- Age: 41
- Weight: ~191 lbs
- FTP: 280
- VDOT: No clue (keep reading)
PR of 1 minute 57 seconds (over 2014 Austin 70.3)
The 2015 Texas 70.3 was my first race of the year. 2014 ended with a fizzle as I started dealing with pretty severe cramping in my right calf as I was training for the Dallas Marathon which is held annually in December. The calf cramping started popping up in mid-November and quickly became so bad that I had to abandon any hope of running the race. I basically took the rest of November – January off. I worked out very sporadically – an occasional bike ride but that was about it.
Thinking I’d given it enough rest I started working my way back into shape in early February and officially signed up for this race at the end February. I discovered pretty quickly that my calf cramping had not gone away & in fact, started rearing its ugly head around mile 3 of any run I attempted. The cycle would go like this: (1) I would go out for a run to test the calf (2) Around mile 3 it would start to cramp and leave me gimping home (3) I would rest it (i.e. not run) for a week to 10 days or longer (4) I would go out for a run to test the calf (5) Around mile 3 it would start to cramp and leave me gimping home (6) Lather, rinse, repeat.
I started seeing my awesome, amazing ART doc (shout out to Chelsea & the staff Chirosport Specialists of Dallas) 2x per week for the final 3-4 weeks leading up to the race and she worked on getting my hips aligned & my calf worked out. I’ve worked with these guys on and off for years and have been very pleased with the results. Hoping it would get better with rest & ART I also resigned myself to the fact that running was not going to be helpful, except for a few short 2 mile runs, all I could do was rest from running and hope my fitness would carry me through on race day.
Here is what my training looked like for the 8 weeks leading up to the race (this starts 9 weeks out from race day because I’m not looking at race week / taper week). The glaring hole in my training is that in the 9 weeks leading up to the race I ran 4 times for a cumulative distance of 11.24 miles.
This race is on a Sunday so Missy & I decided to make a long weekend out of it. We hit VRBO and rented a nice 3 bedroom condo right at the end of the seawall. We loaded up the swagger wagon & headed for Galveston on Friday morning. Around 3:30 we pulled into our condo. We stayed away from the race venue on Friday and just spent the afternoon getting settled and relaxing.
Got up Saturday morning to severe thunder, lightning & rain. It was off and on into the early afternoon & around 2 p.m. it cleared out and left us with an absolutely beautiful rest of the day. We hit up Ironman Village and get registered – we got there around 11:00 a.m. and moved through pretty quickly. No real lines to speak of. I dropped the family off at the condo and went off to meet some of my teammates for lunch at The Mosquito Café (which was a great spot – highly recommend it). Had a great lunch getting to eat with other folks from Endurance Nation. It was fun to laugh, share stories & get ready for the next day.
Following lunch I drove back up to the race venue to drop my bike off in transition. At this point the line for athlete registration was crazy long (note – get in early and get that knocked out). Perhaps the greatest benefit of being one of Ironman’s 2014 All World Athletes was the really great rack spot. I was bib number 225 and that put me right across from the pros spot. I had a perfect spot right in the middle of bike out and run out – in the second rack back. That’s so much better than being buried in the middle of three thousand bikes!
Once that was done I headed back to the condo and laid low with the family. I got my transition bag all set & for dinner I had some pasta with red sauce & grilled chicken breast. I jumped into bed at 9:44 p.m.
My alarm was set for 4 a.m. but I woke up at 3:38 a.m. feeling ready to go. Go up and had my usual race morning breakfast of three cups of organic applesauce with two scoops of vanilla protein powder. Took in about 20 ounces of the G2 Gatorade that we’d be having on the course. We headed out the door at 5 a.m. & were pulling into the race venue about 10 minutes later.
My big surprise came as I was starting to set up my gear in transition. I heard them announce that the race would be a wetsuit optional race. Though I’d known the water temps were on the warm side I felt confident that all the rain we got on Saturday would have cooled it off enough to keep it a wetsuit race. Apparently not. This was a bit of a shock to me because I never, for a second assumed otherwise. My three previous 70.3 distance races & my one full Ironman were all wetsuit races. We had the option of wearing a wetsuit but that would mean two things; (1) you wouldn’t be counted in the age group awards & though I had no intention of hitting the podium I still wanted to see where I fit & (2) if you elected to wear a wetsuit you would start in the dreaded final swim wave. There wasn’t really a decision to be made for me – I would go without my wetsuit. But that did throw me off a bit.
Goal: < 32:00
AG Place: 47 / 327
Garmin File – https://connect.garmin.com/activity/759573200
The pros went off at 7:00 a.m. The male 40-44 age group was split into three swim waves and I was in the second wave that went off at 7:28 a.m. I’ve been consistently in the top 10% or so of my AG so I positioned myself at the front of the wave pretty much dead center. My goal was to get a good, strong start and try to create some space.
Honestly, I’m not exactly sure what happened on this swim. I’ve got no real reason for why my time was so slow. I felt like I swam pretty strong…felt like my form was mostly in check…felt like I sighted okay, but man – 36 minutes was disappointing (this was my slowest 70.3 race swim). Yes, I’m sure having a wetsuit would have made me faster but in my three swim race rehearsals (done without a wetsuit) I was consistently in the 31 – 33 minute range. Maybe the current was stronger than it felt. I’m just not sure. I came out of the water feeling whipped but hustled my way out and started up towards transition.
Goal: < 2:30
I am really pleased with my transitions. I hustled, but never felt out of control or lost. I got to my rack spot put my sunglasses on, then my helmet, wiped my feet off and got my shoes on, grabbed the bike and was off. I’d love to continue to learn to shave time off here but overall I felt really good with how quickly I was on the bike.
Goal: IF of 0.83-0.85 (232W – 238W) with a VI of 1.05 or less (time & speed would take care of themselves)
Actual: IF of 0.80; VI of 1.01 (AP 222W, NP 226W); Time of 2:22:38; Average speed 23.6 mph
AG Place: 36 / 327
Garmin File – https://connect.garmin.com/activity/759573891
Let me start by saying:
- This might have been the most fun I’ve had on a bike…ever
- This bike course is ridiculously simple – pancake flat & with the exception of 3 miles or so getting out of the neighborhood it is straight as an arrow. Twenty eight miles out and twenty eight back.
- The weather on this day was perfect for biking. With the exception of a few miles at the turn around (miles 28-30ish) there was virtually no wind to mess with (which is unheard of for a road that borders the Gulf of Mexico the entire stretch), there was total cloud coverage & for about 45 minutes to an hour there was a very light rain to keep things cool. It was perfect.
- There was nothing in any of my training that would suggest a 2:22:38 bike split was even a remote possibility for me. 23.6 mph hour? Are you kidding me?
This bike was just one of those rare instances where all the uncontrollable variables line up perfectly and when they did it made for a super-fast bike course. You’ll even notice that I rode under my watt goal – partially because I was a bit nervous about how easy the bike was and how fast I was moving & because I kept reminding myself that I had to run 13.1 miles – which was more than I’d run all together in the previous 9 weeks.
In terms of execution I stayed aero for 95%+ of the bike. Knowing it was going to be humid I stayed on my fluids & ended up peeing three – four times on the bike. One last minute change I did make was that I decided to double my salt tab intake. I typically take one salt tab per hour to help augment the sodium I’m getting from my fluids & from my GU (with the goal of getting ~1000 mg of sodium per hour) – but I decided the day before to double that (reasoning: at lunch the day before I was talking with one of my teammates, Jimmy, from Endurance Nation & he noted that his supplemental sodium intake was two tabs per hour. It got me wondering if my cramping might be held off longer if I increased my sodium intake. And at 190lbs I’m a bigger guy out there and I’m sweating more than most of the smaller fellas. And I also reasoned, since this was a B race for me that I would be fine experimenting a bit.) I don’t typically recommend jacking with your plan the day before a race but I felt that this race was going to be a crapshoot because of my calf cramping so I figured, “what the heck!”
I rolled into T2 a bit in shock at the bike split but feeling really good, very hydrated and ready to see what the run held for me.
Goal: < 2:00
Hopped off my bike and ran hard to my awesome rack spot. Off with my bike shoes & helmet. Sat down, put my socks on (I had put a bunch of Vaseline on the inside around the toe area) & shoes, grabbed my ziplock bag which contained my race belt, my visor, a zip lock bag of salt tabs & a few Gus and then I made a bee line for the run out exit. Just like T1 I feel really good about this transition – sub 1:30 feels pretty darn quick and efficient.
Goal: Not to die & to hold off the cramping as long as possible
Actual: 2:05:52 (9:43 pr/mile)
AG Place: 70 / 327
Garmin File – https://connect.garmin.com/activity/759574232
My overarching race strategy was to execute well on the swim & the bike, to hustle through transitions and then hold on for dear life on the run. Now was the time to see if /when my body would implode. This run course is very technical – it’s a three loop course with LOTS of turns and turn-arounds.
Mentally, I was in a good spot. Before the race even started I’d come to terms with a few bits of reality:
- I had no business expecting anything other than suffering on the run
- I had no business expecting a sub-2 hour half marathon
- I had no business expecting that my calf would hold up – it wasn’t an issue of if it would cramp up, but when it would cramp up.
With those three things firmly imbedded in my brain I set off on lap one and the slow de-evolution of David began. The first lap (4 miles & some change) felt hard but overall okay. My legs were not used to the pounding & I could tell that I was beginning to get a blister on the bottom of my right foot. Because there were so many turns throughout the course the blister quickly went from uncomfortable to downright painful.
I took salt tabs 2-3 times per hour; stayed on top of my fluids as best I could and threw ice down my shorts to try and keep my core temperature down. I think I had three GUs during the run…or maybe it was two. With every mile (except mile 7) I slowed down a bit. Each one got harder. Each one hurt worse.
Because it was three loops I got to see my family a bunch on the run course & that’s always an encouragement – with their bright orange shirts they are super easy to spot! About half way through the run my 12 year jogged beside me and asked how my calf was feeling. I told him that it felt fine but every other part of my body was in pain. It was getting progressively warmer, the cloud coverage was less and the humidity was awful. And that would be the story for the entirety of the run – with each mile the suffering increased. But amazingly, no calf cramping…a ton of hurt in every other part of my body, yes…but no calf cramping. Other than walking the aid stations (which is part of my race day plan) I somehow managed to run the rest of the race.
I crossed the finish line with a time of 5:08:44 – thanks to a ridiculous bike split & in spite of a sub-par swim and a disastrous run it was good enough for about a 2 minute PR.
With my small PR in hand I sat down to assess the damage to my body. Blistered…chaffed…quads on fire…hips in pain…mind fried. I was a mess…but I was finished and I felt good about my effort and my overall execution.
Race Selection: This was a fun race & WTC did a nice job putting it on. As usual there were great volunteers throughout and good on course support from local authorities. The bike course is in great shape and smooth (unlike Austin’s awful bike course). The run course as I mentioned, was filled with turns which I wasn’t a big fan of. I really, really like the single transition (Austin & Oceanside both have separate transitions for swim to bike & for bike to run, which makes race morning just that much more complex – and I’m a big fan of simplicity on race day). This ended up being a fast race with a very competitive male 40-44 age group. My 5:08:44 was only good enough to get me 70th in my age group (compare that with Austin 2014 where a 5:10 got me 20th place in my age group). I can say without hesitation that this is a race I’d consider doing again.
Post Race Food: Cold pizza (bonus because it was Pappa Johns), chips, pretzels and chocolate chip cookies (though they appeared to have run out of the cookies right after I got to the Athlete Food Tent). There was water & soda; but oddly no beer or chocolate milk – which I feel like are mainstays at the races I’ve been at.
Swag: The swag was okay, but not great. I still believe the drawstring bag that Ironman provided in 2013 is a far better quality bag…in fact, I still use it daily to hold my iPad, Bible and other stuff I lug to the office each morning. The ones from 2014 were really cheap & the one for this year feels like it’s pretty poor quality. The tech t-shirt for the men is grey with an okay logo. Honestly, I’ve got so many tech t-shirts that what I personally would prefer is a really well designed cotton t-shirt that I can wear with jeans or shorts.
Condo: We rented a condo at the Diamond Beach Residences through VRBO. Our particular unit was a three bedroom and it worked out wonderfully me, my wife & my six kiddos. They have a huge, long, windy lazy river with a small slide attached to it. An enormous multi-level outdoor pool. An indoor pool. A game room with free play video games & pinball machines. There is a really nice media room that you can reserve. We go the 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. slot on Sunday night and watched Toy Story 3 with a wonderful family with small kids that we met. They were in town for the race as well. They have a nice fitness center that my bride took advantage of as well. It is located about 10 minutes from Moody Gardens so getting back and forth was super easy. This ended up being a great solution for our family and I highly recommend it.
Post Race Recovery: I’ve been told by those who have been doing Ironman races for a long time that the higher intensity of the half Ironman produces more pain on the body than the longer, lower intensity full Ironman race. With only four half Ironman races and one full Ironman race under my belt I’m not sure I’m qualified to agree or disagree with that. But one thing I can tell you for sure – when you only run 11 miles in the 9 weeks leading up to a half Ironman and you run the 13.1 miles during the race you will; make no mistake about it; suffer for days afterward. My quads, my hips, my glutes have been so very fried…much more than my other 70.3 distance races. I’m writing this on the Wednesday after the race and I am still in significant pain. I was able to get into see my amazing ART doc – Chelsea over at Chirosport Specialists of Dallas and then spent a few minutes in their cryo chamber to help accelerate my recovery. But there’s only so much one can expect when your body isn’t ready for the pounding that running puts on your joints & muscles.