Race report: Ironman Tulsa 2021

I raced Ironman Tulsa on May 23, 2021, and was thrilled to finish just under my 12h goal time. Poor weather and bad roads made things uncomfortable, and I underperformed on the bike relative to my training numbers, but overall it was a great day.

Key stats

Leg Time Pace Notes
Swim 01:12:17 1:43/100y 43 of 167 AG, 394 of 1736 OA
T1 00:12:11
Bike 06:29:17 17.3mph, 162W NP 90 of 167 of AG, 788 of 1736 OA. Flat @ mile 8 (~12 min).
T2 00:06:01
Run 03:59:22 9:08/mi 37 of 167 AG, 278 of 1736 OA
Total 11:59:08 58 of 167 AG, 421 of 1736 OA


Decided in October 2020 that it was time to tick an Ironman tri off the bucket list. Tulsa was the only full IM in the US that was A) open for registration B) far enough away to provide for sufficient training + a realistic chance of not being COVID cancelled C) soon enough to keep me motivated.I registered and joined a local tri team/coach for training.

I took the training very seriously - officially my goal was “just finish,” but I also wanted to take a real crack at it in a way that I hadn’t in past athletic events (prior races: 2 sprint tris, a bunch of half marathons and century rides, 1 open marathon, all with loose/minimal training, “for fun”).

From my first workout with my coach through race day, averaged 12h21m/week training, split 17/47/36% swim/bike/run. Thankfully my local community center pool stayed open the whole time, and I was also able to do weekly open water swims. I spent plenty of time in my garage pain cave with the treadmill + Kickr. Training was a huge time commitment but I embraced/enjoyed it, and my wife was supportive/encouraging. IM training, coupled with switching to a plant-based diet in 2020, put me in the best shape of my life by far.


Road-tripped from the California Bay Area to Oklahoma over 3 days, which was great - soaked up all of the kitschy Rte 66/UFO/Southwest vibes on the way out and back. Stopped at Meteor Crater, Petrified Forest NP, and plenty of weird gas stations.

Take me to your leader

Take me to your leader

There was a free car museum at this gas station. Because why not?

There was a free car museum at this gas station. Because why not?

Checked in on Friday and proceeded to freak out over logistics. So many bags! Swim start, T1, T2, and the finish line were all in different places! I was very nervous that I would mess up a bag drop, show up in the wrong place, miss a shuttle, or never get my stuff back.

This is pretty overwhelming for a first-timer

This is pretty overwhelming for a first-timer

The weather was warm and muggy, pleasant for some easy last-minute jogs/rides. Drove out to T1 to drop my bike and had a nice swim, too. Nerves settled down considerably after that swim – the water was much nicer than the SF bay where I had trained (same temp but without the grossness/saltiness).

I have to race all of these people?

I have to race all of these people?


Based on my training, I guessed that 12h would be attainable if I had a good day, so that was the goal finish time in my head. I thought a realistic conservative breakdown would be 1h30m swim, 6h bike, 4h30n run, ignoring transitions.

Race morning

Woke up early, scarfed some coffee/breakfast, and headed out toward T2 at OSU Tulsa where there were mandatory 4am shuttles taking athletes to T1. There was a crazy traffic jam with everyone converging on OSU at once, so I hopped out of the car and walked the last ~1 mi. Dropped my bike special needs bag, got on a shuttle, and off we went.

Traffic jam @ 4am on race day

Traffic jam @ 4am on race day

I made nervous conversation with my seatmate on the shuttle, but thankfully he was an IM vet and he calmed me down. “If you ever feel like you’re racing, you’re going too fast.”

I wasted a ton of time at T1 waiting for a bike pump (next time bring my own) and a porta-potty, but thankfully had enough buffer.

We all had to walk another ~1mi from T1 to swim start. Most people did that walk in street clothes and changed into wetsuits near the swim start. Ironman recommended that we use disposable flip-flops so we could wear them all the way up until final swim corral lineup, then junk them. I bought a pair at Target the night before and they were so awful I got a blister on the top of my foot just from this 1 mi walk! The only blister I got all day.

Walking to swim start with 1700 of my best friends

Walking to swim start with 1700 of my best friends


After 7 months of training I was finally in the water, doing an Ironman!! What an incredible feeling! The water felt crisp and fresh and my body felt good. HR was high from adrenaline but I was able to swim pretty calmly and never had a freak-out moment.

My coach suggested I try to draft faster swimmers during the swim, but I seemed to be passing everyone around me, so it was faster to cruise just on the outer edge of the pack. The group did pull me along a bit, though, as my final pace ended up faster than any of the 5 or 6 full-distance open water training swims I did, and I don’t think there was much of a current.


I have no idea what I was doing in T1 for 12 minutes… I recall being alarmed/worried because it was dry when I got in the water but raining when I got out. So everything was wet and getting wetter. Still no clue what ate up all that time, though.


The bike ride was unpleasant from the start. It was raining hard enough that within minutes my face/shoes/socks were soaked with dirty water kicked up by my own or others' tires. The roads for much of the course were very rough, especially so at the start coming out of Keystone State Park.

My rear tire went flat at mile 8, less than 30 minutes into the ride. This was definitely the low point for me – hopes of hitting my 12h goal time, or perhaps even finishing at all, seemed in jeopardy. I had 2 spare tubes and 2 CO2s, but certainly I couldn’t survive a flat every 8 miles. This was not a good feeling, sopping wet on the side of the road.

A roving support motorcycle stopped and helped me change the tube. They also got plenty of GoPro footage of me looking pathetic – surely I’m in a “worst of” video somewhere.

While I was working on the flat, somebody wiped out hard about 200 yards back and was sprawled out in the middle of the road. An ambulance came and tended to them quickly, but it was scary. I hope that person is ok. Saw lots of other folks later in the day who had flatted, and there were launched bottles/broken cages/etc all over the course all day. This bike course was really gnarly!

After fixing my flat, the rest of the bike leg was mostly uneventful, though still tough. For some reason my hydration was going straight through me that morning. I was drinking the same as I had on my long training rides, but needed to pee seemingly all the time.

I wasn’t feeling great by the end of the ride, and wasn’t able to hold the power I thought I would based on my training numbers. At 282W FTP, my performance of 162W NP is definitely a bit disappointing, even considering the time spent changing the flat. Maybe I’ve gotten too cozy doing indoor training with ERG mode and need to train myself better to hold power “manually” and/or do more outdoor rides on real roads/hills.

Looking at my whole-race heartrate data in Garmin, it’s clear that I just wasn’t able to hold a good effort on the bike:


T2 was reasonable. Ate a whole bar and chugged Gatorade because I knew something was off chemistry-wise. Wished that I had thought to put dry socks in my T2 bag, since my socks were still soaked from the bike ride.


I checked my watch as I crossed the run timing mat, and saw that I was at almost exactly 8h. I knew that my training run pace of ~9min/mile would deliver a 4h marathon time if I could hold it (and thus my overall 12h goal), but that was a big “if” given my lack of endurance race experience. But I had to try!

To retain water better I ate a cup of salty potato chips at each of the first few aid stations (not in my nutrition plan), and that seemed to work - once I was off the bike I didn’t need to pee as much.

After 3 or 4 miles my head cleared and I felt a lot better. I did my best to keep the pace a little quicker to build up buffer in case I slowed down later.

I got to 13.1 miles and saw that the 12h dream was somehow still alive.

The second 13.1 was very tough mentally. There was a loud voice telling me to give in, walk, and be proud of a 12:30 finish. But I just kept chipping away at the miles, and somehow I was still just barely hanging on to the pace I needed.

Close call: The buffer from the first half gave me enough spare minutes to make a much-needed bathroom stop around mile 17. The run course was a 2-lap out-and-back on a two-lane mixed use trail, so at all times you were near runners going both directions. I emerged from the porta potty and immediately panicked because in my depleted mental state I forgot which direction I was supposed to be running! Thankfully an aid station volunteer got me re-oriented and it turned out ok.

Then it was over - the finisher chute, “you are an Ironman!”, medal, some poor soul peeling the timing chip off of my disgusting various-fluid-soaked leg.

11:59:08 – 52 seconds to spare.

I am an Ironman

I am an Ironman



  • Temperature wasn’t that high, sun wasn’t out
  • Didn’t forget anything or otherwise significantly screw up bag logistics
  • Swim felt great
  • Nutrition wasn’t perfect but held up overall
  • Was able to hold my run pace (didn’t overcook on the bike)
  • Hit my 12h goal!
  • Everyone cheering us on really lifted me up in the harder moments
  • My coach did a great job getting me physically trained and mentally ready for my first Ironman race


  • Rain made the bike/run unpleasant
  • Blister from cheap flip flops walking to swim start
    • Fix: Better flip-flops next time
  • Passed lots of people in the swim, couldn’t draft
    • Fix: Line up in quicker corral next time
  • Slow T1
    • Fix: Practice transitions more
  • Flat tire
    • Fix: Practice flat changing and/or look into tubeless/sealant
  • Peed too much on the bike
    • Fix: adjust nutrition on bike (saltier?)
  • Overall underperform on bike
    • Fix: More outdoor/long rides, less ERG mode reliance
  • Wet feet for run
    • Fix: Pack dry socks in T2 bag