2014 Texas Race Report- Jeff Leslie, first time Ironman finish, sub 12:00:xx!

JeffLeslie_IMTX_FinishHistory

42 yrs old. This was my first Ironman® distance. Prior experience was 1 sprint, 2 olympics, 2 HIM (Austin x 2), 1 DNF a “B race” HIM (too cold/windy, quit 5 miles into bike), all in the past 1.5yrs. ~5 yrs road cycling before switching to triathlon. Never been an athlete. Bench warmer/sub all my childhood playing baseball, basketball, etc. No endurance sport experience in youth. No formal swimming training except for Red Cross swim lessons as child!

Training

After Austin 70.3® (end of October), transitioned to BF for 6wks, then GF plan for 8wks, then dropped in to week 12 of IM (intermediate level). Coach R did not think I should do either OS, due to the early season IM. This seemed to work just fine, and I was certainly well trained (best shape of my life). Did every high priority workout (except the last “long” run/ride in week 19 due to cough/illness. Did the vast majority (90%?) of the intermediate (yellow) workouts.

Probably did ~50% of the low priority (green) workouts. Also did a big tri week, Texas camp in late March (week 12/20 of IM plan). Camp was awesome, not just for the volume, but riding the full course twice. Helped a ton on race day, as it was one less thing to worry about. The two camp rides were very different, due to lots of wind the first day and relative calm the second. This proved very helpful on race day, as it was even more windy and I knew what was coming in the latter ½ of the ride. Felt good about my training overall, except I developed an upper respiratory infection in the latter part of week 18. I did my RR ride and 3 miles of the planned 6 mile run on Saturday of week 18, but was definitely “under the weather” for this, and it may have in retrospect been a bad idea….I never was able to shake the nagging cough before race day. If nothing else, I learned how to cough underwater, in the aerobars and during 30step walk breaks! Robin Sarner told me he’d had a good race with a cough before, so that helped my mental state.

Packing in San Antonio (mon-wed): lists prepared previously from race plan were used to ensure I had everything needed. Thanks to Mike Roberts for sharing his list which I just tweaked for me.

Travel

Wednesday – Drove (4hrs) to the Woodlands in afternoon. Tiffany and I celebrated our 20th Anniversary (May 14, 1994) at Jasper’s (thanks Shaughn Simmons for the recommendation). Pork brisket over Asian stir-fried veggies….best piece of meat I’ve ever had. Wife’s steak was best she’d ever had.

Thursday

4 Keys talk at 11:30. Met some of the team. Great talk with loads of humor interspersed by Coach P. I agree with the vets who all encouraged me to go, even though I know the 4 keys back and forth….just can’t hear it/learn it/absorb it enough. Wife shopped ALL DAY. Lunch with some of the EN team at Goose’s Acre (burger). Checked in, got out of the expo immediately. Waited for wife to finish shopping, then headed to team dinner at Cheesecake factory. Great to finally meet those I hadn’t met at camp, put faces with names, etc. Back to hotel for T1/T2 bag assembly. Double checked bike against list (tube, extender, tire lever, crack pipe, etc).

Friday

Did not do the swim practice. Good decision for me. Would not have helped me much on Saturday. Breakfast at hotel (moderate size – 2 pancakes, eggs, bacon, biscuit/gravy, cinnamon roll, coffee). Checked in bike and T1/2 bags. Had to wait 20mins in line to get in, then went very quickly. Asked lots of questions of volunteers/race staff regarding route and process through transition. Was still confused though, as the barriers were not set up exactly as they would be tomorrow, but they assured me it was “idiot proof”. I think this is a fair statement. Certainly, if I were competitive for KQ, every step is important, but being a MOP guy, I trusted it would be straightforward. I still had to get a little direction on race day through transition both times, but the volunteers are everywhere and it was not confusing or difficult at all. Lunch around noon at Olive Garden – lasagna, fettucine alfredo, chicken parmesan, many breadsticks, salad, water. Stuffed stomach. Back to hotel for rest of the day. Got some work done, watched TV, read some prior Texas race reports, read some more race execution stuff, read 4 keys/Texas slides from Coach P (again). Laughed at all the groupme texts from the team with random thoughts/questions. Got confused more than once with Robin Sarner’s sarcasm. Prepared Perform bottles for bike (Speedfill A2, two throw-away bike bottles). Snacked on Gardetto’s, Gatorade, couple of bananas during afternoon, then had a bowl of chicken noodle soup at 7PM (great idea Mike Roberts…easy to digest, LOADS of sodium (my kidney stone patients are forbidden to have soup!), just the right size). Lights off at 8PM (wife still out shopping since lunch!). Tossed and turned and flailed for 3+hrs. I think I fell asleep around 11:30. Woke up twice during that short night to pee. Hydration successful!

JeffLeslie_IMTX_Bike01Saturday

Up at 3:45. Can of Ensure, banana, powerbar, diet mountain dew. Shower. Dressed, double checked SN bags. Left hotel at 5:00. Arrived at transition around 5:30 (parking a bit of a challenge). Garmin on bike, bottle on bike, pumped up tires, retrieved my pump from the 5th person who had borrowed it as I watched it slowly drift away from me! Tiffany and I then walked the ~1mi to swim start. Dropped off SN bags, tried to take a crap….line too long….couldn’t really go anyway. Was concerned that this might rear (ha ha) it’s ugly head later in day….but it never did! Met up with most of the team and Coach P and put on wetsuit. Had a non-caff PB gel at 6:20 and 6:40 with a few sips of water. Headed to dock with SS leading the way (as always). The pros went off at 6:45, and AG’s were not allowed in water until they were off, so the AG entry into the water was not fast enough. Fortunately, I was able to get in about 5-10mins before the cannon suddenly went off and warm up a little.

Power and Pace data:

FTP: 220 VDOT: 44 WT: 155LBS 3.1w/kg @ FTP

GOALS:
Sub 13:00 HRS (SWIM: 01:20:00 – T1: 8:00 – BIKE: 6:00:00 – T2: 06:00 – RUN 5:00:00) –-> TOTAL:12:34:00)

Other goals:
Finish in daylight. Run the whole marathon. Do not crash.

SWIM

(Goal <1:20:00) Actual 1:13:36
Swim was expected to be wetsuit legal, and that was officially announced early Saturday AM. Used sleeveless wetsuit (first time). Water temp was 71. Felt perfect….a little cold while treading water, but never cold once swimming. The AG’s did not get in the water as fast as they had planned, and Coach P estimated at least 350 people were still on the dock when the cannon went off. There was no countdown…..just a boom…everyone was looking around at each other as if to say “do we start now”!

The start was rough, as expected. I started in the middle, about 2nd“row”. There was no talking amongst athletes around me about swim time seeding, etc, before the start. With the start, experienced frequent contact, redirecting, etc. Got a blow to right goggle, but didn’t come off or leak. Was mainly concerned for a potential kick to the family jewels the whole swim.

Overall, was about what I expected in terms of contact. Got frustrated a few times with people who just seemed to not care that I was where they were trying to go. Not sure who was “off line”….me or them! A few times (and more frequently later in the swim) I just refused to give up my spot. I’m sure this is not the best way to handle that, but it was very frustrating several times to be constantly bumping sides with someone who clearly can tell that I am there (I have seen their beady eyes see me!) already and just continue to bang into me! I tried to veer 10-20 yds ahead of myself into open spaces when possible. But several times I just basically refused to slow/move over (there is someone on the other side of me you know!) and kicked a little more “laterally” than usual to claim my space. It sort of felt like when you’re trying to merge in heavy traffic and no one will let you do it.

A little “road rage” may have crept into me occasionally. I also ran into several folks who had just decided to pull up and stop…really? I tried to sight off of the buoys, but learned as I went that if I just looked for some open water 10-20yds in front of me, with folks on my left and right, that I was headed in the general direction and that was better than sighting more and thus slowing down. I was happy that during the course of the whole swim I got better and better at sighting/finding smooth water.

The Texas swim course can be pretty evenly broken up into thirds (thanks Coach P)….out, back and then R turn into canal. The first 1/3 seemed to be the longest (although obviously it is not!). Found more and more space gradually during 1st third, then contact around turn buoy (tried to stay wide), but wasn’t more than any other turn in an OWS I’ve done. 2nd third went pretty quickly. Remembered to count strokes, slowed my cadence some, relaxed, enjoyed the sun peaking through the trees. The 2nd third was actually pretty fun. Not much contact, sun peeking through the tall trees, intermittent shade/sun, could see the shore and people watching. It was almost relaxing.

As I made the 2nd turn, heading into canal, I was preparing for the chop and MMA match. Once in the canal, it was wider than I realized and I didn’t feel the chop much at all. There was definitely a lot of contact though, as I’m a MOP swimmer. This is where I sort of “lost it” a few times and may have thrown an elbow or two?! (not really….but I didn’t just stop and yield either) Was glad to get on the ladder and get out. Legs felt fine….in fact, better than all of the shorter OWS races I have done. Jogged to wetsuit strippers, but was unable to find my stinking zipper thingy. Had to get them to unzip me and then strip the suit. Once I realized I had lost precious seconds, woefully unable to unzip myself, I decided to not try to KQ. Overall I am happy with the swim.

My best HIM swim in full wetsuit (similar lake) was 39mins. So, I did this at least 4 minutes faster than double that time. Most importantly, I exited the water not exhausted, no “sea legs”, was able to jog through transition feeling pretty good. Was happy with the time as I exited the water too.

JeffLeslie_IMTX_Run04T1

Goal <8:00, Actual 7:20.

Ran from the wet suit strippers to the gear bags, found mine, then found a clear spot on the grass outside the tent. Sat down, putglasses on, helmet on, dried off arms, put on arm coolers, gloves on, put on shoes, ran thru tent. Got the bike, jogged to mount line, past it a bit, mounted and headed out. Not bad for my first full IM transition. I’m not going to worry about this much until I become a little more “competitive”. Would need to “run” instead of jogging, learn to put on arm warmers on the bike (without crashing), etc.. Just not a priority for me yet.

BIKE

(TARGET 06:00, Goal IF 0.7 (154W)) Actual 5:53:12 (IF 0.67, NP 148, VI 1.06, HR 127)

Had planned to ride the first 20-30mins at JRA pace or around 0.68IF, until HR in low 120’s. It was around 140 in first mile or two, so I JRA’d it until it came down to 120’s, which was about 15mins. I tried to from this point on sit on 154W, but found the bike traffic a little heavy. I’m still not ready to “trust” that people are not going to swerve left as I pass, and I think this hurt me on the first part of the ride. As the day went on, I became more aggressive/comfortable with passing, but initially, I think I rode a little conservatively just due to congestion. It would help if I’d swim faster (and transition faster)! IF gradually came up from 0.65 early to 0.67, where it stayed all day. Due to the winds, I decided that I probably could not break 6:00, and therefore I needed to stay closer to 0.68 to not overshoot the TSS and risk walking. By the turn on Osborne, I had resigned to accept 0.68 for my final IF. Since I was around 0.665 at this point, I just continued to try to see 154 all the time. Final IF was 0.672, with VI of 1.06, TSS of 266, 18.9mph, Avg HR 127. Probably left a few minutes on the bike in retrospect, but I was more afraid of overshooting the TSS than undershooting.

Drank 3 bottles of Perform the first hour, then 2bottles/hr thereafter. Never had any GI problems other than occasional burping (which is common for me and means I’m tanked up). Ate a PB gel every hour beginning at 1:00. Took the last two a little early (4:30 and 5:15) in preparation for the run. The wind was strange. Not the usual pure tailwind out of town as in the camp rides, but more of a cross/tail. The chip seal did not seem as bad as camp rides, possibly due to the annoyance of the wind? Stayed aero except for aid stations, occasional climb (short hills really), and when refilling A2. Took one bottle of perform at every aid station and one bottle of water at most of them, especially later in ride. Tried to put water in the hole on top of my helmet once….that was a mistake and I didn’t do that again. Kept the arm coolers, back and quads wet as with water).

JeffLeslie_IMTX_bike02Did not stop at SN and did not get off the bike at all. 4 voids, one around mile 20, and then three dispersed evenly later on. Had never noticed this previously, but my “target” shoe would end up full of urine….became a little concerned about what I was going to do now, but turns out it just drains out over a minute or two! I think the swim must affect my neck more than I realized, as my neck was already hurting at 30mins. It never really got bad though, but did bother me earlier than in RR rides (and I do them all aero too). I got out of my shoes a little prematurely, but no big deal. Was glad to see the dismount line and nice not to have to rack my own bike.

Bike nutrition was: 272oz Perform (45.3oz/hr) and 6 gels. Total calories = 3040 (506cal/hr) (2380cal from Perform, 660 from gels). This “worked” with an IF of 0.67, with no GI upset, with 3 true bike voids. Seems a little high on the calories…..maybe I don’t need gels at all?

T2

TARGET: 00:06:00) Actual 4:50

Jogged to T2 bags, grabbed mine, headed towards tent. Sat down outside tent and had volunteer spray me with sunscreen while I put on socks/shoes. Jogged through tent with go bag and put on belt, flask in jersey, trucker hat on head and started the run.

RUN

(TARGET 05:00:00) Actual 4:47:14 (10:34/mile)

Plan was miles 1 – 6 @ 10:00/mile as long as HR was in 120’s…absolutely NO FASTER. Walk 30 steps all the stations.

1/3 gel flask (equal to 1 PB gel) every 6miles (1 hour). 4oz Perform every mile. One saltstick every hour (on the half hour/3miles). If I felt good, I would drink 8oz perform/mile early. Miles 7 – 18 @ 9:30 (as long as HR in 120’s/130’s) depending on HR and Heat index…adjust accordingly. Try to keep cadence near 90. Only 4oz Perform/mile after 1st hr, coke near end.
The run was pretty steady for me. I had to force myself to slow down to 10:00 pace the first coupe of miles, but then it just felt right from then on. HR was in 120’s as expected, but upper 120’s initially.

Saw Coach P at mile 2, confirmed my HR was in range and reminded me to ice everything. Doubled up on Perform at a couple of the aid stations early. I tried to speed up to 9:30 at mile 7, but decided that was probably not sustainable given the temps (thanks Al!) and I did not want to be walking later, so I just kept going at 10:00 pace. Running at 10:00 pace, adding the brief walks to drink and douse at aid stations yielded on overall 10:34 pace for the day. I gradually slowed down as the marathon continued, but didn’t really try to “push it” ever. I was just too afraid of blowing up or getting nauseated or ending up on the side with EMTs hovering over me (I saw quite a bit of this on the last loop especially). I switched to coke at mile 20, instead of perform, but then noticed my arms were tingling/numb. I decided that I had no idea what that was all about but it was probably not good. Took two salt tabs immediately and went back to Perform for the next 2 aid stations. It went away pretty quickly, thankfully.

JeffLeslie_IMTX_Run01Stopped at SN on the third loop to get more salt tabs and switch to 2xcaffeinated gel flask. Wanted to put on my dry socks (did not do a good job of keeping the feet dry….too much indiscriminate dousing), but did not want to stop running, risk stiffening up and was not having any blister problems, so opted to just finish with wet socks. Once I realized they were wet, I did do a better job of avoiding shoes getting wet with the dousings. I used a “trucker hat” to be able to put ice in it. This did not work. The ice just immediately came out the hole in the back every time. At the second aid station, I stuffed a sponge in the opening and managed to contain some ice on my head. About 30 seconds later a sheering pain from my scalp presented itself. Turns out, my scalp does not appreciate big pieces of ice directly on it. Switched to sponges in the hat subsequently. I did dump ice down my jersey and bibs, and directed bib ice to my inguinal areas. Turns out, my scrotum does not appreciate ice directly either! (sorry ladies….it could be an important tip for the next rookie). I did have to stop 7-8 times to flatten out my insole in my left shoe during latter miles….for some reason, it kept buckling up. Looked for a bench/rock/unoccupied chair to do this. Saw Tiffany on 1st and 2nd loops and gave her a high-five.

Run splits and HR below:

Mile / Pace / HR

1 10:03 127
2 10:30 126
3 10:26 126
4 10:40 124
5 10:06 124
6 10:03 124
7 9:52 126
8 10:01 126
9 10:13 123
10 10:16 125
11 10:34 123
12 10:27 123
13 10:09 125
14 10:11 124
15 10:15 122
16 11:46 122 (had to pee)
17 10:33 120
18 10:42 119
19 10:31 120
20 12:44 115 (RSN stop)
21 11:56 113
22 11:07 116
23 10:51 119
24 10:31 121
25 10:32 122
26 10:41 121

The “wall” for me hit about mile 20. Not so much a “wall” as a very heavy legs/feet sensation or a small concrete barrier with some razor wire on top?. Hip flexors just did not want to continue. Stride length was definitely shortening, as cadence was still 86ish (which usually yields a 9:30 pace for me very easily). This lasted a couple of miles. What helped, was asking spectators what time it was, around mile 21-22. I don’t remember what I was told, but I know that I did the math and determined that I just kept running at this pace, I’ll break 12hrs! That helped me pick up the pace (ok….actually, just stop continuing the slow-down that had begun). Some of my “slow down” was stopping to readjust the insole. Was tempted to just keep running, but didn’t want a blister (wet socks already). I don’t know if I COULD have run any faster. I know that I chose not to try, for fear of what I was seeing all around me….most people walking, some puking in the bushes and some receiving medical attention. One guy was just laying under a shade tree….he was fine…..just resting a bit. The finishing chute was fun. Could not not grin, goosebumps on the neck, saw my wife and high-fived her again before crossing the line. Coach P was there to congratulate me and warn Tiffany that I might not be “ok” and that I might need to lie down a bit.! Recovered quickly and never had any trouble. I did NOT sit down though. That would have led to some problems I’m sure.

Results: 11:56:12 (121/452 AG, 556/2437 OA)

Swim 1:13:36 (139/452AG), T1 7:20,
Bike 5:53:12 (137/452 AG), T2 4:50,
Run 4:37:14 (121/452AG).

Improvements I see for future:

  1. Get faster in general, in all 3 disciplines, through continued consistent training.
  2. Better sighting/OWS savvy. I feel like I get better every race at this. The length of the IM swim I think really helped me learn some “tips” for how to find open water in a crowd. I think this will just take more racing.
  3. Do a better job of hitting my goal IF. I consistently end up 0.02 (this time 0.03) shy of my goal IF, in RR rides and last HIM. I need to be more aggressive early in the ride (once HR settles down of course) at riding my ride and passing whoever needs to be passed instead of waiting for the “perfect opportunity”.
  4. Improve T1 transition a little.
  5. Not slow down on the run. My interpretation of my run splits/HR is that the “wall” was more mental than physical for me on this day. My HR droppedwhen it got hard. The HR drop was due to lack of effort, not anything physically wrong with me. I was not dehydrated or hungry or nauseated. I was just tired. This is of course, the whole “it’s all about not slowing down on the run” that I have heard a million times. On this first day, I was scared of what might happen if I tried to push. Next time, provided conditions are similar (which is not guaranteed, I know), I will give it a go, with the knowledge that I’ve proven I can run the whole marathon…..just need to not slow down next time.

I based my “goal” of sub 13hrs or so on the following: My first HIM (Austin 70.3) a year and a half ago was 6:49 (208/281AG) (pre EN). One year later, with EN for almost the entire year, my time improved to 5:38 (112/269AG)…same race. Texas was my first full, and with the heat/humidity factor and the typical (HIM time x 2 + 1-2hrs) estimate, I thought sub 13 was a realistic goal. The number of people I was slowly running past (who were walking) in the last 1/2 of the marathon who were clearly as fit or fitter than me was shocking. I tried to count after mile 18, but lost focus on that within a mile (I was already to 50 though!). I suspect they just don’t know how to execute or were not as fit as I was. I’m no athlete either!

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AUTHOR

Coach P

All stories by: Coach P

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