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2021 IM Tulsa Race Report

Created: Saturday, 05 June 2021
Balancing speed and safety on wet, rough roads!
Ironman Tulsa was a huge race! It was the inaugural race in Tulsa, the first full Ironman race in North America this year, and a sign that we are slowly returning to normal. This was my 6th full IM, and whoa was it challenging. 2.4 miles in Keystone Lake, 112 miles of biking on dangerous roads that were filled with potholes, gravel, and mud. Then finish with a 26.2 mile run that also had its share of hills. All in the rain. I had my best swim time, and my fastest overall time. Read on if you want to know the gritty details.
After flying out to Tulsa from Atlanta, I had to assemble my own bike together. My Garmin Vector 3 power meter stopped working properly, and their great customer service sent me a replacement set right before I left. I installed the new pedals, and the power was reading perfectly!
My racing gear is from the best: Zoot Sports. This includes the Bolt wetsuit, Ultra TT shoes, and of course, the Team Zoot race kit. Other notable gear is the Garmin Fitness 945xt watch, Smith Optics US sunglasses and helmet, Speedfil F1 hydration system, New Wave Swim Buoy goggles, and Quintana Roo Tri PRsix TT bike
For nutrition, I used all Hammer Nutrition products: Gel and Bar before the swim; Perpetuem, Gel, Bars and some supplements on the bike; and Gel on the run along with whatever was on the course. I didn't plan on using the bike Special Needs bag, and placed extra Gel in my run Special Needs bag.
 
Since it's Tulsa, it has to be acknowledged that this marks 100 years after the Tulsa Massacre. I visited several sites in Greenwood Village and took a tour. It's incomprehensible what happened. There was no justice. No insurance money paid. No reparations. I also had a great Meetup with many other African American racers and with Team Zoot. After the pre-race stress and tension was released, I need to get ready to race.
 
Running through downtown Tulsa
Logistically, this was the most challenging race I've seen with the start, T1, T2, and the finish line in 4 different locations. IM offered a valet service to transport bikes and gear bags, but drove the 30 mins to set my bike and gear. I drove the bike course in advance to build my bike strategy. Most of the first half of the course was on the worst roads I have seen. I knew there would be a lot of carnage out there, so my plan was to just to stay safe and survive it! The practice swim went well, after the initial shock from the 68° cold water. Definitely, a wetsuit legal race. I've been worried about my legs, but practice run went well. My plan to rest them and let them recover worked. Now it's time to race.
 

Swim - 2.4 mi swim

Finishing the swim with determination!
A shuttle bussed all the athletes to T1, where we were able to add our nutrition to our bikes. From there, it was another 1.5 mile WALK! In the rain. We started the walk in our expected swim finish time, but that quickly went chaotic. There was a lack of organization at the start, so all the swimmers lined up wherever instead of staying in groups. The volunteers holding up the estimated swim times disappeared. So I got line about 2/3rds deep. I was going up line up with the 1:30 group. I've been getting great swim pointers from Ken Koontz, and was anxious to see it pay off. My last race at IMFL 70.3 I swam a 2:35/100yd pace, which placed me in the 98th percentile in my age group. I am determined to improve!
 
I was interviewed by the camera crew and asked what my goal was for the day. I replied, "Finish before sunset!"
 
The swim start was 4 at a time. A simple out and back, with just 2 turns. 4 swimmers entered every 5 seconds. There was plenty of space for everyone to have their own swim space, but congested throughout as well. According to the Athlete Guide, there were yellow buoys, then 2 red buoys to turn at, then orange buoys on the return. Soo why were there 6 red buoys on the course? That was confusing, and I don't have any answers. I kept peeping at my Garmin splits, and was so shocked to see super fast times (for me)! I completed the swim with a 2:12/100 yd pace!!!! Big improvement. Thanks Coach Ken!
 
Goal, finish above the 90th percentile to remain competitive
Actual: 80th percentile!!!
Pace: 2:12/100 yd (Generally, I'm 2:30 or slower)
Time 1:34:35
Place: 172/214 in Age Group
 

T1

Pumped after a great swim, I started running to my bike. That didn't last long, as the asphalt really hurt my bare feet. Everyone was walking. The rain was continuing. I had to remove my bike gear from the bag and replace it with my swim gear. Then IM will move the bag to T2 for me. I was too hasty, and tied up the bag without my wetsuit! After that was fixed, I was off on my biking adventure.
Time - 6:40
 

Bike - 112 miles

Eating Hammer Bars while riding
The rain was coming down pretty good. What's nice about finishing with a good swim time is I get to bike with serious competition! The wet wheels required that I brake early and harder. With 5,000 ft of hills, I knew this would make downhills treacherous. Sure enough, I would be tested just 7 miles in. Water Tower Road was completely covered with potholes!! There were bike parts all over the road from previous victims. It started with a climb, which I navigated pretty well. But there was a tremendous amount of rattling. Then, my handlebars dropped!!!! Crap. All the vibrations and wet parts had loosened up my screws. After I crested the top of the hill, the descent was a steep 15%. Everyone knew about how dangerous this stretch was, so everyone took the descent slow. I braked, and my handlebar dropped again! I was potentially about to launch myself over the front of the bike because I was braking hard. And, there was a sharp right turn at the bottom of the hill. I had thoughts that this was going to end very badly. I pulled my handlebars back up, adjusted my weight, and survived. Whew!!! There was no way in this weather I would be able to bike 100 more miles like this. I biked carefully to the bike mechanic at mile 25. There was a long line, as numerous cyclists had their own issues. Of course, I wasn't going to wait, so I went to the front, found the tools I needed, and tightened the screws myself. That fix worked well for the rest of the ride.
 
Crossing a dam.
Although my bike was now safer and performing better, the roads didn't. I saw so many expensive bike parts all over the course!! Not just ejected bottles, but entire bottle cages, tubes, CO2, and other components. Clearly, I was in good company with bike issues. Unfortunately, I also saw accidents. One lady directly in front of me took a turn and her wheels lost traction with the wet roads and she slid out. Saw bleeding cyclists, and countless numbers on the side of the road.
 
My bike still had issues. All the vibrations also loosened up my bottle cage within my frame. By the end of the ride, one screw came completely out, while the other was barely screwed in. I made a note in my checklist to make sure ALL my screws were extremely tight.
 
Staying wet in a chilly wind gave me the chills. Had me sneezing whenever my speed or the wind picked up. Top speed was 44 mph.
 
My goal was to maintain my target power range and not worry about speed. My main screen didn't even display my average speed. The 2 meeting goals on the bike are to setup my legs for a string marathon run afterwards, and survive the bike leg safely. Speed would take care of itself. The final stretch into downtown was a huge relief.
Goal: Maintain my power, stay safe, ignore speed
Speed: 17.6 mph on 5k feet of elevation on wet, bumpy roads
Rank: 88/214 AG
Rainy day to ride

T2

I thought about doing a flying dismount, but remembering how my feet got jacked up in T1 led me to be smart, and keep my bike shoes on. After dismounting, I jogged to my rack and was surprised to see my bike bag there! The volunteers brought everyone's bike bag from T1. I left that bag alone and emptied the contents of my run bag. Grabbed my gear, placed my bike gear back in the bag, and headed off on the run. In hindsight, I probably didn't need to put my bike gear into the bag.
Time: 4:40

Run - 26.2 miles

Run through the parks, along the riverbank
My legs are typically heavy after a hard bike ride, but riding per my power meter left me feeling fresh! The first 3 miles was downhill, so I took advantage of the free speed with an 8:30 pace. My goal was to maintain a 9:30 pace. Once I got to level ground I settled into my 9:30 pace. It is a 2 loop course along the riverbank. The course description says this is a flat run course. It wasn't. There is just a flat section. I felt great maintaining my place for the first 13 miles. Then I ran into the photographer again he continued the interview, "How are you on track to meet your goal?" I replied, "Yes, I'm going to smash my goal of finishing by sunset!"
On the second loop, fatigue set in. Due to recovering from my leg injury, I haven't done any long runs. My place kept dropping and the hills are punishing. At the 18 mile mark, I just a straight shot to the finish line. My mind was saying, "Push to the finish!" but my legs were cooked. My pace slowed to a jog, and I gave it my all to keep it moving. The last 2 miles was uphill. That fast downhill I enjoyed earlier is now paying me back. Half of the people around me was sharing the struggle and joined me fast walking up the steep climb. The last 1/4 mile flattened and allowed me to run for the finish.
The crowd support was amazing!! Rounding the carrier towards the red carpet was loud and exciting. Finally, I heard the music and saw the bright lights of the finish line. Mike Reilly was on the mic, and announced that I was an Ironman! I finished with my fastest swim time and my fastest overall time.
Run:
Goal: 9:30/ mile
Actual: 11:02/mile
Time: 4:50
75/214 AG
Overall:
Time: 12:59:30
Rank: 82/214 (Excellent rise from 172nd!!!)
 
 
 
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