1.2 mile swim, 52 mile bike, 13.1 mile run
Swim 26:58 (1:25 / 100m)
Bike 2:46:27 (18.7 mph)
Run 1:35:37 (7:39 / mi)
Finish Time 4:54:51
Placement: 5th overall female
Pre-Race: Earlier this week, I was doubtful that I'd be writing this race report. After a bike crash at 24 Hours of Booty 1 week ago, I was left with a broken bike and a very sore left hip and knee. While the soreness improved each day, getting my bike fixed was a different story. I finally got my bike back with a new base bar Friday night. My pre-race brick was done on a spin bike at the gym, a couple miles of running outside, and a couple laps around the block to make sure my bike and race wheels were in working order. Race morning came painfully early - 3am. Fueled with tea, peanut butter toast, and a banana, I made the 2.5 hour drive to Canton, NC, just outside of Asheville. Despite giving myself plenty of time, there was a very long line of barely moving cars entering the race area. We were ushered into a field to park, and I was more than a mile back in the field before finally being directed to my parking spot. At this point, it was 6:30am (the time they said packet pick-up would close) and I had to hustle with my tri bag and bike to transition. This is where having a friend or family member to act as sherpa would really pay off! I made a mad dash from packet pick-up, to chip pick-up, to body marking, and finally transition just as they were announcing that transition closed in 5 minutes. Excellent! Once all of my gear was organized (or so I thought - I left my sunglasses and visor in my bag) , I gave a quick spin to my wheels to ensure the brakes weren't rubbing, and then grabbed my wetsuit and made a mad dash towards the swim start.
Swim: No sooner did I arrive at the swim start when they announced 4 minutes until the open wave would begin. I dove into the water (a chilly 68 degrees) to get acclimated. And before I knew it, the gun went off and I made a quick start towards clean water and the first bouy. I remember a bit of contact during the first 100 meters, but after that I had clean water for nearly the entire course. My left tricep starting cramping about mid-swim, and I'm still not sure why that happened. I had arm warmers on under my wetsuit, so I can only imagine that had something to do with it. The final couple hundred meters take you under a bridge and into the spring-fed stream that feeds the lake. I had heard that the water temperature drops 10 degrees in this section, but I think it was more like 20 degrees. It was freezing! Fortunately that was a short section and then I was climbing out the ladder at the dock. Before looking at my watch, I felt like I had an "average" swim for me, feeling a bit more tired than I would have liked for that distance and feeling as though I could have swam a straighter path in some sections. Seeing 26+ minutes on my watch definitely put a smile on my face though! My Garmin measured 1.1 miles, so perhaps it's a bit short, but I still managed a 4th fastest swim among women (out of 189) and 25th overall (out of 528).
T1: As much as I enjoy a wetsuit legal swim, I hate the time that I waste in transition getting out of it. There was a third-mile uphill run into transition that I used to get my wetsuit down to my waste, but I still had to sit down to get it off of my ankles. The lack of body glide also didn't help matters. The whole process just felt sluggish.
14th / 189
Bike: As I was putting on my helmet, I realized that my sunglasses were in my transition bag (put off to the side). I was too frustrated to waste the time going to get them, but also nervous how my contacts would handle the wind on the bike. Fortunately, I adjusted and it didn't cause too much trouble. This was the first year for the half-iron distance race, but the bike course for the olympic race is advertised as mostly flat and fast. The more accurate description would be fast for the first 20 miles and then killer for the remaining 32 miles. I got off to a great start, was more comfortable in aero than I have in a while, and was loving seeing the 20+ mph splits. Around mile 20, however, the long open road because twisting sections through town with turn after turn that negated any speed you had built. Then we hit the hills (mountains might be a better description). I had planned to ride the bike at my ironman watts, so I made a conscious effort to drop into my small ring and spin up the climbs. I tried not to let the fact that I was being passed bother me, since others were literally mashing up the hills and likely placing a toll on their running legs. I kept leapfrogging with one of my training partners on the climbs before she eventually pulled ahead. The climb at mile 40 went on FOREVER! I was thankful for my new 12-27 cassette and although crawling up the mountain, felt as though I was in a reasonable gear for a steady climb. Hopefully there won't be anything quite as steep or long in Chattanooga. I had the course at 3000 feet of elevation change in 52 miles. Normalized power was 177 watts (higher than my planned Ironman wattage, but I think all of the climbing contributed to this). I was reminded the critical importance of reigning in too much power on the bike though, because I was ready to be done those last few miles - which would have only been the half-way point in Chattanooga. I truly do think my biking has improved this season, but it continues to be my weakness across the field, putting me 26th out of 189 women.
T2: This went much more smoothly than T1, although I was yet again missing something left in my bag - my visor. Fortunately it was a mostly cloudy day with temperatures in the upper 60s, so it wasn't quite as necessary as it usually is.
4th / 189
Run: The course is two laps on an out and back road with a run past the finish line and through a field between each lap. The 3 mile outbound leg is a stead 1-2% grade, with the return 3 miles being a well-deserved downhill. Leaving transition I was feeling better than my last half, which I attribute to my better attention to nutrition and hydration on the bike. My goal was to find a steady controlled pace for the first three miles, then "cruise" at a faster pace on the return leg. The first few miles were 7:37, 7:56, 7:33 and then I followed that with 7:20, 7:24, 8:01. It's always a frustrating feeling to run past the finish line (where the olympic distance racers were finishing) and being directed out into a grassy field to make yet another loop. I was beginning to feel the fatigue in my legs at that point, and set my sights on 1.5 mile increments as I ran back uphill. I walked for ~10 seconds at two aid stations, before making the turn around for the final 3 miles. (8:10, 8:05, 7:56). I was definitely hurting those last 3 miles, particularly my left hip which has been a problem and then irritated by my fall, but was determined to hang on to what felt like it would be my best ever half-marathon off a half-ironman bike. My final 3 miles were 7:35, 7:28, 7:23, and for the first time all day, I changed the screen on my watch over to total time as I rounded the corner towards the finish line. I had only been watching my individual mile splits, had no idea what my half marathon time was, but was shocked to see 4:54 on my watch as a crossed the finish line. I later learned I had run a 1:35 half marathon, which is a PR for me at that distance, even in a stand-alone 13.1 miler. It appears the course was short though. My Garmin kept dropping signal throughout the run, so I suspect it was a bit longer than the 12.5 miles I measured. I went into this race with the hope to have a strong run, and I was thrilled that I had finally accomplished that goal. I had the 3rd fastest run among women and can't help but love the fact that only 37 of 340 guys ran faster than me! "Bike for show, run for dough."
Post-Race: Immediately after I finished, I was hurting big time. More than any race in a long time, my legs were instantaneously painful. I walked around, stretched, and downed a recovery shake, before finally starting to feel a bit better. For a while though, all I really wanted was to lie flat on my back, but I knew better than to give in to that. The awards ceremony had yet to start for the olympic distance race, meaning that it would be at least a couple hours before the half awards. I gathered some food and trekked back through the field to my car. Despite the stunningly beautiful race venue and great day that I had, sitting in a giant traffic snarl for 1 HOUR without moving from the parking lot was beyond frustrating. Without pointing fingers and calling out the idiots who were directing traffic, SetUp Events has some major work to do from a traffic flow standpoint before next year.
All in all, a successful day of racing, and a huge PR! Even if I corrected the slightly short course to the full 70.3, I would have been roughly 5:10, which would still be a PR.
The next race report you read will be 140.6 miles - IRONMAN CHATTANOOGA in t-minus 8 weeks. Ahhh!