Monday, September 28, 2009


A couple weeks ago, I had asked my dad what he wanted for his birthday. In his usual fashion, he said, "a first place trophy from Belly of the Beast."

So yesterday, I got to give him exactly what he asked for. I don't know who was more shocked!

Yeah. I won. My first half Ironman ever, and I won! It's the first time that I've been in first place overall, and that was a pretty awesome feeling.

The race itself was a pretty fun course- it was the first year it's been run, so there were some definite "kinks." A lot of people got mixed up on the course, went extra miles on the bike or missed a couple miles on the run. Luckily, I managed to stay on course despite the fact that the bike leg actually got changed. The race started late and there was a separate bike and run transition, something I was totally unaware of because it wasn't in the race packet. You could put your T1 stuff in a bag when you went off on the bike, and they would move it up to T2. I didn't have a bag, so I asked if it would be left there until I could pick it up. They said yes. My amazingly expensive wetsuit came THIS close to getting thrown out. Found it crammed in a uhaul after the race, after asking every volunteer I could where I could find it. The volunteers, though nice, didn't know ANYTHING about the race, course, transitions, times, or anything. Also, there was only one aid station on the bike when they advertised two, there was no Coke on the run course and they ran out of gels (also advertised) and there were NO bagels, bananas, sodas or anything remotely vegetarian at the end. What the hell? Luckily, mom had gotten me a PowerBar. And lastly (or firstly), the swim course was soooo poorly mapped. I was swimming totally alone, having gotten dropped by the first 3 womena nd way ahead of my wave, so I was on my own and literally had to tap a man breast-stroking to ask for directions. Hmm...

Anyway, the race.

Like I said, it started late. And did I mention that it was raining and had been all night? And that on my way down to the swim start, I got a blister on the arch of my foot. Great. We finally got in the water- the women, first timers, and Athenas- why is it women always get thrown in at the end? Anyway, as we're waiting in the water, we see not one, but two guys getting rescued about 150 feet out. Great way to start the race!

So once they got to shore, we started. I gotta say, the start sorta came out of nowhere, but I managed to shove out and be up in the front of the pack. However, the three or so women I was with just destroy me and all of a sudden, I'm on my own, in choppy water and can't see the buoys. So I SWIM and keep swimming. I look up for people, pass some men, and finally am sighting the women in front of me and steadily passing men from waves ahead of me. I knew I was doing well, but I was amazed when I got out and Dad was grinning and yelling "You're fourth out of the water! Go!!!"

It was faster than my mile swim at Steelman, in worse conditions. It was also easily 5 min faster than my goal swim.

Anyway, onto the bike. It was wet, and even with a plastic bag, my stuff was still soaked. Plus, the exit was a hill. So first, I mounted. I almost fell over, my pedal wouldn't clip in and I couldn't get enough momentum with just one foot in. Tried again, no luck. Then, I realized that the fastest way up the short hill was clearly to run up it. My cyclocross boys would be proud at how I hauled ass up that hill! After that, it was easy going for the first half. Ten miles in, the woman I barely beat at Skylands cycled up next to me, and told me I was good enough to go pro in a year or two. Then, she smoked me on the bike. But I had the biggest grin on my face. She told me that my swim and run are easily strong enough and my bike can be strong enough that I have a real shot at a legit career of some sort in my future. She's awesome. Afterwards, we exchanged emails and we're gonna ride together so she can help me get ready for Ironman.

The bike was ok for a while, then when heading into Frenchtown, I hit a pothole on the brutal downhill. I thought I was going over my handlebars. I barely made it but didn't fall, so my adrenaline was racing. Then, stomach troubles. Yeesh. I didn't get to eat as much as I would have liked but I got a decent amount in. I spent about 12 miles with a group of 5 guys, and later one thanks me for pacing him so well on the flat section. The course changed at the end of the flat, which was a huge bummer, since it was a HUGE hill out of nowhere. It was a huge bummer. But, up the hill. Here was where I started bonking a little and worrying about the run. My stomach hurt, I was getting tired, and it was just a bad situation. I kept my position and just tried to hold on and finally we were almost back. Bummer here though- the last huge hll of the day and my bike wouldn't downshift because of so much grit in the cassette, so I blew up my quads trying to get up that hill. Oh man. I was really worried about the bike, since my quads had started cramping that morning a bit.

I got into transition, Dad yelled that there were only a couple women ahead of me. I thought I was going to be walking out of transition, but when I got my warm dry socks and shoes on, I felt great. First mile, pounded it out and saw mom and dad again. Mom ran next to me for a few yards and hugged me and off I went. Got out of the huge hill and somehow managed to start running next to a really nice guy, and we ran together for about 3 miles and chatted. It was a great way to start, it calmed me down and relaxed me a lot. He had to pull back, but I was off to a god start. We hit a downhill, and it had a big turnaround and a huge uphill. As I was hitting the uphill, Rob was heading down and when we were across from each other, he yelled that the girl ahead of me was looking tired and I should get her. So, I did.

Then, we hit the trail section. Holy crap. Roots, rocks, winding trails that weren't clearly marked, and me yelling a choice amount of curses and making "if a tree falls in teh woods and hits a triathlete..." type jokes as I passed people. Big secret? I LOVE trail running. I want to do a lot more of it, and I think I definitely will be doing it at Round Valley in coming months. I loved it, and it added a lot of time for me, since very few people could be dextrous enough to navigate it well. Years of Irish dance and nimble feet paid off! I took in a gel halfway through and drank a few sips at every aid station, which was definitely a winning combination.

It was a LONG 13 miles- 5 different people told me that their GPS monitors said it was closer to 14, and I believe them, since it took a good 15 min to go from mile 12 to the finish. It was ridiculous. And with the hills and trails, I was amazed to find that I was the 2nd fastest in the run.

I hit the finish line and felt fine- even managed a final sprint. Shoulda gone harder!

When I went over to check the scores, Rod (my running buddy) was already looking at them. He had heard someone yell my name on the run, so he looked at me and hugged me. "Congratulations!" he says. I look at my name, and saw 1/42 next to it. I was FLOORED.

One woman I had been talking to pre-swim came up to me and asked how I did. I've never been so stoked to tell anyone!

Mom said that everywhere we walked, people were pointed me out and talking about how my bike/run/swim had been "strong" "effortless" "comfortable" and a bunch of other amazingly nice compliments. And a few remembered me from the Skylands race 2 weeks ago!

It was a great race despite the rain and the mismanagment of the race. I had fun, and I think that this may be "my" new distance. Sprint and Half Ironman are cleary my strengths- I think it's because sprint is all out, and half is more slow endurance, but Olympic is a weird combination and I never know how to pace on them.

Anyway, I have a lot to think about this week, Keith and I are starting to plan for IMKY and what we're working on with my swim. I want to drop a few pounds in the next couple months and really improve my nutrition. I was thinking about trying to lose a few pounds all summer, but because of constant racing, I couldn't. In the next couple weeks, I want to get better at cross, and really nail the skills that I'm missing. I want to pick up my run A LOT, and get marathon ready. After yesterday, I think I can take one on, should be fun! And god knows, my bike is absolutely in need of improvement- especially on the tri section where there's no drafting. And in a long course, I can't count on the huge power I can put out for sprinting. I focus too much on saving power ont he bike for the run, but I need to figure out how I can push the bike without sacrificing the run.

But yeah- as always, laundry list of things to improve, but right now, I am taking the day off and basking in winning my first half-Ironman and getting ready for a lot of work to come!