The morning of Ironman Texas I was quite nervous, my ability to get to Kona was riding on a solid finish today. The good thing was I did not need to be perfect, I just needed to race well, forget that…I am not points racing, I am here to win and I was ready to fly. My training the last 6 weeks had gone nearly perfect and mentally I knew I had the right plan to master the scorching hot day ahead. I say nearly because in the week before the race I had some mystery pains going on, but we always get funny pains during a taper.
I mixed my bottles with different concentrations of Base Hydro, Amino, and salt while I ate my morning bowl of oats. Then it was time to ride to transition in the pitch black. After racking my bike and dropping my special needs bags off I lubed up with body glide and sun screen and headed off to the swim start area. Race day would present another challenge, warm water which meant a lot more sweat equity on the swim.
Finally the cannon fired and it was time to stop worrying about anything but racing. I launched off the start line with a strong egg beater kick and after about 200 yards it was a 3 lane drag race, McKerran on my left, Barrett Brandon on my right, & I was leading the charge for the middle lane. I let up a bit and wrestled Jurkiewicz for some feet. If it was a wrestling match for feet you know Harry Wiltshire had to get involved. For the next two miles this was the game, let’s NOT work together, let’s try to drown each other…did these guys forget about my water polo career. Multiple times over the next 2 miles I actually grabbed onto a competitor and pushed them forward to create a gap behind them for me to slide into. I felt like the hulk playing chess.
After a 2.4 mile chess match we all got out of the water close enough to do a group hug. We ran into the change tent and I grabbed my helmet, shoot where is the GPS (required by WTC), I shook the change bag and it wasn’t in there. So after a few seconds I said a version of, “screw it” and took off. I strapped on my helmet and headed to my bike. I saw Heather Fuhr and told her I needed a GPS and within seconds I was on the road.
I pulled the strap on my Mavic’s tight because I knew this was going to be a wild ride. 15 Ironman champions in the field, in a politically shortened 94 mile course with 88 turns and 7 railroad crossings, everybody was going to be sub-4 today. By mile 3 I had not only made up time lost in transition with the GPS fiasco, but I had gapped the lead pack of 5. No surges, just pedaled right by them while they scanned my bike for its motor. I settled in clicking off turns and miles at nearly the same rate. At around mile 15 or 20 I over shot a turn and ended up on the gravel shoulder and nervously laughed, you got to keep the Metrons on the road if you are going to win. There was a mile out and back segment at mile 30 and much to my surprise I made on and off before any chaser was in sight, 5+ minutes in 30 miles…ya baby. Around mile 40 we were going through an industrial park and the lead vehicle slowed and had their arm out the window. I sat up and I started to slow, what’s the issue? They kept slowing down waving their arm out the window, I on the brakes I rolled up next to them, did we miss a turn? No, go ahead, we need to tell the motorcycle something. Are you F—ing kidding me! Son of a B—-. In a fast part of the course with a tailwind here I am riding my brakes thinking there was a hazard ahead or we made a wrong turn, but these monkey’s wanted to talk to a moto. Cellular technology!
A few miles later I bunny hopped one of the sets of railroad tracks and I felt something rattling around in my helmet. The original GPS, I laughed! The Orbea Ordu was slippery fast and the wind just could not slow it down as we flew past miles and miles of Texan strip malls and weaving through neighborhoods. My Powertap pedals and Polar heart rate were both agreeing that this was my day, heart rate low…power spot on. The final miles were on many of the same roads as the original course and I nailed every turn. I slugged down the final few ounces out of my Torhans aero bottles as I arrived to transition.
T2 is always fun in an Ironman, how blasted are my legs? Wow, not at all. I don’t know if it was the 18 less miles or my current level of fitness but I was excited for the run. I pulled on my Orca socks and shoes and started the run.
I could feel that the Texas sun was making its presence in the final miles of the bike, it was getting hot out which is exactly what I planned for as I kept on top of my nutrition. I was committed to running whatever my body allowed me the first 5k before I even started paying attention to paces. At the first aid station everybody was clapping but nobody had cups in hand. I reached over and tried to grab a cup…they were all empty! Seriously. The second aid station was ready, but the fluids were warm. I was feeling good but I could feel I was starting to dehydrate. I saw the 3rd aid station, thank God, I ran up to it, empty cups and nobody is ready. I guess this is serve yourself I walked behind the tables ripped open a bag of ice and made myself some cups of ice water and dumped some ice down my race suit. I got back running after 30 seconds in a much better physical state albeit my mental state was a bit firey. After this occurrence the lead bike went way up the road to make sure the aid stations were ready.
At mile 4 I checked my watch to see where we were at, I was surprised, even with the stop I was just under 7 pace. I was running exactly what I wanted to and all my vitals were better than expected. I just kept a relaxed pace as I ran down the waterway and I got a complete update of the status of the race. Huge pack a little over 12 minutes back. I nailed the 10k in 42 minutes, spot on baby, this was like Florida 2013…the day where I set the world on fire and lost to Victor Del Corral.
I went over the bridge nearing mile 7 and could see back to mile 6, nobody in sight. Well, I didn’t expect to see anybody yet, but it is always reassuring to visually see your lead. I hit the aid station just past mile 7.5 mile and went around the turnaround. I planted my right foot and swept my hips around the turnaround and a familiar nerve pain shot down my right leg. I took two steps I couldn’t feel my foot and the pain was still radiating. I walked a few steps to see if the pain would subside then I tried to run again and the pain was so intense my ears started ringing. Done.
I called my wife from a spectator’s phone, but she already knew. A few of the other athletes slowed to check on me which was nice, but it was a dream day gone south. A group of friends gathered and joined me for the walk. We made small talk about family and life as we slowly and gingerly walked the remainder of the 1st lap of the run and dropped out.
Fighting to Win & Punish,