It's time for a race recap - woo hoo!!!
Not too long ago, Ironman Texas happened in the Woodlands, April 22nd, on a windy cloudy day. RTTC athlete, Erin Donaghy, toed the line for her second 140.6 (her first being the super hot Ironman Chattanooga in 2016). So, we caught up with Erin to find out how the race went down and how it compared to Chatt.
Coming into the race, Erin struggled with some health issues, but she persevered (okay'd by the doctor, of course!) to make it to the start line. Her goal? To have fun and enjoy race day. Not only did she do this, but she also raced AMAZING and scored a PR in the end, despite training not going so perfectly and having to make some adaptations. BOOM!
Check out the interview below to read about the good, the bad, and the downright inspiring moments of IMTX.
How did your morning routine go?
I woke up at 4 AM feeling pretty rested. I always sleep well before a race so that’s not a problem. I was really excited and ate my usual toast with peanut butter and honey, listened to some music and got my kit on. Definitely made sure to put my temporarily seahorse tats on! I was more excited than I thought I’d be with the rocky training beforehand. I felt ready to go.
When I got to the race site the gear check took much longer than I thought. There was a lot of walking from transition areas, but since I gave myself plenty of time, I still felt relaxed. I warmed up jogging a bit for ten minutes and by the time I got back we were lining up to get in the water.
So, everything went smoothly?
Well, I forgot to put my bodyglide on after I put on my swim skin. I also forgot to eat my other half peanut butter sandwich, but I didn’t let it freak me out. Once we started rolling and getting into the water I felt totally ready - I didn’t let not being able to eat my snack get into my head.
How'd the swim go for you?
The swim was good! It was a little congested right at the start but I actually had some clear water going right for the buoy line. I didn’t really have many people trying to swim over me even though I was right along the buoys.
BUT - once I got to the turn-around buoy I did have a guy grabbing at my feet. He kept scratching me/pulling at my race tracker on my ankle. It was a little frustrating because at this point in the swim there was PLENTY of space to spread out, yet here he was right on me. I was able to shake him after about 150 meters.
When we made the turn into the canal it was not pleasant. I stayed really wide so I didn’t have a problem making the turn, but once in the canal it was really shallow and dirty from construction. It kinda felt like swimming in a washing machine and people were getting really crowded together. It was incredibly hard to sight the buoys because of how congested it was so I started having trouble staying on the line.
As I made the final turn to the dock, I still had my head down trying to swim. That’s when a volunteered grabbed my arm mid stroke and pulled me out of the water – but I wasn’t expecting it. I swallowed a bunch of the canal water (yuck) and I actually had to stand at the end of the dock for a moment coughing and trying to catch my breath before I could continue on into transition one.
How were you feeling out of the water?
It was a tough transition. Between swallowing all the water and not being in as good swim shape, I definitely could feel the fatigue in my legs as I ran from the water to transition. Running through where the bags were, there wasn't a volunteer in my section, so I had to find my bag on my own. Once I found my bag and sat down in the tent I felt a lot more disoriented than my first Ironman. I’m pretty sure it was from the lack of swim training but it definitely slowed me down as I tried to make sure I had everything I needed.
This is when I figured out I had the chafing, unfortunately. As I was headed to my bike I asked a volunteer to spray me with sunblock and the pain on my neck (where the swimskin got me) was BLINDING.
I made sure to eat a whole picky bar when I got out of the water (usually I only eat half) because I forgot to eat before the swim, and I wanted to make sure I didn’t get in a nutrition deficient.
Once I grabbed my bike, the transition was incredibly muddy. When I was out of the transition area my cleats were completely muddied and I actually had to stop and dig my fingers into the cleats to pull the mud out before I could even get on my bike!
Tell me about your bike experience out on the course!
Once I got on the bike my quads felt fatigued. My heart rate was a little high (10 beats over what it should have been) and I worked on trying to bring it down and taking it easy. We were going into the wind coming out of transition so it really felt like a sluggish start compared to Chatt. It wasn’t until around 20 miles did my legs start to really loosen up and I could start moving better.
As I was ending the first lap the cold front started moving in and the wind was WHIPPING. The wind shifted and we had a direct headwind and it seriously stopped everyone in their tracks. All these aid bags were flying all over and all the signage was ripped down. Honestly, all I could really do was laugh, especially because my dad had been looking at his weather app the night before and told me this was going to happen. But then we decided the weather app couldn’t be right because it NEVER was right, so when it actually happened I just found it incredibly funny.
So at this point it was around 60 miles or so, and I was still feeling pretty good. I was drinking my NBS and doing well on nutrition, and as I turned around on the toll road and got the tailwind, I told myself to enjoy it. I knew what was coming the next time I turned around.
When the moment came, the headwind stopped me in my tracks. I was going 21-25 mph average and once I turned around it fell all the way down to 14 mph. The toll road is elevated, so there was absolutely no protection from the wind.
Around 92 miles, I had to stop to pee, and I was having a lot of pressure in my abdomen. Once I got back on the bike I felt rejuvenated, and I was able to enjoy the rest of my ride. I think the stop actually helped because it broke up the time I was fighting the headwind.
Overall, I think the ride was good. The course is hard to engage with because you’re just riding down a highway for the most part, but somehow it wasn’t as bad as I imagined. I didn’t have any issues with drafting, it was an open road for me. It didn’t feel nearly as crowded as Chattanooga when I raced last September.
It was a long run down to transition. I took my time once I got my bag to make sure I had everything I needed. I was in pretty good spirits and I knew the girl who was my aid in the tent, so it made things a little more lighthearted.
When I went to run out of the tent I realized I was still in my cycling shorts, so I had to turn around, rip em' off and just toss them to a volunteer. They said they would put them in my bag, but as I started the run all I could think about was my BRAND NEW pair of shorts and how I would never see them again. But hey – they were in my aid bag when I finished the race so yay!
It was about two miles into the run when my ankle tracker started to really chafe. I had safety pinned it to keep it tight so I couldn’t adjust it. It was in a really weird position from the guy grabbing it in the water. I ignored the pain for the most part - it wasn't so bad when I was running, it hurt more walking. It motivated me to keep running - ha!
The first lap, I focused on staying at my MAF heart rate. The only screen I had on my watch was my heart rate so I wouldn’t panic about pace - especially with the crazy wind. I let myself ease into it and I was feeling really good. I was running around 9 min/miles and I focused on my nutrition, salt and hydration.
Around the half-marathon mark I stopped for my special needs bag. After this, I couldn’t really stomach my GUs anymore. I ate only potato chips. I didn't feel sick, I just really didn’t want to eat GU. I got more of my NBS at special needs so I felt set. I didn’t get any dizziness like I did at Chattanooga in the extreme heat.
The spectators were amazing, especially around the canal. It was like one big, epic party and the energy was AWESOME. I told myself to grab the energy and take it along with me every lap. Every time I was on the back-end of the loop I would tell myself over and over to get back to the canal so I could see all my friends and spectators again.
Around mile 15 I started walking the aid stations to make sure I got everything I needed and around mile 19 I started drinking coke. With 2-3 miles to go, after we passed through the really intense cheer zone, I turned it on. I took off to see what I could do because there was a bunch of girls around me in my age group, and I hoped I could fend them off. At the turn-around point I could see I made some ground and I felt really strong.
The finish line was great. They actually called out my name this time as I crossed the line (my name wasn't called in Chattanooga) and it was amazing to get a PR. I knew coming into the last lap when I saw my overall time I could break 12. Once I had it in my head I couldn't shake it, and I knew I had to go for it.
POST RACE REFLECTION
How did it feel getting a personal best?
I can’t believe I PR'ed! Even though I mentally felt strong, with the health issues I had leading up to the race, I didn’t even consider trying to go for a personal best. It was great to have my dad there to experience Ironman and be there with me for a great race. I had so many friends and family rooting me on so it was nice to feel strong and perform.
What was your favorite part??
The run. I loved when you were coming back into town and hit the huge cheer section – IT WAS INCREDIBLE. I thought it would be brutal being three loops, but I couldn’t stop smiling the whole time.
What was your least favorite part??
Biking in the headwind. Actually, I guess the bike in general – it was boring and I couldn’t engage.
How did this race compare to Chattanooga?
Well, it wasn’t 100 degrees, so there's a big plus! It made the bike and the run much easier to do. There was never one point where I felt over-heated - I never even took ice on the course.
But the biggest difference was the meaning. I was so grateful to get to race IMTX. Just a couple months before this IMTX I had wanted to quit triathlon. So, it felt almost better than finishing Chattanooga, because there was so much meaning behind it. I pushed myself through a lot of tough issues getting to the start line, so it made the finish even more amazing!
There you have it! Ironman Texas was a great success for Erin, despite the training hiccups. We are proud to have her as part of the Rising Tide Triathlon Coaching family! We love when our athletes can have fun during their races AND stay strong, determined and inspired.