I felt confident I was going to have a big PR. I got up at 3:10. I ate my normal pre-race breakfast of a protein soy banana smoothie, white toast with butter and jam, and coffee. My mom had strategically placed a sunflower and a “Good Luck” note next to the blender. I sipped on Gatorade until about 6:15am, hanging out with my two of my girlfriends, Amy and Michelle. Michelle will note I have come a long way since the first half ironman we did together in 2005, where I was a total spaz “Do you think I will be warm enough in this wetsuit? Should I eat another gel? Are you wearing your flip flops to the edge of the water??” I like to think I have chilled out a little since then!
I mistakenly thought my wave started at 6:30. When I found out I had to wait till 6:50, I wished I had brought a Luna bar. I made the best of it and watched the pros exit the water and tried not to be nervous about my first race in the ocean.
I got in the water and told myself to relax, this was the same water in which I had learned to swim as a little girl… Lo and behold, despite the chop (for which I was NOT prepared! This swim was in a protected cove, which according to a friend of a friend was “like a pool” earlier this week), I was able to just chill out and swim. I swallowed a lot of salt water but I felt good overall. The way back was much easier than the way out. I tried to divert my attention from the ever -increasing pain as my left arm chafed against my wetsuit and focus instead on just moving forward. I exited the water in about 46 minutes, which was fine, for me.
T1: I found my bike easily but not my bag, in which I’d carefully placed my shoes, helmet, race belt, and sunglasses. (This race mandated a “clean” transition area. All of your items had to be in a bag labeled with your race #, not lying on the ground). I scanned the pavement for my precious bag and found nothing. After a minute, I spied it in a neat pile with some other bags. Apparently an overzealous volunteer decided to pack it up before checking that the associated bike was gone from the rack. (This was a point to point race where they drive your swim stuff over to the finish line). I guess less than stellar organization is a peril of doing any race in its inaugural year.
I stuck to my nutrition plan and my strategy of keeping a steady, controlled pace in order to save my legs for the run. We had a nice tailwind just about the whole way. The course was mostly flat for the first 20 miles or so, heading out of South County, along Scarborough and Narragansett Town Beaches, then through Wickford, west through Coventry, Exeter, Cranston, to downtown Providence. I felt like I was getting together with old friends, traversing bits and pieces of many of my old familiar routes. Miles 20-45 included several moderate rolling hills. I saw MANY people on the side of the road with flat tires, more than I’ve ever seen in one race. Little Rhody is known for many things, but well-maintained roads is not one of them. From about mile 45 to the end, the course was mostly flat, but filled with cracks, manholes, and potholes to watch out for. I rolled to the dismount line at just a hair over 3 hours.
Run: I felt pretty good starting out. The course was a 6.5 mile out and back route that you complete twice. It was slightly hilly other than a MAMMOTH climb that began around the half-mile mark. It’s the hill the Xtreme Games use for the street luge competition. I huffed up it and saw pro Elizabeth Fedofsky sailing down to the finish, and wished I were about to be done, too. At the first mile mark my watch read 9:09, which was awesome considering it included the monster climb. On through Wayland Square, past the Starbucks where I used to meet my faithful running buddy every Monday, to Blackstone Boulevard, the same road where I ran with my high school lacrosse team back when I was just figuring out that running in a straight line held much more allure than anything to do with a ball and a stick… I was enjoying myself, keeping up an 8:45ish pace.
My family and friends were planted just where they said they would be, which was FANTASTIC. I was so grateful to see what added up to a veritable fan club, assembled just for me! Thank you Mom, Dad, Adam, Meredith, Ella, Ronnie, Francesca, David, Eve, Brian, Bethany, Joelle, and Sandy. As usual my dad belted out his army cadences, ie “STANDING TALL AND LOOKING GOOD! YOU OUGHTA RACE IN HOLLYWOOD! LOOK TO YOUR LEFT AND WHAT DO YOU SEE!? A BUNCH OF WACKS IN MISERY!!!” I, and anyone lucky enough to be near me got to enjoy this pick-me-up four times, which was a HUGE lift every time I went by.
My energy dipped around the 5th mile mark however. My feet were wet and making an annoying splishy sound with every heel strike. They felt heavy and I was mad at myself for being so haphazard in dousing myself with water a self-cooling measure. The second time up the hill was exponentially more brutal than the first although my shoes were beginning to dry out. I ran (I use this word loosely) up it, noting that I was one of the few if not the only person not walking, which was marginally encouraging. I chided myself for having ever believed that having done repeats here on this very hill would prepare me for this pain. Indeed, I doubt anything short of carrying 50 pounds of rocks up 20 flights of stairs every single day could have readied me for this.
Around the 11th mile mark it occurred to me to eat a gel. I’d sipped on Gatorade or Coke at every aid station but that was all. My “plan” for nutrition on the run was to wing it. I don’t know what made me think this constituted a plan but it seemed like a good idea at the time. My energy resurfaced a few blocks later (though I am not sure if that was a result of the gel or the fact that the finish line was near) and I came through the chute feeling happy and relieved with my arms pointing skyward, although not under 6 hours as I had planned (6:04).
I was confident I was more fit than ever and although I enjoyed the course and especially my friends and family showing up to support me, I was super disappointed that I hadn’t shaved a good chunk of time off my PR. (I did subtract 2 minutes from my previous PR but I was hoping for at least 10 minutes, considering I have been training like a fiend. An inefficient fiend, perhaps???). I did however accomplish the goals of controlling my pace on the bike, looking cute at the finish line, and spotting one of my favorite pros.
Currently, the prime suspect in The Case of The Half Ironman That Took Over Six Hours is poor nutrition on the run. Or possibly, it just wasn’t meant to be my perfect day. If I get one perfect day this season I would rather save it for Ironman Wisconsin, anyway. I learned:
• I need WAY more body glide with my new (awesome) Rocket Science sleeveless wetsuit for I now sport an excruciating burn the size of a jumbo post-it note on the inside of my left arm.
• I don’t have to be intimidated by choppy water.
• “Wing it” does not equal a nutrition plan.