Heading into the race, I had 2 goals:
1- Land in Houston and say – Houston we have landed. This was easy as Houston was the nearest airport to Galveston where the race was supposed to take place 😀
2- Try and go sub 5:15 on this course if the wind is my favor. If not, then aim for a 5:30.
Short Summary :
Unofficial Garmin : 5:30:08
Leading up to the race : My bike fitness wasn’t where I wanted it to be. For some reason I’ve been stuck at a plateau for a pretty long time. I took some time off this winter from the swim to focus on the bike, but it never really worked out. I did not really focus on the run, but it got somehow got better without putting in too much effort . Sometimes things just don’t go as planned.
The weather forecast was terrible going into the race.The forecast predicted thunderstorms. Ironman usually cancels the swim if it’s a thunderstorm or might shorten the race ( it’s their call) , add to it Galveston is a notoriously windy course which makes matters worse .I had my fingers crossed the entire time. The wind in Galveston can make your day or destroy you on the bike leg depending on the wind direction. It’s pretty much an Island and you’re riding right next to the ocean, so if you get a crosswind or a wind gust around 30-40km/hour , it makes staying in the aero position a bit tricky .By some miracle the forecast changed a night before , but instead of the having thunderstorms the entire day, thunderstorms was expected to hit around 12 in the afternoon. This gave me hope, that at least the race wasn’t going to be cancelled ( little did I know !) .
The race kicked off at 7:00 AM with the pros and the age groupers followed every 4-5 minutes. I was in the 7:28 AM wave. The moment I jumped into the water, the first thing I did was to empty out my bladder. The wetsuit felt warm now lol.
The swim was pretty uneventful for the majority of the part. We had some chop the last km or so which was sort of annoying , but it’s an open water swim, it’s never going to have perfect conditions. I tried to empty my bladder 1 more time before I exited the swim, but wasn’t able to.
Transition 1: The moment I was out of the water , I started to unzip my wetsuit and take my sleeves off. Ran towards the latter half of the volunteers and had them strip the wetsuit off me. While I was on the ground and they were yanking of the wetsuit , I somehow got a cramp on my right calf. It was painful but there wasn’t much I could do besides whine in pain . The volunteer held onto my foot and she seemed to know what she was doing. She dorsiflexed my foot and held in that position for about 10 seconds. I was able to shake it off and head towards the bike. I got my helmet on , somehow broke my visor, decided not to worry about it of I was riding my bike.
Bike : The bike course is 45 km out and 45 km back. Before I settled down on the bike I had a UCAN bar to get in some calories and then tucked myself into an aero position and started to get to work. I looked at my garmin and realized I was holding 33-34km/hr easy and I was slightly I was still below my target wattage. I intended to negative split the bike and I wanted to be conservative in case there was a headwind or wind changed directions. I’ve heard tales where you get a headwind on your way back and it just ruins your perfect bike split. The wind picks up as the day progresses. I reached the 45km mark in 1:20 which meant I was on pace for a 2:40 bike ( ~33.75km/hr) split if I held the same watts on my way back, maybe a 2:35 if I decided to drop the hammer . I just have terrible luck when it comes to races. Flat tires, breaking my arm leading up to a race , falling sick 2 weeks before the race, falling of the bike and breaking the front wheel 30 min before the race starts ??. For some reason , something or the other just goes wrong. This race seemed to be going perfect so far.I’m having an amazing bike so far !! The weather was good so far, it wasn’t scorching hot, no mishaps prior to the race, no rain yet ! . The moment I hit the turn around I started to push out more watts but my speed was around 28-29 km/kh. I was now facing the famous headwinds on the Galveston course.:( They were moments I pushed out over 200 watts and I barely went over 30km/hr. I decided it wasn’t worth pushing hard on the bike because the wind wasn’t in my favor, I’d rather be conservative than risk blowing up on the run just to shave off 2-3 minutes on the bike. I had the urge to take a piss , but I can only pee on the bike if I’m going downhill and not pedaling. I haven’t mastered the art of peeing in my shorts while pedaling. The remainder 45km took me 1:34. So I was 14 min slower in the second half of the bike even though I pushed out a higher wattage. It just goes to show how the wind can affect your bike split. My planned 2:40 bike split ended up as a 2:54 bike split.
Transition 2: Came of the bike , got my run shoes on , wore my running bib and headed out. I’ve never taken a piss in my shorts when running. That is something I just refuse to do (I’m fine doing it on the swim and bike) but I just cannot pee in my shorts when running. I somehow can’t convince myself to do it. I finally went behind a bush and emptied out my bladder(The porta-potty had a line , I wasn’t willing to wait)
Fun fact : I never did a single brick workout leading up to the race. I know I can run of the bike. The first 2 miles were painful as always and my glutes were stiff. I felt like I was walking , but my garmin said I was holding 5:20-5:30/km. I just continued to run trying to ignore the pain in my glutes. 3-4 km in I found my running legs. I was able to hold 5:00-5:15/km without too much discomfort. The plan was to hold this pace till 10k and then start to push the pace. The run course is a 3 loop course. I’m a relatively better runner than a cyclist. So I passed quite a few of the folks who had passed me on the bike. It’s a good feeling when you reel people in on the run or you see them walking because they went out too hard on the bike. It’s taken me a few races and I’ve learnt it the hard way, that if you push the bike too much , you gain 3-4 minutes on the bike leg. But if you walk a half marathon because you went hard on the bike, you’re losing anywhere from 15-20 minutes or maybe more.
My goal was to build into zone 3 and then go balls out the last 5k. As far as nutrition went, I had a couple of gels and I then relied on flat coke from the aid stations. Now I don’t recommend having coke on a regular basis, but on race day you need sugar and coke is amazing way to get some calories in. It had started to rain when I was around the 12 or the 14km mark. It didn’t really bother me, I was in my zone, digging deep, pushing zone 3 HR.
But the rain kept getting worse and the winds started to pick up. By the time I was around the 18km mark I was in my pain cave, I was pushing zone 4 HR and I was dropping my pace to 4:45/km, butI was struggling to keep my eyes open and the rain felt like ice pellets. I later got to know that wind gusts were somewhere around 40 mph.
I had a feeling during the last 5k – this is real bad and they might shorten/cancel the race. I was also on track for a 13 minute personal best and I had a legit shot at going sub 5:30 in the half iron distance. I crossed the 18.2 km timing chip at 12:43PM. I had about 3 more km to go. At my pace it would have taken me another 12-14 minutes or so to cover the last 3 km or so. But as luck would have it , when I reached the finish line I did not a see a clock on top and instead I had a volunteer ushering everyone to shelter. I asked where is the finish ?, the volunteer responded frantically – the race has been cancelled and asked us to seek shelter. I later got to know that they officially stopped the race at 12:53 PM. I was at the 18.2 km at 12 43. Assuming it would take more 14 more minutes to complete 3 km, they cancelled the race when I was about 2 minutes away from the finish line or about 500-600m away ? There goes my perfect race ! I don’t have an official finish time because of them cancelling the race. I know it’s only a matter of time before everything comes together and I have a good race. Bad luck streak will run out eventually 🙂
After we took shelter at one of the buildings it took me forever to get a hold of my wife. I was just dazed and confused after the race and I used someones phone and told her I’m at the hotel lobby when in fact I was in another building . Add in network issues , chaos and confusion and waiting for the storm to subside it took me about 2 hours to get in touch with her. She was drenched as well. But I can’t thank her enough for putting up with all this. Getting up at 3:30 Am on race day, waiting for 5-6 hours for me to get done and then getting drenched looking for me after I give her a wrong address. At the end of it , I unofficially had a personal best. My garmin had me at 5:30:08. I was on pace for a sub 1:45 half marathon in a half Ironman . But unfortunately I did not cross the finish line according to Ironman because their clock got blown away in the storm( literally). Ironman later offered us a $100 dollar discount if we decide to sign up for another race. I haven’t decided which one should I sign up for.
Overall I would race this course again if I had a chance, I enjoyed the food in Galveston and I visited the Johnson Space center . Galveston is about an hour away from Houston. I always wanted to fly to Houston , just so I can say Houston , we have landed ! lol.
My next race is going to the Rock n Roll San Diego half marathon and my goal is to go sub 1:35 which is an average pace of 4:30/km.
I hope you all enjoyed reading this. It truly has been a remarkable journey. From a chain smoker who struggled to run a 5k to where I am today. If anyone of you guys reading this have questions or are confused on where to start when it comes to triathlons or if you’re looking to sign up for your first 5k, feel free to reach out to me.