Well, after much delay, I’m reporting on the half ironman I did two weekends ago (June 13th) at the Liberty Triathlon. This was such a fun entry into the triathlon world in a beautiful part of the Midwest. The race had a great support crew, extraordinary fans, and some pretty inspiring racers, too.
The group of us (seven total) left Friday morning from Houghton in The Bike Shop’s Dodge Sprinter van. It was a comfortable ride, and those in the back watched two or three movies during the ride. We stopped in Duluth at Amazing Grace Bakery for lunch, and they made me a huge, delicious chicken salad on greens. The bread smelled and looked delicious, too. We didn’t linger too long in Duluth, though. We arrived just after 4 to the hotel for packet pickup. Leiah was there, too, so it was really perfect timing. She followed us back to the campground (we stayed at Baker Park) where we set up tents and rolled around on our bikes for a little while. Some of the guys went to St Paul to watch the professional cycling races, and Leiah, Ian, Adam, and I went to Leiah’s boyfriend, Jared’s, to have dinner. He made a delicious spaghetti and I was definitely satisfied. We went back to the campground around dark and headed to bed.
The early rise of 5am was easy, because I was a little anxious. I wasn’t that nervous, though, which was nice. I had a few handfuls of peanut butter puffs (Envirokids) and drank some water, got ready for the race. We took our gear to the transition zone as early as we could, and got ourselves marked. I went with the Trances, even though I hadnt ran much in them… only a few miles. Before I knew it, there was only half an hour before race start. Then fifteen mintues. The starter had us gather on the beach for the staggered wave starts. We were the fourth to go- all of us except Leiah- and I knew I just needed to swim my own race and get into a rhythm. The way out was nice and calm, the waves were to our back. I got into a nice rhythm indeed, but found myself getting T-boned by some other swimmers that had temporarily lost their direction. I then realized I had to pee. I tried to go, focused on it and everything, to no avail. It didn’t take long to get to the Olympic turnaround, but the long-course turnaround took forever. I took the turn wide, and was being overtaken by swimmers in white caps (the wave behind me). I didn’t let it bother me, though, and tried to stay focused. I got out of the water and my legs felt tired, it was hard to run, but I tried to control my breathing while taking off the suit. I got to my bike and noticed that Andrew was already taking his bike off the rack. It surprised me that he beat me out of the water, but I grabbed my bike, put on my helmet and shoes, and rolled out of T1.
The bike felt great. I stayed aero as much as I could. It didn’t take long to get passed by Adam, Caleb, and Jon. I tried to stay focused here, too, and just go my own race. I tried to stay as close to 20mph as I could, and my Garmin Forerunner was telling me my instantaneous velocity. My front bottle (Cee Gees Podium Quest) was filled with Kona Kola Nuun and Cytomax (separate tanks). Its position between my clip-ons was great; the straws were right near my mouth so every downhill was a chance to refuel while staying aero. I got into a rhythm around mile 5, and although I felt good, I held back. Some of the hills, I’d give’r a little, but I was still holding back. I munched on some Honey Stinger Chews and had a gel within the first 90minutes. Turns out, gels are not the best for the bike; my bars were coated in stickiness. I’ll stick with chews from now on. Just before mile 40, Andrew passed me. Weird. I thought he was out of the water first? Turns out he was, he had a mechanical near mile 1. I wasn’t worried about keeping up with him, though. He’s a damned good Roadie. I kept pushing, on to lap 2. I was by myself for some of it, catching up to people ahead of me and dropping them. There was a guy that would go back and forth with me. I’d try to push hard when I passed him so that we weren’t drafting. After the second lap, my legs still felt good, but the 9 miles out-and-back was tough mentally. “When is this damned turnaround?!” I kept thinking, I even said aloud, to someone else. But, after the turnaround, it was (mostly) all downhill back to T2, and I was putting the hammer down.
I got off my bike and put on my shoes (no socks) and grabbed my flask of Kona Kola Nuun. Racing out of T2, I headed straight to the bathroom slightly off the course. I tied my shoes as I peed, and hobbled my way out of the bathroom up the woodchip hill to the run course. My legs felt funny. My breathing was off. I tried to control it and stay forward and in control. I eventually regained a normal breathing rhythm and then saw Adam ahead. When I got to him, he was walking, and I walked wiht him for a few dozen yards. He was having chest tightness, so I handed him my flask for water and made sure he was ok before I took off again. I soon caught up with Ian, and Ian was close to Caleb. I grabbed a water and/or Coke at every station, walked a step or two (or more) while I drank it, or threw the water over my head. When I got to mile 6, I saw Andrew and Jon coming toward me. They weren’t that far ahead. I was counting the women that also passed me on their way back, and figured I was in contention for a top-twenty spot by the time I got to the turnaround. I tried concentrating on my stride and turnover, and at around mile 9, I passed Andrew. I wasn’t really gunning for Jon, because I knew he was a strong runner, but I started to hear someone behind me gaining. Around mile 12, a woman passed me with a 28 written on her left leg. She was in my age group! I let her go a little, but when I realized that I wasn’t in that much pain, I was mad at myself for letting her get ahead. What if she is #3 in my age group? So I started pushing it a little more and got in her pocket. We navigated down the woodchip path to the lake, and she held back. I passed her effortlessly, and encouraged her to push with me, but she didn’t. I had so much speed coming into the end stretch and my legs felt awesome and fresh. I crossed the line, and I wasn’t heaving or hurling myself across. I felt really good!
I ended up finishing in 5:23, 3rd in my age group and 12th overall for women. I ran a smart race, and I loved the way I felt when I finished.
After the race, I had my blisters cut off and taped up (no socks = baaad blisters) and cheered on my teammates. We sat around the grassy waterfront for a few hours, and the guys got their legs wet in the lake (ice bath!). We wrapped up the race with some burgers and awards, and headed back to the van. A few of the guys stayed around camp, and the rest of us went to TGI Fridays for some recovery food. It was an early night, all of us were wiped out. We weren’t in a rush to leave in the morning. We stopped again in Duluth on the way back, this time at Burrito Union. So good.
To wrap up: I am in love with triathlons. I was a little apprehensive at first. I didn’t want to admit that I would like the three-sport world, but my experience thus far shows promise. I’m still not giving up my world of running, though.