For those of you who can’t stand the suspense (and don’t follow me on any form of social media)….I FINISHED! And now for the nitty gritty…
The Night Before
Most of my race reports begin the morning of, but not this one. For this particular race, I decided to set myself up for a nervous breakdown and give my coach a brief heart attack. Also, Fella is a freaking saint. On Saturday night I began to put together all the finishing touches on my transition bags and race day outfit. In this process, everything is going fine…until I can’t find my tri shorts. Anywhere. Like completely missing (and still haven’t found them as of today). Being the level headed person that I am, I proceeded to have a complete meltdown. You know, the norm. After literally tearing the house apart, still no tri shorts. We (my coach, Fella, and I) decided that I would just go with spandex shorts for the swim and the run and throw on a pair of bike shorts over them for the bike portion. This ended up working surprisingly well (read: minimal chaffing) and the major crisis was averted. I like making my life really difficult sometimes apparently.
The Morning of Race Day
Fella and I woke up
bright and early at 5 am to make the hour trek north for the race. Fortunately there were no race day blunders. The air was a very chilly 44* and I was very worried about the temperature. I hate the cold. To be honest, I was kind of a nervous wreck. I set everything up in T2, gave Fella and the puppies kisses and hugs, and hopped on the shuttle for T1 and the swim. (This race had separate T1 and T2 spots). It was game time.
The Swim – 1.2 miles in 47:15 (2:14/100 yd)
Goal – 45:00 (2:08/100 yd)
Oh the swim. You know what’s awesome? Having the water drop 20* overnight. People, that is not an exaggeration. The water temperature at packet pickup was 73* which would have been great. The water temperature on race morning was 52*. FIFTY FREAKING TWO DEGREES. There were people who had done full Ironman races who dropped out. There were actually a lot of people who didn’t make the swim.
The first 300 or so yards were rough. It took me a good couple of hundred yards to even get my face in the water without hyperventilating. About halfway through I really hit my stride and built up some good speed. There was nothing I could do about the water temperature, so I tried not to think about it. Plus, after 10 or 15 minutes, you stop being able to feel your feet and hand anyways. The place that we were swimming was relatively shallow, so there were places that you could walk in waist or chest deep water if you wanted. A good number of people looked like they took that option when available since the swim wasn’t treating them well. I opted to swim the entire thing since that’s what I signed up for. I wasn’t cheating myself out of anything! Overall, I am really freaking proud of this swim.
T1 – 8:39
At first glance, this time doesn’t look great. But considering that I couldn’t feel my hands or feet, I feel pretty okay with this time. It was scary coming out of the water and having my feet be painful when they hit the ground from being so cold. Oh, and almost passing out from your body going nuts from the freezing water and freezing air? So much fun. At one point after taking my wet suit off, I looked down and from my mid shin down to my toes was angry red and swollen. It was a scary sight, to tell the truth. Slowly, my hands and feet warmed up as I tried to put on all of my bike gear. Little did I know, I was in for a cold, cold morning.
Bike – 56 miles in 3:38:04 (15.4 mph)
Goal: 3:30 (16 mph)
The bike is arguably my weakest discipline out of the three and the place where I think I have the most room for improvement (and thus where this race report will sound the most whine-y). In the picture above, I was seeing Fella for the first time in the race and I was about two seconds away from quitting. I couldn’t feel any part of my body and it was starting to drizzle. I was truly miserable and hurting. I’m not one to quit. Seriously. People who know me will tell you that I am stubborn to the point of injury. But if it had started to rain at that point, I would have been done. I knew I could struggle through cold, but cold and soaking wet? It wasn’t going to happen. Fortunately, it only sprinkled for a bit and the major rains held off. Finally, something good! On the downside, it was cloudy and cold for the first two and a half hours of the ride. The conversation on the course was pretty much everyone asking if they could feel their toes yet (Correct response: no). Oh, and did I mention that was when the winds decided to pick up? I stuck with the race plan though and worked my best to keep my heart rate around 145/150 and a minimum of 16 mph on my bike computer.
This is where I need to mention, God bless the aero position. This is on my list of things to significantly improve before my next race. I didn’t practice/use it nearly enough before the race and didn’t realize how helpful it would be. I need to adjust my bike a bit though to make it more comfortable. But seriously, this helped save my mph average on the super windy part of the course. You live and you learn.
Eventually though, the glorious sun came out and I could finally feel my toes and legs for the first time in hours! And by then, my legs were telling me that I should have worked on my cycling more. Flat courses have many benefits, but they do not give you any breaks. Legs stop peddling = bike stopping. While I know that my legs were tired at the end of this ride, I know I dropped the ball mentally for a while. Toward the end of the ride when I had to pee and my legs were tired and I was cold….and even I got tired of listening to myself. It was ridiculous. I started picking people ahead of me to stick with or catch up to and that helped. For the next race though, I need more long rides and greater bike mileage. A good reminder that mental toughness is just as important as physical strength.
T2 – 4:26
Considering that I had layers of clothes to take off and a bathroom stop, I’m pretty okay with this time. I can tell you that bathroom stop was heaven. Having to pee on a bike for 2 hours is not fun. At all. (I didn’t stop during the bike because I was pretty sure that if I got off the bike, I wouldn’t be able to convince myself to get back on!)
Run – 13.1 miles in 2:47:11 (12:46/mile)
Goal: 3:00 (13:44/mile)
I got to see Fella and puppies coming into and going out of T2 which was very much needed. The bike had taken its toll on me and I needed a friendly face.
Fella said that I looked great and I could believe him. I had been looking forward to the run all day. I had never swum 1.2 miles in open water. I had never biked 56 miles. But I have run 13.1 miles. Lots of times. I knew that even if I couldn’t do it fast, I could do it. That was the moment that it hit me that I would finish (and one of the many times that I teared up that day). My plan was to keep at around 160 heart rate for the first 6 miles, then bump up to 165 for the next 5 miles, and then give it everything I had for the last 2 miles. I’m really proud to say that I stuck to this pretty solidly and it really helped keep me solid throughout the run. While I may not be a speed demon, I was really proud that I looked and felt strong through the run when so many others had a death march. I knew that hitting my 7:15 goal would be a long shot, but I really wanted to go sub 7:30 and made that my new goal.
The course was a 6.5 mile out and back course. I know some people hate out and back courses, but I actually prefer them. One of the few complaints that I had about the race was that there were not nearly enough water stops and they were not manned well enough. It’s very frustrating to get to a water stop and have to fill your own cup or wait to receive one. The volunteers were wonderful though and really did everything they could to help. At the turnaround point, there were lots of snacks and gels. The cup of pretzels that I grabbed was heaven sent. Best pretzels of my entire life. I think for my next race I will bring a handheld on the course. I was dehydrated and it was everything I could do to keep stuffing my face with water and Heed at the aid stations. On the way back, I saw a girl with an “A” for Athena on her legs and I made it my goal to catch her and beat her. I’m not competitive or anything, I swear. Once I passed her at the mile 10 marker, I was paranoid that she would catch me, so I kept pushing past the pain. (Yes, my legs were hurting at this point). Before I knew it, I was coming up to the final turn and giving everything that I could to push across the finish line!
Overall Time: 7:25:37
This is where I am supposed to say that I missed my goal time and blah blah blah. But guys, I’m really just super proud. I executed a solid race after a good training cycle and the only feeling I can muster is pride. Do I want to do the distance again? Absolutely! Do I think I can be faster? Heck yeah! Are there things I would do differently next time? Sure, but that’s part of racing and gaining experience. But none of those things take away from the fact that I pulled off an awesome race in arguably tough conditions. Just call me a bad ass. Also, if I never have to swim in 53* water ever again, I’d be cool with that.
Oh, and did I mention that I pulled off 3rd place Athena! Heck yes! I have to have my award mailed to me though since I told Fella that I didn’t want to stick around for awards. He wanted to stay and see if I got anything, but I was convinced that I didn’t (and I was perfectly fine with that). That’ll teach me not to listen to him!
Damn it feels good to be a half Ironman.