I would be lying if I say my only goal was to finish Austin 70.3, of course I wanted to finish. But I really, really wanted to finish around 8 hours. Really! Then after some advice from a more seasoned athlete than me (thanks Lawrence) I decided maybe I better make a few goals and be a little more realistic. Bad days happen all the time. Things out of your control happen all the time. SO based on his advice I set the following goals with corresponding plans:
- I am having a really really, really good day goal
- A I am having a mediocre day goal,
- Oh crap all hell has broken loose goal.
Swim: 55 min
T1: 5 Min
T2: 5 Min
A mediocre day I thought would look like this:
Swim: 60 min
T1: 7 Min
T2: 7 Min
Run: 3 Hr
And I thought a really bad day would look like this:
Swim: 65 min
T1: 10 Min
Bike: 4.5 hr
T2: 10 Min
Run: 3:15 Hr
As race day approached I watched with horror (ok there is some exaggeration there) the predicted high temperature creep up and up. I watched the wind speeds creep up and up. For me almost the worse possible weather conditions were coming to fruition. But, again, something I cannot control. Good thing is, I trained through hot Texas summer, so the heat would not be totally new. But, the wind would be brutal for me.
We drove up Friday morning. I checked in shopped scoped out the run course. I figured I could scope out the bike course Saturday. I thought the check in went extremely smoothly and was well organized. No complaints there.
Saturday My goal as to get to the park (T1 and race start location) at 8 am so I could get a swim a bike and a run in before the athlete meeting. Well, with 2 kids and 3 adults in one hotel room that did not happen. I was able to get a 20 min swim in at the park before the athlete meeting. I took off on my bike only to be chased down by my husband to tell me I had one minute to get to the athlete meeting. We raced over and I sat through that. After the meeting we headed back to the T1 area where I took off for a 20 minute run. After all that we checked the bike in. Headed back over to T2 area and checked my run gear in. I had all my nutrition in the bags. And not knowing what would sit I packed a smorgasbord of things I knew worked, Gus, Paydays, Honey Stinger Chews, PB and J sandwiches, sour patch kids, all the good stuff. After settling everything in T2, it was already time to go get ready for dinner. Seriously, the days seemed to be 3 hours long and notice I did not get to preview the bike course.
At the last minute, in order to ensure I had enough water on me, I decided to ditch my on frame bicycle pump (two water bottles won’t fit on my small frame with the pump) , with the intention of going to buy CO2 cartridges. That purchase never happened. I was a panicked mess, but trusty Kirsten Coddish had a spare cartridge and valve in her mountain bike bag and let me borrow it for race day (unlike scores and scores of people, I did not need it)
We left the kids at the hotel room and went to dinner with the team. Before we left, my 10 yo son was complaining of a headache. During dinner we got a panicked text message saying his head hurt so bad when he stood up and he could not stand up for more than a few seconds before the pain was so excruciating he would have to lay down, and then the pain would go away. When we got back to the room, I have to admit I was a little panicked. I had really never seen my son suffer from pain like that, and the way he described it scared me. It was 9 pm. I was ready to call the race off and pack him off to the emergency room. However, my level headed husband got to thinking and surmised it was probably a sinus headache (his first) based on all the sniffling etc . He went off to the drug store to get a pain killer and some decongestant to help the little guy. I have to say, I was still questioning my status as a mom, was I being a horrible mom by not taking him to the ER, what if it was a tumor or aneurism etc. Was that worth a stupid little race. I am happy to say 20 minutes after the Tylenol dose his headache was gone, and we have not had any headaches since the race. However, I went to bed way later than anticipated. But I did sleep pretty well
Sunday dawned and we did arrive early, but man, I think I needed another half hour. I really had no time to chill and relax before the race like I planned. I was nervous and a little panicked. I was trying to remember everything every seasoned athlete and coach told me (trust the training), but there is something daunting about thought of putting those three little distances together into one race. I never did it in training, how do I really know I can do it? And to top it off the “Big D” hit me the instant I set foot on the race site. So I visited the port-a-potties several times before the race. My biggest fear was being in a wetsuit in the middle of the lake when a bout of “Big D” would hit me.
I made it over to the swim start, got a pic with Kristin, joined my other friends in the 40-44 age group and then all of a sudden it was time to get in the water. Then the gun went off. Here is how I swim, find my pace and rhythm, stick with it for hours at a time. As such, I have no speed, but I can swim and swim once I find that pace. I had goggle issues the first few hundred yards. Luckily I had practiced drills to adjust goggle while still moving forward (thanks Liz). I had a hard time seeing the buoys, but I had done tons of siting drills so I was able to work through that (thanks Liz). I was ran over a couple of times, but I kept moving forward. I was calm, relaxed, and surprisingly peaceful. The discipline I hated (and feared) the most turned out to be my favorite segment of the event.
Swim Time 1:01 and 38 second.
I made my way to T1 and I stopped in the port-a-pottie on my way to the my bike to relieve my bladder. I had no plain water to rinse my feet off so after a moment of thought I ended up using my Nuun infused water to rinse the sand and dirt off my feet. Nothing other than that stood out as other time sucks, except having to carry my bike out of transition to avoid the stickers (note to self, probably a good idea to drill this maneuver during training).
My T1 time was 7:15
Remember I never got to preview the Bike course. I am going to go ahead and say right now, that was probably a good thing. I was already nervous about the bike in general, and I think without the opportunity to drive down to ride it a few weeks ahead of time, driving it would have added additional stress on me.
About 5 miles into the bike, the “Big D” hit me AGAIN. I had no idea where the first rest stop was, so I was all consumed with this from mile 5 until the first stop with facilities (mile 15 ish). The first 15 miles were not bad, some rollers, but if I remember correctly a general downhill grade. I even averaged a nice 17-18 MPH on this stretch. I arrived at the first aid station, I set a split when I entered the port a potty and when I came out so I knew how much time I spent there. Thirteen minutes people. But I had a nice conversation with the gal in the port a potty next to me having similar issues (nice to know I was not alone). I probably could have reduced this time by not layering TP on the seat and sitting my wet bum down on it because I am sure that 5 minutes of this 13 minutes was spent scraping toilet paper off my wet legs, yeah, TP sticks to wet skin (TMI I know, but maybe someone will learn from my folly).
I grabbed a fresh water bottle and some Gus and off I went. Nothing sticks out for the next 15 miles except roller after roller. I do not recall any steep climbs. I sipped my Nuun Water, ate my nutrition (Alternated Gus and Honey Stinger Chews). Then Mile 32 hit. And all I can say for me, mile 32 on was pure hell. I turned the corner into the wind. The climbs were tougher and more frequent and longer. I could not seem to get out of 12 MPH speed. I would approach hills and see men and women walking their bikes up them. Then the back to back beasts hit around mile 44. Seriously, one long steady climb up, with another one looming in the back ground, with a little very steep one in between for good measure. My belly was churning, and I was done. I would not even consider getting off the bike to walk up the hills, because I would have quit right there if I did. As I would pass people and they would pass me they would ask, “are the ever going to end, do you think there will be a down hill”? I was also at the “I am mad” point. As I approached T2 I was mad, and although I think I realized 2:45 on the run was probably not likely, I was definitely going for sub 3 if it killed me.
Bike time 4:18 43
Remember my belly was churning on the bike, well we had to alleviate that in the port a potties in T2. I am ever so grateful they actually had facilities in transition. I actually had to use them twice in here for a total of about 9 minutes.
T 2 was a “clean: transition, meaning all our run gear had to be in the bag, ted to the bar, nothing on the ground. This was a first for me. I was a little clutzy with having to untie the bag from the bar and getting my run gear from the bag. But I managed. I worried less about nutrition because they made it clear in the meeting they would have plenty at the stations. Clean transition conditions is something I definitely something I should practice for future races.
T2 Time 14:10
Run glorious run. I was never so happy to run before in my life. Yes it was hot, yes it was windy, yes it was hilly. But how lucky was I, I had a the best cheerleaders ever. My family, My Triple Threat Tough Friends and KMF performance friends. There was not a place along the spectator line that there was not someone screaming like a maniac for me. I decided right away I was doing 6 minute runs 1 minute walk intervals. If it was not so hot I could have conquered a full on run. But I wanted to make sure I was still running at mile 10, even if it was intervals. The loops were awesome because I saw so many friends along the way. I made it to loop two before I had to make a stop in the facilities, but it was shorter. When I explained to Kirsten going out on the first loop that I was having GI issues, she suggested the Coke. OMG, can I say nothing tastes as good as cold flat coke. I stopped at every station for cold flat coke. I’m pretty sure this saved me, and if it did not, I am pretending it did. I was motoring along for the first two loops following my plan. Then around mile 10 my right calf decided enough was enough. It seized up all the way down into my foot. I had never experienced this before. I was able to keep jogging along but I was getting a little worried. Kristin came around to check on me and when I mentioned it to her she guessed it was probably my Achilles from all the hills. And as it so happens, that Achilles tendon was the one that I slice through in high school, so it totally made sense. I made it to mile 11 where my friend Nikki was waiting for me and I finally had to go to 1 minute runs 1 minute walks. Kristen came around and said I may be able to hit sub 3 at that but it would be close. So Nikki and I started out on 1 min runs 1 minute walks. Nikki was having some back issues, so I Ieft her behind and motored on up. Then that (darn) Kristen came up and asked if I had 3 min runs 1 minute walks in me. I figured why the heck not, only after I walk to the cones. I walked to the cones (this is where we turn to basically run along the spectator line and head into the arena). There is probably about ¾ to a mile left after you turn the cones. I was able to run the rest of the way through the finisher chute, half crying half laughing. I was so disoriented after coming through the finish chute I turned right and ended up in the medical tent, where I totally took advantage of an ice bath.
Run time 2:58 38
Swim: 1:01 53 min
T1: 7:15 Min
T2: 14:10 Min
Run: 2:58:37 Hr
Total: 8:40 38
So I was 10 minutes over time for a mediocre day and well short of an all hell has broke loose day.
I followed my race nutrition plan to a tee. It worked for me this time. I did not need to fall back on something else because my body rejected something.
I utilized several techniques during the race I learned in Coach Tommy Johnson’s competitive edge clinic (with Triple Threat Tough), most notably:
- I concentrated on the next point, never the swim bike or run finish. The next point. In the swim it was the next Buoy. On the run it was always the next aid station. On the bike, well I was too mad to care. This really, really helped mentally.
- When I found myself losing focus I would bring myself back and use his “photocopier technique” I would start at my feet and come on up. On the swim I would adjust technique and body position, on the run, same thing, was I landing on my forefoot, were my knees facing forward, was my core tight, were my hips positioned correctly, what about my arms etc. On the bike, well again I was too mad.
- One thing I repeated over and over on the bike “ the wind is my mountain. The wind is my mountain”. I guess there was that.
Being my first long distance race, I have nothing to compare it too. Overall I had a great experience from the moment I checked in until the moment I left.
I had someone apologize to me for not making it below 8 hrs. I was like, really? I am a Happy Athlete. For a relatively novice triathlete, and my first Half Ironman, and with the belly issues, I was ecstatic. And, combine that with where I was health and weight wise just a short 2.5 years ago, take ecstatic and raise it to the hundredth power. Not only am I blessed to live in a triathlon rich community, blessed with the resources to participate in this sport, blessed with a family that supports the sport, but I am blessed to be physically capable and healthy enough to do it. I will never take that for granted and I will wear my 8:40 38 with tremendous pride.