Posts Tagged ‘triathlon’

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First of all, thanks so much to everyone who commented, e-mailed, Twittered or messenger pigeoned their support and good wishes for the race. I shut the computer down after posting the entry and I can’t even tell you how awesome it was to turn on my phone post-race and see all of the comments and e-mails sitting there, not to mention the steady stream of them that’s been coming in since then. I haven’t been responding to them individually because, well, at this point I’m pretty happy if I make it through 4 hours without wanting to take a nap. (I thought I was feeling better today after going to bed early and sleeping in a bit this morning, then I left work a couple of hours early and came home and passed out for 3 hours, only getting out of bed to eat dinner and hop on a conference call with India. As soon as I finish this race report? I’ll be heading back to bed.)

So, even though I haven’t yet gotten back to anyone – thank you, so very much. Y’all are awesome. Also awesome? The Boy. Not only did he give up his Saturday night to hang out with me in Everett and check out the race course, he also got up at 4:30 in the morning to come watch me race. And by “come watch me race” I mean “see me pass by about 4 or 5 times over the course of 8 hours, including a 4 hour chunk where I disappeared totally because there was no good way for spectators to get down to the bike loop.” He managed to catch me out of the water, coming out of transition both times, each time I passed through the downtown area on the run course, and he was waiting at the finish line for me when I got there. He was, in short, an awesome cheerleader who also helped me pack up my stuff in transition at the end of the day and drove my barely-conscious butt home. Big huge bonus points to him.

Anyhow, on to the race. The short version is this: I finished in a time of 8 hours and 11 seconds. I figured I’d take about 1 hour for the swim, 4 for the bike and 3 for the run, and that’s pretty much exactly how the day played out. I raced well, and the only thing I would go back and change would be my fueling: I didn’t eat anywhere near enough food while I was on the bike – neither the Clif bars nor the peanut butter sandwich I had with me tasted even remotely appealing, the Clif bars being way too sweet and the rye bread on the sandwich having way too much flavor – and while I don’t think it significantly impacted my performance, it meant that I felt tired and crappy all day long. I got through the course without any significant issues, but if I’d had more protein and more calories (I ate as much as I could and tried to compensate by drinking Gatorade more than water, but Gatorade is just not calorie-heavy enough for what I needed) I would have been in a much better mental state and would have had a bit more energy. Despite that, I still feel like I went out and had the best race possible on Sunday and am incredibly happy with the results. This race was a major stepping stone to IM CDA next year, and by simply finishing it in one piece I proved to myself that I’m on the right track and that a full Ironman isn’t out of my reach.

Update: For those interested in the numbers, here they are:
Swim: 50:34
T1: 4:08
Bike: 4:10:13
T2: 4:31

Run: 2:50:46

Overall: 8:00:10.18
Div Place: 10/10
Sex Place: 295/300
Overall Place: 871/880 (not last!)

Now, for those who want the long, detailed version? I present my memory dump of Sunday 🙂

The day started very, very early with a 4:30 a.m. wake up call. I’d gotten into bed early, but I’d stayed up until midnight or so reading while The Boy watched TV. I didn’t feel overly tired and figured that even though I wasn’t asleep, I was relaxed and “resting” so it would be fine. The alarm woke me up out of a sound sleep, but once I got up and started moving around I woke up quickly. I had a bagel with peanut butter and some Gatorade for breakfast, made my sandwiches for the bike, then got dressed. I’d taken the time the night before to pack up my transition bag and get everything together, so I didn’t really have to do a lot that morning besides get everything else packed up so we could check out of the hotel. We got the car loaded up and headed to the race site, getting there around 5:45. My hope was that we’d get there early enough to park somewhere near the transition area in downtown Lake Stevens, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that there were still plenty of spots available. We put the car in a shopping center parking lot across the street from transition. There was a sign stating “Customer Parking Only,” but we figured that The Boy would, at some point during the next 9 hours, patronize at least one of those establishments for one reason or another, so we totally counted as customers. Besides, since most of the roads leading into town would be closed during the day for the race, it’s not like non-Ironman-related customers would be able to get there and be offended by all of the tri people taking up the parking spaces.

The Boy explored the start and finish area for a bit while I got everything set up in transition. I’d scoped it out a bit when I dropped of my bike the night before. I was on the other end of the transition area from the bike out/run out, but I was incredibly close to the bike in/swim in so it pretty much evened out. I was also in one of the racks in the center of the area, so I wouldn’t have to go way over to one side or the other to get in/out of transition – I had a nice, straight line to all of the entrances and exits. Since there was going to be a good chunk of running in bike shoes regardless of where my bike was racked, I was glad to be near the swim entrance which meant a minimum of running in bare feet. Awesome. After I got everything set up, I did one last visual inspection of the area, making sure everything was there, then took my wetsuit over to the swim start area. I picked up my chip, wiggled my way into the neoprene and met up with The Boy who was all decked out with his massive camera gear. Another friend of his was also doing the race and he’d run into her and had a chance to say hi while waiting for me.

I was in the 4th or 5th wave, and once the race got started? My start time came up pretty quickly. I lined up with the other light blue caps and headed out onto the floating dock. It was an in-water start, but we had a pretty small group so it was easy to get over to the right side of the group and avoid a big crowd right away. I sat down on the dock to get my goggles on before jumping in the water and felt something poke me in the back of the leg right through my wetsuit. I looked, and it turned out I’d sat on a snail shell… and put a hole in my brand new wetsuit. Grrrr. Oh well. I jumped in the water, found a good spot, and waited for the start. I took off with the rest of my group and while it was a bit crowded right away, I soon got into rhythm and found some clear water. I wound up spending a few minutes drafting off another girl that was swimming about my pace which was awesome. It was totally by accident – I noticed I was swimming right off her hip, but I wasn’t passing her and she hadn’t blown past me, so I stuck with her as long as I could before finally sneaking ahead of her. The good news is I had clear, open water for most of the swim. The bad news is that’s because I started so far to the right, I never got back over to the main part of the course and swam the whole thing really, really wide. Instead of a triangle, I swam a nice oblong shape. Oops. I joked with The Boy that I was trying to see how wide I could swim the course before someone in a kayak stopped me 🙂

The swim was endless, but not in a “dear God get me out of this lake” way. More like a “1.2 miles is a really, really long distance” way, which, duh. Despite only getting in the lake twice so far this year (one training session and one race), I felt incredibly comfortable the entire time. It probably helped that Lake Stevens is a small, incredibly clean lake. The water was flat, I didn’t see any seaweed or wildlife the entire time, and because the course marshalls were in kayaks instead of speedboats the course didn’t smell and taste like diesel. I got into a good rhythm early and felt strong and relaxed the entire time, swimming freestyle the entire way. I really couldn’t have asked for a better swim, and when I got out of the water and saw a time of 50 minutes and change on my watch, I was thrilled. The day was definitely off to a good start.

I took a bit more time than I would have ideally liked to in transition. Swim to run transitions always take me longer than I think they should, mostly because it takes me a while to shake the dizzy feeling that comes from spending 50 minutes in a horizontal position while taking off a wetsuit and putting on shoes. I got everything together, loaded up my jersey pockets with extra snacks, and was out of there in just over 4 minutes. I’d brought a bike jacket to wear in case it was rainy or exceptionally cool and I briefly thought about grabbing it, but ultimately decided against it. The effort of the swim had warmed me up enough that I no longer felt chilly standing outside, and the course would involve enough climbing that I was worried about getting too hot in a long-sleeved shell. (What I really needed? Arm warmers. Totally need to look into those.) I did get a little chilly on a few of the descents, but overall I was glad I skipped the jacket.

I headed out onto the bike course, spotting The Boy (and his giant camera) near the bike mount line. I got my feet on the pedals and took off, making my way over a few rollers before hitting the main bike loop. For the most part, the course wasn’t overly difficult – there were a lot of sections where I was chugging along at 10 MPH instead of 15 because the course was at a gradual incline, and there were a few hills that didn’t look that bad on the drive-through but were a bit more beastly to ride up on a bike. I was getting passed left and right, which I totally expected, but I just concentrated on keeping a good, moderate pace going and not working my legs too hard right away. My plan was to ride the course somewhat conservatively on the flats and smaller hills, knowing that I had some bigger hills and a 13.1 mile run to also deal with. I didn’t want to blow out my legs unnecessarily on the smaller climbs. A lot of the smaller hills were right after pretty good descents and I was actually able to use the momentum to pop right on over them without shifting out of my big ring. That was a good feeling, for sure.

About 3 or 4 miles into the course, I realized two things: I really, really had to pee and I really, really should have gotten more sleep last night. I couldn’t do anything about the lack of sleep, but I vowed to stop at the first port-o-potty I saw to take care of the full bladder. The down side is the first bathroom opportunity? Was 16 miles into the course. Riding a bike for an hour on a full bladder? Was not the most comfortable feeling. There were several times I tried to will myself to just go in my shorts but it wasn’t happening. I needed actual facilities. When I got there I had a bit of a wait, as someone just beat me to the stop, so I decided to have some sandwich while I waited. Of course, as soon as I got off the bike I went from “feeling like my bladder is pretty full and could use an emptying” to “MUST PEE NOW.” Eating provided something of a distraction, but I quickly discovered that rye bread has way, way too much flavor for race food. Ugh. (I’d used rye in the sandwiches because it was what we had at home and I didn’t think it was going to matter. That falls under the category of “lessons learned for next time.”) I got a few bites down but was sort of glad when the toilet became available because then I had to stop eating and could put the sandwich away. Within a few minutes I was back on my way.

I knew that I was going to have to eat – 8 hours of racing is too far to go on just Gatorade and Gu, and since my stomach is very, very picky about what it can digest on the run the bike was my best chance to get that fuel in. Since the sandwich was sort of a bust, I tried one of the Clif bars in my bento box. The last time I bought them I picked out the Carrot Cake flavor because, well, I like them and I haven’t had them in a while. (I need to rotate through the flavors – after a while on the same flavor they become totally inedible. Same with the Gu because, really, all that stuff is sort of gross.) What I failed to consider was the fact that the carrot cake flavor? Is incredibly sweet. Too sweet, in fact, for me to choke down during a race. I took a bite here and there as I could, but I only got down about 1/2 a bar total. Half a Clif bar contains 100 calories. In other words: not enough. I knew I was going to be underfueled and so I drank as much Gatorade as I could in a desperate attempt to get in calories where I could, switching back to water only to rinse down a bite of Clif bar or when I really needed something plain. It was something, but I’m really going to need to get a nutrition plan nailed down (and practiced in training) before my next long race. I was feeling tired and kept mentally falling out of the race – when I finished the first bike loop my first thought was, “Man, I really don’t want to do that again” – which is a sure-fire sign that I’m riding that edge of bonking. I was able to get enough fuel in to keep myself from totally falling over, but I would have felt much, much better with more food.

As I rode through the course, I was very glad that I’d taken the time to drive it on Saturday afternoon. There were parts that I didn’t remember, but a lot of the main features looked familiar. The biggest benefit I got was that I knew exactly where the Big Nasty hill was, so when I came around a corner and saw it rising up before me, I wasn’t surprised. I’d known it was coming, and I was looking for it. By this point, the elite racers and super-fast age groupers were passing by me and it was gratifying to see everyone crawling up the incline. Sure, the pros were crawling up it faster than I was, but everyone was working hard to get up through the climb. One of the pro women turned to me and yelled, “Great job! Way to work that hill!” as she passed by me, which I thought was the most awesome thing ever. Women in this sport are great – nearly everyone that passed by me on the bike or the run cheered me on as they did so, and I really made an effort to do the same thing. There weren’t many spectators on the course, so getting that sort of support from the other athletes really made my day.

Other than the hills, the one thing I was worried about on the bike course was negotiating the aid stations. I knew that there would be a spot for me to drop my water bottles and that I would pick up a new bottle from the volunteers, but the idea of having to grab a full bottle of liquid from someone while passing by at full speed on my bike sort of scared me. How was that going to work? What if I dropped it? As it turns out, I was worried over nothing. Being slow has its advantages, one of them being the fact that when I rolled through the aid station the first time? It just wasn’t that crowded. I dumped my Gatorade bottle and called out “Gatorade” as I came up to the line of volunteers and stuck my hand out. Someone put a full bottle of Gatorade right in my hand and I grabbed it as I kept going. Easy-peasy. Sure, they’d been dealing with people going much, much faster through that station than I was, but I was surprised by how easy it turned out to be. It seems like there are just so many things that can go wrong when you’re trying to hand full bottles of liquid to people on moving bikes, but these guys knew what they were doing. I was also happy to see that all of the little seals that come on the Gatorade bottles had been removed. I’m sure a group of people spent hours prepping all of the bottles – taking the seals off the Gatorade, filling bottles of water – and I hope they know that all of that tedious work was appreciated. Race volunteers seriously rock.

The second loop on the bike course was much lonlier than the first. I saw a few people here and there, but spent a lot of it alone. The good news is that, as a constant back-of-the-packer, I’ve learned to expect it. Plus, I do nearly all of my training alone so I’m used to being out there by myself. I got through the second part of the loop (and up that big-ass hill) and as I came through the aid station again the guy handing me my water bottle turned out to be the same guy I’d worked with at a bike maintenance clinic earlier that week. He must have recognized my bike (it has a very distinctive zebra stripe paint job that everyone remembers), but he said hi and asked me how it was going as I rode on by. It was an awesome time to see a friendly face, that’s for sure.

The route back to transition from the main bike loop wound up being a little different than what was on the printed map I’d gotten in my race packet, so I was heading down roads that I hadn’t actually driven over. Sure, it was just the reverse of the route too the loop, but I hadn’t really considered what that path would look like in reverse. Those last few miles? Were surprisingly hilly. By then, I just wanted the damn hills to stop and each time I thought they must be done because, clearly, I must be almost back to transition, I rounded another bend in the road and saw another climb. None of these hills were overly huge or steep, I was just tired of riding uphill by this point. There was one hill, right near the very end of the bike course, that did almost make me cry. It wasn’t very tall, but it was steep. It was easily the steepest grade I’d seen all day, and it was at the end of the course? That just seemed evil. I cranked it down into my lowest gear and crawled up it, cursing the race directors all the way. Ugh.

By the time I got back to transition, I was beyond ready to be off the bike. There was a spot of chafing in my armpit (most likely from my wetsuit) that hurt every time the wind hit it. There was a spot of chafing from my bike seat that damn near made me scream every time I hit the saddle wrong. I was tired. My back hurt. My neck hurt. My hips were sore enough that I could barely lift my leg high enough to get off my bike. The last thing I wanted to do was go run a half-marathon. As I got through transition, I didn’t really think about it. I changed my shoes and my hat, gave some thought to changing out my sunglasses since the sun was coming out (I had orange lenses since it has been overcast that morning but wondered if I should change to the darker lenses since it was getting sunny. Oddly enough, nowhere in that logic did I say, “Hey, if it’s getting sunny, I should probably also toss some sunblock on.” That would prove to be a mistake.), took a second to stretch some things out, then headed out for the run.

As I made my way out of transition, all I wanted was lunch and a nap. My back hurt. My feet hurt and I could tell that the shoes I was wearing were totally shot and needed to be replaced. I was worried that despite the fact that I’d thrown a layer of Body Glide over my armpit chafing that it was going to bug me for the entire run (it didn’t) and I would have killed someone for a cold, fizzy Diet Coke. I saw The Boy right out of transition and he yelled, “Only a couple more hours to go! Then you’ll be able to wear your t-shirt!” (I’d spent some time the night before explaining to him the principle that I wouldn’t be able to wear my race shirt until I’d actually finished the race. Supersitious? Maybe. But there’s also a part of me that doesn’t feel right about wearing a shirt from a race I haven’t done, especially if it’s a race that’s at a distance I’ve never done.) His intention was to be encouraging, along the lines of “You’re almost done! You’re going to make it! Woohoo!” However, since my brain was in a dark, fuel-deprived place at that point, what I heard was, “You’ve only got a few more hours before the time cutoff! Move your ass or you’ll be stuck with a shirt of shame that you can never wear!” So I did what anyone would do – stuck my hand up in the air, raised my middle finger, and then spent the next few minutes entertaining vivid fantasies of hitting him really, really hard for being a smartass. In retrospect, such a comment coming from him at a time like that would be somewhat out of character, and when he explained it post-race I was like, “Ohhhh. That makes way more sense. Sorry about that whole flipping you off bit.” However, all was not lost as my parting gesture got a good laugh from the crowd around him and also entertained him a bit.

Getting to the run part of the course gave me a good chance to regroup. I’ve got a lot more experience running while feeling like crap than I do biking while feeling like crap. I know what I need to do to get into a rhythm and relax and by the time I’d passed the first aid station I felt a bit better. I made the executive decision while in T2 that I was going to walk up the hills and through the aid stations on the run – I had time for it and giving myself permission to, essentially, take a break when I needed it, made me feel a lot better. What also made me feel better was the fact that I was not the only person employing this strategy. I’d heard that there were going to be pretzels and orange slices on the run and while I was disappointed to not see them at the first aid station, they were at the next one. Aid stations were stationed like clock work – there was one every mile on the course (except for mile 6/12ish), all of them had water, Gatorade, and gels and every other station had energy bars, orange slices and pretzels. I grabbed the biggest handful of pretzels I could at the mile 2 aid station and a glass of water and had myself a nice little walk while I chowed down. Solid food! Salt! FOOD! It was a beautiful thing, and as I started running down the hill after finishing I felt hugely better than I had just a couple of miles before. By the time I hit the downtown area at the halfway point of the first run loop, I was feeling pretty good. I was tired and things were starting to hurt, but I was moving along and I only had 10 more miles to go. I can totally run 10 miles. Ain’t no thang, yo. This time when I saw The Boy, I was all smiles and managed to avoid the obscene gestures.

The way the run course was set up, we left the downtown/transition area and did a 3ish mile loop out to the northeast. Then we came back through downtown and headed out for an out-and-back along the lake before passing through downtown again and going out for lap two. The downtown area? Was packed with spectators, which was awesome. People were clapping and cheering and as I was coming up on the end of my first loop, a little boy stuck his hand out for a high-five as I passed by. It’s easy to think that what you’re doing isn’t that impressive – especially in a field of people much, much faster than you – but there’s something about seeing those kids cheering you on and reaching out to slap your hand that makes you feel like a total rock star.

As I started lap two on the run, the course was deserted, just as I’d expected. I’d been out with a lot of other people on my first lap, and I figured that most of them were on their second. I was right. I continued to grab pretzels where ever I could and sucked down as much Gatorade and Gu as my system would let me. The mile markers were all for the first lap, so I wasn’t sure exactly how far along the course I was. I assumed that mile 1 became mile 7 and that turned out to be close enough. Each time I passed a mile marker I looked to see how much time I had left before I hit 8 hours (the technical race finish cutoff, although I figured that if they let me start my second run lap, they were going to let me finish) and how many miles I had left to go. I kept hoping that I’d hit a point where I’d look at my watch and realize I’d have plenty of time to just walk it all the way into the finish, but that never happened. I had plenty of time, but I was going to have to keep moving.

As I came through the downtown area for the last time, I saw The Boy and grabbed his hand as he said, “You’re almost done! You’re going to do this!” I’d been trying not to think ahead to the race finish all day long, focusing instead on what the next step in my day was (finish this bike loop, finish this run loop, make it to the next mile marker), but when he said that? It hit me. I was going to do this. I was really, actually, going to do this. I only had about 4 miles to go before the finish line, and while they seemed like they were going to be the longest 4 miles of my life, they were also only 4 miles. 4 miles left out of 70.3. The hugeness of it all hit me and I had to put it out of my mind – it was too big to think about right then, so I went back to thinking about just making it to the turnaround at the end of the out-and-back.

There was, of course, a hill on the out-and-back portion. The course was flat for a bit, wound up a hill, then there was a bit of a downhill before the turnaround and aid station. I hit the aid station, grabbing more pretzels and water (my digestive system was starting to protest against the Gatorade) and walked up the hill. When I got to the flat section at the top of the hill, I tried to make myself run but I just couldn’t do it. I was just toast – I was exhausted, things were really starting to hurt, and the idea of running on flat ground was just too much for me. So I took a deep breath, told myself it was OK and promised myself that I’d run down the hill. Which I did, but when I got to the aid station at the bottom of the hill and more flat ground I had to walk again.

Instead of thinking about how tired I was and how much things were starting to hurt, I instead forced myself to look out at the lake. We were on a road that wound along right next to the lake – the houses on the lake side of the street all had their own docks – and it was some great scenery. Since I wasn’t moving by very fast, I made myself appreciate the view. I marveled at the fact that the buoys on the swim course had been taken down already and picked out the start/finish area. I looked ahead on the course a bit, and picked out a tree on a curve that I knew was less than a mile from the finish (I was thinking it was going to be about a half-mile from the end, but I think it was closer than that). When I got to that tree, I said, I was going to run. I was going to run it in for the finish, and I was going to start at that tree.

Shortly after I made that decision, an older guy passed by me. He said, “I’ve been chasing you down this entire run! You can’t let me pass you by now!” I wanted to want to pick up the pace and stay ahead of him – after all, he had a pretty good point – but I just couldn’t. I was pretty sure I still had more than a mile to go, and I just couldn’t get my brain around that much running at that point. I watched him go, but I tried to pick up my walking pace enough to keep him in my sights.

When I hit the tree where I was supposed to start running, I didn’t want to, but I knew that I was almost back to the downtown area and there was no way I was going to walk past all of those spectators. I had under a mile to go, and I could run it in. I started to jog, and as I hit the spectators I picked up the pace a bit as they all cheered for me. I hit the right turn towards the finish sooner than expected, and the distance from that corner to the finish line was much, much shorter than I expected it to be. I gave it everything I had, hitting the finish line as fast as I could go at that point. I came really, really close to passing up the old guy in the finish chute, but didn’t quite get there.

As I crossed the finish line, I burst into tears. I was tired. Everything hurt. But I was done. I’d actually done it. The Boy later said I looked like I wasn’t sure if I wanted to smile or cry, which pretty much hit it on the head. I was so, so glad to be done, but I was also so very exhausted in every sense of the word. The volunteer near me immediately asked if I was OK with a look of much concern on her face. I told her I was fine, but I was just really, really tired. She said, “Of course! Do you want some water? Or some Gatorade?” I didn’t know what I wanted, so I took both. I had someone put a medal over my head and someone else took the chip strap off my ankle. Then I looked up and saw The Boy standing there.

I was sweaty and gross and crusty and did I mention gross? Yet he came up and gave me a big hug without even thinking about it. I held on to him and, for a few minutes, let him hold me up while I composed myself a little bit. It felt so good to just fully relax for a second and not have to move after spending the past 8 hours constantly thinking about just moving forward. Once I was ready, I stood up and found the food. I just grabbed a banana and some animal crackers, but they were enough to perk me up a bit. I checked out the massage tent, but when I saw they weren’t free I decided it wasn’t worth it and I just wanted to head home. (I didn’t really look at the prices, so I have no idea if they were expensive or cheap or what.) The Boy headed over to the car to pack up his camera stuff and I made my way into transition to get my stuff together.

Another bonus to being a late finisher is that by that point, they were happy to let friends and family into the transition area since it wasn’t that busy. I was glad to see him walking up, and even happier to him holding the bag of clean clothes I’d packed to change into for the ride home. In that moment, he totally won Boyfriend of the Year. He finished packing up my stuff while I changed and by the time I got back to my bike? We were ready to go. I seriously could not have asked for a better support crew.

He carried my bag back to the car and loaded up my bike while I eased myself into the seat. When I got into the car, I was about to ask him what he’d done with the bottles of Gatorade and water I’d gotten at the end of the race when I looked down and saw them sitting in the door. Talk about full-service.

When we got home, I stayed awake long enough to get cleaned up and change into real clothes. Then I passed out on the couch for a bit while I thought about what I wanted for dinner. I still wasn’t incredibly hungry when we headed out, but I knew I needed to eat and I figured now was as good of a time as any. We headed out to Red Robin where I had a chocolate shake, cheeseburger and fries. The shake came out first and it was easily the best shake I’ve had in a very, very long time. (Although I’d be willing to bet it had less to do with the shake itself and more to do with the fact that it was FOOD.) The best part of dinner was when some random guy spied my race shirt on his way to the bathroom, came up to our table and said, “Aw yeah. This is where real triathletes come to eat. Congratulations.” and gave me a little fist bump before limping over to the restroom.

Once I was fed and back home, I proceeded to pass out. I went upstairs with the intention of watching some of the recorded Tour coverage before falling asleep, but I never made it that far. I hit the bed and was out. I woke up a couple of hours later horribly thirsty and came downstairs and watched some of the Olympic trials coverage with The Boy before heading back up to bed. Again, I don’t remember falling asleep – I crawled into bed and didn’t move until The Boy came up a couple of hours later. Then I was out again until this morning.

When I finally woke up around 8:30, I felt pretty good. I took my time getting out of bed and getting dressed, but I felt well rested and awake. I wasn’t horribly sore – I’ve got one very angry hamstring, but most of my pain points are either from chafing or sunburn, not muscle soreness – and so I thought I was doing pretty good. Of course, that was before I left work early after the Wall of Tired hit me after lunch. I figured I’d nap for an hour or so, but wound up passing out for close to three hours. I probably would have slept through the night if I hadn’t had an evening conference call for work and was very glad I’d taken the precaution of setting an alarm before lying down.

Overall? I’m really, really happy with how the race went. It was my first attempt at the distance on a tough course (because why would I do my first half-iron on an easy course? That takes all the challenge out of it, because covering 70.3 miles under your own power is a piece of cake otherwise), and I finished within the time limits. Yes, I have some nutrition issues to work out, since I’ve now hit a distance point where “close enough” just isn’t going to cut it, but that’s all part of the learning experience. Outside of the fueling issues, I couldn’t have asked for a better race. The weather was perfect, the course was beautiful, and I hit my performance expectations for the day dead on.

For a first HIM, I really couldn’t have asked for more. Yeah, it was a long, hard day but I made it. Going through training it’s hard to feel like you’re really “trained,” but I know I couldn’t have done this race a year ago which gives me confidence that in another year I’ll be able to successfully tackle the full Ironman distance.

Plus, the feeling when crossing the finish line? Totally worth the 8 hours of work that came before it.

Update: For those interested in the numbers, here they are:
Swim: 50:34
T1: 4:08
Bike: 4:10:13
T2: 4:31

Run: 2:50:46

Overall: 8:00:10.18
Div Place: 10/10
Sex Place: 295/300
Overall Place: 871/880 (not last!)

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Saturday morning the tri season officially got started around here with the Issaquah Triathlon. It was a sprint distance event, and I did it mostly because a) it would be fun and b) it would give me a chance to see how the half-ironman training was progressing. Was I making progress? Or was I going to be in danger of keeling over at the side of the road in Lake Stevens in 6 weeks?

I knew the lake would be cold, although odds were it would be warmer than Lake Washington was a couple of weeks ago. I was right – the 60 degree water temperature felt like nothing. The thing I didn’t count on was that the air temperature would be very chilly – just under 50 degrees – at the start. On the plus side, it warmed up as the sun got higher in the sky and I joked that the low air temperature would make the lake feel warm by comparison.  I wasn’t too far off – the cool temps made the ground cold enough to make my feet cramp up standing on the beach before the start, so heading into the relatively warm water was something of a relief.

Per the advice of the woman that taught the tri swim class I took over the winter, I positioned myself near the front but way to the side of the group.  The water was about knee-high, and when the whistle went off?  I started swimming.  (The guys wave ahead of us ran through the water until it was waist height, a mistake for which they were mercilessly heckled by the announcer.)  For the first time in a race, ever, I was in the middle of everyone at the start rather than getting immediately left behind.  I managed to avoid getting kicked in the face and found a mostly-clear path, although I did have to stop and tread water for a bit in the crunch at the first buoy when I couldn’t find my way through the group of people.  I swam a wider arc than I really needed to from the first buoy to the second, but I had clear water and I was, somehow, passing people.  This blew my mind, since normally I consider it a good race if I don’t get passed by the people in the wave behind me before I exit the water.  I rounded the second buoy with much less traffic and swam until my hands were scraping the bottom of the lake.  I exited the water with 8 minutes and change on my watch, something that surprised the heck out of me as I figured it’d be closer to 15.  (However, I also thought it was going to be an 800 yard swim and it was only a 1/4 mile, which explains the record swim time.)

For the first race of the season, it wasn’t bad.  I didn’t feel particularly great in the water – nowhere near as strong as I’ve been feeling in the pool lately (which I’m going to blame on not being used to swimming in my wetsuit) and I was dizzy as all get out the entire time.  However, I was able to keep my heart rate and breathing under control, which I wasn’t able to do at last year’s early season race, so I’ll take it as an improvement.  The first transition was slow, as I was dizzy, trying to get my wetsuit off and my shoes on, and it just felt very rusty in general.  Clearly, it had been a long time since I’d done this.  I was on my bike and out in just under 2:30 which, while not great, isn’t all bad either.

The 15 mile bike course was OK.  It was a rolling course along a mostly-shaded road with one decently sized hill in it.  I’m getting much better on the bike, but hills still bring me to a dead stop.  While I’m sure part of it is the fact that I just need to get in better shape for that sort of climbing, I’m sure a lot of it is I need to learn how to gear my bike so I don’t kill my legs but also don’t lose more speed than I need to.  It’s just a matter of practice (which I can get plenty of around here, for sure).  I got passed by a lot of the super-fast guys in the wave behind me, but I also passed a few people as I rode along.  I was a wee bit nervous about the new pedals on the bike since I hadn’t had a chance to actually ride with them and had also had quite a bit of difficulty clipping into them on the trainer.  However, through luck or divine intervention or something I got my feet clipped in with no problems whatsoever.  This put me way ahead of a bunch of other people, apparently, who had trouble getting clipped into their bike because their feet were still numb from the swim.  The extra float (how much my heel can move side to side – the standard SPD pedals I was using didn’t allow for any heel movement at all, these allow for quite a bit, which is really nice) sort of freaked me out a bit when I got out of the saddle to climb the hill, but I got used to it pretty quickly.  The best part about these pedals is that it’s super-easy to clip out of them.

The best part about the bike course?  The turnaround was higher up than the transition area, so while the way out had more uphill riding, the way back had more downhill riding.  Speeeeedyyyy!  I flew back into the transition area, changed my shoes and hat, had a Gu, and was off.

The first thing I noticed was that my right foot was still a bit numb from the swim, and while it hadn’t bothered me on the bike do you have any idea how hard it is to run when you can’t feel your toes?  It was weird.  Waaaaay weird.  Thankfully my left foot was OK, so I just figured it would go away as I got warmed up on the run.  The second thing I noticed was that I felt like crap and couldn’t catch my breath.  I just tried to get into a rhythm with my pace and keep on running and breathing and figured it would work itself out eventually.  Worst case scenario?  It was only 5K, so it would be over soon.

The run course was billed as “cross-country”, so half of it was on grass and half was on roads.  It was a little weird, and I wasn’t the biggest fan of it.  I like running cross country courses, but not in races where I’m used to having a road course, you know?  I was, however, a fan of the “water feature” on the course.  At one point we ran behind some large office buildings that had their sprinklers on (Dude, we’re in a city known for its rain.  Do you really need sprinklers?) which made for some fun as we got to run through them.  I saw people dodging them but didn’t bother – I figured I was already wet from the lake, and the water coming out of the sprinklers couldn’t possibly be any colder than said lake so I just plowed  right on through.  Less fun was navigating the flooded out course, but since there was no way around it I just stomped right on through the puddles.

The first mile marker had somehow disappeared from the course, so when I checked my watch at the water stop and saw 15 minutes, I knew I was at best halfway through the course and at worst just over a mile through it.  I have a very, very hard time pacing myself running off the bike and can’t tell how fast I’m going at all.  I tend to run a little on the speedy side, which I was hoping was the case here because if I had two more miles to go?  I was not going to be happy about it.  Around the next turn I saw a sign, and all I could think was, “Please be mile 2.  Please be mile 2.”  For some reason I was afraid it was going to say “1.5 miles,” which, huh?  When have I ever seen a 1.5 mile sign on a course?  Yet I was convinced that was going to be the case, since I was only 18 minutes into the run.  If I was at mile 2, it meant I was running 9 minute miles which… I haven’t run that fast in years.  There was no way.  Plus, I’d been getting passed left and right during the whole run.  Thusly, I must be running at a snail’s pace.  No way I’m 2 miles in.  None.

Yet, when I got close enough to read the sign?  WAY!  It was indeed mile 2!  Initially I rejoiced because, “Woohoo!  Only one more mile to go!”  Then I thought, “I have a whole other MILE?  Noooooo!”  Ah, the beauty of the hard-run 5K.  Knowing I was nearly done, I put the gas on and passed by a few guys (guys!).  Then I took another look at my watch and realized that if I could hold my pace for that last mile?  I had a chance at breaking my 5K PR.  My road 5K PR that I’d set in a 5K race that didn’t involve an hour of swimming and biking beforehand.  That was all the motivation I needed to keep going, although I was tired and thirsty and really just wanted to lie down for a bit.

A few more turns later and I saw the park that the finish line was in.  I wasn’t sure exactly how far I had left to go, but I knew it had to be less than a quarter-mile so I gave it everything I had.  I crossed the line at 1:34:01, setting both a new sprint tri PR and a new 5K PR.  Overall, I took about 7 1/2 minutes off my sprint time from last year.  The layout of this course was slightly different – a shorter swim, a longer bike – but my bike pace was faster than last year and my run time was about 2 minutes faster.  Plus, I took 6 seconds off my 5K PR.  It’s not much, but I haven’t come even close to that record since I set it, so I was pretty excited.

All in all?  It was a great day.  The race was a lot of fun and I’m very pleased with how I did.  I’m definitely in better shape than last year, and I feel like this whole “half-ironman” thing might actually be doable.  Most excellent.

Last, but certainly not least, The Boy deserves a bunch of credit for getting up at 5:15 in the morning to come watch me race.  Not only did he get up way early, but he did it on a day when he wouldn’t be able to go back to bed and take a nap once he got home since he had to go help a friend move.

For those that are interested, here’s how the numbers turned out:

Swim (1/4 mile): 9:01
T1: 2:18
Bike (15 miles): 52:33
T2: 2:29
Run: 27:38
Overall: 1:34:01

Age group: 34/49
All women: 191/339
Overall: 489/703

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