May 29, 2021 -
This is probably the most physically demanding course I’ve encountered thus far, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into the most mentally challenging. I signed up for this course mainly because I wanted to do 3 IMs in one year after completing my 1st in the Woodlands 2019. It made sense in 2020 to pick easy commute locations like IMTX, IMTulsa, and IMFL, but we all know how the Covid story went. Anyhow, I never realized how much elevation climbing Tulsa had to offer until everyone in the FB groups kept commenting about it. We’re talking about IMTULSA (4917 ft) vs IMTX (1224 ft) over the course of 112 miles. If you know me, then you’ll know I don’t complain and just deal with it. Thus, it became an exciting challenge, since we have ant mounds for hills in HTX. Traditionally, triathlons normally have one transition area and you just swim/bike/run out of this area. This race was a point to point to point triathlon, which means we start in one area and end in another area. If ironman wasn’t already a logistical nightmare, this just added another dimension to it with shuttles to offsite locations along with gear drop off. Good thing logistics just make sense to me, so I was cool as a cucumber! So, let’s get into it.
Night before/Morning of: My gameday race plan in terms of nutrition was already set. I had my Infinit Nutrition mix made and refrigerated night before. Gear was packed away in their respective bags. I never doubt that everything I need was already packed in their respective places. However, when it comes down to sleep I rarely ever get shut eye. So I just listened to my buddy Imkhon Tri just snore all night long. Every time he snored I would try to envision counting sheep jumping over the fence. Eventually 3 am rolled around, so I got up and had a peanut butter sandwich. Taste so good I decided to have a 2nd one to fatten me up with some carbs. Tulsa isn’t that big of a town so parking access was less than ideal for 2500+ athletes. It was mandatory we take shuttles to get to where we need to. Thus, we had to wake up probably an 1.5 hr earlier than your typical IM race in order to not give yourself a heart attack full of anxiety. It was suppose to be a 15 minute walk from the hotel to the 1st bus, but Khon somehow convinced another athlete and his girlfriend we met in the elevator to give us both a ride to Transition 2 (bike end/run start). Cars were obviously backed up already at 4 am, so we jumped out the car and walked the rest of the way. We dropped off our Special needs bag for the bike/run before we jumped on the 2nd bus that took us to Transition 1 (swim start/bike start). We made it on to the bus around 445 AM. It was about 25 minute ride to Transition 1 and chit-chatted with some first timer athletes to help calm their nerves. They transported our bikes from T2 to T1 the day before, so we had to go find where they racked it as we never seen this transition area yet. In the end it all worked out well. Found my bike, put my nutrition in, pumped up the tires, and emptied the last of bowel movements. As far as im concerned I am already a winner in the early game. I was happy to see familiar faces Linda and Kristi before heading to swim start. It was a nice 1 mile warm up walk from T1 to the actual swim start. We barely had enough time to truly get situated in our transition before they started calling our projected swim finish times. Our race started around 6:50, so we needed time to walk over there and start putting on our lotions, wetsuits, etc… As we were walking to swim start I noticed there were still plenty of buses full of athletes still arriving to transition. I knew the anxiety was building in them as they may feel they are going to be late.
Swim: As we walked over to swim start, we casually chit-chatted with other athletes just to distract from the journey we are about to embarked. I think about 9/10 athletes I’ve encountered all day were 1st time ironman competitors, so I was delighted to share my “pro-tips” for first timers. If you want those pro-tip, then you need to actually sign up for an iroman and then ill DM you what it is. Swim start was a ramp down into gorgeous Keystone Lake State Park. I entered the water and boy that cold 67 F water hit me for a couple minutes. It wasn’t outrageous but it does take a minute for your body temperature to warm up after dipping into cold water. Off I went swimming around this lake on an overcast slightly drizzle morning. Swimming is definitely my weakest discipline, and to add gasoline to the fire I think I only practiced like 4x before this race LOL. By the time I made the 1st turnaround, which was about 1/3 of the swim I was thinking to myself HOLY CRAPSICLES I am tired! By the time I got to the half way point, my form was giving out, my back was starting to hurt. I was practically army crawling through the water. I constantly kept trying to sight ahead for a red buoy thinking that was the turn buoy towards the finish. Well, I am also color blind , so orange buoys look like red buoys to me. It was a rollercoaster of emotions thinking this is THE RED BUOY, but it was like that for 15 more disappointing buoys ??
T1: Out the water I came jogging up the ramp. I was initially disappointed I swam a 1:42, but all things considered with how little I trained I was content. I typically rock at transition! I have no issues with balance because it normally takes an adjustment to be horizontal for 1hr 30m+ then stand upright running all of a sudden. I got out of my wetsuit with ease, then put my bike shoes, socks and glasses on. I did have a snafu and accidentally broke my helmet because I tried to pull it apart too much to fit it on my head. It cracked on the side, but at this point I was like “it is what it is”. Generally, I am running through the transition area with my bike, but it was such a crowded area, and my swim time was so slow that I was stuck behind many other athletes. The positive thing is due to that I was able to see Linda see me off onto the bike.
Bike: Let the fun begin! Right at the beginning of the bike it started to rain and boy did it rain ALL Day. Funny thing I had mention the week before I always wanted to race in the rain. I know it’s not the safest, but heck I want to experience the scariest conditions possible in my athletic career. What is the fun in a perfect condition race? There are no war stories to tell! I already rode majority of the course once, so I knew that this course was going to have a good bit cracks/holes/potholes/etc… I rather spend more time riding than complaining how not ideal it is. Sure enough I see riders lining up the side of the road trying to change their flat tires. I was very fortunate enough to not get a flat the whole ride. Especially, when the last time I rode the course I got 3 flats, but I learned from that experience! I definitely made up my swim time passing up inexperience bikers in the rain or maybe I just had no disregard for my life. The hills were tough, but I thoroughly enjoy the down hills. Early in the course I believe around mile 10-12 there was a scary downhill that literally said NO aerobars. It was pretty steep drop that turns back to the right in the midst of going down. I just went WeeEEeEEEEeEE!!!!! I’m unsure if it was this section or somewhere later in the course, but I totally hit 41.6 MPH according to my watch. We could talk about how this course is not a smooth pave course, OOORRRR we can talk about how gorgeous this 1 loop course was. I got to enjoy scenic views for miles while I was climbing hills. There were plenty of luscious green trees at varied elevations. Vehicular traffic was practically non-existent other than major intersections. There were plenty of spectators spread out through the course and locals sitting on their lawns ringing the cowbell. Just after the halfway point there was one spectator that kinda freaked me out for a second. A person in a monkey suit was cycling on one of those double-decker bikes. Wind was non-existent to me. On the way back after the halfway the elevation leveled out. Throughout my ride I heard a rattling going on and I was suspecting that it was my hydration cage screws loosening. I tapped it a few times and it looked secure, so I kept moving. Well, somewhere by mile 80 I looked down and half the cage had become unhinged. I was like well damn I was thinking will the other screw come flying out and I lose my main hydration. I jumped off the bike to try to tighten it, but I didn’t carry the allen wrench I needed. So, I just jumped back on the bike and prayed the screw would stay. I had to stop refilling this hydration, and just switched over to using my rear bottles only. I finally made it to the 100 mile point thinking okay it’s the final 12 mile stretch. Well, IM decided to change the last portion of the route for whatever reason. I never rode this last section and it was totally new to me. This must’ve been the worst section in terms of hill climbing. I think we had back to back 12-14% gradient sections with barely rolling hills. My legs were tired but I dug in deep and got through it. I thought about this section for the rest of my day when I chit chatted with others on the run course. Eventually, I made it in and still had energy to do a flying dismount and ran it in. This was probably the best I felt coming off the bike after a century+ ride.
T2: I don’t ever carry a backup pair of socks for my run. Maybe I am just too naïve that im comfortable in any condition. However, Linda and Khon convinced me to put a fresh pair of socks in my run bag, since there was SLIGHT chance of rain in our forecast for race day. Boy was that a great idea! My socks were soaked from biking in the rain all day. I had this new fresh pair of socks waiting for me to go with my new dry shoes that I double bagged just in case rain got into the outer shell bag. My main goal coming into this race was that I would have enough energy to run about a half marathon after the bike. I am always careless about my training that I just wanted to have a half decent run vs an abysmal run like my first 2 ironman. So, I came out of transition 2 and saw Linda again feeling good for my run with all smiles.
Run: It was an out and back 2 loop course along the Arkansas River in a safe running trail park. I started my run on my goal pace (10:30/mile) feeling good. I was very happy as this was my goal going into this race. I wanted to be able to run without stopping right after the bike. It only lasted 6 miles because I was starting to feel tightness in my chest. This mentally messed with my concentration the rest of the race. It may have been due to racing in a fresh new kit, which I didn’t get a chance to break it in yet. It felt better unzipped, but I didn’t want to run through the park half naked. I never cramped or anything, but just couldn’t keep consistently running. I also liked the mind/matter over my chest. It really helped the crowd identify me and cheer. There were amazing spectators every step of the way. I definitely would have to say this may beat IMTX as the best run course in a year or two. At this point many can be in a very dark place for these 26.2 miles, but I was pretty much all smiles and thanked everyone that cheered for me. Most notable costume was a lady in a unicorn with pom-poms. She had been out there all day, and I saw her again right before I finished. There were plenty of chances to see friends, families, and other athletes going in the opposite direction. I saw Kristi on my second loop and Shao-Tai and Phong multiple times. I saw Phong at my last turnaround on my second loop. He looked at his watch and then looked at me. He yelled at me that I can be a daylight finisher, so start moving! Nelson GO! I was like crap I could, so then I started to pick up the pace and limited my walk breaks for the final 6 miles. The finish line was finally so full of life filled with spectators giving High 5’s, banging the cowbell, and bringing me home! Although light rapidly went away, and I didn’t finish under daylight I still sub 14 hours with a time of 13:59!!!!
Takeaway: Although, I didn’t PR this race I felt the best in this race in comparison to my first two due to more training and balanced between all 3 disciplines. My body definitely thanks me this time around. Course was difficult but achievable. I personally enjoyed the whole race with no real complaints. City of Tulsa put on a great event. I appreciate Kristi Perkins Mind/Matter Teammate who opened up her home twice to me for this race! I also super appreciate an amazing friend Linda Fox that came to take all these pictures, videos, and cheer. This trip couldn’t have been better without her! My goal for IMTX in October is to be trained enough to where I don’t have to walk the marathon much and break 13 hours on a flat course.