In the past I've had horrible luck with half ironman distance races. Honestly, I've done three and they were all a million times worse for me that the full Ironman. I had raced two in temperatures over 95 degrees and the third was a total fluke in which we had 60+ mile an hour winds from a hurricane and I was bracing myself to be blown away at any time. I feared that I was destined to have horrible races at this distance for the rest of my life! :)
Saturday we made our way to Springfield. The weather forecasts said sunny and 74 which would be dreamy for me. It was raining and cold on Saturday... I'd even take that for race day. Got our packets, checked out the course (which I'd already raced last year in the 95+ degree weather) and decided no need for a practice swim. We went to our hotel, got the bikes and gear ready, filled our bellies and made it to bed around 10:30. I got a great night's sleep, but had amazing doubts about my abilities during the race. Training has been going well, but not stellar - minor injuries here and there, tons of self doubt. I just didn't know what to expect.
Got to the race site a little later than usual, but because my wave was the second to last, I didn't feel rushed. It was chilly... and cloudy. I knew it was PR material, but for some reason I was scared. I've done these distances alone a bazillion times and have put it all together more than three times. I knew I'd be fine, but the tears still managed to make their way to my eyes before the start. Damn nerves! Tom hugged me, kissed me and was off. I had another two waves of nerves.
The Swim - My waves wasn't huge, but I positioned myself where I always do - in the back. I have no confidence in the swim. The horn sounded and I gradually made my way in. A group of girls took off, I passed a few people and quickly found empty water. No nerves! I felt great, the water was a bit choppy but not bad. I started counting strokes in hopes that my mind wouldn't start thinking about how long the swim was or how much I still had to do. I felt consistent and calm. It was going to be a long day and my goal was to just not get ahead of myself. Got out of the water and my watch read 46:30 and I still had a big hill to run. I was happy with that. I'm not a fast swimmer, but I stay calm. Hit the mat at 48:04.
T1 - It was nice seeing bikes still in T1. I feel like mine is usually alone. There were probably 5 girls in transition with me so I didn't feel completely behind. I did my thing and was out in 1:30. I wish there were more transitions in races because I kind of feel like I have that part of the race down pat! :)
The Bike - I've been having IT problems the last few rides and I know it really flares up on the hills. Of course this bike course is two HILLY loops. I told Tom that I wouldn't be pushing it on the bike - spinning up the hills even if I felt like I could grind a little bit and saving my legs for the run. The first loop was fine. It seemed to go on forever, although it was spot on in terms of distance I passed a few people right away and then kind of just felt like I was alone. I played cat and mouse with a girl for a while. She was small and could climb the hills and then I'd usually catch her on the flats. We did this until the turn around and then she stopped to pee and I didn't see her again until the run. I didn't really look at my time or speed. I just did what felt good. I played the gear game - up and down constantly. I made sure that every gear got used! :) I felt pretty good on the bike, but my IT did start hurting around mile 35. Nothing horrible, but just an achy annoying pain. I felt like the breeze had picked up and definitely struggled to keep a constant pace the second lap. I wanted to finish under 3:05 and came in at 3:00:49! I averaged 18.6 which was awesome considering I definitely didn't "race" the bike at all!
T2 - I took my time in T2. I wanted to have a good run and make sure that my socks were right and everything. I still managed to be in and out in 1:40!
The Run - I can never put a good run together in a half. Never. Each year I've been around 4 hours coming off the swim and bike and I just blow up. I train at sub 9:00 miles. I've always ended up with 12:30+ minute miles in my halves. I don't know if it's mental or the weather or what. My mind was right for this. I immediately turned my watch from Chrono mode to just the clock. I didn't want to be fixated with my mile splits and how much time I had to get a PR. I just wanted to run. Right out of the gate I passed two guys who looked like they were having good days. I took little steps and just smiled. I felt good. I was running a pace I thought I could maintain forever. It wasn't fast, but it was comfortable. I kept thinking that I was going to PR and that got me through each mile. I saw Tom and he looked awesome. I passed a few girls, maybe a few guys. I was settled in for the long haul. At the turn around, I checked my watch and saw that I had 1:15 to go 6.55 miles and that would give me a sub 6. I was aiming for a 6:15. I saw Tom again with 1 mile left for him. He told me he was going to go 5:16 or so - that would be a 19 minute PR. I was so excited for him. The miles just ticked away - no leg pain, no negative thoughts. The last mile seemed to go on forever. I switched my watch back to chrono mode and new I was going sub 6. I was ecstatic! Run time was 2:04:11 - a 9:29 pace.
As I came to the finish line, they said "There's a big smile, that's what we like to see" and announced my name. I looked for Tom and he wasn't there. I crossed, gave them my chip, got some food and still no Tom. Hum... immediately thought he was having sugar issues. I started walking toward transition and he came running up to me (well not running, but kind of jogging). He had gone to the car to get the camera and thought for sure he had enough time. He expected me at 6:15. I crossed at 5:56! I was so excited. I crushed my old PR by 45 minutes. I felt good after a half. Not great, but definitely not like death! :)
We waited for awards. Tom in fact PRed by 19 minutes and finished in 5:16. He amazes me! He got 2nd in his division. I knew I had been passed by 2 girls on the run in my AG. I ended up getting 3rd in my age group. We both got hardware, we both got HUGE PRs. But the best thing I got from the race was the confidence that I thought I had lost this season.
Swim (1.2 miles) - 48:04
T1 - 1:30
Bike (56 miles) - 3:00:49 18.6mph and 7th woman out of 26
T2 - 1:40
Run (13.1 miles) - 2:04:11 9:29 pace
5:56:13 - 3/6 in AG
Oh it's on like donkey kong now! :)