Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Redman 2009: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The 2009 Redman iron distance triathlon was my 2nd iron distance triathlon (the first was Ironman Florida 2007). Somewhat of a different experience, a little bit of a smaller and more informal feel. IM FL had almost 2300 total competitors, and over 250 just in my age group; whereas this year's Redman had about 200 competitors, and there were 19 in my age group. Not as much hype and hoopla, but a very well organized and run event; about half the cost of the IM-branded races and much easier to get registered (doesn't have to be a full year in advance like most IM events). If you really just want to do an iron distance triathlon, and don't need all the glitz, these independent races are a great way to go.

So, on to the race itself. As the blog title indicates, I break down the day into three categories; the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly:

the Good: was the results, which for me were really more like great; especially considering the way the day started. Which leads to...

the Bad: the actual race day conditions (more about that below).

the Ugly: ending up with a little visit to the medical tent after it was over. It wasn't really that bad, but "The Good, the Bad, and the not-so-Great" doesn't have much of a ring to it.

So, let's start with the actual results, which the bottom-line folks like me will appreciate. Swim was 1:07, bike was just over 6 hours, and run was just over 4 hours; with total time of 11:23. This was almost an hour improvement over my first IM, and given the race conditions, I was thrilled with that time. I was even happier with it when I found out that I had won my age group! In the interest of full disclosure, there was one other guy in my age group that beat me; but he was apparently some sort of freak and/or alien who did it in 9:20 - which made him the winner of the ENTIRE event (and broke the old course record by almost half an hour). Kudos to him, that's just a whole 'nother level... I've had a few 2nd and 3rd places in the last couple years at other triathlons, and one first at a small duathlon, but this was the first time for first place; so that felt terrific!

On to the gory details of how race day unfolded; i.e. the "Bad" part... It had been raining in Oklahoma City all week, but the weather forecasts all indicated that things would be clearing up on race day; with only a 20% chance of light, scattered showers in the morning. I think we all know where this is leading... Shortly before the race was supposed to start, we started feeling a few rain drops, and they announced that there were reports of significant rain further out on the bike course. A few minutes later, torrential downpour. In very short order, everybody and everything was soaking wet; and the transition area was covered in about an inch of running water. With temps in the 60's, it was also a fairly cold rain (at least for this Texas boy), and even with my wetsuit on I started to get very chilled. Then came the announcement that we all dreaded... the bike course had flooded in a couple spots and they might have to cancel the bike and go to the contingency plan. NOOOOOOOOO!!!!! I still had IM Cozumel coming at the end of November, but I had not come all the way to OKC and gone through all that stress to not even get a chance to race! The race director and staff were awesome, though, and they ended up with a workable plan to allow us to race. They delayed the start 45 minutes, and implemented a mandatory dismount at the spot on the bike course where the road was flooded. The race was on!


By the time the swim started, the rain had subsided, and I was ready to go. I knew the bike course would be wet, meaning I'd have to be more cautious, but I could deal with that. The swim in Lake Hefner was great. All the full iron distance folks went first in one group of about 200, which is certainly less chaotic than the branded IM races where 2200+ start at one time. We swam parallel to shore for the first part of the swim, then turned out away from the shore and looped back around, then did that whole loop a second time. The water on the first part of the loop was pretty shallow, so you could actually stand up at any point if you wanted to (and some people did...). At the end of the first loop, I stood up just long enough to glance at my watch and take a couple deep breaths. I was under 33 minutes, so that made me feel great. On the back half of the second loop, I started noticing rain drops again, which was a little disappointing, as I had hoped that we were done with the rain (Ha!). I finished the second loop uneventfully, and got out of the water at 1:07, 10 minutes faster than my time at IM FL, and feeling very good. All that extra swimming this year seemed to have paid off!

One of the nice things about the Redman Tri is that you can set up your transition like a normal triathlon (at many IM's, you have to have a clean transition area and keep all your gear/nutrition/etc. in transition bags that you grab between events). So, I was able to get in and out of transition and off on my bike in less than 3 minutes.

I have to admit that the rain, which was coming down pretty hard at this point, was making me fairly discouraged. The first 10 miles of the bike course have a slight downgrade, and I normally can use high cadence and really make good time on that type of stretch, but the wet roads and poor visibility made me much more cautious. And the roads are not great to begin with, especially one 3.5 mile section on the back side of the course (which we went thru 4 times). I had a bad fall in wet conditions in April, and thoughts of that day were definitely playing in my head. I wanted to be conservative on the bike, anyway, but this was slower going than what I wanted. The rain cleared again, and once again I thought maybe that was the end of it and started feeling a little better; but sure enough it came back again a while later. And that repeated another time or two, the rain finally ending for good after somewhere around 3 or 4 hours into the bike. The positive side of all the rain is that it kept the temperature down, so I had no problems with overheating. If anything, I was pretty chilled at times. Yes, I am a cold wimp... that's why I live in Texas! So, I was finally able to finish the last part of the bike in relatively decent conditions, and came in with a bike time of 6:06:15. That was slightly slower than my bike time in IM FL, but I knew I was still well-positioned to meet my goal of beating 11 1/2 hours if I had a good run.

Nice quick 1 minutes transition and I was off, wondering how the run was going to unfold. This was going to be the make or break part of the day, for me.

When I first started, everything felt great. Good pace, good heart rate, stomach feeling pretty good. Of course, the rain and clouds were now gone, so it was sunny and warmer. Would have been nice if that was reversed - sunny and 70's on the bike; then cloudy and a little rainy on the run! :) And the rain had left it's toll on the run course, with some flooded and muddy sections that made things a little more interesting. But that's all part of the challenge; it's a long day with a ton of variables and surprises, and how you overcome the obstacles is a big part of the race.

The run was broken up into 4 loops of about 6.5 miles, and I felt pretty good on the first loop. By the second loop, I could tell I was going to face some challenges. My stomach had started to act up, not wanting to take in any more gels or food, and really not tolerating much liquid other than a little bit of water. That is often blamed on not getting nutrition right, but I think it has more to do with the body just being pushed too far and starting to shut down. The right nutrition plan helps, and I certainly make that a big part of my planning and training, but in the end it comes down to your training, your pacing, and adapting your body over time to handle something that it is just not built to do! I had similar things happen at IM FL in 2007, so I was able to recognize and deal with things earlier and better. I didn't try to force anything down, and I took a couple of short walk breaks to allow the stomach to settle so I could get some nutrition in there. Potatoes and vanilla wafers were great, by the way :)

Around mile 17, I was starting to reach my limits, and had to take a couple of longer walk breaks. Earlier, I had passed a guy and mentioned to him that I might need Divine intervention to finish the last couple of loops. As I was walking, I heard footsteps behind me, and then a voice saying "hey, here's your divine intervention, let's get going!". That brought a smile and lifted my spirits, and I joined him for the next half mile or so, and then had to let him go on ahead. Shortly after that, I was able to get running again, and then I did a final 5 minute walk with just over 4 miles to go. At that point, I knew that I needed to just put my head down and gut it out if I wanted to meet my time goal. I kept thinking about all the training I had done, all the sacrifices that I and my family had made... let's finish this thing strong! Somehow that worked, and I was able to finish those last 4 miles at under 9:00/mile. I caught back up with "divine intervention" guy, and tapped him on the shoulder and thanked him for helping me out. Never saw a sight as wonderful as the finisher's chute, and I crossed over the mat with a 4:04 marathon run split. Total race time: 11:23:30.

The Ugly was how I felt shortly after finishing. I walked into the food tent, and my first thought was that I needed to sit down. A couple of the volunteers asked me if I was OK and did I need anything, so I asked if I could just get some water. I drank a couple of small bottles of water, and they were asking if I needed anything else, so I half-joking told them "a place to lie down". They pointed right behind where I was sitting, and told me that was the medical tent, which had some plastic lawn chairs I could sit in. Sounded good to me!

Of course, if you walk into the medical tent, they are going to start checking you out. My pulse was a little weak and my blood pressure was a little low, and I was shivering quite a bit (told you I'm a cold wimp). The medical staff was fantastic and took great care of me, eventually giving me an IV when drinking liquids wasn't getting me hydrated fast enough. That did the trick, and I felt much better; and was able to go pack up my gear and haul it back to the car and get to the hotel. Half a pizza later, it was time to crash and get some much-needed sleep.

The Day After
I went back the next day for the awards ceremony, thinking that I had won 2nd place in my Age Group (and very happy about that!). When they announced 2nd place, it was not my name... what??? Then they announced first place, and it was me - wow! I later figured out that the alien guy had won the entire event, and that's what moved me up from second to first. For a little guy like me with no athletic background to speak of, I'm still pretty excited about that :)

So, there's the story of my 2009 Redman triathlon. In total, I have now raced 370.5 miles so far this year, with a Half IM and one more Full IM to go to complete the year. I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders by being able to meet my goal time; so I think that IM Cozumel will be that much more enjoyable without that pressure. And I am thrilled that this year of racing, dedicated to helping educate the children of Haiti, is turning out so well! :)

Please see this website to read more about the HFK program and to make donations:
RMI Hope For Kidz Website Link

Race Schedule:

January 11: RunTex 20 Miler (20 mile run) -> COMPLETED

January 25: Frost Yer Fanny Duathlon (27.2 miles run/bike/run) -> COMPLETED

February 15: Austin Marathon (26.2 mile run)-> COMPLETED

April 5: Lonestar 1/2 Ironman Triathlon (70.3 miles swim/bike/run) -> COMPLETED

April 20: Boston Marathon (26.2 mile run) -> COMPLETED

July 19: Marble Falls Triathlon (28 miles s/b/r) -> COMPLETED

Sep 07: Austin Triathlon (32 miles s/b/r) -> COMPLETED

September 19: Redman ironman distance Triathlon (140.6 miles s/b/r)-> COMPLETED

October 25: Longhorn 1/2 Ironman Triathlon (70.3 miles s/b/r)

November 29: Ironman Cozumel Triathlon (140.6 miles s/b/r)


  1. Wow, congrats on so many things. PR by an hour, especially under those conditions, winning first place in your AG. Nice race!!! Looks like at great reward for all your hard work.