As I’m sitting to write this post I’m wondering how I’m going to fit it all into a readable amount. I’m going to do a separate post tomorrow actually reviewing the race and the steps and the process, but suffice it to say that I couldn’t find a single flaw in the entire system. Rev3 put on a fantastic race.
I figure I’ll start with a quick bit about the day before the race before actually getting into the details. Tim and I left Tampa around 7:30 in the morning on Saturday to get to the expo and race area. I didn’t look at the hours and didn’t realize they didn’t open until 10:00, so we had a little bit of time to kill before we could go check-in. I took this as the perfect opportunity to get in my shakeout swim, bike, and run.
I had a bit of anxiety once we were parked. I looked around at all the fit bodies with multiple thousand dollar bikes and disc wheels walking around in their wetsuits and fancy tri kits, and I immediately thought (and expressed to Tim) that I don’t belong and don’t know what to do. I texted Beth and Tori basically questioning what I had gotten myself into, and they just said these people were faking it. Basically, I had to either suck it up and fake it with my bike reflectors and $20 Target helmet, or I needed to pack it up and head home. I didn’t train hundreds of hours to come so close, so I sucked it up, took my bike off my car, and took it for a spin.
Holy wind!! The gusts were stronger than anything that I’d faced in all of my training, and it made me really nervous for the following day. I was worried I would blow over (which I later found out isn’t really a possibility), but I rode a few miles until I felt comfortable. The problem with riding the trainer as much as I do is that I spend at least a couple of the first few miles of each ride outside reorienting myself with riding on the road. It’s fine, though, because the trainer time definitely pays off.
I then ran 2 uneventful miles and changed into my swimsuit to get in the water. I don’t have a wetsuit, and this was the first time it became glaringly obvious. Others were there already warming up, and there I was in only my swimsuit. Someone said the water was 76 and would be wetsuit legal, so I had another moment of freakout. Again, I got over it and took solace in the fact that I was a strong swimmer and had never swam in a wetsuit anyways.
The water was calm, and my swim went well. Most of my feelings of “not belonging” had worn off as I had warmed up, but the nervousness of the day was still before me. Tim and I walked over to checkin and I picked up my packet, got my picture taken for the finisher board, and made a couple purchases. I’ll share more about the bling and merchandise tomorrow when I review the race itself.
For the rest of the day we did a lot of relaxing and eating. I ate a publix sub and chips for lunch, snacks throughout the day, and a pasta dinner. I went to sleep pretty early after laying everything out in preparation for an early morning.
And after a fairly restful night’s sleep, the alarm went off at 4:30 and I was on my way to becoming a half Ironman! I ate a plain bagel and dipped it in peanut butter and drank a cup of coffee to get everything moving. After a few minutes we left the hotel and headed to transition, which was about 20 minutes south of the hotel we were staying at in Venice. Tim was able to drop me off at transition before heading over to the finisher’s area to park.
I had my massive bag of goodies and got to work planning everything out–and watching everyone change into their wetsuit. I got some tips and met some new people. It was a fun and friendly crowd I was racking with, and it was helpful that everyone was so nice. I also got to meet Brittany, who is a Rev3 Ambassador and who’s blog I have read for a bit now. It was such a small world when she started talking about the accident she had a few weeks ago. It sounded familiar and I asked her if she had a blog! Too funny! We also follow each other on twitter. As I walked out to meet Tim and walk to the water, I asked her advice for a first timer. She said to just have fun!
I ate 6 Clif Shot Blocks as I walked down to the water with Tim, and then I jumped in for a few minutes to “warm up”. The water had suddenly dropped to 74 overnight, and I was the only wetsuit-less athlete around. Darn it. I wish I had checked on the status of my order sooner!
|My biggest fan.|
Then I saw Beth, who had come down to cheer me on. I was so so lucky to have four girlfriends make the trip down from Tampa to cheer and volunteer. Genna, Tori, Meg, and Beth all came down and made the day so much more uplifting for me. I was so amazed and appreciative and overwhelmed to have them there. The hour+ drive and 6 hour day is not quick. They’re amazing friends.
I also saw a few other friends who I’ve swam with a few times and Steph who I know through blogging and the swimming group, and they later went on to kick butt too! It was nice to have friendly faces at the start line.
Soon we were lining up and read to go! All my training was about to be tested.
At 7:30, my wave was to go off, and like usual, I lined up at the front. They announced 10 seconds to go, and then the buzzer went off. I started my heart rate monitor and gunned it to the water. They’re really fine, but there’s something about running starts that make me so nervous.
It was a little more crowded and tight than normal, as I expected it would be. I think I got hit in the face once or twice on the way out to the first buoy, but it wasn’t anything painful or unmanageable. I’m really blessed to have a background with a little bit of club water polo in it, because it makes getting hit and touched in the water less frightening. After 200-300 yards I started to settle. The first bit was a rush, and I could tell that my heart rate was way too high. I found feet and stayed on them for most of the swim. After the turn at the second buoy, I knew we’d have a long way to go, but I guess I forgot just how far 1.2 miles was. It seemed that the yellow siting buoys just kept coming.
It was around this time we started catching some of the previous waves. It wasn’t thick or crowded at all, and I had no real issues all day. After the turn at the third red buoy to slingshot back to the fourth buoy that took us home, it was hard to see because of the sun in our eyes. I finally saw it just as I was coming up on it, and I’d say I didn’t swim too much extra trying to stay on the right path. Finally, the shore was in sight! As I got to the shore and did the one-two strokes with my fingers in the sand I popped up, ran towards the swim finish arch and looked down at my watch.
Swim 1.2 miles: 33:36
Eh. It was a fine time, but it wasn’t as fast as I was hoping to go. I know I hadn’t been swimming that much leading up to it, but I still thought I’d be better. That’s okay. It gives me something to work on for next time.
I was glad not to have to stop at the wetsuit strippers, but it didn’t seem to take that much time at all to get the wetsuits off. I think it would have been an added advantage to have one. As soon as I rounded the corner to run to transition I saw Genna!!! She was volunteering at the water stop, and it was so nice to see a friendly face.
She, Tim, and Beth came over and were standing right at the gate outside of transition as I was doing my thing. Tim got a picture. Please don’t be envious of my luscious locks.
Soon enough I was out and on the bike!
This was the part I had been so so nervous about leading into the race. So many questions had worried me, from whether we’d get stuck with traffic to what if I was going too slow and someone hit me. There wasn’t anything I wasn’t worried about. But somehow, the adrenaline of race day just soothed out those nerves. After about 3 or 4 miles of riding in my road bike handlebars, I thought to myself, “you didn’t buy these aero bars to look pretty,” popped down into them, and rode them the rest of the way except shart turns and rest stops.
Riding in aero is so much more comfortable, and it definitely makes a difference. The first part of the ride had some headwind and turns, and I starting thinking ahead to what I would face on this 56 mile ride. The police and volunteers along the way were just outstanding. I only had two close calls with cars, but only in the sense that they weren’t turning right as quickly as I was coming up on them. Luckily they turned before I had to stop quickly and unclip.
The volunteers really deserve a whole shout out on their own. There were so so many of them, and because there weren’t a lot of spectators, the race crew had spread the volunteers out over the course of the bike to cheer, and it helped so much! So many of them were so sweet and encouraging, but one man at the entrance to the nature preserve really was amazing. He was dancing and shouting such positive in such sincere ways!
I found that there were really times with terrible headwinds where I had to work so hard to hold over 16 MPH, but on that note, because a lot of the course was out and back, I got good tailwinds that often put me in the 19 and 20 mph for extended periods of time. That made it worth it.
After watching IM Kona on the computer all day a few weeks ago, I realized how truly important nutrition was on the bike. Over the course of the ride I drank 4-5 bottles of fluid (both gatorade and water) and had a pack of shot blocks, a chocolate Gu, and a bonk breaker. I had opened all the packages and broken the bonk breaker into smaller, easier to grab pieces, and I stored most of it in my bento box. I actually has used mechanical tape to tape the top of my Gu to my bike so that I could just reach down and tear the bottom part from the top part without having to fumble with opening it. That was a smart decision in transition when I saw others doing it.
After finishing my aero bottle by mile 10, I refilled from one of the bottles under me before proceeding to take two waters and a gatorade from the next three aid stations. I couldn’t do anything with them, so I drank what I could, poured as much into my aero bottle as would fit, and then threw the bottle off to the side (we were allowed to do that if the aid station was still in sight). This was all done without stopping. The aid volunteers were really helpful with getting us the bottles while we were still on the move.
I spent time pretty zoned out, saying hi to the race volunteers, thanking the police that stopped traffic at some major intersections for us, and just enjoying the day. I said a few prayers here and there and knew that I wasn’t getting through the ride alone. I wondered if I had ridden over any checkpoints and what people back at transition and anyone who might have been tracking me were seeing.
There were a few bridges and overpasses, but for the most part I passed people up the hills and got passed on the downhills. That’s how it usually happens. I spent most of the ride having no idea how fast I was averaging, and I spent the last 20 miles doing mental math to figure out when I could finish and what I would have to average. If you had asked me when I got off my bike what I thought I had averaged, I would have said low 17 MPH.
Oh, and those Uturns I was so worried about? They weren’t that bad. One wasn’t worth a thought, one I did unclip and have to stop to turn, but one I didn’t even stop and just took it as wide as I could and slowed way down. But my heart rate was around 160 for the whole ride. That’s definitely not what I had expected. That being said, it didn’t feel that hard. It was tough, yes, but I wasn’t that worried that I was overexerting myself for the run.
When the bike was done I was both relieved not to have gotten a flat and glad to be off my bike and onto the run. Then, I saw more of my support crew!
Bike 56 miles: 3:05:31 (18.11 MPH)
I half forgot how to get off my bike. I had met my goal of not getting off the bike during the ride, but it felt weird to try to then get off after 3+ hours. I got off, headed into transition, changed shoes, grabbed all that I needed, and was off onto the run. Only 13.1 miles to go!
I heart my support crew here (Tim + my friends), but I was so focused and trying to reconfigure my brain that I forgot to wave back. I heard everything they said but was too tired to respond.
|Aren’t they the best?!|
And then it was just me and the road and 13.1 miles. I had grabbed salt tabs, 2 Gu, and some shot blocks and shoved them into my jersey pockets. I only knew I would take the Gu around 3 and 8, which I did, but I didn’t have a strategy for the salt tabs or hydrating. I just took what I needed when I thought I needed it.
Over the course of the run I took 3 salt tabs and drank at least water at every aid station, though only walking through the one right before mile 12. I also did have coke around mile 10 to see if it would help settle the tummy rumbles I thought were coming on, and it did help a bit.
The run course was a 2 loop course, so on the first loop I just remembered seeing the signs for the second loop and feeling like it was really rude to see a sign that said 10 miles when I was only at 2.something. Oh well. 9:20-9:30 was feeling easy the first few miles, but I worked to reign it back knowing that I’d hate myself later if I wore myself out early. That was probably smart. I wasn’t trying to set a PR for the Half Marathon after all!
The low point on both loops of the course was running by the sign where the Olympic athletes had to turn around and knowing we still had a little bit to go to turn around. I just worked on focusing and thinking about other things. Around mile 4 I couldn’t hold it anymore I knew I had to go to the bathroom. I’d had to since transition, but all that liquid I had on the bike and was drinking on the run caught up to me. I think that added only a little bit onto that mile. I know I was quick!
The highlight of the run was seeing my crew around mile 7! It was the perfect uplift that I needed just at the moment I was about to head out onto the second loop of the run course.
I was still feeling good here, and I was still chugging along at a pace I was happy with. It wasn’t until mile 10 that I really started wondering where the finish line was. I did let myself walk for 30 seconds during that mile, though it was an odd feeling because I probably didn’t have to walk. I think it was one part of the day where my mind beat my body. It happened two more times. I let myself walk for 1 minute during mile 11 and one minute during mile 12. I was definitely ready to be done at mile 11, though I don’t think I ever “hit the wall”.
I passed a girl with a 28 on her calf who didn’t seem to have any kind of kick left in her, and I thought to myself, “you’ll kick yourself if you let this girl pass you back and you end up getting fourth in your age group.” Just keep pushing. I did have that one minute of walk and the walk through that water stop that I mentioned above, but I literally got through the last mile and beat my mind by counting. Like a 3 year old proud of herself at the dinner table, I just kept counting in my head so that my brain was occupied on something other than the urge to walk. I’d just start over when I got to 100, and I know I counted quite high during that period.
For the whole run I had done mental math on what I’d have to run in order to go sub-6 for the day. My faster than expected bike speed had put me in a good place to break a far distant goal I’d though of at some point, and as I passed the 7, 8, and 9 mile marker still feeling pretty good, I realized that it wasn’t going to be about whether I was under 6 hours but instead how far under 6 hours I would be. Somewhere around mile 12 I arbitrarily decided that I should try for sub 5:55. In the moment it was the motivation I needed to push.
And push I did. And when I heard the finish line announcer and knew how close I was, I was ready! I took off! It was my time! I was going to cross the finish line to become a half Ironman! I fixed my bib and tri top, put my sunglasses on my head, and ran towards that finish!
And then I was done! Just like the marathon, there were no tears. I was just overjoyed and thrilled to be done. They put a wet gatorade towel over my shoulders and sent me to the finish picture area. The guy asked me if I wanted anyone else in the picture with me, and I said, “YES! My husband! My friends!” And I want to find them. I loved that I got to have people in my finisher’s picture with me. That’s something that most races don’t allow, and letting family have access to the finisher’s area was amazing. I didn’t have to walk half a mile to find people; they were right there!
They handed me my medal, my finishers shirt, and then I saw everyone! I was so happy! I said to Tim and my friends, “I think I went under 5:55!” My husband is my biggest supporter in every way, and as I’m grinning and smiling, he’s over on his phone looking up my exact time on his phone. He knows I’ll want to know immediately!
Run: 2:08:55 (9:50/mile)
It was the most amazing day! I can honestly say that it was a dream race day. If it hadn’t been windy and hot I don’t know what I could have done, but as it was I was so pleased with everything. I’ve surely got things to work on and places to improve my training, but I shattered every expectation I had set for myself. It was wonderful, and I’m so appreciative to everyone that helped me and put up with me over the course of this training.
I walked over to check my average paces and noticed that I had also gotten third in my age group! We stuck around and ate some food so that I could get my award. There weren’t that many people in my age group, and I know as I get older I’ll drop in places, but for now it’s fun to get my age group awards as I go! I’ll share all the swag I got tomorrow on my race review.
For now I think that’s long enough. That’s my story! That’s my first 70.3! I’m a Half Ironman! And it was an amazing day. Thank you all so so much for your comments, tweets, and support. Knowing that I’ve had support all along has kept me going at hard times, and I’m so appreciative!
Though they’re not exact because I have to spend time fumbling with settings while I’m running and biking before actually starting it, my numbers obsession wouldn’t not let me post my numbers. It gives you an idea of how I felt at the different parts of the run, and it also gives you a sense of the headwind/tailwind and ups and downs on the bike. So though I did negative split the bike, I definitely did not negative split the run. Oops! Next time!
I feel like I’m forgetting so much. If I think of things I may go back and edit, but if I think of a lot I may have a separate “things I forgot” post.