I'm a bit at a loss of words here thinking about writing this race story. To be honest I'd like to just sort of gloss it over with a little blurb about how it wasn't the day I was hoping for/expecting, but it could have been worse, and that overall the weekend was really fun. #TheEnd
But there's no lessons to be learned in a recap like that, so I'll try to dig through the details a bit looking for something to learn...
If you've been following along for the last few months, you know how my training has gone. I felt quite good about it to be honest and I don't think (?) I was fooling myself. But then I go and race what was, across the board, one of my slowest half ironmans (ever!) so I have to scratch my head and start wondering.
The cannon went off signaling the start of my wave (last of the day) and I took off swimming strong and looked around and saw 3 other women who were off the front with me. My initial reaction was WTF? NO! This swim is MINE! But then I was like no wait- this is excellent! Women to swim with! I have respect for women who are good strong swimmers so I tucked in behind one gal in a blue speed suit and stayed on her feet until we got caught up in a cluster*ck of a mess at the final turn buoy. There was a lot of weaving and trying to avoid swimmers in waves ahead of us but I never got mad about it... just tried to manage best I could. I might have gone a bit wide on the last leg to shore (after I got separated from blue suit gal) but overall I felt happy enough with that swim while I was doing it. It's never going to be as fast now as it used to be when they let us all start together and I could just get in a pack and swim without worrying about dodging so many others from earlier waves, but 30+ min swim here is the longest its ever taken me in the 9 years I've done this race.
I really hope the race director will consider making a change to T1. It's a long run up a hill to the bikes (which is fine) but it's a narrow corral where athletes basically have to go single file for a bit... which is FINE for the men in the first wave but for women in the last wave who have caught a lot of non-competitive men in waves ahead, it's less than ideal. All it takes is for one tired guy to opt to walk up the hill and it becomes a complete bottleneck for everyone behind him. So basically I walked most of the way up the hill to my bike, with no other option due to the congestion.
Onto the bike there were some scary moments but again having done this for several years now I was mentally prepared for the mayhem that is the first 10 miles of this race. I rode with my powermeter for the first time and I think it's main function was to keep me from overcooking my effort on the early hills. This course is a lot of rollers... nothing really too steep but it's the kind of climbing where if you're working you can really (accidentally) put out a lot of watts. I got passed by a friend of mine (she started in the women's wave ahead of me but we got to T1 together) and I thought about going with her when she went by, but we were climbing and I looked at my power and was pushing 200+w while she was riding away and I was just like nope don't do it... My hope was that holding back in the beginning would allow me to be stronger in the end. And who knows, maybe I would have died off even worse had I gone by feel to start, but I don't feel like I finished very strong. I'll have to go back and look at the data, but I don't think my power avg was as high as I thought it would be. NP would be higher than the AVG I was looking at, but I hit lap a few times and basically just used the power to confirm how I was feeling. Overall I can't say I felt strong while riding. Instead it felt forced. And I sort of had an idea that I wasn't killing it (time-wise) on the bike but I really tried to just let that go and not judge it. One of my rules for myself while racing is that I don't judge anything until after I've crossed the finish line, because sometimes you think you're doing terrible but then after you see all the results you're like hey I wasn't doing as poorly as I felt like I was! So that's what I was trying to pretend was happening while I was out there. I felt like I was working as hard as I should have been working but I don't think I worked too hard. I ate and drank everything I planned (2x bottles Osmo, 2-3x waters, 2x bonk breaker bars spread out just a bite at a time, 3x gels, 4x e21 tabs) and that all felt right.
For the most part I was able to ignore the men around me and just do my thing (I think having my power meter helps with this bc I focus more on myself than the people around me) but at one point I was trying to pass a guy on a climb and he turned it into a drag race... I looked down at my garmin and my 30" avg was 261w (ugh) and I can't believe how calm I was when I said "You need to let me pass. I've initiated the pass. You need to fall back. If you want to repass me, you can, but you need to let me pass now." No yelling! No being pissy. Just explaining the rules. Go me. :)
I didn't see a lot of cheating/drafting going on. Coming down from Hawi I did get swallowed up by a pack of ~10 riders, including one woman. I sat up and stopped pedaling and let them go. It wasn't hard to avoid cheating if you wanted to avoid it. I feel really good about my own clean riding- there was never a time when a draft official would have called me out for anything, which is the same as every other race I do. I pride myself on riding fairly, even if my bike split might be a few minutes slower because of it.
T2 was a similar narrow chute where you were stuck behind whoever was going slowest in front of you. It is what it is, though again it would be nice if the race directors would take this into consideration when designing the width of the area where were are running in to the bike racks.
I was pleasantly surprised when I got off my bike and started running. Interestingly, it seemed like my legs actually felt better running than they did riding? That like never happens... I knew I hadn't had a stellar swim or ride but I thought it's fine maybe I'll salvage this with a decent run? (HA!) So I started jogging, really quite easy at first because I knew it was going to get hard... over cushy golf course grass at first then onto a concrete path where the series of short steep hills began. It hadn't felt that hot on the bike but at this point it felt HOT and with no wind it was really steamy, especially over the grassy parts. You could feel the humidity rise over the grassy sections and for me (likely for most!) it turned into a heat management situation... Stay as cool as you can... Ice in my bra, ice down the back of my top, ice in my hands, ice in my mouth...
I could go on and on about how hard this new run course is but unless you were out there, there's no truly explaining it. I was genuinely surprised that they managed to make it harder than the old course, but it really was, and everyone had the same story at the end... OMG That run!?! It was a lot on golf cart paths with these stupidly steep (but short) ups and downs. After the race I described it to someone as 2 hours of 30" hill reps done in a steam room with a heat lamp and no fan (training session idea for next year?? Lol). So while I wouldn't say I gave up on myself, I did sort of just let go of any competitive thought other than just put one foot in front of the other... It felt more like survival vs racing... Trying to avoid cramping because I was feeling little twinges pretty much the whole time. I walked up most of the steep inclines and through all the aid stations... I attribute the lack of complete seizing up of my legs to 2 things> I took Recovery e21 every few miles and I actively spoke nicely to my muscles. I know it sounds super hokey but I swear my legs cramp so hard when I start allowing negative thoughts into my brain. As soon as I start thinking 'I suck at this'... BOOM! Massive cramps. And when that happens I end up being stopped on the side of the road and unable to even walk and even more pissed and that's just a bad cycle. I managed to avoid that scene yesterday by not looking at my watch (at all!) and continually thanking my legs for doing such a great job (true or not!). I smiled as much as I could, giving the illusion that I was super happy, because that's the fastest way to get to the beer when everything feels like crap.
I crossed the finish line (smiling with my hands up because YAY I was done and I was going to have a beer in hand soon!) and I didn't see a clock, but I heard Guy Hagi say my name and then he said 5:28... In my head I was thinking SHUT.UP. Could that possibly be right? I mean NO WAY 5:28?!... But I looked at my watch for the first time all day and indeed it was 12:28PM (we started at 7). I couldn't believe I was even slower (by a lot) than last year, which had been so much slower than the year before, etc etc etc.
To be completely honest, my coping mechanism was just block all of it out because I had no desire to ruin the after party by being disappointed about having just trained like I did and then coming away with one of my slowest 70.3 times ever. I mean, I used to be a complete hack about my training just doing whatever the heck I felt like all the time and even back then I was knocking out this course in 5:16-5:22 range... How the heck I'm slower now than I was back then is simply beyond my comprehension and I couldn't even really fathom it, so I just grabbed a beer and started drinking with my friends.
The party continued into the evening. I did take about 15min to go for a walk with Nalani where I had a minor meltdown. She's such a good friend- all I said was that I needed a minute to be sad and she was on it like lets go for a walk! So we walked and I blabbed on and on for a bit... Then I put it away again and started drinking Guiness floats. :) Vanilla ice cream in Guiness! If you have not tried this you really should!! It's been a post race celebration tradition of ours since 2009.
Anyway, obviously I'm not done processing this all. But for now, that's my race story. I'm' sure there will be more to come as I continue to process it all and figure out what to do next.