Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Ironman TX 70.3 : A Big Ol' Texas Sized Victory!

I've always said that to truly be one of the best in this sport, you have to be able to race all kinds of courses well; not just those that suit your strengths. I also plan my schedule on 'what makes sense'...financially, logistically and relative to the overall goals of my season. These reasons are largely why I opted to race Ironman Texas 70.3 over say an Oceanside. Sure, I love hills, I love cooler climates; but it didn't make sense to travel all the way to California when there was a great event with a lot of points and prize money just 4 hours south of Austin. It is pancake flat and likely to be windy on the bike; but I figured all the more challenging for me! I actually got pretty excited to head back to Galveston for the third year in a row, and to hopefully turn around the past few results (3rd in 2010 and 5th in 2011) to something better. I'd be lying if I said that the bike course didn't intimidate me, but I figured suck it up, go race as hard as you can and see what you can do.

Derick and I drove down on Friday mid-day from Austin. We enjoyed some amazing Italian food that evening with some great company (and of course a beer or two...Peroni of course, that's become my 'race beer'...nice and light!). Saturday I slept in and did a 30 min mellow spin on the trainer (since we were staying out by the interstate; just easier). I also did some stretch cords to move the arms a bit, and then it was off to the expo for some commitments. I did a signing for a new sponsor of mine, Memorial Hermann, from 12-1 and a signing for WTC from 1-2. It was really cool to meet so many different people and even a few kids; nothing better than seeing young kids involved in sport! The Pro Panel was at 2:30, pro meeting at 3:30 by which point I was rather wiped out. We opted to get take out and stay in because I just felt like I needed to put my legs up. It was a great plan; I got back to the hotel by about 4:15, sat down on the bed in my Recovery Pump boots, and Derick delivered dinner (a salad and a huge plate of pasta, veggies, chicken; and a Peroni) to me by about 5:45. I'm pretty sure I didn't get off the bed the rest of the night and was asleep by about 9pm. Perfect!

Sunday came early as usual; 4am wake up, forced down the bagel, jam, peanut butter; banana; strong cuppa joe and we were out the door by 5 or so. This race is very easy logistically to get into; they did a great job with parking, so there was no backup getting into Moody Gardens (or maybe I am just that uptights when it comes getting there so early!). I got everything setup and then laid down on the expo state near transition with my legs up and listened to my music. I did this before San Juan, and it was a really great way to relax and chill out a bit on race morning. I may make this a regular part of my routine! Derick and I wandered down to the swim for the 7am start, and I got into my Zoot Sleeveless suit (Fuzion) and prepared for the warm swim. I couldn't believe so many others were in full sleeved suits; I get warm so quickly that if the water is over 65 or 68 I am usually in a sleeveless. I made the right choice as I heard many say they felt they overheated.

We lined up between the buoys right at 7am and off we went! We swam out at an angle to the first turn where we took a hard left, so I was far to the outside. I can't stand getting buried and pummeled by people and it was a great choice, as I actually had some speed to get up front and avoid any fighting. Around the first turn, I found some nice feet and there I sat for the next 1200 meters. It was pretty calm compared to past swims in the Galveston Bay, and my mind started wandering a few times to random stuff (like the recent video Lesly Paterson did, "Shit Triathletes Don't Say"...I was rehashing parts of the video and laughing to myself!). Then I would look up and see the feet start to drift off and say "Snap to Kelly. Focus." Not really sure what was going on there. Maybe I was bored? Can't say I've had that happen much in races before!

We exited the swim and it was out to the bike course...28 miles out, 28 miles back. I think I was third out of the swim and as we headed out of the park, I managed to move into first. This was great! Flashback to 2011, I came out of the swim and within the 1 mile or so it took us to get to the main road, I'd been passed by a couple of women. Within the next 5 miles, I was passed by many, many more women. I guess you could say this time, when I took that lead, I was determined to hold it as long as possible! The winds were whipping but I expected this. The QR CD01 with my Reynolds 46/92 combo felt great, and I just put my head down, tried to stay small and motored away. I'm an "SRM person" however I taped over it as I had in San Juan, so it was no data, just ride. I felt pretty strong, but I never ever once looked back! It was not until maybe mile 25 or so that I was passed...I was stoked that I maintained the lead so long! However, I expected that one person passing me may lead to 5 or 6. We made the turn around and headed back (with far less tailwind than I had hoped for or expected) and much to my surprise, only two more women passed me the final 28 miles. I am fairly certain that as I neared the end of the bike something to the effect of "Holy shit Kelly, it's amazing what you can do in a race when you finally learn to ride your bike. You should have picked this up years ago!" crossed my mind. I also dialed my intensity *way* back with about 2-3 miles to go to prepare the legs for the run ahead. (In hindsight, I have to wonder how much of my strong position off the bike may have also been due to the fact that it seemed to be a very FAIR race on Sunday, at least on the women's side. I have been in many a race where a few women pass me visibly riding together, and I've never been able to, in my own conscience, 'hop onto' the pack. I've always, always been one to never draft even if I could get away with it and nothing angers me more than to see small packs going by me. It felt like a fair race; the women who passed me did so sporadically and we all had a lot of distance from each other. It was really pleasant to see for a change).

Into T2, I heard that I had 1:45 down to first which was probably the best news I have ever heard, in any triathlon, ever, off the bike. I was so excited but I also reminded myself "You have 13 miles to run...easy killer." I had experienced a bizarre, sudden and pretty strong cramp in my medial left thigh on the bike that had subsided, but it seemed the kind of day where cramping could happen due to how hard I had ridden and given the hot, humid conditions. I threw on the Zoot TT5.0's and was out of there as quick as possible, gel flask in hand (4 PowerGels).

I love this run course because it's so spectator friendly! As I came out of T2, I was told I had 1:45 to first. I felt very confident I could make that up, but I was pretty excited and I knew I didn't have to close that gap immediately. I tried to settle down and I managed to work my way to the front of the race by mile 2. Good! But, I kept reminding myself that all I had to do was keep this position. The goal was to WIN... not necessarily to post a super fast run split. Again, I took the 'no numbers' approach as I had in Panama and never once looked at my watch. I looked at it a few times in San Juan and I'd see a 5:50 then a 6:30; so I figured, don't let that crap get in your head. Just run. I felt pretty good through the first lap (~4 miles) and just tried to take it one lap at a time...the body definitely started to feel it into the second lap. It was so cool to hear so many people cheering my name and see people I knew! However I really tried to keep my head down, eyes on the road ahead and focus on the job to do. I constantly reminded myself not to get greedy; to run controlled and steady. If I blew up, walked and lost the race, that would be very stupid racing!

As I neared the finish (just past mile 11), Derick yelled to me "Kel you got this...enjoy the finish" but even then, I told myself nothing was secured until I hit mile 12...and really until I saw that finish line. I continued through the crowd one last time, out onto the runway and finally back to the finish; and when I was on that home stretch, I breathed a huge sigh of relief and that goofy grin arose on my face; and it stuck there through the finish. And what a finish! People everywhere, announcing my name, and just the realization that finally, I had really nailed this race; not only in my home state of Texas, but I had put it together when I really needed to; to win, but also be the US 70.3 Pro Champion. It was also extremely satisfying to have 'mastered' a course which I felt had gotten the better of me in the past two years. It felt amazing!

When I first started winning triathlons (here and there) a few years back, I used to think it was arrogant to celebrate in any way. I'd allow myself to smile, but wouldn't raise my arms. It just felt odd. Through the years, I'd watch fellow athletes take big wins and I realized I loved watching their excitement; quite the contrary, those who celebrated seemed to show how much it meant to them. So now, when I can manage a win such as this, I let myself savor it. I often dip my head down once I get the banner; which to me is a small moment to myself; but the feeling of taking a win means so much to me, I try to really enjoy it and let my happiness, relief and emotions show. It sounds cliche, but the longer the journey, the sweeter the feeling of success. It's taken awhile to get here but I'd not choose to have had it any other way.

A huge thank you to my sponsors: Memorial Hermann, Zoot, PowerBar, Quintana Roo, Recovery Pump, Reynolds, ISM, Road ID, Vision, Durata Training, Katalyst Multisport, Jack & Adams, Giro, Oakley, Hill Country Running, and Go with the Flo. I feel lucky to be surrounded by not only a great support team, but an incredible community of friends and such a supportive family. The attention has been a bit overwhelming! I was chatting with Derick after the Pro Panel. He said that I almost seem a little bit self-deprecating; while I could see that, I think I just try to always keep it all in perspective. Within myself I carry confidence that I can do well and I believe I will; but I also realize that every time that we toe the line, it's anyone's race to win. That's what I love about racing. Nothing is ever given to you; but that is exactly how I like it.

Thanks for reading & see you at the next one!