Ironman Texas: The Run

When I talked to my coach, Marni, on Friday before the race, she had reminded me that this race was a marathon, but I just had a long swim and bike to get to it.  When we had discussed a race strategy, she had suggested 8:20 – 8:40 pace with 20-30 second walk breaks at the aid stations based on my training. That meant possibly a 4 hour marathon. I thought it seemed aggressive but feasible on a good day since my long runs had been at this pace, and I knew I’d just have to listen to my body since I had no idea how it would react during the race.

When I started the run my stomach and legs felt pretty good (no hip/glute pain yet) – but I knew I’d have to figure out fuel as I went.  I started off slowly (not too fast as Marni had warned) at an 8:45ish pace, and while I didn’t feel bad in the first few miles, but I felt really hot and I realized my HR was quite high. I was starting in the mid afternoon heat, and from experience I knew I wouldn’t sustain a high HR for a whole marathon and didn’t want the run to feel too hard, so I decided to slow down there and was at a 9:00 something pace, not including the walk breaks at aid stations. I was taking a few sips of Infinit Napalm from my gel flask (the flasks were so hot; I think it would have been better if they were cold) and then at the aid stations a few larger sips of coke, plus lots of water and ice or sponges for cooling. After a few miles, I did not like the feeling I was getting – it was not GI distress but more like a side stitch / diaphragm feeling and my stomach telling me it didn’t want anymore sugar. I got this same thing at Oilman, and it prevents me from taking in much more nutrition without intensifying the side stitch.

At this point I decided I’d start trying out the ironman buffet. I still mainly took in coke, just less of it, but also at the aid stations I was trying different things. Pretzels were so dry. Potato chips sounded good, but then didn’t taste good after all. The orange was too sweet. The chicken broth was weird and I thought it would give me GI issues (this was all taken over a three hour span, mind you).  I knew I was getting less nutrition than I wanted and had to keep taking things in as much as I didn’t like to, so I took smaller sips of coke and still some of my gel flasks, which were really hot.  Maybe I had too much coke?

The other thing I didn’t expect was that walking the aid stations was taking a lot longer than I thought since I was walking the whole thing to get what I needed – between 30-90 seconds. I would drink water and dump ice at the first part, then had to walk past the Perform & food to get to the coke, then at the end was the ice sponges. I put ice in my sports bra and shorts and the sponges on my back/shoulders. I did have some salt tabs and aminos in my run belt, but they had been wrapped in wax paper, not saran, and got wet. I took them hourly as I could, since they were just falling apart, and I think I took 1 tums mid-way – it was never really my tummy that was upset, so hard to say if the tums were necessary, but a good precaution.

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As for the course, it’s three loops, with the loops having a lonesome section around the lake and a crazy cheering section at the Waterway.  The lake section has a lot less cheering and is a bit barren, so it’s where I had the most mental battles.  I was really wishing I could jump back in the lake and go swimming.  I was actually annoyed when I saw a sign from SW Swim Shops that said “How sweet you got to mile 3” and “Mile 13 the race has just begun” – even if they were true, they were not very encouraging!  At least there were enough other funny signs to make up for it.  Also on the first loop I unexpectedly saw my good friend and David’s boss, Tom, volunteering at an aid station. I didn’t recognize him immediately as he was dressed up, but he asked me what I needed and it was great to see him!

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The second half of the loop is the waterway, which helps immensely since there are so many crowds. I ran by the triathlon team JSC/SBS tents that were having a huge party, and then the next stop was seeing my family & friends in their bright pink shirts – I was SO excited to see their faces!   Amanda, Justin, Christine, Rohan, Claudia, Regina, and the Breauxs: thank you all so much for going.  I can’t express how much it meant to have you all come out to support me.

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After I saw my family on the other side of the bridge, I was surprised every loop by a guy only wearing a speedo and a present at his waist (later I learned it was the dick in a box skit from SNL), but I had no idea why this guy was dressed like this and he would surprise me and say something ridiculous every time – I wondered if I was going crazy?  And in general, lots of guys in speedos cheering, is this regular at all ironman races or just in Texas?!  Continuing on the Waterway you’d run onto just huge lines of people – cheerleaders, kids high-fiving, people dancing, and all to cheer you on! It was great to run this part, it made me smile and pick up the pace a bit.  I also kept hearing the song “Shots” which is really random since it was also played on the other best day of my life – my wedding.  Is the universe trying to tell me something?  More shots?  (I actually really hate shots!)

Anyway, somewhere near the surf-themed aid station, my friend and fellow blogger Jason popped out of the crowd and ran with me a second asking how I was doing. I was so happy to see him and told him that I was going to finish, but the run might take slower than I wanted – he reminded me that I had trained for this and I was going to do it!  Then I told him, “I don’t know how you do ultras!!”  Thanks Jason. I just loved all these familiar faces surfacing along the way!! It was again a surreal experience to have so much going on in your peripheral vision, then have a friend pop out from the crowd.

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But while there were highs from the cheering and friends, there were also some lows I had to ride out.  A voice in my head told me how great it would feel to walk the rest of the run (and there were many people around making the walking tempting), as well as some points where I thought “this is harder than I thought it would be”.  I continued on, but was really asking myself “Why do people do ironmans, and how do them more than once in a lifetime?!!! Marni and Karel are crazy, why would they want to do this as their lifestyle and however can they do more than one per year?!!”  Haha, sorry Marni and Karel for questioning your sanity; of course after the race I have forgotten the pain and I understand.  Well, even though there were low points, I kept moving forward.  I knew I didn’t want to stop.  I might slow down, I just kept telling myself I needed to slow down the least.  I get it now.

I continued on, running and then walking at the aid stations. I picked up my SN bag at mile 11 but really didn’t need it as I wasn’t going to finish 4 gel flasks, but just in case.  Around 15 or 20 miles my hips and knees ache, but then you start not to notice it as everything is just tired.   At each aid station I wanted to continue walking a bit longer, and I think my pace slowed.  I was in “just get through this” mode for a bit.  But each time I got back to the crowds I was carried through.  And on the last loop I knew it was the “last time” I had to see each aid station, each tree, each sign, so I was getting pumped.  I don’t know if it was on the 2nd or 3rd lap – I think the 2nd – that I was able to pass both Alex and Kevin again.  Alex was getting cramps and Kevin’s calf was strained.  I wanted them both to do well, but if you know me, of course I was motivated to pass boys!

My longest run in training had been 15 and 17 miles and my last marathon was in 2009 at an 11 minute pace running the whole time (I have sped up a bit since then), so at first I was questioning what getting to 20 or 22 miles would feel like, but in a weird way, there was never a wall on this race.  I sort of felt like once I passed 16 or 17 miles I could just keep going.  I’m glad I didn’t run longer than 17 miles in training as I think it kept me from injury but gave me just enough long run experience to do this.

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Near mile 20ish I tried some GU chomps and they seemed to hold down pretty well, so I had a few of those to fuel me on the last section of the run; just wish I’d tried them a little earlier.  I remember trying to calculate if I could make it under 12 hours (7 PM) and I knew I’d have to run less than a 10 minute pace, but for some reason, what would normally be super easy seemed really hard.  I did try to start picking it up though, but I wish my head was a little more straight and I had told myself I could have.  But at the same time I felt like I was giving what I had for that day.  My walk breaks were much longer than I initially expected, but I needed the walk breaks to get through this.

Either way, the last 3 miles I tried my best to increase my pace as I wanted to finish STRONG.  The last part of the course seemed the longest – when you saw the 25 mile marker you thought this would be in the bag, and then there was a long U-turn you had to go through then back down and towards the finisher chute, which was over a slight hill.  If I could just get to that finish line I could stop moving.

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But then the feeling in that chute is indescribable and you want to be in the chute forever.  There were a couple guys ahead of me but I was all by myself and felt like the crowds were just roaring!  It was beautiful and so, so sweet.

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Talk about emotions – the past 6 months of training and hard work flooded through my mind.  Countless hours of sweat, overcoming obstacles, and dedication all to go towards that finish line.  It was all moving so fast and I was trying to take every second in.

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I spotted my family and friends and high-fived them and it was just the best feeling.

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Pure joy and elation.  I thought of my family and coaches who had helped me get to this point, and then I went towards that finish line – the rest was for me – my mind and my body that had taken me so far.  I knew I had gotten myself to where I once thought I couldn’t reach.  All I was thinking was “I did this.  I DID THIS.”

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It all sounds crazy, but if you experience it you will know what I mean.  That memory is so vivid and something no one can take away.  Mike O’Reilly said something to the affect of “Brittany Breaux, ok Britt – you. ARE. AN IRONMAN”.  How did he know I was Britt? Smile  I threw my hands in the air like I had always imagined and thought “YES!”

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The guy right before me had completely collapsed, so they were watching us carefully coming in.  I was immediately held on to by a catcher who was about shoulder height and so nice!  She held me tight and was asking a few times if I was okay – yes, I was good, thank you, thank you!  But I asked her if she could just stay and walk around with me the rest of the evening?  Haha, it felt so nice to have someone holding you. 

I got a second to catch my breath and process what was happening, then was finally reunited with my #1 supporter!

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And amazing friends!

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I LOVED having so many friends and family around afterwards.  The endorphins and emotions were so high and even though my mind/body was moving slowly, I was just glowing inside and loving hearing all the congratulations.  They all thought I was doing pretty well considering I’d just been moving 12 hours, and I briefly wondered, did I not run hard enough? Nah, that was really hard! 

My parents from Hawaii called soon after and I was really happy to hear from my Dad and fellow triathlete – though we got a good laugh when he asked “Britt, your time is outstanding, I’ve been tracking you all day – I was wondering, it looks like you slowed on your run around mile 13-14, what happened?”  Of course I had no idea, and I laughed and said “I don’t know Dad, I just got tired?!”  Haha, but hearing from my parents was really special.  

It was wonderful to just revel in the moment a bit, but then we said bye to my friends and started to get a chill from the wet clothes, so I went to a changing room and changed into some dry clothes (yay for Marni’s suggestion to have a post-race bag with extra clothes for my family to keep for me).  Oh, and my face was a salt mine.  It was like I had put a salt rub on it and never washed it off.  I kept imagining you could fill a sea salt container with it!   I got to chat with my friend Regina then she found Kevin who had finished around 12:30 (Alex did too but we didn’t see him David thought he was coming in later), and then I my body told me I was ready for food.  I grabbed a burrito, chips and cookies and ate all of it with no stomach problems – so happy for real food.  I also saw TriMarni Ginger & Justine briefly and we were all so happy – both of them killed it, and all of us were sub-13 hr first-timers. Justine and I had played leap frog on the run, and she ended up passing me and finishing at a really strong pace!  We all agreed that our run paces were slower than what Marni had thought we might do – but who cared, we had trained and raced smart thanks to Marni’s plans and we were all super happy to be iron{wo}men!

Again, completely amazing experience that words can’t describe and that will remain one of the most memorable days of my life! What once was the impossible became a reality.  I was astounded by the outpouring of support from all over and I really felt the love.  Thank you again to everyone that made this day so special for me.

Run Stats: 4:25:29, 10:07/mi, Rank: 27 AG, 100 Gender, 603 OA

Finish Stats: 12:05:53

Run Gear: Team Betty Kit, Betty Designs visor, Oakley Radar Edge sunglasses, Garmin 910xt & HR monitor strap, CEP Compression sleeves, Swiftwick socks, Brooks Defyance 7 (1/2 size up, no blisters or foot issues at all), lock laces, Spibelt race bib belt

Run Nutrition: 1.5 flasks of 2.5 oz Infinit Napalm, sips of coke, water, tried various aid station food, then GU chomps seemed to work near the end, 1 Salt Stick tab per hour

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10 thoughts on “Ironman Texas: The Run

  1. Congratulations on your run, your entire race, and all the work you put into finishing it in such a fast time!!
    You should be so proud!!
    You wrote about the run perfectly- the emotions, the annoyances, the pain, and the jubilation. And seeing family and friends!
    Hope your recovery is going well!! Are you still riding the high?

    1. You are so kind Abby! Thanks!! I’m glad you can relate 🙂 Yes, recovery is going really well, and I’m itching to start exercising (no training, just fun stuff) again so that’s a good sign! The high is wearing off, and now it’s just still hard to believe I get to call myself an ironman, haha. I love it though.

  2. Wow!!! What a race!! You were so positive and mentally strong! I love the run course loops. Having the spectators there really help! Sounds like you had some great things to see as well! You had such a great first IM. I bet you will do another one!! 🙂

    1. Aww, thank you – yes it was the best, I had a blast. Maybe another one is in the future (I like to think someday) – but not anytime too soon, I will just enjoy reading about everyone else’s races for a bit, haha!

  3. So, so awesome! I got chills and teared up reading because I know that *exact* feeling – how the potato chips + sweet Coke taste, how the whole run is almost surreal and then, boom, you’re running down the chute to the finish line and cannot wipe the smile off your face! Well done, Britt! Be proud of your fantastic race! It’s been so fun following your journey 🙂 Hope recovery is going well!

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