This past weekend I made my way back to The Woodlands, Texas for the second annual Ironman Texas. Having grown up in Houston, this race is the closest I’ll ever get to having a home town race. As such, my motivation to put together a successful race had been in full force ever since I crossed the line of the first race, one year ago.
We had a non-wetsuit swim like last year and the morning water temperature was reported to be around 81 degrees. Fairly warm, but not bath water material. After a short warm up and a national anthem, we sorted ourselves out on the start line. After the race, Brandon Marsh pointed out the fact that while we have about 50 meters of start line, we all line up in about 5 of them. Quite true.
The start of the race was a little hectic, but it actually sorted out quite quickly. It might just be a coincidence, but I find this to be the case more often in non-wetsuit swims. As we made our way to the far turn buoys I was sitting with a few other swimmers and we had settled into our pace. I was glad to have some others around me at the time because my goggle seal broke and they were flooded with water. I could still see things up close pretty easily, but sighting far buoys was difficult. Our group of three stayed together to the end of the swim and we exited in 55 minutes and change.
I hustled through T1 and got out on the bike. Generally speaking, the first half of the bike went really smoothly and was uneventful. We had a slight tailwind for the most part and the shade from the tree-lined course kept things much cooler than it would have been in the sun. I had one other athlete riding with me for the first couple hours and for a short while there were actually four of us that came together. However, somewhere around the halfway point of the bike I went off the front and from there it was a solo effort to T2.
I have done plenty of rides completely on my own in Ironman races, but for whatever reason the second half of this bike leg proved to be one of the toughest I’ve had to deal with mentally. I don’t really know why; it might have been the lonely country roads or the headwind we had on the back half, but whatever the reason, I was fighting to keep my head in the game.
I couldn’t have been happier to see T2 as I rolled back into town. I really did not want to be on my bike any more that day. After a quick change I headed out onto the three loop run course sitting in 7th place.
Initially, I was not really thinking about where I was in the race. I knew I just needed to get through the first half of the run without getting too dehydrated or overheating. There was hardly a cloud in the sky and I knew that it would just continue to get warmer as the day went along.
Not too much had happened by the end of the first loop. I did manage to move into 6th place, but Jozsef (4th) and Brandon (5th) were holding steady with their gaps of 3-4 minutes.
I rolled through the next five miles of loop two and as I made my way back onto the canal I heard a split of one minute to 4th. A couple miles later I managed to bridge to Brandon, who had just bridged to Jozsef and all of sudden the three of us were running side by side. I respect both these athletes immensely and having this moment where the three of us were all racing side by side was very cool to me. Its just something that stuck with me afterwards.
At the start of the third loop, I was running alone in 4th and I was told Rasmus (3rd) was about 3 minutes ahead of me. When I made my way out onto Lake Woodlands Drive I could see him up the road and somewhere between miles 20 and 21 I had moved into 3rd place.
At this point in the race, I assumed that any other position was not an option. I just wanted to stay hydrated and fueled so that I finished the race in one piece (and didn’t concede the position I was in).
Then as I made my way back into town along the canal I was told around the mile 23 marker that 2nd place was less than 90 seconds up the road. With three miles to go, this still seemed like a pretty big gap to close so late in the race. As I hit mile 24 someone said the gap was now down to less than a minute. However, I still couldn’t see anyone up the road so I wasn’t sure that was even accurate. Then as I made my way to the far end of the south side of the canal I could finally see the 2nd place bike leading Mathias. It honestly still seemed too far to make up.
I made my way across the bridge and down the hill to head out to the final turnaround. Someone yelled 20 seconds just before I saw the mile 25 marker. I continued down the canal, through the turnaround and somewhere in the middle of the 26th mile I had finally made my way up to Mathias. A couple hundred meters later we had to run up a slight hill that led to the new finish line area. I know better than to underestimate Mathias so when I came up to this hill I just went as hard as I could go. I actually thought the finish was right around the corner, but when I got there I saw another turnaround in front of me instead. I started to think I might have just blown myself up in this last little bit, but fortunately I didn’t and I finished up the race in 2nd Overall.
It was a crazy way to finish the day; certainly not anything I would have predicted. It was good reminder to always race every step of every race. You never know what lies ahead of you.
Congratulations to Jordan Rapp for closing it out and taking home the victory on Saturday.
I want to say thank you to the Deppe Family for being such great hosts for us over the weekend. They treated us like family and took us in like one of their own.
Until next time,