SET UP AND BRIEFING
My first half Ironman and Triathlon number 8. As predicted the race is going to start late. Before the half there is a sprint and a duathlon as well. Other that that little detour everything is running smoothly this morning. There was plenty of time to set up. Transition is easy to access but small and a bit over crowded. It’s on sand, which sucks as that will slow down transitions. After setting everything up I went for a short swim. Breathing isn’t easy, but if I remain relaxed I think everything will be fine. I practiced coughing and clearing my nose and throat while either doing breast stroke or treading water. So the situation is not ideal but I’m sure I can get through it. I spent about 20 minutes doing various stretches and had David assist me with some upper body stretches.
The race will start at 9am not 8. There was a very thorough orientation. Only surprise here was that the run has lots of turns, signs to look out for and much of it is on trails, not roads. I don’t run on trails so not sure how that’s going to go. I think there are under 150 people here (a little more than last year) and a younger crowd than any other course I’ve done.
I’m really counting on my Garmin 310xt to give me all the data I need on each leg of the race to get me through. This is the second time I’m using it in a race and the first time in DC did not go well but I’ve had more time to get to know the settings and feel I’m in good shape today.
SWIM 1.2 miles
Every time I show up for a race the swim course looks like it’s much longer than I’ve prepared for. Today’s course is a clockwise loop of an entire lake done twice. There are three waves. Young men, older men, and all women each set 3 minutes apart. We start standing in the water and I’m feeling ready.
The first 5 minutes are always the scary part. I noticed that as long is I kept my exhale forceful that my congestion did not effect the swim but if I started to breath more shallowly I felt worse. Also I felt the cold of the water in my chest but after about 10 minutes my body warmed up and I didn’t feel that uncomfortable. Now I have my breathing down, I’m more relaxed and I stopped worrying about all the women who are in front of me. This is my race, I want to breathe without coughing, focus on long strokes, and sight my lines regularly of the 5 buoys that make up the circle. The water is clean, probably 65 degrees, with lots of sea plants. I get the sense that it’s very shallow and often swipe a plant with my hand. Once through the first lap I’m feeling like this is no problem. As is usually the case, I find myself passing people on the second loop. These are mostly people with poor form and fast strokes. I know my form has improved but want to be more powerful in the water but today is not the day to think about that. It is reassuring to know as I’m passing these people that at least I’m more economical with my energy and stroke than many others on the course today. Finish 44:40 (goal 47-50min)
First step is to sit on the grass at the waters edge and take off my wetsuit. I want to avoid sitting on the sand in transition and thought this through before hand. Have to take the watch off first and as I did so I looked at my time. I’m really happy and get side tracked a little and fumble with the watch. Had some trouble stripping the wetsuit from my calves and got a cramp in my calf. Didn’t last long. Ran to my bike, found it easily, sat down, toweled off my feet, put on shoes (no socks), helmet, sunglasses, grabbed extra hankie and ran out of transition. Didn’t check my time but thought it was slower than I wanted but not by much. Finish 4:34 (goal 2-4 min)
BIKE 56 miles
So I’m thinking I will be able to ride about 20mph as long as my breathing doesn’t get labored. Well I’m wrong. Even though my plan was to start with a HR of 153 and build to an average of 155 I find within 5 minutes that I’ve skyrocketed to 160 and my average speed is only 16mph. It’s a bit slow getting out of the park and since I know the route I know I will be able to get my speed up once I get on the main road.
This is a fantastic biking course. It’s either country road with very limited traffic, or main road with a large shoulder and little traffic. Minor intersections had a volunteer and major intersections had police to stop traffic. It was a really safe route, not technical at all and virtually no hills to speak of.
The course is two loops which got boring but at least I learned a bit from the first loop. It was easy to pass people, traffic was minimal and although my HR was higher than I wanted at 161 bpm (as opposed to 155 planned) I felt really comfortable on the bike and with my speed. Through the first half I was averaging 19.3mph and my goal was to be between 19 and 20mph. My plan was also to increase the speed for the second half but based on my HR I don’t think that is going to happen.
At the turn around there was a bottle exchange, which went smoothly. I was down to ¼ tank on my never reach and a volunteer took a bottle of water and dumped it into my tank. Took maybe 30 seconds. Rethinking my race plan I think I should have added want more energy to my water from the beginning and then added it again for the refill. I think I didn’t get enough non-food calories during the race. The race offered Heed, which I don’t like and I’ve found for cycling alone that I don’t need an electrolyte replacement. Seems needs change under race circumstances.
I consumed food and gels a bit more frequently than planned throughout the bike. I would have a Power Gel or Hammer Gel at 30 min then half of a Pure Bar 15 min later. I continued this pattern for the whole ride and increased frequency a bit at the end. By the end I had eaten 2 bars and 4 gels. That’s about 480 calories and about 150 carbohydrates. I learned when I reviewed my race data that I burned 1423 calories during this ride.
Another problem came up about an hour into the ride, which was that I had to go to the bathroom. I wasn’t terribly uncomfortable so I thought about this and decided that if my goal was to finish under 6 hours (which looks attainable) and I wait until 3 hrs into the race to pee that should take care of bathroom stops for the rest of the race. So about 3 hours into the race on a side road with more coverage I pulled over. Side note here is that men really have an advantage here. Guys just pull over, turn their backs to traffic, pee, and are back on the bike in 30 seconds. I on the other hand, have to scurry off into the bushes and take about 2 min to take care of business.
When I get back on my bike my average speed for the entire ride (now about 38 miles in) has dropped to 16.8 just because I had to take the time to pee. So I pick up the pace again and finish the last loop focusing my eyes on my average speed working that number back up. As for cadence I was really confused from the beginning. Even from the start my monitor said my cadence average was 118, which is really messed up. Every so often I would count my strokes and probably averaged about 75rpm. Finish 3:00:53 18.9mph 161 Av HR (goal 2:54-3:00 )
I dumped my bike, helmet and glasses quickly. Got rid of the trash in my pockets including 2 thoroughly used hankies. Sat down to take off shoes, wiped off excess sand, put on socks, sneakers, added gels and fresh hankie to pockets, put on a visor and speed out the gate. Leaving T2 I see David and Kramer and David asks how I’m feeling and I give a big smile. My legs feel great, my swim was a bit faster than I expected, my bike was just a hair short and now I’m going into my favorite leg. Finish 1:52 (goal 1-3 min).
It’s a bit warmer than I expected and I’m thinking about the last long distance race I’ve had in the heat and can’t remember when I had one. It’s probably only 72 degrees but feels hotter. All my marathons have been in early spring or fall and I have not run a half marathon in two years. About 3 miles into the 13.2 miles I start to get worried.
Here are the limiting factors. I don’t run on trails and about 50% of this course is sand, small gravel, or wooded debris. My cold is keeping my lungs from expanding fully, which means I have to take more frequent breaths to keep up my pace and my HR is higher than it should be. My stomach is talking to me, not feeling nauseous but I’m burping and that never happens. Don’t think I can take more gels at least not for a while. There are aid stations, but they are attended by only 2 people and I have to really slow down to get water. Some aid stations have food and I’m looking at what’s there because I don’t want any more gels but know I need to eat something and I’m going to have to experiment with new food here because I don’t eat food during training runs. The course has lots of turns, some very sharp and lots of signs indicating course direction so I would consider this a technical course. All things I can deal with but feel my pace goal is way off considering all these variables. I’m having to think about and address problems that have never come up for me during a triathlon or road race and it’s stressing me out a bit.
I’m at the 6 mile mark and what’s going well is that my legs feel fine, I’ve found a comfortable pace and my HR is holding at 174 bpm (92% max) and speed at 8:30. I’m having trouble wrapping my head around the fact that I thought my HR would be around 169 and pace around 8:25 and I don’t feel I can push the pace. My lungs don’t feel good and I’m partially afraid of pushing it too hard because of the cold I have. Last thing I want is to finish the race well but get severely sick. I think I had a gel at this point. And another problem has arisen, I have to go to the bathroom again and this time a toilet would be a preferable option. I’ve never had this happen during a race and hadn’t planned for it. I’m wondering if I can make it another 45 minutes but its getting really uncomfortable. Much of the trail is through the campgrounds and I sight a bathroom and run in quickly.
The last half I find myself slowing a bit. I think it’s mental more than anything but seriously cant get a good breath. On the up side there isn’t anyone passing me and I’m making up some lost time from my bathroom stop but hate that every time I look at my monitor is shows a slower average pace than I ever expected. At an aid station I saw some gum drops and that looked like a good idea so I sucked on 4 of those over a mile or so. The last two miles were not a problem. At that point I knew I could hold my pace. There is a turn to approach the last 100 meters or so and as I turn that corner I saw David and Kramer waiting for me. I hope the photographer got a picture of this because this is one photo I would buy and would bring me joy every time I looked at it. I pick up the pace to finish and Kramer and David ran next to me to the finish line. The crowd loved it and it was just what I needed to end the race feeling triumphant. Finish 1:58:45 pace 8:47 Hr average 174 (goal 1:50 at 8:20 pace)
FINAL TIME 5:51:26 within my goal range of 5:34 and 5:54. Placed 2nd in my age group out of 5 finishers. The first place competitor in my age group finished in 5:30:29.
I’m going to have to rethink my nutrition for race days of this distance. My calorie consumption on the bike was 480 calories and I burned 1430 calories leaving me with a deficit of 950 going into the run. During the run I burned 1350 calories and was only able to stomach less than 200. I’m probably going to need to find a liquid carbohydrate that I can use as a supplement on the bike and reduce some of the gel consumption so that my stomach does not get uneasy and so that I don’t have to go to the bathroom as frequently. I’ve held back in this area because during training the want more energy added to water on long rides has been fine, but it’s not enough calories for the long distances.
Because this was not a priority race and I had an A priority race only three weeks prior I did not spend any time doing long bike run brick workouts and will definitely add those next year.
This was only the second year for this race and there were very few online comments or reviews from competitors so was hard to plan a race strategy. Next year I will select a half Ironman that is more recognized and plan it as an A priority race. I already started looking at some local options and the top three would be Rhode Island, New Hampshire, or Syracuse depending on which part of the season I feel I can be ready for.
Overall I’m really happy with my accomplishment. It was more difficult than I thought it would be and the mental and physical fatigue has been greater than following marathons. It’s three days from the event, my cold is better but still coughing and my body aches a little all over. I don’t actually feel sore, but my calves are quite tight and I feel the kind of fatigue you feel when you have the flu but more mild. I have almost no desire to work out or train and this has never happened to me before. Even after a difficult race, I emotionally desire to at least get in an easy run, but this time around I just want and need to recover. Also a note about my weight. I did not weigh myself on race day but the day prior I weighed 116. On the morning following the race I was down to 113.5. I forced myself to eat high carbohydrate meals on Monday (think my cold was really the only thing holding me back) and was back to 116 again on Tuesday.