08 September 2008

The Great Illini 1/2 IM Race Report

Results -
Swim - 44:14
T1 - 1:47
Bike - 3:23:25
T2 - 2:28
Run - 2:54:55
Total - 7:06:50
Average HR - 157
Calories Burned - 7157

I am a 1/2 Ironman! It has been and long, hard journey, but it is finally done and I can say that I'm glad that I did it. I will say that I thought I would feel differently than I am feeling about this race. I think I thought I would have a feeling of elation, but mostly I'm disappointed and a bit sad. I'm still working on processing the race, so maybe my attitude will change and I will feel differently. Here's the story of this race and how I became a 1/2 Ironman.

On Friday afternoon, I met my friends Melissa, Erin, and Jessica and we headed down to Neoga, IL to pick up our packets and to check out the race site. We found it okay, grabbed our packets, and listened to the pre-race talk. I also made a quick, much needed trip to the porta potty. The race t-shirt was cool and is definitely one that I will happily wear. After we picked up our stuff, we headed to Mattoon to our hotel and to grab some dinner. We ended up eating at a place called "Cody's." I worked on drinking enough water and also had a diet Coke that tasted wonderful. I ordered the Cherokee grilled chicken, loaded mashed potatoes and sauteed veggies. My chicken was way overcooked and reminded me of chicken jerky. After dinner we unloaded our stuff and started winding down for the evening. I worked on my mental list of what to do in the morning and was hoping to sleep really well. I filled up my water bottles, stuck them in the fridge, and made myself a note to not forget them. I set out my stuff for the morning so that it wouldn't require much thought. After a few minutes of reading, I was out for the night.

I slept really well until 3am, and then kind of dozed until 4:20am. I heard Erin get up and we talked for a few minutes and then started getting ready for the day. I put on my tri-clothes, wished I looked better in spandex, and then worked on eating my 2 Poptarts. We loaded up the car and headed down to the race. On the way, Melissa handed Erin and I some cards from Sherry. My card was awesome and reminded me to smile during the rough times. I was feeling fairly calm and was ready for the porta potty we we arrived.

Once we arrived, we unloaded our stuff and headed over to transition. When I got to my age group's rack, I noticed that everyone had racked their bikes in the same direction, so there wasn't much room. I ended up on the other side of the rack, with my brakes holding my bike up because the rack was too low for my seat. I set up my stuff, went to get body marked, put on sunscreen, grabbed my wetsuit and headed down to the lake. I ran in Tamara, Heather, and Chris from Tri-Sharks and we chatted a bit. I gave Melissa and Erin a hug, talked to Jessica for a minute and then walked into the lake.

The swim start was right on time and was a little chaotic but I handled it really well. I started swimming and was able to stretch out and swim the way I like to. The swim was clockwise so the buoys were on my right. I breath on my left so that was a little adjustment. The water temperature was great and the water even tasted good. (I know...I'm not supposed to drink it, but hey, it happens.) I made my first turn and was feeling good. I couldn't really tell if I was passing people or getting passed so I just kept swimming. I did get elbowed in the head once, which hurt and kind freaked me out and made me a little mad. When I made my final turn, I could see the blow up thing at the swim finish which really helped with my sighting. (Thanks for the tip, CD!) At one point, I forgot to sight and ended up on the wrong side of a buoy, but I straighted out and kept swimming. I swam until I could feel the bottom with my hand. Then, I stood up, staggered around for a second, and started working on getting the wetsuit off. While I was running up to transition, I took my goggles and swim cap off and didn't even notice the gravel under the carpet that I had worried a little about on my way down to the lake. The run to transition was slightly uphill, but I got into transition feeling good and smiling. I felt really good about how I swam straight and stayed on course. My goal time for the swim was 45 minutes, so when I looked at my watch when I was exiting the water and saw 43, I was pretty excited. By the time I got to transition, the time was 44:14.

T1 was actually pretty dull. I ran in, got my wetsuit off with no problems, got my shoes on easily, put on my sunglasses and helmet, grabbed my bike and was off. My T1 time was actually quite a bit faster than I expected. I was in and out in 1:50.
I headed out on the bike feeling good. I was right where I wanted to be timewise. I knew the first segment of the bike course was the hilly part so I watched my heart rate so that I wasn't pushing myself too hard. I struggled for awhile and felt kinda rotten, but managed to keep a 17 mph pace for the first hour. Once I got past the hilly part, I started pushing myself a little more. I hit some headwind that slowed me down quite a bit, but I still managed around 16.5 mph. The third hour was tough. I hit a serious headwind. I was working hard, my heart rate was around 170 and I was only going maybe 14 mph. I kept wondering when the wind would be at my back. I guess around mile 46 or so I finally felt a tailwind and was cruising along. I was actually really enjoying the bike course.

The course was four different out and backs so I got to see alot of people lots of times. My nutrition went well. I took in 2 bottles of Heed, 1 bottle of water, and 3 packages of Clif Shot Blocks (~800 calories). During my second hour on the bike, I really had to pee. I never thought about stopping and decided to try to talk myself into just peeing on the bike. It is really really hard to pee your pants! I couldn't relax. Finally, I felt like I was maybe ready, so I moved my water bottle so I wouldn't pee on it, shifted to my left side and let loose. It was a very weird experience and learning to pee on the bike apparently requires practice. At one point I was a little distracted and went off the road into the gravel. I really thought I was going down, but somehow managed to correct and not tip over. I'm actually really proud of that moment because it made me realize how far I've come on the bike in the past year. The last 30 minutes of the ride went really well. I really pushed myself and passed two people who were ahead of me for most of the ride. I was grinning going into transition because I was truly having alot of fun.

My goal for the bike was 3:15, but I didn't account for any headwind...mostly because I can't remember ever riding into a headwind on any of my training rides. My time on the bike was 3:23:25, so I was longer than I planned on, but it was also my longest ride ever, so I can't complain. I was actually smiling going in to transition because I had a good ride. I have learned that I really enjoy my time on the bike. So, while I was on the bike 8 minutes longer than I planned on, I was actually quite happy with my ride. Oh, and I feel like I could have kept riding and I didn't hate Oscar at all at the end, which was a very nice feeling.

This T2 was a little different than my usual T2. When I got off the bike, I had to walk about 15 steps before I got my legs under me. I ran to my spot, racked my bike, took off my shoes, started putting on my socks (for the first time ever in a triathlon) which was kind of a hassle, took off my helmet, put on my visor and shoes, grabbed my race bib, downed a Hammer Gel and then headed out of transition. I was in and out in 2:27, which was longer than I planned on. I'm sure it was because of the blasted socks. Did you notice that I forgot to grab my gels and endurolytes?

I headed out on the run feeling pretty good. I decided to run 8 minutes and walk 1 minute, mostly to make sure I was feeling good and to watch my heart rate. I got about half a mile down the road and realized I had forgotten all of my fuel. I knew that there would be gel and endurolytes at the aid stations, but I was a little frustrated with myself for being a dork and forgetting to grab them. Anyways, I was doing well and got to the turn around feeling okay. I stopped to pee and was surprised that I still needed to pee. On my way back to transition my feet were pretty sore and I felt like I was getting blisters on the balls of my feet.

I was still doing intervals and felt okay, but I was starting to get tired. I got back to the turnaround and headed out for my second and last loop. I made it about a half mile before my low back started cramping. I walked a little bit and the cramping moved all the way up my back and into my neck...not a good feeling. I really wanted to cry...mostly from frustration, but also because of pain. I was trying to figure out how to tough this out, when I passed the water station and heard my friend Melissa's voice. I stopped and waited for her. We ended up walking and running very slowly the rest of the race. I wasn't thinking very clearly and was having a very difficult time figuring out distances or anything. I was also STARVING. I remember telling Melissa, "I'm so hungry" multiple times. At some point, probably around miles 9-10 I took another gel which helped with the thinking. I think I ended up taking 3 gels on the run and about 10-12 endurolytes. We ended up walking to a barricade and then running to the next barricade. My feet were incredibly angry. My back was so tight. My brain wasn't working at all. We finally saw the finish line and ran in. We crossed together and met Erin (she finished an hour before us and placed 3rd in her age group) and Jessica.

The run ended up taking me 2:54:55, which is my slowest 1/2 marathon EVER, and was alot longer than I was planning on. It was also much more painful than I expected. My feet were killing me. My third and fourth toes still have a little bit of tingling. My back was in spasms. I was thirsty. I was starving. My finishing time ended up being 7:06:50, which I'm pretty disappointed in.

The finish line was pretty dull. I got my timing chip removed, hugged Melissa, Erin, and Jessica and headed to pick up my finisher's plaque. The only food was pizza from Casey's General Store, which I skipped, in spite of being STARVING. I ran into Chris, Andy, Heather, and Tamara and chatted with them for a minute. I grabbed a Cherry Coke, which may have been the best cherry coke EVER. We waited around for awards since Erin got 3rd in her age group. Chris Sweet won first overall, Tamara won her age group, and Andy placed 3rd in his age group, so the Tri-Sharks were well represented. After the trophy's, it was off to transition to pack up our stuff. I was incredibly slow, but eventually got everything together. We loaded up and headed over to the campground for showers, which consisted of a very cold trickle, but felt pretty good. Then it was a quick stop at Subway and we were on the way home.

So, there's my race report. I finished my first 1/2 ironman distance triathlon, and while it wasn't at all pretty, it's in the books and it's done. I can swim 1.2 miles without stopping or freaking out, even when people are bumping into me and elbowing me in the head. I can ride 56 miles on Oscar the bike and still feel like riding more. I can struggle through a 13.1 mile run, even when it's incredibly painful, with the help and encouragement of friends. So, yeah, I'm a 1/2 Ironman.


MEB said...

AJ, Great job! Cut yourself some slack, girl - you did terrific!

Barb said...

WhooHooo, AJ. That sounds awesome to me!!!! Boy, am I learning things from my Ironman champ. I never thought about those runners peeing. Well, yah, they run forever and never stop. So where else would you go pee?!!

Agua said...

AJ, it sounds like you had a great race - give yourself some credit! You did a fantastic job!

Sarah said...

In the end of your post, it seems like you've worked through you disappointment. I hope so--you did awesome! Sure, your run wasn't what you wanted, but everything else seemed right on target. Way to go! I'll be thinking of you this Saturday in my 1/2 marathon. When it seems like a long way to go or I am wishing it were over, I'll be grateful that's all I'm doing. =)

Sweet said...

Nice work AJ!

It wasn't the fastest bike course with all the turnarounds and headwinds.

With a little more experience under your belt you will keep improving.

Yay pop-tarts for breakfast!!

Tinkerbell said...

AJ...congrats on your first HIM!!! You did a great job and you worked hard to prepare for the race. I don't think folks appreciate how hard these long distance tris really are until they've been there and realized how many more factors there are at play when you stack the sports at those distances back to back...nutrition, muscular fatigue, race conditions, etc., etc. They don't call it "IRON"man for nothin! You did a super job and it just keeps getting better from here.