Ironman 70.3 Austin Race Report – controlling the controllables, aka running 10 miles with a broken foot

My wife (Dr. G) and I ended our 2012 triathlon season with Ironman 70.3 Austin. This was a long season. We started with Ironman 70.3 California (aka Oceanside) at the end of March, then Wildflower Long Course at the beginning of May, a local Olympic distance race in June, Ironman 70.3 Vineman in mid-July, and, finally, Ironman 70.3 Austin at the end of October. It was a challenging season for both of us. I had midfoot pains on and off starting in February/March. We really wanted to qualify for the IM 70.3 World Championship and, although we both had a great race at Oceanside and really put it all out there, neither of us placed highly enough to qualify. Aches and pains continued to plague us and it was not until after Vineman that we started getting better.

Unfortunately, my midfoot pain came back during a training run three weeks out from Austin. Until then, our training was the most solid and consistent it had been all season and my running was strong. I had faith in my training and therefore decided the most important thing was to race healthy and injury free. I continued swimming and cycling, but did not run. By Saturday, the day before Austin, the pain had largely subsided. We had put a lot of pressure on ourselves this year, to the point that at times it almost was not even fun. We decided that in Austin we would get away and enjoy ourselves. No pressure. I didn’t know whether my foot had 13.1 miles in it and sometimes you don’t know how those things will go until you get out there. However, I never actively entertained the thought that I could not make it, because I did not want it to take hold and create doubt.

TRAVEL, CHECK-IN, AND PRE-RACE

Flight and travel went off without a hitch. Our Friday morning flight out of Sacramento was full of people who had come in for the World Series game. We got into Austin, picked up our rental car, and drove over to the county expo center at Walter E. Long Lake to check in.

Check-in went pretty fast and after buying a few souvenirs from the expo we left and checked into our hotel. Our hotel’s booklet highlighted 6th St. as a prime area for restaurants, but when we got there it was primarily tattoo parlors, bars, clubs, and burger, pizza, and Mexican restaurants, none of which we were particularly in the mood for. A little farther down the street we found a Whole Foods, which had to be the biggest Whole Foods we have ever seen. In addition to the usual hot bar, deli, bakery, seafood, and meat counter, there was also a wine bar, beer bar (with a big flat screen TV), and a BBQ counter. Did I miss these things in California?

On Saturday, we got up and went back to the expo for the pro panel. It was cold and windy, with a cold, penetrating wind. Andy Potts, TJ Tollakson, Brandon Marsh, and Yvonne Van Vlerken were all there. The panel was held in the arena, but instead of sitting on a stage,  which is what see for typical pro panels, the pros sat in the bleachers. This made for a pretty intimate and informal setting. A lot of the discussion was about dealing with expected cold conditions the next day. The number one recurring theme was to keep your hands warm. Andy Potts stuck around for photos and chatted a bit. Gloria and I were impressed with all of the pros who came and especially with Potts. Chris McCormack was scheduled to race, but did not attend the pro panel.

We waited for the athlete information briefing and sat through the whole thing. It is important to attend these things, as they often explain things that are unclear in the athlete information guide. After, we picked up our bikes from TriBike Transport, set up or T2, and checked our bikes into T1, since there was a mandatory bike check on Saturday. More and more races, especially Ironman races, have two transition areas and “clean” transitions requiring everything to be either on your bike or in an assigned transition bag. It makes for a slower and more complicated transition. This may make for a slower time vis a vis other races, but every race is different and at least here everyone would have to un-bag and then re-bag their gear.

After we finished at the race we went back the hotel, changed, then went downtown. We stopped at the Bicycle Sport Shop to pick up a pair of long-fingered gloves that I would need the next day. There are three of these stores in the Austin area and this was probably the biggest bike shop I have ever seen.

After we got my gloves we met with one of Gloria’s sorority sisters and her husband at Home Slice Pizza. Pizza has become something of a pre-race tradition for us.

After, we went back to the hotel and turned in early for what would be an early morning.

RACE MORNING

Race morning was cold, colder than I thought looking at the weather forecast. At Oceanside in March I got so cold on the bike that I could not grab my bottles. Since temperature were expected to remain in the 40’s and low 50’s for at least a good portion of the bike I opted to wear a jacket and long gloves. Putting on a jacket and gloves in T1 and then taking them off in T2 would add time, but if I stayed warm I could avoid losing time elsewhere. We got into our wetsuits almost immediately and stood in whatever sunny spots we could find. My wave started at 8:20 and Gloria was scheduled to start at 8:30. We had a long enough wait that we got to see the pros finish their swim. Andy Potts was out of the water first.

SWIM

Since the pros started only 10 minutes after sunrise there was no opportunity for a swim warmup and the ground, which was uneven with rocks hiding in the grass, did not lend itself to a jogging and running drill warmup. I did several sets of pushups while waiting with my start wave.

The water was 71 degrees and, for the first time that morning I could get warm. As usual, I started near the front and, when the horn sounded I sprinted out to get in front of the pack. I found myself with three or four other guys. One fell off and then another. I stayed behind two of them, taking advantage of an opportunity to draft, and eventually passed one. Soon I started running  into slower swimmers from earlier waves. With so many swimmers to swim around, and sometimes over, drafting was not possible. Still, I could see another florescent yellow cap not too far ahead. I felt like I was zig zagging everywhere, but looking at my Garmin data it looks like I managed to hold a relatively straight line.

I finished the swim in 27:44, second in my age group. Until this year I was happy if I finished in the 27 minute range, but at Wildflower and Vineman I finished much faster (25:51 and 25:10, respectively) so I have some to expect a bit more.

T1

Very slow. Putting on a jacket and gloves probably added 2 minutes to my usual transition time. On the plus side, I had practiced stripping out of my wetsuit with my Garmin 910XT and it came off without a hitch. The transition area is notorious for thorns and a lot of people were carrying their bikes. Once I got out and started riding I ran my hands over the tires. Good thing to, because I have never seen so many flats at a race.

BIKE

The bike course is a figure-eight shaped loop that is mostly flat, with some rollers. The wind had died down from the day before, but it started coming back later. One complaint I had heard repeatedly about this race was about poor pavement, but other than a couple short sections I thought it was either good or not too bad. Austin had a relatively mild summer this year so the roads were much better than in year’s past. They were much better than Wildflower and Vineman, were far more bottles litter the pavement. I felt like I maintained a good speed and a good effort throughout. Since I don’t have a power meter I have to go off of perceived exertion, but after 10 (and now 11) half-Ironman races I have developed a fairly good gauge of effort. I keep my nutrition simple – one water bottle on the aerobars that I swap at aid stations and one nutrition bottle on the frame frame. I usually estimate 200 kcals/hour. For a half-Ironman, where I am looking at roughly three hours for the swim and bike combined.  That is 4.5 scoops of Perpetuem. On hot days I add Endurolyte powder, but with this day’s cold weather forecast I found it unnecessary.

I finished the bike in 2:40, a decent time, but nothing to get excited about.

T2

By the time I came into T2 the temperature had warmed up into the mid-60’s. Perfect running weather. I racked my bike, pulled off my helmet, gloves, and jacket, stuffed it all in my bag, and set off on the run.

RUN

The run was the big question here. I went out thinking about a recent post by our friend Marin (TriMarni) about controlling the controllables. I knew I had excellent fitness leading up to the race and, up until 3 weeks prior I was running as well as ever. I could control my training. I had done everything I could to toe the line with the healthiest foot possible. This first couple miles would tell me whether I would have the fitness, that day, for a good run. If it held up, great. If not, it was not something I could control and I would not be disappointed.

Checking my Garmin, with the exception of a couple rollers, I was holding a good 6:50 pace and below, and without much effort. I could tell I had the fitness for a 1:35 run split or better. Whatever happened next, I would be happy with that. I had some soreness in my foot, but nothing bad. I felt smooth and fluid. The pace was easy. It lasted about 2 1/2 miles. the run is three loops and just after I turned around in the second loop, as I was passing through some rough pavement, I had a sudden pain in my midfoot. Was this the bad sharp pain I had been warned about? The pain got worse. I stopped for a moment then walked as I assessed the injury. Did I want to stop? Did I want to continue walking? I started feeling better and resumed running. As I completed the first loop I thought about dropping out, but kept going. I figured if it was a stress fracture (or fracture) it would hurt much more and there was not way I could continue running. Still, it hurt enough to affect my stride and slow me down.

As I finished the second loop I saw Gloria. I always have a sense of relief when I see her, because it means she made it safely off the bike. She yelled at me that I looked good. I yelled back “I love you” then added “I might be in the med tent.” I knew I would have to go straight to the med tent for a big ice bag. I didn’t want to throw off her race, but neither did I want her worrying if she didn’t see me at the finish. Gloria thought I looked really good and never guessed how much I was hurting. I saw her again on the third loop and she offered to walk with me. Again, not wanting to throw off her race, I told her to keep going.

I finished the run in 1:48. Not good, but with my foot I was happy to finish.

POST-RACE

Once I finished, my foot really started hurting. I could not bear weight on the ball of my foot. Once Gloria came in I went to the med tent for an ice bag. My foot was really swelling up. I had still managed to finish 28th in my AG (out of about 300) and with a more typical run split I could have managed 12th. Gloria managed 12th and although she was unhappy with her run I thought she did great.

After returning our bikes to TriBike Transport and watching the awards (again, no Macca), we went back to the hotel. With my foot, we decided going downtown was not in the cards so we picked up some Thai food on the way. We also had a bottle of wine waiting at the hotel anyway. Once we got back I immediately started icing my foot.

We flew back early Monday morning and, once in Sacramento, went straight to the ER. I had a fracture in my 3rd metatarsal. I am looking at a full cast for at least 4 weeks and will likely be off of any impact for at least 6 to 8 weeks. At least it’s off season.

I cannot believe I ran 10 miles on a broken foot and still think it should have hurt a lot more than it did. Of course, when you are out there racing and your mind is focused, you just don’t notice certain things. While it may say a lot about my mental focus, it is not exactly something I am proud of. I am fortunate that my metatarsal is well aligned and should heal completely, but I could have done serious damage. After 2 Ironman distance races and 11 half Ironman distance races I am past doing these to check them off my bucket list. Gloria said, at the orthopedist, that quitting is not something I would do. In some ways that scares me. In triathlon, and especially in long course triathlon, we worship pain, suffering, and perseverance. In NBC’s airing of the Ironman World Championship, words like “suffering” are stated repeatedly. However, as Gloria has stated, there is a difference between “giving up” and “letting go.” For us triathletes, who are so focused on not giving up, letting go, and knowing when to let go, may be the bigger challenge.

I will add that I now include midfoot pain with arch pain. I have lengthy experience with plantar fascitis and have long considered it the most insidious of injuries. It seems minor at first, especially because it subsides after your warm up, but we athletes keep going and it gets worse, resulting in bone spurs and other complications. Midfoot pain is similar, because it can indicate a developing stress fracture. You can take a week or two off, cut your mileage, or change shoes, but it can still be there, slowly getting worse.

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3 responses to “Ironman 70.3 Austin Race Report – controlling the controllables, aka running 10 miles with a broken foot

  1. Great report Ken, and good job on finishing strong, the season and Austin. Your dedication and drive, along with Dr.G’s, is a s It is constant source of encouragement and inspiration. Enjoy this off season and take advantage of you forced training vacation, you’ll be back with a vengeance next season.

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