Ironman Texas 2015 – Race Report

Ironman Texas 2015

The journey began in summer 2014, when Leyla (my TriBestie) and I had just finished Eagleman 70.3 in the US.  I can’t remember whose crazy idea it was, but we decided to enter a full Ironman, and we settled on Texas.  Why, I’m not sure – later we discovered it’s ranked the fifth hardest Ironman in the world, due to the heat and humidity, the non-wetsuit swim, rolling hills and a three loop run course.

Several 70.3 races later, the time came to start my formal Ironman training.  I’m lucky to have a wonderful group to train with, ONEndurance Triathlon Team Abu Dhabi, and my coach Luis Quinones structured much of the group training at weekends around my plan.  One of the members, ‘Doc’ Luc Tambeur was a lifesaver, he was there for every single long bike and run, often starting at some crazy early hour, and finishing in 40 degree heat.

The hours were long, but Coach knows how to get the best of me – his philosophy is that more is not always better, so the hours were not as crazy as many coaches prescribe.  Even so, I was often tired, always hungry, and my social life became non-existent.  I should apologize to everyone for often being grumpy!

I live in Abu Dhabi, so I had to travel to the race.  I arrived five days in advance, to give my body time to get over the jetlag.  I flew to Dallas, picked up a rental car, and drove to Houston to meet up with Leyla.  The three days before the race flew by, there was so much to do – registration, bike service, welcome banquets, bike check in, not to mention packing all the transition and special needs bags, double checking everything a hundred times to make sure nothing was forgotten.  The weather was surprisingly wet and very stormy, fingers were crossed it would improve for race day.

Checking our bikes and transition bags in

Checking in our bikes and transition bags

Race day started at 3:30am, to allow time to digest my ritual breakfast of oats, banana and coffee.  Sun screen, glide and chamois cream were liberally applied, race number tattoos were stuck to my arms.  Then it was off to transition in the dark, to pump our tyres and put last minute nutrition and hydration on the bikes.   The thick mud from all the rain in the week did not make life easy – we were already planning ahead on how to deal with it during the transitions later in the day.

The walk to the swim start was over a mile long, and there was a kind of hushed silence amongst the competitors, everyone apprehensive about what lay ahead.  The swim was a rolling start, meaning everyone self-seeded themselves.  After handing in our special needs bags and morning clothes, we joined our spots in the queue – it was at this point I said goodbye and good luck to Leyla, an emotional moment knowing it would be many hours before we’d know how each other had got on.

Before I knew it the gun was fired and the slow procession into the water began.  The swim was in a man-made lake, and the water itself was very dark and murky.  I chose not to wear a wetsuit, as the water temperature was above the legal limit.  I started off well, but soon the fight for space began, legs and arms were flying everywhere and several times I worried for the safety of both my timing chip on my ankle and my Garmin on my wrist.  Worse was to come when the wetsuit swimmers started, having an advantage they were soon swimming on top of me, for a while it was chaos.  I found some space and rhythm after the first 1500m stretch and was feeling good.  However, around the 2500m mark cramp started in my left foot, and it continued to bother me for the rest of the swim, I had to pause frequently to try and stretch it out.  I also took a pretty fierce kick to my ribs, almost winding me.  Finally I made it to the final 1000m stretch up the canal to the finish – I think this is where I finally relaxed and started to enjoy the swim, although I was feeling cold in the water by now.  I reached the exit feeling pretty good but was a little disappointed when I looked at my watch and saw 1hr 51m – 10mins slower than I had hoped for.

A happy whoop to be out of the water - and into the mud!

A happy whoop to be out of the water – and into the mud!

T1 took way longer than I had planned, all the volunteers were busy so I struggled to get my gear out and my tri top on (I swam without it as I was wearing my speedsuit), quickly ate half a banana and a gel, and trudged out barefoot to find my bike.  The mud was deep and people were slipping and sliding all over the place, carrying bikes to the mount line, where paddling pools of water had been provided to wash our feet.  I took my time to dry them before putting my shoes on – with a long day ahead I didn’t want to risk getting blisters.

Finally I was on my bike, and a feeling of relief washed over me.  Now it was time to put my head down and put my legs to work.  My goal was to keep my cadence around 85rpm and let the speed take care of itself.  I loved every minute of the first half of the bike course, my new Cube was a dream to ride.  I passed many people, I felt strong and the wind was mostly behind us.  This changed around the half way mark though, when we hit the head winds and rolling hills.  The sun was rising too, making it hot, and for around 20 miles the chip seal on the road surface was unbearable.  I was very glad Coach had advised me to ride on Gatorskin tyres, I was relieved to survive without a flat.

Around 120km a burning sensation on the balls of my feet started, gradual at first but growing more intense until I could no longer bear it.  At an aid station around 150km, I stopped, and the kind volunteers made me an ice bath out of a tin foil container, sat me down in one of their own chairs and made me sit for 5-10 minutes with my feet in the icy water – it felt like heaven.  I must say a huge thank you to all the volunteers and supporters throughout the whole course – they were all amazing and picked me up many times when I was down.

In my happy place, in aero on Cubie

In my happy place, in aero on Cubie

Feet cured, I was back on the bike again, feeling like I had a new body.  I hit the 100 mile mark and was on such a high to be near the end, the last 12 miles were amazing, if a little slow due to lots of turns and corners.  I had been worried about the distance, as I hadn’t cycled over 140km in training, but thanks to the ice bath I clearly got a second wind and the distance wasn’t an issue at all.  My nutrition had gone to plan, despite not stopping at Special Needs (I switched to Gatorade instead of getting my second bottle of Perpetuem), so I was feeling good.

Back to transition, the mud was even worse than ever.  It took time to find water to clean my feet (no paddling pools this time) and dry them, so again T2 took far longer than I wanted.  Finally, I was out on the run, and happy to be on the final leg.  It was 3pm now, and very hot.  It didn’t take long for me to realise I would need all the ice and sponges I could get at every aid station.  I had intended to keep my energy up with gels for the first half of the run, but somewhere around the hour my mark my stomach decided this wasn’t going to work.  I began feeling nauseous, and the thought of eating or drinking anything was not appealing.  I forced myself to take small sips of Gatorade at each station, just to get some sugar in me. I knew my electrolyte levels should be okay, as I had been taking two salt tablets every hour throughout the whole day. A stitch in my right side started, and it spread across my stomach under my ribs.  I was still managing to run/walk as planned, but the walking parts were getting longer and longer.  I stopped for my Special Needs bag on the second loop, to put on fresh socks – a good move, as unlike many others I survived blister free.

Always smiling, loving every minute!

Always smiling, loving every minute!

Somewhere around the 29km mark, the pain got so bad I couldn’t run anymore.  I had a choice here, I could either be miserable and trudge around the rest of the course, or I could put a smile on my face and power walk to the finish line.  I chose the latter, and I loved every minute of it.  The crowds and volunteers were amazing, commenting on my smile, encouraging me, pushing me forward – a few of the competitors I overtook were not impressed that I was walking faster than they were ‘running’!  During T2, I had accidentally stopped my Garmin, so I had no idea if I was close to hitting my target of 15 hours or not, which possibly helped me enjoy myself more.

Suddenly, I only had 4km left.  This was a particularly tough part of the course, looping back on itself just to make up the distance, but I didn’t care, I realized I didn’t want it to end.  People were shouting at me, urging me to run the last little bit, but I refused – I wanted to make the moment last forever.  I could hear the roar of the finish line, it was so close, and suddenly I was there in the bright lights.  I heard Leyla call out to me, and I ran back to give her a hug and congratulate her on her amazing race, and then I high fived the crowds along the finish chute.  I was waiting for Mile Reilly to say those magic words, ‘Amanda Borlotti, you are an IRONMAN’ but in the moment all I heard was the cheering and I bounced across the finish line with the biggest smile on my face, ecstatic to be there.   A medal was placed over my head, and then I cried – tears of pure joy and elation.  I did it.  I really did it.  I am an IRONMAN!!

I did it, I'm an IRONMAN!

I did it, I’m an IRONMAN!

 *Special thanks goes to Coach, and to my team, ONEndurance.  Love you guys!* 

Texas sized medal, Texas sized smile!

Texas size medal, Texas size smile!

The Next Few Days

My body felt pretty good the next day, all things considered.  I was suffering from very sore chafing though, my tri kit had rubbed under my arms and my bra rubbed my back.  I had liberally applied Glide at the start of the day, but it was so humid in transition while we set the bikes up, I suspect most of it sweated off.  I reapplied in T1 and T2 but my skin was wet from sweat.  Next race I will take the time to dry off before reapplying.  Luckily I had no sunburn, I’m glad I let the volunteers slap me with sunscreen in both T1 and T2.

Day two, my body was very stiff, I felt like an old lady getting up after sitting down for too long.  I realized it is key to keep moving and gently stretching.  By day three I felt pretty good again, and took the bike out for a gentle spin. Coach prescribed gentle activity every day, very wise advice.

One Week Later

I travelled home and after a 16 hour flight the jet lag hit me bad.  My immune system was low after the race, and I got sick – no surprise.  I was also losing weight.  I took it very easy this week, allowing my body to heal and rest.  Getting sick made me realize the true effects of an Ironman – it does a lot more damage than we see on the surface, and must be respected.  Post race recovery is vital.  Sleep, gentle activity and eating well are all crucial to recovery.

Two Weeks Later

I’m feeling good again and my weight has stabilised – it’s time to start easing back into training and plan my next race :-)

Race stats

Swim:                     1:51:15
T1:                          0:11:08
Bike:                       7:00:12
T2:                          0:11:05
Run:                       05:50:21
Overall:                  15:04:01

AG Rank:               78
Gender Rank:        381
Overall Rank:        1674

Race Nutrition

Breakfast: oats, sugar and banana, two coffees
Pre swim: water & one gel
T1: half banana & one gel
Bike: one bottle of perpetuem (2 sachets) with one gel = 650 cals.  One gel or half a bar every 45 mins = 800 cals.  Didn’t get second bottle of perpetuem from Special Needs, switched to Gatorade instead = 200cals.  Total = 1650cals.  Salt tablets = two every 45 minutes
T2: one gel
Run: it all went to pot as I couldn’t stomach much.  I think I managed 3 gels at the beginning, then switched to sips of Gatorade and water.  No coke.  The chicken broth came out on my second lap and I took this every other aid station.  One pack of chomps somewhere near the end. Salt tablets = two every hour.
Post race: McDonalds :-)

Ironman Texas 2015

So, here’s the big news following on from my post yesterday………

Leyla and I have signed up for the full Ironman in Texas next year!


What have we let ourselves in for?!  For those not familiar with the distance, it’s a 3.8k swim, a 180k bike ride and a 42.2k run – yes, that’s a full marathon at the end of all the other stuff!

Oh well, you only live once and I don’t want to have any regrets.  I plan to enjoy the experience, not kill myself to finish in any particular time, so bring on the fun – IMTX 2015, here we come!

http://www.ironman.com/triathlon/events/americas/ironman/texas.aspx#axzz35MDBX5J5

Ironman Eagleman 70.3 – 8 June 2014

My US racing adventure began in Washington DC, where I met up with Leyla who had driven up from her new home in North Carolina.  We spent a few days wandering around looking at monuments, doing a spot of shopping, drinking copious amounts of coffee and even indulging in a cocktail or two……

View from the Lincoln Memorial, looking across the Reflecting Pool to the Washington Monument

View from Lincoln Memorial, across the Reflecting Pool to the Washington Monument

A few days before the race we drove up to the little town of Cambridge, Maryland, and checked into our beautiful hotel right on the Choptank River.  Registration and check in formalities were easy, allowing for plenty of relaxation before the race.

Race day came, and despite nearly missing the shuttle bus due to a toilet call (sorry Leyla!), we made it to transition in plenty of time to set up our gear.  I was feeling extremely calm until I heard it had been called a no wetsuit swim, then panic set in!  My stomach churned at the thought of swimming bare in the river, which had no salt water buoyancy.  Not much I could do though, except stay positive.

The view from our hotel of the Choptank River at sunrise, on race morning

The Choptank River at sunrise on race morning

The next hour passed quickly, chatting to fellow race goers – one thing I noticed was how relaxed and friendly the whole race was – it had a lovely community feel to it.  Then we were off, bang on time.  Our age group was large but it was easy to find space and avoid being hit and kicked, and the course was marked every hundred metres, which helped with sighting.  The water was murky and choppy, but I felt like I was swimming well and didn’t get into any difficulties.  When I stood up at the end to wade out of the river I was surprised to see how slow I was – I had been hoping for around 45m, but I came out in 50m.

T1 was smooth, and I was soon on the bike.  The course was completely flat, which I found unexpectedly hard – I hadn’t realised how the lack of freewheeling or cruising would tire my legs.  I also had some issues with my bike set up, and wasn’t comfortable throughout the ride.  However, on the plus side, the course was beautiful, winding through national parks and across rivers – plenty to take my mind off the pain.

Serious riding!

Serious concentration!

T2 was a little slow as my hips completely seized up when I got off the bike and I had to sit down to put on my runners, something I’ve never had to do before.  While I was sat I took my time to put on sunscreen, not that it helped as I still came away from the race with burnt shoulders – the sun was blazing.  Thankfully training in Abu Dhabi had prepared me for the heat.

I started out on the run with frozen hips, fearing I wouldn’t make it further than a few hundred metres, but amazingly I loosened up and I soon found my stride.  The support along the first part of the run through the town was fabulous, cowbells aplenty and tons of folk in their front yards cheering us on.  The middle stretch took us out and back into the countryside, and it got pretty hot and lonely out there, but I kept going and made the most of the aid stations, taking sips of coke to keep my energy up and pouring iced water on my head.

One foot in front of the other, must not stop.....

One foot in front of the other, must not stop…..

I felt pretty good until the half way turn point, when I could feel myself slowing down.  But I was determined not to walk at any cost, and kept telling myself to keep moving, one foot in front of the other.  Soon I was a couple of kilometres out, and I realised not only was I going to make my goal of sub 7hrs, but my stretch goal of 6hrs 45 was in reach.

As I turned the corner with the finish line in sight, I dug deep to find any energy I had left, absorbing the cheers along the finishing chute.  Looking down to see my time, I couldn’t stop myself from leaping into the air as I crossed the line – I had done it, I finished in 6hrs 40, I couldn’t believe it!

Whoopie!

I did it!

Leyla made her way through the crowds, and after celebratory hugs and asking how she got on (as expected she finished in an amazing time, 5hrs 20m – what a superstar!), we both categorically said ‘never again!’.  Funny how you soon forget about all the pain though, remembering only the fun times and the glory of the finish line – we are both about to sign up to our next race which we have been busy plotting – watch this space for the announcement…………. ;-)

Proudly showing off our well deserved medals

Proudly showing off our well deserved medals

Post race we celebrated with a couple of margaritas and local Maryland crab, then the following day made our way slowly down to North Carolina to Leyla’s home.  I had a wonderful few days with her and her beautiful boys, chilling out on Lake Norman.  Thank you for hosting me guys, it made the long journey to the US more than worth it.

Special thanks must go to my Coach, Luis, for preparing me so well for race day and enabling me to knock 53mins off my previous best.  Thanks also to my tri team, ONEndurance Abu Dhabi, who were a huge support to me during the long training weekends.  And of course, thanks to Leyla, for being the best partner in crime a girl could ask for :-)

Race stats:
Swim: 50m 36
T1: 3m 12s
Bike: 3hrs 12m
T2: 4m 39s
Run: 2hrs 29
Overall: 6hrs 40m

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Tri Yas 2014

ONEndurance, featuring my sis!

ONEndurance, featuring my sis!

What a day! My sister flew over from the UK to take part in Tri Yas 2014 with me, and became an honorary member of the ONEndurance team. Tri Yas is unusual in that it starts in the afternoon, because it takes place under the floodlights of the F1 Yas Marina Circuit, so there’s a lot of waiting around to get started. No matter, with team mates around to chat and laugh with, the day soon passed by and before I knew it I was in the water ready to start the Olympic distance.

The gun went off, and despite lots of kicking in front of me I just kept my form and ploughed ahead and soon I had some free space around me. I knew I was swimming well, and despite a little difficulty sighting the far away buoys I was soon on my second lap and exited the water in 32.29. I was delighted with this, 4 minutes faster than last year. Patient coaching from Luis has paid off, thank you Luis!

Luis and his FitChicks

Luis and his FitChicks

T1 involves a pretty long run but I used the time to start taking off my wetsuit and everything else went smoothly. Soon I was on the bike and up the hill out onto the race track. I rode well, pushing up the hill and taking advantage of the down slopes, but towards the end of the ride I realized I may have been going too hard as I started to get a stitch in my right side. Hey ho, too late now. I finished the bike in 1hr 11.11, 7 minutes faster than last year – very happy with that.

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Pink makes you go faster, right?

T2 was as quick as it could be, my runners were on and I was off. Or maybe not. I soon realized that I wasn’t really moving, I couldn’t pick my feet up and my stitch was making breathing difficult. Damn. Nothing I could do but mentally battle to just keep my feet moving, and I kept telling myself not to stop or walk, just keep going. Somehow I made it to the finish, but I was very disappointed in my time – 1hr 01.36, a massive 8 minutes slower than last year.

I crossed the finish line and found Leyla and Luis for congratulatory hugs. Despite the shocking run I managed to finish the race in 2hrs 52.21, 4 minutes faster than last year. Not a bad result overall, and on a bright side, at least there’s plenty of room for improvement on the run next year!

Hugs from Coach

Hugs from Coach

My sister was still out on the sprint run course, so I excitedly waited for her to finish. She has been out of action for some time following a nasty bike accident and subsequent operations on her shoulder, so I was super proud to see her finish in 1hr 50. Next for her is the London Triathlon in August, the Olympic distance, and I can’t wait to support her.

Proud of our FitChick winner!

Proud of our FitChick winner!

Leyla and Syd did ONEndurance proud with their category wins, and after seeing them collect their trophies we headed back to Kim’s for race chat, pizza and bubbles. A fabulous end to a fabulous day – ONEndurance rocks! 

Post race celebrations - striking a pose for our dear Mehdi

Post race celebrations – striking a pose for our dear Mehdi

FitChicks road trip…….

On Friday, Kim (my gorgeous friend and fellow ONEndurance FitChick) and I set off on a road trip to stay at the Jebel Ali Beach Resort & Spa, for a sprint distance triathlon on Saturday morning. The race itself was intended as a practice run for the forthcoming bigger races, the Olympic distance at Tri Yas on 28 Feb and the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon on 15 March. We decided to stay over at the hotel to make the whole experience less stressful and to keep the nerves at bay.

And it worked a treat! Kim and I had a very relaxed afternoon – lunch by the pool, a few hours on the beach, and then a walk around the race course to familiarise ourselves with the set up. The evening whizzed by, we ate yummy Italian food (and enjoyed a glass of red wine each, shhhh, don’t tell Coach!) and then prepared all our gear for the following morning.

Even on race morning we kept calm, enjoying tea in bed before setting off to the race start to meet fellow ONEndurance team mate Dave, for whom it was his first ever triathlon. We managed to rack our bikes next to each other, and laid out all our transition gear, ate bananas, and of course made the obligatory last minute dash to the bathrooms!

Before we knew it we were being called to the swim start, and only then did panic set in as we wriggled into our wetsuits and donned our blue swim caps. Them BAM, we were off! The swim passed in a blur, arms and legs flying, somehow I made it round the two loops and out on to the long run to T1. I struggled to get my helmet on, but eventually got out on the bike and had a really good ride. I worried I might have burnt my legs out for the run, but somehow pulled myself round at a pace which I was pleasantly surprised at. Crossing the finish line was fantastic, Kim and Dave were there waiting for me. Both of them had an awesome race, Kim finished very close behind Dave, and neither of them had to wait too long for me, I wasn’t far behind, yay.

After returning to transition to pack up our gear we headed to the prize giving. Thank god we didn’t miss it, Kim picked up an award for coming first in her age category – she is totally amazing and I am so proud of her! FitChicks rock!

Super supporter Sarah had been taking photos throughout the race, and she joined us for breakfast at the hotel after – the coffee tasted good! Later, Kim and I relaxed by the pool, reliving the magical morning. We couldn’t wait to tell Coach Luis about the experience, and to thank him for all his fabulous help and advice leading up to the race.

Exhausted and happy, we headed back to Abu Dhabi. We loved every moment of our roadtrip, and can’t wait to race again – bring on Yas and ADIT!

Almost at the finish line.....

Almost at the finish line…..

Happy happy!

Happy happy!

The three ONEndurance musketeers

The three ONEndurance musketeers

Congratulating Kim on her award

Congratulating Kim on her award

Kim's AWESOME run finish!

Kim’s AWESOME run finish!

The not so glamorous side of triathlon……

Triathlon isn’t all fun and games.  It involves tedious chores like bike cleaning…….

Bertie (and Ted!) ready for his shower

Bertie (and Ted!) ready for a shower

(with the little help of my feline friend – can you spot him?!)

And toenails have a bad habit of falling off…….

Gross!

Gross!

But it’s all worth it when you have a fab morning out with team mates, riding a cold & foggy cycle track in the middle of the desert, with luke warm coffee and home made cookies afterwards………

I love ONEndurance

Go on, give triathlon a try – it’s fun, honest……..!  ;-)

Another year begins……

I can’t believe another year has flown by and here we are in 2014 already.  I’m not making any resolutions this year, just to continue leading a healthy lifestyle and be the best I can.  I have several races coming up in the next few months, so training will get tougher, but I feel ready for the challenge.

Looking back on 2013 I racked up 300hrs of training time, covering 4,320km – these figures could be higher for 2014, I’m off to a good start so far.  With the encouragement of coach Luis and the company of my ONEndurance pals it should be easy to keep up the hard work.

My ultimate goal for the first half of the year is the Ironman 70.3 Eagleman race in the US in June – I’ll be taking part with Leyla again, I can’t wait.

So here’s to eating clean, training smart, racing hard and sleeping well.  Live, laugh and love.  Happy New Year to you all!

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