|I met Mirinda "Rinny" Carfrae! She's a tiny powerhouse! Photo Cred: Ryan|
First let me say that Ironman Eagleman 70.3 is an extremely well run race with great staff and volunteers. Now let me say that I think anyone who does that race more than once is out of their flipping mind. Holy hotness! This year was apparently a "mild" one for Eagleman, but in my book it was VERY EXTREME!!!
So as we all may recall (some more than others...), after my last half iron distance event, in relatively ideal race conditions, I ended up in a hospital bed with two liters of fluids pumping through my veins, unable to stand due to severe leg cramping.
|Ryan and I are ready to roll: Those bikes make that car look good!|
Anyway, my friend Ryan and I drove down to Cambridge, MD together the day before the race. Erin had a hockey tournament, so she came down Sat afternoon (with our awesome friend Matt), after her last game. I made Ryan leave kinda early because I was really excited for the pro-forum and wanted to meet Craig Alexander and Mirinda Carfrae. We packed up Ryan's car, put the bikes on the roof rack, and headed over the Bay Bridge.
|Where the bridge ends...|
|Out for a spin|
|Holy Crowie! Craig Alexander: Reigning Ironman World Champion|
|Meredith Kessler is super sweet! Photo cred, these two: Ryan|
My pre-race meal of choice: Spaghetti with red sauce and chicken. Sometimes mushrooms too. Yummm.
|Ready to go...wait for 2 hours... Photo Cred: Erin|
My new-this-season pre-race rituals have served me well, so I am sticking to them. Hot shower. Oatmeal with banana. Cup of coffee. Gatorade. Given the 45 minute drive to the race site, the fact that my bike was already racked and the fact that this was a half-ironman, I wasn't planning on too much warm up for this one. The longer the race, the shorter the warm up. Unfortunately, despite transition closing at 6:45, my swim wave wasn't scheduled to start until 8:20. That meant that I would be sitting around for a whiiiile and that my race was going to go into the hottest part of the day. The week before the race I was extremely diligent about my electrolyte consumption. I took Endurolytes (electrolyte pills) every day the week before, and that morning.
Erin and Matt rolled out of bed and we headed to the race site. They dropped me off at transition and went to Denny's for breakfast while I set up my stuff. I had a great transition location, really easy to find at the end of a rack, which was a blessing because the transition area was a HUGE SEA of bicycles. By the time I had everything set up I was feeling pretty good, albeit nervous. It was already getting hot by 6 am and I knew it was going to be a scorcher. The race announcers told us the swim was still wetsuit legal (75.6 degrees I think?) but that the high for the day was about 93. Yay.
|My support crew are the best ever (Matt, Me and Erin)|
I was happy to see some DC Tri Club friends, as well as Sara, a friend of mine from the bike shop. I was also really really glad Erin and Matt were there to cheer me on. My parents were also en route, scheduled to arrive around when I would be entering T2. Now all I had to do was stay out of trouble. Haha.
After waiting around for a while and fretting over the fact that I felt like I needed a second breakfast, my swim wave time finally arrived. I waded in with my fellow red-caps, swam around a bit, and lined up for the start. After we bobbed around like corks in our wetsuits for a few minutes, the horn blew and we were off. I felt great in the water and easily found a good pace. One thing I have yet to master is effectively drafting off of the lead swimmers, and that would have been particularly difficult given the murkiness of the water, so I just settled into my own path and forged ahead. The buoys came quickly and I really did feel great. I had been very worried about the foot and leg cramps that I have been experiencing while swimming, and I didn't have a problem until the very last buoy. A girl bumped into my left leg and suddenly my big toe and foot cramped up and I had to keep that foot flexed for the last few hundred meters of the swim. It wasn't the most efficient stroke, but it wasn't for every long either. I came out in a good position from the swim, at 35:05 and felt probably the best I have coming into transition and onto the bike.
|Walkin' into the water, second from the right, not counting the girl out in front|
The first part of the course I was going pretty hard and I felt good. I was likely averaging over 20 mph for the first 1/4 to 1/3 of the course. Still, several girls from my age group were passing me, which made me realize that I must have come out pretty high up in the swim.
Then the headwinds hit. As I was pushing hard against them, struggling for 17 or 18 mph, I realized that I needed to be sure I didn't blow myself out in the bike. I just kept telling myself to save something for the run, because the heat was rising and I knew it would be really tough. I also kept a steady eye on the clock, making sure I fueled up every 10 minutes with my Inifinit custom formula and water. I had a pack of Stinger Chews half way through, and two Endurolyte pills. The headwind didn't really let up, but I was able to push a bit harder on the last third of the course. I had to freewheel and stretch out more frequently than I wanted to. Flat courses sound great, but it can be really hard on the body to stay in the same position for 56 miles. Hills give you a chance to shift your position and stretch out a bit, but on this course you had to do that yourself. I honestly just was not as aggressive on the bike as I normally am, but I really wanted to be careful. By the time I was coming in from the bike I was no longer in the wind and I could tell the temperature had soared. I had biked 3:03:54 which was an average of 18.3 mph. Conservative, but probably smart.
|Red caps bobbing. Photo Cred: Erin|
Coming into T2 I saw both of my parents, as well as Erin and Matt. I was super psyched my support crew was there. Dad yelled something to me about the heat, but I have no idea what it was. T2 was also pretty darn slow (2:24) but I had my head in the game and felt good.
Once I started running, though, I knew it was going to be a slow afternoon. My legs just wouldn't go quickly and I was instantly overheated. I had taken my mother's advice and brought crack-and-cool "ice packs". They felt awesome for about 1 minute and then they were useless. Darn things! (As an experiment I cracked open my extra one yesterday and it stayed cold for at least half an hour. No idea if it was just too hot for them to work, or if I was too hot to feel it). Anyway, one mile in and I was already feeling like complete crap. I could see heat rising off the pavement in waves. At the first aid station I walked, got water, got ice, and poured water all over my head and shoulders. I assessed how I felt and made a deal with myself: If I ran to every aid station, and picked up my cadence once the station is in sight, I was allowed to walk/stop and get myself cooled off at every one.
|Swim exit! Photo Cred: Sara|
And I stuck to that deal.
I just took the run aid station by aid station. I'm not going to lie, the first 6-7 miles were pretty darn awful. I considered what excuses I would tell my family and friends if I decided to quit. I told myself I was never doing this again. I stopped to stand in a sprinkler. I watched the rising heat blur out everything on the horizon. I swerved to run through the tiniest patch of shade.
Then I would see the next aid station and pick up my pace. A deal is a deal, after all. At each station I put ice down my top, ice in my hat, ice in my shorts even. Poured several cups of water all over. Drank gatorade and water. I had absolutely no interest in the Gus I brought with me, but I made myself choke one down around mile 4. The next mile or so after that was probably the worst I felt all day. And then suddenly the carbs kicked in and I felt like I was on cloud nine. At the aid station right before the turn around I figured out that I could scrunch up the top of a cup full of ice and carry that with me so that I had a cold hand and little drops of melted water to pour over myself until the next mile. From the turn around to about mile 9 I felt amazing. I ran faster, I talked to people, I cheered others on. Then at mile 9 I hated myself again. The last two miles were almost impossible. We could see the finish across the water front at the last mile marker, and somehow it looked so incredibly far away. The woman next to me said she would have rather swam that last mile and I totally agreed. Then I passed her. At the last bend I saw my parents and gave them both a thumbs up, yelling "I'm OK!" because even though I was totally exhausted I knew that I was a hell of a lot better than last time. I wasn't going to need an IV! Yay! Mission accomplished!!
|WOOO I'M ALIVE! Photo Cred: Erin|
Going down the finish chute at an Ironman event really is pretty awesome. I know it would be even more amazing at a full Ironman, but this was still great. I ran along the edge of the chute and high-fived every person and child with their hand out. Honestly I felt like I needed to suck up a little energy from each of them to convince myself to keep going. With the finishing arch in sight I put in a bit of a kick, but I didn't have much. Just before the finish line I saw that Matt and Erin had made signs for me and I hope the finish line camera caught my huge grin. My run time was 2:23:02, my second slowest half-marathon ever.
|Giving Matt the thumbs up, Photo Cred: Erin|
So my next half iron- distance race is in October. And when I am out on the run course telling myself "I am never ever doing this again!" maybe I'll listen.
|Compare this to the pic of me in the hospital last year. Lookin' much better!|
Today, two days later, I can barely walk. But I sure am happy :)