So, this half ironman was to be a training race. That means no taper but still racing it. I swam 1.5 kilometers and rode 63 miles the day before so I wasn’t expecting to do anything miraculous on race day. My hope was to put in a solid effort all the way through. The original forecast was sunny and hot – in the low 90’s. The day before the race, the forecasted temps changed to the high 80’s. The water temperature was 66 degrees and there were 10 mph winds. Got up at 3:30 am to get there before transition closed, then waited for a 7:26 wave start. On the way, I was thinking of my friend Billy, who just a few weeks ago had his foot amputated from a motorcycle accident. I’m not sure why I was thinking of him other than how grateful I was to be able to do these races. The Friday before the race Judy and I went to Runner’s High and Tri to see Craig Alexander. One of the first questions asked by the crowd was what he thought about Chris McCormack’s new book. Part of his response was it should be filed in the fiction section. I saw Crowie in transition before the start and said, “Good luck Craig.” He responded with, ” You too.” I thought he looked a bit nervous seeing me there at the race. I’m sure he’s been reading my blog and knows how fast I am. I hope he doesn’t try to draft off me in the bike. It would be a shame if he got a drafting penalty just to try and stay with me.
The swim is a point to point so we had to walk 1.2 miles up the coast to the swim start. We had a bunch of gear for filming which Judy would have to lug back by herself. The true race would be if she could get to the swim finish before me in order to film me coming out of the water. I didn’t make it easy on her. My swim went good (for me) with a time of 37 minutes in the water. She made it on time to see me huffing and puffing up the beach. They had a couple of little tubs that you could rinse the sand from your feet which was really nice. No one likes sand in their shoes. However, when I got to the wetsuit strippers, there was sand all over the area where we lay down to have the volunteers pull the suits off. The guy who was my stripper (that doesn’t sound right) had a heck of a time getting my suit off. He was pulling and pulling. I told him I felt bad for him and that I would make up the lost time on the bike. I didn’t say anything about the sand covering my entire body.
The night before the race I decided to try something new. Usually when you hear those words you can expect a horror story to follow but this was only a training race, so I was ok if it backfired. I decided to try Red Bull on the course so I bought 2 cans, one for T1 and one for T2. In T1 I grabbed my gel flask and Red Bull, stuffed them in the back pocket of my tri suit and headed out to the bike course. Right away there was a hill and as I climb it I hear Brandi and Karen call out to me. That was a nice surprise since I didn’t expect to see them until later. A couple of miles into the bike I reach back to get my gel flask (I like to push the calories as soon as possible on the bike) and nothing is there! The Red Bull is gone too! Races rarely go as planned and in this case I needed to find as many calories on the course as possible. There are only 3 aid stations on the bike course. I had Perpetuem in one of my bottles so that gave me some calories, and at the first aid station I grabbed a bottle of Ironman Perform. I also grabbed a couple of gels. The first half of the bike was mostly into the wind and my bike computer was showing an 18 mph average – not very encouraging. I was passing people but I wasn’t moving as well as I normally do. I assumed it was because of the 63 mile training ride the day before and the wind I was riding into. However, on the way back, I found the drive to push hard and was able to get up to 23 to 30 mph nearly the whole way back. At one point I saw Judy filming me as I was passing another rider. Overall it was a good bike with an average of 22 mph. I did feel like I pushed too hard the second half of the bike but the run will show the truth.
In T2 I saw the Red Bull that had come out of my tri suit earlier but decided not to pick it up in case someone watching thought I was stealing someone else’s stash. I had another one at my transition spot anyhow. I had brought socks to the race but forgot to put them into transition in the morning. I wasn’t decided on whether I was going to wear them or not but forgetting them kinda made my decision. I can usually do a half ironman without them but my feet were a little scraped up from the triathlon I did the week before. So I donned my shoes without socks, grabbed my hat and Red Bull and headed out to the run. Within a half mile there were 2 decent sized hills. After tackling those I got into my groove and settled into a heart rate of 162. I was doing about 7:30 minutes per mile which was what I was hoping for. The Red Bull went down ok and didn’t come up so that was good. The course was a double out and back which is nice because you can see the other racers. On my first loop I saw Crowie pretty far from the front of the race and told him good job. He didn’t respond so I’m sure he was trying to calculate the splits he would need to stay in front of me (in reality he was on his second loop). As I finished up the first loop I saw Judy, Brandi and Karen cheer me on.
There is a long downhill and then back out for a second loop. This time, when I got to the 2 hills, I walked part of the second one. I didn’t have the snap in my legs that I had before. 2.5 miles into the second loop (mile 9) is where I came unglued. I was bonking so I walked that aid station in order to get more calories down before running again. My pace went down into the 8’s and at the turn around aid station I walked that one as well in order to get more fluids down. With just over 3 miles to go I know that I only have 2 more aid stations to go and I try to keep a steady pace. The extra calories and fluids from the last 2 aid stations start to take effect and I feel a little better. Now it’s a matter of how much I want to push – how much pain I want to go through. I think of Billy again and know that I don’t want to waste the opportunity to run as fast as I can – something he may not be able to do for the rest of his life. About a half mile before the last aid station I start to pick up the pace. I usually wait until a half mile or a mile from the finish to start the last push but this time I started earlier because I’m getting close to breaking 5 hours. This was nearly 2 miles from the finish. I fly through the last aid station and try to grab a water from a volunteer but end up spilling most of it. With half a gulp I push on, totally committed to the end. It seems to take forever getting to the finish chute but I finally see it and the girls cheering me on. I max out to the finish line and check my watch – 5:01.
I kept hearing about how bad the heat was but I never really felt affected by it. However, in the finish chute when Karen was pouring water on me to cool me off, my body was jerking from the drastic difference in temperature of the water. That told me it was really hot out and my body temperature was high. I felt really tired from racing, getting up super early and finishing a 2 week training block with this race. I accomplished what I wanted – to push through the entire race and to make Craig Alexander look over his shoulder in fear of me passing him. He’s lucky I didn’t taper for this one!