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4. Blog list - blog name

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Ironman Texas Race Report ... by Athlete: Carol Feaga!

A year ago I would have told you that doing an Ironman was crazy.  I week ago I finished one.

I had been racing Olympic and 70.3 distance triathlons for a few years, but with time, friendly peer pressure, and a curiosity about how far I could push myself I finally signed up for Ironman Texas.  As luck would have it my training almost immediately sidelined while preparing for the Houston Marathon with an IT-band injury.  As a result my 6-months of training were primarily swim and bike focused, with some running as my physical therapy allowed.   

My parents came into town since it was my first Ironman, and I was excited to have their support out on the course.  Even though the race moved up a month to April, the weather in the days leading up to the race was mid-80’s and full sun.  If I was uncomfortable sitting outside during the race briefing how was 140+ miles going to go?  

Although the race briefing had promised to split up folks by swim pace at swim start, there were no pace groups race morning.  So ~2700 athletes randomly jumbled into the water over a 10 minute period.  I’ve only done wave starts where my group is all women - generally folks are nice, say sorry, and don’t hurt that bad when they run into you. I’m fairly certain there was a separate contest to see who could bruise, swim over, punch, or elbow the most people, with bonus points if you weighed at least 100lbs more than than your "opponent".

After about an hour of "fight club" we all funneled down into the Woodlands Waterway canal.  The Woodlands has exceptionally manicured landscaping, which requires frequent mulching and fertilizing.  The down side is much of it ran off into the canal where we were swimming, so I can finally check “tasting fresh mulch” off my bucket list.  

Finally the swim was over!! My watch read 1:30, which was on the faster end of what I was hoping for.  On the way into transition I saw my mom behind the barricade - I got to run over and hug her.  I was so happy to be done with the swim, so many volunteers were giving high-fives and cheering, I felt like I had already finished the entire race.

The only difference from my 70.3 transition is I splurged and brought a good luck necklace with me.  Due to the quantity of sunscreen being sprayed, the manure taste in my mouth was replaced with Coppertone. So many good flavors today and I was just beginning!


I started out slow on the bike with the intention of speeding up if I was feeling good.  Most of the bike course was two out-and-back loops on the Hardy Toll Road, which does not have any natural barriers from the 10-15 mph North wind on race day. The salted caramel Bonk Breaker, sea salt chocolate Gu, and some homemade muffins got me through most of the course.

Overall I kept things easy on the bike and if anything rode the second half a bit easier trying to make sure my legs would be ready for the marathon.  The 2nd loop going downwind was the most fun since the wind had built up considerably – several miles were ~28 mph.  Then the party ended, I turned around, and rode the last ~30 miles into a stiff headwind.  I was mentally ready for the slow slog back to the bike finish, but that didn’t make the miles go by any faster.

Finally we were off the toll road and back onto the streets of the Woodlands.  My legs felt great and I was ready to crush the run.  With 1 mile left on the bike the first wave of nausea hit me.  I was still biking very easy, had eaten a normal amount of snacks and liquids, and had no idea what to do.  I had never gotten nauseous during training rides or transition runs and felt very unprepared.  I downed an extra snack figuring if my stomach was going to be upset, I’d rather have nutrition getting to my muscles than spiraling downwards into a no food / no energy / more nausea loop.  

I got into transition, gave away my bike away to one of the awesome volunteers, and sat down in the change tent. I thought nothing of the liquid on the seat until the smell hit me – seriously who pees on a seat in the transition tent?  At least it was motivation to finish so I could change clothes, right?

At the start of the run course I got another mouthful of sunscreen (yum!) and was off to start my 26.2 mile adventure.  I was prepared for this to be the hardest part - mentally, physically, and GI-ily.  The first 6 miles were pretty good, I was eating and drinking and my legs still felt reasonably fresh. Around mile 8 a new round of intermittent nausea started creep in and I took a minute walk break to settle my stomach and then started running a little slower.  Since this was my first time at this distance, I wasn’t sure what my body was doing - was this the start of “waterway’s revenge”? Were my muscles/blood sugar totally tapped out? I could still run but was afraid if I pushed too hard I might really get sick, risk extreme dehydration, and then not finish.  I took about a mile walk break to get down some calories/liquids and tried to get the wheels back on the cart. After seeing some more friends out on the course I started to feel a little bit better with the nutrition or water or good luck kicking in.

By the 3rd (and final) lap part of me wanted to celebrate – hurray! We’re going to make it! – and part of me still wasn’t so sure.   My mostly-running-with-walking was still fine, but a lot can still go wrong in 8 miles, and at worst 8 miles can be 3 hours of walking to go.  I had saved my  special needs bag with my pickle juice (so amazing) for this lap for something to look forward to, and it definitely worked its magic.

The weather was basically perfect at this point, with cooler temperatures and clouds as the silver lining to the horrendous North headwind.  This was the first race I wasn’t covered in a mix of sweat, ice water, Gatorade, coke, and Gu residue – kind of a nice change.

On a port-a-potty stop about 4 miles out I accidentally bumped my watch.  “Multisport activity complete!” it proudly proclaimed.  If only.  I cursed loudly and spent an extra few seconds trying to figure out how to get it to keep recording.

As I got closer to the waterway the number of miles left finally started seeming reasonable… 4, 3, 2.  I rounded the last few aid stations, gave up on trying to force food into my stomach, and finally made the turn off of the 3-loop course towards the finish.  There were so many people out cheering behind the barricades.  I finally felt like I could let my guard down and say “I am going to finish this” and enjoy the course.  I high-fived just about everyone for the last quarter mile.  I have no idea how so many other people were just as excited about my finish as I was, but I was going to enjoy every foot of it.  Then I saw my mom!! She took a photo or two, I may have hugged her, and then I looked up and almost ran into a poorly-placed archway before the real final finish segment.  I cleared that, saw the finish line, and then out of nowhere my Dad is waving, calling my name, and reaching his hand out.  I gave him a high five (it’s on the finish line video!) and then put my arms up in victory and crossed the finish line.  I did it!  So much training, so much worry and energy leading up to the race, so much working out today (almost 13 hours worth!), and now it was finally over.  "Carol Feaga from Houston Texas, you are an Ironman!"

Looking back, the run was slower than I wanted, but I can’t complain too much since I was still able to run at mile 26 despite the limited run-training.  I also still have a few things to learn on keeping my stomach happy.  Overall the race went really well, and other than a the headwind the conditions were ideal.

I’m sure if Iron distance racing is going to be a long term thing for me or not at this point - for now i'm just taking my mandatory ice cream eating - I mean recovery - one day at a time.

  

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