Race Information – Ironman Texas 2018 – 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run
When – April 28, 2018
Where – The Woodlands, Texas
On September 21, 2017, I officially signed up for Ironman Texas 2018! Now I want to let you know before I get into my training and the actual race, that I had never run a marathon, I had never raced an Olympic Triathlon or done a Half Ironman. So yes, why not jump in and do a full ironman? Some people called me crazy, some doubted me, my parents said I was dumb (Love you guys) but many were so pumped up that I was crazy enough to do this! My motto is Go Big or Go Home, so I thought this was the perfect race to do in order to keep that as my motto.
For those of you who don’t know, I was diagnosed with 3 spine diseases back in 2014, and was told by multiple doctors that these were going to continue to get worse as I aged. So they recommended that I give up running because they thought that I wouldn’t be able to walk in a few years at the rate my back was deteriorating at. HA Jokes on you Doc! I am not a fan of listening to doctors. Never have been, probably never will be. So I wanted to go out there and prove all the people who said I couldn’t do this wrong.
I grew up a runner and then I turned into a cyclist when my back decided it didn’t want to cooperate with me. So I thought how much harder can this training be when I am already pretty good at 2 of the 3?… Boy was I wrong! All I can say is WOW! I have never trained so hard in my life! It was 7 months of constant 15-20 hour weeks and the last 2 months, I averaged 20-25 hours. This was on top of working 40 hour work weeks. I tried to stay consistent by swimming 2-3 days a week, biking 3-4 days and running 4-6 days a week. As for mileage, I did around 4-6 miles of swimming a week, 140-160 miles of biking and around 40 miles of running per week. I maxed out at 25 hours in one week and was actually able to get my biggest run week in since college!! I swam 7.5 miles, biked 203 and ran 58 miles! So that was extremely exciting and EXHAUSTING. All I did was work and train. Let me just tell you that I am very grateful to have such athletic friends who joined me in many of my long training days!
I arrived in The Woodlands on Thursday, April 26 and went straight to the Ironman Village. I couldn’t believe I was actually there! It was just like how I had seen in the YouTube videos that I had been watching for the past 7 months. I got my race bib and all of my stuff, and then I went and spent way too much money at the Ironman store, but it was so worth it. I hung around the village for awhile and listened to the pros talk about the course and their experiences with past races. On Friday I woke up and went down to do the practice swim in the lake. I got my wetsuit on and headed into the water. “CRAP, my arms feel so heavy. I’ve only been swimming for 3 minutes and I’m already tired. This is NOT good!” I was completely freaking out during the swim, but I kept going, and towards the end I started to feel a little better. Then I went on a short bike ride just to make sure that the people at the shop had built my bike exactly the way I needed them to. It was perfect. I went on a short mile run following the bike, and my legs still felt heavy. I thought, “Oh Boy, if I feel like this tomorrow, then this is going to be a very rough day.” Apparently this is exactly how you are supposed to feel the day before an Ironman… Oh good, I love knowing that I am supposed to feel like crap the day before I am supposed to race 140.6 miles. Anyway, after I finished all of my short workouts, I turned my bike and swim and run bags into transition, and then headed back to the hotel to put my feet up and get in my zone for race day!
I have never been a huge morning person, but when my alarm went off at 4:12am I literally jumped out of bed and was like Oh my God, it is actually Race Day! I was so hyped! I ate a couple pieces of bread and then headed downstairs to meet my parents to drive over to the race. When we got to the race, it was buzzing with excitement! I couldn’t believe that I was now a part of this! I quickly went in and found my bike, pumped up my tires and put my nutrition and water bottles in my bike. Then I headed out with 3000 other athletes and thousands of spectators as we made the mile walk to the swim. Yes you read that correctly. They made us walk a MILE to get to the start of a 140.6 MILE DAY! I was like is that not enough for you guys, you want us to do more?? We eventually get to the start and my heart was racing. My parents were trying to talk to me to calm me down, and then it was time to go! They walked away to go watch the start from the bridge, and I waited with all the other athletes for the cannon to go off! Then I heard the BOOM and the race had officially begun!
I have never been a great swimmer and swimming in open water is very new to me since I have lived in the desert for 23 years. I was also used to swimming in a pool where I had my own lane and nobody was in my personal space. HAHAHA that was not the case at this race. I was being kicked, hit, punched and swam over for 2.4 miles. Within the first 200 yards of the race, I had a large man swim directly over me and then start kicking his feet rapidly right where my face was. Next thing I knew, my goggles were around my neck and I start freaking out! I had a swarm of people right behind me, and I was swimming in a lake that was so dirty that when I put my own arm in the water, I couldn’t see it. I quickly grabbed my goggles and tried pulling them back on my face, while simultaneously try to move forward. I was dunked under the water 3 times by people swimming over me, but I Finally got them on! At this point, my heart was beating so much faster than it should’ve been 4 minutes into a very long day. So for the next 5-10 minutes I was yelling at myself to calm down, you have a long day ahead of you! I eventually made it to the end of the swim with only a few more minor kicks and punches to my body. Success! I survived the Ironman Swim! Pictured below is exactly what I thought of that swim!
I had an absolute blast on the bike! I love riding my bike, and the fact that I was able to ride 110 miles without having to stop or slow down for a car, light, or stop sign was incredible! Not too mention, since I came out of the water in 1800th place (YIKES), I had a lot of people to go catch! Over the next 5+ hours, I passed close to 1000 people! The weather was great, a little warm, but I will take the heat over cold any day! There was quite a bit of drafting that happened on the bike with other competitors not following the rules. It didn’t personally affect my race, so yes I was bugged about it, but I still enjoyed the race! The course was a 2 loop course starting in The Woodlands and then heading out on the freeway. We rode 85 of the 110 miles on the freeway, so there was not much to look at, but that was ok because I was too busy keeping my head down and trying to pass as many people as I could without burning my legs up. The entire time, I was just yelling at myself, “Go get the next group! Don’t give up!” Something that I probably should have done differently was with my nutrition. Big Surprise huh, I messed up my nutrition. That NEVER happens… (I am so stupid when it comes nutrition) I had brought 6 honey stinger waffles and a cliff bar, so all sugar and no salt. It was 85 degrees and really humid, so getting in enough salt was vital to have a good run. I did drink 2 gatorade bottles and 3 water bottles, so personally, I felt hydrated when got off the bike. In the end I was very happy that I made it through the whole bike without crashing or getting a flat tire, and I was also able to average 21mph for the whole course!
The run… oh the run. This did not go my way at all to say the least. My goal going in was to try and average 8:30-9 minute miles and finish the marathon portion in around 3:45-3:55. The first 3 miles went by pretty well. I felt smooth and my legs didn’t feel that bad. That changed at mile 4. At exactly mile 4.23 I felt like I had just run face first into a wall. I became extremely dizzy and I started to break into the cold sweats. It was 85 degrees outside and I had been working out for the past 7 hours. I should NOT have had the cold sweats. Then I began shaking and the tunnel vision started. I am not a person that swears, but as soon as this began, the exact words out of my mouth were, “Oh SHI*, this is really bad!” I had a similar experience my Sophomore year of high school during the state xc race. I ended up passing out. That was a 3 mile race. I still had 22 miles left to run in this race. So you can imagine my fear when I was thinking how on Earth am I going to get through this without passing out. This run immediately became a run/walk and just make it to the finish line instead of trying to hit goal paces. I walked through all of the aid stations where I drank water, gatorade and I ate pretzels and fruit. Bless those volunteers! They brought me back to life! All of the spectators were incredible. They were out there blasting music and screaming in your face to keep going and not give up! It was extremely motivating and definitely helped me! I saw my parents at mile 6, and at this point I was having trouble running in a straight line, but I knew that if I told my mom this, she would be freaking out for the next 20 miles. So I did what any good daughter would do in this situation, I smiled and tried to quickly run by her making myself look as strong as possible. She bought it! SCORE. Well the next lap was extremely slow, so of course she started to worry anyway. At the end of the race when I saw her, she told me, “Your second lap was really slow, what happened?” Sorry mom, I thought I was going to die out there. Continue on with the run and I was still trying to put one foot in front of the other while my body fought me. There were times during this run when I was so dizzy that my eyes were open but I couldn’t see. I knew I just needed to keep going, no matter how slow it was, just keep moving forward and make it to the end without passing out. Finally, it felt like an eternity, but I hit the 25 mile marker and I was just screaming at myself to get through ONE MORE MILE! It was a rough one to say the least, but when I saw the volunteer who was standing at the section where you either turn left to do more laps or you go straight to head for the finish line, my body started to come back to life! He looked at me and said which way? Out of nowhere, I got this enormous burst of energy and yelled straight!! He was like YES, GO CROSS THAT FINISH LINE 1089! The next half mile was the best half mile of my life! I was high-fiving everyone, fist pumping and had the biggest smile on my face! Then I heard the words that I had been dreaming about hearing for the past 7 months, from the voice of Ironman himself, Mike Reilly, “Elisa Woody from Albuquerque, New Mexico, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN ELISA!!” Music to my ears! I had finished/survived my first IRONMAN! I thought I still had energy left until one of the volunteers told me we needed to walk to the end of the road to get out of the finish line chute, and I immediately collapsed into her. Sorry, but thank you for catching me. I had absolutely nothing left. I had given it everything and more out on that course, but it was 100% worth it when I crossed that finish line! I ended up finishing the entire race in 11:36:34 and getting 3rd in my AG. It wasn’t the goal I had in mind, but after what my body threw at me, I was so incredibly grateful to have finished that race! I was officially an Ironman. Will I ever do another one? Absolutely! I would love to go back and see how much faster I can go. As for now, I am still recovering, but getting ready to get back into the swing of working out and racing this summer. Thanks for reading this! Your support throughout my journey training for this race meant the world to me!