Boulder – Ironman Texas


April 27th, 2017 by




STAGS

This year the Clarke family agreed that we’d pack up and head off Stateside for our first big trip of the year culminating with Ironman Texas. I just don’t know for how many more years I’ll be able to just cruise off the Boulder to prepare for a race. My son is not too far off starting school and you never know if or when the money will dry up. So we decided while we could, we would. I absolutely love it over there, in my eyes it’s the ultimate place to train. I find the perfect balance between happiness and hard work in Boulder + the altitude does a lot of the hard work for you anyway. So of my 4 trips to Boulder, I never failed to get in shape.

Brainard

There was an elephant in the room for this trip. Before I got on the flight I hadn’t run for 3 whole weeks, recovering from a stress reaction my doctor diagnosed in my hip. It’s the first time in my career I’ve had to manage something like this and I never really knew if or when I started back my hip would be truly ready to train again. However I did manage to get all the running done that Luc set me done during my 3 week Boulder trip, sometimes it wasn’t pretty and on some of those runs my body unbalanced and way out of whack, but in general the volume was fairly low and luckily it just about held up for me. I knew if I could make it through the running the week taper would help it recover the rest of the way and luckily it did.

Ironman Texas also hosts the North American Championships so it attracts a pretty strong field and offers decent prize money and points for qualifying for Ironman Hawaii. We stayed with a local family, Lisa and Ewan Evans who were kind enough to host my wife and my son as well. A massive thanks to them for putting up with us, they really made our trip.

When I first signed up for this one I had my heart set on going Sub 8hrs again and possibly a British record and I could see the days before that this was going to be a FAST! Especially with the forecast set to be overcast on race day. Lucky me… I think on a hot day it’d have been different. 

family Texas

After all the extra effort in swimming training recently, including getting up at 4am for Stretch Cords in the garden. I was super happy that I could keep up with the front lads in the swim. It’s something I was nervous about before the race because non-wetsuit swims are something I struggled with last year in Ironman racing. I think I lost 4mins both times last year and that’s not a good start to the day when you’ve got 180k and a marathon ahead of you.

It was a bit spread out once we finally got through transition and onto the bike. Starky took off like he always does but I think everyone knew trying to follow wasn’t an option. He was chasing bike course records again and after everything he’s been through. Read his story…we knew he wouldn’t be running properly at the end but fair play, amazing to see his comeback and incredible bike split. Anyway, after 10k we pretty much established ourselves and rode a steady pace for the first 90k.

I could see that the best bikers had lost around 6mins in the swim but still I was sure they’d make an appearance eventually. Around about 40k I made my first mistake of the race. I took one of my Etixx Bars from my bike and managed to pull two off at once. So I gobbled one of them and then tried to put the other in my pocket but right in front of the referee I lost grip on it and dropped it. Intentional littering is a 5mins penalty so I was spewing that he carded me for a blatant accident! I was having the perfect race so far so losing 5mins would completely end my day. When I got to the penalty tent I watched all my hard work undo itself as the others rode past me but fortunately the referee said he was only giving me 1min penalty and after 50secs he let me go once he realised that he was too harsh on me. I could just about see the other lads and I bombed it back up to them catching them back within 5k of riding. Definitely some matches burnt there…

running Texas

The bikers finally caught us at 100k into the bike and instantly the pace got much harder and this is when guys started falling off the back of the group. I went through a bit of a wobble around 120k and after 5k of pushing too hard I realised that if I carried on like this I wasn’t going to feature on the run, so I let about 12 guys disappear up the road and I ended up with a group of three athletes. Unfortunately I was the strongest guy in this threesome and the guys couldn’t contribute much so especially in the last 15k we lost quite a bit of time on the groups in front. This was my 2nd mistake of the day because in the end there was easily a minute or more which would have been very easy to recover.

What it did mean is that when I finally got onto the run, providing my legs were up for it, and my hip injury didn’t make an appearance. I was probably going to run through a lot of people, which is funny as it’s a whole marathon and longer than I ever train by quite a margin. I know from the very moment I put on my On Cloud Flows whether I’m going to run fast or whether I’m going to be creeping. It’s night and day for me. Well on this day, I felt great and I set off in pursuit of the podium! I saw the timing clock was on 5hr 15mins. I used my best maths to work out that gave me 2hr45 to get through transition which was quite long and get a marathon ticked off if I wanted to get under 8hr again.

When you get an Ironman right there is no better feeling, the first 20k didn’t really hurt me at all. I enjoyed it, soaked up the atmosphere on the course and enjoyed still being able to move fast after 6hrs of racing! I think I went through the first 10k in 35mins which is way too fast but I had already caught 6 guys by the end of the first lap. In an Ironman you can’t get more motivating then that! In these Professional races you have to remember that everyone can run a good first half of the marathon, That’s the easy bit and I tried to remind myself of that… It’s the 2nd half where the wheels really fall off so I consciously slowed it down to something a little more sustainable, took my time in the aid stations and focused on still being strong on the last lap.

Ronnie and I

The next guys were very tough to catch as by the last lap I was still on 2:38 pace but I was starting to get very sore in my quads. It’s not really surprising is it after 7hrs on the limit!? With 5k to go I passed Krill Kotsegarov and moved into 4th place but as soon as I did that I started to fade a lot. 1st and 2nd were out of the equation now but 3rd place Tyler Butterfield was just 30sec ahead and was hurting! However now I was paying for the 3 weeks of running that I missed and every time I pushed my quads locked up and mentally it was crazy challenging!

The whole last lap all nutrition was out of the window. I was back to backing Etixx Caffeine Energy Gels and chugging cups of coke and Isotonic at all the aid stations! I could see that Tyler was doing the same. I got the gap down to 15 seconds, which is agonisingly close but that was all I could physically close. As I ran up the finishing chute I could see that the timing clock was just about to tick over 7:59 so I became the first British person ever to go sub 8hrs twice. 

I’m super happy with my start to the season. It’s only April, this result payed for my whole trip (but that’s about it). Got me most of the way to qualifying for Kona again, and gave me confidence that I really belong among the top guys in Ironman. Thanks to everyone who supports me on my journey. My family, BMC Etixx P/B Uplace Team, On running, Luc Van Lierde and my friends. Congrats to everyone who finished, especially my competitors Matt, Ronnie and Tyler.

Texas podium