2011 Ironman Texas Race Report

     A great day after a week of upheaval. With all of the previous week’s Ironman China and Brazil events, I couldn’t be more pleased with how this race turned out. I’m happy with the result, I’m happy that I had the opportunity to race well so close to home in front of friends and family, and I’m happy the race’s Kona points has bumped me much higher in the Ironman Pro Rankings. I’m also pleased that I had a new 3-minute personal best bike split and a 3-minute overall Ironman personal best time. I finished in 8th place overall in a championship race. All-in-all, a lot of positives came out of this experience.

     My 8:32 finish time was made up of a 00:58:30 swim, 4:30 bike, 2:59 run. Although this was my best overall time, it was not without its mistakes and small mishaps. But as with every Ironman, you have time to manage those issues and still have the overall day turn out well. I come away from this race with some new lessons learned as well as a few items I need more time to dissect. It also leaves me excited for the rest of my season.

     First, I want to thank my parents as well as friends from Austin for coming out to, for their support, and their cheering on the course. This course had some of the best spectator support on the run I’ve seen in Ironman. With all of the Austinites out cheering, it was very inspirational and made it feel like we had home field advantage. The cheering really helps.

     I enjoyed the course at Ironman Texas. The water was a bit murky for my tastes, but even though I sucked some in throughout the swim, I had no problems. The lake was calm and the final swim leg through the canal was a very neat experience. The bike was one of my favorite Ironman bike courses. It was flat enough that you could really hammer, but rolling enough that you could change gears, stand up, etc to break up the day. There was a lot more car traffic on the course than I like to see, but other than traffic, it was a really fun bike course. On paper, the run course was the most confusing I’d ever seen. I tried to drive it, bike it, and run parts of it in the days before, but couldn’t figure it out. Luckily, someone had ridden the course on a bike while wearing a helmet camera, then sped up the tape and posted it on youtube. The day before the race, frustrated that I didn’t know where I was going on the run, I watched the video a few times while referencing the course map and google maps. I finally felt like I understood the race’s flow. Once on the run, it was a really neat design the way it twisted in and about with the canal stretches through the spectators and downtown. I really liked the run course. I would have liked more out-n-backs from the racing standpoint to be able to see and gauge my competition more. We greatly dodged the weather bullet in this race. The high was around 90 degrees with high humidity. The sun really didn’t come out until we were on the run. The winds stayed pretty mild compared to the days before the race. Had we gotten a 96-97 degree day with the sun coming out early on the bike, I think the run course would have been carnage. I really think this race needs to be moved to mid-late April when the temps are more in the low-mid 80s instead of 90s. If Ironman moved that race date a month earlier, this would be one of the best races in the whole Ironman circuit.

     The pros were let in the water 20 minutes before the swim start to get a good warm-up, but the problem was that they had us stay in the water the whole time. We ended up treading water for a good 10-15 minutes or more waiting for the gun. It was a non-wetsuit swim with the water temp at 76.7, warm enough that I wasn’t too cold at the start, cool enough that I never came close to overheating. I was a little chilly treading water at the start, but quickly warmed up. We had about 60 pros start together. When the gun went, my mistake was that I tried starting too hard. I really pushed the first 2-3 minutes, and found myself completely lactic and almost had to swim backstroke to catch my breath (almost, I didn’t actually do it, though I thought about it). As I tried to catch my breath, several swim groups passed me. As about the 3rd group that came by, I was able to sit on the back feet until I caught my breath. I think I sat back there trying to get my composure for a good 5-10 minutes. Then I felt my strength and stroke come back. I moved up about 3-4 bodies to sit about 3rd body back. I was on a girl’s feet, I think it turned out to be Jo Lawn. She got annoyed with me a few times when I kept hitting her feet, but there was someone swimming up my backside and the water was so insanely murky that I couldn’t see the bubbles from her kick to know how close I was.

     There was a complete wanker swimming next to me who kept swimming on top of me the whole swim. He was on my left and we were both breathing to the right, so I could never see how close he was to my shoulder, but every stroke he could see how close he was. He could have moved over 1-2 ft and had another set of feet to sit on, moving the same speed without swimming on me, but he insisted on swimming on top of me. His right hand smacked me in the head probably no less than 30 times in the race. I was so annoyed. I saw who it was at the swim exit. I’ve had problems with him drafting like you wouldn’t believe in the past at Ironman Cozumel. He tried again to draft without shame in this race. Once the draft marshal hung with us on the motorbike and he couldn’t draft, he got dropped. I never saw him the rest of the race, I don’t know if he even finished. If I meet up with him in the swim in any future race like Cozumel and he tries his same junk, I’m going give him the Bob Probert treatment in the water. No more trying to be a polite sportsman, I have his number.

     My swim time was far from my fastest, but looking at the swim times, it looks like everyone swam 2-3 minutes slow. I also came out of the water with a few people who have always beat me out by 2 minutes. There were still a lot of bikes on the rack when I came through transition so I was encouraged. When I exited the water, I saw that I was with Petr Vabrusek. Petr had always out swam me by 1.5-2 minutes. My goal before the race was to try to find Petr and sit with him on the swim, so I was happy to see I was with him and hit one of my goals.

     Coming out on the bike, immediately a group of guys formed up. We started with about 6-8 guys in a line. A draft marshal on a motorbike immediately found us and just drove next to us pretty much the entire race. I think we only had about 30 minutes without a ref by us the whole bike. This was good because it kept our group clean. After we got ride of a few weaker drafters, everyone was legal and rode clean. Right out of the blocks, everyone was hammering. I couldn’t believe the pace we all started out pushing. I was just as much an instigator. It was like each guy would go try to break the group up by blowing off the front, but most everyone was strong enough to close the gap and not let the front guy go. I remember thinking during the first hour that it was stupid how hard I was riding and that my whole race could be over right here because of the effort level I was putting out.

     Leaving transition, not more the 100 yards out onto the course, a bump dislodged my gel flask where I had 4 PowerBar gels (440 calories). That was annoying because now I needed to try to pick up extra gels at the aid stations while picking up the water I needed. Only 5 minutes into the bike, I hit a bump in the road and my bike computer totally stopped working. For the next 20 mintues when I had a chance, I’d reach down and fidget with the sensor on my fork to try to get it to pick up the signal. I never got it to work. It turns out, the bump was so hard, that it actually knocked the magnet down on the my spoke, but I couldn’t get that resolved until after the race. It was so humid in the morning coming out of the swim, that I couldn’t get my sunglasses to unfog. I don’t have a rear pocket on my jersey (I use side pockets) and I couldn’t tuck the glasses behind my neck because they’d hit the aero helmet. I biked the first 2 hours with my glasses down my nose like a librarian’s reading glasses. I couldn’t see a thing. So 5 minutes in the bike, I can’t see a thing, I’m 500 calories down on my nutrition plan, and my bike computer is out so I’m biking completely blind only on feel. I didn't feel settled or in a groove at ALL!

     Our train picked up a few more guys until we had about 9 together. My bike plan was to follow the same plan as Cozumel. When Josef Major caught me on the bike, I’d go with him. He swims a few minutes slower, but he is a monster on the bike. We biked together in Cozumel. At about mile 30, I was at the head of the group and had to slow at an aid station to try to pick up a gel and a water. Of course trying to hand a gel (about the size of a cigarette lighter) to someone going 20-25 mph on a bike is a challenge. It took me 5 aid stations (50 miles) to get my first gel hand up. Just as I slowed to get my get and water from the lead position, Josef came by and the whole group attacked. It was an all out scramble. In my slowing, I had gone from 1st position to about 8th. Josef was my ticket, so I did an all out sprint to catch him. Over the next 10 minutes, I had to do an all-out effort to stay with him. I remember thinking that this was the stupidest thing I’d ever done, but I thought he was charging for a few minutes to lose the group and would settle down. WRONG! He just held that pace. It blew my mind how hard he was biking. Right before mile 40, I decided that I had probably just ruined my day by going way too hard. I let up and went back to my pace. By then, the rest of the group had fought it’s way back.

     The rest of the ride, I tried to manage my energy better and get my calories back on track. There were only 3 of us who did most of the work on the front of the group. The rest just sat in back and did nothing to try to keep the pace up. My other mistake of the day was that I instigated several reindeer games to try to split the group. There were a couple guys in back that I felt if we could get a little gap, would fall off. So when I saw the gap open a couple times, I moved up and tried to instigate myself and the other two guys to attack and split the group. I tried 3 times, but each time, someone would close the gap. I wasted WAY to much energy trying to make those moves. I really think that came back to bite me in the last hour of the run.

     After my attempts, I went into “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” mode and tried to sit in the group and recover, take my pulls, but not to attack. I think riding a lot easier for the last 30 miles saved me from a big disaster on the run. We ended the ride with a much smaller group of 5 riders, down from about 10 or so at it’s biggest.

     Lesson learned: don’t waste energy playing those games on the bike. Later in the bike, the weaker riders will naturally fall off. The stronger riders will stay together. I think if, I would have ridden a more steady pace, even if it meant spending time on the front “working” it would have really helped the end of my run. Although it’s hard to say when you’re playing Monday morning QB. Definitely less games on the bike.

     I almost bit it coming into transition. I’m not used to riding with a rear water bottle cage behind my bike seat, so when I tried to swing my leg over, it caught the bottle and almost threw me off. I had to stop my bike, stand up, then swing my leg over. Because of that, I was the last of my group to make it through transition. Justin Daerr and I were the first two out of transition. We ran together for a bit, said good job for working well together on the bike, and then it was back to racing. My lower back was completely tight for the first 4 or 5 miles of the run. I had to kind of waddle and couldn’t get into my running stride. I will be going to see Dr. Z at Advanced Rehabilitation this week to see if there are some exercises I can do to prevent that in the future.

    After about 5 miles my back loosened up and I got my stride back. Justin sat about 20-30 seconds behind me the whole time. I give him a lot of respect, he ran a really good and smart race. At mile 6, we were sitting around 10th or 11th place. Torsten Abel from Germany, who had biked the last half of the race with us, had caught and passed Justin and moved up to me. As we came through town ending the first loop, he moved up behind me and tried to make a big pass to crack me. I had plenty still left in the tank, so I wasn’t going to make is job easy. He made a charge, I shifted over and moved off of his shoulder and just sat there for less than a minute. Then I moved back right next to him and sat there for a minute, then I leaned forward and put a little more pressure on. He dropped off pace and fell back behind Justin and I. We reeled in a few more guys on the second loop. The heat, humidity, and biking too hard took its toll on many guys. They charge way too hard on the bike and then pay for it on the run.

     At the end of lap 2, ~mile 17, I was in 7th with 6th place still a few minutes up, but he was coming back to us. Justin was still sitting only 15-20 seconds back from me and not going anywhere. I still felt good starting the 3rd and final run loop. Then the man with the hammers started pounding on my quads. I just couldn’t hold my pace. Justin caught me and moved past somewhere in the 19-20 mile range (if I remember right). I give him all of the credit for not falling off pace and executing a disciplined run. I had nothing to go with him at that point. All of my cards were on the table. Then I went into the Ironman shuffle for the last 6 miles. I was hoping the 6th place guy would fade worse, but he held on too. With a 1.5 miles to go, I knew I couldn’t catch Justin and Petr was still a good 5 minutes back, so I cruised the last mile, just focusing on not stopping.

     I was really happy with the whole day. Had I managed my efforts better on the bike, I thinnk I would have had a little more punch later  on the run. Considering my shortened taper and race changes 6 days before this race, I couldn’t be more happy with how it turned out. I also had a lot of fun racing with Justin.

     Now for me it’s rest and recovery time. Time to get caught up on cleaning, laundry, and admin work. Time to get my summer travel plans nailed down. I’m going to pack up my car in a couple weeks and head up to Boulder for the summer. I can’t take another 100+ degree summer in Austin, so once I’m ready to start pushing it in training, I’ll head up to the mountains.

   I really want to thank Little Caesars Pizza for their support of me and my racing. Their belief in me is so important for me be able to do what I'm doing in this sport. I'd also like to thank RecoveryPump for their support. RecoveryPump has been a critical aspect of my training and recovery this year and I truely believe the product has helped to take my training to the next level. Jack and Adam's Bicycles in Austin are always there to help support me and my racing. I want to thank Felt Bicycles for putting me on such an amazing bike, the 2011 Felt DA. Champion System Clothing has provided me with the best race and training clothing that you see in my pictures. Xterra Wetsuits is providing me with the best wetsuits and speedsuits in the sport and Advanced Rehabilitation in Ausin helps to keep me healthy for training and racing. Hill Country Running Company is a great help with my running equipment. PowerBar and SBR Sports Inc's products are also a great help for racing and training. Also I want to thank my family and friends for their unending support for me. Without these people and sponsors, I would not be able to pursue this dream.

Thank you,
Pat

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