After the ill-fated Ironman Texas 70.3 of 2019, and the global pandemic of 2020 I was not sure we would race at all in April of 2021. I signed up for the 2019 Ironman on July 25 of 2018. It has been a longggg time coming to race a 70.3 to completion. In 2019 very few people were able to finish the race due to the sudden hurricane that plowed through Galveston while most folks were out on the run. We took cover under the parking garage for 30min and eventually the race was cancelled due to weather conditions. It was unfortunate, but understandable for the safety of the athletes and volunteers. Rain and wind was coming in sideways and tables were flipping over.
Anyways, cue 2020. I ended up training thinking I would be able to race and then two weeks before the race it was cancelled. Instead I did a virtual 70.3 over a weekend with the local PlayTri. It was nice and home town-y, but not the same as having a full 70.3 experience.
Onto 2021! I was training on the Be Iron Fit Intermediate plan, picking up training after Christmas. I was already in run shape and swim shape, regularly running 25mi a week and swimming 4k-6k per week, so it is really always the bike fitness that I have to build slowly every year. I’m a very consistent athlete. I get tired and worn out from the volume of training, but I am really good at time management and not afraid to get up early and go to sleep early. Also, I don’t have kids. The entire time I’m training, there is a mix of COVID second wave news with post-Christmas and Thanksgiving contagion as well as hope for a vaccine. Certainly more optimistic than 2020, but I was going through the motions on training up until two weeks prior to the race. Going through the motions while still getting in strong 4hr bike rides is my superpower. Perhaps it is just a detachment from whatever outcome exists. I just wanted the opportunity to race. I love racing, I know I’m never going to win, but I love the energy of racing and I’m infinitely more grateful for the ability to do so after COVID shut it down.
Two weeks before: “Oh, I think this race may actually happen!” And sure enough we were driving down to Galveston on April 9th. I’ll provide a more detailed version of our Galveston Itinerary in another post, however all the race related activities like athlete check in, briefing and bike check were infinitely better than 2019. There was no line because everyone had to select a time slot, and it was beautifully efficient with appropriate spacing, mask use and sanitization. We were done by 9am on Saturday with all three activities mentioned. Love it! We went out to dinner and I was asleep by 8:45pm with all my stuff packed up.
4:30am – My Alarm goes off. Start drinking cold brew coffee in bed while Patrick sleeps another 30minutes. My destination race travel hack is to always buy your cold brew coffee cans to keep in your hotel room. You never know when coffee shops open or if you will have coffee available in the room. I purchased 4 total (2 for pre-race and 2 for during / post-race)
5:15am – Finish dressing, woke up Patrick and headed over to Moody Gardens. I drove myself there and Patrick drove himself back and straight to bed!
5:30-6:30am – Setting up transition, sunscreen, snacked lightly on some trail mix (only food I had until the run). I also chugged a waterbottle of nuun. I also prepped a bottle of caffeinated nuun as well for whichever transition made sense. Everyone was wearing masks the entire time.
6:30am – Pros are gathered and brought to the start line. Shortly thereafter, they started gathering self seeded groups. I was shocked by how quickly groups were being called. I went with the 35-40min swim group and we were called only 15 to 20min after the pros.
7:00am – Freezing on the beach by the pier waiting to take off. Something about being in a wetsuit fully covered except for your neck/face/feet makes you really cold. The breeze off the water had everyone shivering, not just my easily cold body. Even the two men I was chatting to prior to the race were doing some bouncing and swaying to try to stay warm before jumping into the water. Worth noting, the entire time in transition and on the way to the swim we had masks on. There wasn’t spacing in the self seeded corrals, but they did a good job of keeping people masked up as long as possible. We slowly made our way to the pier where they had 3 or 4 people jumping off the dock at a time with 6 seconds between jump groups. Right before the end of the dock they had trashcans to dispose of the mask you were wearing, so it was literally up until the last moment.
7:22am – I’m Off! Again, shocked how quickly I was able to get into the water. And I was met with beautiful warm ocean water. After freezing our butts off on shore for 45min, the water was a relief. I knew it would be a washing machine and it was. The first few strokes jumping off a dock are a little awkward but I hit my stride quickly, breathing every second stroke, then once I was able to calm down after a few minutes I was breathing every 4th stroke which is my normal cadence. The direction of the swim is a bit tough for early morning, as you start off swimming into the sunrise. It was difficult to site for the first 10minutes or so, but once you make the turn it is a straight line with no sun blocking visibility. I was hugging the buoys sometimes a little too close and had a really strong swim overall. I came out of the water in 39:44! Some of the big complaints were how choppy the water was, however I came out 5 minutes faster than 2019 so I was thrilled. I didn’t get myself freaked out and my mantra for the swim was to just remain calm and enjoy it. That is exactly what I did. When I was climbing out on the ramp up to transition, I was blown away by my time. Seriously. I seem like a legit swimmer! When in reality I learned how to swim in 2017 ha.
This year they didn’t have organized wet suit strippers. It is usually the most hysterical thing seeing grown men and women fling themselves on the ground, legs in the air, and usually energetic teenagers yanking off their swimsuits. Going contactless this year, I just kept on running to my bike and was trying to shimmy out of my wetsuit on the concrete by my bike. One volunteer asked if I wanted help to which I said “absolutely!!!” and apparently they are not officially stripping people, but they are offering and will help depending on the comfort level of both stripper and strippee (ha). I was planning to use my camelbak on the bike, but it started gushing water so I didn’t have time to deal with that. I jogged my bike to the start line and 10 feet beyond it, then took my time getting on, clipping in and taking off. I don’t have time to get into any bike crashes at the very start of the race. Total transition time: 5:09.
I’m not really into biking. It is my least favorite part of triathlon and the leg that I’m least mature in. I knew from my experience in 2019 that a massive headwind would hit us on the inbound 28 miles, so I told myself that it was more of a mental challenge than physical. I. WAS. FLYING. The first half of the bike ride. 32mph?! That was the peak speed my garmin told me I was going. We had a massive headwind going out. I felt great! I kept thinking to myself “wow, maybe I gained a lot of strength since 2019 and this whole bike thing is easy!” But in the back of my mind… I knew what was coming. It wasn’t until mile 15 or 20 that I saw the pro athletes, and the weird thing is that I could see them. Normally they are like Flash, you can’t even actually make out faces or anything. They were going through the headwind while I was getting the tailwind and they looked slow. Oh dear. I hit the halfway point a little over an hour (maybe 1:10ish) into the bike, and after a really wide (bike handling is sub par) U turn I all but stopped moving. My speed of 32mph quickly dropped to 10mph ha! I picked it back up to 12-13mph and it was a struggle. I am not the only one that was dying out there. Many people were grumbling as they would pass and you could see it in the body language on the bike. It took me twice as long to make the return trip as the outbound. I stopped for water at the 45-ish mile marker and continued on my way. The headwind was deafening so I had to keep asking myself, “How are your legs? Focus on your legs. Your legs feel great even if you cannot hear anything from the wind.” Definitely a mind game. But if you had the mental willpower to blast through the headwind, you can do anything. Weather on the bike definitely warmed up, it was really pleasant around 70-75 degrees and very few clouds. I knew it was going to be a good (if not warm) run ahead of us. But certainly no hurricanes to ruin my race this year. Bike time clocked in at 3:28. Turns out my mom was worried I had a flat tire because I was going so slow (LOL!). No mom, just slow from a headwind and general bike fitness. She and Patrick were tracking me on the ironman app and texting each other on my status. Patrick had more confidence in my ability to change a tire and told my mom I may be doing that. No flats. All wind. And laggy apps ha.
I was so happy to dump my bike I cheered going through transition, at which point a male pro looked up at me from their bike rack. He had just finished the race so I congratulated him and he wished me luck on my way! Pros are typically super normal (no ego since nobody knows what triathlon even is) and sometimes they come watch the race and in non-COVID times they give people medals when they finish. I chugged my caffeinated nuun, changed my shoes and took off! Transition time: 3:42. I was just so dang happy to be off the bike I had a great attitude.
Galveston is a 3 loop course, with each loop a little bit over 4 miles and super spectator friendly. Despite all the spectators being discouraged from attending, so many showed up. Honestly, I was really happy with it. They were such a spirited and energetic bunch, that it really helped. I came out fast on the run (bike cadence influenced perhaps) running my first mile as 8:54! Wowza. Chill out girlfriend. My normal chill runs are usually 10:30, so this was fast for me even without doing a swim and bike beforehand. I felt great, grabbed a banana and a random soft granola bar at mile 2 and cruised along passing a ton of people in the process. I exclusively run outside, so the heat was not a huge factor to me. Heat radiated off some of the concrete that didn’t have an overhang or trees, so there were spots of intensity. For the most part, there was enough coverage to not feel completely blasted by the sun. I felt great, until I realized I was setting myself up for a gnarly sunburn. I stopped at the medical tent near mile 3 and asked if they had any sunscreen….. they didn’t. What?? I wasn’t expecting that. They radio-ed the ATV that was driving off, and as a good Samaritan he happened to have his own bottle, so I ran after him and he doused my hands in sunscreen. I got it on my face, neck and arms, along with another woman who saw what was going on and stopped as well. Onward! The whole medical and ATV chase down cost me maybe 1 minute. It was efficient. First loop finished, feeling great. Second loop, feeling great. Third loop, Feeling BETTER. I was averaging 9:30-ish pace, so I slowed a little bit, but again, very excited to be racing at all so my pace reflected my enthusiasm. People were struggling with the heat so I probably passed 150-200 people during the length of the run. Slightly making up for my less than stellar bike ride (ha!). The best spectator sign I saw was: “This was a great idea 3 years ago!” and I just about died laughing. It is so true. I made the commitment to do this race in July 2018 and it had finally materialized. Wrapping up lap 3 I started picking up my pace (~.5mi to go) and blasted my way through the finish line with a half marathon time of 2:06! That is great for me for a road race, not considering I did a swim and bike before it. That is what a year and a half of pent up race energy will do!
Overall my time was super speedy, and I was beyond thrilled with it. Patrick and my parent were shocked too! I told them it would take me around 7 hours and I clocked in at 6:23:30!! Splits as follows compared to my 2019 attempt:
|Run||N/A – Hurricane||2:06|
|Total||N/A – Hurricane||6:23:30|
We masked up immediately after crossing the finish line and it was self serve on water, medals, hats and they even had individually boxed pizzas for everyone in the food tent. I breezed through it grabbing a few waters, and didn’t stay long. It didn’t make sense for me to go to town on the food since Patrick and I had a celebratory burger date planned at The Spot. This year I was smart and packed my phone in my duffle bag in transition. I was not about to have the same issue as hurricane year where I had to ask a bunch of random people for their phone to call Patrick since we got separated and the race was cancelled. It was a nightmare trying to track him down without a phone. What did they do before cell phone days?
Anyways, Patrick was calling when I got back to transition and we celebrated over the phone! He was so excited for me and I was still so jazzed up about my time and how I felt, and was pumped for burgers. I dropped a pin and told him I would meet him outside of transition and started packing up. Stuff was flung everywhere…. Haha. I just had a gym bag, which isn’t the easiest to transport while trying to walk a bike out, but I made it work. I texted my family as well to let them know I’m alive and feeling good. They were just as excited knowing how much effort I put in and then seeing my time. I met Patrick outside of transition and he grabbed most of my stuff (bless him) and we walked back to the car together.
We tried going to The Spot, only a short 5 or 10min drive away from the race, but the wait to get in was 45min and we were going to drive back to Dallas after the race yet. So being the stinky woman I was, I just took my quick dry towel and still in my smashfest queen race kit, walked past The Spot and straight into the ocean. I took a “bath” in the ocean water trying to get the gross off my body and hair before we made along drive back. Nothing worse than sitting in your own stink for 5 hours in the car. My 5min ocean bath cleaned me up enough, so we walked back to the car and drove to the League City Hoppdoddy’s, about 45 minutes outside of Galveston. No line when we got there around 2:30-3pm ish and that burger hit the spot. I treated myself to a chocolate shake as well.
We made it back to Dallas around 8pm or so and it was a perfectly unremarkable drive. Fantastic day all around. No hurricane, racing was energetic and fun, and I was thrilled with my time. Most folks struggled with the ocean chop and the heat of the run, but all in all you couldn’t have asked for better conditions. I am so grateful that I was able to race at all. And now onto new adventures! I scratched the Galveston itch and maybe next time I will try Waco 70.3 or something closer to Dallas. We will see!
How did your race go? Are you thinking about Texas 70.3? It is a fantastic race!
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