When I go to bed at night before a running race, even a marathon, I sleep like a baby. I'm comfortable with running races. I know my abilities. I know my competition's abilities. After nine years of competing I know what to expect. I'm just not that comfortable with triathlon yet. Although I slept pretty good the night before I was super-nervous when I woke up Sunday morning. I just didn't want to be racing: the race is too long, the expectations are high, it's going to be hard. Dave helped me settle down by showing me my favorite YouTube video:
At the athlete meeting on Saturday we were told the water temperature was 81 and that no wetsuits would be allowed. Although I prefer to swim without a wetsuit, I was a little distressed about this because the swim was a deep water start and I wanted to wear the wetsuit only to tread water easier. When we got on the bus Sunday morning to head to the race site, they told us wetsuits were allowed. Okay, game on. We set up our transitions (yep, there were two different ones) and headed down to the starting corral. My nerves eased a bit once I was into the corral. I entered the water and it was WARM, almost too warm. I lined up to the outside, which for me is safe but dumb as I like to swim right on the buoy line. Once we got started I was relaxed. I was able to swim on bubbles but also find my own space at times. I swam right on the buoy line as I hit SIX bouys with my left hand as I swam past them. The swim was crowded as I caught slower people from the waves ahead of me and got caught by people from the waves behind me. I just tried to stay relax and follow my plan. When I exited the water I wasn't really excited about my time (39:48), but I was happy I didn't waste energy as I was going to need it for the bike.
I thought of three things on the bike: (1) let the bike do the work for you - meaning, keep it in a big gear when I could and go faster while not putting a whole lot of pressure on my legs, (2) let the race come back to you - when things were difficult or when I wasn't feeling well I used this thought to remember that things will change and MY race will come back to me, and (3) it's okay, it's fine (yet another one of my favorite YouTube videos).
I actually didn't think this course was as difficult as everyone was saying. Sure it was hilly, but for every uphill there was a downhill and after mile 41 there was a long flat section that went on for over 10 miles. Until the very end, I stayed seated up the hills. I passed a lot of people; a lot of people passed me. I just found my rhythm, followed my nutrition plan, and stayed focus. As I got closer to the finish I started doing the math in my head and kept coming up with 3:14 for the bike portion. This was great as I was expecting to go between 3:15 and 3:30, but was incredibly shocked and excited when I dismounted in 3:10:20.
Onto the run. It didn't feel good, to be honest. Not my legs so much, but just overall I was feeling tired and sluggish. I started off around an 8:30 pace and that's how I stayed for the remainder of the race. This was my first Ironman-branded race so I was excited that the water stops would be more than water and Gatorade. I took that opportunity and not only took water to drink but often took water, ice, and/or a sponge to help cool me down. I was thirsty in between the water stops too so I used the ice I put down my sports bra to suck on when needed. I know, gross! But, dude, I'm an athlete. We start at gross. :) I saw Dave when I was about to start my second loop and he was entering the campground portion of the run. He said I was looking good. All I noticed about him was that he was wearing two watches. After the first turn on the second loop I had two women start running with me. Normally, I would hate this as I'm super-competitive, but it was very welcoming as I was getting tired and they helped get my spirits up. One of them read my blog (hey Spie, I can't find your blog to give you acknowledgement!!!), which is just crazy when you meet people who call you by your online name. They helped me get through a couple miles and then we all disbursed when we hit the next water stop. I really got focused in the last couple miles and found a good rhythm. My Garmin was way off from the mile markers so I had no idea how well I was really doing. The math I was doing in my head kept coming in around 5:50. As I approached the finish line and started my final kick, I was beyond ECSTATIC to see my watch say 5:46. My final run time was 1:50:52.
My official time was 5:46:52, which is a new half IM PR by nearly 23 minutes. And the best part...Chrissie Wellington gave me my finisher's medal.
Secretly my goal was to qualify for the Halfmax Championships, which I needed a 5:40 to do so. I knew it was a long shot and realistically thought I could probably only go 5:55 on this course. I missed qualifying by only 6 minutes and change, I know I can do it with the right race and course. Now the push begins for Ironman. I can't believe I only have a few more weeks to go. This week I'm going to celebrate my success in Kansas and then it's back to the grind starting next Monday. The year of triathlon continues...