2015 Ironman Texas Post Race Report

Coach Charlie Johnson raced Ironman Texas on Saturday, May 16, 2015 in The Woodlands, TX. This was his "A" race and he was primed and ready. Enjoy a peak inside his brain and how the race went.

"Alas, it was not the day I'd hoped for, but it makes me want to get out there and try again." - Charlie Johnson

Written by Coach Charlie Johnson -

2015 IMTX Report:

Well, you win some and you lose some. I have to put this in the loss column. But I know I will be back and aiming to put a mark under the win column in the future. Races can knock one down, but they can't keep one down.

My training block leading up to this race was the best I've ever had. I woke up on average around 4:15 am every week day to get in workouts before work. I even did a run where I started at 3:30 am! I had at least 4 runs of over 20 miles with one reaching 23. On that run, I held under a 6:50/mi pace and finished it very strong. I got in 8 or 9 century rides and did my "Big Day" along the way. My bike work was as heavy as ever. Due to bad weather, I did three trainer rides with a fly wheel that were over 5 hours, which was horrible. That, if anything, will teach you patience, endurance and dedication. My swim stayed solid and was where it needed to be. In January, I got cortisone shots in both shoulders due to the sharp pains that interrupted even sleep. It worked like a charm and I trained pain free all the way up to the race. Nutrition had finally been figured out, too. My diet was the cleanest ever in my life (ONLY because of my savior Sandy). I tapered just as I had hoped and felt rested both physically, and more importantly, mentally. I had taken moments throughout the training block to lie still and visualize myself on the course. I'd see a tree I remembered or a turn in the road. I knew what I was going to do before I did it.

To sum up my typical load in the heavier weeks, I probably swam around 10,000 yds, biked 175-200 miles, and ran 35-40 miles per week.

Three Days before Race: Drove out to Houston with Sandy's brother Mike.

Two Days before Race: Drove full course. Hydrated with Gatorade and water. Dinner was a huge steak (Del Monico my favorite), corn on the cobb, asparagus, huge glass of milk, water.

Day before Race: Turned in bike, did pre race swim and brick which all felt great. Hydrated with Gatorade and water. Stayed off feet pretty good.

Pre Race Meal: Baked chicken soaked in Dales/wooster sauce/garlic, broccoli, sweet potato, huge glass of milk, water, water, water)

Race Day: Woke up 3:00 am. Ate 1/3-1/2 lb of yogurt with honey, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, walnuts, granola around 3:45-4:00 am. Drank three or four cups of coffee.
Got to race site, checked transition and got all nutrition set up. I put 7, yes, 7 Stinger waffles in my bento box. It looks pretty funny. Each is 160 calories, so that equals 1,120 calories. Gatorade, which I love, was in my aero bottle and extra water bottle. Base salt was in my bento box, too.

Walked the one mile to race start. No possibility of swim warm up, so did a jog. Used port-o-potties and felt ready. Never got nervous. Felt a total calm before the race. Ate half a banana and a waffle 20-30 min before race start.

Swim: Non wetsuit. Wore speed suit. Prayed not to eat duck poop. Staged myself about 10 people deep from the start line of the rolling start they have. I was right behind a guy doing is 120th Ironman. freak. Got out quickly when race started. Went straight for buoy line and established a spot after some banging. For about 5-10 min, it was crowded with other swimmers as fast as me, then we thinned out. From there, I had pretty good breathing and form felt decent. A group of about three of us formed and we stayed within 10 feet or so. Sometimes drafting, other times not. After half way, I lost them and swam on my own most of the rest of the way. Hamstrings got really tight at about 2/3 into swim. I kicked more and that seemed to help. Came into the canal and it was quite choppy due to water bouncing off walls. But I actually sped up in last span and caught some people.

Swim Time: 1:02:29 (1:37/100m, 1:29/100yd)

T1: Came out of swim feeling decent, got bag and changed methodically. No rush. Speed suit off, chugged Gatorade, helmet/sunglasses on, shoes on, and went. It had rained like crazy for days straight until this day. It ended up being sunny. But the transition field was soaked and was a mud fest like Woodstock. When I grabbed my bike off the rack, I literally carried it over my shoulder through all of transition. At the exit, they had five or so baby pools. I just stepped full on into them and soaked my shoes to get the caked mud off. It was pretty funny in a way. Bikes and people covered in mud from ankles down. The smart people had carried their shoes and bike beyond the mud and were putting them on there. Sheesh.

T1 Time: 4:15

Bike: Mounted carefully and took off. Very much eased into the bike. It was a wind from the south, so it was a tailwind on the way out. I was easily pushing 22-23 mph and getting passed a lot. Rented a disc wheel for the race. I am not sure how much it helped or hurt me. I was able to click my lap button every 10 miles or very close to it, and my avg mph/HR were as follows: 22.35/146, 23.52/143, 23.48/144, 22.15/142, 21.96/144, 20.75/143, 21.53/145, 19.92/145, 20.08/144, 20.79/143, 20.90/141.

At some point in the Sam Houston National Forest, my speed sensor came loose and was rattling around. I had to hop off my bike and jam it back on carefully. That was only maybe 2 min lost, but sucked to see 5-10 people pass me that I'd worked to pass.

The wind was howling out on the bike course. Boy, heading back south was downhill overall, but with a nasty head and side wind. I'll take uphill with a tailwind over downhill with a headwind any day.

Over the final 5 miles or so, I let effort down just slightly and got my mind ready for the run. Took in a final good chunk of nutrition. The sun was out and blazing pretty good. I was mentally in a good place and had seen the race occur as it was occurring.

I ate one waffle every 40 min on the dot. Drank Gatorade throughout. So I estimate I got in 1,600-2,000 calories on the bike, i.e. 300-400 cal/hr. Took Base salt via thumb lick multiple times throughout the bike.

Bike Time: 5:09:11 (21.73 mph)

T2: Flying dismount and volunteer grabbed bike. Ran all the way, grabbed bag and into tent. Again, very methodical. Helmet off, head band on, shoes on, grab race belt and go. (In 2011, I sat on the chair contemplating if I was having a stroke.)

T2 Time: 4:01

Run: Heading out, I FORCED myself to go slow. And slow felt agonizingly slow. My legs felt weird as usual and the quads and hammies were acting funky trying to flex. I stayed easy and let HR steady itself. The heat and sun was in full effect. The course is three loops each of around 8.4 miles or so. I took two cups of ice, 1-2 cups of water and sometimes a Gatorade at pretty much every mile stop. On the first loop, I ran through every water stop. I felt so good that I was confident I could negative split the marathon. Around 7.5 miles into each loop, there is a point you curve around a building where the wind funnels down the canal. The wind was so strong, I could literally lean forward around 10-15 degrees and it would blow me back up. Strongest wind I've ever felt in a race. Finished first loop feeling strong. First 8 mile splits I clicked at about each mile were 7:12, 7:23, 7:33, 7:37, 7:34, 7:32, 7:36, 7:35.

Into second loop, I reached the 10 mile point and had to labor a bit to hold pace, so I backed it off a bit. Miles 9-13 were 7:55, 7:50, 8:01, 8:52, 8:29. By the mid point, I realized the wheels were beginning to come off. I continued intake of salt, water and gatorade. Ate maybe three or four gus over the full run, but just felt a bit shaky in the stomach.

The following miles 14 to 17 were 9:28, 9:13, 10:12 and 10:40 to complete the second loop. It was rough. They were doing construction and had us go down two flights of stairs. I had to hold onto the rail to walk down and a fan said, "Hang in there buddy." That is when I knew it was real bad.

The last loop was a survival march. My mind was running through what was going wrong and racing to think of how to fix it. In the end, I did the best with what I had left in the tank. My last miles of 18 to 26 were 11:11, 9:21, 9:44, 9:52, 9:49, 10:21, 9:58, 9:42, 9:33.

Run Time: 3:51:30 (8:50/mi)
Total Time: 10:11:26

It was a disappointing day to finish with a rough run. But one can always look back and learn from every race. It makes me want to try that much more to solve the puzzle of the Ironman distance. I've had the perfect day on most shorter distances. But I still have yet to hit that elusive perfect day in a full distance triathlon. It is out there waiting.....and it will happen.