We got to the race site, and I couldn't believe how busy it was! We had no trouble finding parking, but we did have to park a couple of blocks further away than in the past. I dropped off my bike and went to pick up my race packet. The lady handed me my race packet with my T-shirt - a size large. I had registered for a small. She also told me that she hoped I'd brought a swim cap. They were all out. I could feel my frustration increasing. I normally love this race. I've done it twice and am quick to tell people how great of a race it is - well organized, fairly low key, and relatively inexpensive compared to other half iron distance races. When I told the volunteer that they had me down for the wrong size, she apologized and told me to come back at the end of the race. Turns out I wasn't the only one. Two other women in transition also had registered for small shirts and were given larges. I tried to brush off all of the frustration. There was nothing I could do about it, and I didn't want it to affect my race. I was also a little nervous about the closeness in transition. I could barely squeeze sideways between the bike tires. I had no idea how I'd squeeze my bike through there too.
Transition closed promptly at 6:45. Steve and I had each seen two different pairs of his students while we were preparing in transition, so we knew we were all there. We met them down at the beach as planned. I was so excited for them! We snapped several pics, I gave Steve a smooch and wished them all luck, and I went to wait in line for my wave to start. I was in wave 6 of 10, and before I could think too much about anything, I was off!
We were in waves of 50, and since the waves went by time of registration and not by age group, I lined up toward the back and outside to avoid getting trampled. Almost as soon as I got my face in the water, my goggles filled up. Dang. I popped up, treaded water by just kicking, shook out the water, and started up again. Again they started leaking. I pressed them onto my face more to get a better seal. The water was really distracting, but every time I tried to breathe left (I breath every 3rd stroke), the sun rising BLINDED me. I tried dumping the water out of my goggles again. There wasn't more than a few drops left in them, but it felt all wrong. I started to panic. I had barely started the swim, I was out of breath, and I was panicking. How am I going to get through the next mile? I started getting a really sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. This is silly. I pride myself on staying calm in all sorts of horrible situations in the water. I need to calm down. Despite my best effort, it just wasn't working. I started to wonder if my race was over before it had even really started. I was verging on a total meltdown. I looked up and saw one of the volunteers just sitting on the edge of the swim line holding onto her orange life preserver buoy. I swam over to her and told her that I just needed to rest a second and get the water completely out of my goggles. (For those of you who don't know, the rules are that you can stop, hold on, and rest as long as you need to provided that you receive no forward propulsion from doing so.) The volunteer smiled and kindly acknowledged that swimming in a lake is much different than swimming in a pool. I don't remember what I told her. I think I just mumbled something. I wanted to tell her that I'd done this more times than I could even attempt to count, that this was the first time anything like this had ever happened, that I'm not the type of person who panics in a swim. Instead, I just held on, methodically dumped all of the water out, wiped my goggles, and started back into the swim. I instantly felt much better. I was finding a rhythm again when I went to breathe left and someone physically pushed my face under right as I was about to suck in air. I felt the panic creep back in, but this time, I was able to brush it off. I've never understood why people do malicious things during the swim. I don't think I ever will. The rest of the swim was relatively uneventful. I eventually settled into a comfortable pace. When I hit the turn around of the out and back in 18 minutes, I knew it was short. Dang. I was secretly hoping for a PR, and a PR just doesn't feel the same on a short course. Eighteen minutes halfway through a half swim is normal for a lot of people, but not for me. With my lack of pool time, I figured I was looking at about a 45 minute swim. There's a difference between a good day and a miracle, and with the start to my swim, I knew it was short. I'm not sure what my official time was exiting the water, but my total swim time came to 39:27 after running up a huge hill into transition. This is nearly a 6 minute PR for me, so either I had divine intervention or it really was a little short.
I needn't have worried about getting my bike out in T1 because many/most of the rest of the bikes were gone. I loaded up my jersey, threw on my gear, and was out in 2:56.
My goal on the bike was to PR. The last time I did this race, it took us down along the river and on some TERRIBLE roads. I had heard they changed the course and was curious to see how it was. The new roads were AWESOME! Nearly every one was new. There was a several mile stretch of road toward the end that was reminiscent of the old course, but for the most part it was great. There were lots of small hills and one big hill around mile 45. We had a head wind for the first 25+ miles, and I knew it would be a tail wind on the way back. I tried to keep my cadence up and keep working without pushing too hard. After the initial flock of people passed me and the sprint course participants turned off our course, I settled into a good pace and did a lot of passing. I pulled over at one water stop to shift my water bottles around when a porta potty opened up. I jumped on the opportunity, which probably cost me a couple of minutes, but when I really have to pee, it affects my ability to get in adequate nutrition. Speaking of nutrition, I really tried to focus on it this time around. I've had my share of nutrition issues this year, and I was determined not to let it get the best of me. I stopped once more around mile 45. One woman had pulled over, and when I asked me if she needed anything, she replied that she had flatted again and needed a CO2 cartridge. I gave her mine thinking it was good ju-ju. Turns out I was right. I finished the bike in 3:10:28 (the bike was a bit short at 55.4 miles), just a few minutes slower than my 3:05 pr at Steelhead, which was really short at 54.5 miles. My average came to 17.4 MPH, which isn't too shabby for me.
I hit T2 a little frustrated again. The swim was short and the bike was short. I knew I was on stellar PR pace but didn't want to earn it on a short course. I didn't see Steve at first, and I was totally OK with that. I was hoping he was out there with his students and they were all having a great time. I had to hike my bike up onto my shoulder to get it into the tight transition area! I unloaded and reloaded my pockets and was out - 2:10.
As I mentioned in my last post, I've been working on my run, and it's slowly getting faster. Secretly, I was thinking that I could stay sub 10 minute miles if I felt great, and when I hit my first mile in 9:10 feeling good, I got pretty excited. My goal was to keep things steady but easy for the first 10 and let it all out for the last 3 if I had anything left. The run was an out and back, so I was cheering TONS of people in as I was heading out. It kept me positive and kept me distracted. The first 3 miles were relatively shady, and I continued to feel great. The next 3 miles were out in the open, and even though it was just a little over 80 degrees, it had some major intensity. I was heating up! Just after the 6 mile mark, I turned onto the little loop they have us do before heading back. On that back stretch, I saw the medics with somebody, and when I looked in the car, I saw it was our friend Jeremy! I stopped dead in my tracks. I asked Jeremy if he was OK. He sort of just shook his head. Come to think of it, he was shaking all over. I made sure the medics had called his girlfriend, who was back at transition with their kids. Then I started back up knowing there was really nothing more I could do. At that point, the combination of the heat, having already run nearly 7 miles, and seeing a good friend being hauled away by ambulance started to get to me. I really felt myself pushing but could barely muster 10-11 minute miles. I did see a few friends out there, including Nat, AmyBee, Ally, and Dr. Joe, who I had befriended at liberty. When I hit the 10 mile mark, I really started pushing, but my splits weren't getting much faster. I kept pushing. I passed a guy at mile 11.5 who decided to run with me. We ran the next 1.5 miles together saying very little but quietly pushing each other in. It was his first half, and he's doing Arizona in November. I wasn't feeling great at that point, but having someone running with me really seemed to help. We ran our last mile pretty fast, and when we saw the finish line, he told me that I deserved to finish first since I had pushed him to keep going. Not wanting to hold him up, I sprinted in. Ten feet before the finish line, I had to stifle the urge to puke. I hit the finish line along the fence knowing that there was a good chance I wasn't going to be able to stifle that urge much longer. I was searching for the perfect spot. I looked over the fence - computers and timing equipment, no good. Someone hollered to me that they needed my chip. I ignored them. I was headed for an emergency. I looked at the grass in front of me - definitely a possibility, but then I saw it. There was a big Rubbermaid tote with used cups and other garbage toward the back of the finish area. I walked over, leaned in, and let out some serious projectile vomit. Twice. It was heavenly. I layed down on the grass and hoped the nausea would pass, and instantly two volunteers ran over asking if I was OK. I smiled and told them that I was fine, that I just needed to lay down for a bit. One of them asked if he could take my pulse. I replied that he was welcome to, but I had just sprinted to the finish line so it was likely going to be crazy. Then I apologized for having barf breath. I tried to keep joking around with them because I really did feel OK. I slowly sat up, waved to Steve, and asked him if he got the ralphing incident on camera. I often feel nauseated at the end of races, and it's not uncommon for me to have to rest for a second for it to pass, but I have to say that I'm pretty proud of the fact that I actually did hurl. I guess it's sort of a badge of honor thing. I really did push myself hard. It paid off too. I pr'd on the run by 2 minutes - 2:11:53 for an average of 10:04/mile, not too far off my goal of sub 10s. Total finishing time: 6:06:59, a 30 minute PR, a 20+ minute PR if you want to add some extra time on for another 0.5 miles on the bike and 0.2 miles for the swim. Either way, I'm starting to wonder if sub-6 is actually within my reach, and that makes this slowpoke really excited.
*They did exchange my race shirt after the race was over. We're good again.
*Jeremy had to be taken away by ambulance, but 4 liters of fluid and a few drugs later, he was as good as new. The race director gave him free entry for next year :)
*It was AMAZING to have so many friends out there. Thanks for making my day everybody!
More reflection on the race to come. I need to head to bed for another long day at work tomorrow. Plus, marathon training resumes tomorrow night with a 7-8 mile tempo run!