One Race Does Not Make A Season: Ironman Texas

So…I wrote this blog about a week after Ironman Texas (on May 19th), and then sat on it, not really sure I wanted to post about the race at all.  I know race reports are an important part of our communication to fans and other athletes, but I walked away from Texas feeling…well…honestly.. just feeling really tired.  I had put myself into a hole from New Orleans that I never got out of and after Texas the focus for me was to get better.  Almost all of my energy went completely into my recovery and making sure I got back on track.

But, as I thought about it, I think it is important, not just for all of you, but also for ME to record these moments, so in the end, while delayed, here is my race report from Ironman Texas.

A big BIG congrats to Mary Beth Ellis, Caitlin Snow and Amy Marsh for truly wonderful performances on a tough day.  I aspire to perform like you three, and am so impressed by your courage and strength out there.

Ironman Texas 70.3 Race Report (written on May 23, 2012):

A few weeks ago my coach, Matt Dixon, wrote a blog about how one race does not make a season.  The blog was in reference to me and my recent win at the New Orleans 70.3 triathlon.

The same can be said for a less-than-ideal performance.

This last weekend I raced at Ironman Texas, and on the whole it was a sub-par day.  There were some highlights, such as my PR swim…ok….so maybe there was ONE highlight.   I of course had hoped to back up my New Orleans result with another great race, but my hopes aside, given my training and fitness, the result just didn’t reflect where I am at.

Yes I finished 6th, gained some valuable Kona points and made a bit o’ money, but what I was looking for, more than anything, was consistency.  I didn’t need to win the race, but I wanted to put up a competitive performance, or at least one that showed, even on a “bad” day, that I was still able to be in the running for a top spot.  Finishing nearly 1 hour off of the lead female is anything but consistent.

That said, I remind myself that one race does not make my season.  Just like New Orleans.  Texas did nothing but create a fire in my belly.  I want to figure out what went wrong with my recovery BEFORE Texas, what we need to consider in the future, and go into the next race better educated and prepared to reach my “purplepatch”.

The quick rundown of my race:

Pre-race:

As I noted above, I don’t feel as though I ever fully recovered from New Orleans.  Before Texas I wasn’t able to put up a single truly successful bike session.  My power numbers were way off, and I’d have one good day followed by several days of complete exhaustion.  So while I hoped my legs would come around for race day, when they didn’t, it wasn’t a huge surprise to me.  On race morning on my warm up I actually felt very good – my legs felt loose and limber.  When I got in the water my stroke felt good.  I felt like it would be a very good day, and I got on that starting line prepared to fight like hell.

The Race:

–          The Swim: Solid (for me) with a 3+ minute PR

–          Trouble in T1: When I opened my T1 bag, my gel flask with all of my salt had exploded, and in the process liquefied all of my Clif Bloks (which I had opened up before the race) – my nutrition and salt for the day was gone.  Crap.  Though not ideal for little Miss Sensitive Stomach here, I knew I’d have to grab the gels and nutrition at the aid stations along the way and hope I could hold something down.

 

–          The Bike:  The plan was to build over the first 50 miles and then hammer the second half.  By mile 10 I was struggling.  I was puking every which way, my legs felt dead, and I was tired.  When I hit mile 50 I decided to do 2×10 minute hard efforts in the hopes my legs would open up.  But… they didn’t, so I backed way off the bike knowing if I kept putting up a big effort for not too much power I would cook myself.  I put all my chips into the run.

 

–          T2: I hit T2 and completely bonked. I ran into the transition tent yelling “I need food!  I need food! Food!! Food!! Where is Food?”…I’m not kidding…I really did!!  And when you have a marathon to run and want to cry because you are so hungry, it is only a sign for what is to come!

 

–          The Run: I suffered through the first lap, trying to eat and drink as much as I could get my hands on trying desperately to get myself back up to neutral.  I was in a bit of crisis management at that point.  On loop two my legs came around – or so I thought!  I was surprised to see (after the race) that my split times for loop 2 recorded by the Ironman website were slower than loop 1, because I honestly thought (perhaps deliriously so…) that I was running much faster.  Loop 3 – the only thing I could focus on was putting one foot in front of the other.  I was surviving aid station to aid station taking everything they offered: water, ice, sponges, sports drink, coke, twizzlers, oranges, watermelon, bonk breakers, grapes, gels….I did avoid and pickles and potato chips…but everything else was mine.  Keep in mind that I have NEVER taken coke in a race before…so I knew I was in trouble when I went for the good stuff!

 

Post Race:

–          Cramping and 1.5 hours spent in the med tent with multiple IV’s, drinking hot chicken soup like it was going out of style until I could pee

–          Then…8 pieces of pizza, 6 spinach stuffed meatballs, a huge 22 ounce steak, an ice cream brownie sunday and a half gallon of ice cream deliciousness

So ….lessons for the day –

What did I do well?

Matt said to me before the race – “you don’t have to feel great to have a great performance”.  Mentally I think I stayed very rational and handled every “problem” well.  When my nutrition was gone in T1, I figured out what I needed to do and went with it.  When I felt terrible on the bike, I took a calculated risk to not cook myself in the hopes of putting up a great run (which I failed at…but I still believe it was the right call).  And on the run, when I was cramping and struggling to get one foot in front of the other I kept reminding myself of Kona last year when my race turned around halfway through.  I kept reminding myself that finishing meant a possible pay check and Kona points.  And I kept reminding myself that anything could happen.

I also walked the aid stations on the run.  I am not a huge fan of walking, but I knew I needed to get nutrition in me if I was going to make it through.  I took advantage of every aid station I passed to the max!

Lastly, I kept my body temperature under control.  Unlike Kona where I got off the bike really feeling like I was overheating, at this race I felt I managed my body temperature very well on what was a hot hot day.  On the bike I was diligent about pouring cold water on myself, my arms, in my helmet, etc.  And on the run, at every aid station I made sure to get COLD water, and put ice down my sport bra, shorts, and held it in my hand.

What did I not do well?

A few things here:

  1. I had opened all of my clif bloks before the race to make them easier to access on the day of.  When my gel flask of salt exploded, it created one huge sticky mess.  Note to self: wait until on the bike to open my nutrition
  2. I also need to make sure to put more spare nutrition in Special Needs.  I had only put 1 extra gel in my bike special needs and NO salt tabs, so I had effectively no salt the entire ride.  When that happens, no matter how much fluid you take in, if your body can’t absorb it, you are screwed.

This was perhaps the hardest race that I have ever done.  It was a HUGE HUGE mental and physical battle for me to make it through and there were moments on the run when I was vowing to myself never to do another Ironman!  Oopf…It was a hard day.  But, I’m not a quitter and I never gave up.  Sure, I was disappointed, but the race did little to deter me.  If nothing else, I am more motivated.  For me, the sign of “arriving” as a pro is when on really bad days you are still competitive.  And I clearly have a long long way to go.

The one thing I can say is (despite cursing it for the better part of 26.1 miles of the run) I LOVED this course and I LOVED this race.  Texas – you may have beaten me this time, but I am coming back to do it again.

Thank you to my Mom and my aunt, Patty, for being such AMAZING supporters out there.  Ironman is such a long, hard, emotional day, and those two poured their heart and souls into cheering for me (and my mom was ridiculously sick as well, making her support that much more amazing).  In my darkest moments all I could do was move a finger to try to acknowledge them, but in my mind…their support was what kept me going all day long.  Thank you to you both.  I love you both very very much.

So….Until next time…the journey continues.  Another race down.  Another experience to drop in the bucket.  And now I move forward and look ahead to the next one.

Coming up:  Eagleman 70.3 in Cambridge Maryland on June 10th!

Until Next Time – Don’t Dream It.  Be It (Y’all….)…

Xxx

Sarah-

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