Lots to write. I think I will do a brief entry now and put some longer stuff up later; I did a huge write up for Coach Amy, but it’s probably too much goal-related information for most normal humans not interested in the minute details of my training life.
PlayTri Festival Half Ironman (Short and Sweet)
It was a good day and I improved my half-Ironman time (7:09 from 7:17).
The worst part of the day was the wind. It just never let up and was quite strong, at times pushing my bike and ripping my race number off my belt on the run. I’m not good into the wind generally speaking, so I wound up going slower in the hopes of conserving some energy for the run, but I think the wind just continued to pick up.
By the time I got out on my second loop I was too tired to fight it much more. I was reduced to the “mountain troll shuffle” of trail running — that weird “just get it done” half run/half walk.
Even so, I still felt SOOOOO much better than I did at the end of the Longhorn Half, and that was just a wonderful feeling and realization.
I know I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me in these next, oh, 11 weeks or so…I wonder what all is in store for us?
Congrats to my training buddies, Cathy and Malinda, on their wonderful races — most excellent!
Now, for those who want the long version…
PlayTri Festival 2008 Half Ironman (All the Details)
Drove up to Irving with friends Saturday in time to hit the course talk (this is one of my big things — I may not be the fastest athlete ever but, dammit, I will be the best informed!). We were staying over at the host hotel, and it was so nice to be able to walk over and check out the swim and the transition area. Four of us doing the race piled in a car and did our best to follow the arrows marked on the road for the bike course.
The next morning we were up early. We wheeled our stuff down to transition, where we were surprised to find that it was open racking as opposed to what we’d been told (racking by number). No biggie…it enabled me and Cathy to rack our stuff together.
It was so cold and windy that we opted to slip into wetsuits early to stay warm. Another surprise: they closed transition at 6:45 a.m. instead of the 7:20 a.m. time announced.
Hmmm…I noticed a trend here.
Swim and T1
The swim start was a jump into the Las Colinas canal off a little barge. What had seemed like a tiny group of women in red caps turned into a packed throng in our tiny start space.
There were probably 30 seconds between when we jumped in the water and when our wave started (we were the second wave behind the elites). I don’t know if it was the cold or the sudden shock of starting, but I couldn’t catch my breath or find a rhythm, which threw me into a tizzy. I also couldn’t seem to get my bearings on what to sight on. I got in a no-man’s land behind the front pack and couldn’t tell if there were any swimmers behind me or if I were the last lady of the bunch.
As we reached the turn buoy, the guys began to catch up. This actually wound up being a good thing, because I was able to tuck in with them as they came through and draft a bit — not by sight, mind you, as the water was too brown for that, but I could feel their wake pulling me along. It was also easier to sight on the way back.
I got into a rhythm and felt my confidence rise. As I climbed out of the water and up the ladder, I checked my watch and gasped — 40:40! My time at Longhorn was 49:00, so I was stoked. And then there came Cathy! Awesome! We were right together.
It was a mess getting stripped; an announcement had been made that there wouldn’t be any wet suit strippers yet there were three intrepid souls there. Since I figured I’m practicing for Ironman, I went ahead and waited for someone to strip my suit when it probably would’ve been quicker to just run on towards transition and take it off myself.
Oh my, it was cold and my feet were numb!! Transition 1 time was long, what with the wet suit wait, the long run around to get to transition, and then working on gloves and arm warmers over wet skin. And then trying to put numb feet in shoes…finally, I was ready for the bike. T1 time=7:14.
Bike and T2
I was looking forward to having a really fast ride on the bike, seeing as the course was at best rolling. There was nary a hill to be found and I figured I’d throw it into the big gear, get my little wheels rolling, and go fast, fast, fast.
The wind was insane (every time I talk about it, I come up with a more extreme adjective); it had to have been more than 20 miles an hour at times and it NEVER LET UP. On the first loop, there was a section where we went out and back by some warehouses and the wind was mostly at our backs, so it was fun to go fast there. They did an excellent job with police at intersections, so I felt very safe whizzing through street crossings but the course was confusingly marked and bike traffic really spread out making it impossible to even see another rider (at least at my pace).
I slowed a lot as we came back towards transition, thinking, “If this loop is done, I am riding like a maniac…but I know that’s not true…” Well, it turns out we’d not seen a section of the course in our drive; there were about 10 more miles or so, and this was where the “big hill” was. It was not big but it and two others were the biggest things out there. I finished that up and came back through to finish the loop in 1:46 according to my watch.
Ah me, we went back into the wind and it felt worse. We lost a lot of the sweet stuff that we’d had in the first loop; either the wind had picked up or shifted, I don’t know what. I worked harder at being in my aerobars. I came back into transition, this time done, with a time of 1:57 for that loop, a total bike time of 3:44.
I was briefly saddened by my split, as my bike time at Longhorn Half Ironman (a much more difficult course) had been 3:29, but there hadn’t been a wind like this one. I knew there was nothing I could do about wind. Running had taught me to lessen my effort and conserve for when I had a break, so I was hoping that the slower time on the bike would translate to a better run time. Hoping? Actually, I was counting on it.
Probably the highlight of my day was getting off the bike and realizing how good I felt. At Longhorn, I’d gotten had shaky legs, an upset stomach, and a very full bladder. At PlayTri, I felt kind of refreshed and ready to run. 50+ miles didn’t seem all that bad. I did my business in T2 and headed out with a smile on my face. T2 time = 2:39.
Run and Finish
My plan for the run was to sandbag the first loop and run the second faster, so my main objective was to take the first loop as easy as possible.
I stopped in the first half mile to fix my race belt; the wind had pulled my race number loose from one of the rings. Yeah, the wind was still there. I was quickly disappointed to see that there was no Coke at the aid stations as had been advertised, only water and Accelerade, which makes my stomach cramp up. I had a bag of ShotBloks clutched in my hand, so I attempted to eat a few of these and drink some water as I walked through the aid stations.
We headed out onto a nice little concrete trail along a creek. By this time, I needed to use a Port-a-Potty but I didn’t locate one (turns out there were a couple I saw on my way back in from the turn around, but the line was three people deep, so I decided to wait for the huge bank of potties outside of the transition area).
I was looking forward to picking it up on the second loop when I came through at 1:13 for the first half. Secretly, I wanted to try for under 7 hours…if I worked hard and picked it up, I thought I might be able to do it.
I made a quick stop at the Port-a-Potty after the half mat (boy, it feels good to run without having to pee!) and took off. Hmmm…checking the watch revealed that I had not run that mile faster than any of my first loop miles…gotta work on that. I picked it up a bit in the next mile but not too much.
I figured I’d really save it for the final three miles, when I’m like a horse into the barn. There was a guy ahead of me I used as motivation; surely I could catch him. So I kept plugging away. Saw my training buddies Cathy and Malinda coming back, finishing strong, and I knew they’d be in under 7 and I was so happy for them. It was still pretty close as to whether I could or not.
Darn it; there was a stretch into the wind where I slowed to almost nothing. I saw sub-7 slip away, but how close could I get? Then came the turnaround, so I knew I was close to finishing. The guy was still ahead of me and I tried to think of nothing but catching him. I did! As I came by, he said, “You look good! Run hard.” Nice.
I came up out of the trail area (there was a small hill to climb) and thought, “There’s somewhere around 2ish miles left. Go now!” And then I got up on the street and turned a corner and BAM! came full face into the wind. I just didn’t have it in me and slowed to what I call my “mountain troll shuffle”(my shuffling go-forever walk/run mix that comes in handy in long-distances on the trail). That mile wound up being a 13:43. Ugh.
Finally, I came to the last intersection and the policeman waved me through, saying, “There’s just a half mile left.” I put what I had into finishing strong and closing the gap. It was so nice to come into the finish and see all my friends waiting. My run time was 2:34, which was quite an improvement over my painful 2:49 at Longhorn. And I still managed an overall PR of 8 minutes (final time was 7:09). I know that, without the wind, it would’ve been a much different day, so I’m already looking forward to the next one.
Half Ironman Take-Aways
I can honestly say that my final 2:45 minutes of PlayTri were WORLDS better than the final 2:45 of Longhorn, so for me this race was a great success and wonderful confidence builder.
Oh, I think all of it was probably better…even the bike, though I had an amazingly wonderful time while I was riding at Longhorn. I think after Ironman Coeur d’Alene, I’d really like to spend some time working on the half distance; I think I could have fun with it and see great improvement (plus the training load is quite bearable).
My friends had great days, but those are their stories so I’ve purposefully avoided giving too much detail so they can tell them. All ‘round, it was a wonderful weekend and a great half IM experience. Lots of thanks go to my great coach, Amy, who has helped me immensely already not just with the physical training but with my mental game. It’s such a pleasure to come out of a competition with joy and pride in what you’ve done.