The Quarter Ironman,
which is just a hair bit longer distance than an Olympic distance
triathlon, was my goal for 30 March 2008. The distances were a .6
mile open water swim followed by a 28 mile bike followed by a 6.5
mile run. I've been told that I should cut my teeth on at least 5
sprint distance races before attempting an Olympic distance. Well if
you know me I'm hard-headed, impatient and I like a challenge so
Quarter Ironman it is!
Beth, the kids and I
arrived at the Galveston Island Motel 6 Friday evening at 11:30PM.
Motel 6 should change their slogan to, "Clean, Comfortable, TINY,
hobbit sized rooms with absolutely no amenities. You are lucky to
get a bar of soap and a couple towels for the price you are paying
so shut your trap!"
You get what you pay for
I guess and all we needed was a place to sleep and that's exactly
what we got.
awoke Saturday morning and rode over to Moody Gardens to catch the
end of the sprint triathlon. I really wanted to take a look at the
swim course more than anything else. I was very 'concerned' about
the swim to say the least. It would be my first open water swim in a
race environment and only my third open water swim since I began
this crazy addiction that is triathlon. We arrived at the shore of
the swim course just as the jet skis were placing the buoys for the
Quarter and Half courses. When you see a mile or even a half mile on
the Interstate it really doesn't look that far. As I gazed across
the water as they placed the first buoy, which I would assume was
around 200m from the shore, I was sure they must have made a
mistake. What in all actuality LOOKED like a mile to me was probably
only around 200m. My 'concern' escalated to fear and my primary
mission was to just get out of the water for the race. If I could
get out of the water then the bike and run would be cake.
We spent the rest of the
day walking around Moody Gardens, picking up my race packet and
visiting the fitness expo. I bought a hydration bottle kit for my
bike that fits between the aero bars at the expo. It has a long
straw on it that allows you to hydrate while in the aero position
without moving your hands from the bars. It was a really cool
purchase and it definitely helped me during the race. We met up with
all the BRTri guys and gals for dinner at a local Italian
restaurant. I gotta say the people I've met in the Baton Rouge
Triathlon Club are some of the most genuine, caring people
I've ever come into acquaintance with. They show tremendous support
for all members from superstars like Philippe, a BRTri member and
winner of the Lone Star Half Ironman, or a slow, fat triathlete like
me. Thanks guys, you are all amazing!
I ended my lazy,
pre-race day setting up my gear and packing my transition bag. The
only thing I forgot was my earplugs which I can survive without.
They are more of a convenience for me since water in my ears doesn't
really bother me. In Chad fashion I got little to no sleep Saturday
night. I guess it's my pattern now to not sleep well the night
before a race. I tossed and turned for most of the night and what
little sleep I did get I dreamt about the swim. I don't remember
exactly what I dreamt but I think it involved sharks, Chuck Norris
kicking me in the face and lots of time underwater.
arose at 5AM. I'd been awake for at least an hour picturing the
course and my goal, the finish line, in my mind. I'm in it to
COMPLETE, not to COMPETE so the goal of crossing the finish line is
all that matters to me. We got out of the room relatively fast
considering that we had to rouse a 5 and 7 year old from their
slumber. We arrived at the course just before 6AM. The humidity in
the air was thick and the sky was a deep purple as the sun started
to rise. As I entered the transition area one of the volunteers
marked my race number on my arms, the palm of my left hand, the top
of my left thigh and wrote my age on the back of my right calf. I
wheeled my bike to my transition spot and laid out my bike and run
gear on the ground. Time seemed to fly by as the race announcer
stated that the Half course would be kicking off shortly. We made
our way down a shoreline path to the swim start to watch the Half
course guys start their race. The horn blazed at 7:30 as the elites
started their race. My wave was set to start at 8:50 so I still had
plenty of time to fret about how far that first buoy looked from the
swim start line.
A swim lane was setup
aside the start pier so participants could get in and swim a few
laps to get warmed up. I took advantage of this and got in the water
for a few minutes. The water was surprisingly comfortable and the
buoyancy that the saltwater and wetsuit provided amazed me. I only
had to provide VERY minimal effort to stay afloat if that. I swam
50m or so and exited the water a little more confident that I would
be able to do the swim with no problems.
rolled around as the announcer instructed my wave of around 100
participants to get prepared to jump in the drink. I kissed Beth
goodbye, gave the kids a high five and shuffled over to the end of
the pier. No turning back now. It was time for me to complete
another goal on my list and to start my Quarter Ironman. I adjusted
my goggles, floated over to the red starting buoys and prepared to
start my race.
I'm not sure what it is
about the starting horn that causes me to forget how to swim but
that's exactly what happened - again. The only difference between
this time and Athens is that I didn't have a rope or the end of the
pool to grab onto and I was in the thick of 100 people all around
me. While I didn't get kicked in the face this time it sure was a
weird experience having people swim on top of me and swim under me.
I stayed in the bubbles of a swimmer ahead of me for around 100
meters trying to do freestyle but just like my mistake in Athens I
wasn't breathing. Oxygen does a body good and since I don't have the
ability (yet) to convert water to oxygen with fish gills I
eventually ran out of steam. I flailed around for around for another
20 meters thinking to myself, "What the hell have you gotten
yourself into", before I took in my first big gulp of saltwater.
The beach patrol had
lifeguards on surfboards posted near the buoys. I called out to the
lifeguard close to the first buoy, "Hey, can I grab on for a sec to
clear my goggles?"
He nodded and paddled
over to me. I grabbed on, spit in both eye panes to clear the fog
and continued on to the first buoy. I called back to him, "Do I have
to go AROUND the buoy or can I skirt the inside?"
He responded, "No sir,
you have to go around the buoy." I didn't exactly go "around" the
first buoy. I went around the rope that was anchoring it to the sea
floor but I went UNDER the inflatable. Heh heh. Anything to get a
little closer to the end of the swim. It was a mess of bodies
swimming around the buoy anyway and going under the damn thing
seemed like the best route for me to avoid any kicks.
I continued to do a
mixture of freestyle, breaststroke and my patented half-ass
sidestroke as I slowly worked my way toward each of the buoys. I
never really established a rhythm but I kept repeating over and over
in my head, "All you have to do is get out of the water, all you
have to do is get out of the water." Since I did so much
breaststroke I had no problems navigating. I couldn't say the same
of my fellow swimmers. More than once, as I was headed on a beeline
towards the next buoy, someone would cross my path perpendicular or
even on an angle swimming almost the opposite direction. I wanted to
yell out to try to help them but I figured it would be fruitless
since their head was underwater.
I had already been
passed by at least one wave that started behind me. When one of the
waves passed me it was similar to the washing machine effect that
was the start of the race with swimmers swimming really close over
the top and under me. As I made my way past the lifeguards on
surfboards and they noticed my dark blue swim cap in the mix with
the reds and yellow swim caps of the following waves they always
asked me if I was OK. I gave each a thumbs up and thanked them for
I reached the last buoy
around 25 minutes from starting the race. I tried to avoid the mess
of bodies again by going under the inflatable instead of around it
and it worked to some degree. FINALLY, 200m and I'd be on the shore.
I bumped up against a guy on the way in that was on his back and
clearly struggling more than me. He had a light blue swim cap on
which meant that he started in the wave before me. As we finally
were able to touch the bottom I patted him on the back and assured
him that the bike and run would certainly be better.
made it out of the water! (33:30 swim) I unzipped the
back of my wetsuit and slumbered up the bank making my way to the
wetsuit strippers. I haven't seen the pictures yet but I hope Beth
caught a shot of this. I went to the stripper station, plopped on my
butt while a couple of volunteers grabbed the torso of the wetsuit
and yanked it off in record time.
I shuffled through the
freshwater shower to try to rinse off a little of the saltwater and
continued on the path into transition 1. (T1) I toweled off as much
as I could as I slid on my bike shoes. I pulled on my shorts,
slipped on my Team 464 racing jersey, snapped my race belt, took a
swig of water and I was off to the mount point for the bike course.
No tiny bike for this
race! A kind soul, new friend, accomplished triathlete and fellow
member of my local triathlon club named Llew built me a new tri bike
after reading my plight at the Athens Triathlon on my tiny bike. I
couldn't be happier with it. It's fast and I love it. Thanks Llew!
After exiting Moody
Gardens the first couple miles of the bike were the worst of the
course. The pavement was rocky and filled with speed bumps and
potholes. Once the course turned onto Seawall Boulevard, which was
the majority of the course, the pavement was nice and smooth. I
passed more people that I can remember on the bike. I constantly
glanced down at my watch and saw that I was averaging close to
20mph! For me, 20mph on the bike is fast.
I was feeling great up
until the halfway point when I started to feel 'funny'. I felt like
I had to go to the bathroom but didn't know for sure. Even when I'm
not exercising I go from zero to "Oh my God I have to find a
bathroom in 20 seconds" instantly. I was lucky during the marathon
and during the Athens triathlon that I was never hit with the
runners runs. Being "digestively challenged" as I am Triathlon
nutrition for me can't be by the book. High carbohydrate nutrition
sends me into a tailspin of extreme cramping, diarrhea and lethargy.
I had just taken a couple of the Ciff Shot Bloks when the 'feelings'
started to come on. Thankfully I was close to the first aid station
which had a couple of port-o-jons. I stopped at the aid station,
knowing that my bike time would be shot, but I'd rather stop than
the alternative. Well... After 3 or 4 minutes I realized that it was
a false alarm. That's bad because once the 'feeling' starts it is
inevitable that the emergency will eventually happen where I
literally have a 30 second window.
I grabbed a bottle of
water, squirted it into my new hydration bottle, clipped back in and
was back off on the course. If I had to guess that first aid station
was around mile 10. I was 5 or 6 miles from the turnaround point and
I still felt fresh. With the exception of the intestinal digestive
issues I felt great and what felt even better is that my stop at the
bathroom allowed me to pass all the people that I passed earlier on
in the race again.
I was around 2 miles
from the turnaround when I had a VERY close brush with a bad crash.
Some jackass thought it would be a good idea to pass on the right. I
didn't even think 'On the Right' was a proper command to shout out
while riding but nonetheless here he comes and I scooted as far to
the left as I could to let him try to pass. Well, I scooted a little
TOO far left and I hit one of the cones. I thought I was a goner and
I prepared for the worst. The cone was trapped between one of the
pedals and the rear wheel. Thankfully it popped out and I re-gained
control of my bike before crashing. I never was able to catch up
with the ass-clown that thought it was a good idea to pass on the
right. Honestly I don't even remember what he looked like. Had I
caught him I think I would have passed him on the left, unclipped my
right shoe, kicked him into the ditch 'ninja style' and then
continued on my way. I wonder if that would be a penalty? Maybe
abandonment or something. :)
hit the turnaround point at around 40 minutes. The ride back to T2
was into the wind but it wasn't as bad as I expected. I still
managed to maintain a 19 - 20mph average. I soaked in the scenery
and enjoyed the ride. I still felt good and the intestinal twangs
seem to have subsided. The remaining 15 miles were un-eventful
and before I knew it I was back into Moody Gardens with the run on
I got to the dismount
point, unclipped my left shoe and started to dismount. I mentioned
before that the run was on my mind. Well, it was a little too much
on my mind because I forgot that I was wearing clips. The bike
leaned to the right and just as I went to remove my foot from the
pedal... you guessed it. Stuck! My bike, that is at this point
securely attached to my right foot, and I topple over onto the
pavement to what I'm sure is an amused volunteer staff. I've been
told that the zero mph crash happens to everyone. I'm glad that I
got mine over with and I surely hope it was my last. Too bad I had
to have a damn audience to watch it. (1:34:03 Bike)
clippity clopped over to my transition spot and slide out of my bike
shoes into my running shoes. I notice that my knee and the front of
my calf is bleeding. I remember thinking back to when I was in boot
camp and the drill sergeants growling, "Privates, what makes the
"Blood drill sergeant.
Blood!" we would reply.
"What is pain!?" they
would ask us.
"Pain is weakness
leaving the body," was our response.
So, nothing wrong with a
little blood and the associated pain. It's motivating.
I hobbled out of T2 in
to start my 6.5 mile run. (02:24 T2)
By this time I hit the
run course it was 11AM and the sun was out in full force. My first
couple miles were at a good 9 to 9.5 minute pace. The course
meandered through Moody Gardens and along the shore path that
skirted the swim course. It was hot but the aid stations were spaced
perfectly apart. They even had cold water sponge aid stations which
was a welcome surprise.
squirted down a gel pack along with some water at the mile 2 aid
station. The gastrointestinal twangs were all but gone - that
is until I ate that gel pack. It's amazing how quickly my body will
react to carbs sometimes. Within 30 seconds of ingesting the gel
pack I started to experience the first signs that I needed to find a
bathroom soon. After around another minute the twang turned into a
full blown emergency. Thank God that the course looped around to the
same spot that the aid station was. I started the first of what I
consider "transition 3" for this race which was the amount of time
that I spent in the port-o-jons during the run. I ended up having to
stop 3 separate times totaling 37 minutes. During the Mardi Gras
Marathon I was looking for the aid stations. For the run of the Lone
Star Quarter the race consisted of me looking around the corner for
the next port-o-jon and praying that they weren't occupied. More
than once I thought of the consequences of running in the woods or
behind a building if I was unable to make it to one of the
The course outside of
Moody Gardens was somewhat boring and actually a little bit
confusing. There was one part of the course that you did a
weird figure eight around some streets that skirted the airport. I
maintained a 9 - 10 minute mile for most of the course but that
didn't really matter because I knew my run time was shot because of
my 'transition 3' time.
hit my last sponge aid station and squeezed some of the cold water
on my head and neck at around a third of a mile from the finish
line. I picked up my pace a bit so I could finish strong. I always
seem to think of 464 when I cross the finish lines and reflect back
on my journey. Not the journey of my race but rather the journey of
my life over the last two years. I don't care if it's a 5K, a 10K, a
marathon or a Quarter Ironman, I always choke back the tears
realizing that what I'm doing would not have been possible 2 short
years ago. The announcer shouted out, "Chad Soolow (yeah he
butchered my name) you have reached your Quarter Ironman finish
line!" (1:35:05 Run)
I did it! I
finished my first Olympic Distance / Quarter Ironman triathlon. (03:47:57
Total Time) So what quarter of me is iron? I dunno, if I
had to choose I'd select my heart, pancreas and maybe my right calf
In all seriousness, I
realize I have a long road ahead of me before I become a fully
fledged Ironman but with the completion of this race I am one step
closer. I think it will be sooner than later that I will be crossing
a finish line in Arizona, Wisconsin, Florida or Hawaii to the tune
of "Chad Soileau, Y-O-U A-R-E A-N IRONMAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!"
I hope you enjoyed
reading the account of my Lone Star Quarter Ironman triathlon as
much as I enjoyed writing and living it.
Best of luck on YOUR life journey!
May you reach all your goals and achieve all your dreams!