By Thomas Ash
Alarm was supposed to go off at 4 a.m. I couldn’t sleep past 3:30 a.m. Breakfast of 2 packets oatmeal and a banana (standard) with a big glass of Nuun. Out the door on time at 4:45 a.m. Parked by 5:20 a.m. Temperature at race when I got there was 32F. Checked T2 and laid out my run gear. On the bus and at T1 by 5:45 a.m. Set-up T2, hung around a little, stayed warm. Ate another banana and a waffle while waiting. In wetsuit at 6:45 a.m. Morning bag (including shoes!!) handed in by 7:15 a.m. Stood around at start till my rolling wave about 7:55 a.m.
Couldn’t wait to get into the water!! Sun had come up so it was warming up a tad, but the air temperature was still about 38F. The water was 68F and felt fantastic. Took about the first 200m to get into the swing of things. After getting cut-off in the water/swam over a few times I took a wider path around the buoys. Everyone after the race was commenting that the swim felt long and I tracked about 2100 m. That would put me closer to my expected pace of 2:00 min/100m.
Swim Time – 43:48. Not super happy with that time, but was glad that I swam on the outside and did my thing instead of getting kicked in the face. It was a steady swim. I never felt overwhelmed or out of breath. I could have pushed it much harder, but in hindsight it was the swim I needed to have my first time in a mass swim to not have to pay for it later. Lots of room for improvement in the swim.
Kept the wetsuit on all the way to the bike. Made sure to get as dry as possible (focusing on the feet) as it was about 40F at this point. Ended up just doing a bike vest and full finger gloves (in addition to tri suit). Took the arm warmers with me, but didn’t use them. Never felt cold above the waist and my legs never complained about cold. Couldn’t feel my feet, but they still worked.
Quick stop at the portaloo 1 mile into the bike course. The first half of the course I was averaging out about 18 mph. Things dropped the second half of the bike as the roads got worse and the elevation fought back. The published elevation gain in +1500 ft. In reality it is closer to +2500 ft. There were parts of the back country Texas roads around Austin where you just had to slow down because they were so bad. There’s a hill at mile 50 that you can’t see until about ½ mile away and it looks like you are climbing a skyscraper. There was one person that I passed that was just shouting the F word over and over while climbing.
Bike Time – 3:25:15 – This was my first time really cycling outside on open roads (stick to rail trails in DC) and I’ve only owned a bike for six to eight weeks. Am I happy with this time? Not super, but I understand it. This is where I think I can make the biggest gains. My issue is not sharp climbs. I passed people on the sharp, punchy, steep climbs. It’s the long, slow climbs where I got passed… a lot. I also didn’t want to push myself too hard on the bike and blow up on the run. Everything felt great except for the lower back. Need to focus on this going forward to get more comfortable over long distances. Legs never protested.
Bike Nutrition – 2x 24oz bottles of Infinate and 1 waffle. (More below on this.)
Crazy long run from bike dismount to my rack. Probably 2-3 minutes of my T2 time. Shoes on quickly, 1 waffle consumed, about 6-8 oz water. Shoes on maybe too quickly and tight. Had to stop a few min into the race to loosen them.
Ah the run! By this time it’s up into the mid to upper 70’s F and there is not a cloud in the bright Texas sky. The first 3-4 miles were some of the most unpleasant running miles I’ve ever had. I had to two or three long (3-5 minute) walk breaks because I thought I was going to hurl. My stomach was NOT happy. I thought I was done for, thinking about how much a 3 hour run was going to suck and hoping that I didn’t vom in front of my family or a camera. Looking at my watch I was running 9:30+ min/miles at this point when I wasn’t walking. The good news was that at about mile 4 things calmed down and I could start increasing the speed, running negative splits from there on out.
Run Time – 1:54:44 – 8:45 min./mile - All in I’m really happy with the run based on the fact that the first 3-4 miles sucked so badly. This is still a faster half marathon than my first ever half marathon about 2 years ago. If it hadn’t been for the first 3-4 miles I could have really crushed the run.
Nutrition – 1 serving of Infinate mixed into a 1 liter of water and about 1 liter of just water.
Why I felt Like Crap the First 3-4 Miles – I didn’t drink enough just water on the bike. I took a bottle of just water, but didn’t drink it. I felt fine, so why did I need it? Because I’m an idiot. The Infinate sat in my stomach and started frothing as soon as I started running. Still surprised I didn’t puke. Otherwise, everything was spot on for nutrition. I never felt like I was crashing or any kind of hunger. My lesson learned was to not just count calories in working out a nutrition plan, but balance it with water.
Ironman Texas is at the end of April and I will be ready. I know what I need to work on. The full is half the elevation gain for both the bike and run over twice the distance. Plus, I’ve come this far and will not forget that feeling of turning that last corner and seeing that sweet, sweet red carpet leading to that finish line.
Still can’t believe the race has already passed. There were a few “Holy Shit! I’m doing a 70.3!” moments during the race. Except for that bit on the run, loved every minute. Next time, however, booking a flight out at 5:30 p.m. immediately after the race might have been a dumb idea.