So it is all over and I had few hours to recover and sort my thoughts that I needed before sitting down and writing the race report. This whole journey started few months ago when I decided to try the tri. When I was selecting my A race I first wanted to do the mini event which is basically olympic distance with much longer bike (36 mi instead of 24.85 mi), but then I thought that I may be able to train for half Ironman so I signed up for it. Since then I was following the 13 weeks training plan to build up the endurance and everything came together for me. Let me walk you through the past 36 hours of prior to race and during the race.
As before every race I took few hours on Friday to collect all my racing gear, check that my bike is all set and I setup the bike with the extra water bottle holder expecting a long distance between the aid stations (18.5 miles to be exact). The weather forecast was pretty depressing - the area was expecting another hot day with high humidity. I was praying for cold water so I can legally use the wet suit for the swim. I double checked the gear and nutrition and packed them all in the backpack and into the bento box on the bike. Made sure that I have new spare tubes, extra tire, CO2 cartridges and pump, some patches to be ready for anything. The bike with some of the stuff is shown below:
The night before the race was fine until about 4am when I woke up and could not get back to sleep. I had all these mental images of me going through the swim, running up to T1, changing to my bike gear, pedaling, getting back to T2, making sure to grab all the tuff and heading off to the run. I even visualized the finish sprint. I did this maybe 17 times before I was able to fall asleep for another hour and then it was time to get up. The morning routine was normal - hot tea, three slices of good cake (I always have this before the training or race). Then I got out of the door. When I got to the park I picked-up my race packet and got body markings. Then I setup my transition to make it even more minimalist than in the first race 2 weeks ago. And then I walked the swim to T1 and bike to T2 through the transition. It was small transition and I had great spot in second row for the bike out, but I wanted to make sure that I do not get lost during the race. Then it was time to suit up and do the swim warm-up.
SWIM (2 km / 1.2 mi)
The swim course was less depressing layout than during the Steelman as we were doing 2 laps it did not look as long, but I knew it was quite long. I reminded myself to stick to my pacing and not try to swim with the sharks. I'm not fast swimmer, but I can do the distance if I stick to my pace. That is what I failed to do during the Steelman and I paid for it after few hundred meters when my hands refused any more freestyle. After the warm-up there was a short run over the course routine with the race director, national anthem and then we were to head to the water. As I'm descending towards the water my goggles in my hand I head - swim start in 10 seconds. WHAAT? OK gotta get down there quick. As I got to the water barely touching my ankles the race started. I got my goggles on and started practically in the last row. I did not mind I'm here to finish in 6 hours. Keep to your own pace. The swim was fine. There was some kicking and touching, but not more than usual and I guess this time I touched and kicked more people that what I got back from others. I swam almost the entire distance in freestyle and tried to keep streamlined position to float through the water. It felt much better than what I did during the Steelman. When I got out of the water I checked my watch and it was some 39 minutes. Not bad for 2 km (1.6mi) swim. I ran up the hill to T1, got my pointy helmet on, socks, shoes and ran to bike out with my bike by my side.
BIKE (91.25 km / 56.7 mi)
The start of the bike was a killer - as usual in this park - there is about 0.5 mile steep climb out of the park. I took it easy and at the top of the hill I passed first person. While passing I mumbled something about bloody heat and the guy wished me well for the race. Which I returned. People in this sport are just great. I love it. The bike course is long 18.5 miles loop around the lake and it was open to traffic. So not only you need to watch for others, but also for the cars. The few critical areas were coned off and police and fire were at each major intersection. There was no issue that I know off, but I was little worried about this in the beginning of the bike leg. I did many weekend rides on this course so there was not really any surprise for me. I knew when to change gears, how to pace myself, all the corners, potholes and other traps. But I had two times when I did not pay attention to my downshifting and lost some precious seconds as my chain came off and I needed to stop to put it back on. But it was nothing major. I did change my fueling plan during the bike and not only I downed 2 gels per 50 minutes (lap) I also ate whole PowerBar during the second loop to get it into my blood stream before the run started. I also ate all the remaining gels (about 3) during the last 30 minutes on the bike. I knew I'll not be able to eat much on the run. One of the challenges of this course was the heat and second was the wind especially on the South Park Rd. where it seemed like we were riding against the wind the whole time. During my last loop I'm eating my gel and drinking water when Brian (friend of mine) zoomed by me. I yelled at him we waved at each other and off he went (he was doing the shorter course and was going for the AG win). During the whole bike course I passed few people and I had only small number of half distance athletes pass me. so I guess I did well. I do not know the splits from this race yet as I did not capture them well with my watch. I was more concerned about doing the right things and less about messing with my watch. At the end of the bike I eased the pedaling, increased the cadence to get ready for the run (well if there is something like getting ready for a run after 56.7 miles on the bike). After a fast descend to the pack I dismounted and ran with my bike to T2. T2 was quite fast as you can see from the following photos. Took off my helmet and bike shoes, slipped to my running shoes, grabbed my running hat in which I had gels, race belt and off I went. I put my running belt on during the run and it worked very well. Shaved off few seconds.
RUN (21.08 km / 13.1 mi)
Immediately into the run I checked my pacing because I have tendency to go out too fast after the bike. I guess it is the speed that I'm trying to reach after being used to zoom by at 20-40 mph. And yes I was doing 7:15 min/mi which is not what I can sustain for full 13 miles. I slowed down to around 8:45 min/mi and tried to keep it there. My plan was to do run/walk method and the weather really called for it with humid 91 F / 32.7 C. So I decided to do 5 minutes run followed by 45 seconds walk breaks. That was working great for most of the run. I also decided to walk all aid stations and drink / cool off with plenty of water - both on my chest, back and inside. I was feeling great during the first loop (we were doing 2 loops of about 6.5 miles / 10.5 km). You can see me during the first turnaround on the next batch of pictures./p>
Second loop was going great until the hill to 563 which was bout 1.5 miles from the turnaround. I got such a huge cramp on my right side that I almost fell down. Shoot not now!!! OK we will be walking. So I walked up the hill to the aid station, got more water and tried to run down the hill. This was the part on route 563 in direct sun and the asphalt was almost melting under my feet. I was able to run about 2 minutes and then the cramp was back. All right you damn body I'll walk if you want me to was my thought. So I walked down the hill and up the next hill. Tried to run and the cramp reminded me after like 40 seconds about who is the boss here. I'm thinking to myself - what the heck. I'm hydrating well, I'm fueling well what is the problem. Then I touched my face to clean the sweat and it was like touching the sand beach - oooh so that it it I lost too much salt. My whole face had little salt crystals over it and I bet that the whole my body was like that. I need to get salt tables fast - at the next aid station they did not have them so I took the salted pretzels and gobbled them down, then I took one more gel and stopped for my first bathroom break in about 5 hours. No wonder in such a heat all that water I was drinking was evaporating through the pores. I tried to resume running, but I was unable to - the damn cramp was still there. So I kept walking with more pretzels and water - hey this sport is not that bad. I can have picnic in the middle of the race I thought. I walked all the way back to the aid station before the shady area and got banana and chicken broth. Yeah you do anything to get going again. I ate the banana, drank more water and walked back down from the hill. At the bottom of the hill I tried to resume run/walk routine and it worked. Hurray!!! I'm running again. I made sure to stick to a new run/walk plan - 4 minutes run 1 minute walk. The finish is not far - only 2.5 miles to go. Once I resumed running I was passing quite a few people. Everyone seemed to be suffering from the same problem and everyone was walking. I was so glad I could run again. I did not mind that my shoes were full of water as I cooled down I sprayed it over my back and it all ended up eventually in my shoes. I did not mind the heat any more all I wanted was to finish under 6 hours and finish standing up. The run/walk carried me all the way to the finish. I sprinted the last few hundred meters and almost ran over the guy handing out the finisher medals. I noticed that the watch at the end showed 5:5x:xx - I did not pay attention to minutes or seconds all that mattered was that I did the race in under 6 hours. At the finish Dasa and Ian were already waiting. I got a kiss from each one of them and then we immediately headed over to the finishers tent. I got more salty food - mostly stuff I did not eat since I started running and triathlon - potato chips, pizza, regular coke. I asked the race director for salt tables and he was so nice to walk for them to his car and find me in the finishers crowd to give me a pack. I got all 6 tablets down and drank a lot of water, the I ate more food and was happy as one can be to finish. Dasa told me that there was a guy that finished and collapsed and that the paramedics took him away few minutes before I got to the finish. I think I saw him on the run and he looked beyond tired, but he kept pushing during the run. Only today while looking at the photos I saw that my finish time is 5:51:42 or thereabout.
The biggest surprise
After the race I changed to fresh clothes and chatted with my friend Brian and few other folks. Then the race director started to announce overall and age group winners. What a surprise when he called my name as second 35-39 age group finisher for the half ironman distance. Wow I did not expect that. I got nice reminder of the race and DVD with spinning lessons from Spinervals. I was very excited and happy to conclude the day on such positive note. Only now I realize that next years race I'll be racing to defend my placement from this year - oh the pressure is already building up (wink, wink).