By Josh Rosenberg – A little background on me. I’m probably not your typical Ironman triathlete. I’m there to finish. A tee shirt and a medal – that’s the hope. Seeing the finish line before midnight – it’s a win! I think I’ve always kept my aspirations lofty in that, in the real world, people think doing an Ironman is insane. In the Ironman world, people hear 16+ hours and you’re immediately dismissed from the conversation.
After moving to Austin 3 years ago, I set out to conquer Ironman Texas this year. Having a 3 year old son, I knew that if I signed up for an Ironman (always a year in advance), my wife would inevitably get pregnant. As Murphy’s law would have it, that’s exactly what happened and we had a beautiful daughter born 4 weeks and before the race. This was going to be interesting – doing and Ironman is tough, but doing an Ironman on no sleep? It’s more like the suburban family version of Navy Seal training.
This would be my 4th Ironman. My last one was Ironman Australia 4 years ago. Let’s just say that race didn’t go so well (a topic for another blog post). So this was really going to be my shot at redemption – and with a newborn on the way, I knew I would only get one shot. As usual, I followed the Beginner Triathlete training plan. Much to my dismay, I was actually able to do most of the workouts. It was definitely tough to shimmy them into my schedule, but my very understanding wife made it possible. I got in shape, lost a little (not nearly enough) weight and was feeling decent. Not great, but OK.
The difference for me with this race was that I really put no pressure on myself. Not that I didn’t care what happened, but if I happened to DNF (Do Not Finish), life would go on. The day before the race, I went out with the thousands of other triathletes to check the water on the swim. I thought it was going to be a nice peaceful lake experience. It wasn’t. But the good news was that the water was cool and for the first time in race history, it was completely wetsuit legal and there was no 10 minute penalty assessed for wearing a wetsuit. When you swim like a brick as I do, those extra 10 minutes help a lot!
Race day finally came. We were blessed by the weather. This particular Ironman is rated so difficult not because of the course, but because of the oppressive Houston heat. It was hot out, but not nearly as hot as it could have been. The swim came and went and despite having my worst swim split of my Iron races (all were within 6 minutes of each other), I was so happy to be through the swim well under the cutoff that I just started attacking the bike. I was hoping to be off the bike by 5 PM. I ended up getting off the bike at 3:35. I started running and I was feeling good. But I’ve been there before in prior races. I’m a tall, heavier guy and I sweat – a lot. It is amazing how we get wiser as we get older. On my second Ironman at Lake Placid, I learned that I could walk metronomic 15 minute miles. After 5 miles of good running, I realized my heart rate was getting up there – way up there. Even though I felt good then, I knew if I kept going I would have serious problems at the end of the race. So I made the call to dial it back and start walking out those 15 minute miles – at least until the sun went down. The strategy worked flawlessly. I felt good enough to start running as the day cooled off a bit, but I figured why mess with a good thing? Who am I trying to impress by going faster? Tee shirt and a medal – that’s the mantra. I finished the race in 15:15 which is almost an hour better than my prior PR. Amazing how with a little perspective and wisdom, things often go a lot better.
Here are some things I learned from this race that you might want to read.
1 – IM signed a deal with Bonk Breakers. After having a ton of their bars, I’ve decided that they actually are really good and I like them way better than Cliff bars. The good news is that they hand them out on every bike aid station (about every 10 miles). So you don’t need to pack a ton of them. But I would ditch whatever you’re using now and make the switch so you get used to training with them.
2 – Same thing for GU Chomps. I happen to love them and now even like them better than shot blocks. But they’re handing them out on the course so it’s also a good thing to train with.
3 – Skratch – in my opinion, new product of the year. Not sure what you’re drinking on your rides but make the switch. Tons of electrolytes. No sweet taste. No stomach problems. It’s awesome and they sell individual packets that are good for race day.
4 – Running shoes are made for running – not walking. Remember this when you’re getting blisters drained for weeks on end after the race.
Josh Rosenberg is a businessman, entrepreneur and lawyer who doesn’t sweat the small stuff. He’s the quintessential age grouper who has completed some of the sport’s most challenging IM-distance races: Ironman Canada, Ironman Lake Placid, Ironman Australia, and now Ironman Texas. He lives in Austin, Texas with his wife Kendra and their two children, Kaleb and Arielle. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.