2013 Ironman Texas: Cramps, Cranks And Crying Feet

2013 Ironman Texas was raced on the surface of the sun or at least it seemed like it was.  Everywhere in America there has been a mild Spring and even here in Texas that can be said.  I checked the forecast every now and again and it showed a high of 89* and I was happy with that because last years Ironman Texas was raced in 93* heat.  A 4 degree cooler day was something to look forward to, but that never happened.

I did not realize how hot it was going to get or had gotten until the race was over while Karen and I were talking to a couple near the morning clothes bag pickup.  Karen told me it was 96* and the couple we were talking to mentioned it got over 100* heat index with the humidity.  I then put it all together as to why I had some of the reactions I did during the race.  Here is how the 2013 Ironman Texas race broke down for me.

2013 Ironman Texas: Cramps, Cranks And Crying Feet The Story

2013 Ironman Texas Swim

I know what to expect at the Ironman Texas swim start having done it last year but even that did not prepare me for what was about to unfold.  The swim in Lake Woodlands is tight and when you have 2000+ athletes with anxious nerves waiting for the cannon to go off you have the makings of what is going to be a lot of contact.  Last year I was hit and was hitting for the first few minutes and then after that was always touching somebody but nothing compared to the 2013 Ironman Texas version.

This year I was in constant contact with somebody until the 4th marked buoy.  It wasn’t until then that I finally had some room to swim but I also know that I spent a lot of energy with a heart level that went anaerobic.  I wanted to get out of the scrum and the nerves and heart rate just kept climbing until I was able to settle into the swim.  At that point it was a matter of counting strokes to keep my head in the game and sighting on a normal routine.  The problem was that sighting was just as difficult as the water was choppier than last year.  It could have been that I was in the middle of the box or that the winds were whipping but either way I was swallowing water by the mouthful on what seemed like every breath.  This added to the anxiety as my mind wandered to whether or not the bacteria in that water was going to do a number on my GI later in the race.

When I got to the first turn buoy I smiled knowing that 1/3 of the swim was over.  The 2nd turn buoy shows up quickly and I was in the middle of the 2nd third of the swim race and seemed to be able to settle a bit more.  It was then that the cramps in my calf muscles and toes decided to show up.  I have spoken with Maria a couple of times already to try to figure out what is going on since this also happened at Ironman Arizona.  I thought the problem at IMAZ was the very cold weather but the water temp in Lake Woodlands was 78* so there is no common denominator there.

I brushed off the cramping as much as I possibly could but I could also feel that I was not holding the proper form in the water.  I decided to swim harder without much help from my legs to see if I could help shake off the cramps and by the time I hit the 3rd turn buoy my legs were no longer cramping.  The canal is a mind-f*ck as you think you are done but in reality still have the last 1/3rd of the swim to go and it just seemed like forever.  As I neared the end I was thrilled to know that I was finishing the swim and started getting the idea of transitioning into my head as well as the race strategy.  When I got out and saw 1:53 on the clock I was dis-heartened as I was way off my goal and saw nearly every bike gear bag gone.  I did not go into the changing tent as I did not want to sit down and reflect on the swim. I  changed outside of the tent, went inside and dropped off my bag and took some water and out to the bike rack I went.

2013 Ironman Texas Bike

I got on my bike as quickly as I could and started to focus on the race strategy as well as the nutrition plan.  Maria and John had given me a target HR of 140-144 with a cap of 150 and not to touch Zone 4.  My nutrition plan was to take in calories in the first 1.5 hours then water for the next 1.5 hours and switch back and forth.    When I started the bike I knew I was going to be in the back of the pack in terms of athletes and while controlling my heart rate removed the idea that I should also allow others to pass me on the bike.  In the first few minutes that mindset had to change and focus purely on my goals.

I began passing a number of people and felt great on the bike.  My legs were not experiencing any effect from the cramping on the swim.  When my watch went off after 20 minutes I started taking in my calories.  I could start to feel the warmth and chose to take water at every aid station and drink as much as possible and pour even more over my head and down my back while inside the aid station area.

When I reached the first aid station I also gave myself and internal fist pump.  At 2012 Ironman Texas I had to stop and use the porto-john and at 2012 Ironman Arizona I had a bike wreck.  Getting through that first aid station was a mental victory.  Time to settle into this race and see what the day brought me.  Then I heard what the day was going to bring me.  Something was grinding and rattling.  I could not tell where it was coming from but it reminded me of the noise I experienced at Rev3 Maine when the spoke on my wheel broke.  I made the decision right then that I was going to ride this until the wheels fell off, literally.

The ride at Ironman Texas is fairly flat with only ~1600ft of climbing over the 112 miles but as I got toward the 2nd half of the ride I could feel my legs getting a bit more fatigued than I remember the previous year. I  was also drinking a lot more water at the aid stations then I could remember.  I didn’t think anything of the temps until around the 100 mile marker when I ran out of my preferred nutrition.  It was at this point that I took 2 water bottles and a bottle of Perform.  I poured one bottle of water over my head, down my back and onto my legs.

Approximately 5 miles past that last aid station I came to the realization that the temperatures had to be hotter than last year for me to take Perform off the course.  It is not something that I train with but I was willing to take the risk of GI distress as I knew I needed the electrolytes.  At this point of the race I had already consumed 750 calories of Herbalife24 Prolong and Perform, 400 calories of Huma Gel and 400 calories of EFS Liquid Shot and still needed the Perform.

As I got toward the end of the ride I started to focus on the transition and the marathon.  What was I going to do in terms of putting on my shoes, my visor.  Where was my bike going?  What about my helmet?  What was my target heart rate for the run?  All of these thoughts were going through my head as I prepared to dismount.  When I saw the clock read 8:03 I knew I had just ridden the fastest 112 miles of my Ironman career and my energy shot up.  I had 26.2 miles between me and a 3rd IM finish.

Having slipped my feet out of the cycling shoes on the bike and handed it off I started to run toward the Run Gear bags and I immediately knew something was wrong.  My feet were killing me.  The outside edges were in so much pain and every step sent a jolt up to my neck.  The confidence of the run seemed to be slipping away but I was not going to let this stop me.  If I had to walk the marathon then so be it.

At the changing tent I decided not to go in again.  Having my feet out of my cycling shoes it was a matter of putting my running shoes and visor on while dropping my helmet and garbage from the ride into the bag and off to get these 26.2 miles done.

2013 Ironman Texas Run

The goal heading into this years version of Ironman Texas was to run a sub-4 hour marathon.  Having seen the clock at 8:03 and an ~3 minute transition I figured I had until 12:06 to get that 4 hour marathon under my belt.  Math is not a strong suit when it is 114.4 miles into a race and the temperatures are touching 95* but that was the last time I would think about that 4 hour marathon until toward the end but a lot transpired between those two points.

When I started running I knew I wasn’t going to stop at aid stations unless it was unbearable.  What I found out right away was that the pain in my feet was nearly unbearable but I was not going to start walking this early.  I had a goal and my feet would be able to rest when I was done.  That was my focus and I wasn’t going to think differently.  Of course as soon as I think that the cramps in my ribs started and were exactly the ones I experienced at 70.3 Puerto Rico in March. As quickly as I could I pulled my rib out and the cramping went away.  Every step was causing an issue and I finally stopped to walk at the 5th aid station.  Once done there I started running again and did not stop until I hit the 8th aid station.

At this point I had a routine going.  Each aid station I would grab two cups of ice. One cup would go into my top and the other into my shorts. I would also dump two cups of water over my head.  Every other aid station I would drink perform or water.  I also had EFS Liquid Shot in my top and would take sips of that every 20 minutes.  The routine was working for me and I was able to run.

I kept checking my heart rate and it was barely getting into the 135 range when the goal was to be between 150 and 160.  The pain in my feet played a part in this as each step was more painful than the last.  Seeing the carnage out on the course I was inspired but also had to stay focused on myself.  If I spent one moment looking around I would have realized how badly I felt as well and I could not risk that.  I knew I had a cheering section around mile 6, 15 and 24 of the marathon with Michelle, Michelle, Erin and other Team Figjam members as well as Karen, Jeff and Annie and the Kingwood Tri club.  I was not able to show my emotion for having this cheering section as I focused on myself but I literally experienced chills on a 100* Heat Index day each time I passed them and picked up their energy.

As I was passing the Kingwood Tri club Jeff ran with me for a few steps and I told him that my feet were in so much pain and his words back to me were the words I needed to hear:  This is your last lap.  You are doing something others don’t even think about. Soak it all in.  Between those words and the words of Maria and John ringing in my head I started to run harder and the pain in my feet left.  I was all the sudden on cloud 9. Last lap to Ironman #3 in 12 months.  I WAS doing something others don’t dream about.

Ice, water, Perform, mantra.  Over and over.  When I reached Mile 23 and I heard the music playing I started to dance.  I knew that I was only 3 miles away.  I got passed the cheering section and was running harder than I had all night. I had 19 minutes to reach a sub-4 hour marathon as well as a possible sub-12 hour race.  I was going and when I made the turn to the finish line all the joy in the world rained down on me.  I was finished and I soaked up the finish line as I noticed 12:03 on the clock.  I raced to a sub-4 hour marathon as well as a sub-6 hour bike.  For a day that started out like sh*t it was ending on a super high note.

I crossed and a volunteer grabbed me.  Then a stranger came out of nowhere to say I will take care of him.  It was Jon from Twitter who told me he was going to catch me and then the sight of all sites.  Susan Lacke ran up and gave me the biggest hug. I cannot tell you how much it meant to have her there at the finish line with a huge smile on her face.

My words to her after I hugged her were:  That was the fucking hardest race I have ever run.  Her words right back: After seeing you run I will never tell you to man the fuck up again.  And with that all was right with the world.  Jon and Susan walked me toward the shirts and I saw Karen.  I grabbed her and hugged her as hard as I ever had.  Instead of crying like last year I was smiling and laughing having thought I broke 4 hours on the run.  I was thrilled.

We left Susan and Jon and went to the food tent then sat down with Jeff, Annie, Lesley and the rest of the crowd. Reviewing my splits I realized that I ran a 4:06 and not a sub-4 hour marathon.  My math went wrong when I didn’t factor in the 10 minutes for the pros and that killed some of the high but I checked the splits of M40-44 and realized that I ran the 15th fastest marathon of my Age Group.  Something to build on for the next one.

2013 Ironman Texas Thank You

Thank you for being as hard as you were.  Thank you for pushing my limits.  Thank you for making me question what I had inside.  Thank you for allowing me to look back and see that finishing your course is an accomplishment that can never be taken away.

Thank you to all of you who supported me whether it was on this blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or just a silent prayer.  I truly appreciate it and can only hope to give back a fraction if what you have given me.

2013 Ironman Texas Photos

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  • http://mamarunsbarefoot.com Mamarunsbarefoot

    You never cease to amaze me. Always inspirational and always showing how to over come and be the best in this sport you can be. Bravo!
    Mamarunsbarefoot recently posted..Runner, Racer, Separating the TwoMy Profile

    • http://cooktraineatrace.com CTER

      Thank you so much. One foot in front of the other is all that needs to be done. Stay focused and follow through to your goals.

  • http://tridiesel.blogspot.com Scott

    Congrats on your third IM and over coming the pain on the run
    Scott recently posted..Ride of SilenceMy Profile

    • http://cooktraineatrace.com CTER

      Thank you very much. The pain is just starting to subside in my feet and I have done nothing in the past 4 days.

  • http://ironbob-ironbob.blogspot.com/ Bob

    Great job
    I knew 4 people in the race… 2 DNFd
    One because of GI issues because of the funky swim.
    I was going to do this one as no. 5 out of 6 but I think CDA will be my finale
    4:06 is only something I dream of… and that was 20 years ago
    Bob recently posted..Method in my MadnessMy Profile

    • http://cooktraineatrace.com CTER

      Thanks Bob. This race sandwiched between two others is probably not the best idea so smart in going to CdA and getting a little bit of rest.

  • http://brittsblogging.wordpress.com/ Brittany

    Wow – I am so impressed! What a rough day and great performance despite some tough conditions! I love the pictures also, they really show the emotion. Wish I could have been there to cheer and volunteer. Anyway, I’ve been so inspired by you and so many others that [despite the hellish conditions], I signed up for IMTX 2014!! Super excited and scared at the same time!!
    Brittany recently posted..Real Ale Ride RecapMy Profile

    • http://cooktraineatrace.com CTER

      YES! YES! YES! So awesome that you registered for 2014. It makes me want to register right now as well but I am going to hold off a bit until I know what the end of 2013 brings but I will be there to root you on for sure.

  • Jeff Bennett

    Great race out there Jason! It was a tough day for everyone. I saw that the times were significantly slower than last year. But you toughed it out and made it happen. Fantastic work!

    • http://cooktraineatrace.com CTER

      Thanks Jeff. It was great getting to train with you this year and toeing the line on race day as well.

      We need to figure out a training schedule to work together on especially with you going to Vegas and me looking at Redman in September and Oilman in November.

  • http://obligatorytriblog.blogspot.com Victoria

    Having run an ironman marathon in 95F heat, I bow down to your 4 hour effort. Way to keep focused despite all the issues earlier in the race.

    • http://cooktraineatrace.com CTER

      Thank you Victoria. I may have to include IML’Ville in my rotation as I enjoy the heat and who doesn’t want to say they ran a marathon at the end of an IM in 95* heat…..haha!

  • http://www.runningalife.com Maria Simone

    I am so proud of you, Jason! What a hard fought race – and you triumphed! Even though I knew the story, I relished reading every word of this. So awesome. <3 you!!!!!
    Maria Simone recently posted..Simple But Not Easy: 2013 Bassman Triathlon Race ReportMy Profile

    • http://cooktraineatrace.com CTER

      Thank you very much. I was put in a position to succeed by a great coaching team. Knowing they had my back throughout the training and the race made it that much easier to push on.

  • http://milesmusclesmommyhood.blogspot.com MilesMusclesMom

    congrats Jason!! It was a tough day out there for everyone, you ran a hell of a race :) Tried stalking you online whenever I could during class and was sending good vibes your way! Way to go
    MilesMusclesMom recently posted..Knocked Out & No KnoxMy Profile

    • http://cooktraineatrace.com CTER

      Thank you so much Jen. I appreciate the good vibes for sure as they were needed when you were passing people who were walking and others throwing up and questioning if you should be feeling worse than you do.

  • http://www.shutupandrun.net Shut Up and Run

    I love that you loved how hard it was. Only you could have gratitude for such a kick ass challenge. You did amazing, and there is one thing I will ALWAYS know about you. You give it f&cking 110%. I don’t know how you do it, but your determination and discipline is something we all can learn from. Great job, my friend.
    Shut Up and Run recently posted..Colorado Colfax Marathon Race Report 2013My Profile

    • http://cooktraineatrace.com CTER

      Thank you so much. I hope I never find my limits but this race came close to pushing me to that discovery.

  • http://climbingthosehills.blogspot.com/ TriMOEngr (Christina)

    Congrats on pushing through in tough conditions!
    TriMOEngr (Christina) recently posted..Garmin = Good Excuse 4 WorkoutMy Profile

    • http://cooktraineatrace.com CTER

      Thank you Christina. Hopefully the next one, yes there will be more, will not be like racing on fire.

  • http://fitfunmom.com Angela @ FitFunMom

    Congratulations on Ironman #3 in 12 months! What a tough race and what courage you showed in completing it!
    Angela @ FitFunMom recently posted..Book Review: Running on AirMy Profile

    • http://cooktraineatrace.com CTER

      Thank you Angela. That means a lot and seeing it in writing (3 in 12 months) makes me shake my head. I wouldn’t change a thing about it but it is kinda crazy to put yourself (WILLINGLY) through that.

  • http://www.bri-tri.com Brian S

    Dude…great job!!! So great how you just put the swim, the heat, and the feet behind you and marched on to a fabulous result. Truly inspiring man!
    Brian S recently posted..Thad Beaty: Musician and Plant-Based IronmanMy Profile

    • http://cooktraineatrace.com CTER

      Thanks Brian. I am looking forward to following your journey and your race at IMLP. Go Get Some.

  • Marlene

    You’re incredible, Jason!!! So inspiring from start to finish. You handled the challenges the day gave you, toughed it out and as always, you are already talking about the lessons you learned and what to work on. A huge congratulations on #3 to my TR-IDOL!

    • http://cooktraineatrace.com CTER

      Thank you so much MaUrlene. I appreciate the compliment and am humbled by the phrase TRIDOL!

      But maybe we can start a new blog called that……make it a competition…..haha!

  • http://26.2ismycooldown.com Mike

    Jason — Hell YES! Way to pull yourself up by your boot straps and get it done. A lesser man would have called it a day much earlier. Well done.
    Mike recently posted..Has It Really Been Four Months?My Profile

    • http://cooktraineatrace.com CTER

      Thanks Mike. ROI on a DNF is $0……..

  • Tara Newman

    Great race report. Your mental toughness is so inspiring. Epic badassery right there.

    • http://cooktraineatrace.com CTER

      Thank you so much for this comment. It is certainly a comment like this that rings in your ears when the fight is at its hardest and you have to respond. Much appreciated.

  • DR

    nice work!! Congrats on another IM
    great race – way to push through all the way to the end
    it got toasty out there… very tough conditions it was a battle for sure

    • http://cooktraineatrace.com CTER

      haha! Toasty would not be the word I used to describe the molten lava field on the surface of the sun.

      My feet are finally starting to look normal with the swelling going down.

  • http://www.ironmanbythirty.com Kevin

    Once again, awesome, awesome job. Super proud of you.

    Wondering about your swim cramps though…. I used to have this happen to me at the end of long swims at the pool. What are you eating/drinking pre-race? Obviously you are eating a breakfast, but how much fluid are you getting in between breakfast and start? I found (at least for me) that I dehydration is when my cramps start to kick in. And considering the heat this year, I wonder if that could have played a role?

    You certainly didn’t let it get you down though. That shows by how you destroyed the bike and run!
    Kevin recently posted..PR HuntingMy Profile

    • http://cooktraineatrace.com CTER

      Thanks man. I really appreciated your text message as well.

      In speaking with Maria I was thinking it might be caffeine but it could be dehydration a bit as well. I know I was drinking lots of water in the days leading up to the race and had water on the drive and walk to the race but I think that I need to put a gel or some calories into the water as well considering I ate at 4am so that is 3 hours before the race start.

      I would cramp once and again during long swims as well but I don’t know what I was drinking prior to those swims. I am going to start a food journal on swim days to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

  • Jeff

    Great seeing you this weekend buddy! Congrats on finishing what will easily be one of the most difficult races of your life. IT was F’n brutal out there on Saturday! And to make matter worse some one bought 8oz beers – hardly enough to keep this spectator hydrated (-:

    See ya in a couple of months at the El Scorcho!

    • http://cooktraineatrace.com CTER

      hahaha! Cavity fillers all around! Next time I will take notice that the price is 50% of the other 12 packs and know that they are 8 oz’ers but that also tells you how long it has been since I purchased beer.

  • http://www.seejenroerun.blogspot.com Jen

    My Stotan friend,

    You really are “the best around”

    I’m so proud of you and how hard you fight. You are a true inspiration. Congrats on an incredible race!
    Jen recently posted..IronGirl Tri training and coupon codes for you!My Profile

    • http://cooktraineatrace.com CTER

      Thank you so much. I love that picture that you post to Facebook. The song rings in my ears at mile 90 of the bike when the going starts to get tough.

  • http://www.triathlon-sherpa.com Graham Ross

    There were plenty of challenges on your race day but by being resilient, positive and motivated, add in some courage and self belief and they were over come. That’s what finishing an Ironman takes. Congrats, Jason.

    • http://cooktraineatrace.com CTER

      Thank you very much. Staying focused on your end goals is the key to getting to the finish line.

  • danielle

    congratulations, wow what an amazing race and report! i started following your blog last year when i delved into the tri-world, and essentially just started cycling last june. long story short i went from – which was a total bike/tri novice – to just finishing IMTX – so i was there with you! but much slower of rource, i finished in 15:20. it was amazing, honestly despite my flat tires and crazy mechanical delays, i’m just happy i finished. but the nice thing about this IMTX experience is that i really didn’t run out of energy since i had so many breaks. lol.
    i read your blog these last few months for inspiration, and i’m super happy for your awesome race. i’m a native houstonian and love feeling like a “neighbor”
    i signed up for oilman, can’t wait! and i have a feeling me and IMTX are not done yet – i’m thinking next year might be a great way to see if i can experience 140.6 miles with less issues :)

    • http://cooktraineatrace.com CTER

      Congratulations Danielle. That was a bear of a race and you DID IT. That is an accomplishment, like graduating, that can never be taken away. Very happy for you.

      I believe I will be down at Oilman myself. Going to connect with my coach and get the 2nd half of the year settled and figure it out. Would be great to meet you down there.

      My feeling regarding IMTX is similar. The swim got the better of me and I know I can ride and run faster so I believe I will be there in 2014 as well.

      • danielle

        Well I’m going to work on my aerobic base now and just take my time building it up – low and slow and actually have a good base would be a nice thing! I sort of rushed into this, figured go big or go home, but now that I have an idea of the distance and such, I would like to really take my time with the base training :D
        Love your blog, it’s actually making me consider some dietary changes. Very healthful and helpful!
        Oilman is way out there, but yet pretty darn close. At least I liked the swim last year!

  • Colleen

    One hell of a race Jason! I’m so glad that you didn’t let the swim get to you – it was a blip in the road and you went on to have a FANTASTIC day, despite the heat and the pain. I’m damn impress! :)

    • http://cooktraineatrace.com CTER

      Thank you very much. Having a tough time equating my time with my effort and accepting that I did we’ll in comparison to the field even though I know I can do better.

  • http://www.chasingthekenyans.com lindsay

    dude, incredible! a 4:06 on a billion degree day! i can’t do match on 800m repeats, let alone a 12-hour event. congrats!!
    lindsay recently posted..Chasing the GeriatricsMy Profile

    • http://cooktraineatrace.com CTER

      Thanks. You just made me feel like a rock star. Time to run…..in about 2 hours and probably more like a wig as I am not sure the legs are fully fully recovered.

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