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Ben Proko's Race Report for Ironman Texas 2015

Posted by benproko on May 21, 2015 at 10:15 PM

For several months, in preparation for May 16th, 2015, I worked hard at composing my most brilliant symphony. Each instrument used; swim, bike, run, strength, nutrition, and recovery were carefully and strategically planned out in preparation for the final piece- Ironman Texas 2015. Despite the harsh elements we had to face that day, I was pleased with the results and the race goes down in the books as one of my top 5.

Swim

The morning of the race, I did my best to maintain a clear mind. I had done enough thinking, planning, strategizing leading up to the race, now all I needed to do was execute. At 6:43 AM, I entered the water. With the rolling start, the athletes can begin nice and smooth at their own pace. If everyone seeds themselves correctly they rarely have to swim by others or have others swim over them. I feel some seeded themselves a little generously, but it was still a lot less chaotic than previous years. Early on during the swim, I began thinking about transition, but reminded myself to not worry about T1 until I reached the canal. Instead I turned my thoughts toward my form and technique.

After making the first turn 1/3 of the way out, I took a glance out of the corner of my eye at my watch and saw 25 minutes. I was on pace for a 1:15 swim. Shortly after the turn, my goggles started to fog up. I quickly let in a little water to clear the lens and successfully completed the swim with no further issues. After exiting I checked my watch and saw 1:13- a new non-wetsuit swim PR.

T1

In preparation for the bike, I placed the items in my bag in a strategic order that allowed me to have a smooth and efficient transition. I calmly went through my gear. I made sure not to depend on volunteers, but had a job for them if they were available. Thanks to the rolling start, there was much more room in the changing tent and the volunteers working there were amazing. I was in and out in a flash.

Bike

Starting the bike I was excited to finally have the opportunity to test my power after months of training. I used the wattage predetermined by my metabolic test from Johnny Shelby at Third Coast Training to limit my efforts and prevent myself from going overboard. The first 10 miles I focused on easing into the bike. I kept my power 20-30 watts below my goal pace and sipped on water until we made the turn onto 2978. I then settled into my goal wattage and worked on staying smooth and efficient.

Shortly after the first water station came up, I was able to cleanly grab a water bottle. But when I placed the bottle in my BTA cage (between the arms) I noticed it was not a secure fit and struggled to keep it in place on bumpy roads.

Miles 20-50 were enjoyable. With a decent tailwind, I was able to allow myself to sit up on some of the uphill portions to help with digestion. I usually added about 20 watts while on climbs. When trying to keep my power steady, one problem I often encountered was at the bottoms of hills. I was consistently going faster than most as they coasted/soft pedaled on their way down. We’d then start to climb the next rolling hill and as I entered the 5 bike length draft zone, the cyclist in front of me would (most likely unknowingly) substantially increase their power causing me to have to go much harder to complete the pass within the 20 seconds allowed. After a few repeats of this situation I learned how to adjust my effort so this would not happen. 1) If I saw I was close I would add my 20 watts of power a little earlier to pass them before the climb. 2) If I didn’t think I could bridge the gap I would soft pedal the downhill and pass them when their power spike stopped. Most of their power spikes lasted about 10-20 seconds before they realized they needed to ease back.

I noticed more race officials on the bike course this year. Sadly, I witnessed more drafting than ever before, but also the most penalties. I was thankful to see penalties were being handed out. A couple of times an official was near me watching drafting up ahead. They would watch for awhile before penalizing an individual. I thought they made some good calls. Of course they did not catch everyone, but they were trying. There were also some athletes holding other racers accountable and calling out them out if they were drafting- in turn this helped break them apart and made them more obedient to the rules.

Around mile 60 we made the turn onto the toughest few miles of the course. This stretch has a false flat section with very strong headwinds. Shortly after, the special needs pick-up was available. I had a spare bike tube and CO2 cartridge which I didn’t need. I also had my next nutrition bottle, water and a couple of Hammer gels.

Despite the strong head winds going back, I was able to pass many athletes. I did not have the same issues on the hills with athletes pushing the first part. Many seemed to be tired at this point. The course was also exposed to more sun. With the high temperatures and humidity, the heat felt intense and from mile 85-100 it was starting to take a toll on me. I dropped my power about 20 watts to recover while drenching myself in water at the next few aid stations. At mile 100 I was feeling good again. I resumed my race wattage and stayed steady the rest of the way to T2. I performed my flying dismount without problem and ended the bike with a 4:56 bike split for the 112 miles. (22.6 mph average)

T2-

Into T2 I was thrilled to have achieved a sub 5 hour bike split. I could now relax more knowing flat tires and mechanical problems were no longer a threat. On the way to the changing tent I heard my dad cheering. He has been at so many of my triathlons. It is always motivating to hear his encouragement. I grabbed my bag, changed into some clean dry socks, applied sunscreen and headed out on the run.

Run-

IMTX is a 3 loop run course. My wife and many other friends were able to cheer for me at many spots. I started the run earlier than ever before. The heat felt unrelenting by this time and I immediately felt uncomfortable on the first lap. Heading into the race I had several goals (A-D). Any of the 4 objectives I would be happy to achieve. I decided to try for my plan “A” goal pace for the run. I really had to work to stay at that pace. My legs felt ok but the typical Houston climate was getting to me. I was putting ice in my hat and dumping water over it to try to stay cool. Miles 2-3 and 4-5 were unsurprisingly tough. Those sections had the fewest spectators and there was minimal shade. Though I successfully made it through this section on the first lap I realized my current pace was too aggressive for the days conditions. During my experience competing in triathlon and adventure races, one of the most valuable lessons I have learned is to be flexible. I would not be broken if plan A did not come to fruition. I’ve learned to take the cards I am dealt, and use my best judgment. After 5 miles, I accepted the circumstances and adjusted my goals.

Upon approaching the waterway, the energy from the spectators was amazing! Near the JSC Tent, I ran into Colin. Colin has been one of my friendly age group rivals for several years at the local races and usually got the best of me at a handful of races. One race, Colin and I were neck and neck, duking it out with an exciting sprint to the finish. It resulted in me falling face first in the grass and sliding 10 feet just a few yards from the finish. He won- obviously, but it was great to see him and encouraging to have him cheer me on. Also, seeing my friends Adam, Roland and Johnny gave me a motivational boost.

The next few miles I focused on my adjusted pace and getting in water and nutrition. Near the end of the lap athletes had to go down some steps (20 or so). There was no way I was going to run down these. I took my time and then settled back into my pace.

Entering the second lap I received encouragement from an amazing sub 9 hour Ironman triathlete Andy Gardner and a little further down Out Rival’s head coach Michelle LeBlanc. The second lap is the toughest because fatigue sets in and the athletes still have a ways to travel. Though I was motivated at the hot conditions were taking a toll on me. At mile 13 I had to make a smart judgment call to drop my pace down to match plan C’s goal time. I pushed through the dreaded sections hoping my arrival at the crowded waterway would provide more inspiration. My hopes were fulfilled! My pace had been falling off but the cheering mass of people gave me a new sense of energy. Within a half mile I would go by my dad, Katie, Collin, Abe, Tom and many others. I picked up my pace just a little and pushed to finish the lap.

Just after starting the last lap I see Katie again, and let her know I will be going for my “C” run goal. The first part of the lap I stayed focused on nutrition and hydration. Even though it was a “C” run goal it would still be a good run if achieved. I knew my good bike split would mean nothing if followed by a poor run. The motivation was all on me the first half of the last lap. I knew with less than 8 miles to go, I could maintain the pace. I discovered I was in better shape than most when I saw that I was one of the few athletes running and no one was passing me. On the last tough mile before the waterway I looked up and saw the bright yellow Trifit-XT shirts of Adam and Roland. Seeing them encouraged me to continue and actually pick up the pace. During my final pass through the “party zone” on the waterway, the cheering was insane. It has like ascending L’Alpe d’Huez in the Tour de France. The crowd helped propel me the last few miles to the finish.

Approaching the finishing shoot, I made sure to separate myself from other finishers to allow them to take it easy and enjoy the moment. Once I crossed the finish line, a good friend Ricardo was volunteering at the finish and escorted me in. He made sure everything was good and I reunited with Katie, my dad, and Roland to celebrate the PR finish. I felt amazing, had zero stomach issues and was able to eat a meal right away.

From past Ironman races, I have experienced the physical cost of leaving it all out there. It takes forever to recover and considering the circumstances- in conjunction with my goals, it was not necessary to go there. I pushed hard, established a PR and was overall pleased with the decisions I made, my performance, and the ultimate outcome.

Special Thanks:

My biggest thanks goes to my wife Katie. She allowed me the time to train and was awesome race support. And because of her nutritional guidance, I give her credit for this being the first Ironman that I had zero stomach discomfort of any kind. During the race, I was able to take in more calories than ever before. Katie helped me eat the right combination of food to allow my body to become more fat adapted and fuel efficient. Not only did the diet help performance but since January I have lost 14 pounds to get down to 152! Thank you Katie this would not have been possible without you!!!

Terry Proko (Dad)- He has been to 9 of my 11 Ironman races and close to 100 of my other tri’s.

Adam Bennen and Roland Gomez- My text message buddies on training. They listen and got to watch the improvements through the winter and spring and were always motivating all the way till I crossed the finish line.

Team Trifit-XT- Thanks everyone for your cheers, pictures and motivation. I always believe in leading by example and you guys make me do this both in quality, smart workout as well as listening to my body when things aren’t quite right.

Johhny Shelby (Third Coast Training)- Having a metabolic test on the bike and run takes all of the race day guess work out as well as insuring proper training months before the race.

Brittany Hodge (PT with C. Foster and Associates)- Thank you so much for correcting my muscle imbalances and helping to address and prevent any other issues as they came up

Jordan and Frank (Tru Tri Sports)- My bike worked to perfection with a smooth drive train and amazing shifting.

I would like to thank everyone out there volunteering and cheering. You are the ones that make the race so memorable.

IMTX results

Swim-1:13:02 (non-wetsuit PR)

T1-5:28

Bike- 4:56:37 (PR by 20 minutes)

T2- 6:24 (IMTX PR)

Run-4:14:30 PR

Total time 10:36:01 (PR by nearly 1 hour over my IMAZ time in 2008)

*this year was nearly 5 hours faster than last year

Bike and run nutrition was Hammer’s Perpetuem and hammer gel

• With a 1 hour PR after 11 Ironman finishing there were lot of little change I made that added up a PR in much tougher conditions.

• Nearly all biking was done on a computrainer.

• What biking I did outside was on a mountain bike

• Did mountain bike races including 2 marathon mountain bike races (4-6 hour races) one which was the day before the Houston Marathon

• My IMTX marathon run was faster than my Houston Marathon this year

• I spent 10-15 minutes doing neuromuscular warm-up before every bike and run.

• Highest week run volume was 32 miles. This was because I came off a stress fracture in December and was as high of volume I felt I was able to get to in that time period.

 

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