I have done a few endurance events now. I have 4 marathons under my belt and 3 Olympic triathlons. I started training for my first triathlon in April 2004 and the rest has all come in quick succession after. To think it all started with a flyer for Team in Training in the mail and dreams of competing in a triathlon, one just like the Ironman events I used to watch on TV as a kid. Granted it wasn't an Ironman but Chicago tri 04 was one of the best days in my life. The build up to and after the event has made a lasting impact on me as an athlete and person.
The friends I have made make everthing seem possible. It is easy to forget that this life isn't the norm. I often find myself thinking that a marathon or Olympic distance tri are just the beginning, baby steps into the real endurance world. And I guess that is how Steelhead arrived on my plate. Not because I had ever thought to myself I really want to do a half ironman or because it was a step towards a future Ironman, but because all my friends were doing it and it seemed the natural progression.
Perhaps this is why despite having a wonderful race and thoroughly enjoying the day as well as all the training something just didn't feel right about the distance. I guess I should've known that this is how I would feel. I can remember talking to Su about doing an Ironman and how I wouldn't sign up for one until I was a much better cyclist, how I would like to put in a couple of good years where I worked on speed and endurance on the bike. I knew that I wasn't as good as I would like to be and that I really do need more time on the bike before I will be a decent cyclist. I was bred to run and swim but the bike is a different story, at least for now. So I don't know why I overrode that and signed up for Steelhead anyways, but I did, and I convinced A who had done Chicago 04 with me in TNT as her first tri also, to do it too.
So I found myself up at 4:45 AM Saturday the 5th preparing for my first HIM. A and I went downstairs to get some coffee right away. Many other triathletes were already up and leaving. We were in the second to last wave so I wasn't worried about time. Transition was going to be open until 6:45. We went upstairs and put on sunscreen and grabbed everything we had laid out the night before. T dropped us about a 1/4 mile from transition and we lugged our stuff that way. I saw GV and gave him a big hug on the way in and wished him good luck. We have been swimming and biking together pretty much every Wednesday this summer and it was also his first HIM, very exciting! I dropped my stuff by my bike (which was a bit difficult as the person next to me had racked their bike the wrong way so I had no real space for my towel etc. I had to move their bag a wee bit) and got in line for the porta potty. I was right behind Mike so we chatted as we waited. We saw Habeela getting into race mode with her headphones on. They were announcing that they wanted us all out of transition but our wave didn't start till late so I didn't worry, especially as they said that they wouldn't kick us out of transition until 7. I got everything arranged and A, T, Mike, and I headed to the shuttle to the start. We timed everything perfectly because by the time we hit the shuttle there wasn't any line.
We arrived at the beach after a short bumpy ride (Thank goodness we used those portalets in transition!) The scene was amazing. Definitely the coolest start I have seen. The beach was crowded and we could see the leaders line up on the pier.
(Video curtesy of A)
After the national anthem and the start A and I started to get our wetsuits on. Thanks to Mikes plastic bag I got my wetsuit on with relative ease. After some group photos I headed into the water to adjust the suit the rest of the way and make sure the goggles were good to go. The water thankfully was not as warm as the day before.
We made our way to the pier as I sucked down the last of my carbo pro and gatorade. I had decided to drink some before the race as my legs are always tired at the start of my bike rides and P from CTC had mentioned I might not be eating enough beforehand. I don't usually eat much before a race so I decided liquid nutrition was going to be the way to go. I think it worked out fine.
A, Habeela, Tough Cookie, and I lined up along the pier and got ready to go. I headed down the pier pretty far as I decided to take the straight line towards the second buoy avoiding the crowd heading straight towards the first buoy. Originally I thought I would dive, but it was a bit higher than I pictured in my mind so I opted to just jump. No one was in front of me so at the end of the countdown I lept and began the swim.
I had no issues past the first three buoys or so. I stayed to the outside and just made sure to keep the lifeguards to my left. Somehow about 10 minutes in I found myself much closer to the buoy's and amongst a ton of other swimmers. Some yellow caps but mostly those from the waves before us. I had broken A's tinted goggles that morning and had to use my clear goggles. The sun was directly in line with the buoy's. It was impossible to sight. I would literally look up and spot a buoy about a yard in front of me, then look again and though I knew it was directly in front of me it would be gone. All I could see was the sun. Eventually I got sick of the sighting and just swam and hoped that I would go in the right direction. I got lucky for that stretch and stayed on course but a few kicks from swimmers I didn't see forced me to back it off and try to sight again. I just kept waiting for the people around me to make the turn towards shore. I never did see the large Gatorade waiting for us on the beach. But I was ecstatic when the green buoy's turned into an orange one and we made our way finally towards shore. I glanced at my watch and noted that I was under 35 which was my goal and was just happy to be out of the water.
I was so happy to be out of the water, I was ready for the bike! But it would be almost 10 minutes before I would finally get to ride! We made our way onto the beach and up some stairs. I decided to strip the wetsuit there (apparently the camera man thought that was the perfect time to take the absolute worst photo I have ever seen in my life, yes it is so bad I actually won't post it here and it is in the lost and found pics hopefully never to be viewed again!) since I knew it was a long run to T1. I made my way through the expo are and spotted my family on the left. I stopped and gave them each a kiss and thanked them for being there. A few guys on the right remarked that I had forgot about them, haha jokesters!
I continued on my run to T1 finally reaching some carpet which felt heavenly on my feet. I passed a few girls and we joked that we thought the run was the third event in a tri, not the second. I finally got to my bike and began my transition. I knew I was going to be out there for a while so my motto was not to forget anything and take my time. I put on my helmet and sunglasses while wiping my feet off. Threw on my camelback and gloves then socks and shoes. I did a quick spray of sunscreen threw on my race number and headed out. It was funny because there was a volunteer standing very near me the whole time and she kept calling out encouragement to everyone and I could feel her watching me and probably wondering why I was taking so long!
I saw my dad and mom as I headed to the mount line. For some reason my clip wouldn't go in so it took me a few seconds but I was finally clipped in and off. I have never been that happy to be on the bike. I commented to a man next to me that I had never been so happy to see land as I was right then. He laughed as he passed me :) There was a short steep hill after the first left turn where I passed a few people who hadn't quite figured out their gears yet. The first 10 or so miles blew by with no major hills. Just lots of people passing me and some jockeying back and forth amongst the ranks.
Mile 10 A called out to me as she passed me going uphill. 10 miles guys. I knew she might have me at this race but I wasn't expecting to see her for another 10-15 miles on the bike. I thought to myself, that is a lot of time to make up on the run...
But I knew that racing on the bike wasn't my game plan, in fact my plan all along was to take it easy for most of the race and hammer the last 5k of the run if I felt good. It was a long day and I really didn't know how I would react to it. My legs started to get a little sore about 20 miles into the bike so I ate a handful of pringles and took a gel. I drank two bottles of gatorade with carbo pro on the ride and about 30 oz of water. I managed to snag another bottle of gatorade from a volunteer and a bananna around mile 30.
Since about mile 5 both my feet had gone numb. I am used to one of my right toes doing this, but never all my toes and never my left foot. I started to get a little annoyed and tried drinking a bit more and pulling up rather than pushing down on the pedals but nothing seemed to help. I gave up on them and focused on how many miles I had to go. Somewhere between miles 30 and 40 and seeing the same 10 or so people over and over again as we passed each other then fell back I thought to myself that I definitely would not want to do this for 112 miles. And that's when I knew I wouldn't be siging up for Ironman 2007. And I was okay with that.
I was averaging 17.5-18 mph and was doing much better than I had expected on the bike. I felt fresh, never tired, but the numb feet and the jostling back and forth just wasn't sitting well with me. I felt like I never fell into my own groove on the bike. I would be riding along great then someone would pass and I would drop back only to have them slow down to refuel (or to pee, disgusting!) and I would pass them, it was like that for the last 20 miles. And I found when I arrived in T2 that for the second time that day I was thrilled to be moving on to a new sport.
I racked the bike and changed shoes, almost forgot to take the gloves off before grabbing the extra gatorade bottle, some pretzels, and two gels; hitting the portalet; and heading out onto the run.
I felt great. I was so happy to be on my own two feet. I looked at my watch and realized I could run 10 minute miles and still finish under six hours and was absolutely elated. As I was heading out toward the first mile marker the lead men were coming in. They looked great. The run course was a lot of mini out and backs snaking you out towards the halfway point and back. I loved the run. DJ had passed me around mile 50 of the bike and I saw him shortly after starting the run. I cheered for him as I made my way onto a little stretch of dirt road and the first roller. I guess some people thought the run course was pretty hilly and my mom said many runners were walking up this hill, but I was so thrilled to have a stretch of dirt rather than asphalt I ran up with no issues. First mile down in 7:45. Whoops a wee bit fast! I stopped to give kisses to my family again shortly before mile 2 and they informed me that A was about 10 minutes in front of me. I thought maybe I would be able to catch her by 10 miles and we could finish together.
My family was right by the water stop and I was ecstatic to hear the volunteers call out that they had ice water! I drank the water and then following in TriSaratop's and Pharmie's footsteps I dumped the ice down my top. OMG it felt great. I sounded like a fool running past people clacking like no other. But my core temp dropped immediately. I was able to get ice at almost every mile that lasted about 1/2 to 3/4 a mile before completely melting. It was the perfect way to stay cool.
I fell into a nice groove after that first quickie mile and was cruising easily around 8:30 pace. I saw many bloggers along the run and saw my CTC friends making their way to the finish. I loved this aspect of the race. In Chicago the out and backs on the bike and run course are the same way so you can see all those before and after you. It makes you really feel like you are a part of something special.
Around mile 5 I started to slow a bit. We hit a stretch of small rollers here along with a couple of aid stations. I was watching for A for awhile, expecting to see her before I hit the half way point. I hit a bit of a low around mile 6. I had felt like I was threatening to vomit (I knew I wouldn't) so I wasn't drinking very much. I finally saw A when I was around 7 and she was at 8. That was the lowest I felt the whole run and I felt bad that I didn't have more energy to root her on. She called out something like "You're so close to me!" and I think I replied that maybe we could finish together.
I kept chugging along, now slowed to about 9:30-9:45 miles. This was the only section that I got passed by any women. I think 3 or 4 women passed me. All of which I repassed save one (she was flying! and not in my age group) I took some grapes from the volunteers around 7. I ate half of them and didn't want to litter so I added them to my stash in my pocket. I now had two gels, a bag of pretzels, and grapes stuffed into my shirt pocket, I wish I could have seen how ridiculous it looked! I never even ate any of the pretzels or gels, guess it's better to have it and not need it than to not have it and need it.
Around mile 9 my secret weapon (my donut aka the storage of fat I hold above my waist) gave a weird twinge. This was right when I saw DJ. I don't know what the heck it was. It was like a twang in my belly. I pressed on it and no pain and it never did it again. Anyone who has any clue about that feel free to chime in! My right foot also felt a little funny at this point, it felt as though one of my toenails might have fallen off or something. I thought about stopping and taking off the shoe to check but then decided against it. I figured it was better not to know! (They were fine it must have just been a blister and some sand)
I was about to head up the large hill and I saw A at the top crossing the bridge. I called up to her and cheered her on as I made my way through the water stop at the bottom of the hill, finally drinking a substantial amount of water now that the urge to vomit had passed. I got a little lazy here and marched up the hill rather than running. I could have run it, but no one was running the damn thing and I was doing way better than my goal so I took it easy to the top. I came around the corner and did run up the bridge. I saw Habeela coming at me the other way and cheered her on as I clocked my slowest mile just over 10 minutes. Then I finally started to pick up the pace a bit.
I saw my mom around 11 as I walked through the water stop and got some ice. She told me A was about 8 minutes ahead of me and I knew there was no way we were finishing together. I smiled and headed up the last big hill before mile twelve. I got to the water stop and then stopped to give kisses to my aunt and uncle. My uncle informed me I might be able to get under 5:50 if I ran fast enough into the finish. I walked until I finished my water and raced to the finish. And yes I really raced. I was the only one running "fast" at that point. I think I startled a few runners and I was beaming as I passed the photographer before turning into the finish. I kind of felt like a jerk. You are not supposed to feel that good at the end of a race, but oh well if you got some left you better use it so I sprinted to the finish clocking the last .1 in a sprint finish that rivals my 5k .1 splits.
Waiting at the finish I found my parents with cold chocolate milk. What a treat! My husband was on the phone asking how I had done and I informed him that I wouldn't be doing an Ironman any time soon! I spoke with Mickey (the GCT race director) and got my medal. We went and found A, she had finished 3 minutes before me. Proving that on this day Bolder was right, it was indeed all about the bike.
After a bit of standing around we headed to the lake. I found GV and we chatted up about the event. He had done great depsite his IT band flaring up in the last 5 or so miles of the run. He was ready to tackle another half in Cancun and the full in Florida! I finally made it to the water and dipped my body into the cool lake. A was definitely sore from the run, she commented on how miserable the run was, I laughed, I had a blast on the run. I told her how ready I was to get off the bike, and she laughed, the bike was a breeze for her. Had to boost my ego a bit since she had kicked my butt so we compared run splits on our matching timex watches. She really did well until the last couple miles where she fell off pace.
Realizing my neck got a little chafed
Eventually we pried ourselves from the lake and indulged in some pizza and chicken. My stomach was still real iffy but after eating I finally started to feel normal again. We got our stuff from transition and I saw Tough Cookie. She also did great and was headed to the beach with her husband. We made our way to the hotel and got ready to go out and eat with my family. Unfortunately I wasn't able to get in touch with anyone else to hook up and party but A, T, and I and my family had a good night relaxing in Benton Harbor.
Enjoying a well earned Margarita. I wanted to order the really big one but my mom thought that might not be real bright.
The pier from Saint Joseph.
Hanging out after dinner.
The next morning we slept in a little bit before packing up and goofing off. Hence the bed jumping video.
Had a bit of a fiasco trying to check out but we were finally on the road and headed back to Cleveland. My uncle had to go to the hospital during the night for some heart issues but thankfully he was all right and already feeling much better that morning. I was glad he was okay and was feeling pretty good although a bit tired on the ride home.
T was nice enough to let Fiona ride in the back with me so I wouldn't have to worry about her on the way there or back. Here she is with the flowers my aunt got us :) Apparently Gatorade bottles make great vases!
A few pit stops and some coffee and many hours later we made it back to Cleveland. Coasting along to our next adventure. We had arrived and now we were just a little different than before, we were now half iron, half steel...