she could get her precious sleep, and she came down a couple hours later. It was so great to have her there for support!
Swim – I had a 7:55 am wave start and as my wave lined up I chatted with a friendly guy from Wisconsin…doing his 2nd 70.3 distance race. I remember being surprised at how calm and confident I felt before the race started, I was more nervous a week before. Lake Walter E. Long was a beautiful sight as the sun was just rising and shinning and reflecting on the water. It was an “in water” start which was good because I had to pee really bad and that’s hard to do when you’re actually swimming, as many of you know, lol. After a 10 second countdown, we were off and I took an inside track with the buoys to the left of me. The 1.2 mile course was a counterclockwise triangle with the start and finish close together at the shore. The swim was awesome, my favorite part of the entire race. I loved swimming in fresh water as opposed to the salty, polluted water in the bay, even though you are less buoyant and have to work a little harder in fresh water. I hugged the buoys on my left the entire swim which kept me more or less in a straight line rather than zig-zagging like I normally do….1.2 miles is enough, no reason to make it longer. I felt so relaxed and strong while swimming and I got into a good rhythm. I remember concentrating on exhaling completely underwater so I could take in more oxygen, which seemed to help me from getting too tired. About ¾ of the way through the swim, I started running into swimmers with different cap colors from previous waves which gave me more confidence about how well I was doing……but it also got a little more congested and I had to sight more to avoid contact with other swimmers. Up to that point I had a lot of open water which was nice. I finally hit the shore to cheering spectators and made the uphill 50 yard run to the transition area. The race had wetsuit strippers which I decided to use on my way to T-1. Turns out this was probably a mistake. She meant well, but my stripper, I mean wetsuit stripper, took longer than it should have taken to strip me. So I had a really slow T-1 time of 5:03. The good news is that I did the swim in 37:50, good for 21st out of 100 racers in my wave. Off to a good start!!
Bike – I had all kinds of trouble getting going on my bike. First the wetsuit stripper thing took extra time and then it took me forever to get all the crap off my feet and to get my socks on…felt like I was going in slow motion. The rules stated that we had to put all of our swim stuff in the plastic T-1 bag they provided us and I had a hell of a time trying to stuff my wetsuit, towel, etc. in that f’ckn little bag…got kind of frustrated with that, lol. Finally, I was running my bike to the Bike Out location and then had lots of trouble clipping in for some reason. After that, during the first mile, I noticed that the rear tire was rubbing, so I stopped and adjusted the rear brake to fix that. When I finally got going, I noticed the mph average on my Garmin was at 7.7 mph…argh…I knew I needed to get that up to around 20 mph to have a good bike leg. So now I was on a mission! The bike course was advertized as “spectacular”, but I don’t think I would have used that word hahaha….Hawaii is spectacular. But I guess parts of the course were scenic if you like rolling farmland. It was definitely not a flat course, there were hilly spots throughout the ride, especially the first 10 to 15 miles. The road surface reminded me of TriRock, rough with cracks and holes in the pavement, some unpaved spots, and train tracks. Also, we rode with traffic in some areas and it was tricky for me to get around and by a few trucks. However, I was riding well and passing lots of people as my average speed kept climbing. I finally got over 20 mph average as I made it to the halfway point, mile 28. By mile 35, I was at a 21.2 mph average and that’s where things took a turn for the worst. Wind!! Bad!! As the headswinds picked up, my mph average started going the other way…down! It sucked big time psychologically and it seemed like, no matter which way the course turned, I was never with the wind. With my full disc in the back, the crosswind nearly blew me over a couple times. At that point, I was afraid that if I pushed it too hard against the headwind for those last 20 miles to try to keep my mph average from falling too fast, I would die on the 13.1 mile run ahead. Therefore, I rode strong, but not crazy hard, even though it was difficult to watch my average speed falling. Still, I ended up doing the 56 mile ride in 2:47:32, a 20.06 mph average, good for 21st of 100 racers! For those of you curious about nutrition, I finished my 3 bottles of water mixed with Ironman Perform and Carbo Pro as well as 1 Power Bar Gel…I had the last of the water and the gel with about 6 miles left on the bike course to help me with the start of the run. At the bike dismount line, someone pulled right in front of me and I had to stop really quick….luckily, I was already unclipped, but my rear bike tire came off the ground, bike went sideways, and I almost ate it by going over my aerobars!! But, I was happy to provide some amusement for the many spectators lined up at the bike dismount area.
Run – I had a so-so T-2, bike to run transition, with a time of 3:17…should have been faster there. At this point my legs were weary as I was about to start what has always been the weakest part of my triathlon racing. However, I was feeling good about my strong effort on both the swim and bike, and I trusted my training and fitness level. Mentally, I was in a good place as I took off on the run and that was huge. I remember thinking at this point about all the people back home (friends and family) and I decided that I was going to have a strong run. The run course was 3 loops, which is bad psychologically since you pass by the finish area twice knowing you are far from finished, but is good because you pass hundreds of cheering spectators two times before finishing, giving you a boost each time! I decided to break the 13.1 mile run into 4 shorter segments of 3.25 miles. It was unseasonably hot for late October in Austin, 88 degrees, and the run was hilly with a lot of “up-down”, “up-down”, not a great combination. Because of this, the course resembled a battlefield, many people off to the side of the course being tended to by aid volunteers, people with leg cramps trying to stretch it out, pukers, and a bunch of walkers on the course. Fortunately for me, I had no problems like that due to following good advice from my coach Tanja Canter and my nutritionist, Kim Mueller. I stopped at virtually every aid station for water and/or Gatorade and took salt tabs and gels a few times along the way. They had coca-cola on the course as well and I rewarded myself with 2 cups of that as I completed each of my 3.25 mile segments. The cola can really give you a boost! Having that to look forward to was a little psychological ploy that worked well. I kept a steady pace that I felt I could maintain throughout the 13 miles, and I was very careful not to go out to fast at the beginning. This turned out to be a good strategy as I ran the last mile as fast as the first. Along the run course, I counted at least 10 runners in my age group that I “picked off” and passed which is unusual for me as I am usually the one getting “picked off” and passed during the run…so I am probably most proud of this. As I entered the arena and finish chute, I heard my name and city announced, people lined up on both sides and in the stands cheering, and pictures being taken…it was an amazing feeling! I had done it and my daughter Courtney was there to share it with me!!
My final time of 5:42:22 beat my pre-race goal of 6 hours by nearly 18 minutes, so I was very happy with this result! Even more impressive for me is that I ranked higher on the run than I did on both the bike and the swim. I NEVER would have imagined this in my wildest dreams!!
Overall time- 5:42:22 (20th place out of 100 racers in my age group)
Swim- 37:50 (22nd)
Bike- 2:47:32 (21st)
Run- 2:08:40 (20th)
How’s that for consistency on the 3 disciplines?
Season over and looking forward to some rest and race planning for next year!