|Team Healey Multisport - May 16, 2015|
I'm so bad at blogging. Like, remember that YouTube video where the guy from Ball State University kept unenthusiastically saying "And...Boom goes the dynamite!" on a college sports highlight show? I'm that bad...but at blogging.
And it isn't like nothing has happened in the last 11 months that was worth writing about. Quite the opposite in fact. It's just that I haven't taken the time to sit down and write about any of it. Family, career, travel, training and racing tend to take up the majority of my time, and things like "write a new blog post" end up way down the list under things like "3:00/1:00 run/bike brick, weights" and "take your wife out to dinner for God's sake." Also, I blame Instagram. The photograph/caption format just seems to fit this triathlete's life much better than this ancient "Web Logging" thing. But, alas, there are times when a story must be told...and today is one of those times.
Out of respect for the reader, I feel it is important to give you some context before I drop you into the middle of another sweaty day in The Woodlands. So, before I move on to the full on Ironman Texas race recap let me break down the last eleven months in a single thrilling paragraph:
|Competing in a natural bodybuilding competition in September|
|Repping Wally's Bicycles at Ironman Austin 70.3 in October|
|TRUE Runners on the podium at our first team event in January|
|Team Healey after the Jalapeno 100 in February|
|Mesquite Fire 50K in the rain and mud in March|
|Show The Trail Who's Boss Half Marathon in March|
|Hills on hills on hills at Dancing Bear Ranch|
So where does that leave us?
Ah, yes...smack dab in the middle of a sweaty day in The Woodlands. Ironman Texas 2015.
The road to The Woodlands started slowly for me in early February. After spending much of December and January focussed on the new business and my work related travel obligations, I started to base build in the pain cave on our new Kurt Kinetic Road Machine (with InRide). Thanks to more than two solid years of training for long course triathlon, I wasn't starting from scratch, but I knew I had to make my workouts count as my job was taking me on the road on an almost weekly basis. I made extra effort to spend quality time on the trainer throughout my build for Ironman Texas and deferred to a hard ride over an easy run or swim at almost every opportunity.
|La Flamma Blanca|
I'll spare you the details of 16 weeks of training, but I will say that I arrived in The Woodlands on the Tuesday before the race feeling confident that I would have a new bike PR and a solid run, but feeling slightly underprepared for the swim. I based my reasoning on the fact that I had raced a quick-given-the-conditions 50K in March followed by a 1:36 half marathon on tired legs a week later; that I had felt fresh as a daisy after our windy 100K bike at the Jalapeno 100 in February and fresher still after a 100K shake out two weeks before the race; and the that I had swam approximately 12 times in my lead up to race day with exactly two of those swims exceeding 2,000 yards. So, yeah. If I didn't drown, I'd probably do okay.
Driving to The Woodlands on Tuesday with my gear and Lacy's safely tucked into our new race wagon (yes, we bought a triathlon specific used vehicle - a Lexus GX470 - that could transport two bikes and all of our gear around the state. We're that triathlon couple.) was a harbinger of things to come. The rain was constant from Corpus to the outskirts of Houston and the flooding along 59/69 was pretty scary. The forecast called for rain and severe thunderstorms throughout our stay in the Houston area and the weather was downright soggy right from the jump.
|The new tri-wagon on a training trip to Dancing Bear Ranch|
I got into town in time to make it to the social with my Ironman Foundation - Newton Running Ambassador Triathlon Team at Goose's Acre and then called it a night. Wednesday, I went to the IMFNR commercial shoot on The Waterway and service project at Interfaith of The Woodlands Veggie Village and then picked up Lacy from the airport in between bouts of severe thunderstorms.
(Side note: In February I applied for and was selected to the Ironman Foundation - Newton Running Ambassador Triathlon Team alongside about 40 other athletes. In the lead up to Ironman Texas our team raised over $22,000 for a charitable organization in The Woodlands. Some of my teammates will no doubt make a cameo or two as the story goes on. They are a bunch of solid people and inspiring athletes. Kokua.)
|"Hey, you two. You appear to be bad at gardening. Go make compost."|
|I didn't have any lines, but I stood next to a guy that did, so...|
|A soggy morning in The Woodlands.|
(Side note: You, dear reader, may find asking a random stranger to join you for dinner to be a bizarre thing, but in the Ironman tribe, I can assure you, such behavior is normal and encouraged.)
It took about three sips of water and 30 seconds of chatting to realize that our table mate was a rad guy and would likely turn into a long lasting member of our community of random tri-friends. And after what seemed like a couple of hours of swapping tales we realized that our new friend Seth Gerber was also friends with our Ironman Cozumel friends Doug and Stephanie Silk. Talk about a small world. Two people from the Rio Grande Valley have dinner with a stranger from Los Angeles and find out that he is friends with a couple from Las Vegas that we met in Cozumel. Downright weird...even for Ironman. Regardless, meeting Seth set the tone for the rest of the week for us. It was good karma, and we kept bumping into him time and again. If you're bored (and reading this missive would suggest that you are) you might think about logging onto Instagram and checking out @sethgerber. Seth has a truly inspirational story to share and I highly encourage you to follow his journey.
|Post dinner picture with Seth|
For the first time in IMTX history, an Undie Run was put together for race week and about two dozen brave souls joined Lacy and I for a two mile jaunt along The Waterway in stifling heat and skimpy yet unsupportive clothing. As with most things, Lacy quickly became the center of attention when she busted out a traffic stopping version of the National Anthem on the patio of the Goose's Acre. And, as is likely to occur when triathletes get together, the "fun run" at taper pace became a completely unnecessarily quick pissing contest after about one mile. All in all, the event was a ton of fun and we look forward to doing it again. The t-shirts and medals were awesome and the spectacle of running around mid-day in boxer briefs while people on their lunch breaks looked on in abject horror was well worth the entry fee.
|Drink it in, folks. Drink. It. In.|
(Side note: Faris had a tough race and ended up dropping out. He announced his retirement on Monday. Thanks, Lacy)
|Lacy with Faris Al-Sultan right before she crushed his confidence and made him not want to be a triathlete anymore|
|Dave Scott. He totally touched my chair she he walked up to the podium.|
(Side note: Epic cornrow tantrum. Y'all should've been there.)
|Pro stalking in The Waterway Marriott lobby (That's Faris in the background)|
|Taking the Irongingers to practice swim|
|Mmmm, triathlete chorizo. Now that's a great look for us.|
|Jason IS a morning person|
|I'm the one in the green swimcap|
|Our dedicated sherpas!|
The first half of the bike course at IMTX is fast and beautiful, especially after the first 20 miles. Once I turned north and picked up a slight tail wind I entered the Sam Houston National Forest and rode through rolling hills and Live Oak canopy at a solid clip. Rick passed me around mile 15 and I managed to keep him in sight for the next 15 miles or so, but he eventually dropped me (another Ironman tradition!). By the time I hit the chipsealed roads of Grimes County I knew I was on pace for a bike PR.
|Looking solid at Mile 0|
(Side note: I used Base Electrolyte Salt on the bike this year. Every five miles I took two doses. It was highly Pavlovian but also highly effective. Five mile Garmin ding...two doses. Repeat. Just like the damn dog ringing the bell to get the reward. I was my own psychology project. The Base Salt was the bees knees, but even if it didn't work, the ritual of taking it every five miles gave me a great incentive to push on. Also, I ate the hell out of Gu Watermelon Chomps and fun sized Payday bars on the course. Those Payday bars are my jam.)
The run started well for me but I realized early on that I was going to have to deal with some lingering soreness from the bike. My hips were tight and I could hear my wife in my head offering a stern "I told you so" about my penchant for skipping daily foam rolling and appointments with Airrosti. Still, I knew I had bought myself a good amount of time on the bike and could probably force a PR if I could hold it together for the marathon, so I ran through it and tried to establish a workable pace.
|That form looks neither efficient nor comfortable|
On lap one I felt great. I walked the aid stations and my pace slowed on the back end, but along The Waterway I picked it back up. Women's leader and eventual champion Angela Naeth passed me around Mile 5 and Jeremy passed me at around the 10K mark looking extremely strong (he managed a 3:30 marathon. Epic). Shortly after I hit The Waterway I got word from a passing race official that the second place female pro, Leanda Cave was coming up on my left. And so, for about 45 glorious seconds I ran alongside the former Ironman World Champion and Ironman 70.3 World Champion. As I came up on the Team Healey superfans I told Leanda "I'm going to let you beat me this time" and then stopped to say hi to my friends. I could have sworn she smiled at me.
A couple of miles turned into almost four as I pushed fluids put cold sponges under my arms and dropped cups of ice down my back and into my shorts in an effort to cool my core temperature.
(Side note: I learned some interesting things in the Boy Scouts of America, but not until May 16, 2015 did I try the old ice-in-the-crotch-to-fend-off-heat-stroke trick that I learned en route to earning my First Aid merit badge at Camp William Hines circa 1989)
|Team Healey Hill 2015. Strategically located between the Jockstrap Catapult and Hippie Hollow.|
By mile 21 I was almost back on The Waterway and I vowed to finish my race strong and get in under 12:45. The crowd helped me pick up my pace and I "ran" for the next couple of miles with a guy named Allen from the QT2 Systems team. At the second to last aid station I forced down a highly concentrated cup of Gatorade and after ringing the bell at the last aid station about a half mile out from the finish line my body decided to reject said Gatorade in a most unattractive manner just as The Waterway Cruiser passed by with a full compliment of fans crowding the rails.
(Side note: Have you ever thrown up while running and had part of a half digested Concord grape come out of your right nostril in the process? No? Um, me either.)
As Allen gave me some distance a couple of medical staffers came up to me to see if I was dying or just throwing up. I explained that I was a little more than a half mile from the finish line and that I didn't need any of their kindly advice or assistance and then took off before they could force feed me orange slices and make me sit in the shade.
So I ran. And I felt great. And that's a good thing because as I ran along The Waterway I saw Amanda fast approaching me and realized that she was less than a mile behind me. We greeted each other as we passed and then I instinctively picked up the pace out of fear that I might have to suffer the indignity of being passed by an athlete that I trained.
(Side note: Isn't that the plot line of every great sports movie? The teacher becomes the student or something like that? I don't know, maybe I'll work on a triathlon version of "Bull Durham" after I finish the screenplay for "Two Step It Up.")
And then, just like that...fans screaming, Mike Reilly with a microphone, awkwardly dangerous attempted finish line pose and BOOM...You. Are. An. Ironman....again. 12:43:59. New PR by 15 minutes. Not bad all things considered.
|I felt like Flavor Flav wearing that medal. Nicely done, IMTX.|
In other news, I am beyond proud of my Irongingers for the way they handled that course. To quote the great Ron Burgundy: "Boy, that escalated quickly. I mean that really got out of hand, fast."
Seriously. That escalated quickly. A year ago I met Amanda for the first time and she informed me that she wanted to do an Ironman but that she needed some help in the pool....oh, and she had never done a triathlon. And didn't own a bike. Two months later she was on the podium at her first Olympic. By October she was nipping at my heals at the Half Iron distance. And on race day in The Woodlands she damn near caught and passed me after having an epically good marathon. She finished 17th in her age group at her first Ironman. Is pro triathlete a viable career option for a helicopter pilot with a master's degree? Maybe so.
And, Lacy...proud doesn't even cover it. To be able to block out all of the noise, all of the distractions and all of the drama that she has had to deal with since November and turn it into motivation to race her best Ironman yet is nothing short of incredible. She balanced a run team, a triathlon club, family emergencies, health issues, a new business and a roster of clients while still finding time to get her training sessions in. My wife doesn't need to talk...she's too busy doing. And I love her for that. She truly is the epitome of "Never Quit" and I am proud beyond words of her gutsy race on a tough, hot and windy course when less determined people were dropping like flies. You keep being you, Lacy Shea. You are motivating and you are amazing.
To my IMFNA Teammates...It was great breaking bread with you, volunteering with you and racing with you. I hope we cross paths again down the road. I especially enjoyed seeing Levi, Alex, Ryan, Bryan, Tam and Ross out on the course at various points. Seeing lime green on the horizon pulled me out of a dark place more than once on the run, and I am grateful for you for lifting my spirits. Thank you for being a great example for the sport and for being leaders. Julianne...you are tireless and have an effervescent personality and seeing you on The Waterway on my second lap gave me the kick in the pants I needed. Dave...thank you for the fist bump at the finish line and for running such a class organization. Until the next time. Kokua.
|Ironman Foundation Newton Running Ambassador Triathlon Team - We're kind of a big deal. People know us.|
|Coming to a race near you...in the event that you live in Texas, that is.|
Somewhere along the way I may even find the time to write about it.