Ironman 70.3 Galveston was my third “half-Ironman” triathlon. The first was a self-supported effort and the second was in 2021 at Ironman 70.3 Lubbock. For this race, there would be no winging it. I had a thorough start-to-finish plan and I felt relaxed and focused.  The plan detailed my pre-race and hydration and nutrition including a short yoga session, and breakfast. I’ve had positive experiences with morning yoga and decided to incorporate it into the pre-race routine. For breakfast, I consumed the following: 20 oz of PH1500 electrolytes + 1 scoop of UCAN fuel + 1 cup of coffee, and 80g of oatmeal.

Transition

Getting started by 4:15 am provided plenty of time to get ready, head to the course, and set up my transition area. I’ve found that I prefer to be in transition early so that I don’t feel rushed. Beginning the race feeling calm and focused sets a great tone for the entire day.

I set up all the gear and calibrated my power pedals before leaving to go to the swim start. While I was in line for the port-o-john, Mike Bosch (host of Everyday Ironman Podcast) sent me a text that he was at my station. I laughed and let him know I was deep in the port-o-potty line and that I’d probably be there for 20-30 min. He didn’t wait and we met later in the race. After taking care of the pre-race body business, I put on my wetsuit (waist-high) grabbed my swim cap and goggles, and walked about 3/4 miles to the swim start.

Unfortunately, while in line for the bathroom, I missed my triathlon club group photo although I did bump into a few people that I knew.

Swim

Now that we are operating in a post-covid mentality, many more people are racing again. The event was full of athletes (approx 2500). My plan was to finish the swim in 38-40 minutes. Many of the pacing signs were lying on the ground, so I just asked people what they planned to do and maneuvered to where I thought I should be. However, I’m still hesitant to move into the correct placement at the front third of the pack. I know that I swim faster than most of the field, but I still lose my confidence when standing in line.

To begin, we jumped off a dock, 3 at a time every 10 seconds.  I immediately moved to the outside to avoid the congestion while sighting every stroke for the first 100 yds or so, then reducing it to every 3 strokes until the pack thinned out. The water was relatively calm and I was moving effortlessly. Although I was in the ocean with 1000+ other people, I felt alone, listening to the rhythm of my breathing. I was connected to my stroke rate, kick speed, and intensity. The awareness of my body position was there too. I knew how high my hips were while being able to gauge my pace by looking at the water as it passed my face as I took each breath. I was concentrating on driving each stroke from my hips while pulling straight back rather than down and back. Making this subtle adjustment allowed me to increase my turnover without spiking my heart rate. Somehow, I was able to avoid almost all of the swim pack as I passed swimmer after swimmer.

At the halfway buoy I checked in on my heart rate, breathing, and shoulder fatigue. I felt warmed up, this was an ideal swim. My new pair of Magic5 goggles were very comfortable and I found it to be much easier to sight the buoys than with my Form goggles. I missed seeing my pace in real-time but preferred the ease of sighting with the Magic 5’s.

Three quarters through the swim, I considered swimming faster. I felt fresh and knew that I could knock a few minutes off of my time. However, my main concern was causing calf and foot cramps, so I decided to maintain my current effort. When swimming harder, I tend to tighten my feet and calf muscles causing them to cramp. Until I develop the ability to reduce that situation, I’ll keep my pace more comfortable and sacrifice a little time. I exited the water feeling great!

Planned finish time: 38-40 minutes.

Actual finish time: 36:44

Transition 1 (swim to bike)

While leaving the water, I realized that I didn’t need to pee during the swim! That’s pelvic floor progress. I smiled to myself and focused on getting changed into my bike gear. I removed my wetsuit and then headed to the pot-o-potty before getting dressed and leaving for the bike course. Of course, once I thought about having to pee, then I had to pee.

Since I’d premixed everything, all I had to do was put on my helmet, gloves, socks, shoes, and a generous dollop of shammy butter and exit transition.

The Bike

The weather was perfect and the roads were newly laid asphalt ๐Ÿคฉ. Riding with a strong tailwind for the first 30 miles left me feeling like a superhero. Initially, my power pedals were reading too high. they showed 500+ watts for the first 5 miles. I knew based on my heart rate and effort that I wasn’t riding anywhere near that hard. I tried resetting my Garmin head unit, but that didn’t fix the issue. So, instead of riding by perceived effort, I chose to pull over, unclip and attempt to recalibrate again. Fortunately, this resolved the problem and I was able to continue the ride with a lot lower mental stress.

Since I had finished the swim relatively early, the bike course was not yet crowded with other athletes. However, by mile 15 I was being passed by a lot of the stronger cyclists. Initially, I felt that familiar twinge of competition and wanted to ride faster. However, I remembered that I was doing my race and should stick to my plan, so I did.

The beachfront scenery was beautiful, I kept noting how good it was to be outside riding along the beach, feeling the wind, and watching so many athletes chase their goals. A few times, I had to remind myself that I wasn’t sightseeing, I was here to race. “Keep pushing and stay on plan Man!”

During the ride I focused on doing all housekeeping checks – how’s my cadence? Have I been drinking the nutrition? Am I consuming a bottle each hour? Do I need more salt? Can I hold aero a little longer? Am I belly breathing? Telling myself that I had done the work, and trust in myself. Don’t ease up or hesitate today, the plan is sound. 

Pissing while riding

On the return trip, I pissed on the bike!!! I’d decided that stopping to pee was not part of the plan. Typically, when I get out of the water I have the urge to pee every 30 minutes, but today, I didn’t. Not until somewhere around mile 35 did I feel the need to pee. I waited until it was urgent then positioned myself so that I was alone and coasted so that I could stand up on the pedals and push.  Boom, the initial release was a relief, but I stopped because I became self-conscious. I could see the pee coming down my right leg, so I looked to see if anyone was near me. Nope, no one was in sight so I just emptied my bladder in relief.  To my surprise, I felt a sense of empowerment and freedom. No longer did I have to stop on the side of the road or wait in line for a port-o-John. I was not a slave to my fickle bladder anymore!

Having planned this, I’d taken a water bottle from the aid station just for this moment. I popped the top off and poured it down my back, over my head, inside my tri-kit, and on my legs. The cold water was shocking and rejuvenating. And, I was mostly rinsed free of the pee ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ.  I realized two days later that I’d forgotten to rinse my shoes – they stank.

As expected, the majority of the ride back was into strong headwinds. I remained disciplined and stayed within my pre-determined power range (152-171 W). As we approached the final 5 miles I noticed that I’d consumed almost all of my nutrition (this is a good thing) and I was feeling very strong and alert. The plan was working.

Planned finish time: 3 hours

Actual finish time: 2 hr 58min

Transition 2

As I pulled into transition I ran into Mike Bosch. We chatted while I changed into the run gear and he gave me an update on how I was doing. Also, he was volunteering for the first time and said that he was loving it.

I put on my Altra Escalante shoes, calf compression sleeves, and hat then set off to hit my next goal.

The Run

I felt strong. My legs were a little heavy, but I’m familiar with that feeling. Small steps and a rapid cadence is the way to adjust from cycling to running. The course was three loops around Moody Gardens. The first loop went well. I saw Robin along the course, but not Kai. Apparently, he was hiding in the shade behind a tree.

During the first third of loop two, a young woman began running with me. She said that I was pacing her and it was perfect, so she was going to stick with me. We ran and talked. She was suffering but had a wonderful attitude and we were making progress while distracting one another. Megan was an ICU nurse in Minnesota and this was her first triathlon. Prior to this, she’d run a 5k. Clearly, she was a warrior out for the kill.

Because we were on a closed circular course, the crowd support was fantastic. There were plenty of little kids yelling positive affirmations at us. I punched “tap here for a power up” signs over and over and over just to watch their ‘ eyes light up with joy.

My nutrition plan was to intake 60g/hr of carbs and approx 20-24 oz of water with 1g of sodium + electrolytes each hour. In addition, I would get ice and cold water at each aid station. The cold water to refill my bottle and pour over my head. I placed the ice in my kit, under my hat and held it in my hands. The goal was to place it in areas with high capillary density to facilitate rapid cooling.

Megan and I stayed tight and were joined by another runner through the first half of the third lap. I don’t remember his name, but he too was struggling and wanted to use us as motivation and pacing. He didn’t hang for long, we lost him at an aid station. Halfway through the third lap, I got separated from Megan to use the bathroom. I could see her, but didn’t attempt to expend the energy to catch up. I was in the struggle zone and decided to sustain my goal pace.  We still yelled back and forth until there was too much space and too many people between us.

I was able to maintain my goal pace of 10:15-10:30 / mile for the majority of the run. I walked beyond the aid stations a couple of times on the third lap. My body was tired, but I didn’t feel exhausted. Mostly, my mind was ready to end the effort because the temperature had risen significantly and it was hard. I was beginning to get too hot. I emptied my bottle of nutrition and filled it with ice water to serve as a squirt bottle.  I used the cold water to reinvigorate my mind each time I began fading or wanted to walk. It worked.

As I approached the final 200 yards, I picked up the pace and prepared for a strong finish. I saw coach Johnny and gave him a hand slap, then a few of the Pearland Triathlon Club members who were volunteering cheered me on. As I approached the red carpet my right hamstring began cramping!!!  I stopped to stretch it out, then ran into the finishers chute feeling great!

Planned finish time: 2 hr 20 min

Actual Finish time: 2 hr 20 min

Megan was still standing there and we had a big hug. I congratulated her and she told me how important it was to be able to run with me to be able to hit her goal. We took photos and exchanged contact info and went on our separate ways.

A happy day

I finished the race feeling relatively strong. I didn’t have the typical post-race lightheaded feeling which suggested that my hydration and electrolytes were good. As the temperatures rise, I’ll need to pay closer attention to this and take more than I think is necessary throughout the race. My legs were tired. Specifically, the hip flexors and Achilles were sore.

After reviewing the data for each segment, I was happy to have hit all of my goals except the finish time of 6 hours or less. However, a 6 hr 9 min finish is 30 minutes better than my best half-ironman, so I’m completely satisfied with the results.

I’ll continue to train and hopefully make some gains in the bike by the time Ironman 70.3 Maryland comes around.