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.

 

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Jason Bahamundi

About the Author:

I grew up in New York and lived there for 34 years until I got divorced and moved 1600 miles to my new home in Texas.  I love New York and miss it but that does not mean that Texas hasn’t been great to me because it has.  It was here that I discovered endurance sports and specifically the sport of triathlon.  Triathlon has given me new life through all the challenges it presents.  I no longer look at life the same way and I can say that is in part due to my endeavor into this sport.

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