Ironman 70.3 Buffalo Springs is said to be one of the harder races on the Ironman 70.3 schedule. I had heard this from my friends at the TriShop who had done the race a couple of times each. It was on my mind even before I left for Ironman 70.3 California in March. I told myself that if I finished IM 70.3 California that I would go to Buffalo Springs since it’s only a 5 hour drive from my home in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Well I finished in California and registered for Buffalo Springs a few days after getting home from CA.
After my registration was confirmed I began to put together my plan. My training plan, my nutrition plan, all of it. Including my goals for the race. I committed to doubling down on my focus on the training plan and to try to be more nutritionally sound going into Buffalo Springs with the goal of finishing in under 7 hours (45 Minute Swim, 3:15 Bike, 2:30 Run, 15 Minutes in Transitions), which for most of my triathlon friends is fairly slow, but for the rest of us mortals, is a pretty lofty goal. I would not miss a training session for this race, I am proud to say. Training for these kinds of events is fairly unforgiving regardless of how much time you have to spare. You can’t simply “make it up tomorrow”. If you miss a training session, there is another one tomorrow and your rest day is as important as any of your training sessions is for recovery. I got an additional boost of motivation knowing that my kids would get to finally get to see me race an “A” race. They would get to see me finish a 70.3 race as would my dad who flew in from New York to Dallas to make the trip with us.
Buffalo Springs Race Recap…
I went for a quick spin and bike with my friend Don that I met at TriShop on Saturday after the rain went through. The water was perfect. It was 74 degrees and being spring fed, it was clean and felt great. I was in the last wave of the day, which I am starting not to like so much because of the wait involved. I had been in the last wave in California for 70.3, at CapTex in Austin and now in Lubbock at Buffalo Springs. It’s the waiting around that gets to me. I do like one thing about it. I like chasing people down in the water. It also helps with sighting that next buoy which, if not done correctly can add unwanted time and distance to your race. I had some goggle issues in the water. They were leaking a bit, but being that the water was fairly clean, there was no burn or anything. Just annoying mostly. I did flip over on my back and make a couple of adjustments in the water at around 600 meters into the swim to get the water out and to seal them up a bit better. It worked and I was leak free for the rest of the swim. I swam the 1.2 miles in 47:04, slightly slower than my goal time of 45 minutes, but still on track for the overall goal. I could chew off that extra 2:04 with a decent transition to the bike.
T1 (Swim-to Bike)
My T1 was 4:59 which was right on track for my goal of having no more than 15 minutes in transitions for the day. I got my bike gear together, made sure that I had my nutrition for the bike (which is critical for a successful run), and I headed out on the course. I got to see my Dad and Allie going out on the bike. Austin was “mountain climbing” as he later told me. Seeing them was a great feeling. Lots of love coming my way as I spun out. I was feeling great and right on track for the 7 hour goal.
As I mentioned, Don and I went for a little spin on the bike on Saturday. We rode the first 5 miles out and back. We did so to make sure the bike was dialed in, to check out the quality of the roads and to get a taste for the hills we had read all about. Well, the roads at parts of the race including around the lake, were rough. So rough that Don and I agreed that it would be pretty beneficial to take a few pounds of pressure out of the tires to absorb some of the vibration. I like to spin out at a pretty high cadence to get the blood flowing to my legs coming out of transition. The legs are usually not ready to go to work at 100% as soon as you get on the bike. On this course they have to be. Within a tenth of a mile out of transition, you get your first climb. It’s not that long of a climb, but it’s a pretty healthy grade. After the first hill was over, I looked down at my Garmin 910 and it wasn’t working. What a nightmare, I thought. Luckily, I had my Bike Computer (Garmin 510) to use on the bike, but I had to have the Garmin 910 on my wrist for the run if I wanted to race myself to sub 7 hours, which was still the plan. I spent a few minutes jacking around with it without turning it off so that I could try to preserve whatever data it had for me. Nothing worked so I “rebooted” the thing. That worked and I started it up from the bike split in Multisport mode and got going again focused on my race.
The hills roll through the first thirteen miles or so, then I get the first big climb. This hill goes on for a little less than a mile and has about 200 feet of elevation to it. The course has rolling hills for the next five miles, then a big decent has I get into another climb on the other end. What goes down must come up I suppose. This climb is about four miles long and I covered about 250 feet of elevation with it. I get to the top, flatten out for a couple of miles, then I have the decent. I’m at mile thirty-five or so, then I face what I am calling a wall. It’s three miles long or so, but it’s a winding climb of more than 250 feet. It’s hot, it’s humid and my legs hate me, but I just look down and keep pedaling. I’m cruising at around six miles per hour, but I am pedaling dammit! I get to the top, say my thanks and keep riding. There are a few more rollers going back into the park, then the last climb with a decent into transition. After 3:20:07 and 56 miles, I was back in transition. I get the bike racked and take off the bike gear. I am four hours and twelve minutes into the race, on track for my goal of seven hours.
I have not written about this before but I have a pretty bad left foot. I lost half of my big toe and the toe closest to the pinky toe on that foot as a child when my foot got sucked into an escalator. Yes…. it really happens. It isn’t an urban legend and if I ever catch your kid playing on an escalator, I will horrify them with the sight of what can happen to them when playing on an escalator. I was 3 years old. I wasn’t playing. My shoe was untied and it grabbed the lace. Anyhow, I digress. My injury makes running difficult. Shoes are off my 2 sizes. Toes don’t have fatty tissue on them so it’s skin and bones. Stuff hurts. You Embrace the Suck as the MX12 team says, and you keep on moving. With that said, there are things I have to deal with in T2 that I wish I didn’t. I have to wear these special toe caps that provide me with some cushioning around the toes that need it and I have to wrap the arch of my foot and wear socks to add some protection from rubbing that causes some of the biggest blisters in the history of blister creation. This makes for longer T2 times, but it was factored into my race plan. With all that extra work in T2, including a short bio-stop for #1, I was out of T2 in 7:13. On the way out of T2, I see the whole family. The kids are there holding signs. Dad is there popping pictures. It was great to be showered with encouragement and love. My goal was in sight. All I have to do is run the 13.1 miles in 2:40 and I am there.
I felt good going into the run. I had followed my nutrition plan on the bike. I felt fueled enough for the run. I just needed to run a 2:40 half-marathon and I was home. I could do this. “Just trust your training and your plan and go”, I told myself. Twelve minute miles. I did the math in my head. I took the first mile fairly easily. I wanted to get the run legs on, as I call it. You engage much different muscles for the run and regardless of everything I do on the bike to try to engage those, it’s still different. I felt good through mile 2. It was hot and humid, but I was fine. I had taken in what my nutrition plan said to take in. All the water, salt caps, gels, bars, etc. After mile three, I wanted to try to pick up my pace. I had cleared the hill out of the park and on to FM 835. I didn’t charge any of the hills in the park at all. I knew better because I was going to need to stay steady to be able to reach my goal. I kept my run cadence up those hills, knowing it was costing me pace and time, but I can make that up on the flat energy lab that was coming at FM 3020. Coming out of the park you get a decent and it’s a pretty significant decent. Regardless of what you might think, running downhill is harder than running up hill. Gravity works against you more and the bigger you are, the more of a challenge it is. I keep myself under control down that hill, hit the aid station at the bottom for some water to pop my supplements with, and head through the only shade outside the park to the other side, which is the last hill before FM3020 (Energy Lab). I look at the Garmin and I am ok on time. I am still chewing against my goal though, so I need to pick it up. It is at this point that I made a very stupid decision. Most poor decisions are made with the ego. This one is no different. I decided to run the hill at mile 4. The hill before the flat and hot energy lab of FM3020. I was about 3/4 of my way up the hill when my hamstring started to cramp. It hadn’t balled up completely at that point, but it was on its way. I immediately stopped and tried rubbing it out. I did some light stretching and popped a couple of salt tabs. I walked to the turn onto FM3020. As I turned the corner, all I saw was this road, farm pastures on the left and the energy plant with all its power lines on the right. This went on for miles. Had I made that hill without any issue, that would have been a welcome sight. Flat road for miles plus the desire to get the race done plus the ability to go fast equals successfully achieving your goal and setting a personal record (PR). The issue was that I didn’t have one of those things, the ability to go fast. I trotted the first half-mile or so on FM3020 to the first aid station. I took in some PowerBar Perform and water. I shoved tons of ice down the jersey as I had done throughout the run course, and I left. I tried to ease back into race pace, but every time I got there, the hamstring would start biting at me. All I could hear are the voices of all the coaches and trainers that I had listened to… “listen to your body”. I looked at the watch and did the math. I would need ten minute miles to get to the goal. That wasn’t happening on this leg. I then refocused. I focused on my kids and my Dad waiting for me at the finish. I kept them in focus the rest of the way. I jogged, walked and limped my way to the finish. I made a friend or two along the way doing the same thing that I was. We shared stories of how we got to that point. We joked about what makes us do these crazy things. Best of all, we finished and it was great. The run ended up being 3:24:30, but the last minute made it all worth it. I ran the finish holding hands with Austin and Allie. It put a smile on my face that went away a couple of hours prior to that. A smile that hasn’t left since.
My official time or Ironman 70.3 Buffalo Springs is 7:43:52. I will be going back to Buffalo Springs next year. I will go get what I went there for. It was the most challenging thing I have ever done in my life and I have the utmost respect for it and the people who put it together.
Now on to the important stuff…
Thanks to my Pop, as I call him. My dad is a huge inspiration to me. He and my “Momma” Diane have supported me through this whole crazy journey and they will continue to. Dad was there for my first half-marathon, he was there for last year’s Marine Corps Marathon, which I ran to honor him, he was in Boston in April, where he got to see first hand the unfortunate tragedy that happened there up close and personal, and he was in Buffalo Springs proud of me. That’s really all I want from him is to be proud of who I am and what I am doing. I am far from perfect, but he has and will always be there for me. And I for him. I love you, Pop. See you in DC for the Marine Corps Marathon and in Boston in April. I have unfinished business there and you’ll get to see me finish that business.
Thanks to Trent, Raul, Stearns, Avram and the TriShop crew. Again, they come through for me getting me what I need to be prepared to race. I don’t mean just gear either. They allow me to tap into their knowledge. I love those folks and I’m a customer for life. I am thankful to have their support. They are the cornerstone of the triathlon community in Dallas as far as I am concerned. They are not your typical specialty retail shop. They are much, much more. A wealth of knowledge that they are willing to share. If they don’t know something themselves, which is not too often, they know someone who does and they get you to them. I cannot think or speak more highly of the TriShop and most of all, their people.0