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…
[Tweet “Who races a Half Ironman when they’re sick? This girl. Rev3 Quassy Half IM race recap! #70.3 #HalfIronman”]
Why do you train or do things that scare you?
What are you most proud of so far this year and why?
Like a boss! And you say you’re never going to do an IM? Never say never, my friend! Congrats! You.are.awesome.
I know I should never say never but the training is usually the most fun part of racing for me and there is nothing fun (to me) about training for a full ironman…we’ll see if it changes but I don’t think it’s likely 🙂
Thanks so much Wendy!
I always marvel at how exciting your race recaps are, even though I already know the ending! I’m so happy for you, Allie, and I’m so glad you rocked it. I even teared up a bit reading about why you do this. You inspire me!
That is the biggest compliment because I never want to race recap to be boring!! Thanks so much for always supporting me and cheering me on Dana! It’s so appreciated.
Oh my gosh, what a race!! You are by far one of the most incredible athletes I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. And, your boys running you in? I’m not crying, you’re crying. <3
Thank you so much for saying that!! xoxoxo And you’re cracking me up with your last comment – LOL!!
Amazing accomplishment!! Congratulations!!!
Thank you so much Aimee!!
Ah… this was so amazing to read… it sucks that you were sick but it does sound like you enjoyed every part of it… I love how you outline why you do it day after day. It’s absolutely true that pushing yourself like this shows you that you can handle anything that life throws your way.
YES! Thank you so much Paria. Cannot wait to be racing on your coast…:-)
You did it and I’m sooooo proud of you! All that hard work paid off and you know the race chip on the shoes was just good karma coming back to you right?!! You are my she ro, and you did fantastic. What a recap!! I enjoyed every word.
Thank you so much Nellie!! And yes I DID IT!!…and now I’m relaxing and enjoying 🙂 xoxo
So amazing, seriously way to go! I loved the recap, such an awesome account of what sounds like a very awesome race!!
Thank you so much Jamie! It was an incredible race, for sure.
What an amazing story! You are so incredible – you had so many obstacles, but you conquered them all! WAY TO GO!
Yes! I would have preferred to have far fewer obstacles but what can you do, right? Thanks so much!
There you go. Raising me up and all that shit. Lol! Thanks for making me cry and for being such an awesome soul. You work your ass off and are such an inspiration to live each day to the fullest. Congratulations! You are a half Ironman!!! 🙂
YAYAYAYAYAYAY!!!! When are we racing together? Now that you have your race legs back, we need to do this!
You are freaking amazing – I love how happy you are in the photos and I love that finish line video. You work so hard and deserved a great race like this. Congrats!
Thank you Laura! When I stopped feeling sorry for myself about being sick I just embraced it and ended up having an incredible experience. Of course, the finish was the best for so many reasons. Thanks for cheering me along every week!! xoxo
Congratulations! What an incredible accomplishment, let alone being sick on top of it. (And the added accomplishment of never having had to use a porta potty during a race! 😉 ) You’re amazing!!
HAHAHA! It was just so weird to me to have to take the time to use a portable potty DURING the race…but obviously I have never raced this long before. Too funny. Thanks so much!
Congrats Allie! What a tough course but you nailed it, even when you weren’t feeling your best. That has to be freaky to look down and realize your chip is gone. Yay for someone finding it!
Thanks Marcia and yes, it was a terrible feeling when I realized it was gone…but they a great feeling when it was found! So many ups and downs in racing, as you well know.
I went through a whole range of emotions reading this!
Mike! Such an incredible husband and life partner for fully supporting you. He’s such a keeper.
Your coach who knows the precise advice/workout to give you.
YOU! You are such a boss my friend and you did it!!! You are so strong, brave, dedicated and an incredible athlete that never gives up – despite being sick.
Total water works at the end when you talked about your purpose and the meaning of it all. WOW.
From the missing chip to the 1st time porta potty use (WHAT?!) – this race was epic. And the the run course elevation?!
Love the boys finishing with you. LOVE. xoxo
So incredibly happy for you!!! YEAH!!!!
Recover well and enjoy this awesome accomplishment!!
You are seriously THE BEST. Thank you so much for taking the time to respond like this and for ALL your support and encouragement leading up to the race! You are such an inspiration to me Nat and it was awesome seeing your accomplishments just the week prior to my race – it lifted me up for sure!! Thank you for everything. You are a true friend!
You are amazing. Wow! Congratulations!
Thank you so much Sarah! Over 40 and in the best shape of our lives, right?
Congrats Allie! Great photos. You’re blessed with an amazing family.
They make it all worth it, don’t they? Thanks so much Tony!
You truly are crazy, but this is awesome! Who picks this race for their first half ironman?? Who races it when sick?? You do, and you crush it. Congratulations! And also – that’s so awesome that your husband ran with you. i know EXACTLY how big of a deal that is.
Thank you so much Danielle and I’m so glad you’re back!!
A lot of the participants at the race asked me the same question and one even said doing the full Ironman at Lake Placid is comparable to the Quassy half!! I guess my next one will be that much easier 🙂
Cannot wait to read all about your Cuba adventure!
Wow! For all the challenges stacked against you, you totally rocked it!! Congrats!! And I hear you on not being tempted by the full ironman training… it’s seriously a part time job! Hope the knee is recovering for you.
Thanks so much Laura! It was crazy but I wouldn’t want it any other way!! And I’ve always said the boys would have to be in college before I could attempt to train for a full IM and by that time I’ll be too old and tired 🙂 Knee is doing great and I’m back at it this week!
Fantastic achievement! Well done! And I said exactly the same after completing my half ironman race…..and ended up completing the full distance at Ironman Barcelona!! 🙂 The training was all consuming over 8-10 months, but sooo very worth it come race day – especially as I finished an hour before my predicted time!!!
Congratulations!! I actually know someone else who did the full IM in Barcelona and loved it. Maybe that’s the way to go? Hahaha. Thanks again!
I love that you were like, hey, I’ve never done a half IM, let’s go for one of the hardest possible. Wouldn’t expect anything less from you. And then you rocked it.
You know I can’t do anything the easy way 🙂 Thanks so much!
I love reading your race recaps! And congratulations on finishing it like a rock star! I too have lost way too many family members (Dad at 50, my sister at 41 and my brother died two years ago at just 58). I’m 55 and everyday am in awe that I am still here. Like you, I get up everyday and run, train (just not as fast as you) to live my life to its fullest.
Reading this makes me SO happy!!! I’m so glad you’re out there for a lot of the same reasons. It’s a perfect way to honor everyone we have loved and lost too soon!! Keep going Mary Ann!!
You are freaking amazing, Allie. I mean, seriously. I’m sorry that you were sick (and hope you’re feeling better!). Congratulations on your first half Ironman and most importantly, having fun throughout.
Thanks so much Christine! I’m seriously so relieved that I “enjoyed” it so much and want to do another one 🙂
And I was patting myself on the back for going to the gym with a cold… YOU are a beast!!! I legit think a good 20 min sweaty run does help – that was my run to the gym and I felt way better after.
But let’s talk about you.
I can’t imagine swimming for 46 minutes and then doing all the biking and running. You rock so hard. I love your reason for training too. I feel ya. XO
You can still pat yourself on the back for that!
Thanks so much Laura. It was an insane distance but, like anything else, when you train for it and break it down into manageable pieces, it’s SO doable!!