Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Ironman Texas Race Report

After two years of preparing and training, I finally reached my goal—I AM AN IRONMAN! My plan for the race was pretty simple: just finish before midnight, stay out of the medical tent, and keep a smile on my face the whole way. Here is my race report for Ironman Texas 2017.

I woke up at 4:00 a.m., ate breakfast, got dressed, grabbed my special-needs bags, and left the hotel with my husband/sherpa Dave. When we got to transition I started getting nervous, but I had no time for that because I had a lot of stuff to do. I went into transition to check on my bike and put my nutrition on it. I walked over to the Tri4Him area where my friends were and we prayed for a great race. I also saw my coach, who was racing too. At this point I had become pretty calm, very un-Julie-like. I made one last deposit in the porta-potty and as I was coming out I heard the cannon go off, which meant the pros were in the water. Ironman Texas 2017 had begun!

Swim (1:44:55)

The water was 78 degrees, so it was wetsuit-optional. This meant I could wear my wetsuit, but I would have to start in the last wave and I wouldn't qualify for any awards or a Kona slot.  So, to those of you who qualified for a Kona slot at IMTX, you’re welcome!

As soon as I got in the water I knew that wearing the wetsuit was the best decision for me. The water in Lake Woodlands was dark and murky, and I couldn't see my hands in front of me. The swim was rough, and I was hit, touched, slapped, and pulled many times. Think of it like WWE but in wetsuits instead of wrestling costumes. At one point, I got water splashed in my face and I started coughing, causing me to have a cramp in my right leg. So I decided to let my right leg just float, and I started kicking only with my left. I was happy when I finally made it to the canal. I could see people cheering us on, and I knew that I was in the home stretch.

When I got to the shore, the volunteers were awesome! They helped me out of the water, unzipped my wetsuit, and directed me to the wetsuit strippers. I yelled, “Who wants to strip me down?” That got a lot of cheers, and two men waved me over and took off my wetsuit. After that I saw my husband/sherpa, and I was over-the-moon excited to see him. He said I was ahead of schedule and doing great. Then I grabbed my bike gear bag and ran into the changing tent.

T1 (11:43)

I entered the changing tent and was happy to see my friend Marie, who was about to leave and start her bike ride. I was feeling a little dizzy and I had a headache, so I sat down. My other friend Mari was a T1 volunteer, and she made sure I didn't stay in the tent for long. She gave me some water and Gatorade and helped me get dressed and out the door. I had to make a stop at the porta-potty, and then I was off to get my bike. I also saw Dave and my friend Melanie there cheering me on. I waved and posed for a picture, and then rolled out for my long bike ride.

Bike (7:30:52)

As I approached the mount line I saw my friend Katie and her kids and my friends Jhopi and Daisy all cheering me on. It was so great to see familiar faces.

The bike was 112 miles, with 80 of them (two 40-mile loops) on the Hardy Toll Road. My plan was to take it easy getting out of The Woodlands until I got to the toll road, and I'm glad I did because little did I know that I was about to have my toughest bike ride to date.

When I got to the toll road I headed south, and it was glorious. According to my bike computer, my speed was 20-24 mph. I felt strong and was starting to regret wearing my wetsuit because I probably would have qualified for Kona. I saw my friend Thelma and we rode together for a while. It was nice talking to her and it made the time go by fast. As I was riding and feeling great I saw a beautiful sight—the downtown Houston skyline. That meant it was time to turn around and head back north, and that's when things got ugly fast.

We hit the mother of all headwinds! My pace immediately dropped to a crawl of 10-15 mph, and I lost Thelma. This was when I needed to dig deep and keep pushing forward. Not only did I have to fight the headwind, but I also had to climb overpasses that were totally exposed to the wind. I saw many people on the side of the road, some throwing up, some waiting for SAG, and some just resting their legs. But I kept going and made it to the north turnaround, which meant one thing—my special-needs bag was one mile away, and it had my Fritos in it!

At special needs I ran into my friend Audrey. We started riding together and took advantage of the tailwind. We rode fast back toward downtown, and then we got to the turnaround again and that nasty headwind. I kept pushing and told Audrey that I wanted to stop at the next rest stop to get some pickles. She didn't answer and I looked back and she was gone. So I stopped by myself, got my pickles, and then pushed on and finished my ride. I was slower than I expected, but I was glad just to finish. As I entered the dismount area, I heard my name and saw my friends Melanie and Kathy, who were there to cheer me in. I was so happy to see them and tell them about the suckfest I had just endured!

T2 (13:37)

I got off my bike and gave it to a volunteer to rack. Yes, for Ironman you don’t have to rack your own bike. It was so luxurious! Even better, I knew that the Cycle Chauffeur (Kevin Russell) would get my bike later that night, so I wouldn’t have to deal with it after the race and I could wait and pick it up the next morning. I highly recommend the Cycle Chauffeur!

I took off my bike shoes, and it felt wonderful to be on my feet. I then walked like a baby with bad case of diaper rash to get my run gear bag. I entered the changing tent, and this was where modesty went out the window. After a lot of back and forth on what to wear for the run, I decided to fully change into my running clothes. I apologized to the very nice volunteer for what she was about to witness. Down went my shorts, and I stood there naked and afraid and in full view of the spectators who were walking by. I quickly got dressed and headed out for the run. The first people I saw were my friends Melanie and Kathy, so I went over to hug them and I was on my way. 

Run (6:08:01)

The run was 26.2 miles (a full marathon) in 3 loops. I was excited to be off the bike saddle and on my feet. As I started my "walkathon" I was happy to finally see my family. I gave Dave and the kids a big hug. I loved their posters—especially the one my niece Victoria made featuring Matthew McConaughey! I asked Dave how I was doing on time and he said I was great, so off I went.

I started the run with intervals of running for 4 minutes and walking for 1. My nutrition for the whole race had been on point until now. I started to feel nauseous and didn't want to eat anything for fear that I might throw up, so I decided to just drink water until my stomach settled. My intervals also changed from 4:1's to lord knows what. I ran around Lake Woodlands, along a trail, and into a fancy neighborhood. I saw many of my friends along the course and that was very helpful since my body was getting tired and seeing them got me pumped up again.

I continued to run/walk, and by the time I knew it I was starting my last loop. By now it was dark, and the temperature was dropping. I saw my family once again, and Dave said that my time was great and that I could walk the rest of the way and still make it. He then looked at me and said you’re about to be an Ironman. That's when it hit me. I was really going to do this.

I started to run. On my last loop, I saw so many people who had trained with me and supported me, and I even saw a Pikachu (my friend Rosie), and it was awesome. Then I finally saw the arrow pointing toward the finish. My Pearland Area Road Runner friends Kelly and Richard found me and helped lead the way as I turned the corner and saw the lights. I heard people calling my name. I gave high fives and lots of hugs, and I kept going with tears in my eyes. Then I was in the finishers chute. I saw my family once again, and I kissed Dave and the kids. The lights were bright and the red carpet was beautiful. At last, I heard the voice of Ironman, Mike Reilly, say the words I'd been wanting to hear for so long: “Julissa Schultz, you are an IRONMAN!”

Total time: 15:49:08

Monday, November 23, 2015

Ragnar Hill Country

Back in August, I got a text from a friend asking if I’d join their team of eight in October to run the Ragnar Trail Relay. My first thought was that she had the wrong number because this team wasn’t just runners, they were fast runners. On a good day my pace is 10:00, and they run like 7:00 or something crazy like that. I replied by telling her that I was not that fast, but she said that pace doesn’t matter and they were looking for fun peeps to hang out with. Then I thought, hey, I am fun to be around, so with that I accepted and joined the team. 

I was both excited and scared. Not only was I running with new people, but Ragnar is a trail run and camping was involved—both of which I’ve never done. Here‘s a description of the run from the Ragnar website:

Teams of 8 or 4 will conquer a series of three loops while taking in the natural scenic beauty of the surrounding area. The runner friendly single-track winds through groves of Texas Live Oak, over classic Hill Country limestone shelves, around granite boulders, prickly pear cactus, and yucca plants on its way to the ridgelines that look back onto Ragnar Village and the rolling Hill Country. This is classic Hill Country and some of the best trail running you will find in the Lone Star State.

Our team, called Team Pearadise, went on a nighttime practice run at the Memorial Park trails. The run was great, and we discovered lots of critters, like roaches, spiders, an owl, and a snake. Oh my! I quickly learned that my regular running shoes were not going to cut it and I needed some trail running shoes. If you ever plan on doing a trail run, here are a few things you’ll need:

Trail running shoes
Hydration pack (like a Camelbak)
Gaiters, to keep debris from entering your shoes (like these: https://dirtygirlgaiters.com/)

When race weekend arrived in October, so did the weather. Hurricane Patricia was hitting Mexico, and we were getting the dirty side of the storm, meaning LOTS of rain for us. It rained the whole drive to Comfort, Texas. Luckily, we had time to stop by Starbucks for some coffee and Buccee's for some snacks.
Once we arrived and the rained stopped, we set up camp, checked in, and grabbed some lunch. There are three loops we were supposed to run. The green loop was 3 miles and was considered the easiest of the three. The yellow loop was 5 miles and the red loop was 7.7, and these were labeled as the hard ones. Here is what they looked like.
 I was running the fourth leg of our relay team, and my first loop was called Creekside Trail (the green one). The run was a bit hilly, but not too bad. I kept my pace slow since my ankle rolled a couple of times. I was also alone for some of the run, which made me nervous. They had clear markers to tell you where to go, but at one point I didn’t see anyone at all. Then I heard someone from behind and thought, great, I’m not lost. I turned around and saw this guy with full-on Viking makeup who scared the crap out of me! Turned out that Viking man was a cool dude from east Texas, and he ran with me for the rest of the trail. At the finish, our team’s next runner was waiting at transition. I gave her my bracelet and she took off.

My next run wasn’t scheduled until after midnight, so I had a lot of time to hang out at our home base and explore the campgrounds. It was nice taking a break and getting to hang with my team. 
As midnight came, it was time to prepare to run my second leg (7.7 miles) called Buckeye Canyon—the red leg and the hard one. But I was lucky that our team volunteer, who we called MacGyver Mike, agreed to run with me. Since we were running at night, we had to wear our headlamps. 
The Ragnar website didn’t lie when it said this trail was hard. Not only were we running in the dark, on hilly, mostly one-lane trails, but it also started to rain, which made it muddy and slippery. We did pretty well for the first 3 miles, but then after lots of ankle turns and slipping and sliding, we decided to make the rest of the run a walk. It took us 2:23 to complete the trail, but we made the best of it and more importantly we came out with nothing broken!

So I came back to our base camp thinking I was going to sleep, but that wasn’t happening. The rain and wind started coming down hard. It was blinding, and at one point we had to hold our canopy down. The temperature also was dropping, so we lowered our canopy, lit a lantern, broke out our emergency blankets, and hunkered down.   

The next morning, it was time for me to run my last leg of the race. The raid had slowed to a light mist, so I put on a poncho on and hit the trail. Note to self: NEVER run with a poncho! It was not only making me hot but also sloshing around and making it hard to hear runners who were trying to pass me. I eventually took it off and put it in my backpack. This trail was 5 miles, and it was called Pipeline Hill Trail. It was very hilly and slippery, but the nice thing was that I was able to enjoy the scenery. I even ran into some cows!

To sum up, even with the hurricane-like storm, we had a great time at the Ragnar Trail Run. The trails were clearly marked so you wouldn’t get lost. And even if you did, there’s an app for that—Ragnar has an app you can download that will alert your teammates if you get lost (thankfully, we didn’t have to use it). And speaking of teammates, remember how I mentioned earlier that I was nervous running with these guys? Well, I made some new friends on our awesome adventure. We were there to have fun, and fun is what we had.

Workout song of the week:  Somethin’ Bad, Miranda Lambert with Carrie Underwood

Inspiration quote of the week:  If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together.—African Proverb

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Mammoth Lake Race Report — October 3, 2015

I had 5 major goals going into this triathlon.

SWIM:  Have a steady and strong swim, don’t stop at every buoy unless I have to pee, and if I panic, remind myself that it will pass and keep going.
BIKE:  Try not to go under 17 mph, and shift down to a low gear toward the end of the bike to save my legs for the run.
RUN:  Only stop at the water stations.
TRANSITIONS:  All business—no talking to volunteers and other athletes. Go in, get my crap, and get out. That’s it!
TIME:  Beat my time from my first Olympic at Kemah, which was 3:50:54.

Race morning cold and uneventful. I arrived early and had my transition set up an hour before the start. This was great because it allowed me time to talk to other athletes, take pictures, drink my prerace beverage, and go to the restroom. 

My wave was set to start at 7:15 with a time-trial start, where the athletes jump in the water at 2-3 second intervals. This is nice because you’re not jumping in the water with a big group of people all at the same time. As I made my way over to the swim start, I began to get nervous. I did have time to take a picture right before I went down the dock.

As I walked up to the timing mat, I saw the athletes before me diving in. I wish I knew how to dive. I started thinking, Should I dive in even though I don’t know how? What happens if I belly flop? By the time I knew it, I was up. I heard “1,2,3, go” and I jumped in feet first. Boring, I know. Note to self: learn how to dive!

The water was warm, and even clean and clear. I could see my hands under the surface! So I started swimming and felt good. I saw the first buoy and realized that I’m not panicking, so I keep going. We were swimming toward the sun, so it was hard to sight. As I nearing the swim finish, BOOM, I got kicked hard in the chest by a lady doing the breast stroke. I started to dog-paddle for a bit to catch my breath and then I finished the swim. I got out of the water and looked down at my Garmin to check my time. I never turned it on! Crap, crap, crap!!! Here’s a picture of what it looks like when you realize you forgot to turn on your Garmin.
Swim Time: 47:08

As I ran into T1, I saw my friends, gave them high-fives, and kept going. Remember, my transitions were all business for this race. I hydrate, dried off, and put on my shoes, helmet, and sunglasses. Then I decided to stuff a whole bar in mouth, thinking it was the right thing to do before my long ride. Big mistake. I’ll tell you why later.
T1 Time: 4:06

The bike is my favorite part of the tri, so I’m always excited to start pedaling. The bike route was 2 loops out and back with a 50-foot bridge that we had to cross 4 times. My ride was great overall, and I felt strong with my pace where I wanted it to be. But after I finished the first loop, my stomach started acting funky. Then I remembered that damn bar I stuffed in my face during T.  It was just sitting in my stomach and causing a burning sensation. I started to drink water hoping that it would pass, but it didn’t. So my plan was to push through, and hopefully when I was off the bike and upright I’d feel better.  As I was coming toward the end of the route, I lowered my gears to loosen my legs for the run, just like I planned.
Bike Time: 1:26:45

I got off my bike, rolled it into transition, and racked it. My stomach was not doing well.  I made a mental note to put some Rolaids in my tri bag. I removed my glasses, helmet, and shoes and put on my running gear. I drank some more water and left T2. Again, all business.
T2 Time: 1:57

You know that feeling when you have to pass gas but you can’t? That’s how I felt for the entire run. At that point, my goal of only stopping at the water stations was not going to happen. So I started with 4:1 intervals and kept going. I stopped at a porta potty to try to take care of business but had no luck. Since my Garmin wasn’t working I didn’t know what my time was, and at that point I just wanted to finish. 

One of the nice things about the whole race was that, even though I wasn’t feeling great, I was grateful to still be racing. As I ran along I saw lots of my friends who’d already finished cheering me on. I also made some new friends who were struggling like me. I don’t remember their names, but they made those last 3 miles not seem so bad. As I neared the end I saw my family, and my son Gus and good friend Melanie ran with me across the finish line.
Run Time: 1:14

Overall this was an awesome race and a great way to end my 2015 tri season. I’ve made significant improvements in all my times, and I’m happy with that. 
Total Time: 3:34:42

Next tri up: Ironman 70.3 Texas in Galveston in April!

Workout song of the week:  Till I Collapse, Eminem

Inspirational quote of the week:  "Sometimes we're tested.  Not to show our weakness, but to discover our strengths."--Unknown