Race-day morning came, and I hopped out of bed to take a shower. I thought this would wake me up and make me feel relaxed and ready to face the day. I couldn’t believe this day was finally here! After obsessively checking my bag about fifteen thousand times, we were off to the race site. I checked my T2 bag, and then we took the shuttle bus to the race start. When we got there, I headed into T1 to check my bag, put my nutrition and water bottles on my bike, and borrowed a pump from the girl 2 spots down from me to fill my tires. She and I chatted for a little bit- and it was nice to talk to another 70.3 newbie.
|Bikes racked before the race|
I left transition and hit the port-a-potty before eating my bagel. Soon after, Mo found us and we all sat on the grass watching the crowd of people getting things in order. We saw the pros arrive with their fancy bikes and helmets. Alicia and John found us soon after, and we took a pre race picture before heading down to the swim start.
The sun was finally up, and the race was about to start. While watching the pros go off, I took another trip to the restroom before heading over to my wave. I was really really nervous at this point. I was on the verge of tears. I think part of that was the excitement of “holy cow after this race I will have completed a half ironman” and part of it was me just being terrified – after all, the last swim start I had didn’t go so well. And, the buoys looked really far out there. I mean, 1.2 miles is a long way! I got my swim cap and goggles on, said goodbye to Mat and lined up. I had to pee again, so I went in the water and then dunked my body and my head in to get a feel for the temperature. It felt great, and I was so thankful that it was wetsuit legal. After the gun went off, I hung back for a couple of seconds and got mentally ready. Ok, I thought. This is it!
I started swimming and felt great. No panic, no nerves. I decided to sight every 5 strokes, so I kept an eagle eye out for the buoys. 1.2 miles was long enough, no need to drift too far away! I quickly caught up to the pack that I let go ahead of me, and was swimming in a pretty tight group of people. I accidentally hit the legs of girls in front of me, while those behind me did the same to me. I hadn’t ever been in such a tight group before in a race, but I just kept my cool and kept going. Count 5 strokes, look for buoy, adjust course. I didn’t ever get ridiculously far away but I did have to alter my direction back a lot of the time. I watched the bubbles of the swimmers in front of me and wished I knew how to draft without hitting them. Eventually I made it to the first turn, which felt like a long way. Shortly after this, the swarms of the men from the next wave started catching up. This was probably one of the most unpleasant parts of the swim- they showed no mercy as they plowed through the water, and one knocked me such that I got water in my mouth and swallowed funny, causing me to have to clear my throat a bit as I swam. But, it didn’t stop me, and I eventually reached the final turn. This portion of the swim seemed a little rougher. I’m not sure if it was the company of later waves or the police boat motor causing some current in the water. Many times when I looked up I was quite far out and had to swim diagonally to get back to the buoy line. I finally got to a point where I saw the last few buoys, and got really excited. When I reached the land, I glanced at my watch, and saw that I had been going for approximately 44 min. My goal had been 45, so I know I had beaten it, and I was just feeling great. As I ran up the sand towards the transition, I kept my eyes peeled for Mat, and he took a picture of me smiling, knowing that I didn’t flail and had a great swim! (Time: 44:04)
|so happy to be back on land!|
I made my way to the wetsuit peelers who instructed me to get on the ground and they pulled my wetsuit off from there. I headed into transition to get myself ready for the bike. The transition area was a ‘clean’ transition, meaning everything had to remain in a bag at all times- nothing could be strewn about. The crew would come grab all the bags while we were out on the bike course and deposit everything back at the expo center near the finish line. I dumped out the content of my bag, put my helmet and socks and shoes on, put my swim gear back into the bag, and took off. When I entered the ‘mount’ area, I had trouble clipping in (embarrassing!) but eventually got it, and took off!
|heading out of transition|
They had very strict drafting rules, which kind of made me nervous. You had to leave 4-5 bike lengths between you and anyone else, which is kind of a long distance. Especially at the beginning, but really all throughout the course, I found myself catching up to slower bikers, who I didn’t always WANT to pass, but for fear of drafting, I felt like I just had to gun it and get past them. It became tricky when the super fast people were trying to pass me, so it was kind of a logistical challenge of trying to pass and be passed without causing any trouble. Overall, though, looking back, I think this fear I had of getting caught drafting made me push harder, because if I ever got close enough that I thought I could possibly get into trouble, I’d just push ahead and pass them instead of slowing down.
Right around mile 5 or 6, I think, was the first larger hill, and I was trying to drop into my front little ring, but it got stuck. I couldn’t finish shifting, and I couldn’t really pedal, so I had no choice but to stop and walk my bike up the hill. I felt a little silly, considering we had barely begun the course, and a handful of people I had just passed passed me back while I was dealing with this situation. At the top of the hill, I got off the bike and fiddled around with the pedals and gears until it switched, and hoped this wasn’t going to be a problem. I hopped back on and tried to catch up and re pass all of the people who got ahead of me. I caught up to most of them, I think, and for the rest of the race I had no gear shifting issues at all. For a little while there were a few girls in my age group that I was alternating passing and being passed by, but at some point they never passed me back. I felt great for the first 25 or so miles- I was having a blast out on the open roads, passing people from time to time and watching the super fast folks with their expensive bikes and aero helmets pass me. As I passed by women in their 40s and 50s (we had our ages on our calves), I was in awe. I hope I can do events like this when I am that age!
I had my Garmin with me, mostly so I could remember to eat and drink, and partly because I thought it would be cool to get some stats from the race. I looked roughly every 10 miles to see what time it was. In general, I have a well known fear of taking my hands off the handlebars to grab water, but on this super hot course I made certain to be eating and drinking as often as I could. I tried to eat a granola bar square (that I had pre cut the night before and stowed in my bike bento box) every 5 miles, and drink whenever I had the opportunity (ie flat grounds, not too crowded with people, or if I felt thirsty at all). I had ended up going through almost all of one water bottle (which admittedly isn’t a lot in general, but a great accomplishment for me!) by the 3rd aid station, so I stopped there for a bathroom break and to switch my two bottles. I hopped back on my bike and continued forward.
Around mile 45 I started to be really wishing I was done. The course had gotten very windy around mile 30 and it wasn’t letting up, which meant it was even more work to plow ahead. There were a few substantial hills, and while they were nothing like the MA hills I have been training on, they still were rough, especially in the wind. I started to get very uncomfortable- there was pain in my shoulders, in my lower back, and on my sit bones. As I heard someone say later in the run, there was just no position in the saddle that was at all comfortable. I tried wiggling around, adjusting where I was sitting, rolling my shoulders, and stretching my back, but it was to no avail. The last 6 miles, particularly, were quite miserable, and more than anything I couldn’t wait to get off the bike. If I ever do another of these, I need to get a cushier bike seat for sure! When I finally rounded the bend up to the bike dismount, I saw Mat snap a picture and I happily got off of my bike and headed to my rack. (Time: 3:20:01)
By now it was super hot, and I grabbed more water, my package of shot blocks, traded my bike shoes for my sneakers, and headed out. I took my time in this transition because I was already so exhausted (and even on the bike was wondering how the heck I was going to finish a half marathon!). I headed out on the run and grabbed a wet sponge to cool myself off and started the first of three loops.
|Starting the run|
The sun was beating down, and I was already exhausted, so I made the goal of running the whole first loop, and then letting myself take walking breaks after that. At the first aid station, there was a misting tent, which was just so awesome. I stopped to grab water, took a few sips, then splashed the rest over my head. I continued on and saw my first mile clock in at 8:35. Crap. I knew that was way too fast, even in perfect conditions, for this run. I tried to slow down and I think the 2nd mile was something like 9:12. I continued on jogging along and then all of a sudden just got too hot and too tired and walked up a small hill. Crap again, I didn’t even make my goal of running the first lap. People around me were walking too. I started running again and made myself little goals- run to the aid station, run to that port-a-potty, run to that pole. As I made my way back up to the expo for the first time, I saw Amy, walking in the other direction. We cheered for each other as we plowed along. A little further along, I saw Mo, and cheered for her as well. Seeing people along the course really helps keep you motivated! As I was nearing the end of the first lap, I saw Mat, and told him, I’m dying here. It was a really hard 1st lap and I had 2 more to go! By this time I was slowly watching my mile splits decrease as I did the marathon shuffle and walked when I had to. I made the goal of running each downhill and allowing myself to walk portions of the uphill. I was discouraged about how much I was walking – I’m a runner for heaven’s sake! But when I considered that I would rather finish the race walking than pass out running, I did what my body was asking me to do. When you start getting chills in 90 degree weather, it’s ok to take it easy. I walked through every aid station, drinking water and dumping the rest on my head. When I finished the 2nd lap, I was starving, and the shot blocks weren’t cutting it, so I grabbed a half a banana from the aid station. They also had cookies and pretzels, but I wasn’t sure how my body would react to more substantial food on the run, so I passed those by figuring I’d be done soon enough. I kept loading up on water- ice water has never tasted as good as it did on that run!
During that last loop, the only thing that kept me going was that it was the last one. I ran the downhills, bribed myself to run portions of the uphills, and just kept plugging forward to the best of my ability. At this point, it seemed like almost everyone was adopting the same run down-walk up philosophy. It was really miserable out there. The one benefit to the 3 loops, however, is you know when the hills are coming. When I hit mile 11, I told myself “2 more miles, you can do this." I didn’t care at all about my time as my splits got longer and longer. After the mile 12 marker, it was the last stretch. I told myself to run to the red tent, then walk the rest of the way up the last hill, and then I would run the entire way to the end of the course. I rounded the corner and headed into the expo center towards the finish line. I removed my sunglasses, and sprinted (as fast as I could at this point) to the finish line with a huge smile on my face. I crossed the finish line- I am a half ironman! (Run time: 2:13:27).
I stopped my run time on my stop watch and garmin, let the volunteers grab my timing chip and give me my medal and water, and hobbled over towards the end of the chute where I found Mat. I did it! My total time was 6:26:35- I came in under the 6:30 mark, which was my goal! I couldn’t be happier!
At this point, I was also famished so I went over to the food area and got a veggie burger, some snacks, a cold water and blue bell ice cream. We found Mo’s family and hung out with them waiting for her to finish. She was about one lap behind me (she was in a later wave) so we figured out approximately when she was coming. We went down to cheer her in and then hung out eating and relaxing for a little while basking in our half ironman glory!
It was so great to achieve this goal with a handful of friends to cheer for on the course and Mat watching and cheering from the sidelines! I am so thankful for them, for Coach Alicia for getting me to this point to complete this race, and for all of my family and friends from afar who offered so much support and many well wishes on race weekend and throughout the training process! I couldn't have done it without all of them!
Looking back on the race, I don’t really think there is much I could have done better (except maybe eating more) or any harder I could have pushed. There were moments in the run where I wasn’t sure I’d make it (or that I would have to walk the entire last few miles). I am so proud of myself for pushing through on race day and for all of the hard work and training that went into this. I know I gave it my best effort and truly left it all out there on the course. I couldn’t be happier with my overall performance. I am a half iron woman!