- Age: 41
- Weight: ~196 lbs
- FTP: 280 (this was over-stated)
- VDOT: Still no clue (see my 2015 Texas 70.3 Half Ironman Race Report)
- 5:30:44 on a very challenging but fair course.
- Garmin File: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/818174490
Buffalo Springs Lake Half Ironman was my second race of the year. I PR’d in Galveston two months prior and was feeling pretty good about my conditioning. The calf cramping; which had caused me so many problems in late 2014 and early 2105, seemed to be gone.
I took a week off after Galveston & then another week to start ramping up for this race. I consider May 11 through June 21 as my official training block for Buffalo Springs – a solid 6 week build.
With that I started adding running back into my training cycle (novel idea, huh?!). From January 1st through April 25th (the day before the Galveston 70.3) I ran a total of 6 times for an unimpressive 17.47 miles. In the six week build for Buffalo Springs I was able to get 15 runs in for 54 miles. I kept these runs to 6 miles or less. So while that is definitely less than ideal for a 70.3 distance race it’s so much better than my prior five months. I focused on activating my glutes before each run and ensuring I was hydrated and had enough sodium in my system (using Salt Tabs and Pickle Juice Shots). I never felt like I got my speed back – my average pace for these runs ended up being around 8:57 per mile (compared to 8:10 – 8:20 per mile before I started having cramping issues). Irrespective of the pace I was grateful for the opportunity to begin to build back up some run endurance.
Another thing I noticed was that as I was adding running back into the weekly schedule it was taking time away from the bike…which seems obvious. When I wasn’t able to run I was filling those time gaps with extra bike workouts which sent me into my last race feeling very, very strong on the bike. Now that I was actually getting work in all three disciplines I found myself unable to hold the watts that I had going into Galveston (where my FTP was a solid, tested 280w).
The net effect was that as I was getting my run back I was also losing some of my power on the bike. Now I’m sure you’re assuming I re-tested so that I could have an accurate FTP heading into race day. Nope. I didn’t re-test. Honestly (and this is going to sound really lame) – I just didn’t feel up to it. I couldn’t seem to summon the mental mojo to subject myself to the torture that is an FTP bike test. So instead, I simply lowered my race day watt goal based on some race rehearsals. Rather than focus on hitting an .82-.85 IF I would shoot for something closer to .75 (again – I’d validated this during my training).
Here is what my training looked like during this six week build:
For those of you who geek out a bit more here is some additional analytic information. When I started my six week training build my TSB, after basically two weeks off, was sitting at 27.9 – nice and recovered. During that six weeks it got down to a low of -43.6 with the average somewhere in the low -30’s. On race morning, after a pretty decent taper week by TSB was at 16.6. My average weekly TSS during my training build was 567.
Here are a couple of graphs from Training Peaks.
Lubbock is about a 5 – 5 ½ hour drive from the Dallas area. So Missy & I gathered our six kiddos, loaded up the swagger wagon, pointed the compass west & hit the road on Friday around 2 p.m. In what has to be a record for my clan we made the entire trip only stopping twice – once was a five minute break to pee at a rest stop & the second was a 5 minute stop for fuel. It was a very efficient trip! Around 7:15 p.m. we pulled into the host hotel so I could check in for the race. I wanted to get that knocked out on Friday so that Saturday would be free to do take my bike for a final spin, do some course recon and have lunch with some of my EN team mates. Got in and out of check-in without any hiccups and then drove over to Rudy’s BBQ for dinner.
We rented a wonderful house on VRBO that was in Ransom Canyon – literally on the bike course. We pulled into the drive way just before sunset. This was my first trip to Lubbock and I was shocked at how beautiful the canyon area was and for the first time I began to get a look at the hills we’d be riding up and down as we traversed the area.
Got up Saturday morning and drove over to Buffalo Springs Lake to get a look at race central. Ran into some EN folks; chatted for a bit and then left to get a late breakfast. After breakfast we headed over to the Texas Tech campus so see what all the Red Raider hype is about. Took some pictures of the kids and then tried to sneak in mostly unsuccessfully to see the football stadium. We made it in and up to the level where the suites are but all the doors were locked so we never actually saw the field. After that we met up for our Endurance Nation Team lunch at a local pizza place called Capital Pizza – which was really good. Always fun to connect with other EN folks and swap stories and best practices. Good to see folks that I have raced with previously.
Went back to the lake to let the kids swim a bit and then headed to the grocery store to get some supplies for dinner and for race day. Took some time to drive some of the more challenging sections of the bike course – which I’m glad I did. It was good to get my eyes on some of the hills out of the canyon. Drove back to our house rental…dinner…put fluids onto the bike…check transition bag – into bed at 9:18 p.m.
My alarm sounded off at 3:45 a.m. Stuck with the usual race day breakfast – 3 cups of organic applesauce with two scoops of vanilla protein powder mixed in. Sipped on Gatorade. This gave me 487 calories. Got my tribe up, grabbed my bike & my gear and we headed out the door around 4:50 a.m. It was a 10-15 minute drive over to Buffalo Springs and we got there early enough to largely avoid the long line that would fill up the single lane road into the race venue.
My crew stayed in the swagger wagon & had some breakfast while I made my way down the big hill into transition. Navigated my way to my rack spot – somehow managed that bib #406 was right at the end of the rack on the side closest to the path coming out of the water. Score! Got everything set up and shortly thereafter my family made it down & we waited for the race to start. it was a beautiful morning and it looked like it was going to be perfect for racing!
- Goal: < 32:00 (1:30 per / 100 yards)
- Actual: 31:30 (1:29 per / 100 yards)
- AG Place: 13/104
I felt good about my swim coming into this race. I had put in about 20 miles in the month leading up to the race which was significantly more than I’d done for either Galveston or Austin (late 2014). I felt that an average of 1:29-1:30 per / 100 yards would represent solid execution based on my training. Anything faster than that would be a bonus.
Finished in 31:30 – so my time was right where I wanted it to be but man, I did not feel great in the water. This was the first time I’d donned my wetsuit since Austin 70.3 way back in October 2014 and it felt tight and restrictive. My shoulders started feeling tired around 400 yards in and they never regained their pop – that is my biggest “meh” about the swim. And though this was wetsuit legal the water was a bit warm – which I didn’t like.
Two quick notes on the swim course:
- There are a lot fewer buoys on this course than other Ironman races. I chalk this up to the fact that Buffalo Springs is a licensed Ironman event and not one owned by the WTC…my guess is Greer and his team are simply trying to save money – which I get & don’t fault them for it. The result is that you have to look way out in front of you to find the next buoy.
- When you get out of the cove you make a right hand turn and you are swimming due east – directly into the sun. This, along with my first note, makes sighting early on in this race very challenging. You can tell from my swim map that I was all over the place – my swim route was not very direct! I believe this was, in part, due to the difficulty of sighting.
- Goal: 2:00 – 2:30
- Actual: 2:18
Nothing much to report here. I hit the wetsuit strippers coming out of the water and then hustled to my most excellent rack position. Overall, I felt good about my transition.
- Goal: IF of 0.75 (210w) – .80 (224w) with a VI of 1.05-1.10 (time & speed would take care of themselves)
- Actual: IF of .777; VI of 1.10 (AP 198; NP 218); Time 2:48:18; Average Speed 20.0 mph; Average cadence 84 rpm
- AG Place: 30/104
This is a tough, but fun and fair bike course. I’d had a chance to drive most of the course the day prior and I was glad I did. There are eight hills on this course & based on my Garmin file here are the details of each climb:
- A short, steep climb immediately out of transition – within the first 1/10 mile of the bike – start your bike out in an easy gear – this is about a ¼ of a mile long
- Another short climb immediately after the first hill – about .80 miles into the bike – this is about ½ mile long.
- A long, straight climb around mile 11. This is about a ¾ of a mile long.
- A long, straight climb around mile 19. This is about a mile long.
- A steep, winding climb around mile 29. This is about a mile long.
- A steep winding, switchback climb around mile 34. This one is about a mile long.
- A long, straight, low grade climb out of Ransom Canyon. It starts around mile 39-40 and is about a mile and half long.
- A short climb back towards transition around mile 55. This one is about a ½ mile long.
The most difficult part of the bike for me were miles 40-55. This section starts with that long, low grade climb out of Ransom Canyon. Once you get out of the canyon the next 15 miles or so are you net uphill and, on this day it was largely into a headwind. At this point in the race it was mostly solitude for me – not a lot of other folks around me. It was just “put your head down, try and hold your watts and get to work” time.
I make sure I stayed on top of my fluids, sodium & GU. I peed twice during the ride and came off feeling hydrated and ready to run.
Overall, I finished the bike about where I expected to be and about where I deserved to be based on my training. I would have liked a slightly lower VI but with all the hills I think 1.10 is pretty good for me. I’m a little bummed that I came out of the water in 13th place in and finished the bike in 30th place but again, I rode the bike that I should have not the bike that I could have – so with that I feel okay.
Final thoughts on the bike:
- Texas chip seal – overall these roads were in pretty good condition. Not a ton of pot holes, etc… But this is West Texas chip seal so be prepared for some pretty constant rumbling. Never too overwhelming but always present and certainly enough to create some wear and tear on your upper body.
- Song of the day – I typically have a song in my head while I’m racing. Usually it’s something that’s been on my pretty epic “Run Fast Playlist” from Spotify – http://fi/1HZc2k3 but on this day – not so much. For some reason the song that continually turned through my brain as I was huffing and puffing in and out of Ransom Canyon was Hank Williams Jr.’s All My Rowdy Friends (Have Settled Down). Not exactly racing music but I couldn’t seem to shake it! Weird, huh? In the event you’re just wanting to jam out to some HWJr – here you go: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ct8V4nF9oOI
- Goal: < 2:00
- Actual: 2:29
I racked bike, sat down, put my socks on (I had put a bunch of Vaseline on the inside around the toe area) & shoes, grabbed my quart size Ziploc bag which contained my race belt, my visor, a zip lock bag of salt tabs, a few things of Pickle Juice Shots & a few GUs and then I made a bee line for the run out exit. I don’t feel like I wasted any time; but I was about 30 seconds slower than I was shooting for.
- Goal: Wasn’t real sure – kind of aiming for an average of 9:30 pr/mile
- Actual: 2:05:51 (9:46 pr/mile)
- AG Place: 37/104
First, my Garmin showed the run was a bit short at 12.87 miles…maybe I’m just excellent at running the tangents!
The run course was reworked for this year. I’m told that the old run course had a stretch that mimicked the Energy Lab in Kona – which is a very difficult stretch in the marathon – an out and back portion on hot Texas pavement with no shade to speak of. The new updated course at Buffalo Springs removed that portion and reworked the course to keep the athletes in the park. Having never done this race I can’t speak to whether this was a good move or a bad move; though I was actually looking forward to the “energy lab” stretch.
The reworked run course is two loops – mostly flat with the exception of one short, steep climb that you hit twice – once around mile 3 and then again around mile 9.25. The hill is only about a quarter of a mile long but it bit me in the butt when I hit it the second time.
Overall, I felt okay during the run. I never cramped; though around mile 9 I thought I might. I slowed my cadence, shortened my stride, pounded a pickle juice shot and the feeling eventually went away. That instance aside, I alternated between salt tabs and pickle juice every two miles. It wasn’t ridiculously hot like I’m told it has been in previous years but as the clouds broke & the sun came shining out it was plenty warm enough. Other nutrition was a GU about once per hour and Gatorade and a little water at pretty much every aid station. Lots of ice in my jersey, in my shorts & on my head…just trying to do my best to keep my core temperature as cool as possible.
Saw my clan several times during the run which is always encouraging. I swear I have the greatest crowd support of anyone on the course! There were a few sections where crowd support was pretty good but for the most part…but for a majority of the run there wasn’t much. You had the locals doing their thing at the lake & most paid little attention to those of us foolish enough to be doing this race.
Crossed the finish line after a 50 yard sprint when a fellow EN teammate snuck up on me. He ended up pulling past me in the last 10-15 yards or so…that was a pretty fun way to finish. Was feeling really spent so I went over the medical tent and got an IV. I don’t think I “needed” it but I do believe it helped with my immediate recovery.
Final thoughts on the run:
- I need to simplify a bit. I felt like I had too much fumbling around with salt tabs, pickle juice, GUs, and trying to keep my zip lock bag full of ice. It was just more “admin” type stuff than I want to keep up with while running.
- I need to get back to a point where I feel comfortable testing to actually get a valid VDOT for training purposes. I don’t like the feeling of not really knowing where I am with my run that I’ve had the last two races.
- Race Selection: This is a race that I’m thrilled to have done. There is a certain mystique about Buffalo Springs – it’s a challenging course with a smaller field. With this race in the books I’ve now knocked out all the Texas Ironman 70.3 distance races. That being said, it’s not one I’ll probably do again.
- Swag: The swag was pretty good here. Picked up two t-shirts – a black race one (cotton) and a white finisher one (tech shirt). Both have pretty cool logos – these are shirts I will feel comfortable wearing out and about (which I can’t say that about all the race shirts I’ve collected). Other swag included a pretty cheap drawstring bag that I can’t imagine is going to last very long.
- Lodging: As I mentioned earlier we rented a house through VRBO. When all eight of us travel a house/condo is almost always preferable to a hotel. Since I have no plans to race Buffalo Springs again I don’t feel the need to protect this little gem – http://www.vrbo.com/3842247ha. If you are into renting houses like we are this is a great spot and the owners were super nice and responsive.