Gulf Coast Half-Ironman Recap

Unknown-2So let’s do this thing…

It has been a really interesting year leading up to this event.

Back in December, when I decided to race IMFL, I hired a coach so this would be my 1st race with her guidance under my belt.

This would ALSO be the 1st 70.3 that I was racing uninjured. Ok, well technically its only my second 70.3 ever….

If you were lucky enough to spend any time around here last year, you’ll recall that I ran myself into a horrid case of ITBism/patella-femoralish something or other..

A little…..OK, major…pain turned into me continuing to train and irritating the femoral condyle right to the brink of a stress fracture, thereby;  ruining my inaugural 70.3 last April in Galveston. I was able to complete it and I actually found it to be incredibly easy (the lack  intensity or running more than 5 feet at a time MAY have something to do with that….)! So easy, that I then decided that an Ironman would be no problem! 😉

HA! Sweet, naive injured triathlete that I was! 🙂

I might have wanted to tackle one of these puppies healthy before becoming QUITE so confident in my abilities!

On May 11th I got my chance to do just that…

Training leading up to the day was perfect. Well, as perfect as you can get on the Gulf Coast in the spring. It was wet, windy, humid, hot, and sometimes even cold.

Did I mention it was particularly windy? I’ve gotten some awesome training rides and running miles along the beach in the wind. It was frustrating as hell at the time and it beat the crap out of me, but come race day I was so grateful I had battled 50+miles in those conditions!

Alright, on to the good stuff…..

We elected to do this race instead of Galveston because it basically IS the IMFL course. So it was a sneak preview of sorts…

We stayed at Shores of Panama and I guess there are plenty of college students always looking for something to do on the weekend because we had some rowdy neighbors. At 2:30am a lady, younger than I, proceeded to beat on her door and scream at her friends to let her in….at least I THINK that’s what she was saying. Her speech, while very loud, was a bit slurred. Every time she passed out got tired and simmered down, I’d fall asleep….for about 5 minutes before she started up again.

At 3:50 I gave up. My alarm was going off at 4am so it was time to get going….

The weather had been looking iffy and so I checked my laptop while having coffee and breakfast.

Woke the husband at 4:30. By 5am we were headed down the street to transition.

And it was gonna rain. The game became….”when do you think its going to happen?”

Got everything set up….computers, Quarq, food…the usual….stood in line to pee, grabbed the wetsuit and headed to the water.

6am or so transition closed.

SWIM

The swim was in the Gulf and actually, as far as sighting goes, as easy as it comes. 900+ yards out, turn left for 200 yards, then 900+ yards back to the sand.

The ladies went before the men and having waited over an hour to swim last year in TX, this made me very happy! I was the 2nd wave…YIPEE!!!

swimcgt

Honestly, I’ve never swam in the open gulf like this so it was a WILD experience. The gulf here, on the MS coast, is surrounded by barrier islands so we never get to play in waves like this (or blue water)….unless a storm is coming in.

We got a little beat up getting past the breakers, but once I got into a rhythm and figured how to sight and breathe, as the wave was cresting, I was good to go.

I felt good. I was swimming at my normal pool intensity and the only time I really had to pick it up was when someone tried to grab my feet. Very annoying.

As were the foggy goggles that were leaking….Grrr!

Swimming out here is just freaky. The water starts off very light blue then gets very, very dark and almost black as you get further out and the water gets deeper. Honestly, it is a bit hard to NOT think about our friends of the sea….with sharp teeth….eeks!

Swim faster!

I was in the lead group of my wave and we were starting to pass the girls in front of us.

As we got closer to shore, those breakers we had to dive under were now throwing us to the bottom of the gulf floor as they came crashing in….

Once I got to the point where the tide was pulling me back out I decided to get up and walk in….

Saw the clock: 41:15…mentally subtracting 5 minutes for wave starts 36:15 (forgot to start my Garmin until I was past the breakers on the way out….)

I ran out of the water and up the sand hill feeling really good.

I stopped at the shower (BEFORE the timing mat naturally!) and stripped my wetsuit there at the bench (no strippers today!) and off to transition…

Official Time: 38:19 4th in 40-44 AG

Lessons Learned:

  • don’t spend so much time rinsing off (1st in AG was 36:25…maybe she stopped at the showers, maybe not…)
  • new goggles on race day…not new style, but new goggles to help with fog issues
  • I need to push a little bit harder…not much….but a little

Overall, very pleased with this. Swimming the open gulf is wildly different from any other type of open water swimming I’ve done. It is much more challenging and in the end more fun I think. However, I’m not sure how I feel about getting back in and doing a 2nd loop for IMFL. I wish they would just leave us in for the entire 2.4 miles!

My husband proceeded to vomit his way through 1.2 miles! The motion of the ocean combined with the usual race morning nerves got to him about 800 yards out and it is amazing he made it back to shore in 35 minutes.

If anyone has any ideas or experience on how to resolve this, please pass it along. He battles it almost every race because if its not the waves it’s the other swimmers creating chop or the rescue jet skis. It’s starting to become a real problem and we’ve got to figure something out before IMFL because I’m not sure he can get BACK in for a 2nd loop if he’s barfing his guts up!

T1

Too long…whats new! Foggy sunglasses from me being cold and the humidity outside made it hard to maneuver. And I’m just slow…gotta work on it.

Time: 4:11

BIKE

This is where I felt the most prepared.

I’ve ridden my ASS off in some not so pleasant conditions so I was ready for what this course had in store.

It’s flat, it’s windy, and if you’re not ready for that it will tear your back to pieces because you have to tuck down and stay down for the entire 56 miles.

I was ready.

What I WAS NOT ready for, was the rain that started at about mile 30-35. Race tires and wet roads equal a scary combination. There were some bad accidents. Some got back on and finished, many did not.

The other thing I was not quite ready for….

The turn back towards the beach…towards and onto Thomas Drive. If you’ve done the race you know….the wind and traffic becomes INSANE.

Its like playing frogger in a wind tunnel…..the winds are blowing you all over the place and cars are coming out of the condos while we’re all riding 20+mph back to transition…

Oh and lets add in that rain….

I ended up with a nutrition fail because I was unable to reach behind me and grab my last bottle during the home stretch.

I figured if I crashed it wouldn’t matter anyway and so I kept both hands on wheel, figuring I’d deal with it later…

Apparently, I don’t “deal” well…

But at the time, I felt like a million bucks and it seemed logical!

Not tired, not achy, not labored ….legs felt ready!

A little side note about my bike…..my Qunitina Roo has been being rebuilt all winter/spring. It never fit right and my hips were always having problems so we went back and started from scratch. It got an entirely new cockpit, new components, and shorter cranks….I think the frame, seat, and race wheels are the same!

I picked it up 6 days before the race!!

Crazy, I know…

12 hours before I left for Florida I was having final tweaks to the aerobar placement because my lats were so sore I was doubting my ability to even swim!

Racing this bike would, no doubt, be the best or worst decision I’d ever made….

TIME: 2:50:27 (avg pace 19.7) 12th 40-44 AG

LESSONS LEARNED:

  • Spending the time to get my bike fit right was well worth the effort….AND it was a lot of effort, but I’m so glad I persisted
  • Finish up nutrition before the last 10-15 miles…just incase!
  • practice, practice and MORE practice really does make all the difference….

So many times I looked at my coaches plan on Training Peaks and thought, “ANOTHER 4hour ride?? she’s crazy!”

But at the end of the day….or the end of the bike rather, I was just where I wanted to be….

Racing the Kaptain was one of the best decisions of the day (no offense to Lola)!

11th in my AG and only 13 miles to go!

ONLY! 😉

T2

I was racked right next to a Porta Pottie…..YES!

No line so I popped in real quick and then things went a little something like this…

“Where the hell are my salt tabs?? OMG where are my salt tablets….HAS ANYONE SEEN MY SALT?”

I was freaking out just a lil’ bit….not a good way to start a half-marathon, but then neither is trying to finish up the back part of a half-ironman in a rainy humidor with no electrolyte replacement.

DANDY!

Time: 4:23

RUN

UGH!

I don’t really know what to say.

I was in panic mode before I got out of T2 and things went from not good to full-blown bad.

Headed out at around an 8:40 min/mi and backed off……A LOT!

I had been told to take the 1st 3mi slowly and since I didn’t have my salt I was taking it really slowly.

I said a small thank you to the Gods for providing rain…and clouds because it had been sunny its hard to think what may have happened!

So I make the grand decision to stop at each aid station and suck down Gatorade….No offense to folks down in Gainsville, but it really is nothing more than glorified syrup-water. If you look at how much salt is in the stuff vs how much you actually may need out there …

pfft…

I was praying that my husband was having the race of  his life and was back there gaining ground on me. I knew he had 4 extra tabs he wouldn’t be using so if I could just find him….

quickly….

Ohhh, another little tidbit….he broke his toe 2 days prior jumping on our boat so in reality, I knew he wasn’t running the footrace of his life out there!

Now I did see the pills all over the ground at various points, but if you think back to my neighbor beating on her condo at 3am….not everyone in Panama City Beach is there to race so I wasn’t exactly convinced ALL those pills were filled with salt! 🙂

I got to mile 6 holding between 9:30-9:45 and walking through the aid stations, but I was getting very uncomfortable….

Miles 6-8 I had to start walking between the aid stations…

It was raining, I was wet, my toes had blisters from running in the puddles, my stomach was sloshing, I had a side stitch, my ankle hurt, and my right glute was starting to cramp.

I physically hurt everywhere.

15204_554949727870313_1702484667_nThis was no longer fun…I didn’t like, I didn’t want to be there. I felt like everything was going wrong, but more importantly I couldn’t set my head straight.

I could not get rid of the negativity of the day and embrace it for what it was….

I wasn’t breathing hard, my heart rate wasn’t too high…

It just sucked…

Around mile 9 I found my husband and took his salt. He was run/walking on his broken toe and having way to much damn fun!

After the fact, he said I didn’t look so swell….

Ya’ think?

I ate the 1st 2 salt tablets and hoped they would turn my day right-side up…..didn’t happen.

At mile 10-11 I made the very sound decision that I was NOT doing Ironman Florida. Hell, maybe I was never doing another race again…certainly not a running one, but I was 100% out of Florida. They could keep my money and we’d chalk it up to rash decision making….

hmmmmm?????

Then I looked at my time….

No way would I make my goal, but I’d better my Galveston time. It would be hard not too since I started the day “whole”…..

And I became even more pissy….

mad at the rain, at my legs for feeling like bricks…

“WHY can’t you move any faster??”

mad at the bumpy road, back on the bike leg, for causing my salt to fly out of my top….

Shit, I was mad at the girl running the other way with her headphones on…AND she was on mile 2! At least I was almost done!

Mile 11 I decided…no more walking. No more prolonging the agony. No matter how slow, no stopping till the end.

AND BTW, someone needs to learn how to measure because this course is long by about .5 mile. THAT, my friends, is a long way when you’re teetering on the edge….

When I finally made it to the chute and saw the clock, I realized my math skills are still questionable….

The clock read 5:58

and I started 5 minutes after the clock….which means 5:53

I made it in under 6 hrs!

Goal realized!

I don’t cry often….not birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, sappy movies….however that almost got me, but I had no juice to give up.

I’d left every bit of fluid out there!

Time: 2:16:20 (10:25 min/mi for 13.1, but I swear its long!) 20th in 40-44 AG

Lessons Learned:

  • I’ve got to work on my mental game, that’s gonna be huge for me this summer…no more complaining about what can’t be changed….bad habits must be broken! For what its worth, this run was only about 10-12 minutes off what I planned, so while it wasn’t ideal it also wasn’t the great American tragedy I was making it out to be in my head…if I was a mentally sound racer, that time would’ve been a bit better and far less painful!
  • Extra nutrition and electrolytes must be plentiful in the future! Extra…extra…extra…Just Incase!!

FINAL RESULTS:

5:53:38

14th 40-44 AG

335 overall

What a day!

And I’m not gonna lie, I’ve never been so glad to cross a finish line in all my life!

But this was more along the lines of where I expected my time to be last year….

and, if I’m honest, how I expected it to feel too.

This stuff is hard! Last year I was lulled into a sense of security because I couldn’t really race the distance. I went to the event and participated, but I had to lower my intensity and expectations because my knee just couldn’t take it. THIS time I got to experience it all….

And that experience is what will wind up being the best teacher of all.

Oh and incase you were wondering….

I’m still in for Ironman Florida!

Race Happy, My Friends!

racer

8 thoughts on “Gulf Coast Half-Ironman Recap

  1. Congrats! Sub 6!! WoooooHooooo!! Awesome.
    Get that head right girl, I’ve been there, I know those head games! You’re so tough and strong and fast and all of the awesome things. What I do is stop thinking for a second, ask myself what’s wrong, answer honestly, and usually my honest answer is quite silly, and that helps me get my brain back in order.
    My heart literally dropped when I read you told yourself you’re out for IMFL, whaaaaaaaaat. So, so soooooo glad you got over that. You are doing amazing things, keep going, I want to read your IMFL recap!!

    • drama, drama, drama!! the poor friend I called when I crossed the finish line!! Since Joe started an hr after me, he got to hear my psychotic meltdown!!! For some wacked out reason I thought it would be so easy since I wasn’t hurt…don’t know where that logic came from??!!!

  2. Just catching up.

    Given the conditions, you had a GREAT race!
    The chop in the sea and wind are always a possibility there but you rocked.

    PS: your report almost made me want to go back to PCB to race again. Almost.

    • You know as much bitching as I did about the wind all spring riding here along the seawall….AND we had some brutal days that had me really wondering WTF I was doing….it was so worth it come race day!! When I made that last turn onto Thomas drive, and it got crazy gusty and drivers weren’t paying attention, I was able to talk myself through it like it was another fine day here on the MS Gulf Coast! No Big Deal! 🙂
      You should head back and race it….I keep saying I’m gonna make it to St. Anthonys one day!!

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