Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Ironman Texas 2012 Race Report

All that training, all that buildup.  I thought the race was the whole point.  I was wrong.  In retrospect, the race still seems like a very long, very hot training day that just happened to be supported and very crowded.  I wonder if that will ever change...

Total time  11:47:58
Swim:  1:20:12
T1:  6:49
Bike: 5:59:30
T2:  5:59
Finishing Rank 19/97 in my age group, 80/485 in women, 458/2016 overall

I should add that I met or exceeded all time goals that I had for the race.


In the days immediately preceding the race, there was a lot to do.  Athlete registration/packet pickup was on Thursday.  I drove in, parked the car and went to the Ironman Village.  Always a fun part of the Ironman branded races, this is where you go to get your packet, and then do any shopping for race souvenirs that you may want or things you may have forgotten.  This year's Ironman came with a really nice tri bag embroidered with the race logo.    Packet pickup went smoothly, and then I took some time in the Village, looking around.  

Next up was the athlete dinner.  Wow.  So many inspiring stories of the journey to the Ironman.  The slogan is "Anything is Possible."  It's appropriate.  Such an emotional event.  And the food was pretty good.  For my part, I enjoyed meeting the gang from and getting to know them a bit better.  They're a fun group of people - and they've been very supportive for the entire year we've been getting ready for this race.

Then off to bed - most who race know to try and get a good night's rest two nights before the race - so that was my goal.  Friday morning was beautiful.  I went to get a short swim in at the gym.  There was an optional open water swim in Lake Woodlands, but I'd heard about how gross the water was, and didn't want to chance getting sick before the race.  After that, (and a quick detour courtesy of my gps) it was back to The Woodlands for a quick ride to familiarize myself with where the swim start and transition areas were.  Then I got my bike, bike gear bag, and run gear bag checked in, and went back to the Ironman Village to see Chrissie Wellington who was there to sign books.  They were sold out of books, so I got a pretty cool poster signed instead.

She is way taller than I expected!

Finally to the hotel to cool off and relax for a bit.  A dinner of pizza (yay pizza!) and a quick trip to the store for more sunscreen for the race.  I managed to get the last two spray cans of Coppertone in the entire store.  Then, back to the hotel for race prep.

Now this is when I usually get organized.  But having to already have turned in my run and bike gear backs threw me off and created a bit of stress for me.  So I did the best I could, preparing my nutrition, getting gear ready for the next morning, and so on.  Race morning was also beautiful.  The stress I felt the night before was gone, and I only felt excitement.  Up and dressed, ate a pop tart and out the door.  Body marking, dropped off the sunscreen for my run and bike gear bags, and set up the nutrition on my bike, and then walked over to the swim start.  Sunscreen, then into the water for the race!

Ironman Texas 



Well, eww.  We crowded down into the water, and many of us tread water for five to ten minutes.  It was really crowded and felt like this:

The gun went off, and the pack was in motion!  And suddenly...  Open water combat!  No seriously. We were all being hit, scratched, grabbed, kicked and swam over.  And it was pretty much like that the entire race.  It wound up being a good thing that I had pinned my chip strap closed at the last minute, rather than relying just on the velcro.  But from the outside, I'm sure that we looked like this:

 I knew how long I wanted the swim to take, but I resisted ever looking at my watch, because all it would tell me is how long I've been swimming since I started my watch.  In the meantime, I must have drunk quite a bit of the lake.  Finally, the canal came into sight, then the very welcome sight of the swim exit.  Thank heaven for the volunteer that grabbed my hand and helped me out of the water.  Without her, I might have fallen over (I very nearly did).  

Transition 1

Interesting, to say the least.  I ran through, grabbed my bike gear bag and went to the changing tent.  Socks!  Shoes!  Helmet! Sunscreen! Sunglasses! Race belt!  Only I took it a bit slow, made sure to wipe the grime, dirt and grass off my feet thoroughly, and covered myself well with sunscreen.  Out to the bike!  I handed off my bag to a volunteer and ran off to the bike, grabbed it and out to the bike start.


What a beautiful course.  It's a loop, starting north, turning west for a short bit at the northern end of the loop before coming back south.  The start of the ride was cool, scenic, and we had a tailwind.  For most of the morning, we also had shade.  A lot of the ride looked similar to this:

But I knew that ride back wouldn't be as nice.  So here's where I need to add a bit of a side bar.  About two months ago, I upgraded my wheels and added a powermeter.  I'd been making full use of TrainerRoad (those guys have built one hell of a program) and working on increasing my power.  I hadn't planned on using power to guide my race, because I'm not as familiar with it as I should be in order to use it right.  But I wound up doing it anyway.  For those who know power, I kept my power about 110 on the way out, and just cruised.  I got passed quite a bit on the way north, and did a few passes myself.  But this was my race - I was only competing with myself - and I didn't want to cook my legs on the way out.

We made the turn to the west, and found the special needs stop.  I refilled my bottles, and I was off again!

THIS, however, was what I'd been training for.  Almost as soon as we left the special needs area, we turned back south.  And into the wind.  I'd spent the spring riding into wind that would slow me down to embarrassing speeds, and hand me my rear. The next 50 miles were amazing.  I powered up and kept my watts around 130 for the back half of the ride.  And all of a sudden I was passing people.  It was incredible.  I kept passing people, remaining strong, into the bike finish.

There were some pretty unpleasant things going on out there, though.  At mile 37, I saw someone a few bikes in front of me dip for half a second, then the bike behind him just ran into him.   The course would prove rough for a lot of people.  Aggressive cycling took one woman out (Someone passed her, then got in front of her too quickly.  He didn't stop after he caused her to wreck, possibly break her arm and definitely her bike.  Shame on you, if you're reading this.)  There were a lot of flats, a lot of broken spokes, and tons of ejected water bottles.   The mouthpiece to my water bottle got caught in my wheel at mile 60, and was ripped off (my own fault for not securing it properly) so I had to hold it for the next hour and a half.  Mile 80 is where I started suffering.  My neck, back and left calf hurt.  And my saddle suddenly wasn't comfortable anymore.  At mile 80 something, I caught someone drafting off me, less than a few inches from my back wheel.  I told him to get off my back wheel, and he powered ahead of me.  Less than five miles later, I saw him doing the same thing to another woman. (Dude, I know your race number, and your name.  If I catch you drafting off me again, I will report you to officials.)

Transition 2

A volunteer took my bike from me and racked it, and I took off to grab my run gear bag.  Thank you to the three beautiful young ladies that helped me in the changing tent.  I wish I knew your names.  They helped me change socks, shoes, put stuff back in my bag, clean my grubby sunglasses and sprayed me down with sunscreen.  Then off to the run!


The marathon was tough.  

I heard later that heat was in the low 90's and I saw a lot of people who were suffering because of it.  As soon as I started running, I got a stitch in my side that made it hard to breathe. I asked a volunteer for a bottle of water, and focused on getting hydrated.  A couple miles into the run it went away.  I still needed to adjust my pace for the heat, and slowed down a bit after the first lap.  Water in me, on me, and ice down my tri top helped me stay cool enough to keep going. 

I saw my family on my second lap, and this was the only point where I nearly cried.  My kids were so excited to see me! I kissed them both, but needed to keep going.   I finally finished what seemed like an eternity later.
Me around mile 20 something...
The volunteers did a great job keeping runners going.  I stuck with water and the nutrition I was carrying, but there was so much else out there (potato chips, chicken soup, pretzels, fruit, coke, cookies, etc).  Unfortunately, lots of people got sick.  I saw several that were bent over, heaving.  It was a hard marathon.  Finally, the last mile, and the finishers' chute.  The spectators had their hands out to be high fived, so I did it.  The energy at the finish line is vitalizing - your pain forgotten if only for a moment.  And suddenly, I was across it, Mike Reilly saying "Rachel Zambrano, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!"

Post Race  

There are volunteers at the end of the race whose only job is to help you, so you can get everything done (swag, pictures) and then safely off - they take you to the med tent if you need it, but each finisher gets a "catcher" that stays with them for 10 minutes or more to make sure they're okay.

I met up with my family, got pictures with the kids putting my medal on (kind of a tradition at the races they're at), and headed off to the shower.  When I got there, and debris from the swim in Lake Woodlands fell out of my tri top, I was pretty grossed out.  I'd had a minnow in there the entire race!  And I wasn't the only one who'd had that happen!  EWWWWWWWWWW!  

Taking stock revealed that I had chafing in a few places, but zero sunburn.  Actually, I don’t even have any new tan, either.  And what I thought was blisters turned out to just be pruny painful skin on my feet from having soaked socks most of the marathon.

Most of what hurt on Saturday night was my knees, and somewhat in my upper legs.

The next two days were a different story though.  Sunday was an adventure in muscle pain and stiffness.  My right leg repeatedly gave out beneath me if I stood the wrong way (but never enough to send me crashing to the ground).  Too much activity produced nausea on Sunday and Monday, and I'm sure it had to do with the amount of lactic acid and muscle breakdown that was going on.  It took 24 hours for my hydration to catch up - I was drinking, but not peeing until Sunday night.  Monday I went for a swim, and even that made me queasy, but the movement felt good, and reduced the stiffness in my legs.  The visit to the hot tub at the gym helped, too.

In retrospect, it still doesn't seem real.  It seems more like a really crappy, well supported, very crowded training day.  I think about the journey to the Ironman, and it seems like that is what the Ironman is all about.  I've met some really amazing, inspiring people, and watched their journey as well.

The journey to the Ironman is not an easy one.  For me it was a struggle to balance life, kids, marriage, work and training.  And the training load, even though exhausting and relentless at times didn't leave me feeling prepared for race day.  And sometimes I wasn't successful balancing everything.  But I learned a lot about myself in the process, and I learned a lot about the people around me.  I got a better perspective on some of the important things in life, and learned not to worry so much about the unimportant things.  I'm in better physical shape than I've ever been in my entire life, and my view on what a healthy person (specifically a healthy woman) looks like is substantially different.  At some point I had to start worrying more about eating enough calories, and stopped chasing a ridiculous number on a scale that only represented what society thinks is beautiful.  Today I am healthy, fit, and comfortable in my skin with the way I look.


The Ironman is about the journey, and who you find on the way, not the race itself.  The race is a celebration of your journey.


  1. Awesome RR Rachel! Congrats IRONMAN!

  2. Incredible! Congrats on the awesome finish!

  3. Great job, Rachel! Glad to hear you used the FLEXR remote bike kit ( and stayed hydrated the whole time! Sounds like quite the experience..

  4. The hugest base of wallpapers