My sister (personal sherpa) and I left mid-morning on Saturday so that we would have plenty of time to pick up my packet, go to the expo, drive the bike course, and get back to my aunt & uncle's house for supper. (Yes, it's SUPPER, not dinner. We are midwestern farm folk.) We were disappointed in the expo- there were only four vendors/companies there - so after listening to the course talk, we took off to drive the bike course.
The bike course was similar to the terrain I ride at home with lots of small rollers. The course was well-marked. We only missed one turn that hadn't been marked yet. The one thing that was worrying me was the 300ft climb that was marked on the map. We didn't see anything that steep and I was hoping we hadn't missed a turn somewhere. (More on the 300ft hill later.)
After driving the bike course, we went back to my aunt & uncle's house for supper where I proceeded to eat enough to get a comment from my father about the amount of food I was eating. Hey, I was hungry and I had 7 to 8 hours of racing ahead of me the next day! After supper, I got all my gear ready and went to bed around 9PM in anticipation of a 3:30AM wake-up.
Race morning, I woke up to the sound of my alarm after a pretty good night's sleep. This is unusual for me. Typically the night before a race, I have trouble sleeping. It was nice to actually sleep for once. The first thing I did (the first thing I do every morning!) was make coffee. After a cup of coffee, I did a final gear check, packed up the car, grabbed my breakfast and rounded up the troops.
My father, sister and I arrived in Chisago at around 5:45AM. Plenty of time before transition closed at 6:45AM to get my area organized, get my body marking done, do some stretching and chill out with some music. And get bored. I know that I should be there early in case something goes wrong, but when everything goes as planned, what in the world am I supposed to do with all that extra time?
At 6:40, I put on my wetsuit and headed over to the start to get a swim warmup in. The water was perfect. It would have been warm enough to go sans wetsuit, but I need the extra buoyancy as I am not a strong swimmer. I warmed up a little, and felt confident about my ability to finish my longest open water swim to date. It was a little foggy, but not enough for them to postpone the start, so I wasn't too concerned about it.
The first wave got started on-time at 7AM. I was in the 15th wave and didn't start until 7:28. As my wave was waiting, we could see the fog affecting the swimmers as they veered far off to the left or the right. If they got too far off course, the kayaks did correct them, but they had to get pretty far off course for that to happen. I hoped that by the time I started, I would have plenty of other swimmers to follow in the correct direction.
I was wrong. My wave, the last one, was filled with beginners and last-minute registrants. Many of the athletes that registered last-minute were quite fast and soon lost the rest of us. After about a quarter mile, I found myself swimming alone. And the fog was terrible. It was sometimes impossible to see one buoy from the next, even when coming to a complete stop. For much of the swim, I was reduced to doing 4-8 strokes and then treading water while I searched for the next buoy. I asked one of the safety kayak personnel whenever possible to save time.
Overall, I had a good swim. I had no signs of a panic attack like my first tri, and was able to keep my freestyle stroke going the entire way. It was slower than I had hoped, but I believe most of that was due to the sighting conditions.
After a quick stop at the wetsuit strippers, I was off to transition. I took my time here to make sure I had everything and to let my body acclimate to being upright again. I was about to spend 3+ hours on a bike, a couple extra minutes in transition was not going to hurt me.
I took off on the bike and promptly had my bike computer go flying off. Apparently when putting it on that morning, I was mistaken when I thought I heard it click in. Nothing I could do about it as I was riding down a trail with racers from the sprint tri speeding the opposite direction so I just kept going. I wasn't completely riding blind as I had my watch and each mile was marked, but I missed having my speed and my cadence for feedback.
The course was about what I anticipated after driving it the day before. There were a couple road that no road bike should have set a wheel on, but luckily we weren't on them very long. And that 300 foot hill? I found it. It was a sneaky hill. It was so gradual that it wasn't until I was probably halfway up it that I even noticed I was on a hill. I actually was beginning to wonder what was wrong with my bike that I was having to downshift on the flats! Then I saw the woman in front of me actually having to get up out of the saddle and I decided that must be the missing hill. The second half of the hill we had seen the day before. It was a short but steep climb immediately following a hard right. That hill was by far the worst part of the 56 miles.
At the end of the bike I was greeted by my cheering section. My parents, sister, husband, and son I had expected. I was surprised to see my uncle, my cousin, his wife and their two kids as well! It was an awesome feeling to know that they had come out just to see me race.
|The end of the bike leg, being cheered on by my sister and father.|
It took me while to start catching up to the rest of the racers during the run. I only saw one person going the same direction as I was until I hit the turn-around. Once I hit about 7 miles, I started seeing runners in front of me and started passing them. I was proud that I passed everyone I saw on the run.
|Finally a running picture of me that doesn't look like I'm shuffling and there's a big orange fence in the way!|
Since the run course was an out-and-back, I knew exactly how far I was from the finish as I was rounding the last corners. I was able to pick up the pace and finish strong. I had finished my first half-ironman distance! I am proud to say that in a family of marathoners and triathletes (most of them MUCH faster than I am), I am the only one to have completed a 70.3!
My thoughts on the race:
1. I could have gone faster. I am glad I didn't burn out on my first 70.3, but I am excited to do another and push the pace a little, especially on the bike.
2. I was extremely happy with my run time considering I had already been out on the course for almost 5 hours before the I started the run.
3. My swimming still needs a LOT of work.
4. My transition times need a little work. I believe this will come as I race more.
5. I wasn't nearly as sore the few days after as I thought I would be.
6. I wasn't last!
7. I don't really have seven things, I just like seven better than six.
I am already starting to plan next year's races and hope to include at least one 70.3. Any suggestions?