Last year in the days leading up to this race, I was pretty much terrified. It was to be my first half-ironman, and only my second triathlon ever. I ended up having so much fun at this event last year, and I was hoping I would feel the same this year, even though the “newness” factor would be missing.
The night before the race, I packed up all of my gear and took a relaxing bath in our whirlpool tub. I read a book for a little while, and then I fell asleep quickly around 9:45. I slept terribly, and woke up before my 3:45am alarm. I got up in the dark and made coffee, ate breakfast, and got ready. My ride came at 4:45 and we were off. We decided to stop at a gas station when we got off the freeway to avoid waiting in line for a port-o-potty at the race. Good decision. We made our way to the race site and found a parking spot, and then it was off to transition.
I got all of my gear set up and chatted with a few people around me. Here is all of my stuff set up:
During this time, the race director announced that the water temperature was 64 degrees. This was great news, as last year it was only 55, which was ridiculous. Looking at the swim buoys, I noticed that they were definitely closer to shore than last year. The swim is a point-to-point, so we walked a mile down the beach to the start line. I made a point to get in the water before the race and get used to it. It was cold, but not too bad. I stuck my face in and practiced swimming for a few strokes, and I felt ready.
This race has a wave start, so while the elites went off right at 7am, I had to wait until 7:12 to start. I lined up towards the back and slightly to the outside, and when the siren went off, I started my watch and ran into the water. The whole swim is really shallow, so we ran out quite a ways before anyone actually started swimming. Last year, the water was so cold that it literally took my breath away, and I couldn’t keep my face in the water. This year, though the water was much warmer, I still panicked and just could not stick my face in and start swimming. I had the same dreaded feeling of “oh my god I can’t do this.” Again, after a few minutes of flailing around and inhaling/swallowing mouth-fulls of water, I was able to calm down and start swimming.
After a short time, I saw a few people just in front of me walking. Then my hands started dragging on the bottom. I stood up and walked a little ways because it is a bit difficult to swim in such shallow water. Soon it was deep enough to swim again, and I got into a pretty good rhythm. Each time I would pass a buoy, the next one would look really far away, but before I knew it, I was there. I managed to stay on course, and the swim went by really fast. As I was running out of the water, I glanced at my watch and it said 28 min. That’s when I knew that the course was way short. I know I am a better swimmer than I was last year, but I am nowhere near that fast. Like I said, the buoys were much closer to shore this year, yet the start and finish were in the exact same spot.
I ran through the sand up the beach to the transition area, and prepared myself mentally for the bike.
I got my wetsuit off, tried to get most of the sand off of my feet, put on my socks, bike shoes and helmet, and I was off.
3:01:49 – 18.5 mph average
I really wanted to improve on the bike this year. Last year the story of my life was getting passed, and passed, and passed. Well, this year, the story of my life was pretty much getting passed, and passed, and passed. I am just not a super-fast biker compared to most triathletes. My goal was to come in around 3 hours, and I felt really strong in the beginning. I also wanted to really nail my nutrition and take in enough calories. My plan was to eat 2 Clif Blocks every 30 minutes, and also take in sports drink and water.
The weather was pretty chilly, so I knew it was going to be a struggle to stay hydrated. I just never feel like drinking a lot when I am cold. Thirty minutes in, I grabbed my first pack of Clif Blocks. I opened the pack with my teeth, and promptly dropped the whole thing on the ground. Doh! There goes half of the nutrition I had with me. I tried not to worry about it too much, and was able to grab a gel pack at the first aid station.
The thing that probably surprised me the most was the amount of time I spent in the aero-bars. In training, I don’t use them too much because I am always afraid of the traffic and the bumpy roads throwing me off balance. During the race, I spent probably 95% of the bike comfortably in aero. This definitely helped me improve my speed over last year. The course has a lot of rolling hills, and they were starting to take a bit of a toll towards the end. My training rides have been pretty much completely flat, so my legs aren’t used to the rollers. I was glad when the bike was over and it was time to run.
I racked my bike and quickly changed shoes. As I was grabbing my nutrition, I could hear the announcer at the finish line. “We should have our winner crossing the line at any minute!!” The elite athletes just blow my mind.
2:00:23 – 9:12 average pace
As I exited transition, I glanced at my watch, and it read 3:38. I was really happy because I knew at this point that I would come in under 6 hours, which was my goal. I started out slow, knowing that there are two short steep hills right at the beginning. The run is a double out and back, so it is easy to break it into 4 sections. I took the first section really easy, and was feeling good. At the end of section 2, you come within about 100 ft of the finish line, but have to turn left for lap 2. At the start of the second half, I glanced at my watch. It read 4:37. Holy crap, could I break 5:35?? I picked up and decided to see what would happen. At the last turn around, I was still feeling good, so I picked it up a little more. I was passing a lot of people, and felt strong. As the finish line approached, I glanced at my watch again and knew it would be close. I ran as fast as I could and had a great finish. I stopped my watch and it read 5:34:32. Woohoo!
I was estatic. I couldn’t believe how much I improved in one year. I was also really happy that I ran in under 2 hours. Or so I thought.
When I checked the official results online, my finish time was 5:38:26, and my run was listed as just over 2 hours. I know for a fact that my run was faster, so the only thing I can think of is that I somehow got a penalty on the bike that added a few minutes. I can’t imagine that I actually had a drafting violation, but the times just don’t add up. In any case, I am still thrilled with my time, which was approximately 35 minutes faster than last year.
I was able to accomplish this with no taper at all, in fact I had a really heavy training week leading up to the race. I did take off the day before to give my legs a rest, and they felt really good all day. One thing that was weird was my lungs got really sore. I think it’s probably because I inhaled so much water in the swim, and I wasn’t able to take a really deep breath during the bike or the run. They were still sore this morning, and even now over 24 hours later, I still have to tightness when I breath deeply. Like I said, weird.
So here’s a look at the numbers:
Swim 31:10 38:56
T1 3:04 4:34
Bike 3:01:49 3:14:51
T2 2:02 3:41
Run 2:00:23 2:11:15
Finish 5:38:26 6:13:18
Overall a great race and I know I have a lot of room to improve, especially on the bike. Ironman, here I come.