Race Report: first half ugly but done

I did my first half-Ironman yesterday in 5:12, which is somewhere between 12 and 22 minutes slower than I was hoping to do it in. I finished, but even that was in doubt for large sections.

Despite worries about how hot it was going to be, it was actually really foggy and cold at the start, which made the 76 degree water feel even warmer. Then, the gun went off without any kind of count-down or warning. I thought briefly about stopping to start my watch, but just started swimming instead.

The swim was really mellow, because there was no sprinting at the start. I found myself in a front group — I thought there might be one girl up the river but then I thought we caught her. I swam the whole race right next to one girl and we were on the feet of another girl, who was on the feet of another girl. At points it was weird, because here we are in the front(ish) group, swimming hard, and the water is so shallow we’re having to swim through and around slower people from waves that started before who were walking and looking down at us.

The swim didn’t even feel hard. I’ve never had a group that perfect and I was amazed I was swimming so well given I’ve only been swimming about 5,000-6,000 yards a week.

Of course, about 3/4 of the way through I started to realized I’ve only been swimming 5,000-6,000 yards a week. I got pretty tired and hot. But, then we were done. And the clock said 29:45 as I came out.

No problem.

I started the bike and felt great for awhile. I thought I was having the most amazing race ever.

The bike was the part I was really worried about. Since getting my time trial bike back two months ago, I’ve been having bad fit problems. I got it fit, then my knee started really bothering me to the point that I hurt it so badly I couldn’t run or ride for a week or so. Then, I was supposed to just ride my road bike and focus on addressing my biomechanical problems. But, if I’m twisting one direction on the bike and I try to force myself not to then essentially I forcing against the limits of where the bike is set. So, that hurt my ankle really badly one week and it hurt my knee to the extent that I couldn’t even pedal the last 4 miles of a long ride.

All this meant that I haven’t ridden my time trial bike longer than 45 minutes. Obviously, planning to ride it for a half was an awesome plan.

I was riding great, though. Maybe too hard at some points at the beginning. There are a bunch of races at the same time — a full Ironman, an aquabike, relays — which meant I was passing lots of people but had no idea what race they were in. I caught the one girl who was ahead of me about halfway through. She would pass me, then I would pass her. We even talked a little: neither of us had any idea how much was left.

Then, I thought I dropped her. And I went up a hill that I thought was “the big hill” at mile 45. Sweet! I was totally on pace for a sub-2:40 bike.

Then, my knee blew out.

I could barely get my leg over the pedal. I couldn’t spin at all. It’s the outside of my knee, which sometimes pops when you walk up and down stairs after a long run, but it just popped and hurt so much. My legs suddenly were done. My wattage dropped.

THEN, I actually hit the hill at mile 45. Crap. And the girl passed me again.

I don’t really know how I made it to the finish. I was pedaling like 130 watts — which is crazy low. Steve was out biking the course and he biked up next to me and was all ‘You look great!’ And I was like ‘I. Have. To. Get. Off. This. Bike. NOW.’

I biked a 2:47. In my slowest imagination, I figured I wouldn’t bike slower than a 2:45. Oh well.

I was waddling after I got off my bike, but was just happy to be done. I’ve been running so strong lately; I figured I still just needed to run a 1:41 to break 5 hours and I was sure I could do it.

I started out running and after a mile or two felt good. I was the 4th woman on the road and could see the women far ahead on me. I ran one down and had made up about 2 minutes on another. Steve was biking around the run course and he kept saying things like, “You actually look like a runner.” I felt great!

Then, around mile 6 I stopped gaining on the woman in front of me, but I was still running pretty strong. I stopped at an aid station just to get some water and all of a sudden I really wanted a cookie.

Then mile 6 – 9 got ugly. I started stopping at every aid station: cookies, nectarines, oranges. I slowed down some for a mile or two. I just wanted to quit, didn’t want to be doing this anymore. I was going to quit as soon as I saw Steve.

I think in the future I may have to make a rule: from mile 6 – 9 no slowing down just because you feel shitty.

At mile 9, we looped back through the start/finish. And I made another picnic stop at the aid station and decided I’d finish. It was only 2 more miles out and then turnaround. I can run 2 miles.

I was still running sub-8 minute miles or so when I was running and I started to feel a lot better. But, then I was spending 3 or 4 minutes at every aid station. And there was an aid station at every mile. Do the math. I did skip one in aid station in the last 3 miles, so that’s a plus I guess.

I was just so hungry. And I did not want any more gels or blocks or Gatorade. I wanted food. I started wondering if the next station would have apples. Or maybe a sandwich. It was bizarre.

On the plus side, I only walked at the aid stations. And I didn’t start crying. So that’s good.

On the down side, it took me 1:53 to run the half-marathon.

I’ve been on such a boom and bust cycle. Train really hard, then out for a month. Do a race massively undertrained. Train really hard, then out for a month. Do a race massively undertrained. Fun.

I’m ready to actually be ready to race for real.

9 thoughts on “Race Report: first half ugly but done

  1. I know you’re disappointed in your time but I’m so impressed how you just push through these massive physical challenges! Congrats on finishing your first half ironman. I found the distance crazy long.

    I’m so bummed I didn’t see you out there! I was munching on fig newtons and pretzels. But my mouth was so dry I could only eat one at each aid station. Was super happy to see real food though!

  2. i am so impressed you are able to be that fast while still being undertrained. i wish i had your talent!

    a question for you, how much did you eat on the bike and beginning of the run? not taking in enough calories might be a reason for the craving real food/feeling shitty. an important part of long course is nutrition!!

    1. i thought I had plenty on the bike, but i guess not. two gels, a thing of clif shots, a clif bar. and three bottles (one with gatorade). then a gel on the run. [then many, many cookies and nectarines]

      nutrition is a total fucking mystery to me. so, ugh, trial and error i guess.

      1. well that’s about 700-800 cals for the bike. but then only 100 for the first 6 miles of the run. it’s definitely trial & error – for me that would be enough on the bike but then I would have more at the first miles of the run. also, depends on how you fueled the day before too!

  3. Congrats on finishing your first half!! Definitely not an easy distance as it’s an odd combo of going fast but still having to go really far.

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