If you noticed I was a little distracted this week, it's because...I WAS!
All I could think about was this race. Each distance on it's own is achievable for me, but putting them all together is something I have yet to do! So previously I've done a Sprint Tri, but this is a big step up. Compare the distances....
SPRINT - 400 yd swim, 20k bike, 5k run
OLYMPIC - 1500 yd swim, 40k bike, 10k run
Alarm was set for 5:15, and as usual, I watched it tick minute by minute from about 5 a.m. on. Everything was laid out and ready to go, so I was dressed and ready by 5:30. Still debating what to eat, I had a banana and a granola bar with a can of diet coke and a bottle of water.. I left the house at 5:50, I promise you I was still hungry, and took my chances on a bacon egg and cheese bagel and large diet from McDonald's! I know, I know - what was I thinking? Believe it or not, this sandwich sits well for me, and the bagel is very filling! Not recommended for most!
I was at the site plenty early, so I got my timing chip, body marked, and unloaded. It's still pretty chilly out, around 50 degrees. I got my transition set up so quickly, that I felt like I was surely forgetting something. Found a port a pot, and decided I was too anxious, so I actually went back to the van, reclined the seat, and rested my eyes for about 15 minutes. Playing out the race in my mind really helped to feel confident and ease the prerace jitters.
I hit the port a pot one more time, and squeezed into the wet suit. Pre race meeting is just a formality at this point. But found my support group for the day. Chuck Alfrey came up to do his first Sprint Du, Gary Thomas has been a great model for me in this adventure, and he was racing the Sprint Tri. Sara Fauquher is my swimming idol and she was there for the Aqua Bike. Lots of other local friends were there too, as well as Jason Linke (a high school classmate) who was there to watch his wife do her first Sprint Tri.
I got in the water and splashed around for a few minutes to get used to the water. It was officially 67 degrees, but in the full wet suit, didn't bother me at all. Out of the water, and the elites are off and running with the boom of the canon! Sprint and Olympic Elite's start together, then all the Sprint athletes go every 5 seconds, followed by all the Olympic athletes in the same manner. I'm lined up toward the back, probably only 30 athletes behind me. It's a 750 lap that you do twice, which means you get out of the water, run across the beach back to the start and do it again. The Olympic Elite leaders are already starting their second lap before I even start the race.
Finally my turn, and I'm off and finding my rhythm. The course is crowded with first and second lap swimmers, but I feel good. No trouble sighting until the final turn coming back to the beach when the sun is square in my eyes! I'm basically following all the pink caps around me to stay on course. When I hit the beach my watch reads 15 minutes - right where I was hoping to be - the run across the beach takes a full minute, and I'm back out for lap 2. Not nearly as many in the water at this point, but I'm good navigate the buoys until that final turn again. But when I hit the beach I'm at 32:23! Couldn't be happier!
Jogged all the way to T1 while stripping the wetsuit. A little shaky but executed things about as well as I ever have. Got the bike, jogged out of transition in less than 3 and a half minutes. Mounted the bike and I'm rolling.
Mental check of everything head to toe, and I'm in good shape. Reach for the Gatorade bottle, and got two big drinks out of it. Reached down to put it back in the cage AND I DROPPED IT!!! Hit the brakes hard and turned and looked just in time to see it roll into the tall grass. I turn the bike around, but am freaked out by the other athletes coming toward me. A volunteer close by yells at me that it's farther back than I think. Screw it! I clip back in and tell the volunteer that if she can find it I will pick it up on my second lap. This all happens in the first mile, and I figure it probably only cost me about 30 seconds, but mentally I'm panicked over not having any water for the next 12 miles! Lesson learned - ALWAYS carry 2 bottles no matter what the distance!
I'm feeling good early but am still getting passed by some athletes as if I'm still looking for my water bottle. Most miles are click off under 3:30 (16.5 mph), and a couple under 3:00 (20 mph). Total bike time was 1:20:50 which when divided out = 18.8 mph! My legs felt great. When I caught someone and wanted to pass them, I had no problem doing so, but many others were having the same ease getting around me. I'm getting passed more than I am passing, but I'm good with my pace. 25 miles on the bike is a short ride for me these days, so I was confident all the way around both laps.
As I come into T2 I'm still feeling very good. I get my shoes changed, helmet off, and visor on, and head out for the run in less than 100 seconds! Chuck and his wife are standing there at the exit, and I look at the watch. He asks if I'm good, and I yell back that I've got to do the run in an hour to hit 3 hours. I felt strong so I'm all out. A nice first downhill opens up my stride nicely and I'm rolling over the hills like they're not there. My first mile - 8:50! What?!? Didn't realize I was that fast - now I'm worried - and rightfully so!
The 5k turn around 1.5 miles into the run and there's water or gatorade there, for the first time I walk through that aid station, and struggle to get going again. The sun is getting hot (low 70s by now), and I find a rhythm of running and walking all the way to the 10k turnaround and miles 2 and 3 pace out at 10:24. The hills are really too much for me at this point and I've got a cramp in the bottom of both quads just above the knees in both legs. More walking than running leads to miles of 11:26 and 12:23 before I get to the final mile where I get a better rhythm going to pace out to an 11 minute pace for the run.
I had done the math in my head all week - I had looked at previous years results and knew where I thought I could be. I said all along that 3 hours would be a dream, and 3:15 would be very acceptable. I also went so far as to say at 3:25 there may have been a problem. That said, I admit that when I knew I was not going to break 3 hours, I lost a little bit of my drive in miles 4 and 5 as I let those hills get the best of me. No shame though.
Turn the final corner and into the grass where my good tri friend Amy Fletcher is volunteering and I get the congrats from her as I head to the finish line where I can see Gary, Amy and Sara waiting for me! The race clock reads 3:20, but only I know how long it took me to get into the water for my official start time. Flex for the photo, and Gary asks for my time...3:07 BABY!!!! High 5s all around! I could not be happier. Next question - how do you feel? And I reply with confidence, "Like Shit!"
I'm a little shaky on my feet, but feeling good enough to carry on a conversation and share my stories. Gary says it again, 3:07 Rocks, you are going to be just fine for the Half Ironman. Part of me actually believes him! Grab a Gatorade and a banana and I'm headed back to the van.
At the end of the day, I have to see the results, and I don't stack up so well. 91st on the swim, 89th on the bike and my run split didn't register, but had to be low since I placed 101st overall. And yet, I'm okay with it! My times are great for me, and the goal remains to simply FINISH the Half Ironman!
A great day all around - next big race is identical to this one - June 9 - I've got until then to shed a few more pounds, gain a little muscle, and workout the run pacing coming off the bike! But for now - I rest!