I just completed my first half Ironman triathlon – the Boise 70.3. Though I had to overcome a few injuries, a horrible crick in the neck and even a sinus infection that came to visit the day prior to the race, I somehow managed to go the distance. And that included conquering of one of my greatest fears – swimming in open water. This is the second in a two part series which reveals the good, the bad and the ugly.
I promise not to give you a play-by-play of the bike ride like I did the swim. Given how long this segment of the race took me (sadly!), you’d be asleep by the time you finished reading about it. I will provide a few of the highlights, however.
1) It took a while to recover from the swim. I choked on the brakes going down the first hill at the start of the bike segment, because I was still dizzy from the swim. The last thing I wanted to do was fall and break my neck. Not to mention, I was still shivering like I was having an epileptic fit, and it wasn’t cold outside at all. I was actually relieved to see a huge climb early in the course, because my body FINALLY warmed up. I’ve no idea how long the hypothermia impacted me, though. (I’d like to believe, given how slowly I rode, it had a lingering effect).
2) I had the oldest, most low-tech bike in the race. Did I not mention this in Part I? When I first got to the transition station before the race began, I walked up to see aisle upon aisle of beautiful, expensive and aerodynamic bicycles. My 15-year old clunker used to be fast, so I tried not to let intimidation weigh me down too much (envy, on the other hand, was a pervading emotion I could not control). I’m sure I got a few snickers, though.
3) I was one of the slowest riders on the course. This fact was incredibly demoralizing, as biking used to be my best event. I have ridden from Seattle to Portland, Sturbridge to Provincetown, and across the Colorado Trail. I even won a mountain bike race in Boston just before I moved. I was ready to kick butt and take names, strut my stuff and show some young girls a thing or two about leg strength and core power; instead, everyone in the whole dang race passed me! It was humiliating.
(Btw, this is not I. First of all, I don’t think I smiled a single time during the entire bike ride. Second, I wasn’t in the front a pack, ever!).
4) The wind was horrific. I don’t think I have ever biked into a headwind that strong – at least not for 56 miles. Not sure how strong the winds were that day, but I heard it blew upwards of 30 mph. When my bike caught a cross wind, it would nearly blow me off course. It pretty much sucked, especially towards the end when I was completely spent. Even the winner, Craig Alexander, said the wind was tough.
5) I had trouble getting food down the system. I thought I was so prepared for this race when it came to food, bringing cut-up pieces of PB&J, home-made brownies, protein bars, cashews and almonds. I wasn’t going to let a lack of fuel slow me down. But after taking a bike of peanut butter on a bagel when I was already dry-mouthed? Then trying to wash it down with Gatorade? I think you get the picture. It wasn’t pretty.
6) I was in PAIN. Though not an excuse for my slow ride, my back injury reared its ugly head before I’d even been on the bike for an hour. Coupled with a horrible burning sensation in my feet (NEVER put new insoles into shoes before a race) and knee pain that came to visit unexpectedly with an hour or so left, I didn’t think there would be any way I could possibly run two hours at the end of this torture. And that’s all I could wonder as I hopped off my bike in the transition area. It seemed like the racks were completely full of bikes, like everyone had finished but me.
So disheartening. Running on Empty Did I have a half marathon left in the tank? Would my knees give me fits? I had no way of knowing. Then I heard/saw my friends who screamed out, “How many Boston marathons have you run? This will be nothing!” How could I argue with that one? As I started to embark on the run course, I saw Rob and Luke, who told me, “You have till midnight to finish the run.” It was about 7:30 p.m. at the time, so I knew I could walk the course and still finish. I simply couldn’t quit. DNF is not not part of my DNA. Bless my sweet friends and family for coming to watch. It makes such a big difference. Fill ‘Er Up Out of nowhere, when I started to run, I had energy. I was so happy to be on my feet, not submerged beneath water gasping for air or bending over a darn bike in excruciating pain. What a glorious feeling. I was passing people left and right, which salvaged some of the dignity I’d lost on the bike. The folks at the water stations were so peppy. They served water with ice, God bless them. I ate gels at every other station because I was so hungry (which I later regretted, since the only ones I liked were double shot latte gels). I walked at every station, and was surprised to see I was close to clipping a 9:00 pace when I would start jogging again. “This is not anywhere near as bad as the last half of a marathon,” I kept telling myself. Just keep running. Just keep running.
And before I knew it, I was done. Finished. And I didn’t even feel that tired when I crossed the line– just seconds ahead of sweet Charlotte from Jackson, Wyoming, whose comforting words at the start of the race gave me confidence to conquer the swim. We both overcame our fears and fought through adversity to get the job done. It’s truly a battle of mind over body.
So when’s the next one? Hum….I’m going to have to sleep on that one.
Race photos courtesy of Idaho Statesman.