When last we spoke, I was spitting vinegar and dropping all sorts of f-bombs over every inch of T1.
While I would be reluctant to want that feeling more frequently, I wish I could channel that pure adrenaline coursing through my veins, at least in shorter races. I do well on the bike when I feel aggressive and I was ready to cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war like nothing I’ve felt in competition yet.
I had a RAD first hour, maintaining 20+ mph at around 150-160 power, just like I had planned. I knew I’d have to pay for that pace somewhere along the course, but I enjoyed passing people, even if sometimes it took a few attempts for it to stick (things I learned this race: dudes with their names on the butt of their tri suit don’t like to be passed). After a while, the teeth-gritting seething rage wore off and I relaxed into a more normal cadence and started to race more within myself.
Suddenly, we turned from the nice, sheltered tailwind to the exposed east side of the island right into the fray. This is fine, I thought to myself, I’ve got my power to watch. 150 watts are 150 watts at whatever pace the wind dictates. And that worked for a while. Then, for some reason, 150 watts sustained got HARD at any pace. My legs started cramping and I started getting passed as well as passing other cyclists and that’s just WEIRD for me on a one loop bike course.
From about mile 20 on, I had one simple thought in my head, dear merciful and fluffy lord, let this ride be over soon. And that’s an oddity for me so quickly into a bike ride. My leg situation continued to deteriorate until we turned out of the wind. My speed picked up but my power didn’t rally much. My legs just felt DEAD. I kept ping ponging with another girl, I’d get some oomph and pass her and then she’d just pass me back. I couldn’t pass decisively like normal.
My husband caught me around mile thirty-five (he actually beat me on the swim by a minute but I blew past him in transition and cooked the first half of the bike harder than he did). He told me he had the same problem on the windy side. It gave me a boost to follow the lightning bolts on his butt (legally), so we passed back and forth for about 15 miles and then I got ahead the last few miles because THANK THE MERCIFUL DEITIES OF CYCLING the ride was over.
Bike time: 3:05:42. 18.1 mph. 38/85 AG. Not the sub-3 hours I wanted, but still my best 56 mile race effort yet by about 10 minutes. I’ll take it. I was super excited for this course, regaling everyone that would listen that FLAT IS MY STRENGTH, but I’m revising that. It’s my strength on a sprint, or even Olympic, but once you get much past that one hour mark, I need some elevation (read: speed/pace/power) changes. I have some ideas on how to mitigate this on a similar course in the future (forced interval work), but it really threw my legs for a loop not to get any coasting breaks. Nutrition note: I consumed about six bottles of gatorade, two of water, three gels (two caffeinated), four salt pills, and two 303 muscle relaxers.
As soon as I got off the bike, the outsides of my feet cramped. Of course, I was entirely on the other end of the transition zone, so I ran in my bike shoes shouting “Ouchie, ouchie, ouchie, ouch, ouch, ouuuuuch”. I took a moment to sit down and put on my socks and tie my shoes and get mentally prepared to run. This was it. This was what I wanted to nail. Sub-6 hours was still in my grasp if I had a stellar run. I exited the parking garage and emerged into the daylight, ready to find the darkness.
Transition 2 time: 4:41. I took a moment here intentionally, but this could have been better. I also could have not had cramps and had a better rack position. Life will go on.
Once I got my feet under me and onto the road my legs felt… good. Not great, but I had some decent speed and turnover. Okay, I thought, I can work with this. My plan was to go out aggressively and see what happened. I passed both Matt and Zliten in the first mile which ticked by at 10 minutes/mile exactly. It felt like a comfortable effort and I continued on similarly for the first 4 miles, slowing only to shove as much gatorade and pepsi and bags of water in my mouth as I could without stopping.
I even had a triathlete first and peed whilst running. If you remember, I had to pee on the swim (and didn’t), kinda had to pee the whole bike (but didn’t), and then someone hit me with a warm garden hose around mile 3 and my bladder just lost it. Wheee, I peed in the streets of downtown Cozumel! Party! Aren’t triathlons SO glamorous? I was actually pretty stoked I saved time skipping a porta potty stop, but the happiness faded quickly after the turnaround. The sun, my adversary, just backstabbed me when I hit a sunny stretch with no shade on the horizon.
It was the most frustrating thing. My legs felt fine. Nothing on my body was cramped up or really complaining in the slightest. I was just way too fucking hot and I stopped. Running a half marathon in the upper 80s and humid (read: feels like 100s when the sun was shouting at us, which was much more often than not) is no joke, especially when I’ve already been racing for four hours previous in said weather. But, I trained for this. I ran constantly in the fiery hot and hellishly humid conditions of the Austin summer. And still it wasn’t enough.
Zliten even passed me and I couldn’t muster the run to go with him. That should paint a sanguine picture of my brain at that very moment.
I spent the next two miles feeling like I was having a pity party. However, looking at my splits after the fact (13:01 and 12:46 respectively), they weren’t SO bad. That’s not giving up. That’s taking walk breaks to keep from keeling over on the side of the road and slowing through aid stations taking down two cups of gatorade, two bags of water, a cup of pepsi, and shoving ice down my bra so I could cool my core and take a stab at running another half mile before it all melted. That’s still a fight, even if the battle looks different than imagined.
Around mile six, the torrential rain hit, flooding the streets in a flash. You don’t walk another damn step until it’s sunny again, I told myself, you will make the most of this. I passed the turn around, and started to smile a little for the first time in hours. I stomped through puddles, took down a gel, and smacked my husband on the ass as I passed him around mile eight. I was back, BABY! My splits were only about a minute per mile faster (11:45 and 11:58), but it felt more like conquering the run vs being conquered. The glee was short lived, the sun started singing the song of it’s people again as we turned to the section with zero shade and it was once more trudging through hot soup. Bleh. Four more miles to go.
Miles nine and ten were pretty cruel, 12:44 and 12:53 respectively, though one of these included a short stop to hug my husband who was not yet to the turnaround and looked like he might keel over at any second. He asked how I was doing and I replied stalwartly, “I’ve got a PR if I hold it together”. I had been monitoring total race time for the last hour. While I watched a sub-six hour finish slip away at mile four, I still had a sub 6:30 in my grasp… though it definitely wasn’t a given. I couldn’t give up, in fact, I had to increase my pace a bit
I saw plenty of people giving up. Triathletes were dropping like flies on the side of the road, either sitting on benches looking overheated or calling for SAG or medical. I vowed to not be one of them. I still found something inside that kept my feet turning over. I still took walk breaks each mile, but the run segments got faster and faster with mile eleven at 11:50 and mile twelve and thirteen at 10:57 exactly. By the time I saw the barricade at the end of the road, I was running nine, then eight minute miles, willing myself to get through the arch before the clock hit six hours and thirty minutes.
Run time: 2:32:35. 11:42/mile pace. 49/85 AG. While obviously this was not even close to my original goal, and not even a run leg PR, this is the hottest half marathon I’ve ever run. I’m more than okay with my performance here for reasons I’ll explain below.
This is my face when I crossed the line. This is someone who picked the important battles, maybe not the ones I expected, and kept fighting to have a shiny new half ironman PR, and possibly more importantly, to keep the house half ironman PR. 😉
Overall time: 6:28:01. 49/85 AG.
Two successes to note: first, my new Roka kit is AMAZING. I had NO chafing for a SIX AND A HALF HOUR HOT RAINY RACE. I’m not sure if anyone but long course triathletes can understand how incredible this is, but showers after these races are usually among most painful things known to man or beast. Not this time, no tears at all. Also, I applied sunscreen ONCE, before the swim, and I can report that I had no sunburn the next day (skin was a little warm post-race but not lobster red) with many, many hours being exposed to the elements. Heat acclimation success!
I finished right before 2pm and I was FLYING HIGH. I got gatorade and my medal and shirt and then laid down on the grass in the shade to stretch waiting for Zliten and Matt to finish and then when they did, chattered away at them like a squirrel on speed, simultaneously stuffing my face with the best crappy pizza in history. After we collected our bikes and stuff from transitions and walked the mile back to the hotel in the pouring rain (JERK WEATHER), I continued my face-stuffing at the hotel with a burger and some beer.
After our burgers, Zliten started feeling crappy and laid down, while I bounced around and posted incessantly on social media, answering replies in about .0215 seconds (THANKS BROWN PONY… ahem, I mean Pepsi). I hit the first half life of the caffeine in my system around 6:30pm, collectively no more than a Starbucks coffee or two in total, but a massive amount for me, and started crashing HARD.
I began to feel cold outside in the 80+ degree weather, and when I climbed into bed, I started shivering uncontrollably while feeling hot and cold at the same time and my eyes wouldn’t stop watering. Every fiber of muscle in my legs and feet ached, and the top half of my body tingled. I felt incredibly nauseous and even tossed my cookies (I have an iron stomach, this is not normal for me) and eventually around 9pm, after he was feeling better, my husband had to bring me a plate of food to the room. It took me another two hours and two sprites to be able to stomach more than a bite at a time.
I’ve had mild heat sickness before because I am an idiot triathlete who trains to do stupid shit in the heat like this all the time, but this was by far the worst go at it yet. While it may sound crazy, while I was shaking and sweating in my blankets, it made me feel redeemed. I can’t much say I didn’t give this race my all, now can I? Again, the fight may not have looked exactly like I pictured it even hours before, but I can’t say it wasn’t a valiant effort nonetheless. I. did. not. back. down.
TL;DR – I’ll wear this shirt proudly.
The malady was short lived and I slept like a rock even if I did sweat through my pajamas (which was a WONDERFUL gift the rest of vacation ><). For breakfast I ate fruit loop french toast, which is exactly as decadent it sounds, and proceeded to go drink beers and play in the ocean the rest of the day with my husband and Matt and family. My conscience was clear, nothing heavy hung on my heart about race day, and it was time to play for a week!