I did indeed finish a half ironman distance triathlon. The first thing my mom asked was, “Are you sure you still want to sign up for an Ironman after all that?” YES.
My first marathon was not even a year ago, and this was far more satisfying and a whole lot more fun. I trained hard, and loved (almost) every minute of the race.
Before I get too far, I wanted to go over what had been my “goals” for this race. Obviously, the main goal was to finish. I didn’t want to put too much pressure on myself with time goals and psych myself out. But, I also wanted to put together a reasonable race plan. I figured the swim would take me around 30 mins (straight swimming, no currents). I rode the bike course a few weeks ago in about 3:30, and I figured there was no reason to go any faster than that since it was fairly challenging. I wasn’t sure about the run, but a 2:30 half marathon seemed reasonable. Leaving plenty of time for transitions, I figured I would definitely be done in under 7 hours, but somewhere in between 6:30-6:45. This was the plan I gave to my AWESOME spectator Jen who came to cheer me on because she is AWESOME. Did I mention that she was awesome? Yea.
The night before the race I met up with the friend that I rode the bike course with a few weeks ago for dinner, which was really nice. We had pizza (and beer, oops) at Brixx and she was very reassuring. Totally normal to be nervous. I was outrageously nervous, so it was nice to know that even experienced triathletes experience that too.
Onto the race!
SWIM (1.2 m):
I was definitely freaking out at this point. I was really trying not to think too much about what I was getting ready to do. All of the age group women were in the second to last wave: behind ALL the men, ahead of only the novice group and relays. Some people like this so they don’t get run over by the fast men; for me, it’s annoying since I have to barrel through all the slower men. But…it is what it is. They had to delay the race start by about 15 mins due to some issues getting everyone to the swim start and my wave started about 25 mins after that, so I had some time to hang around and eat a last minute PB & J. I debated over wearing my wetsuit because the water temps were pretty warm (76 deg), and I finally decided to suck it up and wear it, if only to conserve a little extra energy for later.
I ended up being a little uncomfortably warm, but it wasn’t terrible. Probably if it’s that warm next race, I’d skip it. Anyways, my plan was to take off fast and try and break away from the main pack as quickly as possible, then cruise the rest of the way.
This worked out pretty well. The course was a triangle shape, and by the time I hit the first turn buoy I was in some mostly open water. The “bottom” of the triangle was the longest leg of the swim and I was able to find another woman swimming about my speed nearby, so I of course drafted off her (like a BOSS) for that entire portion. She tried to lose me a few times, but I managed to stay just behind her, and it was awesome.
When we hit the last turn buoy to head back to the beach, I pulled away from her since she started swimming off to the side for some reason. The swim finish was up a boat ramp so I kept having to pull my head up since I was afraid of smashing my face into it.
Sorry, lots of pictures. I ran up the boat ramp until I hit the swim timing mat, then I stopped to walk and let my heart rate lower for a bit. It was a looonnnggg haul to T1. Like a quarter of a mile haul. There was a place to drop shoes for the long run, but I decided they would be more trouble than they were worth and it wasn’t a big deal.
Time: 29:22 (3/80 Overall, 2/13 AG)
WOO HOO, 3rd woman out! The two women who beat me were the top 2 women overall, so I feel pretty good about this. Great swim
T1: 7:12. Hah, oops. This did include the long run/walk shown below, but I was generally slow getting my bike ready. I just wanted to make sure I had everything, plus I had to stuff all my swim stuff into a trashbag so the race volunteers could grab it and bring it to T2. So it took a while.
BIKE (56 Miles):
Yea, I wore the Camelback for the bike. Judge me all you want, but I only have 2 water bottle holders on my road bike and with only 3 aid stations on the course, there was not going to be enough water for me. I filled the backpack with plain water and the bottles on my bike with gatorade and needed pretty much all of it.
I’m really glad I was able to preview the course a few weeks ago because while it’s not a terribly difficult course, there were a few hills towards the end that I was really glad I knew were there. I tried keep it steady on the hills and go fast on the flatter parts of the course. I also tried to keep eating as often as possible. I had 3 packs of those PowerBar chew things plus a bag of some granola bars broken up into bits. I managed to get through most of the chews (I won’t want any of those for a GOOD LONG while. yuck). and got in a few pieces of granola bar as well.
The only bad part about the bike was that my glutes were ON FIRE almost the entire time. I haven’t ever had this problem on any of my training rides, so I have no idea what that was all about but it was pretty awful. I tried not to focus on it and enjoy the ride, but there were definitely a few moments were I was pretty miserable. I was really worried that it would cause problems on the run as well (which turned out not to be a problem, thank goodness). I kept trying to adjust myself on the saddle to relieve some of the pain and I stood up a lot more than I should have to release the muscles a little bit. It really hurt!
Time: 3:24:12 (46/80 Overall, 5/13 AG)
A good bike! I felt pretty strong most of the way, and definitely made sure to save some for the run ahead.
T2: 3:18 A little less slow-pokey. When I first ran into T2, I was so confused, I couldn’t find my spot. Luckly, awesome spectator/race sherpa/friend Jen was over where I needed to be, shouting at me. I finally found my way over there and switched out my shoes while she told me how great I looked. I told her my butt hurt, and she said it would be fine, so go run!
RUN (13.1 miles):
This was one challenging half marathon. The first 5-ish miles were on the road/sidewalk with some pretty hefty hills. It wasn’t shaded, but it was also not all that hot, so I felt pretty good. I started out walking through the aid stations for water/Heed, and also walked any hills that were ridiculous (to me, at least). I decided last minute to go technology free and not worry about the pace too much. I’ve had success going on RPE before, so I figured I’d try it.
For miles 5-9.5, the course went onto the Davidson cross country course, which is definitely the most challenging cross country course I’ve ever seen! There were some really steep hills out there! Still, I felt mostly strong and only walked the more difficult ones where I felt my heart rate going up. It was nice and shaded and the trail was packed gravel – so fairly soft. I just focused on getting from one aid station to the next and enjoying the run in between, which worked really well. Once I hit the turn around point, just past mile 7.5 or so, I knew there was no way I wasn’t going to finish.
Once I got back on the road, I started feeling a little “sloshy”. Like maybe I had too much liquid, but I still didn’t have to pee (not at all the whole race), so I kept grabbing water or Heed at each aid station, plus 2 gels during the run. Things only started to really fall apart during the last 2 miles. First, I started getting side stiches, then I started getting stomach cramps. UG. It only felt really bad when I was pushing hard, so I had to walk a good bit of the last 2 miles since they were mostly uphill.
FINALLY, the finish:
Time: 2:32:33 (56/80 Overall, 11/13 AG)
Not the speediest run, but it’s right on what I expected, so not bad!
Overall Time: 6:36:34 (45/80 Overall, 7/13 AG)
I’m so happy. Everything up to this point…well, I didn’t know if I could really finish the race or not! Finishing (upright), in a respectable time was just icing on the cake.
Seriously, though, I couldn’t eat anything substantial for hours. I managed to get through a bag of Sunchips during the few hours after the race, but I couldn’t even look at the barbeque meal provided! By the time I got home (around 5:30) I was feeling a little better and managed some pizza.
So, the half ironman was awesome. I can’t wait for the next one!