Inaugural Ironman Waco 70.3 - A Race Report
Wouldn’t you know it, my FIRST ever 70.3 and it’s cut back to 69.1? If you know me, you know that it’s not officially checked off the bucket list so this story doesn’t end here.
Many of you followed my training for this bad boy. 16 weeks following a training plan in a book. I didn’t have coaches or a team or even a friend to train with but what I did have was countless triathletes (coach too) on the the ‘gram that I could draw inspiration and motivation from. Family and friends, real and social media based that encouraged and believed that I could crush this thing (more so than I did, honestly.)
Leading up to race day, the weather took a shift and heavy rains plagued the area. Temperatures dropped and two weeks before the race I found myself scrambling for a wetsuit. If you followed me on Instagram, I showed you how fun trying those things can be (not). I found one on sale and only had one opportunity to swim in it to test it in a pool. As it turned out, the pool was heated so, yea that was weird.
Having the wetsuit dilemma out of the way, the new concern was how cold it was going to be on the bike with predicted overcast, rainy and 50s temps. That weather makes for an awesome run so I was kind of excited about that! As you can see, I had conflicted emotions about this whole thing attributed to completely uncontrollable factors. And then, the news that the rain was just not stopping and that there was widespread flooding in the area was creating all kinds of additional speculation. Not just that, but I was receiving messages from people who lived in Waco that the Brazos River (where we were supposed to swim) was a gazillion feet over its banks and running super fast.
On top of that, those last couple of weeks just felt like two weeks too many. I was OVER training. And I don’t mean training too much, I mean OVER IT. Ugh. I did it each day but I was ready to MOVE ON and go to Yoga, Pilates, lift some weight and join others in group fitness classes. Not to mention, I needed to refocus on family and home stuff. I mean, Halloween was around the corner and no decorations were up and the costumes were barely put together.
But I had to stick to my plan. The last thing I wanted was to be in the middle of the race questioning and kicking myself for skimping on training when I needed it most.
By the time I got to race week, I had procrastinated packing for the overnight stay in Waco. Thinking about all the different weather scenarios and the nutrition was overwhelming. I finally got my act together on Thursday and we headed out early on Saturday morning.
The decision on the swim was not yet made then but I was hearing all kinds of rumors…yes, we are swimming. Yes, we are swimming but we are walking upstream a mile and floating down. On the drive in, I finally got official confirmation that the swim was indeed cancelled. I have never felt so much relief!
Athlete’s Village - We made it in just in time for the 12pm Athlete’s meeting where they discussed logistics with swim now being cancelled.
The bike route changed slightly due to some of it being under water. Transition would be open later and and we would be starting in a time trial (TT) start format by bib number. What that meant for me was that I wasn’t exactly sure when I was starting. I had never done a TT so that was foreign…I imagined it to be like the start of the MS150 where we just rolled to the line, clipped in and went and hoped you didn’t fall over on someone (or someone in front of you didn’t fall over). It also meant the I could sleep a tad longer!
One of the things I noticed while standing out there was that it was SO HOT!! I was wearing pants and I thought I’d bake! So much for cold weather concerns, right?
After the meeting, we got quickly in line to get my registration taken care of. The line moved fairly quickly, stopping first to get your number, then sign waivers at the first table, then packet and backpack (super cool!) at another, t-shirt at another table, then swim cap (not needed but cool to have!) and finally, the timing chip on the way out of the registration tent and into the Ironman store tent (just like Disney!) haha. I was met with my friends who had just got their “Support Crew” gear. So sweet, it could have been my first emotional moment. :)
I bought a t-shirt and visor. That’s it. I knew that because the swim was cancelled, I was doing another 70.3 so I didn’t go crazy on the gear. Motivation. ;)
Bike Racking/Transition - Pretty uneventful here. I just noticed how far the walk was in the “chute” to the racks and my bike was way back to the far right. The path was pretty muddy too. I did NOT do a whole lot of bike maintenance…I had a full work up before the Towne Lake Olympic so I felt air was all I really needed and I’d take care of that in the morning. I put a plastic bag over the seat and that was it.
Walking out of the transition area, I got a little closer to the river and boy was I happy that the swim was cancelled! Yikes!
On the way out of Athlete’s Village, I had to stop ONE MORE TIME at the TheraGun tent. Those things are amazing and I couldn't stop using it on all my sore muscles. I ended up caving and getting one. Teehee.
We headed out to lunch near where we parked…TexMex at Fuzzy’s, sat at the bar, chicken fajitas with cilantro rice and I splurged on a XX. I figured it would help get the edge off a little. :)
From there we were driving to our AirBNB and I noticed that Magnolia was on the way. Of course, we stopped to check it out and make it a little touristy stop…bought some goodies for my mama (who is a HUGE fan of Chip & Joanna and their show). I’m bummed I forgot to take a selfie with the cardboard cutout of them that was near the registration tent! Oh well, we did enjoy some yummy stuff from the food carts out there and took some fun photos too.
Our AirBNB was super nice but did not have regular TV and the World Series was going on! So, after two separate trips to Target (because now it was clear how hot is was going to be on Sunday and no one brought shorts! And, I needed sunscreen and forgot soap and toothpaste and sleepwear…lol, whoops) we found an Italian place for some pasta and a bar with TVs. That worked out great! We watched most of the game, filled up on spaghetti and bread (YUM!) and headed back.
I set out all my gear, packed it up for transition and checked on the family back home.
Swim - Cancelled due to high, fast moving water and floating debris in the Brazos River. I am not unhappy about it. After seeing it with my own eyes, it looked very unsafe and my mom especially is thankful of the race management’s decision. Haha.
Transition/Start - I got to the transition area pretty late, had a somewhat relaxing morning having coffee and breakfast and got dropped off at the corner to walk in to transition. I was a little cold but I did bring arm warmers that helped. I still had time to take my bike to air up, fill my bottles with water and mix with nutrition and attach my saddle bag to the bike with the rest of my necessities. I got meet some Insta/tri friends IRL and chatted and met a new friend in my rack mate. We went to the restroom together and walked out to the start together too. As it turned out, our numbers were pretty much grouped by age group so all us F 40-44 went out on the bike together.
I brought my Garmin with me with the intention to strap it to my bike to help remind me to keep time on when I needed to eat/drink. I didn’t want to keep turning my wrist and tapping my Apple Watch. I couldn’t find a spot for it so I left it in my bag. Luckily, my bike computer had a new batter and worked like a charm.
I kept looking for the timing mats but now they are just tiny strips going across the road. You can barely see them, only hear them beep as you go over. I didn’t realize this until 25 miles or so in so at the start, I turned my watch on wherever I thought we started. Haha.
Bike - I had fun on this ride! There were so many turns and each one brought a different road surface to deal with. Some part of the route were a little tighter and narrower than I preferred. Especially when the shoulder had gravel and a sharp drop off. I had a couple of near misses while being passed but luckily just as I was getting uncomfortable with it, it was time to turn again. For every super rough road that made my brain rattle there was another super smooth and fresh one that I can could just fly on. I was forewarned that the first 20 miles would have a “false flat” and to be careful with burning out my legs. I didn’t notice all that much. I did feel bad for all the folks stuck in that one lane traffic…particularly those kids walking the side of the road to get to their baseball tournaments. One boy yelled out “are you doing this on purpose?!” and all I could say was “YUP!!”
It was windy on a couple of stretches and I did get off the saddle a couple times on climbs but my legs never felt super fatigued. I found myself doing a lot of math - which is probably what made the ride go by so fast. Haha. I really wanted to keep my average up so whenever I saw it drop, I made sure to push harder to bring it up again. My first goal was to finish safely though so I was extra cautious with all the gravel on the road, on turns and on the downhills and especially while eating and drinking. My time goal was to finish the bike between 3:00 and 3:15 but knew that there are many things that could swing that. It was aggressive for a first time but when I hit mile marker 50 which was brightly taped on to the road, I felt like I kind of went out of body, I pushed hardest and remembered to pull my legs too. I passed dozens of people and the realization that the saddle was starting to hurt like hell was incentive to hurry up and get off the bike!
That was until I pulled up next to the run route. Ack! The ugly truth that I still had a half marathon to run! Yikes!
My husband, mom and kids had just arrived from Houston as I was finishing up the the bike. He saw me coming into the chute and told me later “you were coming in HOT”. Haha, yes, hauling and determined to get the show on the road to finish this thing!
T2 - The muddy area I noticed from the day before was worse now especially walking in cleats. I just can’t run in those things and it seemed like miles before getting to my rack. I remembered to respray sunscreen on my shoulders, got my shoes and running belt on and threw on my visor. I took in some nutrition and tons of water and decided against a bathroom break.
Run - Just like with the bike, I wasn’t entirely sure where transition ended and when the run started. A few of us all looked at each other and figured we must have passed it already. As is par for the course, my legs felt like trunks but my watch was telling me I was running pretty fast. I always find that to be amazing. I was trucking along and hit my first mile at 9:19 pace. The weather was great, it almost felt cool in the shade and running along the river was nice. And then, out of nowhere, I felt like it was getting harder to run. I noticed that every one was walking and I was totally confused. Why? What the heck is going on? So I tried my hardest to keep running up hill until I couldn’t. It was so dang steep! The road curved to the right and I thought it would level off. It did not. The commentary on the route was pretty entertaining. Haha, let’s just say I was not the only one surprised. The route finally leveled off for a hot second while we looped around an area of the park where there was an aid station. And then, there we were climbing again. I recall finally getting into a solid downhill stride and thinking that this would be the only place to make up some time. I hauled ass downhill. It is my favorite after all and I knew we had two loops so I created a game plan right then and there.
Run all the flats, sprint downhills and walk the uphills - that’s the plan. Of course, I didn’t know what was yet to come. The nice tape on the road signaling “Hills End” was funny but also reassuring that I didn’t have to feel like death the rest of the run. The run after the hills was pretty uneventful and in some places just plain ‘ol boring. That was until I came back down to the river’s bank on the other side and I saw my family for the first time. Ack! I wanted to stop but I knew that if I did, I’d have an emotional breakdown and my legs would realize what was going on and I’d have trouble starting up again. They were right at mile 6 so the threat of that second loop was still ahead.
Immediately passing them I decided I could allow myself a good cry and outburst. The problem was that as soon as I started to, I was going uphill again to go over the bridge. Holy hell, I couldn’t get oxygen in and I started hyperventilating! WTF? I have never felt that and it was scary! I pulled my shit together, ditched the thought of crying and went up the hill to cross the bridge. I put on a happy face in time to look down from the bridge at them. It was so awesome! I was so happy to see them all! (And now I allow myself an emotional meltdown…)
I came through the bridge and over to start the next loop pretty excited that I was half done. I had no idea what my timing was but I felt like my mental game was pretty strong. I knew when to pull over for water and when to just speed through the stations. Again, my goal was to finish safely - don’t trip and sprain an ankle, don’t dehydrate, don’t get sick to your stomach. I didn’t think adding “don’t get stung by a bee” would be on the list but it was. The aid station that was passing out Cokes was SWARMED with bees. Those volunteers need extra kudos - they were awesome!
My time goal was also aggressive for a first time 2:15 to 2:30…mainly because I just wanted to be DONE by then. I calculated the time of day it would be and knew how hot it was going to be.
The second loop was just as painful as the first, only hotter. My right hamstring and glute started tightening up on the hill and when I got to the aid station at the top of the hill, I took some ice and dumped into the back of my kit. It seemed like a good idea at the time until it started dropping into my butt crack. Yea, I said it. Talk about weird. It was cold and it ended up numbing my arse. Lol. Maybe it’s what my glute needed to get through the last treacherous miles. I was hauling down mile 10 and when I was in the boring stretch of mile 11 and approaching 12, I was thrilled that the next piece was to see my family again and the finish line. I couldn’t freakin’ believe that I was going to finish this thing!
I did a body check at 12 and decided to sprint as best as I could to the end even though there was still that bridge hill to get over. Checking my pace, my sprint was anything but haha but the rest is a blur. It was surreal to see my family, the crowd, the red IRONMAN carpet, the sound of my name as a finisher crossing over.
I got my medal and they handed me a hat and I didn’t feel for the first time after a race like I was going to die. LOL. Although, I tried to bend down to take my timing chip off and almost fell over.
What an incredible experience. My overall time was 5:35:52 and I can now feel reassured that I AM capable and I AM a TRIATHLETE (despite the cancelled swim cause I know I CAN).
Post race - Normally, as soon as you get your medal, you see a huge bucket of waters and everything else is chaotic noise. Where everything is is just a blur. I usually run with my phone so I can quickly arrange meeting points and take pics (duh) but since that is a no-no, I was grateful for the easy to follow “flow” set up here. Once you gave up your chip, there was a spot to take your finisher pic and right into the food tent line. I grabbed a slice of pizza, banana, orange and some snacks. I walked out of the tent and within a minute, my family was there. It was set up so perfectly! I ate my pizza in about 2 bites and my kids took the rest of my snacks and water. Of course.
We walked back to where the chairs were set up by the river and I waited while my friend went to collect my bike and bags out of transition and my husband went to move the car.
I did a quick clean up and change at the hotel and we rode back to Houston. Bing bang boom, thank you Waco for unforgettable time!
Stay tuned for my next race goals!!
Oh yea, for those that are into the techy data stuff, I did use my bike computer for average & current pace but my Apple Watch to keep time of the whole thing. I rarely checked it on the bike (because I was chicken to tap the screen and twist my wrist) and I used it for pace and heart rate on the run. I did a screen shot of my bike splits for my super cycling dad who was routing me from home. He was impressed particularly after I sent him the elevation. Yay, score!