Race Report: Ironman Waco 70.3

It’s Thanksgiving week and I am PUMPED. The holidays are my favorite time of the year. Food and family are two of my favorite things and the holidays are filled with so much of both, that it’s just impossible not to love this season! It’s been a few weeks since Waco 70.3 and things have started to slow down. My training season has come to a close and I’m really enjoying the rest. When I look back at this triathlon season, I know that I’m happy with the results. When you put in the work, the progress shows and my A-race did not disappoint. 

Today, I’m sharing my race report for the inaugural Ironman Waco 70.3 and what a race it was! Hope you enjoy! 

Pre-Race

This was my second ever 70.3, but third Ironman branded event so, I felt incredibly prepared this time around. I was actually surprised that I didn’t feel the least bit anxious or nervous in the weeks or days leading up to the race. During Austin 70.3 I was running around days before the race just stressing myself out and worrying about EVERYTHING. This year, however, it really felt like I was heading down to a party with my closest friends. I was prepared, excited, and ready to get it!

It’s not that there wasn’t a ton to worry about, because believe me, there was. October is an interesting time for a triathlon. The seasons are just beginning to change and we’re seeing intermittent temperature drops in Texas. It could be raining one day, freezing the next, and then you could be sun tanning that weekend. This year, we saw record breaking rainfall in the months leading up to the race. The picture below [far left] was the weekend before the race at our tri clubs last open water swim, about 2 hours from Waco. Those poles sticking out are picnic canopies that used to sit on shore, away from the lake. As you can see, the water level rose far beyond the grassy shore and all the way up to the parking lot, where I was standing when taking this picture. I took a couple of short videos because I just couldn’t believe what we were seeing. 

With all the rainfall, the only thing on everyone’s mind was the water level of the Brazos river. We were getting reports out of Waco that there was a lot of debris, high currents, and a lot of flooding. I tried to stay optimistic. Like I said, Texas weather is fickle this time of year and you can’t truly be sure what race day will look like. Plus, I’d done Austin 70.3 a few years back which was round the same time of year and I knew there was a good chance that race day conditions would be [roughly] the same: Cold in the AM and then sunny and warm in the PM. 

We headed down to Waco Friday afternoon. The race was on Sunday so, that gave me two whole days to get down to Waco, get checked-in, and take in the city sights, if we wanted. We were short one Askew this year. My son wanted to stay home to hang out with his friends. This was actually his first time home alone for more than a night. I guess at seventeen, it was bound to happen. 

 

The remaining three amigo Askews loaded up and headed to our hotel. Waco is a short two hour drive from our town so we felt good about traffic and leaving later in the day. We saw lots of athletes and bikes on the road, which is one of my favorite things about any race! It really makes you feel at home, with friends.

Check-in at the hotel wasn’t until 3pm so, we took our time getting ready and getting there. Once we arrived we unloaded all my gear and got everyone settled and decided to head down to the athlete briefing and check-in. I’d heard there were already changes to the bike and swim course due to flooding and I wanted to get ahead of those changes so that I could preview the course again, if I needed. As luck would have it, it wasn’t that bad. The swim was changed to a point to point swim DOWN RIVER! I was literally jumping up and down. It was going to be an arctic swim, but the changes meant we would avoid swimming against the strong currents and could even be looking at a PR. Great way to start the weekend!

Our first night in Waco was fairly uneventful. We grabbed takeout for dinner and hung out in the hotel room after the briefing and check-in. I knew we were going to have a full day on Saturday with bike check and meeting up for some social time with my friend James and his wife so, I just wanted to rest my feet before walking around all day.

Saturday morning we woke up to news that there were even more changes to the course and that the swim had been cancelled. At this point, we were still getting conflicting reports from other athletes so, I headed back down for a second athlete briefing to hear the official report. Sure enough, the swim was officially cancelled. While I was totally bummed, I was happy that Ironman was keeping our safety top of mind. Strong currents meant that it would be difficult for kayaks to get to us in the event we needed assistance and it also brought tons of debris from up river. We were seeing huge chunks of trees, trash cans, and even whole picnic tables. So, even though it was a bummer, I totally believe Ironman made the right call. 

The swim cancellation meant that we would now be starting the race as a time trial bike start according to our race bib numbers. With almost 3,000 athletes this could potentially take several hours. Initially we planned on being at the race no later than 5am, but now, with at least an hour wait ahead of us, I didn’t even need to be on site until after 7:30 am. With each passing hour this race began to feel more and more like a regular weekend brick! 

We met up with James, his wife Jen, and one of their friends who was also racing during the second athlete briefing. You guys might remember them from Ironman Texas. James is one of my oldest friends and I was stoked to get the chance to race together again. I also spotted a former Pain Hunter, Rob, during bike check-in. Rob and I raced on the Mojo Race team together last year and we’ve been internet friends for years. I always love running into internet friends in person. His wife was super sweet and they’re just some of the nicest people. 

After the briefing, we headed out to grab a big lunch at Georges Restaurant. Totally awesome burgers, if you guys are looking for one. The place was packed! We were there for, what felt like, hours. By the time we got our food, I felt like I was slipping into a coma. Long waits and big meals do not make for an energetic afternoon. 

After lunch we thought about heading down to the Silo district, but we were so exhausted that we didn’t want to do anything but sit. My daughter had the idea to go watch a movie and that sounded like it would fit my food coma appropriately. So, we watched the new Friday the 13th movie at the AMC Galaxy 16. It was actually a fairly nice theatre. Plenty of seating, restrooms were clean, and their pricing was fair. It had been so long since I’d been to a movie in an actual theatre that I’d forgotten how relaxing it is.

After that, we headed back to the hotel for dinner. I heard that the real party was at the Olive Garden near the Richland Mall, but there was a pasta place just down the street from our hotel called Fazoli’s that we used to have in my hometown. I remembered it being the BEST pasta when I was kid. So, we ordered takeout again and had a fun family night back at the hotel where I took the opportunity to hang out in my Air Relax boots. While I was grateful for the boots, Fazoli’s wasn’t nearly as delicious as I remembered it. Don’t trust your 18 year old self to judge great tasting food. James and I ate at the Olive Garden with the family before Ironman Texas and I felt like that hit the spot! Plus they had beer for Jason and Jen. Fazoli’s was more like fast food. No beer.

Note to self: make Olive Garden a tradition.

Race Day

Since we didn’t need to be at the race until after 7am I took the opportunity to sleep in and take my time getting dressed. Typically, I prepare all my gear and lay everything out the night before. This time around, I had plenty of time to get ready the morning of. I braided my hair, put on my TriTats, and even mixed my nutrition when I woke up. Y’all! This was the most relaxing race of my life. I’m not even going to lie, I loved it. I’d called down to the front desk the night before and they were offering the make breakfast bags for the athletes since the hot breakfast bar wouldn’t be open before the race start. So, I knew we would have muffins and coffee waiting for us downstairs. Even more of a reason to take my time! As luck would have it, the lady working the front desk got an early start and had the hot breakfast going early too. So, we also had a full breakfast buffet! 

We headed down to the race around 6:30 am. It was still fairly chilly that morning, but you could tell it was quickly warming up. I threw a sweater on and hung out in transition for over an hour before it was time for me to start. I just tried to keep moving to keep my legs warm, but after the first half hour, things had warmed up enough to feel comfortable. For the most part, waiting for my race start was just that, waiting. I took my bike up to the maintenance tent to have my tire pressure checked, had time to get sun blocked, and hang out with friends for pictures and conversation. It was an hour long wait, I’m sure you guys can imagine how boring that got. Eventually, I got impatient and decided just to head down to the start. The row ahead of mine was clearing out anyway so, it was perfect timing. 

The Bike

I’d come out and rode the bike course really early on. As soon as they announced the official course this summer a big group of us drove down from Dallas, Houston, and Austin to preview it. So, I knew going into this race what to expect. A first for me. It was one big flat course! Don’t let the elevation map scare you. It looks like there are a few big hills out there, but the’re really more like false flats. Long gradual climbs that you hardly even notice, really. The city of Waco did a great job of cleaning things up. There was a ton of gravel, chip seal, and construction when we did the preview ride. The stretch of China Springs was especially dangerous. Imagine a two lane road with construction on either side. A road that even semi’s travel down, with zero shoulder. You could reach out and touch the cars, they were so close. During the race, one lane was closed for bike traffic however, the second lane was open with bumper to bumper traffic. Total gridlock. I honestly felt bad for the drivers. I always wonder what they are thinking. Are they cursing us? Probably. Ha! At any rate, the debris on the road was cleaned up and we had one safe lane to ride on. If you plan to race Waco in the future, be sure to secure your bottles! The roads in the first 5 miles are bumpy as all get out, even after being cleared. We’re talking teething chattering bumps guys. No joke. I can’t tell you how many lost bottles I saw out there. 

After the first couple of miles, when you exit China Springs, you start getting into the country roads and it all clears up, which is were the real treat is in my opinion. Lots of farmland, open roads, and just really pretty scenery. Waco DID NOT close most of these country roads for us, however. So, there were stretches of road where we were riding past cars and trucks. At one point I was literally riding beside a truck with their window rolled down chatting with their family about the race.  They were close enough for the kids to high-five me. So, practice your bike safety!

I really enjoyed this ride. The last half gets really fast as you start to climb down those false flats. It literally felt like I was hitting negative splits and I wasn’t even getting winded. I loved every second of it and I’m willing to bet every athlete out there hit a PR. I know I did! 

Total Time: 3:26:49 Avg speed 16.25 MPH

The Run

Coming off the bike I felt like a speed demon. I was so excited and felt amazing. Nothing felt tired, sore or weak and I really thought the time I made up on the bike would be more than enough to finish the race with an over all PR. I had no idea what was in store for me on the run. The course changes on the bike didn’t even feel like changes and I’d seen the course changes for the run that appeared to be loops in Cameron Park. I hadn’t done much recon on the run course and in retrospect I know that was a terrible mistake, but I just didn’t think I had much to worry about if they were just adding loops of what we were already doing. 

The first mile was great, you head out to Cameron park along shaded streets with lots of spectators along the river bank. That’s pretty much where the fun ended for me. Let me preface this by saying my run has become the weakest of the three sports. Which has been hard for me to deal with because I’m a runner at heart. After tearing my ACL and being diagnosed with exertional compartment syndrome after, I just had to learn how to take things slow. I also, had to accept the fact that I may not ever be able to run the way I had in past years. During training for Waco however, I started to feel like myself again. My splits were getting faster, my compartment syndrome symptoms were manageable and I was doing GREAT as long as I didn’t push myself too much. 

So , that brings us to Cameron Park. Whoever, picked this course is Satan in the flesh. You literally run uphill, turn a corner, run down hill, turn a corner, run up hill and so on for roughly 3 miles. Then, you get a three mile break before you do it all again. It didn’t take long before I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to run up all these hills and then back down them with my knee. Hills are not great for people with torn ACLs that never got fixed. You can do them, but they don’t feel good. After the first round of hills, I noticed that my hamstrings were starting to feel tight. I have a solid nutrition and hydration plan so I figured it was just the hills wearing out my muscles. As I cleared the hills and headed out back out to flat roads I expected my hamstrings to loosen up, but they didn’t. What’s worse was that I was taking in so much salt and nothing was helping! I stopped at an aid station just about half a mile from the second loop and had a banana to see if the potassium would help. It gave me a little relief, but I could tell that the next 6 miles were going to get painful. 

As I came through the second loop start and headed back to hill country, I slowed down and tried to stretch for a few seconds. The minute I approached the first steep uphill, my hamstrings totally seized up. It’s a pain I cannot describe. I felt like my hamstrings were pulling my uterus out of its position. I felt it radiating all the up my lower back and abdomen. I walked, slowly up that hill and all of the others that followed. There wasn’t anything I could do. I was taking in salt, I was drinking plenty of electrolytes, water and nutrition, but because I hadn’t been training my muscles for those intense hills, I just couldn’t shake the cramping. A lot of people think you only cramp when you’re dehydrated, but this wasn’t about hydration, in my opinion. My hamstrings were screaming at me to stop and rest. 

I managed to get myself together and finish the race at an average pace of 13:43 per mile. It was a huge disappointment for me. I had felt so good in my training and was gaining speed again. Those hills just killed me and I wasn’t prepared. I can’t really blame anyone but myself. Had I studied the course a bit more during my training, I would have realized the hills were much bigger than anything I had around my training grounds. Then, to top it off, we had added loops. Basically, I should have been training those last couple of weeks just doing hill repeats. Ha! 

 

Finish Time: 6:32:56

 

While I was disappointed by the run, I’m overall really happy with the race as well as my training this time around. I did get that overall PR, even with a slow run. I went out for another run post race and my splits were still looking really good, for me anyway. So, with that in mind, I know I made progress. I just didn’t get the training right for THIS RACE. You live and you learn! My take away for this race: do the hill repeats!! 

The finish line at Waco is awesome. You cross the suspension bridge with people lining both sides. It was really full of energy! Shout out to my daughter for handing me a Women for Tri flag to carry across the finish line! That made for an epic finish for me.

 

Well that closes out my triathlon season folks! I’ll spend the next couple of months focusing on running for fun and some strength training, but I don’t really have any big goals yet. 

Things have been a bit hectic since launching Askew Nutrition & Fitness earlier this year and I’m still learning how to manage racing, nutrition coaching, and life. Some days I hardly notice I’m doing all of it at once and others, I feel like I might not ever get caught up. I know there will be more racing to come in 2019, but for now, I’m going to give myself a break for the rest of 2018.

I hope you’re all getting ready for a fantastic Thanksgiving break! I know I’m looking forward to a Turkey Trot followed by wine, carbs, and a fat juicy bird. 

Happy Thanksgiving all!

Priscilla Askew, NDTR

Priscilla is Dallas/Ft. Worth based nutritionist and blogger.

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