Sunday, May 29, 2011

Ironman Texas Race Report

Custom Ironman Woodlands, TX tees designed by Steph  at SOAS racing. Our names are in there! 
Wake up!
At 3:30 a.m. the alarm reminded me how stupid Ironman sounds sometimes. 3:30...really? YES. So we get up and take care of business. We breakfasted, sunscreened, braided, internetted, coffeed and gathered our special needs bags.
For breakfast, I had:
1/2 cup oats (150 calories)
1 stonyfield farms berry yogurt (140 c)
1 banana (qt least I  think I had a banana) (90c)
Lots of coffee

So this part of breakfast was about 380 calories (i'm keeping track because I never write it down and I always forget)

The swim: (2.4 miles- 1:06:07)
James and I got to the swim start with plenty of time to get body marked, drop our special needs bags, put on our swimskins, body glide every possible inch of our bodies, and chill out. During this time, I ate an almond Pure Fit bar (220 cal) and had a Powergel Caffe Latte (100c) 10 minutes before we got in the water. So my total pre-race calories were around 700.

James wanted to get in the water at 6:45 (15 minutes before the start).I didn't want to get in yet, but I also thought it would be nice to start together, so I sucked it up and got in. The water felt cold and we were close to shivering for 10 minutes hanging on the big red start buoy.
When the gun went off, I decided to stay on James feet as much as possible. The swim start had a lot of contact as you'd expect, but starting on the front line paid off and it really wasn't so bad. the swim is about a 3,000m out and back in a small lake, and then you hang a right and swim the last 800m through a narrow canal. After 400 or so, I was still right behind James, but he was veering right and I was kind of putting in more effort than I wanted at that moment, so I let him go. About 5 minutes later, I looked up and he was close by, so I decided we should just stick together (and by stick together, I mean I decided I should let him do all the work and I should follow blindly). I made this decision because he out-swam me at California 70.3 by 2 minutes, so if he is the "better swimmer" right now, I should be fine just going on his effort. We rounded the first turn buoy and I though it was so cool we were swimming together I kept waving with my recovery arm and even said "Hi!" . I thought I might be pissing him off, but to me it was hilarious. I swam on his feet the rest of the time. I think it took more effort to follow him than to just stay my course, but I also thought it was great we'd end up together. Honestly, it was a very easy pace. I think part was that I had an excellent draft, but also, the pace seemed easy because we were often "locked in" by other swimmers. Especially in the canal, there was nowhere to go, so by that time you were pretty much stuck with the pace of the masses. In Kona, I think James and I could swim together again, but next time, we'll work out how to take turns with each other and actually increase our speed by working together. I think the fact that I stayed with him was a big surprise, but it was SO COOL to exit the water and cross the timing mat at the EXACT same time, with Mike Rielly announcing our names together. I didn't know our time, so ear to ear smiles all around.
Looking back, I am not stoked on my swim time. I know I can swim faster. But I was totally messing around. However, I wouldn't change a thing. Chasing James around and exiting with him was the highlight of my day. Maybe if I had done a little work, we both could have gone faster...
Lake Woodlands (Thank you , Rachel, I stole some pics :))

Swim entrance- photo credit Nils Nilsen
Swim Start- photo credit Nils Nilsen

T1: 2:58
My goals in transition were to improve on my Kona 4-ish minute transition times and just get in and out. I did my best to do this and the volunteers were EXCELLENT (although they put my helmet on me backwards, but that was a quick fix). I grabbed my bike and ran out of T1, noticing the time said 1:18:XX..It took me about 70 miles of the bike to correctly do the math on that one [ 1:06 swim + 2 min transition +10 minute pro head start on clock= 1:18:xx].

The bike- 5:18:23- 21.1 mph
The surprising best part of the day! The forecasted win was about 15mph from the south. Our bike course was one big 112 mile loop that headed dead north and then dead south. I expected a nice tail wind heading out, picking up throughout the day to a strong headwind for the return half. My race strategy was to conserve energy heading out, and to really go for it on the way back. As predicted, the first half of the bike felt easy. I was cruising at fast paces without too much effort. I looked at both heart rate and watts for the bike. I wasn't tied to certain numbers, and was more playing the speed vs. perceived effort game. My perceived effort was low and I was having fun! The course was really beautiful, rolling, and I was pleasantly surprised there were no drafting packs. At times, I saw 2 or 3 men together, but never a throng of cyclists. Prior to the race, I had visions of being passed by swarms of people and watching age group women float by on the tails of these groups. This did not happen! I think that the course was fair due to 1) ONE loop 2) enough rollers to spread people out 3) varied swim times that put people out on the course in a dispersed manner and 4) a good presence of draft marshalls. I did see one or two guys get busted for drafting, and probably saw the moto all throughout the day.
Okay, back to the course. Around mile 25 I saw Hailey. Hailey is a friend in my age group who seems to pick nearly all the same races as me (we've done our first 3 Ironmans together- St. G, Kona, TX). We are fairly similar in the bike abilities department and she usually beats me out of the swim by a minute or two. I was thrilled to see Hailey doing her thing and minutes after I passed her, she passed me back! YES! Hailey and I legally leapfrogged through the Sam Houston National Forest and I was glad to have her company. We were the ONLY people we could see for quite a while- the course felt empty! At one point, Hailey said, "We're either doing really great, or really bad because there is no one out here". I told her we were doing great. Hailey and I played our game until about mile 70 I think when she stopped at an aid station and I rolled on through.
Backing it up, we made the turn at 56 miles to head south back towards the Woodlands and I was prepared for the wall of wind. It was there, but I was still able to push 19/20 miles an hour without over exterting myself. 20 miles later, this headwind seemed to miraculously disappear. I know it was still there, but it was NOTHING like what I had prepared myself for. Around mile 90, I did the math and realized this was going to be a very fast bike day for mile (and probably everyone else). Rolling back through the Woodlands, I was leapfrogging with another man who said in a Texan drawl, "Miss Beth, Can you run like you can ride?" This will go down as one of my most memorable moments in history. This is the moment when for the first time ever, someone probably looked at me and thought of me as more of a cyclist than a runner. I laughed and smiled ear to ear. As I rolled back into transition, I could not stop smiling. I knew that if I ran faster than 3:30, I could break 10 hours today! The question was, had everyone been going this fast? Were there a whole  bunch of girls to run down?

Bike nutrition:
When I looked back on my other races, I didn't have this written down and want to remember..
I had about 4 bottles IM Perform (600 cal)
2 EFS liquishot vanilla gel flasks (800cal)
1 bag sports beans (100 cal)
about 1500 calories on the bike total. I actually think I could go for 2-300 more.

riding through the Texas prairie

racing the bike!

T2: 2:33
I ran into T2 SO excited to get the run started. I felt great and thought that for sure I could knock out a 3:10-ish marathon. In the tent, I fumbled in decided whether to go with my headband or visor. I think I should have chosen the visor, but oh well. The volunteers said, "You're the second amateur woman". NO WAY. I was prepared for this scenario around mile 15 of the run, but off the bike? 2nd woman? I knew right away that the girl leading the charge was super Zoot athlete Jennifer Sloan. Jen and I met in Kona last year and she beat me by 5 or 10 minutes. I knew she was tough and is capable of putting together great days.

The run- 3:23:05
when I replay the run in my head, "dying a slow death" is the only thing that comes to mind. I started out okay. My heartrate was in the low 160s and I was running right on 7:00 pace. But, the miles didn't feel easy the way they did in Kona. I grabbed my red bull in T2 and prayed to the red bull gods to give me wings.

this is gonna hurt. please ignore the growing  bloated stomach

The run course is 3 loops on mostly concrete. Lap one, 8.5 miles went as planned. I just kept chugging away but I did NOT feel great. The run course was deserted at this point and I just wanted to stop everytime I hit an aid station. Each volunteer oasis was filled with friendly voices, encouragement, tasty cold drinks, ice, and sponges. I didn't want to leave! In between aid stations were empty sidewalks, sweltering heat, and dying runners. I caught up to Jen around mile 3. She looked to be moving pretty good so I made a pass and tried to make it stick. Jen's husband, Chuck, was all over the course. The great  people they are, Chuck was also cheering me on as I passed. I made note of what Chuck was wearing because I knew I'd have to "look presentable" every time I passed him so that he didn't report to Jen that I looked like a dying animal and she could catch me. Around mile 6, 18, 24 there is a short out and back where you can see anyone within 4 minutes of you. When I got to mile 6, Jen looked pretty strong, about 2-3 minutes back. I thought she was gaining on me.
During the second lap, I started walking through aid stations when I needed to. My pace was edging closer to 7:30s/8:00s and they felt HARD. I kept getting the chills/goosebumps and didn't know why. I willed myself to the halfway point and then to the end of lap two. Jen was a little farther behind I thought, but I couldn't really tell. Lap 2 started to be crowded as others came off their bikes. Nobody was moving quickly and lots of people were walking. As I started lap 3, I saw Martha, which made me excited, but I still felt as though I could barely move. I knew that there was a possibility I would be caught and passed on the run. I just kept going. My 7:30s turned to 8:30s and my legs started seizing up. I saw Sonja & Patricia out there, as well as Rachel and my usually chipper/cocktail party M.O. on the run was deduced to some negative nancy comments, "Hi! This run course sucks!" (Sorry guys, I'll try to clean up my attitude next time). The last lap was all about not totally blowing it and still trying to make it in under 10 hours. The last 6 miles were a 4th grade math class in my head, "If Beth has 5 miles to run and 47 minutes to make it in under 10 hours, what pace does she need to run?" I knew that if I could just stay under 9 minute miles I would make it. 9:00 became by new 7:00 and I just managed to the finish line. I saw the clock said 10:03  (pro start, so the clock had 10 extra minutes, so was 9:53) as I hobbled down the finish chute and I knew I made it! For the first time, I enjoyed the finish chute, slapped some hi-fives and listened to Mike Reilly say, "Beth Walsh, you are an Ironman!"

love the Sherrif's badge finisher medal!

Thanks to Kerri/Tom for the screen shot of my finish! Fist pump for breaking 10!

All in all, it was a great day. I had a break through race on the bike for me. Yes, the bike course was fast and easier than the others I have done, but my relative performance was MUCH improved. I was 10th amateur woman out of the water and passed 8 of these ladies on the bike, getting passed by none (except Hailey a few flip flops in the race). I had the 5th fastest AG woman bike. That's big for me. I'm still 15-20 minutes off of a solid PRO bike split, but the progress is there and that's what I'll remember.  Somehow, I still managed the fastest amateur run with a 3:23, so I guess that everyone was blowing up as much as I was. However, my run left much to be desired. I need to work on finishing strong  in hot conditions for Kona. 

The next day, I attended my first ever Ironman awards banquet (so for D, who calls me a sandbagger :)...this was my first one ever- let me enjoy!!!) 
Awards banquet 30-34 podium

Hailey, Jennifer, Me. These girls are the reason I love triathlon. Can't wait to see them again in Kona!  They both had stellar races and we were 1, 2, 3, in our age group. Jen was 2nd amateur and Hailey was 4th amateur. Utmost respect for my competition and glad we can race AND be friends. what a concept :) 
The San Diego crew! James, me, SOAS Stephanie, Kim & Mike Rouse (LEGENDS!) 
Huge thank yous to my sponsors and supporters who help me do this expensive hobby on a teachers salary with student loans out the butt...
Race Day Wheels helped James and I out big time for this race and it's a local company with a great service..Check 'em out'! They're at many of the Ironman & 70.3 events nationwide!

Nytro Women makes me feel like a triathlete princess decked for the ball in Betty Designs..From Giro to Oakley to Colnago to Squadra to Reynolds to SCAPE. We're set up like pros through Nytro.
Zoot  for the best wetsuits, compression and shoes! I now have a 3- Ironman streak of fastest amateur run- all in my Zoots...

Dan the A.R.T. man keeps me working and irons out the creaks and niggles before they every become creaks and niggles. Bryan and the Rehab United crew for the strength and the core to keep good form to the finish. Nuttzo nourishes us with the "good fats" during training and Powerbar keeps me truckin' on the course. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Ironman Texas Race Report- Pre Race

So, in case you had better things to do on Saturday than track an Ironman online- the short and sweet version is that I broke the 10 hour barrier for the first time, crossing the finish line in 9 hours 53 minutes. Along the way, I was able to win my age group and the amateur race overall by about 9 minutes. Oh happy day! Best of all, I shared it with my husband who went 9:11 in his IM debut, a and a great group of friends & competitors.

We returned home from Texas on Sunday night and I was back at my desk Monday morning. I had also overcommitted myself to an hour long presentation on overtraining syndrome for a bunch of sports medicine doctors (um, i thought you guys were the experts? just kidding) on Tuesday. 
So, race reporting hit the back burner, and now that it is Wednesday, I'm sad to say that some of the brutal suffering is already fading from memory...
Anyway, back to the program.

Pre Race!
James and I arrived in The Woodlands, TX on Wednesday night. The Woodlands is about 30 minutes north of Houston, and in true Texas fashion- everything is bigger! Big shops, big restaurants, big canals, big houses. Thursday was check-in and we got our bearings, scoping out the tasty spots in town. Hubble & Hudson market gets two thumbs up and we ate more than a couple of meals there before the race. I think I  covered my love affair with H&H in the last post. So, moving on.

Thursday night we decided to hit the Ironman Pre-Race dinner. This was a leap of faith for James since he really banks on his tried and true foods and this random hotel buffet was a gamble. But,  I have to say, the food was pretty good! Thank you, Woodlands Marriott!  We were able to have some lean-looking meat and veggies and salad and James was happy (phew!). While stuffing our faces, Mike Reilly began his talk. Mike is THE voice of Ironman (meaning the guy who says over the loud speaker as you cross the finish line, "Joe Whoever, YOU are an Ironman!" Mike called up the two youngest competitors and interviewed them. Then, he called up "a husband and wife team, who just won their age groups at California 70.3...JIM and Beth Walsh". We walked up and I told him it was James, not Jim. Anyhow, an interview and some laughs at my expense ensued. Lots of stuff like this:

Mike: "So, Who takes care of all the packing, and schlepping, etc"
James: "I do everything while Beth sits on facebook and drinks coffee."
Beth: "True."


Mike: "Do you ever leave her on a bike ride?"
James: "Only when she tells me to."
Mike: "What do you mean?"
James: "Well, after 5 hours when she is totally blowing up, I know that its better off to leave her because she's angry and  just wants to be alone"
Beth: "True".

So, that was awesome! Nothing like looking like a lazy bike psycho in front of your 2000 closest friends! It was neat, however, that for the rest of the weekend, everywhere we went, people said "Hey! The husband & wife couple!"

Friday night, my best friend from college, Martha, trekked up from Houston to have pre-race dinner with us. The trip to TX to race Ironman was wonderful in itself, but to get to spend three days of quality time with Martha made my year! Every time I see her I remember immediately why I love her so much and its really as if no time has passed. I cannot believe its been 10 years since we graduated from Vanderbilt. I also love Martha because she keeps it real. She said sometimes she reads my blog and is like, "Really? I crack up when people write a comment like you are an inspiration or something...I know the real you.." (I'm going to leave out the part about who she says the "real me" is because this is not a private blog ;).  Then James agrees and they both have a good laugh at my expense. Then they trade stories about what a crappy housekeeper I am. good times!

Anyhow, after a great dinner at Pure on Friday night, James and I hit the hay (we had A LOT in our barns) and got a good night's sleep before the 3:30 am wake-up call.. It was about to be....RACE TIME!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Good Morning, Texas!

Well, the day before the race is finally here. Being a triathlete with one or two "A" races dotted across the year, the "kid on Christmas" feeling is one we luckily get to experience in non-Christmas-y months like May and October. Of course, this "kid on Christmas" feeling is also mixed with "kid singing a solo on stage in front of the entire 6th grade" feeling. For the first time, my feelings about Ironman Texas tomorrow are more "Christmas" than "6th grade singing solo". First, I am confident in my training. Last year, I knew I had done the training for IMSG and Kona, but I didn't exactly know how that training would express itself in a race. Now, I know that I really HAVE done the training, and if I race as I am capable of- it could be a great day!

If there are bumps in the road, I can adapt and still have a great day.. (side note- it is my belief that you can COUNT ON having 4 things go "wrong" in Ironman. Each time something goes wrong on the day, say to yourself, "Ok, this is #1. Deal with #1. Adapt. #1 is out of the way. On to #2!" Just count on 4 things as PART of your race day plan. You check them off like swim, bike, run. And hey, if you reach the finish line and had just 3 things go wrong? Winning!).

It's not that the pressure is off of me for tomorrow, it's not. (And by pressure, I do realize that it's only the pressure I place on myself. No one else really cares or knows the difference if you go 8 hours or 15 hours.) I have some personal goals set. Even if I find myself at mile 21 of the run winning my age group (dream!), I won't be "shutting it down" or "cruising it in". Tomorrow is me against the clock and I'm there to dream to catch a PR! I went 10:13 in my last Ironman in Kona, so I've been working the past 5 months on just how to shave those 13 minutes. Now, this is the first ever Ironman Texas, so I have no idea how fast or slow the course will be- so the time thing is a gamble. But for me, that will be one of my motivators tomorrow. The course itself does not appear too debilitating, but when you factor in high heat and humidity with a great chance of a stiff headwind for the last 56 miles- who knows what you'll get! But that's half the fun, isn't it?

My other big motivator is to cross the same finish line as James in an Ironman. It's his first Ironman and I think that this helps me relax about my own race, because I am just (if not more) amped up about his race. When things get tough tomorrow, and I know they will, I'll keep going knowing we are in it together.

It's almost time for bike check-in. Time has flown since we arrived and we've certainly done less sitting-around-with-the-legs-up than we should be doing but there is just so much to get done...
here's a few pictures of what we've been up to...
Pre race swim- bad picture..overcast & wind blowing!

Tested out our sleeveless Zoot wetsuits (Jury is out on if its wetsuit legal or no! 76 degrees today & cutoff is 76) . The wetsuits are awesome. Why did I never try a sleeveless before? I love it! 

Tri Slide it up! James needs to lose a few lbs.. if he wants to race well in this heat :)

There is a lululemon store by the finish line and they had all the participants names etched in glass! We're pointing to our names although you can't tell

Lunch #2 at Hubbell & Hudson- awesome Whole-Foods-On-Crack type of establishment

me & my scary face- Lunch #1 at Hubbell & Hudson
Okay! All that's let to do is check bikes and gear, eat, and relax. I hope the Race Day Magic fairy visits me in my sleep tonight! Track us tomorrow on - Beth Walsh #238, and James Walsh #1132. AND, if you like triathlon at all (and it's not like watching paint dry to you) I highly recommend the live online coverage of the event as the lovely Hillary Biscay is one of the hosts!
Good luck to all of the competitors out there- it will be a fun one! See you on the other side...

Sunday, May 8, 2011


have you ever thought about the things in life that tell the most about you? they can be actions, routines, facts, whatever, but they have to be little truths that make you you. i've been thinking about this lately (my mind must be rotting from so many hours on the bike and i think up random things to occupy my time) and find it very interesting for some reason. i'm really curious about the unique things of others that seem little, but are REALLY telling...let me show you what i mean because i can tell this makes no sense.

i have three things that i think tell the essence of me.....

1) my wallet(s) [sorry, james, if this is embarassing to you. it's my own little tell-all ]
okay, the wallet(s)...apparently i have three and they are all made by the same designer, Ziploc. actually, i think one is a faux Ziploc (how trashy!). these clearly say a lot about me. from just this picture, you can gather that
wallet of champions!
*i am really classy. right.
*i have a reason to have waterproof "wallets" (or i must REALLY be on a budget)
*well, there is a masters swim monthly pass in one, a YMCA card, some freaky yellow pills (supposed to delay fatigue or some such hooey), not a lot of cash, a couple lip glosses (even an athletic girl still needs a hint of color!), some melatonin (trouble sleeping!), and by the looks of the license, I am a Californian.
*if you have very good inference skills, you may also infer that I am unorganized to the degree that i keep losing my "wallet" so i just keep making more "wallets" and then i suddenly have 3 "wallets" in one bag

2) Dinner!
our dinners tell a lot about me and my family (James!).
*they are always served in this huge white bowl- i eat LARGE amounts of food
*they are not really we have no kids ...yet...
* i have a very healthy and talented chef who takes care of me :)
*lean protein & greens = pretty much every night (what this doesn't tell about me is that i eat junk almost every day at school at some point- brownie, cookie, bagel...something baked & delicious)
grilled mahi, spinach, grilled veggies & avo from chef James

3) I keep my make-up bag in my car. 
this was the first thing i thought of when i thought about this blog post while i was driving to work one day. i think this says SO MUCH about me.
first, i wear make up. not LOTS of makeup, but enough to look professional and presentable at work. (so this also tells you that i work and must look somewhat like i know what i'm talking about). secondly, this tells you inadvertently that i'm ALWAYS on the go. most mornings, i workout and then scramble to get to work just in time. i have it down to a big time science, including make-up application at every stoplight. [NO, I don't put on mascara while actually driving]. unfortunately, my make-up-bag-in-the-car also tells you that i don't usually have a need to put on makeup on the weekends. we're usually so busy with triathloning, that not many fancy outings needing make-upping occur. however, i do take the bag out of the car about once a weekend for a dinner or birthday or whatever...

anyway, enough about me. what kinds of things say A LOT about you? do you drink a Kombucha every day? have any telling rituals? wear the same race t-shirt to bed every night? just curious...

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Triple what?

This weekend was the beginning of the LONG taper for Ironman Texas (our long taper is really just a 2 week sharpening phase, still with lots of work (very specific work), and then a 10 or so day actual taper when it feels like you're not working out as long or much). Now, this Sat/Sun, we still had a little over 10 hours of workouts, but it really seemed like "only" 10 hours in our crazy little messed up world.

Saturday was the workout that had been looming on the schedule that I knew was going to require mind over matter. It didn't "look" too hard on paper, but something told me not to trust that paper. The workout was a brick where, after a warm up, we had a certain amount to ride (20k) and then a 5k run off the bike THREE times. Sounds not too bad, right? Well, with the wattages (is that a word?) and paces we were trying to hit, this turned out to be the toughest workout of the season.

James and I headed to Fiesta island. It was great to have him there, even if he was about a mile ahead of me all day. It was just nice to know that someone was suffering in my general vicinity along with me. Fiesta island is a wicked little 4 mile loop that looks harmless enough, but can suck the life out of almost anyone with it's ripping headwind and unchanging scenery. Do enough loops here and its time to question your sanity. But its an uninterrupted 4 mile flat stretch that is perfect for time trials of any sort
this is supposed to show how its really windy. eh, doesn't look so bad.

The results of the workout were half "fine" and half good. It was one of those days that I reminded myself that it's not about each individual workout, it's the sum of all workouts that will get you that Race Day Magic. Not that I'm justifying that it was okay to miss my power numbers on the bike, but I gave it what I could on that day in that place. And, let's face it. When, I'm not in a race, holding "race-like" numbers is reeeeaaaally hard for me- I just can't get that eye of the tiger for my lonesome self doing crazy repetitive loops of some barren island. Instead of thinking, "I should go faster! Nail it!" I start thinking, "What's for lunch? Why am I doing this again? Riding in circles.... really?  mmm....smells like chargrilled burgers...these people on the beach are having WAY more fun than I am.." Anyway, those thoughts were mostly during the bike portions of this episode in workout mania. I had some nice glimmers of hope each time the run came around, and was able to hold just under 20 minute 5ks off the bike within a given heart rate zone. That, I like.

So, the workout was "fine" and I was happier than ever when it was over (and my partner in crime was as well!). Thank freaking goodness. I'll take a 5 hour ride and one hour t-run any day! The real joy is that we get to do this workout again next weekend. BUT, the reps go down (can I get a "woot!") and I know that with a little less to wrap my head around, I will nail it next time.

quick recovery soak. glad its over. the SOAS tri kit was perfect for this workout. 

So, 3 weeks until Ironman Texas! The real long stuff is over (except for a couple 2-ish hour runs I just noticed on my schedule this week) and it's time to sharpen and hone that Ironman pace with lots of race specific workouts. I also have a couple bigger swims to get under my belt. I've been consistent with swimming masters 3 to 4 days a week and my swim feels solid, but I have yet to log ANY swim over 4,000-ish yards and I know I need a couple of these for confidence. I saw a 4x1500 main set swim on the schedule. Huh? I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. 
Other than that, dishes are done! Looking forward to the big taper in about 10 days. (Can I get another "Woot! Woot!"?)