Race Coverage

Spoonbills, Maurten Gels, Reconsidered Swan Songs...



By Jennifer Martone

IRONMAN TULSA RACE REPORT - A global pandemic, a work from home schedule, and age 50 on the horizon...these all seemed like perfect indicators to buckle down and do something big in 2021. I pulled myself out of long course retirement and signed up for IM Tulsa in mid-December. At the time it was the only Ironman 140.6 that had space available. What I didn't know when I pulled the trigger, is that Oklahoma is known for 25mph winds, bumpy roads, tornadoes and heat. Fortunately, most of these were not a factor on Sunday, May 23rd. In early January I hired coach Andy Scheisl, an athlete I've know for over 13 years, to get me to the start line injury free, with my main goal to build bike and swim fitness, as the run is typically my strength. I had planned on IM Tulsa being my swan song...

Thanks to an inquiry on the Minnesota Triathlete FB page in April, I met a small group of Tulsa-bound triathletes...and four weeks prior to race day Lizzie, Carolyn, Craig, and Chelsea joined me in Prescott WI for a hot and windy century ride on the Great River Road past Pepin. These fun, friendly women were gearing up for their very first Ironman, and I was so happy to have met them all.


Ironman Tulsa was this year's North American Championship race so we were lucky to have pros including Daniela Ryf, Heather Jackson, Andy Potts, and Patrick Lange at the start line. Race morning began with a 20 minute shuttle from T2 at the OSU campus to Keystone Lake at 4am. After topping off our tires and loading nutrition into bento boxes, we marched a mile in our flipflops to the swim start, and I heard many talking about how our race was really a 141.8 with the long walk to the start line. It was at this point, that I removed my wetsuit from my morning bag and saw that the newly applied Velcro I'd adhered to my 12-year old wetsuit in the hotel room, had come completely off the fabric. The young athlete walking next to me had KT tape across his neck to prevent the dreaded swim hickey, so I asked him if perhaps he had a spare piece to give me. I tore it in half and put one on my lubed up neck and the other on the suit, praying the flap would stay closed in the swim. The race organizers were not successful in getting athletes to line up by their self-seeded swim times as folks were busy fumbling with Imodium (why is it SO hard to poke through the foil on this packaging?), putting on wetsuits and dropping morning bags. The water temp was 67.7, a few degrees warmer than the one open water swim I had done 7 days prior at Shady Oak lake. My first view of the "lake" (really a muddy river) that we were about to swim in, was as I put my hand over my heart, listening to the national anthem, as emotions poured through me. As I descended the plank into the water and fist-bumped Mike Reilly, I hoped my lungs and body would cooperate with smooth strokes and no panic. I really didn't want to see the 6-foot Spoonbill fish that had been posted on FB on month prior. After a brief "catch my breath in the cool water" period, I found my peaceful rhythm and exited the swim in 1:17. One down two to go... 


No wetsuit strippers as part of Covid protocol meant I had to clumsily peel off my suit and use it as a towel to put on my Godspeed socks in T1. As I hopped on my bike and powered up my Garmin Edge, the power meter calibration prompt popped up and I inadvertently hit yes instead of no, causing the power to go bezerk and stop working...guessing this will be my "ride by feel day," a veer from my race day plan. The first 15 miles of the bike course are pretty crazy...bumpy roads with potholes, steep downhills with sharp turns, mud slicks and a rainy morning. I crammed my water-specked glasses into my suit pocket and rode with bare eyes. My biggest fear, aside from crashing, was getting a flat as changing tubes is not my forte. As the miles ticked on, I was elated to feel smooth rolling wheels. The temp was nice and the wind never got over 10mph. I was having a blast on the bike and all smiles as I passed Sherpa and good friend Johnny Surprise at mile 40. He rolled down the car window to ask how I was feeling and I said "doing great but I have no power meter" so just hoping for the best on the run. My training was very focused on going easy enough on the bike so that I'd have legs for the run. I did my best to inhale the Maurten gels, fig newtons, and Gatorade endurance they supplied on the course, as I didn't have room to carry all my practiced nutrition. I had one low point at mile 67, got through it and yelled with glee as I sped past the mile 90 marker, and found the gusto I needed for the steepest climb of the day at mile 101...I was actually going to have a sub-6 hour bike and couldn't believe it.  I flew through T2, slide on my Hokas and ran the first 5 miles much faster that I was supposed to, the 2nd time I veered from my race plan and I knew Andy was yelling at me from Arizona, and I'd likely pay for this later on the course. I saw speedy Nick Weiler finishing lap 1 of the run as I began the journey along the scenic river path. SO many wonderful spectators cheering us on, the energy was terrific. As I neared mile seven I could feel GI distress and knew I'd have to stop for a biffy after the turn around in order to run comfortably and not crap in my cute Coeur kit. Removing a wet one piece in the middle of a race, and getting back on is a feat in itself, all while not letting my much needed salt chews fall into the toilet. I made two stops at mile 8 and 13, and then refrained from jamming gels down my throat. Johnny found me on the run course soon after my second stop and relayed a message from Andy "no more bathroom stops, water and cola only...you're about to pass #6 in your AG and #5 and #4 are slowing down, and you can catch them, dig deep!" That was the motivation I needed to keep the body moving. I saw Lizzie on the run course twice as she yelled out my name, and Carolyn soon after, they were doing it too, so proud of those Ironman rookies. I thought of the people back home tracking me on the IM app, waved and smiled at the volunteers and photographers, took in my remaining salt tabs to combat the high dew point that day. The last mile of the run has two up hills, which felt a bit like a mountain at mile 25.5, but I could hear the finish and saw Nick (who finished sub-10) and Johnny cheering me on and telling me I was coming in 4th. The sight of the Ironman arch and the amazing cheers from the crowd on both sides gave me the motivation to break into a final sprint as I heard Mike Reilly say "Jennifer Martone from Minneapolis, you are an Ironman". There is nothing like that feeling, pure euphoria. Maybe this wasn't my swan song after all? So thankful for the volunteers, friends and family from afar supporting me, and my body and mind for getting me across the finish line.  You.Can.Do.Hard.Things.

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