I know, I know – I’m way overdue for an update but life just gets in the way sometimes. Here’s what’s been going on…
HIGH CLIFF HALF IRONMAN – JUNE 15, 2013
(1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, 13.1-mile run)
I raced the 70.3 distance at High Cliff last year as my first ever half-Ironman. It was also my goal race last year; it was my primary focus all winter. This year, I feel like it just showed up out of nowhere. I have spent so long focusing on the big Ironman picture, High Cliff seemed to sneak up on me.
I have been struggling a lot with my running this year, so, like every race, I was most nervous about the run portion. I will admit that I also didn’t feel like I was prepared for the race. I think this was primarily because I wasn’t focused on it for months and months ahead of time. This year I was using the race as a training day; to test out race day nutrition (both before and during the race) and to try out all the new equipment.
My mom came out to watch the race again this year (partly because I think I had her convinced I was going to die on the run) 🙂 I think I realized this year that I tend to do a lot of “what if” thinking the days leading up to race day, but I tend to be pretty calm on race day. I don’t remember feeling nervous or panicky on the day of the race. This year, I had a new challenge – what to eat the morning of the race. About 2 1/2 weeks before the race, I got the results of my food intolerance blood test and was now gluten, dairy, soy, whey protein and egg free. Between the diet change and race day I had two weekends of brick workouts and one of them turned into a bike in the morning and run three hours later because I was so hungry I had to go home and eat before I could run! Needless to say I was a little concerned about what I was going to eat race morning that would fuel me through the end of the race. (I do use Gu and Gatorade during the race but I needed something in my stomach to keep me full since I wouldn’t be able to eat much of the food offered on the course if I got hungry).
I was certain I had booked a hotel room with a kitchen so on Friday afternoon, my mom and I packed some food to cook in the morning and headed up to Appleton. When we got to the hotel we discovered I apparently did not book a room with a full kitchen – just a microwave and a refrigerator. Just a little wrinkle in the plan, but my mom was nice enough to get up with me in the morning and microwaved my breakfast for me. It did not taste nearly as good as it would have cooked on the stove but I choked down as much of it as I could, along with my regular smoothie.
We left the hotel and drove to pick up two of my teammates, Luke and PJ, so their wives and kids could sleep in a little longer. As we drove to the race venue with three tri bikes on the bike rack, I tried not to think about how much money was hanging off the back of my car! In my usual fashion, we got to the race pretty early so we had plenty of time to set up our transition area. The weather forecast called for thunderstorms most of the day, so there was a lot staring up at the sky and talking about the weather (Spoiler alert – The Weather Channel is never accurate. We had great weather and didn’t get rained on at all).
The race itself was fairly uneventful. The water was a bit wavy and there were times when I felt like I was going nowhere quickly, but for the most part I felt pretty good during the entire swim. The bike ride basically starts up hill which is always fun when your legs are just starting to get moving again. Needless to say, my first mile was my slowest mile. There were some headwinds on the first part of the course and I really could not get my legs moving the way I would have liked for almost the first 30-miles of the bike ride. I wasn’t dreadfully slow, I just felt like it took me a really long time to feel good on the bike. I remember thinking at about mile 25 (when my legs finally decided to start working the way I wanted them to) that “this is why I don’t do sprint distance races). I was happy with my overall pace over the 56 miles, but my first 28 miles averaged almost 4 mph slower than the average of the second 28 miles. I’d really like to work on making my legs behave a lot sooner than 25 miles into the bike ride!
Pretty good swim, pretty good bike… crap run 🙂 As with the bike, the run starts straight up a hill. The rest of the course is a trail (grass, rocks, dirt) through the state park – so not an ideal run course for someone that has been struggling to run on a flat, paved road, but it is what it is and I was going to make the best of it. At least it wasn’t raining at this point (like last year). The run is a two-loop course so I got to see my mom, Zeus and Aaron at around mile 6. I stopped for a Gu and a few words of encouragement before I started my second loop. I really didn’t want to do that second loop! Admittedly, I did walk more than I probably should have. When I came out of the park the second time I was actually running and I saw my mom at the top of the hill. Instead of walking a few steps before running down the hill seeing her helped me to keep running for the final push. Thankfully the huge hill at the beginning is a welcome downhill at the end of a challenging run course. I ran down the hill and pushed as hard as I could to sprint in to the finish.
Overall, my swim, bike and transition times were all faster than last year. My run was a little slower, but I still finished with a 13-minute PR (personal record) over last year’s time. The biggest thing my mom kept pointing out was overall the race did not take as much out of me as it did last year. Last year I was completely wiped out at the end of the race. I was sore, had blisters on my feet and basically didn’t move for days. This year it really was just like any other training day. I was still standing, walking and happy after the race. I was glad when the run was over, but I remember thinking after both the swim and the bike that I still felt strong and could have kept going. Last year I don’t think I could have swam an extra 1/4-mile or biked even another mile. This year I was still feeling strong after both – a really good sign considering I will have to double both of those distances. Now if I can just get the run figured out I’ll be in good shape!