Race Recap: Ironman Austin 70.3

Austin got added to my schedule late in the game; actually, after I thought my season was already over to be precise. After Whistler I felt strong physically and wasn’t satisfied ending the season on a mediocre (at best) note. I thought about IM Cozumel (THANK GOD I DIDN’T DECIDE TO DO ANOTHER FULL IM) for a few moments, but worried about having another sub par race and decided the cost – both financial and potentially emotional and physical – wasn’t worth it.

Austin was a great compromise for me. I got to extend the season by a couple of months to take advantage of the end of the mild sunny NW season, travel with some great training buddies, see a new place (Austin!), and fingers crossed close the season out feeling positive and ready for rest.

Our pre-race trip was a blast. We drove the course, checked out the lake, SBR-ed a little, laughed a LOT, and generally kept things low-key. Our rental property had tons of chickens and ducks (for eggs), and produce grows there year round to provide for 20 families that are part of the co-op. We took full advantage of the eggs and produce and had a legendary and awesome pre-race meal chef-ed up by G. And then it was race day.

(race recap vid by G – way better than photos!)

Pre-Race

I woke up 10 minutes before my alarm was set to go off race morning to a HUGE clap of thunder and lightning and sheets of water falling from the sky. Really? Ugh. I reminded myself if anyone could combat water falling from the sky it was us NW ladies and I simply ignored the fact that this day could get ugly.

Our chauffeurs (our men) drove us to the finish line, where we had to catch a shuttle to the swim/T1. Thanks (but not!) to the weather, traffic was backed up for miles, and though we’d left 3 hours to take a 35-minute drive (including the shuttle) and set up transition we only ended up with a few spare minutes to get our tires pumped and evacuate T1.

Swim // 34:47 // 1:48/100 m

I was really nervous about this swim. I always am nervous about every swim. But because of cooler temps and dwindling morning light I hadn’t gotten a solid distance OWS in over 3 weeks.

All that for nothing though, because it was pretty decent. I started out less aggressively than I probably should have, but was only 2 rows back and 5 swimmers right of the main line. The first 400 went from calm (such polite swimmers in Texas!) to a shit show, to calm again, and then I knew I’d be fine. All was smooth and well until the last stretch back in to shore, at which point our very late starting wave (3rd to last or so?) started hitting all of the floaters from earlier waves. Floaters being the people from earlier waves who were stopped to take a break, tread water, and hang on to kayaks. It got rough on the way back trying to manage them, the super speedy swimmers who were passing from the wave after us, and increasingly choppy water.

I continued to work hard and swim up to where my hand touched the ground. As I exited the lake I had no clue what my swim time was and just ran up the chute to the strippers and on to T1. In retrospect:

-I liked the swim course. The buoys were really easy to spot.  The triangle was pretty even and no turns were overly sharp. The water was murky but didn’t feel dirty or dark.

-I should have gone out harder from the start. I never got that OH SHIT I CANT BREATHE panic feeling which means I didn’t swim hard enough. But, I did enjoy having a smooth swim and not having the though of quitting cross my mind. (Yes, during every single swim I think about quitting at least once.) It felt good to be strong for the whole swim and to never fade.

-I know someone has to go last (or near it) but I’ve never encountered so many floundering swimmers. Not even in Boise! It was frustrating knowing that I could have gone faster without having quite a few small delays in getting around people.

T1 // 2:59

The transition area was much larger than I’d anticipated but luckily I knew where my bike was. Unluckily the recent rains had caused Goat Heads to grow everywhere. For those unfamiliar, these prickly bristly little vines are so sharp they rip tires and flat tubes so we were advised to carry out bikes the entire way out of transition. (Yeah yeah, if only I raced Cyclocross I’d be proficient at that).

My transition itself – meaning wetsuit off, run to bike, bike stuff on, wetsuit in bag – was very efficient, but I lost some time trying to carry my bike for sure. And I felt like an idiot. When I got to the mount line I realized I had a Goat Head in my shoe. I ripped my shoe off to get it out and hoped that was the only one.

Bike // 2:43:15 // 20.58 mph

At mile 2 I pulled up on my pedal to climb a tiny incline and my foot went FLYING. My stomach dropped as I thought I was going down, but I regained my balance and pulled over to a dead stop. Mud from the heavy morning rain was stuck in my cleats from running through T1. I did my best to dig it out with my fingernails and though frustrated I felt grateful that I hadn’t flatted like SO SO SO many people I’d already passed. A significant portion of athletes didn’t even make it to mile 2 without flatting from the Goat Heads.

The next 45?ish miles of the bike were frustrating. The pro: I felt like a pro! I was passing EVERYONE (which is what happens when hardly anyone starts later than you, regardless of how fast you actually are). The con: There were people all over the road and in some spots it was really tough to get around them. Like areas that weren’t closed to vehicle traffic or where pavement was poor (which was most of the course).

That said I enjoyed the bike more than I thought I would. The course wasn’t Texas-pretty like I’d expected, and wasn’t as flat as I had in mind either, but it was a new experience to ride hard for the whole leg, knowing that there weren’t climbs to save up for. I have never hit a goal HR for a 70.3 (always a bit low) but in Austin I exceeded it by a few bpm’s and felt strong. I KNEW I wouldn’t blow up.

T2 // 2:58

I was pretty excited to be off the bike by the end and climbed into T2 ready to run. I got a little bit disoriented finding my rack, which is no one’s fault but my own. I had practiced identifying the spot but I guess in the moment I just forgot. I probably lost 30 seconds or so; after making one mistake I slowed down a little to make sure I didn’t make another.

Run // 1:43:14 // 7:54 min/mi

The run was a 3-loop course that in a sick way I sort of looked forward to. A bit boring? Yes. But who is looking at scenery during a 70.3 run? If you are HTFU. A 3-loop course made it easy to break down: Loop 1 – adjust, Loop 2 – hold steady, Loop 3 – push to the end.

As always, the run is a bit of a blur to me. It was great to see my teammates and friends out on the course and I cheered loud every time I saw them. I felt tired the whole time, but solid. The run was quite hilly with hardly a flat section, some trail, and some mud, all quite evident from my huge range in splits from mile to mile. I know I didn’t take in nearly enough calories on the run, which perhaps contributed to my fog.  But my body felt on the borderline of rejection so I stuck to coke and other liquids at every aid station and that got me through.

I’m proud of my run not only because I PR’d it on a not easy course, but because I pushed so hard all day leading up and still stayed strong. There was a walk-worthy hill out there (that we hit 3 times, obvs) but I didn’t… I ran. I told myself all morning that THIS.WAS.IT. and that I should be grateful for being out there. And I gave it my all and really did feel grateful all day long, for a good race, a supportive husband, good friends, and a fun trip.

Overall 5:07:10 // 15th AG

In the end I PR’d by 8:45, after already knocking nearly 9 minutes off my PR on the distance earlier in July. I am thrilled. This was such a better end to the season than fading off post-Whistler and starting a 4-month off-season feeling less than stellar.

Would I recommend Austin 70.3 to others? Yes. I’ve heard mixed reviews from others, but I really enjoyed the race and the course. The more I race this distance the more I realize there is no perfect race; every course leaves more to be desired, the weather is always a factor, and you never know when your wave will start. Austin was a much flatter bike than you’d get anywhere around the NW, but I was pleasantly surprised by the rollers to keep things interesting. The run was tough – but aren’t they all?

Now… To the off-season! (Which I’m already winning at, by the way.)

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