Part 1, including the drive to Tennessee and my rationale for trekking across the country for a race is here!
So, the race started and I jumped in the water and started swimming. Good news is it was warm. Bad news is that every time I get into open water in a wetsuit, I need to tell myself to stop panicking. I’ve talked to other athletes who experience this (it seems pretty common), and it’s something I was prepared to feel, but it still took about 3 or 400 meters before I found my groove and relaxed. The swim was basically out and back, with current against us on the way out. Pretty soon I was out of the water and heading into transition (swim: 40:43… not exactly speedy :)
I took a few minutes to put on my helmet and shoes, stuff nutrition into the appropriate pockets, check my tires and finally headed out of transition. At this point it had started to rain and the roads were really slippery in cleats, so volunteers and officials were warning athletes not to run with their bikes out of transition. Fine by me! I crossed the line, hopped on my bike and headed out.
Before the race, I’d decided to just take the hills as they would come. I knew that I wouldn’t be in a position to win, so having fun seemed like a reasonable strategy. Although it was drizzly, the bike seemed to be going well and about 10 km in I suddenly felt so happy. It was probably the endorphins kicking in, but I suddenly realized that I was about to graduate from medical school, I was racing in my second half ironman, with friends and family waiting at the finish. I was moving to my favourite city, starting a job I love, and about to take a trip to Europe. I think I just smiled for 5 km straight!
Eventually I lost some energy on the bike and the climbs got harder. It continued to rain, which at least cooled me off, but also made me less willing to pick up too much speed on the descents. I finally pulled back into transition and racked my bike, happy as usual to be off. My final split was 3:29:41.
I felt pretty strong and took another couple of minutes to switch shoes, put on a hat, and grab nutrition before I left on the run. I was pretty happy with how my legs felt and for the first 5 km or so of the run I was almost fooled into thinking I was free and clear. At mile 4, though, the hills on the run course, the heat (of course it stopped raining) and the long day started to catch up to me and I hit a wall. I was walking through the aid stations, taking water and gatorade. Around mile 6 I took a salt pill and perked up a bit. Finally at mile 11 I found a bit of extra energy and pushed through to the finish. There’s not much to say about the run except that it wasn’t pretty, especially for this triathlete who thinks of herself as a runner. Final run time: 2:13:38.
After I crossed the finish line someone put a medal around my neck and someone else put a gloriously cold towel over my shoulders – thanks Challenge!! My final time was 6:29:47. Not fast for me, not fast in general, but I’m really ok with it. It’s an early season B or C race, in heat I’m not used to, during a busy time! This is what I mean when I talk about being kind to myself :).
After I started to feel human again, I got some food, which I didn’t feel like eating, and a gatorade. Dan, Catherine and Silvia were there to see the finish, so it was nice to have people around. Eventually I worked my way back to transition with them, and we (they) picked up my stuff and we all walked back to the hotel.
Dan drove us a few hours north to Cincinnati (I was totally spoiled post-race and got to relax!), where we stopped for the night. The four of us had dinner and bought some drinks at the Kroeger, then hung out at the hotel. We had so much fun but I was beyond tired, so I fell asleep pretty early :). In the morning we went to the nearby outlet mall for some quick shopping (Hello, J. Crew, I love you), and then made the drive all the way home. It was an awesome weekend!