I could run like this all day!
Coach Joe! I did it! 🙂 And while I can’t say that every moment was great, the overall experience really was. I wouldn’t have done it nearly so well without your help. I’m so grateful for your caution, your wisdom, and your enthusiasm for this awesome sport!!
Mattoon Half Ironman. Finish time: 5:33:35
Bike: 2:57:20 (18.9 mph)
Run: 1:50 (8:27 min/mile)
I was 4th/12 in my age group, 58th/195 overall. I know I can’t change who shows up; if I just focus on my times, I’m ECSTATIC!
I followed my race plan with regard to execution perfectly: not too hard on the swim, low zone 3 on the bike, mid-high 3 on the run. I had no sprint left for the run finish, but didn’t walk at all either.
My nutrition went reasonably well. One bottle an hour on the bike, gel after the swim and about every 45 minutes on the bike and halfway through the run, electrolytes at 45 minutes or so, and drink Heed frequently on the run.
The swim was groovy. I started off to the side, as there was no back to be in (small women’s field). It was a two loop swim and I made nice tight corners on the far end but was consistently wide at the near end. I loved swimming up through the back of the men’s wave! I never panicked, which is unusual; I never got flustered; I had complete control the entire swim. With the exception of my new goggles (which were leak proof in the hotel pool) filling up with water and those loose turns, it was really excellent!
I think I was pretty consistent on the bike. Eric said that both loops were about the same time. There was a section of about a mile and a half of chip and seal with big rocks that made me want to check my dental work, but the bike was largely flat with really small rollers. I passed a number of women and a few men too. My confidence was really high after that swim and I discovered that I can indeed do a shot of gel at 22mph without breaking cadence or getting all the way out of aero! My body was great about giving me cues when it wanted electrolytes — a little cramp here and there, take a capsule, and in a few minutes it was gone. I did periodic assessments to check in with all the body parts and see if anybody needed anything and for the most part we were all on the same page. There was also a bit of wind that made for a nice tailwind on the downhill coming into T2!
When I started the run, I felt like it was about mile 18 in a marathon. My pace seemed good and I didn’t have any trouble hitting my stride right away. I wore my Fuel Belt fully loaded with Heed, gel, and electrolytes, just in case I didn’t find what I wanted at the aid stations. It might have been overkill, but I did get into three out of four bottles of Heed and was only taking water at a few of the aid stations. It was a two-loop out-and-back run course, and the first time I saw Jen C (who had a great race, by the way) she asked me how I was doing, to which I responded, “I could run like this all day!” It wasn’t much false bravado. I really did feel that way. One foot in front of the other. Sip. Assess. Run.
About five miles in, it was time for another Thermolyte and whether it wasn’t the right time or not enough fluid with it or maybe there was something else going on, from that point on the run I was nauseated. I’d taken half a packet of gel already, which was fortunate because I don’t think I could have managed any more. I started mixing in plain water from the aid stations with my occasional sips of Heed just to keep my stomach calm. I had no cramping, no aches or pains, just the nausea. So on I went, one foot in front of the other. At the 6.5-mile turnaround, I couldn’t find Eric. He’d estimated my pace would be closer to 9 minutes per mile and I surprised him a few minutes early. He came sprinting out of the parking lot yelling, “Go Jude! Go Jude!” It was so great! 🙂
At about mile 11 it started to rain. A little bit, then harder, but I had a great long run in the rain a few weeks ago so it was like an old friend coming to visit. It was starting to feel like about mile 24 in a marathon, so I welcomed the diversion from the nausea and a little cooling for my feet. At about mile 12 the glee started. My watch told me good things. I hadn’t been checking mile times because I was running by heart rate and perceived exertion, not by pace, so what did it matter what the individual miles were? And there it was…. the cornfield with the guy standing in it that was a quarter mile out. Eric was waiting with the camera at the end of the parking lot, again yelling. The Perma-Grin — I couldn’t stop smiling once I got to that guy and I knew I was going to do it, I had done it, and all I had to do was run through the inflatable arch. And I was there! I ran downhill past the cheering people through the arch directly into a big hug from Eric. I felt somebody tugging off my chip and it was over.
The recovery has been good too. A Pepsi straightened my stomach out, though I couldn’t really eat for another hour or so. We stopped at our favorite pizza place in Champaign on the way home for a deep dish and a Killians to wash it down. All things considered, I don’t regret doing or not doing any of my training — my taper was perfect, I think. I had no injuries this whole season either, which is really remarkable considering my tendency to overtrain (which is where you came in and helped me focus). I’m so glad I chose a small race for my first half. It was really well run and I was able to do my race the way I wanted to do it, without being hampered by a crowded, competitive swim or a crowded bike course. It was awesome. And while I don’t have another race on the schedule, I have some improvements in mind for next time. I’m convinced there will be a next time! I’m looking forward to a good night’s sleep after stuff stops hurting.
Thanks so much for all your help, Joe. You kept me sane through all this and kept my lack of confidence from ruining the show. I went into this race knowing that I had enough miles behind me and believing that I had what I needed to make it through. There was a little bitty voice in my head that kept nagging at me in parts of the bike and run, saying, “Remember Phoenix…” And then a big old voice on the other side of my head argued back, “THIS AIN’T PHOENIX!” And it wasn’t. I have beaten the demon. And that part I really couldn’t have done without you and I thank you for it.
Have an awesome holiday weekend! I’ll see you Tuesday for swim!
Congrats on Beating the Phoenix Demon, Judie!! – Coach Joe