Ironman Texas 2016: The Race that Didn’t Want to Happen. But we, as humans, triathletes, and Ironpeople…we were determined to make it happen. First it was the bike course that we didn’t have finalized, but then two weeks out, we did! Next it was the water in the lake; high E. Coli levels forced a change of course only 2 days before the event. No worries. Lake Woodlands was the perfect size for an out and back swim course, and nixing the poop canal was no problem. The gun sounded on a beautiful race morning, and all went off without a hitch. Despite some fog on the swim, the adjusted course was great. We had to make some turns on the bike, but I along with many others quite enjoyed the new route. And the run. What can go wrong there? Ah yes, Mother Nature…she can always strike! And that she did; throwing an unbelievable storm complete with hail, lightening and torrential rains on the final hours of the race.
I was fortunate to be safe in the car, driving back to the hotel with Derick and my parents, during the storm. But I felt terrible for the hundreds of athletes still on the course racing their hearts out; the many generous volunteers, devoted spectators, and hard-working staff members all out in the extreme weather. And when I reflect on the day, on my day, I realize this (thanks to my husband’s insight): At some point, we all get stopped. It may be by our own doing; we just can’t go any further; but often times, it is due to external circumstances. Life is rarely all smooth sailing. When we’re forced to stop, it’s often about how we respond to the situation that determines how we come out the other side.
The entire lead up to Ironman Texas seemed like an endless routine of stop and go. I had a great plan of lead up races starting in February that kept getting scrapped. But I took it in stride, albeit frustrating, and aimed to just make good choices and do what I was able to at the time. I knew my goal was to be on the start line in The Woodlands, as strong and as fit as my body was able to be on race day. And all things considered, I feel like I achieved this. The months prior weren’t perfect, but with each ‘stop’ (canceling a race, nixing a run here or there), I just tried to refocus on what I could do to keep moving towards the goal. Sometimes this is what we have to do; it’s all we can do. I think I made wise decisions going in, and I knew I would put forth my best effort. How did it all shake down? The swim was decent; steady, fairly strong, while still somewhat relaxed (maybe too relaxed…at one point I thought to myself, ‘nothing hurts right now; not even my lats. Hmmm.’) The bike was alright; I felt a little rusty, a bit lacking on the high end, but that is to be expected when you haven’t competed in 6 months. I made the best with what I had; I enjoyed the change of course, and when I got passed, I tried to keep the girls in sight. I was most uncertain about the run. What is usually a trusted strength was an unknown. I took confidence in my focus and determination, but I questioned my run fitness. When I got passed by a very swiftly moving Lisa Roberts, I tried not to get frustrated; but stay within myself, knowing I was moving well, but at the moment, not as well as Lisa. I wanted to catch Jodie up ahead; and for a few miles, I think I was. But then, I was not. And that was ok. I reminded myself that a LOT CAN HAPPEN, and a lot can change, in the final miles of an Ironman marathon. And that it did. A few girls succumbed to the conditions; they were ‘stopped’ on their day, for their own reasons. I just kept plugging along knowing that today, this was the best I had. The effort landed me in 4th, with the 3rd fastest marathon; something that eats at me! But I can acknowledge that it’s all good…those girls up ahead respectfully earned the podium. Nobody ever loves 4th place, but I could walk away proud of my effort; grateful that I overcame some unknowns and wasn’t afraid to put myself out there.
And many my fellow competitors out there racing got stopped as well…literally…on your day. Race directors often have to deal with pre-race adversities and make planned adjustments, but it is quite rare that weather hits DURING the event such as it did here. I can imagine it was extremely maddening for those runners out on the course dealing with this massive storm. I am sure it was confusing as to WHAT TO DO in this situation. Hopefully many of you stepped off the course and waited out the weather. But it threw a wrench into your day. We all know Ironman races have a ton of unpredictability, but this scenario was pretty crazy. As with anything in life that stops you…unplanned, unexpected…you adjust. You accept the situation, assess what you can do, and you then keep moving forward as you’re able. You try to keep your head and your emotions in check. All we can do is prepare our best, go into things knowing we’ve done all we can do, within our capabilities; and at some point we have to let go, trust the process and react to what is thrown our way. These challenges make us stronger; they force us to accept the situation and adapt. And they force us to deal with adversity. Sure; the perfect build up, the perfect execution; it’s awesome. But it is when the going gets ugly that we discover our own grit; what it is deep within us when we draw upon the “no matter what, I’m finishing what I started.”
So to all of you who finished out there; congrats. To all those cheering us on in the terrible conditions; thank you. To the spouses, family, coaches and support networks who had to deal with us moaning and groaning about course changes; I’m sorry. But this journey of exercise, challenge, goals, highs and lows…it’s really a fortunate gift we’ve been given to be able to do it. Remember that. If the day wasn’t what you’d hoped for, there’s always another race around the corner. Use this as a stepping stone for your next opportunity. Learn from what happened out there, and build on what you accomplished. I know I will.
As always a huge thank you to the support team who makes this journey possible. While my efforts landed me a bit shy of my goal, it sure wasn’t for lack of proper preparation and gear! Thank you to: Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute, Zoot Sports, Road ID, Nulo, Felt, Rudy Project, Recovery Pump, ISM, Durata Training, SRAM, Zipp, Quarq, & Endurance Shield. Also thanks to friend & wonder mechanic James at Bicycle World Austin for yet again allowing me to race my Felt IA mechanical-free on race day. Thanks to Charlie & Barb (mom and dad) for making the trip to The Woodlands; it’s so special to have them out there cheering on their crazy daughter who has been doing this competitive sporting stuff now for 25+ years. And last but far from least my husband Derick, for continuing to believe in me after many years, many ups and downs, but most of all many adventures.
Wonderful volunteers whom I accidentally threw my bike at…but it came out unscathed!
Photo Courtesy of Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Sports Medicine Digital Team
Jessica Jones Meyers, good friend and fellow competitor for 10+ years; after an awesome 7th
Driving to our hotel…less than an hour after I had finished!
Burgers n’ Beer Post Race
…and, Tex Mex to wrap up the weekend! One must never forget to celebrate. 🙂