My alarm was set for 3:45 on Sunday. Yes, that's early, but I like to eat breakfast, plus the race was about an hour drive. My plan was to leave the house no later than 4:30 am. For some reason, I woke up around 2:45 and could not go back to sleep. Maybe it was pre-race jitters, maybe it was the hubby's snoring and the dog's restlessness. Either way, it didn't matter - due to the "Fall Back" of Daylight Savings Time, I managed to get a sufficient amount of sleep. I ate my usual eggs and steel cut oats, then proceeded to get dressed. I had on my tri top and shorts, but added a warm fleece jacket and comfy sweat pants. We left the house around 4:40, but made great time getting to the race start.
|I wrote this on my hand to look at while on the bike...later, I had the Hubs write "Calm" on the other hand for the swim.|
I was extremely happy to see that there was absolutely no wind as we were driving to the race. It was about 56 degrees, so once I set up my transition area, the Hubs and I headed to into the resort where the race was located so we could stay nice and warm. I visited the restrooms a couple of times, as I think the butterflies were finally getting to my stomach. We hung out in the hotel and chatted with different people for awhile. Then, about 30 minutes before the race was scheduled to start, I put on my wetsuit and checked my transition area one final time. That was when I noticed that the wind had picked up a bit...not horrible, but certainly not what I wanted to see!
The Hubs and I headed to the start and met up with several friends, including fellow blogger, Brittney, from The Fit Formula (check out her blog!) We had actually met briefly the day before at packet pick-up. It was great to pass the time with friends and just take my mind of the task ahead of me for a few minutes. I also took a minute to eat a few Honey Stinger Chews. Finally, the race was starting! The men started first, so the Hubs and I watched as they ran from the beach and dove into the water. This was my first beach start, so I was a little nervous about just jumping right in...especially since I have had such annoying anxiety issues in the open water! Before I knew it, it was time for me to start making my way to the start.
|Me and the Hubs before the race. At top, me and training friend, Lea. Middle, me and fellow blogger, Brittney. Bottom, me and long-time running friend, Kay.|
|Trying to stay warm before the race....calm on the outside, skeered on the inside!|
When my wave started, I walked (not ran) into the water. As the water grew deeper, I felt the coldness and even though it wasn't freezing cold (around 70 degrees), it still made me catch my breath a little. I had a momentary bit of anxiety and stood there for a second before finally taking off. I think knowing that my wetsuit would allow me to just lay there if I started to freak out gave me the confidence I needed to get going. Thankfully, I never had a freak out! I just kept swimming, taking it one buoy at a time. I occasionally chanted the mantras in my head that I had used in OWS practice - "I'm an awesome swimmer" and "I'm incredibly calm". It worked, I was calm.
A little bit after the first turn, I noticed that the water seemed to be moving...as in there were waves. I don't know if it was from the wind or from the boats and jet skis that were in the water, but I didn't like it! There is a reason why I chose this race as my first 70.3 - nice, calm waters! I tried to take a breath and managed to get slapped in the face with a wave. I stopped swimming for just a moment to cough and catch my breath. I quickly figured out that I should breathe from the other side. (Thank goodness I've been using bi-lateral breathing!) About the time I figured this out, I felt the faster swimmers from the next wave swimming past. I managed to get sandwiched between a couple of swimmers a few times - getting hit with an arm on one side and kicked with a leg on the other. Thankfully, they passed and I only had the waves to worry about. I ended up needing to sight more often, because the current kept pushing me off. I also noticed and had to laugh (on the inside, of course), because I burped a couple of times...at it tasted like cherry blossum Honey Stinger Chews!
Surprisingly, the swim seemed to go relatively quickly. In other words, it didn't feel like forever before I was making the final turn. I almost didn't believe that I was heading to shore! The waves were pretty bad as I made my way in, but at that point I didn't really care...I was almost done! I had to stop and cough again, as I managed to get slapped in the face with yet another wave. Finally, I could hear the crowds and I was climbing onto the shore! The wetsuit strippers almost had me out of my wetsuit before I even finished sitting down...they were awesome! I saw the Hubs and gave him a quick kiss before heading into transition.
|Coming out of the water!!!|
I took way too long in T1. I had decided the day before to wear arm warmers, gloves and a light windbreaker on the bike. I also had my toe warmers on my bike shoes (they've been on since that cold ride on the course a couple of weeks before). I used a small towel to dry off as much as I could. I hesitated, because I thought maybe the windbreaker would be too warm. I went ahead and put it on, but decided against the gloves.
To be honest, the bike was one area that I was concerned about. First of all, I did not do enough training on the hills. Second, the possibility of a mechanical failure on the bike worries me. Something like a flat tire is pretty much out of my control..and I am a control freak. And then there was the wind. I headed out and immediately wished I had not worn my windbreaker. I also needed to pee, but didn't want to take the time back in T1. Around mile 10, I saw my friend, Kay. We chatted a bit until I stopped at the first aid station to use the porta potty. I also asked what would happen to items left behind (thinking of dropping the jacket). The volunteers assured me that they would take everything back to the resort after they were done, so I tossed the jacket and made my way back onto the course. (And can I just say that the volunteers were phenomenal!!!)
|Heading out on the bike...so glad I tossed the jacket later!|
There was really nothing out of the ordinary on the bike. I followed my nutrition plan - drinking Perform every 5 miles and alternating between Hammer Gel and Honey Stinger Waffles every 45 minutes. I encountered a head wind or cross wind at several different places....in fact, it seemed like no matter which way we were traveling, there was a cross wind or head wind. "Where was the freaking tail wind?", I wondered. But, there was also quite a bit of wind when we rode the course a few weeks before, so I just assumed this was the norm. I had a few stretches where I could not seem to go any faster than 12 or 13 miles per hour, but I also had some great, fast stretches and some amazing downhills. Around mile 38, I was feeling tired and just ready to get off the bike. I was on a slow stretch and just getting annoyed with the hills. It's about that time that I starting thinking, "Why the hell am I doing this?" or "I think a 1/2 is enough...maybe I don't want to do a full!" Luckily, I got excited once I was beginning to realize that I was almost done. I pushed out the negative thoughts and found a little more pep. Another cyclist behind me was whooping and encouraging people, so that helped as well. She passed me, so I rode behind her for awhile. When we turned onto the road leading back to the resort, I let out "Woohoo, almost there!" and she let out a few whoops of her own. I may or may not have let out a "F*CK YEAH!" as I headed down one last down hill going 31 mph.
I saw the Hubs cheering as I was about to get off the bike...I've never been so happy to be done with a ride!
T2 was much easier than T1. I stripped off the arm warmers, sprayed on some sunscreen, traded the bike shoes for running shoes, put on my visor, grabbed my race number and headed out of T2. I needed to use the bathroom again, but there were two people waiting, so I decided to wait.
I was so happy to be running. This is the one area that I have no issues with whatsoever. Sure I was tired and the temps had warmed up, but it was pleasant and there was a breeze (not great for the bike, but awesome for the run!). The run route winds its way all through the resort, going past the pool area, through a residential section, on and off sidewalks, over grass and even over some rocky areas. I made my way around the first loop. By that time, my parents had arrived with the kids, so I made my way past them. I stopped at the first aid station to use the porta potty and of course, there was someone inside. I ended up waiting for what felt like an eternity before finally getting my turn.
|Waving to the family...it helped immensely to see them out there!|
Once I was on my way again, I noticed that my stomach felt a little weird. Fortunately, I had put some Pepto tablets in my Spi Belt (thanks to Coach Karen for the tip!), so I took two and kept on going. I was able to see the family again before starting my second loop - this time I was close enough for some kisses from the kids and high-fives from some friends. I can't begin to describe how awesome the spectators were! It didn't matter which club they were affiliated with, they cheered for everyone. The volunteers were amazing as well and encouraged everyone the entire way. It was phenomenal! On the first lap, I also met a woman who was running about the same pace - we chatted for a few miles until I decided to take a quick walk break.
On the second lap, I walked through two aid stations and noticed that my pace was slowing down. Since there were so many out and back sections, I was able to say hello to friends, including my new friend who I had just run with earlier in the race. There were tons of people from our local running and tri groups out cheering, so that helped so much with the motivation when I was starting to feel tired. Again, I passed my family twice more before beginning my third and final lap.
|I think this is my "Holla!!! I'm almost done!!!" look!|
The final lap was definitely the hardest for me. I felt my energy levels start to dwindle towards the end of the 2nd lap despite the gels and energy drinks I had consumed throughout the run. I was sick of the turns in and out of the neighborhood and just tired of running. I was just tired. I walked much more than I intended on the final lap. In a regular half marathon, I've managed to have some really nice negative splits. In a 70.3, the 13.1 final miles are a whole different ballgame. A negative split was not happening for me. I saw one of my friends right before the final turn and she gave me a quick hug and some encouraging words before I moved on. Finally, I was heading along the final stretch! Even though I was having the most amazing experience ever, I was ready to be done. I ran in that final bit. There were finishers heading to their cars in the opposite direction and I think that every single one gave me a cheer or encouraging words. Like I said, the people were amazing! I saw my family one more time. As I passed the OutRival tent, Courtney cheered and asked if it was my final lap...I let out a "Yes!!!! Thank God!!!" as I ran past and entered the finisher's chute. I must have been smiling like a mad woman, because the announcer even commented on it before announcing my name. I gave my friend Nancy a high five and then gave the Hubs a huge hug.
|Heading through the finisher's chute...finally done!!!|
I did it! I finished a half-ironman!
|Done! Giving Nancy a high-five!|
|My splits....the good, the bad and the ugly!|
Afterwards, I saw lots of friends. We all congratulated each other and shared race stories. It was good to hear that others thought the water was rough and there was too much wind on the bike...it was good validation that I wasn't just a big wimp!
|Top: Julie and me...she is the one who talked me into this in the first place! Middle: Nancy and me, Nancy was a great cheerleader during the race. Bottom: Me and Lea...Lea was a great training partner for this race! She will be racing IMTX 2014!|
The Thank Yous
So that was my first 70.3 experience. I have to say it was an amazing day! I have to give a huge thanks to the Hubs for being such a great supporter throughout the training, my bad OWS experiences and the good workouts. He knew that I was capable of doing this, even when I wasn't quite so sure. He always picked up the slack at home, so that I could focus on training. He was absolutely amazing! I also want to say thanks to my parents. Anytime we were in a pinch, they were always willing to take care of the kids for us. They rock! And thanks to the friends who were so encouraging...there are too many to name! Of course a big thanks to Michelle and Karen at OutRival Racing. I often wondered why in the hell I was doing the volume I was doing, but I know their programs are tried and true. I made it to the start knowing without a doubt that I was physically capable of completing the distance! And thanks to all the spectators and volunteers out there on race day...regardless of who they were there for, which tri group they were with or how long of a day it had been, they cheered. They cheered for everyone and they were amazing. I hope to be out there returning the favor one day!