Settle in, this one will be a long post. Get yourself a cuppa something and come back… we’ll wait.
Ok. So, while the overall year goal is 24 races in 12 months, and we wanted to complete the Texas Tri Series (done!!!), and I wanted to do a century ride and a marathon (6 weeks left, ieeee!), this was really my biggest goal race of the year. Ever since I bagged the second attempt at marathon training in January, I have been focused on ramping up from a sprint triathlete who did one olympic two years ago and pretty much died after to having half ironman endurance.
I knew it would be a long road so I did lots of run training and ran multiple half marathons until was extremely familiar with the distance, and really didn’t ever drop below being able to bust out a half at any time. Then, the bike. I had only done one ride last year over 30 miles, and certainly hadn’t done anything before or after it, I was pooped. I ripped that bandaid off pretty quickly doing two century rides in the spring that I really, really wasn’t ready for. I got through them, but I was so wiped after I didn’t know how I was going to take my bike shorts off, let alone run a half marathon after. The swim I was comfortable with, but I knew I could use some form improvement so I was less tired after even if I wasn’t faster.
Long story, well, still long but less War-and-Peace-like, we got a trainer and rode at the lake and rode the veloway and did a hilly group ride and rode on the trainer some more and finally about a month ago I really had confidence that I had this shit. It took six months of training, but the key workouts I finished that really boosted my confidence were – the two century rides for sure, but then the really hilly 30 mile bike + 10 mile run in the heat, the 56 mile trainer + 13 mile run (with 120 miles of trainer the next week), the 50 mile outdoor ride at the veloway where I finally proved to myself I can keep a decent (15mph) pace, the Olympic tri (where I didn’t die after, I was training again the next day), and finally the great 16 miles outside in Seattle (not blogged yet, sorry, September was just that epic I’m still catching up), where I proved that my slowness/wussiness on the run really was heat induced. Those made it easy to forget shitty sprint races and rough training sessions.
I was paranoid as fuck though this week so it helped a bit with my taper crazies. Everyone at work was sick this week. I threw my lower back out Sunday cleaning, but a trip to the chirocracker fixed me up. Then, on Thursday’s easy 4 miler, I had something in my eye and I kept fucking with it and on my last workout before the race – I popped out my upper back. Back to the chiro Friday, and she said it was really out. She said it would likely have fixed itself on the swim, but there was a chance that I could have made it worse and really painful. I was totally ok with a 20 dollar copay not to play the odds. I spent a lot of time refusing to do anything but couch, ice, electro-shock, and take valerian root and requiring Zliten massages every night which he gave out like a trooper. Laziness FTW!
Also, I spent a fair amount of time weather-stalking. There was rain in the forecast but it was supposed to clear up before the race and be a low of ~60 and a high of 78. Unicorns and rainbows in my perspective.
By Saturday when we left I felt better. The drive was uneventful, we picked up our packets, dropped our bikes off, drove the bike course (and got incredibly lost so it took almost as long as it did by bike), checked into the hotel, and dropped our T2 bags off. The day’s work being done, we had a traditional pre-race meal (salad, bread, filet mignon, and mashed potatoes) and ordered some to-go desert for the next day (carrot cake for me, buttermilk pie for Zliten), and shared some spumoni ice cream. We figured we were ordering a scoop, and this is what we got.
We took half that to go too. Didn’t want an icky belly. We settled in bed early, drank some sleepy juice and watched TV and dorked on the tablets. We were sharing one uncomfortable queen bed, so it wasn’t great sleep, but sleep it was, and we woke up and got going. I maintained being 90% excited and 10% nervous the whole time, and I just couldn’t stop saying “it’s here, it’s here, it’s here” and dancing around. I knew one of the major things I had to do was just get myself to the race with no injury (close call), no illness, a working bike, and a good attitude, and the rest would sort itself out race day.
We did a warmup run, I ate as much as I could stomach (a PR bar, half a honeymilk in my tea, and we hit the breakfast buffet and I nommed some fruit loops and a piece of bacon), pooped a bit, then walked down to set up T1 (it was right outside the hotel which was AWESOME) and they were playing gangahm style and I danced around a bit, went back to the hotel to drop stuff off and try to poop again, and got back in time to turn on my garmin, try to poop one more time, and hear the national anthem and it was time to race! They weren’t letting people in to do warmup swims which made me sad but it was what it was.
It was definitely a different caliber of folks here than the normal tri – lots of Mdot tattoos, my bike was probably the cheapest by far on the rack, I was one of only a few non-wetsuit people (its usually too hot for a wetsuit in the TX). I suppose in a different mindset that could have psyched me out but I was really set on running (tri-ing?) my own race. It was me + the course. Everyone else could do what they would.
Zliten’s wave was only 4 minutes before mine, so after hugs and kisses he went to do his half ironman thing and I put in my earplugs and focused on the day to come. That was new this race – get used to hearing me be dumb and trying new things on my biggest race ever, but all for reasons. I don’t swim well to my left side without earplugs due to water in that ear bugging me, and with my back being all wonky, I didn’t want to aggravate it. It worked like a charm though. I was afraid that I couldn’t hear or they’d be annoying to deal with but I had no issues.
All of a sudden we were in the water, I started near the back since I wanted to start conservatively, and the horn went off and we were swimming.
It was really really really nice to be able to swim to both sides, but I think it slowed me down, as the only time I do a 3-stroke is slow recovery swimming in the pool, and it took me a while to break out of that and get to something like a race pace. As I suspected, the first ~500yd out I was like “woe is me, everyone is passing me, I must be the last one in my wave”, then after the turn around I started realizing that people were way spread out and I was indeed not the last one, passing people, and even some people in waves ahead of me. So I felt better. The only thing, besides just going a little faster, that I would change was my brain. I kept thinking about the bike and the run, that I still had a long day ahead of me, and I was ready to be done swimming so I could get on with it. I also had stupid gangahm style in my head which is not useful because I don’t know the words, and it kinda annoyed me.
Then, about halfway through, I got myself out of that and realized that I loved swimming, I loved swimming in that lake, and there was a long day of AWESOME ahead of me. Apparently I passed Zliten (he said he saw me) around the ~1500m turn around, swam strong into the finish, got righted by the glorious volunteer helper people, got my earplugs, swim cap and goggles off, put my sandals on my princess feet, and jogged up the hill.
Swim: 53:55 for 1.2 miles. Slow and steady. Not quite the 50 I was looking for, but still solid.
When I got my sandals, I noticed Zlitens were still there, and I was surprised not to see him in T1, but hey, I must have had a decent swim then! I took the extra 30 seconds to put on my arm warmers as it was still in the 60s, did my normal transition-y stuff, piled everything into the T1 bag, and clomped off to start the second leg.
T1: 4:15. Again, could have been faster, but I struggled with my arm warmers for a bit and took it a little slower than normal because – hey, it was going to be a long day. Less than the 5 minutes I allowed myself.
On the bike, I noted that I wasn’t nearly as cold as last year. The arm warmers were totally worth the extra time. I chatted with a few people as I got going and threw a chompy in my mouth. Sadly, one person blew past me and then just totally wrecked into the curb on the first mile. She was ok, but dang… not a great way to start the leg. The course was essentially a slight 14 mile downhill and then a 14 mile slight uphill. It was pretty flat as courses go but there were a few things in the back half to be ready for (thank goodness for driving the course). It was a little confidence busting that I didn’t pass a single person in that 14 mile downhill stretch but a) I was making it a point to ride conservative the first loop and b) I had a 19.5 mph pace. I wasn’t coasting along. So on I went.
As we went to the back hilly half, I finally passed my first person, and started turning on some effort. I warned people when we got close to the sneaky hills – one was across a bridge and then up around a turny corner that you couldn’t see, and there were two more like that later in the course. Nothing I couldn’t handle, and nothing like carnage, but I did have to get out of my seat on the last two for a bit. No big d. I was feeling great, and by the time we met up with the sprint course I was 3 miles from being half done with the bike, and had a great pace – if could keep the same pace on the second loop I’d be around 3:10 – 20 mins earlier than my A goal. I got super jazzed and had a shit eating grin even up the last big hill and around to the finish/lap 2 split. One of the pro women passed me as she was coming in for the run, which made me happy – she was the only woman who lapped me! 🙂
On the second lap it got a little lonely. Everyone in the pack with me was on the Olympic, which was one loop, and I couldn’t see anyone ahead of me for miles. Also, it started spitting and the wind changed to be at my face. I was ok with it since it was downhill, but I didn’t pick up nearly as much speed as I did the first time. I got back up to 17.5 average from 16.5, but I knew I was going to have to book it on the back half to make up the time. And then the wind changed again. In my face. Rude, rude, rude. I encountered many loopy people, some were talking to themselves or singing to themselves, but so was I, so we were in good and looney company.
Also, very proud that I spent a lot of time (~10 miles?) in aero. I am not very comfortable in aero on roads, but it got to the point where I needed to switch around how I sat and I feel like I leveled up a bit on aero-ing yesterday. I still need to play with the fit and I may want to switch out my curvy handles for straight ones, but it was working for me.
I started losing track of eating, though, anytime I realized that I ate something, so I got down two packages of chomps, half a pack of honeystinger chews, and most of a honeystinger waffle (some of which fell as a sacrifice to the road gods), and I felt nice and fueled even if I didn’t stick to my strict every 2-3 miles put food in my face plan. I also never got off the bike to pee or get aid and had what I needed so I never had to make a bottle grab, so that was good.
Also, 2+ hours on the bike started wreaking havoc on first my lower back, and then I really felt my quads tighten and then start hurting. It really became clear to me that a) I need become more comfortable with 50+ miles. I feel great with 30-40, but I only did a handful longer than that, and ~45 is where I started to break down. Since I had been having back issues that week, I put an emergency “cocktail” of 2 ibuprofen and 2 303s (herbal muscle relaxers) in my bento box just in case of emergency. I’ve never taken either during exercise but figured having would be better than not.
By mile 50 I convinced myself that this was an emergency. My back and quads were feeling pretty rough. I didn’t know how I would make it through a half marathon. So I grabbed it out and was about to take it and realized I don’t have those skillz on the bike. I reminded myself to take them in transition. I would have a waterbottle in transition. Don’t be a dummy and forget to take them in transition I repeated to myself.
I got through the last 6 miles as fast as I could and didn’t drop below 16 mph avg (my A goal) until right when I hit transition. Considering my centuries earlier this year were both above 5 hours for 5-10 miles more, I was stoked.
Bike: 3:31:23. Nailed it. ~1 min over A goal is just fine with me.
In transition, I stripped off the arm warmers (they stayed up the whole time and made me extremely happysmiley), popped my cocktail, chugged a little extra nuun as my camelback had run out at 54 (perfect timing), did my normal transition-y stuff and headed out, shuffling, and hoping that I could knock out a decent half marathon.
T2: 4:09. Way slower than normal, but I was fiddling with pills and arm warmers and a little shell shocked from 4.5 hours of DOING. Still under the 5 mins I had allowed myself.
Something strange happened. I got out on the run and I WAS FINE. The pills couldn’t have kicked in yet, but the work I did to really try to keep my calves and hammies fresh on the bike and only waste my quads really worked. I was out and down the first hill fast (well, 10-somethings – more than I had hoped for). I realized I was feeling a little nauseous so I backed off on any nutrtion as gatorade or coke wasn’t really working, chomps or gels sounded like the worst things ever, fruit slices sounded soooooo good but didn’t sit well, and pretzels just got spit out.
I finally saw Zliten coming back from my first loop, and he looked rough. He said “loop 1?” and I said “me too”, and I saw him each time and we high fived and exchanged words each time. I was hoping I could catch him on a loop and run with him for a while but we were just off enough that I would have had to really book or he would have had to slow down a lot and that never happened.
I was doing great though, my pace was around 11:10s and the painkillers had kicked in. I was loose, happy, not feeling any ill, and each mile that ticked off, I was like, ok, 13-n more like that, and kept plugging away feeling strong. Then, around mile 5.5 the lack of nutrition hit hard and I got a little dizzy on the second loop uphill. Nausea I can race through, but I take dizziness seriously, so I made plans to walk the next aid station and got two orange slices and gatorade. At a walk pace, I was able to get them down and felt better.
On loop three it was clear I wasn’t going to be able to book through 11 minute miles. If I wanted to finish, I had to take it slower. I walked each aide station, getting down as many calories as I could in orange slices and gatorade, and then shuffled along. Then, apparently, all the acidity of the oranges (plus maybe the ibuprofen?) just wreaked havoc on my stomach, so it became walk when I had to, run when I could.
But the thing I’m damn fucking proud of is I never let it get me down. I was smiling and joking with the volunteers, dancing at the girl playing LMFAO on the sidelines, and smiling and feeling (besides the obvious issues) great! Even though I saw my under 7 goal slipping away, I knew it wasn’t just me being a wuss and damned if I wasn’t going to enjoy my day. I rounded the turnaround the final time and was pumped! I ran down the hill only stopping for the aid station, hi fived all the volunteers, walked when I had to, ran when I could, and told everyone on the way back that I would see them next year and tried to run all the way uphill. I had to stop for a bit as Cthulhu had definitely taken root in my stomach, but around 12.6 I went for it and took off with all I had, giving the horns and cheering, and hi-5ing everyone along the way. I ran through that chute with my hands up and celebrated! Oh my god I actually did it!
Run: 2:50:29 (13 min/mile) It is what it is. I need to work on nutrition on the run as while I can rock a half with nothing in my belly, after 4.5 hours of swim/bike, not so much. Also, need to train and try the muscle relaxers and/or ibuprofen to see if that’s what did it.
Total time: 7:24:13. I finished! In like, over an hour and a half after the cutoff! And I smiled and kept a great attitude the whole way. Being my first, it’s an auto-PR. It will be easy to beat next year (I am so doing another 70.3 next year). I stayed mentally in it and made the best decisions that I could at each moment to finish strong and smiling and thrilled about racing and proud of what I had done to get there.
However, my tummy issues sadly didn’t go away. I got my medal and the chip off and I was HUNGRY. I went to the food line, and just couldn’t wait, so I grabbed some beanito chips and took my water and sat waiting for Zliten. I ate some chips, felt ill, drank water, cheered on finishers, got hungry and then went OMG chips, ate more, felt sick, cheered on people, went OMG chips and kept up that cycle. I saw him as I was about to finish and he was on his last lap and he said that it might be another hour until he finished at his pace so I knew I might have a wait but I kept hoping he just picked up his pace.
Finally, I saw him at a distance shuffling and I went and ran him in (my legs were working! yay!) and he said he was going to be ill and asked me the best place and I said I didn’t know, off to the side somewhere? I split off to give him his finish and asked the guy at the finish where I could get into the finisher area and he said just to go through the finish line since it thinned out and I ran up and did the hands up things again (after he did) and the volunteers were confused because I had a medal and no chip and I told them I was running someone in and they told me just to go through again. So I will have two finisher pics! Whee!
He went to the med tent and got ice and held his cookies down. We tried to get food which wasn’t working for either of us, but then we got beer, which is the first thing my belly liked since the bike all day, so I got down two of those. We checked our results and got times, and had a little post race de-briefing on the benches together, and then realized we had to deal with our bikes. In that they were 2 miles away from the hotel and we had no vehicle and the shuttles had stopped. We were lucky enough to happen on some kind triathletes that took Zliten and his bike to the hotel while he got the car, and I chilled out on the sidewalk and cheered in the last finishers. He collected me, and we went back to the hotel to get some of the most wonderful and painful (chafing, chafing everywhere, and why the fuck did I forget SUNSCREEN) showers of our lives.
We wanted nothing to do with our to-go deserts (a day full of nothing but sweet calories does that), so we got some tacos to go, which were probably just above taco bell quality, but OH MY GOD THEY WERE THE BEST TACOS I EVER HAD. I was happy dancy (oh god tummy) happy dancy, but Zliten was a half a dude. We shared a bottle of champagne and talked (mostly me talking and he nodded a lot) and then grabbed some drinks, and neither of us could get them down. 70.3 was officially the first distance we couldn’t party after. We ordered to go from the restaurant at the hotel and ate a little of it (went between OMG SO HUNGRY and OH SO SICK every few bites) and then passed out.
I slept fitfully (crappy small bed, sunburn, tummy issues) and then got up, got some breakfast buffet (bacon, biscuits, and hash browns which were awesome, and then a glass of juice which made me sick again due to the acid) and packed up and left. I was very disturbed because usually I have an iron tummy (half iron tummy? :D) so we stopped and got some pink stuff, and I felt better and then sitting in the car made me sick again, and then we got home. Ahhhhh…
We hit the gym hot tub to relax the muscles, and then Zliten got lunch and I actually couldn’t think of anything I wanted to eat besides mac and cheese, so I went to the grocery store and grabbed anything that sounded good – including mac, a sandwich, baked fried shrimp, salad, mashed potatoes, guac, chicken and stars soup, and a couple other things. So far, today, I’ve downed most of a package of mac and cheese and some beers, and am working on some tater chips and a sandwich and while it’s not the picture of health, or anything close to what I normally eat, it’s doing my belly good. No more sickies!
I definitely want to give some love to Zliten. Not only is he supportive of what I do, he’s joined me in my crazy and it’s pretty cool being able to spend QT with your husband on the trainer or on a morning run or lifting in the gym, or swimming laps. It’s cool being able to finish a long training session or a race together on a weekend and then go drink and dissect it on the patio. It’s amazing when you’re in your pit of despair from a peak week and he’s having a good day and he pulls you out, and vice versa. I thank him for trusting my mad leet amateur coaching skills to get him from 5k to half marathon in the winter to half ironman in the fall and not complaining. Too much.
As I wrap triathlon season ’12, I have probably another post of forward looking to what I learned and next years goals, but let’s leave it at this for now. Also, I have my first damn marathon to run in 5 weeks and 6 days (ieeeeee). However, I had the dude rooming next to us say that at the end of this, it feels just like a marathon, which just means I need to take it slow and careful, and just worry about keeping my ass smiling.
If you’re still reading, I commend you. Off to down a few more beers and some more calories and enjoy the perfect temps on my patio and bask in the glow of being damn (half) ironpeople together!