Tuesday, July 24, 2012

2012 El Schorcho 50K Race Report with a New PR!

Hello Dear Readers!

Well another year has gone by and another El Scorcho in the books.  The race this year was a lot cooler than last year.  I had a Personal Record (PR) for this distance and course! Beat last years time by 17 minutes!  But I get ahead of myself.  Let's start at the beginning

El Scorcho Overview

For those who are not familiar with this race, it is a 50 KM (31 Mile) run that occurs at Trinity Park in Fort Worth, Texas.  You can read more about it here.  Since it occurs in the middle of July, it normally is SUPER hot, hence the Scorcho moniker.  And due to the usual extreme heat, the race doesn't start till 12 AM!

 The course is pretty much pancake flat and is a 5 KM (3.1 mile) loop you do 10 times.  This is more challenging that you might think, because it does get monotonous at times.


Training this year for the race went pretty well.  I had no calf or knee issues and my speed has really been improving.  If you go to my Garmin Connect page, yes you may have to register to see it, you can look at my training times.  Had some great runs in there.  I had bought a pair of Pure Flow neutral shoes and have been using them for my shorter speed work runs.  I think that has helped a lot.

Day of Race

Since the race starts at midnight, I drove from Houston to Forth Worth that morning.  I wore compression socks to keep the blood from pooling in my legs.  I really think that helped.  The drive took me about 5 hours.  Hydrated the whole way and stopped here and there to stretch my legs and stay loose.  I checked into my hotel early and since it is conveniently located basically a mile from the race course, it is super convenient.  After I checked in I drove myself to IHOP to have my pre-race meal early.  For those of you who read this blog, you know I always take a picture of my pre-race calorie fest.  Well this time, the service I got was so poor and the food quality so bad, I didn't do it.  But all well.  I had 2 eggs, french toast, coffee, orange juice, wheat toast and hash browns.

After I ate, I went back to the hotel and tried to nap a bit.  No dice really.  But I did prop my legs up and again I think this helped me stay rested.  Around 6 PM I got up and walked to the nearby shopping center and got a subway and picked up some additional supplies for the race and headed back to the hotel for dinner and getting all my race stuff laid out.

Items shown here are:

  • Race Shoes
  • Race Belt
  • Hat
  • Body Glide
  • Chamois Cream
  • Big Towel
  • Socks
  • Water Bottle with Hydration Belt
  • Enduralytes
  • Bananas
  • Granola Bars
  • Nutri Grain Bars
  • Bug Spray
  • Head Lamp
  • Massage Stick
  • Race Shorts
  • Race Shirt
  • GPS Watch with Heart Strap
  • Hand Towel
  • Timing Chip
I also had a rolling cooler filled with tons of Gatorade and water.

I did my best to keep relaxing till about 10 PM and then I got dressed and fought with the stupid timing chip.  This is a technology that has changed a lot over my racing career.  In triathlon you normally have a big old piece of plastic that is held in place by a neoprene strap around your ankle.  But for ultra races they now give you what looks like a piece of paper with a circuit board printed on it.  This piece of paper gets folder into your laces and is kept in place by an adhesive.  This is what it looks like:

Arrival at Race Site

At around 11 PM, I piled all my stuff into the car and waved goodbye to the puzzled hotel staff (not just because I was some weird dude waving goodbye, but because I had a headlamp and a racing belt on and it was the middle of the night).  Took me all of 5 minutes to get to the race site parking lot and another 10 or so to walk from my car to the start area.

This is what the start and finish line looks like:

I set up my water cooler about a hundred feet past the start line since I will be coming through here after each of the 10 laps.  I found my buddy Ryan V, one of the Race Director's, and chatted him up for a while.  The temperature was actually really pleasant compared to last year and I hassled Ryan that he needs to change the race's name to El Moderato!  HAHA!!

I headed over to the big El Scorcho sign and had my picture taken as a momento as well:

Race Start

At about 11:50 PM I got in line with the 50 KM racers and I got handed a glow in the dark necklace. I noticed about half the guys took their shirts off so I did too!  Then a guy sang a great rendition of the National Anthem and at 12:00 AM the gun went off and it was on!

Here is a shot of me right as we were getting started.  That's me on the far left.


I started out going pretty at a pretty good clip with a perceived exertion of a easy to moderate pace. As you can see with all my laps below, I kept up this pace for the first 10 miles or so.  But as the race went on I got slower and slower.  I had a really hard time keeping my hydration and calories going for some reason.  Those of you who have followed my races in the past know that this is a constant battle for me.  Once I start getting dehydrated I lose all thirst and hunger mechanisms and start a downward spiral.  I saw that I was on pace to beat my time last year and for the last 5 KM I really turned it on and ran hard, especially the last mile.  Got my heart rate really up there at the end.

I crossed the finish line at the 5:28 mark and crushed my previous time from last year by 17 minutes!

Post Race

Once I was done, I felt pretty tired but not too bad.  I tried to hydrate and eat, but my body said no dice.  In hindsight, I should have gone to the medical tent and had an IV, but I always feel like it would be putting people out and just decided to just grab my stuff and head back to the hotel.  Of course I did get my finishers medal!

Once back at the hotel I took a shower and that's when things started going down hill.  I tried to hydrate again but my body was still being stubborn.  So I tried to nap a while to see if I started feeling better.  I got a late checkout for 1 PM so I had some time to try to recover but I was feeling like pounded doo doo.  Like the little soldier I am, I decided to put on my big boy pants and do the 5 hour drive home.  It was miserable.  Not only was I totally out of it by being dehydrated, I somehow pulled my trapezius muscle and it was really hurting the whole time, especially while taking a deep breath.  I've done 14 hour races and felt better than this.  But I still had to go home so I just pressed on.

Once I got home I was listless and almost delirious.  My wonderful wife was really concerned and kept asking if she should take me to the emergency room to get hydrated.  But I said no.  I forced myself to drink and by the evening I was feeling better.  Went to bed at 9 PM which is VERY unusual for me and felt much better by the morning.  By Wednesday I was able to start training again. 


So I learned some great things at this race:

1. Just because it is cooler, you can still get badly dehydrated.
2. Always go to the medical tent and get IV if you get dehydrated.
3. Slow down so that the race photographer can get a good picture of you on the race course! I only got two pictures from this race because I was moving too fast going past the race photographer for them to make the picture available.

Well, that's all for now.  Next race is the Redman Ironman Distance triathlon in September.

Tri Your Best!


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Another Year. Another Rocky Raccoon 100 Miler. Another DNF!!!!!

Hello Dear Readers!

I took my time to write this race report.  Yeah the race was a few months ago.  I always go through a down period after a big race and it seems like it takes me some time to put things in perspective before I feel like posting again.  But man what a race!  The long and short of it was that I did not finish again (DNF), but I went one loop farther than last year.  For those of you who may recall, I was sick last year during the race and pulled out after 40 miles.  This year, wasn't sick, but pulled out after 60 miles.  I'm doing a new thing for this blog.  I borrowed a friends video recorder (Thanks Ryan!) so you are going to see some embedded videos in here.  So let's begin at the beginning:

Pre-Race Day

The day before the race was actually pretty decent.  It was cloudy but not raining.  The forecast showed that it was going to be a really wet day during the race so I did my best to prepare for it by packing everything I could think of to take care of all contingencies.  I never train in the rain nor do I EVER run on muddy trails (let alone try to run 100 miles on them in rain), so my experience was limited and this led to my undoing!

My drive up to Huntsville was great and my buddy Ryan was doing the 50 mile race so my plan was to check into the hotel and meet up with him to get our race packets and he was going to help me get the shelter tent up to keep us dry since it was going to rain during the race.  It took some doing to haul the dang thing from the parking lot a patch of grass near the start but we got it up!  We kept it low to the ground till race morning in the hopes that the storms won't knock it down overnight.

We got our race packets and headed back north a bit to have dinner.  All systems were go and I knew I was ready for this race physically and couldn't wait!  We decided to go to IHOP for the pre-race dinner so before that I did my best to get my gear together and sorted and organized in my hotel room.  Since a lot of people ask me what I bring with me to these races I made my first video to show and explain:

Yeah I am quit the Shakespearean actor! Anyway, the next video is me and Ryan at IHOP having dinner. Note I did not over eat this time, but I did eat a decent amount of food!

It was a great meal! After dinner I hopped over to the local grocery store and bought some last minute stuff. Back at the hotel I did everything I could to try to get to sleep at a decent hour. I think I finally drifted off around 11 PM with my alarm going off at 4 AM!!!!

Race Morning

At around 3:30 AM I was awoken by the sound of crazy thunder! I laid there saying to myself, "What's a little water?  You would get soaked with sweat anyway, so no problem!" I pulled up my phone and took a look at the radar:

I was about to get NAILED HARD by some big rain!  I got up and ate a nutri grain bar and a ensure and got my butt out of there as best I could so that I could get to the site before it really hit.  I arrived at the race site just as it REALLY was coming down.  I mean it wasn't just a hard rain it was a deluge.  The parking lot had over a foot of rushing water going down it on the sides where the curb was really high.  It was like a whitewater rapid.  Of course I had to slog through it twice to get all my stuff to my tent.  The whole time I'm just saying to myself, "It's ok, It's ok!!!!"

I felt really bad for other runners there that had no tent set up.  I invited a nice couple who was just standing out there to come under my shelter with me.  Here is their interview.  You can hear the rain coming down in the background:

Race Start

The time got close to starting so several hundred people gathered under the main tent and waited for the gun to start.  It was still raining pretty hard but not as bad as it was before.  And finally the gun went off and we went dashing through the rain to start our adventure! Here is a pic of the conditions right at the start:

As you can see the conditions WERE NOT OPTIMAL!!!!

Lap 1 (Miles 0 - 20)

The first lap went really well.  I kept my pace nice and easy.  I averaged between 11 and 14 minute miles.  These were easily sustainable and kept me at a pace to finish in under 24 hours.  A special belt buckle is given to those who finish in that time that is different than a regular finish and I figured I would give it a shot and if I made it in under 24 hours great, but I was going to do everything I could to get done regardless! The rain let up at this point and it was just really cloudy and chilly.

Here is a video I took back at the start under the tent at 20 miles in:

Funny thing was that I forgot I still had my headset on and wore it during the 2nd loop!

Loop 2 (Miles 20-40)

As you might expect with all the rain, the conditions of the course were very degraded.  There were about a dozen spots on the loop where the mud was a foot deep!  We would do our best to get around them but it was so wet there was no place you could go where the mud wasn't deep.  I took this video to show one of the less muddy spots:

This loop was when I started to realize that I might have a problem with my feet.  I bought some great trail shoes (Brooks Adrenaline All Surface Running) that I thought would be perfect.  They were made of waterproof gore-tex and were supposed to keep water out.  But what I didn't realize was that if a shoe doesn't water in, then the reverse is also true.  They won't let water out!  So when my foot went into mud that went over the top of my shoe and even the gators, water and mud got IN the shoe and STAYED IN!  This was not good.  I never have experienced this before and wasn't exactly sure what to do.  I brought tons of extra socks and even another pair of shoes, but it didn't really matter.  Because even when I changed my socks, they would just get wet inside the shoe again within a few miles because you had to run through the deep mud ON EVERY LAP!  My feet started getting a little itchy and I knew I was in for some blisters but just hoped that I could hold out before things got too bad.

Lap 3 (Miles 40-60)

I got back from loop 2 and my feet were really starting to hurt.  I was pretty tired at this point and didn't even feel like doing a video so I just grabbed some food and my headlamp and got moving again.  At this point my pace was slowing and miles 40-50 were going at paces of 14-19 minute miles.  I started doing a lot of walking at this point because my feet were really hurting.  I had blisters in spots I never had before.  Especially in spots that were weight bearing.  It's one thing to blister on your toes and having your nails fall off, but when you can't put weight on your feet without there being huge pain, it is a BIG PROBLEM!  I took this video at dusk at mile 50. You can hear the uncertainty in my voice.  Sorry you can't really see much since it was getting really dark!

The next ten miles were murder.  I could hardly walk let alone run.  I had slowed to a walking pace of 17-19 minutes per mile and I knew that I was going to have to call it a day.  I was really mad because fitness wise I was tired but could keep going.  But my feet were torn up.  I had to change my walking gate to minimize the pain and this was starting to cause other things to hurt like my hips and back.

I got back to the start at mile 60 and did the walk of shame to the race director's tent to let him know I was pulling out.  He took a look at me and didn't argue.  I was so tired and angry and upset at that point I didn't even pack my stuff up but left it under my shelter and went back to the hotel to sleep.

I somehow managed to drive the 10 miles to the hotel and when I got there I took some pictures.  Here are my feet right before I took the shoes off:

Once I got my shoes off, I too a look at my feet and the first thought I had was that I was a zombie!  The pictures don't do the blisters justice because my feet were so pale the blisters blended in.  But believe me there are there!

 Also I lost several toe nails.  Note they were already turning black just minutes after the race.

I took as thorough a shower as I could and fell into bed for a not very restful sleep!

Post Race

Here is a video I took after I got back home.  Still pretty wiped from the race I was pretty weary but had a little perspective on things.

I did end up losing both my big toe nails and a whole bunch of skin on the bottom of my feet and the front of my toes.  Will I try again next year. YOU BET!  I am not going to give up!!!!

That's all for now!

Tri your best!


Saturday, November 12, 2011

2011 Rocky Raccoon 50KM Race Report

Hello Dear Readers!

Wow what a fun race! The last running race of the year went fairly well for me. I trained hard and my times kept improving so I went into this race really feeling pretty darn good about it!  You can check out my Garmin Page at the website to see how my training has been going.  Unfortunately you will have to create a free Garmin Connect account to see my workouts.  But once your account is there just go to "Explore" and show the advanced search filter and search for "wchoppa".  It will then show all my activities.  I may change this soon so that I can more easily share my data.  Anyway, let's go through the pre-race stuff and then on to the actual race activities!

Day Before Race

I had been having a great taper week before the race.  Times have been great.  Wasn't sick.  Body in pretty good condition as far as the muscles and joints go.  I had order some new shoes for the race that did not come in until I was actually on my way to Huntsville!  I was not very happy with that but it was my fault for waiting till the last minute to get my shoes.  My trail shoes from Rocky Raccoon 100 miler were still in pretty good condition so I brought those.  Hadn't run a huge amount in those recently but they are still pretty serviceable. 

It took about 2 Hours to get up to Huntsville area and I was gabbing with friends on the phone the whole way trying to take it easy and stay hydrated.  I planned on going to the race site on my way to the hotel to pick up my race packet.  I typically go to the race site early on race day to pick up my packet but since I was getting up that way earlier than normal I decided to turn in from the south.  Of course, being the dumb ass I am, I turned in one exit too soon and went 10 miles before I realized I was not where I needed to be!  Of course the running buddy I was talking to kept laughing at my stupidity but I got my self turned around and headed back to the freeway to continue north and take the CORRECT exit to the State Park and the race site.

It was a really nice day and I love the entrance to the park.  Miles of trees and forest and you feel so isolated, which I love!  Not a lot of people were milling about so I got in to get my race packet very fast and headed on up to the hotel. Oh, one thing of note, the race number they gave me was, get ready for it.........


I saw that and my friend on the phone was like.  "Oh oh".  I'm surprised they gave that number out.

Got to the hotel that I always stay at.  Shout out to my friends at the Comfort Suites in Huntsville, Texas!  Great updated hotel that has reasonable rates.

Pre Race Dinner

And now we come to some people's favorite part of my race posts.  My pre-race dinner!  What will Bill eat this time? Will he eat too much?  Will he eat it all?  Well, let me tell you folks, that I was starving and decided to go to the IHOP in Huntsville to get me a big old meal!

Nice little waiter guy sat me down and I immediately started to roll off what I wanted.  Here is the breakdown:

Orange Juice
Clam Chowder for Appetizer (see picture below)

Blueberry Pancakes
Over Medium Eggs
Wheat Toast
Texas Toast Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato sandwich!

Here are some before and after pictures of the main meal:

Let's just say that I almost needed help getting through the door once I was able to move out from the booth.

After dinner I went to the grocery store and bought some Gatorade and ensure for the morning nutrition.  I then headed back to my hotel to get all my race gear organized for the morning.

Hotel Race Preparation

Got to my room and laid out all my race gear for the morning. This is always a good idea so that you if you did forget something, you might have time to run to a store and get it.  It is also good to bring a lot of things in preparation for all possibilities.  Bad weather, too hot, too cold, you get the idea.

Note my lucky number 13!  I planned on not wearing warm pants because while the race was going to start in the 40's it was definitely going to warm up.  So my fleece jacket would keep me warm at least through the first loop of the race. Which by the way starts at 6 AM!!!!!!!  Once I was satisfied that I had it all together, I grabbed my iPad and facebooked for a while and then attempted to drift off to sleep.  Of course, sleep did not come till after 1 AM.  And my 4 alarms were set for 4 AM.  All well, at least I am consistent with how I sleep regularly!

Race Morning

All my alarms jingled at 4 AM and I roused myself out of bed, drank a few ensure bottles and started hydrating again.  Took care of all my morning "business" and got dressed in my gear and headed out the door by 5:15 AM.  the race site is just 10 minutes down the road so I had plenty of time to get there and pick up my timing chip and get my Nathan Hydration Pack full of my Gatorade and other nutritional items.

The race site was set up very well. It was pretty cold for me (about 45 degrees) and there were no clouds or moon in the sky so the stars were awesome!  I placed my cooler of goodies by a tree at the turnaround point (about 15.5 miles) and got in line at the start.  I brought my music player with me and planned on listening to tunes during the entire run.  I wasn't running with anyone I knew. Although some fellow BAM! members and friends of my wife's were racing the 25K, they did not start till 7 AM.  The race gun went off promptly at 6 AM and we were off!!!!


I love the Huntsville course.  It is so darn beautiful!  I started off at a pretty slow pace since it was dark and I was sleepy and was waiting for the caffeine pills to kick in!  I listened to Pink Floyd and just lived in the moment while trying to avoid tripping over roots and rocks that are all over.  This became apparent to me early in the race since there was a guy who fell twice within the first 2 miles of the race.  I felt bad for him since you aren't really supposed to start falling till towards the END of the race when you are really tired.  Not sure if he continued to fall or if he finished at all, but I hope he did!

The sun rose through the trees around 7 AM or so.  The forest was beautiful.  I still was feeling really good and was on pace to break 5 hours like my training was dictating.  Then somewhere near mile 10 I was running along one of the single path stretches (a single path is where the trail is so narrow you have to run in single file) when the guy behind me tripped over a root and fell into me.  We both really didn't go down since my body caught his fall and I naturally did the whole leaping, jumping and scrambling to not hit the dirt.  With the speed of the running and our combined weights, my hamstrings and glutes got nice and strained.  I don't think I tore anything (or at least nothing major), but I was definitely not 100% after that little incident.

My time started to suffer a little after that.  I got my first loop done in 2 hours and 36 minutes.  I knew I was a little behind the 8 ball here but I figured I could make up 6 minutes during the 2nd 15.5 mile loop.  At the turnaround I refilled my hydration pack and stripped off my gloves, hat and fleece jacket. The morning was warm at this point so I didn't need them anymore.  I was very proud that my hydration plan was working well since I actually peed three times during the entire race which is a record for me!

The 2nd loop was pretty hard.  I had a few good miles here and there, but my hamstrings started to really tighten up and the resulting slowdown made 5 hours impossible.  So I laid up and decided to just run and have fun and stop worrying about my time.  Sometimes that makes races fun, but my competitive nature always makes me want to do these things as fast as possible!

On the final stretch I saw the race photographer taking shots so I unclasped my hydration pack so that I could fly my BAM! colors:

My final time was 5 Hours 51 minutes and 18.1 seconds.  Not my best, but not the worst either! Below is a embed of my Garmin data.  If you would like to look at my splits:

Post Race

After the race I was pretty wiped, but I've been worse. I grabbed my cooler and jumped in the car and drove right home all stinky and all.  Legs started cramping up during the 2 hour drive and that was not pleasant.  I drank Gatorade and water all the way home so by the time I got there I was tired but not in as much pain.  I was given a post race finishers plaque that I thought was really nice.

My wife took a look at my shoes and gave me a look that said, "You are not stepping foot in the house till you take those off!"  Do you think she was right:

Well, another race under my belt and even though it was not exactly what I wanted, I still got the experience with my legs.  As I always say, any race good or bad is still a good training session for your next one!  That's all for now.

Tri your best!


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

El Scorcho 2011 Race Report

Hello Dear Readers,

Well another 50K race done and in the books of history.  This race was a first for me on many levels.

1. It started at midnight.
2. It was in a location I had never been to (Fort Worth Trinity Park).
3. It was the hottest race I have ever done.
4. First time I ran shirtless the whole time.

Morning of the Race

All things about this race were different for me.  Since the race started at midnight, I saw no reason for me to get there the day before since the site was a 5 hour drive from Houston.  So I placed the dogs in the kennel for the weekend and headed on up to Fort Worth.  The drive was pretty uneventful, lots of sitting.  Drank 80 ounces of Gatorade since I knew it was going to be one heck of a hot time up there.  Once I got into town and before I checked into the hotel I stopped at the Running Store to get my bib and race packet. I just glanced at my bib and saw that the number matched appropriately to the paperwork and headed out to the hotel.  The fact that I didn't pay super close attention to that bib is part of this story later on!

Arrival in Fort Worth (Otherwise Known as "The Oven")

The first thing I noticed when I pulled into the hotel was that it was HOOOOOOTTTTTT!  Not just Houston hot, but burn the skin off your body and bleach your bones the sun is so intense hot! My car agreed:

Not sure what the heat index was but the ambient at 106 degrees made me really hope it dips a lot before the race start!

Once I arrived I got a free hotel room at the Residence Inn (literally next to the race sight) using my points.  After I got all checked in a situated I went to IHOP and had my usual pre-race calorie fest:

Once I finished my gluttonous endeavor, I went back to the hotel room and slept from 5 PM till 9 PM.  I was planning on sleeping longer, but I was too excited!

Race Evening

I got some of my gear laid out and decided to take a walk over to the race site to see if it is close enough for me to not drive.  The park where the race course is was literally just over a hill right next to the hotel.  As I searched for the race start area, I found cones and markings for the run course and noticed that Trinity Park was pitch black dark most of the time!  They weren't kidding when they said the course was only partially lit and you would need to bring a head lamp.  After about 10 minutes of walking I saw the race site in the distance and decided that while it technically WAS within walking distance, anything over 10 minutes is NOT something I will be wanting to do after running 50K.  So I turned around and walked back to the hotel to get dressed and hydrated some more and then waited till 11 PM or so till I left and drove to the race site.  This is when U noticed that there was something wrong with my bib.  It said I was only in the 25K!  I was like, OH CRAP!  So I got on the horn with the race directory (Who is one of the coolest guys I know) and he said to just check in with him when I get there and he will get me all fixed up.  PHEW!!!

Oh and you may recall me mentioning the hope that the temperature drops significantly?  Well..............

Arrival at Race Site

I pulled into the parking lot and got a gander at all the other runners competing in the race.  This is why I love ultras.  Such a awesome mix of people.  Some were dressed with costumes while almost all the guys were shirtless.  I was thinking about going shirtless myself and that sealed the deal for me.  I parked, got out my cooler of Gatorade and hydration pack and headed over to the race start to find the Ryan (Race Director).  I couldn't find him (as he was busy directing, DUH!) and was directed to the timing chip people.  They said to race with the same number, but they changed the entry in the computer to show my chip as a 50K racer instead of a 25K.  So at least that problem was solved.

As I walked around to find a tree to dump my cooler I saw people had brought chairs and tents and canopies.  Families with their kids were there.  Music was playing and there was a guy walking around with a microphone announcing stuff and generally having a good time.  The guy with the microphone walked up to me and asked me some questions about my race history and any tips I could give the new runners, etc.  I gave him a few answers that I thought were appropriate.  I am normally a chatty Kathy but not tonight!

I did finally run into Ryan and Jason (the two race directors).  They were gracious as always and wished me great luck during the race.  I first met these two at Bandera 100K and the Sunmart 50 miler a few years back and we raced together.  That's the thing about these races.  You meet people and you make new friends! 

Race Start

The Race

This race is comprised of a 5K loop.  So we run this loop 10 times.  There were water stations every mile or so and the volunteers were great!  The moon was nearly full and it had risen just after the race start.  This was really cool because it was so bright I didn't need my headlamp after the first loop.  Here is a aerial shot of the course with my GPS data:

First 3 or so laps were pretty uneventful.  It was really really hot so I was sucking on my hydration pack like it was going out of style.  My GPS was telling me I was on a sub 5 hour pace which was my goal for this race.  Felt good, legs were fresh and I was having a heck of a good time! At the end of lap 3 Ryan and Jason came along side and asked how I was feeling, I was like "I'm doing great!" and they said "Let's see how you are feeling at lap 8".

Laps 4 through 7 were your age old laps.  As the distance piled up it got harder.  The night did cool as it went on and that was a relief.  I met a lot of interesting people.  The race really thinned out once the 25K racers finished and it was only us 50K racers left.  I actually raced with music and listened to Pink Floyd (Dark Side of the Moon and the Wall) for some of the time.  With the moon looking over me that music seemed appropriate.

When lap 8 came about I understood what Ryan was saying.  It definitely got tough.  But I've been there before with some longer distances and was able to run through that low point.  By the time I got to the last lap the sun was getting ready to rise.  The night got brighter and the world came alive again.  My last lap was actually pretty fast compared to the earlier ones and my final mile was sub 10 minute (which by that time was pretty good for me)!

I cam running through the finish line at 5:45 AM and got all my swag, which included a cool (and large) finishers medal and a 50K finishers pin (see below):

Post Race

I hung around a bit after the race and chatted with the race director's and let them know that I will definitely be doing this one again!  I high tailed it out of there since I had to check out of my hotel at 1 PM and wanted to get a few hours of shuteye before my 5 hour drive home.  It's been a week or so since the race and I'm already pretty recovered and have started adding the miles again. I am probably going to do the Rocky Raccoon 50K race in the fall before doing the 100 miler in February.  So keep checking my training page to see the GPS data I send and of course friend me on Facebook if you like (http://www.facebook.com/TexasTriathlete or just search for William Choppa)!

Until next time...

Tri your best!


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Memorial Hermann Ironman Texas 2011 Race Report

Hello dear readers!

Wow, that was a tough one!  Competing in the inaugural Memorial Hermann Ironman Texas was a challenging experience to say the least.  I finished in 13 hours and 15 minutes.   I did have some issues (more on that later) though. Not what I was hoping for, but overall I was pretty happy with the race. 

Day Before the Race

I stayed up at a hotel the night before the race so that I would not have to get up at 2 in the morning to be at the race site on time.  I had a little bit of race drama on Thursday.  Turns out, I was supposed to be checked in by Thursday at 4 PM, but I got back from work travel late Wednesday night and just "assumed" I could register on Friday.  So going through the race packet, I saw that registration was closed after Thursday and I almost had a heart attack thinking I was totally screwed!  I started looking at the Ironman website for a contact number and got a hold of a race official who let me know that it was fine for me to check in on Friday.  She said that sometimes people's travel gets screwed up so they make a few exceptions to let those people check in on Friday.  THANK GOODNESS!

After successfully registering I bought a few items at the Ironman Expo and got my bike checked into the transition area and dropped off my bike and run gear bags.   

 I ran into a few buddies I train with as well as a few fellow members of the BAM! triathlon club.  Of course my Ultra Running buddies Roland and Daniel were there and yes they both became Ironmen!  Here is a pic of the transition area with all the bikes checked in for the most part.  Such a sight to see!

 I had my usual pre-race dinner at Denny's:

You may notice that this is not the usual calorie fest I normally eat.  I decided to be a little conservative this time around and not have 10 pounds of food in my gut on race morning.  I then went back to the hotel room, relaxed a bit and got everything laid out for race morning.  I actually got to sleep before midnight and had 3 alarms set for 3:30 AM the next morning.
Race Morning

All 3 alarms went off at 3:30 AM just as planned.  It wakes you up when you have to run around a room turning off alarms.  It's a nice warm up!  I proceeded to get my morning breakfast in.  This consisted of:
  • Muscle Milk
  • Nutri Grain Bar
  • 2 Bananas
  • Coffee
  • Gatorade
  • Water
With my reserves topped off, I packed up my run and bike special needs bags and headed out the door to get to the race site.

Parking was a huge pain in the butt this time around.  I had to park in a mall parking lot like a mile from the transition area.  So I kept walking and walking and was looking around me at all the faces.  You can always tell the first timers.  They have a deer in the headlights look and are so nervous they can hardly talk.  I walked with one young man and gave him some pointers to calm him down a bit.  The typical stuff such as "Just look at it as a long training day, not a race." etc. etc.

I handed off my special needs bags to the volunteers and headed out to the swim start area with some fellow BAM! members.  The race officials were supposed to close the transition area at 6:15 AM but instead moved it up to 6 AM.  I feel bad for anyone who got there last minute and had to frantically get over to the swim start.  Oh, and the swim start was yet ANOTHER mile away!  So the race hadn't even started yet and I was already 2 miles in!


Once I got to the swim start I changed into my speed skin.  I ran into Chris Hamblin (who is now a IRONMAN!) and we chatted it up a while as we got ready for the swim start.  I found some convenient bushes to avoid the hundreds of people waiting in the porta potty line.  Thank you evolution for allowing me to relieve myself standing up!

As the pros moved into the water, we started lining up at the swim entrance for the age group start.  I was just standing there and one of the event camera people told me to look at her and she took my picture.

It's a mass start so over 2000 competitors need to get into the water at the same time.  They divided the line up as two groups: Wetsuit and Non-Wetsuit.  The reason for this is that the temperature was over 76 degrees.  USAT rules state that if the temperature is over 76 degrees you may wear a wetsuit but you will not be eligible for prizes or Kona slots etc.  This is where I had my first issue of the day.

What do you mean I am not legal?

So I get into the non-wetsuit line and the race official who was checking us said I wasn’t legal. I looked at him and said, “This specific manufacturer and speed suit model is listed as USAT legal on the Ironman website.”  He would have none of it and said either take it off or get in the wetsuit line.  It pissed me off since I just dropped a good amount of change on this suit for this specific race.  If I had known that their own website was wrong, I would have warn my wetsuit!  So I obligingly got into the wetsuit line and headed out into the water, grumbling to myself how I was going to write a “Strongly worded letter” to the WTC people complaining about this.  Who knows, maybe they can comp me the cost of the suit?

Once we were all in the water and the start time was approaching the song that all of us love started playing.  That song of course was Black Sabbath’s “Ironman”.  It gets your blood pumping every time!  Of course then the gun goes off and the pummeling of 2500 athletes was under way!

 I’ve talked about this before, but I have to mention it again.  A mass start Ironman swim is rough.  It is even rougher when the swim course is as narrow as this one was.  You get punched, kicked, grabbed, pushed and I’m not sure, but I might have been close to getting violated at one point!  OK, just kidding about the last part.  But suffice to say it was really hard for me to get into a smooth rhythm.  I’d get going and I would then run into someone which would stop me and then the person behind would run into me.  So it was a set of constant starts and stops for the first half mile or so before I could get into any open water.
After what seemed like a lifetime, I finally climbed the ladder out of the canal and headed into Transition 1.  My time at that point was about 1 hour and 28 minutes.  Not as fast as I normally would do this distance, but I felt really good and was excited to get out on the bike course.

Transition 1

The first transition took about a little under 10 minutes.  I got my gear bag which contained all my bike stuff such as helmet, shoes, body glide, sunscreen, glasses, etc.  Ran into the men’s changing tent and threw my swim gear into the bike bag and put all my bike gear on.  I then ran over to the sunscreen girls and they did a great job of coating me with thick sun screen.  Then it was off to grab my bike off the rack and onto the road!

The Bike

Riding 112 miles is hard any time of the year, but it is especially difficult in hot conditions.  Fortunately, the sun was behind the clouds so while the temperature and humidity was high, it could have been a lot worse.  We had a good amount of wind out there, but again, I’ve ridden in worse. 
I knew from the first few miles of the bike I was going to have a good day.  I was roaring down the road passing people left and right.  My heart rate was good and I was really stoked.  And then the second issue I had with how the race went happened.

At an intersection of 1488 (maybe 10 miles in), the police stopped all bike traffic.  You might think that this is a minor issue, but to me it was.  The whole point of paying the police to direct traffic is so that the bikers are the ones who have the right of way and the cars are the ones who stop.  Plus the fact that all that effort to get ahead of other riders was erased since the police made us stay there for at least 5 minutes.  I figure there were about 500 cyclists all jammed up at that intersection.  Also it is a safety hazard in my opinion because there was a 90 degree turn right after that intersection and there were some close calls for crashes since we were just a few inches from each other.  I could see a domino effect happening easily.  Fortunately it didn’t.

After the 1488 fiasco the rest of the bike portion was pretty good as far as my speed and endurance went.  I pushed but not too crazy.  At one point I went 36 miles per hour on one of the down hills.  

 That was fun.  But of course, now comes the third issue I had during the race.  The damned Ironman Perform drink.

In years past, Ironman races offered Gatorade Endurance Formula during races.  It tastes great and is tolerated well by my system.  Then last year Ironman announced that they no longer would be serving Gatorade but their own product they developed with Power Bar called Ironman Perform.  This is not a product you can buy at the grocery store, but order online or get from a specialty store like a bike shop.  So what is my issue?  Well to put it mildly, it tastes like doo doo!  Too sweet and when I drink a lot of it, I get sick.  Talking with some fellow triathletes, they know this is a common issue.  I did train with the product here and there, but I used the powder version and the ready to drink formula they used at the race was much more concentrated and sweeter.  Anyway, my first 50 miles or so was on the Gatorade I carried with me on the bike and then I switched to the Perform drink.  I started having trouble with my gut around mile 80 and I had not really peed again so I knew I was in trouble.  I tried to drink more water and so forth but my gut was just not cooperating.  This is a rookie mistake.  I should have stopped, and started chugging until my stomach emptied but I was too focused on keeping my time good on the bike and I figured I could recover on the run.  In the meantime, I had to focus on getting the bike course completed.

The last 20 miles or so were a hassle for me because the traffic got pretty bad with cars.  Some of the roads were so narrow, I actually had to wait behind cars!  You have no idea how pissed off I was that I was doing such great time and had to stop or slow waaaaaaay down several times to wait for cars to get out of the way.  I was not a happy camper!

I pressed on and finished the bike in 5 hours and 41 minutes.  That was an average of 19.6 MPH!  If it hadn’t been for all the car traffic issues, I am sure it would have been closer or over to 20 MPH!  Fastest bike split at this distance I have ever done!

Transition 2

I got off the bike and grabbed my run gear bag and headed into the changing tent.  

It was SOOOOOO HOT in there!  So here I am, dehydrated and sickly and I’m inside a 100+ degree tent.  I did my best to get changed as quickly as I could and got out of there.  Total time in transition 2 was 9:21.

The Marathon

Now here comes the fun part (NOT!).  In a few words, I was basically sick to my stomach the whole run.  I know it was due to my poor hydration and nutrition plan going out the window.  I couldn’t really keep anything down and I was really overheated.  I ran with Daniel for a few miles, but he was in better a better situation than myself so I told him to go for a great time and I would plod along myself.  Here's a pic of us together....

I knew I could finish, but I was not sure how fast.  I arrived out of transition in about 7 hours and 30 minutes for the run, a personal record!  I had all the time in the world to do the marathon so I could walk it in if I had to and still get done in under the 17 hour time limit.

So how did I survive?  Well the first thing you have to take care of is the overheating.  It was in the 90s at this point so at every water stop I took several ice sponges and put some down my back and in the front and then took a cup of ice and placed it under my cap.

After 10 miles or so I started feeling a bit better and could drink some cola and eat some chips but that was about it.  At this point I was doing a walk/shuffle strategy.  Walk for a while, and then shuffle for a while and I basically did this over and over again throughout the 26.2 mile run.

The crowds were awesome.  People were everywhere and there are a few miles before you got downtown during the three loops of the run that you ran by restaurants that were serving alcohol. So I had all these drunk folks cheering me on and it was all great fun!  I was offered so much alcohol during the run but had to pass.  There was one group of young women in bikinis giving away free hugs! I also remember one guy with a speedo and a grass skirt chasing us around telling us to go faster. By the time I got to the finisher shoot I was really cooking and feeling pretty good!

After sprinting against a little guy from Mexico at the finish line (you will see that we basically are there at the same time), I finally did finish the marathon in 5 hours and 46 minutes for my total time of 13 hours and 15 minutes.

I got pulled aside and given some water and a guy guided me towards the back of the area for getting my finisher picture and timing chip retrieval.  I was pretty dazed and the guy kept asking if I needed to go to the medical tent.  I said I was fine and he plopped me in front of the photographer who said "Pose!".  So I gave him a little flex and of course the flash happened when my eyes were closed.  I actually think this is really funny!

It always seems to me that the marathon portion of an Ironman is a time of reflection.  This is especially true when the race isn’t going as planned and you are going really slow and all you have is time with your own thoughts.  I thought about my training so far this year and the things I did right and wrong.  I thought about my family and all the time I spent away training for long hours on the bike and runs.  I am really thankful I have such a beautiful and understanding network of family and friends who support this obsession!

I know this post was long, but I thought you would all find this enjoyable.  That's the last triathlon I will be doing this year.  I am now switching to ultra running mode and will do some long running races and yes I think I will compete in the Rocky Raccoon 100 mile race again next year.  I HAVE TO GET THAT BUCKLE!

That's all for now. 

Tri your best!