IMTX 2016, 05/14/16

IMTX 2016 Race Recap…..get a snack and a drink-it’s the unabridged version.

Half of the #2016doubledouble (2x70.3, 2x140.6) is in the books!!!

First, a little back story…..There were plenty of things I knew were going to be tough as soon as I signed up for IMTX….I live in the Midwest and climate is very different here than in Texas. I realized I’d have to do a ton of base cycling indoors on the trainer through the winter months…never a problem with great technology and great company. I realized the weather in Texas in May would be hot and humid, likely warming Lake Woodlands to a non-wetsuit legal swim. Plus I had the added benefit of going to the Woodlands on a “train-cation” in February with Scott & Nunez to see much of the course (at the time) first hand thanks to our wonderful hook up with the Conroe Tri Group! George, Dennis & Stuart were amazing tour guides on what used to be the bike course. We cannot thank you enough for your hospitality!

Everything was going well, putting in the hard training blocks and getting through Oceanside 70.3 at the beginning of April healthy. About 8weeks prior to the event, news started circulating about bike course changes due to construction (cough political issues). I didn’t lose sleep over it, I felt somehow Ironman and the Texas authorities would come to an agreement and we’d have a bike course by race day….6 days before the event a map and turn-by-turn directions were released. 95 miles were mapped out, with 80 plus turns. Having ridden the old course and knowing there’s typically wind from the south (about the last 40 miles of the course), I have to be honest, I was glad to see we weren’t going in any one direction for more than a few miles! I’m a confident bike handler so now I just needed to be a defensive rider and use caution for those who are not (or, sorry guys-the idiot male riders who don’t know how to stay in their lane when they turn, of which there were plenty).

Fast forward to race week…..I flew into Houston on Thursday morning and how lucky am I that weekend plans had changed for Nunez and I’m swinging back thru Bush Intercontinental to pick her up after athlete check in and packet pick up We headed South to Manvel for some fun-loving southern hospitality with the Block family for the night. Thank you Mike, Tiffaney & Sydney for the company and the comfort. So great to see you guys and couldn’t be happier that you’re moving back to Kenosha in June!!!

Friday morning back to the airport to pick up Scott….now I’m really relaxed cuz my driver and navigator are both with me! Good thing cuz guess what? Another course change! The final part of the swim was supposed to be in a canal/waterway and was determined to not be good water quality. Now we’re just swimming straight out from North Shore Park and all the way back….a good change in my opinion. Bike racking and gear bag drop off by 12:30 and on to lunch with our Conroe friends. Great seeing you again Dennis and meeting Gail and Dave! Thanks for the input on the new bike course and all other IMTX info you provided. Course talk at 2pm then it was time to head to the seclusion of the Woodlands Resort….2 miles from the race venue, but removed enough to relax and acclimate to the warm, humid weather with a couple trips around the not-so-lazy river. Pasta dinner by the pool and asleep by 9pm...

I slept like a stone and woke up to my alarm at 4 am feeling energized and ready, but calm. Today is the day for #4….a little shortened, but today will be IM #4. Very happy that Tiffaney signed up for the all day IM tour and met us at the resort at 4:30am…..arrived at North Shore Park by 4:50 and for the first time ever, I had to wait for transition to open! A little chatting, body marking and thanking the volunteers as we are let into T1….water temp 81 degrees so I’m going with the skinsuit for 2.4 miles! Bike is locked and loaded and so am I….let’s get this party started! IMTX is a rolling start so you self-seed into the starting coral according to your expected swim finish time. There was one volunteer near me to separate the sub-1hour swimmer from the hour+ swimmers. Chatting with a few women around me and we’re all hoping for 1:07-1:12. Ok…I’ll hang right here. Girls in the pink caps, boys in the green….here’s a newsflash – guys suck at self-seeding! By 10 minutes into the swim, I lost count of how many green caps I passed. Not too congested though until the last 500-1000m…which I’m starting to think is just the way it is for all IM swims…sight, dodge and weave! Out of the water in 1:17...

Gear bags, changing tent and T1 were right at the water’s edge so no long trot up the helix into the convention center for this race! Not one, but two very helpful volunteers in the changing tent assisting me! TY so much ladies!! Skinsuit off, bike gear and sunscreen on, pockets stuffed w/gels and the medicine cabinet and I was out of there in under 7min! BOOM! Already made up some time from the swim! Time to go see what this bike course is all about…

The wind gods took the day off and from the get-go 20mph/100rpm felt really comfortable. The plan was to hover somewhere around a 17mph avg for the whole 95 miles so the ease at which I was quickly ticking off the miles was a little concerning….Am I going too fast? Am I spending too much? Will I still be able to run well? Shit, it’s getting really hot out here! Gel at the start, followed 15 min later by 1-2 salt stick capsules, bottle of Gatorade endurance gone by every aid station and poured water to saturate my bike jersey and refill my aero bottle – about every 12-15 mi. The road surfaces were smooth, turns were well marked and even with the change in course, they were not able to find a single “hill” in TX All made riding steady very doable. My pace slowed at some points with a little breeze in my face or going over a few highway bridges, but all in I was feeling good. I was hydrating plenty, but sweating a ton…no urge to pee until mile 65 and couldn’t actually make it happen until mile 80 :/ Was really hoping that wouldn’t come back to bite me later. Mile 90, heading back into the Woodlands, I was really pushing cuz, you know….only 5 miles left on this bike so smoke ‘em if you got ‘em, right? Well sure, until the adductors start talking back with electric synapses. 2 salt sticks down the hatch flushed with 2 packets of mustard and the leg cramps were gone, replaced with some gut pain heading into t2. With Nunez Navigation on board the Team Andrea minivan and Scott behind the wheel, my AWESOME support crew made it to 4 different points on the bike course to cheer me on! Tiffaney’s supporting role was to be impressed by how well those two manipulated a foreign territory and got to every spot they wanted to hit, plus one. Mile 61 was a surprise and a welcome lift. The ratio of angry motorists stopped in traffic honking their horns to spectators cheering was probably about 30:1. Very different than IMWI. Over the moon to have crushed my expectations on the bike course…..done in 5:06…18.6 average for 95 miles!!!

Dropped my bike and walked the whole way to my gear bag, chewed on some tums, took an Imodium (just as precaution) and drank almost a full bottle of water. Into the change tent for fresh clothes and more sunscreen. More wonderful volunteers welcomed me and got me on my way.

The run course is 3 loops, which I was mostly familiar with from our February visit. I love this run course!! There are wooded/shaded sections w/fast downhill, rowdy and fun sections along the canal and some peaceful sections for time to just think. And for the most part, it’s flat. I was moving well, despite the afternoon sun, heat and humidity. Set out to go from aid station to aid station, which were about every mile. So thankful for so many awesome volunteers on the run course!! Great to see the Conroe support tent out on the course - thanks for the cheers Stuart Simmons and crew and happy to see George walking along the sidewalk cheering me on! I’d been past my support crew twice on the out-and-back along the canal. Almost one loop done. Temp was about 88 with a heat index into the mid-90s. Just kept thinking to myself, “the faster you go, the sooner you’re done!” Checking in with my pace and HR every so often, but felt pretty good. I opted not to drink any flat cola on the first half of the run….thought it might cause more harm than good elevating my HR in warm conditions. Really welcomed the clouds around mile 10….heard and ignored the distant thunder around mile 11 and about 10 minutes later it started to downpour with 20+mph wind gusts. Just keep moving forward. Lightening striking over my head and thunder so loud I wanted to cover my ears! Just keep moving forward. Hail pelting my skin. Just keep moving forward. Volunteers in rain gear, w/umbrella or under their tents still providing me aid as I just keep moving forward… unbelievable. Around mile 13.5 me and about 350 other athletes had been stopped and ordered to take shelter on the huge front porch of a community club house. Met some awesome athletes and we chatted for a bit….wondering if our day was over, could we be able continue racing and when, how would the IM tracker account for the delay, will our families still be on the course when we get back to them? It was a crazy 45 minutes highlighted by a young Asian athlete asking me if we could take a selfie together because I look like Rinny I tried to stretch and stay loose with the limited space. Imagine a head volunteer suddenly announcing “Ok athletes, the race clock has been turned back on. Get going!!” Lots of grunting thru pain of stiffness, we all did just that. So glad to see Scott, Tiffaney and Nunez right where I expected to and now I’m running with purpose. I’m more than ½ way done with this marathon and I just want to be done. Puddles and running water everywhere. One benefit to being on the run course a little longer is the welcome words of “chicken broth” as you approach the next aid station! Oh God, yes! So I opted for that instead of flat cola. One salt stick every hour on the run and Gatorade. Cup of water over my head, ice in my sports bra, down my shorts and a few cubes to hold in each hand until they melted and by then I was more than half way to the next aid station. I did eat a couple of pretzels on the 2nd half just to soak up extra sloshing fluid in my belly. Very happy that I had no real GI issues, probably any gut related discomfort was from the heat. One loop to go. Started to rain again around mile 20 and clearly there was no athlete walking away from this race without at least one foot blister! Just soaked! With 5k to go once again heard the roll of thunder in the distance. 2 miles to go and I see my crew for one last time before the finish line. Scott tells me to finish strong… radar isn’t looking too good. I’m thinking, oh hell no am I getting pulled off this course now! It is going to take a lot more than a thunderstorm to stop me from finishing this! <insert lightning strike and thunder here> Last time down the end of the canal, up the winding slight incline…you can hear Mike calling names now….you can hear the party and picture the scene but cannot see it until you turn the corner around a building. There are surprisingly many spectators for the conditions, bright lights, loud music and athletes being called in. I see Scott and am overcome with emotion…don’t cry! Don’t cry! It’s hard to breathe when you cry! Down to the end of the fencing and one last u-turn. Now I can see the finish line arch. I take a deep breath, slow down and start my signature weaving high 5s from one side of the chute to the other. With 15 feet to go I spot Nunez & Tiffaney and dart over to their side for one last high five. I approach the arch to hear Mike Reilly call my name. I shoot my hand up in the air with 4 fingers up simultaneously as with another bolt of lightning. 4:44 marathon BOOM!

#4 is done! Unofficial according to my Garmin….124.67 miles done. 11:26:01 Shortened course….do I feel jipped? Hell. No.

Thank you again to Scott, Nunez (and Roberto for sharing Katie for the weekend on a moment’s notice), the whole Block family and our Conroe friends for making this trip and this race so awesome! Thank you to G'ma for taking care of the boys while we were away. Thank you to all of my family and friends who trained long hours with me and cheered loudly from home. I knew you were all there in spirit! Without all of you I would have just a medal and finisher gear. It’s the journey and whole experience of the day that mean so much. I love sharing it with all of you! Moving the race to April for future years does have appeal. Get that bike course nailed down and I’m fairly certain I’ll be back to tackle this one again.