This race was a last minute add on to the warmup to Ironman Canada. It would be a good test of fitness, and a great way to test the nutrition for my "B" race Barb's (vineman) half IM at the end of July. I know in the past my Ironman runs have gone to shit because of my nutrition, whether it was from stomach issues from the water (CDA) or nailed nutrition on the bike (Canada) but failure to keep up with calorie intake on the run. I had my calories (stuff my face ~750) perfected on my last couple of brick workouts and went into the race with my head in the right spot. I gained a lot of confidence in my running abilities this winter by racing 3 half marathons under 1:40 in the span of 6 weeks. Clearly, that couldn't have been a fluke. I CAN run.
I of course did my due diligence and researched some past times of people I knew. The swims were average, if not slow, the bikes were all over the place and the runs were FAST. Apparently weather is a common factor on the bike at this race. With that in mind I didn't put out a very specific bike goal, but for the run and swim I had a couple of numbers that my training supported. Swim ~32mins, run 1:48. I figured my bike could be anywhere from 2:40 on a great day and 2:50+ on a bad day. I said it from the get go with the weather conditions; this day was going to be all about the run. All I had to do was make it there.
Of course all of this went to shit when the forecast for race day kept getting worse and worse all the way until we stepped off the shuttle bus at Lucky Peak Reservoir at 10:30 am Saturday. Thankfully, I had come somewhat prepared, or as much as one could be for such conditions. I had toe warmers, arm warmers, last minute decision to wear compression socks to keep my legs warm on the bike and thaw out the toes. I had gloves to put my wetsuit on with, and gloves to wear on the bike. I even had my neoprene swim cap. Karen had an extra vest she was going to loan me. And yes, I was about to wear PINK.
there goes the motto "it's all about the outfit"
I kept fairly quiet on the bus ride up to the swim. I was fighting the I'm freezing demons in my head, but had looking around and realizing that everyone else was in the same boat and I knew nothing I said or did was going to change the weather. It was only my attitude that I could control. As we stepped off the bus into the start of a downpour of rain, crazy winds blowing the freezing air and rain onto us, Shane, Karen & I all just looked at each other and with out even speaking the words we were all wondering how in the hell we would get through this. It's one thing to be cold and miserable, but this was different. I began fearing the safety. With wind gusts and near freezing temperatures I wonder how not only myself, but all the people around me on bikes could stay safe. The biggest concern was the first 2 miles of steep descent off off the damn open to all of the wind gusts...
We immediately had to take off our layers to get body marked before going into transition. As I was shaking uncontrollably from the cold, the wonderful volunteered marked me as quickly as possible and I was bundled back up immediately. I went to my bike and loaded my nutrition and did a quick check of my gear bag (clean transition = everything must remain in the back and or attached to the bike). I looked around me and almost couldn't believe what I was seeing. People huddled under trees trying to block the wind and rain. Nearly every single athlete in their wetsuits even though some of the waves didn't start for 2 hours. I made one last minute decision to wear the thick jacket I had worn for the morning. I wore it for a short spin the day before, and it was warm. It seemed to be waterproof so far as I had been standing in the pouring rain for about 30mins and was still dry. I gave the borrowed vest back to Karen so she could double up her layers. Karen took a quick video of the chaos around us and I threw out a "I hate everyone" statement, almost laughing at myself! At this time the race directors made the day changing announcement that due to wind chills at freezing temperatures and gusts up to 40mph they were concerned about the safety on the bike course and were shortening the bike course to a straight shot of 15miles to get us to T1.
This is wear my entire demeanor changed. I went from fighting off the "how can I survive this" to actually having a smile on my face, cheering at the announcement and saying "we are going to have a GREAT run!
I headed to the porta potties and then Shane & I huddled behind the drop bag truck and decided to put on our wetsuits for warmth. About 15minutes later we found Karen and got her in her suit as well. I made one key decision here that may have saved me. As I put my foot into a plastic bag to get the wetsuit on easier, I realized how warm it was. I had been walking around in flip flops and my toes were throbbing from the cold. I stole Shane's bag and tied it around my other foot and was immediately better (he was wearing socks under his flip flops). For added warmth I put on my neoprene cap (the water was said to be 58 degrees - normally I wouldn't wear it for that temperature, but the thought of anything making me warm at that point sounded appealing).
The 3 of us stood around for what seemed to be for ever and despite my two partners in crime talking about DNFing or even DNSing, I remained silent. I just had to get through the swim, bundle up and coast downhill to town and I went get to RUN. We stood there, shivering in silent, peeing in our wetsuits to stay warm and then slowing headed to our wave groupings. I tried to swing my arms around and jump up and down but my body didn't really cooperate.
Most people were excited to get into the water as it was warmer than the air, but I think I had been so chilled to the bone for the past few days that nothing was going to warm me up. I was in wave 7 and could see how slowly all the waves in front of me were getting to each buoy. I got in the water about 2.5minutes before the start and breast stroked to the first buoy. I was still shaking uncontrollably but tried to take deep breaths. I got my face wet so I wouldn't be shocked when I put it into the water. The horn went off and we were headed out. I did not do my typical start hard, find feet and ease in. Instead I knew the best thing I could do was be steady and get my breathing under control. I seemed to be staying with a group of about 5 girls in my wave and were were quickly catching the wave before us. I kept noticing that every time I took a breath to the left there were a ton of girls about 10 yards out… To the right, no one. I kept second guessing myself that I was swimming off course, but every time I looked up (a lot), I was right on the buoy line. The buoys were every 100meters so it was actually really easy to sight. I kept going along my line and began to feel great.
And then the first turn happened and I felt as if I came to a complete STOP. I could see the next buoy but I felt as if I couldn't get there. I don't know if I was so cold my arms just weren't pulling, but I think the next 100meters took me almost as long as it took to get the first 500. I eventually hit that buoy and continued on but I had definitely slowed down and the more I tried to speed up the more I was feeling exhausted and worn down from the cold. My hands were freezing, my lips felt like they looked like Angeline Jolie and it was all I could do to keep going. I was expecting a 40minute swim and could have cared less. Just get to the run I kept telling myself.
The next time I looked up on the way back to shore I could have sworn I saw a tiny glimpse of blue sky. I smiled inside and realized that yes, I could do this…
I excited the water, looked at my watch and saw ~37minutes (I had started it pretty early) so estimated I swam about 35.. Fine enough, just happy to be done. I had to walk up to the wetsuit strippers because my feet were too numb, I was afraid to run. They quickly got me out of my suit and I think I jogged into T-1. I got my towel out, wiped my feet then sat down. I got one foot into the compression sock fairly quickly, but the next one was a challenge. I remember looking around and laughing at what was going on. To my left was a girl grabbing her bike, aero helmet on and heading out of transition with her wetsuit STILL ON. I asked her if she forgot something, she said nope. I'm wearing it. All around me people were saying they couldn't feel their hands or feet and basically were helpless. I knew how much time I had wasted, but honestly didn't care. I just wanted to be warm. I took my timing chip off to make it easier to get the other stupid sock on, then attached it back my ankle, over my sock. Next were arm warmers, then the coat. Gloves, aero helmet, shoes (yeah for toe warmers) and my race belt.
Finally, I was off. The first .25 mile is a very slight uphill with 2 speedbumps. People were swerving all over and a couple of
assholes guys came zipping by me being not just being reckless, but STUPID. I stayed on my handlebars until I was down the wet windy descent (not like me, I LOVE to go down) and was comfortable getting aero (aero being relative to the big old coat I was wearing). I couple of fast guys passed me, and maybe 1 or two girls, but I didn't care. To be honest my quads were so cold and numb, I couldn't even tell if I was actually pedaling or not. I just kept looking at my garmin and realizing how quickly the "15" miles were going by. I soon heard the crowd of T-2 and got excited. It was 14 miles and I was kinda thawed out and ready to run. I dismounted my bike, and got into T-2. I took off my helmet, coat and realized my arm warmers were soaked and not staying up so I threw those off as well. I slipped on my shoes, visor and grabbed my bag of "stuff" and was out. My toes were numb and at one point I actually asked a women if my foot was in my shoe. I couldn't feel it, and felt like my left heel wasn't in.. it was so I continued on.
As I looked down at my garmin I was seeing numbers in the mid 7's I immediately pulled back even thought the effort felt easy. I have practiced negative splitting my runs all year and knew that I was not up to running a 7:30pace half marathon. Even after pulling back I was running faster than planned, but it felt too easy, so I just went with it. I got in my head pretty early on that I could maybe run a 1:45. The run was gorgeous, flat and scenic along the Boise River. I was passed by some super fast girls that dropped me like a bad habit right away, but I just kept on moving at my pace. I realized how beautiful it was, and I was smiling! I thanked all the volunteers, high fived any kids I saw with their hands out cheering & thoroughly just enjoyed myself and the run.
I hadn't taken in any nutrition on the bike so I took a gel at mile 3, then sips of water at the next few aid stations. At the turnaround point I realized I was still holding a great pace and felt good, but maybe a little sleepy so I took my Slam (caffeine) drink for some energy, then 2 e21s at mile 7 and was on my way back out for the second loop. My pace began to drop above 8min miles so I took my next gel at mile 8 and figured I could grab coke or one more gel if needed. Around mile 9.5 I finally saw Shane and did some quick math realizing he would have to run about 2 minutes per mile to "catch me" (I knew he already made up all the time difference between our swim wave starts so the thought of actually being passed by him was so not going to happen!) and just dug deep. I grabbed coke at the next 2 aid stations at at mile 11 I realized that I could do this. That I was actually running my race, and proving to myself that my head was in the game, that I had accomplished what I came here for and was ecstatic.
It truly is remarkable what the mind and body can endure. I am so unbelievably proud of myself for not quitting, not even having the thought of quitting in my head when there was so much of it, and other negative energy, and misery going on around me.
I finished 13th in my age group and with a guaranteed 5-6 slots to the 70.3 world championships I considered going to the roll down. I talked with my coach, and made the decision to not go. My year is about Ironman Canada. As excited as the chance at a World Championships may be… my heart wouldn't be in it.
I don't actually know if I would have even gotten a slot, but I'm ok with that. I'm taking a couple of days to recover from the "half marathon" and ready to get back at there.