SUPER DUPER LONG, FEEL EVERY HALF-IRON MILE WITH ME RACE REPORT:
In the early morning on only about 3.5 hours of sleep, I tried not to stress as our car sat on the roadway in traffic waiting to get into the parking area. The minutes ticked away and I kept running through my head all the things I needed to do in transition before the race started with less and less minutes to do it in. Normally I come into transition with my bike all set up but since we racked them the day before, there was more to do in the morning. Finally, we park and start walking towards our bikes. Saw that the portapotties line was endlessly long, tried not to stress about it. Thankfully, the announcer said that the race would be delayed due to the traffic situation. Good in the short term (time to go set up and go to the portapotty) but bad in the long term (running in more heat).
My wave was the 9th to go. Plenty of time to look out at the buoys WAY out there and think, why am I doing this and I can't believe how far away that looks! Bonded with others in my group as we all kept saying, we have to swim all the way out there?!!? Standing on the beach, it wasn't clear to me where to go for the last segment of the swim, but I decided that I'd just follow everybody else. Had a great start. Got into a groove and was able to keep up with some swimmers just ahead so that I didn't have to stick my head out too much to sight. The buoys went by faster than I expected. Under the water, I had an "Orca" and a "mermaid" to sight from (orca wetsuit + and someone in a swimsuit whose white legs were easy to spot under the water). But after the first turn, I lost my swimming pals and had to spend more energy making sure that I didn't veer off course too much. The swim was amazingly quiet. We were all out there, just moving along in the water. Suddenly there were waves, and I noticed a couple in a jetski to my right moving REALLY fast. I was thinking, that's not safe, what if they ram into someone? They were by a buoy that I thought was the next turnaround towards the beach. Alas, I had to keep swimming straight. I realized that this jetski couple were not hooligans, but part of the race crew. I'm not sure why they kept racing back and forth like that, but I stopped worrying about them crashing into someone. Parts of the water smelled of gasoline/motor oil from nearby boats. Other times the water felt clean. I tried a new trick that I learned at one of the seminars the day before, pulling on the neck of my wetsuit to let the water rush in to cool off; it worked nicely. The end of the swim was tough. At the last turnaround, I had no idea where to go. I didn't know if the orange buoy or the white one was ours (there was a sprint race going on simultaneously). Being in one of the last waves, there weren't too many swimmers around to follow, which was the original plan. I kept going, not certain if I was headed in the right direction, and I probably swam extra. Finally I got closer to a buoy and thought, of course, that's the one, why didn't I see that before? Then finally I looked at the beach and saw the big arch. I was thinking, why doesn't it say "swim finish" on that arch? As I got closer, I saw that it did! I had a quick transition to the bike.
Felt pretty good. When it was finally time for a swig of my accelerade+salt mix which had been partially frozen the night before, it tasted yeeech! The worst taste one could possible imagine. I thought great, I'm stuck with this taste for the next 4 hours, I'm just going to have to suck it up and accept it. Interestingly, a couple of hours into the ride, this very same drink tasted heavenly and I felt like I couldn't get enough of it. I had water, carbooms, pretzels, and a piece of clif bar which also tasted heavenly. The bike was hilly, which I expected, and then I felt a headwind on some of the flat sections, which I didn't expect. I did a miscalculation in my head and thought that I was halfway done, when in reality I had 10 miles to the turnaround. Funny how your brain can turn to mush in the heat when you're tired like that. I saw several BTT'ers zipping by on their way to transition with only a few miles to go. The second half of the ride was tough, there weren't too many people around and I was getting tired. At one point, my eyes were showered in sweat and there was this terrible stinging, I had to ride with one eye closed and then the other; finally on a downhill the wind took the stinging away. The aid stations were a lot of fun, one was called "5 sexy women" - they were guys in prom dresses of bright colors which gave me a laugh. At various spots people had their car radios blasting, and a glorious group of women had colorful dust mops and cheered us on. The messages on the road kept me entertained. The only 2 people I saw for miles on the bike turned out to be sprinters who ended up on the half-iron course. The breezes felt good. Other times, I'd feel this rush of heat that was unbearable. My back felt like it was baking. The police on the course were great, I felt really protected from cars at the intersections. The road had been swept a few times also, which was much appreciated. The potholes and ruts were mostly marked with bright spray paint which helped a ton. Some of those hills were yeeow! At one point my cadence registered 0, I was biking uphill so slowly. After passing the last aid station, I realized that I was out of plain water and still had about 10 miles to go. I thought, that's OK, I'll drink on the run.
Another good transition. My legs were more tired than I expected, not that I should have expected them to feel fresh, after all, that was the longest I have ever sat on a bike nonstop in my life! (Usually on my long training rides I get off and stop for that all-important ice cream.) My boyfriend and another friend were there to cheer me through the transition which made it a lot of fun. I took a swig of gatorade by transition and planned to drink more in a mile, the race organizers had said that there'd be aid stations every mile. That first mile was a killer. My mouth was so dry, I wanted water, and I kept waiting for the aid station to appear and it didn't. Finally, almost at mile 2, was paradise, there were 3 aid stations in a row, plus a portapotty! I had gatorade, water, orange, and banana. It felt like the whole world was there, finishing up the run on their second loop, while I still had over 10 miles to go. At one point I asked somebody, "I should be about mile 3 right now, am I in the right place?" and he said, "are you in the sprint?" I said no, trying not to feel too dejected about the fact that I was so far back in the pack. I could see people at around mile 9 of the run and they looked with pained faces walking uphill. I thought, that is what I have to look forward to. It seemed that everyone was walking. The aid stations were great, including a doll hospital and mardi gras. Twice we had to run through what was called "the jungle" and the message in the road asked if we had seen the "TimberMonkey". They gave out ice which felt wonderful in the heat, and sponges too. I was so happy, I thought, I'm actually doing this, my second half ironman, I'm going to cry tears of joy at the finish. Fellow BTT teammates yelled supportive words of encouragement all through the run. At the start of the 2nd loop, my boyfriend ran with me part of the way and my other friends were there to cheer me on too, that was really awesome and it helped me go up the endless hill. The sky turned a threatening color, and I thought that lightning was upon us, but the skies held back and turned cloudy, so the 2nd half of my run turned out to be cooler than expected. I walked a lot more than I initially planned. I had cramps and decided to walk them off. Those car-booms which tasted great on the bike were unpalatable on the run. Funny how the taste of different things change through the course of the day! The last few miles, several of us were stressing about if the race would officially close at a certain time. I thought 8 hours, others said 8.5 hours, others said that we could finish in the time we needed. I kept going even though it was clear that I wouldn't be able to break 8 hours. Then we thought there was 1.5 miles to go. Then further down we saw my boyfriend who said we had 1.5 miles to go - he ran along and was super encouraging. Then the next aid station further down said we had 1.5 miles to go. That was a long section! Finally, at 0.1 miles to go, I tried to sprint home and that sprint felt long, but the cheering from all directions was unbelievable, how could I let all those people down, so I ran as fast as I could. At the finish, I was so tired and in such disbelief, I couldn't even cry. They handed me a water bottle (thank you!), a finishers medal and a finishers t-shirt (t-shirt #2 from this race - they gave us another one the day before too!) and I couldn't bend down to take off my timing chip. I couldn't stop moving.
By the time I got there, the medical tent was full, and there wasn't much food left or anything like that. Most people were gone. So we packed up just in time before the skies opened with lightning and rain, and headed to a nearby restaurant to chow down.
The day after:
My right hand is still twitching from yesterday, the thumb and forefinger. Has that ever happened to anyone else? The sunburn and chafing aren't too bad, and I alternate between feeling really tired and having a lot of energy to do many things. But mostly I just want to do nothing. I keep looking at my cool t-shirts and finishers medal and and so glad they gave me those to have something to look at today - I can't believe I did it! I'm a little worried about making my ironman cutoff times at GFT in October, but I do have more training time to get used to my new 1-week-old bike which should help.
Thanks for all your support! It was wonderful to see folks out on the course.