Goal #1: Finish 70.3 miles
Goal #2: Finish in under 6:00
Goal #3: Finish in under 5:30
I’ve avoided the public race report until now—because frankly, I think people would rather read about food than my race—but enough people have asked for “all the details” that I thought I’d give it a shot.
So, as you all know, this was my first half Ironman. I’m a sprinter. I like to go fast. I had no idea how this long distance thing would work. Originally, the bike was my biggest concern. (How could I possibly bike for 56 miles without going crazy?) And then my typical end-of-season calf issues took on a whole new level (and location) of pain. The bike was no longer a concern. I wondered if I’d be able to run at all.
We got up crazy early (got the expected “WTF?” look from a very sleepy pup) and got to the venue around 5:30. I won’t bore you with my pre-race routine. I got ready. It was cold.
The swim was in Knights Pond, just down a huge hill from the transition area. It’s a stereotypical pond—small, shallow and loaded with vegetation. We had to swim two loops. I was in the fourth wave, seven minutes behind the elites, six minutes behind the 39-and-under men and three minutes behind the 40-plus men. Based on last year’s results and this year’s athlete list, I knew there was at least one other swimmer in my wave. I planned to keep an eye on her.
I dove into the water, which was a lot warmer than the air, and immediately got a taste of ick. The water tasted metallic. I briefly wondered why, remembered friends calling it a manure pond and telling me about tons of goose poop on the grass near the beach and tried to keep my mouth closed for the rest of the swim. I got out of the crowd fairly early and tried to find the first buoy in the fog. There were two women right in front of me. I was okay with that. They probably knew what they were doing. I wasn’t really sure how to pace this swim (and have a tendency to err towards warm-up pace). We swam through a clump of red caps (40-plus men) and started hitting the green caps (39-and-under men). Finding each buoy was challenging. It felt more like a scavenger hunt than a race. I came into the beach, ran through the chute and dove back into the water—a little early, ooops. My hips hit the bottom of the pond, tugging my wetsuit down a bit. That was stupid. The second loop was more of the same. I stopped kicking (not that I kicked much in the first loop) and tried to focus on a strong pull. I wasn’t gonna be able to rely on my arms during the bike and the run so I figured I’d make them work now. I swam back into the beach through a bunch of vegetation (pictured myself looking like swamp thing when I came out of the water) and ran up the beach. I was 10 seconds behind the first person in my wave. Swim: 28:09
I started up the giant hill to the transition area. I started running (because this was a race and I felt great…maybe I should’ve pushed the swim a little more) and then walked the steep part. There was no need to destroy my calves just yet. T1 went fine. I took my time, put on my socks (which took forever) and got the hell outta there.
I got myself settled in on the bike and just rode. I sucked down some Accelerade to get rid of the icky taste of the pond and had my first gel round mile 6. I watched the miles tick by on my computer, telling myself I could take another gel when I got to certain mile markers and checking my time every 14 miles. I wanted to do the bike in three hours, but would be really happy if I could finish in less than three hours. I had no idea if that was possible. At 14 miles, my time was 45-something. Right on target for 3:00. It was windy. I had no idea if I could hold that pace. At 26 miles, I was at 1:27. Hunh. A lot of guys passed me, but not nearly as many women as I expected. Maybe I finally figured out this biking thing—at least a little bit.
I got a little bored (and slow) around mile 39. Where were Erin and Stacy? Shouldn’t they have blown by me by now? For the first time in my triathlon “career” I wondered why I do this. I let myself have an early gel, just to give me something to do, and it worked. I was back to loving (or at least thoroughly enjoying) the race. Erin passed me around mile 49. She was flying (and smiling, of course). Bike: 2:55:09
T2 was another leisurely transition. I racked my bike, took a puff of my inhaler, put on my Garmin, took another puff and tried to put on my shoes. Right foot in. No problem. Left foot—not so easy. I finally paid attention to what I was doing. My left baby toe was getting caught on the side of my shoe, but I couldn’t feel it since my feet were numb. I stuffed it in there with the rest of the little piggies and took off.
My feet were numb! This was fabulous news. I couldn’t feel pain if I couldn’t feel anything. I prayed for 13.1 miles of numbness (and a port-a-potty). My first mile felt great. I looked at my Garmin. 7:30. Hmm, I should slow down. The next mile was a 7:58 and felt really easy. I had planned on starting around an 8:30 and descending, but I felt good. I decided to revisit everything after I peed. The woman running with me said she couldn’t make it to the port-a-potty and ran off into the woods. I should’ve done the same. We rounded the corner and were in a residential area with no sign of a port-a-potty. Finally there was one at the top of the hill around mile 4. The feeling started to come back in my left foot and every few steps I felt like I was stepping on a nail, but I cranked it up the hill to the port-a-potty. I peed as fast as I could and ran through the aid station, grabbing water and taking a gel.
And then someone shot me…in my right leg, under my Achilles, one of the places that’d been bothering me for the past three weeks. The pain was sharp, but brief. It came and went unpredictably. Then my left shin started hurting. That’s a pain I can run through. The stabs to my right leg alternated between dull pains that lasted for a while to sharp shots of pain. It hurt running uphill. It hurt running downhill. It hurt running on a flat road. I told myself that ninjas (or people who look like ninjas because of all the kinesio tape on their calves) feel no pain. I swore, quietly, but fairly consistently.
On the last long uphill a guy behind me begged me not to slow down with some comment like “I love running behind beautiful women.” I thanked him, but told him I was currently figuring out how I could amputate my calves so he may not want to rely on me to pace him. I hobbled along. Slowly. The rest of my body felt great. I wasn’t tired. I wasn’t out of breath. I could’ve held a conversation, but my calves threatened to throw me to the ground every time I attempted to speed up.
My original goal for the run had been sub-2:00. I started to worry that I might not make it. I stared at my watch, doing all sorts of worst case scenario calculations. Finally, I made it to mile 11. 2.1 miles to go. I knew I could walk 2 miles if I had to. I’d probably still make it in under 6:00. But I was running. It hurt like hell, but I was running. I had no idea if walking would hurt more or less. Why find out?
12.5 miles. Almost there. This is where I should kick. That’s my thing. I’m a sprinter. I have a kick. People don’t pass me coming into the finish. I had the energy. I wanted to kick really really badly, but @#$& it hurt! And then we had to run up a hill. It wasn’t a big hill. But it was a hill. Two people passed me. Both of them were older than me. The woman shouted words of encouragement. I wished it was fatigue that was slowing me down. I wished I could put my head down and go (and thank her as I flew by her), but my legs said no. I finally reached the top of the hill and then had to run downhill (which hurt just as badly as the uphill) and then I reached the chute. I couldn’t hobble to the finish, dammit! I used my quads to lift my legs up and throw them forward. I saw the clock: 5:30 (5:23 since I started) and somehow managed a quad-throwing “sprint” to the finish. Run: 1:56:09.
Final Time: 5:23:59. 25th F, 3rd AG