I am sure there are better ways to spend a weekend than to drive to Michigan to get ready for and then compete in a half-Ironman triathlon, but not for me especially given the outcome.
On Saturday, Matt and I got to the registration site around 3 PM. We got our packets and then headed to the lake for a quick swim. All week long, the water temperatures had been abnormally cold, but then it changed just as suddenly. I was roasting in my full-sleeved wetsuit and I was only out there for 7 minutes. I prayed that race day would be better.
After our swim, we drove the bike course. While sometimes smooth and most times bumpy, it was always exceptionally flat. Could be bad or good depending on the wind. We then grabbed dinner at Ruby Tuesday's, watched "You, Me and Dupree" on HBO and headed to bed.
In the morning, I ate my now typical nutrition before a long workout - bowl of cheerios with banana, half-bagel with jelly and boiled egg (no yolk). It seems to be working better for me to get a large breakfast in before a workout than a small one.
So, we headed to the race, set up transition, got a quick warm-up swim in and then waited for the race to start.
The race director told us to swim straight out to third buoy, turn around, head back through the original two start buoys and then parallel shore to the final turn-around. All was going well for me until heading back. There were no longer two buoys at the start, just one, so I kept stopping to look for the second buoy (apparently they removed the second one after we started - nice). I finally decided that the one had to be the right one, made the turn and swam parallel to shore. All was fine, except I seemed to be heading east to Cleveland because the buoys were farther away than I'd like. I swear I swim straight and I did sight frequently, but the sun was a factor and I'm fairly sure the buoys weren't in a straight line. I felt fine the whole swim, but by the time I got out of the swim, I was very disappointed with my time of 44:57. After looking at the results though, it seems I wasn't the only one who swam a little longer than expected, but of course I didn't know that at the time.
There was a long run up the beach to transition, but other than struggling with my race belt and gloves, it was uneventful.
Like I said before, the bike course was exceptionally flat. Of course, I've been training on hills all season, so I had no clue what kind of pace I could hold. There were a lot of turns on the way out to the loop portion and the road conditions alternated between smooth and very bumpy. The loop was about 12 miles long and we had to do it 3 times (Jane, get me off this crazy thing!). I was maintaining a good pace and passing lots of people (mostly guys). The road joints were merciless and the bumpiness got old quickly, but my pace was good so I was happy.
I had my very first successful water bottle hand-off from a volunteer. Last year I had to stop to fill my bottle. Yay me!
My HR monitor (not my Garmin) only worked for about 30 random minutes of the whole ride, so I have no clue if I was maintaining the right HR. I suspect that I was slightly higher than planned, which contributed to a fast bike, but probably slower run.
I finished the bike in 2:55:03, which is a 19.2 mph average. I can't say I was disappointed with that at all!
On a side note, I think what helped me get such a good time was not only my training but also my ability to stay in the aerobars almost the entire time. I passed many people who would take breaks out of the aero position and thus subject themselves to the wind resistance.
I transitioned quickly in T2. Uneventful, which is fine with me. I think I lost my Saltstick pills just outside of transition and really could have used them later, but I digress.
My legs felt fine off the bike. I saw my coach a few minutes after I started the run. I told her my HR monitor was broken and she said to just keep it slow and steady. It was just a training day after all.
The one thing I noticed immediately was that I had to pee. I'm not Miles Davis cool like TriSara, so couldn't stomach the thought of peeing down my leg into my shoes (I already have blister issues without having wet, pee-soaked shoes!). I started eyeing the surrounding area for a discreet place to squat. Thankfully, there was an outhouse john about 1.5 miles into the run (the RD had only rented one porta potty for the entire race and that was on the bike course).
When I finished relieving myself, I realized my watch had stopped about the time I finished the bike. I had no clue what the race time was now, so I just started my watch and tried to guesstimate the real time. In hindsight, it was probably good that I didn't know the real race time and wasn't tracking mile splits. I figured I might have a huge PR that day, but might have squandered some of the time had I known how huge it would turn out to be.
About half the run was in the shade which was good. My back has a huge sunburn on it that could have been worse. Matt assures me that the run was flat, but it seemed to be slightly uphill the whole time, especially on the 1.5 mile out and back trail section.
My stomach wasn't loving me, so the big flask of chocolate hammer gel I was carrying did not get consumed much and I ditched it at the halfway point. I told myself to just keep going. Walking could only happen at the aid stations and then only briefly. The second half was better, because I knew what to expect and I started drinking coke after mile 9. It was fizzy and warm, but just what I needed. The volunteers were wonderful and always had cold water available. For a 77 degree day, it felt considerably hotter.
I never saw Matt on any of the out and back sections which I hoped boded well for both of us.
In the last 2-3 miles, I kept thinking of TriEric's advice - paraphrased "just keep moving and let your mind go on autopilot". I quietly acknowledged the pain in my legs, but chose to ignore it and refused to stop running. When I got to the only real hill on the course which led to the finish line, I found a reservoir of energy that was supplemented when I saw my husband in full cheer mode with his arms held in a victory pose. I finished strong and my coach got to see it, which only made it better.
Total run time was 2:18:25, which is 4 minutes faster than at my last half-Ironman.
My overall time was 6:02:52, which is a PR by almost 28 minutes. I finished 3rd in my age group and 16th out of 34 women. Not too bad for a training day! Of course I will admit that the flat bike course helped me out tremendously!
Matt finished in 5:26 and had a great consistent race that should set him up nicely for Lake Placid. Note that he did not really taper for this race at all, so major props to him!
All of Angela's athletes raced extremely well and many of her girls, her husband and TriEric brought home PRs and age group hardware.
Yes, it was a great day!
Oh, and here is your moment of zen. This is a picture of my back after last year's Barb's race half-Ironman. My back today looks just like this. Will I ever learn?!