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