June 9, 2016
By Christine Anderson
I headed into Ironman Texas with relatively low expectations. Leading into the race my training had gone well. My run splits were faster than I’ve ever run, but I still wasn’t sure how my body would react to racing an Ironman, specifically since I was still nursing my 9 month son Anders.
We started the race a little earlier than usual at 6:30am. I lined myself up accordingly in the front row, noticing many were positioning themselves directly behind me. I knew there were some fast swimmers in the field so this surprised me. As the gun went off, I shot in front to some clean water. I noticed some other women to my right out-swimming me as they began to create a gap. I continued on with my pace, feeling the hand taps on my feet of the girls behind me. I was now leading the chase pack, I pushed through several surges in an effort to catch the front swimmers unsuccessfully. After we rounded a few more buoys a girl came around and passed me, I tried to stick with her, but after a few minutes I was unable to hold her pace. This was a new experience for me, typically if there are feet in my field of vision I can easily catch up to latch on. I surged several more times remaining the same distance back before we hit the halfway mark. I decided to settle into my own pace, forgoing the surges. This proved successful as I stayed equidistant from the ladies ahead and I even caught 1 towards the end of the swim rounding the last buoy. Turns out I still swam my standard 55.0 minute IM swim which I saw as I exited the water. As I ran through transition I heard the announcement that Lauren Brandon had the fastest swim even compared to the men, she was already 6 minutes up the road. Now this clicked of why everyone was swimming so hard trying to catch her and potentially burning too much fuel during the first discipline.
I hopped on my bike and immediately settled into my pace, per my coach’s instructions I maintain lower average watts during the first hour of an Ironman. This prevents an upset tummy on the run and burning my legs too early. After the first hour I started picking up the pace slowly raising my overall average watts by about 1 watt per hour. The course was flat, but oh the turns. There were over 90 turns throughout the 95 miles, we weaved under highways and along country roads, it seemed we zigzagged all over theWoodlands as the heat began to rise. Per usual, the faster amateur men began catching me at the halfway mark. I was very careful to ease up, stop pedaling and even brake in some cases as they passed following the rules to a T. I was setting myself up for a solid race and was unwilling to jeopardize it due to different draft rules between pros and amateurs. There were several position changes throughout the bike, I caught a few ladies along the way. Although not as many as expected, most of the big names were still behind me, I had a feeling some were over-biking up front.
This was a PR for IM watt average for me, although after reviewing the file my coach thinks I could have gone about 5 minutes faster because my watts continued to increase even at the end. Something to shoot for next go-around. I was also being cautious due to the heat, it was close to 100° as I entered transition 2 in 9th place.
I quickly changed with help from the wonderful volunteers in the change tent. I began my run seeing some familiar faces from Boulder cheering me on. My first of three loops went well. I was holding under my goal pace of 7 min/miles and caught a few more of the girls in front. I rounded the first loop in 6th place feeling good, it was super hot but I was managing well with help from the fully prepared aid stations with cold water, sponges and ice. (the 1st loop is always the best with few out on the course)
At the first out-and-back during loop 2 I saw the fast little runner girls coming up behind me; Robertson, Roberts (my teammate!) and Williamson. They came up on me pretty quick and as much as I tried, their pace was simply much faster than mine, so I watched them go by. This was discouraging dropping back to 9th again but I pressed on.
The final loop I was reminded of the IM pain, it was hot, my legs were tired, aid stations were packed and we still had 8 miles to go. My pace slowed, as expected, but my goal was to slow less than others. To my surprise I continued to catch more of the pro women who were struggling more than me. I tried during the last several miles to close the gap on Alicia Kaye who was just several minutes up on me, I was making up time but simply ran out of course. I finished off in 6th place in a competitive field which I’m proud of, it was the North American Championships after all. But not before making a fool of myself. During the last mile we wind around the downtown area and as I made the final turn I saw a finishers arch and sprinted towards it, thinking it arose quicker than expected. After passing under I stopped, leaned against the barrier, satisfied with my race. After about 30 seconds I looked up to see my husband on the sidelines yelling at me to keep going. I still had another 100 yards or so to the finish line around the corner. I quickly ran again to the real finish line where I met up with my family and celebrated my first Ironman post-birth.
On days like this it pays to be towards the front of the race. While the temperatures exceeded triple digits during my run, about an hour after I finished one of the nastiest storms rolled in. We were in the Pro finish line tent when it began down pouring, hailing, thundering, and lightning with crazy gusts of wind. We ended up making a run for it to our hotel soaked to the bone and shivering.
I later found out they “paused” the race, which was a wise decision because we saw many barriers (including the finish line turns I almost missed) all blown in disarray. Soon enough the storm let up and per tradition we came back to watch the final finishers as a family.
Anders enjoyed his 2nd podium with mom
Sidenote for nursing mom’s out there; I was particularly happy how my body adapted throughout the day. I missed 3 feedings in a row which would usually leave me over-full. Fortunately during an Ironman my body shuts down enough that I must have stopped producing milk somewhere along the run. I had no issues with pain during the race or production post race. The human body is quite amazing!