Thursday, November 19, 2009

Iron Star Report

It would be logical to assume that the lack of a race report is because I have just been too busy to get around to doing it. That would be great if it were true, but I have had loads of time to get this done; just haven't gotten around to it. I'll get into the story of my abundant downtime later, but for now, the race report that was promised!

Somehow I managed to wake up about fifteen minutes before my alarm went off at 4AM the morning of the race. I guess the nerves were all ready getting ramped up. Claire and I had managed to get our transition bags packed the night before and had everything setup to where all we had to do was load the car in the morning. My cousin said that their neighborhood was a little shady so we should keep the bikes in the house overnight. Their house is beautiful and the neighborhood is as cute as can be; Claire and I were a little curious as to what constitutes "shady" in my cousin's mind. But we played along and left our bikes in the house overnight. When we made it out to the car Sunday morning we discovered that Claire's Camry had been the unfortunate victim of an egging. That is right, someone egged her car. Who does that anymore?! (I kind of found it funny. The humor was lost on Claire at first, but that probably stems from it being her car. Yes, I am aware that I am a jerk.) Even with having everything setup and staged the night before, it was nearly 5 before we got on the road. Outside of not being able to find the Wal-Mart or HEB that was open for some bagels the drive up was uneventful and quick. (We did manage a convenience store for some power bars.)

Once we parked and got the tires pumped up we had about a half mile walk to the transition area. Originally I was not a huge fan of this but in hindsight I think that it allowed the day to sink in a little bit. Getting everything in its place in transition was pretty easy with the exception of the incredibly low bike racks. I have always racked my bike by the seat but these racks were so low that was not an option, though I did try much to the annoyance of those around me. I finally settled on using the handlebars instead. Think I will have to start doing that from here on out actually. Just as we were about to start working our way to the swim start it dawned on us that we had yet to pick up our timing chips. Oops! Luckily Stacey, Sally, and Eric were hanging around to help the poor distraught racers keep their heads on their shoulders.

I was in the fourth and final wave to go out that morning. The swim portion was a point-to-point route and it really pointed out just how far 1.2 miles is when you lay it out. Lake Conroe was at 73* from what we were told and I would say that it was fairly cool; especially without a wetsuit. I had not been able to train too hard going into Iron Star. Early October brought some calf strain issues and the last week of October brought some flu like crud to me. Really, the week before the race (when I am supposed to be doing very little) was the first time I was feeling healthy in a month. So my plan in the water was to just go easy. And easy I went. Perhaps too easy. It took me 41:00 minutes flat out to complete the swim portion. And I even ran part of the swim! (The water was pretty shallow at some points.) I was hoping for something in the 37 minute range, but oh well. Finishing was the primary goal. When I finally got to the end of the swim I was shocked to hear, "Good job, Tanner! Let me help you". Sally had taken it upon herself to start helping the swimmers out of the water and up the boat ramp. It really felt great to see a friendly face right out of the water. Stacey was shouting out from the sidelines and documenting the event for us all.

Transition 1 was not anything to write home about. I wasn't horribly slow, but I am certainly less proficient than most at getting going on the bike. Perhaps this can be something to work on for next year's season. At any rate, Beva and I were off.

Cycling is not my strong suit. Again, my goal was to just go through at a decent pace, but to not kill myself. Well, I accomplished one of those. I managed to come in second to last in age group on the bike. And if you look at the official results it says I was last. But the guy in first place took 00:01:04 to do the bike course and 3:23:38 to do transition 2. I took 3:20:01 for the bike portion. Alas, more things to work on. The bike ride was gorgeous. A lot of the ride was through Sam Houston National Forest and around Lake Conroe. There were three water bottle hand-up stations and all were well manned with very helpful and encouraging volunteers. Each stop also had a porta-john which I did not miss one of. Perhaps that would have helped out my time a little bit, but at least I knew that I was staying hydrated and that my body was still working. A little less than halfway through the bike course I saw James moving along and going pretty strong. I had no idea at the time how far in front of me he was, but soon found out the distance was pretty immense. A little while later, perhaps two and half hours or more into the bike I came up on Claire. She was smiling and doing well. I must say that it is really nice coming up next to your friends in the race. Of course it is nice to see them and exchange encouragement, but I think it also adds a little familiarity to a pretty daunting and foreign world. At least it did for me.

So, three hours and twenty minutes after getting out of the water I started rolling back into transitionland and getting ready for the run. Once again, I was pretty slow at this transition thing. Maybe I should just learn how to adjust everything on the go. Oh, and there was a bathroom leaving transition. Yep, I hit that one too. Surprisingly enough, my strategy of taking it easy was paying off and I felt reasonably good going into the run. Of course, just as I started going, it dawned on me that I had only done one run of 10 miles in the past two months. This had potential of being interesting. Plus, I was wearing racing flats. But with the screams and shouts from Stacey and Sally; it felt possible.

The first few miles clicked by really quickly. I ran into Jimmy and Nyleva on the run which again a real comforting feeling; felt like a training run and the pressure thawed a little. Somewhere between miles two and three I had the realization that I was running my first half marathon. Hmm...this should be interesting. Around mile four I saw James again. He was looking very strong and headed to the finish line. That was mile nine for him. He would go on to smoke the course in 5:28:03 and take 3rd in the 30-34 age group! I was still feeling pretty good at this point and the miles continued to be coming and going seemingly quick for which I was very appreciative. The only disconcerting thing was that while I was not being passed by anyone, I had yet to pass anyone in my age group. (In triathlons you will have your age written on the back of your calf so that you can identify other people that are in your age group.) Oh well, there was not much that I could do about that. The water stops were stationed every mile and had water, gatorade, gels, and electrolyte pills and again were staffed by very helpful, friendly, and encouraging volunteers. For those that have not raced before, it really is amazing how much having people cheer you on can perk your spirits. By the time I came to mile eight I had managed to pass someone in my age group which made me feel a little better but the culmination of the days events were starting to settle upon me. My pace had certainly dropped a little and I found myself saying, "Only five more miles!". This was not looking quite as rosy as it was at mile 2. Surprisingly enough my little countdown seemed to be working and by mile eleven I had managed to pass another person in my age group. Neither one of us were looking particularly vibrant at this point, but who was? By mile twelve the ball of my foot was starting to object to the racing flats. As long as I focused on making a good foot strike though the pain was not severe and I could continue onwards. Also, the last person in my age group that I had passed seemed to like my pace and had not faded as far behind me as I had hoped. Walking at this point was not an option. Finally I made the turn to the resort! Surely the finish line was just around the corner. But alas, they routed us through the neighborhood what was supposedly for less than a mile though I feel it was more like an additional 10k at this point. And then there it was; the finish line. As I emerged out of the residential street I could hear the cheers from my Austin support group. James and Jacque were on the sidelines already finished cheering me on alongside Sally, Stacey, and Eric that had been there all day for us. Somehow I found one last gear to finish as strong as I could. One look at the clock told me that I would be able to accomplish my second goal; breaking six hours. I started twenty minutes after the first wave and the race clock read 6:19:xx. I crossed at 6:19:32; subtract twenty minutes from that and my time was 5:59:32! The run had taken me 1:53:20. And my first half ironman was done.

After getting water, a Pepsi, and a banana I collapsed by my friends. My body had had enough. After a few minutes I was able to be somewhat cognizant and had the chance to see Jimmy and Nyleva come in one after the other. Following close behind them was Claire. All six of us had finished the race! Finishing the race was a major accomplishment, but being able to share it with the people you had spent time training with really made it much better. (I know that is cheesy, but it really did make a difference.)

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