Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Ironman Texas 2014: Race Day Recap

Hey there readers... We did an Ironman last weekend! And I've lived to tell y'all all about it. We = me, Aaron and my Dad. The race was in The Woodlands, Texas and consisted of a 2.4 mile swim in Lake Woodlands, a 112 mile bike through the Texas countryside and a 26.2 mile run consisting of three 8.5 mile laps around the Woodlands. Yeah, May 17, 2014 was the longest day of my life.

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Of course, in the photo below, you may notice that I barely lived to tell about it... Ha! I can laugh about it now...  

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Now, I hope you have excellent internet connection and a good amount of time because this is going to be very long just like our race day. I'm not sure that all of you care, but I know a lot of you are curious so I decided to share with you a detailed and REAL account of our day and of my race...  including nutrition, bathroom breaks, scenery, and the thoughts inside my head. So sit back, relax and stay awhile!

All of the photos you are viewing were taken by my mom, Clay or Courtney. They were some of the most dedicated cheerleaders/spectators out there!

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They kept us smiling on the course, made sure family and friends were updated throughout the whole day, and had the sweetest attitudes. Being a spectator is not only physically exhausting but even more emotionally draining than you think... and I would know from experience!

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So I'll start with our 4 am wake up call... Surprisingly, we all slept the whole night through. We got dressed and walked down the hall to Mom and Dad's room to eat eggs, bacon and toast that Mom was cooking up in the little hotel room kitchen. This was the same big breakfast we ate before every long training ride. After we ate, we got everything together and loaded the car. First stop was the transition area to load our bikes with food and gatorade bottles. Bri {another name we call my Mom) drove us there and as soon as she pulled up, Aaron looks at me and asks, "Jill, did you get the water bottles?" Oops... Thankfully, no one had a panic attack and we drove back to the hotel to get the bottles and were on our way again. When we got to transition, the announcer was hurrying everyone through and I was afraid I didn't air my front tire up all the way. Oh well! We loaded up our bikes and pumped air in our tires with a couple minutes to spare and then hopped in the truck with Bri. She then drove us to the swim start and dropped us off... those were our last goodbyes for the day.

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My swim goal: Stay relaxed. Keep heart rate down. Try not to waste energy. Finish under 1 hr 20 min if HR allows.

The whole swim from start to finish was mass chaos. The water temp was 67 degrees and we were three of just a few swimmers without wetsuits. In years past, the average water temp has been in the upper 70's and it is usually not wetsuit legal. {Wetsuits not only keep you warmer, but more buoyant and therefore, a little faster}. Since none of us had ever swam in them before, we opted not to wear them. I wore my Pearl Izumi tri suit that I wore in Miami, Aaron wore some blue spandex swim shorts and Dad wore a fast suit. Mom, Court and Clay were not able to find us to take pictures before the swim start unfortunately. While we were waiting to get in the water, my stomach was sick with nervousness and I was just SO ready to put all of my nervous energy into the race. 

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Our plan was to get in the lake about 5 minutes early and find a kayak to hang onto so we didn't have to tread water until the cannon went off. When our feet first hit the water, it felt like stepping into ice water. I was regretting the no wetsuit decision pretty bad then. {If you know me well, you know my idea of hell is the arctic.} Aaron and I grabbed onto a kayak and Dad swam over to the wall of the pier. His plan was to wait a few minutes after the cannon fired and start at the very back of the pack to avoid all of the weeping and gnashing of teeth chaos. While Aaron and I were holding onto the kayak, this sweet girl our age looked at him and asked him, "please, don't run over me during the start." He said he would try not to...Ok onto happy thoughts! I was SO thankful to have Aaron there right beside me and to know Dad was right where he planned to be. When the cannon went off, and all 2500 of us started swimming, Aaron and I stayed together for about 300 yards looking at each other like, "Oh my gosh this is madness." I think that's what the ducks were saying when a bunch of triathletes were taking over their lake!

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We swam 2.4 miles in Lake Woodlands and down through the canal. Boys wore green swim caps and girls wore pink. Throughout the entire swim: My teeth were chattering. I was either swimming over/into people or they were doing the same to me. The water was really choppy and I swallowed several big gulps of lake water. I was thanking God for my training and that I was a strong swimmer. I was praying that He would help Aaron and Dad relax and not cramp up. I was worried about my heart rate getting too high but I couldn't slow down because I would get mobbed by green swim caps if I did... It was every man for himself out there. 

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As we started into the canal, I was SO ready to be out of that water...mainly because I was FRRREEEEEZZING. Due to cold, tense muscles, I strained both of my groins doing a couple breastroke kicks {while spotting}. Courtney and Mom were on the edge of the canal cheering for us! Courtney said she could spot my swim stroke and that's how she found me out of all the other swimmers. By this point, my fingers were tingling and my arms were numb. As far as meeting/not meeting my swim goals, my time was 1 hr and 16 minutes but I had wasted way more energy than I had planned on unfortunately. I knew this meant I was going to have to take it even more easy on the bike leg.

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At the end of the swim, the volunteers hoisted us up out of the water and onto the grass where we ran up to the changing tents. I now know what "mind numbing cold" feels like... I just sat in my chair with my whole body shivering and didn't know how I was going to get dressed. A volunteer came up to me and asked, "Hey sweetie, do you need help?" All I could do was nod. She took everything out of my bags and laid it all out for me to get to. She helped me dress myself and pack my pockets full of food. After several minutes, I had finally warmed up enough to make conversation and I thanked her for her help. She was one of the many AMAZING volunteers that day.

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I ran to get my bike and spotted Courtney and Clay! As you can tell, I was STILL shivering... Court was on the phone with my Mom and she said, "Bri says she loves you!" She was down by the canal waiting on Aaron and Dad. I said, "Tell her I love her too!"

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I checked my front tire again to make sure I had aired it up properly and it didn't feel as hard as the back one but hard enough. Thankfully, both of my tires did fine for the whole 112 miles. Getting a flat on the bike was my biggest fear!

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Aaron came out of the water in between Dad and I but he must have zipped right by because our "photographers" never saw him! Dad was so relieved to be out of that water and starting the bike. I know Mom was even more relieved! Both of his calves had totally cramped up on the swim and thankfully, there are kayaks you can call out to if you need to take a breather or stretch out a cramp. Eventually, they went away but it cost him some time. With no more fears of drowning or hypothermia we were ALL SMILES!! haha

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Aaron flew through the bike... as expected. Well, actually we weren't quite sure how he would do. Before the race, we followed a 20 week training plan and while Dad and I got in about 85% of the workouts each week, Aaron squeezed by with about 30%.  Of course, it's no secret he's a young, athletic, freak of nature and honestly, the only thing I worried about with him is that he would go out too hard on the bike and not pace himself for the marathon. Dad convinced him to buy a heart rate monitor the day before and gave him parameters to stay between on the bike and beginning of the run. He stayed within those parameters and did amazing! When I started the run and heard how good he was doing I didn't know whether to be relieved and thankful for answered prayers, or disgusted! 

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My bike goals: CONSERVE energy. Keep HR under 160 bpm entire time, preferably between 145-155 bpm. Average 16mph if HR allows. Pee at least twice. Fuel up with as much food as possible before the run.

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The wind was blowing full force as evidenced by the flags all day... which was brutal on the bike at some points and for about 10-15 miles we got to enjoy a nice tailwind. However, the wind was nothing new to us. Every training ride was windy! The bike course was beautiful... full of rolling farmland and green woodlands. I was wishing my eyes could have taken pictures! The weather was beautiful and I didn't start feeling hot until mile 60. I stopped for gatorade/bathroom breaks at miles 40, 60 and 80. The only thing aggravating about stopping was that the port-o-potty lines were soooo long... There was only 2 at every aid station {which did not make sense}. I was trying to stay as hydrated as possible but then I'd have to stop and wait in line to pee! I did make lots of friends though and that was fun... I was also glad to get my heart rate down and stuff my face with food while I waited. There was also a three bike pile up behind me {but not too close behind} and thankfully no one was hurt other than a little road rash. 

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For those of you that are interested:

Miles 0-20: I was trying to calm myself/heart rate down from the swim. The roads were bumpy and there was a headwind. I was getting passed by what seemed like everyone and their mother... I'm pretty sure my husband was one of them and I thought well, maybe this means I'm a good swimmer! {Trying to stay positive here!} I ate half of a peanut butter sandwich and sipped gatorade in aero bottle. HR 150-160.

Miles 20-40: Spotted Brad, Emily, Tucker and April on their golf cart and waved them down. Seeing them made me SO happy! My focus was on conserving and I finally felt like eating. I ate the 2nd half of my PB sandwich, sucked down a second bottle of gatorade, took four salt tabs and stopped to pee at mile 40. Noticed my {pulled} groins trying to cramp up in the aero position so I would straighten up and stretch them out as best I could. I prayed and asked the Lord to make the pain bearable... and He did. It never went away the entire day, but I could tolerate it and I was so thankful.  HR 140-150.

Miles 40-60: Felt amazing! The winds were still tough and the course had a whole lot more hills than I expected. The roads were really bumpy but they had all of the bad pot holes marked really well. Ate my {oatmeal raisin walnut} Clif bar, sucked down one gatorade and one water bottle. Stopped at mile 60 to pee and get food and sunscreen out of special needs bag. I LOVED my volunteer girl who grabbed my bag for me... I had my biking gloves on so she rubbed sunscreen down my sweaty arms and legs for me! I also remember saying to her, "I thought Texas was flat... what's up with all of these hills??"  HR 145-150.

Mile 60-80: Still feeling fine! Brutal crosswinds blowing us across the road at times and continuous rolling hills with a few climbers but beautiful countryside. The horses and cows were so confused. I spent a lot of time in prayer for Aaron and Dad in particular, and felt so thankful for all of the cheerleaders in my life especially my Mom and sisters and best friends. I was starting to get pretty hot and continuously sipping on my gatorade, sucked down two chia seed buddy fruits, nibbled on goldfish for a little extra salt. Stopped at mile 80 to pee and refill gatorade/water bottles. Everyone loved that I was eating goldfish! HR 150-160. A couple of windy climbers brought HR up to 165.

Mile 80-112: Getting very uncomfortable and antsy to get out of the aero position and off of the bike. CanNOT believe I am on the last leg of the bike! Thinking of our support group and everyone tracking us and figured they were probably just as ready for me to get off the bike. Made myself eat a Nutrigrain granola bar, enjoyed nibbling/sucking on my salty goldfish, sucked down two bottles of gatorade. For the first time, I was starting to push it... I was ready to run! HR 155-160.

Goals met/not met: Conserved plenty of energy for the run. Ate enough food and was plenty hydrated to start the run. Kept HR right where it needed to be the whole time except while climbing a few really steep hills. Stopped to pee three times. Averaged 15.3 mph which was slow for me, but hey, this was an Ironman not a sprint.

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Dad was averaging faster than me throughout the whole bike leg but he also stopped three times as well so he stayed just a little ways behind me. I was wondering how he was feeling on the bike after that brutal swim and he says he felt really good on the bike the whole ride. Thank you Lord! He was riding to his HR and hydrating as well, conserving as much as possible for that marathon looming ahead. 

Meanwhile on the marathon course... 

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Aaron was steadily trucking along on his first lap of the marathon when Dad and I were getting off our bikes. I was missing him and and rolling my eyes at the same time about how well he was doing on hardly any training. Clay even ran with him for a little while! {just like their wives did almost a year ago}

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Speaking of their wives... I was so excited to see Court when I came out of the port-o-potty changing tent! They updated me on Aaron and Dad and I told them about the bike. I told Courtney I was so scared to start running with how bad my groins hurt getting off the bike but I was just gonna ease into it and hopefully they would loosen up... fingers crossed!

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Halfway through the first 8 mile lap the groins started to loosen up {while doing the "old lady shuffle"} and I was feeling ok! -Relatively speaking, of course. The run was made up of 3 loops around the Woodlands. The course was beautiful and covered with tons of cheering spectators. 

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Dad was steadily trucking on along! He says he felt great up until about mile 16 where nausea would hit him if he kept running. As soon as he'd start walking, it would go away so he did a run/walk combo for the last 10 miles. When Dad was starting his second loop, Aaron was about to run to the finish and they saw each other! That was the first time they had seen each other all day.

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My Run goals: Run the entire marathon and walk through the aid stations only. Sub-5 hr. marathon and finish Ironman sub- 14hrs. Run through the finish line with absolutely nothing left.

If you're interested:

Lap 1: Getting into a groove. Couldn't drink the mango flavored Perform because I'm allergic to mangoes and didn't want to risk it so I kept little G2 fruit punch flavored packets with me to pour in water at every aid station. Took four salt tabs. My stomach was not queasy yet but it wasn't hungry either. Running by all of the mile markers for runners on their 2nd and 3rd laps was mentally brutal. The spectators were awesome. They had set up tents with blaring music and were all cheering and having themselves a good time. The Lululemon tent was my favorite, of course.

Lap 2: Every muscle/joint in my body was uncomfortable. My motto for the whole run was, "The more you run {less you walk} the sooner you become an Ironman". I just kept pushing through with that in my head. I passed a father/daughter combo running together and it made me miss my Dad. I was wondering where he was and how he was feeling. I spotted Mom and Court on the course in their hot pink and coral shirts... My eye has always been naturally drawn to those colors so they were super easy to spot even in the crowd. At every aid station I would sip gatorade, coke and pour water on my head. I did not feel like eating so I just tried to sip as much sugar/calories as I could every mile.

Lap 3: Eye of the tiger. "Let's get this thing DONE" mentality. I knew I had to keep my pace if I was going to finish the Ironman in under 14 hours. I was hurting so bad all over and starting to get emotional. The spectators were SO encouraging. I didn't see Mom and Courtney so I figured they were watching Aaron at the finish. All I wanted was warm chicken broth at every aid station. I was also sucking on some goldfish I had in my pockets. Those last three miles were SO long... I kept looking at my watch and telling myself out loud, "Come on, almost there, come on." 

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Aaron was looking strong at the finish!

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The crowds were all cheering and reaching out their hands for high fives. The lights and the music are blaring. None of us have ever been more relieved to see a finish line EVER. At this point, Aaron was about to hear the announcer say, "Aaron Weatherford, from Fairhope, AL, YOU are an Ironman!" 

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The volunteers place the finishers medal around your neck and walk you through the shoot. Everyone is congratulating you and it is so surreal.

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So much fun seeing the Corleys and the Clevelands at the finish line!!! One of my favorite pictures from the day...

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The one big thing I realized towards the end of the race was just how much pain I was able to overcome to keep on going. Physically, I wanted nothing more than to just lie down and close my eyes and make all the pain go away... but mentally, what I wanted WAY more was to run across the finish line hearing my name, knowing I had completed the race. When I was running down the finish line chute I was overcome with emotions and adrenaline. Everyone was handing out high fives and cheering... I heard two distinct cheers on my right and I see Courtney and my Mom going CRAZY!! That was the best site ever. I started to cry and tried so hard to hold it together until I heard the words, "Here she comes... from Fairhope, Alabama... Jill Weatherford, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!"

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I could not hold back the tears any longer! I just started boo-hooing when I saw Mom and Courtney and Aaron... {I'll spare y'all the pictures haha} I remember saying over and over, "I've never run so hard in my life!" And I hadn't. I had literally pushed myself as far as my body could go... and then a little more. I had met my run goals of a sub 5 hr marathon and sub 14 hr Ironman... woo hoo!

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It was SO amazing to have our friends to celebrate with us and share in the relief that the race was over! It meant so much that Emily, Brad and April kept their kiddos up past their bedtimes just to watch us finish! And thank you to all of our friends and family who tracked us all day long and prayed for us. When I had to dig deep, y'all came to my mind. You got us through!! 

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After I sat down, the nausea set in... I had felt queasy the whole run but never nauseated. Looking back now, I am so thankful it started after the run and not during. Court and clay had sandwiches and coke for us to eat and all my stomach cared for was a few sips of coke. It was also probably a bad idea to sit down because when I tried to get up, my legs {particularly my dern groins} would not obey my mind. Mom and Courtney had to hoist us up off the curb to go cheer for Dad because he was finishing up his third lap woo hoo! Go Daddio!! We were SO PROUD of him. I just knew my sisters were hysterical at this point!

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He had the eye of the tiger running towards the finish line. I don't even know if he heard us cheering because he was so in the zone! Meanwhile, in between cheers, I'm puking in the bushes and Aaron and Clay are scrambling to get out of the way. HA! {Like I said earlier... I can laugh about it now!} As we were hobbling running towards the finish line to greet him we heard the announcer say, "Welcome Joey Carter... YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!"

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The photo above is the only one we have of the four of us together that day. I love it only because it speaks more than a thousand words. We're all so proud to be IRONMAN FINISHERS {even if I'm fake smiling} and I think Bri is even MORE proud!

Not 10 seconds after that photo was taken I was dry heaving on my way to the bushes {again} chanting "I'm never doing this again!" haha {As he was helping me in the truck, Clay lovingly compared me to a freshman college girl leaving her first frat party... thanks Clay!}. It's been four days since the race and I can walk and eat like a normal person... I've gone back on my promises of never doing another one- much like a new mother does after she's given birth I suppose! haha

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I can speak for the three of us when I say that finishing an Ironman was the most physically and mentally grueling thing any of us have ever done... in one day, if ever. We have no regrets. We are tougher because of it. These memories, of training and of racing, we will always cherish! {Except being nauseated... I will never cherish that feeling}.

Now... I'm off to go eat a hamburger! ;)


  1. Jill that was incredible, I too had tears in my eyes at the end. I am so proud of you and Aaron and your Dad. Please tell them. And what a writer you are. Take care and I'm waiting for the next chapter in y'all lives. Love you Mrs Wanda

  2. Just read the entire thing! What an incredible experience for all three of you! Congratulations! I am in awe. :)

  3. This is so stinkin' awesome, you are such a rock star. That was a HUGE accomplishment. I loved reading about the entire process. :)

  4. What an amazing journey! I loved your detailed account of each step and how you felt. Great job! I admire you!

  5. jill, you do not know me...I sent you a fb message. I'm the mom of Brad jones and Shelby jones. my hubby and I were finish line catchers at the time you and aaron were running in....I saw aaron (+ brett and corley). many congrats!

  6. If you are looking for personal trainer the Woodlands Texas then the Fitwoodlands is best place. We offer strength training the woodlands Texas. Personal trainer Woodlands Texas Woodlands Texas and strength training the woodlands is not difficult now.



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