Ironman Texas. I remember hearing rumors about an Ironman coming to Texas nearly ten years ago, but it didn't actually happen until a couple weeks ago. I had some doubts about the venue, the timing, etc, but I have to say that WTC and The Woodlands got it done. I thought it was a great place to host a race and many athletes and spectators have said the same thing. Sure it was warm, but no more so than many other North American Ironmans to date. Race Day.
I was a bit concerned that they might call wetsuits for this race since they said the water was hovering at 76 degrees the day before. Fortunately on race morning it had warmed to 78 and wetsuits would not be allowed. Even though I don't come from a swim background, I still prefer to race without wetsuits; particularly when the water is that warm.
I hopped in the water about twenty minutes before the start and proceeded to get a nice warm up in. I eventually made my way to the line and got ready for the day. After the gun went off I tried my best to get out quickly and position myself in a group. I wasn't able to hang with the likes of TO, Llanos, etc, but I got out in front of the group that eventually swam 52-53. They came around on my right and I slotted in on their feet. Seemed like I was in the perfect position, but I was struggling to hang on. I kept yo-yoing off the back and somewhere about 1500 meters into the swim a gap opened up in front of me. I kept trying to get back on, but I just could not make it happen.
This was not really the way I wanted to start my day. I swam the remainder of the swim entirely solo and I've never had to swim by myself for that long in an Ironman. That was not a preferable experience so I'll do whatever it takes in the future to avoid that happening again.
I exited the water very far down from the front and started hustling through transition. As I was making my way towards my bike, I could hear that a small group of guys had exited the water shortly behind me (one minute or less). With that in mind, I decided to ride steady until they caught me and then go with them. This worked out pretty nicely because I had about 30-40 minutes of riding to sort myself out before they rolled up on me. At that point, I linked up with all them and we proceeded to chase as best we could.
The first 60K of the bike had a few fast sections, but after spending the last three Ironman bike rides solo, I was determined to stay with a group no-matter-what. Contrary to the swim, I was doing well in the group and I took my turns setting the pace at the front as well. WTC had a lot of officials for this race and I can easily say that we had an official watching us for about 80% of the ride. This kept everybody honest and allowed for clean racing.
I was expecting the second half of the bike course to slow down with typical southerly winds, but they never really came. As a result, you'll see the bike times for the pro race (and the AG race) to be on the faster side than usual. This was definitely welcomed as I knew the run was going to be tough with the warmer temps (high of 90 and high humidity).
We got into T2 at 5:30ish race time so I knew I had ridden close to 4:30 (4:31 official time) which is the fastest bike time I have yet to post in an Ironman. I've come close to posting that before, but I haven't backed it up with a good run on either occasion.
I wasn't quite sure where I was in the race, but it sounded like I came off the bike just inside the top 15 so I thought a top ten was doable with a good marathon. Patrick Evoe and I started the run together, but he quickly put a nice gap into me. I would say it was at least 30-40 seconds by the time we hit mile 3. However, I was ok with the mile splits I was seeing on my end so I decided to not worry to much about racing for the first couple laps of the run.
With the high heat and humidity, I was really trying to take my time at each aid station. I would slow way down and try to consume as much fluid as possible while also putting ice and wet sponges everywhere. This resulted in slighter slower mile splits, but by the second loop of the run it was starting to pay dividends as I moved into 8th place. At that point, I wasn't too sure if I would be able to gain any more spots because Evoe was running strong and maintaining the same time gap he had established earlier. As I started the final loop, I was actually more focused on simply trying to finish under 8:30.
Just as the final loop started I could see the gap to Evoe start to come down and right around the mile 20 marker I got across. I never take anything for granted late in Ironman so I kept doing my best to push to the finish line. I held my 7th place and crossed the line 8:29:44 so I managed to break 8:30 in the end as well.
I felt mostly good about everything that happened that day. I was quite disappointed with how the day started, but the bike and run both went well and I managed to make up a lot of the ground I gave up at the beginning of the day. I had the fifth fastest marathon of the day (2:56:xx) which was more satisfying that anything else. 2010 saw my fastest marathon to date and it also saw my longest stretch of poor marathons. It really meant a lot to me to get back on track.
Additionally, I had more friends and family along the course than probably every race I've ever done COMBINED. It was so much fun to race in front of the hometown crowd and I'm definitely planning to get back there next year.