I did not sleep or eat much a couple of days prior to my second Half Ironman. I drank more water than usual and made sure to get at least one electrolyte tablet a day during the week leading up to the race. I even managed to choke down the chicken, rice and honey my sweet husband cooked the night before the big day. I think I was nervous for a lot of reasons and I think it happens to most of us. Primarily, I was being very unreasonable with myself. Not only did I switch to the Long Course National Championship swim wave, having qualified last year, but I didn’t even think about my #1 goal. I wasn’t thinking of my #3 goal either. Nope. based on my training, I wanted sub 5:30. Selfish.
3. Sub 5:40
My swim has improved slightly and I’m not as nervous about OWS (Max time 38:00). I have a sweet new bike. I’ve ridden smarter this season (and clipped in every time out), not to mention a great youth tri group in our area (H.I.S. Racing) loaned me some killer wheels and my uncle gifted me with an aero helmet (Max time 3:00:00). Running has been going great. I’ve trained hard, stayed uninjured, and completed a 15 mile run with a friend (Gym210) in 1:57:00 without much effort and had a similar 14 mile run on my own…not to metion the “mind game” runs wherein I did 6×2 mi loops to simulate the monotony of the Redman run course (Max time 1:42:00).
What Really Happened
Husband and I headed to the race a bit later than we should have. I had trouble eating a Honey Stinger Waffle. I rushed around getting tires aired up, braiding hair, laying out transition stuff (I always think of this George Carlin skit when I’m doing that), wanted to pee, didn’t have time, realized I didn’t have a chip half into my wet suit, ran to get it, ran to the start, peed in wet suit (don’t act like you don’t). Seeing my family was a huge relief.
Before the gun went off, I heard my family yelling for me. Then my husband did something that made me laugh. I’m not a good enough writer to recount it in words. Let’s just say I put my face in the water at the sound of the gun very relaxed and still laughing. The elbows, feet, and hands were pretty much constant the entire swim. Turns out, you get used to it. I did have to weave my way around people, but eventually got into a pace group that matched mine. When we turned to head back in (triangle swim), I realized that my under arms were chafing. Forgot to lube-up the pits.
SWIM TIME. 40:25
2:00 slower than last year. Ugh.
The time bothered me, but sometimes swim courses can go long/short depending on the tool used to measure the distance. I felt good and it wasn’t too far off my last time, especially since I knew I could make it up on the bike. I was super stoked to ride. I did face one potential dilemma: I had lost the bands to hold my water bottle between my aero bars and the fantastic folks with Schlegel’s Bicycles had zip tied it on for me (thank you thank you thank you for all the help this season Schlegel folks). I got a few good swigs of my electrolytes concoction before the bumpy roads took my bottle from me at mile 6ish.
I still had a water bottle and a Honey Stinger packet (lost the second pack before I even left the lake). After my issues holding fuel down last year, I even had Tums with me this year. I still felt prepared. Looking back, I’m appalled at my inability to adapt. Why didn’t I stop at each aid station for fluids? I reached the turn in 1:22:00 (not exactly halfway, but close). Then the lack of fluids/nutrition settled down on me like a ton of bricks.
I knew I’d slowed down, but by how much I couldn’t be sure. I just dropped to a smaller ring and kept moving forward. I stopped at Base 6 for Gatorade and to refill my water bottle. This gave me a major burst of energy! I started hammering again in the big ring. Right before I hit the lake on the way back into transition, the H.I.S. Racing coach drove up with a couple of the fantastic kiddos. They were cheering and taking photos. It was so cool knowing that they’d ridden these wheels! What stellar young athletes!?
I got out of my bike shoes without falling over. Yay! Normally, I welcome T2, because I’m about to start my favorite part…RUNNING! I botched the run last year, thanks to poor hydration/fueling and this year had went even worse. I was not looking forward to it.
BIKE TIME. 3:09:19
1:08 faster than last year. Something was wrong.
My transition felt like it took 5 minutes. I swigged some H2O, grabbed Honey Stinger chews, and left. It hurt. Granted, it usually feels like you just came back from zero gravity going bike to run. This was different. I was walking by mile 2. My brain said to “MOVE IT!”, but my body was not listening. My legs started cramping first, then my lower abdominal muscles joined in the fun. I thought a bathroom break would help. Nothing. More than once, friends and strangers working aid stations told me to stop in the shade, “You’re not sweating.” I started squeezing more sponges on myself so that they wouldn’t worry. I made jokes and cheered for fellow racers. These things get me through a healthy race; they should get me through a scary race too, right?
I decided to walk/run. Why not? At this point, I’d have to cover 8 miles in under an hour just to match my 2011 finish time. This is very doable any other day, not at this race though. Gatorade was not going down. Water was an issue too. When I finally decided to listen to a friend and stop in the shade of a tent I drank 2 cups full of sprite with ice. Heaven.
This made me run again, but the burst was short lived and the stomach pain was back. The leg cramps never really left. I saw a guy puking and thought, ‘Oh, that might help.’ I couldn’t puke. My body was hanging on to everything, apparently, except the ability to run. I just kept moving forward. Walk, run, walk, run, walk, run. There are so many people to thank for helping me keep moving:
- All of the fantastic people at aid stations who shouted encouragement, forced salt pills, flat Coke, sun screen and Vaseline (remember the arm pits) on me, and one very capable dude who offered to carry me as I trudged along (I must’ve looked rough. Haha).
- Fellow athletes that played leap frog with me on the run in that blasted heat and reciprocated all the positivity I could muster toward them with an encouraging positivity of their own toward me.
- Friends…it was nice to see friends out there enduring the sufferfest, to know you’re not alone.
- My dad and a good running buddy for briefly running and/or walking alongside me at different parts of the course and NEVER making me feel like a failure.
- My husband for making me laugh more than once when I really needed to laugh.
- My aunt and uncle for cheering non-stop. They somehow understood just how disappointed I was in myself and provided some great words of support. My uncle got some killer photos too (that bike side view for example)!
- And my mom, for taking fantastic pictures and…for letting me cry in the ice bath.
I finished. Why wouldn’t I? If you’re dumb enough to not hydrate properly, hell, if you’re dumb enough to sign up for one of these things more than once, you’re probably dumb enough to finish.
RUN TIME. 2:30:09
34:00 slower than last year. Woah. This is where I thought I could improve the most since the 2011 run time wasn’t even fast for me.
Last year, my dad still recounts the story of how hungry I was. This primarily vegetarian, non-soda drinker was asking for a bacon cheeseburger, fries, and a coke. (The smell of Louie’s on the Lake didn’t help.) This year, the thought of food made me want to pass out. I did not eat PB&Js in the ice bath this year. I could barely drink water. I did manage to hobble to my family/friends for the obligatory group shot (love you mom).
I should have written this blog directly after the 70.3. However, my phone was still in transition and I was in the med tent. I have recalled as much as I can about how I felt. Looking back on it, though, I don’t know why I couldn’t just keep pushing. I know I would have, if I could have. So, what happened? After the finish and group photo, I remember my face getting tingly and then my husband leading me to the med tent. They said I had a weak pulse, was dehydrated, and gave me an IV. Those med tent workers were some extremely nice people by the way…wow! Buzz, Jane, and Dave Woods came to check on me. I felt both special and like such a slug. This wasn’t even that long of a race compared to what some of my friends/family have completed.
But…this was my race. More than once, the comparison between life and racing popped into my head. Namely, that I’d finally completed a race comparable to graduate school. So often, people in academia refer to the Ph.D. program as a race. You just have to push through it, finish strong. I’ve never gotten this analogy because I’ve always enjoyed the entire race, not just the finish line. This one, however, this one was different.
I did not want to finish, especially when I knew the outcome was not my best. But, I finished. The pain and inadequacy is forgotten. Now…it’s time to race again.