The swim started in waves, and I was in the last wave, along with women over 40. (Red caps! It must have been a sign!) It was a run in start, and I started in the back. Wearing a wet suit was never even considered for me, but some people were wearing them. The reported water temp was 77, but let me tell you, it wasn't NEARLY that cold. I would have been freezing in that water, and it was rather comfortable. So anyway, I started in the back because I hate when people swim on top of eachother. I know sometimes you can't help it, but I HATE it and it really breaks my stride. Starting in the back and immediately swimming away from the crowd kept me out of the way of people. It worked out really well. I felt strong and happy on the swim. I was worried I wouldn't be able to "get in the zone" with all the folks swimming around me, but it wasn't that difficult.
I asked myself on each leg of the race, "could I do this twice?" Twice is the distance of a full Ironman. Strangely enough, the swim was the only leg to which I answered, "yes."
I was out of the water in 41:50, which is faster than any time in training -- I've always said I swim better in open water than in a pool. I made the run uphill to Transition (which was mostly a walk) and clocked in at 43:56.
T1 went smooth. I was there long enough to towel off my arms and legs and put on sunscreen. I got burned 2 weeks ago -- and I wasn't doing it again! T1 took 3:10.
The bike portion went smoothly as well. I was cruising along for a bit when I came up on a woman. (Let me add the sprint distance race was happening at the same time, and the courses were the same for the first 6 miles). She looked at me and said, "yeah, and just think the next 6 miles are all uphill too!." I looked at her and laughed and said "At least you're not facing another 50 of uphill!"
After 30 minutes in I began to eat. My nutrition plan, as it turned out, worked out wonderfully. On the bike I ate 4 goos and 2 Cliff bars. It was enough fuel to keep me going, and not so much that I was overly full. I drank 2 bottles of Rapidade by Dedicated Athlete (I LOVE that stuff) and 1 bottle of Gatorade, which I got at the midway point aid station. Also drank 4 bottles of regular water. I kept hearing the voice of the official from the pre-race meeting: "If you get thirsty on the run, then it's too late. You have to do all of your hydration on the bike." It was hot as hell, and so I drank all I could.
The bike felt great. I purposefully kept my average hovering around 16 mph. I knew from training that at that pace I'd still have go left in me for the run. I was right. I finished the bike with a pace of 16.2 and a time of 3 hours 26 minutes. I started to get fatigued on the last 10 miles of the bike. I think it was a combination of it getting hotter (it was about 11:30 at that point) and me mentally being ready to be off the bike.
I was worried about keeping sane on a lone 56 mile ride. I ALWAYS ride long distances with people. So I did what I used to do at the mtb races ... I started singing to myself. I was wise enough to realize I must look like a nut job, so I only sang when I wasn't within earshot of people. LOL.
T2 took a little longer than T1. But when I saw my results I was surprised I wasn't in there longer! I came into T2, changed out of my soaking wet MAX jersey and into my ING run shirt. I wanted something fresh and dry. I toweled off the sweat and put fresh sunscreen on. I popped some more Endurolytes and put on my cap and number belt. I sat there for what felt like an eternity, but in fact was only 4:49. Not bad when you consider I stood up and walked leisurely from my spot to the Transition exit.
I didn't start running at first. I gave my legs a minute or two of walking to come back under me after all the time on the bike. When I got off the bike and started the trot into T2, my legs felt a little shaky, so I just wanted to take it easy at first. It was hard though, people were cheering and stuff, and so I started running.
I made a deal with myself that no matter how I was feeling, I'd run from aid station to aid station. When I got there, I'd walk for a minute and drink some water. I plotted out two mile stops good to take a goo and one about halfway through to take more Endurolytes. I just kept telling myself "they're a mile apart, I can run 1 mile." Turns out some were less than a mile, some were more. But it worked out, and I kept my promise to myself. I stopped at every station for a drink and those blessed blessed ice-cold towels. I got a fresh one at each station, and it kept me cool for every mile. Sometimes I draped it over my head, sometimes around my shoulders. Sometimes I wiped my face or legs with it. I used it a few times to cool down my knees. I was tempted to pour cold water in my shoes as my feet were burning up, but I realized wet socks wouldn't be fun, so I didn't do it.
I managed to keep sane most of the time by trying to do math in my head. That's how I usually stay focused. Weird huh. I'll do math like, if I keep going at this pace what time will I finish? Or, how long will it take me to get to the next station in minutes? I hate math, but it gives my brain something to really focus on other than how bad I hurt. And I was REALLY hurting. My knees were aching and my head was starting to hurt from the heat. I got goose-bumps about halfway in. Not a good sign, but I kept going.
I can't possibly go on enough about how much I suffered on the run. On the last mile my feet were pins and needles. It hurt every time I put one down. Before I started, I told myself all I really wanted was to be able to run across the finish line, and not need an IV. I succeeded on both accounts.
The run took an embarrassingly long 2 hours and 27 minutes. At least I thought it was embarrassing until I realized it was EXACTLY the same time as the 1/2 marathon in Atlanta. How CRAZY and WEIRD is that??? EXACTLY the same time. I guess considering I had swam 1.2 miles and biked 56 that time wasn't so bad!
All told my time was 6 hours 46 minutes. Enough to earn me 1st place in Athena -- by about 15 minutes. I would have been in the bottom three out of about 17 in my AG, so I feel certain I made the right decision in choosing to race Athena. Carrying around the same weight just seems more fair for everyone.
Looking back, I'd do it all again in a heartbeat. Even in the heat. And there's nothing I would have done differently. It was the culmination of a year of work and want. I feel like I accomplished everything I wanted to -- and then some. I'm rightfully pretty damn proud of myself, and the pride has nothing to do with how I finished, and everything to do with the fact that I DID finish. There were times while training that I really questioned if I could do it. If I had the courage or the physical ability. I surprised myself with every mile I completed. I took it one step at a time, and I made myself proud.
Read more at Renee's blog. Congrats!