Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Ironman Texas 2013

Pre Race
Mark and I were up at 4:15 and out the door by 5:10 to get to transition by 5:30.  I found it strange that transition opened so late and while I was double checking the bike and placing my bottles, the announcer kept repeating that they would close transition at 6:15.  I suppose when everything has to be checked in the day before, people do not need much time to get into transition on race morning.

It was quite a walk from transition, Town Green Park, to Northshore Park, where the swim start was staged.  After spending about 40 mins in line for the bathroom, it was time to take a few quick pictures with Mark and Lem.
  I also had the pleasure of meeting up with Erica, Debra, and Dinh!
Next it was time to get into the water and await the shot of the cannon.  As I entered to the right of the dock, I noticed the cannon on the shore line.  I had a good laugh as the thing was maybe a foot long.  It looked like a toy!  But it did it's job, and did it well.    There was lots of nervous energy surrounding me in the water.  I placed myself into a quiet place, said some prayers, got a bit teary-eyed, and then, decided it was time to have fun.

I will list projected times and actual times for each discipline, however, I want to mention that I did not wear a watch to monitor my pace for any of this race.  I did wear a heart rate monitor and made every effort to stay in high zone 2. 

The Swim :  Projected Time:  1:45 - 1:50.  Actual Time:  1:46:36  Avg HR 158; mid zone 2.

I had a difficult time trying to make up my mind about the swim, to wear a wet suit or not?  Finally, on Friday evening, I made the decision to trust completely in my ability to swim this distance, something I have done many times over the last few months, albeit, in a pool, but I knew I could swim this race without the wetsuit.  With that decision made, the only thing left to do was stay calm and try not to allow the typical open water swim panic set in.  I have a great fear of getting hit, breaking a toe or hand, or being swum over.
Fortunately, all of these fears were avoided, mostly.  A few bumps and swipes, but nothing very bad. I stayed on the far right until I reached the canal where I chose to stay in the middle, avoiding the sides where people were walking.
I was very comfortable swimming, not experiencing any feelings of anxiety or panic.  I kept my strokes slow and controlled, my breathing consistent and on the 3 count.  I used the breast stroke when I found I was bumping into people, sought out a place of comfort, and then continued on.  My sighting was easy enough as the buoys were not difficult to see and truthfully, I just kept following the bright caps in front of me.
About half way through the distance, the wet suit wave caught up to us.  I was surprised at how even with a ten minute delay, they were quickly able to reach us.  I continued to the canal and then felt the "washing machine" effect of the water moving side to side as we pressed forward.  As I turned to breathe, I saw many swimmers actually standing up to walk.  As tempting as that seemed, my pride got the best of me and I did not walk, as I did not want any pictures of me showing up "walking" my swim.
I actually sighted Mark and Lem on the side of the water way and George and Trudy!  It was so nice to see them!  I waved and gave them a thumbs up.
Seeing the final red buoy and the stairs to climb out, I was elated to finish this swim.  I think that this was the best I have ever felt after a swim of this length.
"I did NOT drown!!"

T1 Time:  Projected Time: 10:00; Actual Time:  9:42

Took the time to apply enough sunscreen, dry my feet well and take in some calories.  This was all a blur, but I do know that the volunteers were so helpful, kind, and eager to do whatever was necessary to help us get onto the bike.

The Bike:  Projected Time:  7 - 7.5 hours; Actual Time:  7:30:24

This was the part of the race I was probably most concerned about.  I am not a strong cyclist and I have had some difficult training rides, especially on the back part of the course, miles 60-90.  Before starting the race, I made up my mind that know matter what, I would not drop from this race on my own volition.  If I was pulled for medical or failing to meet a cut off, then so be it, but I would not drop.
That decision made, I put myself in a good place mentally.  I focused a great amount of mental energy on staying in my HR zone and I was diligent in my hydration and nutrition.  The first 30 miles of the course, my HR was 20-25 beats into zone 3, usually not an issue on the bike for me, but I determined the heat coupled with the race endorphins were the culprit.  I kept the cadence high and the gears low and had a great ride.
I knew it was hot, but I never asked anyone what the temps were.  I did not want a number in my head to play games with my mind.  I stopped at every aid station long enough to squeeze a full bottle of water into my bike bottle.  It didn't take longer than a minute, but this was an important detail.  I was thankful I had done this by mile 95 as the aid station prior to 95 was 15 miles earlier rather than 10.
I saw MANY guys down on the road.  Heat was getting them.  I passed along some of my s caps and advil to people who needed it and stayed consistent with my own hydration and nutrition.
My nutrition consisted of Tailwind, 265 calories + 24 ounces (at least) of water, and 2 Clif blox per hour.  This magic number was my key to this race, as was the Tailwind Nutrition.  I can't say enough about this product.  It does exactly what it says it will do, and as someone who has suffered several bouts of heat stroke, dehydration, and had to take more than a few dnf's for these conditions, I feel safe in saying, Tailwind saved my race.
I saw Stacy at mile 60, then again at mile 80.  It was so uplifting to see her.  I also was able to speak with The Twinings at the aid station at mile 80.  A true blessing to have them come out to see me and I loved giving them big sweaty hugs!
There was also someone cheering me on on mile 70, but I don't know who it was as I passed by before my eyes could see who they were.  Whomever it was, THANK YOU, for being out there!
Mark and the entire family were at mile 90, and then I saw more friends at mile 110.  I can't say enough how much having support on the course helps.

The only real issue I had on the bike was my feet.  They began to feel as though they were on fire at about mile 70 and by mile 95, I thought I might have to lose the shoes and pedal barefoot.  An aid station volunteer asked me how I was, I mentioned the feet, and she said she was a cyclist and told me to loosen my shoes and start pulling up more.  What an angel.  Elaine Mims, I don't know who you are, but you were spot on!  I did what you suggested and the burning sensation went away almost immediately.
Again, the volunteers working out on the course were amazing.  I pulled into one aid station and saw my friend Ruth who did not know I was doing the race.  When she asked what I needed, I told her a hug, and she obliged!  Thank you Ruth!

T2 Projected Time 10:00 mins; Actual Time 24:00 mins.

I came into T2 with the end of the bike being more of a blur.  I felt great, but knew I needed to cool down before heading out on the run.  I made the decision to take longer in transition under the canopy to cool the core, change clothes, hydrate and apply more sunscreen.  I can't say enough about the ladies working in the changing tents.  They saw nasty stuff and helped remove disgusting clothes.  They applied sunscreen and took excellent care of us.  These folks are not just volunteers, they are saints!
Apparently, people were worried about me being in T2 so long, I never gave it a second thought because I knew exactly what I was doing there.  I didn't know how hot it really was, but I knew it was hot and heading back out without being properly cooled could have had detrimental effects on my run.
Later, when uploading the bike computer info, I was not surprised to see that the temps on the course were 104 degrees.  With little to no shade, with the exception of a few miles in the National Forest, the radiating heat coming off the road is surely what took many of the cyclists down.

The Run:  Projected Time:  4.5 - 5 hours; Actual Time:  5:36:21

The run was a 3 loop course which, in my opinion was perfect for both the athletes and the spectators.  Aid stations were every mile and I never saw a lack of enthusiasm from the volunteers, nor supplies such as ice, water, cola, etc.  Anything I needed, they had.  In the late stages of the run, I needed vaseline and they had plenty of it.
Each loop I planned to run as slow as needed to stay cool and hydrated.  I iced myself often, used the sponges and the water hoses whenever they were offered.  I utilized the 8/2 run/walk pattern as needed.
At one point on loop two, I was trying to do the math for the cut off, and asked Erica about it, thank God for her!  She told me I was on target and to keep doing what I was doing and I would be fine.  That was the only moment of doubt I had and with her reassurance, I let go of my concern and continued enjoying the run.
The kids had all made signs for me and I saw them on each loop.  I saw many friends along the route and made new ones that ran the race with me.

The run wasn't pretty as far as pace goes, but it was amazing as far as experiences go.  Seeing my family and friends at many locations through out the course was incredible.  People I didn't know doing things just to cheer the runners on whether it was dressing as male dancers( I took time to dance with them!) or playing loud music, or cheering as loud as they possibly could just to keep our spirits high!  And seeing friends that I did know working at aid stations, making sure I got a special touch of love, a hug, a smile, anything they could to encourage me.

I swear I must have had one of the largest cheering sections of all the athletes!  They are absolutely the best friends and family anyone could ever ask for, and I am humbled by the amount of sacrifice that they made in order for me to participate in this event.  For all the hours of my absence they endured while I trained, planned, rested, and trained some more, for the financial expense that a race of this nature incurs.  For the important events I missed while training and even while racing.  Foo's prom was the same night as the race and I was not there for him.  I know he understands, but if I have any regret, it is that I missed his day.  He did tell me that he saw me cross the finish line!  His prom was at the same hotel that the race was stationed out of and by some miracle, he came outside just as I crossed the finish line.  Coincidence?  I think not.

Speaking of the finish line, it was above and beyond the most amazing finish I have ever had.  Literally thousands of people lining the street, screaming and cheering, high-fiving, and fist pumping us all the way through the chute!  I think this picture taken by Mel really captures the moment so well.  It was all a blur, yet at the same time, I was stuck in time.
 I felt like a rock star and while this normally would make me very uncomfortable, I gladly accepted the vibes sent my way so as to honor my friends and family who have done so much for me.  This was not about me.  This was about us.  A group effort, led by our Father, fed by the Holy Spirit, and completed through Christ. 
Ironman's motto is "Anything is possible."  I believe this in my heart of hearts, but I think more accurately, it should be stated, "Anything is possible, through Christ who gives me strength."  

Upon crossing the finish line, I was caught by some wonderful friends, George and Trudy.  They took excellent care of me!  George made sure I hit all the appropriate stops along the way of the finishers alley.  Received my medal, my shirt, my hat, and took a picture.  He then walked me to my wonderful family.  Before long, I was encircled by many friends and family that had come to support me.  I felt completely loved as I turned around looking at all of the faces smiling at me.  I was awestruck.  To say I feel blessed does not even begin to describe it.  What I felt was the love that is known as Agape love.  A love beyond human love. 

I am going to place a few pictures here from the run and the finish.
Erica, Debra, and Might E! Helping me stay the course!

No words.

Finish Line is in Sight!

All Glory Be To God!

I would be greatly remiss if I did not give great thanks to Richard.  Not only did he overcome his obstacles far greater than my own to complete his 3rd Ironman to date, he held my hand through the last year of training, answering any and all questions I had, silly or not.  He encouraged me and believed in me when I could not believe that this was possible.  We spent many hours together training and talking and I have no doubt that without his help, I would not have completed this milestone.  Thank you is so inadequate in this situation, but it is all I have.  Thank you and I will pay it forward to someone else.
Also, to Angie and Amber, two wonderful new friends that I pray I will always be able to train with.  You girls are amazing and I love you!  This journey was complete because you were with me.

Of course, Mark, more than anyone, deserves the IM medal more than I.  No one else could put up with what I put him through.  For everything, for every single thing, thank you, and I love you.  Forever.

To my children and grandchildren, I love you more than life itself.  I know I have been a challenge to live with the last few months.  I appreciate your selfless giving of countless hours of babysitting, praying, coffee making, cooking and cleaning.  You guys are the best!

To my extended family, I love you more than ever before.  We have come through some real challenges as a family over the years and to be able to share this celebration of life with you is a gift.  I thank God every day for you and for all that you give of yourselves to me and to my children.

To my wonderful friends.  I would love to name you all, but I know I would leave someone out and I just can't bear that.  Know that I love each and everyone of you and that your prayers carried me through IMTX.  I felt every single one as I smiled through the entire course.  There is only one reason that this experience was as joyful as it was and it is purely due to your prayers, your cheers, your encouragement, your love.  Forever, I am grateful to you.  Each and every one. 


  1. Awesome report! Congratulations on a strong finish.

  2. what a heartfelt race report. You are awesome and what a great IM!!!

  3. Thanks for sharing your incredible journey; you are an inspiration!

    Congratulations Ironman!!

  4. It was so cool seeing you at the finish! This report captures so much work, emotion, and grace.

    Congrats Ironman! It couldn't have unfolded better for a better person.

  5. Tears!!! I'm so proud of you sis - cheering you on was an honor... and so much fun!

  6. Well done Karen! That race report was really cool to read. So maybe it is too early to ask, but what's next?

  7. What a great report for a great day! It was my honor to train with you and assist you any way I could. Also, there weren't any silly questions!!!!! ;-)

  8. Amazing! Inspiring! So happy for you!!!

  9. Looks like this was a great event! How lond di you and your team have to train for? Would love to run one of these sometime soon.

    - J.O from Dallas window tinting