On to the last race! I ran out of steam after posting the first three, and finally am posting race #4 recap. Where did I leave off…
Right! Race day morning. After the alarm went off at 4:15a, I was up and getting my nutrition and gear ready, as well as packing all of my stuff since we had to check out before heading to the race site. After getting the car packed and eating a little breakfast from the hotel breakfast area, we were off and headed to the race site.
We arrived around 6a and just like the past two days, unloaded our gear and headed down to transition to set up for the half. Everyone was pretty quiet, R didn’t sleep well the night before and wasn’t in very great spirits and SS and PT just had this look of ‘omigodiwanttogetthisoverwith’ in their faces as we walked down to transition. I was definitely tired and was ready to head home, but was in a much better mood than I was before race #3. I think part of it was that I was surprised to even be starting the final race, I couldn’t believe I was able to run/walk my way through the weekend and pain free! I was interested in seeing how the day would go and was hoping to actually do well rather than just finish.
Soon everyone started heading towards the water and then I was lining up to start the swim. I started to freak out realizing that my swimming had been really minimal leading up to the race because I had only planned to do the first two races. So now I was swimming a little less than my longest swim and on tired arms from swimming 3k the day before. I hoped for the best and hopped into the water, with the goal to ‘just keep swimming’.
And I just kept swimming, and once again, the faster swimmers from the first loop were already making their way to their second and I got swam over by what felt like everyone swimming. Swam over and passed actually. I just kept thinking to myself ‘just keep swimming’, kept my stroke even, breathing every three strokes and kept moving. As I finished the first loop I saw something around 17 minutes on my watch and was like ‘woah!’ that’s fast, my split at Redman halfway through was 20 minutes! I got back into the water and kept swimming all the way until I reached the end and was pulled out of the water by volunteers. As I crossed transition, I hit my watch and saw 36:xx, wow! For sure the swim course was short, but it was still fun seeing those numbers!
Next I quickly did my transition, socks and bike shoes on, helmet, glasses, gloves and off I went, for the last ride of the weekend. I felt pretty familiar with some parts of the 2 loop course as we had ridden parts of it throughout the weekend and there weren’t any crazy areas to be warned about like we had been for the previous races. I felt good, I felt strong! I also felt tired from the weekend’s events, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me! As I approached the biggest hill of the day, I took a deep breath and just spun up the hill. Man was this a dumb hill. Up, up, up and probably about four switchbacks along the way. The never-ending hill. After what seemed like forever, I finally crested the top and relaxed on the downhill. That won’t be fun to do again (it’s a two loop course).
The rest of the ride was pretty uneventful, I lost PT and SS after the first 10 miles but could see them quite a ways up ahead and was eventually gaining ground. Finally around mile 15 I was just about to catch them when I felt my tire get squishy. No. Not squishy. NO! Please don’t be a … flat tire. Ugh. I got off my bike and got to work, got my tire levers out and started prying the tire off. Unsuccessfully. A lady stopped to help that was riding with her boyfriend but not racing and I couldn’t have been more relieved. We struggled for what seemed like forever and finally got it off. Then I put in the new tube and we once again, struggled to get the tire on. Gatorskins are great for preventing flats (not sure why I got one to begin with though) but they are TOUGH to get on and off a wheel. Finally another man stopped and attempted to help us get the tire on, when another second man stopped and finally got the dumb thing on. Lordy!! I was so grateful so many people were kind and stopped as this race had NO sag support and no cell reception so you’re kind of SOL if anything happens. While the second man was helping me with the tire, R happened to roll by, hooray! I thanked everyone for their help and we all got back on our bikes to ride on.
Off I went with R and when I looked at my watch I realized I had been stopped for 25 minutes. 25 minutes?!? I felt defeated and sad, but was also relieved that I had R at my side and wasn’t all alone. We rode together the rest of the first loop and back into transition. First loop finished! 27ish miles done! I took a quick pit stop, refilled my bottles and was off.
After the first hill I was quite a bit ahead of R, but he said to keep going, that he would pass me on the downhills 😉 As luck would have it (or not), on one of the downhills, I felt another familiar squish on my rear tire. You. Have. To. Be. Joking. I stopped, got off and saw the sad picture of a very flat rear tire. I gave a big sigh and started to take off my wheel and do the whole drill again. However, it must have been my lucky day, the man who had stopped to help us finally get the tire on (awesome guy #2), happened to be just a little behind me and offered to stop again. I took him up on his offer and within 8 minutes we were back on our bikes. I think I annoyed this poor guy from thanking him so much, but without him, I probably wouldn’t have finished the race until Monday.
While my best friend in the whole world had been helping me change my tire, R rolled by, but kept going knowing there were lots of hills and I would catch him. I did end up catching him and we rode for a bit together and then I pushed on to finally finish the darn ride. As I rolled into transition I could hear people’s names being called by the announcer as they crossed the finish. Really? Really? And I still need to run a half marathon? I just want to take a nap! But I knew R was going to do the whole race, and if I quit now, I would be mad at myself, so on I went.
The run started off good, I pretty much walked up most of the hills, but ran the rest. It was starting to get really hot and after 7 miles I started to feel really weird and woozy. I took in coke and water at the next aid station and then walked for quite a bit until the feeling passed. Then I realized everything just kind of hurt. Ugh. Although the camaraderie on the course was really fun. Everyone was just enjoying the rest of the race (or so it seemed) and was in really good spirits, which just made the pain seem nonexistent. As I looked at my watch and realized my average pace, I decided to aim for finishing the half in 2 hours and 30 minutes. 20+ minutes slower than my run at the Redman Half, but considering the conditions… three races beforehand and run training almost nonexistent, I was excited about that goal! On I went, run/walk, have a laugh with another person on the course, run/walk… is pretty much how it went. It was painful but FUN. Finally it was my time to head out of the woods (it was a 2 loop run into the woods on a trail) and head to the finish line! I picked up the pace and ran it in, feeling great and seeing several club members at the finish cheering me on!
Phew! I did it! I was sore and tired, but the whole weekend- DONE! I have no idea how I did it… well, I do, but I was blown away since my training wasn’t where I had hoped it to be. That was when I realized how important mental toughness really is. I knew I was going to HURT on Monday much more than I would have if I had trained better (and didn’t have stupid hip issues…and, eh, didn’t avoid the pool), but if I could do this weekend, I could do an Ironman. I will need to train more (and get in that darn pool!), but it’s actually possible. I think before that weekend, it was just a huge…unknown.
After the race PT and I sat in a cold stream nearby with some other finishers to help try to simulate an ‘ice bath’. I think it helped, but it was cold! Then we got some food from the finisher’s area and waited for R to finish. Then it hit me that we were driving back home after R finished. Oh boy. Up until the weekend’s events I kept thinking that I was only doing the first two events and would be fresh and ready to drive home. Little did I know I would do all of the races and would be exhausted. Bad move.
We cheered R in, helped him get his stuff from transition, cleaned up at the lodge up the street and were on our way home. We were on a mission as it was already 5:30p (one hour ahead from Stl time) and wouldn’t probably get home until around 12:30. PT followed us on the way home, and after calling each other to check on how the other was doing, and R and I switching driving a couple of times, we finally made it home at 1a. Phew. Note to self: don’t drive home 7.5 hours after doing four events in one weekend. Just don’t.
However, we all survived the whole weekend and it was a great learning experience. I got over my first couple water panic attacks (why now though?), got stronger on the bike, and my mental toughness just graduated to a new class. I’m ready to get in the game for IMAZ now, but need a little time off to recover 🙂