Bike – 20 minutes
Run – 15 minutes
Saturday workout: The Kinetic Half Ironman!
Swim – 1.2 miles
Bike – 56 miles
Run – 13.1 miles
Kinetic Half Ironman 2011 Race Report
Well, I’m alive! I survived my first half ironman! It was brutal, grueling, and definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done (although the marathon is a close second). But, of course, the feeling that I had immediately after finishing made it all worthwhile!
My day started at 3:30 am (ouch), and when we pulled into the event parking lot at 5:30 it was still dark out, but the place was already buzzing with hundreds of triathletes.
I picked up my packet, wave swim cap, race t-shirt, and socks! The socks and shirt are both super cute! (Even though at the time it was so dark we couldn’t tell what color the shirt was…black, grey, purple, blue?). Turns out it was navy blue:).
The weather forecast for the day said rain, with a chance of thunderstorms all day, which made me nervous. Luckily, the weather stayed cloudy and while it misted off and on it did not thunderstorm, and with temperatures in the mid-60s to low 70s, it made for pretty ideal triathlon weather.
I set up my transition area as the sun was starting to come up, and before I knew it, it was time to start!
As I stood on the shore looking out on the misty, foggy lake, I could barely make out the yellow buoys that marked the swim turns. The buoys looked SO far away, and I could not believe I was about to swim all the way out there. Then I heard another girl from my wave say to her friend “those buoys are so far away!” and I knew I was not alone in my nerves.
I tried to relax and settle into a rhythm right away, but for some reason my heart rate was sky-rocketing and I could not seem to get it and my breathing under control. I switched to breast stroke for a minute so I could calm my heart rate, and was finally able to go back to free style and settle into a steady rhythm.
I knew the swim was not going to be short, so I tried to just relax and focus on one buoy at a time. The swim course was shaped like an upside-down pyramid, with yellow buoys marking the points of the triangle (signaling a right-hand turn), and orange buoys marking the sides. As I passed the first yellow buoy after what seemed like 50 orange buoys, I couldn’t help but start anticipating the second and final yellow buoy, which marked the turn to the final stretch of the swim.
I kept telling myself “one more orange buoy, and then you’ll be at yellow,” but every time I would pass another orange buoy I would look up for the next mark, and see another orange buoy. I started cursing the orange buoys. It was like they were purposefully trying to spite me! Stupid orange buoys, what did I ever do to them? But I tried to stay focused, and I told myself “you knew this wasn’t going to be easy, but that’s why you are doing it.” This phrase would become my mantra for the day.
I finally reached my lovely yellow buoy, and made the turn for home. After defeating another four or five of my arch nemesis orange buoys, I was on the shore, and incredibly happy to be there!
Then, I was off for 56 miles of biking!
(The blurriness of this photo is most definitely because of my lightning-fast speed, not the poor quality of my point-and-shoot camera;).
As I started out on the bike, I wished I had kept some tissues in the transition. My nose was so stuffed up and running terribly. I watched the guys in front of me blowing snot rockets, and wished I had paid more attention in high school when the cross country guys tried to teach us how to blow them (instead we just told the guys they were gross!). Oh well, my poor bike gloves would have to do (don’t worry, they went straight in the wash as soon as I got home:).
The first half of the bike ride went by fairly quickly. There were only a couple of moderate climbs, and before I knew it I had hit 30 miles! I celebrated when I saw the 30 mile marker, until I thought “Only 26 more miles to go…whiiiiich is longer than the bike ride in the International distance triathlon…crud.”:(
As I was biking the second loop (of a two-loop course) I started to pass the low mile markers from the first loop. I laughed at mile marker 10–10 miles, that’s nothing! I told mile 20 I had crushed it!
But by mile 45 my body was really starting to hurt. Once again I told myself, “you knew this wasn’t going to be easy!” The last 11 miles were tough, but I was focused on just putting the bike behind me. Other than a quick pit stop in the woods at mile 51, the next few miles were uneventful (I know, I was so close to making it back to the transition area, but I hadn’t used the bathroom since 5:30 that morning, and I had probably drank a good 5 bottles of liquid since then, and I just couldn’t make it!).
The last three or four miles of the bike were down a long, steep hill. I was loving every second of that hill and the chance it gave my legs to relax before I got off to run (at my pit stop I almost fell over when I got off the bike because my legs were jello). My happiness, however, was short lived, because as I came down the last mile of the hill, I saw something that made me want to cry.
The runners, those who were already starting the half marathon, were running UP that huge, steep, long hill that I was so excited to be biking down. I looked at them, many of them already walking, and saw the pain in their faces. And as I remembered it was a three-loop run course and I would be running that hill three times, my soul was crushed into itty bitty pieces.
Nevertheless, I was excited to get off the bike and on to my strongest sport–the run. I was also excited to see my two wonderful spectators/support crew. The bike course was two loops that were over 7 miles away from the transition area, so I had not seen my husband and sister in 3 hours, and I was excited to see their beautiful faces!
Unfortunately, my bike was a bit faster than I had anticipated, so they weren’t expecting me yet, so we missed each other. But I knew the run was three loops that passed the transition area and finish line each time (frustrating, but at least I got to see more spectators that way), so I would see them soon.
I huffed and puffed up the first horrible, terrible, long, mean hill, and my legs started to loosen up as I enjoyed the nice downhill that was on the other side. But, after that downhill there was another long, awful, terrible uphill. I passed a lot of people that were walking up the hill, but I was determined to keep running, even if it was at 10+ minute pace going up those horrible hills.
That is the elevation chart from my Garmin for the run course. Even though the downhills were wonderful (and I probably would not have survived the run without them), they did not make up for the uphills. The hills on this course just chewed me up and spit me out. So much for the run being my strongest leg! After the first loop, I was already hurting bad.
As I finished the first loop I saw my husband and sister, and I went straight for a hug. It was all I could do to fight back the tears and make myself keep going, but I didn’t come this far to quit now!
Things only disintegrated from there. Loop two was worse than loop one, and my pace was slowing tremendously. I kept downing water, Heed, and Gu’s, but I started to feel dizzy and my fingers were tingling. It was not a good sign, but I just had to stay focused and get through this. “You knew this wasn’t going to be easy!!!”
So far I had been lucky enough not to feel any foot pain, but around mile six I started to feel it coming back. I could also feel a bad blister forming on the bottom of my right foot, but I didn’t care about either of those things. No pain was worse than the pain my entire body was feeling at that moment. You probably could have told me you were going to amputate a limb at that point and I would not have cared. Nothing mattered except finishing.
By loop three every cell in my body was screaming at me to just stop, and it took every ounce of mental willpower I had to keep putting one foot in front of the other, but I did not make it 5.5 hours to stop now. I kept telling myself I would “just run to that tree,” “now just run to that sign post.” By loop three I did break down and join the dozens of runners walking sections of the uphills, which greatly hurt my overall pace for the half marathon, but I didn’t care. At that point it was just about finishing.
When I saw the 12 mile marker, I was ecstatic, but that last mile was the longest mile of my life. The amount of pain I was feeling is indescribable. But I just had to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Finally, on my third time seeing the finish line, I could branch off from the other runners only on their first or second loops and head to the finish. I heard someone screaming my name as I came down the chute and in my near-death haze I realized it was one of my new blogger buddies, Lauren:). As I crossed under the finish line I threw my hands up in happiness, hugged my husband and sister, and then collapsed on the ground, hoping I would never have to get up ever, ever again.
But, after some stretching and deep breaths, I did finally get up again…and headed straight for the lake. I couldn’t have an ice bath, but cold lake water would do the trick for the time being! Plus I felt the need to wash off some of the layers of sunscreen, body glide, sweat, rain, mud, dirt, blood, and tears that had formed over the past 6 hours.
My final time was 6:10:13. Not amazing, especially compared to some of the rock star athletes in my age group, but for it being my first half ironman I was fairly happy with it. Could I have done better? Sure. But was I disappointed? Absolutely not.
One of the reasons I love endurance sports of any kinds is the way they push you past every limit you ever thought you had, and make you realize that you are so much stronger, tougher, and more capable than even you realized! This race definitely challenged me more than I have ever been challenged before, and I feel very proud to have completed it!
So, what’s up next after this? Well, that’s a topic for another day:).