Ironman Texas 2.4 swim/112 bike/ 26.2 run
Ironman Texas was trained for under my personal theory that the typical ultra and distance athlete overtrain on mileage. For the pros and the elite the mileage is demanded, but for the average athlete and age group competitor, I don’t see the purpose in the havoc caused by the demanding hours of long static state cardio, on the joints or the personal life.
So I trained for an Ironman the same as I would have a sprint or Olympic distance Tri, holding a blind faith in my own mental strength and exercise education. Going into an ironman with my longest bike ride ever being just under 60 miles, and minimal swim and run practice as week was a leap of faith in my own training experiences. My longest average bike weekly was 20-30 miles, my longest average run was 6-10, and my swimming didn’t even begin until 30-45 days out, with my longest one being about 2 miles but an average of 1200 a few days a week.
I am a figure competitor and in the middle of competition prep. My body shaping training couldn’t tolerate long slow, muscle destroying steady state hours of cardio. Not to mention, dietary adherence with calorie torching cardio requires a super women. Tough I am, miraculous and super powered I am not. So I sprinted, lots and lots of high intensity 30-60 minute cardio workouts, with a few long distance workouts thrown in weekly.
Finding out my husband was returning from deployment the same weekend, definitely caused some emotional turmoil. I wanted to be in California to see him return, but we both agreed me tackling a lifelong goal was worth a 48 or 72 hour wait. On top of missing my husband, most of Orange County, where we reside was under fire evacuations. It made getting to the airport with closed freeways a stress induced nightmare. Thank God for friends willing to stay up all night and sacrifice sleep to make sure I got on the plane in time.
Once I got to Texas, I had support of a friend of a friends Edwards Tri team and the people from Rudy Project. Orange County local people tend to stick together, and having so much support so far from home, was emotionally overwhelming and strengthening. To know I wasn’t alone, several thousand miles from home, where I technically knew no one… Was insane. To the hundreds of people who introduced themselves from twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, who offered friendship, support, and actually ended up assisting in some manner, I can’t tell you the gamut of emotions you caused me, from blessed, to overwhelmed, to elated. I have never felt so loved by a community of people I didn’t know, to find out I had “fans” all over the county, and so much support I was floored. I can’t thank you all enough. There really are no words to describe the emotions I felt, to know all the faith I had in this dream, that became a reality even greater than imagined, I can’t find the words.
Race morning came so quickly, I actually managed to sleep the night before, and other than waking every few hours to check the time, I think I got a pretty solid 7 or 8 hours. I woke up, fully rested had a quick breakfast (brown rice with honey, a banana, and 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, coffee, a red bull, and my normal 1st Phorm morning supplements). I had read not to take vitamins due to stomach issues, but I always take my supplements, and had decided not taking them would be more likely to throw me off… And I also knew being stressed, hard work, travel, my risk of getting sick post ironman would be higher were I not protected. Check out http://www.alyxluck.1stphorm.com to see what I recommend.
Once I met my Tri group of friends, we carpooled from their hotel, and walked the mile to the starting line ? Does this mean I did 141.6???? Somehow at the start in the chaos I lost my friends, pretty much setting the tone for the confusions of the day. Luckily a Facebook follower recognized me and was kind enough to loan his glide (saving me a lot of neck burns) and zip the back of my extra snug in my figure girl shoulders wet suit.
I decided to start the swim towards the back of the pack, knowing an open start was chaos, and incorrectly assuming it would be safer. Other than a three minute delay, I don’t think it made a difference. There was specifically one large man who tackled me in the water over 20 times, actually causing me to nearly panic. I decided a few minutes wasn’t worth my life and after my nose was knocked so hard it bloodied, I pulled to the side for about 5 minutes to entirely avoid this particular fellow. Dear sir, have you considered water polo, rugby, or football? The women and the average athletes other than this particular gentleman were pretty courteous if they hit you they’d move over and attempt to not do it repeatedly… But occasionally there was a gentleman or two who seemed to think the water was an appropriate place for physically assault or sexually assaulting women in mass. I’m not sure that it was intentional, but if you aren’t a top level athlete (I started in the back here folks) I am not sure I understand the aggression. Needless to say next time I’ll start in the front, avoid the delays, and prepare myself for a fight so I can skip the near panic attack at the shock of it all.
Once out of the water I was a bit demoralized at the time 1:52. I was hoping for 1:20 and expecting 1:30 to 1:35 with the craziness of it all. But upon entering the changing tent I immediately ran into a fast friend for life Lacy from Instagram and we chatted about the brutality if it all, making me feel so much better I wasn’t the only one delayed. In and out of the changing tents I jogged to my bike and was on it a few moments after the 2 hour mark.
The bike, my nemesis, I’ll admit if there was any portion I doubted it was the bike. It’s not that I’m a bad biker, it’s the time consuming training that I hadn’t done. It was being told by literally every experienced ironman that I’d hit a wall… It was knowing my inexperienced seat time, meant less skilled riding, and the general fear of the unknown. Ironically my easiest portion, a 7:18 ride I discovered my strength. While by no means blazing, in what was apparently terrible winds (I didn’t really notice them) I found bliss in my ignorance. I had made a mountain out of a molehill. While I wouldn’t wish the bumpy ride on someone I didn’t like, the hills were slow and not terribly steep, and I found the general grind nothing worse than slightly boring. Stopping at mile 70 & 90 for quick bathroom breaks Things went smoothly other than a complete Garmin failure and an absence of knowledge regarding pace, speed, or anything outside of how things “felt”, my other operator error was mixing a carb loading powder into my aero water bottle, clogging the straw so the first 20 miles of the bike were sans hydration, however with time, prayer, and flooding the bottle with liquid the straw issue sorted itself out. My ride was wall and pain free, admittedly I could have gone faster, but I stuck to a comfort zone knowing I was well ahead of cut offs and progressing smoothly towards my secondary goal of finishing. I stuck to my plan of eating 150-200 calories every ten or so miles, primarily gels, chews, and delicious delicious dried chicken, turkey jerky, and my favorite magnesium powder coated sunflower seeds. My first goal was a time goal that was lost with the poor showing in the swim. Calorically post bike I had probably taken in a little over 2,000 calories, and burned closer to 5,000. Luckily I had upped my caloric intake five days prior to clean but unlimited food consumption. Combining that with sodium and water loading I felt heavy and full, but high on energy and not at all fatigued.
Hopping off the bike, I watched two people wreck on dismount, and I was thankful for once it wasn’t me with coordination and unclipping failures. My legs felt gummy, but not fatigued, and I was smoothly thru transition in about 5 minutes.
The first loop of three of the run went beautifully. The run, like the rest of the race was extremely well supported, and I made a conscious effort to continue fueling either from my belt or aide stations close to 200 calories per hour. (Mostly oranges, grapes, salted nuts and almond butter) I did have a candy bar at mile 19 or so of the run as a personal dedication to the Ford family, they will know the reasons why…. And I will admit while nutritionally worthless and chemically frightening it did taste delicious. I am in recovery from a sprained ankle on one side, and a broken foot on the other. So my minimal training runs had been barefoot on grass, or on dirt trails. Loop two the pain in my broken foot began to become overwhelming and I spent most of the time on concrete walking. Unknown to many, concrete is a little harder than asphalt and when dealing with joint or injuries, I recommend avoiding both. However, by loop three I came to terms with the pain took a few midol from my special needs bag, and realized it would be best over with sooner and hit my normal run pace again. The final few miles I realized I was pushing my max time I had set for myself, and I strided out to a solid 7 minute per mile pace until I was sure I’d beat my personal cut off. By the end I was still hydrated (clear urination), still feeling a little salt bloated(already dropped that water weight), and still fairly high energy considering the days events.
To the people who I ran with, whether a mile or ten, thank you for your conversations. Thank you for your patience of me probably taunting you as I do my clients into a faster pace. Thank you for your inspirations stories, for sharing your journey, and for allowing me to become a part of your journey. From teenagers to senior citizens, I ran alongside, past, or next to many of you and each of you inspired me with the pieces of you I got to know.
Completing the ironman in 14:51 I was overwhelmed with cheers of people who had rallied around me so the weekend wouldn’t be a lonely one. It was humbling to be considered special and a part of their teams. A profound sense of loneliness hit me knowing the one person who mattered the most my husband wasn’t able to attend, but pride came in knowing he would be proud of me. It really hit, when I logged into social media and saw my husband had hacked my accounts and kept all if my friends, family, and followers updated almost hourly as he tracked my progress and I literally still have hundreds of back logged messages and emails of congratulations.
To be alone as a military wife thru deployment is an achievement in mere survival. To tackle athletic and personal goals is also an achievement. To go for both, personal goals thru deployment is a struggle, but one worth fighting. Just a few days post ironman I write this, thankful, luckily not sore and already back full swing to figure training. I feel pride in a long time goal complete, I feel curious about the what ifs knowing now I could do it again and ride thresholds harder pushing instead of for completion, but for pace. I feel clarity that comes from a long day of quiet self discovery, prayers, and thoughts. And I feel bold knowing a few more firsts are conquered. High five to myself for first rental car alone. High five for ironmaning alone, but not. And high five for having the boldness to step out of the “proper” military wife mold and attacking a goal versus playing proper homecoming party wife. The feeling of independence achieved was empowering, the reunion between my husband I was sweeter for the wait and the achievements created, and the title of Ironman is lifelong. To those who felt it appropriate to email me or call me with hatred regarding my decision to pursue dreams versus welcome home my husband, I pity you for your judgment of my marriage.
What would I do differently? Absolutely nothing. What’s next? In June my husband and I step on the NPC stage competing together and this fall or winter we will tackle him becoming an Ironman and perhaps I can tackle a time related goal as we will race to the finish together although not necessarily next to each other. Every persons journey is different. There is no one right and there is no one wrong. For many military spouses to be anywhere but homecoming would have been a mistake, for myself to be anywhere but Ironman Texas would have been a lifelong regret. Today I am both a happy wife and a proud Ironman, and if I don’t go soon I’ll be late for a date with the weights and my husband!
Thank you all so much for your support & love,
From family, friend, clients, Rudy Project, and social media followers I couldn’t have done it without you. I am truly humbled by your support of me. I hope to see some of you out there facing your fears and chasing dreams almost too big to speak.