Galveston – Ironman 70.3 Texas   8 comments

It’s been a while since I did a FULL-ON race report… Hell, I think the last one I published was for Ironman Boulder in 2016. So yeah… It’s been a while. Let’s start with WHY I was doing this race, 3 weeks before my second Ironman attempt. Why? Because my coach told me to. I guess she was right, because there were a few things I needed to practice for IMTX that I just can’t get in on training days. The two main things I was practicing was my on-the-bike nutrition and seeing if it would be feasible for me to run with my water belt (I tend to get dehydrated rated on race day, and I really need to avoid that.) Nutrition was a win, water belt was a giant annoying failure. More on that later.

Let’s start with the weather. I mean, doesn’t everyone always just want to talk about the weather? This is springtime, in Texas, which means the weather can be anywhere from cold and rainy to perfect to jesus-fucking-christ-it’s-100%-humidity-and-saunaesque-out-there. And typically, that weather can change in a matter of hours. Planning how you are going to execute a springtime race in Texas is basically an exercise in futility. You plan for one thing, and another happens. Such is the case for Galveston. I had spent all week looking at the forecast, which kept saying the winds would be 15-20 mph all Sunday. Yay. My fucking favorite. The closer we got to race day, the more the projected winds speeds died down. And the temps stayed pleasant. It was looking like it was going to be a nice day to race. What I failed to catch was the “it’s going to be in the 40s or low 50s in the morning” part of the forecast. I was not prepared for that.

Lemme be clear on something. While I hate the dead of summer when everything is fried, and the sun is blazing down, and the temps and humidity are soaring, there is a reason I still live in Texas. I’m not good at cold. I don’t handle it well at all. I have all kinds of cold-weather gear, but it was all in Austin (aka 4 hours away) and the only thing remotely “warm” that I had with me in the way of workout gear was a thin windbreaker that I usually run in when the temps drop below 50 degrees. I’ve never been so thankful for a windbreaker in my life. One of the women who I was staying with let me borrow a pair of running gloves to ride with, but they were not wind nor water proof, so hopes that my fingers would not be solid hunks of ice were pretty slim. All this is to say that I knew going into the race that weather was going to be a BIG factor to my success or failure.

Race day came, my alarm goes off at stupid-o’clock, per usual. I get up, and realize that yes… It’s fucking cold. Not just chilly, but fucking COLD. It’s about 48 degrees and 100% humidity. But at least the wind wasn’t terrible… yet. Get ready, get to race site, get to transition, get out of the car, promptly realize I will be spending the next who knows how many hours in a perpetual state of shivering. I set up transition, grab my goggles, cap, and wetsuit, and head out to the race start. (The wetsuit made walking around much more pleasant. Can I just wear a giant rubber suit during the entire winter? So warm! So so so warm!)

The Swim – pee water never felt so good.

My wave was the first of the age groupers and the first wave behind the pros. I thought this was awesome at the time, but throughout the day, realized this is pretty much the SHITTIEST place to be on race day. More on that later. We are standing around, waiting for the cannons to go off sending the pros out into Offat’s Bayou (a protected little bayou in Galveston Bay.) I haven’t had a chance to really look at the water because the start is at the end of a really long pier that we haven’t even stepped foot on yet. Cannons go off, and my age group is called onto the pier. That’s when I see the conditions. The wind out there was definitely picking up, and the water was getting choppy. It wasn’t “we are all going to die” choppy, but it certainly was choppier than I had hoped. We jumped in off the pier, one by one, like lemmings hopping off a cliff and everyone promptly peed in the water. (At least, that’s my assumption since I’ve never been in 70 degree water that felt THAT warm, even compared to the outside temps!) With just a few seconds to go, we all look around and give each other the normal pre-race good luck salutations (with a few “please don’t drown me” statements here and there.) And then BAM. I have been SPOILED by my races lately, and it’s been a good long while since I’ve been in a wave start; my local races have all turned to time trial starts. As soon as the starting horn blares, there were 150 women jockeying for position in a giant washing machine. Arms flying, legs thrashing, people swimming over each other. It’s scary, but THRILLING at the same time. As soon as I started getting into my swim, I notice the visibility is actually pretty good for Texas water at about 4.5 feet. That meant the likelihood of getting kicked in the face was slim as long as I paid attention to the bubbles in front of me. I would have sighed in relief, had I not been in the middle of a water-based moshed pit. We hit the first, then second buoy, and I notice that I’m still in the fray of others. I’m not a terrible swimmer, but I’m certainly not the fastest, and I’m used to getting dropped by the middle pack pretty quickly. That didn’t seem to happen. This just meant that I was going to have to be comfortable with the discomfort of having someone swimming near me the whole time. I could handle that. More buoys are going by, and I feel like I’m not really engaging my pull and I’m swimming a bit like a barge (with my face forward instead of down.) These are two issues that I have been focusing on in the pool for the last who-knows-how-long, so I started doing a form check. Hips up, abs engaged, face down, right hand entering the water wide (I cross over a lot on the right), etc etc etc. I start getting taken over by the fast people in the waves behind me. I decide to try a tactic that I’ve never successfully pulled off in the water: slide in behind a fast-as-fuck swimmer, and hold on to that draft for as long as I possibly can. These guys are passing me like I’M the buoy, so I am not able to stay on their feet for more than a few seconds each time, but they keep coming. So I keep dropping in behind them. Over and over.  Each time catching 15-30 seconds of a draft off a fast motherfucker. Do I feel like I’m actually getting any benefit? Not really, but it was a fun game that helped the time pass by. Slide in, check form, hold on, get dropped. Slide in, check form, hold on, get dropped. About 2/3 through the swim, when I pick my head up to site the next buoy, I see that there isn’t another green cap (my wave) in sight. I successfully got dropped by my whole wave. Even though I had been playing this little game, I just felt SLOW and like I wasn’t moving much at all. Engage, engage, pull pull, keep going, around the last turn, and on to the straightaway to the swim exit. Coming out of the water, I look at my watch and do a little freak out dance. I PR’D by 3 minutes! That gave me a little boost into transition, which is great, because the world was about to take a turn.

T1

I get out of my wetsuit in record time thanks to the strippers. For those that aren’t all triathlon-y, strippers are the people who stand inside the transition area and help athletes out of their wetsuits. It’s our job to get the suit down to the hips and lie down; it’s their job to grab it as we lift our legs and hips and sssssstttttttrrrrriiiiiiiiiip it right off in one quick pull. It’s magic. I get to my bike, and make the final decision to put on my wind breaker. Jacket on, gloves on (albeit wet), helmet on, shoes on, grab the bike, go. I’m already getting chilled, and I know it’s about to get a whole lot worse.

BIKE

The wind wasn’t howling, yet, but it was kicking up. It was still only about 50 degrees, and I was wet. I had the wind to my back for the first half. Like I mentioned before, this race was a dial in for my full in 3 weeks, and there were a few things I needed to practice. My biggest concern was being able to get in enough liquid on the bike. I had a plan to make a really strong “slurry” of sports drink, then I would squirt some into my aerobar bottle and dilute it with a bottle of water from the aid station. I sat down and talked this out with one of my friends the day before, but I had never actually tried it. Aid stations were every 15 ish miles, so I would have to start with an extra bottle on the bike. No problem.

That first half, I felt pretty good, but I was already getting passed by a lot of people and I never really caught anyone. I didn’t know where in my age group I got out of the water (there’s no real-time way to see that), so I figured I’d catch SOMEONE on the bike. I always do. But not today. This becomes important later. Over that first 28 miles, I felt strong, but didn’t push terribly hard because I could tell that the way back was going to be a struggle fest. I needed to conserve my strength a bit for that long haul into the wind. Wise? Probably not. But that’s where my head went.

I know that 50 degrees doesn’t SOUND that cold, but in a humid environment, on a bike, without proper clothing and protection for it, 50 degrees is BRUTAL. My toes were already starting to go numb by the first water stop. 45 minutes into a 3+ hour ride, and I was already cold to the bone. Before the race, I was really concerned about the temps, and everyone kept telling me, “oh don’t worry! You’ll warm up on the bike!” No. I won’t. I know my body and one thing I don’t do well is warm up on the bike. If I get chilled while riding, it’s really difficult for me to regulate body heat. Honestly, if the sun isn’t shining, it could be 85 degrees, and I’ll probably still have on sleeves! I don’t know why this is the case, but it has been for the last few years. On the run, I’m fine. But I FREEZE on the bike. So by mile 15, I was toast. Or the exact opposite of toast. Being toast would have been lovely because then I would have at least been warm!

I hit the turn around feeling strong-ish. But about 3 minutes later, the rain started. And the wind picked up even more. So now, I was cold, heading INTO a gnarly wind, and getting rained on. Great. My fucking FAVORITE. As you can imagine, this is about where the mental spiral started. My speed dropped from 19-20 easy peasy to oh-holy-shit-I-can-barely-crank-out-15-mph. The struggle bus had arrived, and I was securely on board for who knows how long. The tears started at around the 30 mile marker, and continued in various levels of severity for the remainder of the ride.

This is where shit gets fun. (And by fun, I mean, “I hope I never have to go through this again.”) You know how my plan was to take in a lot of liquid on the bike? Well, I nailed that part. The whole slurry/water-dilution method was working out perfectly, and I was hitting my 36 oz/hr target. That would have been AWESOME, had it been 80, 90, 100 degrees. Did I mention that it was FUCKING 50??? Which meant I wasn’t sweating like I would have normally been. Which meant my body had to go through other means of expelling the excess liquid I was taking in. At around mile 32, my bladder started screaming at me. And I mean SCREAMING. I have never had to pee so badly in my life. It came on like a fucking freight train, too. All of a sudden, I went from thinking, “this wind sucks. I’m cold. I’m wet. This blooooows,” to “OH MAH FUCKING GAWD MY BLADDER IS GOING TO EXPLODE AND THERE ISN”T A PORTAPOTTY FOR 10 MORE MILES!!!!” If I were riding for fun, I would have pulled over and peed in the grass, but Ironman is pretty strict about where you can and can’t pee. If you’re caught, you get a penalty. Plus, peeing on the side of a country road in the middle of a sorghum field just seems less sketchy than peeing in the front yard of someone’s beach house. The tears went from small boo-hoos to full on sobbing. Oh yes. I was sobbing. It was pathetic. I spent the next 10 miles trying to figure out how I was going to get out of my windbreaker (that was SOAKED) and gloves (also SOAKED) and my trikit. Did I mention that I was frozen? By this point, not only were my feet solid blocks of ice, but I could no longer feel my fingers. My hands were useless and manual dexterity was not going to happen. I was in a 1-piece kit (my usual for anything up to half ironman), which meant I had to take the jacket off to get my pants down. How long was it going to take to get it off? How was I going to turn it right side out again? How the HELL was I going to get my gloves off? By 3 miles out from the aid station, I was in dire straits. Pain like I’ve never felt. If you look at my pace, I averaged about 11 mph for those three miles. THAT’S how bad it was. I squeaked into the aid station, FINALLY, and just stopped in front of a portapotty and whimpered, “I need help.” Turns out, those were magical words, and a volunteer came over and helped me out of my jacket. I asked her if she could turn it right-side out for me while I was peeing. The door to a portapotty opened, and the president of the Austin Tri Club stepped out and looked at me and said, “I know I’m delirious, but I KNEW that was your voice, CC!” Thank you for the chuckle, Daniel. I needed it badly by that point! He failed to tell me that the damned thing was on a pretty severe slope, though, and I nearly tore my knees out when I stepped inside. My cleat from my bike slipped and my foot rammed into the base of the toilet seat, and I went hurtling a little too close to the opening. One thing that’s nice about being in the front of the pack, though? At least the portapotties are still clean. And had toilet paper.

I have never peed so long in my life. I think I peed for a solid 5 minutes. It was glorious. It was magnificent. It was so nice to be out of the fucking wind for a few minutes, too! Getting out was pretty funny… I couldn’t get my kit back up and my feet kept slipping. I felt like a drunk 4 year-old. When I was finally half-dressed and at least had my nether regions covered, I slip-slid my way back out into the cold. You would think the portapotty was a giant thing for how long it took me to extract myself from there. The volunteer was there to meet me with my jacket and gloves. She helped me get my kit back on, zipped up, and get all of my gear back together and ready to ride again. She was the most beautiful, kind, amazing woman I have ever met. A fucking angel in the middle of a cruel bike course, I tell you.

Feeling like, “Ok. I can do this,” I get back onto the bike and realize that, even though I don’t have to pee anymore, I still have 14 miles of “fuck this fucking wind” to go. I’m able to maintain about 15-16 mph at least, but my heart is slowly getting torn out of my body and my soul is getting ripped apart. Here’s where I need to take a bit of a digression and explain where my brain was firmly seated. And why it was so. fucking. hard to finish this ride.

Ah. Brains are so interesting with the messages they send us, aren’t they

I didn’t pass a SINGLE person the whole time I was out on the bike, which obviously meant that I was weak and did not deserve to even be out there on the course. I didn’t deserve to be in this race. I felt like I was shit. Like I had no business being out there. Like this whole Ironman thing was for other people, not for me. I didn’t deserve to be out there. I know, it sounds ridiculous. And mean. I don’t think of myself as a bully, but when I replay the loop that was running through my head, and kept running through my head for daaaaaaaays after the race, it’s obvious that I am a bully to myself!

A couple of miles after the stop, Meredith passed me. I know that my friend Courtney had passed me back in the early 30s of this ride, but I don’t remember where. But Meredith caught up to me around this point, and I was in a foul, foul head space. I had been ugly crying for a good hour and half at this point, and had really set into my incredibly negative head space. When she passed me, she said something like, “hey bitch!” (a common greeting between us), to which I replied with full force, “GO FUCK YOURSELF.” (NOT a common response to said greeting between us.) She knew something was wrong, and later said, “I thought you were going to cut me! I thought maybe I had pissed you off.” Nope. It wasn’t you. It was all the shit flying around in my fucking frozen brain that responded in my voice. Sorry, lady. It was not aimed at you.

My mantra for that last hour was “just get to the run. Just get to the run. Just get to the run.” Hell, if someone had offered me $5 for my bike, I would have given it to them. In a fucking heartbeat. I was done. Done done done done. I have rarely thought about dropping out of a race because I was miserable, but I was seriously considering it. Seriously. I’ve never been that close to throwing in the towel without having some kind of injury or concern about injury.


Coming off the main road and heading through back streets back into transition – usually a time of excitement and pride for getting through the ride – I was still firmly on the struggle bus. Every turn was painful. I felt like I was in a never-ending tunnel, and the more I rode, the further transition got. Apparently, my perception was frozen, too.

T2 – An Exercise in Futility

I got into T2 and immediately took off my shoes, even before getting to my rack space. My second toe on my left foot was so numb that I couldn’t tell if it was still there. I was afraid it was sitting at an odd angle in my shoe and if I were to run with it sitting that way, I’d break it unintentionally. Side note about perception: you remember me yammering on about where my brain was and how MEAN I was being to myself? Well, when I got INTO transition and saw that most of the bikes were still gone, I somehow managed to tell myself that this was because everyone had passed me and were already running. Yeah, my brain was not really attached to what was really happening in around me at this point. I’m not kidding when it too 3 miles of running on nearly empty streets before my brain clicked in, and I thought, “wait a minute… no bikes means everyone is still ON THE FUCKING BIKE COURSE.” Forehead slap… Anyway, back to transition. I get to my rack, rack my bike, fumble taking off my helmet, peel off the gloves (which are useless by now, anyway) and sit down. I spend (no joke) 3 minutes rubbing my feet TRYING to get them to warm up, even a little. I put on my socks, and I swear, it was the weirdest “feeling” ever. They were completely numb, but had weird… I dunno… sensations? I put the socks on, and it “feels” like the one on my left foot is bunched up. I keep looking at it, and I can SEE that it’s smooth and sitting correctly, but it feels like there are clumps of material everywhere. I decide that I was going to trust my eyes instead of my nerves and put on my shoes and go. If the socks LOOK smooth, then they probably actually are, and hopefully, that means I can make it through the next 13.1 miles without blistering the hell out of my feet. Another thing I was testing at this race was running with a water belt with my race bib attached to the front of it. I put it on and realized that I had magically lost an inch over night (yay bloating! It’s fucking real, folks!) , and needed to cinch the belt down more. Well, the bib was pinned in a way that I couldn’t cinch the belt down, which meant I had to use my finger nubs to unpin my fucking belt and somehow magically pin it to my kit. First of all, I HATE pinning shit to my kit. IT PUTS HOLES IN YOUR KIT. Secondly, did I mention that it was cold and my dexterity was GONE? Just imagine fucking around with safety pins with little frozen nubs of fingers and you’ll see just how not-very-awesome this was. After what feels like 3 hours, I FINALLY drag my ass out to the run. (It was “only” 5:43. Which for all the crap I was dealing with is a pretty fucking solid time. Honestly, I did not care how long I took.)

The RUN!

Oh the run! I had been telling myself for 2 hours, “Just get to the fucking run. You will warm up. Just get to the goddamn run!” And at LAST, I was here! Running! I came around the corner out of transition and ran past the Austin Triathlon Club team tent where one of my friends captured my feelings about this race perfectly in a photo.

I’m sure you can guess what I’m saying here… But if not, I’ll give you a hint. It starts with “F” and ends with “uck this race.”

During that first half mile, I wouldn’t have been surprised to have looked down and seen pegs for legs… My feet were so damned numb that they didn’t seem to be a part of my body. I just had to trust the fact that they were working, that the feeling would come back over the next few miles, and that my legs would know what to do, even though there was a MAJOR disconnect between my brain and my body. There was one point where I was sure that my socks had bunched up, and I felt it was prudent to take off my shoe and do ONE LAST sock check. I know, I know. I should have trusted what my eyeballs saw in transition in the first place, but blisters would have been really shitty… 30 seconds off my run time would be totally worth the peace of mind. About a mile into the run, my brain started coming back on line and working a little more logically. That’s when I realize that it’s pretty empty, which means the entire 1800 person field did not, in fact, pass me on the bike. That realization put a little spring in my step. That, and 55 degrees and cloudy is LOVELY weather for running (not so much for cycling.) Being so close to Austin, there were a LOT of familiar faces on the course! Every high five, every “good job,” every smile helped. I picked up my pace. I was banging out miles between 9:15 and 9:40 like they were NOTHING. I felt like a goddamn rock star (even though I still couldn’t feel my feet for 3 miles.)

Right around mile 3.5 ish, I run past some Austinites handing out Fireball. I passed it up on the first loop, because the last thing I needed to do was trip, fall on my face, and break myself 3 weeks out from my big race.

The run is a 3 loop course. I’m weird. I LOVE loop courses on the run. It breaks the run up into easily manageable chunks. It’s just three 4.4 mile repeats. Then it’s just 2 more loops of 4.5 miles. Then, it’s ONLY 4.4 miles! I mean, I can do ANYTHING for for 4.4 miles, right? I won’t bore you with a turn by turn of every mile (mostly because it’s now 3 weeks since the race, and I can’t remember shit anymore.) But I DID grab a shot of Fireball at mile 12.5ish from the Nuts at Big Pistachio Racing. I’m glad I had the foresight to NOT drink it on the first and second loops, cuz that one little shot (and it was a little one) fucked me up a bit. I was still woozy from being frozen on the bike. And I’m a fucking WUSS when it comes to booze now. Oh, to be 25 or even 35 again.

After the shot, I just had a little bit to go for the finish line – that I had run past twice already. Around the corner, through the chute, over the red carpet, and on down to that finish line, I knew that I had rocked the SHIT out of that run. After 6 hours and 17 minutes, I was finally finished with the coldest, most miserable half ironman I hope to ever have the pleasure of running.

Now the stats:

As you can probably tell, my brain was not terribly happy with my performance. This is one of the reasons that I love data gathered from these races. If I went on headspace alone, I would look back at this race as the worst performance in my modern racing history. But the numbers tell something VERY different.

I came out of the water at 40:52 official race time. That seated me at 41st out of 122 women in my age group. The reason I didn’t pass anyone on the bike? There were only professional triathletes and 40 age groupers ahead of me. FORTY. I don’t think I’ve EVER come out of the water in the top 1/3 of my AG before in anything longer than a sprint. Hell, even at sprints, I’m usually middle of the pack. THat’s HUGE for me.

My bike split was 3:22:37. That is a personal worst for a half ironman course by about 6 minutes. My second worst half iron bike split is from 2013 at OilMan in Conroe which was my first ever half distance. My time was 3:16:47. My best ever HIM was in 2014 on the same course as today’s race: 3:06:19. There was a crosswind that day, but it was warm and comfortable temp wise. Oh, and I wasn’t beating myself up the whole time. So when I say, “this was my worst half iron bike split EVER,” it’s not hyperbole. It really was the worst. Ever. But if my brain can try to break me and the wind can try to blow me over and the rain can try to wash me out to sea, and I can STILL finish in 3:22:37, I’m stronger than my brain wants me to think sometimes.

My best time for a half marathon at the end of a half ironman up to this day was 2:11:24 and my best standalone half marathon to date is 2:00:36 (fuck those 36 seconds.) Well, this day, I banged out a half marathon at the end of a half ironman in 2:03:51. And I never -not once – felt like I was racing this course.

So there you have it. The numbers tell me that my brain really likes to play tricks on me and wants me to believe that I am so much slower and weaker than I really am.

All of those brain demons tried to break me. But they failed.

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Posted April 27, 2018 by CC in Uncategorized

8 responses to “Galveston – Ironman 70.3 Texas

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  1. Hell to the yeah CC!! So very proud of you. Fucking Rock Star!!!

  2. YOU ARE A FUCKING WARRIOR GODDESS!

  3. I like the idea of drafting on the swim to pass the time. Alas, I may never do another race involving swimming. FWIW, I’ve had to talk myself into actually starting every single triathlon, and then talk myself out of quitting at some point. (Except Race the River. I still do not know why that race is so magical.)

    Yes, 50F & high humidity is brutal. Humidity is a killer all around. Humidity is why I will probably never move back to the wet side of Washington.

    You are one fierce-assed bitch. RAWR! It’s amazing that you persevered despite your brain working so hard to fuck with you. I only get through dark times because my brain is on my side: I can’t imagine it working against me.

    • It’s interesting how different brains react to adversity. I swear, sometimes, my brain is NOT me. It’s just not who I am! BTW, I spent all the swim at Ironman drafting, too. It definitely helped pass the really. long. time. spent. swimming. forever. good. god. 2.4 miles. is. fucking. far.

  4. Proud of you! Kick some ass this weekend!

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