And so I set out to accomplish my first complete half Ironman triathlon!
A few years ago, I had intended to do this complete triathlon, but, not a big surprise, I had a leg issue and so wasn’t able to run. So I just did the aquabike, which still is a pretty significant achievement. At the time, it was by far the longest open-water swim I’d done (maybe even longer than any pool swim, I’m not sure) and my longest bike ride.
Having that experience under my belt, and able to run somewhat (though still battling yet another leg issue), I was a bit more prepared for Saturday’s race. Though I wasn’t racing so much as I was participating. Really, I just wanted to prove to myself that I could complete this distance of a race. That I could rightfully say that I’ve done a 70.3. Fast-forward to today, and I can proudly say that I have!
So let’s go over this eventful day! Fortunately, the SOS message I’d posted on the DC Tri Club forum was answered by another member who gave me a ride down to Lake Anna (why I signed up for it without a definitive means of transportation is beyond me). She and I decided that, to be completely sure we’d get there in time, we’d leave Arlington at 3:30am. 3:30am! Wow! That meant I should be up by 2:30am; to be safe, I set my alarm for 2am, so I’d have some snooze time before I really had to get going. Luck would be that my alarm rang at 2am and I was UP. Not sleepy, not really, but just up and like, “Ok, here we go. People in California haven’t even gone to bed yet on Friday night, and my Saturday has already begun!”
We left right on time, got to Lake Anna in good time (there was no traffic- go figure :-p), and it was still dark as I got my race packet and started setting up my transition area. At least the air temperature was nice- cool, but still warm enough to walk around in race gear.
I hadn’t done an open-water swim since…. August, so I had the typical pre-race jitters comprising, “Oh my God, do I even remember how to swim in real water???”
So, right before my swim wave starts, I notice that, oh hey, my goggles are really foggy. And they don’t stay unfoggy for long. And the sky was gray and overcast. And the buoys were small and hard to see. Well, turning back now. The horn went off for my swim wave and thus it began! Splash splash splash, ohmygodwhatamidoing, everyoneispassingmenobigsurprise, and then finally I settle into a sort of rhythm. Slow, but steady. And I have to search for those darned buoys because they’re so small! Nation’s Tri has the best buoys of any triathlon I’ve done; those buoys are GIGANTIC, spaced every 100m, and labeled with the distance. So you definitely can’t miss them and you know exactly where you are along the course.
I finally get done with my swim- super-slow, but faster than when I had done the Kinetic Aquabike a few years ago, plus I wasn’t all light-headed and breathing heavily like before. And my arms didn’t quite feel like jelly. Which is really good, because I didn’t get my darn wetsuit stripper this time!! Very pissed off about that! I paid good money for a stripper and I didn’t get one. Instead I clumsily tried to partially take it off as a ran to transition, then sat and awkwardly got the rest of it off. It still took a while, but I guess not as long as I had feared.
And then the long, LOOONG bike ride. The course wasn’t so bad. Not nearly as awful as Luray, and that was only half as long! The Kinetic bike course was mostly rolling, with a couple of bigger hills, but nothing where I felt like I was barely moving. The course was well-marked and stationed with volunteers, which is good, since I hadn’t paid too much attention to the course map posted online. I did notice that it was a different course then when I’d done the Aquabike. I distinctly remember doing two loops before, and I’m pretty sure it was all/mostly inside Lake Anna park. Not so this time. This time it was just a one-loop course on traffic-filled two-lane roads. It would get particularly irritating every time a slow-moving vehicle would block the lane and then there are a bunch of cyclists who have no choice but to slow down. There’s no bike lane, and solid yellow double lines on the other side, so vehicles were so stupidly hesistant to move over to give us space. I don’t care if the previous course was harder, I’d gladly return to a bike course that has little or no car traffic! Why am I so vehement? Because a little after Mile 10, I saw some cars pulled over at the side of the road, including an emergency vehicle, and I saw someone in a stretcher. I’m pretty sure I saw a bike as well, but I can’t remember now. After that, I was pretty freaked out and just prayed to finish the 45 or so miles unscathed.
There were moments when I feared I may have gotten a flat tire, but I didn’t want to check to confirm it. It’s that stupid, irrational thought that, “If I don’t actually check it, then it can’t have happened, right??” Because I really did NOT want to be fixing a flat. The good news is that it was all in my head and there was no flat tire. And the funny news is that, towards the end of the bike portion, I started feeling really sleepy! I’d been up since 2am and it was now probably near noon and I just wanted to go to sleep. I stayed cognizant enough to not have any bike mishaps, but the weirdest thing I noticed was that, even though I totally stayed on course, the distance from the Mile 45 sign to the Mile 50 sign was NOT five miles! It was much less, maybe 2 1/2 miles! Was I the only one who noticed? If so, I must have missed a loop or something- I was so confused! Well, better to stop focusing on that and just hope I can make it the last few miles safely, which I did :-)
Back to transition, and then I set out for a not-so-fun run course, for two reasons- (1) the clouds have now parted so the overcast, misty sky is now hot and sunny and (2) my leg isn’t 100% better, so this run/walk is going to be rough.
I wasn’t even trying to be competitive, and my only thought was just to finish somewhat respectably. Sadly, long gone are the days when I would finish races (marathons) with a great time, often being in the top 10%. Enough digression. The run was a three-loop course, which was good and bad, though I feel like the good may have outweighed the bad. The good part about a three-loop course was that I actually got to see other, faster people on the course (granted, they were probably on their final loop as I began my run) and I got to pass by the crowd of spectators at the finish area multiple times. The bad part was doing the same loop three times, so I knew exactly which parts to dread (all of it, haha). I ran/walked it, but I think my run was more of a fast shuffle. Two thoughts were going through my head at the time: 1) this really sucks and I just want to die right now, and 2) OMG, I’m really doing this- I’m going to finish my first half Ironman! After several rounds of run/walking and splashing cold water on myself (it was HOTTTT, remember?), I finally neared the finish line for my final loop and then crossed it, and then it was over. I should have just taken my shoes off at that point and jumped back into the water, but it never occurred to me to do that. Weird.
Anyways, I collected my hard-earned medal, my awesome carpool buddy took my photo (yay!), and I enjoyed some post-race cookies (vegan, of course! provided very thoughtfully by RosePT) and pizza (cheeseless mushroom personal-sized pizza from Papa John’s). They hit the spot, I must say!
So what’s my next race? Your guess is as good as mine! I’m hoping my leg gets 100% better soon, so I can run fast and happy!