The time had finally arrived. It was Sunday morning, the morning of my first Half Ironman. My training partners and I had been tediously watching the weather channel for the past 10 days and keeping tabs on the water temperature in Lake Michigan. This was the day of the Racine 70.3! Months of training and preparing had come down to this day and this day only. I had no back-up plan, since I was simultaneously training for The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Miler. This was my one chance to put my triathlon training to the test.
Morning of the race
The water temperatures were finally reading a doable swim temperature at 57 degrees. Days previous, the temps were in the low 50’s, which puts us in fear that the swim portion would be cancelled or shortened. The swim is probably the most enjoyable part of the Half Ironman for me. I love swimming in choppy water and I don’t mind the cold. Pretty much a perfect combination for me. However, there was something else looming this Sunday morning, a storm. Luckily, overly race obsessed and my saint of a sister gave me a plastic container to put my transition gear into before the race. She was also running the race, and I’m not going to lie…I was a little surprised she didn’t take this time to get an advantage. At this point we left the transition area, to wait out this potential storm.
Most of us were thinking, 15 minutes tops and we’ll be starting the swim. But this storm wasn’t just a line of thunderstorms. It was a large cluster of thunderstorms that decided to last 2 1/2 hours! Some of us waited under the poorly constructed tents or in our cars. Until finally, the race director announced….SWIM IS CANCELLED!
Then 15 minutes later another announcement…Shortened bike and maybe a run.
I was in denial. I was heartbroken, confused, pissed off, understanding, and exhausted. I didn’t know what to think. So I waited. I didn’t think.
Finally after going to my sister’s house to wait out the storm for an hour, the race director made the announcement that there would be a time-trial start on the bike, with a shortened course of only 30 miles, and the full half marathon run. So basically, we are doing a half-half-Ironman.
We had until 10:15 a.m. to be in the transition area with our bikes if we wanted to race. So I waited with 2,000+ other athletes to make what we could of this race. The time seemed to tick away slowly as we waited in the heat. No one thought to pack extra food or water for the wait which paid a toll later in the race. Finally after waiting about an hour, it was time to race. We thought we’d have 5 seconds apart each athlete to start the ascent up the 1st hill of the bike course, but turned into jumbled mess of people trying to mount their bikes and scramble up the hill.
This was possibly the windiest bike ride I’ve ever endured. There were times I didn’t want to even go into aero bars because I was afraid the wind would push me over. So for 90% of the race, I stayed up and out of my aero bars, which isn’t ideal. I definitely pushed it harder than I would have normally pushed on the bike since we only had 30 miles to prove ourselves. I ended up with an 18.8 mph average. Once back in the transition area, I didn’t even think. I just did what I needed to do to get to the run portion of the race. I whipped through the transition in 1:44.
I always love the feeling of my legs attempting to run after a bike ride. I feel slow, but my time always surprises me. I was running a 8-8:30 min/mile average for the first few miles until the heat started to affect me. By mile 5, I had to come to terms with myself that I could not keep up this speed. It was also disheartening to see how badly my sister was struggling in the heat. I thoroughly expected her to beat me in this race. So when I saw her at mile 3, I started to wonder when I would hit that wall too.
At mile 5, I started to feel a cold chill and weakness in my hands. So I decided to walk the aid stations, grabbing extra ice to put in my Buff®. I also discontinued using the Gatorade that was offered. Instead I broke up my extra Nuun tablets into fourths, chewing one down and drinking a cup of water right after. This helped considerably. I finished the run with a 9:27 min/mile pace, only 17 seconds per mile slower than I wanted.
This may have been the happiest I’ve ever been to finish a race. I saw my friend Jeni at the finish and gave her a huge hug. My Mom, Grandpa, and nieces ran up to me after the finish as well. I couldn’t even communicate to them how exhausted I was. I finally managed to make my way over to the sTRIve Tent where I found Steve smiling and handing me a beer. It was great to watch my friends and sister finish their races. I over heard a few friends already signing up for Stealhead 70.3 or other half Ironman races. But for me, it’s just not in the cards this year. This distance needs respect. My heart just isn’t in it to keep pushing for another month of training. My heart is in running and 40 miles a week just hasn’t been enough to let me feel satisfied. So I’m checking out from my first attempt at a half Ironman. It wasn’t an easy decision after putting so much time and effort into the training. But do I really need to do the full half Ironman to know I can actually do one?
Maybe in a couple years I’ll give it another shot…