2013 Ironman Texas – Race Report by Jason Sanders

I hesitated actually writing a race report for Ironman TX ’13, but I really wanted to do it for myself to have to go back and revisit at some point and decided to put it on Facebook, because I know how much I really enjoyed reading Corey Oliver’s report two years ago. So, here it is….If you really want to get down to it, this year’s Ironman TX started for me a year ago. Holly and I decided to go for it and sign up for IMTX ’12. Not really sure what we were thinking at the time!2013_Ironman_Texas

Going into last year’s race, I felt great. I knew if I came out of the water alive, I would finish. I came out of the water alive, jumped on the bike and didn’t look back. The real problem was I didn’t look forward. I focused on racing and neglected hydration and nutrition. After vomiting and cramping from mile 85 on the bike, my IMTX bid ended ugly at mile 17 on the run. The bright side of that day was I got to see Holly do GREAT and finish the race with a smile!

After I got back home, I waited patiently for IMTX ’13 registration to open and I signed up on day one. Shortly after, I started having trouble with my right knee. Went to Dr. Shane Barton, scheduled and MRI, then had surgery on November 2 to reattach part of my lateral meniscus and a bursectomy. He told me right off, no swimming, biking or running till Jan 15. I said no problem, because with IMTX on May 18, it would give me a solid 5 months to train. Only one problem….once Jan 15 arrived and I told Holly 5 months would be enough, she pointed out that my math was wrong, and I only had 4 months to train. CRAP!! Four months and zero running base. I figured I needed to make the most of the four months, so I hired Lisa Colvin out of Monroe to coach me. This combined with the outstanding swim coaching by Janet Martin at Red River Masters proved to be a good move.

Going into May 18, I felt good. My swim and bike were stronger than last year and the run was just going to be slow and that would have to be good enough.

Thursday, May 16

Holly and I left town around 7am and headed for the Woodlands, TX. We got there around 11:00, checked into the race hotel and then headed to Grimaldi’s for some pizza. The Ironman check-in and expo was the next stop. I have to say, the volunteers and organizers at this race are top notch. Check-in was a breeze and there was ALWAYS someone asking if I needed help with anything. LOL, maybe I always looked like I needed help. I managed to escape the expo only buying a hat and a water bottle cage! Probably the best thing about the expo this year was the fact that Ryan Bates was there at the ART tent. He loosened me up and told me to come back the next day for a final tweak. The rest of the day was spent off my feet watching some useless TV in hotel room, until the Ironman banquet that night.

Just like last year, the banquet had some pretty good food and some very motivating videos and speeches. While sitting at dinner, I was talking to Tony Bouso about race nutrition plans. I told him that I was not drinking any sport drinks on race day and would sticking with water and electrolyte pills. The year before, I drank Ironman Perform sport drink. After 50 miles I decided I really didn’t like the taste of it, and I began taking in less and less fluids. Big mistake! So this year, I trained with water only and some electrolyte pills that Marty Regan put me onto called S-caps. Tony asked if I was sure that was a good thing in such a long and hot race. I told him I was sure of what I was doing and that it would work for me…….I hope!

Got to run into Corey Oliver with Outrival Racing in between trips to the buffet. Corey has been kinda my contact man in the Woodlands the past two years and VERY helpful, and oh by the way gives a ton of his time to the race and takes some GREAT pictures! Oh yeah, he also completed the first IMTX in 2011. Off to the hotel room and early to sleep.

Friday, May 17 The day before the race!

I woke up and immediately was aware that after I went to bed tonight, it would be time to get up an do an Ironman. As the day went on, the sense of doom grew. Uggh! First on the agenda was a practice swim in Lake Woodlands at 8am. This would be big, because while last year I probably got in a dozen open water swims before the race, this year I did one because it had been such a cold spring. The water temp was 75.8. Just below the wetsuit cutoff, BUT a high of 90 degrees for the day almost guaranteed that the race day water temp would be above the 76.1 cutoff. So no wetsuit for me this morning. The water was pretty chilly, but once I got going, it felt good. Once I started swimming and tried to get used to swimming in murky water again, I started to panic a bit because it didn’t feel good at all. Thankfully I started feeling comfortable the last half of the 500m swim.

Once back at the hotel, Lisa called and reminded me of the run workout she had planned for the morning. Marty joined me in the workout. We found a local high school lacrosse field and got it done. My legs felt dead at first, but woke up a bit after. I could feel the heat of the day setting in, and I quickly started thinking about how hot it was going to be the next day. With a 3pm deadline looming for turning in bikes at transition, I got back to the hotel and started prepping the bike and getting together my run and bike transition bags. I probably went over the list 5 times before I sealed them for good. Taking off on the bike on race day and missing something from the bag could mean big problems for the rest of the race. We dropped off the bikes and bags. While standing in transition, we looked at all the bikes and figured that there was $8-9million worth of bikes in this place! To the hotel and off my feet till dinner. We chose LeMadeline for dinner. Grilled chicken and pasta with extra salt and strawberries&cream. This seemed to work last year, so why change?

We returned to the hotel and my “plan” was an early to bed. Well, I got in bed and immediately started thinking about the conversation the night before with Tony about my water plan. Was this really a good move? I mean, we haven’t trained in hot weather all spring and it was going to be 93 degrees on race day! Then I started thinking about the always terrifying swim. An Ironman mass swim start is brutal. It can be like an MMA fight in the water. Am I brave enough to start out in the front like I know is best? I second guessed every race plan decision until about midnight when I finally fell asleep.

Saturday, May 18 *RACE DAY*

I woke up every 30 minutes until my 4am alarm went off. This is not going to be good. I’m exhausted! I wasn’t hungry at all, but I forced down my peanut butter, banana and honey bagel, and continued hydrating like I had been doing the past 3 days. I was still nervous, but I was gradually moving to calm and confidence in what I was about to do. I made sure I had everything together. Went through my special needs bags one more time, because 8 times wasn’t really enough.

Holly and I met Marty and Kathy in the hotel lobby at 5:30 to drive to transition and finalize things with the bikes. I was feeling really calm at this point and was starting to notice the people around me in transition. Most of the people I noticed were nervous. They were pacing back and forth, going over their bikes again and again, dropping things. It was kinda funny. That was sure enough me last year! We jumped back in the car and headed to the swim start.

We walked into the swim start area around 6:00. It was a sea of people navigating through the morning darkness. I was about to drop off my special needs bags, when I realized I need to pee. The lines for the port o lets were LONG. I peed in the woods. I got interviewed by an Ironman camera man. Pretty cool. It was 6:45 and the pros were getting ready to take off. I kissed Holly goodbye and headed to the water with Tony Bouso. We got in the water 2 minutes before the pros started. That would mean that I would have to tread water for 12 minutes before my 2.4 mile swim! Not a good thought.

SWIM:

For my starting spot, I chose the same as last year…..on the front row on the outer 1/3rd of the start line. The water was very choppy even before the swim. As the countdown got closer, the water treading got more difficult because more people started to crowd the front in preparation for the start. The voice of Ironman, Mike Reilly got us ready to go. I turned around to look at the clock and there was 9 seconds left. My goggles were fogging! I quickly broke the seal and dipped under water to clear them, resealed them just in time for the cannon fire. I dropped my head in the water and took off.

For the first couple of minutes I swam hard. My goal was to get away from the clutter of the swim start as fast as possible and get into a groove. It couldn’t have worked any better. It was the usual elbows and kicking, but I swam defensively and protected myself. I tried time after time to draft, but I just couldn’t make anything stick. It seemed like forever before we reached the first turn buoy. I thought I’d be brave and take the inside line around the buoy. It was a little much for me so I took the outside line on the next turn. After the next turn, I knew that I had about 1500m to the next turn down the canal.

I found a guy swimming my speed to my right. I didn’t try drafting off him, but I watched to make sure he was swimming straight for a bit. After I was confident he would lead me to the promised land, I stopped sighting ahead and just kept my eyes on this guys as I turned to breathe each time. It seemed like we made it to the canal pretty quick.Once in the canal, the water really got choppy. Everyone started getting bunched together. I decide to get to the right, keep any eye on the right bank of the canal as I turned to breathe, minimizing the sighting ahead. The canal is about 900m long, but it seemed like forever. Finally I started noticing people cheering on the banks. I couldn’t hear them at all, but I’m sure they were all cheering for me. I made the last short turn and exited the water.

As I was running to get my bike bag I heard someone screaming my name. I turned and saw Holly, my parents, and my coach Lisa Colvin chasing after me. I can’t remember the last time I saw my dad running, but it was great to see them all and it gave me a boost. After grabbing my bag, I headed for the changing tent. I tried to hurry, but make sure I had everything covered. I ran out of the tent and into the port o let to pee then I was off to the bike. (No, I didn’t wash my hands after peeing). As I jumped on the bike, I heard someone scream “Go Jason!”, and I was off.

BIKE:

My plan on the bike was to hold around 215-220watts. The first 15 minutes, it was a struggle to hold 170watts. I thought this was going to be a long ride if this is all the power I could push. Thankfully, after 15 minutes or so, I got my legs back and was able to hold 215. The thought of another DNF spooked me, so I backed it down to 200watts. I focused on staying steady especially going up the hills.

The most important key of the bike would be hydration and electrolytes. I feel like I kept my stomach full of water and was taking 2 pills every 30 minutes. I tried to force myself to look around and take in the day, especially during the section through the national forest.Much of the first half of the bike were tailwinds and crosswinds, and I noticed everyone around me seemed pretty strong. There were several guys that were attacking the hills, and I wondered if they could keep that up for 112 miles.

As I entered Grimes county, the road conditions deteriorated. Around mile 60, we took a left turn in a wide open area straight into a nasty headwind. My 23mph became 17-18mph. The wind has a way of mentally breaking you down, but I had tried to prepare myself for it. Before I knew it, I was at turning onto Jackson Rd and I began seeing some of the hill attackers again. I realized that I felt great and that this was where my ride started falling apart last year. I saw several little pace lines working their way down the road. I was pretty paranoid and stayed clear of the drafting.

Once I started getting back into town, the ride seemed to slow down and it seemed like forever before the end. Once I turned the last corner, I saw the huge crowd and I got pumped up. BUT once I got off the bike, I immediately started to dread the marathon. By this time, the temperature had reached 93 with a heat index of 102. The changing tent was like a sauna. Not sure why they don’t have fans inside.

RUN:

I left the tent, got covered with sunscreen and started running. I felt really good and I was running 9:00min pace. That didn’t last long. By the time I climbed the dirt hill for the first time, the heat had started to set in and I was hurting. Not long after leaving the 1st mile aid station, I started walking. I got pretty frustrated thinking that I would end up walking the entire marathon. After walking for a couple of minutes, I tried running again. Felt a little better.

I caught up with a guy that I had seen several times on the bike course. He seemed to be struggling like me. I tried to encourage him and somehow that encouraged me. We were a long way from the finish, but having someone to run with seemed to make some miles go by a little faster. He stayed with me till around mile 6, then he sat down and waved me on. As I ran down the canal, I began looking for Holly and my parents. I finally spotted Holly’s florescent yellow shirt and I got a little kick from that. Once I reached her and Lisa on the other side of the canal, I let them know that I lost my electrolyte pills. I’m not saying that I received outside help on the Ironman course, but I managed to find some electrolyte pills to get me through the rest of the run.

The second lap was the worst of the three. The heat was really setting in, and I still had a long way to go. I saw someone shoving ice from the aid station in the back pockets of their tri suit and decided to try it. Big life saver! I got in the groove of drinking one cup of water, pouring a cup over me and filling my pockets with ice at each aid station. Around mile 13, I started to realize I was developing some pretty awesome blisters on my right foot. Around mile 2, I made the mistake of running through a sprinkler. This saturated my right shoe and set me up for blisters. I had a dry pair of socks and body glide in my special needs bag, so that was an option for me around mile 19.

I caught Holly again around mile 17. This was where I threw in the towel last year. As I passed the mile 17 marker, I hurled a few choice words at the sign and ran on. One thing I noticed on the last lap was that I heard ambulance sirens what seemed to be every 10 minutes. Along the way, I got to see that they were going to take care of runners that were fallen out along the run course. Not a pretty sight. I got a bit of a second wind, because I knew this was the last lap. I looked down at my Garmin, and I was running 9:15 min mile. I looked down about a minute later and I was running 11:30 mile. That was reality. Still a ways to go. I really wanted to get the marathon in under 5 hours, but it just wasn’t happening. Oh well, I knew at this point I could walk the rest of the way and complete the race easily, so that took a lot of pressure off me.

By mile 20, I was still drinking one, pouring one, filling the pockets. But then I started grabbing an extra cup of ice and rubbing the ice on my chest to keep my body temp down. This really helped. Before I knew it, I was running along the canal for the last time. Where as before, the crowd yelling and giving high 5’s was almost too much for me, on the last lap, it gave me a boost. I didn’t bother increasing my speed, because I knew I would just end up back at 11:30 mile pace. As I ran by the area where I had been seeing Holly, my parents and Lisa, I noticed they weren’t there. I told myself, “they’re waiting for me at the finish line!” This really got me going. I knew the end was near, so I really tried to take in the environment of the race. I wanted to get my best time, but at the same time, I didn’t want it to end. I went through the last aid station and started making my way toward the finish line. I passed Corey Oliver one more time, who he and his wife had been out all day taking pictures of athletes. I let him know I was making the right turn to head to finish. The last tenth of a mile or so was corralled into a chute. I made it through the last few turns and could see the finish line. Mike Reilly announced my name and said I was an Ironman. That last tenth of a mile, I felt like I could run another 10k at a 7:00 min mile pace. As soon as I crossed the finish line, I only had enough energy to keep myself upright.

I’ve got to say, there’s nothing else like an Ironman finish line. As disappointed as I was last year with not finishing, I really think it meant a lot more finishing this year. It was hard for Holly to see me not finish while she celebrated, but she was my biggest support this year and I know it meant a lot to her to be able to see me finish this year. And Lisa Colvin’s coaching is for real! Also, I had a hell of a pit crew in Holly, my parents and Lisa Colvin. Having that support there REALLY helped!
While I definitely figured out that it was dehydration that was my undoing at last year’s race, this is what I figured out to be the real root of the problem last year.

IMTX 2012 – Goal: 12:00-12:30
Achieved: Swim-1:20 Bike-5:55 Run-
*DNF* (Did Not Finish)

IMTX 2013 – Goal: JUST FINISH
Achieved: Swim-1:13:09 Bike-5:14:17
Run-5:08:14
Total transition time: 18:25 (I know, too
long)
Finish 11:54:04

I found out the hard way last year that an Ironman race is a very humbling race. It exposes any weakness, makes you pay for any mistakes made before and during the race, and makes you really REALLY appreciate the finish line when you finally cross it.

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