Before I start discussing the event I want to again say Thank You to everybody who helped support me in my journey to my first half-ironman. It was a lot of work. There was a lot of sweat, blood and even tears but in the end there was a lot more laughter and fun during this training. I woke up inspired and motivated each day by all of you, my Angels and Ninjas. Your support was invaluable and you will never know how much it helped me during this past year.
I am going to break down this race report into each part of the race, which will include pre and post race. I am going to give myself a grade for each event and then also list out the items I have learned and how I need to apply them to the next race.
I began my packing early in the week with a few items here and there, but the majority was done on Wednesday night. I went through my bags as if I were in the race. I envisioned my pre-race regiment in terms of eating and making sure my tri-bag was packed. I then went through each section of the race from swim to transition to bike to transition to run to finish. Making sure that each piece I needed was packed. I could always buy a pair of shorts had I forgotten that, but I would not have been comfortable buying a new helmet had I forgotten that.
Karen and I flew into San Diego on Thursday morning and this was a great idea. We went and had lunch in Old Town San Diego and were able to let our legs relax as well as our mind and body. From eating we went to the hotel and unpacked. Everything but the bike. Left El Diablo packed up.
We went down to the beach and I went swimming in my wetsuit. Looking to get used to the salt water and buoyancy. The riptide was rough and at points I felt like I was swimming in place. I hoped then that the swim would not be as rough.
Friday morning Karen went for a run and I attempted to put El Diablo back together. I could not figure out how to get the seat post into the bike and began to get very frustrated. Not really relaxing at this point. Karen left for a run and immediately I googled assembly and got the bike together easily. Took a 10 minute ride to make sure all was working well. After that we met Karen’s sister out and toured San Diego. I stayed off my feet quite a bit and even got in a nap on the car ride around town. After being dropped off Karen and I went back to the expo to get final instructions on what I needed to do and where I needed to be. Had a dinner with some great friends and in bed by 9pm.
I was in Wave 21 which started at 7:42am or 1 hour after the pros started. Not to mention that I was in the transition area at 5am, up at 3am, and so I would have spent almost three hours at the course before even started. Remarkably the time flew by. Between setting up your transition area and going to the bathroom there was hardly any waiting.
The swim line was like being in a corral. Being moved back and forth and swimmers not lining up in time so they were running past you to get to their wave. I wound up talking with the guys near me and they were all very pleasant. Once our wave was up and I put my feet in the water for the first time I knew it was time to have fun and put my work into practice.
I swam out to the starting line and waded for about 2 minutes. I put myself right in the front of the pack and figured it was going to be crazy and I wanted to experience it all. The gun went off and as typical it was a white wash. Lots of getting hit and pushed but swimming was going on. I wound up swimming over people and hitting feet and at one point got kicked square in the eye. My goggles did not fall off and so I just kept on going.
I found a nice little spot toward the outside and just put myself in the pool at this point. Swam buoy to buoy but my sighting needed help. I wound up very far to the right and had to swim all the way back toward the rest of the group. Once there the current got stronger as we exited the inlet to make the turn. At the turn the chop got a little rough but nothing horrible. At this point I started seeing caps from other waves. There were white, yellow, green and blue caps getting passed and I thought I am doing very well.
Made the turn to head in and the current helps a tad. At this point I said to myself that it was time to put my head down and start swimming hard and fast. I did not feel like I was pushing my effort and it just felt right. I got to the exit area and was pulled up by a volunteer. Once out of the water and running toward transition I was removing my wetsuit and passing people on the run. I did not understand what they were doing but then again this was my race and I could not concern myself with them.
Once in transition the wetsuit was completely off. I put my socks on, then race belt, sunglasses and helmet. Before de-racking I took my fig bar out and placed it on the seat (Thanks KC.) On the run out of transition I consumed my fig bar. Got to the mount line and onto the bike and ride.
Goal Time: 40 minutes
Actual Time: 40 minutes 37 seconds
Grade: A — I was able to control my heart rate and stayed focused on what needed to be done. One area of improvement that I need to work on is sighting.
The bike was essentially three bike rides in one. The first portion was flat and fast. We had a tail wind going with us and did not need to exert much energy to be cruising along.
I was given a lot of advice about controlling myself on the bike at the outset. I was told that I would be getting passed left and right but to let them go. Eventually they would blow out and I would still have energy and be able to pass them. Sure enough it happened as riders were flying by me, and I was going faster than 20 mph at this point.
I was enjoying myself and talking to other riders and smiling and laughing. At one point I passed a woman and gave her a big ‘Way To Go. You look GREAT!’ She responded in kind and then started chanting my name (my race bib was to my back and had my name on it.) I cannot tell you how much that fired me up.
Once you get past mile 25, then the second of the three portions starts. This is a series of three climbs that are not easy. Just before we hit the first climb the rider next to me says ‘Is it too late to drop out now?’ My response was that this is what separates us from the rest of the world.
I buried my head and started chanting my coach’s mantra: Those who can’t quit and those who can do. I got out of the saddle and just kept the legs churning. At one point I looked down and I was going 6 mph. YUP, 6 MPH. I did not stop churning and I did not walk the bike. There were quite a few people walking. I just kept pushing as you know what goes up must come down. Get over the crest and you are in good shape.
Once past that pass I did not think it could get any harder, until it did. At this point I hooked onto Miguel. I was going to go as hard as Miguel went and push myself to his level. Again, I chanted the mantra and put my head down and churned. My thighs were burning but in a good way. I was smiling and thinking to myself that I was about to become a member of a select group.
Get through that pass and onto a third. More chanting and more hooking onto Miguel. After the pass though I lost Miguel. He fell behind me and I had to find another carrot. Fortunately the course is littered with people that you could latch onto.
After the three passes you are back to flat, but not fast. Now you are heading back and looking at a headwind. Again, it was not easy. It tested your mental strength (hours on the trainer), your biking ability (hours outside) and your will to survive (training in general.) You just had to keep pushing and pushing. Then all the sudden there was a familiar area and you knew you were heading home.
At this point my smile was huge as I knew that 66% of the events were about to end. I was on my way to completing this event.
I got my feet out of my shoes and rode down into transition which was very narrow and could have been a recipe for disaster if more than one or two other riders were with you.
In transition I heard my friends yelling for me and it was great. I took my helmet off. Grabbed my shoes and almost put my visor on my feet then realized that wasn’t going to work. Shoes were on, gels in the back of my jersey and water flask in hand and off I went.
Goal Time: 3 hours
Actual Time: 3 hours 6 minutes
Grade: B – I stayed true to my game plan which was a huge benefit. I need to improve on hill climbing (which means trips to Austin.) I also need to be cognizant of liquid nutrition/hydration. I had no issues eating my PowerBar nutrition every 15 minutes, but need to take in more liquids than I did. I had about 20 oz of Accelerade in my SpeedFil and probably had about 15 oz left when I was done.
Somebody should have told me to hold back on the run as well because I went out too hard for sure. I dropped a sub-7 minute mile for mile 1. I scared myself half to death with that and pulled back quite a bit. The run itself is a two loop course so you knew that you were in for a run that would test you on the 2nd loop because of the boredom of having seen it, done that and wishing you were finished.
The run is my strong suit and so I knew once on the run course I would be good, but that did not happen exactly that way. The run wound up being harder than I thought it would be and I think that is because I have never run a half-marathon after swimming 1.2 miles and biking for 56 miles. The legs felt a tad heavy after mile 2 and it became a battle of attrition.
On the way out I ended up with a runner named Christie who had a huge fan club. I would substitute her name with my name when they chanted and it helped push me along. There were aid stations just about every mile and so it became a matter of running aid station to aid station. There were a couple of small hills to navigate but all in all it was a flat run course.
I had the opportunity to run past my friends four times and that helped a tremendous amount, but not as much as when I exited the transition area and saw Karen. I blew her kisses, told her I loved her and ran (maybe that is why I dropped a sub-7.) Having a support group there was tremendous and it really helped me.
I was also inspired by all the spectators and other runners around me. I kept checking my watch at every mile marker and for the first half I was in the 7:57/mile range and felt great. By the second loop the legs started to get more and more heavy. Each mile felt longer than the last, but I just kept chanting my mantra. I took sponges and dropped the water on my head. Every 2 miles I drank my gel infused water from my flask and at Mile 6 and Mile 12 I took a HoneyStinger to help with my calorie count and carbs replacement.
Once I hit the Mile 12 marker I turned it on knowing that there was not going to be any blowouts at this point. Once you turn to head down the finisher’s shoot all the hard work and pain you just endured goes away. I fist pumped like the old Tiger and smiled wide and knew I was done when the announcer butchered my name just like any other race.
I crossed that finish line and was given a medal and a hat. I received tons of congratulations and I could not have been happier.
Goal Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
Actual Time: 1 hour 48 minutes
Grade: B – The run was harder than I imagined. I typically only use two gels in a water flask, but was lucky enough to put two HoneyStinger gels in my jersey and take them during the run. I would like to get faster on the run portion and that will come in due time with more hard work.
After the race Karen, our friends and I went to a bar to have pizza and beer. I practically ate an entire pie on my own. It was a greek pizza with red onions, olives, pepperoncinis and feta cheese. The crust was thin as well and it was all washed down with my first beers since October of 2010.
From there we headed over to a tattoo parlor. I had told myself that I was getting one after the race and when we walked in and the artist started drawing the tattoo I got more and more excited. He did a great job and allowed me to have some space to place the 140.6 once I complete that distance.
On Sunday Karen and I had all to spend in San Diego before our flight and we did just that. My legs were sore but not uncomfortable at all. The most pain came from the throbbing of the tattoo and not from the race.
It was an epic weekend that not only culminated in my first half-ironman completed race but also in the signing up for another race.
It is with great pleasure that I announce that I am going to be racing March 19, 2012 in Puerto Rico.