I did it. I finished 70.3 miles of swimming, cycling and running through some of the steepest terrain in Connecticut to claim the title of Half Ironman. Here’s how it all went down.
FOUR DAYS BEFORE THE RACE
Yes, I’m starting four days before the race because that is when I first started feeling sick. My kids were sick the weekend before and I didn’t think much of it until I woke up feeling not quite right on Wednesday morning.
I tried to stay calm and I rested and hydrated like a boss. I was desperately trying to talk myself out of how sick I was and even did a good ride on Wednesday morning.
By Saturday, things were getting ugly.
DAY BEFORE THE RACE
This text exchange with my best friend at 7:44am the day before the race pretty much says it all.
Later that day I called my coach. Her one question was I well enough to race and the answer was yes. After that, and after I had been resting for two days, she told me to go for a 20 minute run and do some pick ups. What? I should also mention it was around 11am, 87 degrees with 90% humidity. I hung up the phone and immediately burst into tears. I was sobbing crying while my husband held me and handed me tissues. I sat there wallowing for about 5 minutes and then my husband said “I think your coach is nuts, and she has no idea how sick you are, but if this is what you need to do, I’ll go with you.”
If you know my husband at all then you know he hates to run. He hates to run almost more than anything else and he especially hates to run (or even be outside!) in oppressive heat and humidity. Oh and did I mention he was also sick?
This is love people.
His offer to run with me snapped me out of feeling sorry for myself and renewed my positivity. It was the support I needed, exactly when I needed it and I will never forget it. It was definitely the turning point for me.
We suffered together though 3 miles of heat and humidity but I actually felt a lot better afterward and was now ready to go!
I hate it that my coach is always right.
THE NIGHT BEFORE THE RACE
Since the race started at 7:30am and our bikes needed to be racked the night before, I stayed at a hotel close to the race venue because I live over an hour away.
Packet pick up was a breeze and I racked my bike for the night.
There were a lot of other athletes staying in the same hotel (and also a wedding!) so there was a good vibe. I had an early dinner of pizza, laid out everything for the next morning, and set my alarm for 4:00am.
I tried to get to sleep at 8pm and finally did at some point, but woke up at exactly 12:38am feeling like I was swallowing razor blades with a fully congested head. I got up and drank 1/2 a bottle of Gatorade and took some DayQuil, asked myself just what in God’s name I thought I was doing, and tried to go back to sleep.
My alarm went off at 4:00 and I was up and at it.
RACE DAY – THE SWIM
The weather was absolutely perfect. It was a windy, which made the water choppy, and overcast with a daytime high of 75. You basically could not have ordered better race day weather.
I was still sick but I took one more dose of meds at 5:00am and hoped for the best.
I was chatting with a friend right up until the start of the swim. I was being positive AF and my mantra was “have fun.”
Despite feeling like I was in a washing machine for most of the swim, I truly enjoyed it. I’m as shocked as anyone by this. My sighting was on point, my stroke felt smooth (although my right arm went numb a little under a mile in) and it was one of the best swims I’ve ever had. Notice I did not say “fastest” but best, nonetheless.
I usually feel relieved when I get out of the water because it’s definitely the part I dread most but, this time, I was only relieved I could breathe and that my vertigo didn’t make an unwanted appearance, two things I worried about because of my cold. While running to transition, I was just so proud of myself for having my longest swim to date in the books!
RACE DAY – THE BIKE
I was determined to be slow and steady on the bike. The elevation is insane and I was hitting the saddle for 3+ hours. My main goal was to take in all my fluids and fuel so I would feel mostly human for the run. I had three bottles full of water and Skratch Labs electrolytes and a stash of three Skratch bars, cut into bite sized pieces, to feast on throughout the ride.
The hills were relentless but I knew that going in. A lot of people passed me but I didn’t let it get to me, even a little bit. I was having my own race with a goal of having fun and finishing. That.was.it.
The ride was a constant mental battle. My left knee was bothering me, then my back, then my left ankle. The ride is so insanely long that your body and mind have plenty of time to play tricks on you. And, if there was an award for most snot rockets on a bike I would have been the world champion. Sorry but it was disgusting and you should know the whole story.
The final 7 miles are filled with hills and shitty roads and, after all that hydration I had to pee like crazy. I definitely know why long distance triathletes pee on the bike. When you have to go that badly and are sitting on what is basically a piece of metal, it’s tough to hold it in!
I managed to make it to transition but not before I realized something far worse than having to pee. I had lost my timing chip! For whatever reason, around mile 50 I noticed the timing chip on the ankle of the cyclist in front of me. As soon as I saw it, I knew I didn’t have mine on. A quick glance down revealed I was right. (you can see in the picture above that it’s not on my left ankle where it should be)
Nope. Stay calm. You have all of your data on your Garmin watch, it will be fine.
I tried very hard not to panic and just hoped that it was wrapped up in my wetsuit in transition and not somewhere in the bottom of the lake! I was so worried that, as far as Rev3 was concerned, it would be as if I never raced.
I made it into transition and one of the other athletes near me must have seen my timing chip because some sweet angel of mercy put it on my running shoes! Whoever did that, I hope you get the best karma back 10-fold! You are an amazing human being!
With my chip now reattached and my running shoes on I was ready to rock!…after I hit the bathroom of course.
I have never used a port-o-potty in all my years of racing but I have also never taken in about 60 oz of fluid either!
RACE DAY – THE RUN
I was amazed at how good my legs felt when I started the run. Stunned. I was also amazed of how good I felt. Now “good” is relative to my cold, but I had training sessions where I my legs felt worse. My lungs felt far worse than my legs and, the first time I tried to shout to a volunteer that I wanted Gatorade, I realized I had no voice. How I could lose my voice during the bike, on which I never spoke one word out loud and was constantly taking in fluids, is a mystery to me but, that’s what happened.
My plan on the run was to walk the hills. Another first. I have never in my life walked during a race of any kind. I have shuffled to a slow crawl maybe but never consciously walked. The hills are so steep on this two loop course that I was better off walking, to accomplish my goal. The people who decided to try and “run” up the hills, I eventually caught up to and passed.
The first loop was definitely better then the second. The volunteers were amazing and did so much for morale, they should each get a medal. They were on it with the water and gatorade and were some of the most supporting and encouraging group I have had the pleasure of running by.
I hit the first six miles in about 56 minutes, even with walking up the steepest hills, and was on track for my planned sub-2 hour run.
The second loop was a sheer mental and physical challenge. By that point I was so spent but the promise of the finish line definitely kept me going. I was hurting, I was tired and mostly I just wanted to be done but I tried to take it all in.
By the final quarter mile, I knew I was off pace but I couldn’t have cared less. It was by far my slowest ever half marathon but also the toughest!
And I aced the tangents! I ran exactly 13.1 miles and not one step more. Boom!
I knew my family would be waiting for me and I was hoping the boys would run with me through the finisher’s chute.
Dream finish right here…
After all those months of training and sacrificing and worrying and everything else that went into 70.3, it was done.
And no, I will not be doing a full Ironman. Nope. Not happening.
But I would absolutely do another half, preferably not one so brutally hilly!
I was stunned to realize that the technology gods at Rev3 were able to piece together my race and give me official results! As you can see, I have no transition 1 or 2 times but I believe they just added it all into the bike.
I’m the last name listed in the screenshot below but, there were 48 women in my age group 40-44 and I finished 17th.
I will absolutely take a top 20 finish for my first half ironman.
TRAIN FOR LIFE
When most people see my photos, with my huge grin and laughing face, they always ask how I can be so happy? How can I actually enjoy the rigors of 6+ hours of racing, never mind the months of training prior?
I’ll tell you.
Like the namesake of this blog I truly am training for life. I go out day after day, week after week and month after month, chasing down goals that absolutely terrify me because I’m still here.
Because my mom was already gone by the time she was the age I am now, because my kids need to see what courage is and because when something truly terrifying happens in my life, I know I can take it, that I’m strong enough to push past any physical or mental barrier because I make it my mission in life.
That’s why I’m smiling.
I’m here and I’m going to make the most out of my life every single day.
I’ve been training for it for years.
I cannot end this ridiculously long post without thanking all of my friends and family. It takes a village to manage a triathlete and I have the best support team around! To all my blog friends who truly understand what all of this takes, to my massage angel Dawn who yells at me for being so tight but praises my accomplishments, to the people who have known me the longest and know I was born this way and love me anyway, to my kids for understanding everything that goes into my training and not caring even a little bit, to my dad and stepmom who have stood out in so many venues in varying degrees of weather always smiling and cheering me on every.single.day and to my husband who really doesn’t understand why I do what I do but supports me anyway. I love you all and could not have done it without you!
And to my fellow Cuban who risked her reputation to get me a 70.3 sticker…LOL…Eress el mejor!
Until next time…
Why do you train or do things that scare you?
What are you most proud of so far this year and why?