I decided to race IM Texas as an early season race, in order to race 3 ironman races in 203 (Texas, Tremblant, Cozumel).
After a short visit of Houston (downtown, its cool restaurants, its parks) and a few days at the beach in Galveston, TX., we arrive in The Woodlands, northern suburbs of Houston where the race takes place. The ‘city’ revolves around its Market street and the Waterway, where the IM Expo is setup and alpng which we will run three times during the marathon.
Temperature is rising quickly during the week, and 92F / 32c is announced for race day which will be a perfect match for my winter NYC training. Also, race will not be wetsuit legal. Despite this, I don’t give up and check my bike in transition on Friday, noticing that the field is mostly composed of ‘seasoned’ athletes.
After waking up at 4.40am on Saturday, I head out to pump my tires and reach the start, a 20-mn walk from transition.
Race is confirmed as not wetsuit legal, and we jump in the water with 15 mn to go. However it is not that warm in there and we have to float in the middle of the lake, so I grab a canoe so That I don’t waste too much energy. After the gun goes off, it is mot too much of a fight, which i notice trnds to be the case when people don’t have wersuits. The first out and back is slow but ok. Then we reach a tiny canal with some waves and I have trouble keeping my pace. I finish in 1h12mn, more than 10mn slower than my usual ‘wetsuit’ time.
Transition is ok (4mn) and we head out of town, north, across rolling hills, lakes, old ‘western’ towns, ranches and forests. Until mile 50 roads are good, athletes have a good pace and I follow, gping faster than I wanted and reaching the half-way point in 2h32mn. Going back, lots of winds and lots of hills, and I struggle a lot, not keeping the pace, and it becomes tough for everybody after mile 80. The heat is definitely there, I get two bottles at each aid station but some times it is not enough. The winds and heat are taking their toll and i just want the bike to be over. Roads are bad, which has a negative effect of morale, and i have stopped passing or being passed, even the guys with deep-dish wheels don’t do much better than 21mph. My setup with 404 front and 808 rear wheelset is good, but the last section on the back roads is bad memories. Time: 5h22.
In transition, it is difficult to walk barefoot since the ground is so hot. Inside my bag, my shoes are really hot too ! I’ve never seen this.
Now the heat is on. Sun is blazing. I put a ton of sunscreen, a lot of water on my cap, and start the 3-loop run. I try a new strategy, taking it easy on the first 5 miles, which actually doesn’t help as you always fade later, no matter what. My target pace is 5’30” per km. but tve sections with shade are just a nightmare, and at each aid station i use 5 glaces of cold water to cool down, drink a glass of coke, get a ton of ice in my tri top, sponges around my neck, and move on. I can’t believe how many sections are without any shade. I die. When we reach the waterway, lots of spectators are here, it is a little cooler with some bridges under which we go. Starting lap #2 is obviously tough, knowing what lies ahead.
Second lap is a struggle, i know i will run in 4 hours, and i am not sure to go below 11 hours. Also, with slower runners starting their first loop, it is always more difficult to keep the pace. I secretly hope that some jnew areas of shade would appear, but to no avail. At the end of lap #2 my iron-supporters are here to cheer me up ! I am really slow.
Last lap. A lot of people, aid stations are crowded, and i know i need to push to go below 11 hours. That will be my challenge . I go deep to find the willingnwss to fight, but there’s a little more shade on the worst section and i spend less time at aid stations also, so clenching my teeth I know I can make it. Whatever the clock says, the last two miles are always a mixture of extreme pain, extreme joy, and relief. Finishers turn left are the end of lap #3, with 300 meters almost alone, before entering market street and it crowd of supporters. I give a kiss to Cecile, hold Arthur for a few seconds, give ’5′ to Timothée, before reachingg the U-turn for the final 100 yards. Mike Reilly shouts my name, timin arch says 10h50mn. That’s it, for the 9th time, I am an ironman !
Post race sunburns !