Oh, boy. Where do I begin?!?
As my summer break came to a close, I was busy with classroom set up, lesson planning, teach supply shopping, professional development, oh, and training. I’ve done this whole training while starting the school year thing before, but this year has been different. In the weeks leading up to Storm the Fort, I was exhausted. Beyond belief exhausted. Like slugging my way through workout sessions-exhausted, but still going at them with all my heart.
The Wednesday before the race was my first official day of school with the kids. I seemed to be handling everything okay, but even though I felt fine during the day, I noticed that during workouts I was, again, exhausted. I made the decision to use Thursday as a recovery day and try to get as much rest as possible. Friday would be work all day, hop in the car right after work and drive to Knoxville, TN.
Fast forward to Friday. I got home from work feeling pretty tired, but the hubs and I loaded up the car quickly and were on the road according to our schedule. That rarely happens, so score for Team HBB. We should have been at our hotel by 9:00 pm at the latest, which included a quick stop for dinner in Asheville, NC. Unfortunately, road construction in several areas along our route slowed our travel quite a bit and it was nearly midnight when we finally arrived at our hotel. We chose to stay in Knoxville but the race was actually in Kingston.
After a brief nap, we were up at 4 am and on the road to the race by 5ish. StF was my first non-Ironman branded 70.3 distance, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. What I can say is that information leading up to the race was pretty much non-existent with the exception of one mass email that went out the Thursday before the race, and I was still left with a number of questions.
We arrived at the race location around 6 am, which is when packet pick-up began for those who hadn’t picked up the night before. I checked in, got my race number and timing chip, and racked my bike. There were no assignments for racks with the exception of the half iron distance racers being on one side and the sprint distance folks on the other side. It was a little strange to be the only female racked with all the guys. Not bad. Just strange. There were only about 20 women total out of the 85 or so participants.
About 30 minutes before the race started, stomach issues began. Not the kind people normally get from just being nervous. I wasn’t feeling great at all. Luckily, a stop at the port-a-potty and a few Gin Gins helped a little. If you haven’t been including Gin Gins in your pre-race bags/gear, do it. They are amazing for settling upset or nervous tummies!!
My swim wave was to go off at 7:41. Yeah, that didn’t happen. The half distance got started a little late, so we actually ended up starting at 7:50 (according to my Garmin).
The swim, 1.2 miles, was a 2-loop, rectangular course. I was actually excited about this because I thought it might make the swim go by faster. At least it would seem that way even if I was swimming my typical turtle pace. With such a small number of women and participants in general I had clear water the whole way. I actually enjoyed the swim. And, the 2-loop course was great for mental game if you’re like me and not a huge fan of the swim. The swim was not wetsuit legal and unfortunately, I hadn’t invested in a swimskin so I swam in my tri shorts and sports bra. Not sure what the water temperature was but it felt perfect. No where close to the 86 degrees they were claiming in our Thursday pre-race email, but whatever. I came out of the water at 45:40. Slow, yes, but one of my better swims at that distance without a wetsuit.
Coming out of the water I felt okay but I could tell my heart rate was much higher than normal after a swim. Time: 3:30
I wasn’t even a few miles into the bike and I knew it was going to be a long day. I was struggling to get my heart rate to settle and I felt extremely sluggish. I immediately took on water and nutrition just to make sure that wasn’t the issue. Nope. I had the exact feeling I’d become familiar with over the previous two weeks in training. Those same feelings every endurance athlete tries to deny. The course seemed harder than what the elevation map showed, especially knowing the elevation I’d been riding in training. Overall, everything felt harder. Aid stations were about 15 miles apart BUT the first one was on the left side of the road (we were on the right side on the way out – course open to traffic), and I missed it before I even realized that was the aid station for everyone (mile 15 and 45). Sure wish they had given a heads up on that one. The 2nd aid station was at mile 30ish, which also happened to be the turn-around point. They were out of water. Hell, it didn’t even resemble an aid station when I rolled through. Thankfully, I decided to pack an extra bottle of water on my bike since I didn’t know what to expect from the aid stations. I did, however, expect water but…luckily I had planned. We also lucked out in that it was over- cast and much cooler on the bike than the temps of recent days and weeks. I did manage to finally get more water at mile 45, but I felt so awful I don’t think it really mattered. Every pedal stroke was a struggle and all I could think about was how awful that run was going to be. I tried to stay positive, but I was using every ounce of energy to get back to transition. Somewhere in the last few miles of the bike, I started having a real conversation with myself. I knew this had been happening in my training. The whole sluggish, I want to put my head on my aero bars and take a nap feeling. It was in those last miles that I really started to question whether or not I needed to pull out of Louisville. Something’s definitely off.
I rolled into transition with my slowest 70.3 bike time ever. And, the course was a little short, too. Time: 3:25:21. Embarrassing for me considering the training I had been doing AND the fact that I was on my brand new bike. Brand new REALLY nice bike.
I tried not to think about the death march that was about to occur, but nothing in my body wanted me to leave T2. I did anyway. I thought about the sweet little girl that I run for, Sadie, and knew I had to push on. Some days are tough and we have to be tougher to get better. Time: 2:41
The Run (aka The Death March):
I’m not even sure if I should refer to this part of the race as the run. There wasn’t a whole lot of running going on. It truly was a death march for me. I was so tired, so exhausted, and the sun was coming out to play. Based on the elevation charts for the run, I wasn’t so worried because I knew it was supposed to be fairly flat. I knew I could handle fairly flat in my struggle-bus state. Unfortunately, fairly flat turned into something not flat. And while the run course wasn’t terribly hilly, when I compare to other races I’ve done, it took me to a whole new level of suffering. I literally thought I was going to die out on the run course. Okay, that may be an exaggeration but only slightly. I was completely wiped out, despite staying on my nutrition and hydration all day. I just couldn’t make sense of why my body was reacting this way and why this had become my norm in the previous weeks. Still, I pushed on. The whole time all I could think about was the big question mark that now seemed to be looming over Ironman Louisville. Two hours, 49 minutes later, I found the finish line.
Total Time: 7:07:07
While my day wasn’t great by any means, I always try to find at least one positive to hold on to. I try to take away lessons learned that can help me in future races.
- I finished my 6th half iron distance triathlon.
- I didn’t die.
- I had one of my better swim times having not been wearing a wetsuit or swimskin.
- I planned properly by carrying additional water on my bike.
- Despite the crappy day I was having, I still encouraged and cheered other competitors on, including those who looked awesome and those who looked like they were on the struggle bus with me.
- T1 and T2 times were decent.
- My kit, visor, and running shoes were super comfortable and matched wonderfully (shout out to SOAS Racing, Headsweats and On Running). This is indeed important when traveling at such slow speeds ’cause everyone has plenty of time to see you. Ha!
- I managed to get myself back to transition from the finish line without getting lost (a couple of miles away). This is HUGE for me because I get lost very easily. Like so easily that I once studied how to get from the finish line of a race back to my hotel for a solid hour. True story.
- I found a new level of suffering and I pushed through. This, of course, can be a positive and negative – but hey, let’s go with positive.
I’m not exactly sure what the rest of my season holds, but I’m hoping some extra rest will help sort out some of my issues and I’ll be back to regular training. If not, I’ll be sure to pay a visit to my doctor very soon.