Bottom line – I finished!
My planned time, not my goal, was 6 hours. I based on that total time on where I expected to be based on my training so far. Here’s how it panned out:
Swim (1.2 miles): 35:19 (4th of 22 in my Age Group)
Bike (56 miles): 2:55:14 (5 of 22)
Run (13.1 miles): 2:32:04 (19th of 22)
Total: 70.3 miles in 6:05:38 (12th of 22)
or 49th of 73 total finishers
So I hit my planned time pretty close. My number one goal was to simply finish. Everything else was gravy.
I didn’t do too good of a job researching the race beforehand, only to find out last week that I was facing over 5400 feet of climbing during the ride. Since I don’t have too many significant hills in my area, this was a shock. And since I’m a heavy rider, I knew that it was going to be quite an experience.
The quick recap -Wait, wait, wait; start, swim, swim, swim, splash, swim, swim, swim; run, peel, run, peel, pedal, pedal, pedal, coast, pedal, pedal; run, run, run, walk, run, walk, walk, walk, run, walk, run, Finish!
The long recap:
Thanks to a very cool night (47F) and a warm 71F lake, visibilility was zero. Apparently this isn’t the first time it has happened for this race, so the start was pushed back 30 minutes to start at 8:30am.
Swim – Very comfortable. I didn’t push the pace and kept right at a 1:40/100 yard pace, which is my normal pace during my long pool intervals. I know I could have gone harder, but didn’t want to since I didn’t know how the rest of the day was going to play out. So I was quite surprised today to see that my swim was 4th in my age group.
With only about 100 people in the water (there was an AquaBike event at the same time), the jostling was fairly non-existent, although there was one jerk who decided he needed to swim over me hundred yards or so into the swim even though there wasn’t anyone else withing 10 feet of us; a couple of well-placed elbows got him to move along.
The course had buoys set up in a curved line, with the turn-around buoy about 1/3 mile out; we had to do two laps of the course. Since the buoy line curved to the right during the out leg, I’d end up a bit wide and have to correct, but nothing serious. What I couldn’t understand was that on the return leg, folks were sticking right next to the buoys instead of taking the straight shot from the turnaround back to the start buoy. But everyone has to swim their own race, right?
Transition 1 (T1) – With a 100 yard run up the boat ramp into the transition area, the wetsuit came off quick with no problems. I set up on the far end of the transition in the very first rack, so I had the furthest to run, but only feet to carry my bike out and back in. Wetsuit off, gel in pocket, helmet on and bike off the rack. Done in under 2 minutes.
Bike – Straight out of the transition is about 150 yards of gradual uphill in the parking lot, then a steep climb of 120 feet in about 1/10 mile. What a nice way to wake the legs up after swimming. Like I said above, 5400+ feet of climbing to come in the next 56 miles and the start was one of the worst. Not the worst, but one of the worst.
The worst was at the 25.5 mile point, where we climbed about 150 feet in 1/10 mile. With my wide load, I was passed by six guys on that climb. It took me the better part of the next 20 miles to catch half of them.
For me, the best part of the hills is down. I’ve got enough extra weight that gravity is my friend. And in the flats and small rolling hills, I’m a locomotive. It’s just the short and steeps uphills that really knock me down. Luckily those were few. I passed about as many as passed me and heading out to the the turnaround point on an out-and-back leg, I counted that I was in 12th place overall. But that was right before that steep hill at 25.5 miles.
Finishing the bike leg was welcome. I still felt quite strong, but could feel the onset of fatigue. At this point, I was 3:30 into the race. I was pleasantly surprised to see that if I ran my expected 2:00 half marathon, I’d finish right around 5:30, which would be great for my first 1/2 IM distance race.
Transition 2 (T2) – A quick dismount and then scattering to grab my water bottle that I kicked off the back of my seat. Since I had the first rack, it was just a few feet to my area. I had planned on standing and putting on my socks and shoes, but ended up on my butt, which took extra time. No big deal. I was still out in under 2 minutes.
Run – No problem getting the legs moving. I never do after a long hard ride. Up the parking lot and straight back up that steep 120 foot climb. Now that didn’t feel good. Not at all. I started to feel some pain in my stomach, which is odd, since I never had problems with my food during training and I hadn’t introduced anything new. Midway up the hill, a lady passed and asked how many times we had to go up – “Luckily only once”. She took off and blazed her way to a 1:33 half-marathon and Overall Female win.
At the top of the hill, my lovely bride and son had jumped in to help out at the aid station. That’s where they caught me, still looking fairly strong. As you can see in the background, that’s Taylorsville Lake and the spot in this picture isn’t but a 1/2 mile away; that’ll give you an idea of the climb. Luckily they didn’t take any more pictures until the finish, because soon after this is when it got quite ugly.
My normal pace after a long, hard 80 mile ride is a comfortable 9:00-mile. A 10:00-mile is my “go all day long” pace. If you do the math above, my average for the 13.1 miles is 11:36.
With my stomach giving me fits, I knew to slow down and let it work itself out. It took until the 4.5 mile point before I was comfortable enough to take in some water. 2 miles later at the next aid station, I took in some Heed and some water. I kept running, but the pace was slow and I knew it. But I kept working through it and never got discouraged.
By the 8 mile point, I gave up any plans of a 5:30 finish. I was still confident on a 6:00 finish, but that confidence was waning with each stride. By the 9 mile point, I realized that I could walk faster than my shuffle was moving me. But I didn’t let myself walk long, more for the mental aspect. By the time I hit the aid station at 10 miles, I knew that I was well on my way to finishing and hoped that knowing that would boost my pace. It didn’t. I walked the first 1/4 mile after the aid station and got to shuffling again.
A couple of more walking bouts and a few more shuffles and I got to the final aid station at 12.5 miles, only to find that my lovely bride and son had left to meet me at the finish. Normally you’d think that would get the legs moving, but mine wouldn’t have any of that. Luckily the steep downhill was coming and that got the legs moving. A sweeping left turn into the parking lot and a long gradual downhill to the finish and I was done. Not far off of my original estimation of total time – 6 hours, 5 minutes, 38 seconds.
Post mortem – In hindsight, the bike leg was my downfall. I felt good throughout that leg, but I wasn’t hammering hard. I kept my heart rate under control and never overexerted myself. But the total climbing was a good 4,000 feet more than any other ride that I did during training. But that wasn’t the whole story.
During the ride, when it’s easiest and best to fuel, I only took in a total of 800 calories! I thought I was doing a good job of keeping on top of my fuel and feeding consistently, but when I’m burning 800+ calories an hour, taking in only 800 during the 3-hour ride certainly wasn’t going to be sufficient to get me through the 1/2 marathon at the end. By comparison, during a 4-hour bike/run training session I’d typically take in 1300 calories, and that’s with 4,000 less feet of climbing on the bike.
And with the stomach issues that I had on the run, that just served to push me deeper in the hole. Once I was able to drink some HEED, the small cups only gave me, at best, 50 calories each. By the 8 mile aid station, I grabbed a single Fig Newton, but that certainly didn’t do much for me.
I made it across the finish without getting wobbly, so I can’t say that I completely bonked. But I was almost there. Once back at the hotel, I weighed myself and I was 5 pounds lighter than I was before the race that morning. So it definitely took it out of me.
But I crossed the finish line with a smile on my face. And that’s all that mattered.
Now I’ve got this week to rest and then start up again. In just four months I’ll be tackling a full Ironman-distance race (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run). And I’m ready for it.